I finally had a chance to sit and watch Will Wright’s Spore presentation at the GDC. Yes, I’m probably the last to do so, but I found out through from Game Girl Advance that even though I missed GDC, I still could see the presentation.
When I first read the articles about it, I remember getting very excited. Now that I’ve seen it, my only request is that it be available for Gnu/Linux. B-) If anyone knows anyone at Maxis/EA, can you please pass that request along? Thanks.
Anyway, there is almost always talk about how stagnant the video game industry is. Most of the highly anticipated games are sequels, and usually just better looking ones at that. Nothing truly innovative about them. People say that we don’t want more of the same, but if you look at the big sellers, we do. Games like SimCity and Katamari Damacy occasionally come along and are new, fun, and easy to get into, but most innovative titles tend to get great reviews but poor sales. I have yet to play Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, but I heard that it was an amazing step forward for games of its kind. Sales figures, however, say that most gamers didn’t care. Then the sequel, Warrior Within, was released. Apparently the developers of this title decided to play it safe and go with what worked in the past. Sales were great.
Was Warrior Within a good game? I haven’t played it, but I heard it was. Just not as great as Sands of Time. Half-Life 2, Doom 3, Unreal Tournament 2004…all of them sequels, all of them basically first-person shooters. Vehicles, shadows, and gravity guns are their claim to fame. The next Unreal Tournament looks awesome, but then, you could compare it to Half-Life 2.
That’s not to say that I think these games are bad. Far from it. I’ve always felt that people tend to put too much importance on innovation. Sometimes a good game is just a game that is fun to play. Imagine if there was only one copy of every game type. Would it be better if Wolfenstein 3D was the last FPS? No way! The ability to actually aim in three dimensions is a nice feature to have these days. Better user interfaces make for better games, even if you are playing what is basically the same game. At the same time, if you are only going to play games that invent new genres, you will miss out on a lot of quality games while you wait.
Will Wright’s Spore, on the other hand, shows that huge leaps in innovation are possible, and it also demonstrates that you can mix genres with great results. Granted, the game isn’t out yet. All I’ve seen is the presentation he gave. But the capability to make the kind of game he is talking about is definitely there. And you don’t have to be Will Wright to do it, either. He said that his biggest bottleneck was convincing himself that it could be done.
Most new game developers learn that they should never undertake a huge project when they don’t know how to do anything but come up with an idea. Start smaller. It’s good advice, but at some point, when the developer has more experience, that good idea has to be brought back out into the light. Everyone had that RPG they wanted to make. Everyone had that cool game mechanic they thought would make Super Mario Bros 3 so much better. After all, there had to be something that made you want to make games in the first place. You didn’t want to just make puzzle and Pac-man clones all your life, right?
Looking at the project ideas I’ve come up with, I can see that they are impotent in comparison to Spore. I could console myself with knowing that Will Wright and Spore put a lot of game developers to shame; however, I’d rather push myself to do better. I can come up with much better ideas than what I have now. Yes, ideas are a dime a dozen, but that just means I can afford to come up with a few hundred or a few thousand. One of them is bound to be the beginnings of a great game.
So I’m optimistic about the games of tomorrow. Spore shows people that they can do much better. I’m sure others will make fun games that are innovative. And I’m also confident that I can be one of those developers.
For now, I still need to finish my first project, even if it is based on a clone.