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Overdoing It

After taking part in Gamer Limit’s Piece of Heart event this month, I finally discovered just how much one could despise a game – or, in this case, a series – if he or she manages to play it for long enough. Having never before picked up a Ratchet & Clank title, I was more than convinced that I would be able to withstand the repetitive nature of the series, if only for the fact that I had never experienced it before.

How very, very wrong I was.

This got me thinking about how developers and publishers latch onto their “next big thing” and flog that horse until it’s dead, dried, and rotten. Too many innovative games have become whores of sequel-mania, more laughable than original. But how does this all come to pass? And when does “continuing the story” become nothing more than a cash-grab?

I remember the sole reason for purchasing an Xbox in grade 10: Halo. I was 15-years-old and therefore old enough to pick up the MA15+ title. I’m honestly not sure whether I bought it after hearing rave reviews from friends, or simply because I was old enough to buy a violent FPS. Whatever the reason, I fell in love.

As the series progressed, so did my infatuation with the Halo universe. Halo 2 brought about weekly LAN parties with school friends, two TVs set up back-to-back in a living room, eight dudes, plenty of junk food and man-sweat. Who needs to party when you can hang out with mates and play your favorite game?

Even the third installment of the series failed to disappoint. I find the entire idea of pre-ordering games pointless, but for some strange reason, I decided I must preorder Halo 3. By this time, I was at university, living with fellow gamers and attempting to spend my days studying. Of course, Halo 3 changed that for the better.

Then something happened.

Overdoing It

Microsoft did what most mega gaming corporations do at some point: they killed the series. Halo Wars? Thanks, Microsoft Game Studios, but if I wanted to line your pockets with even more of my cash, I’d purchase a life-size Spartan body suit and do a jig outside of your Sydney studio for pennies.

They went overboard. They got greedy. Thank god that Bungie wasn’t involved in that tripe; although, they aren’t completely blameless in this fiasco, either.

Halo 3: ODST offered little in the way of exceptional gameplay, and the short length only added to the argument that it was simply a cash-grab. It saddens me to know that I won’t be pre-ordering Halo: Reach.

Unfortunately, the question “Why?” is a futile one. Films and books love sequels and offshoots just as much as game developers. Despite my love for all things Star Wars, I simply can’t defend the second trilogy as George Lucas just wanting to “continue the story”. If the opportunity for big dollars is there, someone is bound to exploit it.

That said, there are several series that have been able to master the art of sequels, and even better their previous iterations with their latest installments. Metal Gear, The Legend of Zelda, and Mario have all managed to evolve over the decades, and in the eyes of the mainstream are still producing first-class titles. Of course, it’s all subjective; but I wager that few gamers could honestly claim that the Sonic series, as a whole, betters Metal Gear.

Which begs the question: “How does a developer avoid overdoing it?” First of all, don’t allow Microsoft to own the rights to your universe, Bungie. It’s unfortunate that Halo has become somewhat laughable, especially considering the global obsession that surrounded it during the early Noughties. Bungie has done the intelligent thing and are venturing into other projects after Halo: Reach, but it seems a bit like switching off the lights after the power has already been cut. The damage has been done.

Overdoing It

Publishers hold a lot of the blame in situations such as this, but so do the subsidiaries of major companies. Plenty of respectable companies have seen their babies go down the crapper after nestling into the hefty bosom of the big publishers; I’d hate see Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series go down the same path as Halo.

That is why a handful of private companies are able to succeed where others fail. Sure, it’s a tough ask for any young development company to brush aside multi-million dollars offers from somewhere like Microsoft or Sony, but if they manage to stick to their guns and retain complete creative control, the result can sometimes spawn an unlikely success.

Despite shuddering at the thought of playing another Ratchet & Clank title any time soon, I have to hand it to Insomniac Games. They maintain their position as a thriving private developer, are famed with starting the Spyro series, and have both Ratchet & Clank and Resistance to show off as extremely successful releases.

Whether R & C will ever get to the point of “overdoing it” remains to be seen. But for now, let’s revel in the fact that there are still some series out there that have yet to be tainted by the moneyed fingers of the big boys.

  1. It really depends on the company, as far as 1st party titles. Microsoft pushes for more impressive graphics while neglecting focus on progressing gameplay. Nintendo pushes for more impressive gameplay while neglecting their hardcore fans. Sony seems to have been following the same game plan since the playstation 1.

    • avatar Jennifer

      This is amazing. Not only do we get ODST, but we get the Reach demo, too! And I bet this means the psoitl is back! Although, I hope it’s gonna be different than the other Halo games. The formula, although good, is getting a little stale. Anyways, this is freakin’ AWESOME!

  2. avatar Jazzman

    Uh oh, here comes the deranged dev with a tin-foil hat! XD

    I feel like developers have less choice than gamers think!

    **For one, they have families to feed, jobs to keep, and are going to be pressed into this because they need to sustain themselves.

    **Secondly, with deadlines, stress, and other factors games get released before perfection which can lead to lengthening. Believe it or not, we get TONS of development block, like writers!

    Believe it or not, the game I have been making had only 2 characters, 3 short levels, 1 boss, and could be beat in 3 hours. It already had the quality of being released for a 3-5k sponsorship deal.

    However, I decided to continue, and I never realized how great my flash potential grew. I added a new protagonist, a skill system just like that of Tales of Vesperia ect, 10 full length chapters, muiltiple bosses, and the plotline has been greatly improved.

    With just 4 months I transformed a meager action-RPG that had little innovation into a fantastic thrill-ride of epic porportions, all I needed was one thing: TIME.

    So please, if I see one person complaining about a game like Starcraft 2 being delayed, I will rip their throat out. Making a game is a *LOT* of work and deadlines WILL have to be pushed if you want a quality product!

    Thirdly, with malice twards none, I believe a bit of the responsibilty falls on the player itself! Some games are not meant to be continued, but devs get pressured by the player, ect.

    Take in example, Sonny 2. I’m not a big fan since it seemed like Jakrin took the idea that mindless complexity = fun, but it was still a fantastic game. There was a clear end to the game (On legendary, that is!)

    Now, lets see, wait, what’s in the game comments? Stupid chain petitions for a Sonny 3, people, come on! A game that elaborate and concise does not need a sequel, and it probably won’t be easy to make!

    Another example of this comes from my email box directly. During an early beta test 200 people tested and emailed feedback to me. Did you know what they asked for? I recieved 120 emails containing the word “Sequel” and “Theoria 2″.

    Now, without major spoilers, I will say that at the end probably… 5 people survive the events, and 2 civilizations are wiped!!! Come on guys, how do I work with THAT? Oh yeah… Stay tuned for Theoria 2: Where KLINGONS make first contact to like 2 people!!! *GASP*

    Anyway, thanks for reading my mindless rant. This is therapy.

  3. I like it how your comments manage to turn most posts into something about the game you are making.

  4. avatar Jordan Garski

    …except that ODST was much better than Halo 2…?

    • avatar Leonardo

      Seeing that the Halo 3 Legendary Edition price went from $149.99 to around $39.99 in some steors within a month or two, I’ll be passing on both special editions and grabbing the standard version.I think I’m over the whole Limited Edition thing for good. They just seem like a giant waste of money lately.VN:F [1.9.15_1155](from 0 votes)

  5. Jordan, how could you!? Halo 2 was a massive disappoint at the time only because at the moment you were about to return to Earth (which was the coolest place to battle), the game ended.

    In hindsight though, it’s a really great installment in the series, in my opinion.

  6. avatar Anonymous

    Great write-up. My stance on sequels depends on what the developer/publisher does as a whole. In fact, I think the onus for keeping things fresh falls more on the publisher’s lap than it does on the developer. Developers are going to make the games they know they can get support for.

    EA has earned some points in my mind over the past few years by finding some balance. Sure, they crank out sequels like no-one’s business — but they have also done more to support new IPs than any other major publisher. If you use the success of established franchises to take a few risks on new ideas here and there, you get a pass from me.

    • avatar Thibeault

      That topic has been up for discussion quite a lot of ocaiscons but none of the posts have been as in depth as yours. Admin I hope to see this kind of high quality posts from you in the future.

  7. Great post!

    I hate seeing a truly gifted developer get stagnant through milking a franchise, but I also feel that most of the burden/blame for this lies on the shoulders of the publishers. Developers are going to make the games they know they can get support for in order to ensure their survival — especially with the rash of studios closing over the past few years.

    This is why EA has redeemed themselves a bit in my eyes recently. Sure, they crank out the sequels, but at least they use some of the profit from their cash cows to take some risks on new IPs. I don’t see many other publishers doing that. Hopefully as the industry levels out, we’ll get a new generation of fresh ideas.

    • avatar Gibby

      True the cliff hangers suck, but you can’t blame bugnie(creators of halo). They no longer hold the rights to halo, microsoft does. and they probably want to milk the franchise now like most companies do.(hint hint MARIO) Now i’m a die hard halo fan and to tell you the truth there probably not gunna make a halo 4, they’ll probably make books, thats where all the action is at.

  8. Actually, EA has been much more daring in recent years regarding new IPs. Dead Space and Mirror’s Edge were both developed by in-house EA studios, and they picked up Brutal Legend after Activision dropped it. EA has even gone out on a limb to make something as good as Dead Space: Extraction, which hasn’t gotten the sales it deserves for quality, unfortunately.

    • avatar Noemi

      a dit: Mais la c’est un tre8s tre8s court me9trage quand meame Pas assez long pour pouvoir me lseiasr l’envie d’attendre la suite en tout cas, dommage

  9. avatar Jazzman

    @Simon, sarcasm aside it’s very easy to make a comparison when you address the issue by-hand yourself.

  10. @Jazzman

    Stop being cheap and pay us for advertising! :P

  11. avatar Jazzman

    Kongregate API > Advertising.

  12. avatar OEM software online

    rqoGT4 Thank you, a very interesting note!!…

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