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The Perils of Pointless Innovation In Games 260

Posted by Soulskill
from the why-does-my-rocket-launcher-have-reloading-minigame dept.
Negative Gamer is running a story discussing the need felt by the major game developers to create the next huge blockbuster, which often leads to innovation and change for their own sake rather than simply focusing on what makes a game fun. Quoting: "There seems to be this invisible pressure to create something that is highly 'intuitive' and incorporates the highest level of innovation that we have ever seen. The problem is that the newest ideas put into games are either gimmicky, terrible in execution, or blatantly ripping off another title. On the other hand there are series that feel the need to completely revamp a game that played perfectly fine before into something completely new that falls flat on its face. ... There's a critical problem with popular, mainstream video games that isn't as large with other mediums; they are expensive to make and require a lot of time and effort put in to create something masterful. With that, games must take cautious paths. I fully understand the risks, but adding unneeded material to certain games is not justifiable."
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The Perils of Pointless Innovation In Games

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  • by OzPeter (195038) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @02:14PM (#27549679)
    Ah .. yes .. office suites!

    This sort of shit has been happening ever since there were companies competing for market-share of the same domain.

    And I doubt it is even related to software alone.
    • by tjstork (137384) <todd,bandrowsky&gmail,com> on Sunday April 12, 2009 @02:19PM (#27549695) Homepage Journal

      The thing is, though, even though 98 out of 100 improvements turn out to be flops, those 2 out of 100 seem to have carried humanity from flint tools all the way to nuclear weapons and internet porn. Well, that's some improvement!

    • by CyberLife (63954) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @02:40PM (#27549829)

      The problem is that the newest ideas ... are either gimmicky, terrible in execution, or blatantly ripping off ...

      This describes the majority of products marketed by infomercial. It is (once again) not unique to software.

    • by IdahoEv (195056) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @02:51PM (#27549891) Homepage

      The problem is that the newest ideas put into games are ... or blatantly ripping off another title.

      Newest ideas. Blatantly ripping off another title.

      One of these things is not like the other.

      • by Kjella (173770) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @03:30PM (#27550079) Homepage

        Yep. Particularly because you're also hounded if you haven't brought along the good stuff from the last generation. I particularly noticed it in RTS games which I played from Dune to many of the C&C series, Warcraft and so on. thinkgs like smart queues, formations, configurable hotkeys, command groups, AI tactics and so on. I went back to play the original Dune II once, it was still cool but damn how many annoyances it had with things you just expected in newer games. And I say this as someone that loved it and finished the campaign with all three, even the useless Ordos. You can't make a stunning good RTS without "ripping off" a lot of what's already been done. Then you can add something extra spicy on top...

        • It's not quite the same thing, but I went back and played Mario 64 recently and was frustrated by how primitive the camera system is compared to newer 3D games. You feel like you're fighting with it the whole time. It's still one of my favorite games, but hey, progress is progress.

          • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

            by stonewallred (1465497)
            Hell I play space invaders all the time, and this new fangled games just don't have the same thrills and excitement. graphics have improved a little, but the spine tingling chills you get as those frickin aliens come closer and closer to your bases can't be beat with today's crappy video games.
            • The game I've logged in the most hours on recently was Road Rash 3, and before that it was Cool Spot. For whatever reason I just never got over the allure of 16-bit gaming, especially platformers and beat-'em-ups.

              But I think you could make a clear case that the camera systems in 3D platformers have come pretty far since the early ones. The checks against "is the camera about to end up somewhere really stupid?" have gotten more involved. I don't remember even noting the camera in, say, Okami.

        • by Xaoswolf (524554)
          Then you can add something extra spicy on top...

          And that spice is the life.

    • by westlake (615356)
      Ah .. yes .. office suites!

      You choose the "brand name" office suite because it is a rock-solid solution that scales.

      There are no show-stoppers for the one-man office. No show-stoppers for the business with a clerical staff of 15,000.

      The obscure function your temp needs is where she expects to find it.

      It won't matter whether you recruited her in mid-town Manhattan or Nowhere, Nebraska.

      Integration with Small Business Accounting and other software and services will be - at least ideally - butter-smooth.

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Sunday April 12, 2009 @02:17PM (#27549691) Journal

    There seems to be this invisible pressure to create something that is highly 'intuitive' and incorporates the highest level of innovation that we have ever seen.

    Well, this is certainly the first time I've heard someone complain about innovation and change in gaming.

    The picture of the ... blogger? looks pretty young on this article. I wonder if he recalls playing 2D sidescroller after 2D sidescroller? Or if he realizes that a lot of games come out based on the same engine and it really bores me when I realize that I'm just playing a re-textured version of Doom 3 (or whatever the first game was that used that engine).

    On the other hand there are series that feel the need to completely revamp a game that played perfectly fine before ...

    Then play the first game over and over. There are some people that prefer to play something different. Yes, at some point you should draw the line but there are so many games out there you should just read the reviews or rent it and avoid it.

    Given enough competition, innovation is a very good thing regardless.

    The problem is that the newest ideas put into games are either gimmicky, terrible in execution, or blatantly ripping off another title.

    What you are complaining about does not sound like "innovation" but merely something that annoys you. How is it innovative to do any of those things? It sounds more like you're just upset about some franchise being ruined for a title or two so you needed to vent. This isn't "pointless innovation," it's copycatting.

    • by hedwards (940851) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @02:47PM (#27549873)

      You're missing the point. Innovation when done well is fine by the author, it's the half baked interface tweaks that add nothing to the experience which he's labeling pointless.

      Over time there have been a relatively large number of really interesting mechanics added to games which have made for a good time. But change for the sake of change isn't what causes that. These are developers that had an idea and integrated it into the game in a way that people could handle without a lot of hassle.

      Sometimes it's a graphics technology which just adds a wow factor, other times it's more complicated to integrate such as a 3rd race in an RTS or the ability to interact with the environment the way that one can in Assassin's creed or Crysis. Sure one could do a lot of that before, but not to that extent.

      But what those all have in common is that the developers thought things through and made the changes work into the game so that they fit.

    • by nEoN nOoDlE (27594) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @03:18PM (#27550037) Homepage

      Or if he realizes that a lot of games come out based on the same engine and it really bores me when I realize that I'm just playing a re-textured version of Doom 3

      I don't think it's the game engine that bores you, but that the story and gameplay is boring and isn't keeping you compelled. Who cares what the engine is? Once I'm running through the same mazes, trying to find the same keys, the game gets boring. Take Assassin's Creed. The first city was amazing. There was a ton of stuff to do, people to save, soldiers to fight. Then you beat them and find out the next 9 levels are exactly the same, down to the mission structure and number of guys to save, etc. It hits boring almost immediately after that realization comes. Other games, however, have new things for you to do every level, even keeping it within the structure of the game - such as God of War. It never feels like you're doing the same thing twice. That kind of stuff is independent on whether they've licensed the Unreal engine to do it, and there's nothing really "innovative" about it. In God of War, the mechanics of the big boss battles are taken straight out of Dragon's Lair from 1983. Hit a point in the path, press a button. If you get the button wrong, try again.

  • fail early (Score:5, Insightful)

    by acidrain (35064) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @02:19PM (#27549701)
    With our budgets the conservatism is understandable. At the same time when you are trying to make a new product there is also pressure to be the one that stands out. So the creative process demands that you try new things, preferably early on in the project. I think the real problem here (sorry to parade out an industry truism) is not failing quickly enough. If a new feature or mechanic becomes a *big deal* and is not allowed to fail when it starts to suck, the investment of money and ego may require it to ship. However, trying new things when you have time to take the risks, and are not overly committed to shipping them, is the thing that keeps us evolving.
  • by Cinder6 (894572) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @02:21PM (#27549719)
    Every time a sequel for a popular game comes out, fans (and detractors) will cry out if it uses the same gameplay as the previous game. "There's nothing new!" But if the developers change it up, then the fans will cry foul, saying they're "ruining the experience" or "fixing what isn't broken".

    But, it seems like the video game media likes (and praises) innovation quite a bit, which could be why the developers do it. The fans will be upset no matter what, but at least they can try to get the media on their side, regardless of whether the innovations in question are any good.
    • by vux984 (928602) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @02:33PM (#27549787)

      Bingo, at least on your first point.

      If they change it people bitch: "I loved X, the changes in X-II make it completely different game!" If they don't change it people bitch: "Why should I pay $50 to play X with a new skin?"

      However, you talk about the 'media' praising change and innovation. I disagree. The 'media' is as obnoxious as the fans. I think its actually more obnoxious. They love utter shit, they shit on true genius. Gaming media for the most part doesn't have an objective bone in their body, their just balancing the fans with the advertisers and they say whatever generates the most revenue. Whether its pooing on a triple-A title to generate a shitstorm (and boost ad impressions) or passing off poo as pure gold to appease their advertisers.

      The developers themselves pretty much do a little of everything. Some innovate, some imitate, and the reality is that the market genuinely wants some of each, so its no real shock that we get just that.

      • by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Sunday April 12, 2009 @03:39PM (#27550127) Homepage

        The implicit assumption you've made is that there is a need to make X-II. Very often, that's not the case at all, and that's where the problem often comes in.

        The article makes a great point: games these days are often planned to be series, not just good games. That leads to the assumption you made.

        Let's take Full Spectrum Warrior. That was an amazing game. It had a sequel, but I never got around to playing. I didn't feel any need, the first game was all that it needed to be. The sequel would either be more of the same (fun, but not enough for me to go buy/rent instead of another game) or have some kind of "innovation" that may have ruined it.

        Even the games that get this all somewhat right (like Advanced Wars, which in the end added too many units ruining the simplicity) wear out their welcome by cramming so many sequels out (I know it's a long series in Japan, but they had time between releases some times didn't they?).

        • Even the games that get this all somewhat right (like Advanced Wars, which in the end added too many units ruining the simplicity) wear out their welcome by cramming so many sequels out (I know it's a long series in Japan, but they had time between releases some times didn't they?).

          To answer your comment about time between releases, not really, 4 games were released within a few years of each other, Game Boy Wars II and Super Famicom Wars were both released in 1998 and Game Boy Wars III and Advance wars were released in 2001, but on the rest of your comment Advance Wars is one of those games in a genre where each new game will feel more like an expansion pack then a new game. There are a few reasons for this:

          A) The hardware is advanced enough to provide all the gameplay without

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by jdbausch (1419981)
      the video game media needs to create content. writing about the new features is much easier than trying to spin "it is more of the same" into a full article.
    • by WDot (1286728)
      They should listen to what their customers want.

      For example, many Sonic the Hedgehog fans have been begging for a Sonic game with absolutely no innovation whatsoever, just pretty graphics and genesis-era gameplay. Sega acted ridiculous by announcing that Sonic Unleashed would be old-school Sonic gameplay--with the innovation that Sonic could now turn into a werewolf that punched things. Seriously, if somebody shoehorned in Sonic 2 game logic into a modern graphics engine, I wouldn't mind, just stop the
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Haeleth (414428)

      Every time a sequel for a popular game comes out, fans (and detractors) will cry out if it uses the same gameplay as the previous game. "There's nothing new!"

      Really? I can't remember many examples of this.

      Doom 2, perhaps ... but then people were specifically complaining that the game didn't have as many new weapons as they'd hoped it might. They weren't upset that the basic gameplay was the same.

      But if the developers change it up, then the fans will cry foul, saying they're "ruining the experience" or "fix

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 12, 2009 @02:22PM (#27549729)

    M-W.com defines:

    Intuition:

    1: quick and ready insight
    2 a: immediate apprehension or cognition b: knowledge or conviction gained by intuition c: the power or faculty of attaining to direct knowledge or cognition without evident rational thought and inference

    Innovation:
    1 : the introduction of something new
    2 : a new idea, method, or device : novelty

    These two things, although they often overlap, are not the same thing. Intuitive means something is easy to use without having to work hard at it (Boy, this point and shoot interface in this first person shooter game is intuitive!). Innovation means that the idea is new (Wow, I never knew it would be fun to roll a ball of trash around and make it as large as possible until I played this game, katamari damacy!). You can innovate without having an intuitive interface. You can make a new game with an intuitive interface without bringing anything new to the table.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jalefkowit (101585)
      There's a saying in the world of user interface design: "The only truly intuitive interface is the nipple. All others are learned."
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Proper nipple use is not instinctive, at least for humans. Ask any nursing mother about the first breast feeding of her children, and be prepared to cringe.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jdbausch (1419981)
      just more proof that the article is just another ill-informed rant from some idiot blogger who we are all dumber for having read.
  • If it ain't broke...don't fix it.
    • Now that I think about it "A solution in search of a problem" is probably a better saying.
    • One of the biggest problems with US Game developers is that they are constantly outsourcing artwork to generic the chinese artists and then asking their talented US artists to 'fix' it.

      If the management/developers would put more into their own artists and programmers (by hiring appropriately instead of putting them in 'CRUNCH' mode constantly), than they put into expense-covered corvettes and parties --- maybe the games will come out more REFINED and of some form of actual QUALITY.

      One thing I am sick of as

    • by Urkki (668283)

      If it ain't broke...don't fix it.

      Except if it's an airplane... Because if it breaks, you might be too busy screaming on your way down to fix it then.

      Same actually applies to many businesses, including game business. The trick is to know when to fix it. Fortunately airplane service manuals and air traffic regulations tell when to fix an airplane. Unfortunately there aren't such manuals for running a business.

    • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968.gmail@com> on Sunday April 12, 2009 @03:28PM (#27550067) Journal

      The problem is it IS broke, the developers are just trying to bury the broke under lots of pretty. let me give an example from my favorite Genre: The FPS. Do the FPS of today look more realistic? Yes, in fact they have probably gone overboard and made the specs too high, cutting a good chunk of their market out of buying their product. Riddick:EFBB frankly is about as pretty as you need to have good realism and still work on older hardware, but that in itself ain't the problem. What is the problem?

      The problem is while the graphics have gotten some kind of pretty the AI has not only NOT gotten better, in more and more games it seems the bad guys are as dumb as a bag of hammers. And trying to cover up your totally pisspoor AI with multiplayer don't help. If your single player blows ass I'm not going to even bother firing up the multiplayer. In the old days it was easier to cover up pisspoor AI because the environments were sparse. You were in a hall, the bad guy was in the hall, pretty much all you could do was blaze on each other. Nowadays we have realistic environments which just make the pisspoor AI stick out like a sore thumb and kill the suspension of disbelief. If the enemy is some elite merc/Nazi/commando, whatever, and he doesn't notice when he walks into a field where I have piled his buddies up like cordwood? Kinda kills all that realism you are striving for. Or when I am standing in broad daylight not 30 yards away and drop his buddy not 2 feet from him and he just keeps tiptoeing through the tulips without even getting cover or opening up on me? Lame. Hell I've listened to my 15 year old play games and what I usually hear is "Who designed this thing? DUCK YOU DUMMY!"

      Look, myself and the other gamers ain't asking for rocket scientists here. And we know how expensive graphics are. Most of us would be more than happy with 2003-04 graphics if they game was actually fun and gave us a good fight. But it seems like everyone is on a "my epeen is bigger than yours" graphics contest that ends up pricing many potential customers right out of your market. My machine is currently a 3.6GHz HT enabled P4 with a 7600GS. You would be surprised at how many machines there are out there with similar specs. It runs Bioshock and FEAR and most importantly lets me get my work done without needing to spend $$$$ in a dead economy on a giant epeen. Talking to lots of my fellow FPS players we have come to the same conclusion: most of the new games ain't fun. Sure they are purty as hell, but they are about as enjoyable as an Excel spreadsheet. The AI sucks, the collision detection is shoddy, weapon balance is shitty, etc. It just ain't fun.

      You want to be innovative instead of trying to build the biggest epeen how about trying to build the most fun FPS? Serious Sam? fun. SoF I&II? fun. NOLF I&II? VERY fun. Deus Ex? FUN. See a connection here? None of these games were top of the graphics charts when they were released, yet folks still keep talking about them and coming back for another round because they were F.U.N. with a capital F. Quit trying to build games that need a fricking supercomputer just to get more than 6 FPS because in this economy folks ain't buying that many space heating "sorry about your penis" rigs. Focus instead on getting the graphics just "good enough" that they support your core gameplay which should be FUN. These new games feel like they been designed by committees using bullet points from what was a hit last year. But if at the end of the day you end up with a game that needs to have a quad core to play but is about as fun as sitting in on a staff meeting at Kinko's don't be surprised when myself and the other gamers refuse to plunk down $50+ for it, because it simply ain't worth it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jollyreaper (513215)

        You want to be innovative instead of trying to build the biggest epeen how about trying to build the most fun FPS? Serious Sam? fun. SoF I&II? fun. NOLF I&II? VERY fun. Deus Ex? FUN. See a connection here? None of these games were top of the graphics charts when they were released, yet folks still keep talking about them and coming back for another round because they were F.U.N. with a capital F.

        Games are becoming more and more like movies in this regard. Back in the day, just showing a train coming into a station was enough to wow the audience. But as the audience got more sophisticated, more was required to impress them. Then you ended up with market segmentation. There's the people who want tits and splosions, there's the people who like Woody Allen movies, there's the people who like screwball british comedies, etc. But even within those genres there's good work and bad. Everyone can do explosi

      • by Zan Lynx (87672)

        There are a lot of games where I've seen people complain about the AI. The idiots are playing on Normal or even Easy!

        Yeah, some games make it Hard by boosting the enemy armor and giving them more damage. But not the best ones. The best games are nerfing the AI on Easy or Regular just so you can win.

        Don't complain about the AI unless you've played the game on the higher difficulty levels.

        • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968.gmail@com> on Sunday April 12, 2009 @10:02PM (#27552417) Journal

          I HAVE played on high, and you know what I find? Rubber band AI. They simply cheat by cranking out the bad guys armor or allowing him to pull off perfect head shots from a mile away while I am trying to make do with an M1 Garand. That ain't fun. That is like making yet ANOTHER WW2 shooter and then going "Oh it ain't hard enough for ya? Well how about this: I give your enemy heat seeking smart bullets and night vision that sees through walls and you get...a Colt 45 with six bullets. Oh yeah, and your character has a pulled groin muscle and limps to the left. Have fun!"

          But of course that AIN'T fun, that is just covering up the pisspoor AI with heat seeking super bullets. There are times when that might be believable. A battle hardened German Sniper sitting in the top of a tower picking you off? That I can accept. The green ass grunt being able to "magically" know EXACTLY where you are even behind building and able to carry and rain down massive amounts of lead coated death? Not so much. A good example IMHO of "getting it right" would be Bioshock and FEAR. With the exception of a few glaring examples(bad guys trying to climb under a locker when a simple step over would do in FEAR. If you played it you know the spot) the AI worked. Compare that to MOH:Airborne where I have seen Nazi elite troops run to hide behind the SAME box that from the huge pile of corpses beside would give even the most retarded bad guy notice that perhaps that ain't the place to be hiding. All cranking the AI does on those games is paint a giant flag above your head that says "HE IS RIGHT HERE!!!"

          And as for the above poster talking about how we "want" or tits and explosions? You ALMOST had it right and then veered off course bud. Do we want stuff to blow up real good? Hell yes! But the more IMPORTANT question is this: Do we honestly give a shit if the explosion uses realistic "blast physics" so that each fricking timber comes down in the EXACT right place as it would if you hit it with an RPG. I have talked to more gamers than I can count and we agree: Who cares as long as it goes boom?

          Realistic physics is another one of those "epeen" bullet points that require a supercomputer to get more than 6 FPS that is being pushed ON rather than BY the gamer. As long as the explosions are big and fiery we are happy little campers. All that "my physics is better than your physics" crap does is give bullet points to ATI and Nvidia for their latest cards and pushes a hell of a lot of gamers right out of your market. As a PC repairman with 15 years experience I can say that the "sweet spot" in graphics is between a 6200 and a 7600 on the Nvidia side with the 6600 and 7600 being quite popular and widely used, with the X1650PRO being quite popular on the ATI side of the pond. None of the above cards are going to work with the "realistic physic" eye candy but you know what? At prices between $50-100 bucks they are still big sellers. Why in the nine hells would you want to get into a "sorry about your penis" battle with the other game publishers and cut so many potential buyers right out of your market? In this economy it makes NO sense at all, and I bet if you look at Nvidia+ATI sales records they are selling 10 to 1 on the under $100 cards compared to the $300+ cards.

          Everyone in the game industry seems to be missing the forest for the trees. Allow me to point out a few problems with the way it is now: 1.-Graphics needing a quad core with SLI to keep from being a slideshow. You want to make pretty graphics? Fine, but learn what the words "degrade gracefully" mean. You are cutting your own throats by making system reqs too damned high. 2.-Crazy amounts of physics. See rule #1. 3.- AI that totally sucks or is rubber band AI. If you quit blowing your cash on graphics that price you right out of the market then maybe we'll see better AI than fricking DOOM in your game. They don't have to be smart, just not retarded without cheating. 4.-Totally bogus DRM schemes. The "only x activations" BS needs to go PERIOD. You ain't doing squat to the pira

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        No one's produced a computer game I've wanted to buy since about 2005 with Falcon 4.0 Allied force. The combat flight simulator genre is dead. The Space Flight Sim is dead. And the FPS's these days are all pretty much the same. I loved the early Tom Clancy games: Rainbow 6, Rogue Spear, Black Thorn, Ghost Recon, Desert Seige, Island Thunder, etc.. Then all of a sudden the elements that made those game fun, such as tactical planning before you went into a mission, were gone and the Ghost Recon and Rainbo

  • 100% true (Score:3, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Sunday April 12, 2009 @02:25PM (#27549745) Homepage Journal

    If you're trying to fit a mechanic into your game instead of building a game around a mechanic you will fail. If it doesn't fit, don't shove. Honestly I think I'd be happier playing Twilight Princess with an ordinary gamepad, ala 'Cube, than with the Wiimote.

  • Problem... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by blahplusplus (757119) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @02:37PM (#27549813)

    ... the author makes some good points but when he started lauding MGS 4 as the pinnacle of what good game design is I had to take a step back.

    The amount of cutscenes in Japanese games is offputting while the gameplay is often lacking (or the companies don't have a clue of what was fun about it).

    You can especially see how stale the JRPG genre has become by going "simple" (read: cutting corners, cutting the best parts out they had in previous games going way back to the early 1990's). I would love to run a JRPG company and kick a lot of crappy developers and so-called visionaries out, some JRPG dev's are seriously stagnating and backtracking in RPG's in recent years.

    Also I couldn't stand FFX and MGS 4 for same reasons, too much cutscenes too little gameplay options. In FFX they simplified the weapon and armor system so radically I felt cheated. They also reduced the number, variety and quality of NPC monsters and did a worse job in terms of art for them, etc.

    When "simplicity" means cutting corners it's bad game design.

    While I enjoyed Shadow of the colossus, it too had major problems with the land being so barren and having to waste a lot of time travelling back and forth from boss to boss without much happening in between could be a real drag after the novelty of the big world wore off.

    Truth be told many game developers don't really have much insight into what works and what doesn't in their games. I can't be the only gamer that feels like game developers of late are flailing around blindly in many regards in terms of what made their games fun.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MBCook (132727)

      That's the way people seem to like FF games and MGS games. It seems to be the way the developers want it and they do it. But they try things. The Gambit system in FF XII was good, it wasn't FF6's battle system for the 18th time. And while new things are added to Metal Gear Solid, they usually don't feel like they were just added to be a bullet point in reviews that turns out to be really obnoxious in real life (I'm looking at you friend system in GTA IV).

      As for the vast emptiness of Shadow of the Colossus,

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      MGS4 had plenty of gameplay. It's just that the Solid part of the Metal Gear series has been since 1998 dedicated to gamers who now have lives and professional careers and can't spend endless amount of hours crawling through games anymore. Play it in a weekend and be done.

      The only aspect of gameplay cut from MGS3 to MGS4 was the healing and feeding systems. Which given the time elapsed from the start point to end point of missions, the food requirement made no sense. The sneaking suit's already camo, an

    • by Haeleth (414428)

      In FFX they simplified the weapon and armor system so radically I felt cheated.

      Wow. I stopped playing after FF8, but even there I'm having trouble thinking how it could have been simplified any further, given that FF8 doesn't have armour.

  • by Mystery00 (1100379) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @02:42PM (#27549849)

    Another area where developers fail constantly is that they don't seem to look at prior solutions, it's almost as if some developers don't actually play games themselves.

    Only fools learn from their own mistakes.

  • 4 things broke game industry in mid 90s :

    * advent of 3d and easy, mass production of games through usage of 3 - killed strong story and fun : everyone took easier route for competition - 'hey our game has more polygons'.

    * pointless innovation of the type described in the article

    * 'challenge' disorder. each game has been made into major struggles you have to take on in the still of the night at your home, instead of entertainment.

    * 'play time' bullshit. it become added to a game's 'value' as a measurement -

  • by MBoffin (259181) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @02:55PM (#27549907) Homepage

    I can see what's trying to be said, but look at games like Portal. They took a simple concept, portals, and built an entire game around this one simple idea. Sure the game is not long, but it's a brilliant game. It's loved by almost every single person who plays it. Not just enjoyed... loved. And if you listen to the commentary while playing the game, you can really see just how much thought and effort they put into even this simple game.

    I just don't see the problem with this. Game creators should continually try to innovate. No, they're not always going to hit their mark, but occasionally they will totally nail it, like with Portal, and gaming as a whole will take one more step forward. That's a Good Thing.

    • If Only I had mod points!

        Trial and error is a remarkably good way to discover good new tricks. So let's try and try until something good comes out!

    • by Rockoon (1252108)
      The indy game devs are kicking some ass.

      Portal is one example, another is World of Goo.

      Left for Dead isn't exactly cookie cutter either. Sure there have been other survival horror games, but L4D really made it blossom.

      Of course, some of my favorite games (like Mindrover) were never a big hit.. so maybe my opinion isnt exactly representative of the market.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MBCook (132727)

      Right. They innovated. They perfected the thing they made. THEN THEY STOPPED.

      Portal was short, and they were fine with that. But if it was most companies, it would have been padded out to 2-3x that length. We'd have had at least one sequel by now that "innovated" in some pointless way (like the one-way green portal and the come-out-upside-down purple portal, and the...).

      Valve did what they needed to. They made a fun game, planned it to be one game, and balanced it well.

      Most companies just plan to make se

      • by Haeleth (414428)

        Valve did what they needed to. They made a fun game, planned it to be one game, and balanced it well.

        Have you listened to the commentaries? There are plenty of references to plans for further Portal games. Sure, no such thing has appeared yet, but nor has HL2 ep3 ...

      • But if it was most companies, it would have been padded out to 2-3x that length. We'd have had at least one sequel by now that "innovated" in some pointless way (like the one-way green portal and the come-out-upside-down purple portal, and the...).

        Exactly!

        Plus there would be portal ports to other, more PG-friendly franchises so by now we would have a Mickey' Portal of Mistery, Hannah Montana: The Portal To The Other Side (where you would change between Hannah and Miley depending on the portal color) and perhaps even Port-A-Portal - a tetris-clone for your mobile phone where you drop different colored balls through various portals and then the balls, get ready... THEY CHANGE COLOR! Wouldn't that be AWESOME!!!111eleven!

        And it wouldn't be Portal but Por

    • by Draek (916851)

      Thank you. Yes, I can recognize there's a time for developers to sit back and polish what they already have (Halo, for instance), but overall innovation is what developers should be aiming for, and I know I'm not alone when I say I'd rather pay for a game with a failed innovation over a successful me-too.

      More World of Goo, less CoD: World at War please!

  • Might and Magic IX - Went for eye candy over game play.

    The third Krondor game - More eye candy, virtually no game play.

    Thief 3 - "Consolized" the game. Missions were composed of several small linked play areas instead of large rambling areas to explore. This was done to adapt the game to console hardware limitations.

    MOO3 - An example of change for its own sake. Did anyone actually like this game?

    Wing Commander III and IV - Examples of challenge disorder. There were too many missions in these games that were

    • by caerwyn (38056)

      I'd disagree strongly regarding SimCity 2 and later, and Civ3/Civ4. For SimCity, the earliest simcity games were far too simple; the mid games in the series brought it to an appropriate level. It's when the went for Sims tie-ins that the series collapsed, at least from my view.

      And as for Civilization- every Civ game has at least a couple low difficulties that should be trivial for anyone who enjoys that sort of game. Challenge disorder is when challenge gets added for no apparent reason, but I can't see any

    • I'd be inclined to agree with you on Civ3 and Civ4...I've kept to Civ2 myself.
      Civ 1 --> Civ 2 is a great example of where *useful* things were added (the fixed combat mechanics, and a few novel new units; my favorite of the new Civ II units was/is the Marine). The AI was still dumb, but not *as* dumb & trickable. (cough diplomacy cough) Hell, "Civ 1 with isometric graphics" would have been a useful upgrade by itself.
      Colony micromanagement I don't recall being any worse in Civ2.

      SimCity 1 to SimCity 2

    • by Haeleth (414428)

      I have to disagree with you on the Wing Commander and Civilization fronts; in both series, iterations 3 and 4 were not particularly hard to beat at all, at least on the low difficulty settings. And I say this as a fairly casual gamer.

      Wing Commander 2, now, that was hard to beat. Or the Wing Commander Secret Operations packs. Never got through those without cheating.

      speaking from my own knowledge (from conversations with other gamers), each of the games I have listed lost a large part of their audience, w

  • by 4D6963 (933028) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @03:22PM (#27550045)

    There's a critical problem with popular, mainstream video games that isn't as large with other mediums; they are expensive to make and require a lot of time and effort put in to create something masterful.

    Like.... movies?

    Games that cost hundreds of million dollars to make aren't the best place to experiment. I think big game studios should create R&D departments where they'd make small games to test a new concept and give it to a number of people to test.

  • by Anonymous Psychopath (18031) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @03:36PM (#27550111) Homepage

    Yes, the game still has its flaws, but the parkour interface is very innovative (and fun) and will likely be copied by other games. Assassin's Creed attempted something similar, but ME shows how it can be done right.

    Also consider Portal. At heart a very simple concept that was quite difficult to figure out how to implement, but in gameplay led to really interesting and innovative puzzles.

    On the other hand, there are failures. For instance, setting the grass on fire and needing to take the prevailing wind into consideration in Far Cry 2 was an interesting novelty that probably took a lot of time and effort to develop, but didn't really add much to the game.

  • I focus on FPS. These are getting dumber, dumber and simpler with every release

    Rainbow six :
    1. team of 10 -> team of 3.
    2. full FPS with lean -> cover system 3rd person

    Battlefield :
    1. drive everything, huge maps, many players -> maps with mostly tanks and cars only
    2. sniping game too - now you cannot even lie down

    Ghost recon :
    1. teams - one team
    2. planning, positioning - run and gun

    As the flight simulators died out almost completely people do not feel the need to have a good team experience and choo

  • Innovation in games, pointless or otherwise? Point me at it. Yeah, there's the odd exception like Portal, but generally you have to head for the indie sector to find any innovation at all. God knows what the author was thinking, except maybe: -
    1. Write article which describes exact opposite to reality.
    2. Somehow get posted to front page of /.
    3. ...
    4. Profit.
  • I can think of a couple of great examples of this.

    Back in the early days of the RTS, the formula was that you had one resource to harvest. In order to create complexity, games started adding more resource types. This ultimately made the game more cumbersome to play without adding as much material benefit. The counter to this is what newer games like Dawn of War does with adding strategic locations to the map, hold the location and you get request points for more units.

    The original Master of Orion was an exc

  • by TRACK-YOUR-POSITION (553878) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @04:15PM (#27550369)

    Citing Shadow of the Colossus as an example of why we don't need innovation is confused. SotC doesn't have a huge list of asterisks on the back of the box (you know, *Multiplayer! *Online Player! *User Modications! *Physics simulator!). Nonetheless, SotC stands out from the pack. SotC's innovation was omission--like it's wikipedia entry says, "The game is unusual within the action-adventure genre in that there are no towns or dungeons to explore, no characters with which to interact, and no enemies to defeat other than the colossi." It was unusual because of what wasn't there. Well-designed simplicity is innovation.

    If you just re-worded this rant to be against adding stuff for the sake of adding stuff instead of against innovation, then it would been making a rather insightful point. As it is, it's just flamebait.

    Maybe you didn't like Mirror's Edge, but whatever problems it has are unique problems. Citing it as an example of what's wrong with the industry is deeply obtuse.

  • Another problem is that in most games they are having to rewrite their engine, create all new artwork and figure out new ways to stand out.

    It's actually really horrible that every single new game has to just about recreate everything. It would be like every new book requiring that the rebuild presses and typefaces to print them. Sadly, copyright infringements 'threats' are being used to make things harder. You can't use an actual car in a game, so they have to make a car that *looks* similar to the real th
  • by Deanalator (806515) <pierce403@gmail.com> on Sunday April 12, 2009 @04:52PM (#27550567) Homepage

    Maybe because without innovation, any art form dies?

    People who start thinking innovation is pointless are entering what is called the "old man" stage of their life. What they fail to realise is that it is hard to motivate a group of artists to do the same shit they did last year, and artists almost always are the ones driving any successful project. Of course you need to get your fundamentals right, but without innovation, there is no progress. Even if innovation flops, it still progresses the art.

    While we're at it, why not ask why physicists work on pointless theories that won't pan out in the end, or ask why mathematicians design models that no one will ever use? The reason is because every once in a while, something catches fire and changes the way we think about things, and the only way to know if that will happen is to publish.

  • Yep, yep, yep. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jonadab (583620)
    Jazz Jackrabbit was fun to play. It was zippy, on the hardware of the day. (First time I saw it, my immediate reaction was, "I didn't know a 386 could *do* that." On a 486 it *flew*.) It has interesting music. The characters and artwork were well-drawn. I don't know if it was _innovative_, but it was a good, fun game.

    So then what did they do for the sequel? They decided that they just had to make it *different*. It used DirectX and ran on Windows 95, so it was *not* particularly zippy -- slower on a
  • by thetoadwarrior (1268702) on Sunday April 12, 2009 @05:15PM (#27550685) Homepage
    The problem is that there are too many similar games and sequels of successful series. So everything feels similar which generally isn't that fun after awhile. We're lacking variety which doesn't necessarily need total innovation. Companies do have to innovate and if,on their first try, it's not quite right that is not an excuse to go back to to the same old thing.

    But innovation isn't just about completely changing everything. We don't need completely new control schemes to innovate. Just don't make every damn game feel the same.

    Case in point, the BioShock 2 gameplay footage: http://www.gametrailers.com/player/47807.html?type=mov [gametrailers.com]

    Yes the graphics are nice but that was exceptionally boring to watch. If you give it early 90's graphics it's effectively Wolfenstein 3D. Where is the innovation in fun that really makes it exciting to those that have played most FPS games? There is none and quite frankly it looks like something to pass on. I don't care how many scripted sequences it has, we've had those, done properly, since at least Half life 1 and it's not really that exciting anymore no matter how good the graphics are.

    I think we just need more variety. Look at Street Fighter 4. It's not really that innovative. It's SF but in 3D. But a lot of people think it's great. I personally think that's because you don't really get fighters these days. They've sort of died out. So to get one that's of decent quality is a great thing. So companies just need to quit copying each other and repeating so much crap.
  • There is also another element: the fact that the good game programmers are so full of themselves that they reinvent the wheel everytime.
    (I know: I have been a game programmer myself).

    All the good programmers that I know always rewrote the code that they have to integrate in their code, and all this work is lost, since they mostly restart from zero in the next game.

    Graphists have also the same behaviour, by redesigning everything from scratch at the start of a project.

    Also, everybody wants to experience some

  • As a very very basic example think of Loderunner. It's gameplay elements were pretty simple. And it's content was it's maps.

    In such a game say if the original only came with a few maps, it did not but for the sake of argument, then offering something beyond that original could be as simple as adding new maps. The problem comes in with asking for more of someone's money just for adding some more maps. Simply adding more simple content is rarely enough to justify asking for more money.

    So lets say that the

  • Innovation and the damndest graphics mean squat when I'm only getting 7-10 hours out of a game, with maybe an extra five if I try to be a "completionist". I'd much rather have well-designed but standard mechanics with decent graphics and have a 20-40 hour game.

    So much focus is given to presentation now with less and less to content. If this keeps up, I'm just going to stick with older consoles because I'll get tired of playing movies. (Incidentally, movie length keeps getting longer and longer.)

  • This was a game that I found to be doing this at the same time it ripped ideas off of other games. The entire "shoot off their limbs" strategy really made no sense since the "aliens" were mutated human beings (with all of the normal "skull mounted" sensory organs). The 3rd person view I found to be a neat idea, but it was clumsy in execution. The accuracy of the laser pointers were often wrong. Also, when the 3rd person vantage point hit something like the wall of a closed in space, the view actually ma
  • by Bones3D_mac (324952) on Monday April 13, 2009 @01:19PM (#27558889)

    Whenever you luddites stop shivering, maybe you could actually try to understand that such "pointless" innovation is necessary for the survival of the game industry. Game development is a process of continual trial and error. If developers don't keep pushing the envelope, they risk having the user become bored with their products. And if you remember the video game crash of the 1980s, offering too many similar-looking game to users is typically a bad thing.

    Sure, we've seen some of these "pointless" innovations fail the first time around on numerous occasions. But, when these innovations are picked up elsewhere and reworked, they can eventually lead to titles that go down in history as being revolutionary.

    So yeah... "pointless" innovation might be bad at first, but we f---ing need it!

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