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The Rise and Fall of Franchises 84

Next Generation has a piece up discussing how game franchises evolve, what makes them succeed, and (in the end) what can make a game franchise fail. From the article: "We regard the evolution of video games largely as the realization of a singular idea: realism. By 'realism' we mean capturing the external world in which we live. Like many art forms - such as photography and cinema - video games have largely been driven by developers' desire and consumers' appetite for greater realism. It is possible to argue that the popularity of cinema derives from the medium's flexibility and power to induce a sense of realism in the spectator, as movies - much like our lives - use language through dialogue, manipulate cinematography and visual effects, and sounds to represent the world or capture our imagination."
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The Rise and Fall of Franchises

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  • by VernonNemitz ( 581327 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @12:45PM (#15068537) Journal
    I bet if they ressurrected a bunch of old animators and had them produce a new Bugs Bunny cartoon, using old-fashioned 2D art, it would be just as big a hit as some modern/fancier show like "Ice Age". The story can be far more important.
    • They tried this (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loonatics [wikipedia.org]), but the animators couldn't resist tweaking the formula a bit. There were pigs being slaughtered, women were wailing, and men were gnashing their teeth. It was horrible.
      • The GP was saying that they would write new cartoons using the old pen-and-paper animation techniques. Since the writers that made Loonatics aren't as talented as the original Buggs Bunny creators, it only proves the GP's point that story is more important than graphics.
    • by vertinox ( 846076 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @01:00PM (#15068723)
      I bet if they ressurrected a bunch of old animators and had them produce a new Bugs Bunny cartoon, using old-fashioned 2D art, it would be just as big a hit as some modern/fancier show like "Ice Age".

      Actually, the reason for the move to CGI in animation is that its cheaper and faster to do a CGI animation film than a conventional frame by frame hand drawn.
      • "Actually, the reason for the move to CGI in animation is that its cheaper and faster to do a CGI animation film than a conventional frame by frame hand drawn."

        If this were even close to true the saturday morning cartoons aired today would be CG. CG is a much bigger endeavour than a hand-drawn movie. Sure, the animators have to draw a lot of frames by hand. But for a CG shot to work you need people to build the models, generate and apply textures, rigging, animation, compositing, FX (i.e. smoke, fire, e
        • If this were even close to true the saturday morning cartoons aired today would be CG.

          Well, even South Park is CG these days (they don't hand draw anymore) because it was so tedious.

          Cell animation takes millions of man hours when you do a full feature budget with dozens if not hundreds of people doing cell by cell (remember 24 frames per second times 120minutes X 60 seconds X 24 is 172800 frames that you have to sketch, paint, photograph and then edit). Not only that many of the drawings will have to redone
          • "With CG you simply do this all in one go."

            That's sort of like saying "If I had a computer to do my homework on, I'd save lots of time because I wouldn't have to clean up my messy handwriting!"

            A humanoid CG character has anywhere from 100 to 200 bones in it's body for posing. Each of these bones has 9 motion curves attached to it to describe its position in 3D space. (Position, Rotation, Scaling. In most cases, Rotation is all that's used. That's still 3 motion curves per bone.) All of these bones are
            • Imagine drawing a character reaching for a glass of water. You just draw it.

              Right, but it is rather hard to find people that can just up and immitate any art style so you can crank out all those frames. It is done, but arthouses tend to get specialty people who can immitate style (kind of like how all of Miyazaki films have the same style). This is easy to do in say Korea or Japan because of the many aspiring Manga artists, but in the US it is a bit different.

              Most of our niche cartoons are rather stylized..
              • I do want to reply to your comment, but for the next few hours I'm pretty busy. I did, however, want to apologize for my "I know what I'm talking about" comment in my last post. It was an arrogant and condescending thing to say and I'm sorry. I appreciate you keeping your cool.
          • If I recall correctly (and I'm sure I will be if I'm wrong) they have been using 3d software to make their show since the 2nd episode. The Pilot was the only one done with paper cutouts (the show was never hand drawn, AFAIK). They can turn out an episode in just a few days. In 2003, Saddam was caught on a sunday, and they made fun of it that wednesday night. Pretty amazing what they can do, and how far their animation has come (sort of...) since the first season.
        • A lot of low-end kiddie crap on TV is CGI. You have an up-front investment to build the models and sets, but once those are up and running, you can turn out a LOT of animation with very few new assets per show. If you use motion capture for the animation, and don't care too much about the animation quality and lighting, you can turn out each 21-minute animated show in a week or so.
      • CGI doesnt always mean "3D" in the Toy Story, Shrek or Ice Age sense.

        Even 2D shows like The Simpsons probobly have a fair amount of computer drawn and generated animation.

        Not to mention the whole "South-park is 100% CGI" thing)

        IMO, one of the best uses of 3D in a "traditional" animated cartoon is in the Disney Tarzan movie.
    • Get the most talented animators you can and do what you will, but it'll never be the same. In my opinion, Bugs (and so many others) died along with Mel Blanc. There's no replacing him.
    • Not to mention that adding realism to a Bugs Bunny cartoon would be somewhat counterproductive.

      Fudd: [takes careful aim with his shotgun]
      Bugs: [stuffs carrot in shotgun]
      Fudd: [camera pans downward as the disctinctive rapport of gunfire fills the air. blood and carrot juice splatter the ground.]
      Porky: "Thhththtthat's all folks!"
    • I bet if they ressurrected a bunch of old animators and had them produce a new Bugs Bunny cartoon, using old-fashioned 2D art, it would be just as big a hit as some modern/fancier show like "Ice Age". The story can be far more important.

      The Warner team in their prime could have produced a witty fractured fairy tale like Shrek. But anything more subtle and demanding, in character, in story, in action, almost certainly not. The Iron Giant, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, are unmistakably rooted in the Disney

    • Funny, I recall Space Jam [imdb.com] both sucking and flopping.
  • by JediLow ( 831100 ) * on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @12:46PM (#15068543)
    If I wanted realism... I'd just go outside. Instead of sprouting all this 'better graphics = great games' crap did they ever stop to consider that gameplay matters?
    • I've always been afraid of the bears and stuff.
    • Bingo!

      That's why I still play Civilization III and Battlefield 1942 all the time. They never crash on me and I can depend on them to still be fun.

    • by bigman2003 ( 671309 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @02:18PM (#15069553) Homepage
      Yes, they have...and they still do.

      Better graphics does not automatically mean lesser gameplay. This is an oft repeated mantra of the 'games were better when I was a kid' set.

      Strangely, the parents of those people think that games were better when they made you THINK, like Scrabble.

      And their parents thought it was best when games made you PRODUCTIVE like being chained to a loom for 60 hours a week.

      But really, today's games generally have far more depth than their predecessors. It's not like Missile Command was rocket science. Compare that to something like Rise of Nations.

      In fact, Rise of Nations would have been impossible to do WITHOUT the graphics, because there are so many different types of units to represent.

      Or look at something like a good First Person Shooter. In Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter, a key part of the game is having the enemy blend in with the environment. This just doesn't happen when you only have 256 colors at 400x600.
      • To interject two thingies:

        I don't know why they're blathering about the holy grail of realism. Everyone's already said that more realistic graphics don't automatically mean a better game. In some ways, more realistic graphics don't even mean better graphics. Example: I remember seeing a new XBox commercial featuring a basketball game. They were yammering on and on about how "you can see the sweat! My GOD! Did you see how realistically the sweat is streaming down his face? You must go buy this title r
    • If I wanted realism... I'd just go outside. Instead of sprouting all this 'better graphics = great games' crap did they ever stop to consider that gameplay matters?

      You would think by now that people talking about improved graphics would realize that throwing around a term like realism automatically triggers a dozen slashbot posts like the above.

      This kind of sentiment is about as idiotic and useless as saying 'why don't they just make good games/music/movies', as if 'good' or 'gameplay' was a well understood
  • From TFA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by itscolduphere ( 933449 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @12:49PM (#15068581)
    Question: Is a polygon Fighter in 3D with a good fighting engine better than a beautiful 2D Fighter with an excellent fighting engine? You bet it is.


    I hate this person already.

    Other than that, there was a little bit of interesting commentary in there. He touched on a couple big things I have to agree with, though. Human opponents or teammates (or both) will almost always trump AI. Single player games can be great, but their strength as a franchise will usually fade...eventually you are just doing the same thing with prettier polygons.

    Though for some reason, doing the same thing with prettier polygons is more desireable when you are doing it with or against other human beings.
    • Seconded. This guy is a douchebag. I'd rather play Street Fighter 2: Super Hyper Turbo Tournament Edition Squared than any of the 3D iterations of Street Fighter.
      • yeah, but the problem here is that the 3D street fighters weren't actually any GOOD. In fact, they were total ass. Put Street fighter 2 turbo up against a GREAT 3D fighter like Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution, Tekken 5, or Soul Calibur 2/3...and quite frankly I'd rather play those.

        VF4 in particular is EXTREMELY deep and technical. Mastering a fighter can take months at best, and then you get to test your skills in quest mode against AI fighters modeled after Virtua Fighter world champions...the AI in this gam

        • yeah, but the problem here is that the 3D street fighters weren't actually any GOOD. In fact, they were total ass. Put Street fighter 2 turbo up against a GREAT 3D fighter like Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution, Tekken 5, or Soul Calibur 2/3...and quite frankly I'd rather play those.

          Personally I prefer the King of Fighters games to Street Fighter. I like Darkstalkers better, too. People forget that Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat aren't the only 2D fighters around.

          Don't get me wrong...I don't hate 3D fig
        • Okay, but take the author's words as he put them and don't compare it to a GREAT 3D fighter like VF4, T5, or SC2/3, but only a GOOD one like Virtua Fighter, Tekken, or Soul Blade. Any day of the week, I'd pick a GREAT game over a GOOD one, no matter how many polygons and particle effects the GOOD one has.
    • Play any classic quakeworld in GL lately? QW at 1600x1200 in GL at 50+ frames/sec on a DSL or cable connection is the way it was *meant* to be...
    • Yeah, I mean look at Starcraft. Starcraft I was a 2D game released in 1998. People still play it. Lots of 'em.

      Now, how many people play Starcraft II?
      Many blame the game's non-existance, but I feel the problem is in the conversion to 3D graphics.

    • Yes, after reading that I though, "It's a good thing that that guy isn't here in my cubicle right now... or I'd probably have ripped his very throat out with my own teeth."

      Seriously, though, I stopped buying Sony products over this attitude, back in the days of the Playstation 1. This is why we've had how many failed Castlevania games, but people still rave about Symphony of the Night.

      Also... I guess the success of the Gameboy and DS really prove his point here. I always wonder if there isn't a hidden [amazon.com]

  • This piece reads like a sociology student had a field-day with the thesaur...
  • by Illbay ( 700081 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @12:50PM (#15068594) Journal
    Like many art forms - such as photography and cinema - video games have largely been driven by developers' desire and consumers' appetite for greater realism.

    Better watch that line of argument. The "film franchise" has manifested itself with multitudinous (and qualitatively regressing) sequels.

    Anybody ever see "Jaws 3"?

  • actually. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Churla ( 936633 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @12:52PM (#15068625)
    Of all the MMORPGs out right now, the one doing best (WoW) is the one which specifically went for a less "realistic" look and feel to it's design.

    EQ2 for instance went for the "make things look more real" approach, and look where they are.
    • EQ2 for instance went for the "make things look more real" approach, and look where they are.

      And you can prove that this is the reason EQ2 is doing worse than WoW? Don't be shy now.

    • Or you can see that WoW's gameplay is better than Everquests 2's. Just an Idea.
    • Well from my "extensive research" which was that my wife and I tried both. It backs up my assertion that Gameplay > graphics.

      So no, I will not say that going for more realistic graphics was the reason EQ2 has failed, but I will say that in playing both I got a feel for where each put their money. Even on the last day she played it my wife confessed that it looked beautiful, but just lacked in actual gameplay. After they supposedly revamed things she tried again and came to the same conclusion a second
  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @12:57PM (#15068693)
    Yeah, games are more realistic now than ever before. Yeah, they get more realistic every day. No, they're not better than ever before. Actually, in my opinion, they get worse and worse with every season. Or, rather, they stop getting better and thus already feel stale when you hardly got them.

    EA was complaining about dropping sales last year. Well, COULD it be that their customers didn't want to buy the 10th hockey sim? Or the 5000th shooter?

    You can add explosions, as many as you want. You can add visual and audio effects to blow the player off his chair. If the game doesn't offer more in terms of gameplay than he already got, essentially, in Quake II, the game simply and plainly sucks.

    You CAN actually offer more than stupid "killemall" in a shooter. Hitman and IGI are classic examples of shooters that don't rely only on your trigger finger. And I loved both of them, despite (or maybe even because) the quite obvious fact that neither was a graphic orgy.

    Realism is, plain and simple, overrated. What matters is a cool gameplay that keeps me busy for more than the usual 8-10 hours.
    • EA wouldn't be nearly so bad if they saw themselves as community-creating and -enabling, the way Valve does. To Valve, it's about getting people to buy the game, then supporting the game vigorously with shiny extras that build loyalty and entice people to buy more games. To EA, it's strictly numbers- EA's management could easily be transferred to any other industry and get the same results. Good franchises are about as common as patches for EA games.
  • by Niobium-41 ( 601054 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @01:01PM (#15068739)
    I find this article almost impossible to read. Everytime there is a word with "fi" in it, there is a space after fi.

    infi nitely
    fi ring
    fi nd

    What the hell is wrong with this guy's spell checker?
  • by MikeO ( 951 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @01:39PM (#15069126) Homepage
    Successful games, at least from my perspective, present the player with an immersive, believable world. The environment needs to provide a consistent, but not necessarily high level of realism.

    There is nothing that kills the feeling of immersion for me more than inconsistency - photorealistic models with crappy animations, detaled characters but barren environments (a la Everquest 2), etc.

    Creating a consistent and believable environment is an art form. Some games get it right, most don't.
    • The environment needs to provide a consistent, but not necessarily high level of realism.

      Abso-fricken-lutely!

      The first game I ever really loved was Ultima IV. The graphics were nothing to write home about, but the story and world was so immersive the quality of the graphics did not matter.

      Baldur's Gate was a great game, and it was by no means photorealistic. Planescape:Torment was the best ever and it would not have been improved by adding more polygons to the characters.

      The same is true for other genre

    • The environment needs to provide a consistent, but not necessarily high level of realism.

      Ding! Give that man a cigar!
      Realism isn't important per se, what is important is that the world is internally consistent. If I'm playing a D&D type game, I shouldn't find an uzi laying about. On the other hand, a person tossing a fireball at me would be expected.
    • There is nothing that kills the feeling of immersion for me more than inconsistency - photorealistic models with crappy animations, detaled characters but barren environments (a la Everquest 2), etc.

      Truer words were never spoken. I literally laughed out loud the first time I saw my character in Oblivion running forwards and strafing at the same time. Their feet simply slide across the ground, and the animation is not even close to being locked into the terrain!! With games like GTA it's usually difficul

  • by larsal ( 128351 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @01:46PM (#15069201)
    Seems to be the lack of perspective this story that's most disturbing:

    1. Complete failure to understand their comparators. Are consumers really demanding more "realism" out of photography? What? Was there a lack of realistic photographs, or do cameras only take abstracts? In movies, the authors might be forgiven for thinking that the demand for more realistic special effects is a demand for realism, but isn't "photorealism" the ultimate standard for graphics?

    2. Complete failure to understand their heritage. Video games don't necessarily replace movies and photographs -- there were games before them, and still are; and most of those games were designed for human interaction. I remember sitting down in front of the NES with the family or friends, don't they?

    3. Confusion over history. The NES didn't kill the Atari, that generation was already dead at the hands of endless revisitation of the same game. . .wait a minute. . .shouldn't that have been their point?

    What absolute crap.

    Larsal
  • Adding that extra bit of realism really adds to the cost of the games. By pushing the envelope concerning realism big game companies raise the barrier in games development for the smaller companies who don't have deep pockets to hire dozens and dozens of artists. Even a good game with less then average realism and detail just fails as realism and detail is the only thing that consumers are interested in at first sight.
  • In this in-depth report Jason Kraft and Chris Kwak from Susquehanna Financial Group

    SUSQUEHANNA HAT COMPANY!!! [clown-ministry.com]

    *tears off hat, stomps on it*
  • by bigattichouse ( 527527 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @02:40PM (#15069774) Homepage
    My kids recently dusted off a PS1 and an old Sega, and love the games. Sure they think the graphics stink, but they like how simple and fun many of the games are. Doctor Mario anyone?
  • What? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jack Johnson ( 836341 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @02:42PM (#15069792)
    This article is a shining example of why no one should listen to what a pair financial analysts have to say about video games. The piece is full of historical inaccuracies and leaps that just don't make any sense.

    It appears as if the writers pulled this together via shallow internet research rather than any actual experience with or understanding of the subject. By shallow I mean, punching a few terms into google and extrapolating the 2 line summaries into multiple paragraphs.

    For example...

    "Virtua Fighter, in an ever-crowding Fighter genre, became RPG Shenmue in November 2000 for Dreamcast; Shenmue II in fall 2001 for Dreamcast and Xbox; Shenmue Online is expected as an MMO on PC some time."

    VF did not become Shenmue. The finished games have nothing to do with each other. At best, Shenmue was believed by some to be a VF RPG during it's development and possibly shared some assets in early development.

    While not as popular as it was in the VF2 (dozens of VF2 machines packed into japanese arcades)era the series still exists entirely seperate from Shenmue as VF3, VF3tb, VF4, VF4:Evo and VF5. Anyone who had a casual interest in the series would know this and anyone who doesn't can find out as the top google results for "shenmue" + "virtual fighter" will spell it out.

    The observations on joysticks, Duck Hunt, the fighting game genre, game to movie adaptations and likely much more equally unresearched, unsubstantiated and completely off-base.

    • What an awful article. It's disgusting how they managed to go four pages without ever mentioning QUALITY of the games.

      So all I need to make a great game is:
      1) SWEET 3D GRFX!
      2) MULTIPLAYER PWNAGE!

      It really makes me sad that people think Design-By-Checkbox is a valid strategy. As we've all seen, it's very easy to make a 3d game that has openended driving and missions, but very hard to make GTA. It's very easy to make a simple puzzle game with pieces to line up, but very hard to make Tetris.

      I can't ima

  • Got about a 3rd of the way before stopping reading. Complete rubbish. I wonder if the writers have ever played a game, or if they just browsed the adverts in the back of a games magazine.

    Graphical realism as the driving force behind the industry. On what basis? Because photography and cinema has been striving for greater realism? Really? Since when have photographs been unrealistic (well, actually kind of increasingly what with airbrushed celebs etc)? And cinema striving for greater realism? That's why films like The Matrix were so successful was it? That's why special effects are now so important for blockbusters? Even relatively artistic films aren't better because the visual representation is more real.

    Complete rubbish.

    I stopped when I read that console gamers had had to wait for the Xbox for online gaming. But then that's because I'm a Sega Dreamcast fanboy. PSO - Phantasy Star something. I can't remember what that O stood for.

    Still, another great troll from next gen. Remind me to only ever read that site via submissions to slashdot. The last few articles linked have been rubbish too.
  • by B. Pascal ( 952378 ) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @03:41PM (#15070437)
    Hello all:

    I just like to make a comment about the realism as described in the article, without getting into whether I agree with the article or not. One thing that the author of this articles seem to miss is that realism is defined as "life-like". Though making a game looks and sounds real is a part of it, but it's not the only part. For instance, a game of "go" or "weichi" has been around for a long long time, and still enjoy a cult-like following in some parts of the world. One of the reasons for its appeal is that the game has very life-like philosophies behind it. In other words, the presentation is abstract, yet the lessons one can learn from playing may be applied to real life.

    On another train of thoughts, one can push the article's main idea and arrive at the conclusion that the best game is not playing at all... I.e. the most realistic experience one can get is... real life.

    Cheers.

    B. Pascal
  • and realism, both the new Driver game and the new Tomb Raider game appear to have finally got it right after a few dismal failures each.

    The Driver developers have realised that gameplay > graphics and that on foot animations actually are worth coding into the game. Fancy that. And the new police car/avatar seperate notoriety meters and awesome new garage options are really well done. Although I still think that anyone that purchased a copy of Driv3r at full price should be sent a free copy. And an opti
  • First time commenter.... I had to create an account just so I could comment because some of the factual inaccuracies bug me in the article. No, its not the waffling about approaching "realism" whatever that means. (Paying bills is what comes to mind - I don't think that will make a fun game). It's the stuff about multiplayer. The history is wrong for the PC. The original single-player Duke Nukem side scrollers pre-date Doom and Doom 2, but in the context of the authors discussion on multiplayer they pr
  • The best games on the PS2 were the least realistic. I'm looking at you Rez and Katamari Damacy.
  • If the single aim for the games industry is realism...then theyve got it all wrong. The real potential of a game isnt its ability to be real, its the fact that its not real. And i dont believe gamers want realism. Realism has little connection to immersion or even believability. I am reading alot of articles on slashdot that just seem like someone random saying something without any proof.
  • I have a question... is the guy who wrote this article a drooling moron? (Warning, caustic sarcasm to follow...)

    When NES gained popularity, gamepads doomed joysticks. When joysticks died, games designed with the joystick in mind died with them. Think for a moment what you could do with a joystick - move side to side, up and down, and press the button. Think about what you couldn't do: jump effectively and freely in all directions, crouch with the same freedom and ease, aim and shoot, change weapons, a

  • A fundamental flaw in this long-winded piece is the idea that realism equals naturalism. This basic lesson has been learned in all the old art forms. Painters perfected art tempura photo-realistic paintings centuries ago, then discovered that maybe more feeling might be conveyed not by copying what they saw but by finding some emotional expressiveness, leading to artists such as Van Gogh and countless others. Sculpture made the same discovery. Even theater got over it's naturalistic re-creations for the
  • Believability isnt the same as realism...in fact realism in many cases damages believability for a number of reasons.

    plus, realism is subjective. If i show 100 people two pics, one photo and one cg, 50% choose the photo as the real image and 50% choose the cg image...does that mean the cg is as real as real life. What if more people choose the cg image...does that mean the cg image is more real?

  • No I didn't RTFA, but quite frankly the games I enjoy the least are the most realistic. I want a game that is just fun. I don't need good graphics or huge content, just something is fun, what is with developers thinking I want to have a life away from the real world. One life is a enough.... I don't need two.

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