Trilogies – Engine reuse without the Guilt?
Look. Not everything needs a sequel. Most things should not be designed with the intent of spreading out content. Yes, yes, episodic content is all the rage right now, but the development cycles aren’t there yet. Just look at Valve and their “HalfLife episodes 1-3 = HalfLife3” I bet you their next HalfLife sure as shit isn’t called HalfLife 4. Just because Lord of the Rings did it does NOT mean everyone should be able to sell the same thing 3 times. The reason LoTR did it is because it is a 12 hour movie. You offer me that much more substantial and new content in a trilogy and I’ll be pleased. The problem is: this isn’t happening. The 2nd and 3rd titles each have only a year of turn around, and are rushed to the holiday market. They lack the polish the original had, look and do no better than the original, and are only an extension. They aren’t a sequel, they are an expansion pack. See: amazing “Baldur’s Gate 2: Throne of Bhaal.”
Prince of Persia, Viewtiful Joe, Xmen Legends (includes Marvel Ultimate Alliance), Rainbow Six, Ghost Recon, Burnout, KOTOR (not a trilogy yet, and looks like the 3rd will use the Mass Effect engine if I had to guess) are all amongst great games, and some amongst my favorite games. After all, it wouldn’t be a series if you changed the gameplay drastically between iterations. It is just a shame to see such little advancement beyond story and minor gameplay tweaks between them as they are churned out once a year.
I guess it wouldn’t be nearly as bad if I felt it was fan service: an unexpected cult hit gets the green light to make a sequel on a low budget. If they weren’t intending to make a carbon copy of the same game that would appease fans with as little work as possible. The problem is the damn: “To be continued” ending that every game feels it needs. When I finish a game, I want to WIN. I do not want to find out Vader is my father and be forced to shell out another 60 bucks to keep going. Note to Games: You aren’t Movies. You aren’t books. After several game over screens, or dozens of hours of play, I would like a bit of victory (or an unconventional final Defeat) ending.
If you want to direct continue it, fine. Put that ending cinematic on the FRONT of your next game. The Prince of Persia trilogy managed this well, but some other games fail to grasp it, even after the Halo 2 “ending” fiasco.
I am perfectly aware of how the money works. More money is spent on the engine with the intent to reuse it. The initial game will never meet the expectations set by management in terms of sales to recoup the cost of development and turn enough profit. So, the engine is reused.
This doesn’t make better games. Idealistic? Certainly. The amount of work to make a game now is staggering. Understanding this doesn’t magically make the games coming out better. Just look at the small releases like Darwinia to see what can be done on a smaller budget that doesn’t reuse previous technology so blatantly. I don’t ask that resources be thrown away. I just want my bland, grilled cheese sandwich to come in a really fancy bag and use different cheese, and not be given half a sandwich now and the other half later (only to have grown cold over time).
…and to be delivered by a Hooter’s waitress.