Friday, December 21, 2012

The Mind Behind the Game

A game rumored to be so difficult it's recommended the player
don a suit of full plate armor before picking up the controller 
Diversity is the antithesis of wealth. At least that's what game publishers have decided. I mentioned ages ago that one game, or type of game, becoming wildly successful would be very bad for the industry and I still stand by that statement. At that time it was Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, but the truth is I'd be perfectly fine with CoD doing it's own thing and doing it well. The problem is everyone else trying to copy the magic formula. It's an un-creative naked cash grab attempting to exploit market trends. So now the market is flooded with military FPS clones, each less classy than the last.  It was bad when this kind of thing happened to survival horror franchises like Dead Space and Resident Evil.  It was even worse when it happened to strategy games such as Front Mission and Syndicate.  Now, Dark Souls II looks to be suffering a similar fate.  Granted it's far too soon to call judgment, but based on the information that's available at the moment, we're looking at a dumbed down experience aimed to appeal to the widest audience possible.  In other words, they're going to take out what makes Dark Souls unique in order to rope in people who prefer more generic fantasy/action RPGs like Elder Scrolls, Kingdoms of Amalur and Dragon's Dogma.

Indulge me while I go on tangent for a minute. Dark Souls doesn't need an easy setting. It already has one in the form of summoning other players online into your world for aid. Dark Souls' story isn't all that obtuse either when you assume that the game is designed to have communities around it. You're expected to gain information from other players via forums, chat rooms and the built-in messaging system. Could Dark Souls be better with regards to communicating the various system in-game? Sure. But its legendary difficult is a bit overrated. I personally got 100% completion and I'm not all that good at video games. The way I pulled this off is because when I got stuck, I swallowed my pride and consulted an FAQ. Be a skilled gamer or a humble gamer.  If you are neither you will rightfully suffer for it.

"What is a sword compared to the hand that wields it?"
Getting back on topic...I could be bitter about one of my most cherished IPs this console generation being sacrificed on the alter of profit, but I honestly can't get worked up about it. In part I feel this way because the games don't really matter to me as much as the people who created them. In this case Hidetaka Miyazaki is working on another project, and I find myself far more excited about that piece of news than anything having to do with Dark Souls II. After all the mood and atmosphere behind the Souls series was the direct product of Miyazaki's childhood experiences with indecipherable western fantasy gamebooks such as Fighting Fantasy.  I think that kind of creative wellspring cannot be replicated.  The same holds true for guys like Shinji "Zwei" Mikami, Ken "No-Brotastic-Boxart" Levine and Fumito "Where's-your-Game" Ueda.  So, I guess the takeaway here for me (at least) is follow lead designers who make games you like, rather than simply sequels.  They are, after all, the architects the world you inhabit every time you pick up that controller.

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