Stormrise’s failure is like sweet, sweet nectar to me. In truth, I thrive on the failure of games that were doomed to fail right from the beginning, and in a sane reality, you could put safe money on any console-based RTS being balls. But this isn’t reality. This is the jumbled anti-world the video-game industry stumbled into on its way to gaming nirvana, where up is down, left is right, and X is Y… as well as B, triangle, and “shake”.
As a result, console-based RTS’ seem to really be thriving, regardless of how terrible and misguided they are – Even though every compliment was followed by “yeah, but it’s still better on the PC”, C&C3 did pretty well. Even though it’s only real asset was a vast impenetrable fan-base, consisting entirely of whooping jock-nerds, Halo Wars did pretty well too. Stormrise, in comparison, fell flat on its face… then the animation got stuck so it kept falling over and over. But even though it’s been universally panned, it still stands as a testament – the RTS is here, it’s on our consoles, and it’s still denying the fact that joy-pads are RTS-illiterate.
Take any relatively fast-paced strategy title, add a compulsory joy-pad, and the experience instantly becomes comparable to one of those claw games at the fun fair, the objectives having been replaced by your moaning girlfriend. Consoles need to get over the fact that they can’t pull off all the same tricks PCs can. They may have won the favour of first-person shooters by removing the need to ‘KLAK’ ‘KLAK’ ‘KLAK’ rearrange your mouse. But the RTS will never be theirs, and no matter how many times the controlls are “re-imagined”, the games and developers alike must surely be secretly screaming, “keyboard and mouse!! For the love of God!!”. Yet, in spite of this, the console-RTS still thrives on, and meanwhile the console they might actually work well on has ranked up an impressive total of…… hang on.
My problem isn’t the lack of certain games being available on the Wii, or even the utter extinction of others. My problem is that the Wii has yet to corner the market on the two most obvious of genres, namely the RTS and the FPS. The problem standing in the way of this is that people are still utterly obsessed with motion-sensing. When the new control-scheme was first revealed, back when the Wii was still the Revolution, I thought “ok, a few tennis games, some Olympics, maybe fishing, and that’ll be it, right?”. Fast-forward to a games market over-saturated by titles where waggle-mechanics are the main feature, with a game hacked on for good measure. What seemed like the Wii’s strongest feature has been almost totally ignored – essentially, it’s an integrated light-gun.
Naturally, said waggling is where the big money’s at, after all, the best way to sell something unsociable and unhealthy is to convince people to the contrary. But the real genius lies in the point-and-push mechanic. The Wiimote/Nunchuck may still seem like a strange mutation in the ongoing evolution of games-controllers, but the change from joy-stick to joy-pad must have been a strange one too. And while it may also seem to have outlawed certain game-types, such as beat-em-ups, what shines through is an almost perfect equilibrium between joy-pad and mouse. Hence, the system is perfect for formerly mouse/keyboard based games, such as the RTS and FPS. So… where the hell are they?!
The only real feature that the Wii’s competitors and PCs have in common is high-end graphics. But how important is graphical quality, really, to the two genres in question? The most basic function of an FPS is to take on the persona of a soldier or a space-marine or a… MIT physicist… (?). So naturally, decent graphics will highten the experience, but “emersion” is held in a delicate balance by many factors, such as story, characters, audio, interactivity and so on. As for the RTS, strategy is king, and any extras (other than an involving story) tend to just get in the way. ‘Style’ and ‘character’ are the only areas where graphics have right of way, calling to mind the Red Alert series’ red vs. blue mechanic, the absence of which would mean confusion of Starcraft proportions. But the necessity of this hardly warrants the need for a scaled-down T1000 sitting in your living room.
Naturally, a portion of the blame rests on Nintendo’s shoulders. By continuing their relentless mission to promote the Wii as a child/parent bonding device, the quality of it’s library is undoubtedly damaged. The console is fast becoming child-exclusive, and although this isn’t so much a problem on it’s own, it is when you consider how much the industry underestimates kids. Kids are scary, and with a controller in their hands, they’re even scarier. But the industry is still prepared to believe that kids simply can’t identify good games. The concern that strategies and shooters go hand in hand with gratuitous violence is fairly flimsy also, after all, the reason the Red Alert series is so macho and cheesy is so that the violence is nullified, and there’s no reason to think this can’t be duplicated.
What needs to be realised is that the arrival of the Wii is less of a mutation and more of an evolution, paving the way for new types of games as well as changing the way we play others for the better. Regardless of whether the demand for these types of games is high or low, the Wii is missing out on some perfect opportunities that seem like no-brainers to me. Even if it means taking over communist Russia with an army of Miis, I know my thirst for strategy will be satisfied…. just so long as they don’t port Stormrise.