Sorry about last post. Crap be whack, and I think I defined Rant well.
Alright, time for something a little more light-hearted.
It's time to talk about the value of repetitiveness.
It seems to be a popular topic on message boards or Call of Duty posts to talk about how the industry isn't doing anything to innovate, pushing out yearly installments that are minor improvements over the originals. It's always centered around Call of Duty or Battlefield or Final Fantasy, or Kingdom Hearts, and the entire Mario empire.
It's come to the point that "innovation" and "reinvention" are the most overused buzzwords in the industry, and everybody points fingers at every other series that doesn't stay in a constant state of flux. However, EA and Activision, SquEnix, and Nintendo keep doing that they're doing, seemingly wishing to stick to the formula for years to come.
I understand where the hate is coming from. The wish to improve and change the way we play is always something to strive for. New IP's are always great things to have. But that creates a conflict between us and the Businesses, who want to guarantee a profit and not take risks, meaning the only new IP's we see in the Triple-A industry are from the big companies who have extra resources or aren't working on anything.
Also, please don't suck
So we're kind of stuck. While the indie game scene does alleviate this pain with a bunch of highly original games, we have to deal with installments that continue on this tradition of business. And people will always complain that companies aren't as bold as they used to be, or that the newest version of watchamacallit is old, overdone, and unoriginal.
But there is a right way to do repetition. It doesn't have to be all bad. In fact Level-5 showed us how to do it right. Companies should take notes.
Look at that cold killer. Look at that badass.
Professor Layton is a repetitive series. There's simply no way around it. Level-5 sticks to a formula that they created out of the boom of Brain Age, and the series still runs today.
Think about it. We've had five (FIVE) installments of this game so far, Curious Village, Diabolical Box, Unwound Future, Last Specter, And Mask of Miracle, with the last one to come out in Japan soon. In addition, it's spawned spinoffs (Vs. Phoenix Wright), Movies (Eternal Diva), and ripoffs (Rhythm Thief, which copies the story style to a tee). It's quite the IP. But I wouldn't say it's the most innovative series.
Six games is a lot of games. The sixth game in the main Call of Duty franchise was Modern Warfare 2. In fact, Many popular IP's today don't have more than three installments. This brings me to the question; why is Professor Layton seemingly impervious to fans after 6 installments? What makes it different than any other game? More importantly, Where are the Haters?
To asses that, of course, we need to show that the games are repetitive.
Is there any way to make this guy not a badass?
Professor Layton is a point-and-touch adventure game that happen to have a lot of puzzles in them. This stays constant throughout the entire series, and never once switches to another genre, like swordfighting or fingerpointing. It's just a puzzle game. You solve puzzles. That's it.
Well, just saying that would be doing the game disservice, right?
The meat of the game comes from the Story, in my opinion. While each entry gives you new puzzles, if you're playing the story, you're paying attention to that, as it varies from game to game. The mix of puzzles always works well with the story, like you're solving mini-mysteries while the big events unfold before you. But these stories aren't innovative. They're extremely formulaic. Go to Tv Tropes if you want to check. (Actually, forget I said that.)
Everything in the game is based a formula that has been, for the most part, either unnoticed or acknowledged. By the by, I'm going deep into vague spoiler territory for the rest of this blog post.
There's the beginning, which involves a letter being sent from... someone, explaining the mystery. In the first one it's... well, I haven't actually played that one. In the second, it's Dr. Schrader, in the Third, it's Future Luke, in the fourth, it's Luke. They embark to go solve the mystery, and along the way, Professor Layton will meet some quirky characters, have to collect a certain amount of something, and solve a bunch of mini-mysteries along the way.
There's some sort of dark and foreboding building they have to go searching, and they get in a fight.
Then there's the ending. I believe the ending to be most important, and in the case of Layton, the endings are really where the formula shows through. Through some Deus Ex Machina device, they uncover that something BIG is going down, have to solve a gauntlet of puzzles, and it always involves machinery of some sort. For some reason, it's ALWAYS machines and some giant robot or robots or something. Except for Diabolical Box, whose ending is probably the weirdest explanation I've heard for any mystery ever.
How is the Unwound Future SO GOOD?
And the feels. Man, the feels. Every single game tries to hit you right where you'll cry. These games are really sad. It's sentiment is always really well planned out, and it's character development and final revelations are a wonder to behold. I can't really Without going into spoilers, Unwound Future is the best example of this, as the love story is REALLY well planned out.
But the games stick to this formula, and you would think they lose some of the weight after a little while, right?
Professor Layton truly stretches the formula to the point where your suspension of disbelief is almost broken, but not. As you near the end of every game, things obviously get revealed, but over the course of the series, these revelations get bigger and bigger. Level-5 pushes the imaginative boundaries of it's own formula, but sticks to it to keep fans interested. As the games get less believable, if you've played them,they get blow to huge proportion, which is enough to keep us interested and excited. The mysteries get extremely unbelievable and explanations are ludicrous. But you don't care about that.
That's the secret. Level-5 sticks to formula, but makes each scenario grander than the last, letting us reflect on the past experiences these characters have shared to allow us to suspend our disbelief. As the tenseness of the situation grows over the course of three games, and solving puzzles really puts on more weight once these stakes are heightened.
The gameplay may stay relatively in a holding pattern, but that's okay with me. The constant output of original puzzles by these guys never fails to tease the brain. It's okay if the gameplay is similar, because the stories' grandioseness allow the gameplay to be similar.
For Professor Layton, the gameplay is really just the base where they build interesting stories on to. and that's what I think allows these games to do so well. The framework is well built, and what they make of it is always more eye-catching than their last installment.
I won't say it's timeless. That's something no game can attest to, as the wants of the masses vary. I think Level-5 knows this as well, as the Sixth installment will be the last. This may be another strength. Level-5 knows when it's running out of energy. Hopefully they end on a bang.
If a game's gameplay is going to stay exactly the same, they need to make up for it in a different department. Even then, if it is formulaic, it can be good by allowing that formula to shine, and polish it to a mirror sheen. Level-5 just gave us really good stories with the same frame. In the case of other games, they may not have an overly good story to build, but that doesn't mean it's bad. It's all about how you use formula to entertain the player in different ways. It's all about the execution.
You know when a community makes you so angry? When you see trolls in the forums and feel so inclined to respond just to make your position heard even when you know you'll only make it worse, or when people just downright say something that you think is wrong and you really want to say something about it?
That happened to me today.
Unfortunately, I don't run a blog on my own, so I had no way of telling anyone about anything that I wanted to say. I was alone in a big world, with what seemed like the entire internet against me.
I ran to the Destructoid community because I wanted an outlet. I wanted to say something and have the smalest minute chance of being heard. Maybe, just maybe, someone would agree. That's why you guys are here, right?
So, what was the heart-wrenching thing that happened today that brought me to my knees, wishing that someone would speak for me, but instead I had to say it?
Not at the game in general, mind you. It's more of an issue about the DRM policies, and when I say the DRM policies, I'm not going to rant about how DRM's bad. You know that already. I'm actually more pissed off at the general reaction to it, and not in the normal ways. There are some certain aspects of the community's output that I feel is downright abominable in the way we have treated this situation.
A preface before I begin, because nothing is objective, especially when it comes to video games.
Even though I've been a gamer since I was four, I've never actually had to butt heads with the digital rights management problem. I was a Nintendo fan as a little kid, which means I generally didn't have DRM to worry about, and as I grew up, even though I became more of a PC gamer, I was more enamored with 90's style tycoon and empire games. Not only until about two years ago did I find Civilization and discover Steam.
DAE REMEMBER? HUEHUEHUE
Actually, I remember one of the first computer games I fell in love with was SimCity 3000, after I learned you need Power and water to have your city grow (Hey, I was like, five, okay?). I always got enjoyment out of expanding outwards, and looking at the scenario cities, which were all really huge and had skyscrapers. I always thought the developers hacked the game or something to get the cities like that.
Naturally, when one day, I went to the mall with my mom to go shopping one day, and I saw SimCity 4 DELUXE (Dude, it has deluxe in the title! How could it possibly be bad?) I begged the crap out of my mom to get it, and ended up having Sim City 4. I had the chance to look at the instruction manual on the way home, and there was so much stuff you could do with your cities! Connect them, drive in them, build Tourist Traps and Huge Hospitals, everything seemed awesome.
And it was. With reckless regard for the fact that money is limited, I built highways, housing, overpasses, farms, windmills, monorails, water pumps, all in that new looking isometric view that we all know and love. It was truly bliss, especially because I knew what I was doing. Sort of.
That brings us to today. Ever since my school became a laptop school, I've HAD to use a mac. With not a lot of games, the hole that city building and planning creative endeavors had wasn't filled. I mean, Cities XL was fun, but I felt it was a little more shallow than the inner machinations of messing with taxes and train tracks of SimCity. So when I saw the SimCity trailer, and then learned it was coming out for Macs, I was STOKED. It was so sublime. Not only was there a great game to be played, I could PLAY it! This was going to be the savior of the new era, a simulation to revive the forgotten genre! Right? Right?
Apparently not, because EA. Things were going good for a while. With each new video Cloud Saves and Always Online came into the picture. I don't really count Origin, because, frankly, I was expecting that, and I think you were too. That's when thing went to shit. I saw things spiral out of control as EA, Maxis, or the community could get a hold on the situation. You probably already know. If you haven't seen the AMA on Reddit, where the Maxis team get ripped to shreds on the DRM, go see that. Also, see Jim's Post about the incident.
Now, while I like the whole backlash, and I think it is time to show EA that this isn't good business, specific communities' approach to the issue have kind of bothered me in the way they go about combating this problem.
The first thing: r/gaming.
I know, right? r/gaming isn't something I should pay attention to when it comes to gaming news. Full of meme garbage, and when a game comes out, they circlejerk it like there's no tomorrow to mine all karma out of it as possible. But, we have to assess the entire situation, because this whole thing kind of started there.
I don't think the AMA was at all respectful, or at least the top comments weren't. Yes, it did raise a good point, fans don't want DRM, but the Maxis team obviously wasn't equipped to answer these questions or was asked not to. So when we repeatedly bashed it into their heads, I don't think that was nessecary at all. Other than the comment at the top of the AMA, I feel like many of the original comments (not replies, I get those are different) were just kicking a dead horse, or, a crew who obviously wanted to get on with it, judging by the transcript of questions the did answer.
I feel like all the communities (Destructoid, Kotaku, Reddit, and many others) have fallen into the trap of beating the point to where it's become too redundant to hold any meaning, and at this point, it's just getting a little disrespectful and bashing. We can all raise a little "Hear Hear" about an issue, but everyone standing up and saying they agree is just kind of repetitive.
Now, I know the counter argument, more voices mean more persuasiveness, but I don't think EA dwells particularly over internet arguments, because at the end of the day, they make their money. They know we don't like it, but do they care? Well, if they did, we'd be in much better shape than we are right now. Even if we all stand up, they're only going to listen to the most persuasive voice, and right now this "movement" doesn't really have one, as we all seem content to say it's bad, but not warrant why.
Jim Sterling, you need to give a public speech outside a town hall or something. You could be our leader.
The second thing: Piracy.
This pisses me off the most. These kind of comments on forums, AMA's, discussions, and commenting sections piss me off the most.
I'm going to pirate SimCity so it shows those darn-dastardly corporations that they can't make money! -Some Dude
First, you have admitted that you want it. In fact, I'm willing to bet you want MORE games like it. And you know of a way to get it without paying the price.
You selfish asshole.
That's me looking at all these comments.
I'm one of those people who pay for video games. I don't find it a hassle. With Digital Distribution and Game Stores, not to mention Amazon melding both, it's pretty easy for me to justify paying the price. I am one of the people that believe that hard work should be rewarded in value, no matter who that is. I believe the best way to support a company whose games you like is to buy the goddamn game.
And what you're doing to us is selfish.
More than you will ever know, piracy hurts US. Or at least that's what I've logiced out of it. Think about what it proves to the Producer.
First: MORE DRM. This is the most obvious. And understand that I don't like DRM in the slightest. It's intrusive, works against us, and is annoying as hell. How in the world is doing exactly what they're afraid of going to stop them from using what they think is the solution? It may not be the solution, but if EA believes it is, it may as well be. If anything, they're going to KEEP DOING IT. Meaning more of this bull that doesn't serve a purpose.
Second: THESE GAMES DON'T SELL. Because EA never thinks it's their fault. It's Maxis' fault. It's Bullfrog's Fault. It's not their fault. By effectively not giving them profits, we're showing them Maxis didn't make a good game. Even though the ratings are good, EA is a business, and EA will look at the dollar signs. And if we don't show them that Maxis makes good games through that, then they'll take them outside and shoot them. Piracy doesn't support anybody at the end of the day. Because although Maxis is related to EA, I do see them making a good game if it wasn't hindered by EA's standards. (Not specifically Maxis' standards.)
In one situation, we get a win-loss, and the other we get a loss-loss. Piracy isn't the answer.
Although I will say I don't know what is.
I don't know of a way to stop it. I wish we could support Maxis, but not EA. If there was a way, I would do that and take that idea and support it wholly. All I know is that this type of backlash hurts me as well as you. This brings me to my next point.
The third thing: Talking, but not Acting.
While talking and acknowledging the problem is good, talk is cheap. When are we going to act on it? How are we going to finally show them that it's a terrible idea?
I've seen people rise over the stupidest things, like the Ending of Mass Effect 3 and the Cupcakes. But I think strength is only measured in when you can act on the important issues, and I see nobody stepping onto the plate. I know this sounds hypocritical, but I don't have the knowhow or money to, y'know, set up an alternate server and reroute SimCity to that, or support Maxis only. I know someone who likes SimCity probably does. So why can't that person or team organize to TAKE ACTIONS?
By the way, that person is you.
Words lose even more value through a computer screen. I don't think a comment on a message board is going to do anything. Go do something. That's what makes the gaming community awesome, it's ability to take on problems in creative ways. I truly believe we could change the system a little by taking action.
Bonus: Separation of the game and DRM.
There is one. SimCity is good, as the critics say, but the user scores on metacritic, focused on DRM, are lower. However, the game is not bad SIMPLY BECAUSE it has DRM. The game's enjoyment may be lower, but it's not a reflection on the game itself. These things may be a self righteous justification for why you didn't buy the game, but it doesn't make the GAME bad, it makes the BUSINESS bad.
Wrap up time. The only reason I care about this backlash is because I do care about the future of both the gaming industry and SimCity. I love the series, and I think the disdain may be misdirected. It's one of my favorite games, and I don't want it to die. When I see direct attacks at a company who, up until this point made really stand out games such as SimGolf and the first two Sims games. Redirect your focus towards helping the community, I truly think we can do this.
I'll just be here sitting, waiting to see how the Mac version turns out.
I would like to thank Destructoid for giving me the opportunity to speak my mind, and I'm sorry that it's not very light for a first post. Not all of these posts will be like this, I promise.