Saturday, January 18, 2014

All Things Big and Small

Jesus it's been awhile since I've written anything here.  Oh well, let's get this underway.  I want to talk about the importance and need of both Indie and AAA studios.

I know a lot of people want to shit on both of these types of games, but just hear me out.  I get that to some, indie games can come off as pretentious or as non-games, and that some AAA games are simply akin to popcorn films, but why do we say these like they're bad things?  After all, would cinema be better off without your Die Hard's, Rambo's or even your Godfather's?  It takes all kinds to build a medium.

First up, let's talk about the positives of indie games.  Indie games are where you will see some of the most unique game ideas ever.  The premise for Portal came from a small team's project called Narbacular Drop.  Indie games don't have the same boundaries that AAA games have, due to fewer expectations and fewer restrictions from Publishers, Shareholders, and the like.

Indie games are useful not only for the unique genres and gameplay mechanics, but often, indie games handle more intricate and nuanced subjects.  Where they fail though, is that some of these games that tackle heavy issues, don't have a good game surrounding it.  It acts more like an interactive experience that focuses strictly on the narrative, at the expense of everything else.  This would be your games like Dear Esther, and the Stanley Parable.  I love the Stanley Parable, but there are times where you wish that this content was in something with more meat on it.

On the flip side, you have your AAA games.  The games that can cram content onto a disk.  In this context, content isn't just "stuff to do", it can be music, graphics, physics, etc.  There's just a certain level of polish and shine you get with most AAA games.  Assassin's Creed II had a great city to explore.  It was alive, large, and overall fun to explore.  These games are what push the mainstream.  If you want to get a point across, this would be the size you wish you could reach.

I'd love for these two things to co-mingle. I'd love to see a game with the moral and discussion about freedom of choice, like a Stanley Parable, but frame it inside something substantial.  The question of free will could easily be a subplot in any major game.  You could say that the David Cage games might fall into this category, with Indigo Prophecy and Heavy Rain.  Those games though, suffered from similar effects.  They were close to being great, but Heavy Rain was mostly an interactive cut-scene with many Quick Time Events.

For an example that does this right: Spec Ops: The Line.

Advanced warning, I haven't played this game personally, and I'm going off second hand information from various places.

We good?


It handles the reality of war, and actually made people feel bad for what they were doing.  The game carried weight with it, while being a major release, within the Spec Ops franchise.  Granted, Spec Ops isn't the most popular of IP's in the world, but it's been around awhile.  It's a First Person Shooter, a genre that's been saturated with Power Fantasy, a definitive foreign bad guy, and bombastic set pieces over the last few years.  You could even say that the modern War FPS genre is oversaturated of late, with Annual Call of Duty releases, Battlefield coming out every other years, and then games like Medal of Honor clinging to the sides.  So, it's a popular genre that ended up telling an impactful story, which surprised the hell out of a lot of people.


Are you...


A Pattern


Now, I know I'm picking on Call of Duty and Battlefield with these images, but it proves the point that this is a populated market, and most games within it are seen as interchangeable for the most part, which again, made Spec Ops the Line so surprising to people, because they just expected another Call of Duty/Battlefield-esque First person Shooter, from a smaller studio, that was going to be mediocre.  

So, it can be done.  AAA games can bring mainstream attention to serious issues, but it takes the buzz on the indies to make them viable.  I may not like games like Dear Esther, or ... what was that interactive story-game about lesbians that made so many people's... GONE HOME.  That's what it was.  I may not like that sort of game, but I can see that it has value, just as much as a Call of Duty game, or Assassin's Creed game.  The indies will drive the direction for the content of our games in the future, but the AAA's are the ones who need to see that the risk isn't as great as they thought, and can wrap an interesting concept in fundamentally sound mechanics.

Now how to wrap this mess up...

I suppose with a game recap.  I recently finished up the main Story in Pokemon Y, so I'll be moving onto Shin Megemi Tensei 4 soon.  Pokemon Y: Pokemon but More and Improved.  ALso been bouncing between Okami HD, and DmC: Devil May Cry on PS3.  Okami should be played by as many people as possible.  Clover Studios did something wonderful with that game, and I highly recommend it, especially if you enjoy classic Japanese art styles.  DmC is the reboot of the Devil May Cry franchise, and I'm not sure how I feel about it yet.  There was a boss fight that had a gratuitous amount of swearing in it.  Hell, I curse some, but when every sentence in their dialogue exchange had some form of expletive, it got real old real fast.  Gameplay is really solid for it, and chaining combos together is hella satisfying though.

Also, PayDay 2 on PS3.  Basically the perfect formula for a sequel.  Take the core gameplay from game 1, tweak it, and make more of what made the first game great.  A review of Payday 2 may come in the future.

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