Sunday, August 07, 2005

Enough with the Undead, already!

I realized that in my last posts about games, I'm talking almost exclusively about first person shooters (FPSs). I think my point applies to other genres as well, though. The role-playing game genre, for instance, also relies on the twin precepts of otherworldy creatures with very little upstairs. Subsitute kobolds or orcs for zombies, and the BFG-9000 for a +2 Sword of Penultimate Butt-kicking, and my comments still apply.

One of the things Bioware and (now sadly departed) Black Isle Studios had to do to the D&D ruleset to make their games work on computers was to ratchet down the level of experience points (XP) gained for every creature killed. Why? Because they threw hordes of very stupid monsters at you. Rather than have a small bands of intelligent opponents, they opted for waves of enemies. It's simply easier to do. And hey, one orc looks just like another, right?

Now, I appreciate a good hack-and-slash RPG; my wife and I are girding ourselves to tackle Dungeon Siege 2 soon. It's just seems strange that even the less hack-y and slash-y entrants in the genre rely so heavily on combat with hordes of identical clones. With all the time game developers put into creating expansive skill trees, why is killing someone the default solution to every problem? When critics regularly abuse the same tired one-man-verus-an-army premise, why do game publishers keep pushing the same old story? It only makes sense if one takes the view that constructing a game in this way must be easy, while other avenues are more difficult.

There are, of course, pockets of innovation out there. I salute the courage of those game developers and publishers. I just wish there were more of them.