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Are all genres created equal? [roundtable]
 
I've been thinking about the controversy over Retro making Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (which really sounds like a frozen drink you can get for a limited time at Dunkin Donuts) instead of making Metroid Prime 4 or some other epic. Part of the disappointment is definitely over the fact that the Wii U already has a decent amount of 2D platformers on the way, but I also think that there's just a general feeling that a company of Retro's talents should be putting their skills towards something more worthy of their time.

Of course, in order for this to make sense, there has to be some sort of hierarchy of genres. And I think that is born out in the way different types of games are received. Genres like FPS, 3D action/adventure, RPG, etc. just seem to automatically be considered to be of a different stock than genres like puzzle, SHMUP, 2D platformers, etc. These "lesser" genres often have a much lower ceiling when it comes to review scores. It says a lot that Ikaruga, considered by many to be the pinnacle of the SHMUP genre, is sitting around 85 on Gamerankings. Meanwhile, the "epic" genres are the ones that fans salivate over and that dominate GOTY voting.

This seems kind of strange to me. In the end, video games basically come to down to the enjoyment you get playing them. I understand that these epic games require more resources and therefore more advertising and hype than the smaller games. And it's true they often have more variety and more complexity. But in the end, the question is the quality of my time with the game. If a game like Dr. Mario, which I've spent several hundreds of hours playing competitively, gives me more enjoyment over the course of my life than even the most awe-inspiring epic, then Dr. Mario has just as much of a stake at the top of the gaming totem pole as something like Ocarina of Time.

Variety is the spice of life, so of course I want as many different types of experiences as possible. But I'm tired of certain experiences being treated like second class citizens. The best games are the best games. Just like the simplicity of a one on one game tennis can be just as great as the strategy and complexity of 11 on 11 football, even the most simple game can be as great as any other.

Do you guys agree? Are there certain genres that you think are more worthy than others?

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Posted: 07/20/13, 02:13:32
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I totally get your point, and I think Retro can do pretty much anything. I was hoping for a StarFox, which I think a lot of people would have thought is a "waste" of their talent, but to me it's like... why not? Loved 64, Retro could do the series proud. Although when I actually think about my favorite games EVER most do fall into these big sweeping action / adventure / etc. games. Then again, many of them are 2D platformers too.

I think with Retro what a lot of people think is that they're one of the few Nintendo developers that could pull off a Metroid Prime-level game, and Nintendo doesn't particularly have many of these big action / adventure / etc. games lined up. Whereas "anyone" can make a 2D platformer. But I'm not sure how accurate that is. Certainly I don't think just any developer could make something as awesome as Donkey Kong Country Returns, and if Retro WERE doing something else, I'm not sure I'd want some Nintendo B team doing a DKC game. I'd probably rather just hold off on the franchise a bit at that point until Retro could come back to it.

To answer the question more generally, I do think that the more that you limit your scope (as a game, or a genre), the tougher it is to get high review scores. I'm not sure how fair that is, but I do think that, for instance, a nearly perfect console adventure game (Ocarina of Time?) scoring higher than a nearly perfect single button endless runner on iOS (???) is not a travesty.

I'm answering this in a very wishy-washy manner, ha ha.
Posted: 07/20/13, 02:44:58
Of course there's an hierarchy. But it exists only in your head. It's called preference, and we all have our own.
Posted: 07/20/13, 02:51:11
@Xbob42

Well, of course some people like racing games and hate sports games and other people feel the opposite, but I'm talking about something different than that. Like I think a lot of people love 2D platformers but still find them to be a step down from, say, open world 3D games.
Posted: 07/20/13, 02:54:26
I think that the gaming public has been conditioned to cherish 'epic' games above all others. The blockbusters. Or maybe most people just genuinely prefer them. I dunno.

But the reaction to Mario 3D World was a bit disappointing. Who needs a Mario game to be 'epic' and have orchestrated music? In those aspects, the Galaxy series was kind of an aberration. Marketing jargon aside, Super Mario 64 was a 'AAA' game because it had innovative gameplay and imaginative level design. How many of today's 'AAA' games can that be applied to? It seems like the criteria have shifted. And I don't really like what they've shifted to.

I don't feel that the modern 'AAA' game has fun as the number one priority. And Man of Steel looks too serious! It just hit the dollar theater, but I still have no desire to see it!

As for the subject, I can say unequivocally that Donkey Kong Country Returns > Metroid Prime. It boggles my mind a bit that people are carping about getting a sequel to one of the best platformers of all time. Sure, we just got one, but talk about first-world(party) problems.
Posted: 07/20/13, 04:13:47  - Edited by 
 on: 07/20/13, 16:21:58
I think part of it is that the Wii already has plenty of platformers. New Super Mario Bros. U, and soon Super Mario 3D World, and soon Rayman Legends and DKC:TF.

Some of you know that DKCR is one of my favorite Wii games (maybe my most favorite, if it weren't for the controls and barrel levels). It's superbly made. However, as good as DKC:TF will be, it will just be scratching an itch that I can get scratched in three or four other games. More if you want to try to include Sonic: The Lost World, or Shovel Knight and Cloudberry Kingdom.

There are lots of games to play on Wii U if you want to have a purely fun experience where you're grinning from ear to ear, hopping around colorful worlds (often with friends). However, there aren't many high quality games on Wii U that are a little darker or offer an engaging story or offer the kind of world building that Retro is so good at. So in that sense, I can see the frustration people may have that Retro is working on "just a platformer." For me, I wouldn't say that...but I'd say that Retro is working on "another platformer."

So I'm certainly not saying they're being "wasted" on DCK:TF - I'm actually looking forward to that much more than 3D World, but it's kind of a game that doesn't do anything to round out the Wii U library. It entertains on the same level as three other huge games that will be on the Wii U's library by the end of the year.
Posted: 07/20/13, 04:33:40  - Edited by 
 on: 07/20/13, 04:34:53
Jargon said:
@Xbob42

Well, of course some people like racing games and hate sports games and other people feel the opposite, but I'm talking about something different than that. Like I think a lot of people love 2D platformers but still find them to be a step down from, say, open world 3D games.

...That is exactly what I was talking about. I like sandwiches, but I like burgers more. That's just preference, and of course we all have it. Biases basically define us!
Posted: 07/20/13, 04:40:30
Yeah, I don't know if I could say that something like DKC is "beneath" something like a Metroid Prime, but I think at the very least that a Metroid Prime could be considered a more...intellectual experience? In that the player has to do more in the vain of puzzle solving, navigating a large world, figuring out where to go, etc.

However, one could easily just say that something like a Metroid Prime wouldn't be as fun as a DKC. It's different strokes, really.

Retro is going to be amazing at whatever they do. I personally think that they are just up to the task, more than other Nintendo developers, of doing something a little "deeper" in regards to something like story and world building. That's an area on Wii U that really isn't being catered to.
Posted: 07/20/13, 05:50:21
I think Story is going to be the driving factor ALWAYS when it comes to determining GOTY or similar.

Fighting games, Sports games, SHMUPS, Puzzle Games; they just don't have that "depth" to get them up there, even though the games might be BEYOND ENJOYABLE and our favorites ever.
Posted: 07/20/13, 06:51:49
I think that's mostly true, but I think it may be because the marriage of story/gameplay is kind of a sophisticated/difficult thing to pull off properly. It's one thing to have great gameplay. It's one thing to have a great story. To have both in the same game can be magical. The ones that tell a story tend to have a lot of impact on us. I mean, most of us here would probably put Final Fantasy 6 or Chrono Trigger near the top of our favorite games lists. Even as good as some of our multiplayer games are these days, sometimes it's hard to put them up against say, a Bioshock or The Walking Dead. Maybe The Walking Dead isn't even a 'game', but man, it was a very affecting piece of interactive storytelling. Just something you take with you for weeks after finishing. I think that's mainly why story driven games come out on top a lot. They just stick with us and affect us.

It's like...I dunno, if Pokemon had an amazing story in it somewhere, it'd be amazing. One of the reasons I liked Pokemon Black a lot was because they started doing more things with the story - some bits that really made you think about what Pokemon is all about, and whether or not it's really right or not.

Then again, sometimes the beauty is all in the simplicity, and I think you see that in a game like Braid or Journey, which tell stories, but in much different ways than other games. Maybe Pokemon would be way worse if it had more of a story to it because you're no longer concerned with 'being the best' and all that.
Posted: 07/20/13, 08:35:50  - Edited by 
 on: 07/20/13, 08:38:54
@Xbob42

No, burgers are just better than sandwiches. That isn't a personal bias, that's just how reality works. Burgers are like +2 Sandwiches.
Posted: 07/20/13, 21:10:01
@-JKR- I agree!
Posted: 07/20/13, 21:17:00
Aren't burgers a kind of sandwich?
Posted: 07/20/13, 22:06:13
@-JKR- If you like eating pure grease, sure. But that's modern eaters for you, more concerned with a quick and shallow fix than with something that will fill them up nicely.
Posted: 07/20/13, 22:06:56  - Edited by 
 on: 07/20/13, 22:07:54
If you think about it, having a bowl of cereal is kinda like soup.
Posted: 07/20/13, 22:27:11
All food breaks down to a few essential things anyway. And depending on the food, a lot of non-essential, potentially harmful things.
Posted: 07/20/13, 22:34:41  - Edited by 
 on: 07/20/13, 22:35:04
And we who embody the local eyes and ears and thoughts and feelings of the cosmos: we've begun, at last, to wonder about our origins. Star stuff, contemplating the stars; organized collections of 10 billion-billion-billion atoms contemplating the evolution of matter tracing that long path by which it arrived at consciousness here on the planet Earth and perhaps, throughout the cosmos.
Posted: 07/20/13, 22:42:08
Zero said:
@-JKR- If you like eating pure grease, sure. But that's modern eaters for you, more concerned with a quick and shallow fix than with something that will fill them up nicely.

The grease is what makes it delicious and satisfying.
Posted: 07/20/13, 22:43:05
@Xbob42 Exactly. Modern eaters go for instant gratification.

Hamburgers are basically the disposable 8 hour FPS campaigns of the world. Yeah I said it.
Posted: 07/20/13, 22:45:35
I think the story with Retro is not so much that certain genres mean more than others, I just think it's that people look at Nintendo's lineup and see Donkey Kong Country as very much in-line with Nintendo's entire portfolio. You can point to something like Metroid Prime and come to the conclusion that for the most part, Nintendo's in-house studios haven't made very many games like that, and adding diversity to the overall lineup is something that Retro should be doing to help bring in a new audience (similar to Rare's role when they were a Nintendo 2nd party). But Nintendo also needs some big-sellers, and having Retro doing something new and ambitious but possibly tanking is pretty risky. The Wii U isn't even selling to Nintendo fans right now, so I think that has to get fixed before worrying about expanding the audience.

Unfortunately, the perception sometimes is that "Well, Nintendo could get anyone to make Donkey Kong"; while that may be true, not just anybody could make a great Donkey Kong game like Retro has and I think it undersells the job they did with Returns. It gives the impression that a Donkey Kong Country game is a "lesser" product than a new Metroid or a new IP, which I feel is unfair to both the game and the studio. It's disappointing to see stuff on the internet like "Wow, Nintendo has Retro making another fucking Donkey Kong game." On the one hand, I understand the frustration of seeing any developer that you like not being able to work on something new and ambitious. But at the same time, there's this negative connotation that making DKC:TF is a waste of Retro's time and talents, and I think that's ridiculous.

It's one of those things where I have to separate "What I think Nintendo should do as a business" and "What do I want as a fan of games." I agree that Retro making sequels to existing Nintendo IPs isn't going to change the minds of anyone that isn't already on-board with Nintendo, but either way I'm getting another game from a great studio. As long as it lives up to the quality that Retro has set with their previous games, there's not a chance that I'll knock the game for not being something else. I look at each game and the genre that it belongs to, and see what it brings to the table based on that style of game.
Posted: 07/20/13, 22:57:04
Zero said:
@Xbob42 Exactly. Modern eaters go for instant gratification.

Hamburgers are basically the disposable 8 hour FPS campaigns of the world. Yeah I said it.

Live for the now!
Posted: 07/20/13, 23:22:43
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