The Good, the Bad, and the Sequel

Zhukov

The Laughing Arsehole
Dec 29, 2009
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I'm a bit iffy about Yahtzee's point that people regard cheaper games as being inherently inferior.

I mean... really?

I paid $15 AUD for Bastion, $20 for Amnesia: The Dark Descent, $45 for Deus Ex: Human Revolution and $90 for Brink (Yes, really. Shut up). Three of those were bloody excellent, one was a turd on a stick. Anyone want to guess which of those games was the bad apple? I'll give you a hint, it wasn't one of the first three.
 

Giest4life

The Saucepan Man
Feb 13, 2010
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Both, Yahtzee and Jim, had some valid points. However, I'd have to side with Yahtzee on this one. Jim is of the opinion that game are supposed to be fun--and they are--and graphic and gameplay upgrades in a sequel add to the quality of the game. But, see, for me, a simply graphical upgrade does not qualify producing $60. Perhaps if I'm getting the original Doom with Crysis-like graphics, I can spend $60 on it. But spending the full AAA title amount on a sequel which has only minor changes when compared to the original, like Crysis and Crysis 2, I think is criminal.

If it's a sound business model, then I do weep for the plebians' inability to control their fanboy instincts to buy the sequel simply because it is the sequel. If anything, I can't find anything worth spending my $60 on. Which was why I gave Portal 2 the cold shoulder and will do the same to Battlefield 3--that and it's relationship with Origin

Zhukov said:
I'm a bit iffy about Yahtzee's point that people regard cheaper games as being inherently inferior.

I mean... really?

I paid $15 AUD for Bastion, $20 for Amnesia: The Dark Descent, $45 for Deus Ex: Human Revolution and $90 for Brink (Yes, really. Shut up). Three of those were bloody excellent, one was a turd on a stick. Anyone want to guess which of those games was the bad apple? I'll give you a hint, it wasn't one of the first three.
Yahtzee meant that the public perceives cheaper games to be inferior.
 

TitsMcGee1804

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Dec 24, 2008
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A game with just a really great story is equivalent to a film. A game with just really great gameplay is equivalent to a roller coaster. But the game that manages both, intertwined, becomes something else entirely, it brings to light gaming's uniqueness and cultural potential and stands as a paragon for all to follow. And I'm not asking every game to be that. I'm just asking for a developing environment in which such things can happen
I think it should be law for every single video game developer to have this statement painted in their lobbies, canteens and corridors, if every developer (or should i say the development 'funders') had this mentality, we would see infinately more truly great experiences
 

Extra Consideration

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Feb 28, 2011
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I like the idea of sequels. I wish it didn't choke real creativity like it does, but I don't have a big problem with it. Actually, I like the idea of taking a flawed original, fixing the flaws, and making what was good even better. See: Mass Effect 2, whose updates on the originals' crappy shooting mechanics made it a far better game even if the RPG part was almost entirely ripped out.

Meanwhile, the tiered pricing thing sounds like a great idea. People that aren't willing to spend $60 on a game will be far more inclined to spend $30 on a new game that just came out. I know that some will perceive it to be inferior, but many will still buy enough of a good game to make it a profit. And next time they can release their uber-game at $60.

Also, many people seem to be forgetting PSN/XBLA. There are tons of great games there that are original and creative. Bastion, Outland, and tons others are released often there. Why are they treated as less of a game just because they're cheaper and downloadable?
 

similar.squirrel

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Mar 28, 2009
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Why don't developers test new IP's by bundling a short demo with their established franchise releases? It seems like a good way to garner exposure for ideas they are unsure about, and it's only an elaboration on this beta code malarkey that everybody seems to be doing these days.
 

CrystalShadow

don't upset the insane catgirl
Apr 11, 2009
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Hmm. Discussion of 'superstar' game developers brings to mind just how few of them there are.

Of the top of my head, you basically have Shigeru Miyamoto, Peter Molyneux, and the guys from ID (primarily John Carmack though.)

There's also Sid Meier, famous pretty much entirely for the Civilization series.

To that you can add perhaps Chris Sawyer, but looking back on it, that's actually a pretty bizarre case;

For instance, his most famous game, Transport Tycoon, is actually called Chris Sawyer's Transport Tycoon.

Similarly, it's Chris Sawyer's Rollercoaster Tycoon, not simply Rollercoaster Tycoon. (Up until Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 that is.)

So... His name is well-known by virtue of the fact that he's used it as part of the game title for most of his games.

But... There's more to this than just some arrogant game developer who thinks he's more important than his development team;

Despite his games being considered mainstream titles at the time, Chris Sawyer, in a modern context, would actually have more in common with an Indy developer.

Believe it or not, Transport Tycoon was created by Chris Sawyer on his own - He did all the programming, game design, (and most of the art.- correction, some of the art) The only thing he didn't do was the music...

So when he calls his games "Chris Sawyer's ... " , that's meant far more literally than you might think.

For all intents and purposes he's a one man team.

And that, in all probability explains why he can't keep up with game development anymore.

Though involved with Rollercoaster Tycoon 3, it no longer bears his name as part of the title...

And that's probably because it had a relatively huge development team. (Compared to his earlier games anyway.)

Further, he really didn't get along with Atari...

So my guess is, he knows he can't develop marketable games alone anymore, but can't deal with large publishers and development teams that well...
 

Worr Monger

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Jan 21, 2008
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I disagree with Yahtzee's points on cheaper = inferior. To me the $60 price jump a few years back was just one step too far.

I remember paying $60 for the first The Force Unleashed... and I swore I would never spend that kind of money again UNLESS I was absolutely, 100% sure that I'd love the game. I will pay $60+ for Bioware's games, because historically... I enjoy the shit out of them, and they are worth it to me.

RAGE will get my $60... because I'm sure I'm going to play it for many hours and enjoy. But it's rare that I will pay full price these days.

Cheap games to me are seen as nothing more than great deals... hell, I'll pay $10 for a game that I have no real interest in on Steam because it's on sale and probably a great deal. I may decide I want to play it later.
 

NinjaDeathSlap

Leaf on the wind
Feb 20, 2011
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Jim actually talks a lot of sense when he puts his mind to it. I can see his arguments reflected in the consumer dilemma I'm having right now. I have a metric fuckton of games that I want coming out between now and next spring but there's no way in hell I will have the money or the spare time to get all of them, let alone get all of them new. I'd say about half of them are installments of franchises I am already invested in, while the other half I am equally exited about, but they are new to me so they're a more risky purchase. So when it comes down to the difficult decisions of which ones to spend my money on it's the second half that are going to lose out big time. It's sad because I could end up missing out on a brilliant experience, but when we're talking about +£40 a purchase the consumer logic is clear. Get the games you know you will enjoy over the ones you think you will enjoy.
 

Ulquiorra4sama

Saviour In the Clockwork
Feb 2, 2010
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A sequel: As defined by the Free Online Dictionary "A literary, dramatic, or cinematic work
whose narrative continues that of a preexisting work"

What would be a good way to continue a narrative? I think tying up plot holes left by the original in an interesting way would be a nice step.

If they want to make a sequel interesting though i would say they don't really need more than loose ties to the original if they want to do something completely new. Like what WindWaker did up until you go under the sea and discover Hyrule... again. SPOILER ALERT!
Also the way of making the main character the decendant of the previous main character and then have him/her pick up something left behind by his/her ancestor to start some kind of unveiling of a new epic.

As for gameplay in sequals all they really need to do to succeed is fix the things that didn't work and leave the things that did work alone.
 

pppppppppppppppppp

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Jun 23, 2011
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I disagree with MovieBob that ongoing franchises breed more refined games by default. Galaxy would have been just as good, if not better, if it had been called Funky Larry and the Gravitron Malfunction and had been the same game but with a purple duck named Funky Larry who works as a scientist when his gravity machine goes haywire and turns the world into a bunch of themed planets with artificial gravity.

Anywho... the point I'm trying to make is that developers can become better at making a certain genre without milking the same franchise over and over. See Bioware, who's become better and better at RPGs, but is only now coming out with a third game in a franchise. They've made everything from medieval RPGs to Sci-Fi to Asian mythology, but they still learn from previous installments.
 

Geoffrey42

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Aug 22, 2006
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I can't be 100% empirical about this, but: I don't think it is a problem for there to be sequels, as there's no reason to abandon a successful property and hold up "different" as the same as "good". But, at the same time, there has to be room for new and different alongside refinement of the established properties.

Of the <a href=http://boxofficemojo.com/yearly/chart/?yr=2010&p=.htm>top 10 domestic grossing films of 2010, 5 were direct sequels, and 3 were established properties/remakes/retellings. But 2 of them were new and different! Of the <a href=http://www.cnbc.com/id/37616179/The_Best_Selling_Video_Games_of_2010>top 10 selling video games of 2010, every single one was a sequel. Sure, the indie scene provides a lot of innovation, but if 10 years from now, all we have is some really refined Mario(1983)/ Zelda(1986)/ Mega Man(1987)/ Metroidvania (1986)/ Halo(2001)/ CoD(2003)/ BF (2002)/ WoW(2004)/ ___Craft(1994)/ Diablo(1996)/ ____Shock (1994)/ Civ(1991)/ Sim____(1989), I will be a sad panda indeed. Not that the list itself doesn't show that new ideas crop up over time, just that we should want ideation alongside refinement.

Another way of putting it: we shouldn't get so good at making swords that we forget to invent the gun. Nor should we abandon the sword in favor of the gun. Ideally, we do both: refine the sword, invent the gun.

EDIT: NOTE: Years sourced from Wikipedia
 

Avatar Roku

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Jul 9, 2008
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similar.squirrel said:
Why don't developers test new IP's by bundling a short demo with their established franchise releases? It seems like a good way to garner exposure for ideas they are unsure about, and it's only an elaboration on this beta code malarkey that everybody seems to be doing these days.
That's a great idea. Or you could do the opposite: put a demo of a sure-thing game into a lesser known one, like how Zone of the Enders had a demo for MGS2, or how Crackdown came with keys to the Halo 3 beta. Both games in those examples, ZotE especially, were relatively low budget games which, largely for the above reason, saw massive profits and were able to release much-improved sequels.
 

The Random One

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May 29, 2008
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I can't believe I agree with Jim... on the first page, anyway. The thing Bioshock is doing is something that fits games perfectly - a sequel is not continuing a story, but rather delivering a story with the same tone. Tone, I think, is the key word here. The reason Bioshock is System Shock 3 is because, despite all the waistcoats and fancy hats that transplanted it to Alternate Past, it has the same tone than System Shock. And it's set its own tone as well, so Bioshock Infinite can follow suit. This is not something unusual in games - most JRPGs do this as well, and if you think about it you may find GTA, for one, does it as well - sequels take place in the same world, and have the same tone, but involve different characters in unrelated stories. The Bioshock/FF case is the same, only it's not even the same world.

Therefore, on the idea of taking wild gambles, I say that's OK as long as they don't change the tone. I hate how they changed GTAIV from previous games because they changed the tone - it went from wild, campy and cartoony to serious, dark and gritty. Every change I disliked about it - from the slow combat to the confusing driving - comes from an attempt to reinforce this tone. And several of the changes I did like - such as the more realistic, engaging storyline and characters - also come from this change. I realized that while I hated GTAIV, I might have been way more lenient to it if it wasn't a GTA game, since I wouldn't have an expectation regarding the tone and would think the poor gameplay is made up for the good story. As it turns out, the story needs to make up for the poor gameplay and the tone shift, which is too much for the poor thing to handle.

My general point is that you can make a completely different game and call it a sequel if it keeps the tone, while a sequel that keeps everything but forgets the tone ends up being like a parody. I don't think devs know that, or even what tone is.

Have you noticed how tone doesn't even sound like a word any more? I don't think it even was one to begin it. We might need some strange German compound word instead, it'll sound better. Like maybe weltgeist. Yeah, that sounds good. Sequels in games have to keep the weltgeist. I like it.
 

Mikkaddo

Black Rose Knight
Jan 19, 2008
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I like Jim's idea of tiered pricing, but I think it needs to be changed in two ways:

1 reverse it, new games that are not sequels are at the higher $60 price, and then it goes lower and lower with the rest.

2 it needs to be timed in a much smaller loop than now, sure that brand new IP that no one has EVER heard of starts off at $60 but if it sells well, maybe after the first month or so drop it down to the $40 level.

Sure the people that paid the $60 will feel screwed, but you can do something to help them fell less hurt. Like Black Ops is doing with it's DLC: If you pre-ordered Black Ops you're getting the new DLC maps (at least one) for free. It's not much but hell it's a start. Maybe have new IPs that have nothing before them start at $60, get cheaper if they sell very well, and have the pre-orders and first month purchases get some free DLC after that point.


It's not a perfect system sure, but that's why we have discussions and debates . . . it'll take time for something like this system to even be CONSIDERED much less implemented, so let's take the time for now to discuss it . . . maybe even get something together as a group.

I for one would LOVE to see a unified group effort from someone like the ECA bringing up a proposal like that system to the games industry. Imagine it . . . it's a Gamer oriented company, wouldn't it be wonderful to see them take up a proposal from all of us to the games industry at large?
 

Recor55

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Aug 29, 2011
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I just wanted to adress yahtzees point of point that people see cheaper as inferior. Ive worked at an electronics store for 2 years now and if i have learnt one thing its that people dont give a dam about quality or service when they can get a product of $20 cheaper over the internet. Sure there are a select few with triple digit IQs who can make the link between price and quality but they are so few in between and when they do show up they often cant aford the extra hundred bucks for a Panasonic tv over a Soniq.

In summation. PRICE IS EVERYTHING.
 

krellen

Unrepentant Obsidian Fanboy
Jan 23, 2009
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As with films and TV, when I get into a sequel it's because I want more of the same. If I'm getting something similar but somewhat different, that's a rebranding - Stargate: Atlantis instead of SG1, for instance. If it's something completely new, it should be a new franchise.

I hate when sequels reinvent the gameplay. Tweaks to things that didn't work are okay - Fallout 2 is an excellent sequel to Fallout, because it keeps the same gameplay elements and adds tweaks and minor features that caused annoyance with the first. Fallout 3, on the other hand, is a horrible sequel, because it bears only very passing resemblance to the titles that came before. Fallout: New Vegas, while being basically a true sequel to Fallout 3, nevertheless exists as a rebranding off the originals, and thus fit expectations much more.

Sid Meier's Civilization did similar things - 4 has many resemblances to 3, which has many resemblances to 2, which has many resemblances to 1, though 1 and 4 are still very different because of the separation. When Sid Meier wanted to try some radical changes to the makeup (which eventually were worked into Civ 4 because they worked), he didn't call it Civilization 2 - he called it Alpha Centauri.

In this sense, I view Mass Effect 2 has a colossal failure; both in terms of story and in terms of gameplay, there are only peripheral similarities to Mass Effect. Mass Effect 2 should have been a rebranding, because it wasn't really a continuation of Mass Effect at all, except for the superficial presence of a "Captain Shepard" and a few other characters.
 

Extra Consideration

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Feb 28, 2011
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Once again, the hypocrite shows his true face. Every single bloody one of Yahtzees favourite games is a sequel. Every single one. Narbacular Drop 2 (AKA Portal). Silent Hill 2. Prince of Persia 4. Spider Man 2. Dizzy 4. Half Life 2. Saints Row 2. He can't name a single first game in a series he likes.

Fuck it, if you took any list of best games of all time, any list at all, lists qualifed as the creme de la creme, the games that make up the best of the best of the best this industry has ever produced, sequels will make at least 90%. At least. On the other hand? You look at the worst games ever made. Daikatanna. Naughty Bear. Deadly Towers. Original IPs.
 

Mark D. Stroyer

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Apr 12, 2011
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Hey, I want some furniture from the 1500s way more than some cheap Aliens toys!

...I may be alone in that. Oh, well.

I am at a point where 'good' fails to placate me as a gamer. Solid, 'fun' gameplay just does not do it, because without supporting something else...it's boring. Good gameplay a final qualifier, it's a fundamental, essential as the base for something else.

Gameplay in a vacuum is futile, as without context to inform it, the actions itself are hollow. Without a reason and purpose for action, action itself becomes motivated purely by external reasons.

Consider this: Gears of War is a shooter, about a war for survival. It forces constant usage of cover for survival because combat is quite lethal, and features copious quantities of blood, gore, and various other brutality. This is precisely because the setting is about brutality in a war of extermination. The gameplay reflects the purpose of the setting, and tension, urgency, reward, and the entire purpose and reason to play rests upon the setting, the world the game is in, and the player instinctively engages and feels 'sucked into' that world, the player's mindset becoming aligned with the characters', fighting and pushing on for the same reasons.

Considering that 'survival' and 'staying alive' in-game correlate, and a reason to fight and a reason to keep playing also align, this is more succinct and profound than one might initially believe.

Take out that context, and Gears of War becomes an abstract math game. So many hitpoints for this enemy, so many for that, this much average damage at this range with this weapon, this amount of damage tolerances and regeneration speed, most efficient solutions, etc. The motivation for playing leaves as does the story, and players will be playing simply because of their own desire to handle an abstract problem.

Gears of War is 'fun' not because of balance, or gratuitous violence, but because the gameplay is designed to reflect and accentuate intensity of the setting. Roleplaying is the reason it's fun.

This also goes for multiplayer, because believe it or not, Yahtzee and the ilk, there happens to be roleplaying there, too, although it's a bit more emergent and player-driven. When the multiplayer game also reflects a setting, the amount of connection increases drastically. Monday Night Combat puts the players in a future-dystopian game show, the complete presentation of the game immersing the player through biting parody of modern sports. Battlefield: Bad Company 2's multiplayer uses concentrated objectives in order to give the semblance of a large-scale war between two modern armies in a miniscule format, as well as auditory and other authenticity, and the results of the battle are given dramatized conclusions to emphasize it. Left 4 Dead flat-out requires teamwork in order to battle through a relentless undead onslaught. Splinter Cell of old had asymmetrical small teams engaging in subterfuge, with the slow, deliberate tension of stealth.

There may be less intricate and sophisticated character-driven narratives than a classic singleplayer setup, but there is still fundamentally-ingrained roleplaying, small-scale story based on the player's minute-to-minute experience as they put themselves inside that world, into that situation, with the drama being between players as there's the conflict over the objectives.

Okay, so I digress. Point being, though, that gameplay itself does not have the draw of gameplay and setting in unison.

Gaming's narrative strengths lie in setting, rather than direction. The ability to be in another world, with the natural immersion that results, is where gaming really shines. Narrative simply works the best when it is integrated with the setting, where things simply happen around the player, and the player has the ability to interact with it, be part of the story through playing, rather than sitting back and let the story do its thing for a cutscene.

Of course, there's also something to be said for cutscenes when executed just right, as Uncharted 2 is a prime example of, but that works when the player simply controls, rather than is, a more defined 'Other' character through a structured story, and the player participates by roleplaying as that character, going through the chain of events as that defined character.

Yes, I'm digressing again. I do this a lot. There is a point, here. I'm getting to it.

The problem with sequels in gaming is that they aren't planned. Practically every instance is a case of, "Hey, guys, we had a hit with that last game, let's do another! Brainstorming time!" So you end up with a sequel for the sake of having a sequel.

There is no reason why you couldn't make a twenty-seven-game-long series or however absurdly long you care to make it and have it be a complete, cohesive narrative, with conclusive, standalone stories for each installment, and everything else you want. But the only way that would ever work is if it were planned right from the beginning, with a plan to do exactly that. Or at least have good enough writers that they could manage to do twenty-seven complete independent stories that tie in with the previous entries and leave it open for the next one.

For some reason, there is an absolute dearth of good writing in the games industry. And I know the reason for that, too.

The average game developer is a programmer/some other technical job that's about building the a game and getting it working. This means an engineer. (Emphasis: Writing skills - Limited) Frequently nerd/geek and all the influences and background that goes with that, too.

This means that games are designed with mechanics in mind, a basic setup which is often created simply to give an excuse for doing something with emphasis entirely on the 'cool' factor. Writers are then brought in to write the story and tie all the levels together.

Thus is the problem, and I've seen this over and over again, where the person who actually writes the story is the last person on-board, often completely fails to understand how storytelling works in gaming or actually doing it properly is too technically demanding to accomplish at that point, and is there simply to tie it all up in twine and slap a 'story' label on the box.

Why can't we start this from the top, the other way around? Starting with the writer, who happens to be well-versed in gaming to begin with, creating a setting, characters and story, plotting it out with a point in mind to begin with, when then gets made along that structure.

Which means that writers are in the lead, meaning more planning and reason to actually have sequels rather than copy-pasting the last game with minor improvements, likely more innovation, (because really, who but a writer specifically designing videogames would come up with unique and innovative ideas over market-demographic trends) more variety as a result, we get improved as an artistic medium, and everybody's happy.

So what's the problem with sequels, again?