News We Care About Wrapup – 5.30.08

Beyond good and sequels
Beyond Good and Evil 2 was recently released much to the joy of gaming forums everywhere. Sequels are exciting because it means more of something good. That we long for sequels seems to stem from a few things but most of them point to problems in the industry. It means we expect crap and usually get crap and when a game that’s worth playing actually comes out we want more because the other option is crap. We want sequels because we do not trust developers to make good games. If Ancel is given full reign over his next project and allowed to do what he wants, then let the man create something new. Shadow of the Colossus is the perfect example – a great game by the same designer as a game you love is even better than a sequel. We only want the sequels because they seem like a safer bet in a market full of Catz and Horsez.

This may be the first hi definition man pig I’ve seen.

I understand being attached to characters and wanting to catch up with old friends, but our desire to see every game get five sequels needs to change. As long as we want sequels the industry will make them and they ultimately shoehorn design and stifle creativity.

Miyamoto making more boring games
Miyamoto has recently made games based on boring topics. Dogs, plants, and exercise…woohoo, but this is not a problem. Even if his games are mundane, the industry benefits more when he makes something new than when he refines something old the fiftieth time. Mario and Zelda may get a free pass because they are always so well made, but starting from a preconceived gameplay system (or genre) limits where your thoughts can take you (read Chris Crawford’s book on design for more about this). When Nintendo puts their mind to it we get Pikmin, Wii Sports, Animal Crossing, Wario Ware and unknown gems like Super Mario Bros and the Legend of Zelda.

Companies churn out sequels because they make a profit and it’s hard to begrudge them that. But as Tobey Maguire observed, with great power comes great responsibility. The most talented people in any industry should be pushing the limit of the envelope and shifting paradigms outside of boxes. We need them to be creative as hell and leave the slightly modified sequels to other designers. Miyamoto should keep making games based on stupid everyday things because it’s better than him producing Link to the Past 4.

Squeenix ’07 profits fail to impress
Square Enix didn’t do as well as they expected in the states last year and ports of ports of ports may be to blame. The logic of reselling every game they’ve ever made makes sense, so it’s hard to fault them from a business perspective. Game titles are the brand names in this industry, not designers or teams and so it makes sense to assume selling things that say Final Fantasy on them will lead to riches.

Why won’t people buy the 6th version of our 20 year old game?

Few gamers care what happened to Troika, yet any news of Fallout 3 is devoured by a rabid fanbase. The people behind games are almost irrelevant because game names are so important to us. The majority of gamers is happy to see Bethesda take over the Fallout franchise because more Fallout is more Fallout regardless of its provenance. Is this true in other industries? Were any real movie buffs excited by Terminator 3? Do people not care what Spielberg is doing next, and just want to see ET2? This argument can devolve into absurdity as game teams are huge and it’s possible the team won’t be the same if it loses the intern who got them coffee, but at least in very broad strokes we should learn to focus more on the actual talent making our games and less on game names.

Maybe this is beginning to happen, or maybe Americans just can’t stand playing Square ports.

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15 years ago

That’s an interesting point about the dependability of sequels and perhaps it goes some of the way toward explaining the brand loyalty you find so puzzling. Maybe the concepts and mechanics that make up a great game are good enough on their own to let people trust in the sequel, regardless of who exactly is working with those ideas. As long as the developer sticks with what works (and in an industry that fears change that’s usually a safe bet) it seems like any development house with enough money and a reasonably decent track record can put out a satisfactory sequel. Perhaps, when it comes to sequels, it’s not so much the talent that matters, but the blueprints.

Also, I’m with you all the way that something new is better for games and the people who play them than sticking with an established franchise, but I’d say that in cases like BG&E, where the narrative was specifically intended to take more than one title to resolve, I’m more likely to support the idea that the developer should devote the resources necessary to finish what they started.

15 years ago

you also have to hope that they don’t break up the narrative in order to make tons of cash money (see .hack)

15 years ago

Fair, Christian:) I’ve always wondered why that hasn’t happened more often. Since stretching plotlines out far past their ability to maintain cohesion has been so financially successful in anime, I’d have figured more people in the Japanese game industry in particular would be willing to go that route.

Though now that I stop and think about it, I’m not sure it would be all bad. I have a great appreciation for the Ace Attorney series, after all, and that is an almost by the book example of leading an audience along by their fondness for familiar characters in a slowly unraveling (or perhaps circuitous) narrative arc. Capcom doesn’t really have to put in new mechanics for me to buy (and like) a new AA game because most of what I’m excited about are the new cases and dialogue or hoping that I’ll see a familiar face or two.

How many .hack games have there been, now, by the way? It feels like it’s almost up there with The Sims 2 expansions…