Thursday, January 18, 2007

Innovation, that's what you need!

Is it balls.

I was reminded about this topic from an article on Magical Wasteland. I recommend you go and check it out, it's an interesting read.

A lot of commentators out there in internet land would have you believe that to make a great game (not necessarily great selling mind you, but we're in it for the art, so it'd be vulgar to bring that up) the first thing you need is a bucketful of innovation. I mean, you can't make a good game if it's the same as some other good game right?

Hang on, what?

Now, before I go further I've got to say I have nothing against innovation in games. It's definitely a good thing in my mind, and helps to keep things fresh when you've been playing games for dozens of years. Though I think the word's a bit vague - I mean, is it innovative to take a successful feature from a game in a different genre and apply it to your own? Is having a fresh art style enough to be innovative? After the first FPS released on the Wii, are the others using innovative controls too, or just copying? But really, why the hell does anyone even care?

I don't really follow with the idea that a game with no innovation cannot be a good game. I loved Ratchet & Clank, it was one of my favourite PS2 games and I would have happily paid to play more of the same (in fact I did, with the sequels). The only sequel I didn't buy was the one where they 'innovated' it into becoming an arena-based thing. And yes, I realise I'm arguing my case using anecdotal evidence, but the whole point of a blog is that it's my opinions, so I'm not too bothered.

Frankly if I saw a game advertised as 'Ratchet & Clank 2 - But with nicer graphics and new levels!" I'd buy it, because I would know exactly what I was getting - a game I will enjoy. And frankly these days I'm just too busy to try playing loads of games that I might not enjoy (I'm still kind of on the fence about FEAR, in case you were being kept awake wondering). Surely this is an understandable viewpoint? Games are expensive, and you don't want to end up with something that got high review scores and great word of mouth, but turns out to be not your cup of tea at all.

Another common problem with 'innovative' games is that by their nature they're a bit experimental, and often as a result a bit rough around the edges - maybe the controls aren't as well designed as they could be. Given the option of playing something totally new but kind of clunky or the sequel that adds nothing but polish and streamlining, I'd wait for v2.0 every time.

But my main problem with the word 'innovation' is the people who spout it as if it's some argument-ending magic phrase that proves definitively and for all time that they have good taste in games and know what is right. Unfortunately the word's so overused in crazy internet forum scraps these days it's essentially been devalued (from something already rather vague) to the point of meaning 'something that I like'.

Actually, the more I think about it, the more I realise that last one's the real reason I have a deep hatred of the word. Stupid internet kids, ruining it for other people again...

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