I still can’t get over how awesome Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was. Jordan Mechner was able to take such an established franchise and successfully update it for the modern times, and after so many years! Why doesn’t everyone do that? If you listen to all the “hardcore” gamers, they won’t shut the fuck up about the lameness of games today, so there has to be demand for it, right? Let’s take a look at a few franchises that used to be big and see if we can figure out why the industry doesn’t just get off its’ lazy ass and start being awesome.
Real life sucks. I mean, a man attends to his natural inner craving for automotive destruction and thinks up the demolition derby (and it must be a man, right?), but then he has to think of the limitations, in order to make it all work in the real world. Bullshit. Thankfully, game developers don’t have that problem. They can take the demolition derby and place it in the middle of a city, full of pedestrians, and then sprinkle it all with a dose of crazy. They can then call it Carmageddon.
Despite the fact that this series has sold millions of copies, it’s somewhat underrated. To most, it’s just a racing game where you get to run over shit but there was actually a pretty fun and well-balanced timing mechanic in place that would have you biting your knuckles, hoping your next attempted vehicular slaughter would land in time.
Ah, those precious moments.
Stainless Games is actually at work on a sequel after a successful Kickstarter campaign! I couldn’t be happier about that fact but I’m also bummed that it will be a budget title. Don’t get me wrong, it looks and sounds so badass that it is the sole reason Kickstarter now has balls, but I’m a fanboy when it comes to this game so I want things to be big and expensive. But can another Carmageddon even be a so called AAA title? Probably not and the first reason for this is the concept. At the end of the day, a driving game, where you run over people, sounds like about any title in existence today.
If it is done right though, the way Stainless is trying to do it, it’s somewhat of a risky proposition still. The original came at a much simpler time. A developer could throw together a fun concept and not stress the consequences. Today, pissing folks off with a full priced game can be rather costly. That is if it’s a game worth the full price.
If you were of gaming age to handle the sheer badassery that was Sega Megadrive, you have at least heard of the Strike series. This franchise has produced five games, including the three 16-bit classics: Desert Strike, Jungle Strike, and Urban Strike. Those three were the must-own titles of the era, and that is despite the shit one had to put up with to play them. You see, the games were ball-twistingly hard.
You controlled a helicopter (usually) from a top-down isometric perspective, over spacious levels, filled with shit that could kill you in a few shots. Your resources were limited, including ammo and the ever-draining fuel so you had to take into account the number of caches on the map and keep in mind their locations. And you know what else? You were presented with several missions that you had to complete in those levels with no fucking checkpoints! Run out of fuel at the very last mission and you have to do the whole level over again!
‘Mission failed’ screen, as I remember it.
I guess you can call the above “deep gameplay” because despite it all, this was the helicopter series of the time and that is actually the problem. I mean, name a successful modern helicopter game. First of all, a lot of modern games allow us to fly vehicles nowadays, and quite adequately, too. Hell, games about psychotic fucking street thugs allow you to operate all sorts pretty decent-looking aircraft, and helicopters are usually the pain- in-the-ass variant.
If you’ve played Saints Row 2, this image is making you angry.
As a result, even some of the best and once-mighty flight sims struggle these days, so what chance does a helicopter game have? Now, the later Strike games started to introduce other vehicles and the trailer for the cancelled Future Strike showed a mech/chopper so they could introduce a whole bunch of shit to soften the blow but the Strike series had to be mainly a chopper series. At least while we still remember.
This franchise is somewhat of a classic. The first game appeared in 1983 on MSX and a Bomberman title has since appeared on nearly every console to date. I probably don’t need to tell you any of this but at its’ core, Bomberman is a puzzle series, where you play as a robot, on a quest to become a human, which he/she ironically achieves by causing enough death and destruction to make Stalin look like a fucking noob.
It was one of the more successful puzzlers, to the point that it inspired several knock offs and produced a full priced title on this very generation: Bomberman: Act Zero, for Xbox 360. Considering that it’s a long running series, it’s quite telling that someone had enough confidence for this:
False advertising: he doesn’t fart explosions.
Despite that gritty Iron-Man cover, Act Zero failed miserably. It didn’t help that the game sucked ass but was it ever a good idea? I mean it’s fucking Bomberman… here is a little background for you: “the games are set somewhere in a galaxy known as the Bomber Nebula, on Planet Bomber…” Do I really need to go on, here?
This screams drama.
Think for a moment that someone possessed that information and said “you know? this universe needs a gritty, $60 Xbox 360 sequel’. But even if it runs with the craziness, you need to be really fucking creative to put enough interesting fresh content into the setup of Bomberman, almost as much as you do for the following:
Old Arcade Classics
I remember a time when I paid good money for a handheld machine that played Tetris. I mean, that’s ALL that it played. Yes, Tetris was once a full-priced game. So was stuff like Space Invaders, Pacman, Pong and the rest of them. To say that these games are the integral part of video games is an understatement.
On paper, these games have it all. They have more immediate recognition than most US presidents, world famous characters (if you can call them that), and a history of massive financial success. As far as the industry is concerned, these games are immortal and will always be relevant as fun little distractions but the technology has left them behind.
Now it’s just overkill.
The biggest problem with these games is that you can’t really change them in any way because they are not just successful entries in some genre, they now represent their genres. Pong is not a pixel volleyball game, it’s ‘pong’, Space Ivaders is not a shooter and a game where blocks fall down is a ‘tetris’ no matter what you call it. If you change them enough and claim that you’ve made a sequel, you will have made something else.
And if you cannot change them, how much can you really improve them? I mean, does anyone really give a shit if Tetris blocks have anti-aliasing, amazing shadow effects and move just like real blocks with the help of mocap? Would you play a gritty, 3D take on Space Invaders with a story? No you wouldn’t because there has been one and statistics say that you laughed your ass off: