Editorial: Innovation, Gaming, and Sandwiches

Hello there, my dearest, darlingest Lusi-sprites.

It has been said that ¬≥Innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity – not a threat”. This quote is often misapplied to Albert Einstein (what quotes aren’t misapplied to Einstein on the internets?) but can actually be credited to Steve Jobs, and I am sure various other
executives and marketers throughout space and time. We are told to embrace change, to purchase the latest and greatest products. Our old beloveds are out of date and obsolete. Voices of dissent are accused of being old-fashioned or downright ‘fraidy cats, stuck in their ways and afraid of change.

Why, though? At least in respect to games and other media.

Allow me to preface this rant by stating that I would not wish to shackle
the creative soul. I do not think that innovation is a bad thing per se. I just vehemently oppose this notion that seems to permeate our culture about change being absolutely necessary all of the time.

*Thwack!* Take that, dead horse!

The best and certainly most relevant example of this is Final Fantasy. I shall endeavour to inflict as little damage as possible upon this dead horse, as the game has been discussed here ad nauseam. It seems as if the more recent instalments in the series have striven to change everything. Heavens forbid the modern audience has to re-use a game mechanic they have already encountered. Each game must find a way to change the battle system, levelling/progression system, magic system, etc in addition to the more obvious changes that must be made to graphics, audio, and plot. But … why? Many of the older systems were very well-received by players. Would people really mind playing another Materia-based game, or another class-based game (like FF4)? As long as the story and characters are new, I think people would be happy. Happier than they seem to be with the “innovations” that have come out recently (re: FFX-XIII).

Let me digress for a moment. I like sandwiches. I like a good ol’ ham and swiss on white sandwich, perhaps with some chips. It is tasty, I know I will like it if I make it. I also like to fancy it up with gourmet bread, different cheeses, sauces, varieties of luncheon meats. Just because I enjoy the Tuscan chicken with red pepper sandwich they serve up the street, it does not mean that from time to time I do not crave a plain ol’ ham and swiss.

Right now, as much as I enjoy the Paradigm system, appreciate the customizability of the License system, etc etc, I really want to play a JRPG with job classes, turn-based menu combat, and traditional level-based progression. I also want a ham and swiss sandwich.

Is this so wrong? Is it wrong for me to wish that game developers would ease up ever so slightly on the innovation? Invest more in character and plot development, and re-use tried and tested game mechanics? With a little tweaking of course, but nothing approaching the massive overhauls we have seen lately.

This is not meant to be an FF-specific rant. In general, RPGs are becoming rarer, and those that come out are shying away from traditional elements, likely fearing that no one will be interested in something they have seen before. Has it not occurred to them that maybe gamers are craving an old, familiar style?

Maybe I am just crazy.

14 Comments

  1. Lusipurr
    Posted 2010.04.08 at 09:41 | Permalink

    The current focus on ‘retro’ gaming should convince producers that people actually do want things they are familiar with. Curiously enough, RPGs go in precisely the opposite direction more often than not.

    Strange. I’d give big money for a new, classic-style 16-bit RPG.

  2. SiliconNooB
    Posted 2010.04.08 at 09:41 | Permalink

    Y’know, I don’t think that FFXIII is innovative, they just left out half of the game. Two pieces of bread masquerading as a sandwich, if you will.

  3. Ginia
    Posted 2010.04.08 at 11:47 | Permalink

    Way to start the Bread Sandwich trend, Noob.

    Or maybe the Air Sandwich.

    It’s new! Go buy it! Yay!

  4. Jenifer
    Posted 2010.04.08 at 13:07 | Permalink

    I think all the innovation is a test really. Case in point: the Wii. This system is incredibly innovative, but even Nintendo stated in plain and simple terms that they developed it because they want to bring in non-gamers. For grandmas, for preschoolers, for the idiots populating my college that are too drunk to operate a controller, and overall for the people that have long associated gaming with being a nerd, which is secondary to being a dog turd in terms of being a social pariah. They wanted more money, and while nerds are a dedicated bunch that will bleed money (see Sankaku Complex’s article on purchasing microphones simply because they are used in the K-On opening), they needed to branch away from standard game mechanics to get that money.

    I see the Final Fantasy innovations as being the same, and I too apologize for using the Squeenix horse corpse, but its the easiest example. When Advent Children released, there was an influx of people who swore up and down they were total fans… until you told them that FFVII was a game that preceded it that they never played. This made them go back and play the game despite having no interest in it before… and it got Square thinking about how else they could entice a new gamer to come pet their cash cow. Every FF game released since AC has been ‘innovative,’ and I believe its in the hopes of drawing in the money of those who just aren’t interested in the ham-and-cheese. Sure, they might like it, but when they can be spoonfed new culinary experiments instead, why go for the sandwich?

    Tl;dr they aren’t being innovative for innovation’s sake, and probably making a classic RPG would be easier, but greed is a powerful motivator.

    …typing all this on my phone sucked.

  5. Lusipurr
    Posted 2010.04.08 at 21:23 | Permalink

    Biggs is nothing if not dedicated.

  6. Oyashiro
    Posted 2010.04.09 at 04:53 | Permalink

    SMT: Strange Journey Was just released no to long ago. Its turn based and freaking awesome!

  7. Riddles
    Posted 2010.04.09 at 12:46 | Permalink

    I agree with Noob. I think I’ve said this before, but I don’t find XIII terribly “innovative.” They changed plenty, yes, but not for the sake of innovation.

    There’s a difference. Final Fantasy XIII is essentially the same ATB system stripped down and speeded up for the new ADD “Wii Generation” of gamers.

    Which, essentially, is what Biggs stated in her elongated point.

    It’s like if Reese’s decided to take the peanut butter out of their candy and replace it with MOAR CHOCOLATE. More of the sweet stuff perhaps, and more appealing to the fatties who need their instant chocolate fix. But, unfortunately, we Reeses vets know that without the peanut butter to compliment it, that Reeses cup just isn’t the same.

    And that’s not innovation, that’s just re-tooling in hopes of capturing the wider, stupider audience.

  8. Jenifer
    Posted 2010.04.09 at 14:23 | Permalink

    You know, I’m pretty sure everyone on Lusipurr.com is morbidly obese. Our metaphors are all sandwiches and candy.

    …Reese’s without peanut butter is blasphemy. AAAAND NOW I MUST GET ON THE TREADMILL x.x

  9. Lusipurr
    Posted 2010.04.09 at 19:40 | Permalink

    Ham is gross. Pepper-encrusted turkey all the way.

  10. breaka666
    Posted 2010.04.10 at 00:04 | Permalink

    Jenifer pretty much summed up my opinion.

    and fuck turkey. I have drawn the line, let’s do battle.

  11. SiliconNooB
    Posted 2010.04.10 at 01:17 | Permalink

    I detest ham and turkey, steak FTW!

  12. evilpaul
    Posted 2010.04.11 at 23:43 | Permalink

    People need to give up on Square-Enix for JRPGs. The golden days are gone, people. Play FF6 or FF7 or if you’re retarded and ugly and don’t have friends play FF8 or if you’re feeling the call of nostalgia for good FF games play FF9. But let it go. Square-Enix crossed the event horizon. They’re not going to ever put out anything truly great every again.

    Hop ship to Atlus. They’re not HUGELIEKXBOX like S-E. They still put out games that aren’t all spectacle and no substance. Hell, in the very least you’ll need to turn left or right at some point in Atlus games that are mostly dungeon crawling.

  13. evilpaul
    Posted 2010.04.11 at 23:45 | Permalink

    Mr. SilconNoob,
    If you get real ham or turkey and slice them up to make a sandwich I think they easily surpass steak as the sandwich making protein of choice. The garbage from a sandwich shop? Then yes you’ll find less awful beef-stuffs, probably.

  14. SiliconNooB
    Posted 2010.04.12 at 12:10 | Permalink

    -Evilpaul is right about Square Enix (but not about steak)!