My position on innovation has been stated before. I have grown to truly loathe this subject. Arriving at a definition of innovation that enough people will agree upon is only half the battle. You then have to hope that people will understand the context in which you use the term. Then you have to hope that you’re not preaching to a bunch of zealots who believe the complete opposite and only care about arguing the definition for which you thought you had consensus. I do not want to exacerbate the situation further, but I would like to add to my thoughts on innovation.
I’ve have arrived at the following principles:
1) If you’re using a model or framework from a past game, use what worked and discard what did not. There is little reason to continue if you’re not going to learn from the lessons of the past – both good and bad.
2) Perfect the fundamentals.
3) Do not fix what is not broken.
4) Change for the sake of change is wrong.
5) Are you working backwards? Ensure that what you are designing today is on par with or surpassing the achievements and accomplishments of yesterday.
6) Then, once 1-5 are considered, is innovation necessary to complete the vision of your design? If yes, innovate. If no, then do not innovate.
If I had to identify the point where most developers fail it would be on number five. When it comes to innovation, I have yet to see a single MMO since 2004 that has worked forward before attempting to be innovative. Pyshochild states in his blog about innovation that I am “asking for an old game with shiny new graphics”. Not quite. I’m saying that today’s games should be using the old games as a launchpad or baseline rather than the ‘ideal’ that they one day hope to achieve. Therein lies my reasoning for stating that older games are not living up to the promises of the older generation and my conclusion that we are working backwards. If getting back to the point where our ‘ideal’ future is our baseline means an old game with new graphics, then by all means.
To sum up the six points, I’d like to reference a statement that Graev made when we were having one of our random conversations about games. He said, “Innovation is fine as long as they do not sacrifice the integrity of the game”. I immediately wrote it down because he had captured exactly what I’ve been rambling about in one sentence — a sentence that is also quite deep.
The definition of integrity: an undivided or unbroken completeness or totality with nothing wanting.
As long as the integrity of the game and the genre are preserved then innovation is a great thing. It’s how we’ll move beyond what we have known as ideal to create bigger and better games. For now though it’s all about getting back to the starting line.