Sunday, February 14, 2010

The softening of the hardcore

I'm beginning to see a trend in traditionally hardcore genres: the games are getting easier.  That's a lie--this trend has been going on for quite some time.  For quick examples, we can compare earlier iterations of franchises to later ones.  In GTA IV, cops vanish at the successful completion of most missions, where in GTA III, most missions require the player to lose the cops before the mission will complete.  And if we compare GTA III to an earlier game: in Driver, the cops would even try to arrest you if you were driving without headlights at night.  Have cops just stopped caring over the years?

The GTA series is just one example of difficulty being dialed back.  Bioshock 2 has recently arrived, bringing with it the inexplicably abundant Vita-Chambers from the first game.  Modern Warfare 2, with the familiar Call of Duty mysteriously regenerating health, continues to reign as King Fragfest.  With almost every new game that is release, the trend continues: games are losing their teeth.

The sandbox game

Writing the "Gated game" post got me thinking more about video game genres.  While most AAA titles are variations on the gated game, there is a particular type of game where gates are not central to the game.  Like the gated game,  this genre of video game has so far gone without a proper name--you'll find them mostly in PC RPG's, inspired by the Ultima franchise and D&D.

I don't like the genre name "Role-Playing Game."  The name itself is both redundant and ambiguous, and the definition has been lost somewhere along the line.  RPG fans can contemplate what the standard is for a video game to be called an RPG; I'll make up my own definitions.