Lunchtime Discussion: Recycling

Recycling and reuse in your kitchen is a good thing. I mean I’m completely in favour of saving the planet, it’s the only place we have to live right now. However, when you’re talking about recycling of plots or game concepts it’s not so much fun. Having the same ideas and mechanics thrown at us time and time again can be a little boring, and far more so when it’s the same developer or series doing it.

A good example would be Fallout: New Vegas. By all reports New Vegas is a good, albeit buggy, game. However it seems it’s a good game because Fallout 3 was already a good game, New Vegas seems to have changed very little even though it’s set on the other side of the US.

Of course it’s fine to recycle some elements of a game, it’s part of what makes a series a series. For me most good series fall into this category. People always complain about Halo re-using too much of the same elements, but really it’s just a series. Of course some of the elements will be re-used, but in my opinion Bungie haven’t made the same game five times, they’ve just kept the core distinctiveness that makes a Halo game a Halo game whilst evolving and refining each game in the series.


The real problem is how do you craft a game that doesn’t stray so far from the core ideas of a series or the trademark mechanics of a developer whilst still creating something fresh. If you don’t maintain the balance perfectly you either have your fans screaming bloody murder about the changes, or your critics tear you apart for just recreating the same game.

How important is that balance to you? Do you like developers to recycle and re-use elements of their old games? Can it be carried across series? Would you rather games were always fresh and re-used very little?

Thanks to Daywalkerliam for suggesting this topic via Twitter.



  1. I think re-issung some key elements is a good idea, as long as they fix whats broken in the first place or make it a little bit better. New Vegas has’t done this and just re-uses something that was originally broken. Another thing that gets re-used alot that I personally think we should see less of is Game Engines, I know they are key to game development and hard to make, but they are starting to make games look too alike and just clones of each other.

  2. Nintendo seem to get it right – Zelda, Mario, Metroid. All long running games on multiple consoles with very similar core mechanics and even story. But when the story is as simple as save the girl/land/universe (delete as appropriate) you dont seem to mind when they do it all again with a fresh approach.

  3. I can’t really make up a definition of what’s ok to be recycled within a series and what’s not. Bioshock 2 just felt incredibly boring even though I know It’s a very good game. Same gameplay, same surroundings, new story. I don’t mind recycling as long as it’s handled well by the devs and if it’s not too obvious.

  4. Though I don’t mind the recycling, i think there are 2 types:

    1 – For example, the Uncharteds. They both play the same, they’re both great games, and they could make the 3rd one exactly the same as Uncharted 2 as long as the story changes. This is, to me, good recycling, playing by the “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” while keeping the games interesting enough to tell them apart.

    2 – A good example of bad recycling is the new Fallout New Vegas. While the story is new and leaves me wanting to run to the store to buy the game, the game it’s self is still the same. But, unlike Uncharted, the previous game was broken and this one is exactly the same! This is a bad recycling.

    • Probably the best two examples of a game that gets it right and one that doesn’t, couldn’t agree more!

    • God of war could fall into that uncharted bracket. i played GOW3, then got the collection and got into GOW1…basically the same game, but the story telling and fun never dies.

      And you need to add the third type. FPS! FPS are so similar its a joke! its probably why Fallout is feeling the same for most. If people are going to make a FPS they really really need to make it stand out. i havent bought one in years

      • I started with God of War I and by the time I was through 50% of the 2nd game it settled in the second category of XisTG’s list for me. God of War III started good but then slowly slid back into it’s bad recycling position. By the end I just wanted to get done with it so I can move on. Definitely not on the same level as Uncharted in my opinion.

    • The fallout new Vegas one was what prompted me to suggest this to Kris.

    • ahhh, Drake’s Fortune and Among Thieves DON’T play the same. UC2 lacks the punch-punch-kick in the arse combo and Drake is fatter. And now you can’t aim crouched.

      • P.S.: That “ahhh” in the beggining was not an exclamation and in fact shouldn’t be there.

  5. While generally agreeing with Grey_Ghost13 above, when you get to a series like Half Life2 then a similarity of appearance is required.

    Also using Game Engines does save some smaller developers a lot of money (I presume, I don’t really know the ins and outs of this). This saving money may be the difference between the game getting released at all or not. I’d like a good game that looked a bit like others comared to a game with an in-house game engine that is buggy/underdeveloped and is expensive to fix (and so may never get fixed).

  6. It all depends on how well it’s done, darkstalker, dantes inferno and singularity were all massive rip offs but are thoroughly enjoyable games. Because of, or despite of? I’d have to say because of, they took great ideas from other games and crafted a solid product around it.

  7. Great topic, Kris. Almost like the progression in franchises one I wrote a while back but looking at it from a different perspective.

    I’m thinking most of us want to see a certain familiarity so that we don’t feel such a jarring step from game to game (prequel to sequel). However, I wish developers would look at games as chapters more often but realise they often can’t take that risk as they don’t know if there’ll be funding to continue the IP so have to have any one particular game topped and tailed properly. It’s a shame as it prevents progression but as long as they’re willing to let the story dictate the action and pace (instead of writing some flimsy story to stuff the gaps between set-pieces), that’ll do me.

    • sometimes they do, and the results aren’t always good.
      take Silent Hill for example; i remember playing Silent Hill: The Room and i just couldn’t get into it because there were some changes to the dynamics of the first games.
      (when I say the results weren’t good I’m speaking for myself, i don’t know if the game was a success/sold more than the previous ones).

      • I agree with you, it was just too different and I’m glad that they reverted back, sometimes too much change is bad. But there again Silent Hill 4 was never actually meant to be a silent hill game so maybe that is why, maybe the topic of constructive devolution of gaming series could be another, closely linked lunchtime discussion

      • apparantly the room was not originally a silent hill game, team silent wanted to do something else, but konami forced them to milk the series and shoehorn in the typical silent hill stuff… figure thats why team silent no longer work on silent hill.

  8. Recycling game engines is great for the mod community but having a stack of completely different games looking and feeling very similar same, like Source Or Unreal games do, gets a bit tired. Tranformers War For Cybertron was a great game story and gameplay wise I’m sure some of you will know what I mean about feeling very similar to half a dozen other Unreal games.

  9. I think you have to think about what your series is and what the people who play want from it when you consider recycling. For example, I have not yet played F;New Vegas but if it plays exactly the same as Fallout 3 then I’ll be happy. With fallout the gameplay is solid, because of the type it is, there is not a lot of room for change. However other series recycle the wrong things, Tomb Raider is the perfect example, it is a series than has never been given the time to evolve properly and as a result has been forced to recycle the same ageing gameplay. But it’s gameplay that is not appealing to its players.

    I think recycling is good as long as it still works, which for fallout it does, but you have to be careful and recognise the point where you need to evolve the cycle, like the Resident Evil series.

  10. Assassin’s Creed 2 recycled enough of the original game to feel very much like the next in the series, but redid and improved everything you might criticise about the first to create a game which was far superior to its predecessor while maintaining the right feel.

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