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that1dood avatar 9:15 PM on 01.03.2011  (server time)
2010 Sucked: Keep it Simple Stupid

2010 sucked for me in a lot of ways. I was laid off twice. I lost two of my close friends suddenly and unexpectedly. THIS happened. Needless to say there was a lot of crap going on this past year. So, as a form of stress relief, I turned to video games this year like never before. I played more games this year than I think I have in my whole life combined. Well, maybe not that much... The point is, I played a lot of games. And I came to a realization: Games are best when the idea behind them is simple and uncomplicated.

What were some of the best rated games for last year? A quick glance at MetaCritic shows game such Super Mario Galaxy 2. Mass Effect 2. Pac-Man Championship Edition DX. Starcraft 2. God of War 3. Super Meat Boy. Wow:Cataclysm. Civ 5. Just to name a few. I don't think these games are mistakes. They all have one thing in common: They're not firsts. They're sequels. But not just any sequels, they're sequels made by teams who knew what they had, cut the crap out, knew what they did right the first time and expanded on it or left it as is and released solid products that are fun to play and easy to lose yourself in.

Super Mario Galaxy 2 is a prime example of this. When Nintendo set out to make SMG 2 they knew that they had a winner with SMG1. Everyone loved it. It got rave reviews. But why? Why was this game so amazing? Because it was simple. It's Mario. The goal is simple: get to the star at the end of the level. That's it. Nothing more complicated than that. Granted, there were the amazing platforming aspects to the game. But the point is never lost. The basic idea, to get to the star and have fun doing it, is never lost in a sea of random windows and lists or nonsensical story or bizarre gameplay elements that don't make sense with the rest of the game. It's kept simple. And everyone wins because of it.

Another example, though not exactly obvious, is Mass Effect 2. Mass Effect 2, while not exactly simple in the same way as Super Mario Galaxy, figured out what it did right in the original Mass Effect and just made it better. No more tedious expeditions in the moon rover from hell, no more elevators. Instead we get more engaging third person action, an enthralling story with interesting characters and the return of the semi-unique conversation gameplay. Get the mission, go to the mission, talk to him/her, shoot a bunch of guys, talk to him/her again in their inevitable betrayal, shoot them, rinse, repeat. Simple. Fun. Perfect.

Going to the exact opposite spectrum of the gaming universe from Mass Effect 2, we have the wonderful XBLA game Limbo. This game was not only simple in it's simple platforming gameplay, but it's gorgeous monochrome palette, surprising lack of dialogue just made for an enjoyable, fun, surprisingly complex while simple form or storytelling just goes to show how keeping the basic ideas behind your game makes for a better product.

On the other hand, things can out of hand to a bit of a ridiculous degree. The obvious and unfortunate example of this is Final Fantasy 13. Final Fantasy, while gorgeous, was ultimately one of the worst entries in the Final Fantasy series because it just couldn't seem to get it's crap together. The plot was completely nonsensical, the outrageously linear "beginning" all just make for a less fun game. And the battle system. Oh the battle system. It seems to me that when the creators of a game get to the point that they build a battle system that literally plays itself, they've missed the point. It is widely accepted that Final Fantasy was in it's prime with FF 6-9. I would argue that this is because they were simpler. There was no "paradigm shifting" or sphere grid or any of that to over complicate matters. The story was easy to follow and the characters were well thought out. And despite actually being linear, the world felt open and huge. They were simpler. Easy to comprehend. Kill this guy, move to the next town. With very little nonsense in between save for some dialogue and some battles.

In conclusion, game devs should remember to keep it simple when making their games. When a game is simple and easy to understand, often times it makes for a much better, more enjoyable and more fun gaming experience. SquareEnix, I'm looking at you! If FFXIII Verses or FFXV is as bad as XIII, someone's losing an eye!

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