It is often tempting to think of Emos as out of the loop insofar as normal concerns are involved, closeted away as they are, writing bad poetry and cribbing pretentious Twitter names on which to hang their hats of emotional profundity (try fecundity). I have recently had to reconsider my position on this however, as several of my mirth-challenged colleagues have pointed out worrying trends in development procedure, both of which I had overlooked. Exhibit (a) is the most recent edition of Hey! Look! Listen! wherein Shambles Motok points to the regrettable development of one of EA’s bean counters identifying game difficulty and a lack of multi-player as being a defect inherent in both Dead Space and Mirror’s Edge, claiming that this absence saw both games fall short of their full sales potential. The second melancholic morsel of wisdom for the week came from Lusipurr.com’s own The Fallen Sun, as he waxed lyrical his concern of Ubisoft ceding creative responsibilities to regular gamers, which proved to be quite the HOT TOPIC. These incidents, while each unfortunate in their own right, contribute to something far more noxious and pervasive. I speak of course of the unfortunate current-gen philosophy that contends that every game should be made for all gamers, and provide naught but the most distilled experience of all the currently popular playtypes on their rotating roster of bullet-point fail.
What makes such sentiments so diabolical is their façade of fundamental decency; they have phenomenal face validity. I mean who but the stuffiest old pedant would poo poo moves to make games more accessible to a wider audience? Who but the most insular of mouth-breathing scruff-necked elitists would denounce a developer for providing gamers with more of what they want? It all seems very decent and reasonable, yet it is my contention that it is chiefly these concerns that are responsible for reducing games to the status of grandpa Lusipurr’s favourite term of endearment: grey sludge.
So, who played Dead Space wishing that EA had only seen fit to include multi-player? The simple fact is that when a story-driven action game is designed alongside a multi-player component, one or the other will often be seen as dispensable. How many of us will still be playing Dead Space multi-player one week after launch? Was it really something that Dead Space needed? Is it something worth diverting personnel and capital from the single-player campaign in order to implement? Wouldn’t everyone prefer to play to play Call of Duty, Halo or Killzone instead? It is no matter, multi-player hardly stands to be the most injurious change visited upon Dead Space 2. This time around EA have promised an easier game so that Isaac feels more bad-ass, and have also “improved” the story by giving Isaac a voice and having him remove his helmet to EMOte. In short: EA have changed everything that made the first game work, the lonely, mute everyman of Isaac will now be chatty and overpowered, way to build the tension EA. They think that they can keep the people that they won over with the first game, while fundamentally changing the formula to attract an entirely different crowd of fist-pumping space marines … then again, Sega’s transformation of Valkyria Chronicles into a dating sim went down a treat for our Lusipurr.com Otaku, so perhaps an amalgam of bastardised playstyles is not such a bad thing after all …
EA have demonstrated the method for turning a good game into a generic one, yet to make something truly wretched you really need player input. It is the role of game designers to give players what they need, not what they think that they want, because the two are seldom the same thing. Take Final Fantasy XIII for instance, Final Fantasy players want cutscenes full of explosions, emotionally charged character exchanges and lots of battling, ff has long been characterized by these qualities, and these have always been Final Fantasy’s best qualities, yet this has never been all that the series was- until now. I am inclined to assert that a less is more philosophy will produce a better game nine times out of ten, and it is certainly true that there are no peaks without troughs. And that is really the entire point; if you give gamers too much of what they want, then what they want becomes boring. Further, if gamers are allowed to fill games with their preferred pre-existing playstyles, then that precludes the possibility of original playstyles being created. In short, it stunts the INDUSTRY.
I am aware that I am mounting something of a sensationalist argument with this article, and that there is probably a way for both EA and Ubisoft to safely navigate the pitfalls of mass appeal software without ruining their product, yet I have seen all to many games spoiled by just such an approach. At any rate I would welcome any and all Otaku feedback on the subject of the INDUSTRY’s slide toward mass appeal gaming.
EA: SINGLE PLAYER GAMES ARE “FINISHED”.