Monday, June 13, 2011

Super.hype: Post-E3 2011 Wrap-up

E3 2011 is over. What did we learn this year?

Old is the new New

The focus on remakes from the Big 3 (Nintendo, Msoft, Sony) only reinforces my previous notions about the desire (or perceived desire, if you believe others) of the gaming community. Personally, I'm ambivalent about them. With franchises that I love, I know I would be happy with remakes and HD ports. I've already admitted as much.

But I know better than to ask developers, regardless of how much money they have at their disposal (nay, because of how much money they have at their disposal), to spend said money on sprucing up old games. What really needs to be done, if they are going to be done at all, is to release proper sequels to these games, or release "reboots" as opposed to remakes.

So, what is a proper sequel?
  • Keeps core mechanics intact - In games, it's my understanding that the "I" part of the "IP" means the concept of the game. Of course, legally it also encompasses the art and the assets, but the functional portion is the idea (the "Intellectual"). This is what I believe should remain intact. This means mechanics. It also means gameplay. I don't like this idea of developers being free to willy-nilly change the way a game is played in a sequel while keeping all the assets and narratives intact and then slapping the word "sequel" on it. I feel like it's disingenuous. This idea deserves a bit more time, but it's late and I'm tired.
  • Increases ease of use - Interfaces and navigation are human factors: they will always be a work in progress. That's why there are always so many different opinions on the quality of a particular menu or screen or inventory management style. I think streamlining and refining these aspects of the game are fair game for overhaul and adjustment. Just don't cut OUT options, simply make them easier to find or easier to navigate to.
  • Optimization - In strictly software terms, I believe sequels that use the same or similar engine and technology should run better than their predecessors. Of course, this may be unfeasible or unreasonable due to the addition of assets or extra flash (panache), but if a game is built on a certain code, it shouldn't be unreasonable to assume that the developers will have learned how to use that code more efficiently and to greater effect.
  • Increased complexity and content - Most sequels tend to do this right. Also, don't mistake this for me saying that I want to play through the original content and then some. I think that proper sequels should add substantial content and context to the idea, world, and narrative established in the first. Not only that, I think it's fair to expect an increased level of complexity in terms of what is expected of the player: that is, to test their assumed mastery of the first title.
Reboots, on the other hand, are something like this:
  • Is the same game - Same content, same levels, same story, same dialogue, same choices same outcomes. The same game in every possible way. One example of this was 2007's Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions.
  • Adds content, not context - The DS reboots of the various Final Fantasy games did a great job of this. They did futz with the dialogue a bit, but I'm not linguist, so I won't comment on it. Instead, they focused on adding dungeons and monsters and items that were intended for the original but never made it in.
  • Brings it up to date - There are a lot of conventions and ideas, mostly in terms of interface and control, that were common and clunky in the past, mostly due to technological restrictions. Modern times have pretty much negated all of those restrictions, so let's take advantage of that, okay?

nobody doesn't not want to make money

Sony's willingness to bite the bullet on the Vita means one thing to me: they are really, really sorry for fucking with us. Of course, the ridiculous inclusion of proprietary solid state media (the Vita storage media appears to be the next generation of the infamous MS Pro Duo) strikes me as a huge misstep. Still, baby steps, baby steps. Nobody changes overnight.

Nintendo's insistence that the Wii U launch price will be significantly higher than the original Wii also strikes me as apologetic. They made money hand over fist on every console that came out after the Wii...until the 3DS. And I think their shareholders really hammered them, and they got scared. Legitimately scared? I don't think so. I think Nintendo really should be smarter than this. Now, I'm not arguing that they need to lower the price on the Wii U, but I think they should have been more bold about the naming and the marketing of the product. I'm sure it has numerous backwards compatibilities with the original console, but it's a NEW console. A NEW product. They are shackling it to an old, almost past-generational product that served its purpose. It opened the proverbial gateway to gaming to a whole market that had heretofore been unreachable. But this console is so much more than that, and can be, if they would just be brave enough to ask these newfound gamers to come along into a deeper, more engaging level of entertainment and enjoyment.

where have all the good games gone?

That's a bit sensationalistic, I know. But I'm trying to make POINT here, alright? Just go with it.

There was no news (or no new news) for a number of proposed blockbusters coming out this year. This year. This includes games like Thief 4, Diablo 3, Guild Wars 2, Battlefield 3 (yes, I know about the trailer, but it's just more of what we already know). I'm not going to come right out and say that there was no real overpoweringly good news this year, but I almost want to. A few new IPs announced, but no real news. It was a disappointment in terms of software.

Hardware, on the other hand, had a great showing. And not just consoles, but peripherals too. A lot of 3rd-party peripheral manufacturers actually got some coverage, which usually never happens (after all, this ain't CES). Though I may be justified in chalking this up to the lack of news about bigger games.

Well, that's all I've got for now. 
Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
And let's all play a game of Terraria or something, huh?