Whole Wheat is for Hippies
And nobody seems to have considered that the addition of material from other genres might make games unpalatable to the dedicated fanbase. Making big changes indicates developers that are either woefully out of touch with their fans, or more interested in marketing ploys than designing enjoyable games. Sure, multiple Star Trek endings about getting it on with alien babes might be a selling point to the uninitiated willing to try a shooter for a change of pace. But itís apt to turn off more shooter fans than convert adventure gamers. Twitch gamers want to twitch, not collect experience points and hone their pickup lines. Adventurers arenít going to appreciate the interruption of their puzzle solving to blast bugs. Youíve got a game that nobody but the dedicated Star Trek geek is going to embrace. No offense to those noble basement dwellers whose pulses still quicken whenever Geordi calls for a level-three diagnostic on the sensor array, but this isnít a marquee marketing angle during these bleak days of Scott Bakula.
More than just shooters are being affected by genre-bending. Roleplaying games are often more concept than story today. Neverwinter Nights still seems like more of a sop to shooter-centric online modders than a properly thought-out successor to the Baldurís Gate series. Yes, the toolkit is amazing, the module-making community a wonder to behold. But itís not much of a roleplaying game. The original campaign is dull and the expansion doesnít seem to offer many improvements. Competitors like Gothic and Pirates of the Caribbean might not have made as many sacrifices, although the developers have cluttered up the story-telling and strategizing with arcade-style sequences. Do we need even a single game that mars roleplaying with real-time ship combat? One is surely going to be an albatross around the neck of the other. Strategy games are almost entirely real-time now, a desire to please action gamers with mouseslinging thatís killing sober second thought. Command & Conquer: Generals, World War II: Frontline Command, and many other recent strategy titles have come stripped of everything unrelated to hurling units at the enemy.
Thereís also the consideration that changing the learning curve so much might cause people to fall out of the loop entirely. Sometimes, grafted-on features make games so different, so challenging, that theyíre too difficult to play. Iíve been faced with that myself of late in the shooter genre. I feel like Iím growing out of touch, especially when it comes to multiplayer games like Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory. While Iím all for adding depth to deathmatching, there is so much complexity in this Splash Damage freebie that Iím at a complete loss. The classes, the experience points, the skillsets, the massive maps with multiple team objectives confuse me even after hours of play. I feel like someoneís rearranged my neighborhood, taking familiar houses and street layouts and jumbling them into such a mess that I canít find my way home. Itís unsettling to the point that I canít see continuing to play the game, even though the small part of me that isnít bewildered knows that itís a fantastic product.
Sometimes, white bread is the best choice on the menu. There is a real value in knowing what youíre playing. Particularly when youíre being asked to shell out $50 for the privilege with no ability to get your money back. When I buy a shooter, I want a shooter. When I buy a roleplaying game, I want a roleplaying game. When I buy a strategy game, I want a strategy game. Additional stuff is nice, if presented in moderation and is tied into the shooting and roleplaying and strategizing in a meaningful way. But itís not absolutely necessary if the heart of the game is intact. Thatís a lesson that I wish developers would learn before I have to endure any more tacked-on romantic subplots.