Dave LeCompte (really) (tsmaster) wrote,
Dave LeCompte (really)

Well. There are a few things we can learn from this:

A) Somebody's engine can push a lot of particles. Too many, perhaps.

B) I'm prepared to announce the death of the shoot-em-up format.

The first one is obvious, the second one might be controversial amongst the right crowd.

I kinda like the shoot-em-up game; some of my favorite games in the arcades were Scramble, R-Type, and Raiden. The game pictured above is "Mushihimesama Futari", not one I'm familiar with, but an obvious successor to Raiden. Fly around the screen, shooting stuff, and at the end of the level (perhaps in the middle, too), there are "bosses" that take a lot of shooting to defeat, and they force you into a contorted geometric dance to avoid their barrage of bullets. (Not that this is at all realistic - the boss doesn't have logic for figuring out how to target the player's ship, the boss just has patterns, much like an automated sprinkler system.)

Like so many creative endeavors, game design is largely a derivative process. People take existing ideas, add something new (sometimes), and sell the result. M.Futari looks like it has a technological improvement over Raiden (drawing enough projectiles to fill the screen - a lot of systems would have difficulty doing that), but the achievement seems hollow. Perhaps, if I had played the game to experience it for myself, or if I could comprehend Japanese to listen to the voice sound effects, I might appreciate that M.Futari is substantially richer than Raiden in some way. Perhaps. Instead, I'm going to guess that if you evaluate it qualitatively, it's no better than Raiden.

I doubt that somebody in a conference room said "Their game has 50 particles on the screen at a time, and I think I can get 500 particles to work. That will make our game 10 times as much fun, and ten times better, and we'll make ten times as much money, and we'll be able to retire ten times each!" I especially don't believe the bit about retiring. But I do believe that the game design process is one driven by commercial concerns - this is, after all, a business, and the creations have to find their way to a receptive marketplace. Recycling existing designs with incremental quantitative improvements is a reliable way to reach an existing market - so long as that market hasn't bored of the format.

To combat that "format fatigue", and to differentiate themselves from more formulaic competition, games occasionally innovate. But it's good to recognize that this isn't purely for artistic motives - it's still commercial.

And none of this is unique to electronic game development - the same is true for movies, for television programs, for books, even for retail oil paintings. It's easier to convince a retailer (theatre owner, gallery owner) that your ouvre will sell if they've just sold a substantially similar object. That isn't the only reason we have so many formulaic designs, but it's a pretty powerful reason.

And, for me at least, it's a pretty strong reason to graze around the fringes of media - independent games, limited-run movies, experimental what have you. There are still lazy designers, but you don't have the financially conservative forces of the company mandating "safe" choices.

Your homework, if you've got this far, is to consume something creative over the weekend. That can be watching a movie, reading a short story, whatever you can manage. Extra credit for something outside of whatever constitutes "mainstream", extra extra if it's outside your comfort zone. Reflect on the creative process, and how it is balanced with the bottom line of the business that brought that art to you.
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