Thursday, March 15, 2012

Tradition or Innovation: which is the right path for PlatinumGames?

I'll start this blog by stating what I view as tradition and innovation in the videogame medium: tradition is the process of taking an existing foundation (genre) and developing a game around that foundation's principles, and while new ideas can be integrated into the existing "formula", the end result is the same for every game that uses the existing foundation; for example, Viewtiful Joe had a ton of new ideas implemented into its gameplay, but after all is said and done, it was still a 2D beat-em-up. Innovation, on the other hand, is a process of taking a foundation and ideas, which can be a mix of new and old, and executing them in a way that the end result is something completely new, which often creates a new type of foundation (ie. the RPG genre) or a new "style" of an existing foundation (ie. the action-RPG genre).

To provide an example, the original Resident Evil is a game that took ideas both new and old, but executed them in a way that resulted in something completely different from past results; the end result was the birth of the survival-horror genre. That would be an example of innovation. Going forward in time, we come to Resident Evil 4, which single-handedly changed the way game developers execute third-person shooting; that said, I wouldn't consider RE4 innovative, because the end result of the gameplay remained that of its predecessors: a traditional survival-horror game. Sure, it was much easier to control, and brought us closer to the action, but the core aspects of the survival-horror formula remained intact. RE4 is a tough example, because I could easily see one argue that it was indeed innovative, but I'll just admit that it comes close to the line between tradition and innovation.

Now, few would say that RE4 wasn't a superb game, and I'm no exception. Despite being traditional, it brought about several great ideas in its gameplay. Platinum would continue this trend with their games; games that were traditional in their execution, but still continued to bring about superb gameplay ideas, often residing close to the line between tradition and innovation. So, in this sense, is there a need for Platinum to be more innovative, and strive to create entirely new experiences? Not really. After all, their games continue to be excellent in all respects, and often become the new standards of their respective genres ...

However, I find that there is one reason for Platinum to at least consider striving to create more innovative experiences, and that reason lies within PlatinumGames themselves. Over time, Platinum has created a standard for themselves. Their games continue to bring about fresh ideas to implement into their respective genres; however, I feel that in the future this could become a problem if they decide to remain in the path of traditional game execution.

The first example as to why being an overlap of ideas within their games. Games from Platinum tend to be quite over-the-top with their visuals, characters, and stories; the result being characters that feel similar to one another. Right now, this doesn't feel like a big deal, but if Platinum continues to keep making over-the-top characters 10 years from now, it's going to feel a bit stale. Another factor that tends to carry over into other games are the "fresh" gameplay ideas themselves. For example, Bayonetta had Witch Time and Vanquish had a slow-time mechanic as well, and while they may not all be used the exact same way, those who've played it know that this idea originated with the Slow mechanic in Viewtiful Joe. If future Platinum games continue to use slow-time mechanics, the idea may become a bit stale, especially for those who have and would continue to play every game from Platinum.

The next example comes from the fact that Platinum's games almost reside entirely in the action genre. If this trend continues years and years into Platinum's future, it will become easier and easier for Platinum to fall into a rut and rely heavily on the traditional foundation of the action genre, as well as become harder for them to create more original ideas to implement into their games. Of course, that scenario isn't definite, especially for a talented developer like PlatinumGames; however, this brings up my main point of this blog entry ...

I don't want to see Platinum's games to fall into a similar situation to that of the Final Fantasy and Legend of Zelda series; two game series that, over time, began to rely heavily on the tradition in their respective genres, and, as a result, grew stale over time. And, in the case of the FF series, when the time came to try and be innovative, they were met with harsh criticisms; the main criticism being that Square wasn't being traditional in their game design. This situation just brings about a situation where the developer cannot win; if they rely on traditional means, they are criticized for being unoriginal and lacking of any new ideas, and if they try to innovate, they are criticized for isolating the dedicated fans of the series and not keeping with tradition. The end result: Square just can't win with the Final Fantasy franchise, and The Legend of Zelda series has to rely on gimmicks to make themselves appear to be innovative and mask their traditional game development processes. These are but two types of situations I don't want Platinum to fall into in the future, for it could lead to strife for both the developer and the gaming public.

Thus, my proposition to Platinum is simply to consider taking some risks now and then in trying to create something innovative and fresh; not just with new gameplay mechanics and visual styles, but with an execution that results in something entirely different than previous games. Platinum is basically the best when it comes to action games, so why not try to create an entirely new type of action game. You had the right idea with Bayonetta, it just needed a more original execution; because, in actuality, Bayonetta is just the Devil May Cry 2 you guys never got to make. Vanquish felt like a step in the right direction as well; it really felt like it's aim was to bring Neo-Human Casshern to life, yet it felt like it held back to be more realistic. Please, never limit yourselves in what you do. You're games constantly tread that fine-line between tradition and innovation, just put forth that extra effort to not just set the standard, but create entirely new standards to be set.

NOTE: I don't bring up Anarchy Reigns or Metal Gear Rising in this post because I feel I haven't seen enough footage nor know enough details about the games; however, they could end up being true innovations, thus making this post worthless, heh.

No comments:

Post a Comment