Cliff Bleszinski on the Evolution of Franchises
Like many franchises before it, Dead Space 3 has been coming under fire for its sudden shift in tone. Where the first two games were heavily geared toward survival horror, Dead Space 3′s added co-op partner and upgraded arsenal supposedly give players more ways to take down armies of necromorphs than ever before. Even though our very own Mitch insists that the game still has its own share of scary, there are others who disagree.
Naturally, there are pockets of gamers that are extremely upset over this change in mechanics to a game that they love dearly. To some, it’s “selling out.” But Gears of War honcho and former Epic Design Director Cliff Bleszinski has some different ideas about what’s happened to the Dead Space franchise. In a recent Dead Space 3 blog post, Bleszinski calls the game an evolution of the franchise, and uses that term endearingly. And according to him, “You can either fight it or embrace it.”
Even though there are dozens of opinions written about this all over the place, I find it fascinating to see it from the point of view of a game designer. Bleszinski (I still have to look that name up every time I write it) has some keen insight into the reasons that these decisions get made, including key demographics and what exactly makes survival horror games work:
I’m quite familiar with the controversy over Dead Space 3 and the issue of horror versus action. Generally speaking, the scarier a game is the less empowered a player feels. Controls are often clunky on purpose, and the pacing is quite different from an action movie. It feels as if Visceral consciously gravitated the franchise more towards the “action” elements over the “suspense/horror” ones, and I’m quite okay with that. We look at the target audience for your average console game and it’s often a cocky young male who doesn’t want to be scared, unfortunately, he’s the guy who wants to get in and “fuck shit up.”
He goes on to talking about the difficulty of crafting a horror experience, saying it’s akin to trying to tickle yourself. When you’ve been staring at a “scary” moment over and over, it’s hard to know if it’s truly horrifying until you try it out on someone else. This sort of makes the entire experience hit and miss, and a pain to develop for from a gamemaker’s perspective.
But the meat of the post happens near the end, when Bleszinski talks about the evolution of Dead Space. He views the franchise not as one that didn’t stick to its guns and abandoned its roots, but rather one that evolved from horror into something more. Despite any disagreements some might have with that statement, I do think it’s an interesting take on what happens to any franchise over time.
In terms of what else we can expect in the future from the horror genre, he has this to say at the end of the article:
In the 60$ disc based market horror doesn’t fly – it’s the ultimate “Campaign Rental” that’s played for 2 days and traded in and I’m sure EA knows this. When we’re fully digital we’ll see more true horror games coming back. (Look at Amnesia and Slenderman on PC.)
Anyway, it’s interesting stuff. But I’m curious how you guys feel about shifts like this? Whether it’s Counter-Strike to Source, Resident Evil’s PS days to its current format, Mass Effect 1 to Mass Effect 2 and so on, are you generally OK with a franchise shifting its core experience to something else? Do you tend to embrace these changes or abandon them? Go!
Source – Dude Huge Speaks