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Establishing A Beachhead In A Crowded Genre

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the make-it-fun-you-ninnies dept.

Games 42

simoniker writes "How do you make a game that will stand apart from countless similar titles? Harmonix designer Chris Canfield (Guitar Hero II) thinks he knows, and is talking about it in a new editorial, 'Establishing A Beachhead In A Crowded Genre'. He comments that one of the key things you can do is to 'Gut key elements of the design': "Examples of this in your genre might include: sniper rifles in an FPS, powerslides in a racing game, minigames in a Wii title, healing crates, bosses, rocket jumps, or any other big or small element. Of course, the really good features shouldn't be the only ones on the chopping block. Not only will this free up time in the schedule that would otherwise be occupied by been-done features, but it creates space for genuinely new solutions and makes producers very, very happy.""

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42 comments

First Prostate (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19397983)

I like feeling mine

WTF? (1, Insightful)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 7 years ago | (#19398101)

You lack the imagination to create something new so enter a genre already done to death, you remove key elements of what made games in this genre popular in the first place and then despite lacking the imagination to break new ground you are going to somehow replace these key elements with genuinely new features? What is this? Modders on brain steroids?

Re:WTF? (2, Interesting)

paleo2002 (1079697) | more than 7 years ago | (#19398265)

I think they mean that be eliminating features that everyone does, it forces you to fill that void with something new or different. Take Prey for example. Rather than having the player go into stealth or limited invisibility, they created "spirit walking". This had some novel applications in puzzles where you could essentially be in two places at the same time. Or, how about the upcoming Portal: the FPS with no guns?

Re:WTF? (1)

svendsen (1029716) | more than 7 years ago | (#19398377)

Except prey was not a good game, at most it was just eh. The spirit concept was interesting but never taken past the point of go through wall hit switch, or move platform where body is from point A to point B. The story (which the concept was cool) was never taken anywhere. The portals could have been amazing but again not much came out of it. And multiplayer...look 8 people only...sorry no split screen, etc.

Image if you could had invisibility in pre and you could have walked through say a city in the ship and ease drop on conversations to learn more about the story, politics, whatever, something. No we got spirit walk to walk through a force field and click a button.

Re:WTF? (1)

aplusjimages (939458) | more than 7 years ago | (#19399699)

Don't forget that you could only walk through certain walls. The game would have been more interesting if you could walk through any wall. I also like your idea of going recon instead of just shooting your way to the end with no penalty for dying.

Re:WTF? (4, Insightful)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 7 years ago | (#19398415)

Yeah, the summary was so bad that I actually RTFA.

The idea is not 'let's create something new', it's 'let's break into this genre'. To do so, one of the keys is to innovate something IN that genre, instead of just copying everything that came before. One of the suggested methods is to remove something that is extremely common-place in the genre and replace it with something (hopefully) better. One example was removing health packs and placing 'healing poles' that heal nearby places. This has actually been done a decade ago, but we won't tell him that... He thinks he's clever. ;)

The point is valid, though. The same old crap will only get you a best-seller IF you do it amazingly well. Since that's not likely, it's smarter to use some tactics, like the article mentioned.

The FPS genre is amazingly easy to 'break into', though... Simply throw a lot of money at it and make sure it's a game that players can use tactics. The rest doesn't really matter.

Sadly, this is not the only genre like that... Others just have more complex rules to implement.

It's also important to note that this doesn't mean 'casual games' like Arkanoid and 'Yet Another Diner Simulator 8'. Those games sell from flashy graphics alone. You don't need to even do it well.

Re:WTF? (1)

divinewind (1108397) | more than 7 years ago | (#19406729)

In all, if the quality of video games start to suck, I still have my tennis racket to hit other people with just in case the apocalypse comes

Re:WTF? (1)

cgenman (325138) | more than 7 years ago | (#19411593)

One example was removing health packs and placing 'healing poles' that heal nearby places. This has actually been done a decade ago, but we won't tell him that... He thinks he's clever. ;)

I've found that there are no %100 new ideas in gaming, only ideas that are new to someone.

I got one! (4, Insightful)

svendsen (1029716) | more than 7 years ago | (#19398199)

How about making the games longer with original content? Yay look another FPS where the single player is 5 hours. Oh look RPG #4567 where the quests are the same except the blue slime is now red! Yes Football game 2020 where you can now hear players fart (and smell them!).

Seriously when was the last time there was a FPS with a really good in-depth story? Deus Ex is the only thing that really comes to mind. The last epic RPG was really BG2.

In summary how to get your game noticed? Make a really good game.

Re:I got one! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19398857)

In summary how to get your game noticed? Make a really good game.

I don't think you're trying to be trite here, but that's like saying, "Want to go to the Moon? I know how: build yourself a rocket!"

Re:I got one! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19399557)

"Seriously when was the last time there was a FPS with a really good in-depth story?"

No thanks. FPS games are about either adrenaline or solving puzzles (be they tactical, platforming or whatever). I don't want a story. I read books for that, they're infinitely better. Seriously, the story in Deus Ex vs (say) Gibson's Neuromancer - is there any contest?

Re:I got one! (1)

PhoenixOne (674466) | more than 7 years ago | (#19400931)

I thought Gears of War had an good story (not great, but enough to make the fighting seam worthwhile).

Re:I got one! (1)

Odin_Tiger (585113) | more than 7 years ago | (#19404005)

Seriously when was the last time there was a FPS with a really good in-depth story?


F.E.A.R.

Re:I got one! (3, Interesting)

UnlimitedAccess (1020921) | more than 7 years ago | (#19405573)

I think the focus should be on better quality games with less player time. I think 5 - 8 hours is an acceptable amount of single player content, granted with that I would also expect a price reduction. I don't finish 90% of the games I buy anyway, not from lack of skill, but because they are low quality with repetitive set pieces and are drawn out to meet some self imposed demand that games requires 20+ hours of content. Multi-player of course is a different beast altogether, but with a full time job, family, a social life - games with more than 10 hours of content just aren't that feasible for me like they were when I was a kid or at University. I'm sure I'm not alone, and we are a whole market yet to be exploited. Honestly, I suspect if you make games 5 hours long, cost half the price and focus on quality not quantity with a diversity of topics (ie not *all* War, Sci Fi and Fantasy related) - the largest (as yet) unexploited market will emerge. I'm sure this market might not include many people here, but there is no reason why we cant have different products to accommodate different markets.

Re:I got one! (1)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 7 years ago | (#19409691)

The answer is easy, if you are making a MMOG, the give away for free a full featured single player version of the game, for multiplayer you have to pay more. Getting your game noticed is the hardest struggle, there are hundreds of alternatives and nobody has sufficient time to play the all.

As for short completion time with lots of sequels M$ were the champions at that, which is one of the reasons their games became unpopular. Lots of depth, and the ability to vary game time for short to long stints and still complete satisfying portions of the games is the focus.

The reality is of course not matter how good your game is you have to get noticed, junk reviews, extensive B$ marketing campaigns don't cut it because the earliest adopters are the pirates and everybody waits until the have reported on the game to see whether or not to buy it. Driving up interest for major sales is the real difficult, movie tie ins with poor game play are a dead end.

Doing publicity stunts might also work (you have to generate news interest), like getting selected stores to give away copies for the first 24 hours (there after charging normally), big queues to drive interest in the stores (their happy) and in the games, or if your doing a title about assassinating politicians, the you can, -------- , well perhaps not, even if it would surely generate a huge amount of publicity and depending upon your selected targets might be very popular ;).

Re:I got one! (1)

drsquare (530038) | more than 7 years ago | (#19414847)

I think the focus should be on better quality games with less player time. I think 5 - 8 hours is an acceptable amount of single player content,
In which case, it'll take longer to earn the money to buy it, go to the shop, bring it back, and play it, than you'll actually get out of the game. What happened to the days when games could last you for days, weeks, even months? These days a game's over in ten minutes then it's thrown away.

Re:I got one! (1)

bigman2003 (671309) | more than 7 years ago | (#19406273)

FPSs are like driving games, they don't really require much of a story. Usually people who want 'a really good story' in an FPS don't really play FPSers.

For one thing, FPSs have a lot of trial and error. On my 29th attempt to kill 3 guards in a tower, I don't need to hear the same narration, or see the same cut-scenes. I just want to head-shot those bastards and move on to kill somebody else.

Here's an article more to the point: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18829448/ [msn.com] . It's a story of the top 5 WEAPONS in first person shooters. Now that is something much nearer and dearer to my heart. (Although the story doesn't list shotguns, flak cannons, or rocket launchers.)

Re:I got one! (1)

patternjuggler (738978) | more than 7 years ago | (#19437575)

In summary how to get your game noticed? Make a really good game.

I think you're really on to something. How to get your song noticed? Make a really good song. How to get your movie noticed? Make a really good movie. How to get your tv show get noticed? Make a really good son- I mean tv show. Holy shit you are a super-genius!!

This sounds like Matrix (1)

Astarica (986098) | more than 7 years ago | (#19398203)

We're going to try something no one has ever done before, and that's why it's going to work.

Unfortunately, that only works in the Matrix too. If something is been done to the death, it probably means it at least started out as a good idea. There's no reason to assume whatever you come up to replace it is goign to be better than a good idea.

Say what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19404781)

Uh, the Matrix isn't original. Read Neuromancer and watch Ghost in the Shell. If you were trying to be sarcastic you did a poor job, otherwise you're just confused.

Two basic ways to do it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19398473)

Do one of the following:

1. Do something new (example: Guitar Hero)

2. Take something old, and do it RIGHT (example: Half-Life or Deus Ex in their days)

The devil is in the details of course, but the basic idea is true for almost any industry, but is particularly visible to people like us in the IT and gaming industries.

Re:Two basic ways to do it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19406337)

Guitar Hero was something new? Inane Japanese culture fetishists have been blathering on about rhythm games constantly for the last 10 years.

He both makes sense and doesn't (5, Insightful)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 7 years ago | (#19398785)

There's an old deal with the devil story about a man who sells his soul to be able to play guitar like Eric Clapton. He picks up a guitar and behold, he's just like Clapton. He has dreams of fame and goes to a record producer and the guy is amazed. "Wow, you sound just like Clapton! Now how does your own style sound?" And then the guy realizes how the devil screwed him, he couldn't sound like anyone but Clapton. That's nice but the world already has one Clapton, there's no need for another.

That's the problem companies run into when they enter a crowded genre and try to emulate one of the leaders. The best they could hope for is to be as good as the original. But if you've already played the original, where's there to hold your interest in the knock-off? You could just play the original through again and save yourself $50.

So there's certainly some wisdom in not trying to do the same thing everyone else is doing. There's only a few companies out there that can do the same thing as everyone else and slap enough polish on it to make it better. In fact, Blizzard is the only one that comes to mind. Look at any of the other groundbreaking innovative major success games and you'll note the words "groundbreaking" and "innovative" in the description.

Where the guy here makes no sense is he says he's going to go into a mined out genre, remove the elements that make the genre interesting that have been done before, then replace them with what, exactly? Talk is cheap and ideas are a dime a dozen. I've got plenty of ideas for really great twists on 3D games that have never been seen before. I'm sure everyone reading this article has a half-dozen ideas sitting in the back of their brains, too. But there's a world of difference between coming up with an idea and getting it made. Show us how it's done.

Uhm... he does know... (2, Insightful)

cnelzie (451984) | more than 7 years ago | (#19398843)

...that Wii Sports is JUST a technology sample to show off the new control mechanisms and therefor the whole set of minigames were purposefully made without all of those "key" features.

    I bet you all the other Tennis and Golfing games on the Wii have all those features he said you don't need, yet they all include the nifty/novel feature Nintendo added to the genre with their Wiimote. (Yes, I know that there are some other swing a stick in front of a sensor golf games...)

Re:Uhm... he does know... (2, Funny)

weszz (710261) | more than 7 years ago | (#19399363)

hmm... showing off technology... I'll redo Solitaire!... that was to show people how to use mice...

maybe i'll make the backs of cards move... no they already did that... fireworks at the end are done...

hell... i'll just throw on new pictures on the cards...

sell it for $10 and wait for the money to flow in...

Innovation, why? Does the market spur innovation? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19399063)

Looking back, the REALLY successful games were usually sequels,
add-ons that played off the success of the previous title's fanbase.
Sure, they add new bells and whistles, but the game itself is a re-pop.

I don't have a list of truly "innovative" titles to compare against,
but I'd guess that the sequels probably sell more copies overall.
Most gamers seem to want more of the same, with shiny new skins.

Case in point, EA sells the same game every year. And they're fine with that.

Re:Innovation, why? Does the market spur innovatio (1)

weszz (710261) | more than 7 years ago | (#19399465)

Sim city did this repeatedly...


If there was a Sim City 5, I probably would have bought it...

He DID remove something from the early games though... in Sim City 4, if you didn't have any roads your people aren't happy like in Sim City 1... all rails everywhere and doughnut cities...

Re:Innovation, why? Does the market spur innovatio (2, Interesting)

MemoryDragon (544441) | more than 7 years ago | (#19400343)

Actually no not really, Castle Wolfenstein 3d although later than Ultima Underworld (and technically subpar compared to it) was unique
so was Ultima 7, Myst also was unique, The Sims didnt have a prequel up until the mid eighties when the little computer people project was the first of its kind.
Zelda had no real predecessor except maybe for Temple of Asphai (but both titles were in development parallely)
Mule, Seven Cities of Gold, Simcity (the original), Pirates, etc...
the list of innovative highly successful games is very long, the main problem is, the chances
are way higher nowadays if you do something innovative, that it already is covered, than they used to be 15 years ago.

Re:Innovation, why? Does the market spur innovatio (1)

Purity Of Essence (1007601) | more than 7 years ago | (#19406131)

Those are great examples and good points of genre defining games but I take issue with:

Zelda had no real predecessor except maybe for Temple of Asphai (but both titles were in development parallely)
Temple of Apshai predates Zelda by over five years. Atari VCS Adventure was really the precursor to Zelda, and again, it predates it by many years.

Innovation, why? Does the market spur risk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19404545)

"Case in point, EA sells the same game every year. And they're fine with that."

9 out of 10 piratebayers agree with you.

Re:Innovation, why? Does the market spur innovatio (1)

cgenman (325138) | more than 7 years ago | (#19413205)

While I hate sequelitis, there seems to be a good rule of thumb out there.

"A sequal's sales will reflect the previous game's quality"

If you knock out a fast or cheap sequel to a great game, you're going to get great sales... on that one sequel. If you then turn around and make a really great sequel next, that sequel's sales will suffer from the impression left behind by the previous game.

In other words, quality is rewarded more often than we think, just not right away.

And maybe somewhere I'm just not yet ready to blame gamers for the floods of sequels and genre games.

No Sniper Rifles (3, Interesting)

quanticle (843097) | more than 7 years ago | (#19401649)

Examples of this in your genre might include: sniper rifles in an FPS, powerslides in a racing game, minigames in a Wii title, healing crates, bosses, rocket jumps, or any other big or small element.


I believe Unreal Tournament 2003 tried out the "no sniper rifles" concept. Result: the game flopped like a dying carp, and sniper rifles were reintroduced in UT2004.

Re:No Sniper Rifles (0, Redundant)

Daetrin (576516) | more than 7 years ago | (#19402383)

I think the idea is you can't _just_ remove all the popular but overused stuff, that's just the first step before adding original content. Did UT2003 add anything especially creative and new to replace the sniper rifle?

For example perhaps they should have added rocket launchers that fired remote controlled rockets. After you fire one you switch to the viewpoint of the rocket which you can then steer to home in on whatever target you want, however have the rocket leave a trail of smoke that persists for a little while. Now you can "snipe" people from a couple rooms away and from around corners, however you probably ought to move after firing a couple shots before the other side traces the missiles back to their source.

Re:No Sniper Rifles (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19402689)

For example perhaps they should have added rocket launchers that fired remote controlled rockets

Unreal 2k3 had this; it's called the Redeemer. What you described is the secondary fire mode.

The catch is that the Redeemer is more or less a small nuke. Huge blast.

Re:No Sniper Rifles (1)

Chosen Reject (842143) | more than 7 years ago | (#19402715)

They had that. It was called the Redeemer. You only got one shot. And you had better not be around when it goes off. And the enemy could shoot it down, or they could shoot you.

Get off my lawn! (1)

David Gould (4938) | more than 7 years ago | (#19405343)

For example perhaps [UT2003] should have added rocket launchers that fired remote controlled rockets. After you fire one you switch to the viewpoint of the rocket which you can then steer to home in on whatever target you want

[two replies saying it did have that feature]
Heh. "Starglider" had it too. On the Commodore 64.

Re:No Sniper Rifles (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19407477)

"For example perhaps they should have added rocket launchers that fired remote controlled rockets. After you fire one you switch to the viewpoint of the rocket which you can then steer to home in on whatever target you want, however have the rocket leave a trail of smoke that persists for a little while. Now you can "snipe" people from a couple rooms away and from around corners, however you probably ought to move after firing a couple shots before the other side traces the missiles back to their source."

A little game called Perfect Dark did this very well.

Re:No Sniper Rifles (3, Interesting)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 7 years ago | (#19403823)

My problem with sniper rifles in some games isn't the presence, but how they're implemented. Snipers should have a longer stabilization period. If you can run and hop around then square up on a hip shot in a split second, that makes the sniper unrealistic. In BF2, the engineers get crummy points for doing their job while medics rack up points like a pinball machine. Games just never seem to balance out all the classes well (not saying it's easy to do either).

Re:No Sniper Rifles (1)

Sigma 7 (266129) | more than 7 years ago | (#19409605)

I believe Unreal Tournament 2003 tried out the "no sniper rifles" concept.
Long-range weapon with zoom capabilities are called sniper rifles, even if they shoot lightning.

The real issue with UT2003 was that it didn't implement some of the gameplay features of the original UT, such as the Assault gametype. It's not as simple as a single weapon, as that could easily be fixed in a patch or a mod (and dismissed as an overcompensation as the sniper rifle was previously too powerful.)

MOD UP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19410333)

UT2003 did have a sniper rifle, they just re-skinned it to look cooler.

Borrow elements from other genres (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19408985)

Why not have a FPS where players can gather resources and then implement them into support structures/weapons/upgrades. This would borrow some RTS ideas and put in in the FPS landscape. So instead of capturing the same bases every single time, or camping some hopeless spawn, you could go and gather resources for your team. (Rather than being repetitive fixed location objects as in most RTS, they'd be stuff like different valued "coins" that spawn randomly on the map.) When a team gathers X amount of resources, they'd get be able to chose a vehicle spawn, weapons upgrades, or perhaps their engie could build a support bunker which acts as a spawn point or something else useful. Also give other actions besides kills a respectable score bonus, so assists/repairs, etc. actually count for something. Also change the dynamic, say you catch an unarmed/unwary/outmanned opponent(3 vs 1 in close quarters) - instead of just killing him you could make him a prisoner and your team gets a time based score bonus for each prisoner alive in captivity. (There would be some options for escaping as well.) Other scores for rescues, etc. Basically you'd want something that would change the dynamic beyond the "boom headshot!" mentality yet still maintain some semblance of what's fun in FPS.
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