Deus Ex: Invisible War – “A Question of Evolution”

Deus Ex invisble War

Hard core gamers are hard to please when it comes to sequels. They tend to be overzealous in terms of design choices, expecting new games in a franchise to follow the basis laid down by its predecessors. When games try and break the mold, forums get packed with angry hard-cores that slam mouth every new design choice, with little, if any, reason for their complaints (think FFXII or Oblivion). Curiously enough, these are the same that spend most of their time ranting about EA’s repetitive publishing politics. The result of this conservatism is well known, franchises tend to follow a pretty strict formula: avoid innovation. Look around, how many game series keep reinventing themselves, title after title? Surely not “Final Fantasy”, “Resident Evil”, “Tomb Raider”, “Metroid Prime”, “Halo”, and so on; though these are hugely successful games, they tend to be filled with uninspired concepts. That is why whenever a sequel tends to push the envelope, it deserves praise for its courage and creativity. And if the game is better, then great… if it’s not, at least something different was tried. “Deus Ex: Invisible War” is such a game: 3 years after the success of the first “Deus Ex”, Warren Spector created a new game that, while maintaining the spirit of its predecessor, didn’t stick with its foundations. Needless to say, he got little praise from his undying fans.

The first thing that undermines the first game’s concept is the game genre. Though “Deus Ex” used the first person perspective, at its core, was a pure RPG. Now, “Invisible War” embraces the FPS mechanics, even if it still has RPG elements beneath it all. Action requires dodging and aiming, and accuracy cannot be evolved; in fact, the only thing that can be evolved in the game, are the weapons and biomods (in similar fashion to “Deus Ex”). Still on the RPG side of the game, there are still side-quests to be performed, people to talk to, and an engrossing storyline to follow through. Still, it is important to ask: why the change of genre? Personally, I think Warren Spector understood that classical RPG’s where losing appeal, and more action oriented games where on the rise. More so, in the three years gap between these games, game design had been somewhat streamlined to the needs of the ever crescent casual players. And though this is arguable, I believe it was the right choice; “Invisible War” feels modern, user friendly, dynamic, fun and easy to play, even though it is less challenging and less engrossing than its RPG predecessor.

Deus Ex 1

Thanks to smaller, more cohesive levels, level design also comes out as more linear and intuitive (thank God); unfortunately, this also means the game’s environments are more claustrophobic, which stops the world from feeling alive and organic. Smaller levels also allow players to easily choose a path that is more suitable to their gaming style, avoiding the needless wandering that occurred in the first “Deus Ex”, whenever the player had to search for a specific venting crawl or door access. All of these elements contribute to the more action oriented nature of the game, and are well intertwined with the FPS mechanics of the game.

On the narrative side, the second “Deus Ex” also feels like a mixed bag. Dialogs are much more consistent in terms of writing quality, giving a more mature tone to the plot and its thought-provoking philosophical ramblings. However, this just isn’t enough to save the story that, besides remaining overly ambitious and somewhat ridiculous, is filled with plot holes and disastrous, monotonic voice-acting. Choices in terms of narrative have again been neglected, and even though this time around there are a few more possibilities in terms of story, it is difficult to find them encouraging, since their consequences are not, in any way, experienced by the player. You could say that you can “imagine” the consequences, but even that pleasure is denied by the game, since characters and situations are so boring and one-sided that your brain will feel too numb and sleepy to give a damn about consequences. This is even truer, since the game is slightly more polarized in terms of “right” and “wrong”, making it less morally provoking than its prequel.

02.jpg

The art behind the game is basically identical to its forefather, featuring dark moody backgrounds and colors, now adorned with some nice dynamic lighting effects that add a welcome contrast to the sets. “Blade Runner-like” synthesizer based music also makes a comeback, providing the appropriate sci-fi ambience to the game. It is a shame that so little progress was made in this area, but even so, the game manages to be above average in this regard.

But it all comes down to: is it better than “Deus Ex”? The answer is no. It isn’t better, but it can hardly be described as worse. It’s like a different approach to the same motif. Even so, I remain true to my convictions: Warren Spector tried to create a new formula, instead of developing a cash-making, easy-to-produce sequel; in some aspects he succeeded, in others he did not. Like the first “Deus Ex”, “Invisible War” is as promising as it is disappointing, a realm of possibilities that are never fully developed and that would only be fully fledged in future games… But, if you think about it, that’s what sets Warren Spector’s games apart from the rest: they are a visionary testament of what is to come.

Overall: 3/5

Advertisements
    • jorgesousa
    • February 14th, 2008

    Well, let me start by stating that I, indeed, am a “hardcore gamer” when it comes to Deus Ex. I overly enjoyed the first installment of the series, including the elements that are criticized in your review of the game. The level design, for instance, in my opinion, was meant to be that way, confusing and, at the same time, empirical, in the sense that, yes, you don’t know exactly where you are going, but you do follow the scenario approach more suited to your own style and abilities. Much like you would do in “real life” situations, where you don’t have giant arrows indicating the “correct” path. And, eventually, you will get to the “spot” – after all, it IS a game. Is it hardcore? Probably, it certainly isn’t a usual approach (that I know of), because players, in spite of their rants about open games, still prefer to be guided or directed in some ways. A game is not supposed to make you feel lost, right? If it does, it is a bad game… unless the whole environment way of the game was built with this exactly purpose in mind, to involve the player in it so that he may become part of it.

    But I divagate. Moving on to its successor, Invisible Wars (IW). This game is so wrong, at so many levels. But let me start by saying (and agreeing) that the game is not terribly bad (there is a difference between bad and wrong). When put side to side with the fellow game colleagues of that time (and even now), IW still manages to provide a fair amount of “innovation” (please note the “ironic” quotes), looking very good, in spite of its horrible technical and artistic faults, much of those addressed on your review. Now, why is it the game wrong? Well, let’s start with your assessment that the “hordes” of “followers” of the first game can’t accept “innovation”. I am not “legion”, so I’ll do a personal statement on the subject. I will welcome innovation, if this innovation is in the good sense. If not, the game will be criticized (like it was), much in the way Nature “criticizes” a turtle for being born with its legs on the top of its head. It’s not that Nature does not welcome evolution, but it feels that may be right to not encourage certain types of “innovation” that might not go in the right (whatever that be) direction. In IW, the question is the same: if I play a game that, somehow, I feel “wrong”, I criticize it. I don’t like it, it disappointed me, and I felt dumb playing it. Why? Because I have played Deus Ex a week before. And it is compared to its predecessor that the game is just plain wrong.

    As we start playing the game, the loading tips and story bits indicates that our present world was made by the actions of “the Dentons” a long time ago. Curiously enough, the world was shaped by all the three possible endings in the previous game – talk about quantum physics! So, we start by finding the game glued with spit to Deus Ex. Not a good start, but hell, it’s still Deus Ex, let’s keep going. But things do not get better, unfortunately. We found our character is made of paper and very non dimensional, with little to say (of relevance) about not many but all the subjects. Now, I can agree that the original Denton, the main character of the first game, was not very, let’s say, “coherent” in its dialogs. But at least it was made an effort to give the character a persona, a confused human being finding its purpose in the world and having some though choices to make. That is not the case in here. We have a character with little (if any) motto, he goes ahead because it has to, the game (not the story) compels it to, and along the way, some of the “revelations” might give some purpose (arguably) to the actions of the character. But even this story, like you already stated, is filled with inconsistencies and nonsense (making me not understand the 4/5 regarding the plot…) and not very engaging in terms of interest. By the time you discover that the story behind Deus Ex was completely neglected by “reviving” a certain character, I was just… well, frustration is not the right word, but it’s the first that comes to mind.

    To complement this spiritless created character, the finishing move that makes you detach completely from the character is the absence of the RPG elements that worked so well in the first game. The enrolment of the player with a character in the first person perspective that can be evolved and shaped to the player’s will was not innovative, but it worked very well. And it was a mistake to avoid it in this game. To “appeal for other markets”, you say. I say is bogus. The game was dumbed down, this is right down evident. The game is much plainer, removing one thing that allows the enrolment of the player to happen at a higher level (controlled evolution of its own character). And for what? What was so “innovative” in IW that justified this? Is not even the fact that I don’t see IW as a step forward, but I don’t see ANYTHING in IW that is, in fact, a step forward on any direction. It is just Deus Ex, stripped from its complexity, stupified in its plot and with polished graphics. There is nothing innovative in this game, not a single thing. Where we lacking so much of “fun, easy, action packed games”? Well, this is one of them, all right. But is, simply out, nothing more than an FPS with biomods, a fake sensation of “choice” and a violation of what was a good premise. Does this make the game “bad”? Not necessarily. But is exactly this that, in my point of view, makes the game “wrong”. A “wrong” approach to a newly formed formula, a “wrong” design process, a ”wrong” story continuity, a “wrong” character formulation. This regarding what the Deus Ex trend was, and had the possibility to be.

    There is nothing wrong with appealing to new markets. As long as we don’t try to bring “down” a game that had a high cultural and human standpoint, reinforced with character building, to the level of a mindless game, like Splinter Cell, for instance. Which is fun, alright, but nothing more. Warren Spector had probably created a niche market with the first Deus Ex, he knew it and he could have exploited that, in the good way. Not for its own purpose, but for the players. The continuity of sagas is definitely not an easy task. Several examples, not only on gaming, but in other mediums have proved that. So, I do not agree that a sequel that was closer to the original has to be “easy to produce”. It could have taken as much care as IW (supposedly) had. It depended on what the producer wanted to make of it, and time and effort dispended on it – a straight sequel, taking bits and pieces of the story and using a refined graphic engine, appealing to the mass market that enjoyed the first Deus Ex for different reasons that the niche referenced above had; or a TRUE sequel, where the story was convincing, or at least MADE SENSE, reformulating some areas while maintaining others, creating gullible characters, give the game a depth. This is what I expected from IW. And being Spector the creator of Deus Ex, and from what I hear of him, I didn’t expect him to follow the first path. Which he didn’t, let me underline that. But he also didn’t take the second one. Instead, he tried something he thought was “new”, which is commendable, but he failed, both at creating something really new and reusing the same “motif”, as you call it.

    Because there is a difference of continuing a saga for, let’s say, a small amount of chapters and exploiting a franchise mindlessly. And here comes my disagreement to the comparison you make between the Deus Ex fans and the EA fans. It is not a fair comparison, they are different “scales”, EA launches a series of franchise installments EACH YEAR, clearly hoping to exploit the followers, while IW could have perfectly stayed true to its origins, with technical refinements of the first chapter and players would still love it. Some of the “Splinter Cell generation” players wouldn’t even touch it, you say? Well, that’s too bad. A game should NOT be dumbed down to achieve new markets. We cannot go down that path, for the risk of losing games that make us think and live them in new, original, organic fashions.

    (By the way, have you seen a movie called Idiocracy? I think this kind of proves my point.)

    Well, sorry for this long (and sometimes disarticulated) text. I hope this gives you grounds for more discussion about the matter 😉

    • ruicraveirinha
    • February 14th, 2008

    First of all, thanks for the reply. Now, onto the discussion =)

    “Well, let me start by stating that I, indeed, am a “hardcore gamer” when it comes to Deus Ex. I overly enjoyed the first installment of the series, including the elements that are criticized in your review of the game. The level design, for instance, in my opinion, was meant to be that way, confusing and, at the same time, empirical, in the sense that, yes, you don’t know exactly where you are going, but you do follow the scenario approach more suited to your own style and abilities. Much like you would do in “real life” situations, where you don’t have giant arrows indicating the “correct” path. And, eventually, you will get to the “spot” – after all, it IS a game. Is it hardcore? Probably, it certainly isn’t a usual approach (that I know of), because players, in spite of their rants about open games, still prefer to be guided or directed in some ways.”

    Of course they do. Want to know why? Because it just isn’t fun to wander aimlessly through a scenario in search of something. Guiding lines avoid random blind search, and give a more streamlined, and thus more pleasing navigation of maps. “Invisible War” follows this axiom to its fullest, without openly showing glowing arrows, instead creating levels that have more intuitive layouts (when compared to “Deus Ex”).

    “A game is not supposed to make you feel lost, right? If it does, it is a bad game… unless the whole environment way of the game was built with this exactly purpose in mind, to involve the player in it so that he may become part of it.”

    I fail to see how feeling completely lost encourages immersing in a environment.

    “Now, why is it the game wrong? Well, let’s start with your assessment that the “hordes” of “followers” of the first game can’t accept “innovation”. I am not “legion”, so I’ll do a personal statement on the subject. I will welcome innovation, if this innovation is in the good sense.”

    But what innovation did you really expect from IW? The way I see it, hard-cores expect sequels to be exactly the same, plus or minus a few fixes and tweaks. So, IW, according to you, would probably be a good game it it was a DE with better graphics, a polished story and more biomods. Is that innovation? The proof that this is true, can be seen in sales of popular franchises, that remain strong, sequel after sequel, even though they fail to insert new concepts or ideas.

    “As we start playing the game, the loading tips and story bits indicates that our present world was made by the actions of “the Dentons” a long time ago. Curiously enough, the world was shaped by all the three possible endings in the previous game – talk about quantum physics! So, we start by finding the game glued with spit to Deus Ex. Not a good start, but hell, it’s still Deus Ex, let’s keep going. But things do not get better, unfortunately. We found our character is made of paper and very non dimensional, with little to say (of relevance) about not many but all the subjects. Now, I can agree that the original Denton, the main character of the first game, was not very, let’s say, “coherent” in its dialogs. But at least it was made an effort to give the character a persona, a confused human being finding its purpose in the world and having some though choices to make. That is not the case in here. We have a character with little (if any) motto, he goes ahead because it has to, the game (not the story) compels it to, and along the way, some of the “revelations” might give some purpose (arguably) to the actions of the character. But even this story, like you already stated, is filled with inconsistencies and nonsense (making me not understand the 4/5 regarding the plot…) and not very engaging in terms of interest. By the time you discover that the story behind Deus Ex was completely neglected by “reviving” a certain character, I was just… well, frustration is not the right word, but it’s the first that comes to mind.”

    I agree with you: IW’s plot is somewhat “plot-wholish”. However, from a gaming point of view, it’s still high up on the mark. Dialogs are rich, filled with philosophical questions that are interesting, and some good plot twists (i.e. the “Order/WTO” twist). And if you dwell on some of the concepts that are explored, you have to admit that the story has some good insights on the way humanity behaves, and just for that, it deserves a good score.

    “And it was a mistake to avoid it in this game. To “appeal for other markets”, you say. I say is bogus. The game was dumbed down, this is right down evident. The game is much plainer, removing one thing that allows the enrolment of the player to happen at a higher level (controlled evolution of its own character). And for what? What was so “innovative” in IW that justified this? Is not even the fact that I don’t see IW as a step forward, but I don’t see ANYTHING in IW that is, in fact, a step forward on any direction.”

    Look at RPG’s in the 90’s, and RPG’s afterwards: they are different. It makes no sense to go back to models that are old and archaic (unless you’re going for nostalgia, but that is a whole other matter). I don’t expect the next FF to have turn based combat – that would be ridiculous. Just as I don’t expect new movies to be black and white; it’s not that they can’t be (sometimes with great results), it’s just not the trend they’re supposed to follow. Things go forward when new concepts are tried, not when old ones are.

    Evolution is a mighty driving force, and IW shows a clear evolution over DE. Just look at “Bioshock”, “Crysis”, “STALKER”, they all use the foundations laid by IW: action packed FPS gameplay with RPG elements that shape the possible actions of the player. NOT leveling up accuracy and weapon damage, which, lets face it, only makes shooting boring and frustrating in the first stages, and encourages grinding to obtain decent results. These are past mechanics that nobody, or almost nobody uses, and for a reason, they just don’t add nothing to the experience, at least in the molds of “Deus Ex”.

    Look at what made “Deus Ex” interesting: good story, good background and ground-breaking non-linear gameplay. I don’t see the absence of any of these elements in “IW”. The plot has its problems, but if you remember right, so did the first DE. The background is the same, and the non-linear gameplay is there, just easier to use and much more fun to play with.

    So what I do see is an actual improvement and evolution of DE’s elements, an adaptation to new times, a new attempt ate embodying new gaming concepts and techniques in an old formula. Are they always successful? No, they aren’t, but they also weren’t in the first DE. “IW” is a great game on its own merits; it’s different from DE, but as I see that as a good thing, you see it as a bad one… We just seem to have different concepts for games, which, in my opinion, is a sign of the art’s maturing, evolution and diversification.

    • jorgesousa
    • February 18th, 2008

    Apologies for the long delay on the answer, laziness can be hard… =)

    It is interesting how you use the idea of “fun”, like it is the most important factor in a game. Curiously enough, your interpretation on the subject of Mario Galaxy being nominated Game of the Year because it was “fun” is rather contradictory with this. Like you corroborated, a game is not only “fun”, it’s an array of experiences in which fun is just one of them. And inside that array I can positively fit an experience in which the player is given the integration into the environment even with the possibility of a certain feeling of “disorientation”, where actions must follow the “gut” of the player. This was bold and, from the way I see (and know) it, innovative. And I felt immersed due to this fact: I didn’t knew where to go (exactly), that’s a fact; but I knew that if I followed the most appealing route to my abilities I would eventually reach “the” point (again, it is a game…). I felt part of the environment, like it wasn’t the environment guiding me, but my place in it, my positioning in Deus Ex world as a whole; I had to observe, to “feel” and to analyze the open environment regarding my character, with its advantages and disadvantages, its abilities and flaws. And choose upon that. This, I call immersive. My mind was ON THE GAME, rather than OVER THE GAME. And I think both of us agree that “completely lost” is kind of a hyperbole, right? After all, you DID finish the game… (?) :p

    Levels in IW are more than straightforward: they are plain (and painfully) obvious. You enter a room and you immediately identify the “stealth approach”, the “critical approach” and the “Rambo approach”. This is not fun. Doesn’t provide for any other feeling from the player except boredom… Unless your mind is in following a game… well, mindlessly. Which kind of follows the approach of “action packed (d)numb” games. That is ok. I just don’t like to see a cultural avenue like videogames go straight down that single path. It would be like seeing the filmmaking area making a lot of Transformers-like movies just because it’s “fresher”, “easier”, and “more gullible” (aka sellable) than a Lynch approach.

    Your insight on the plot is valid. But a good concept does not make a good plot. I can make a plot about the holy grail; but how I conduct it, that’s the delicate spot. IW followed the easiest way on this kind of political story: the “two sides of the same coin” theory. And it followed this approach twice (on the same game!), if you know what I mean. It could still be great, if the characters have given it some authenticity (I also didn’t find the dialogs that rich, in spite of being an improvement from the first Deus Ex), if the “story punches” had been given at appropriate times, and so on. But… the plot is probably the aspect on a game design more prone to a personal (and therefore subjective) analysis, so I give you that.

    I did not expect innovation from IW. The innovation was achieved at the first game. Are we really hoping for a ground breaking experiment at every installment of every single game? That you would be nice… but clearly utopist. And yes, a Deus Ex with polished graphics would make a great game. IF… it was accompanied by a sensible and intelligent plot, a new updated look, characters with a refined depth (easily achieved from the first one, I can give you that) and, most of all, a way for you to connect with it. I don’t understand how you keep trying to oversimplify what was very difficult to achieve: it wasn’t only a “remake” of the original. I stand by my point from the first reply, true sequels, with quality, are very difficult to obtain. If IW had achieve these objectives, while innovating (at something, whatever that be – because even that WASN’T achieved), even better. We would have one of the best games ever.

    Things went forward with the first Deus Ex. The game gave the genre a complexity far beyond its grasp. It was bold, risky, and creative. It was innovative. All this recurring to that “archaic“ technique that is the (simple, not even D&D like!) RPG elements. I like grinding, like you know it, but Deus Ex was nowhere near an experience that made you feel frustrated on early stages, so that you had to “grind”. That wasn’t even possible! …

    Maybe innovation is not only at reinventing the wheel every single time, but in the smart and original reuse of the elements to create new experiences. I lack a deep knowledge on videogames history, that’s a fact. But I can say from my limited point of view that it was Deus Ex that really “evolved” the FPS genre to a different level. You can argue that IW served as an “interface” for the great audience, since the new game approaches deliver an experience closer to the game. Ok, so IW was a “Deus Ex for dummies” manual, where everyone could understand (really?…) the concept beyond a “not so simple” FPS. It doesn’t protect the game to be less frustrating and much shallower than its predecessor.
    Because if the spiritual successor had been, for instance, Bioshock, then it would be a whole different story. Although I hadn’t played the game and the little I know is from videos and reviews, I can see Bioshock as a step forward in gaming. It has a “soft” approach to a RPG genre, but it (over?)compensates by delivering a great story, stunning visuals (to the “fresher” audiences) and relevant moral choices. This is a GOOD step forward, as while retrieving some elements from previous experiences, it goes one step forward by implementing its own ideas. Therefore, again I ask: where are the original ideas of IW? Where is this “innovation”?…

    I must say, I completely disapprove your statement that what was tried in Deus Ex “adds nothing to the experience”. For all the reasons I stated previously. It wasn’t even only a good experience, it was a new one. A non mindless one, because you actually have to build something that represents you before go shooting like crazy. Forgive me for liking to feel a little more intertwined with my persona in a video game.

    For wrapping up, and I think this is where we disagree the most, I think Deus Ex was more than “good story, good background and ground-breaking non-linear gameplay”. It was, truly, one of the few games I can say it gave me more than the sum of its parts. Mostly due to the way it involves character building as a REQUIREMENT to play the game, instead of letting it be solved “easily” by “casual users” (aka, your average teenager). Again, I’m not against “different”; I am against “worst (or wrong) and dumber”.

    Maybe it is, indeed, our expectancy of game experience that diverges.

    Some pieces of culture aren’t for just everyone, you know that. If the times flow to a direction were mindless (or “fun”, depends on the point of view) shooting is what “has to be”, then culture plays an important role on changing the social standards, preferentially for the better. The evolution videogames as a prominent media is arriving at the point where we must decide what to make of it: a substandard entertainment or a cultural investment.

    • ruicraveirinha
    • February 18th, 2008

    “Apologies for the long delay on the answer, laziness can be hard… =)

    It is interesting how you use the idea of “fun”, like it is the most important factor in a game. Curiously enough, your interpretation on the subject of Mario Galaxy being nominated Game of the Year because it was “fun” is rather contradictory with this. Like you corroborated, a game is not only “fun”, it’s an array of experiences in which fun is just one of them.”

    Yes fun is part of the deal (and fun is highly subjective), not the whole package (that’s what that post is about, by the way Mario galaxy is a great example on how to make brilliant sequels). The problem here, is that you thought certain aspects of “DE” were fun and I didn’t; I found them annoying and I still don’t understand how they add anything to the overall experience of the game (you do and that’s that).

    Some gaming aspects might not be fun (I have nothing against that, quite on the contrary), but they have to add something on some level that makes them worthwhile, otherwise it’s a bad design choice. I think that some of the rpg elements in “DE” are badly implemented and add nothing to the experience, so I regard them as “bad”. In “IW” they were replaced with mechanics that actually work, so I believe a step forward was made, one that is actually consistent and predicting of the direction games are taking, so I think there must be some sense in those choices (useless to say, that doesn’t mean they’re right or that we have to agree with them).

    “Levels in IW are more than straightforward: they are plain (and painfully) obvious. You enter a room and you immediately identify the “stealth approach”, the “critical approach” and the “Rambo approach”. This is not fun. Doesn’t provide for any other feeling from the player except boredom… Unless your mind is in following a game… well, mindlessly. Which kind of follows the approach of “action packed (d)numb” games. That is ok. I just don’t like to see a cultural avenue like videogames go straight down that single path. It would be like seeing the filmmaking area making a lot of Transformers-like movies just because it’s “fresher”, “easier”, and “more gullible” (aka sellable) than a Lynch approach.”

    Action in a game should be, (recurring to its definition), something active and dynamic, and because it is active it doesn’t make it numb or dumb. It’s just different. I fail to see how the rpg elements made “DE” more thought provoking, immersive, or even more intelligent; on my book, they are dumb/numb. But again, this is subjective, so no arguments there can demote any of us…

    “I did not expect innovation from IW. The innovation was achieved at the first game. Are we really hoping for a ground breaking experiment at every installment of every single game?”

    I am. I’m tired of sequels that marginally improve certain aspects. That’s not a game, it’s a patch or, at best, a remake with a different plot. I prefer sequels…

    “That you would be nice… but clearly utopist.”

    There are many series that reinvent themselves on many levels, especially recently, just look at Mario Galaxy, FFXII, CoD4, Oblivion, MGS 4, etc, etc… So I don’t see why that can’t happen with “Deus Ex”. And even if it were impossible, the standards should still be upholded, or there would be no criticism, and thus, no moving forward.

    “And yes, a Deus Ex with polished graphics would make a great game. IF… it was accompanied by a sensible and intelligent plot, a new updated look, characters with a refined depth (easily achieved from the first one, I can give you that) and, most of all, a way for you to connect with it.”

    That’s what most companies do (apart from the plot part, which as you can understand, is hard to pull of in games, whether a sequel or not ).

    “I don’t understand how you keep trying to oversimplify what was very difficult to achieve: it wasn’t only a “remake” of the original. I stand by my point from the first reply, true sequels, with quality, are very difficult to obtain. If IW had achieve these objectives, while innovating (at something, whatever that be – because even that WASN’T achieved), even better. We would have one of the best games ever.”

    I hardly think so. Sequels are usually how you describe it (go ahead and look around), and the challenge lies in reinventing the rules while maintaining the core spirit intact. It’s not by accident that “Mario Galaxy”, “Resident Evil 4”, “Call of Duty 4” and “Final fantasy XII” each revived the series from hence they came from. They definitely didn’t improve, they revolutionized; that is what a sequel should attempt to do.

    “But I can say from my limited point of view that it was Deus Ex that really “evolved” the FPS genre to a different level.”

    Yes it did. But it’s changes could only be felt after the mechanics were revamped by “IW”. Like it or not, its “IW’s” interface and design that sticked.

    “Ok, so IW was a “Deus Ex for dummies” manual, where everyone could understand (really?…) the concept beyond a “not so simple” FPS. It doesn’t protect the game to be less frustrating and much shallower than its predecessor.”

    Shallow, dumb, it’s all a matter of opinion. I’d use more dynamic, more fun, less frustrating, more rewarding and an overall deeper and smarter experience. Think about the difference between complex and complicated. the way I see it, “DE” was filled with complicated and uninteresting concepts, while “IW” goes for simplicity in order to achieve complexity.

    What “Bioshock” did, for example, was just augment the same formula, with many, many “biomods”, weapons and weapons upgrades. And so, achieved a complex and intelligent battle system, that rewarded careful choosing of attacks.

    “Because if the spiritual successor had been, for instance, Bioshock, then it would be a whole different story. Although I hadn’t played the game and the little I know is from videos and reviews, I can see Bioshock as a step forward in gaming. It has a “soft” approach to a RPG genre, but it (over?)compensates by delivering a great story, stunning visuals (to the “fresher” audiences) and relevant moral choices.”

    One thing is story, another is gameplay; we agree the “IW’s” story isn’t that great… but neither was the one in the first “DE”. If anything they’re at the same level: one has better dialogs and the other has slightly better consequences.

    “Some pieces of culture aren’t for just everyone, you know that. If the times flow to a direction were mindless (or “fun”, depends on the point of view) shooting is what “has to be”, then culture plays an important role on changing the social standards, preferentially for the better. The evolution videogames as a prominent media is arriving at the point where we must decide what to make of it: a substandard entertainment or a cultural investment.”

    One thing is the cultural level of a game, and the ways in which it enriches us, through its plot, characters, art and sound design, etc. The other dimension is the interactive one, and there your argument doesn’t stand: game design evolves, with the controllers, with the hardware capabilities, with new design approaches, etc. They evolve to bring new experiences and to overcome the limitations of previous games (for example, turn games mostly existed dude to consoles limited memory and processor). And yes, they evolve to make games more likable, more dynamic, more fun. As long as it doesn’t make other aspects recess (which is really where we disagree), they are good choices.

    Classic RPG Elements are dated, and there are much better solutions nowadays to incorporate the same principles into games, thus maintaining their complexity and avoiding complications.

    I think that is difference between our opinions: I believe in straightforward innovation, you believe in refinement. For you, a troublesome interface is not important, since it adds in some way to your experience, I prefer the more natural and intuitive one, that is the one that adds to my experience.

    I stick with new mechanics, you prefer to explore the old ones. It’s all about taste and the way we expect a game to behave. I think that if you played more recent games you would better understand what I’m describing (and how this evolution is not really dumb, but very intelligent), but maybe one day you’ll get where I’m coming from.

    P.S. The criticisms you make towards “IW” are often repeated towards “Bioshock”… so you should play the game first, before citing it 😀

    P.S. I’m in no way saying that “IW” is better or even more innovative that “DE”. it’s a different evolution in different directions, that though less important in its time-frame (because it is a consequence of the first game), is invaluable in the way games are played today.

    • jorgesousa
    • February 21st, 2008

    (I promise this is my last post. Maybe. Depends on your (eventual) answer :p)

    “The problem here, is that you thought certain aspects of “DE” were fun and I didn’t; I found them annoying and I still don’t understand how they add anything to the overall experience of the game (you do and that’s that).”

    Point: I liked the RPG elements and found them not only valuable but immersive. You didn’t. I’ve talked too much about it, I’m not going to repeat the whole thing again.
    Now, what was the replacement of these “badly implemented” elements in IW? Oh wait; replacement may not be the correct word – stripping its more accurate. Because it was that: a strip of every RPG element except the biomods (which are even “deletable” – so much for evolution – is more of a clothing process). So what really was the “replacement” here? We traded RPG elements for a “simpler” mechanic. In this case, that’s a euphemism for simplification (of something that, again, wasn’t that hard – subjective again, I know) and you are ok with it, I get it.

    “Action in a game should be, (recurring to its definition), something active and dynamic, and because it is active it doesn’t make it numb or dumb. It’s just different. I fail to see how the rpg elements made “DE” more thought provoking, immersive, or even more intelligent; on my book, they are dumb/numb. But again, this is subjective, so no arguments there can demote any of us…”

    You are right – an active game isn’t necessarily numb and/or dumb. Unfortunately, IW was. I can’t remember doing much “thinking” or “feeling” during the game. Did you? I wondered numbly (hence my argument) through the game. DE wasn’t lacking this action or dynamism. It was active as the game forced you to take a pro-active approach (by evaluating situations and act upon that – or, at a more literal level, by allowing you to simply shot anything in sight) and dynamic (as you learn to adapt in the environment through the “voyage”). This WHILE providing a great RPG experience. Hence the brilliance of DE. You can say this is subjective… Maybe it is, but all I get from your opinion is that you felt “lost”…

    “I’m tired of sequels that marginally improve certain aspects. That’s not a game, it’s a patch or, at best, a remake with a different plot. I prefer sequels…”

    Again you oversimplify the meaning of a sequel. Why marginally? It HAS to be marginally? Are you really saying that every game that doesn’t reinvent the wheel is just a “patch”? Oh, that’s mean and untrue… Max Payne 2 (yes, I know, I’m being unfair :p) did less but improving (all) aspects of its predecessor, not really inventing a single thing. It was a (awesome!) refinement, and call it a “patch” seems utterly unfair.

    “That’s what most companies do (apart from the plot part, which as you can understand, is hard to pull of in games, whether a sequel or not ).”

    When you say that is what most companies do… I say that is what most companies TRY to do. But fail at doing it successfully.

    “There are many series that reinvent themselves on many levels, especially recently, just look at Mario Galaxy, FFXII, CoD4, Oblivion, MGS 4, etc, etc… So I don’t see why that can’t happen with “Deus Ex”. And even if it were impossible, the standards should still be upholded, or there would be no criticism, and thus, no moving forward.”

    Unfortunately I haven’t (also) played those games you refer as examples of game reinventing. But can’t you see the difference between those titles and DE? Those games have some stable bases to work on – platforms, third person action, war games, japanese RPG. And revolutionized after how many installments? Hm, let me see… MGS 4 (four), COD 4 (four), RE 4 (four), Mario Galaxy (geez, maybe 27th installment, I don’t know :)), Final Fantasy XII (twelve)…
    And, as far as I know, MGS 2, for instance, is a very good game, with little difference from the first one. And so on… So, maybe this “revolution” isn’t that necessary (doesn’t mean that isn’t desirable) upon developing a new (or not) game.
    The way I see it, DE, a first installment – which is a FPS with RPG elements and an organic environment –, tried something new and had some tricky foundations. It is not easy to reinvent something that isn’t even established! And if you expect only good games when the wheel is reinvented… well, it’s going to be some sour gaming times, you can count on that… (and I don’t mean that, with this thought, we should be less demanding – only more critical with “any” approach taken, just for the sake of “moving forward”. We are not, neither do we want to be, hill climbings…)

    “That’s what most companies do (apart from the plot part, which as you can understand, is hard to pull of in games, whether a sequel or not ).”

    No, it isn’t. Apart from the refined looks, I don’t see the “norm” on sequels of improving your connection with, or a refined depth on, the character. Most of them (like IW) just take whatever people can identify with from a game and do “something related” with that. That I see as the “norm”.

    “Think about the difference between complex and complicated. the way I see it, “DE” was filled with complicated and uninteresting concepts, while “IW” goes for simplicity in order to achieve complexity.”

    Sorry? DE was “complicated” ? [I am not going to refer the “uninteresting” part, as we already established it’s a subjective matter] Why? Because you didn’t knew where to go next? Because you had to choose what part of your body evolve? Because you couldn’t be a “master” at all the weapon styles? This is precisely what makes the game complex, not complicated: you are the result (not the sum) of your choices in designing your character.
    The part off IW being complex… well, I can’t even begin to see where that comes from… I REALLY can’t see what the game has to “complexify”, it’s a straightforward experience.

    “What “Bioshock” did, for example, was just augment the same formula, with many, many “biomods”, weapons and weapons upgrades. And so, achieved a complex and intelligent battle system, that rewarded careful choosing of attacks.”

    You are right, I didn’t play Bioshock, not so much because I didn’t like to, but because it’s impossible. Therefore, I should be careful with my thoughts about it. But I can refer my expectations: I expect so much, much more of the game than augmented IW with more “weapons, upgrades and biomods. In particular, I feel that the second part of your sentence effectively proves that Bioshock may not be just an “augmented” formula (yes, because it isn’t weapon variety on its own that can give a game complexity…).

    “One thing is the cultural level of a game, and the ways in which it enriches us, through its plot, characters, art and sound design, etc. The other dimension is the interactive one, and there your argument doesn’t stand: game design evolves, with the controllers, with the hardware capabilities, with new design approaches, etc. They evolve to bring new experiences and to overcome the limitations of previous games (for example, turn games mostly existed dude to consoles limited memory and processor). And yes, they evolve to make games more likable, more dynamic, more fun. As long as it doesn’t make other aspects recess (which is really where we disagree), they are good choices.”

    Well, somehow I feel the cultural level of game should also include exploring new ways of experience it, and that is closely related to the mechanics and the interactive approach. You see, when referring “cultural level”, one must not focus on what we can gain in terms of knowledge, but how it can make you feel and understand certain things. As such, yes, the “controllers, hardware, design” play a relevant role on developing an experience that is (or can be) a cultural token. Don’t try to divide what is, in videogames, the cultural part and the “mechanical” part: they are all interconnected. And evolution needs to be smart enough to embrace this idea.

    “Classic RPG Elements are dated, and there are much better solutions nowadays to incorporate the same principles into games, thus maintaining their complexity and avoiding complications.”

    Let me take this sentence and retrieve another one where you refer that turn based games are no longer used (or shouldn’t be), as “turn games mostly existed due to consoles limited memory and processor”. And know I can give you an example of a successful game that implements turn based combats: Heroes of Might and Magic. I know what you are thinking: perfect example of a “saga” that hasn’t evolved a little bit. True. And yet, people play it. Why? It’s a hard game, it’s a game where you need a LOT of patience, where the “fun factor” is very obscure. So what can possibly make this game attractive? In my opinion, it delivers an alternative entertainment, an alternative approach of thinking a game, by thinking it in turns. As you can see, difficult isn’t just there “to be difficult”. It’s there because it actually delivers a different experience, it has a purpose on working on different mind processes. In my opinion, a more complex one, one where planning and strategic thinking has to be much more developed than reflexes and memorization (like Starcraft… but that’s another “battle” :p). And we are losing those processes, due to that approach of “funification” (boy, that sounds bad) of games. These diverse approaches are losing their space in order to focus on “fresher” audiences, because they are boring, because they are slow, because they are “old”. Or just because they use these processes that are not related with the “fast consumption” lifestyle that we are used to. God forbid that I had to wait for another player to think its move.
    You know where I’m going with this. Bottom line is, I don’t see this new focus orientation as am absolutely, uncontested good thing.

    “I think that is difference between our opinions: I believe in straightforward innovation, you believe in refinement. For you, a troublesome interface is not important, since it adds in some way to your experience, I prefer the more natural and intuitive one, that is the one that adds to my experience.”

    I guess you understood me wrong. Of course I like an intuitive experience (like the first DE…), and if I though an interface is troublesome, that would affect my experience. Although that is obvious, it isn’t the case with DE. And it’s not the case that I prefer refinement over innovation. You make me sound like the Inquisition, burning everything that is new. But we are far past the point where everything new must be regarded as good. We have to apply quality (tricky, tricky, another subjective term…) to those step forwards and not embrace blindly the new trends. We must think where these flows are taking us, and try to not lose some relevant aspects (even cultural) on this process. There is a reason why IW will probably fall into oblivion while DE and Bioshock probably won’t.

    “I stick with new mechanics, you prefer to explore the old ones. It’s all about taste and the way we expect a game to behave. I think that if you played more recent games you would better understand what I’m describing (and how this evolution is not really dumb, but very intelligent), but maybe one day you’ll get where I’m coming from.”

    Again, you misunderstand me. I don’t prefer anything over anything. I enjoy good experiences. That’s it. If a game worked from me, good. That may come from good mechanics, old mechanics, good story, great aiming, I don’t really care, I liked it. If tomorrow a new, super revolutionary game design arrives, I would try it with no reservations. But somehow, I think the opposite wouldn’t happen so easily, would it?
    And, worse than misunderstanding me, you minimize what I am capable of perceive from the cultural movement of the videogame world, in spite of not actually playing the games. Or maybe the fact that I don’t actually play the “new wave” games is the reason I am able to see it. You just have to step back to see what is really happening. It is a process of numbing the minds by applying “fun factors” and “fresh elements”. It is not necessarily bad… as an experience of entertainment. But it could be so much more, at so many and higher levels. But it has happened before, with other media. God forbid of having (like you said) a black and white movie. Even if that is used for a reason, in an intelligent (and new – heresy!) fashion. Right?

    P.S.: This “argument” is becoming very long and may enter a “cycle”. If you somehow feel the discussion isn’t going anywhere useful, you can, of course, leave my post without an answer 😉

    [Comment edited with the permission of JorgeSousa]

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: