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The Fight for Original Games 59

PC.IGN is running a piece by Douglass Perry on the Fight for Original Games. In the article, the author examines the trends that have led to a slew of sequels, franchises, and movie industry tie-ins in the gaming industry of late. From the article: "...depending on who you speak with, the videogame industry is either reaching the most impressive convergence of its entire 30-plus year old existence, or it's falling into a never-ending death spiral of sequel-heavy, rehashed, franchise dominated blocks of stinking cheese."
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The Fight for Original Games

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  • TV (Score:5, Interesting)

    by martin ( 1336 ) <maxsec@gmailEINSTEIN.com minus physicist> on Monday February 07, 2005 @12:25PM (#11597913) Journal
    Same for TV - getting and original idea out there if quite difficult. Star trek x 3, CSI x 3, Big brother, clean/decorate my house.

    500 channels all showing similar stuff...
    • Re:TV (Score:2, Insightful)

      by roseblood ( 631824 )
      And, you think this is something new? Everyone has complained about this, going way back to "geeze, this is the same old story we heard when he were listeing to the radio. Why did we spend all this money on a tv for?"

      So, when someone today goes "All this crap on cable is the same old crap we used to see n network tv. Why did we spend all this money on a cable subscription for?"
      • Re:TV (Score:4, Funny)

        by nine-times ( 778537 ) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Monday February 07, 2005 @01:59PM (#11599144) Homepage
        That's what's so annoying! Even are complaints are unoriginal!
        • The complaints in this article aren't entirely accurate either. In the writeup on Forza Motorsport, he criticizes the Gran Turismo series for not having drivers in the car (something GT4 will have, which comes out before Forza), and for not having a career mode (which it's had since the beginning, ... just without all the retarded plot).

          I honestly don't know much about the other series mentioned, but it's not like a racing sim + online component breaks the bounds of originality.
    • Same for TV
      It's not just TV, either.
      Look at all of the sequels for written science fiction (e.g., Ringworld, etc.).
      Hell, people were writing sequels 100 years ago.
      Huck Finn was a sequel to Tom Sawyer.
      Doyle wrote many Shelock Holmes stories.
      Even the Bible repeats itself (OT: people sin, God smites them, people sin, God smites them, etc., etc.; NT: the four gospels contain mostly the same material).
  • Third opinion (Score:4, Insightful)

    by yotto ( 590067 ) on Monday February 07, 2005 @12:32PM (#11597994) Homepage
    Isn't it possible that the gaming industry is going through a normal swing of the pendulum where crappy games come out all in the same genre(s) until the market gets massively oversaturated? And that soon it will swing back as consumers stop buying the junk and become more picky?

    I mean, it's been 30 (according to the OP) years, haven't we seen this before?
  • by centauri ( 217890 ) on Monday February 07, 2005 @12:33PM (#11598014) Homepage
    Yeah, that's something new.
  • Another article (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dsyu ( 203328 ) on Monday February 07, 2005 @12:49PM (#11598238) Homepage Journal
    Related article [gamespy.com] on Gamespy from Tim Schafer's recent presentation. My favorite quote:

    What disturbed him the most was this actual quote from an executive at a large publisher: "This is really great. This is creative. It's too bad people aren't going for creative stuff right now."
  • by stpitner ( 164196 ) on Monday February 07, 2005 @12:51PM (#11598262)
    You would think that these companies do something like this because they know it's a proven winner title that a lot of people will buy. ie. Final Fantasy. Keep making more as long as people keep buying it and enjoying it. It's the closest thing to a guaranteed sale that the company is going to get.

    You take risks when you go for original titles because it could be the next fantastic series or the next absolute bust. It's also harder to keep making games from scratch when you can take your previous version, redo only certain parts of the game engine, and get another money maker game out on the market in a year to keep the customer happy and paychecks flowing for the employees.

    As a consumer of video games, as much as I would like to see original titles, I love buying the latest Final Fantasy or Gran Turismo. I want to see, bigger, better versions of those games. I want to play the latest baseball game with the latest team rosters and new ways to play the game. I don't need original titles in order to have fun.

    The point where I draw the line is when a company makes a sequel that has barely any change or new innovation (which can be hard in sports games) and just feels like the same game that came out last year. That can get boring quick.
    • while i agree that usually making a sequel with little change is a bad idea, there are a few (extremely rare) cases in which this is not nessesarily a bad thing. These are for games that the formula is so perfectly fun that to change it would be criminal.

      For instance, the castlevania series since Symphony of the night. (cirlce of the moon, aria of sorrow, harmony of dissonance). I think i will never tire of playing these games. THere are AWSOME.

      Just thought i would throw that out there.
    • Excepting that with the exception of Final Fantasy X-2 each of the FF games are original games and not sequals, well almost. They all have many things in common, but FF is almost a genre of its own. Its like saying this one game is a space combat game, but that doesn't make it a sequal to X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter or that it is going to be any less original then X-Com, or soemthing like that, it just means that its a game that has combat in space. Saying a game is a FF game, just means that it has some feature
  • But, since the "Lord of the Rings" are just another franchise, I guess they are crappy too, right? Same with "Godfather", too.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The peak density of Power Ranger derivatives on TV is only limited by available bandwidth.
  • "or it's falling into a never-ending death spiral of sequel-heavy, rehashed, franchise dominated blocks of stinking cheese"

    When it gets right down to it, what is more important, the game play itself, or whether or the fact that the guys you are shooting look like Klingons or totally "original" aliens in an original universe? Does the name of the universe and what the other characters look like really matter in comparison to designing a game that plays well?

    • When it gets right down to it, what is more important, the game play itself, or whether or the fact that the guys you are shooting look like Klingons or totally "original" aliens in an original universe?

      No. If you make a game that plays exactly like another game but with different skins on the things you're shooting, then you're not being original and you're part of the "never ending death spiral". You can argue good or bad gameplay, but if the game is fun isn't what they're talking about. UT2K4 doesn't h
    • Well, let's look at an example of a title that changed in mid-development. I cite the example of Rare's last big title before turning to the Dark Side, namely Star Fox Adventures: Dinosaur Planet. This game was originally a stand-alone, featuring a very similar character to Fox. One thing led to another, and the Star Fox franchise was grafted on top of the game.

      What ended up happening is this: the actual game must have received less attention, because gameplay suffered. I've heard it described as Zelda or
  • Music. Unless you're new to it, the big bands lack real variety (with rare exceptions). The problem isn't the musicians, it's the way music is chosen and played on the radio. The consumer doesn't have a say in it, even though they're the ones who buy, by definition. The big companies keep buying the independent, bona-fide, mp3 repositories where you can listen or buy indie music with the artists permission.

    To learn from our mistakes with music, we need to try out independent software now and then. Tha
    • "The problem isn't the musicians, it's the way music is chosen and played on the radio. The consumer doesn't have a say in it"

      The consumers do have a say: radio is very heavily ratings-driven.

      • Which is another way of saying:

        Which of these eight songs we play over and over does the public like the best? That artist will be allowed to have an entry in next week's Wheel of Songs. The rest have already been termed 'One hit wonders'.

        VH1 is already producing their "Where are they now?" specials. Because it's not like they play music videos anymore.
    • To learn from our mistakes with music, we need to try out independent software now and then. That's where the unique ideas are. The more people try and buy, the more independent concepts will be "spruced up" for the mainstream by a publisher

      The biggest problem with this is that unfortunately, it takes a lot of effort and collaboration to make a good game. If you're a programmer, its not too hard to make a good game, but getting nice art and music can be hard to do.

      The other problem is that its hard t

  • Good idea (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    ...a never-ending death spiral of sequel-heavy, rehashed, franchise dominated blocks of stinking cheese.

    Hmmmm. "Never-ending death spiral ... of stinking cheese." Sounds like a pretty good idea for a game to me!

  • Cost? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MBCook ( 132727 ) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Monday February 07, 2005 @01:12PM (#11598536) Homepage
    Well, the reason that I've heard before is that it is so expensive and time consuming to make new games. As a consequence of that (and the fact that as consoles get better, you need more and higher quality art to keep the game looking reasonably good). So because of this, studios are less and less likely to try new games and instead focus on sequels (where you have previous fans likely to buy, some art and much design is already complete, there is an engine to use, etc.).

    Now this hasn't stopped new games from comming out. In the past few years we have had very innovative games (Full Spectrum Warrior, Sly Cooper, Pikmin, Katamari Damaci, Viewtiful Joe, and many many other). But it SEEMS like we are drowning in sequels (and to a degree we are) because for ever Katamari Damaci or FSW that comes out, we have *insert_sport_here* 200X, Generic Platformer 3: Now More Extreme, and about 6 other sequels.

    This is not to say that sequels don't innovate. Some sequels really do innovate on their predicessor and make great games. But most don't. Most are a forumalic continuation (which can be good (not great) to aweful (why didn't they FIX THAT?)).

    Frankly, I blame marketing (that's always fun). When every game out there is supposed to be made more "XTreme" and "Urban", is it any wonder that there are very few Katamari Damacis out there? We even see this ruining perfectly good games. Prince of Persia: Sands of Time was a fantastic game. Great story, movie like presentation, clean and safe for kids. So they decided to make a sequel. Great! I couldn't wait. Then I saw it. Everything is dark and evil. The girl is now wearing cinnamon dental-floss for clothes. The whole atmosphere of the first game is gone replacced with a dark, extreme game. I won't buy it. I probably won't even rent it to play it. If they hadn't done that, I would have bought it.

    Or Tony Hawk. Ever since playing THPS2 I've been hooked. The last one I bought (THUG) was a great game. I loved the story in it, it made it more fun to play for me because it wasn't just "random" stuff as much. At the same time, they didn't ruin the game. It was great. So then the sequel came out. I was going to buy it. But guess what, MARKETING got into the mix. So instead of the same (relativly) clean game, we get somemthing that's full of "hip" and "Urban" stuff. There are tons of low-brow jokes, an psycho kid in a wheelchair, and all sorts of other stuff that makes the game look like it came from "Blue Collar TV". Sorry Activision. No cash for you.

    And what do we get when there actually IS a great game? Katamari Damachi I only know about because I read many gaming sites. I don't think I've seen any ads in magazines for it. I certanly haven't seen TV ads or flash ads on gaming sites. I only knew it existed because it was an odd little game that got some press for being origional. It wasn't marketed here in the US. Ico was the same. That was a FANTASTIC game, and real art. But it didn't do that well. A few TV commercials might help. Instead we get TV commercials for GTA:SA and THUG2. These little gems hardly ever seem to get any coverage, except as a single review and maybe a number on a top-10 list at the end of the year. In the mean time, stupid sequel 17 to pure formulaic game type 3 from some "me too" company runs tons of ads. I'll put Shenmue in there too. Some people didn't like it, I thought Shenmue 1 and 2 were the closest to movies or life-stories that games have gotten. Those too were pure art. But they got little press. The third (and final) installment is nowhere to be seen (and probably never will be). I'll give Sega credit for trying to keep things going with Shenmue 2 when 1 didn't sell that well, but they won't even finish out the series.

    Hard to start new franchises due to cost, stupid marketing execs (witness: BMX: XXX existing), and underpromotion. That's why we get so many sequels and rip-offs.

    My 0.02, not spent on crappy games.

    • OK, it's in bad taste to reply to myself, but there is one other angle to cost. I buy more GameBoy games that any other system, by far. Why? Because GBA games tended to cost $20 (they are now moving up towards $35). Compare that to console games which used to cost $50 (SNES days) and now seem to be trying to hit $75. If I'm going to spend $60 bucks on something, I want to be sure it's good. That's another reason why people actually BUY those clone-sequels. Why risk $60 on something that could (and judgeing
    • So this weekend I went out and picked up Katamari Damacy. Holy shit - this is, by far, the most fun game I have played in a long assed time. I enjoyed the experience more than Half Life 2! (okay, totally different games, but I'm talking fun factor). It reminded me of the first time I played Tetris.

      It only costs $20 bucks. TWENTY DOLLARS!@! for this level of entertainment is amazing. The game takes ~5 hours to "beat" but who knows how long if you want to get everything.

      If you don't own this title yet
  • There are games that are truly great, Mario Party, Mario Tennis, Mario Golf, Mario Kart, Wario Wares, SSM Bros. All of these games present 'original' gameplay that's really fun. But who here would even have given these gems a second look if they didn't have the Mario license slapped onto them?
  • The reason is... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ibullard ( 312377 ) on Monday February 07, 2005 @02:13PM (#11599329)
    The game industry is funded and run by people who don't play games. At all. They read reviews and have focus groups with people off the street that play games and then make decisions based off of that data.

    Once you know that, the rest makes sense in a strange and depressing way.
    • I play games hardcore, so fast I can squeeze all the fun out of a game. I disect the balance, and many games have imbalances that make certain routes useless.

      You'd think if they had gamers working for gaming companies, they'd not make the imbalances. You'd think if gamers worked for gaming companies, you'd see longer lasting games.


      But what we're looking at isn't good because we're on the eve of an end game. There will be monopolistic gaming dynasties that make games that everyone plays. The reason
  • To break the routine, you need to find a game developer that motivated to produce fun games instead of make the most money. Personally, I like the games that Introversion [introversion.co.uk] has been putting out. Uplink was great, and their new game Darwinia [darwinia.co.uk] looks pretty cool too from the demo.
  • by Washizu ( 220337 ) <bengarvey@@@comcast...net> on Monday February 07, 2005 @02:21PM (#11599418) Homepage
    If you're looking for originality, try some of the low (and no) budget games online. Here are a few I like.

    The GameShow! [jasonzahn.com]: Daily complete-the-phrase puzzle. Each game lasts a month and has about 100-150 players.

    Kingdom of Loathing [kingdomofloathing.com]: Hilarious web based RPG

    X-Kings [x-kings.com]: Turn based strategy game with thousands of players

    See my own web based game in the sig...

  • by Prien715 ( 251944 ) <agnosticpope&gmail,com> on Monday February 07, 2005 @02:23PM (#11599442) Journal
    Software development is never finished for the most part. Games are about developing engines and possibly telling a story. Any engine can be extended.

    This really started with Nintendo. Super Mario 1-3 anyone? Even though 2 (US) was based on a completely different engine, no one complains about originality. Maybe Metal Gear Solid (1-3) would be a modern equivalent. Tetris was oringal. It was followed by Dr. Mario and friends.

    I also like to play older games, but I'll play a newer version if it exists. I played Pirates (for Nintendo) into the ground. Having played the new PC version, I can safely say I simply like it better and there's no feature that I really miss from the previous game (and it even fixes some of the balance issues...like dividing up the plunder after "accidently" killing off your crew).

    Final Fantasy, however, is an exception. While people bemoan lack of originality, anyone who was around when FF7 came out remember the fan boys being upset because it departed from the rest of the series. The newest one isn't even single player like the rest of the series (little known fact: FF6 (FF3 US SNES) could be 2 player). The only thing every game has in common is being an RPG, involving magic, story-driven (rather than open-ended and choice driven) and some guy named Cid.

    If I wanted to say there was a lack of originality in games, I would instead say that there's not been a genre-founding game in a while. Mario, Tetris, Wolfenstein, Warcraft, Civilization, Ultima Online, Dragon Warrior, and even GTA (the original) all founded new genres of games. Can anyone name a new genre that's been made in the past 5 years? The only thing I can even come up with is Dance Dance Revolution.
    • I think rather than one genre, good games have more of a cross genre mentality. Case in point - I made a post earlier about the excellent Katamari Damacy. Here is a game with the styling of Super Mokey Ball (hrm...) but without the "fall of the world" factor + the collection aspects of basically every 3D platformer. Plus, you cannot die. Plus, you only use 2 buttons during gameplay. It's fantastic...but hardly a genre.

      Besides, I think your list is a little too modern. Mario could easily be thought of
      • There were other RTS before Warcraft and other platformers before Mario. However, in every genre there's THE game that made the genre popular. UO was the first major MMORPG and defined the genre and Tetris was THE puzzle game. Puzzle games really didn't exist in popular numbers before Tetris.

        DDR is nothing like Simon BTW. In Simon, you duplicate notes by memory and it rythym is a non-factor. In DDR, while memorization helps, it's hardly necessary. Coordination and rythym are the key. These elements
        • DDR = Simon + Techno + Crack.

          TO say that memorization is not needed is misleading. On songs with any kind of difficulty, if you don't know what's coming up you turn into a stumbling idiot. (I've been that idiot) You simply can't react fast enough.

          I do have respect for people who are good at that game after having tried it. It's hard shit. Probably the best cardio a gamer will get too.
  • It really does depend on how you look at it. Yeah, there have been some pretty high-profile failures in gaming. And this is new news... how? No, really. ET for the Atari 2600, anyone? You can throw as many stones as you like at GTA3:SA, Doom 3, Half-Life 2, Halo 2, etc, but they are not failures. And if what you're looking for is seriously novel gameplay and content rather than evolutionary works, Katamari Damaci is only the most high profile of odd new games on the market.

    Sure, if all you're looking
  • by Dr. Bent ( 533421 ) <ben@i[ ]com ['nt.' in gap]> on Monday February 07, 2005 @02:47PM (#11599706) Homepage
    Why is originality worth fighting for? A game that is new or different is no more likely to be good than a game that is centuries old [wikipedia.org].

    I think the primary desire for new games comes from the confusion betweens games and stories. Stories are definitely better when they're original. If you're just using a video game as a medium to tell a story, then having it be original will make it a better story...but it still might be a crappy game.

    Games should be challenging and interesting. The players should be able to play the game in a different way every time and still have fun. That's what makes a game good. Whether the idea is a new one or not doesn't really matter.
  • Basically the big game companies try to mimic Hollywood here, as seems not the worst move for an entertainment industry.

    A few big hits finance all the other flops or average-doing movies - you hang 10 lines in the water to catch the big fish that's somewhere out there.

    Rehashing hits with sequels is a cash cow, and since software is always buggy and incomplete, version 2 often is a big step forward even for creative games, like Fallout - Fallout 2 was even greater (Fallout Tactics was pure moneymaking).

    So
  • This is one reason why I decided to purchase a DS instead of a PSP. The PSP is a fantastic piece of hardware. It's very powerful. But, it's just the same-old, repackaged. The DS has new ideas for interaction, namely the touch screen, the second screen, and the microphone. I'm looking forward to more interesting games that take advantage of those features, instead of yet-another-FPS or shooting/carjacking game (whoopdefreakingdoo).
  • I think the main reason we keep seeing sequels and rehashes of old franchises is because games that are truely original tend to not do very well in the marketplace. One of the best games to come out in recent years is Beyond Good and Evil, but because it featured new characters and a new game world rather than a tried and true franchise, it failed miserably in the marketplace.

    That said, that doesn't mean that we haven't seen original gameplay ideas surface in recent years. A previous poster mentioned how
    • I think it goes further than this. Creativity in a game by itself does not automatically imply that the game will not sell. Rather, publishers sell "creative" titles as higher risk, therefore the likelihood of a hit is lower.

      Beyond Good and Evil, as you mentioned, was an excellent title that did not sell well. And yet, everyone I've ever introduced it to (a pool of perhaps 8 people, gamers and non-gamers) were amazed by it.

      Unforunately for BGOE, the publisher (Ubisoft) was releasing two "risky" titles
  • I guess what annoys the me is Squaresoft releasing a whole bunch of different RPGs, with different themes, different worlds and different characters, then calling them all Final Fantasy. I guess Capcom does the same with Breath of Fire, but they keep patterns going and, all in all, it's such a thoroughly-done series that it's hard to care that the characters from each game will be dumped with little chance of playing a part in the next game, and that, unlike series like Rock Man, you may not see them again.

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