Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Stagnation in Excess

Musings on a problem which may or may not actually exist.
Throughout the last couple of weeks, and really throughout this lifecycle we've seen a lot of blame being placed on how things are going. Studios seem to be closing at a somewhat alarming rate, big name titles aren't making enough profit for bonuses or even to keep the people that made them from being subsumed. Some have blamed the longer console lifespan, some have blamed the growing trend towards mobile gaming, there's plenty of potential sources, but I'm here to talk about something in particular that I have seen people mention, but more in passing than anything else.

It's something difficult to nail down, and that's why I think it merits talking about. Part of it certainly is about soaring costs of game development, especially for what people call triple A titles. That's only part of it though, I think that a lot of it comes from something more intangible, but potentially insidious: excess. Certainly there's nothing wrong with pushing the boundaries, but I believe that it becomes wrong when you feel the need to push them for no other reason than because you can. That's what I believe I see a lot of these days; games that keep the "bigger" mindset without necessarily including the "better". There's only so many additions to make and so many refinements to include before you're shoving more content into an already bloated experience.

I think that this is honestly part of the reason why games are "needing" larger and larger budgets, and also in a way it's one of the root causes of what we now define as the indie genre. There's something that I believe calls out when a game hasn't been made by more than a single person or small team. Perhaps the notion is nostalgic in nature, but at the same time the back-to-basics mentality of a lot of games has caught the attention of people who I think now need a break from games that are getting grander in scope by the day.

I mean, look at the post I made a while back about how Resident Evil 6 has a team of over 600 people. I'm willing to bet that the first RE was developed by a decently large team, sure, but nowhere near 600 people. Perhaps I'm going out on a limb here, but I think that the same is probably true of a lot of series, most famously would be the Call of Duty and Battlefield ones. The idea that games need to be larger and larger with each iteration is something that can be understood, but like I mentioned above it's not so much about the size as it is about things like the polish and making sure that it's not getting too bogged down in its own bullshit.

I dunno. I feel that I haven't done the best job of explaining my position. It's one of those things that I see but can't quite totally put my finger on. Still, I thought it was worth talking about, at least insofar as bringing some attention to it.

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