The consumer pays the developer for the content, not for the possibility to create content

Lately I’ve been playing more games again across the platforms. There have been slew of gems I never had a lot of time to spend on, like RAF World on Famicom. You may know it better by the name Journey to Silius. I also tested out the Tomb Raider reboot, because it was less than 10€. After hearing all the negative commotion it had going on for it, I wanted to see how this high budget game done. I was disappointed.

The big budget games we had twenty years ago are now something anyone could do, at least when it comes to visuals. There are numerous high end programs that allow you to easily create and animate sprites, design stages and implement them into one game. Not only that, but the game industry itself has embraced user produced content further than before in official manner. Nintendo’s Mario Maker runs on user generated content, and pretty much on nothing else. As an idea it’s neat, but ultimately the consumer does not pay for stages another consumer builds. The consumer pays the game designers to do it for them, just like how a movie goes pays the directors and actors to make a movie.

RAF World doesn’t keep me playing it too much, I enjoy it in short burst for a life or two. I love how each time I get a little bit further and there’s a proper feeling of advancement with each stage that isn’t forced or artificial. In contrast, I spend three days on Tomb Raider’s reboot game, playing it few hours per day until I was done with it. Its progression felt forced with story unlocking some of your more advanced weaponry rather than player organically building it up. The reason why I finished Tomb Raider faster than RAF World is not because of RAF World being more difficult, but because Tomb Raider has no difficulty.

Tomb Raider’s problem is that it lacks gameplay. It is made to be a cinematic game, where you mostly slouch on your couch staring Lara’s ass wiggling in front of you and occasionally shooting an arrow to someone’s head to advance. There’s few very strong enemy characters that keep coming back despite being killed dozens of times before. Model reuse in this game is laughably bad. There are solid ideas, and yet none of them are implemented properly, starting from how Lara moves (there’s serious lack of precise control) to the combat system (you can straight up ignore any other weapon than the bow outside scripted fights) all the way to the worst part of the game; shakycam. For whatever reason somebody thought it was a good idea to implement movies’ shakycam in an action game. It made my head ache.

Anyone can make a game that looks like RAF World whereas not so many have the resources to make a game that looks like Tomb Raider. However, not many can make a game of high quality like RAF World. Its gameplay may be simpler than Tomb Raider’s, but it is on a completely different calibre, and the game industry hasn’t really advanced in regards of that. Things have gotten prettier and more cinematic, but the gameplay and assets have not evolved in the same manner.

Let’s get back to Mario Maker. When was the last time Nintendo renewed any gameplay elements with Super Mario? Super Mario 64 had to completely reinvent how it is played, which then affected the physics of 2D Mario games from New Super Mario Bros. onwards, and for the worse. Let’s be honest here, the modern 2D Mario games have far more looser and inaccurate controls than the sprite based games, which is what Tomb Raider’s reboot reflects as well. A lot of people still go back to Super Mario Bros.3 or Super Mario World, not because of the better gameplay, but because they have something better; better design.

The assets both SMB3 and SMW have are high calibre, even if the latter was rather hastily put together as the timeline came to a close. The reason people still bought these games in their numerous re-releases is because they bought into the quality of the product. I would be hesitant to use the term talent, but for the lack for any other properly descriptive term we’ll have to go with that. SMB3 and SMW were big budget games that had talent behind them and a drive to make the game sellable. It needed to sell, and mediocre game would not be enough. This has changed as the game industry seems to lack any talent to make as high calibre games for whatever reason as before. Rise of the Tomb Raider failed incredibly hard, and it’s not hard to see why when the previous game was this lacklustre. Even when looking at the original Tomb Raider, which was pretty good game, it’s rather worrying to see that the talent in the game industry has gone into making pretty and cinematic games with very little talent to make games with great gameplay and high quality assets.

We can then understand easily why the game industry has embraced all these user generated content games like Mario Maker. With assets becoming a commodity everyone can build something from, flooding the games’ scenes with less than stellar content, at what point will the game designer begin to make games where you need to build your own engine in order to build your own stages in order to play the game you paid 60€ for?

The consumer does not pay for a set of assets for an amateur to make a game from. It’s like buying a full meal and getting the ingredients on a platter for your friend to cook it for you.

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Depending how busy I am during the holidays, we may be skipping this weekend’s entry. On another note, I’ve been constantly updating the Dragon Slayer series chart, which is currently in its tenth revision. Do check it out if you haven’t seen it before.

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