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LONG BLOG

Resisting videogame homogenization

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Or challenging your "gaming common sense"

This is a weird topic, first and foremost, this is not about video game trends, like "there are too many metroidvanias/roguelikes/retro PS1 survival horrors'', that's a story for another day and, honestly, let people do whatever games they want! So what if it's trendy and oversaturated? it happens all the time and we get great stuff regardless too, no matter the genre getting currently exploited.

This is about how games can surprise you, how they can challenge your precognition of gameplay, and how they should do it more often, because it's one of the mediums that offer the most tools for it.

The point I'm trying to send across might be difficult for me to explain on its own, so I'll swiftly move on with one of my favorite examples.

In one of the hottest videogames ever, Killer7, you move forward by pressing A.

wrap your head around that, A is forward, B turns your character around, and the Stick lets you select what path to take should you reach a crossroad, It is all "on rails".

Why? well, the best way to describe killer7's gameplay loop is basically resident evil on crack, you explore a level for items and solve dumb puzzles to open your way forward. while killing invisible enemies by switching the third person camera angle to a first person one, scanning the area, and aiming down with one of the 7 playable characters' different weapons.

So why is gameplay so "obtuse" then? well, because it's streamlining RE's gameplay, You don't need tank controls if there is only one road to go, which allows for whatever stylish camera angle they feel like for the room, there are no stuff to collect in the rooms, so no need to divert from the path either

Freedom comes with the first person aiming, in which you do the game's central action, killing, unlimited bullets, a pure shooting gallery of madness with kamikaze enemies that slowly approach you.

But enough gushing about my favorite game, Killer7's setting being odd is only one part of the deal, the other is that the game is not complicated at all mechanically, it's rather simple and brilliant, but it plays unlike anything else and that might not sit well with those that expect familiarity.

Should every game you play have the same controls? if you were a gamedev, should you implement the most common controls in your game based on the genre because of that? or in truth, would your game benefit from having a scheme that benefits its mechanics the most?

Gameplay can be a lie, old school JRPG's are a fun example, I honestly love them, but they can be rather dull, press the attack command, heal when HP is low, abuse weaknesses, buff your characters, it's all extremely mundane.

but it is also addicting, watching the numbers grow, equip different items, better items, and see the story go, in my opinion RPG's overall are more about how the whole thing comes together, if combat is turn based, or action based, it barely matters in most cases, if you skip a turn based RPG in favor of an action one, you're usually swapping menu diving for button mashing.

So here comes my second bombshell example of unorthodoxy.

FFXIII is kinda comically panned, yet still rather beloved by a lot of people, most can agree the game looks phenomenal and the soundtrack is excellent, but it's the story, world and combat the controversial aspects of the game.

Ignore the hallways and the drama that might or might not touch you personally, let's talk about that combat, it's said to be on auto mode all the time.

and that's GREAT, Because FFXIII kills the middleman of menu diving, no more hitting the "attack" command over and over for random battles, or chosing the fire spell for the plant enemy, your characters default to fighting on their own, yes, but you manage different sets of behaviours called paradigms, that dictate what the character tries to do at any point of the fight, you are a mastermind behind the flow of battle and the results are only as good as you allow them to be, all streamlined for your convenience.

FFXII and XV also do this to a degree, to kill the padding of gameplay while trying to keep it exciting, and it IS still exciting, if you accept that the turn based combat of older FF were never the point , and that change can be good.

FF has always been avant garde, with varying degrees of success, and I'll always appreciate that, they have more thought put into their systems than what people give them credit for (let's not even start on the behemoth that is the junction system), no matter how much some fans cry over the death of its old turn based combat, it still keeps going.

Should it be controls, or the gameplay mechanics, even stuff like how the story is presented, games should not be as constrained by their predecessors as they are, of course many things can and should still remain comfortably the same, but I want more of this, more attempts to destroy what wasn't broken, and make beautiful new stuff with the pieces, experiences like this are now the most memorable to me, even with excellent games around that stick to formulas rather well.

Some other games I enjoy that do wild stuff:

  • Bushido Blade, a fighting game where attacks kill in 1 or 2 hits, you can still fight even when your legs have been struck and you can no longer even stand.
  • Sakuna: of Rice and Ruin, a dense, somewhat slow combat system with lots of juggling potential, with an even denser farming sim about realistic rice farming, slowly discovering how the game even works is a joy to me.
  • Lisa the painful AND The Last story, some of the only rpgs that i can think of where every single combat encounter is practically scripted, and tends to be a unique scenario for the cast, makes the story flow really smoothly.
  • The Ninja Saviours, A fully 2D beat em up, no walking to the background or towards the gamera, only left and right, it makes things feel like a fighting game and provide a rather unique take on that genre without just being a platformer instead.
  • Deadly Premonition, this one is just massive and deserves a whole look at it on its own, if you know, you know.

And many, many more. Many games like these receive criticism just by trying to diferentiate themselves in a medium that absolutely loves the status quo yet demands more and more originality.

This is just something I wanted to write about. You know, I'm something of a game developer myself, and making challenging stuff is kinda part of Game Jam culture; really short, uncompromised games that defy expectation.

- Umbasa


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About Necrowondoone of us since 6:51 PM on 08.17.2020

where Wondo's remains rattle

I pester my friends about the games I play, and also I draw sometimes.