Friday, June 06, 2008

wandering IPs

This new Saints Row 2 video is a nice summary of the main point I was making in my (admittedly piss-poor) initial impressions review of GTA IV. My argument was that Rockstar has veered so far from the original flavor of the GTA series that now the Saints Row series is more GTA than GTA. That original flavor was wild, free-form gameplay and downright silly shenanigans. The original tone and over-the-top gameplay of the series seems to have been slowly fading, to be replaced by different values.

I absolutely have no problem with developers changing style. People change. Interests change. And GTA IV is certainly a financially successful game that pleases many gamers. Rockstar did well.

But I do believe any series should remain faithful to the expectations of its audience... faithful to the basic style that defined the first product; for ethical reasons as much as marketing reasons. If you're interested in making a new sort of game, don't realize it by changing an established IP. Start a new IP. If you establish your company as a respectable brand (Blizzard, Bioware, etc), then you can use that to about the same effect as a game brand. Command & Conquer is another series that has wandered quite a bit, though at least they eventually divided it into subcategories (Red Alert series, Tiberium series, etc).

In this case, I think the GTA series has wandered too far from its heart. I sold my copy of GTA IV to a friend.


  1. An example of this can be found with the now-defunct FASA studios tinkering around with the Shadowrun IP. I actually wrote an article a couple years ago while the studio was in development for the release, where I pointed out that the game they were creating didn't actually have any "shadowrunning" in it.

    A game which had a ridculously rich tradition of team based intrigue and plots-within-plots was being used for, of all things, a free-for-all FPS which was diverging from the established storyline in several key areas because the developers wanted to make a game which would appeal to people who had never heard of Shadowrun before.

    The game was largely panned by initial reviewers, won several "worst of show" awards at E3 that year, and performed well below expectations after release. This single game was largely blamed for the studio's eventual demise.

    One can only wonder what might have been had the company treated the IP itself as more than a nameplate.

  2. Yeah, sometimes it's better to loosely base a new IP on an old one than pretend your being faithful.

    But there are examples of good selective use, such as the Star Wars podracing gaming on the N64. That game took the smallest sliver of one Star Wars film and made it into a great action game.


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