7.02.2008

Conservatism

According to Eurogamer, "Fallout man" Ashley Cheng (allow me to introduce myself, I'm "BioShock man" Steve gaynor) has asked forgiveness for saying in his personal blog that he's disappointed that the design of Diablo 3 and Starcraft 2 look "conservative."

It's one sad-ass day when somebody has to present a mea culpa for calling a spade a spade. The low-level mechanical changes and additions might be debated by hardcore fans, but to the uninitiated viewer, Diablo 3 and Starcraft 2 are outright continuations of the same 2D isometric games I was playing in high school. They might have smoother gameplay, the character models and environments may be rendered in three dimensions and have fancier particle effects, but on an experiential level these are games expressly for the existing fanbase: safe, predictable qualitative refinements in mechanics and presentation, the most conservative possible approach.

The funny thing is, the closest comparison to this situation that I've considered is the game Cheng is currently working on: Fallout 3 could have taken an incredibly conservative approach if it had gone into production as the isometric-3D direct continuation of Fallout 2 that was once under development by Black Isle. That might have satisfied the entrenched, but I'm personally glad to see Bethesda's Fallout 3 trying to create a new, different, more personal experience out of the Fallout universe. How successful any of these projects will turn out is yet to be seen, but I know which has piqued my interest, by virtue of eschewing conservatism.

6 comments:

Coleman said...

I agree, it's all ridiculous. You could argue the merits of how awesome Starcraft and Diablo II were, I guess. In my opinion, both of them have fun gameplay, but if you go any deeper (like the story elements) they start to fall apart. SC2 and D3 just prove that Blizzard knows what their fanbase wants and they know how to cash in on that.

Nothing wrong with that, but it ain't exactly reinventing any genres.

Though it was funny to read commentary around the web as people were going apeshit over some splash screen on the Blizzard website. They could've put up a picture of a family eating dinner and people would've been like "ZOMG I THINK I CAN SEE DIABLO'S EYES IN THE MASHED POTATOES."

Duncan said...

Sometimes the internet just sucks. Reading the terrible Quarter to Three thread which created Disappointmentgate (as I call it) is like watching the Swift Boat guys trying to sink Ashley Cheng's presidential campaign.

Rob Zacny said...

Naturally Diablo 3 looks conservative: Blizzard is a conservative developer. I cannot think of a single Blizzard games since Starcraft that was revolutionary, rather than evolutionary. Even Starcraft was basically Warcraft II with asymmetric factions.

I'd like to see Blizzard try and create a new IP. Tell a different story, perhaps one that isn't meant to be spun into a major franchise. But I don't fault them for their present approach for the very simple reason that their games are very good (although I never much cared for the Diablo series). They may not make anything completely original, but the deliberation and care they give to each new title is also admirable, as is the way Blizzard tends to avoid faddishness and gimmickry. There's several praiseworthy approaches to development. Blizzard represents one, and I hesitate to fault them for the limitations of that approach.

Nelsormensch said...

Blizzard's success has always been about embracing conservatism. Somewhat like Apple, they don't innovate much. What they're good at is taking existing concepts and making them really, *really* polished.

WoW didn't bring anything groundbreaking to the MMO space. Blizzard took what UO, Everquest, et al. had done and honed it to a razor's edge. Warcraft/Starcraft did the same in the RTS milieu.

There isn't anything necessarily wrong with this, some games can be good without pushing the experimental envelope. But being called upon to apologize for something so obvious is simply absurd.

(And despite what the vitriolic denizens of NMA may think, I too am very excited that Bethesda is doing something different with Fallout 3.)

L.B. Jeffries said...

Ugh. You'd think more people would be celebrating him for having the guts to say it. This is an industry where every game that reinvigorated its franchise by changing the gameplay or setting has been praised (RE 4, Call of Duty 4) and every game that did the same old, same old has been forgotten. Devil May Cry 4, Call of Duty 3 comes to mind.

Hell, even Diablo 2 was a fairly huge overhaul of the original game's design. We'll never know until the games are playable in front of us...but if those games weren't labeled Diablo 3 and Starcraft 2, would anyone care?

DanJW said...

But we have to ask; if the gameplay was compeltely different, would it still be Diablo? Is a game series defined purely by its background setting, or does the franchise "Diablo" also connotate isometric hack'n'slash action-RPG? Keeping to that genre, I'm sure we will see a hundred or more little improvements to the forumula.

"Innovation" doesn;t alwas mean jumping a genre. But no, Ashley Cheng didn't really need to apologise.