Articles & Editorials: What’s It Going To Take?

Recently, I’ve been reading more into why some of “lost the faith” when it comes to Westwood’s games. I realized, though, that it isn’t just Westwood that is losing its magic, but really all game companies that are lacking really good games. Don”t get me wrong, there are some pretty good games available, like Renegade and Jedi Outcast, but none of them have the kind of innovation that I think most gamers are really looking for. Let me explain.

When most of us really got into games, things were developing rapidly. For myself, I became a PC Gamer in 1995 when I got my first 486 computer. I played games like Rebel Alliance and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis for hours upon hours. They were great games, but soon new and great ideas reached me. X-Wing, for example, took Rebel Alliance and improved it immensely. Now you had full control of the action, and there were over 120 missions that could last you for months. In 1997, I got Command & Conquer. This was my first real-time strategy, and it really took my breath away. It was the first game I played with Full-Motion Video, a kick-ass soundtrack, and a storyline that really got you involved. C&C was really an innovation in gaming, and it rocketed Real-Time Strategy into a whole new level.

After that, though, nothing new and spectacular caught my interest. In fact, there wasn’t much new and exciting at all. There were cool new games released, but there was nothing really new, that changed the way we played games. First person shooters stayed basically the same. They are really just updates of older games, with new graphics, guns, and stories, if that. There hasn’t been anything that has really revolutionized FPS at all. Half-life’s “modability” was definitely a breakthrough, but again, it only added new guns and some other features. Let’s look at three of the top FPS shooter games. Medal of Honour: Allied Assault was just a Quake III mod, giving gamers just some old guns and different story. And honestly, MoH:AA is just an American propaganda game. In talking to a local Canadian retailer, I learned the MoH has sold less copies since its’ release in January than Jedi Outcast has in almost 3 weeks of release here in Canada. Speaking of Jedi Outcast, although it is a fun game, there is nothing new and exciting that revolutionizes the FPS genre. It is just another Q3 mod, set in the Star Wars universe featuring lightsabers and the Force. Finally, Command & Conquer Renegade. Although the addition of C&C Mode makes it more interesting, it doesn’t bring any real innovation, nor will it revolutionize the genre.

The same is true with RTS. The introduction of 3D was interesting, but RTS has fundamentally changed from the days of C&C Gold. Like FPSs, new RTSs are just C&C Gold with better graphics, new units, and new stories. Look at Age of Empires, for example. It is basically just C&C with an attempt to add more economic warfare to the game. Starcraft is just a space version of Age of Empires, without the more economic focus. The addition of 3D hasn’t really made much of a difference, either. Take a look at Warcraft 3. Personally, I think graphics look like Starcraft, and after playing the beta, I think even Starcraft was more fun. Why people are excited about this game is beyond me. RTS is lacking innovation, and it can be seen by current titles. Nothing is changing the core formula of RTS.

The only thing that has been really innovative in recent years has been EA’s wildly popular “The Sims” game. This was something totally different. Nobody had really experienced this kind of game before, and because of that fact it has risen to having sold the most copies of any game, ever. It changed the formula of its genre, and it is this kind of revolution that is going to breath life into gamers once again.

So now we look to the future, and what does it hold? FPS games don’t seem to have any hope in sight. New games are still using the Quake 3 engine, and no real improvements are in sight. In the RTS genre, Command & Conquer Generals will try to make an impact, but will it really? If they deliver on the promises they have made, they will have a really good game that will be enjoyable, but it I don’t think it will change the RTS genre at the core level, and it will be another game that is fun for a few weeks or months, and then disappear.

Back in the early days, we received new and exciting types of games that changed the way we gamed constantly. But in recent years, we seem to have exhausted the supply of new ideas, save for the Sims. A game company is going to have to analyze that, and come up with something so new, and so revolutionary, that it will once again change the way we game. I personally don’t know how to solve this puzzle, but I do know that game companies are going to have to solve it quickly. The longer they wait, the more faith will be lost. And it is only a matter of time before that faith is gone. Forever.

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