Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Blurred Lines - Melding Gaming Genres (Don't Worry, No Robin Thicke Included)

It seems like every genre is now being bombarded from all sides with other genres shoehorning themselves in. Shooter RPGs, Stealth Platforms, and I assume Horror Rhythm games aren't far off.

Oh, it already happened... [1]

What does this constant melding trend mean for gaming?

I think there's a definite trend for all games to involve RPG elements right now, because it's the hot new genre. And after a little game called Mass Effect (pretty obscure, you've probably never heard of it), there seems to be a big push to involve RPG elements in all the games.

I'm probably in the camp of people that this is targeted at, because I love leveling up characters and I do frequently lose interest in games when there's no discernible reason to slay my foes. I like getting experience, however small, because that gives me a reason to push forward, and it has tangible rewards. I love Halo, but if I got a stronger melee after crushing 50 grunt heads you'd better believe I'd love it even more.

But at some point there's a line that gets crossed, and it's troublesome in my mind. You start having games that try to do too much with what they have, and you get a watered down experience. I loved Mass Effect, and I really enjoyed the leveling system. The inventory needed work, but otherwise the system was great. But a lot of noise caused Mass Effect 2 to radically change the formula. They radically reduced the RPG elements and added ammo. And they completely got rid of inventory. They essentially changed a RPG with shooter elements into a shooter with RPG elements.

They also leveled up the cleavage

Now, I know it's their game and they can design it however the hell they want, but it's a prime example where a great RPG turned into a bad one because it went in a different direction. The melding effectively nerfed a great system. But the shooting didn't really improve. Sure, adding ammo made it feel a little more authentic, but for the most part the shooting part of the game remained the same. So they did nothing but make it a worse experience because they wanted to further blend the genre.

The same kind of problem plagues Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare. The game is supposed to be a shooter/RPG/defense game. But guess what? It doesn't do any of those things very well. You level up skills with no choice or tree, so you get more powerful but there's no player choice. The shooting is limited to the gun your character has, and while there are several different characters, that allows for relatively few strategic options and the HUD doesn't lend itself to strong shooting. And the defense elements are almost nonexistent. They're so weak compared to the character that they may as well have not been included at all. So you're left with a bad defense game, a mediocre shooter and a lifeless RPG.

Destiny follows a similar pattern. It melds MMO with RPG and Shooter, and that's a dangerous road to go down. So far, I'm quite happy with it, but there are still definitely elements of both genres that fall short. I'll go into more detail when I ryview Destiny next week.

I love when games can bridge different groups and strike a strong balance. It's fun and exciting and new. That can do great things for gaming. But too often the pursuit for making everyone happy leads to making no one happy, and that's bad for gaming.

Until next time,


Images courtesy of Wikipedia except where noted

[1] http://www.disneydreaming.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Justin-Bieber-Just-Dance-4-Surprises-Fans.jpg

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