In many games there are design choices make the difference between goodness and greatness in the final product. Take the new Cryptic MMO Neverwinter, for example: The complicated D&D mechanics, heavy graphics options and expansive backstory make the game pretty good and worthy of checking out. The simplified yet fully capable control scheme and the fact that you can create your own quests make it great. Whereas some players would have satiated their D&D gaming hunger and moved on, now their imagination haunts them until creating the perfect campaign. This was definitely a design choice with the player in mind, to empower him or her into creating their own fun. The game is meant to make money, as evidenced by the high in-game purchase prices, but the business model of “good free stuff will bring more business to our not-so-free stuff” is a pretty decent one from a player’s perspective.
Boobs and Undead have always been staples of Dungeons and Dragons, and they remain so in Neverwinter.
Core concepts of what make a game fun don’t usually change between genres; customization, abstract goals and meaningful divergent choice are what separates a game I might pick up at the RedBox for a day or so and a game I take a few days off work for. The graphics and engine aren’t the biggest deciding factors for me, and I suspect the same is true for a lot of gamers. We need something to make us feel like we are a part of our experience, like we had a heavy hand in the victory when our tactical decisions and other choices stack in our favor. Check out the game State of Decay, where your zombie survival skills are put to the test in an open world. It’s not about headshots and hand grenades; your decisions really do matter in this game. As with X-Com: Enemy Unknown and the upcoming X-Com Declassified, the intense action is a backdrop to your leadership decisions and failure is a real possibility if careful decisiveness is not exhibited.
Boobs and Undead in State of Decay...I think I may be seeing a pattern.
So what about games that don’t really let the player do anything but press buttons? What about the Devil May Cry, Metal Gear Solid, Call of Duty and anything-by-Naughty-Dog action experiences that deliver a specific experience without ever asking the player what they want? These aren’t bad games by any means but could you imagine what amazing awesomeness it would be if there was a level editor component to Black Ops 2 zombies? I get tired of the same maps, and I think a level editor would be the deciding factor between my zombie experience being good and great. What if you could level up like in multiplayer, but instead of unbalancing the game by unlocking better weapons or perks for only your character you unlocked zombie skins and level editor items? That would make the game an instant classic in my eyes. A level editor does not make sense, however, in something like Metal Gear Solid or Devil May Cry. Not a whole lot of player input is meant to happen in games so centered around their protagonist.
But Devil May Cry does have boobs and undead, I believe. Worth picking up, if you like those things. Which should be all of you.
I wanna hear you guys sound off on this: What is an addition to a game you like that would make it truly ascend to greatness?