What is it, the 28th? Fuck, I hope I’m not too late for this.
There’s been a lot of buzz going on lately about how Media Molecule is deleting copyright-infringing LittleBigPlanet levels (re: removing them from existence, so that you can’t even keep them to yourself after they’ve been removed). This basically means that LBP has effectively shot its potential in the foot. Without nostalgia to hearken to, the incentive to apply ideas in a creative atmosphere is made void, right?
Without someone else’s design to take advantage of and rehash, user-made levels are pointless, right?
No. That’s never been the case. Never has, never will be. Clones, copycats and derivative genre wannabes label the parameters for what has been achieved to date, but creative properties wield the unknown and move the industry forward. This is why I am so supportive of third-party developers, and why Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts is a step in the right direction rather than a hit-or-miss proposal. Third parties apply their creativity to the hardware console makers have provided. Banjo-Kazooie for N64 revolves around poking fun at and mimicking a single game: Super Mario 64. Without this, BK is nothing. Banjo 64 is the ultimate representation of the aforementioned genre clones. In terms of quality, Banjo ranks among the best N64 games, but is never remembered in quite the same way as Ocarina of Time or Goldeneye. It didn’t introduce revolutionary design elements as those games did. Being an emulation of one game severely damaged the franchises potential and Banjo-Kazooie was forgotten for eight years until someone came up with the idea for Nuts & Bolts. With this game, Rare has broken the endless cycle of a new entry in a series simply repackaging retired concepts from a previous entry (well, there was RE4, but RE4 was still a game of the exact same type of its predecessors, just from a different perspective). Will other developers make use of the ideas Rare has introduced? Maybe. Will they merge the gameplay of N&B with other creative elements? (See where I’m getting at here?)
Influential games are never designed with a “me too” approach. Metal Gear Solid, Super Mario 64 and GTAIII have all made strides forward. They do not trot in place like games such as Saints Row. They will be remembered forever as the result of their labors.
Lets look at what is arguably the most critically and commercially successful video games to ever exist; Super Mario Bros.
Take a good hard look at Super Mario Bros; it’s one of the most retarded concepts for a game ever conceived.
“Hey guys, here’s an idea!”
“We have this Italian guy, he’s got a grotesquely massive nose, a pair of blue suspenders with big yellow buttons, and a red cap with his first initial on it. He’s going to run from left to right through a magical land were turtles fly through the air and walk in exactly the same direction at exactly the same speed, and some of them can throw hammers at him. A certain turtle can fly around in a smiling clowdmobile throwing spiky turtles at you. The Italian guy can grow real big when he touches mushrooms that are half his height (which glide on the floor on their own!) and smash brick blocks with his head, suffering no brain damage in the process! Coins that are the same size as this man can be acquired to give him an extra life on earth, and should he die, he will rotate sideways, stick his hands and feet in the air, and fall through the ground to his doom without colliding with anything!”
“Hot damn! Anything else, kiddo?”
“You bet, sir! The man’s archenemy is a turtle-dragon-lizard-dog hybrid that can shoot hammers out of his chest, but can only breath a second of fire at a time at two different heights!”
“FUCK YES! Hop to it, ladies and gentlemen, we have a blockbuster to develop! Prosperity, thy name is Mario Brothers!”
Super Mario Bros. works so well because it’s a stupid idea executed perfectly. Concepts that would be ridiculous and confusing work wonderfully in SMB. Super Mario Bros built upon the foundation of other games (a something that could apply to our reality moving through a gameworld) and, through creativity, experimented with foreign conceptions to create something unforgettable. Any game that is not a fight against a machine draws influences from Super Mario Bros. They all create their own environment and expanse for the player to traverse through.
Another really good example of what creativity means for the evolution of the craft is Half-Life 2. City 17 (next to Tallon IV) is the most atmospheric, fully realized game world I have ever experienced. Half-Life 2 feels original without making the player seem out of place or uncomfortable. It sets the standard for itself. The gameplay is by no means an awe-inspiring revelation; you run from point A to point B and shoot stuff, but the storyline encourages you to ponder Gordon Freeman’s reasoning for running from point A to point B. You are given insight into the way the character(s) interacts with the environment. Through creativity Valve has made use of preexisting foundations and fashioned something new out of it, and others have taken notice.
In my opinion, the most revolutionary innovation this year is not Gears 2 or Fallout 3 or MGS4. It’s the community games feature of the fall dashboard update for the 360. Had it not been for NXE I would not have even entertained the thought of coding a game. Microsoft has capitalized on Live’s accessibility and introduced an inspirational design directly integrated into a medium the average Joe is comfortable with. Every member of the core gaming audience will likely be exposed to XNA. All of them will carefully consider what they can make using their own creativity. Behold the influence of an original concept.
If LittleBigPlanet really will not be the genre-defining spectacle it was hoped to be, that’s your fault. Creation is the future and if the gaming public will not embrace it, fine, but it’s going to happen. The legacy will see the light of day.