Wave Foam – “Harry Potter just went third-person shooter”

No… I mean… seriously? The line which serves as title was actually taken from Eurogamer’s hands on article, which to tell the truth I can’t even bring my self to fully read, such is the state of shock I’m in. Am I the only one to notice the absurdity of all this? I know I’ve been beating the ol’ “Gears of War gets copied around too much” horse for quite some time now, but this is just plain ridiculous.

More so, is Eurogamer’s take on the idea: “At first you laugh. But then you slowly realise it makes sense. ” OH IT MAKES SENSE, NOW, DOES IT? Let me see… fantasy film… magic and mystery… little wizard kids… family entertainment…  YEAH, LET’S TURN THAT INTO A BLOODY SHOOTER!!! Makes perfect sense! Add some blood, chainsaws, brawny characters, washed out colors and you got yourselves a hit… think otherwise? Well, the long line of successsful “Gears of War” copycats proves it. Corporate logic works that way – find a formula for profit, while it works, keep repeating it till… it don’t work no more. The blame, as usual, falls on both the media and audiences for continuing to back such ventures with praise and hard-earned money.

“Gears of War” and its sequel, “Dark Sector”, “Resident Evil 5”, “Metal Gear Solid 4”, “GTA IV” and its liberty city episodes, “Mass Effect” and “Mass Effect 2”, both “Uncharted”, “Splinter Cell Conviction”, “Dark Void”, the two “Army of Two”, “Bourne Conspiracy”, that “50 cent” hogwash and all those I don’t remember… when is it going to stop? When are you going to stop buying these games? When will you reviewers say enough is enough? When is anyone gonna wake up to the fact that these are bad games riddled with design decisions whose only intent is cashing in huge sums of money for big studio corporations? They crave on players’ infinite capacity to remain iddle, their heads numbing ever so slowly, entering a spiral of mindless dissolution of hedonic pleasure, with no substance to speak of. And forget about just “Gears of War”, think about “Call of Duty”, “Oblivion” and all other game archetypes being regurgitated year after year. You want new games? Stop buying old ones! They’re all crud anyways… all of them add nothing to your experience. Alas, I can already hear your replies even before you speaketh – “BUT THEY BE FUN!!!!!” Indeed they be. And so I take my leave with a hearty goodbye:

“Welcome ye to videogames, the medium in which all crud is justified by a three letter word”.

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  • Comments (15)
    • Coyote
    • June 2nd, 2010

    Now wait a minute an take some breath.

    I can understand you are comparing Dark Sector to Gears of War, but to say MGS 4 or GTA 4 are copycats of Gears of War, when they share a lot more with their respective prequels; or saying Uncharted and Mass Effect are “bad games riddled with design decisions whose only intent is cashing in huge sums of money… all crud anyways… all of them add nothing to your experience” is an hyperbole. Those are game archetypes, many would even call them genres, but to base a measure of value on that alone is pretty shallow. Is Bioshock less good because it shares a gameplay archetype with Halo? How about Fallout 3 sharing the engine with Oblivion. Does that make it a rip-off? Or a cheap, lazy, shameless redone? Braid to Mario? Flower to Pac-man? I know it sounds like an hyperbole too, but thats like undermining the Mona Lisa because at the time similar portraits were commonwhere.

    I have a lot of respect for people that design games, even the ones based on movies. They are tasked to create something out of nothing in a fraction of the time. How many years it took Kojima to create Metal Gear Solid 4? And how many years it took Toriyama to create Final Fantasy 13? And neither of them had lack of resources either… Now imagine doing it in 6 months. Its almost a miracle those things are even playable. Of course they look at other places for ideas… they HAVE to. Other people have before them, and we are not giving them a had time either… But as others before, the fact that you see the back of your avatar and have a button to run doesn’t say much about the quality to me, just tells me how to interact with it.

    And, just for you to notice… No one has seen the Deathly Hallows movie; so talking about what makes or not sense, makes no sense. But Harry Potter stopped being family entertainment about magic and mystery with little wizard kids some time ago.

    • ruicraveirinha
    • June 2nd, 2010

    “I can understand you are comparing Dark Sector to Gears of War, but to say MGS 4 or GTA 4 are copycats of Gears of War, when they share a lot more with their respective prequels; or saying Uncharted and Mass Effect are “bad games riddled with design decisions whose only intent is cashing in huge sums of money… all crud anyways… all of them add nothing to your experience” is an hyperbole.”

    Every little ouce of influence of GoW in those games is uncalled for, and negative. All those games would be better off without Gears in them. Surely, those that you mention are good despite Gears.

    “Is Bioshock less good because it shares a gameplay archetype with Halo?”

    Yes. Rapture could be a much more enticing space if I could interact with it in a more profound way than simply shooting monsters.

    “How about Fallout 3 sharing the engine with Oblivion. Does that make it a rip-off?”

    It’s not the engine. It’s everything else that I take issue with.

    “Braid to Mario? Flower to Pac-man?”

    In terms of player experience, those are indeed very poor comparisons. But combat in GTA IV or Uncharted or MGS4 is not a whole lot different than that of Gears of War.

    “I have a lot of respect for people that design games, even the ones based on movies.”

    Well, I don’t. Why should I? They sell their creative freedom in order to make a quick buck. I do have sympathy for those that make good games out of those licenses: Starbreeze studios with Riddick, Michel Ancel with “King Kong”, amongst many others (The Thing, Star Wars KotOR, Die Hard Trilogy, etc, etc, etc).

    “And, just for you to notice… No one has seen the Deathly Hallows movie;”

    I’ve read the book. Not that it matters if it is Harry Potter, or Transformers, or GTA IV, or even Mass Effect – it would always be a bad choice, because we’ve already played Gears of War. But it does add to the travesti that the thematic background of the original content has aught to do with the style of gameplay that was chosen. Shouldn’t adaptations try to match the style of gameplay to the fictional background? Wasn’t that what got “Arkham Asylum” accolade? Apparently not. Gears of War wasn’t chosen because it had any relationship with the Potter fantasy books/films, however dark they may supposedly be. It was a simple financial choice, just as it was for Bioware, Rockstar, Konami, and all those other companies.

    Cheers Cruz!

    • Coyote
    • June 2nd, 2010

    “But combat in GTA IV or Uncharted or MGS4 is not a whole lot different than that of Gears of War.”

    Uncharted was Gears with a different setting… I can give you that. But I still think that to compare Grear with GTA 4 or MGS 4 is rather forced, specially because they have a lot more to GTA 3 and MGS 3, both games released before Gears of War. Honestly, I fail to see any influence from Gears in those games that wasn’t in the previous ones, and specially any influence that is uncalled and negative.

    • ruicraveirinha
    • June 2nd, 2010

    Dude… cover combat, was it, or was it not in GTA IV? It was. There was no cover combat in GTA III that I remember. And, was, or was not MGS 4 the MG with the most and the longest combat sequences? The only one with a traditional war setting, where there’s even an entire act ripped straight out of Modern Warfare? The camera of MGS4, was it, or was it not an over-the-shoulder view?

    You think all this is an accident? Better yet, you think any of this helps these games become better? Do you really think there isn’t anything better to do in either Liberty City or Kojima’s crazy world or even Uncharted’s vivid scenery, than take cover, duck and shoot for 10000000 times in a row? Think about it! I’m OK with one “Gears of War”. It’s stupid. It’s silly. But it’s kind of fun. So is watching a “Chuck Norris” flick. I’m OK with that once in a while. I don’t think it is “good”, so I won’t praise it. But I can live with it. But when it becomes a standard, a norm, that’s way out of line. When people admit it as norm, and as the best the medium can offer, that’s downright insulting.

    Cover combat is not, I’m afraid, the epitome of human expression. As we waste time shooting ass-holes from cover, we are missing out on all sorts of brand new, exciting things videogames can show us. Designers, on the other hand, are being told this is the only thing they can do, because it is the only way to remain profitable, and so they do it. Thus, all those precious, creative ideas that they dream up of everyday remain hidden in some dark, hidden cabinet, gathering dust year after year, until some magical day, we, gamers, tell those guys we actually want to play THOSE THINGS THEY WANNA BUILD and not some shooting gallery covered in gray sludge. Until that day comes, I will go on bitching about it.

    Cheers!

    • Coyote
    • June 2nd, 2010

    So, let me get this straight… Are you complaining that Metal Gear Solid 4 has a level in an unnamed arab country? Or an over-the-shoulder view when aiming that was also on Subsistance? And that GTA has a duck button? Suddenly we should create our own list of cliches and decide only Modern Warfare has rights over the arabs ruins settings, only Gears has rights over the cover animation?

    Did you consider that what they created was pretty much exactly what they wanted to create? Or the idea that some designers saw something that worked and goes “wish we had thought about it before… that worked really well, lets use it”, is not necesarily being a bad thing… Metal Gear Solid 1 was a great game, but it wasn’t perfect. Is it just above improvement? Hell no. Does any kind of change on the sequels means lack of integrity from the part of the designers? Hell no. You seems to think of every game designer as an island, someone that has no external influence, other than, possibly, those that came before him. Trophes exists for a reason, and sometimes they are not that bad.

    Just to clarify… I don’t believe cover combat is the epitome of human expression. I think, as platformers, FPS, RTS and others before it, is just a set or rules and a protocol that let me interact with the game in familiar terms. I am, also, not so naive not to think many games are designed based on proben formulas, some of which you may not think too highly of… But to think any change over common ground in a franchise is either corporate intrusion or lack of integrity from the designers? That designers are due only to themselves and their original vision, and should remain impervious to any kind of feedback, correction or critique, wheter is from the public, the experience or other games? That is crossing the line…

    Either that or we take the path of the hyperbole… We admit creativity to be death, everything has been done before, and forget the double standard of claiming Braid is really different than Super Mario; and Flower and Katamari are different from Pac-man, since, by adding platforms and a button to jump over enemies, Blow and Takahashi never aspire to more than that; because, after all, the game experience is the same (they share a similar language, similar concepts and the same way to reach a goal), as we already established for Bioshock and Doom, Mass Effect and Uncharted, and Gears and GTA.

    • Coyote
    • June 2nd, 2010

    See how the hyperbole works?

    • ruicraveirinha
    • June 3rd, 2010

    “So, let me get this straight… Are you complaining that Metal Gear Solid 4 has a level in an unnamed arab country?”

    Yes. Of all the places that could have depicted (with the excellence we recognize in Kojima’s team), they went with a cliche. One that clearly was meant to resonate with those who played COD.

    “Or an over-the-shoulder view when aiming that was also on Subsistance?”

    It was not on Subsistence. Subsistence had no over the shoulder shooting. It had a 3rd person view, which made the game “playable”. The difference is that in one, you can go happy-go-lucky shooting, and the game even warrants that for specific levels, and the other, not so much. Compare how many times you had to shoot in MGS, MGS2, MGS3 and MGS4. You’ll surely perceive the pattern of a crescendo.

    “Suddenly we should create our own list of cliches and decide only Modern Warfare has rights over the arabs ruins settings, only Gears has rights over the cover animation?”

    It’s not about rights. It’s about letting creators… you know, create! Not regurgitate what’s been done before. Especially, when what’s been done isn’t particularly evocative.

    “Did you consider that what they created was pretty much exactly what they wanted to create? Or the idea that some designers saw something that worked and goes “wish we had thought about it before… that worked really well, lets use it”, is not necesarily being a bad thing… Metal Gear Solid 1 was a great game, but it wasn’t perfect. Is it just above improvement? Hell no. Does any kind of change on the sequels means lack of integrity from the part of the designers? Hell no. You seems to think of every game designer as an island, someone that has no external influence, other than, possibly, those that came before him. Trophes exists for a reason, and sometimes they are not that bad.”

    See, you’re thinking of better or worse, of what works and doesn’t work, according to a pre-set notion of what is good and right that is dictated by the current state of things. Obviously, it is not the part of changing things in these games that worries me, but the type of change, the particular kind of change you speak of: “oh, those guys made a shooter and it was cool and it sold, why aren’t we doing that also?” I seriously doubt that Kojima, a man who has admitted more than once that all he wants to do is tell stories (it is not an accident that he started with adventure games!), considers that cover combat is the way for better telling his stories. But again, whether what you say is true or not does not change a thing. If anyone thinks that by taking inspiration from Gears or COD or whatever, they are creating better videogames, than they’re idiots. If they are compelled to do so for financial reasons, as I believe to be the case, than they are just misfortunate. Either way, it sucks to us.

    “Just to clarify… I don’t believe cover combat is the epitome of human expression.”

    Then why defend it? Why shouldn’t you praise those that try and find better forms of expression inside their games? And why shouldn’t you criticize those that apply the same old formula, which, as you say, isn’t particularly expressive?

    “I think, as platformers, FPS, RTS and others before it, is just a set or rules and a protocol that let me interact with the game in familiar terms.”

    That’s the problem right there. Familiarity is just another word for repetition. For something that has been done before. Furthermore, those are bad templates, they add very little to your experience as a player. FPS, TPS, RTS are hollow metaphors for war and conflict. Seldomly do they teach you anything about the game, its author, its world view. Seldomly do they make you feel real emotion or make you think in unexpected new ways. These tropes are applied blindly for the sake of selling copies to audiences that shun originality. Very few actually use them as you seem to imply – as a familiar basis for higher grounds which its authors would want to cover with their personal ideas. Obviously, the same as true for so many other genres, like platformers, or RPG’s. Unless established with higher goals in mind, the predominance of any archetype, denunciates lack of creativity and progress. It denotes the absence of authorial pursuit.

    “That designers are due only to themselves and their original vision, and should remain impervious to any kind of feedback, correction or critique, wheter is from the public, the experience or other games? That is crossing the line…”

    Yes, I do believe that. That is the pillar of true art. That is why some of the most profound artists died without a penny: they only cared about their vision. I’m not against authors that try and make money, as long as they do not compromise their creativity and artistry simply for the sake of making money. As long as they express themselves as authors, it’s fine with me. But once you let authors be guided by audiences, they are no longer authors: they become proxies of the masses. Marketeers whose only purpose is giving back people what they already want… which usually isn’t that good. Those are the supposed “authors” today in the game design process. Marketeers.

    “Either that or we take the path of the hyperbole… We admit creativity to be death, everything has been done before, and forget the double standard of claiming Braid is really different than Super Mario; and Flower and Katamari are different from Pac-man, since, by adding platforms and a button to jump over enemies, Blow and Takahashi never aspire to more than that; because, after all, the game experience is the same (they share a similar language, similar concepts and the same way to reach a goal), as we already established for Bioshock and Doom, Mass Effect and Uncharted, and Gears and GTA.”

    Again, the difference between your examples and mine, is that a true author may borrow a similar language from others, for the sake of inspiration or homage, but in the end borrows it to express his own view. Such is the case of Braid, for instance. Listen, I’m not implying, by any means, that the same doesn’t happen on some level with GTA IV or MGS4 or Uncharted. It does. But unlike Braid, who as an homage to both Donkey Kong and Mario, the Gears influence on those games is negative and surely driven by commercial pressure. And if that isn’t a problem in a suposeddly artistic medium, I don’t know what is.

    Cheers Coyote!

    • Coyote
    • June 3rd, 2010

    Again, I think the different points of view are just different interpretations. What you consider as negative archetypes, I consider it as a protocol… A base foundation over which to build something. After all, the same as movies, I think games evoke things by combining elements, rather than just by a differenciating element… That is why gameplay is always important, but writing, settings and music are also important for the whole experience. By defining a protocol, it helps to set a common base to comunicate something… After all, I don’t think every portrait needs to redefine how to croquis, or every book have to create a new literary movement.

    I am not saying there are no commercial intentions in many examples, but I think you are being too rough on designers for taking modern inspiration and feedback into consideration… After all, you did the same for Kinkou

    • Cruzifixio
    • June 4th, 2010

    Considerang this overused game mechanics protocol is a very conservative point of view, wich in any case just makes any videogame generated from that start point a work of craftsmanship.

    Game developers are just artesans right now, sure all the games might have different approachs, stories, styles, visuals, but in the end they are the same: Third Person Shooters in the same vein as Gears of War.

    None of them tried to go away from the formula, all of them handle the same. So going back to the artisan analogy: Some of those vases are prettier than others, but they are still products destined to sit in a row in a store window waiting to be sold.

    After a year of visiting this blog, and after a year of trying to understand Rui’s point of view, I think that I want the same: Games that are not restrained by the fashion standards of the season, that are not dictated by the currents or directed by the “people’s needs”.

    WE WANT AUTHORSHIP GODDAMMIT.

    “In ye path to art lies them autorshipts of yore”.

    • Felix
    • June 9th, 2010

    Harry Potter games aren’t big games (they are for kids who want to run around a little in their favorite world and don’t touch the game again after a little while) and license games rarely are interesting by themselves. I would never even consider playing this game, but I don’t think it’s very telling either way you look at it. It may signify a certain stagnation in game development and uncritical game journalism, but, like I said, it’s not a big game.
    I also don’t think that “entertainment” can in all cases be so much simplified to say there was nothing in that experience save a vague sensation of fun. Authorial games can be more perfect, fulfilling, surprising, inspiring, and still be “only” entertainment.

  1. I think it’s understandable why younger players scorn the film to game adaptation process; which doesn’t mean that their narrow view translates into a genuine claim. I’m old enough to remember how a handful of my favorite games were either film or TV series adaptations, back in the time when a little passion and skill still manifested itself in the shape of decent games – exceptions abounded, of course.

    What is most surprising is how these adaptations seem to have regressed into ever more generic template filling that ends up causing more than a slight dent to videogame reputation. Somehow, the film license game genre just seems to have returned to the generic outlines from the most ill-fated years in the the 1970s and 80s decades.

    I’m inclined to agree with Rui and any other sane person for that purpose: I’m barely versed in the ways of Potter but I suppose that a third person shooter suits any film of that universe as much as a brick puzzle game would suit the Alien saga. It isn’t strictly a matter of influence: this is clearly the case where a game model was already designed and, probably due to time and budget constraints, was assigned to the next film license in queue – perhaps in the hope that the word got out and EA would have to invest less in advertising, as bad news seem to travel farther and faster than others these days.

    As for the people who work to create these games, I’m not so sure whether I respect them or if I feel sorry for them: indeed they have just as much work as anyone else only the end result borders the ridiculous a tad more than the non-licensed videogame already does.

    Move along, nothing else here to see…

    • Allan
    • June 15th, 2010

    So, I was aghast when I saw the video of gameplay. My mom really liked playing the past two HP games. I don’t know if she’ll get into this one as much.

    Wrt/ the earlier discussion about the Gears-style 3rd person shooter thing… I haven’t played any of those games because they don’t resonate with me. At all. However, I can’t condemn the taking cover mechanic as an absolute evil. It’s a mechanic that has been added to the language of 3rd person shooters.

    I’m curious: What would be better mechanics to represent war situations? And, do gamers who have been in war situations respond to the mechanic as if it is a realistic mapping? That is, does the interaction model war situations appropriately?

    • ruicraveirinha
    • June 16th, 2010

    War isn’t fun, is it? So… I guess that answers your question right there.

    Cheers Allan.

    • Cruzifixio
    • June 27th, 2010

    Found this:

    To all those who keep bitching about FPS “FUN” gameplay «dot, dot, dot»

    • ruicraveirinha
    • June 28th, 2010

    HAHA, great pic!

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