As always, the comments are where the discussion is at. Read comment #48 (by me) before you continue to the blog entry.
I have really expanded my gaming horizon this summer. I’m currently and actively playing in 7 different beta tests, 1 alpha test, and 3 different released games covering the entire gaming spectrum. I’ve noticed a trend among these games that many people have been aware of for a few years now: They strive to do something entirely different to set themselves apart from their competition and as a result they miss the mark.
The merits of always trying to be different and striking out from the pack could be discussed and argued at length. My position on innovation and change for the sake of change is simply that I feel it is not always necessary, but I don’t want to get into a discussion about this right now. I want to focus on what I have noticed is the result of game developers trying to make their game different. We’re seeing it more and more lately where developers can’t really tell you what type of game they’re making. Are you making a MMO? FPS? RTS? MMOFPS? MMORTSFPSBBQ? “Well, err, our game doesn’t really fit into any current category, err, let me ask marketing” is the response we get. Why? I’ve deduced, from playing these games and watching the developers behind the scenes, that the number one priority right now for developers is to reach the mass market. DUH – right? Of course that’s their goal. They want to make the most money.
What is the result of trying to make a game appeal to as many people as possible? It becomes a game that tries to do too much and as a result ends up doing nothing right. We’re seeing the Real Time Strategy genre dip into the action genre to bridge the gap between them and the RPG games so that they can add a couple tidbits, a lobby, and be able to sleep at night after labeling their game a MMO; Vice versa back and forth, mixed up, and so on. I find myself enjoying these games less because I can’t figure out how they’re to be perceived. I’m asking myself questions like: “What am I playing here?” and “Was this their goal?” and “Why did they do this?”. I can’t lose myself in the game anymore because it has become so superficial that I’m almost embarrassed to be playing.
This all comes back to developers trying to change things up because they want to be the trend setter. They all want their game to be the next WoW-style success. I hate overusing World of Warcraft as an example, but it’s really the only game that gets the point across efficiently. We know why WoW succeeded and it’s not because they suddenly made a game with features and elements we had never seen. When we look at the EQ model, back when it was the only real MMO model, it was a success. WoW came along and perfected that model for what they wanted to accomplish: Mass appeal. WoW is often criticized for being the ultimate copy cat and stealing bits and pieces from other games. THAT is why WoW is such a great success and why it’s ultimately a fantastic game: Blizzard pulled the great parts from games, perfected them, and created a pure experience.
I have lost count of the number of times I’ve played a game for the first time and questioned whether or not the developers ever played previous games – really played. I would rather play a game that, in terms of features and mechanics, does nothing new but perfects upon what we already know to deliver a polished, complete, and fun game than to play one that introduces a lot of new features but perfects nothing and as a result fails to live up to expectations.
If Developers want their games to be trend setters, massive successes, nothing like we’ve seen before, shakers of the foundation, and [insert hyperbole here] then they need to stop with the mad rush towards innovation. Stop with the slew of new ideas. Stop with trying to tack on as much as you can to get a label. Stop trying for mass appeal. Stop trying make the most money you can (A blog post for another time, but think about how this could improve quality and thus improve your success). Stop trying to rush forward and take a step back. Perfect your craft. Until you have perfected the foundation, perfected the fundamentals, you can’t possibly hope to move forward with innovation. Building upon a cracked or unstable/unpolished foundation will only lead to greater failures down the road.
Think back to how many times over the past two years alone have you been disappointed in a new game that was going to change things up. There are several games that I can look back and say “if only they didn’t try to do this, and just stuck with what works, they would have been a success”. It doesn’t have to be that way.
——- Below is additional commentary added to the original post. ——-
This needs a TLDR version. It will probably help those struggling to understand.
1) Make sure you have the fundamental elements of your game in order. The ABC’s should all be there.
2) Perfect the fundamentals.
3) Use what worked if it will make a difference. Do not toss away the past if it means success today!
4) Don’t fix what isn’t broken. Don’t remake what already works.
5) THEN innovate
Games releasing over the next year (many I’m testing and surely many I’m not) do not ensure they have the fundamentals. They’re more concerned with having what it takes to slap on the “MMO” or “FPS” label. They don’t perfect a part of their game that should be perfected; instead they move on with a mediocre foundation. They ignore what worked in the past because they’re afraid of being called the same. They try and change things that are not broken or don’t need to be changed. On top of all of those monumental mistakes they try to innovate and push industry boundaries to boldly go where no game has gone before. The result will be complete failure where it could have been avoided.
Extra special TLDR Version for those extra special people:
A game can include a new and exciting core mechanic, combination of mechanics, and offer something unique, but if they’ve added a slew of things that don’t work or failed to correct mistakes from previous games that are included in their game, then what is the point? <— THAT is the point I’m trying to make.