Splitting the Zelda-series in two

August 25, 2010

Now that sounds crazy, but after watching a slideshow featuring the first screenshots of Ocarina of Time 3DS again, I thought about how special Ocarina of Time still is. Both to us, the gamers, and to Nintendo, who obviously acknowledge the importance of this one Zelda-game. And to be honest, OoT will never cease to amaze gamers. It´s that once-in-a-lifetime occurrence that no other game will ever beat per se. So no matter what Nintendo does, gamers will remember OoT. At the same time, there´s a growing group of Zelda-fans that are growing tired of the traditional formula, which even Skyward Sword, the upcoming Wii-entry, doesn´t seem to shake up that much. So why not simply split the Zelda-series in two?

By splitting in two, I imagine two Zelda-series that are developed at the same time, as in, not consuming each other´s development resources, but two completely separate installments. One of these Zelda-series would be “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time”. Yes, read that right, OoT would be its own “series”. There appear to be quite a lot people that criticize the Zelda-games for being too similar to each other. While I´m personally not in that camp, it still exists. So instead of doing “similar” Zeldas one after another, time after time again, let´s take OoT and turn it into the “classic Zelda”-series. Each entry of this branch of the Zelda-franchise would intentionally be similar to the previous one – with appropriate differences, of course, such as new dungeons, new story, a few new items and so on, you get it. It´d be the Zelda for all those fans that still like and love each and every newly released Zelda-game.

And then there´d be the other Zelda-series, we could call it “The Legend of Zelda: Beyond Time”. This would be the branch of the Zelda-franchise for all those fans that love the Zelda-series, but want it to do more fresh, creative, different stuff. Think of all the stuff your heard someone say and thought “eww, then it wouldn´t be a Zelda-game anymore”. Perfect, that´s what this series would be for! Some examples of what kind of features this branch could have: Direct jumping control, no gamey puzzles, more/less linearity, selectable difficulty, multiplayer-modes, and so on. It´d be the playground for Nintendo´s creative minds, and it´d be the fresh adventure many of us want to have, set within the Zelda-universe.

And, I mean, this would give us a second big action-adventure franchise, so to speak. Will probably never happen, but I´d really like it to. After all, even though I want BIG changes to the Zelda-series, I also still like the traditional formula, and experiments could go wrong, too. However, maybe this will kind of happen with the split between home console and handheld Zelda-titles. If we take a look at the two Nintendo DS-entries, they surely are very different from Twilight Princess or Skyward Sword. With the added power of the 3DS-hardware and Nintendo showing that they´re going for a real 3D-Zelda on a handheld this time, we really could get more of this great action-adventure franchise in a shorter time frame. Of course, that still doesn´t mean that on of the two systems´ Zelda-titles will be more creative than the other one.


August 20, 2010

It´s finally finished. For the past week, I´ve been occupied with something I really wanted to express myself with. Due to gamescom, it took longer than planned, but anyway, here it is. I once talked about my personal dream game. No, not some Zelda-game. There´s something that goes even beyond that, when it comes to what I really want. That is, INfinity.

I won´t write any much more about it, you can just watch for yourself what INfinity is. But to share some basic details: It´s the ultimate adventure experience. A game that I´d call “next-gen”, but not because of higher resolution or such rubbish. This is a concept I´d love to play oh so much. And in case it´s not made clear enough in the video: The character you´re playing is not some badass. He´s also not a super-equipped expert. He´s just a guy … lost in space (and to be even more clear, if that was turned into a real game, it should just feature a character-editor). But now, I hope you enjoy watching the following video. It took quite a lot of effort drawing all the pictures and finishing them on the PC, as well as composing the video afterwards. Though, whatever you think of it, I´m just honestly glad that I took the chance to show off this idea that I had in my head for so long. Here it is:

The Curious Loser – Proposition for a new Lead Character Model

August 20, 2010

Almost one hundred percent of all video game characters these days are badasses. Just look at all the “bald space marine”-like protagonists, or all the bulky, short-haired heroes. I´d even go as far to say: People complaining about the lack of females lead characters are complaining about the lesser problem. Just take a look at some of the females, and it´s just as bad as their male counter part. What is really missing are inconspicuous characters.

When I´m saying “inconspicuous”, I mean guys that are wispy, unimpressive, maybe plain. Average guys. The curious losers. It´s rather typical for such characters to be of younger age, but it´d be perfectly okay to have such character traits in an older person. I once wrote about how I prefer becoming a hero over being a hero from the beginning. That can be expanded into the topic of badassery, too.

Less of that...

The gaming world today is one giant power-trip. Start up Gears of War and feel powerful. Start up Final Fantasy 13 and feel powerful. Start up Mass Effect and feel powerful. And so on. Don´t get me wrong, I love Mass Effect, but you´re this confident captain from the very beginning. How much more interesting would it have been if you were a youngster with no knowledge, trying to find your place in this huge world? But it seems that gamers don´t want these games, at least not on a frequent basis. Having had a look at all the news from the gamescom expo, all I see are titles like Bulletstorm, Castlevania or Knights Contract – games that are all about a powerful character and badass-slogans as well as badass-actions. Seeing how all these games are getting hype from even freak-gamers on big gaming-boards, it´s safe to say that nothing will change about the instrumentalization of gaming characters in the near future.

...more of that

It´s sad, because I really think that playing as the curious loser would be a lot more interesting than as a ready-to-go badass. There are rare examples, most popular probably being the Legend of Zelda-series. Link is not a badass in any way, he´s just as knowledgable as the player. Looking at not just games, there´s also the “hero” of “How to train your dragon“, who was just so likable. As for more examples, simply take about every hero of a Studio Ghibli-anime movie. Perfect visualization of what I´m talking about. So why do I prefer this kind of characters? Because, as a fan of big action-adventures with focus on exploration, I feel so much more connected to the character I´m controlling when he´s like me: Curious.

Busy with gamescom

August 19, 2010

Not a new article on FlyingFisch for well over a week. I´m sorry for that, my duty on another website is keeping me very busy, though, during this gamescom-week. Anyway, just wanted to tell whoever likes reading this blog: It´s not dead, not forgotten 🙂

To put a bit more stuff into this entry, let me express just how badly I want the Nintendo 3DS. There have been some new pictures of the hardware and it looks simply perfect. But Nintendo said that the design is not 100% finished, so maybe it´ll get even “more perfect”. Oh well.

By the way, there also another reason why it had been that much time since the last blog entry. Well, two. For one, I don´t write when I have no interesting topic to talk about, and I have no obligation to press myself into writing each and every week. That´d would just make for some badly, uninspired written texts. The other one is that I started working on a, well, rather nerdy video-project. If you kept reading this blog, you know what my (current) dream concept for a video game ist. And while listening to the right music, I felt like expressing myself a bit more than just through words. So, expect some (hopefully not “that” shitty) 3- maybe 4-minute video in a bunch of days from now on. Gamescom will keep me away from working on that for at least two/three more days, though.

Anyway, lots of videos and screenshots from gamescom, guess there´s enough to keep any gamer busy at the moment. See ya next time!

When gamers and publishers think alike – the death of creativity

August 7, 2010

It might only be the case for me and a a minority of gamers, but I can´t help but feel that the gaming industry has forsaken its creativity. When you take a look at current generation systems´ lineups, you´ll only find all the typical titles and types of games. Besides big, old franchises, there´s all these “Hollywood”-games, games that almost pull you through a level without any kind of self-thinking, of exploration, of sense of wonder. And then you have gamers claiming that there is creativity. But they will point towards simple, “small” games, mostly featuring 2D-gameplay or being flat out puzzle games. But creativity within 3D-games, games that feature an ingame-character that you can control? Nowhere to be found.

There is still no gaming-equivalent to a Ghibli-movie. And even the Ghibli-featured Ninokuni does nothing different in terms of gameplay.

Gaming has become predictable. Gaming, not games. When a big, hyped title is released nowadays, it´s not the gameplay that you´re wondering about, it´s the game´s story. And that´s exactly the industry´s problem. Instead of pressing forward within the possibilities of video games, developers and publishers AND gamers keep focusing on mimicking Hollywood. One of the highest selling “hardcore”-games is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, but in terms of gameplay, there is nothing that could explain its success. It is a plain, totally uncreative first-person shooter, completely linear, offering nothing that you hadn´t seen before. And yet, the media praises it, the gamers praise it, and the mainstream, obviously, praises it, too.

You could say, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is the ultimate evidence for the death of creativity within the industry, but there´s lots more of examples. Simply take a look at all the popular games: Alan Wake, Final Fantasy 13, Grand Theft Auto 4, God of War 3, StarCraft 2, or the upcoming Halo: Reach. None of these games offers a new kind of gameplay-style. Every single one of them is defined by its story, its visuals, or its fun factor (which is good, just not in the context of creativity). Where are these games that make me say “wow, that feels like nothing ever before!“?  These games did exist last generation, with games like Metroid Prime, the original Halo or ICO.

An endless list could be made about ideas that video games have not yet used. Having recently watched Nolan´s Inception makes me ask: Where is this high-budget game that features a concept like that? Putting the player inside a realistic looking world, but giving him the power to change everything! The hell, there has never even been a game that properly used the concept of the Matrix-movies. All we get are games that may use the theme of such concepts, but you never get to play it, you just see or hear of it in cutscenes. Where are high-quality third- or first-person shooters that treat human life as something important, giving each and every enemy a certain weight, and where killing is not a simple matter of crouching behind an object and waiting for the enemy to raise his head? Where are all the games that create an environment that makes me stop at a certain place and grant me enjoyment simply by watching and listening to the scene? But not by having some brain-fart scenery that makes some self-proclaimd art-experts say “oh, that was so beautiful, it made me stop playing“; but instead, making me stop because of a world that feels so incredibly alive! Where is the non-linear, super atmospheric space-adventure (not one where you only control a space ship, but a character, walking inside a space ship, flying it, leaving the space ship and climbing around on its outer surface) with a steady stream of DLC? Where the hell is a first-person shooter that finally properly captures the atmosphere of Aliens (the second movie)?! And don´t you dare bringing up one of these hectic, score-based co-op-shooters. Playing Alien Swarm currently is fine, but never will be able to immerse myself in a game with top-down-camera. Where is a game that lets the player take control over a character that can freely fly around in the sky, but actually making it so that the player can almost feel the wind? Where is the GTA-like game that includes a proper racing game? Where is the MMO-shooter that is happening in real-time, where you are part of a gigantic group of soldiers, and everything is happening in real-time, with every player having only one life. A real, virtual war. And so on, and so on.

There is so much that could be done within the world of video games. So much crazy stuff. I mean, it´s that reason why I love games, why so many of us fell in love with games. This limitless possibilities, opening up a world full of fantasy and craziness.  Instead, the industry, and I mean the whole thing, including gamers, seems to have settled with a certain base-level of gameplay, and the only sales-driving aspects are story and visuals. It is sad, because so much more would be possible. Someone just has to do it.

Why the Wii is a pioneer in more than just one way

August 4, 2010

The Nintendo Wii is the market leading home console, bla bla bla, it´s all well-known. It´s also mostly accepted that it´s thanks to the Wii that all those new controly-styles are heading towards the consumers. First, there was the wiimote, and by the end of the year, there´ll be Kinect and Move. It could be said, thus, that the Wii pioneered the future of gaming, where more involving controls are becoming the standard. But that´s just one way in which this sweet, little console functioned as a pioneer.

The other one is being a pioneer for the upcoming handheld Nintendo 3DS. I can´t imagine that Nintendo did it intentionally, but fact is: The 3DS will have only one analog-stick. As much of an upgrade that is over not having an analog-stick at all, it´s still lacking one analog-stick. That would be true, if Nintendo had had a traditional home console like the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3. The exact thing that caused quite some people to criticize the wiimote will now work FOR the 3DS: People got used to having only one analog-stick.

Well, you could go as far as to say: People got used again to having only one analog-stick. There was no second analog-stick on the N64´s controller and games worked just fine. And for what is worth, Nintendo proved that even nowadays, a second analog-stick isn´t necessarily needed. That´s not to say that it´d add comfort in many situations, but from a gameplay-perspective, Wii-games worked fine. See Super Mario Galaxy 1 & 2, for many gamers the best games of the current generation. These games feature an in-game camera that works that well that a second analog-stick was never needed. And that´s not even all of it: Nintendo went as far as to create games where you don´t even need a single analog-stick anymore. See New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Super Paper Mario, Endless Ocean or the soon-to-be-released Metroid:Other M.

You don´t need complex controls for “hardcore“-games. That´s what the Wii´s message is, and how it, probably unintentionally, worked as a pioneer for the 3DS.  Because once the new 3D-handheld launches, nobody will complain about inferior controls. Why would they, when even the home console, named Wii, doesn´t feature a more complex control-scheme? Of course, it´d be great if the 3DS had six face-buttons, to have the same amount of buttons as the N64, but that´s another matter.