In response to “The Reset Button” from The Escapist forums:
Good food for thought.
It’s true, doing something familiar gives people a sense of comfort and joy, but there’s also joy in completely new discovery. Unfortunately with games, a lot of times the completely new discovery is that the game is a pile of crap.
I think there are ways to provide familiar experiences with every iteration of a franchise that lets people feel this way, but also to make the game different and innovative enough that it’s not a cardboard copy.
Still, I can think of some well-respected franchises where with every iteration, I almost hope that they don’t change much, simply because I just want more of the old game, perhaps only with a new story/extension to the story. Games like Fallout, STALKER, and even the new Batman “Arkham” series. If Arkham City is drastically different from Arkham Asylum, I think I will be mad. I want more of Arkham Asylum because it was THAT f’ing good.
The extent that the COD franchises of the world are doing this repetition to is on the extreme, though. Their rapid release cycle makes it even more disconcerting.
That’s basically it, yes. It’s like new edition of a card game or an updated rulebook for a tabletop miniatures title.
Balance and strategy, the variations on how you move, how guns handle… all these things add subtle variation which alters how the metagame works.
Multiplayer competitive is about more then who can shoot straight and the quickest, team work is an integral part of being successful. I admit the single player gets old, it has been done a hundred times and no matter how many Hollywood script writers and actors you get on board it is still move from one set piece to another shooting from cover. I wouldn’t buy the games for the single player.
A multiplayer only subscription based model with regular content upgrades (not paying for map packs) would be a viable alternative to the twelve month release schedule.
In response to “Play It Again” from The Escapist forums:
Loved the article, I do enjoy that games are allowed to reinvent themselves in sequels in a way that just is not possible in movies or books. Having series defined by general mechanics and themes rather than a long form narrative is one way that games are distinctive from many other forms of media, it isn’t entirely unique.
Series such as Discworld or Redwall function in very similar ways to The Elder Scrolls. They are an array of different stories, some placed hundreds of years apart, bound together by the common elements of the world itself. The worlds history, lore and magic tie Skyrim to Morrowind in much the same way they tie Guards! Guards! to The Colour of Magic.
To some degree, yes, books and movies have reached a sort of plateau in terms of presentation, while games can still continue to evolve and improve, the fast and loose sequel structure many game series use is not particularly unique to gaming.
There was a minor thing though that bugged me.. Probably more than it should have; using the updated Portal ending as an example for a Retcon.
It isn’t retroactive when there is nothing you are going backwards from. The game ended with you blacking out in a parking lot as debris fell all around you. There was no particular implication that you actually truly escaped. Had Chell gotten up and walked through the gates, and then the ending was changed to have you dragged away, then it would be a retcon. Things would be erased, or changed. But that didn’t happen, which is understandable due to Chells escape method, standing next to a massive explosion. The view of the parking lot was always meant as sort of hollow victory, that the act of overcoming your jailer had left you physically incapable of making the final steps to freedom.
However with no further continuity (Past the point of Chell blacking out) you can’t really call adding an extra 5 seconds at the very end an example of retroactive continuity. Yes, the addition was retroactive, coming years after the games release, but in terms of the continuity that moment was still the present. There was nothing after that. Any moments taking place in the present continuity are by definition not retroactive.
Our popular game magazines and websites focus mostly on reviews and previews, but less so on retrospectives or critiques.
I agree with you that this is a real shame; it often seems like, in the games industry, the only game that matters is the next one. People are rarely interested in talking about games that are even only a couple of years old, and this is a serious problem, in my opinion, for the growth of the medium, because its past is not preserved. Every other medium makes the effort to preserve its past: books get reprinted, films get released on Blu-ray, etc. The games industry doesn’t do this.
Not only that, but it seems like game developers actively go out of their way to prevent their older games from standing the test of time, which is another casualty of the technological dependence of the medium: as technology advances, old classics become unplayable. Unfortunately, since so many developers care only about the latest technology, this leads to a lot of games being consigned to the history books and impossible to play without emulators. It’s for reasons like this that I think websites like Good Old Games should be applauded, and why it puzzles me that publishers seem reluctant to put their back catalogues on them. They have literally nothing to lose, since you can’t buy many of the games on GOG at retail for modern operating systems, they stand to make more money in the process, and gamers have the opportunity of playing classics that may have passed them by.
In response to “Evolution, Not Deviation” from The Escapist forums:
You know what I would like to see? More developers that do something with their older games to tie them to the newer games. I would like previous games in a series updated with the newer mechanics they introduce in a sequel. I would like things thrown in the new game where if you have their past game(s), you will be given (x) character or mechanic as an unlockable.
This would do a couple of things. People would be more inclined to go out and purchase an unplayed previous version of a game if it were “closer” to the game they just played, mechanics-wise. And people would also re-visit old games for a new play-through, keeping the game fresh in peoples’ minds. People would hang onto their games just for an updated version to come along, rather than trade them in for a quick buck for the next big thing. It would make the online communities of multiplayer games more robust as well, rather than becoming a ghost town as soon as the newest game comes out; games that sell themselves on multiplayer play are more limited in lifespan right now. You have to play them here and now before they become irrelevant.
I want games to be more forward-compatable within a series. It’s why I preferred Rock Band to the Guitar Hero series. I knew that my songs in each game would play in the next version with the new mechanics, so they were never “wasted” purchases. There are still licensing issues keeping me from playing some of the songs through the titles (it still irks me that I can’t play “Enter Sandman” by Metallica or “Any Way You Want It” by Journey in the latest titles….). It was also the reason why I never wanted Rock Band Beatles…it wasn’t cross compatable.
Imagine being able to play the oldest versions of Armored Core with the newest engine/mechanics. How about Grand Theft Auto 3? Diablo? Final Fantasy? Resident Evil in the above example? There are so many games that could be “strengthened” by doing this. Would it cost money? Sure it would. But not only would you get money from renewed sales (provided you still offered a way to purchase the game), it would tie more people to following developers throughout their career in a series (or across series…).