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.

Comments

Chris Kennedy
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I disagree

I don't think there is a problem with not liking a game before you ever play it. If you are continuing a franchise - as infant as the Syndicate "franchise" is - you are expecting some creative twists and new ideas to be applied to a series and to the genre of said series. Although there are many games that have expanded their genre base, many of these have been new entries in an already large library of games.

Syndicate hasn't seen anything new since Syndicate Wars, and that game was terrible. I think fans of the original game have been asking for a new entry in the series for a long time - to be finally thrown a cookie after all these years only to find out it is a FPS really hurts. It feels worse now than it did when there WAS no sequel. At least in that state you just kept moving on with life never knowing if there was going to be another Syndicate game. Now you have something, and it is something to dislike.

If you have to play a game before judging it, the company wins. The only true way to vote is to vote with your wallet (by not paying), but no small group of individuals are ever going to make a difference in that area.

If the game itself is decent, gets good reviews, etc, thousands of people who have no IDEA that the original Syndicate game exists will go buy it, play it, trade it in, and move along. And that, my friends, is a real shame.

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clok1966
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Joined: 01/21/2009
I will never agree with

I will never agree with deciding how much I like something before I see it/play it. I will agree, XCOM deserves the logical evolution of the strategy game we all love, and a FPS is not the correct direction. I am like all you here, a new strategy game based on XCOM would be my first choice, but thats not happening. I guess in the long run I agree, but disagree. You mention "If the game itself is decent, gets good reviews, etc, thousands of people who have no IDEA that the original Syndicate game exists will go buy it, play it, trade it in, and move along. And that, my friends, is a real shame." no argument.. but .. maybe just maybe a few will check out the original.. it does work both ways.

Xcom FPS will it be XCOM? no.. but could it be a good game? maybe. Same with syndicate. To those of us who played them, they wont be spirtual succesors.. just games..

One side note- for those of you who do like tactical turn base games, I just tried Elven Legacy (picked up on a STEAM sale but never looked at till this weekend). Its old school like Panzer general or Fantasy General, but a little less hardcore so its a bit more accesble. All turn based and uses some nice touchs like ranged will help units a square away, rest options that work well, nice little animation when the fights happen and a plesent enouhg look and story.

Matt Barton
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Well, let's just say for the

Well, let's just say for the sake of argument that X-Com and Syndicate FPS are brilliant games, lots of fun, best thing since Halo or Deus Ex, etc. What of it? Best case scenario--new FPS franchises will open up with some "innovative" RPG or tactical elements, but they will basically be nothing but Doom clones with some cool bells and whistles. They will not be the continuation of what drew people to the original games.

I played a helluva lot more Syndicate than X-Com, so I can speak to that...what I would LIKE to see in a modern remake. Part of the thrill of the game was that mix of action and tactics. You had that overhead view, so you could rapidly switch between single units or groups, and fire with the mouse. You could also easily set up your guys to stand guard or even go to another part of the map. A lot of the brilliance here was the relatively small maps, so you didn't get lost or confused very easily. All I'd really want is improved audiovisuals, the ability to see inside buildings, more choices for upgrading and customizing your guys (trees would work nicely), and of course a big world with lots of missions to choose from. I think they could add more weapons and vehicles, too.

As an FPS it's going to be another game like Alpha Protocol at worst or Deux Ex at best. You'll be able to upgrade your character, possibly teammates, but as far as gameplay goes it will be just another shooter.

I don't think the original game would've transitioned well to consoles as-is. At least, I can't see how you could easily control it with a gamepad, since it was designed for a mouse. I'm sure an interface whiz could work something out, though. Or they could just say "let's use the Unreal engine" or whatever and "problem solved." Hey, if it tanks, they can always say "That license was dead!" instead of "why didn't we stay true?"

In a lot of ways this is similar to what happened to Fallout. Now it's just another shooter. Sure, there are "RPG elements" thrown in, but no one would ever mistake it for the original series. If you're willing for every new game to be a shooter, that's great, but for the rest of us, there's a problem: no real variety.

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clok1966
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Joined: 01/21/2009
yes and no
Matt Barton wrote:

Well, let's just say for the sake of argument that X-Com and Syndicate FPS are brilliant games, lots of fun, best thing since Halo or Deus Ex, etc. What of it? Best case scenario--new FPS franchises will open up with some "innovative" RPG or tactical elements, but they will basically be nothing but Doom clones with some cool bells and whistles. They will not be the continuation of what drew people to the original games.

But see here is your problem.. if they remake either they will just be another RTS or Turn based Strategy game.. Much as you said "basically be nothing but Doom clones with some cool bells and whistles" they will be Xcom with bells and whislte or Syndicate with bells and whistles.. maybe not to you, but to anybody who feels the same about stategy as you do FPS. Again Im not argueing they are leaving what made them great, and I think as you do , it probebly the wrong direction to take them, but a game is a game is a game... the thing that makes then stand out is how fun they are. Not where they came from.. of course that is opinion only.. and even with me saying all this.. good god there needs to be something other then FPS soon :)

and HOLY HECK did you know you could do video HOURS long on youtube now?

Erez Ba (not verified)
IP vs. System grab

To me, this is a no brainer. What has been done here is simply an IP grab - the taking of a certain universe/mythology (in this case the Syndicate/Xcom's one) and then an attempt on making a 'different' take on that universe/mythology. Usually, that is not such a bad thing - think about the new Batman trilogy darker and more vivid interpretation of the Batman IP; another good example is Smallville. However, a GAME is not JUST an IP!

A game is a System; and unless you are going to follow in the traditions of that system, it has nothing to do with that game - or as Noah Weiler (from Spoony Experiment) put it so accurately - "It has nothing! NOTHING to do with Xcom". He was not referring to the mythology (although that too have changed, by the apparent removal of the grey aliens and many other changes), but rather to the fact that is has nothing to do with the same gaming feel that Xcom has given us due to its System. It is akin to me making a point-n-click adventure game based on the Warcraft universe (something that, coincidentally, Blizzard had tried), and saying its the new Warcraft. Everyone would find that a ridiculous notion, and so I call ridiculous on attempting to recreate the Xcom/Syndicate universes with an FPS approach. I believe the only reason this approach is still accepted, is the migration of the industry from 'Game as a System' approach, to 'Game as a Story/Plot/FMV approach' - when you continuously take that approach the line between the universe in which you write the story and the actual GAME begin to blur.

Unfortunately, the only way to follow a system is to copycat to an extent (the much dreaded sequel); and though some sequels have a lot to offer (like the Ultimas who offered drastically different system from game to game - at least from the Age of Enlightenment onwards), most don't. The conclusion to this would be that every new game should be different. I would much rather see a new and exciting strategy game (one that has a system never seen before) than Xcom 3 (lets ignore Xcom:Apocalypse for now).

I am sure that my sentiment is backed by market, since this is why the much dreaded UFO sequels (as well as some indie attempts) never picked up.

clok1966
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Joined: 01/21/2009
I'm kinda sucked in.. looks

I'm kinda sucked in.. looks good.. of course most trailers do. I only seen one 'syndicate" thing.. the mind control. Maybe if the FPS is good enough some old fashiond RTS like it was orginialy game will evolve too.

Erez Ba (not verified)
Betrayal!!! :P

I do have to admit it looks kinda cool, but to me it's just an interesting take of the dystopian theme... there is nothing that makes it distinctively 'Syndicate'. This could could have been a trailer for 'Deus Ex: Human Rev 2" for all I know, and none would be the wiser of its Syndicate "origin". In fact, if they had called it anything other than Syndicate (and thus suggest some originality) I would have probably purchased the game based on the trailer - but now - they have just lost a sale.

Rowdy Rob
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Joined: 09/04/2006
Not a reboot, but an eradication of "Syndicate."
clok1966 wrote:

I'm kinda sucked in.. looks good.. of course most trailers do. I only seen one 'syndicate" thing.. the mind control. Maybe if the FPS is good enough some old fashiond RTS like it was orginialy game will evolve too.

It does look like a cool FPS. Heck, most FPS's look cool to me. But yeah, it isn't Syndicate. I'm not sure why they wasted the license on this when it could have been its own thing. It's not like Syndicate is that widely known outside of gaming geek circles!

Not only is this not "Syndicate," but now they can't truly update the real "Syndicate" without pissing off the fans of the newer game! Syndicate = license killed.

What's next, a "M.U.L.E." first-person shooter?!?!?

Keith Burgun
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Joined: 09/06/2010
Ha! Great stuff.

Great stuff, Matt. There's only one major issue I take with what you said, otherwise I completely agree with everything.

The only thing I think you're getting wrong is the bit at the end about making things "look realistic", yet you DO realize that turn-based is probably ideal for a strategy game. It's funny how you compartmentalize like that, and are able to understand how realism actually is not important with regards to the input/interface, but you don't get that it's EQUALLY unimportant with regards to the visual representations.

We all need to really, strongly, collectively DITCH this idea that "realism" has value and in of itself in games. It has absolutely none. That is NOT to say that a game cannot be realistic and also happen to be quite good, it's simply to say that "how realistic something is" is not at all a measure of how good a game something is.

A game is a system of rules in which agents compete by making interesting decisions. To me, the more the visuals and theme support the gameplay (usually by making your actions and abilities as CLEAR to you as possible), the better. Looking pretty (as in the way that a painting or a movie looks pretty) is only a nice bonus on top of that, but many great games do not look pretty at all (in that way) and yet they are none the worse for it. Tetris, Desktop Dungeons and many boardgames would be examples.

Matt Barton
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Joined: 01/16/2006
Huh?
Keith Burgun wrote:

We all need to really, strongly, collectively DITCH this idea that "realism" has value and in of itself in games. It has absolutely none. That is NOT to say that a game cannot be realistic and also happen to be quite good, it's simply to say that "how realistic something is" is not at all a measure of how good a game something is.

A game is a system of rules in which agents compete by making interesting decisions. To me, the more the visuals and theme support the gameplay (usually by making your actions and abilities as CLEAR to you as possible), the better. Looking pretty (as in the way that a painting or a movie looks pretty) is only a nice bonus on top of that, but many great games do not look pretty at all (in that way) and yet they are none the worse for it. Tetris, Desktop Dungeons and many boardgames would be examples.

I agree with some of that, but realism definitely does have value in games, just like it does in art. Not everything has to be "super deformed" or look like a cartoon.

As for point B, you COULD play chess with nothing but cardboard togs marked with K, Q, P, etc. You could just draw the board on paper with a pencil. But people instead want nicely carved pieces and wooden boards. People even seem to go for sets that (to me, at least) muddle the issue a bit about what's what--is Goofy the bishop or a knight??? Not to mention all the 3D chess games that actually obscure the board to some degree. I personally hate those, but they must be selling them to somebody...!

Even with games like Monopoly, everybody loves the paper money and little metal playing pieces. I remember when they switched to that computerized money bank, there was an uproar. I don't doubt but that the sales have gone down.

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