Are FPSes the enemy?

A man of many talents, Hideo Kojima is best known for his pioneering work in the stealth-action genre with the Metal Gear franchise. In a recent interview with Official PlayStation Magazine he expressed his concern with the state of the video game industry and how first-person shooters are the dominating force, making it harder for original ideas to blossom. Kojima told the mag that there are only about ten big name games that can grab the public’s attention and that Japan-centric games will find it hard to compete with them.

“I think it’s more consumer demand – right now, consumers are happy with what they have. First-person shooters sell like crazy, so there’s not really a strong demand for anything else, and that’s why [original ideas] stop being made. People are satisfied with making minor upgrades and tweaking things here and there – as long as that’s the landscape, it will keep on happening. I don’t see a problem necessarily, but at the same time it is nice to see new things come.”

While I agree that the FPS genre is a hard one to beat it’s also hard to master and the number of titles that can get away with incremental updates gets less every year. Take the most famous shooter series, Call of Duty. The third Modern Warfare release sold very well and floats nicely near the top of the charts but the excitement for the franchise is definitely wearing thin. I’ve hardly seen it appear in my Friends’ Lists of games on Xbox Live and the general buzz about it felt less enthusiastic than last year. Partly due to the other big military shooter and partly because gamers do look as if they want something more than an FPS. The relatively poor sales for id’s Rage eludes to this as does the fact that Skyrim took the Christmas number one spot in the UK’s all format Chart not to mention the almost universal praise of Portal 2 throughout the year.

But it’s fair to say that publishers who are keen to make a quick sale will often go down the FPS route whether the game calls for it or not. And shooting in general is a mechanic that is found in the vast majority of titles. Though I would say that just because the wider audience gobble up a first-person-shooter, that doesn’t mean developers should exclusively cater for them. Yes it makes far better business sense in the short term but a great original game will resonate with the masses regardless of genre. The aforementioned Skyrim shows this as does the Assassin’s Creed series. The latter may be experiencing its own stagnation but has been very profitable and playable for both publisher and consumer.

Kojima added how that a digital distribution method or even off-shoot could be a good way of getting new ideas out with less risk than traditional releases.

“Maybe for new ideas, the way to do it is [by] releasing things via online services first and then seeing how people react to that. Or even if you’re making something from a game-design perspective that’s completely different, you could tie it to an existing franchise – like even if it had the Metal Gear Solid title, it could be completely different. Maybe you can make a Batman game that has the Batman title, but you can still be free with what you make the game into. Making something that’s completely new – where the gameplay, the characters, the world, everything is completely from scratch – that’s very hard to realise in this day and age.”

Batman is an interesting example used because Rocksteady’s Arkham Asylum and Arkham City are two huge successes. I may not have been as wowed by Asylum, City has been a joy to play and the franchise took very big risks with the potentially repetitive combat and lack of stereotypical content. Like how there is now Batmobile in either games. If asked what a Batman game would feature before 2010, I would have expected there to be a driving level complete with a poorly handled Batmobile. For all intense purposes, you could view the Arkham series as an off-shoot to the typical Batman or indeed action-adventure-brawler game. Kojima mentioned a Metal Gear Solid title that was completely different and while Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance isn’t part of the ‘Solid’ collective, it’s still very a Metal Gear game that, from what we’ve seen, will play quite differently.

I do very much enjoy a good first-person shooter and understand Kojima’s frustrations, equally wanting to experience some new and interesting ideas in gaming. Luckily, BioShock Infinite is set for to come out this year and from what Ken Levine’s team have done in the past, it should be a good combination of FPS ideas with new ways to play them. Perhaps a better way of combating the languishing genre is to take a similar approach rather than admitting defeat.

Batman: Arkham City revealed

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Teased at last year’s Spike VGA awards, Batman: Arkham Asylum 2 was the surprise game of the show since no one really expected to hear anything regarding a sequel so soon after the first game came out. Now the follow up has an official name; Batman: Arkham City and from the initial press release, sounds as if Rocksteady Studios have expanded the idea of a prison complex into a whole city. Arkham City lays within the heart of Gotham City and its heavily fortified walls keep the insane inside. Clearly something goes awry adding a brand new storyline and calling on classic characters from the Batman universe. Coming Autumn 2011, Batman: Arkham City will be available for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC but in the mean time, an official website has been set up handing out updates to all those who offer their email addresses.

While I appreciate being in the minority by not falling in love with Arkham Asylam, the possibility of an open-world adventure for Arkham City is really quite intriguing. I know plenty of people who are thinking one thing right now; “awesome”.

TIME’s top 10 video games of 09

TIME magazine have put together their top 10 lists for the year with video games being no exception. There are a few oddities and some serious questionable placements too that will no doubt cause many an arguments to come. Taking the number 1 spot is unsurprisingly Modern Warfare 2 which I can only agree with. It was a fantastic experience that will linger on for many months thanks to all the multiplayer options available. Next up comes Batman: Arkham Asylum. I am yet to see all the brilliance I keep getting told BAA features but don’t deny that it is a good game. I just don’t believe it’s a great game. I think it is a definite top 10 but maybe not so high. More confusion for me comes with DJ Hero. Just why is it at number 3? Why indeed is it in the chart altogether? TIME believe that it offers something new to the genre of rhythm games but neglected to mention its disturbingly poor sales. Each to their own I guess. Borderlands follows at number 4 which I personally would have placed at number 2 due to it’s continuing offerings of fun. New Super Mario Bros. Wii sits right in the middle at 5 which seems a bit harsh to me as it’s not only selling like crazy but a Mario platfomer in its purest form. I’m glad Halo 3: ODST gets a mention because I feel that game has been given some unnecessary criticism but was surprised to see both Assassin’s Creed 2 and Uncharted 2 only place at numbers 9 and 10 respectfully. I suppose not all games can chart at the top but I would have expected them to do so. Read on to see the full chart and have a little think as to what would your top 10 look like…

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Bat dance

Weeeeeeee! - Batman: Arkham Asylum

With the insane amount of hype that Batman: Arkham Asylum is getting from some reviews, you’d think it was able to cure cancer. My time with the game left me with a slightly different view but also the knowledge that it could be amazing for fans of the comic franchise. Gameinformer had a chat with the talent behind the game, developers Rocksteady Studios about the how they made Batman: Arkham Asylum solve world hunger, end wars and fix the economy (kidding!).

  • Female mentalist Harley Quinn had some of her moves motion captured from one of the producers – who’s a dude!
  • The screams and moans when first entering the asylum are none other than the development team themselves.
  • Rather unsurprisingly, the combat was initially a rhythm action game which evolved into a 2D system and finally became what we have now in the game.
  • The name ‘Joker‘ is said a total of 384 times – can you count them all?
  • AI navigational nodes total 4,556 on the island.
  • 314 breakable TVs can be found on Arkham Island.
  • It took 174,405 art, audio, animation, code and design check-ins to make the game.

Can you imagine how the game would have played if it had rhythm action fight sequences? Some may argue that it’s not far off that now.