What is With All the Streamlining?

supreme commander
While Bad Company 2 was released last week on March 2, another sequel that I was greatly anticipating came out that day as well: Supreme Commander 2, the follow up to 2007’s large-scale strategy title. I’d been hearing mumblings going into its release that it was going to eschew the heavy system requirements necessary to render the huge battlefields of the previous game, but I doubted that Gas Powered Games was going to stray too far from the formula of the original. After all, there’s something unique and cathartic about building up a huge base, stocking it with top tier defense guns and shields, then pummeling the enemy’s fortifications with a gigantic navy. The game had a charm that could only come from a prohibitive resource management system, but I loved it all the same.

Now that I’ve had a chance to play Supreme Commander 2 a bit, I can’t help but notice how severely pared down it is from its original inception. I wonder when I became vogue to start taking formerly complicated games and trimming all of the fat off of them. While this trend has been seeing movement for a while, there is another recent example of a game series that started off as bloated with genre tropes as you can possibly get then got whittled down to the bare essentials: Mass Effect. Like I mentioned in my recent post about the upcoming DLC, I’ve been playing the original and the differences in the inventory and level management system are staggering. The same thing is true with Supreme Commander in that there are no more tech trees and the unit upgrades are managed through a simple interface as opposed to a constant advancement of technology.

I don’t want to give the impression that I’m complaining about this turn of events, but part of me wonders if this is really a good thing for the industry. Take the upcoming Command & Conquer 4 as another example: there is no base-building at all; instead, you kit yourself out with a specialized commander unit then follow your army around pumping out units. There’s no resource collecting or base building at all. Essentially, it’s starting to look very similar to Dawn of War II which features no base management and focuses entirely on unit management.

Without rambling on forever, the point I’m trying to make is that the more streamlined our gaming experiences get, the more they will start to blend together. If one series makes improvements in a certain area, other games are sure to follow in a manner which I’m starting to call the “God of War complex”. All I’m saying is that there has to be something that makes your game unique. What do you guys think about this? Am I on the right track, or am I just crazy? What do you think of all this streamlining?

Written by

mitch@gamersushi.com Twitter: @mi7ch Gamertag: Lubeius PSN ID: Lubeius SteamID: Lube182 Origin/EA:Lube182 Currently Playing: Stardew Valley, Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam, Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords, Battlefield 4, Tom Clancy Double Feature: Rainbow Six Siege and The Division

8 thoughts on “What is With All the Streamlining?”

  1. I think you are on the right track. I feel like there has been a real push to bring the hardcore gamers and the passive gamers together. For example, I’ve never liked playing strategy games, and devs know there are a lot of people like me out there. So, they make the game simpler and more approchable for someone like me, while still trying to “bring the hardcore flavour” into it. Frankly, I’m not going to play the game no matter how simple it gets, and people like you or ‘RTS Only’ dudes and dudettes get the short end of the usbStick.

  2. Can’t say I miss the Inventory screen from the first Mass Effect, but I agree with everything else you said.

  3. There is something to be said for simplicity, but when I am trying to manage a war campaign. I like it to actually feel as complicated as one. there are both pros and cons for going more simple. with supcom I believe dumbing it down takes away from what made the first one unique.

  4. I love this idea of removing base-building. I would much rather play based on how well I can manage an army in combat than based upon how quickly I can get a resource and press a button until my mouse breaks.

    RTTs baby! This brings me back to games like Ground Control which was just ‘Do what you can with what you have, no reinforcements, no screwups.’

  5. I never got the first supcom but i got the expansion which was ok but not amazing compared i hear. So i was realy pleased about a third of a year ago when they were releaseing another one.

    Steam releaesed demo i egerly downloaded ready to see what i could do and how this upgrade system flows.

    I liked the tutorial nice bring in like the previous one. then the first 2 missions they were fun, like the previous one mass up best units then slaughter.

    Once i completed the demo thought about it read some othr gamer comments and also played a skirmish map on the previous one. It just doesnt cut it, now its just ur bog standard rts get so much of this and so much of that boom train unit no actial managment.

    Waste of effort to wait for it in my opinion buy the older one and enjoy the map expanding campaigns.

  6. Well BFBC2’s multiplayer classes are streamlined versions of BFBC1’s which, in their own right, are streamlined versions of BF2′. This isn’t a huge problem but I like complicated game systems (in certain cases) but I also like 4 man squads with every role filled out. So, basically, I have mixed feeling on the issue but there’s no denying that you’re onto something, Mitch.

  7. I think BC2 does a fairly good job streamlining the classes, but DICE can’t seem to figure out where to stick the Medic kit. It feels to unwieldy with a machine gun, and giving it to the assault class in 2142 was just wrong.

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