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Old 07-07-2008, 09:16 PM   #1
TG1
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Default Known formulas vs. originality

Just something that came up in a discussion with a friend – in every artistic industry (TV and cinema for example) there is a constant battle between using known and proved formulas, which have a greater chance to succeed and therefore be more profitable but on the other hand will probably do nothing to make the product stand out and being original and coming out with the “next never before seen thing”, which can make the creator/company rise and gain popularity but on the other hand carries great risks of never making it.
I think the gaming industry also encounters this dilemma; I myself encounter it in every weekly challenge. So my question is – how much game companies are willing to take the risks? Who is more likely to take such a risk – a new company with nothing to loose or a big company that already made a name for itself and has several projects running at the same time? What do you think gamers prefer? Is there a middle way – using an old idea in a new and original way? (think of games like Ico and Shadow of the Colussos vs franchises like Mario and Zelda)
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Old 07-07-2008, 11:07 PM   #2
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what i can say is that we originally planed to use trading cards which represent Items,weapons, etc. in our original game design document from the Acclaim Challenge.
I personally thought in the end it was an awesome idea and it wasn't really done before in the way we wanted to make it happen. But then it got canceled from the game design document
And now Battleforge is coming out soon from EA Phenomics which has trading card elements in it and most people already say it will be one of the best games this year!
So I think new company's are more likely to take chances with something new.
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Old 07-07-2008, 11:54 PM   #3
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Originality is the weapon of the small guy. So you will meet original ideas more often in new companies and independent developers. You can't compete with marketing money, good connections to retailers or your reputation. So you have to do something to stand out.
Of course big companies have some original ideas and games, too. But their concern is more market research and profit.
And actually people like to play known formulas, because they know what they will get for their money. EA Sports, anybody?

In my opinion you shouldn't eject known formulas, but embrace them and mix it with originality to create something fresh but assessable.
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Old 07-08-2008, 06:52 AM   #4
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The known formula beast is really the whole ugly truth about videogames as an art form - as everyone and their mother is willing to tell you, games are still a commodity first, an artwork second. Some people are beginning to believe change is in the air, but the definition of art work is just changing - it must be a provable, and therefore not dangerously original, seller.

And yes, there is always a place for proven things in the gamer's closet...we all have a specific game in a specific genre that we absolutely loved, and even if some new game just emulated the experience really well (and incidentally gave us new characters and levels)...we'd still love it. We always want a longer game when it's an experience we enjoy. I wouldn't care if ninja gaiden two had a hundred chapters and a thousand unbalanced weapons. I would love it if a new game came out that was a blatant rip off, so long as it gave me more of the same beloved experience...to a degree. I mean, you do get bored...but not with new teams in football games, I suppose. I for one make it a point to buy the new hockey game every year, just for the rebalanced teams.

But I'm not saying anything new or exciting myself.

I do have to say though, that as I discussed with myself on my blog, I think the whole notion of the hero's journey being universal, the whole "this is the formula that makes successful stories" is bull honky. It's a putrid mix of overgeneralization and cowardice.
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Old 07-08-2008, 08:31 AM   #5
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I think all games are 90-95% known formula, and 5-10% originiality and the only difference is where that originiality happens, and the coverage.
Are Ico and Shadow of the Colossus really that mind-blowingly original? The difference is where the originality is, compared to Mario or Zelda.
I don't think anything outside of this window of originiality will really be seen outside of small independent games, but I also don't think there is necessarily anything wrong with that.
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Old 07-08-2008, 08:40 AM   #6
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That depends on how broad your definition of 'formula' is, i think. To me, there is no game like Ninja Gaiden. On the other hand, you *can* call it a third person action title. It does have levels with minions that lead to bosses. It does have mini-bosses. You do progress from a point of little skills to immense skill sets. You do use physical violence to trounce the opposition.

But in what game is the combat so dynamic and fluid? In what game is there the same strategy of using the currency of yellow essence to charge more devastating attacks in order to yield even more essence? Ico defied the traditional dynamic of level structure and common forms of conflict, such as the way you go about defeating the 'enemy' and why you're enemies in the first place. Katamari is hard to classify; in fact, trying to classify it in terms of established genres is an exercise in broad generalization that is, frankly, a disservice to the title.

I would say, personally, that I agree with you for the most part...but I seriously doubt that most games should be classified as 90-95% original. That just seems pessimistic
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Old 07-08-2008, 08:49 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MessiahSimple View Post
I would say, personally, that I agree with you for the most part...but I seriously doubt that most games should be classified as 90-95% original. That just seems pessimistic
I don't think it's pessimistic. 5-10% is a lot.

Katamari, on the other hand...
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Old 07-08-2008, 08:53 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ronnoc10 View Post
Are Ico and Shadow of the Colossus really that mind-blowingly original? The difference is where the originality is, compared to Mario or Zelda.
I really think they are, sadly I never got to play too much of Shadow of the Colossus, but I don't think I ever played a game like Ico before or after I played it. like MessiahSimple said, the game had a completley different perspective as to the player's motivations and actions and I felt that the entire dynamics in the game were uniqe. I always wondered why wasn't this game a big success.
also - even in proved formulas like Mario and Zelda you see attempts at something new - Paper Mario for example had taken the Mario games and moved it to a different Genre, it still had all the things it needed to let you know you are playing a Mario game (the music, the characters, the green pipes) but it was still pretty much different.
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Old 07-08-2008, 09:49 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TG1 View Post
I really think they are, sadly I never got to play too much of Shadow of the Colossus, but I don't think I ever played a game like Ico before or after I played it. like MessiahSimple said, the game had a completley different perspective as to the player's motivations and actions and I felt that the entire dynamics in the game were uniqe. I always wondered why wasn't this game a big success.
also - even in proved formulas like Mario and Zelda you see attempts at something new - Paper Mario for example had taken the Mario games and moved it to a different Genre, it still had all the things it needed to let you know you are playing a Mario game (the music, the characters, the green pipes) but it was still pretty much different.
That's my point. Paper Mario is incredibly different from anything on the market, but it gets ignored as just another Mario game, because of where the innovation takes place.

Ico is different, but not that different. Also, it sold 700,000 copies, so while it was not a huge success, it certainly was a success. I get a little annoyed when people talk about games like Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, Beyond Good and Evil, and Psychonauts. They are all good games (I would count them among my favorite games of all time), but they are not nearly as innovative, and did not do as badly in the marketplace as everyone seems to think.
You know a game that was underappreciated? Second Sight. It wasn't the best game, and is not on my list of favorites, but it was ahead of its time. It refined the cover system from Kill.switch (which is itself a refinement of WinBack's cover system), cover systems of course becoming the huge new innovation in the Next Generation of Video Games, when Gears of War implemented a improved version of it, two years later. It integrated stealth and gun play well (and I can't think of another game from 2004 that did so), had the best version of the sniper scope I've ever seen in a game (and I've only seen two, the one everyone uses, and Second Sights'), and had GTA IV's lock-on system, or, to put it differently, GTA IV's lock-on system was lifted directly from Second Sight or another game that took it from Second Sight. It had stylised cartoony graphics long before they became trendy, and featured a Telekinesis power that used ragdoll physics to interact with almost any object in the environment. It had a morality rating for every level, but it went ever further, with the main character actually showing remorse for killing people. It had the strangest, and in some cases, hardest puzzles I've ever seen in a video game. At one point, I had to break into a computer that was locked with a password, without getting caught. After an hour or two of trying to figure it out, I realized that I had to use my physic powers to turn the clock ahead so the owner of the computer would think it was time to get off work and log in.
This sounds like fanboy gushing, but I actually didn't like the game at all. Nevertheless, it was very original and ahead of its time, but no one's heard of it, and, unlike Ico, actually no one's heard of it. The really innovative, original games that everyone misses are the ones that get under 80% on MetaCritic. Alone in the Dark looks to be one of these.

Quote:
So my question is – how much game companies are willing to take the risks? Who is more likely to take such a risk – a new company with nothing to loose or a big company that already made a name for itself and has several projects running at the same time? What do you think gamers prefer?
This is the real answer to your question: truly innovative games fail, not because the market isn't ready, or anything like that, but because they are to ambitious. If Second Sight came out next week, all of the things that made it crap would be gone, but it would no longer be innovative. The real difference is, if a huge corporation funds a 'innovative' game, like Ico, it's more likely to get it right, and everybody else is more likely to hear about it.
It's true everywhere. Everyday Shooter was the big, amazingly innovative independent game last year. I've downloaded games by 12 year olds off obscure websites that likely haven't been played past the kids friends and myself that were more innovative, but they also sucked. Innovation has a high rate of suck, and that is why most games stick within the 90-95%.
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Old 07-08-2008, 09:52 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ronnoc10 View Post
[list=1][*]I don't think it's pessimistic. 5-10% is a lot.

Katamari, on the other hand...
it is, maybe, a lot if your definition of originality is incredibly broad. Ham-fisted isn't the right word for it, but it's the first that comes to mind. I mean, to me, 5-10% suggests that bioshock and tetris are essentially the same. "They may be somewhat different, but they're STILL videogames, clyde." I think that in 'The Seven Samurai' Kurosawa's use of slow-motion helped redefine cinematic effects, and his use of the samurai setting to tell what is essentially a interpersonal drama had not been done before; in this assessment I am certainly not alone. I would hesitate to call those doses of original, which are miniscule compared to the originality found in just about any non-standard (non-sports...well, some sports games - like NHL07 ) AAA, a 5-10% originality injection. Because A. K. used actors? Because they were captured on film?

I think what I was trying to say there was that our disagreement is not one of statistics but one of semantics. I think my definition of 'originality' is just narrower and more forgiving is all
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Last edited by MessiahSimple : 07-08-2008 at 09:55 AM. Reason: clarity comes at a premium on these forums.
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