"Those are the points on your moral compass."

Hey guys, welcome back to another Saturday article with the Game Critic. Today's title is actually a quote from a great webcomic by Howard Taylor: Schlock Mercenary. The strip in question is located here, I'd recommend taking a look and reading through the archives. Its a classy strip that knows its style and doesn't disappoint.

Anyway, I bring up this quote today after some thoughts I had upon watching a lot of the E3 previews. Gaming these days really rewards the open-world design, games modeled in this way tend to be very successful. An open-world game is a type of design in which the entire world is open to the player. Rather then being constrained by walls or funneled along a linear path, the player is free to move about as he chooses and do what he will with no real requirements other then beating the game in any way he chooses. Giving such freedom to the player allows a great deal of personal expression. Objectives can be completed at their own pace and in their own way.

Even outside of open-world gameplay, a lot of games these days try to give the player as many options as possible. However, one thing I've noticed is that all these options seem to fall under two ultimate outcomes: To shoot or not to shoot.

A lot of games where shown at E3, but on thing that I noticed about a lot of the lead games was at their core they boiled down to shooters of some type or another. At what point did the players character having a gun become a requirement for a good game? These days it seems that the standard is to toss in some sort of shooting element that eventually takes over the rest of the game.

Lets take the new Uncharted. Now, granted, I've never played either uncharted game, but from what I've gathered, its a sort of Indiana Jones experience. However, the video I saw of Uncharted 2 at E3 reminded me far more of Gears of War then Indiana Jones.

I honestly don't see the cause here as the developers. It's the market. Shooters have become a very common staple of the game industry, selling extremely well and blazing near the forefront of game sales. Developers know that gamers will by a game featuring shooter elements, and so they feel more inclined to deliver us a new shine over a concept we've played before, or work that concept into their idea, as it increases the likelihood of a sales increase. The real flaw here is us as the consumer. Rather then look for the radical new exploration of territory, the gaming public seems to be more determined to latch onto its familiar grounds and never leave.

Reasons abound for doing this, the most critical I would say as economic. Games are expensive, and many gamers do not want to risk spending their hard earned cash of 50-60 dollars on a product they may not enjoy. Compounding this problem are two other problems: Inability to return the game and inadequate demo experiences. No one wants to risk a high price purchase for a game knowing full well that if they don't enjoy it (or the game doesn't work) they can't get their money back. But, since most demo's limit the amount of time and experience the player gets out of the game, quite often a player is left not fully knowing what to expect from the game itself.

Both of these issues cause players to gravitate towards familiar territory as method of safety. The lack of risk to ones monetary entertainment stays stable, and the only loss is the potential of an unknown game.

I like finding new ideas. Like Audiosurf. Looking back at this E3 display, there is a lot of room for growth and new ideas, new areas to experiment with, that some of the most prominent developers have missed or decided to overlook in favor of the familiar, the well known, and the purchased.

After all, these are the points of the Moral compass.

So what can we do? Alone, very little. What's needed for the industry to grow forward is an effort from both sides. First, the developers need to allow more chances for potential buyers to perform a satisfactory test of their product through longer, more detailed game demos. The buying public then needs to test the product and decide whether or not it is worth supporting.

Gaming is still barely a teenager in the entertainment industries lifespan. With so much room to grow ahead, lets not limit what can or cannot be done by bad choices.


Time Enforcer Anubis said...

The problem is definitely with the market and the consumers. In the past, outstanding, original games haven't sold well and now, because of the general production cost of a passable current-gen game, devs and publishers want to make sure of the return on their investment. I think that's what's happening and I think that's why we're seeing the influx of shooters.

It's what we get when the non-shooters don't sell and it's what we get when Halo and Gears are best-sellers. It's a product of the relative failure of many unique, outstanding titles and the relative success of the shooter genre. It's the reason we're not seeing many games in niche genres, like Mech Simulators.

As you said, there's not much we can do as gamers about it. It's mostly on the developers to do something different and assure the gaming public that the niche titles or the unique games are worth buying, and to do that, we need more publicity for the unique and niche titles and we need better demos.

For PC at least, if people would stop being so anal about DRM, I'd loooooove to see the resurgence of shareware.

The Game Critic said...

PC Gamer ran an article this last month about how DRM is finally dying out. I hope they were right. It's not like it works.