Jimquisition: Innovation - Gaming's Snake Oil

Tanakh

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Gratz Jim on another perfect episode. Here I thought you were going to chastise developers for not being innovative enough and i was thinking on posting something along the lines of what you actually said...
 

Casual Shinji

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Zhukov said:
Yeah, innovation isn't guaranteed to produce something good, but without the failed experiments along the way we don't end up with the good things that innovation can produce.
I have to wholly agree with this.

Innovation is not a "tool", it's a means to experiment. You never know how an experiment is going to turn out, and that's why you do them; Because it can uncover new things that never would've entered your mind otherwise. You take the risk of failing, but stand the change to discover something brilliant.

Even the failed experiments still contibute to the progression of the industry, because they present things in a different light. It might be a really bad light, but it'll still cause us to think about things differently.

Jim, you say that only when it's necessary should there be innovation, but how will we know if it's necessary unless we've tried it?
 

purifico

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Gizmo1990 said:
Hard to disagree with all that. Also really nice to see some love for Lost Odyssey. I love that game, to me it is the only good Jrpg to come out this gen and as a FF fan it was nice to enjoy a Jrpg for a change as I am of the opinion that each FF after X has been the gaming equivalent of Dog shit.

Aaaawweeee((( I am probably the only person who loved the shit out of FF12 and thought that it was one of the better JRPGs to come out on PS2
 

xPixelatedx

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And this is why we will never get another fantastic Metroidvania game on a console or a handheld.

Or another Zelda that ranks at the top of the series for that matter. I always see people complain that the Zelda series is stagnant and the same game over and over again. It's funny because all the bad qualities of the recent Zelda games are the new qualities. Twilight Princess was one of my favorites, and do you know why? Because it was the most traditional. Any failing it has is related to the new additions to the game play, not how much it was like OoT or Majoras Mask. No, the latter is why it was ******* fantastic! I won't even get into Skyward sword... Nintendo is one of those companies in the middle ground. They stick to their true formulas enough to give you some quality, but they always feel they need to mess with things; give them a "spin" each iteration instead of just focusing on making them great. Waggle, 3D, waggle everywhere. I feel that somewhere after the N64 era Nintendo just went off rails, and in this gen most other developers followed.
The game industry has becoming a pissing contest to see who can paint their pictures with the most elaborate colors, rather then who can paint a coherent image. And yes, Jim is right. This is an obvious sign they aren't confident in their skills enough to think their game will be great on that merit alone.
 

Twinmill5000

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For once, you're wrong. Innovation is always great. Innovation is always a good thing. Innovation in itself, is one of the greatest things we're capable of.

However, innovation can NOT act as a replacement for quality; if a game has a shit story, shit gameplay, shit craftsmanship and shit design, that innovative... innovation that they put into it will help, but it probably (likely; almost always) won't make up for all the flaws a game has, especially if the innovation itself is executed poorly.

In every single case out there, innovation is good. It adds to the game. Likewise, the steps the developers have taken to incorporate that innovation took much, much more out from the game. Especially when that new idea the developers just incorporated doesn't mesh well with the game at all.

In conclusion, innovation is always good, great even, but it's just one facet of design, and it most certainly is not everything, especially when executed so poorly.
 

Headdrivehardscrew

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I like Jim's outfit at the end.

He should wear it more often.

It's like something out of Cthulhu. Psycho Cthulhu. Plus a wig that really brings out the best of his lovingly furious anger.

Hey, Jim. How 'bout getting us some autographed cards? I really dig your innovative outfit. Beats sunglasses.
 

Norrdicus

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Jim, saying that people didn't like Darksiders because it wasn't "innovative enough" is rather disingenuous. The criticism was that while the game borrowed heavily from God of War and Zelda, the problem is that the copied elements weren't executed nearly as well. Plus the story sucked like the vacuum of space, but that's more my personal opinion I suppose.
 

Sotanaht

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We do NEED innovation "for it's own sake". Otherwise what we end up with is clones of clones of clones. A game innovating "for it's own sake" might not be good, it might even be bad because of it, but we need MORE games to do it, not less. Even when the game is bad for it's innovation, it provides the stepping stone for another game to take whatever good ideas it might have had and make them better. Rarely is a new idea done well the first time, but someone has to risk that failure or we never have the idea at all.
 

TheNarrator

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Been a while since I last fundamentally disagreed with Jim. All of my favourite games over the last years (Mount&Blade, Magicka, Braid, Portal, Hammerfight, ...) have one thing in common: their gameplay was unlike any other game that that I knew of, and they felt new and fresh to me. I can enjoy a good traditional shooter or RPG, but I never find them excellent. I can get great enjoyment out of exploring the mechanics of a game, which is something these games simply do not offer. I'm not saying that a not-innovative game is inherently bad, but for me it's inherently... not excellent.
 

Ford-Prefect

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I think maybe there is confusion between innovation and invention. This is partly how hard it can be at times to draw a distinction between the two. Take the humble light bulb, we all consider this to be an invention and we generally consider Mr Edison as the inventor, but in reality the idea of indoor lighting was already established (candles, oil and gas lamps) and the fact that other people had already produced incandescent lights.

What Edison did do however was create a commercially viable bulb, he innovated invention by applying mass production and large scale teamwork to his research. Ever since then the light bulb has been innovated further I now use LED bulbs that use a fraction of the energy and have orders of magnitude greater lifetime but still provide the same amount of light.

Saying that though, the incandescent light bulb was improved, the improvement isn't innovation nor is it invention. See with just the humble light bulb I having difficulty seeing what is improvement, invention and innovation. Take the LED light bulb again.

The invention was the Light Emitting Diode, these where improved to be more powerful and the innovation was to use the LED for domestic lighting. LED help innovate displays, making our TV and monitor thinner and lighter and better lit.

Now lets just simply apply this to games, Errr? How? This quite frankly difficult to do and I'm going to take a quick and ill thought shot at it.

Here is an example of improvement COD n to COD n+1, (where n > 3 :p) the core gameplay is polished with each iteration. There might be some variation on weapons and items, but you get the same slick mp action with familiar concepts of perks, and kill bonuses.

How about an example of innovation? Maybe Quake? Not for its 3D environment but for its networking capabilities, it innovated FPS multiplayer to what we expect today it made the MP experience smooth over a modem (ok you want a 56k for best) It also allowed for community modding and in the early days of the internet it helped build gaming communities.

How about invention? Well maybe I don't know FPU to allow for fast floating point calculations making all the above achievable in real time.

Well this post took longer than I would have liked, I doubt many will read it but I m happy I asked myself this question as its given me a little more insight into what I do myself. Nothing wrong with improvement a game that polishes and experience is still worth merit. Innovation as a goal is futile, it is inspiration you can't plan for it only build towards it.

To quote the great man himself "Genius: one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration."
 

kailus13

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Jims' point is kind of diminished at the end. If that outfit represents innovation, then innovation is always awesome. As to the actual point, I do feel we need some innovation, but indie games generally seem to have that covered.
 

Casual Shinji

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xPixelatedx said:
And this is why we will never get another fantastic Metroidvania game on a console or a handheld.

Or another Zelda that ranks at the top of the series for that matter. I always see people complain that the Zelda series is stagnant and the same game over and over again. It's funny because all the bad qualities of the recent Zelda games are the new qualities. Twilight Princess was one of my favorites, and do you know why? Because it was the most traditional. Any failing it has is related to the new additions to the game play, not how much it was like OoT or Majoras Mask. No, the latter is why it was ******* fantastic! I won't even get into Skyward sword... Nintendo is one of those companies in the middle ground. They stick to their true formulas enough to give you some quality, but they always feel they need to mess with things; give them a "spin" each iteration instead of just focusing on making them great. Waggle, 3D, waggle everywhere. I feel that somewhere after the N64 era Nintendo just went off rails, and in this gen most other developers followed.
The game industry has becoming a pissing contest to see who can paint their pictures with the most elaborate colors, rather then who can paint a coherent image. And yes, Jim is right. This is an obvious sign they aren't confident in their skills enough to think their game will be great on that merit alone.
That doesn't really sound like developers trying and failing to innovate, but them simply adding gimmicks to garner attention from the non-gaming crowd.
 

Jimothy Sterling

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Aardvaarkman said:
Jimothy Sterling said:
Innovation - Gaming's Snake Oil

There's nothing wrong with a game that innovates. There's everything wrong with a game that goes out of its way to innovate without reason.
Jim's entire point could be stated in one minute or less. Hell, the above summary encapsulates 99% of the argument in two sentences. Why did the same thing have to be repeated over and over and over again to pad it out to 7 minutes?
Yeah and you can outline the plot to the Shawshank Redemption in five minutes.
 

maninahat

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I don't quite follow.

If a reviewer found a game to be uninteresting because it was un-innovative, they're complaining about unoriginal, generic and played-out content which makes the experience boring for them. It doesn't mean that they arbitrarily require innovation. It means that without an added gimmick or original concept or unique design, some games can feel like tedious derivatives of better titles.

As much as I'd like to convince myself that a well made but utterly boilerplate title is still a good game, if it is boring the pants off of me, I'm going to complain about it.

That said, I must try out Lost Odyssey and Singularity. They do look kind of neat.
 

maninahat

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Jimothy Sterling said:
Aardvaarkman said:
Jimothy Sterling said:
Innovation - Gaming's Snake Oil

There's nothing wrong with a game that innovates. There's everything wrong with a game that goes out of its way to innovate without reason.
Jim's entire point could be stated in one minute or less. Hell, the above summary encapsulates 99% of the argument in two sentences. Why did the same thing have to be repeated over and over and over again to pad it out to 7 minutes?
Yeah and you can outline the plot to the Shawshank Redemption in five minutes.
Try one minute:

 

Jimothy Sterling

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Hmm I think you are the only critic nowadays that I often agree with but end up writing against because of the extent and zealous attitude of your rants/trolls/comments... I get it you are super outspoken and satyric... But in your criticism, you end up supporting ideas that are just as wrong, or ridiculizing in such way that it's hard to support your point.

I have always pointed out that Innovation is not in itself a good thing. I often say that "New is not always better, but better is always new" so we developers should focus on striving for improvement rather than innovation since improvement will generate better newer ideas. And up to here we agree perfectly.

But thing is you are saying that there is nothing wrong with derivativeness. Which is a lot more questionable... Darksiders is a game that I liked, but i doubt anyone can deny that it is completely forgettable... and to be honest it didn't really do anything very well, it was stretched, nonsensical and by the end actually rather boring, and that is a pretty big problem (also, Darksiders 2 had A LOT of issues).

If you have nothing new to say, no special way to express it and no real drive to say it, that IS a problem. We all understand that a lot of games re-use systems, mechanics, themes and structures, thats a reality, we dont need to reinvent the wheel. But that doesn't mean that they should FEEL the same. The issue happens when you are playing a game and not enjoying it because it is rehashing and padding without any real inspiration. And this is damaging for any ecosystem.
In fact, Ni no kuni, and The last Odyssey both have some quite interesting innovations, particularly in terms of style and story, -because those are also areas in which you can innovate-. And they are backed by perfectly functional, rather well executed, if somewhat unoriginal mechanics that never GET IN THE WAY of the enjoyment.

In any case you sort of undermine your own old assesments... from what I recall, a lot of the games you noted have been considered "ok", sure there are critics of particular aspects of games, but reviews normally state what their strengths and weaknesses are.
I myself am willing to play a lot more games that are bold and try something inspired and new, than games that just do what has been done in a proefficient way. Simply because I see videogames more as a creative medium than just an entertainment medium, and it is often the NEWER ideas that inspire my own production creatively, even if their execution is not perfect.
And quite simply I rarely have enough time to play a game that won't do anything to capture my attention in any way.

Thing is, you obviously talk less about things that are unoriginal... IE, I'm not gonna talk about how great MGS3's aiming system was, it might have been serviceable, but it provoked no thought. If there is no thought provoked at all by a game, that is an issue. Which explains why sometimes paricular "innovative" ideas are highly regarded in spite of other shortcomings.. If we haven't seen it before, it's interesting, and -interesting- is more than I can say for a lot of generic / functional titles. THAT is the issue, there is nothing to say about them, and indifference is arguably worse than hate.

Jimothy Sterling said:
Yeah and you can outline the plot to the Shawshank Redemption in five minutes.
Oh god, that would have made the movie so much better.
 

PunkRex

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I do think its something you just have to accept with any artistic medium, good innovation can be the result of either necessity or simply because the artist wanted to be clever.