Saturday, December 26, 2009

Mirror's Edge 2 - The Quest for Mainstream

EA Discusses Mirror's Edge 2 Design Challenges

Mirror's Edge was a flawed but nevertheless interesting experiment that was viewed as a relative sales failure when it launched in 2008. Nevertheless, EA CEO John Riccitiello believes it merits a sequel, even as the publisher culls their development slate. They just need to figure out how to go about it.

In other words, how to ruin a game which was one of a kind. Of course, if games didn't cost billions to make, such silly pondering wouldn't even be happening.
So let me suggest a couple of things that could be added to the game, before going for the typical "murr gunz" and pace-breaking puzzles, right here:

  • Change the art style
    Look at Price Of Purcha... erm... sh--, Prince of Persia. Ubi did it right. They removed a lot of what made it look exotic and arabic (a culture of filthy people, goat-eaters and amateurs of cheap rocket launchers), and opted for a heavily Final Fantasy influenced charadesign. Oh, the chick is already an Asian? That ain't enough people. Her distant ancestors may come from that place on a map identified as "there be dragons" or something, but she looks like a punk pulled out of that mediocre "La Femme Nikita" flick.
    It's just all wrong. Either take inspiration from your grimdark atomized environment and have your palette cover a short range of browns to grays, and plenty of sepia filters, or aim for some random kawai Japanese stuff. Do something, anything, please. Just drop the unique art style. This alone much likely hurt sales, as XBOX360 players couldn't familiarize with it.

  • Add mirrors
    Someone tell me. That game was called Mirror's Edge. We surely got plenty of edges, but what about the mirrors? You have to aim for the male demographic. What is the point of having a female character if boys cannot enjoy this reality? It was already hard to accept that within the frame of a game, genitals had been turned outside in -- even if we know many male players love to be females on MMO -- let's at least take some advantage of this. So place more mirrors. More polished windows. Let huge ten by ten reflecting surfaces show all of the girl's acrobatic... abilities. This probably means changing her wardrobe a little, finding some short skirt and... perhaps pumping up that bustier a little, and adding a natural amount of glamour in her moves.
    Sidenote: add a free 3rd view camera and a snapshot function.

  • Sidekick character
    You need to have more fun in that game. And that calls for another protagonist.
    Army of Two, Ico, Prince of Persia (again). Okay, the first game might not be such a good example, cause what I'm getting at is that you need another (attractive) female character.
    Think of the possibilities! She's above you, and you can't leap onto the platform she's standing on without her help. So she leans forward, bends over the edge, as you try to reach for her hand. The ultimate goal being to find yourself starring right at this:

    Or, let's say your team of two is stuck at the feet of a wall, and the only way to get on the other side is to climb said wall. If everything is properly designed and coded, then you should be able to give your teammate a hand:

    Once your friend is up the wall, she'll obviously have to help you get up there as well. As you can see, this seamlessly connects with the gameplay event described just before!

  • Time control
    The game should have a time dilation effect, or even a reverse power. Like in Prince of Persia (...) or... Braid? I mean, they even got one in God of War II, so why not?
    A game without time control these days isn't good. Bullet Time was must have some years ago, and the devs need to expand upon this cornerstone to increase the game's value.

  • XP and rewards
    Anything that was present in Mirror's Edge has proven to be of insufficient use to the success of the game. Therefore, more needs to be done. Aside from obvious collectibles and rewards, you need more obvious collectibles and rewards. But that's not all. You need to complete the whole picture, so why not rely on the much vaunted experience. Let's add a touch of RPG. Let Faith improve her skills.
    Let her also loot objects, discover secret items and even craft some other rare ones. DICE should add many NPCs who would be all the more sources of side quests.

  • Social... ism
    You need a multiplayer mode. But that alone cannot be enough, so prepare the game so the transition to "Mirror's Edge, the MMO" appears to be long overdue. Of course, this could only be achieved by requiring the player to pay a monthly fee for the special servers and exceptional service.

  • 2.5D
    Wouldn't it incredible to be able to change your environment from a 3D scenery to a 2D one? There's already an amateur ME 2D platformer which supposedly brings the game experience to the 2D world, to please old timers. They are people in their 30s who must not be ignored. Eventually, this ability to turn the decor from 3D to 2D, and back to 3D, should be called "cash", or "rush".

  • Quick Time Events
    I cannot believe DICE left those out of ME. QTE are the most obvious cheap addition to a game in order to increase positive value. It adds variety to the "powers" of a character and breaks monotony. It allows for greater story telling. Think of QTEs, really.

  • Huge bosses
    Everybody loves big enemy bosses to defeat. They make for extraordinary and epic moments, when the world at large seems to throw at you the meanest stuff it has, to halt any pretense at moving forth. Those guardians are important. Why don't get some in Mirror's Edge 2? They wouldn't need to look like monsters, as long as they fit the role of the major challenge at the end of a given ensemble of playable sections.

See, with all these simple suggestions and ideas, who needs guns and puzzles?

Friday, December 25, 2009

TooDee Ayyyxion

I know, I should not.
I should not get my hopes so high, for it's impossible to know if the updated Toki game will deliver, or stink like a refurbished mound of plastic bolts and fused wires that would like to call itself HD TV. The Flash-cartoon style may put some people off, and I truly wonder if time will allow me to get used to the palette and consider it tolerable. At least, may they get the gameplay right! Then we'll see how they could expand upon it. Somehow, I'm in doubt. Are they only remaking the original?
Oh well...

On the graphics side, I must say I'm quite more impressed by Arkedo's Jump! Why?

Nice, innit? I'm so sold.

EDIT: Looking in more details at the Toki game, I spotted the "RETURN TO ARCADE" option in the menu, so I thought that perhaps they had a new story plus the old levels, but nope. The interview at Digital Spy reveals that there won't be much new material.

That is kinda unfortunate. I really prefer the original arcade style, so I don't see the point buying a revamp when MAME does it right. What they're doing is like pulling Rick Dangerous out from the grave, bringing it home with some slapped paintjob. On the plus side, animations would contain much more frames, and thus be smoother. Indeed, the original game was rather short on the animation side. It was certainly no Prince of Persia or Mr. Nutz. Some of them were as basic as perhaps containing a grand maximum of five to six frames. The first boss, notably, arguably had one for jumping forward and backward, one or two for launching the crazy monkeys (it was "waiving" its left arm by lifting it up), one for "ouch!", and err...

I also wonder if they'll redo or resample the SFX. They had their own charm, muffled and all that.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Toki & the state of the French industry

October 28 2009, an article appears on Gamasutra, announcing that a freshly established French studio acquired the rights to resurrect Toki.
Well Toki Juju actually, if you care being accurate enough. One of those awesome action 2D platformers that have fallen into oblivion for no good real reason. Funny thing that while posting my comments at Gamasutra, I came to think of past platform hits, and Mr. Nutz had been a jewel.
Not surprising, somehow, since Philippe Dessoly, member of the newborn studio, was apparently responsible of the design of the character on two different consoles.
Well, we can certainly wish them lots of luck and courage, at least they seem to have a strong project at hand.
That contrasts a lot with the somehow stuck in Limbo attempt to rejuvenate Turrican, unfortunately. :(

Anyway, that's fine and all, but I'd like to address something else. Something which might be important.
I've been waiting a couple months now to see if the bit below would at least get the video game press or even communities pick the following bit from Gamasutra's article:

I thought I knew the industry well, but I was wrong, and it's a little like a select club where you need to be known to enter.

You don't say! I had the opportunity to compare a few but important industries, and the conclusion is that, indeed, French one is extremely selective to the insane point it kills itself, and that doesn't guarantee quality either.

People tend to focus on the flowery picture composed by the very few big front names like Ubisoft, perhaps Quantic Dreams and, say, Eden Games (yes, they're French studios, despite the names, I swear).
Ubisoft, we know where this goes. The bulk of their best titles is not produced in France anymore. What their branch near Paris mostly does is that silly shit with the rabbits.
Quantic Dreams maintains its head above the waters, despite its constant +100 staff, surviving without selling more than one game every three or four years, thanks to ancillary revenues, counting the motion capture studio.
Eden Games is perhaps, in terms of big names, what may come closer to a typical big studio, and they had some recent hits under their hood, but were subject to large pressures nonetheless, which somehow, among other internal design issues, explains the Alone in the Dark case.

Without getting into obscure licenses yet, you have Nadeo and their Trackmania series, largely surviving through sequelitis, and still recently bought.
You have Monte Cristo, held by business men, a studio which despite a lackluster catalog, manages to get some spotlight for its next sort of MMO City-thing. Tales say that internally, it's all very rotten.

Then you fall into the very niche games, obscure titles, or very small structures. Arkedo is one of the most pleasant recent successes with their Nervous Brickdown for example.

Perhaps there's something worth chewing here, journos? Dontcha think?