5 Annoying Ways Game Developers Make Sequels Seem Fresh

Video games have become so costly to make that a major title release is a potential extinction event for some developers. Understandably, they prefer to play it safe by identifying that which sells and expressing their creativity in very similar, ideally cheaper, ways. In other words, the dream project of an average game developer would be to release the same popular game over and over again. Of course, in some cases, this ‘dream project’ is an actual business model‘.

As much fun as Call of Duty jokes are though, the practice of releasing very similar looking sequels has existed since the dawn of video game classics like Doom and Fallout. No one likes to have all of their original work go unmilked if they can help it. However, as the required yield of delicious green dairy has increased from thousands to millions, the recycling has become increasingly excessive. It is now unusual NOT to see whole trilogies looking and feeling like three levels of the same game. Yet, somehow, game publishers are able to convince us that every one of those entries is fresh enough to buy. When the original has enough obvious flaws to be fixed then this task is easy but what if it does not? What if the first title is not Assassin’s Creed but Bioshock? Well, then game creators have to get very creative… or:

5. Let It Snow

Say, you are having your ordinary day, sitting in front of that screen, looking intense. All of a sudden, you stumble upon a piece of exciting news as you detour into the brighter regions of the Internet: that awesome game from awhile back, well, it’s getting a freaking sequel! As you frantically click your way to some ‘leaked’ details, all sorts of wild ideas materialize in your brain. What will it be like? How amazing will the graphics be? Such awesomely fresh sequels as Half-Life 2 or Baldur’s Gate II spring to mind, depending on your age. It has only been a year so the engine… and all that other tech stuff is probably the same, but it’s a full fledged sequel so it has to look pretty different, right? Right!!

Like… which one is Killzone??

Ah, yes… snow–the sign of a true modern sequel. If recycled digital resources are to be found in a video game follow-up, like–oh, I don’t know–Assassin’s Creed Revelations, Overlord 2, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Killzone 3 or even the unanimously adored Uncharted 2, chances are that the very first pieces of media will look like a Christmas album cover, as if to say “See? Things are very different this time!” You may be looking at almost the exact same on-screen objects as before and the snow itself may not serve any significant gameplay purpose but nothing adds a similar feel of minty freshness to the same old polygons (industry term for “stuff”, or something) as a drastic change in color.

The crazy thing is that THIS game actually made some use of it.

4. Engage Both Hands

Say, you are reading up on the recent announcement of that kickass sequel. It will feature a lot of awesome new things, like snow, but what has you most excited is this huge piece of a marketing line, actually claiming that the game will allow you to dual-freaking-wield your weapons! Naturally, your mind is blown… but it really shouldn’t be. Dual-wielding in video games has been around since Phantasy Star II (1989) so we should have gotten used to it by now. Yet, somehow, it still never fails to qualify as an “exciting new feature” and in 2004, it was still the neon sign on the list of reasons why Halo 2 was not Halo 1.

Halo 1 or 2? And what gave it away?

When Skyrim was announced in 2011, everyone wanted to know if the combat still sucked. “Not anymore,” everyone exclaimed, “you can now dual wield weapons!” One simply has to ask: if that’s what it takes to make a game awesome, why do the developers not include such an old mechanic in the first original so that it is awesome too? Now, I’m no John Carmack of Id (industry term for “nerd”) but I imagine that it would not be too difficult or expensive to implement dual-wielding in something like, say, Borderlands 1 to make it less repetitive (supposedly), but then what would be so exciting about the sequel? 

Oh, right.

3. Grit It Up and Kill the Lights

Say, you are more of an atmosphere junkie. Snow and gameplay are fun and all but what tickles your particular bone is getting sucked into a captivating game world. How will this amazing new sequel accommodate that dire need? It will likely hit the lights and get shit real. If a given game franchise does change direction in terms of its’ feel, you can be sure that one of the words included in the description will be “dark” or “gritty”. And that’s fine. As Gordon Gekko famously said: “grit is good” (that was it right?) but it’s only good when it’s called for. Unfortunately, game developers don’t always care whether that is the case. So if the follow-up to Table Tennis ever gets a sequel, shit will very likely get angry and murky.

A scene of your first opponent murdering your family.

See, that is what kids want nowadays. They can no longer relate to unicorns sharting rainbows into clouds of pink bunnies, as they did in the 90’s. The modern youth is hardened enough by these harsh times to identify more with the sheer raw drama of being a studdly prince in a magical ancient Persia, for example. Thus, the silly misstep of injecting that awful Middle Eastern ‘One Thousand and One Nights’ feel into the Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was promptly rectified in the sequel, with extreme doses of Godsmack (any doses of which are extreme), leather thongs and all things emo. Even Sonic, a blue freaking hedgehog, had to go dark on us by turning into a Werehog and literally dabbling in a love that ideally dare not show its face in a kids’ game… or anywhere.

That better be gel.

2. Shock It to Life

From time to time, something gets Fox News all riled up and it’s not an alarming lack of bullshit for the evening ‘show’. They periodically discover things, like when a scene in a Darkness II trailer, of a woman crying into a man’s lap, appeared to be something else entirely, and the whole “Nintendo” thing gets back onto their very long shit list. If you have not figured it out, I’m talking about “shock advertising”, an effective technique of trolling people with shocking content that ensures various media forms screaming the game’s title like Mel Gibson at the end of Braveheart.

The first one to have anchors do it JUST like this, gets my eternal loyalty and trust.

It’s not just showing sex either, there are other atrocities, like the ability to mow down civilians at airports in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, the footage of 9/11 in a trailer for Army of Two, the dead baby doll grenades in Condemned II (I have to admit, that was pretty awesome), all the random gay stuff in BioWare games (trust me, it’s there), or the drowning of starving blind puppies in boiling acid in Postal (probably) that makes us forget to ask questions like “is this actually worth my money?” Sequel or not, people will tune in just to see what all the fuss is about and all thanks to the outraged protests of the media. 

Fox it is.

1. Party Time

Say, you just got suckered into a video game purchase with promises of all the ingredients of a perfect sequel, namely the prospect of dual-wielding bloody mittens of doom that shoot explosive snowballs at innocent post 9/11 orphan ponies. Even though that seemed awesome at first, you now find the gaming experience too familiar, you are sick of the series, the genre, and possibly gaming in general. All you want to do now is simply blow off a few heads, once in awhile, with people Xbox insists are your friends. Suddenly, you realize that the new sequel that looked too samey for your liking, is having a beta test for its’ multiplayer!

That’s what I’ve been wondering.

Now, I’m not saying that it’s cheap to add a mutliplayer mode or that it’s a small task but too often it’s only done to justify a sequel, as especially evident when little else of note is changed or improved and the said multiplayer is far from the most creative, necessary or fitting additions. Ninja Gaiden 3, Mass Effect 3, Bioshock 2, Dead Space 2, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, and countless other games that are sought for a decent single-player experiences, shoehorn that extra mode just to be able to say that it’s there, instead of spending that extra time and resources on things that matter for fans of those franchises. I mean,

“Come on!”

5 comments on “5 Annoying Ways Game Developers Make Sequels Seem Fresh

  1. Will Snizek says:

    Very true article, but I don’t see things changing. The big companies play it safe 90% of the time.

  2. […] here often? Then, you know that we’ve been mentioning Halo in a somewhat negative context, lately. And why wouldn’t we? Halo was probably the first… uh first person shooter that […]

  3. nhas says:

    nice..i totally agree

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