Hello again and welcome. I know this post is way later than what I had promised in my last post, but life really kicked in these past couple of weeks. I think now I know better than to set a due date for when I will have new posts up. For those that are interested I started school up again this week ( I had to drop an Algebra class I was taking which gave me about 4 weeks off) and this current class looks to be quite a bit of work. It is the first of two Portfolio classes that I am required to take and I believe that I will finally get a chance to go over and compile all of the work that I have completed during the past two years of study into something that looks semi professional. Keep your fingers crossed...I know I am. I will say that I do not seem to be the only student in the class who has concerns about the amount of work he/she has and if it is enough to fill out a decent portfolio. In particular, one classmate of mine expressed his concerns about the amount and quality of his work, during his introduction to the class, by stating that he never seems to get around to working on game projects because he is afraid that something he creates will not be ultra original. This brings me to the topic that I would like to discuss in this post; that being the question of whether the quest for complete and total originality in game design is overrated. Now I know that I promised to talk about Red Dead Redemption and Borderlands the next time that I wrote something, but I am not quite done with either of those titles yet and I really thing both deserve some serious time devoted to analysis before I really start writing about them. That being said, I will get to them asap. Fear not though because I am still going to talk a bit about a current title that I am playing, which I think fits nicely with the topic at hand.
In addition to the three or four other games I have in rotation right now I recently started playing Darksiders on my 360.
I had been looking forward to playing this since its launch a few months ago and Gamefly finally decided to send me something at the top of my Game Q and that I was actually interested in playing. It did not take me long to realize that what I was playing was just a re-visioned clone of the more current Legend of Zelda titles ( Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess).My first reaction to this was quiet disdain, but I quickly realized that, even though the game is almost exactly like the Zelda games right down to the bosses and weapons( there is even a horse!), it did not mean that I was not enjoying it immensely. While I do not feel like breaking down the game in it's entirety, I will mention a few things that I like about some of the design aspects of Darksiders that I think set it apart from the Zelda titles that it so resembles.
I mentioned above that the weapons in Darksiders are almost exactly the same as the ones you would find in the Zelda games. There is a boomerang of sorts and a device that allows the player to swing from designated floating objects, thus allowing access to new areas. There is a sword and a horse and even a device that allows the players to break rock formations...just like the Zelda titles. However, Darksiders takes these weapons one step further than anything seen in the Zelda titles (if I am remembering correctly!). This is achieved by allowing the player to level up the weapons in a few ways, those being through actual use of the weapon in combat, through found or earned power-ups or modifications for the weapons and through permanent power-ups and abilities bought at what serves as a store in the game.The weapons mods/power-ups are great in that they not only give specific bonuses to the weapons stats, but they also give a specific passive ability bonus to the character as well. In addition to all of that, the power-ups are not weapons specific and can be swapped between the different weapons the player has obtained during the game. There is also the fact that the weapon itself has a level system that goes up through use during combat. This serves to up the damage level of the weapon as it progresses through its level cap of five. Now, imagine a power-up/weapon mod that, when attached to a weapon, gives that weapon a bonus towards the experience earned during combat, thus leveling it up faster. Or how about another power-up that gives the character a bonus towards souls collected when environmental objects are used in combat. Given that there are like 12 of these power-ups, divided by the three weapons that you can attach them to, I would say that the weapons system is pretty deep for this type of title. Oh and before I forget, the other weapons that cannot have power-ups attached to them still get power-ups to their attacks and new abilities/attacks by purchasing them through the shop, come to think of it all of the weapons have new attacks/abilities that can be purchased through the shop and those attacks/abilities all have different levels( I think the cap is 5 with those also, could be wrong about that). So yeah, pretty deep.
Is it deep enough to set it apart from the Zelda titles in such a way that it stands alone or supplants them? No, probably not. However the weapons system created for Darksiders is original in a small way, at least to this type of RPG experience (and by this type I mean the Legend of Zelda franchise). I would argue that maybe these small innovations and changes to existing concepts in games is exactly what we as budding game designers need to be concentrating on instead of burning ourselves out trying to come up with the next big thing in game design. Seeing as how young the industry is and how fast it has evolved over it's short lifetime it stands to reason that there are still things to be learned from past designs concepts and templates which, in my opinion, should be revisited and gone over with a fine tooth comb thus giving our art form a chance to mature into an adulthood of sorts such as other mediums of entertainment like cinema have done. I believe that we are already seeing this happen with the resurgence of 2D platform games such as Shadow Complex and Explosion Man and even the recently announced Castlevania title which will allow up to 6 players to play co-op World of Warcraft like dungeon raids together in a classic 2D Castlevania environment.
So, in closing, and to that student who is afraid to create because he may not be totally original...you are not alone in your fears, but there is hope. Work on perfecting what is already there and add your own unique touch to it. In time and with experience the big original ideas will come.