Friday, 13 April 2012

Eidos GM - What's old is new and what's new is ... unnecessary?

Talking about sequels and complexity.

I'm aware that the title might be reaching, but if it is I'm afraid (in more ways than one) it's not reaching by much. During a recent Gamasutra interview, Eidos Montreal General Manager St├ęphane D'Astous talks about a great deal many things, including sequels and new IPs. The one particular question/answer that caught my attention was as follows:

Are you worried about creative stagnation in triple-A games as people become more risk-averse?

SD: That's a good point. I think that three, four years ago, everybody was saying "Are the consumers going to always buy sequels?" It's something they know of, and they extremely trust, and we were starting to be afraid of seeing the stagnation of ideas and new IPs. And the buzzword I remember at EA three, four years, is a "we need to spit out three new IPs per year" kind of thing. It was a buzzword.

I think people now understand... In our case, maybe we haven't produced new IPs, but a major relaunch of a title like Deus Ex and Thief, we considered it almost like a new IP, certainly in the effort. So we bring back something from the cult classics.

This is maybe not considered new IP, but it brings a new flavor. Games are more and more sophisticated; it's less based on one or two mechanics. I think this replaces the necessity of having new IPs. The buzzword of "new IP, new IP, new IP," I have heard less, because the sequels are selling so well these days. Last year I think was the year of the threes: Deus Ex 3, Gears 3...

Those are some really heavy comments, all things considered. I first learned about the interview from Destructoid, and looking at some of Jim Sterling's comments about those statements I do find that it's ultimately hard to disagree, although I'm not quite as pessimistic. That doesn't mean I don't have concerns though.

I can understand where D'Astous is coming from in terms of old franchises being completely overhauled for newer technology. The strides forward that Deus Ex: Human Revolution represent are quite nice. Certainly it's not the same game as the original, but most people seem to agree that it has been a welcomed and for the most part well-executed addition to the already existing franchise. The thing is though that not all pre-existing franchises are going to be able to smoothly make that kind of transition. To say that a company will have better luck rehashing its old stock of ideas is to rob new and genuinely good ones of a chance to shine.

To wit, games like Assassin's Creed, Crackdown, and even the very Deus Ex series that D'Astous talks about were, at one point or another, original ideas that had the same risks associated with them. It's because they went in a different direction that players paid attention, paid their money, and allowed these games to become jumping points for franchises. To imply on some level that it's not worth the risk is just sort of shafting ideas that might be the next big thing. I realize that people tend to feel a little more comfortable investing in something with a proven track record, but there has to be a point where the potential reward outweighs the risk.

I also don't know that the idea of complexity as one of the more important things to emphasize in games is correct. Certainly it's an admirable goal to to make a multifaceted and deep experience, but there's something to be said for shallowness when it's done right. Aside from all the classic ur-examples that can be pointed out there's also modern games that are quite content to take a very basic idea and run with it. Hell, one of the games that I've been playing the most these days is The Binding of Isaac, which is unapologetic in its simplicity and adherence to what makes it great. Games don't have to be complicated to be good, but they can be both.

I'm not decrying any of what D'Astous has said, I'm just adding a rider that there's really so much more than that. There's room for both sequels and original franchises, complexity and simplicity. Neither are wrong, just good in different ways.

2 comments:

  1. From what I remember, KataDama was a huge risk for Namco and it paid off like gangbusters.

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  2. "Last year I think was the year of the threes: Deus Ex 3, Gears 3..."

    Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation said something to the same effect, didn't he? He -- and I, by extension -- had a lot of optimism for games' future, knowing that the trilogies have run their course. Maybe now we'll see a lot more --

    *looks at cover of the latest Game Informer with Master Chief's helmet plastered front and center*

    ...Er, maybe we'll see a few more new faces. I can deal with that.

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