A recent interview occurred with creative director at Platinum Games and well-known industry professional, Ken Lobb, regarding their upcoming game “Scalebound”. While next-to-nothing is known about the game aside from what was revealed at E3 last year, Lobb claimed that “Scalebound is very real and very awesome, and I think when people really understand what it is we are building, they’re gonna be shocked. It is definitely big. AAA” (see Gamespot for the full article). What was more interesting about the interview was that he said Platinum Games has “an opportunity to make a ‘Game of All-Time,’ as lots of people like to call it. Yeah, it’s special.” While we cannot see what the game is yet, and thus cannot make any claims of how good it is, I would like to discuss what makes a ‘Game of All-Time’ different from an excellent game.
Now, if that is what makes a bad game, what makes a good, or even excellent game? In theory, the exact opposite of a bad game. But there are many games that operate very well on many of these aspects, and while a game does not need to fire on all of these cylinders it does need to fire well on the ones it is designed on. You can’t blame a race-car driver for being bad at dancing, but you can blame him for being a bad race-car driver. Excellent games are ones like Halo 3, where it just was very good at what it was supposed to be. Or a better example – Uncharted, where it did not re-invent the adventure genre, but it did bring it to a new generation. Or an even better example, Destiny. It introduced a massive, deep and intricate new universe with plenty of potential… but nothing groundbreaking, with many reviewers and players alike claiming it was too much like other games. It did not change gaming like it claimed it was going to. This can also be seen in nearly every iteration of Battlefield, Call of Duty, and Assassins Creed.
|What do we make of this?|
An important distinction is that a game of this caliber does not need to be perfect. It is arguable that there is no such thing as a perfect game, as there is almost always something that could be altered or improved to make the experience better. These ‘Games of All-Time’ are not perfect, they just turn the industry and its genre on its head, or set a new standard that all other games will begin to follow. And lets not forget about immersion – a key element for many of these games… you find yourself getting lost. Hours go by, and you are still playing, having just as much fun as when you started. I describe this relationship with the following:
Early on, you may not feel powerful and the rewards may be small in any given game – but this is ok because compared to the amount of time you have invested you are still enjoying the game. As a game goes on, often you become more skilled, the rewards become greater, and depending on the game your character may even become more powerful, as would your enemies. Your time invested is also more, but in comparison to how much power and reward is also increasing the game is still balancing out. The idea here is to never feel like your time is wasted, that the rewards are not gratifying enough, or that you are too powerful. The equation above is purely for display purposes only. It is just how I like to look at a good game.
A good example of this is Borderlands 2. Early on in Borderlands 2 you do not have many skills, you have weak weapons, but the enemies are also weaker. As time goes on, you become much stronger, get insane weapons, but the enemies also become more difficult. This keeps the player coming back because while there is always challenge, you always feel like you are becoming more powerful.
In a different example, Halo keeps you feeling like a super-soldier (depending on the difficulty played on). As the levels go on, the situations that the Master Chief finds himself in become more and more difficult, and crazy. The stakes become higher, enemies become more numerous, environments become increasingly not in your favour, and the mission objectives and goals become more complicated. For example, Halo: Combat Evolved starts with just the objective of escaping the ship… then when you crash onto the Halo ring your mission is to rally some marines. Then you take on a covenant cruiser. Then you discover the flood. Then your mission is to explode the ring you are fighting on. You feel powerful the entire way through, but the game feels like you are always progressing and becoming better. There is also a good story, that can drive games that are a little more linear such as Halo. A well-told story can keep a player playing for as long as it lasts, alone.
|Some games are basically interactive stories, and try to sell you on just that aspect.|
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