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Teaching An Old Game New Tricks

Reviving Franchises in Decline


by:

Daniel Sims


As we begin to enter the last year of this gaming generation (with the Xbox 2 supposedly coming out this fall), many people become more and more worried about what may be happening to the creativity and originality is going and how long it'll last.

Many people complain about how there may be too many sequels and how some of their favorite old gaming franchises may be falling victim to rehash after rehash. Some of us may accept a particular franchise's decline and abandon it. However, many refuse to allow the name and what it means to die, ever hoping that someday a new game will come along that'll show everyone that there's still more life left in the name. Recently, this has started to happen a little more often as the original groundbreaking franchises of gaming are starting to age, forcing their creators to overhaul them. You can call this an editorial, an article, or whatever. To me, this is just a bunch of words about how many of our old franchises are in serious need of revival and what may be the key to doing so.

Now I realize that a series or genre shouldn't completely revolutionize with every new game. Much of the time, even a little improvement or a simple expansion in levels and content is enough to keep an IP strong. There have been many great games out there that have done absolutely nothing new, but took everything that was there before and got it all just right. This is not about those still-strong franchises. This is about the old ones that many of us still love but are starting to face decline.

Before really getting started, I would like to say that I am not a game developer. I have had no experience designing or programming videogames, just playing them. I'm not trying to sound like some big developer that knows more than others do because chances are that I don't. I'm just someone who's had enough time with enough games to take a good long look at some games and think about that makes and breaks them. I am now simply sharing those thoughts with you all. Whenever I say someone needs, or should do something, it is of course, in my opinion and quite possibly no one else.

First, we need to look at why and how many franchises go into decline. Many may go through problems in the transition from 2D to 3D; some may start to depart too much from their own predecessors; or a better game might just come along to take the spotlight. However this may happen, one thing remains the same: great gaming names can and do go into decline. Whether it's from rehashes or departure it does happen and developers cannot ignore it. If a game is in serious need of a good sequel to bring it back onto gamer's good sides, I believe that there are a few main things that must be accomplished.

The first and biggest thing in my opinion is to think about what originally made that franchise great. Most great games are great because they are incredibly original. They bring so many great new things to the gaming table that serve as guides for developers of future games that they are remembered for years. Usually there's one kind of main idea or theme that the original game revolutionizes. Take that and try to revolutionize it again. Whether its speed (sonic?), horror (RE?), non-linear action platforming (Mega Man?) or just the way the player is immersed into the action (Star Fox?), take it and put a whole new spin on it that still has the same end result as the original hit. Chances are that original game gave gamers a kind of feeling that they had never felt before. Give them that feeling again but in a whole new way. Most of the time, this may mean going back to the drawing board and reworking the entire gaming system. If the creators can give off that same kind of feeling that impressed gamers so much back then but in a new way that feels just like new again, they can have a game that feels like a whole new great game, but still has the soul of it's predecessors. A game that's like the original, but still original itself.

An example that I would like to point out for this is Prince of Persia. I never really played the original games before I unlocked them in Sands of Time, but I've heard, seen, and played just enough to see how the original was so impressive. It was one of the first action platformers of its kind. In the old game, you'd jump over and around deathtraps and through obstacles like never before. When I played Sands of Time, I got a sense of platforming satisfaction that I never had before in a videogame. Ubisoft was able to take this game, look at what originally made it great, and do that again but in a new way that took full advantage of the current technology.

This is probably the most crucial thing in reviving lost franchises.

A second big thing is to get rid of whatever problems may be causing the decline. Now its just common sense when making any sequel to try to correct any mistakes that was in the original. But for some series there may be some kind of annoying aspect that might for some reason proliferates throughout sequel after sequel. Whether they may be alienating controls, design that was great back in the day but Is just frustrating now, or just a lot of little things, they need to be fixed. Not just overtime, but in the next game. This is part of making it feel fresh again. Gamers don’t want to have to put up with constant annoyances. They shouldn't. Games are about fun, nothing else, so everything in the game should be fun and anything that's not should be done away with.

I'd like to think that the best recent example of a new game correcting old mistakes is Resident Evil 4. That game took virtually everything that had begun to make Resident Evil stale and had caused people to lose interest and turned it straight around to make one of the most accessible and most intense games ever. Now I never had any problems with the old Resident Evil controls. I was just fine with them, so when I played 4 I wasn't all like Awesome!!! I don't move like a tank anymore! I just rolled with it. But I was so happy to finally see people stop complaining about the games and so called crap camera angles.

The third and last thing (that I can think of right now), is keeping the old soul. This means that while you may be going back to the drawing boards, you still need to make it feel like its part of the same franchise. A new entry in a series could be really different and a really great game, but could also be a total departure that, although awesome, may not be considered a true part of the series (Star Fox Adventures?) because of a shift in style or feel. No matter what you do, you need to keep the soul of the old games so as not only to attract new fans, but to also keep the ones you've got.

I believe that doing these three things could put a stale game franchise on the right path to the revival of its former glory. Many developers have already done things like this to their franchises and had excellent results (Capcom, Konami, etc.). And I think that there are many other developers that need to do the same thing.

Thank you for reading.

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