Tuesday, 8 March 2011

The problem with modern gaming - part 2

Welcome to the second part in this series, part one can be found here (http://www.1up.com/do/blogEntry?bId=9073622) – go take a quick look and come back, I’ll still be here for when you come back…… All done? Good now we shall continue with:

Send in the clones

Hands up, who’s played a sports game – you know the ones I mean Tiger Woods, Madden, NHL, FIFA, NBA … the list goes on! Ok not a sports fan how about a game like Battlefield, Unreal Tournament, Street Fighter, Tony Hawk, Mortal Kombat, Tomb Raider, Soul Caliber, Super Mario Brothers, Sonic Adventures, or Guitar Hero? You must have played at least one of those?

Each of these games has a sequel to it and in most cases follows the law of diminishing returns (see here for technical definition). Many of these games developers feel it a must that they put out a new version of these games at least once a year with some minor updates. With many games now being connected to the internet via some service or another, games can be very easily patched on a console or even added to with downloadable content.

Each new version try’s to improve on where the other version failed, and from time to time we see improvements with updated graphics or new control elements, for example when moving to a new console. But with the current console cycle being the longest yet these improvements are becoming fewer and fewer and the publishers are asking consumers to pay £40 / $60 for a few tweaks to a game they already have and could be done just as easy through downloadable content.

Beyond the non-obvious clones in the form of sequels we also have the real clones or knock-off’s, you know the ones I mean. The review refers to it all the time in ways such as “like God of War but …” or “like GTA but …” or even “this is clearly inspired by Crackdown.” These are the games that the developers were either playing and thought “I could make a tonne of money off this,” or some executive at the developer we “we can make a tonne of money off this idea”.

Examples of this type of game can be seen all the time in clear poor games which enter the bargin bucket quicker than a piece of chicken that ended up on the floor. Occasionally there is a half decent attempt at a knock off and they create their own clones sorry I mean sequels, case in point Saints Row (GTA), Prototype (Crackdown), and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow (God of War) (I credit Yahtzee Croshaw with this one). The last one is in fact a sequel, or is it a prequel? (a sequel in disguise).

Right now the consoles and pc gamers are all going to die a death of boredom if they don’t get some new game ideas flowing soon. We have seen this happen with some nice new shiny games come our way but those damn executives get a dollar sign in their eyes and BANG we have a sequel with Multiplayer on its way!

Yet fear not, there is a light being seen and you’re not going to like me for saying this – social gaming. Now don’t hit me (yet), hear me out first. Social gaming (in my world) includes all of the iPhone / mobile games that we have seen pop up with the age of the smart phone in the last few years. Take a look at some of the games that we have been given – Game Dev Story, Angry Birds, Broken Sword, and to some extent Farmville (ok you can punch me for that last one).

Each of these games has taken something simple and made something of it. Game Dev Story is one such example, where they have taken the management sim (a long forgotten genre of game) and added a new touch to the game by making a game where you have to make games to succeed. The game is simple in concept, clearly aimed at a target market and is a solid game.
So why have these games been missed or over looked? Well (I’ve done it again) that brings me to a new point:

She’s goin’a blow!

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