Innovation in Games -- We Expect Too Much, Too Often

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Jeffrey Forner, Oct 22, 2002.

  1. Jeffrey Forner

    Jeffrey Forner Screenwriter

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    Within the past 6 years, the level of innovation in video games has spoiled gamers. Of course, it's not entirely their fault. The jump from 2-D games to world of 3 dimensions has allowed developers to create totally new genres such as the first-person shooter, while at the same time re-inventing tried and true formulas like the platformer. Indeed the previous generation of gaming consoles will long be remembered as the era in which the seeds for all future games were planted.

    And much like the 16-bit era improved upon the mechanics and ideas established during the 8-bit era, the current generation takes the foundation established with the PlayStation and the N64 and brings it to a new level of technological sophistication. Unfortunately, for many picky gamers, this does not mean that groundbreaking gameplay to which they've become accustomed will continue on as it has these past 6 years. The revolutionary days of Super Mario 64 are over. We're in the evolutionary phase of 3-D gaming now. Patterns and genres will continue to grow and change as developers struggle to invent unique ideas to set their titles apart from the other games on the shelves. We just won't see totally new genres come into being as frequently as we have recently.

    While it may be expected that the revolutionary leaps in gaming will slow down now that developers and gamers alike are familiar with the world of 3D gaming, some are not taking it well. I have noticed a disturbing trend in the way people evaluate games that will likely not get better. The trend suggests that some people can be disappointed with truly excellent games simply because they lack innovation.

    A recent example would be people’s reactions to Super Mario Sunshine for the Nintendo GameCube. For all intended purposes, the game stands as one of the better platformers available for any console, yet many have criticized it for feeling too much like its predecessor, Super Mario 64. Of course, it doesn’t help that the latter game pretty much defined the genre of the 3-D platformer or that many still consider it one of the greatest breakthroughs in gaming ever. That leaves gamers with high expectations for a sequel that will be almost as revolutionary. But when they realized that the game did not re-revolutionize the platform genre. It merely fit within its already established parameters. Super Mario Sunshine became the sequel to Super Mario 64, and an excellent one at that.

    Yet, if a game is truly excellent, that doesn’t appear to be enough for some people. Why is that? Why can’t we simply enjoy a genre title that is well executed? Must every game we play push the boundaries of what’s possible to be enjoyable? And if not, must we penalize games that are merely great and not innovative? We can enjoy movies, and even rate them as 5-star classics without expecting them to push the boundaries of filmmaking. Why can’t the same be true with games?

    Don’t get me wrong. Developers should continue to try new ideas as much as possible. Creativity and innovation is a very good thing in gaming, but we shouldn’t expect it from every game, and we most certainly shouldn’t stand in the way of our ability to enjoy games that represent their genres well.
     
  2. Romier S

    Romier S Producer

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    Excellent thread Jeffrey.
    A comment:
     
  3. Camp

    Camp Cinematographer

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    Excellent thread indeed.
    We all crave for that next major leap forward just to experience genius in game design. However, I think there's another element occurring within the industry that is overlooked: mediocrity.

    There has been a wave of mediocre drek released that can only be matched by the Mario/Sonic clones of the 16-bit era. The amount of average games being released is a sign of an industry putting dollar signs before the art...I'm afraid there are very few developers remaining who infuse their games with artful gameplay.

    I agree with your premise, Jeffrey, that waiting for innovation is unrealistic. However, I'd like to see the art return to the forefront of game design. If you can't innovate you can at least be creative.
     
  4. Joseph Young

    Joseph Young Screenwriter

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    Great thread, Jeffrey. I agree with what you're saying.
    Since the title of your thread is "we expect too much, too often," we should also consider how expectations have affected our perception of game length. All too often I hear the phrase "yes, but.. the game is too short" as the sole indicator that a game has fallen short of its potential greatness. Or, "I finished the game in, like, 6 hours man... yer wasting yer money if you actually bought this piece of ****." My favorite games are 'short' by the standards of any epic length RPG, but that doesn't keep 'Rez,' "Ico" and "Frequency" from being some of my favorite games of recent memory.
    The judgement 'too short' is subjective. Any game that is 40+ hours is considered brilliant. Any game under 12 hours is considered mediocre. As in, 'the developers should have spent less time tweaking the gameplay and more time making this a long A$$ game!!1 so i get my moneys werth!!11"
    Why do we place more value on games that last forever than we do on relatively shorter games with better gameplay?
    In a few years, any game that does not last 70+ hours will be considered mediocre. Or, imagine an RPG that takes you your entire life to finish.
    There is a place for games with epic length, but let's not shirk the games whose emphasis are on innovative gameplay and graphics, just because they take relatively less hours to beat. I know people whose sole purpose in buying games is to [rant]beat[/rant] them, add another game to the conquered list, and move on. Me, I buy games to play them. And, although I've been wrong on many ocassions, I buy games hoping that I'll keep coming back to them long after I have "beat" them. These are the games I look forward too.
    Joseph
     
  5. JamesH

    JamesH Supporting Actor

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  6. Dome Vongvises

    Dome Vongvises Lead Actor

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    To quote somebody else, excellent post, Jeffrey.
    Of course, I would like to point out an irony involved here.
    Do you guys remember when Luigi's Mansion came out, and everybody was mad because they didn't get a Mario platformer just like Super Mario 64? And as soon as Super Mario Sunshine comes out, everybody said it was too much like Super Mario 64 and lacked innovation. Personally, I like the tropical setting and whatnot, considering how dreary this fall is going to be. [​IMG] Nonetheless, I also share some of the sentiments that there were things missing from Sunshine that could be found in the Mario 64 counterpart. A haunted tropical hotel is no substitute for a haunted house.
    It's extremely interesting to note that video games and movies have almost the exact same problems. You're going to have your film snobs, you're going to have your gaming snobs.
     
  7. Morgan Jolley

    Morgan Jolley Lead Actor

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    Jeff-

    I agree with pretty much all of what you said. I think that the revolution is over but the changes and tweeks are still going on in games. First we had games like PaRappa, then MTV Music Generator, then Frequency and Rez. Developers are still taking ideas and turning them into new ones by changing them around and adding things. True, Mario Sunshine wasn't as big of a leap for Mario as Mario 64 was, but I felt that it introduced new and original gameplay ideas that truly enhanced the gameplay. The graphics were high quality and detailed, the gameplay was fun, and the game was a true Mario game, so what else do you really need?

    And for those who complain about 2-D games going 3-D, this is what I have to say: if they've been there and done that for 2-D games, all they can do is keep doing it again and provide new experiences. But to tell the truth, wouldn't you rather that they create new and original experience using classic gameplay ideas than recycle old ones with only a few new ideas? Granted, they can do this with 2-D, but as I see it they can only go so far to tweak a game and change it so many times before they have to rehash it. That's why games like Castlevania and Final Fantasy have to have so much innovation between games; if they didn't, they'd suck.
     
  8. Dan B

    Dan B Screenwriter

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    I agree with your point that a good game is a good game, and that's usually enough.

    One thing that is important to remember regarding "innovative" games is that they often don't sell that well to the mainstream audience that buys a lot of the videogames sold today. Time after time, a new game with fresh & innovative concepts comes out & sells poorly.

    The mainstream audience, however, will buy Madden or Tomb Raider 12 or whatever, because it's marketed heavily &...a lot of people don't really appreciate innovation, the fact is.

    Personally, I think that there is another 3D revolution this generation. 3D audio, especially as done in some of the better Xbox games' Dolby Digital 5.1.

    My prediction is that the next big revolution has to be in the interface...whether it's the controller or the way we view the game. I hope we see a dramatic evolution of A.I., too, but I'm not holding my breath just yet.


    -Dan
    babbling on
     
  9. Joseph Young

    Joseph Young Screenwriter

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    Just a few more points (since it would be a shame to see this thread die out early).

    Dome:
     
  10. Dave F

    Dave F Cinematographer

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  11. JasonK

    JasonK Supporting Actor

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    Great post Jeffrey, and I agree with much of what you said.

    One innovation I've enjoyed, for consoles, is playing games online. I first started playing Mortal Kombat online, using the XBAND on my SNES. Sure, there was lag, but it was 1995-1996 and I was playing people all over the US.

    Then, my online gaming went dormant. My PC couldn't handle online games, and it wasn't an option with PSX or N64.

    So I bought a Dreamcast the day it came out with hopes of being able to play sports game online. It was fun getting my ass kicked in football games.

    Then came Phantasy Star Online. Myself and a handful of other HTFer's must have put in a solid 40 hours playing this game together. It was a blast just chatting away on the keyboard while running around shooting beasties.

    But the amount of HTF folk playing PSO together is dwarfed by the HTF SOCOM clan. Voice chat adds another element of strategy and a lot of fun. It was really neat to be able to actually hear you guys.

    Now I'm awaiting the arrival of my XBOX Live kit (I missed out on the Beta Test) and the release of Unreal and Ghost Recon. Being able to talk with 15 other people at the same time will no doubt be chaotic at first, but could really make for some strategic games.


    The other innovation I look forward to is a flawless camera in 3D platform games, but I'm not holding my breath for that to come anytime soon.
     
  12. BrianB

    BrianB Producer

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  13. Jeffrey Forner

    Jeffrey Forner Screenwriter

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    Great responses, guys! We certainly have a lot of intellectual fodder to sift through in here now. And thanks for the kudos on the thread. It was my pleasure!
    Anyway, I'd like to respond to some of your comments. Why don't I start with you, Romier? [​IMG]
    I would like to add something else to what you say. I hate it when a developer artificially makes a game longer. I remember Diddy Kong Racing as being one of the worst offenders in this regard. First you win four races. Then you race the boss. Then you do the four races again only this time you have to find 8 silver coins in addition to winning the race. Then you have to race the boss character again. Then you have to do all four races a third time in the grand prix to get a key to open a door to a battle level. It's simply ridiculous how often you have to play each course in that game.
    I could write some more, but I think I might stop here for now before I get too carried away. There are a lot of great ideas floating around in this thread. Let's keep them coming!
     
  14. Romier S

    Romier S Producer

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  15. Jeffrey Forner

    Jeffrey Forner Screenwriter

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    I'll 1-Up you, to coin the classic video game phrase. I think all of the possible genres that can be done in gaming as it exists today have been done. I'm talking about the vast, blanket categories such as Action, Adventure, Sports, RPG, Simulation, Educational, etcetera. The games you all mentioned are simply offshoots of the Action genre. The premise of those games is basically the same: Shoot and kill bad guys or die. It's just that the gameplay mechanics are executed differently. They are different takes on the same idea.
    Now, before anyone begins to think otherwise, I do believe that innovation in games is possible at some level. At least I hope to dear God that it is. What I am saying is that the whatever innovation we will see in the future will simply grow out of the foundations established by the pioneers of 3-D gaming. The big steps have already been taken. Every step afterwards will be minute in comparison.
     

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