Matt's Podcast #2: Absolutely Reticulous

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Matt Barton's picture

Shoot me now.If this is Syndicate, shoot me now.It's a smorgasbord of topics this week as I take on the question of "What the hell happened to modern CRPGs?" Why is everything becoming a first-person shooter game? The excrement begins to fly with the upcoming Syndicate and X-Com games. I explain why you should avoid any game "with a great story" and why I couldn't care less about Skyrim and Diablo III. I also talk about my experiences with Baldur's Gate and what I'd really like to see in future CRPGs. Hint: it ain't better narratives.

Download the mp3.


Chris Kennedy
Chris Kennedy's picture
Joined: 08/31/2008

There are certainly some stereotypes - some patterns - that are followed in many Japanese RPGs, but it is no different than the glut of other genres out there. Matt mentioned this in his podcast - how many platformers were there on early Nintendo systems? How many 3D shooters do we have these days? You can only work a genre so much before it gets stale.

That said, there are those that are fans of a genre that can tell you why they like x over y inside that same genre. I certainly don't consider Final Fantasy 7 and 9 to be anything alike. I also don't think a given Dragon Quest is like either one of those, and Shin Megami Tensei Persona games aren't at all like either FF or DQ - but you could certainly find a set of games that many have the whiny kid of which you speak. That being said, they aren't all like that, and you can't stereotype them all like that.

As for Final Fantasy - the series has, in my opinion, jumped the shark. The developers are stuck in the same story/characters that they have been for over a decade now, and you can unfortunately draw a line connecting characters from one game to another. "Here is the FFXIII clone of this character in FFXII..which is a clone of this character in FFX."

If you lean on characters and story for your genre, you can't keep churning out the same stuff without being monotonous.

Acrin1 (not verified)
podcast 2

When I first started listening I thought of Doom almost immediately even before you mentioned it - I think I first played it about 1994. I enjoyed it when it first came out and it felt new and original. I had no idea then that everyone would still be making basically the same game 15 years later!

I'm far more interested in the indie projects and home brew retro projects than any of the big name publisher stuff coming out.

Stared work on my own turn based, party CRPG just now. My intention is to draw on the best features of my favourite games (Ultima, Eye of the Beholder, Alternate Reality etc) but also add new original features.

Keep going with the podcasts I think 30 minutes is about right.

Joined: 03/23/2008
I really enjoyed this

My only issue was that my wife made me put on my headphones because of the foul language. :)

But seriously, most of the blame here has to go onto the idiots who buy this crap!!!

I was surprised about your feelings regarding the Bioware/Black Isle games - most people seem to regard these as the second coming...I know my Dad got totally sucked in to Baldur's Gate 1 and 2 when they came out. He didn't care much for Icewind Dale either though.

I wish there was some way to provide feedback interactively while listening to the Podcast - by the time it's over I forget about 90% of what I was going to say... :)

Anonymous (not verified)
I took a look at my Xbox 360

I took a look at my Xbox 360 game collection not too long ago and realized, "Damn, they're almost all FPSs...." Obviously I like the genre but overindulgence of any kind isn't healthy in the long run, and the idea of turning X-Com and Syndicate into FPSs is just beyond the pale.

Completely agreed on story in games. Most of the games I like that are story-driven usually have some kind of x-factor that makes me feel that I'm uncovering things as I go along. Even Deadly Premonition, the game I most recently finished, despite having a lot of cutscenes to drive the story, let me do things like wander aimlessly around town, observing the inhabitants moving through their daily routines, even peeking in their houses, which sneakily gave me a sense of greater investment in what was happening because it let me gather clues beyond what the cutscenes were telling me.


ironmaidenrule's picture
Joined: 12/02/2010
The Next Film Industry?

Another great podcast, that has brought me back to Armchair Arcade for some intellectual debate!

What you said Matt about the games industry going round in cycles and copying what seems to be popular at the time, got me thinking about how more recently the games industry seems to be behaving more like the Film industry.

A lot of new game trailers seem to be looking more and more like film trailers, especially the FPS games, you only have to look at the recently COD: Black Ops one for that. A lot of emphasis is made on prequels and sequels at the moment, much like the film industry once was, usually to the detriment of the overall series.....what Terminator are we on now??

And like you mentioned there is always a genre of type of game that is the current "Trend" that get ripped off and copied thus flooding the market with lots and lots of games that are the same, much seen in the 80's with the Action movie genre.

I am of the opinion, that things will continue like they are at the moment but possibly only get worse, big developers will keep cashing in on the same old stuff, as the majority of people will keep buying it. And there will always be an Indie / Underground scene where individuals and small teams can show off there talents and only the best will get recognition and be picked off by the big developers to cash in, for example, Minecraft..small time developer makes something innovative and different to great acclaim and is now working on bringing the product to Microsoft for them to cash-in on it, I bet it won't be cheaper than 1200 points. Who is ready for Minecraft the film??

Bad Sector (not verified)
I think you turned hyperbole to the maximum...

...when you said that all FPS are the same game made by Romero and Carmack.

Doom (and Quake) is not the same as Half-Life. And by any means, not the same as No One Lives Forever (no, honestly, can you say with a straight face that NOLF is like Quake? :-P).

There is more to a first person shooter than a gun model in HUD space (otherwise, a game like -say- Daggerfall would be nothing more than a FPS like those you described, right? A dumb Doom clone). There are many differences between FPS games, from controls and gameplay to the theme, art style and overall design.

From the perspective of someone who likes FPS games and considers them as his favourite genre, these broad generalisations sound misinformed or trollish. It is like claiming that all RTS games are like Dune or all adventure games are like King's Quest. Or all first-person realtime RPGs are like Dungeon Master (these wouldn't be FPS games -- no gun in HUD).

Also, FPS aren't overdone. The FPS games, as made today, are overdone and oversaturated the market. But ask yourself: when was the last time you saw a fantasy/medieval FPS? Or a FPS with strong exploration design in a weird world, like the one found in the first Unreal (which, in my opinion, had some of the best level design)? Despite their popularity, when was the last time a FPS game inspired by anime was made? And how many have been made since then? What about a FPS game with a strong comic book style? Non photorealistic rendering is a big part of computer graphics, yet few games (let alone FPS games) tried that.

Are FPS games designed around (note the emphasis) the concept of escaping some place in a stealthy manner overdone? I'm not even considering gameplay-altering specifics like from where you escape, who you try to avoid or if you are an average joe, a spy or some mutant with extra powers but a frail body.

How many "light hearted"/humorous FPS games do you see being made? Compared to the opposite? Are they any good?

Btw, when was the last time you played an FPS game that started you straight to the action without some lengthy cutscene or prescripted sequence? Since when?

When was the last time you saw intricate vertical level design in a FPS game? Or a world that seemed real, yet couldn't happen in reality?

I can't understand how you can say that all FPS games are clones of a single game made almost two decades ago and sweep away all the differences between the thousands of games produced since then. Do you really think that the developers of Shogo wanted to make just yet another Doom clone?

Sure, there are lots of clones out there. The market is oversaturated with clones. But this is a problem with the industry and the makers of these clones, not the whole genre.

Lorfarius's picture
Joined: 08/02/2010
Until you mentioned the fact

Until you mentioned the fact that RPG's have pretty much slipped into the world of first person shooters I hadn't really noticed! Looking at the current lot of systems its shocking just how little there is for the CRPG player. There must still be money in it as a market and I'm surprised a lot of developers haven't at least tried to add something to the likes of Xbox Live and PSN, even the Wii could easily manage similar games with a controller.

Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
Joined: 12/31/1969
It all comes down to the Benjamins...
Lorfarius wrote:

Until you mentioned the fact that RPG's have pretty much slipped into the world of first person shooters I hadn't really noticed! Looking at the current lot of systems its shocking just how little there is for the CRPG player. There must still be money in it as a market and I'm surprised a lot of developers haven't at least tried to add something to the likes of Xbox Live and PSN, even the Wii could easily manage similar games with a controller.

It makes you think that they think it just won't sell. Maybe they're right. Many of us do after all have what is considered niche interests these days. You probably make more money doing more of the same, sadly...

There is probably a certain conditioning too that if something looks a certain way, it appears "old" and outdated, even if it's the latest tech. Sad, really.

Chris Kennedy
Chris Kennedy's picture
Joined: 08/31/2008

I think a LOT of the decisions that are made today in the world of gaming - for Japan, USA, etc - are based on the word safe.

"What is safe to release? "
"We shouldn't take any risks."
"Let's go with what we KNOW will sell."

I think this is today's philosophy on gaming, and I think it is largely due to the fact that the budgets for A-list titles are just ridiculous these days.

Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
Joined: 01/16/2006
I think we're in the "Old

I think we're in the "Old Hollywood" position that upstarts like Lucas and Scorcese had to contend with. The big houses like EA think they know how to make profitable games. You have to put yourself in the shoes of an investor or stockholder, not a gamer: What kind of game can you make that will have the surest return on my investment? Choice A: Totally original, unique game. Could be the next Tetris; could be a bomb. B. Modern Warfare 6. The previous 5 were massive best-sellers. Hm, let's see which one I would choose....

The saddest part for me is that unlike big Hollywood movies, there aren't people we can't point to for these big games. Occasionally a big movie with a blockbuster budget DOES turn out to be unique and original. But that's never going to happen when you've allowed yourself to get stuck in a rut like we're in now with gaming. The only thing that will is if there's a steep decline, and suddenly Modern Warfare 6 is 50% less profitable than 5, and 7 is 50% less profitable than that...When eventually the big houses get desperate and realize they MUST try something new or die. That's what happened in Hollywood that allowed guys like Lucas and Spielberg to do something radical. It just so happened to be successful, but Star Wars, E.T., and Jaws COULD have been total flops (and many "wise" people in Hollywood were CERTAIN they would be).

So, basically what I'm saying is that we can blame the big houses as we want, but if we're still buying the damn games we've really got to blame ourselves. If, on the other hand, we spend our money on indie games, then we create a much-needed crisis.


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