It’s Not the Genre, It’s The Originality

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I encountered this delightful quote from the author of cookie clicker, aka Ortiel42:

As a fan of indie games, I felt this tweet.  AAA games of guns and guys run together in my head, few of them distinct or interesting.  Much like the all-too-similar AAA action RPGS, they just seem, well, all alike.

But here’s the thing – I enjoy a good shoot-em-up.  I’ve backed Early Access games like the lovely throwback Prodeus.  I downloaded the wonderfully overdone pixelated FPS Project Warlock after seeing a review.  So I’m not biased against games with guns at all.

So why did this quote resonate with me?  I think because the FPS games I like are indie, with that punkish indie feel I treasure.  I don’t have a problem with “gun games” I have a problem when the games seem all alike, like many AAA titles.

It’s not the genre, it’s the sameness.  That’s why that single Tweet resonated with me so hard.

AAA titles can get away with the sameness.  It’s well-produced sameness, well-marketed, with a lot of cultural cachet.  People are going to buy them because everyone knows them and they know what they’re getting, even when bad. It’s much as Serdar notes – in a time of choice you go with what’s known.

AAA titles are also trapped.  Knowing they have to go broad, knowing they have to appeal to everyone, they “sand the rough edges off.”  They’re not chance-takers in many cases, and even the chance-takers risk becoming Yet Another Repeating Franchise.  Sometimes you have to play it safe.

Any game – or media – genre can be made interesting.  My game library has many a fantasy RPG and I delighted in the fantasy-isekai take of the anime The Faraway Paladin.  But these games and media are things that had an edge, a break, something unique.  Just like the razor-raw edges of punk caught the souls of people, I want something to catch me and you can’t do that with blandness.

Even when it’s a genre I actually like.

Still I agree with the original tweet that I want to see games try a lot more things.  Perhaps a skunkworks as opposed to giant years-to-deliver titles may serve companies well.  That may also serve me well in another column . . .

Steven Savage

Wildstar, Game Design, and Independence


So you may have recalled I was looking forward to Wildstar Online. If you haven’t been paying attention to the MMO scene, it’s an SF MMO with fantasy elements and a deliberately cartoony style that’s been in development awhile. Also it has erudite space zombies (the Mordesh), a race of whose males are micro-bishounen Wolverines (The Aurin), and psychotic super-scientific squirrel-aliens (the Chua), so it’s not exactly your typical space romp.

(I predict around about Guardians of the Galaxy, a lot of Chua with names like “RokkitRaccoon” and “JamesRocketRaccoon” will pop up. Just warning you now.)

So I’d been looking forward to it enough I bought it pre-release and played the beta. And, yes I was a Spellslinger, but rolled Scientist not Settler because this is me. If you’re playing the game and/or know me, you get it.

So essentially I’ve decided to play awhile now that it’s out. I don’t have a long-term relationship thing with any MMO I tried, so I figure it’ll be something I play for a few months during my normal “game time” until I get tired of it. I only have so many hours in the week to play and I bound it carefully.

But it’s why I chose to play that is interesting- and is the subject of this column as I think it shines some light on the world of game development that’ll be useful to professional geeks.

As you may know I’ve been on an indie kick, which seems to be defined by “Playing FTL and other stuff.” Wildstar intrigued me enough that I decided to give it a go, however, because it felt well-crafted. There was just a sense of precision, of almost artisanl creation.

Then I realized it. This big, sprwawling, AAA MMO had parts that felt like an indie game.

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