Delayed Responsibility

I Shouldn't Be Gaming Right Now… But I Am!

Blog Banter: Give me fun, not Grade-A

Posted by deckard47 on August 20, 2008

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

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7 Responses to “Blog Banter: Give me fun, not Grade-A”

  1. Crazykinux said

    Sometimes I think that developer and publisher tend to think that big budget = great game = $$$$. But by thinking this way there setting themselves up for failure, and big budget can become big failures.

    I’d like to see a few studios scaled down the budgets and go for originality. Maybe they can unearth new game genres and give us some variety. I’d prefer to see 10 games developed at $4 million, then to see one $40 million game. I’m sure we’d fine a few gems amongst those 10 mid-budget games.

  2. silvercube said

    Lol! No, you did not make any enemies. That’s a very agree-able statement.
    There’s always room for new IP in my book. The Wii has got tons of these games on the Virtual Console. Hello, Lost Winds! ^_^

  3. deckard47 said

    I’m with you there, Lost Winds looks amazing. I’m also holding out for Fez, I think that’s going to be just as awesome.

  4. Terry said

    There’s a lot to respond to especially Bloodlines and Arcanum being flawed (well, Arcanum is but Bloodlines was just a little buggy), but I think it is fair to compare Oblivion to Gothic III to Two Worlds because they all fall under the same price point. One of the flaws I see with consoles is that there’s no real bargain gaming development. There should be some middle ground between XBLA and a full Xbox 360 release.

  5. deckard47 said

    Terry, you’re right, but when I was talking about Bloodlines, I was thinking about the Source connection. I think there’s a strong possibility it could have been a better, possibly different game if Source hadn’t been used. Then again, if that had happened, it wouldn’t have had the great facial animations and other Source goodies. It’s a tough call, and I’m happy that it got made at all.

  6. Terry said

    Speaking of which, why hasn’t there been another Vampire game? I could play one of those a year.

  7. Jason O said

    Someone else liked LOTR: The Third Age?

    I appreciated that game despite being a blatant reskinning of Final Fantasy X simply because it gave me a setting I could relate to, unlike it’s base product which I never really enjoyed.

    I love games like Call of Duty 4 but I hope I never get to the point that I demand all of my games have that much intricate care given to them. I appreciate games like The Third Age or History Channel’s Civil War for appealling to a specific interest of mine instead of trying to aim for the mass market. Granted, Third Age was a cheap attempt to cash in on the movies, but at least they were doing something different with the FFX engine.

    At the same time, I feel some games do fall into a trap. I had not bought Oblivion when I played Two Worlds, but the game so obviously wanted to be Oblivion that I finally gave up and just went out and bought Oblivion. A choice I did not regret. I appreciate what they tried to do different with that game, but it was essentially the same style of game and relied far too much on the same foundation. What I didn’t like about Two Worlds wasn’t the lack of polish, but that they tried to be different in small and insignificant ways and everything else felt too much like “me too”

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