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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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@Jargon @Guillaume

Yup, and that's why I'm mostly pleased with Nintendo's upcoming lineup. It offers something refreshing compared to what the other consoles are offering. I'll get more than my fix of dark, violent games on other systems, and I'm glad that Nintendo's core lineup offers a strong alternative to that.

It's been especially striking at E3 the past few years. The first day of the press conferences have been wall-to-wall carnage with a few exceptions, and when Nintendo has come on the next day, it was a completely different atmosphere (it was almost like they were at two different shows). In a lot of ways, Nintendo games have become almost something of a welcome catharsis for me in today's industry.
Posted: 07/23/13, 02:07:14
@Guillaume You have my support! Although I think Sony generally does an ok job of appealing to a variety of gamers, albeit most of its biggest projects are shooters. But they support some neat smaller stuff a lot.
Posted: 07/23/13, 02:29:54
@deathly_hallows

Does Nintendo have every single one of their exclusive developers working on 2D platformers? No. So I don't get your point. NSMBU, Yoshi Yarn and DKCR:TF are the only exclusive 2D platformers coming to the system as far as I know. Meanwhile, Nintendo has made or is making for the Wii U: Nintendo Land, Game & Wario, Mario Kart, Mario 3D World, Smash Bros., Pikmin 3, X, Wind Waker HD, Wii Fit U and Wii Party U, plus has published or is publishing exclusives like Sing Party, Lego City Undercover, The Wonderful 101, Mario & Sonic at the Olympics, Bayonetta 2 and Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem. So 3 out of 19. Not exactly what you're making it out to be.
Posted: 07/23/13, 03:17:19
@Jargon
But what about the major games that will be released this year and not 2014? Games that aren't ports or mini-game collections, games that sell systems?

I count NSMBU, Mario 3D World, Pikmin 3, and DKCR. 75% of which are colorful mascot platformers which are all set in the Mario universe. To me that is not variety, and I'm the person Nintendo is trying to appeal to right? The consumer who hasn't bought a Wii U and is waiting to see what Nintendo is going to offer that is new and exciting?

To me a Donkey Kong game that seems practically identical to the one I just played on 3DS is not new and exciting, nor is it the best use of one of Nintendo's best developers, IMHO.

Guillaume said:
I think most Sony fans ate it up, though. I don't recall having support from a lot of people when I expressed my displeasure with the PS3 library in the early days.

At any rate, if anything your list of games shows that it's not too late for the Wii U to get a diverse library of games. Let's hope that once the Wii U is a mature, 7 years old console, 2D platformers won't seem so dominant.
Well, either Sony fans ate it up or they made new fans. But as far as not getting support for expressing displeasure with a system's lineup I'm right there with you!

Anyway, the point was I was deflecting Jargon's argument that it's somehow not fair that people don't complain about Destiny being on the PS3 since there are already a lot of FPS games on that system. My counter argument is that the reason people don't complain about Destiny being an FPS is because there is already tons of variety on the system. If Wii U had incredibly robust 3rd Party support and had games from every conceivable genre in spades, then maybe no one would care that Nintendo is doubling down on platformers.

The games that Nintendo choose to make are incredibly important right now because they are practically the only ones making game for the Wii U and they need to make each one count. Every single game needs to draw gamers and developers to the system.
Posted: 07/23/13, 07:13:49  - Edited by 
 on: 07/23/13, 07:27:23
It seems kind of pointless to limit this to 2013 when there is no way that whatever it is that you wish Retro were doing would have been ready this year.
Posted: 07/23/13, 07:18:23
@Zero
Why not? They could have started work on a StarFox game (for example), 5 years ago. What was to stop them? Nintendo knew they were coming out with an HD console, why didn't they plan?
Posted: 07/23/13, 07:20:53
@deathly_hallows I'm sure they have been working this whole time. I just think that, logically speaking, if working on a game that is a sequel to something that they made took them this long, something brand new most likely would have taken longer.
Posted: 07/23/13, 07:43:47
Specifically in Retro's case a company makes a sequel to one of the most critically acclaimed games of last generation and gets shit for it. This has nothing to do with development or genre and everything to do with expectation.

Everyone was expecting a new Metroid from Nintendo. I think IGN and 1 or 2 other news outlets made E3 predictions we'd see a new Metroid from Retro. There was speculation of a 2D metroidvania platformer which is still considered a 2D platformer even though it may play different than Donkey Kong Returns.

If there was a 2D metroidvania game announced instead of DCKR people would complain it doesn't take advantage of the gamepad like scanning in a 3D metroid would. If it were a 3D Metroid you'd have complaints that its not a 2D Metroid. If a Metroid game was in the works at Retro it may be a slower burn in development as they lost some key players since the Metroid Prime trilogy.
Posted: 07/23/13, 11:33:37
@deathly_hallows

You are cherry picking. 3D platformers and 2D platformers are completely different genres. You have no idea if Wii Party U will sell systems or not , or Wind Waker for that matter and, regardless, they still add to the variety of the system's library. NSMBU came out last year. And by randomly adding colorful to the mix, you're really giving them game away because you can't say that 360 has tons of variety if you're taking into account the color and image of the games (nice try swapping PS3 in instead). Especially if you only consider "system sellers" for some reason.

And no, I don't think you're the person Nintendo is really trying to appeal to. They're trying to get families on board, because there's a lot more families than there are disgruntled old Nintendo fans. In fact, I think if you realized this, you'd be a lot happier in life instead of acting constantly baffled that Nintendo isn't gearing everything they do specifically towards Charles from Brooklyn.
Posted: 07/23/13, 16:47:28  - Edited by 
 on: 07/23/13, 16:49:22
@Jargon
If they want to get families on board they need to lower the price ASAP because at $300 - $350 they're placing Wii U firmly in "enthusiast gamer" territory.

Concerning me being disgruntled perhaps I am, but I'm not alone, I'm far from the only person on the interwebs whose complained about a lack of compelling software and variety on Wii U or lamented the apparent death of many beloved franchises such as F-Zero, Metroid, and Star Fox, as well as the lack of new IPs. Considering that Wii U is not selling very well maybe some of us old, grumpy-ass gamers have a point and Nintendo has indeed made some mistakes.
Posted: 07/23/13, 20:43:52  - Edited by 
 on: 07/23/13, 20:45:23
When it comes to the literal question, then no, all genres are not created equal. Some require a lot more talent and effort to create than others. Going with the theme, it is easier to make a 2D platformer than a 3D platformer, though this holds true for all 3D games over 2D games. The nature of 3D simply takes more work, because the third dimensions adds a whole lot more to consider and design. The camera alone is a difficult thing to nail down, something that 2D games don't really need to worry about. Then there are things like RPGs vs. puzzle games, one requires a story, a battle system, a realized world, etc. in order to be good, whereas the other just needs a clever concept and it's finished.

That said, this question seems to center around how games are perceived rather than how they are created. I've noticed the same trends, that people seem to hold the larger-budgeted titles in higher regard than everything else, instead of basing it on things like fun factor or comparing it within its own genre. I think there are several reasons for this, and it's a complicated issue that goes into the whole system of journalistic gaming sites that I don't really want to get into now. But in short, it's because people are still trying to "prove" the worth of gaming, and it's probably even because larger publishers give incentives to reviewers for good scores.

Of course, there's also the value proposition to consider. How can we decide what price is worth paying for a game? It is kind of difficult to apply a monetary value to the enjoyment factor, so people tend to instead consider how much a game costs to make and how much content it offers because these things are more tangible. When most games have one flat price, then people want to pick the one that offers the most bang, which is why I feel a more variable pricing structure would be best (things are moving there, but it's still got a while to go). That said, even developers seem to treat some genres as beneath others, as they don't put huge budgets behind a lot of them. I'd love to see what a team could do with a big-budget puzzle game...
Posted: 07/23/13, 21:18:20
@deathly_hallows I think it is way, way to early to start talking about the death of franchises. Especially considering that Nintendo put two of the three franchises that you listed in Nintendo Land, so I doubt that they have written them off completely.

Mop it up said:
I'd love to see what a team could do with a big-budget puzzle game...


Of course, they had to go with the familiar FPS wrappings to get people excited...
Posted: 07/23/13, 22:00:31  - Edited by 
 on: 07/23/13, 22:05:39
@Zero Well it's certainly better than nothing!
Posted: 07/23/13, 22:08:46
Oh it is. Portal 2 is one of the best games I've played in awhile. So awesome to see a puzzle game get the big budget production.

But I don't think we will see much of this in the near future outside of the inevitable Portal 3.
Posted: 07/23/13, 22:40:26  - Edited by 
 on: 07/23/13, 22:43:54
deathly_hallows said:
@Jargon
If they want to get families on board they need to lower the price ASAP because at $300 - $350 they're placing Wii U firmly in "enthusiast gamer" territory.

I don't disagree, but that doesn't have anything to do with the topic at hand.

deathly_hallows said:
Concerning me being disgruntled perhaps I am, but I'm not alone, I'm far from the only person on the interwebs whose complained about a lack of compelling software and variety on Wii U or lamented the apparent death of many beloved franchises such as F-Zero, Metroid, and Star Fox, as well as the lack of new IPs. Considering that Wii U is not selling very well maybe some of us old, grumpy-ass gamers have a point and Nintendo has indeed made some mistakes.

It's been less than 3 years since the last Metroid. That's apparent death to you?

Meanwhile, I seem to remember a Nintendo console that had F-Zero, Metroid, Star Fox and new IPs and didn't do so hot.

Posted: 07/24/13, 01:09:38
@Zero Although, it still isn't exactly what I had in mind. I was thinking of the "falling block" type of action puzzle like Tetris, Dr. Mario, and the like. There could be a lot of untapped potential for this genre, especially since there are so few 3D examples, but we'll never see them because no one is ever ambitious with this type of game. Tetrisphere on the N64 seems to have had a higher budget than the average puzzle game of the time, and that's why it was so amazing. Now, I know it isn't happening because games cost too much to take risks these days and blah blah blah, and, well, that's a part of why I'm disappointed with the current state of the industry.
Posted: 07/25/13, 03:26:37
@Mop it up

Well the quick response to your block-puzzler contribution would be Catherine, but you raise a good point regardless.

Are some genres just not built for AAA? It's entirely possible to Best in Class without having a multi-million dollar budget behind it. Maybe it doesn't have to? Look at Puzzle Quest 2. It's a triple match puzzle game that is ace as hell. Does it really need an exorbitant budget to meet its full potential? I don't think so.

PQ2 is fantastic just the way it is. It doesn't need a modern GTA budget to justify itself. It's 100% awesome just the way it is. Dialed-back budget and all.
Posted: 07/25/13, 03:34:23
@Jargon
Oh man, GCN, so freaking awesome. That's the Nintendo I used to know and love, a Nintendo that tried instead of rolling over and submitting to defeat. Thank God they're at least still trying in the handheld space, although no Metroid or F-Zero on the 3DS is a major disappointment in my humble opinion.
Posted: 07/26/13, 02:08:42
Not making the specific games you want = not trying. Got it.

Posted: 07/26/13, 03:45:07  - Edited by 
 on: 07/26/13, 03:46:43
Speaking of a genre that gets no respect, I'm super psyched for Wii Party U. A sequel to one of the most fun games on Wii and it's coming in just a few months. Similar to 2D platformers, people seem to have the misconception that just any developer can shit out a good party game, but the bucketloads of shovelware party games on the Wii prove quite the opposite.

I'm sure a lot of people look at Wii Party U and wish Nintendo was putting those resources towards something else, but that would just create a big hole in the world of party games, a vital genre for tons of fun loving families.
Posted: 07/26/13, 06:38:10
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