Here are the articles:
I discuss several things in the following article. I would like to point out where I talk about what exactly.
Today there are two powerful statements from high-level heads in the gaming industry. Both of them are talking about the same topic, Innovation and the lack of it in the gaming community. While DICE focuses on the fact that FPS’s are lacking innovation in their particular genre, David Cage is talking directly about the lack of innovation in the FPS genre, and how that threatens the future of the medium.
First off lets deal with DICE’s comments on the innovation of the FPS genre. While we’re here we’re going to talk about Call of Duty 4 and how it really was the last innovative game in the genre (in my opinion) and how it ushered in the era of stagnancy that DICE is directly talking about.
– FPS’s Before and After CoD4
Now first I want to say that what DICE’s Troedsson says is correct, “Its cheap to say, ‘we’re going to change the (setting) and that will be innovation.'” Not too long ago, in the years before 2007, just about every single shooter game that came out was set in World War II, giving gamers the experience of living through the single most popular war in history. Even I played a few of these, because if you wanted to experience war on a huge scale in an interactive medium, you had either the FPS’s or RTS’s. World War II FPS’s weren’t the most popular genre in the world. There were a lot of them, but everyone more or less picked one and that was their favorite. I, at least, did not know anyone who was just a total junkie on the World War II front.
The popular FPS’s from before this point either took place in the future, or it took place in the past. If it was present day, you were absolutely not on the war front of anything that could be mistaken for a current conflict. The first time I saw this change into not being the case was Call of Du… Oh wait, no it wasn’t. The first time I saw this change was in Battlefield 2: Modern Combat, which came out in 2005.
Despite being a Battlefield title I’ve met so few people who know this game or felt that it was worth mentioning. I’ve met far more people who have cited Call of Duty 4 for being popular because it put FPS’s into the Modern Era. Now, the blame is correct when you’re talking about the bigger picture. Far more FPS’s were staged in the modern day after Call of Duty 4 came out. But its wrong to say they were the first to do it, and even more wrong to say that that’s why the game was innovative.
Thus the response in the market to stage every FPS under the sun in the modern era was good marketing because it had suddenly become popular, but it missed the point of why Call of Duty 4 was such a good game. But in the face of sales, art is mute. Now when pressed people probably wouldn’t point to Call of Duty 4 as the first artistic game on their list, but it absolutely should be.
The reason Call of Duty 4 was so good was because of a multitude of reasons, it was that the developers took the interactiveness of video games to its maximum effectiveness, it did put people not only in the role of a modern day foot soldier, but several different modern day roles, and they did not focus heavily on their weak point, story.
This moment was cringe worthy.
Everyone points out those moments in Call of Duty 4, the part where you are executed, the part where you crawl through a nuclear blasted wasteland, the part where you snipe the big bad, the part where you kill the big bad at the bridge. All of these moments are where they maxed out the effectiveness of a game play moment. These are places where cutscenes are typically called in most games, but that they let you play (shock and surprise) in this game. Whenever you go on a mission where an AC-130 assists the ground troops, you don’t play the ground troops like in every other stage, you play the damn AC-130.
That was why Call of Duty 4 was so fun. So when you play a modern day FPS where all you do is shoot people its sort of a face palm moment. Or god forbid, play any Call of Duty that came after Call of Duty 4. Even the series itself couldn’t truly live up to its first installment. However, the amount of publisher stress and creative control that has since come out from that entire case, leads one to believe that it is largely the marketing publishers that are having issues with these sorts of things.
Here’s the problem with reading of a list of things that are “cool” and including them in any medium: what is “cool” is more or less the pathway to developing something that is “not art.” Call of Duty 4 was Cool, but it was also Art.
We’ll return to that little nugget later. First let’s address the other article.
– Indigo Prophecy, Heavy Rain, and Cutscenes
David Cage is the man behind the well-known games Indigo Prophecy and Heavy Rain. The entirety of these games have been more or less about dissolving the line between cutscene and game play. Indigo Prophecy had an amazing system of being an interactive novel more than a video game, but it required button inputs in cutscenes, aka Quick Time Events. It started off powerfully, introducing even game play that slightly affected the story as you went along. Your actions as one character directed influenced what was available or your actions as another character. It never got more real than a moment where as a witness to a crime committed by another character you play as, you had to provide a police sketch of that character.
It might be a game.
As it turns out though, Indigo Prophecy was not all together. The game was one of many that promised varying endings depending on your actions and then brought it to the last minute decisions to determine said ending. The entire story went from psychological and deep to The Matrix in a matter of seconds. There was so much interdimensional lingo and loose plot threads that they didn’t tie it up, they just put in a level of you Matrixing the hell out of random swat soldiers.
I have not had the pleasure (as it surely is) to play Heavy Rain, but from gameplay videos I see that you are still up to the same thing a lot. You are more or less in an interactive novel and you have to use the controller to control your character actions. Outcomes are probably varied, and maybe there are multiple endings.
There is no doubt that innovation is needed in the triple A market of gaming. Hell considering the sheer amount of Minecraft knock offs that have come out, the Indie Market might need some innovation beyond “copy and paste popular flash games and sell them on consoles.”
While Cage’s games are truly unique, I’m not sure a future of interactive cutscenes is what I’m up for as gaming. That being said these games hold an appeal similar to Japan’s interactive novels, and those things are certainly booming with interesting stories and experiences. (The closest I’ve been to experiencing one of these though is in anime form. The visual novel Clannad was adapted into a beautifully moving anime)
However those also deal with mostly absolute storylines that provide little deviation. And of course, if you play a game you are there to experience a story.
We have two games that are thus at each other’s necks in several different departments. Lets think about it for a moment, Call of Duty 4 is a game that would be considered by far more people less artistic than Heavy Rain (at least I’m assuming it would be). This is interesting because we often contend that we don’t want cutscenes in our games destroying the pacing and taking us out of action that we very well could have done with our controllers. This provides a better gameplay experience.
Are you seeing the discrepancies yet?
A game that is considered more artistic involves less actual gameplay than the game that many would consider less artistic (or in some hot headed forum dwellers, the complete bane of existence). While I’m certain that Heavy Rain provides what is probably a beautiful and dark story, I question how it can compare to me personally crawling across a nuked wasteland.
Why is this being brought up?
– An Analyzation of DICE and Cage
My question is, in what ways is the industry supposed to innovate when we remain with questions of this nature?
The two people we have here are one of the head guys at DICE, a company that is popular for Battlefield, a game that has innovated FPS combat maybe once in its lifetime. This is the company that released Battlefield 3, where your experience bar had an experience bar (I’ve heard of Call of Duty multiplayer already DICE, thanks for the innovation). And Cage, who while his company is doing a great job producing “interesting” games, I wouldn’t want an entire industry made of interactive cutscenes (we already have quick-time events, and we don’t really like them).
So we have in front of us two people who are perhaps not the biggest creative geniuses in the world saying that the industry needs a revamp and innovation needs to come in. One says this specifically for the FPS genre. The other says this about the gaming industry in general.
– Innovation, where is it needed really?
With Dead Space 3 officially becoming co-op and thus ruining every bit of the horror that was hardly clinging to the first two entries, its very clear that there are strong corporate machines that are turning games into boxes with price tags and each box is containing the same thing. There is no doubt in this situation that some level of innovation is needed.
But why? There are other artistic industries that get away with this all the time. Movies to name the easy metaphor, pump out genre blockbuster after genre blockbuster and make plenty of money. Why doesn’t this work for video games?
The answer to this question is that: VIDEO GAMES AREN’T MOVIES.
Pictured: Not Movies… err, Video Games. Movies? Hmm….
This is important because Movies are a very old art form. There exists a Hollywood and there is an industry because at one point in the market it became very clear (across all art forms) that there existed the entity known as a Genre. When you go to see a movie nowadays you can tell whether or not its going to be an Action, Romance, Comedy, or Horror just by watching the trailer. There are a lot of trailers for a lot of movies getting played on television every day.
Lets consider that for a moment by itself: Television Advertisements. Movies are things that people go and see. They sit down and unactively participate in watching something that lasts between an hour and half to three hours and they do so willingly, widely, and just about everywhere in the world. You are probably living less than five or ten miles from a movie theater where you can go do this. Battabing battaboom, you just spent eight dollars on a movie ticket. Eight dollars is now deposited in the movie companies pockets.
But that’s not all, besides the box office, Movies make money on DVD releases and merchandise. See the first time you see a movie you are paying the privelige of seeing the movie. You don’t get to own a copy of the movie until much later and then you will be spending another twenty dollars buying the movie. If you see a movie and buy a movie you spend twenty-eight dollars on one single movie.
The popular blockbusters can make over one hundred million dollars and they charge nearly eight times less than a single video game purchase nowadays.
Everyone goes to see movies. Not everyone plays video games.
Seriously go into a restaurant and find one person there who has never ever seen a single movie in their entire life. Its not very easy is it? Now go find one person who has never ever played a single video game. I bet you can find one waaay before you ever even see the other.
– Market Innovation
Video Games don’t need to necessarily innovate in content. They more or less need to innovate in the way they are marketed. EA’s goals for Dead Space 3 reaching five million is to suggest they want to reach a mass audience, a la, Call of Duty games. When Modern Warfare 3 came out it broke every single record in the sales history. Including those in the movie industry. There were similar results when Black Ops and Modern Warfare 2.
There really hasn’t been anything like that in video games before or since. There have been bestsellers, but other games haven’t lived up to the hype. Xbox games only have to sell five hundred thousand to be accepted as a Platinum Hit (did anyone inform them that Platinum = 1,000,000?)
The trick was that their series where established as long-time running series that promised gameplay innovation over artistic development. Its clear that the games are copy paste clones that only change up multiplayer in just enough ways to suck even more time our of peoples wallets. Because at their core, video games are just that, time wasters.
But they are also art. But as it stands people find it far more enticing to pay for something that is “just some fun,” than something that is “going to change the way you view the art form forever.”
To summarize, the innovation won’t come by making every single video game look the same. It will come by having clear cut genres that are able to deliver core experiences without sacrificing either familiarity or innovation within its strict core set of values. This is more or less precisely what both of these men are getting at.
The major enemy to this is the current corporate structures of video games. If sales numbers are all that matter at the end of the day and any sacrifice is worth it to make a game “fit” or “sell” then we are indeed going to be staring at a dark future.
I started by thinking Mr. Cage was extreme in his statement that a lack of innovation will kill gaming. Now I see what he means. We need freedoms in our games. Otherwise we’re going to be playing Dynasty of Duty 27: Black Warfare 58