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Dollars and Sense

This is the moment I realized I had played this before.

I thought Fallout 3 was a great game.  I played it for sixty something hours.  I played the main quest through in its entirety.  I spent hours just roaming the countryside looking for interesting things, of which there were many.  I used internet faqs and YouTube videos to find the bobble head dolls so I could get an achievement.  So naturally, when Fallout:  New Vegas was announced, I was psyched.  New adventurers to be had in the fallout universe?  In Las Vegas?  Sign me up!  It was a release day purchase for me.  I played New Vegas a little over an hour on that first night…..and haven’t touched it again since.  So what happened?  I realized something when I turned on the game for the first time and got to the main menu.  The menu was the EXACT same one as Fallout 3.  I was about to play the same game.  The characters were different, the story was different,  I’m not saying there were no changes.  I just realized while staring at the main menu that while I had enjoyed playing Fallout 3 I just wasn’t interested in playing more of the same.  Now this isn’t true for every series.  I’ve played all the Call of Duty’s, all the Assassin’s Creed games, both Bioshocks, both Gears of War, Halo 3 and Halo Reach.  I am not championing myself as too cool for sequels.  They have their place.  I’m just growing concerned that developers might be cashing in, literally most of the time, on brand names at an amazingly high rate recently.  I’m growing even MORE concerned that we, as gamers, only have ourselves to blame.

Almost any game one can play is going to end up being repetitive.  It’s the nature of the beast.  A good game makes you forget that.  Yes in ALL of the Call of Duty games it’s just walking around and shooting people from a FPS perspective, but the game is so visually appealing and frenetic that that isn’t something one can dwell on.  With each game that comes out though, that feeling is harder to maintain.  Watch the Modern Warfare 3 trailer just released:

It’s exciting as hell yes, but a veteran Call of Duty player like myself will notice things being repeated.  The driving a river boat while gunfire and explosions go on around you has been done in a CoD game already.  In fact I recognize those same animations for riding around in the boat from Modern Warfare.  Call of Duty is THE gaming franchise right now and I’m sure could ask for any conceivable resource to make their game better.  Reusing animations and scenarios, much like Fallout: New Vegas having the new menu system, serves to remind me that I’ve played this game before.

So as a gamer here I’m asking for new ideas.  I look at something like Assassins Creed: Brotherhood as a good example.  When I initially heard that an AC game was coming out that was not a true sequel and did not feature a  new main character, which had been staples of the series so far, I got the same sad face as I did looking at New Vegas’s menu screen.  However, after playing the game, the new ideas in it (such as the Assassin recruits, combat on horseback, and the online multiplier) were enough to make me feel like the game I had purchased was not just a rehash.  Ok Ubisoft, it may not be at true sequel but it isn’t a total cash in, now you can make a true Assassins Creed 3!  What?  Oh…really?  Damn it.

Oh....we're doing this again...ok.

The question of what we should expect to get when we spend our dollars on games is simple;  we’re going to get whatever we are willing to pay for.  For something like World of Warcraft, that can be tricky.  A subscription based game like WoW puts out additional content in the form of patches on a semi-regular basis.  The WoW community, myself included, is at this moment all riled up over Blizzards intention to make the ability to run five man dungeons with friends not on your server available, for a price.  Pricing and details of how the service will work have not been announced but even I, a steadfast Blizzard fan and not one prone to write vitriolic rants on the forums, have an issue with this.  Blizzard has premium WoW services in the form of the mobile application that lets players check the auction house or talk to guildmates from their phone.  I had no problem with this being a paid service as these are all things I can do easily IN GAME.  Being able to do so out of the game is just a perk.  However knowing the technology exists to be playing with my friends cross server and I just can’t access it because I didn’t pay an additional fee strikes me as crossing the line.  Sadly, with 11.4 million WoW players, I fully expect that service to sell extremely well.  Blizzard (and parent company Activision, who incidentally also puts out Call of Duty) is a business that needs to make money like any other, so if they put something out that enough people are willing to pay for that they turn a profit, how can we, or I, sit here and judge them for it?  I intend to vote on this one with my wallet by not purchasing, but I sadly think it’s a futile gesture.

Tickets were $150 last year. $175 this year. How about that pay for our ability to play cross server with friends, eh Blizz?

The more extreme example of the Blizzard thing is our good friend Nintendo.  That they largely ignored the hardcore gaming market and went for the younger/family audience is well-known at this point.  Also well-known is that they made an absolutely insane amount of money by doing it.  With their next console, Project Cafe, set to be revealed in full at E3 this year, Nintendo seems to be at least thinking about the more hardcore gaming market again.  It’s more powerful than a PS3 or Xbox 360!  True, but the technology behind the system is from 2008.  Most importantly, it can probably be sold for a profit as opposed to the Microsoft/Sony business model of consoles losing money early in their life-cycle.  Project Cafe seems cool, but as the good folks at IGN show us with some creative tech work, it’s not the game changer that hardcore players probably want it to be.

There are original ideas out there though.  Games like Heavy Rain are different and unique.  I’ve only started playing LA Noire but I also I get the sense from that game of something different.  It’s an uphill battle though.  I don’t think we can ask for less sequels of games.  They’re cheaper to develop and they sell better than any original IP.  I’m also not suggesting we stop buying them.  I had fun with Assassins Creed: Brotherhood and as sad as I am Revelations is not a true sequel, I will be playing it because that series has yet to burn me.  My suggestion is only this:  Support the original ideas.  I probably won’t review LA Noire for a couple of weeks because I have to finish it first, but hint:  it’s good.  If you are a PS3 owner and haven’t tried Heavy Rain yet, get on it.  Even some of the smaller games, Xbox Live titles like Plants vs Zombies or Super Meat Boy, deserve to be supported for not being exactly like something that came before it.

The onus for seeing these new ideas is on us, not the developers.  The creative minds out there have to function in a world where people buy enough copies of their games to fund their next creative idea.  I arrive at a simple answer that is no way original or surprising but none the less holds true. Vote with your wallet.  Original IP’s are getting fewer in number so let’s make sure when a good one gets released, it doesn’t get buried under the avalanche of sequels.

This game is funny, packs a ton of content in, and is cheap. Support it! LOOK AT HIM HE IS MEAT! It also takes forever to finish because it's god damn hard.

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