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Urban-Themed Video Games 'Basically Dead'? 346

Posted by Zonk
from the fewer-boyz-less-hoodz dept.
simoniker writes "Midway CMO Steve Allison has been talking about why he thinks the urban game genre isn't worth entering, suggesting of the cancelled Snoop Dogg/John Singleton collaboration Fear & Respect, which was in development at Midway: 'We killed Fear and Respect... because we have enough data-points to know the hood thing is basically dead. It would be dead before it came out. And you don't want to come out on a dead vibe.' Do people really not care about GTA-style urban shooters any more?"
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Urban-Themed Video Games 'Basically Dead'?

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  • FP! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dosius (230542) <bridget@buric.co> on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @02:18PM (#15706972) Journal
    I think it's more a matter of every game genre can be cloned to death and the GTA-clone genre has reached that point.

    -uso.
  • Urban-themed? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dolly_Llama (267016) * on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @02:22PM (#15707008) Homepage
    This is a bit of a pet peeve, but "urban"? Are they talking about SimCity, or GTA?

    It's a BS marketing term that dances around race.

    also, FTFA

    "We've spent almost a million bucks testing concepts. We're only making games that are in the upper core tile."


    Quartile maybe?
  • Um... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by p0tat03 (985078) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @02:24PM (#15707017)

    How about the notion that they're just out of touch with their demographic? Every time I see an "urban" game (Need for Speed: Most Wanted, I'm looking at yoooooou~) it's always come off as being poser and totally fake. What can you expect? You're getting a bunch of 35 year-old, predominantly-white, middle-class geeks to develop your "hip" urban game!

    And NFS:MW wasn't even the worst offender... I can think of many worse...

  • Maybe as a gimmick (Score:4, Insightful)

    by brassmoknets (933133) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @02:24PM (#15707023)
    I'm sure 'Urban' as a sell-any-old-crap gimmick may be nearing its demise, but there is no such thing as a dead genre. A well-made innovative game can be in any genre at all and will sell well. Who'd have thought 'puppies' was a genre that would effectively carry a market launch of a handheld?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @02:26PM (#15707049)
    Just look at the 360's array of crappy GTA ripoffs. It's like when your parents start using some word or phrase it quickly loses its cool. When the lamest console of the lot in the Xbox starts flooding the market with a genre it is clear the party's over.

  • grumpy old man (Score:5, Insightful)

    by acvh (120205) <geek@msciga[ ]com ['rs.' in gap]> on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @02:27PM (#15707055) Homepage
    I remember way back when, thinking that when the technology arrived to make games look "real" it would be pretty cool. WRONG. When games look "real" and are modeling real physics, they are limited in what they can do. All we get in the way of innovation is new environments for running around shooting stuff.

    Sprite based 2D games could violate physical laws and we didn't care. Better yet, games didn't have to exist in an analog of the known universe at all.

    We got what we asked for, and damn it, it's boring.
  • GTA Clones (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sesshomaru (173381) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @02:33PM (#15707103) Journal
    Frankly, the best GTA clones I've played, Hulk: Ultimate Destruction and Simpsons: Hit and Run did well because they offered a certain amount of novelty which allowed me to not say, "You know, I'd much rather be playing Vice City than this game."

    However, the "urban" genre isn't dead. The problem with a lot of these games is that "urban" is considered a marketing tool, and the games released with the "urban" theme haven't been very good.

    I'd argue that there has to be a certain amount of enthusiasm when making any game. I get the impression that the people at Rockstar enjoy what they do and didn't pick GTA just as a marketing tool. I think they might've been down at the pub and said, "Hey mates, I think a game where the player could just grab any car on the street and drive it around would be fun." "Crikey, that's brilliant." "Stone the crows, let's get back to headquarters and start programming this, well after a few more pints."

    In fact, another "urban" game, the freeware "drug dealer" game I've played a few times, was probably made under a similar level of enthusiasm though a lower budget.

    However, I think a lot of recent games with this theme have been more like, "We need to hit on a new paradigm for video games." "Well, that GTA game is popular and Gangsta Rap is popular, perhaps we can cash in on this trend." "Yes, it hits our key demographic group, lets have a concept meeting about it, after I finish my latte."

  • by hey! (33014) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @02:41PM (#15707173) Homepage Journal
    "Urban theme" doesn't tell me anything meaningful about a game's mechanics or strategy.

    So, what we're talking about is superficial stuff -- decoration. And if it's decoration, it's subjection to fashion. And if it's fashion, it's subject to going-out-of-fashion.

    It's like cars. In the immediate post WW2 years, there was a melted, "jelly bean" look to car body styles. Shortly thereafter, in the era of the nuclear strategic bomber, cars started to get taller and taller tail fins, culminating in a Caddie my father in law had which I swear must have had tail fins 18 inches (45cm) high. Since this was well beyond the ridiculous, the styles swiftly changed so that the tail fins were cut off, leaving a vestigal ridge about an inch high and several inches wide. The result was angular and gave cars a massive and muscular look. My father in law had one of these too (do a google image search on 1972 Plymouth Fury [google.com]. Then the energy crisis came, and cars got smaller, and aerodynamics started to chip away a the broad shouldered look, and finally we had the original Ford Taurus, which was back to the "jelly bean" look.

    So, maybe "gangsta" is out until we've churned over a couple generations of gamers.

  • Re:grumpy old man (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @02:43PM (#15707187)
    We got what we asked for, and damn it, it's boring.

    Seriously. Before you know it, someone's gonna come out with a game where you get to walk around and do chores and simulate interactions between people via little virtual people. And I bet people would buy it. Oh wait...
  • by ArmyOfFun (652320) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @02:49PM (#15707254)
    Sure, part of the appeal of GTA is being an urban sociopath. The real draw of the GTA series though is its open world. GTA 3 was one of the most open 3D games that had come out in a while. You can get fares in a taxi-cab, drive sick people to the hospital in an ambulance, or totally ignore the missions and just cause mayhem.

    Instead of publishers trying to copy GTA by focusing on its gameplay, they instead focused on the hip hop vibe. What they don't seem to realize is that GTA was popular despite its urban flavor, not becaues of it. GTA is more similar to Oblivion than it is to Def Jam: Fight for NY. You want to have a GTA or Oblivion style hit? Create an unquie world and make it open and give the player a lot of different stuff to do. It's a little puzzling that the open world genre is really lacking in quantity right now despite the huge success of the few games that have done it right.

    Remember all the side scrollers that came out after Super Mario Bros? What if instead of side scrollers, publishers figured Mario was popular because it featured a fat plumber and all games of the NES era all featured plumbers or fat blue collar workers, but totally ignored the side-scrolling action that made Mario fun. That's exactly what's happening with the companies that tried to ape GTA by putting focusing on MTV style hip hop rather than on open gameplay.
  • by PuppiesOnAcid (792320) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @02:56PM (#15707311) Homepage Journal
    Honestly, when I sit down to play video games, I want to escape reality. However, that does not mean I want to slash up dragons or shoot down space ships with lasers. Sometimes I want to play a game in a GTA or "urban" setting just because it's the closest thing to doing something you couldn't in the real world and getting away with it.
  • Re:New Ideas (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Fallingcow (213461) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @03:25PM (#15707561) Homepage
    Flintlocks take too long to reload.

    As far as reality-based shooters go, you're never going to see much set in the pre-repeating-rifle world (I'm aware that there are some mods for this, but it's not exactly common), and WWI is out because no one wants to play "sit in a trench and get gangrene", and any war between the US Civil War and that one isn't well-known enough to be made in to a game.

    As for the post-depression wars, no one cares about Korea (sad but true, I bet most people aren't even sure of which decade that was in), Vietnam's confusing and hard to make a game about ('You are in a very dark forest. You are likely to step on a landmine.' -]go west 'You step on a landmine and die. Game over. [l]oad, [q]uit, [n]ew game')

    For everything after Vietnam, the tech is just too advanced for it to be much fun. For most wars, the game would consist of lots of missions with objectives like, "secure the area around the already-bombed target. Don't worry, everyone's probably dead, we just want you to check", and, "accept the surrender of some surviving tank crewmen. We blew up all their tanks from 50 miles away, and they're waving white flags, just go put 'em in zip ties and get 'em back to the POW camp". Anyway, as with Korea, no one really gives a damn about most of those wars. Grenada? Panama? Hell, lots of people probably don't even realize that we've invaded those countries within the last half-century. The only one with enough recognition to sell games would be the first war in Iraq, and that'd lose too many sales due to the tastelessness factor brought on by making a game like that while we're over there fighting again.

    Plus, where's the danger of losing in these games? Sure, you might fail and die, but it's not like there's a real chance of the "good guys" losing. And if they did, so what? What are the stakes in most of these wars? So, your side loses face and its reputation suffers? One small, inconsequential country remains Communist or at least "too far" left? Oooh, so scary!

    WWII just happens to have the perfect balance of tech, action, plot, characters, and participants. It lends itself to games that are, if not great (most aren't), then at least decent, and they're certainly easy (and relatively cheap) to write and design.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @03:31PM (#15707611)
    I think the Urban part is a red herring. John Singlton, has anyone seen Four Brothers, I couldn't even sit though 20 minutes of that on an airplane, the movie was such a bore. I really wanted to like this movie. And Snoop I don't think he ever had much crossover appeal and now he's more of joke of himself.

    Urban themes will "revive" when they base the concept on people who aren't worn out and irrelevent.

    Just my $0.02.
  • Duh... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by crhylove (205956) <rhy@leperkhanz.com> on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @03:50PM (#15707785) Homepage Journal
    After "San Andreas" is there a purpose of building a competing title? That game is a be-all-end-all for the genre solely for the fact that it is one of the greatest user experiences ever created.

    Don't predict the decline of a genre because somebody got it all exactly right and nobody has caught up just yet.

    rhY
  • Re:Urban-themed? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kadin2048 (468275) <slashdot.kadin@xoxFREEBSDy.net minus bsd> on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @03:51PM (#15707799) Homepage Journal
    "Urban" means "urban culture". I don't know where you're getting the whole race thing. That's your thing. Last I checked, "urban culture" doesn't have anything to do with race... it has to do with social and economic class.

    Right -- because there aren't a disproportionate number of ethnic minorities living in urban areas, leading to a strong correlation between "urban" culture and their ethnic culture.

    The only thing worse than racism is denial.
  • by edremy (36408) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @03:59PM (#15707860) Journal
    I've been playing demos for a bunch of MMORPGs lately for fun (My WoW trial supscription runs out tomorrow) One thing i've noticed is that in all of them rarely are the races really all that differentiated. Yeah, my Undead Warlock can hold his breath a long time, but it's just not that different from any other race. Yeah, your skillset might look different, but overall you basically have the same classes for each race/group. I think back to AvP, where playing an Alien and a Human are so different as to be totally seperate games.

    Imagine yours

    • Ninjas: Totally skill based. No magic equipment- everything depends on reaction time and stealth
    • Zombies: Magic users. Spells, curses and cannibalism.
    • Robots: Crafting class. Build yourself
    • Pirates: Always win, since they can call on the FSM at any time. (Ok, maybe not)

    You could have four totally different play experiences. Set up the quests so that some that are trivial for one group are impossible for others since the tactics simply don't transfer between them. Forget the fake "Alliance v. Horde" setup where you make the races fight: ninjas and robots simply can't team up since a stealthy assassin isn't going to be any more effective teamed with something out of an anime nightmare. It would be hell to balance, but could be done.

    Frankly, after looking over a bunch of MMORPGs (WoW, CoV, Planetside, AO, EVE, Auto Assault) I'm not impressed. The only truly different one is EVE and I don't have the time to have a second career which seems to be about the only way to really get into that game.

  • Re:FP! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by admdrew (782761) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @04:26PM (#15708085) Homepage
    I don't see every damn FPS in space being subjected to the "Doom-Clone" treatment or WWII ones shot down as copying Wolfenstein. (although in this last case, many do)

    First, what WW2 games have copied Wolfenstein in gameplay? If you're referring to modern games, Call of Duty and Day of Defeat are both better and more original than the Q3 engine Wolfenstein.

    Second, every FPS was called a Doom-clone back in the day, until games existed that looked better or had better gameplay.

    Look at some modern GTA-clones: True Crime and The Godfather; they were almost the exact same game. Then, look at the modern RPG genre: Oblivion (and Morrowind and Daggerfall before it... we won't talk about Battlespire or Redguard :P), WoW, the Diablos, Sacred (ok, a Diablo-clone, but better), Neverwinter Nights... they were all very different games. A lot of racing games are very different too; look at PGR (1, 2, or 3) vs Forza vs GT4 vs Need for Speed vs Wipeout vs Mario Kart...

    GTA is a fun game, but isn't particularly deep; it's not too difficult to make a semi-effective knockoff and bank on the fact that GTA is wildly popular. A game like Oblivion, OTOH, is so expansive that a clone would be difficult to effectively produce.

    Glut!? Sure, there've been a bunch in very recent history, most of them crap

    I believe that's the definition of glut. And really, when the quality of the 'original' (GTA3+ in this situation; let's not forget about the original GTAs) isn't exactly stellar, the term clone is very applicable.

  • by dswensen (252552) * on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @04:29PM (#15708104) Homepage
    Do people really not care about GTA-style urban shooters any more?

    You know, I've asked myself the same question, many times... about war games, space strategy games, adventure games, just about anything single-player. The market has changed so much. Even Star Wars Galaxies, itself an MMORPG, was reinvented so that Sony could attract a more casual (or, if you like, dumber) fan base. The last time I set foot in a game store, it was all MMORPG, MMORPG, World War II sim, MMORPG... oh, and Sims 2.

    A decade or so ago, a lot of games were still crap, but there was at least more variety of crap. It does seem like the games market now is becoming ever more monolithic -- especially since most PC games seem to be console ports anymore. It's kind of depressing. I'm barely out of my 20s, and already I feel like some wheezy old man when it comes to video games -- "Whatever happened to Descent, Wing Commander, Sim City? Get the hell out of my bushes..." etc.
  • Re:New Ideas (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sorak (246725) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @04:38PM (#15708173)

    That's why we have futuristic shooters. In the future, apparently, we have all kinds of technology, but we're mostly just interested in using it to do cool stuff

    "Sir. I don't wanna go in there and stab the mechademon with my power-genk 3000. Can't we just throw grandaes at it?"

    "No son, then you wouldn't get to do that cool jumping strafe move."

  • Re:FP! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Breakfast Pants (323698) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @04:48PM (#15708254) Journal
    Kill the orcs!
    Kill the kobalds!
    Skip crappy FMV!
    Kill the giant red bees!
    WHOA LEVEL UP!
    Kill the giant *blue* bees (now you are a true badass)!
  • by payndz (589033) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @05:20PM (#15708533)
    What all the wannabes apparently failed to spot was that the GTA series mocked first the mobster, and then the gangsta genres. Anyone who listened to the radio stations (never mind playing some of the missions) in Vice City and thought the game was in any way taking itself seriously needed their head examining. The same applied to San Andreas once CJ escaped from the oddly humourless Los Santos missions in the first part of the game. As soon as he met up with The Truth, all bets were off.

    Part of the fun of the GTA series is seeing how a bunch of weirdoes in Scotland will take the piss out of American pop-trash culture in the next mission - but the (US-developed) imitators all missed the point and played the whole thing straight. No wonder people got bored very quickly - if you're not taking the piss, there's literally nothing to hold your attention.
  • Games are Escape (Score:2, Insightful)

    by donweel (304991) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @05:58PM (#15708777)
    You want to play a game to escape your every day hum drum. To forget about being stuck in traffic for hours on your way home. Who want's to go to a world of alley ways and city streets. You want to go any place else but an Urban world. Dungeons and Dragons, Outer Space, the Wild West, Knights in Armor evan World War II. Who needs SUVs and street punks you see them every day.
  • by Jack Johnson (836341) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @07:11PM (#15709198)
    What we're really talking about here is Midway. Specifically, Midway's PR machine and market trends. Midway has been solidly focused on gimmicks, gaming trends and sequels that beat a property to death, dust and beyond for roughly the last 15 years.

    Highlights of this period include *17* Mortal Kombat games, a half dozen NBA Jam games, roughly the same number of NFL Blitz (NBA Jam on a football field) games, a couple of light gun games and racers that actually weren't that bad and curious attempts to bring just a little originality (Primal Rage) and absurdity (War Gods) to the gore gimmick that the company had been living off since the original Mortal Kombat.

    As Allison clearly states in the article, which is reproduced in the Slashdot blurb...

    "We killed Fear and Respect," Allison explains, "because we have enough data-points to know the hood thing is basically dead. It would be dead before it came out. And you don't want to come out on a dead vibe."

    Those aren't the words of company focused on making original properties or great games, they just want to catch and ride trends for easy sales.

    They had a crap games on their hands that they intended to sell with a fad-appeal and a big name license. The fad died so they killed the game.

    It's really that simple. That's how it works, when you sell games based on trends, not the quality of individual titles or your brand as a developer.

    One day, people will finally stop buying whatever the latest Mortal Kombat rehash is and Midway will die just like spiritual sister Acclaim.

  • Re:New Ideas (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dun Malg (230075) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @07:25PM (#15709268) Homepage
    For everything after Vietnam, the tech is just too advanced for it to be much fun. For most wars, the game would consist of lots of missions with objectives like, "secure the area around the already-bombed target. Don't worry, everyone's probably dead, we just want you to check", and, "accept the surrender of some surviving tank crewmen. We blew up all their tanks from 50 miles away, and they're waving white flags, just go put 'em in zip ties and get 'em back to the POW camp".
    That's pretty much just a description of Desert Storm. You think we have 2000+ dead in Iraq sitting around waiting to clean up after the Air Force drops a 2000lb bomb on a hut? When it gets right down to brass tacks, all that modern tech really doesn't mean diddley. Fighting in the streets of Mosul is not all that different from fighting in the streets of Bastogne. It's rifles and grenades. The only real differences are that the enemy isn't wearing a uniform, and we soldiers* have body armor now so we tend to merely get maimed instead of killed.

    Check out America's Army [americasarmy.com] for a modern-day FPS.

    * I wasn't in Iraq, but I spent nearly 2 years in Afghanistan, and let me tell you, they weren't waving any white flags there.

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