So many game companies today are looking to please their fans, and I think that makes good sense considering the fans indirectly feed their children. The problem is, however, that every developer has different views on how to achieve that.
Look at the differences between Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr; both mutants wanted to not have to begin and end every day in a constant struggle with the human race, but they had radically different ideas on how to achieve that goal. Magneto is the tragic villain who wanted to enslave or destroy the obviously inferior humans believing that was the best way to achieve peace, while Captain Pic-I mean Professor X wanted to appeal to humanity’s, erm, humanity, and negotiate that peace with them. Left to their own devices without any opposition, either could have succeeded. The problem is that given the option, neither humans NOR mutants could decide which one they actually would like better. Diff’rent Strokes, and all that jazz.
I'll tell you what I'm talking about: Game developers are much the same. They all want to amuse us gamers, and we all want to be amused but NOBODY can decide the perfect way to accomplish that task. Some gamers prefer the Call of Duty approach, which legitimizes annual installments with upgraded graphics and features while maintaining the same basic game structure, premise, story and control scheme. This obviously pleases both their fanbase and the developers, because franchises like Call of Duty have dominated sales. Go to any GameStop, there is only one game that is still above $50 after months of being available for retail: Call of Duty.
Still, ask other gamers and you’ll get a swift answer about how Call of Duty is for quick-trigger frat boys (Don’t see where friedricearoni fits in there…) and that real gamers play games with a little more substance…as they boot up their most recent Assassin’s Creed purchase. This franchise is, again, one with almost if not actually annual installments that legitimizes its existence with a continuation of story and features while pretty much being the same game as the previous installment. This also works for the Uncharted franchise, because we see an improvement over time in Nathan Drake’s movements and abilities (but not gunplay? Ugh…) while the story progresses. The truth is that I loved the Uncharted series but I hope Naughty Dog’s upcoming Last of Us game is a one-and-done IP. I love zombies, but my askew perception of the movie and game industry due to constantly following all things thereunto pertaining has caused me to loathe a majority of games and movies planned as a series (especially planned trilogies…ugh).
Three more movies, Precious?
A little off topic, but why is the Hobbit a planned trilogy? Tolkein’s book was not that much longer than any of the others, and they all got one movie per. While I have no doubt that the movies will be good, I hate Peter Jackson for doing that. You want an example of a great movie that could have been done in two or three installments but was done flawlessly in one instead? One word, people...Watchmen. Watch and learn, Mr. Jackson. Condense your material and you have a much more potent product, like drinking 151 instead of Zima. Anyways, back to the topic:
Moving away from the popular franchises that come out with annual installments, we come across another type of game developer with dreams of fan appeasement. Grand Theft Auto, The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, InFamous, Prototype and a literal crapton of Japanese RPG’s attempt to provide gamers with a wide, expansive play-through that is only limited by the gamers themselves. Only by rushing through the main story or attempting to experience literally everything do these games not adequately please the fanbase. Spend 200+ hours in Skyrim and you will see right through the simple and engaging yet flawed “hit stuff harder than it hits you until it dies” combat system. Spend only enough time fighting dragons that you are still enthralled with the intuitive and inventive leveling system and the game seems pretty genius. Some people enjoy the simplicity and story-driven and suspenseful point-and-click adventure of the Walking Dead series, while others think that it is limiting itself by not allowing combo moves or a progressive character-building engine like some of the aforementioned titles that involves the player getting personal with the experience. The Walking Dead series was meant as an interactive, episodic experience focusing on replay value and pure storytelling, not player skill or in-game tenure. Complaining about the Walking Dead games is like going to a strip club and complaining that the dancers aren’t good at Scrabble. That’s not what they get paid to do, so shutup and enjoy the things that the show DOES offer or leave to find your big-breasted Scrabble-jockey elsewhere.
The Perfect Woman?
I guess the determining factor in how these games are designed comes down to past lessons and developer creativity. Obviously you don’t need me to tell you that Resident Evil is a strong movie and game franchise because they keep coming out with more of them. Think for a moment, though: Couldn’t the movies be better? I mean, really, I love Milla Jovovich but if they had someone truly genius at the helm for those movies I feel like they could have been something bigger and greater. Stan Lee originally asked Jack Kirby to draw Spider-Man, but after several renditions he found that Kirby couldn’t bring forth Stan’s true vision of what the wall-crawler was meant to look like. He then asked Steve Ditko, who delivered the character we know and love today. Point is, in the wrong hands we could have gotten a much different Spider-Man. In the right hands we could have gotten a much better Resident Evil movie series. This is why I go to bed every night whispering the almighty mantra of “In Whedon we trust.” The Avengers movie was an outstanding example of a movie that could have been bad or mediocre if it didn’t land in the hands of the one person who could pull it off THAT well.
No matter your personal taste, there are games being made for you. Professor X and Magneto saw eye-to-eye in the early stages of their relationship because they both wanted peace. It wasn’t until they both tried to achieve that peace that they went their separate and often criss-crossing paths. Game developers can epitomize what these characters stood for in regards to the multitude of gaming choices by being your hero or tragic villain. For those of you who remember the “Good old days” of RPG gaming, they are updating and adding to Bauldur’s Gate to bring it to PC’s this Fall. If you like puzzle games, there’s millions of those being developed for iPhones and Android devices (not to mention on PSN and XBLA). Action and RPG games are always gracing the market, along with a few surprise releases like HD remakes of our old favorites. It seems from the Podcast this past Sunday that the only person who isn’t getting the game they wanted is Tim AKA TheOneOshai, who seemed especially interested in playing a game called “Killing Me Softly”. Personally, I’m looking forward to Fall of Cybertron coming out sometime in late August; the idea of actually playing as a giant robot dinosaur with a limited vocabulary is just...remarkable.