Posted on Thursday, October 18th, 2012 at 9:00 AM by Kimo Kuppe
Since its announcement, I’ve been following the pre-release of the upcoming Devil May Cry reboot, “DmC” with a mixture of anger and disapproval. However, during my latest grouch session I came to the realization that I may be contradicting myself. I frequently want developers to try new things with existing IP’s or create new ones while I laude the bland, cheap, rehashes that are being churned out. But now that a game in a franchise I’ve loved from its start is trying something new instead of just making more of the same I find myself enraged. This demands inner reflection, not because I’m going to change my mind, of course, but because I’m nothing if not self-aware.
I’ll start with DmC. It’s a sign I’m getting older when I can both witness and clearly remember the launch of a new franchise and follow it through its life to the point it’s rebooted. Maybe that alone is why I’m angry. But putting my jaded perspective aside, let me actually give DmC a chance. The franchise has come this far for the bombastic personalities of its cast, fast fluid action gameplay, and at the risk of a pun its devil-may-care approach to demons attacking the world. The series disregarded things like logic, sanity, laws of physics, and seriousness in favor of pure fun in a silly Japanese way. Not everyone enjoys that sort of thing, but the game has managed to build up a sizable fan base. From what has been released so far about DmC we see a much younger Dante whose old cocky rogue-with-a-heart-of-gold attitude has been replaced with a dickish teenager’s attitude after he’s seen “Goodfellas.” The old world with its half rough-part-of-town half gothic cathedral settings are now a twisted psychedelic city blaring overt propaganda as a statement about consumerism and crime. And the silly action movie atmosphere is now serious social commentary with demons. Needless to say, that’s quite a change! So much that it probably could have been its own franchise without the Devil May Cry flavor.
The game doesn’t come out until January of next year, so in all fairness I can’t judge it for certain. This is not a review, so here we go. I want developers to try new things, but I also want more of the franchises that exist. Part of Hideki Kamiya’s problem with games was when he was asked to keep making the same game again. He was right, that’s boring and nothing grows or improves and things get stale. It works though, people buy the same game over and over again. Just look at Madden, Pokemon, and New Super Mario; sometimes people get tired of it, mainly individuals whom identify as hardcore gamers. We want games to get better, but do we want the harsh, expensive, and failure-prone system of experimenting with new ideas to be used on our favorite games? That’s almost like using your pet for animal testing, sure we’re all tired of AIDS, but we have an attachment to our pets! But at the same time, experimenting is expensive and a good way for developers to get financial return on new ideas is for name recognition alone to bring in some money. It’s a horrible system without much alternative. But does there comes a point when a franchise has done all it can, and NEEDS to experiment on itself to improve the game, or would it just be better off dying and a new franchise takes its place. Probably not because then where would developers get money? But you can’t tell me Pokemon, Mario, Resident Evil or any of those long running franchises should just keep releasing the same thing every year, can you? Hell, Devil May Cry itself was originally going to BE an experimental new Resident Evil game and it turned into something great!
So what can be done? Really though, if something is profitable then there’s pretty much no reason for a developer to change. In Capcom’s case there rarely needs to be, nor is there usually, a reason for what they do and given their recent behavior I won’t give them the benefit of the doubt. They can’t undo the old games that I love like some kind of Star War Trilogy remake. The video game industry might need a cheap way to try out new ideas, and I don’t mean shovelware. The indie game scene is a good start but not exactly a Bastion of new ideas people sometimes like to think it is. A lot of the games you see on Kickstarter or Steams Greenlight borrow liberally from beloved franchise’s style, gameplay, and so forth. They also suffer from frequently being abandoned during development as they lack funding, management, and enthusiasm what with being labors of love.
The comic book industry actually has a pretty good approach to figuring out new ideas. Comics are remarkably cheap and easy to make in a way and only require a handful of people, and there is no shortage of wannabe artists and writers ready and willing to get on Marvel or DC’s payroll (there are other comic publishers out there, make no mistake). And if any of you read comics you know, that for the most part it’s a ton of crap writing and storylines, but from that churning miasma of ideas has come some truly great storylines, and moments that have been adapted into other successful media. Nothing is really lost as few people see the crap and instead wait for the howling fan base to hold up stuff they like, like some sort of filter with a neckbeard. At that point the fans chosen ascend to a new filter, and so on until it reaches the mainstream where it lays a thousand eggs that hatch into clichés.
Unfortunately, I don’t really know how this can be done with video games. Unless the biggest companies want to start funding micro studios, and advertising those with their AAA titles. That’s the other problem, sure they can make a game low budget, but it also has to have some exposure, and that’s territory I dare not tread as it quickly becomes advertisement which I fear and hate, almost as much as DmC.
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