Commorancy over at Randosity posted a little bit ago on how he believes game designers are stuck in a rut and not progressing at the same pace as console hardware. He covers so much ground that I decided to respond through my own post as opposed to a comment.
First off, I agree that while games have become increasingly beautiful and complex it seems that designers have increasingly turned to proven gaming conventions as opposed to innovative new gameplay.
Mostly I see this as hedging their bets and not necessarily a bad thing. If they didn’t work well, they wouldn’t be conventions. When you are investing millions of dollars and one to two years to develop what you hope will be a AAA title, you probably don’t want to stray too far from what has been proven to work. If it aint broke…
That’s why the indie game scene has to be the realm of innovation. That’s where titles like Braid come from. These smaller budget games can better afford to take chances because the risk isn’t as high. It’s just like music and movies. You have your major players who play to the masses, and your subset of independent companies struggling to get noticed so they can become major players. The major players stick with what they did to get to the head of the pack, while the smaller companies leverage true creativity in an attempt to usurp them.
If they have any success then the major players will hire some of the people from the smaller companies to attempt to mimik or recreate that success at a commercial level, which leads to compromise, which leaves the door open for new independent companies to usurp the new order. I’ve seen it a thousand times. Well, once. OK, never.
But gamers are not stupid, and we decide through our purchasing power who succeeds and who fails in this endless wheel of innovation. We are the keepers of the almighty dollar that these publishers worship, and we can see through them when they try to cheapen that trust by cutting corners to make a quick buck.
Just because we have to wade through five bad or marginal first-person shooters before someone comes out with a Call of Duty 4 doesn’t mean that developers should stop making first-person shooters. And by wade through, I mean hear about… You don’t have to play them; I am highly discriminatory myself (at $60 per game in this economy who can afford to not be). But those bad shooters may have some good conventions or ideas that eventually work through the meat grinder to find their way into better titles.
I’m never going to criticize someone for creating something. I may not buy it, or play it, or like it, but I’ll definitely encourage the creative process.
And games are big business now ($22 billion last year), so I wouldn’t be surprised to see even more less-than-quality titles as developers shovel out games on a tight budget just to turn a profit. For some of these bargain-bin guys it’s just about the money first, the customer second.
I would argue that is a bad business model, as developers like Valve have proven that if you take good care of the customers the money and loyalty will follow. And I would go even further to say that the existence of companies producing shovelware is a good thing for gaming. It’s from those projects that budding designers cut their teeth. And think, cheaply produced B-movies haven’t ruined the movie industry. Just because someone makes a game doesn’t mean you have to buy it or play it… You’re probably not the target audience.
What is happening in the world of gaming is similar to what has happened to Hollywood. For example, you have your large studios with massive budgets filming blockbusters and marketing the hell out of them to turn a profit (Here’re your Halo 3s, Killzone 2s, Grand Theft Auto IVs, etc.).
At the same time you have smaller studios filming more innovative and thought provoking pieces that don’t necessarily get the same national play as the large studio’s films, but are critically acclaimed and well liked by those who do have exposure to them (and here is Braid, World of Goo, Crayon Physics Deluxe, etc.).
And then you have the porn industry, companies trying to make a quick buck with absolutely no innovation (i.e. Nintendo Wii shovelware).
Inspiration from: Random Thoughts – Randosity!