...you just keep on trying 'till you run out of cake. And the science gets done, and you make a neat gun for the people who are still alive."
GLaDOS - "Still Alive"
As we perch on the brink of this year's Game Developers Conference, rumors of some of the biggest gaming establishments of the year are already trickling in. As I have been happily watching the news stream in from various sources, two announced games have particularly grabbed my attention, each one the first sequel to a franchise that altered the face of gaming in ways we never could have predicted. What are these games, you may ask?
With 10,000 new words and 120 new levels, 5th Cell is literally improving on what we thought was impossible in the first place (remember, the first game recognized 22,802 words already). An emphasis is going to be placed on adjectives this time around, which were completely absent in the previous game. I am crossing my fingers that I can give Maxwell a purple bazooka.
While no exact date has been given as of yet, they are planning to release Scribblenauts 2 this fall, only one year after the original. With luck, they may address the control and camera issues present in the first game, and maybe even give the game an actual storyline to help motivate the player, which could make this game...well, how should I put it? REALLY REALLY REALLY COOL. (Calm down, self.)
Well, would you look at that? Three years after the original game was released as a part of The Orange Box, we will be getting Portal 2 this holiday season. I personally find the way they hinted towards this to be a brilliant use of patching - mere days before, the original Portal was updated, adding radios that would play strange messages when positioned correctly, and also adding a slight tweak to the ending scene of the game. The internet community was sent into a tizzy, trying to piece together what all of this meant.
Taking place hundreds of years after the original game, Portal 2 follows Chell, the protagonist from the first game, as she wakes up from stasis (or something like that). GLaDOS, after being nearly destroyed in the first game, has attemped to rebuild the Aperture Science lab, which has not been touched by human hands since the first game, but has instead been overgrown with plants.
And you know what else stinks for Chell?
GLaDOS remembers everything. :twisted:
The game will be a good sight longer than the original, and will also feature a co-op mode, as well as many new objects to solve puzzles with, like laser-redirecting cubes and paint with strange physical properties. The writing also sounds promising, and they promise not to reuse things like the cake being a lie. I like this fact, because if they did anything more with the cake, we'd all get tired of it, and then I'd be sad! Frankly, I'm extremely excited, even though I still haven't gotten to play the original yet.
Ah, so we have some exciting games coming out towards the end of 2010! Now, I generally like sequels - I like more of a good thing, and if something didn't work the first time, then hopefully it will be fixed the next time around (and the concept of improving on things definitely influnced my title choice, I admit). But, there is something interesting I cannot help but notice: where the general early consensus on Scribblenauts 2 is that it will definetely be better than the first, people are more mixed over Portal 2, a few even going so far as to boycott it already. Why is that?
One word: expectations. Let's talk about sequels and their reception by the denizens of the Internet.
When a game is given a sequel, the opinion can range from joy to sheer hatred, all mostly depending on how the original was received by the public. Let's consider some examples, and hopefully the motivations of the Portal 2 hating minority will become clear.
I suppose I will illustrate some pre-release sequel scenarios to hopefully prove my point. Of course, any of these viewpoints could be wrong once games are released - it's the pre-release hype that is being addressed here.
SITUATION #1: Generally bad game gets sequel. (Slightly edited - now with example!)
So close, so very, very close, and yet so absymally far. I feel your pain, bro - no, actually, I'm lying. I don't.
This isn't hard: if people hate a game, they will automatically assume that anything else related to it will be bad as well (or at least will look upon it with suspicion).
I could not think of a game that followed this pattern, but fellow GameSpot user Just-Adam suggested Tony Hawk's Ride, which is an excellent example - generally panned by the gaming world, it is already recieving a sequel. Hopefully, this quickly-announced Ride 2 means that they have a good idea on how to fix the numerous flaws present in the first game.
SITUATION #2: A game that is generally considered very, very good, but not 'so-good-angels-must-have-descended-to-earth-and-delivered-it-unto-us' gets a sequel.
Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando is sometimes considered by fans to be the best game in the series, while others say it's Up Your Arsenal. I prefer Up Your Arsenal myself. I feel like I'm picking one dirty pun over another. >_>
Also pretty straightforward: before release, the sequel will be anticipated with joy that directly correlates to the enjoyment and quality present in the first game. If the sequel improves on what was present in the first game and adds subtle yet fluid improvements, then people will be extremely happy.
MAXWELL I DID NOT TELL YOU TO JUMP IN THE WATER ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL YOURSELF WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU.
Alternatively, the original game could have had the potential to be spectacular, but was hindered by inherent flaws, like the character controls in Scribblenauts - how many people here accidentally and repeatedly told Maxwell to jump into a lava pit? *raises hand* While Scribblenauts was amazing in concept and still a very good game, issues like this held it back. Thus, an announced sequel makes fans very, very happy - they know that the developers will almost certainly fix the flaws and improve on the overall experience, and there are not many ways in which they could easily and completely ruin the game.
SITUATION #3: A long-running and popular series, known for being extremely good, plans to release another sequel.
Here's a fun game: Pick any entry in the Final Fantasy series, and count every person who says they hate it. You will get a very large number.
Now, this is where issues begin to pop up among the gaming communities. The more well-known a game is, the more loved it is, and the more hated it is. When any innovation or crazy new thing is announced for an upcoming game, like the voice-acting in Final Fantasy X or the real-time combat of Final Fantasy XII, cries of 'RUINED FOREVER' begin to resound. I think this is mostly driven by fear - if the new game turns out to be bad, all the detractor's joyous memories of the series will be slightly tainted by this new game that failed to live up to expectations.
SITUATION #4: A single game is widely considered to be 'so-good-angels-must-have-descended-to-earth-and-delivered-it-unto-us'. It also is (or seems) self-contained storywise, implying that no further action is necessary in the franchise. The game later gets a sequel.
If you though people complained about Final Fantasy games, then you ain't seen nothing yet. I think the key thing in this type of complaint is that the original game could stand alone. After all, not many people complain about there being three God of War games, because I think the original was set up to have sequels.
Rapture didn't turn out so well at the end of Bioshock. How can there be a game set later in Rapture's timeline? Oh, that's easy - we'll just undo all those plotlines we tied up in the last game! Deus ex machina, baby!
With a game like Bioshock or Portal, most people tend to really like it. It also stands alone, so if you decide to make a sequel, you will probably incur the wrath of said fans, even though they would probably love some more of the game. The problem is, as I have mentioned eariler, expectations. You see, there are sort of only three ways a sequel can go:
#1: It is exactly the same quality as the original game - "Well, this is an okay game, I guess, but it's really the same, so I'm dissapointed."
#2: The game is worse than the original game - "This game SUCKS! HATERAGEHATE YOU HAVE KILLED MY HAPPY MEMORIES OF MY PRECIOUS GAME!"
What is being aimed for is reaction #3: The game is actually better than the original. It takes a very gifted developer to pull this off - keeping the original game intact storywise and fan-reaction-wise while also improving on it and naturally and smoothly adding to the story are not easy feats, especially when a story is pretty much begun and ended in the one game. It takes skill to reopen a plot without breaking down the inherent logic and semblance of reason. The stakes end up extremely high, and this might be why some people don't like the sound of Portal 2. However, I have faith in Valve - The Orange Box looks like a boxfull of joy and happiness, so I think they can pull it off. We shall see...
So, what is the point here? Fans can be silly and fickle, which is sometimes justified. Developers should be careful when they make sequels to wildly sucessful games (unless they have established that they plan to do this sort of thing). And Portal 2 and Scribblenauts 2 are happening, and this makes me a happy person.
Oh, and have a happy Game Developers Conference, everyone! :D