Flash, noise, and junk weíve seen many times before
Brett's got a real problem with genre-mixing games, and he doesn't feel he quite let out the aggression last time. So, today he takes a deeper look at why we have mixed genres, why it sucks and how we arrived at this stage. Where does Brett lay the blame? Read on and find out!
Flash, noise, and junk weíve seen many times before
|Glimpses of Creativity||Page:: ( 2 / 4 )|
We still see how things used to be in spots, especially with ostensibly creator-driven projects like Rise of Nations. Glimpses are generally all that weíre allowed, though, as there is too much of a kitchen-sink mentality in vogue to allow for much individuality. As I mentioned in my last column, this has resulted in a blurring of genres. Instead of creating new games, developers are sticking to core concepts augmented by random stuff thrown in without thought. Like a blowsy 50-year-old with a boob job, the results arenít attractive. We get Pipe Dreams-inspired puzzles in Star Trek: Elite Force II. Wonders in Rise of Nations. Sneaky Thief stuff in Splinter Cell. D&D-detailed character classes in Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory. Cutscenes more suitable for The Longest Journey in No One Lives Forever. The games are often still entertaining in spurts, although thereís a stagnancy here that reeks of Hollywood. And of the Harry Potter books themselves, which are predictable from first to last no matter how much entertainment they provide on the surface.
There is some innovation at work here, but itís the same sort of innovation at work when the screenwriter for League of Extraordinary Gentlemen moves adjectives around to create action-hero quips for Sean Connery. Or when Ang Lee gives a new spin to superhero movies by using maudlin weepies lifted from the Bill Bixby TV show in The Hulk. Or of course when J.K. Rowling sucks up to downtrodden kids everywhere by making Harry Potter go from abused child to Quidditch star and BMOC. Thereís a lot of flash, a lot of noise, a lot of pandering to comfortable stereotypes, and a lot of junk weíve seen many, many times before.
Yes, there are more game options than ever. Feature creep has grown to cover the industry like it was the outfield wall at Wrigley Field. Yet there isnít a whole lot of truly memorable gaming going on. Like the summer flick you forget before your head hits the pillow, games come and go. One week itís Unreal II: The Awakening. Next comes PlanetSide. Then move on to Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness. Then to Star Wars: Galaxies. At times, playing games feels like continuing with a pastime for no good reason beyond the fact that you used to enjoy it and youíre used to it. There are moments when I catch myself playing games that I donít really enjoy, turning to them in idle hours out of the same kind of misguided loyalty that keeps me buying Sun Chips and Ozzy Osbourne albums. So, color me beige. I havenít experienced anything really vibrant in a long time, played a game that didnít remind me of a dozen other games even in the good moments.
We need something to shake up the industry. An indie-film attitude with off-the-wall games produced simply because the creators thinks that theyíre good. I hoped that computer game publishers would get more creative a few years ago when faced with the console onslaught of 2000, though all that did was constrict design docs and make everyone even more conservative. So my hopes arenít particularly high that things will turn around with the current generation of consoles going gently into that good night. There are some real potential positives out there, though. Valve is about as far away from the computer gaming mainstream as a hit developer can be, and Half-Life II looks just as revolutionary as its predecessor. idís never given a damn about current trends either, so Iím expecting good things from Doom III.
Whether the new wave of games will pump fresh blood into tired veins is anybodyís guess right now. Itís in vogue to dismiss A.S. Byatt as a envious crank at the moment, and thereís probably a kernel of truth in that assertion. But there is some validity to the whining. And I think weíd all be better off if the people who work at entertaining usóno matter what medium, whether it be games, movies, books, or musicótook a few key points to heart.
SIDEBAR: Hollywoodís star system died in the 1950s, along with the major studiosí dictatorial control over movie-making. The Best Picture Oscar in 1959 went to the traditional epic Ben-Hur, while in 1969 it went to the X-rated, druggy, nude Midnight Cowboy. Everybodyís talkiní at me, indeed.
|Return Fire||Page:: ( 3 / 4 )|
How the hell am I supposed to argue with a column that sums up what itís like to make pastries in Star Wars: Galaxies? As someone who prefers take-out menus to recipes, and isnít the slightest bit interested in cooking for Corellians, Iím hardly qualified to comment. Iím actually not interested in doing anything online with space cakes, stormtrooper armor, or whatever else is helping to pay for the pricey digital cameras lensing Star Wars Episode III: We Havenít Come Up With A Stupid Enough Subtitle Yet. Sci-fi boredom may have me replaying Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast at the moment, but Iím not desperate enough to try Star Wars Sims.
I do think, however, that somebodyís qualified to comment on the thing. Right now. Although Tom makes a good point about massively multiplayer games in their early stages being little more than social experiments, you can still review them without flipping over the calendar. The moving target he cites as the best reason to steer clear of a Star Wars: Galaxies review until Xmas is really the strongest indication that you should crank out a review as quickly as possible. Anything that you write on Monday might be out of date by Friday. As massively multiplayer thigamajigs are continually changing and evolving, thereís no point waiting for some sort of Air-Cakes epiphany before beginning a write-up. You can get the job done like you would any other game review. Just donít pretend that youíre penning the usual epitaph. Feel free to throw in a lot of previewese about where the game might be headed. And forego listing your personal experiences for more detail about all the options, as you canít be fair to such big games by going all Ang Lee and fervently detailing inanities on the one or two career paths you had time to explore.
Yes, this is a really wimpy way to write a review. But what can you really do with this genre? Massively multiplayer games are massive. Theyíre so loaded with content that they force you to embrace generalities. Focus in too closely on what youíre doing and you miss the big picture. Getting down all of the intricacies about becoming the Mon Calamari Martha Stewart just tells me that Star Wars: Galaxies has at least one really idiotic character class. Beyond that, Iím in the dark.
Of course, itís also pretty easy to lapse into box-cover paragraphs sprinkled with banalities about graphics and sound. Or waste two-thirds of your word count on technical mumbo-jumbo about connection speeds. Covering these games is a tricky business. On that point, Iím in full agreement with Tom. Youíve got to walk a fine line between recounting those thrilling exploits in the Mos Eisley bakery (I think it was next door to the cantina) and simply telling readers whatís possible. You may be an expert reviewer, the only man in America capable of telling the truth about Deus Ex and Flying Heroes. Youíre still just one of a couple hundred thousand subscribers and thereís no guarantee that your experiences will mesh with anybody elseís. Thatís why Iím staying far, far away from Star Wars: Galaxies and all of the other pay-to-play extravaganzas for the moment. At least as a reviewer. Iím not sure how long I can suppress my inner R2-D2 and resist wandering the deserts of Tatooine, even if Iíve gotta bake a few cakes along the way.
SIDEBAR: I indulged my inner R2-D2 last month by spending a stupid amount of money on a softcover collection of godawful Marvel Star Wars comics from the 70s. Visiting eBay is not a good thing when youíre intoxicated on childhood nostalgia and Guinness.
|Shot of the Week||Page:: ( 4 / 4 )|
New art and spooky recruits like the Ghost make Disciples II: Servants of the Dark a treat for fantasy strategists who like life on the dark side. Here are a couple of shots from the standalone expansion pack, slated to hit stores this coming week with two extensive campaigns featuring the Legions of the Damned and the Undead Hordes.
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The Firing Line strikes again. Weíre not sure what Brett hit this week, but he still seems to be hating genre-bending games. We think itís because he had a Tucker Max-like experience with a post-op transgenre game, but could be wrong. But seriously, he does raise some good points about the hollywoodization of the gaming industry. Heck, the way entire teams are being sacked the day after a product goes gold is not unlike the way crews disperse after a movieís been filmed. Perhaps itís natural evolution. Or perhaps it sucks. You decide, then Sound Off! and let us know!
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