I saw this on Reddit today and admit that my first thought was “Thank you, Captain Obvious.”
“I think a lot of the big publishers are obsessed with this idea that games have to be cinematic experiences, a lot of money gets spent on marketing and the rendering, and not a lot of money is put into anything that is innovative and interesting.
A lot of titles now feel like I’ve played them before; they look nicer, but it’s the same game mechanism.”
- Trent Reznor
Then I sat down and thought about it. This kind of opinion is expressed by many gamers, game reviewers, game developers, bums on the street, etc on a regular basis. It’s a common complaint – games just aren’t original anymore. Big publishers are rehashing what works because it makes money. Because their previous rehash made them lots of money they have lots of money to spend on marketing the next rehash, which proceeds to snowball into case after case of same crap, different year.
Whose fault is it really? Is it the publishers’ fault for taking advantage of a system that works or the players’ fault for getting sucked into buying these things? Publishers are spending a lot of money to make these games. Does anyone really expect them to take a risk when they already have a proven roadmap? They aren’t the ones complaining about originality – we are. Maybe we should, you know…stop whining and do something about it.
Publishers aren’t “obsessed” with the idea that games have to be cinematic experiences. They know that good looking games sell. Come on, how much of a circle jerk was Crysis? We are the ones obsessed with cinematic experiences and amazing graphics – publishers are only giving us what we want. Or maybe what we say we don’t want (and in many cases even genuinely think we don’t want), but respond to anyway.
I think players carry a huge amount of responsibility for the types of AAA games that are hitting the shelves. If we weren’t buying what we’re claiming is rehashed crap people wouldn’t be making it, nor would they have the money to shove Duke Nukem Forever plus Infinity x Gazillion down our throats.
Where innovation lives
You want originality? You want innovation? Go look in the indie sector. Anything that makes it big is going to be turned into a template and then it will no longer be original or innovative as it’s done and redone to death by different developers (or the same developer). How many Angry Birds clones do we know of? A few. And Angry Birds wasn’t even the first of its kind, anyway.
It seems to me that “innovation” in AAA games will always refer more to things like aesthetics, brand spanking new proprietary engines, devs mumbling about destructible worlds and server capacity and pushing the limits of the things they already do – just doing them bigger and more. And that’s fine. We can’t blame anyone for doing what obviously works.
Real innovation in terms of gameplay mechanics and depth will be in the Minecrafts, the Limbos, the Bastions. It will be in Jonathan Blow and his Braid and the indies you will never hear about. Innovation will be in your Ludum Dares and Global Game Jams. It will be something so simple that we’ll wonder why nobody has thought of it before. It may not be pretty. It may not sell. It may never even see the light of day, but it will sure as hell exist. It will exist because some stupid dev team of one or two or five, with no hope in the world of ever making it big or competing with your Sony or Bethesda or EA, got together and decided to build something different.