Welcome to the latest installment of Blog Banter, the monthly blogging extravaganza created by bs angel and coordinated by Game Couch. Blog Banter involves our cozy community of enthusiastic gaming bloggers, a common topic, and a week to post articles pertaining to said topic. The results are quite entertaining and can range from deep insight to ROFLMAO. Any questions about Blog Banter should be directed here. Check out other Blog Banter articles at the bottom of this post!
This Blog Banter’s topic is as follows: Does every game need to be a grade-A blockbuster title? Would you be willing to play more average games or should every game shoot for the 10.0 rating?
This question is interesting, because I think that a “grade-A” game is much different from a “blockbuster,” or a “AAA” title, or even just plain awesome. Unfortunately, grade-A often gets mixed up with these other terms. It really depends on how you define said terms, so I’m going to go ahead and do that. A grade-A title is a combination of brilliant game and great production values, to most people. Most of the time, people don’t care to specify to this level. Grade-A titles (for a lot of people) are games that made it into the spotlight (and your living room) through a good deal of money and “pedigree.” They call them “AAA” games, and the confusion between grade-A and AAA can get pretty bad. Plenty of “grade-A” titles that are “good” suck. I’m going to go ahead and do two things: make a list, and make some enemies. Games like Metal Gear Solid 4 (and 1-3), Halo 3, Crysis, Unreal Tournament 3, Resistance, and Doom 3 are all games that receive a little extra slack. Sure, they have their good qualities, but if it weren’t for their names (and thus the baggage that they bring with them), they would never be “AAA” titles.
Since this month’s Blog Banter is meant to be a response to an article about rising production costs and casual games and gamers, I feel like this is a good place to voice my preference. I like games with big budgets and enough money to throw around to make a noticeable difference. For all of the games above (and the other games I didn’t mention, that put immense financial backing together with good credentials), there can still be games like Uncharted, Half Life 2 Ratchet and Clank: ToD, CoD4, Mass Effect, and other brilliant, big-budget games. Still, I’d be the first to say that the dearth (or even unpopularity) of such extravaganzas can be a very good thing. It’s very hard to make a grade-A game. It takes an amazing amount of time, money, and other resources. The problem arises when smaller companies are forced to live up to this ideal. Often, these companies have a good game to make, and have little choice but to ape or reference their wealthier brethren.
This is an especially alarming situation, because when companies focus on what they want, amazing results can occur. Sure, these games may not be AAA material at all, and they may not even be good. Sometimes, they still produce amazing experiences and ideas, kernels of beauty in an otherwise mediocre or unpleasant product. Vampire Bloodlines had some great ideas, which were done a disservice by the company’s decision to hop on the Source wagon (you could argue that the same happened to Dark Messiah, although that game was silly and offensive for many reasons, much like Bloodlines). Another game by the same studio, Arcanum, was a combination of incredible story and ideas, and truly awful interface and production. I’m only talking about big name (essentially) products here. These games fall harder because people expect more (and because Troika was a master at such beautiful failures).
What if developers didn’t have to make a huge profit on every game, because the game didn’t cost a hideous amount of money to make? I love mediocre or flawed games like Darkstar One, Lord of the Rings: The Third Age, The Witcher (which was brilliant, but awfully, awfully translated and distributed), Gothic 3, Two Worlds, and others. They still cost an arm and a leg, I’m sure, but only sometimes do such games collapse under their own expectations and lack of funding. Many of these games are still expected to be AAA titles (Gothic 3 and Two Worlds both got hit by the Oblivion comparison pretty hard), despite the fact that they are made by smaller development houses. I love casual games, small games, silly games, and often-bad games. If these games aren’t made, there will be no room to innovate, to see what a great, good, middling or bad games can do, despite its flaws. Without variety, the industry will stagnate, as it already does, within certain genres or areas. For fighting games you have childishly rendered big-breasted assailants, for shooters you have space marines and WWII platoons, and for RPGs you have badly-written overwrought Tolkein rip-offs and boring man-child quandaries. The reason that these themes are so annoyingly reproduced is because big-name games thrive on them. When a game like The Witcher, Braid, and Arcanum, find something fun or original among all of this sameness it’s always welcome. How much will that kind of surprise occur, if games stay big, and budgets follow suit? Innovation happens at all levels of the game development economic ladder, but if you cut off a large portion of that ladder, how can you expect the same results as you would have gotten before? I’ll keep playing mediocre, fun games, and hopefully people will keep on making them.
Participants : Zath!, Delayed Responsibility, Silvercublogger, weblog.probablynot.com, Crazy Kinux, Gamer-Unit, Unfettered Blather, MasterKitty, XboxOZ360, Omnivangelist, Lou Chou Loves You, Game Couch