The homogenization of AAA gaming


#1

I’m playing a video game.

It’s a mix of action/stealth game. Traditionally it would be considered an action or action/adventure game I think? but you can also sneak around, distract enemies throwing an object, and more importantly, kill them if you attack them from behind with a special action.
It plays in scenario with strong elements of open world or at least big non-linear areas. In said open world, you explore around, taking some resources, which can be used directly or converted into real objects or upgrades for yourself though a crafting system.
It also has RPG elements, in the way you can upgrade the main character, taking some skills/passive upgrades.

The questions is, What game am I playing?

Yeah, I think the point should be clear. You can not know what game I’m talking about. Too many damn options.

The answer btw is The Evil Within 2
I actually thought about it around Far Cry 3/Tomb Raider time, so it a few years ago, but it’s continuing to be a strong trend after several years. From Far Crys to Tomb Raiders to Deus Exs, to Watch Dogs, to Dying Light, to Dishonoreds, to The Last of Us, to who knows what more examples I’m not thinking right now but follow the same pattern.

Obviously some are more action games and others more stealthy, others more survival horror, some in first person and others in third person, etc. Not all of them are the same. But there is a déjà vu feeling vibe playing some of them. A lack of originality, a feeling that it has been designed by committee with the specific and clear intent of playing it safe and just follow the tried and trusted mix of mechanics that they have metrics saying that they work.

So I can only say thanks god for indie games because this shit is getting tiring. In The Evil Within 2 case, I feel as the game is weaker than the first part because of this homogenization and trying to be just one more.


#2

And every time a game tries something a little different and disappoints, like Prey or Agents of Mayhem, the AAA cage gets another bar.


#3

Evil Within felt like a ‘best of’ rehash of Resident Evil 4 but where the guns are worse and the difficulty jacked up. Honestly, i’d rather they go with tried and true stuff rather than trying to reinvent the wheel. Maybe they just looked at their original game and blended it with some modern design and came up with an improvement?

The indie games will always be there- we’re in a golden age of choices in our games, getting mad about a few just refining existing mechanics doesn’t suit the time.


#4

I’m not sure it’s a bad thing, it’s a bit like complaining about movies having similar techniques used in their making, camera shots, music. etc.
Why shouldn’t games iterate on what has been proven to work? Why keep reinventing the wheel? If already existing mechanics are appropriate and you can’t really think of a better way of doing things I see nothing wrong with reusing mechanics, as long as the end game doesn’t feel like a copycat…


#5

Yeah, but who cares?

And thank god for that.

There’s more interesting stuff going on in AAA gaming right now than there was in the mid 90s and also in the mid 2000s.


#6

I am sorta ok with this pattern if the story is good, and the world is well designed. :)


#7

I was about to post the same thing. Get out of my head!

I didn’t mess around with Prey very much, certainly not enough to read the forum thread. Does it try something different? Should I stick with it beyond the opening bits? I was kind of figuring it was just another iteration on the Dishonored formula.

As for Evil Within, I’m with you @TurinTur. I just don’t get the appeal. I’ve played the first bits of both games, but it was such a chore, and so dumbly earnest about teh horror!. Once I got to the part where you start upgrading your character so you can better sneak/shoot your way through the Resident Evil world, I had completely lost interest. Frankly, I’d rather give Resident Evil 5 another playthrough.

-Tom


#8

If you are going to iterate on tried and true themes/systems, your execution has to be spot-on. That’s pretty much what we teach our Game Studio students at the college where I work. A wildly innovative title might get some wiggle room, but something that’s covering familiar territory needs to stand out with its quality and polish.

So I don’t care much if a game is a bit of this, a bit of that, and pretty much like A, B, and C; I care if it is all that and sucks.


#9

Maybe, but it’s not a problem. There’s so many cool things happening in the indie space, with better distribution than was available in the past, that makes up for any stagnation in AAA titles.


#10

To anyone else I’d say HELL YES, but since you didn’t like Deus Ex - I don’t know. It’s an immersive sim, plays a lot like System Shock 2 with many modern systems (good ones). Very tight design all around and a much better game than Dishonored imo.


#11

In my limited experience, it was a much harder game than Dishonored. It’s willing to let you have your freedom, including letting you fail or run out of stuff.


#12

I am sharing your exact same feeling, which is why I haven’t bothered with AAA titles for years and years. Sometimes I do something silly, and buy some Tomb Raider or Mad Max, which bores me to death. I, just like you it seems, then jump back into my hipster box of wonderful toys and am happy again.


#13

Same - I had this exact thought this weekend when I finally got around to playing The Last of Us - going through the tutorial section and I’m being told to hold triangle to do a stealth take-down or throw a bottle to distract the enemy and I’m already feeling tired of this game. Although I really liked the ladder holding animation which more than anything is convincing me to keep going.


#14

Don’t give up on The Last of Us. Totally worth playing just for the story and relationship between the two - unless you absolutely hate the mechanics. I liked them so it was a win-win for me. One of my favorite games.


#15

Eye of the beholder thing to me. I think I’ve read this same thread going back to 1996 on UseNet. The only thing that changes is the person writing it, and the number of eager beavers who think this is unique, ready to jump on the bandwagon.

We’re in a pretty amazing age of gaming right now. So many terrific things out there now, so many coming. But gaming at the AAA level (that is, games that have a high degree of investment capital put into their creation) have always tended to play things a little safe. I mean, hell, go grab a CRPG, and notice how many of them still use stats that owe something to the original D&D design from the 1970s. Games in the 1980s imitated and iterated off one another. Games in the 1990s and 2000s did too.

At any rate, in this case the OP is describing what is just a questionable, me-too-also game design particular to one game. Stealth takedowns and crafting make some sense and are internally consistent for, say Tomb Raider or Assassin’s Creed. Not sure they fit like a glove for Evil Within 2.

I’ve occasionally felt the same way too, drifted into a gaming rut of sorts. I’ve let a half-year or so go by, and then find myself fully captured again.


#16

Stealth take downs and crafting make sense for basically any game in my opinion. I haven’t played evil within 2, but #1 is mostly a survival game so you sneak around a ton, use traps and stealth take down enemies to save ammo and health.

I don’t agree with the original poster at all. He lists a genre and some high level bullet points, then concludes that all of these games are the same.

For example. I’m talking about a first person shooting game. It has a health system, limited ammo, a story campaign, you can melee, there are guns and head shots do extra damage. What game am i talking about? You’re simply being way too broad. The only way what you talk about won’t be true is if a game creates its own genre

About the only thing i do agree with is RPG elements (mainly progression) being added to basically every game these days. I do think this is a positive though.


#17

There are no stealth takedowns in Total War: Warhammer II. I checked.


#18

I think it’s the only Naughty Dog game I haven’t played so will keep at it - but I’ve recently played Uncharted 4, Rise of the Tomb Raider and Sniper Elite 3 so coming to this definitely had a weight of “this again?”

Although on the other hand, I do appreciate games in a certain genre having a common language of action across different developers. It means I don’t have to spend an inordinate amount of time coming to grips with basic movement and control mechanics and can just dive straight into the gameplay - I guess it’s the old chestnut of familiarity vs originality.


#19

I reckon that this works in favor of both the player and the developer. The devs can say “This is a 3rd person action adventure game with X”, where X is the unique selling point. With this statement much of the risk of the design is now understood. It’s tried and true, we just need to execute on it. The X factor is where the innovation lies. Taking the upcoming Insomniac Spiderman game, we know that the X factor is gonna be Spidey and how he navigates the city. the 3rd person combat and camera controls are a given.

Equivalent AAA products from the past? In the 80s we had action adventure sidescrollers. In the 90s we saw Doom/Quake style FPS taking the stage. In the 2000’s we saw the rise of 3rd person open worlds and story driven FPS. I think we can trace a pretty straight line from the 80s blockbusters to today’s AAA games: mostly story driven 3rd person action adventure shooters or hack and slashes, almost always with some semblance of an open world. Devs are always using the best technology at the time to tell stories, and along with that the highest budgets the studios can muster. But not only that, they are iterating on the games they themselves love to play that also sell well. Because it’s their jobs to make games that sell.

As a thought experiment, what would a AAA action adventure sidescroller look like today? What would 100-200mil get you? How would the gaming public even react to such a thing? Today, we can see overwhelming support for a game like Cuphead (a game closer in style to the 80’s blockbusters than todays.) What if it cost 200mil to make? What if it cost 60 dollars to buy?


#20

If it works, it works. I find Evil Within fresh enough in its setting, atmosphere and focus on survival. Sure it has aspects that many other games have, but so what, they are enjoyable.