#1 Edited by shell_kracker (71 posts) -

Here is a story...

Once upon a time, Japanese games dominated maybe 60% of everything released on consoles. Their unique cultural perspective, artistic style, and design philosophy was the backbone of the entire console experience - the 3rd, 4th and 5th generation were dominated by three Japanese companies. Mario, Sonic, Link, Samus, Cecil, Terra, Cloud, Squall, Ryu, Snake - these were some names that arose in that glorious era.

But then something began to happen. The powerful Japanese economy, once expected to surpass the USA in wealth, became just one country amongst many big late capitalist societies. SEGA folded in the console making business. Microsoft entered the console business. The platformer and JRPG fell, and the shooter arose. Japanese developers started concentrating on the popular handheld market. Fewer games were localised.

Now, although I very much doubt Sony or Nintendo are going anywhere, this benign Japanese aesthetic seems to me, to be in decline, being replaced by a hegemony of games that follow very narrow consumerist goals. The west has it's own formidable artistic traditions; but many developers don't follow them, or treat them quite superficially, in my experience. I'm not saying that Japan doesn't also suffer from mindless consumerism (hello generic moe bs), but developers there don't seem to regard learning or art as pretentious; rather it's just taken for granted that having a degree level understanding of art of philosophy might improve a game.

Sony has been replaced as perhaps the biggest maker of consumer electronics in the world, I think by the South Korean manufacturer Samsung - and Nintendo, while still the undisputed masters of the handheld, have released a home console that nobody seems to be buying (yet?) Vast amounts of unique and interesting games are still being produced, and sold in East Asia, but sadly without localisation - and in genres that a lot of people in the west consider a waste of time, like visual novels.

What makes Japanese games feel so different? (An opinion).

Here is one thing I think accounts for some of the differences (especially in RPGs):

Japan is an irreligious country, kinda like most of western and nothern Europe. People don't take religion literally or seriously for the most part. Kinda like English people still use the Church of England out of 'tradition', Japanese people still attend the Shinto/Buddhist ceremonies for the sake of tradition, but don't get riled up if someone creates an action figure out of a Buddhist Wisdom King.

But Buddhist philosophy still influences Japanese art to a huge degree. Including games. Completely separated from the organised religion itself, the design ethics of 'wabi sabi' and 'mono no aware', both infuse everything from anime, to architecture, to literature, to games.

What the hell are they?

Well, the Buddhists have a philosophy which seeks to acknowledge the impermanent state of life and natural decay of reality. Rocks will one day crumble from erosion. The planet will one day be engulfed by the Sun's fusion. Our bodies grow old, and even the longest lived tree eventually sheds it's last leaf. Buddhist philosophy also seeks to understand the ego, Shintoism strongly emphasises spirits of the natural world, and esoteric Buddhism in particular likes to use archetypes and mythological creatures to illustrate concepts. So, to remind about fundamental truths, Japanese art is often naturalistic, emphasises subtle emotions, employs archetypes and symbols in monsters, and incorporates a strong sense of the beauty that time and decay brings - just look at Final Fantasy for an example of a world with a 'lived in' feel.

Japan is by no means the only country to have arrived at such aesthetics; but I honestly think western developers don't as often incorporate complex themes into their work (feel free to disagree, it's just an opinion). There is great stuff like Deus Ex. But stuff like that does not come along too often.

Demons

I love western games, but I personally would like to see more of an alternative. To give an example, have you every noticed how similar demons look in so many western games. It's like a graphical designer, with no knowledge of art history, no knowledge of what demons represented symbolically, no experience of philosophy, just sat there and thought "more horns - more spikes - more polygons!!!!! - thats so badass looking" It ends up looking like bland enemy no. 204.

#2 Edited by Blu3V3nom07 (3791 posts) -

I dunno dick about this. ~ I would totally play another Japanese game though. I just wonder how would a high budget PS4 hella-Japanese game, survive on its own kitsch. I'm afraid that no Japanese games will come out without thought for Western audiences.

#3 Posted by shell_kracker (71 posts) -
More polygons...
A demon from Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, that actually has some symbolic value named Maya (illusion)
Another example, of a well-characterised demon from Strange Journey, which has some great lines, and *gasp* a personality
More spikey bits...

Example of the demon thing.

#4 Posted by Binman88 (3692 posts) -

I think it's primarily a history thing. The US has history, sure, but it's fairly limited in folklore that's adaptable to unique game experiences. Looking at the rest of the world, nearly every other country has a significant mythology with heroic characters, strange animals and generally weird stuff to take inspiration from. The SMT series is a good example of those, because they actually include a bunch of country's mythological/fictional characters as a basis for some of their designs. The only one they took inspiration from America for (to my knowledge) is fucking mothman.

I know you mentioned Japan specifically (and I'm singling out the US), but if more countries had the ability to develop games on the scale of Japan, I'd reckon the same positives you attribute to them would be attributable to other countries in Europe and elsewhere.

#5 Edited by chrissedoff (2167 posts) -

I used to play JRPGs back in the mid to late 90s. I can remember a lot of games that seemed to have the ambition to incorporate themes about the nature of life and people's relationship to authority, the effects of unrestrained greed on the environment, and so on. But they fumbled approximately 100% of the time. They would ham-fistedly restate a cliché as if it was some big revelation. It was made worse by the fact that you could tell all of these games were copying one another to the point where I think it would be way too charitable to give those developers any credit for at least being interested in making some kind of statement; they were only conforming to a different kind of standard. Sometimes their stoned-college-freshman-level philosophizing was charming but at other times it was obnoxiously insulting to the intelligence.

My belief is that people who don't have an interesting commentary to make in their game should not bother trying and those that do should try to do it subtly or elegantly. Expecting video games to expand our consciousness is only going to cause problems. There's enough people trying already; there's not enough people succeeding.

#6 Edited by Sooty (8082 posts) -

@blu3v3nom07 said:

I just wonder how would a high budget PS4 hella-Japanese game, survive on its own kitsch. I'm afraid that no Japanese games will come out without thought for Western audiences.

Just like how high budget PS3 Japanese games do I imagine, we've had 4 Yakuza games (Kenzan, 3, 4 and 5) this generation, they seem to be doing plenty fine.

#7 Posted by Miketakon (514 posts) -

I still think Japanese games are the most creative...well except for JRPGs they're pretty paint by number.

#8 Posted by Clonedzero (4196 posts) -

i absolutely hate whenever someone says "are/is ______ dying?" in reference to movies/music/video games.

the answer is always NO.

#9 Edited by shell_kracker (71 posts) -

@binman88 said:

I think it's primarily a history thing. The US has history, sure, but it's fairly limited in folklore that's adaptable to unique game experiences. Looking at the rest of the world, nearly every other country has a significant mythology with heroic characters, strange animals and generally weird stuff to take inspiration from. The SMT series is a good example of those, because they actually include a bunch of country's mythological/fictional characters as a basis for some of their designs. The only one they took inspiration from America for (to my knowledge) is fucking mothman.

I know you mentioned Japan specifically (and I'm singling out the US), but if more countries had the ability to develop games on the scale of Japan, I'd reckon the same positives you attribute to them would be attributable to other countries in Europe and elsewhere.

Is that really true - that America does not have mythology?

I mean, the USA was once home to something like 500 separate Indian nations, each with their own language and folklore, many of which have been preserved to some degree. The mountains still bear the names of ancient gods and spirits. Some regions, like Delaware, are named after lost tribes.

Also, the Europeans, Africans and Asians brought their own English, German, Irish, Bantu, Chinese and Indian folklore.

I also agree with you that Japan is not the only country capable of this level of artistic expression. It's just we don't tend to see something like an English Shin Megami Tensei, for whatever reason. The British have Doctor Who, showing there is imagination to be found in abundance, but western games tend not to go down similar paths. There is plenty of philosophy present in some western games, like Deus Ex for example, but in terms of humanism, and expanding the consciousness, it's not a priority.

@chrissedoff said:

I used to play JRPGs back in the mid to late 90s. I can remember a lot of games that seemed to have the ambition to incorporate themes about the nature of life and people's relationship to authority, the effects of unrestrained greed on the environment, and so on. But they fumbled approximately 100% of the time. They would ham-fistedly restate a cliché as if it was some big revelation. It was made worse by the fact that you could tell all of these games were copying one another to the point where I think it would be way too charitable to give those developers any credit for at least being interested in making some kind of statement; they were only conforming to a different kind of standard. Sometimes their stoned-college-freshman-level philosophizing was charming but at other times it was obnoxiously insulting to the intelligence.

My belief is that people who don't have an interesting commentary to make in their game should not bother trying and those that do should try to do it subtly or elegantly. Expecting video games to expand our consciousness is only going to cause problems. There's enough people trying already; there's not enough people succeeding.

I think some people look back on 16 bit and 32 bit JRPGs too harshly, after having a fallout with them. No work of drama is perfect; imperfection is a mark of reality. The best art is imperfect, deeply so. Things that try too hard to keep you entertained 100% of the time, end up being bland. There were derivative works galore in the genre of Japanese RPG, but I also feel it was great to have an alternative. I think the idea that games should attempt to expand the mind, is a worth cause, even if they sometimes fail.

But anyway, the topic isn't about whether we like JRPGs, it's about the broader Japanese aesthetic.

#10 Edited by Sooty (8082 posts) -

In regards to the topic title they aren't dying. The only thing that may become less common is the games making it to the west, our market continues to eat up sport games and shooters with everything else fighting for scraps, with some exceptions such as Skyrim.

Plenty of them will still come over, I could see a decline in the RPG space but Capcom aren't going to stop.

#11 Edited by shell_kracker (71 posts) -
A renaissance era German painting of a pack of demons assailing a saint

@clonedzero said:

i absolutely hate whenever someone says "are/is ______ dying?" in reference to movies/music/video games.

the answer is always NO.

There is a 60 character limit on thread titles.

I couldn't say what I really wanted to.

@miketakon said:

I still think Japanese games are the most creative...well except for JRPGs they're pretty paint by number.

I do too! Just look at some of the creativity we saw on the DS this gen!

Hopefully the 3DS will turn out the same way - I hear it's beginning to pick up sales.

@blu3v3nom07 said:

I dunno dick about this. ~ I would totally play another Japanese game though. I just wonder how would a high budget PS4 hella-Japanese game, survive on its own kitsch. I'm afraid that no Japanese games will come out without thought for Western audiences.

This is what worries me too. I still expect enough will come over to make for some variety. But you should see the amount of games that never come west - it's absurd. There is a thread on GAF showing Japanese cover art - 100s of interesting looking PSP and DS games.

@sooty said:

In regards to the topic title they aren't dying. The only thing that may become less common is the games making it to the west, our market continues to eat up sport games and shooters with everything else fighting for scraps, with some exceptions such as Skyrim.

Plenty of them will still come over, I could see a decline in the RPG space but Capcom aren't going to stop.

I can't really think of any western company that explores similar themes to what Capcom, Namco, Konami, Square, Atlus, as well as many JRPG makes, do regularly. Would be a shame to see a future of gaming without them. It's a lack of those games in the PC market that keep me coming back to consoles, each generation.

#12 Posted by TheHT (11840 posts) -

I love, love, LOVE Japanese Europe like the Professor Layton stuff. I also really love the second two styles of anime movie Memories. All of those definitely have that lived-in vibe that's oddly comforting and at the same time surreal. Things like Tezuka's Metropolis or especially the Studio Ghibli stuff all have a natural look to them that seems effortless to make but irreplaceable. I guess that's what you get with hand-crafted goodness.

I'm not sure what you're asking for in an alternative to western games. Are you saying you'd like Japanese developers and others to step up their game and bring their own cultural touch to games that also play well? Cause I'll drink to that.

That said, you're examples of "more polygon demons" in western games are poor. First off the second one is Daedric armor. The Daedric princes tend to be far less spikey. Molag Bal for instance has the whole goat-snake-man thing going on, a satanic appearance appropriate for the Daedric prince concerned with domination and enslavement of mortals.

The first example is also poor because it's of a Pride Demon from Dragon Age, and most if not all of the demon varieties in Dragon Age have that symbolism you're talking about, though it's hardly subtle. The Pride Demon as you've shown is large and imposing, intimidating and frightening with a spiked body, multiple eyes and pronounced fangs. The Desire Demon is a provocatively dressed female in appearance, appealing to shallow base attraction. Rage demons appear as a lava-esque substance that takes a form vaguely resembling a body with arms.

Daedric princes have plenty of personality and the demons in Dragon Age evoke their associated quality in dialogue as well, like the sloth demon that tries to shoo you off rather than attack on sight, as it lazes about yawning every half sentence.

#13 Posted by shell_kracker (71 posts) -

@theht said:

I love, love, LOVE Japanese Europe like the Professor Layton stuff. I also really love the second two styles of anime movie Memories. All of those definitely have that lived-in vibe that's oddly comforting and at the same time surreal. Things like Tezuka's Metropolis or especially the Studio Ghibli stuff all have a natural look to them that seems effortless to make but irreplaceable. I guess that's what you get with hand-crafted goodness.

I'm not sure what you're asking for in an alternative to western games. Are you saying you'd like Japanese developers and others to step up their game and bring their own cultural touch to games that also play well? Cause I'll drink to that.

That said, you're examples of "more polygon demons" in western games are poor. First off the second one is Daedric armor. The Daedric princes tend to be far less spikey. Molag Bal for instance has the whole goat-snake-man thing going on, a satanic appearance appropriate for the Daedric prince concerned with domination and enslavement of mortals.

The first example is also poor because it's of a Pride Demon from Dragon Age, and most if not all of the demon varieties in Dragon Age have that symbolism you're talking about, though it's hardly subtle. The Pride Demon as you've shown is large and imposing, intimidating and frightening with a spiked body, multiple eyes and pronounced fangs. The Desire Demon is a provocatively dressed female in appearance, appealing to shallow base attraction. Rage demons appear as a lava-esque substance that takes a form vaguely resembling a body with arms.

Daedric princes have plenty of personality and the demons in Dragon Age evoke their associated quality in dialogue as well, like the sloth demon that tries to shoo you off rather than attack on sight, as it lazes about yawning every half sentence.

I know, I couldn't find a good Daedra shot - you know what I meant ;)

But I wouldn't say that the demons in Dragon Age were very good. In fact, that is a game I often use as a prime example when talking about this with friends. They didn't have that much personality or depth frankly, as an enemy. Contrast them to the demons in Strange Journey, for example, who have real motives, emotions, and even beliefs and causes.

The history, and the way they went about worldbuilding in that game was so wrong; writing the history of a world is not a matter of coming up with a RPG sourcebook; it's a naturalistic thing. But that is how many western developers handle it unfortunately - as seen by how often we get a summary before the game is even out, detailing history step-by-step.

I'll take a Sephiroth or Kuja over a pride demon any day; the best enemies are ones you can respect and even empathise with (even demons), as opposed to the 'flood' type aliens you get in a lot of western games - some generic hive mind or infestations that can't talk, stab you in the back, or provide any quips.

But yes - I want Japanese companies to up their game - without pandering to the west - I want more of their unique culture touch - I want that influence to continue in gaming - I want more stuff localised, even visual novels. Cmon Japan. I don't wanna see a future where they make up about 5% of the market in the west - as a gamer, that horrifies me.

#14 Edited by casper_ (908 posts) -

i love and have loved many japanese games/ game designers over the years but right now they are clearly losing the fight as far as innovation and taking risks goes when compared to the west (or at least thats how i see it.)

sure a lot of the west's blockbusters are full of super ripped dudes and all about 'murca kicking ass but unlike japan the west also has a very healthy, successful and ambitious indie scene which is willing to take risks with the aesthetics, mechanics etc.

the japanese games that aren't being marketed to the west are generally marketed towards the otaku (companies like NIS and to some extent Atlus) and while i love some of those games, as i've grown older i'm finding it harder to deal with some of the baggage associated with otaku oriented stuff and the amount that these games rely on cliched art, characters, plots and mechanics, to some extent this may just be part of my cultural ignorance but i would rather not have every game i play populated by teens with fantastic hair and young girls in scandalous outfits acting out a story which generally pokes at larger issues but never attempts to actually cover them in a mature way.

those demon portraits from megaten aren't dissimilar from the demon portraits of the original 2 megaten games and i think that is a fine indicator of the stagnation of a lot of japanese design.

there are of course outliers such as suda, swery and keita takahashi that use their heritage to create unique things and i'm incredibly happy that they exist and hope that japanese game design will produce and foster more people with original, daring ideas.

#15 Edited by shell_kracker (71 posts) -

@casper_ said:

i love and have loved many japanese games/ game designers over the years but right now they are clearly losing the fight as far as innovation and taking risks goes when compared to the west (or at least thats how i see it.)

sure a lot of the west's blockbusters are full of super ripped dudes and all about 'murca kicking ass but unlike japan the west also has a very healthy, successful and ambitious indie scene which is willing to take risks with the aesthetics, mechanics etc.

the japanese games that aren't being marketed to the west are generally marketed towards the otaku (companies like NIS and to some extent Atlus) and while i love some of those games, as i've grown older i'm finding it harder to deal with some of the baggage associated with otaku oriented stuff and the amount that these games rely on cliched art, characters, plots and mechanics, to some extent this may just be part of my cultural ignorance but i would rather not have every game i play populated by teens with fantastic hair and young girls in scandalous outfits acting out a story which generally pokes at larger issues but never attempts to actually cover them in a mature way.

those demon portraits from megaten aren't dissimilar from the demon portraits of the original 2 megaten games and i think that is a fine indicator of the stagnation of a lot of japanese design.

there are of course outliers such as suda, swery and keita takahashi that use their heritage to create unique things and i'm incredibly happy that they exist and hope that japanese game design will produce and foster more people with original, daring ideas.

I don't really think Japanese companies lack innovation any more than western ones.

Part of the appeal of Megaten is Kazema's demon art.

SquareEnix actually did away with tons of aspects of JRPGs which I dislike in FFXIII - yet they were castigated for it. I personally liked a lot of things about where XIII went.

And also, I'm not sure some genres need updating honestly; there is only so much you can do to RPGs - like Tactics Ogre wouldn't be a SRPG if it had a battle system requiring twitch reflexes or something - it's like updating chess.

As for games that are full of moe or bishonen crap, I just avoid them. There is enough choice.

#16 Edited by TheHT (11840 posts) -

@theht said:

I love, love, LOVE Japanese Europe like the Professor Layton stuff. I also really love the second two styles of anime movie Memories. All of those definitely have that lived-in vibe that's oddly comforting and at the same time surreal. Things like Tezuka's Metropolis or especially the Studio Ghibli stuff all have a natural look to them that seems effortless to make but irreplaceable. I guess that's what you get with hand-crafted goodness.

I'm not sure what you're asking for in an alternative to western games. Are you saying you'd like Japanese developers and others to step up their game and bring their own cultural touch to games that also play well? Cause I'll drink to that.

That said, you're examples of "more polygon demons" in western games are poor. First off the second one is Daedric armor. The Daedric princes tend to be far less spikey. Molag Bal for instance has the whole goat-snake-man thing going on, a satanic appearance appropriate for the Daedric prince concerned with domination and enslavement of mortals.

The first example is also poor because it's of a Pride Demon from Dragon Age, and most if not all of the demon varieties in Dragon Age have that symbolism you're talking about, though it's hardly subtle. The Pride Demon as you've shown is large and imposing, intimidating and frightening with a spiked body, multiple eyes and pronounced fangs. The Desire Demon is a provocatively dressed female in appearance, appealing to shallow base attraction. Rage demons appear as a lava-esque substance that takes a form vaguely resembling a body with arms.

Daedric princes have plenty of personality and the demons in Dragon Age evoke their associated quality in dialogue as well, like the sloth demon that tries to shoo you off rather than attack on sight, as it lazes about yawning every half sentence.

I know, I couldn't find a good Daedra shot - you know what I meant ;)

But I wouldn't say that the demons in Dragon Age were very good. In fact, that is a game I often use as a prime example when talking about this with friends. They didn't have that much personality or depth frankly, as an enemy. Contrast them to the demons in Strange Journey, for example, who have real motives, emotions, and even beliefs and causes.

The history, and the way they went about worldbuilding in that game was so wrong; writing the history of a world is not a matter of coming up with a RPG sourcebook; it's a naturalistic thing. But that is how many western developers handle it unfortunately - as seen by how often we get a summary before the game is even out, detailing history step-by-step.

I'll take a Sephiroth or Kuja over a pride demon any day; the best enemies are ones you can respect and even empathise with (even demons), as opposed to the 'flood' type aliens you get in a lot of western games - some generic hive mind or infestations that can't talk, stab you in the back, or provide any quips.

But yes - I want Japanese companies to up their game - without pandering to the west - I want more of their unique culture touch - I want that influence to continue in gaming - I want more stuff localised, even visual novels. Cmon Japan. I don't wanna see a future where they make up about 5% of the market in the west - as a gamer, that horrifies me.

I know what you meant, but can't think of any widespread examples where that's the case.

No, the demons in Dragon Age are indeed one-dimensional, their names clearly letting you know that. The entities of the fade long to enter the waking world and are categorized very plainly. I've never played Strange Journey, but the little I've perused of a Persona/SMT wiki leads me to believe that the demons there are actual characters rather than enemy types, so a comparison there is foolish. The Daedric prince comparison would be more apt, and as I said they've certainly got personality.

I assume that you're referring to the codex when you say "coming up with a RPG sourcebook"? I don't see a problem with that. I've got no problem with more progressive and flowing world building either. Learning about the world of Demon's Souls throughout the game was a fantastic experience, but all those nights I spent awake far too early reading about Ea and the Ainur or the story of Guild Wars 2 were well spent as far as I'm concerned, and a codex is essentially just a simple wiki.

Again, comparing a fully fledged character to an enemy type is misguided. I'm not sure where the flood connection is coming from, but it's starting to sound more like you're selling short antagonists in western gaming as a whole.

The cold reality is probably that as a business, game devs see (or saw, as the landscape is certainly shifting) what was prevalent in western games and just how successful it was financially. I can't really think of a time when Japanese games coming out were rip-offs of western games, but I definitely to remember a gap where Japanese developed games seemed to just sort of disappear or be reduced to a select few titles worth paying attention to. There were high profile Japanese games coming out but were trying something new or flawed in a way that was difficulty to ignore. Whatever the case, seeing things like Dark Souls, Dragon's Dogma, Asura's Wrath, anything Platinum, or Gravity Rush for example, make me think that there are definitely more developers in Japan that are finding their footing.

The interesting things about those games though is that they've got a Japenese style and feel, but doesn't seem particularly pandering to people who want that. It's natural, not forced. But in the near or far future, should the Japanese side of the industry naturally grow into something other than or more diverse than that familiar look and feel, I'll be okay with that. More than the aesthetic or vibe, I want great games.

#17 Edited by believer258 (12216 posts) -

I'm only just now getting into JRPG's, so I've got twenty years worth of backlog to dig through.

Anyway, I don't think that Western games are entirely absent of the sorts of things you're talking about, like philosophy and dwelling on themes and characters, but most popular Western games are more concerned with showing us "surface entertainment", i.e. a good time without too much to think about. We're more concerned with lore and history than with exploring characters and ideas. At the same time, though, Japanese games, while at least trying, so often fumble and fail very miserably.

If you have time to search, you can dig up @Gamer_152 's blog on what Halo 3 ODST has to with The Divine Comedy. Ought to be an interesting read for you. Speaking of Halo, it seems to be one of the few AAA Western games that tries to scratch at something deeper, especially with how it treats the Covenant and their obsession with ultimately destructive religious symbols. I would still say that it drops the ball, but at least it tried some.

EDIT: Ah! Here it is!

Online
#18 Edited by EXTomar (4951 posts) -

I believe the production style that Japanese companies use was damaged this gen and probably won't survive next gen. Relying on a handful of auteur people while delegating to an army of low paid scrubs is no longer viable because it is too expensive and low quality for what gamers demand today.

#19 Edited by HerbieBug (4208 posts) -

The problem isn't Japanese dev companies lack of a will to evolve with the industry, it's more a stark difference between the way many of them have decided to go about it in contrast to the western strategy. Major development studios and publishers are pushing for change without first understanding why change needs to happen other than novelty. Western developers have grown with burgeoning internet culture of video game fans and have developed games with an eye to improving some of the issues many people had with games of the past. Now of course there are dramatic failures that have occurred with that goal in mind, but mostly I believe it is a good thing for the health of the industry moving forward.

Japan's misguided attempts on innovation:

1. Trying to appeal to a western audience without actually doing any research on what the western audience really likes in games. They have designed based on their own interpretation of what they think a western design philosophy is, and gone from there. This has resulted in many games that appeal neither to western audiences or local Japanese audience alike.

2. Change for sake of change with no particular goal in mind. We are changing this because it is a long running series that has become stale. We are making it look different. People like difference. We made it different now why does nobody buy? etc.

The best new games coming out of Japan right now are being made by developers who do not give a goddamn about focus tested appeal or trying to satisfy a particular market. Unfortunately, the major big name developers refuse to take this risk and insist on dictating their developers try to please a particular audience that may or may not actually exist/.

#20 Posted by shell_kracker (71 posts) -

@theht said:

@shell_kracker said:

@theht said:

I love, love, LOVE Japanese Europe like the Professor Layton stuff. I also really love the second two styles of anime movie Memories. All of those definitely have that lived-in vibe that's oddly comforting and at the same time surreal. Things like Tezuka's Metropolis or especially the Studio Ghibli stuff all have a natural look to them that seems effortless to make but irreplaceable. I guess that's what you get with hand-crafted goodness.

I'm not sure what you're asking for in an alternative to western games. Are you saying you'd like Japanese developers and others to step up their game and bring their own cultural touch to games that also play well? Cause I'll drink to that.

That said, you're examples of "more polygon demons" in western games are poor. First off the second one is Daedric armor. The Daedric princes tend to be far less spikey. Molag Bal for instance has the whole goat-snake-man thing going on, a satanic appearance appropriate for the Daedric prince concerned with domination and enslavement of mortals.

The first example is also poor because it's of a Pride Demon from Dragon Age, and most if not all of the demon varieties in Dragon Age have that symbolism you're talking about, though it's hardly subtle. The Pride Demon as you've shown is large and imposing, intimidating and frightening with a spiked body, multiple eyes and pronounced fangs. The Desire Demon is a provocatively dressed female in appearance, appealing to shallow base attraction. Rage demons appear as a lava-esque substance that takes a form vaguely resembling a body with arms.

Daedric princes have plenty of personality and the demons in Dragon Age evoke their associated quality in dialogue as well, like the sloth demon that tries to shoo you off rather than attack on sight, as it lazes about yawning every half sentence.

I know, I couldn't find a good Daedra shot - you know what I meant ;)

But I wouldn't say that the demons in Dragon Age were very good. In fact, that is a game I often use as a prime example when talking about this with friends. They didn't have that much personality or depth frankly, as an enemy. Contrast them to the demons in Strange Journey, for example, who have real motives, emotions, and even beliefs and causes.

The history, and the way they went about worldbuilding in that game was so wrong; writing the history of a world is not a matter of coming up with a RPG sourcebook; it's a naturalistic thing. But that is how many western developers handle it unfortunately - as seen by how often we get a summary before the game is even out, detailing history step-by-step.

I'll take a Sephiroth or Kuja over a pride demon any day; the best enemies are ones you can respect and even empathise with (even demons), as opposed to the 'flood' type aliens you get in a lot of western games - some generic hive mind or infestations that can't talk, stab you in the back, or provide any quips.

But yes - I want Japanese companies to up their game - without pandering to the west - I want more of their unique culture touch - I want that influence to continue in gaming - I want more stuff localised, even visual novels. Cmon Japan. I don't wanna see a future where they make up about 5% of the market in the west - as a gamer, that horrifies me.

I know what you meant, but can't think of any widespread examples where that's the case.

No, the demons in Dragon Age are indeed one-dimensional, their names clearly letting you know that. The entities of the fade long to enter the waking world and are categorized very plainly. I've never played Strange Journey, but the little I've perused of a Persona/SMT wiki leads me to believe that the demons there are actual characters rather than enemy types, so a comparison there is foolish. The Daedric prince comparison would be more apt, and as I said they've certainly got personality.

I assume that you're referring to the codex when you say "coming up with a RPG sourcebook"? I don't see a problem with that. I've got no problem with more progressive and flowing world building either. Learning about the world of Demon's Souls throughout the game was a fantastic experience, but all those nights I spent awake far too early reading about Ea and the Ainur or the story of Guild Wars 2 were well spent as far as I'm concerned, and a codex is essentially just a simple wiki.

Again, comparing a fully fledged character to an enemy type is misguided. I'm not sure where the flood connection is coming from, but it's starting to sound more like you're selling short antagonists in western gaming as a whole.

The cold reality is probably that as a business, game devs see (or saw, as the landscape is certainly shifting) what was prevalent in western games and just how successful it was financially. I can't really think of a time when Japanese games coming out were rip-offs of western games, but I definitely to remember a gap where Japanese developed games seemed to just sort of disappear or be reduced to a select few titles worth paying attention to. There were high profile Japanese games coming out but were trying something new or flawed in a way that was difficulty to ignore. Whatever the case, seeing things like Dark Souls, Dragon's Dogma, Asura's Wrath, anything Platinum, or Gravity Rush for example, make me think that there are definitely more developers in Japan that are finding their footing.

The interesting things about those games though is that they've got a Japenese style and feel, but doesn't seem particularly pandering to people who want that. It's natural, not forced. But in the near or far future, should the Japanese side of the industry naturally grow into something other than or more diverse than that familiar look and feel, I'll be okay with that. More than the aesthetic or vibe, I want great games.

It's really hard for me to convey some of what I'm saying, without writing something massive.

But, since you are a Tolkien fan, consider that Tolkien and Shin Megami Tensei share a few things in common.

JRR Tolkien grew up reading highly symbolic cultural epics and folk tales. He was part of a club that did this for a hobby. Amongst the things he read were Germanic sagas, Christian epics, and even things like the Finnish Kalevala. He understood the symbolism behind these tales. He was also an educated man, and so knew that symbolism, and characterisation are a lot more important than plot in many ways.

He studied Anglo-Saxon, and other archaic languages, and out of love for the sagas, and old English literature, he created a setting that embodied many of the themes of that ancient literature.

Later, a Swiss philosopher and clinical psychologist, Carl Jung, argued that the themes contained in mythology come from ideas deeply embedded in the psyche, and that all cultures share the same themes, but manifest them differently (i.e. the hero Siegfried in Europe, the hero Rama in India).

And then later again, a man called Joseph Campbell wrote a book called 'The Hero with a Thousand Faces', showing the cultural similarities of mythologies across the world - which directly inspired Star Wars, with its archetypical themes, such as the 'hero's journey', 'dark lord', and 'warrior monk'.

Symbolism and characterisation, as any student of Shakespeare would say, are not just secondary add-ons - they are the real fibre of a story. And when I said that BioWare wrote the sourcebook before the game, I'm talking about the idea that you can build a world, and then populate it with themes afterwards - that isn't what Tolkien did at all - they fundamentally misunderstood mythopoeia.

Themes, characters and symbols are all centrally important, whether it's mythology, or just straight drama. They are more important than who fought which battle in what year. More important than when the last dragon was spotted. All that stuff, I realise as I look at drama deeper and deeper, is irrelevant - we don't detect it when we are reading/watching/playing, but it's actually other things that draw us in - and we attribute it to the thickness of the lore, for lack of a better explanation, since frankly, noticing themes and symbols consciously is hard work. The more I learn about drama, the more I learn my obsession with Tolkien, Star Trek and Star Wars lore as a kid, was missing the point - the more you look for characterisation, emotions, etc, the more you appreciate neorealism, etc.

I'm not sure where the flood connection is coming from, but it's starting to sound more like you're selling short antagonists in western gaming as a whole.

That is a fair observation. I am, in a sense. I know there are good ones. But the reason I brought up 'the flood' from Halo, is that it is symptomatic of the lack of basic dramatic understanding that some western companies seem to have. A villain with no personality is not really at all compelling. You feel nothing as you gun them down. A villain with personality draws you in emotionally. Unfortunately this design choice is used a hell of a lot in western games - the no-personality horde. I wouldn't mention it if it wasn't so common. It was a neat idea, when done a couple of times in some sci-fi novel, to have a villain that is relentless, and does not speak. But in games, I've seen it done all too often; the threat of some hive mind, or collective race, or witless horde. But don't take my criticisms too seriously either - I'm not denouncing western gaming, which I enjoy - just trying to offer a couple of observations about 'some' western games.

Persona/SMT wiki leads me to believe that the demons there are actual characters

P.S. the demons in SMT are both a character AND an enemy type ;-)

#21 Edited by golguin (4068 posts) -

Japanese aesthetics and themes in games are not going to die as long as anime continues to spread.

Something like Asura's Wrath would not have been possible without all the anime/manga it drew inspiration from. They in turn drew inspiration from Japanese mythology.

#22 Posted by JasonR86 (9729 posts) -

In video games and movies I prefer aesthetics that I rarely see or have never seen before. If I had to pick I would say 'film noir', 'gothic', and 'cyberpunk' but really I don't think either of those have to be stuck to specific versions of those styles. Just simple features from those looks would suffice. For example, a darker tone to colors, heavy use of shadows, and just sort of mysterious. That's the sort of stuff that I really like. That's why as a kid my comic book of choice was Batman. I loved how those comics looked regardless of the stories or anything else. If there were a Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, etc. etc. versions of those styles I'm sure I would like how it looked.

#23 Posted by believer258 (12216 posts) -

I can't quote you on the mobile site, but The Flood in Halo are given a voice and personality in the form of The Gravemind. Sorry, saying that Halo utterly lacks mythology and symbolism is untrue.

Online
#24 Posted by TheHT (11840 posts) -

@theht said:

I know what you meant, but can't think of any widespread examples where that's the case.

No, the demons in Dragon Age are indeed one-dimensional, their names clearly letting you know that. The entities of the fade long to enter the waking world and are categorized very plainly. I've never played Strange Journey, but the little I've perused of a Persona/SMT wiki leads me to believe that the demons there are actual characters rather than enemy types, so a comparison there is foolish. The Daedric prince comparison would be more apt, and as I said they've certainly got personality.

I assume that you're referring to the codex when you say "coming up with a RPG sourcebook"? I don't see a problem with that. I've got no problem with more progressive and flowing world building either. Learning about the world of Demon's Souls throughout the game was a fantastic experience, but all those nights I spent awake far too early reading about Ea and the Ainur or the story of Guild Wars 2 were well spent as far as I'm concerned, and a codex is essentially just a simple wiki.

Again, comparing a fully fledged character to an enemy type is misguided. I'm not sure where the flood connection is coming from, but it's starting to sound more like you're selling short antagonists in western gaming as a whole.

The cold reality is probably that as a business, game devs see (or saw, as the landscape is certainly shifting) what was prevalent in western games and just how successful it was financially. I can't really think of a time when Japanese games coming out were rip-offs of western games, but I definitely to remember a gap where Japanese developed games seemed to just sort of disappear or be reduced to a select few titles worth paying attention to. There were high profile Japanese games coming out but were trying something new or flawed in a way that was difficulty to ignore. Whatever the case, seeing things like Dark Souls, Dragon's Dogma, Asura's Wrath, anything Platinum, or Gravity Rush for example, make me think that there are definitely more developers in Japan that are finding their footing.

The interesting things about those games though is that they've got a Japenese style and feel, but doesn't seem particularly pandering to people who want that. It's natural, not forced. But in the near or far future, should the Japanese side of the industry naturally grow into something other than or more diverse than that familiar look and feel, I'll be okay with that. More than the aesthetic or vibe, I want great games.

It's really hard for me to convey some of what I'm saying, without writing something massive.

But, since you are a Tolkien fan, consider that Tolkien and Shin Megami Tensei share a few things in common.

JRR Tolkien grew up reading highly symbolic cultural epics and folk tales. He was part of a club that did this for a hobby. Amongst the things he read were Germanic sagas, Christian epics, and even things like the Finnish Kalevala. He understood the symbolism behind these tales. He was also an educated man, and so knew that symbolism, and characterisation are a lot more important than plot in many ways.

He studied Anglo-Saxon, and other archaic languages, and out of love for the sagas, and old English literature, he created a setting that embodied many of the themes of that ancient literature.

Later, a Swiss philosopher and clinical psychologist, Carl Jung, argued that the themes contained in mythology come from ideas deeply embedded in the psyche, and that all cultures share the same themes, but manifest them differently (i.e. the hero Siegfried in Europe, the hero Rama in India).

And then later again, a man called Joseph Campbell wrote a book called 'The Hero with a Thousand Faces', showing the cultural similarities of mythologies across the world - which directly inspired Star Wars, with its archetypical themes, such as the 'hero's journey', 'dark lord', and 'warrior monk'.

Symbolism and characterisation, as any student of Shakespeare would say, are not just secondary add-ons - they are the real fibre of a story. And when I said that BioWare wrote the sourcebook before the game, I'm talking about the idea that you can build a world, and then populate it with themes afterwards - that isn't what Tolkien did at all - they fundamentally misunderstood mythopoeia.

Themes, characters and symbols are all centrally important, whether it's mythology, or just straight drama. They are more important than who fought which battle in what year. More important than when the last dragon was spotted. All that stuff, I realise as I look at drama deeper and deeper, is irrelevant - we don't detect it when we are reading/watching/playing, but it's actually other things that draw us in - and we attribute it to the thickness of the lore, for lack of a better explanation, since frankly, noticing themes and symbols consciously is hard work. The more I learn about drama, the more I learn my obsession with Tolkien, Star Trek and Star Wars lore as a kid, was missing the point - the more you look for characterisation, emotions, etc, the more you appreciate neorealism, etc.

I'm not sure where the flood connection is coming from, but it's starting to sound more like you're selling short antagonists in western gaming as a whole.

That is a fair observation. I am, in a sense. I know there are good ones. But the reason I brought up 'the flood' from Halo, is that it is symptomatic of the lack of basic dramatic understanding that some western companies seem to have. A villain with no personality is not really at all compelling. You feel nothing as you gun them down. A villain with personality draws you in emotionally. Unfortunately this design choice is used a hell of a lot in western games - the no-personality horde. I wouldn't mention it if it wasn't so common. It was a neat idea, when done a couple of times in some sci-fi novel, to have a villain that is relentless, and does not speak. But in games, I've seen it done all too often; the threat of some hive mind, or collective race, or witless horde. But don't take my criticisms too seriously either - I'm not denouncing western gaming, which I enjoy - just trying to offer a couple of observations about 'some' western games.

Persona/SMT wiki leads me to believe that the demons there are actual characters

P.S. the demons in SMT are both a character AND an enemy type ;-)

I've neither seen nor read anything to suggest that BioWare merely created a timeline instead of a world with character and symbolism. The story of the mages forcing their way into heaven and their very presence corrupting it and themselves, creating the darkspawn is good ol' hubris. The dangerous gift/curse of being a mage and the short leash the Templars keep them on the tenuous line between greatness and madness, oppression and security. The reborn warrior who lives only to oppose the blight. Dragon Age has all that goodness. That it also has a timeline is not a fault in and of itself.

Tolkien lore has timelines as well. Even some of the more mundane aspects of Tolkien's works, like having a list of the kings of Gondor with minor details like marriages and circumstances of their reign, work towards making the world more believable. My point being that it's not just the archetypes or relations to psychology that make these worlds so much fun to dive into. That's not me attributing what's really a deep-seeded human interest in themes and symbolism to thick lore, that's genuine appreciation of the effort and care put into having more than just an arc and archetypes to move along it. Not to imply that the peripheral is as important as the core. In any case I understand what you meant by "RPG sourcebook" now.

The biggest problem with using the flood is that the very game they're in has other actual villains. It's been a while but I recall the Prophets being more antagonistic than the flood, the latter being more of a force of nature than a proper villain. The Convenant with their internal rumblings I remember actually being interesting. I suppose in the first game 343 Guilty Spark would qualify as the antagonist of Halo 1. There was also the Gravemind from Halo 2, but again there's a strong distinction between it and the lesser evolved parasites.

I don't think I can agree with the assessment that "a hell of a lot of western games" use the "no-personality horde" as villains. The darkspawn are the threatening force in Dragon Age Origins, but Loghain was more of a primary antagonist until the time came to face to darkspawn. The Walking Dead had zombies but again they were just a force instead of the villain. Mass Effect had the geth but they were tools for Saren who was a tool for Sovereign. StarCraft 2 had the Zerg but Kerrigan was at their helm in addition to that emperor guy. I can't think of many western developed games with stories that don't feature a proper villain.

They are? You mean there are multiple Mara's around in Strange Journey? Each with the same motivation and goals? Or is she a "BOSS" enemy type? If that's the case then I suppose I'll have to be more specific. Those demons are unique (I'm assuming) entities with character, while the demons in Dragon Age are non-specific entities without character. Comparing SMT demons to DA demons is like comparing Grey Fox to a goomba, if the demons of SMT are in fact as well realized as you're leading me to believe.

#25 Posted by JZ (2120 posts) -

Yes and yes

#26 Posted by mellotronrules (1257 posts) -

going into the next gen, i'm heavily favoring sony. not only because i haven't owned a sony console since the ps1, but also because i do miss the japanese games (ni no kuni and valkyria chronicles, for example). unless microsoft makes an extremely compelling case with their next console, it'll be sony's game to lose- for me anyway.

Online
#27 Posted by nintendork666 (203 posts) -

I've always been drawn towards Japanese games. Not a conscious effort, it's just what catches my eye.

#28 Edited by Slag (4912 posts) -

Dieing might be overstating it a bit.

But I sure do miss all the new genres the Japanese seemed to create and the Japanese game design that used to dominate.

But that might be more of a function of ever escalating game budgets forcing out smaller, lower graphically intense titles than it is anything cultural.

That being said a more international balance is probably a good thing in the long run. I have to wonder when Chinese games will finally make the leap to the US market.

#29 Edited by shell_kracker (71 posts) -

@believer258 said:

I can't quote you on the mobile site, but The Flood in Halo are given a voice and personality in the form of The Gravemind. Sorry, saying that Halo utterly lacks mythology and symbolism is untrue.

I realise that you may have typed that in haste, so maybe it does not reflect your intention, but I never said anything like that.

@theht said:

@shell_kracker said:

@theht said:

I know what you meant, but can't think of any widespread examples where that's the case.

No, the demons in Dragon Age are indeed one-dimensional, their names clearly letting you know that. The entities of the fade long to enter the waking world and are categorized very plainly. I've never played Strange Journey, but the little I've perused of a Persona/SMT wiki leads me to believe that the demons there are actual characters rather than enemy types, so a comparison there is foolish. The Daedric prince comparison would be more apt, and as I said they've certainly got personality.

I assume that you're referring to the codex when you say "coming up with a RPG sourcebook"? I don't see a problem with that. I've got no problem with more progressive and flowing world building either. Learning about the world of Demon's Souls throughout the game was a fantastic experience, but all those nights I spent awake far too early reading about Ea and the Ainur or the story of Guild Wars 2 were well spent as far as I'm concerned, and a codex is essentially just a simple wiki.

Again, comparing a fully fledged character to an enemy type is misguided. I'm not sure where the flood connection is coming from, but it's starting to sound more like you're selling short antagonists in western gaming as a whole.

The cold reality is probably that as a business, game devs see (or saw, as the landscape is certainly shifting) what was prevalent in western games and just how successful it was financially. I can't really think of a time when Japanese games coming out were rip-offs of western games, but I definitely to remember a gap where Japanese developed games seemed to just sort of disappear or be reduced to a select few titles worth paying attention to. There were high profile Japanese games coming out but were trying something new or flawed in a way that was difficulty to ignore. Whatever the case, seeing things like Dark Souls, Dragon's Dogma, Asura's Wrath, anything Platinum, or Gravity Rush for example, make me think that there are definitely more developers in Japan that are finding their footing.

The interesting things about those games though is that they've got a Japenese style and feel, but doesn't seem particularly pandering to people who want that. It's natural, not forced. But in the near or far future, should the Japanese side of the industry naturally grow into something other than or more diverse than that familiar look and feel, I'll be okay with that. More than the aesthetic or vibe, I want great games.

It's really hard for me to convey some of what I'm saying, without writing something massive.

But, since you are a Tolkien fan, consider that Tolkien and Shin Megami Tensei share a few things in common.

JRR Tolkien grew up reading highly symbolic cultural epics and folk tales. He was part of a club that did this for a hobby. Amongst the things he read were Germanic sagas, Christian epics, and even things like the Finnish Kalevala. He understood the symbolism behind these tales. He was also an educated man, and so knew that symbolism, and characterisation are a lot more important than plot in many ways.

He studied Anglo-Saxon, and other archaic languages, and out of love for the sagas, and old English literature, he created a setting that embodied many of the themes of that ancient literature.

Later, a Swiss philosopher and clinical psychologist, Carl Jung, argued that the themes contained in mythology come from ideas deeply embedded in the psyche, and that all cultures share the same themes, but manifest them differently (i.e. the hero Siegfried in Europe, the hero Rama in India).

And then later again, a man called Joseph Campbell wrote a book called 'The Hero with a Thousand Faces', showing the cultural similarities of mythologies across the world - which directly inspired Star Wars, with its archetypical themes, such as the 'hero's journey', 'dark lord', and 'warrior monk'.

Symbolism and characterisation, as any student of Shakespeare would say, are not just secondary add-ons - they are the real fibre of a story. And when I said that BioWare wrote the sourcebook before the game, I'm talking about the idea that you can build a world, and then populate it with themes afterwards - that isn't what Tolkien did at all - they fundamentally misunderstood mythopoeia.

Themes, characters and symbols are all centrally important, whether it's mythology, or just straight drama. They are more important than who fought which battle in what year. More important than when the last dragon was spotted. All that stuff, I realise as I look at drama deeper and deeper, is irrelevant - we don't detect it when we are reading/watching/playing, but it's actually other things that draw us in - and we attribute it to the thickness of the lore, for lack of a better explanation, since frankly, noticing themes and symbols consciously is hard work. The more I learn about drama, the more I learn my obsession with Tolkien, Star Trek and Star Wars lore as a kid, was missing the point - the more you look for characterisation, emotions, etc, the more you appreciate neorealism, etc.

I'm not sure where the flood connection is coming from, but it's starting to sound more like you're selling short antagonists in western gaming as a whole.

That is a fair observation. I am, in a sense. I know there are good ones. But the reason I brought up 'the flood' from Halo, is that it is symptomatic of the lack of basic dramatic understanding that some western companies seem to have. A villain with no personality is not really at all compelling. You feel nothing as you gun them down. A villain with personality draws you in emotionally. Unfortunately this design choice is used a hell of a lot in western games - the no-personality horde. I wouldn't mention it if it wasn't so common. It was a neat idea, when done a couple of times in some sci-fi novel, to have a villain that is relentless, and does not speak. But in games, I've seen it done all too often; the threat of some hive mind, or collective race, or witless horde. But don't take my criticisms too seriously either - I'm not denouncing western gaming, which I enjoy - just trying to offer a couple of observations about 'some' western games.

Persona/SMT wiki leads me to believe that the demons there are actual characters

P.S. the demons in SMT are both a character AND an enemy type ;-)

I've neither seen nor read anything to suggest that BioWare merely created a timeline instead of a world with character and symbolism. The story of the mages forcing their way into heaven and their very presence corrupting it and themselves, creating the darkspawn is good ol' hubris. The dangerous gift/curse of being a mage and the short leash the Templars keep them on the tenuous line between greatness and madness, oppression and security. The reborn warrior who lives only to oppose the blight. Dragon Age has all that goodness. That it also has a timeline is not a fault in and of itself.

Tolkien lore has timelines as well. Even some of the more mundane aspects of Tolkien's works, like having a list of the kings of Gondor with minor details like marriages and circumstances of their reign, work towards making the world more believable. My point being that it's not just the archetypes or relations to psychology that make these worlds so much fun to dive into. That's not me attributing what's really a deep-seeded human interest in themes and symbolism to thick lore, that's genuine appreciation of the effort and care put into having more than just an arc and archetypes to move along it. Not to imply that the peripheral is as important as the core. In any case I understand what you meant by "RPG sourcebook" now.

The biggest problem with using the flood is that the very game they're in has other actual villains. It's been a while but I recall the Prophets being more antagonistic than the flood, the latter being more of a force of nature than a proper villain. The Convenant with their internal rumblings I remember actually being interesting. I suppose in the first game 343 Guilty Spark would qualify as the antagonist of Halo 1. There was also the Gravemind from Halo 2, but again there's a strong distinction between it and the lesser evolved parasites.

I don't think I can agree with the assessment that "a hell of a lot of western games" use the "no-personality horde" as villains. The darkspawn are the threatening force in Dragon Age Origins, but Loghain was more of a primary antagonist until the time came to face to darkspawn. The Walking Dead had zombies but again they were just a force instead of the villain. Mass Effect had the geth but they were tools for Saren who was a tool for Sovereign. StarCraft 2 had the Zerg but Kerrigan was at their helm in addition to that emperor guy. I can't think of many western developed games with stories that don't feature a proper villain.

They are? You mean there are multiple Mara's around in Strange Journey? Each with the same motivation and goals? Or is she a "BOSS" enemy type? If that's the case then I suppose I'll have to be more specific. Those demons are unique (I'm assuming) entities with character, while the demons in Dragon Age are non-specific entities without character. Comparing SMT demons to DA demons is like comparing Grey Fox to a goomba, if the demons of SMT are in fact as well realized as you're leading me to believe.

There are a few things I would like to reply to, but it's late where I am, so I might have to get back to you, and this post won't be as comprehensive as I would like.

One thing, briefly, is that I don't dislike timelines; I think we may be miscommunicating slightly.

Rather I've been arguing for the primacy of other things in art, in contrast to the relative unimportance of lore - which is just a vehicle for the expression of those other things, not an end in itself. One of the best books I've read on the subject of what makes good art and bad art, is the book 'Dharma Art' by a Chogyam Trungpa.

To ridiculously misrepresent the subtlety of what he said in that book - the 'forced complexity' is a very poor way to tell a story - it is a violent method of exposition, where the artist forces information on the viewer, out of a need to conform to some egoistic appearance, not to tell the timeless truths that make art - and not at all alike to the natural way in which Tolkien both built, and told, his myths. It's used all too often by western developers, when they create a new setting - to create the setting as an end in itself; events without narrative purpose - which don't add anything valuable to the setting, but act rather as an outlet for people to show how supposedly detailed they can be. Creating world maps and naming unseen lands without any other purpose than to appear deep and epic; rather than having them naturally evolve over decades like Star Wars did for example. The words 'forced complexity' are the only way I could think of expressing it, but don't reflect my full intent - complexity isn't the problem.

You will note that while Tolkien did have huge appendices and reference guides to genealogy, he did not force such exposition into the text itself, but rather revealed things naturally, only when it served a narrative purpose. For example some exposition on the line of Aragorn, only when such portentous weight was needed. Nobody is perfect, but I've seen a lot of writers who don't understand this try to make settings from the top down, probably thinking it was deep, but actually winding up with something quite superficial. There is nothing quite so prosaic.

And the other thing I would like to briefly say is that while there are faceless mooks in Final Fantasy, or whatever other Japanese franchise we care to think of, the actual state of the enemy is usually (but not always, especially outside JRPGs) more characterised than something like the voice of the flood, or whatever. I think there is some tendency in western games to make enemies little more than drones, even when they occupy a boss type role, in a narrative-heavy story. If capable of speech, they might say something about their intent to snuff you out, but rarely anything interesting, that would let you know you are killing a sentient being.

On a more politically charged note, there is even some tendency to dehumanise human villains through utter lack of art; which is perhaps a little dangerous - the faceless Arabs and Russians who never have a light hearted thing to say, and die in their droves in various military type games, could do with being humanised a little, but I wager that most writers in the games industry are incapable of it - and many outside, from simple lack of understanding exactly what they are doing wrong in the first place. Attempts at characterisation, often make it easier to think of the enemy as a non-entity, if anything.

#30 Edited by believer258 (12216 posts) -

@shell_kracker: Yes, I did type that in haste; what I meant was that Halo does have at least some of what you're looking for. At least I think it does - can you define what you're looking for exactly in a short paragraph?

Online
#31 Posted by Binman88 (3692 posts) -

@shell_kracker: You're right of course, America before colonisation has history and myth in spades, but it's not something I think current developers connect with all that much. Asides from that though, like you said, it's probably a bigger issue than just what material certain countries have to work with.

#32 Edited by hollitz (1636 posts) -
  
#33 Edited by AmateurWriter (6 posts) -

Japanese games that are unique and innovative (No More Heroes, Viewtiful Joe) will always have fans. Japanese games that adapt to the changing market will thrive (Dark Souls). Japanese franchises that cling to age old philosophies and refuse to adapt will die.

#34 Edited by shell_kracker (71 posts) -

@binman88 said:

@shell_kracker: You're right of course, America before colonisation has history and myth in spades, but it's not something I think current developers connect with all that much. Asides from that though, like you said, it's probably a bigger issue than just what material certain countries have to work with.

I remember reading that quite a lot of the white and black population of the USA has native American ancestry, just like the mestizo peoples of South America, the whites and blacks of the USA are mainly mestizos, the people who came before didn't disappear, there was also intermarriage and mixing. There are even descendants of native Americans living in unlikely places like Britain. This doesn't really mean anything of course, but just I always wonder why Americans don't treat the Indian myths with more interest. When looking for myths to plumb, it seems to me that Americans could use these ideas - make their own 'Okami' type games :-)

@shell_kracker: Yes, I did type that in haste; what I meant was that Halo does have at least some of what you're looking for. At least I think it does - can you define what you're looking for exactly in a short paragraph?

Hmm, short paragraph.... basically I'm looking for artistic qualities, which in practice, means unforced explorations of the natural truths of reality. In Japanese terms, Wabi Sabi. I don't expect Leonardo da Vinci or anything, just a basic humanism.

#35 Posted by Nottle (1915 posts) -

@shell_kracker: I absolutely prefer Japanese aesthetics. If you look at any of Hideki Kamiya's games there is something visually unique about them (well maybe not RE2 but,) if you look at Viewtiful Joe you can tell it's inspired by a bunch of Power Rangers, Kamen Rider, and Ultraman type stuff Kamiya probably watched when he was a kid, Okami is based in Japanese mythology and the art style emulates Japanese paintings. DMC1 and Bayonetta even have pretty unique designs to the environment and the enemies.

I think something about the Japanese games I liked is that they aren't afraid to make things cute or put in little details. I don't think many western studios would make a character like Kirby or Pikachu. In Okami when you bark at a little girl she will pet Ammy, or if you use any of your brush techniques on villagers they put in animations that fit your actions. They didn't need to put that stuff in but it's cute and nice that they thought of it. That's one of the reasons I love MGS2 and 3. The developers thought of EVERYTHING. Any instance that happens you can call up your CO and ask them whats going on. Pick up some new facepaint, call Signit and he'll tell you all about it for about 2 minutes. The only western games that may have that level of detail are Rockstar, Bioware or Bethesda games. Even then it's not quite the same.

Personally however I think if we look at the world's myths, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia have really cool religions, heroes, and monsters. Colonized America has only been around for what 400 years? All of our myths are either just adapted from other places, are super corny and kind of lame like Paul Bunyon or John Henry, or they are so close to real life, who cares. I think the place the west takes inspiration is more modern and that's fine. The west looks at movies to make games, Red Dead Redemption and LA Noire both love to reference film. There is just something very American about them. They are time pieces that are more grounded in reality than something you'd see in Persona 4. Just as Okami celebrates Japan, Red Dead Redemption celebrates America. There is something beautiful about the big open spaces in Red Dead, it feels like you could go to some desert in Texas and find a place that looks like where you've been in the game. Even the DLC for Red Dead references zombie movies, which as far as I know are a very western thing, as well as Bigfoot, a chupacabra, as well as some Christian religious stuff like the 4 horses of the apocalypse. Fallout references 1950's American culture, down to the plasma guns that look very 1950's scifi.

@miketakon: I'm not sure if it is fair to say JRPGs are always by the numbers. Mother 3, Nier, Fire Emblem, and Tales of Vesperia are all pretty different games. Hell even if we just look at the Final Fantasy series we can see how different each entry is from the previous title.

#36 Posted by shell_kracker (71 posts) -

@nottle: That was a great post, you articulated many things I love about Japanese aesthetics there :-)

#37 Posted by Jeust (10864 posts) -

I still think Japanese games are the most creative...well except for JRPGs they're pretty paint by number.

This. To me japanese games are great!

Nier, Catherine, Final Fantasy XII, Deadly Premonition, Silent Hill 2 and Silent Hill 4 are among my favourite games.

#38 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -
#39 Edited by Miketakon (514 posts) -

@nottle said:

@miketakon: I'm not sure if it is fair to say JRPGs are always by the numbers. Mother 3, Nier, Fire Emblem, and Tales of Vesperia are all pretty different games. Hell even if we just look at the Final Fantasy series we can see how different each entry is from the previous title.

. I don't know maybe I'm just making generalizations or something lol.

@jeust said:

@miketakon said:

I still think Japanese games are the most creative...well except for JRPGs they're pretty paint by number.

This. To me japanese games are great!

Nier, Catherine, Final Fantasy XII, Deadly Premonition, Silent Hill 2 and Silent Hill 4 are among my favourite games.

Nier Catherine and Deadly Premonition are special games.

#40 Edited by Giantstalker (1731 posts) -

To be fair, a lot of this is subjective.

I find most Japanese games to be ham-fisted with their themes, stories, and characters. There's some neat art for sure but a running trend seems to try and make things unnecessarily exaggerated and illogical for reasons which often totally escape me. I'm not pretending to have great taste, or any kind of deep understanding of Japanese culture. I'm just a western consumer who has been playing all sorts of titles - many of which from Japan - since the early 90s.

There are still games out there that turn what I normally dislike about Japanese aesthetic into something great, maybe because they realize just how ridiculous it is and just run away with it. But it's more than just being radically different; visually it's often down to things being over designed, or unbelievable. Thematically, it's drama that often seems forced or artificial. Hey, surprise, western games often have this too... but we're talking about comparing the best with the best here. Final Fantasies and SMTs to Fallouts, or Baldur's Gates. That isn't to say that JRPGs aren't fun or interesting; I just wouldn't call how they do things preferable. Once again, subjective.

I value realism, or at the very least, the suspension of disbelief. Some Japanese games do this very well or don't bother making it an issue, which I see as a plus. But many of the most iconic and cherished ones have methods that work with... varying... levels of success here. Perhaps this is why my favorite Japanese game to date is Shogun 2.

#41 Posted by shell_kracker (71 posts) -

Shogun is a western game, albeit one with a very good understanding of Japanese history.

It's interesting that you should say western games are more realistic, because, whilst being realistic in the sense that there isn't a demon pushing a planet around or something, in emotional terms, they sometimes aren't too realistic from the standpoint of timeless human art; the exploration of the human condition, and subtle states of mind/emotion, which is what Japan does better. It's also considered in the west to be the higher, more advanced form of drama and literature, that people wean themselves onto, after a juvenile period of liking stories for plot. Emotion is meant to become the bread and butter of drama, which is why The Wire or Buffy the Vampire Slayer is admired by scholars, and things like Air Force One, Taken, etc, not so much, despite interesting plots.

Japanese games may often not go for realism in the 2001: A Space Odyssey, newtonian physics, realistic spacecraft sense. But that is part of a healthy disregard for computer-logic plots, in favour of pure imagination. Hollywood busts out the same epic clichés each time, and a lot of western games attempt to copy it, knowing it's wired into people's expectations.

Japanese games are more likely to play with a story, and not have it conform to 'beginning, middle, end', and 'father issues' all the other rules - making them seem less focused to someone used to Hollywood, but actually more true to life, where things don't unfold in pleasingly simple ways. They aren't afraid to dwell on simple beauty either - like small towns in JRPGs, with people selling their wares at the market.