Hi, everyone. It’s me again. Today I want to talk about Halo some more (albeit, not exclusively). I might mention Halo a lot for a while, because Reach is cool and you would be cool if you played it. This isn’t necessarily about Reach, though, it’s about an issue that I feel has begun to infect and spread across the game industry at an alarming rate in the past few years.
- Let’s talk about sequels.
For those who either missed the hyperlink or are the TL;DR type (shame on you!), the story basically comes down to the following point:
“343 Industries is thinking a lot about how to take this franchise and turn it into something that people feel like they have an ongoing relationship with and they can entertain themselves more often,” he told IGN. “But it’s not, hey every November 6 or whatever we have to ship a game and build a production plan around that. We want to do things that make sense as a first party.”
This makes sense for everyone involved: Halo has always been a huge cash cow for Microsoft, so why not release more of what gamers want? The tightrope walk comes from the challenge of increasing the number of releases while keeping quality high. Distressingly, Spencer points to Activision as a good example of aggressive release schedules.
If you want it to be even more deliciously summarized, here’s the hoe-down: Annualized Halo.
So here’s the thing about a sequel. In my opinion, at least, a sequel is supposed to be a follow up to a product that succeeds the original product via some form of change or innovation, be it for good or ill. In realistic development terms, one year is not enough to go back and do the kind of heavy altering to a game needed to create a good sequel. Hell, it’s barely enough time to come up with a good concept. What the concept of annual sequels leads to is a slew of games using the same engine (Minor tweaks, granted, but it’s too little too soon.) with very little in the way of variation beyond some content (story, graphical assets, et al). A perfect example is Call of Duty and Guitar Hero (The latter of which seems to have adopted a bi-annual spin-off development cycle). Sure is innovative in here, right? I don’t like to pick on either of those franchises because I don’t like them, either. As a matter of fact, I loved the first three (1, 2, 4) Call of Duty games, and Guitar Hero was amazing and original when the first couple came out.
What makes sequels special? Why do I love CODs 2 and 4, but not 3, 5, or 6? The wait. The feeling of seeing something you love in a new form. The jump from COD to COD2 was great, and the jump to 4’s technology was another giant leap in the franchise. All that was old was new and exciting again, which brings us back to Halo and why I’d hate to see this happen to that franchise. Halo generally has had a three year dev cycle. The main games have all come out thrice apart from eachother: HALO: CE (2001), HALO 2 (2004), HALO 3 (2007), HALO: REACH (2010). These three year gaps have allowed for Bungie to go in and completely retool everything from the ground up. Even the weakest of the main Halos (Not naming names!) was still a good game by general standards. The weakest of the Halo franchise thus far (ODST, in my opinion), was just building off Halo 3’s engine, and while it did some new things, it ultimately was not exciting for this fact; a perfect example of how this sort of thing is gonna go.
It’s not isolated to Halo, either. Street Fighter 4, Doom 3, Sonic Adventure, Morrowind, Oblivion, and (Hypothetically!) TES V. These are sequels that felt special because they had come out long enough after their predecessors to feel like a truly new product, albeit Doom 3 and SF 4 are kind of extreme cases, almost a decade is a looong time to wait for a follow up.
If MSoft really wants to have an annual tent pole, here’s my suggestion. Biennialize your heavy hitters. Halo, Gears (or whatever major Microsoft exclusive game that comes along in the future), Halo, Gears, etc. Two years is at least a bit more time to develop something new. Now, I know what you might think: But Mr. Opinion Man, Activision splits COD up biennialy between two teams!
Yes, it does, but those two teams are ultimately still working on the same franchise, sharing the same core resources. Halo and Gears/Fable/ExclusiveOfChoice are separate franchises with separate dev houses and separate engines and resources. Two years is much more merciful than “Alright guys, let’s crank a Halo out in November every 365 days or so). Plus, I can only imagine the stress and hours laden on the developers with that kind of deadline.
Ah hell, I guess when it comes down to it, the vast majority of consumers will buy an annual Halo regardless because they don’t know shit. See that? There’s the cynicism I promise all of you every day.
- On to more pleasant matters: More REACH!
Look familiar? It should. It’s a reimagining (Obvious artistic license taken) of the classic Quake 3 Arena map “The Longest Yard”, which I’ve appropriately entitled “A Longer Yard”. Of course, Halo is not Quake 3, nor does it have even close to the same mechanics beyond “shoot a guy”, so some changes in the formula had to be made. You’ll notice the third tier of platforms has become just a raised area with ramps and the jump pad gap has become a horizontal bridge. I’ve also made the shotgun corner an enclosed space, because it needed some sprucing up and the raised aspect of the bunkers makes the map resemble its forefather a bit more. All teleporters are intact, as well as the middle jump pad and megahealth, which have been represented by a normal grav lift and Overarmor that respawns every two minutes. In place of the quad damage is an invisibility pickup. The sniper island is still there, it’s just not pictured, but the mancannon that launches to it is.
It’s a work in progress, even between those two pictures (The one with the railings and glass covers is newer), but I feel like it’s coming along well. When it’s finished, it should be up on my fileshare. I’ll make a post making note of it, the map name, and the author it will be under. In the meantime, I have another map up now called “Shore Line” under the author “DeathToMuffin”, so if you feel like giving that a shot, I’d appreciate feedback. It was my first forray into the Forge.
- Shit My Dad Says (I’m not censoring the goddamn fucking thing. Fuck.)
The premiere of the ‘twitcom’ aired last night, and it was pretty much William Shatner being William Shatner, including a wonderfully meta-humour moment where Henry (played by Jonathan Sadowski) does a typical Kirk-Shatner impression, at which point his titular father Ed (Played by Jimmy Kirk himself) laments that no one can do a good impression of him. Aside from that, the show was entertaining, but knowing it was based off a Twitter feed ruined it a bit for me. I kept imagining everything Shatner said as individual tweets that the writers of the show managed to string together via tangential relatedness. Also, the laugh track after anyone delivered a line didn’t help, as usual. Seriously, kill that shit.
I’ll keep an eye on this show. For now, I’m giving it a recommend at least insofar as the pilot goes. Give it a shot, you might like it.
So, this has gone on long enough, and I applaud you if you’re still reading. Go reward yourself for me with a pat on the back! Or, if you can’t reach your back, a Twinkie!
Pet peeve time: Guitar Hero.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fun game, but I’m starting to get tired of seeing yearly installments. This is one of those games where the gameplay is static, it’s stayed more or less the same between GH 1, 2, and 3. The biggest change was moving to next gen with GH3, and that, I think, merited a sequel. But now that we’re in the current gen, with digital distribution and DLC, I see sequels as even less neccesary with these games. Why put one out yearly if it’s just going to be the same package with a new song list? It’s just cashing in on a popular gameplay element, and to me, it’s a waste to spend 60 bucks a pop to get the same product as last year with a new sound track. It would be much better to just release massive set lists yearly as DLC and let people pick and choose what they want, and maybe release one or two guitar hero games every generation.
Now, I know, I know, GH4/World Tour is changing up the gameplay quite a bit – how? Be becoming a rock band clone! Hurrah! Now we have two total identicle games coming out with yearly instalments! What luck! So now I can spend another 120 dollars getting Guitar Hero’s answer to a game I spent over a hundred on LAST year!
Brilliant strategy on their part, though, because people buy it!
It’s like madden in a way, except madden actually adds new gameplay elements and ups the graphics every year – but for the most part they could just release one or two madden gamesa generation and update rosters via DLC.
To top this all off:
At a presentation for analysts yesterday, the publisher confirmed that it wasn’t quite through with its epic “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” financial-windfall drum solo. Activision Publishing president Mike Griffith told the assembled analysts that next year, the company would be doubling 2008’s number of Guitar Hero SKUs. (The same game appearing on three different platforms would be counted by retailers as three stock-keeping units, or SKUs.) The publisher wants to keep up that pace of expansion, and Griffith said that in 2010, Activision Blizzard plans to release almost triple this year’s number of Guitar Hero SKUs.
“We’ve learned that the consumer still has an insatiable appetite for more,” Griffith said.
Why, god, why? Just to drive the point home, let me list the GH games that have been put out or are planned.
- Guitar Hero
- Guitar Hero 2
- Guitar Hero Encore: Rock the 80’s
- Guitar Hero 3: Legends of rock
- Guitar Hero 3: Mobile
- Guitar Hero: Aerosmith
- Guitar Hero: On Tour
- Guitar Hero: On Tour: Decades (Another case of unneeded sequel. The first one sucked anyways.)
- Guitar Hero: World Tour
- Guitar Hero: Metallica
- Guitar Hero 3: Backstage Pass
- Guitar Hero Carabiner
And this is all from November 2005 to September 2008. Three years, and this library is as long as some franchises that have been around for ten or twenty. Aerosmith, rock the 80s, and Metallica are worth noting as specific examples of RELEASE IT AS DLC YOU TWATS.
EDIT: In my hate to bitch about something that annoys me, I neglected to consider some people either have no decent net connection for XBL or PSN, or no hard drive, so DLC would fuck them over hard. I’m sorry, I can see why the yearly sequels would be needed in that case. Someday, though, someday… The internet and HDDs will be standard, and then we’ll get back to this.