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.

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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.

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28 Comments

  1. Sonic is a fine example of how recycling gameplay themes is a necessity, if you change too much you’re left with a load of rubbish nobody likes which is only rectified by a return to what made it great in the first place.

    The same goes for Tomb Raider whose wilderness years saw a departure from the original theme and were widely thought of as being weaker than the original trilogy and it wasn’t until the release of Tomb Raider Underworld (which is the closest to the original trilogy in style) that it has gotten back on track.

    Stick with the original themes and recycle the good parts, if you don’t you may as well make a new character & franchise and stop the cashing-in, but as far as Fallout New Vegas goes, fix it before you recycle it else it looks like you’re just holding people in contempt. Mind, anyone who rewards sloppy workmanship with their money deserves what they get IMO.

    • Ah, what’s interesting here is that you’re also describing momentum. Music artists, game developers, etc. Particular styles gather such momentum you can barely deviate or your fan-base will hang you out to dry.

      For me, there are musicians which I know are truly, truly wonderful but they dare not wander from the beaten path that’s taken twenty years to cultivate. It happens with game franchises too. Some take a risk and sometimes it works. Some don’t and stick with trying to “reboot” a franchise later on in its life. If only they realised it could be avoided but there we go. Hindsight’s a bitch.

    • Sonic is an interesting choice. It’s obvious that the new iterations completely failed but at the same time I got bored by the same old gameplay. Because there is no real story to be told with the classic Sonic gameplay there is very little to keep me motivated. Sure the locations change but it’s not enough to hide the fact that it’s basically the same thing with different BGM and a new location. I loved the 3D Sonic game on the Dreamcast (Sonic Adventure? I’m sorry I forgot) and that one game on the Gamecube with the Chao Garden breeding game… I probably spent more time with that mini game than on actually playing the game, although I loved the storymode.

  2. I think if you have a great game, you should tweak to make the improvements that are needed, but keep the core mechanics the same.

    To make it different, use different locations, different story lines. That’s what should keep it fresh. If the gameplay is sound, don’t fuck with it.

    If you want to do something different, release it as a different game.

    I really liked how guns in Killzone 1 had secondary fire (there were some great weapons in that game), this was changed for Killzone 2, and although it was a good game, I always felt the machine gun needed a shotgun secondary fire.

    Using another FPS… Red Faction. The geomod was toned down in the second one, which made the game worse.

    Gran Turismo 2 to 3 – they got rid of racing modifications, made the game worse.

    Of course some franchises need a big change to improve them…

    • While you couldn’t dig tunnels in RF:G like in the old times the destruction physics for buildings was probably the coolest thing I have seen on the PS3 so far. Honestly, blasting tunnels in RF 1/2 was only cool because it was something completely new and it sometimes just felt gimmicky in the story mode and only was useful in MP. In my opinion the new Geo Mod really lead to a truly fun game which I think the old mod couldn’t have achieved these days. Besides, you can’t actually consider Guerilla a true successor to 1 and 2 because it was a completely new genre. GTA-ish open world 3rd person shooter on Mars vs Half Life-ish FPS. I love all three Red Faction games for what they are and I can’t wait for the next installment. It’s gonna play underground a lot so maybe it will be a combination of both Mods.

  3. With story driven games, repeating gameplay elements is less of a problem than rehashing the story in the manner of a Hollywood sequel. The uncharted series does it very well, refining gameplay elements and having a story that is different enough between games. Gears of War and Assassins Creed are two more franchises that I felt proved gameplay elements for the second game and offered enough of a difference from the first game.

    Some of the worst culprits are the EA sports games. Apart from the occasional major overhaul, each year’s game is normally only a few tweaks different from the previous one.

    Criterion had the balls to try something new with Burnout Paradise and managed to split their fanbase. Some Burnout fans hated the new format as it wasn’t a ‘proper’ Burnout game. I’d not really played any of the other Burnouts so, for me, Paradise was a fantastic game in it’s own right. With their new Need For Speed game it looks like they might be giving the Burnout Fans a game that they feel more affinity for and also take the Need For Speed franchise back to its roots. A case of two franchises that maybe tried to be too different?

  4. The largest case of recycling I have seen this year (with the exception of this: http://www.maygurney.co.uk/news/785/f3.html) was Crackdown 2. The same as CD1 in almost every way

  5. I love Halo too and Reach is absolutely amazing. But now that Bungie are leaving Halo behind I’m afraid for it’s future.

    Also, was this posted in an article yet?

    http://www.maxconsole.net/content.php?42643-Juicy-Rumor-Halo-Combat-Evolved-to-be-remastered-in-HD

    First Halo being remastered in HD for the Reach engine.

    • Yes. It has been posted pretty recently. It should be on the first or second news page.

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