The "Actionization" of Niche--And Why it's Going to Be OK

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Posted by Zenogiasu (193 posts) -

It hit me at about halfway through the onstage walkthrough of Splinter Cell Blacklist at Microsoft's press conference: "There goes another one. We lost Sam Fisher." Somewhere between the new "killing in motion" mechanic, the unbelievably spry cliffside ascent, and the motherfucking precision airstrike, I saw the writing on the wall: Splinter Cell is not what it used to be (you can see the footage at here). Sure, we'll still get to use neat gadgets; we'll still feel the satisfaction of silent kills; we'll still get to hide in the shadows--but that used to be all that Sam was about. Blacklist looks like a game that has stealth sections and components, rather than a dedicated stealth game. Sam Fisher plays a lot like James Bond or Nathan Drake, now: he'll stealth around for a bit, but always seems to end up in some outrageous, explosion-laden firefight.

To be clear, I don't think that this is necessarily a bad thing. Good pacing requires both peaks and valleys, and the people at Ubisoft Toronto look like they understand this. I also don't want to give the impression that I'm somehow not excited for Blacklist--on the contrary, it made my Top 20 Games of E3. Blacklist looks damn good to me, and it may prove to be that this makeover that I call "actionization" was the best thing that's ever happened to the series. Besides, more radical transformations have had great results: look at Metroid Prime. And why should this trend not continue? Conviction sold over 2 million copies, no doubt due in part to the addition of mechanics like mark and execute. The adrenaline of playing hide-and-seek with patrols has been replaced with the high-octane twitch of firefights. It's familiar and fun to the archetypal Call of Duty online enthusiast, so it makes Ubisoft money. More money means more games--and that's a good thing, right? It's certainly up for debate.

What I do want to emphasize is that this is a trend that is not going to stop. It might make the lot of us hardcore squirm when they read this, but it's difficult to deny: actionization--or in even broader terms, casualization--is evolution. Stealth, survival horror, RPGs--you name it, it's there. For now, we still have our Amnesia's and our Dark Souls', but we have to be prepared to see the titles in these niche genres adapt to a new market demographic. This may prove to be some sort of awkward teenage growing pain, but I doubt it. The genre is changing in ways that may scare a lot of us, but we can't stop it. Some call it homogenization, some call it disaster--and these are fair points. But even though game quality may ebb and flow, the constant of time marches on. Whether the industry is going up or down is up for debate, but one thing is for sure: we're always moving forward.

All of this actionization, casualization, the death of niche? It's progress. And here's hoping that Blacklist shows us how it can be done gracefully.

Thoughts?

#1 Edited by Zenogiasu (193 posts) -

It hit me at about halfway through the onstage walkthrough of Splinter Cell Blacklist at Microsoft's press conference: "There goes another one. We lost Sam Fisher." Somewhere between the new "killing in motion" mechanic, the unbelievably spry cliffside ascent, and the motherfucking precision airstrike, I saw the writing on the wall: Splinter Cell is not what it used to be (you can see the footage at here). Sure, we'll still get to use neat gadgets; we'll still feel the satisfaction of silent kills; we'll still get to hide in the shadows--but that used to be all that Sam was about. Blacklist looks like a game that has stealth sections and components, rather than a dedicated stealth game. Sam Fisher plays a lot like James Bond or Nathan Drake, now: he'll stealth around for a bit, but always seems to end up in some outrageous, explosion-laden firefight.

To be clear, I don't think that this is necessarily a bad thing. Good pacing requires both peaks and valleys, and the people at Ubisoft Toronto look like they understand this. I also don't want to give the impression that I'm somehow not excited for Blacklist--on the contrary, it made my Top 20 Games of E3. Blacklist looks damn good to me, and it may prove to be that this makeover that I call "actionization" was the best thing that's ever happened to the series. Besides, more radical transformations have had great results: look at Metroid Prime. And why should this trend not continue? Conviction sold over 2 million copies, no doubt due in part to the addition of mechanics like mark and execute. The adrenaline of playing hide-and-seek with patrols has been replaced with the high-octane twitch of firefights. It's familiar and fun to the archetypal Call of Duty online enthusiast, so it makes Ubisoft money. More money means more games--and that's a good thing, right? It's certainly up for debate.

What I do want to emphasize is that this is a trend that is not going to stop. It might make the lot of us hardcore squirm when they read this, but it's difficult to deny: actionization--or in even broader terms, casualization--is evolution. Stealth, survival horror, RPGs--you name it, it's there. For now, we still have our Amnesia's and our Dark Souls', but we have to be prepared to see the titles in these niche genres adapt to a new market demographic. This may prove to be some sort of awkward teenage growing pain, but I doubt it. The genre is changing in ways that may scare a lot of us, but we can't stop it. Some call it homogenization, some call it disaster--and these are fair points. But even though game quality may ebb and flow, the constant of time marches on. Whether the industry is going up or down is up for debate, but one thing is for sure: we're always moving forward.

All of this actionization, casualization, the death of niche? It's progress. And here's hoping that Blacklist shows us how it can be done gracefully.

Thoughts?

#2 Posted by TheHumanDove (2523 posts) -

Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory was the last of the mohicans

#3 Posted by mpgeist (643 posts) -

So games are going lowest common denominator simply because they sell well and we should just accept that and not demand any innovation? Are you a shareholder or something? The problem with games is the problem society faces at large. People are more lazy than ever and they want their games to follow suit.

#4 Posted by Zenogiasu (193 posts) -

First off, the "lowest common denominator" isn't a fair, or accurate, categorization. The tens of millions of people who buy what many people lament to be too "accessible" or "casual" range from people who are gaming for their first time and people who have been playing for their whole life, like you and me. If the industry appealed to only the hardcore, the industry would stay small. Less people would be in the industry, less money would be in the industry, and less innovation would take place. Worst of all, less people would play less games--and that just sucks.

And I never said that we shouldn't demand innovation. I'm as disappointed as anyone that IndieCade got a display area of a shoebox at a convention as big as E3. I'm not a shareholder, but I think we have to recognize that companies like Ubisoft have means and ends that make sense, uncomfortable as it may make some. The ends is to make money, and the means is by providing quality gaming experiences. In the eyes of companies like Ubisoft, gamers are (in admittedly impersonal terms) consumers, and we speak with our money. If a big group of gamers (yes, the "lazy crowd" are gamers too) buy into it, then Ubisoft is doing no wrong.

To the point of the "lazy" epidemic, what's the basis for that? People want their action quicker, sure, but that's hardly because they're lazy. It's because gamers have come out of the basement. Many are parents, career-people, etc. With a full-time job and a new puppy, I've had hardly any time to game in the past month. I'm hardcore as hell, but sometimes a quick game of Angry Birds is all the time I can spare. It's not because I'm lazy--it's because I'm busy.

Actionization of games like Splinter Cell, or Dead Space, or whatever, isn't a "dumbing-down"--I think that's the major misconception. They still stand to offer extremely satisfying game experiences. They are different, however. These changes happen for a reason. Far too many people like to cry that the sky is falling whenever their favourite franchise takes a turn they don't like. I understand the frustration, but all of the doomsday talk is absurd. Innovation will always be around, even in games like Blacklist. AAA summer movie blockbusters haven't killed the kitschy arthouse film industry, yet.

#5 Posted by Soapy86 (2619 posts) -

Maybe it's just me, but I really could not give less of a shit if my favorite games are accessible to Johnny Walmart. Watering down my favorite games and genres to appeal to a wider audience does me no favors. The only people who truly benefit from this practice are the greedy scumbags who run these publishers.

#6 Edited by Tru3_Blu3 (3242 posts) -

I think developers should just give gamers of all types a fucking chance to enjoy their game without taking the pussy way out by simplifying the cock out of their franchises, only to see that nobody still doesn't buy it. Look at Portal 2, a fucking puzzle game (I repeat: A PUZZLE GAME), and it has a bloody large audience, from console players to PC players. I've seen kids in my college wear Aperture Science shirts and understand the "cake-is-a-lie" memes. Children who haven't played games since Call of Duty LIKE a puzzle game. I played very deep, complex games as a kid and here I am loving this entertainment form. Call of Duty doesn't sell well because it's simple-- in fact, the perks and unlocks influence rather arrant thoughts on what combination of perks could work with one another.

In short, if you make a game that has a certain amount of depth, people will enjoy it. If you just remove fucking skill points in your RPG or just go the route of Call of Duty, your game is going to be dull as shit, especially if the shooting, killing, running, or the gameplay in general isn't up to snuff. Just advertise your game well and give it an outstandingly unique idea, and people will be interested, if not intrigued. I never thought a game like Minecraft, Skyrim, or Super Meat Boy would get such critical acclaim. But since they have intelligent people behind their advertisement campaigns or development, people took the risk in trying out the games and most of them loved it. You got some Skyrim haters here and there, but it sold well not because it was simplified, in fact if Bethesda didn't take the risk in simplifying Skyrim to where it is now, I think more people would've enjoyed it and become fans. Maybe I'm being too much of an optimist when it comes to gamer audiences, but I think that making your game more arcady and dull isn't the way to make your game sell well. People already have Call of Duty. Stop being it.

#7 Edited by Zenogiasu (193 posts) -

Soapy86, that's a perfectly reasonable position; we all have our interests. Me, I want a Legend of Dragoon sequel--fuck what anyone else wants.

But I think we both know that if your logic was the prevailing one, then the game industry would be a weaker one for it. To be clear, I'm not calling for the wholesale casualization of the industry and saturation of the market with shitty movie tie-ins that sell millions of copies regardless of quality. In fact, that's the absolute worst-case scenario.

But Ubisoft Toronto is not abandoning or betraying its loyal fanbase by adapting to accommodate more gamers. We live in a world in which anyone can ask anyone else, "What's your favourite TV show? Or movie? Type of music?" and they will no doubt receive an answer. My dream is that games can achieve that same status within my lifetime. Furthermore, as I mentioned, this notion that broadening a game's appeal is always "watering it down" is just plain not true.

Here's a great example, again from Ubisoft: Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. When multiplayer was announced, people went berserk. I don't have a single doubt in my mind that multiplayer was put in the game not because a designer thought "Hey, I've got a really neat and innovative idea for a multiplayer component," but rather because corporate higher-ups wanted to add more replay value and further justify a sale (as opposed to a rent or a borrow from a friend, and also to make DLC seem less like you're "going back" to a game). I want to emphasize that such corporate, surely profit-driven demands like this are not an awesome thing. What I am arguing is that they are a reality, and the industry would be smart to adapt rather than just whine. That's what Ubisoft Montreal did: they didn't throw up their hands at their creativity being stifled and walk off the job. They saw it as an opportunity. And what did we get? A great, innovative multiplayer mode that didn't betray the soul of the game. Another great example is Uncharted 3's multiplayer.

This is what I'm hoping Blacklist will be. The video game industry has always been, well, an industry, with the goal of making money. That will never change. But all the greedy corporate CEOs of all the big evil game companies in the world are not capable of getting in the way of a talented development team's creativity and innovative potential. With this said, I would never deny that these things can sometimes fuck up. BioShock 2 had some lousy multiplayer, and it probably came from the exact same kind of sales-driven motivation as Brotherhood did. But Brotherhood and Uncharted are proof that a move that broadens a game's appeal is not always one that hurts the game.

#8 Posted by Salarn (469 posts) -

@Zenogiasu said:

Thoughts?

Games are being coming more inclusive, fans of the Splinter Cell games might be upset seeing such an action based reveal, however the fans of splinter cell that already exist will still keep an eye on the game. People who were not fans of Splinter Cell might now be interested in it because it has a solid action hook for them. Possibly turned off previously because they didn't enjoy the slower pacing of the more stealth style games. Basically, you don't have to market as hard to the people who are already fans for your product, they will still be interested through all the media and at the games release.

Cultivating new fans is needed, not only does it help the game such as fueling DLC options, increasing player base for multiplayer, and build a larger community to share experiences of the game with. Don't worry, UbiTor is focus on developing and improving all areas of Splinter Cell with blacklist. You can hear it from our project lead Max here: http://www.joystiq.com/2012/06/11/maxime-beland-on-the-ghosts-and-panthers-of-splinter-cell-black/ Players who prefer "ghost" style gameplay will not be left out and pleasantly surprised if we do our jobs well.

I understand that stealth fans might have felt left out in the first 5 minutes of footage for the game as we court new players, but stealth fans are not forgotten.

#9 Posted by optimusprime223 (399 posts) -

Is it not at the very least interesting to watch series develop and try new things? this is exactly what Blacklist is, a new direction for Splinter Cell. Critic and fan reaction will determine if it was a good decision or not and nothing else, even if the game sells really well.

We have all witnessed shit games do gang busters and great games not sell at all. You cant sue developers for trying to broaden and find a market that works for them so they can get away from the latter of those two options. I personally thought Blacklist looks very cool, it might be have been 'AC'd' but who cares? if it produces a great game what does it matter?

A great game is a great game, but how many shit games litter the path to that game? shit games will always be a thing and in a industry full of creative people, who can get tired, have off days and sometimes make bad decisions that wont change at all ever. Its not dumping down, its finding creative solutions to problems we, as the fans, don't even know exist. and if that solution ends up making a shit game? then so be it. Developers will learn for their mistakes and move on.

Blacklist could come out and sell 2 million units and be hailed as the game of the year by every critic going, but the developers wont be happy with some things, and know that mistakes were made on others. If that means that the mistake was going the Actionization route, then they will figure it out and react accordingly. Don't bitch about this people, its part of the hobby we call games and I for one think it can only lead to good things!

#10 Posted by Zenogiasu (193 posts) -

That's great to hear! As a fellow Torontonian and a longtime Splinter Cell fan, I'm really looking forward to the release, for both its action and stealth components. Keep up the good work, man.

#11 Posted by Salarn (469 posts) -

@Zenogiasu: Well, if you are local, why not sign up for a playtest of Blacklist?

http://playtest.ubisoft.ca/index_en.htm

#12 Posted by Doctorchimp (4055 posts) -

If you want Splinter Cell fans to accept this "actionization" don't complain when nobody buys this because there is absolutely nothing that it brings to the table to be unique.

#13 Posted by NMC2008 (1237 posts) -

This game will sell at least 2 million. My body is ready.

#14 Posted by JackOhara (227 posts) -

@Salarn said:

@Zenogiasu said:

Thoughts?

Games are being coming more inclusive, fans of the Splinter Cell games might be upset seeing such an action based reveal, however the fans of splinter cell that already exist will still keep an eye on the game. People who were not fans of Splinter Cell might now be interested in it because it has a solid action hook for them. Possibly turned off previously because they didn't enjoy the slower pacing of the more stealth style games. Basically, you don't have to market as hard to the people who are already fans for your product, they will still be interested through all the media and at the games release.

Cultivating new fans is needed, not only does it help the game such as fueling DLC options, increasing player base for multiplayer, and build a larger community to share experiences of the game with. Don't worry, UbiTor is focus on developing and improving all areas of Splinter Cell with blacklist. You can hear it from our project lead Max here: http://www.joystiq.com/2012/06/11/maxime-beland-on-the-ghosts-and-panthers-of-splinter-cell-black/ Players who prefer "ghost" style gameplay will not be left out and pleasantly surprised if we do our jobs well.

I understand that stealth fans might have felt left out in the first 5 minutes of footage for the game as we court new players, but stealth fans are not forgotten.

When will you guys realize that we don't want a 'cinematic' experience? If we wanted to see a film we'd go to a cinema, you should focus on making a game. When you make a cinematic game you are basically stripping out more and more of the sandbox mechanics to the point where there is no point in playing the game more than one time, because you know exactly what is going to happen. It creates a mediocre and forgettable experience because the player is much less involved in what is going on onscreen. Why do you think people love the Half Life games so much? It's because control is never taken away from the player, and you play more than you watch. I don't feel like a badass watching some fake targeted missile kill a bunch of dudes in a truck. It pains me to see this happen to Splinter Cell, it used to be a really interesting franchise.

#15 Posted by BigChief (503 posts) -

I don't agree even a little. I genuinely just don't enjoy actiony games as much as their alternatives. Not talking about Splinter Cell here, I don't really have any interest in the series, but games like Dragon Age 2 versus Dragon Age 1, and the like. I don't think that I should just have to shrug my shoulders and say, "Well, that's progress for you." I shouldn't have to play games that I don't enjoy as much when alternatives can and should be available. I don't see why niche games can't continue to exist even if they don't necessarily sell 10 million copies like a Call of Duty game.

#16 Posted by AlexW00d (6433 posts) -

@Doctorchimp said:

If you want Splinter Cell fans to accept this "actionization" don't complain when nobody buys this because there is absolutely nothing that it brings to the table to be unique.

This is exactly what I have against develops dumbing down sequels, it just means they lose their USP and become just another game in an endless sea of monotony. Or something less pretentious.

#18 Posted by Jimbo (9984 posts) -
@Zenogiasu said:
What I do want to emphasize is that this is a trend that is not going to stop. It might make the lot of us hardcore squirm when they read this, but it's difficult to deny: actionization--or in even broader terms, casualization--is evolution.
It's devolution.
#19 Posted by JackOhara (227 posts) -

@Zenogiasu said:

First off, the "lowest common denominator" isn't a fair, or accurate, categorization. The tens of millions of people who buy what many people lament to be too "accessible" or "casual" range from people who are gaming for their first time and people who have been playing for their whole life, like you and me. If the industry appealed to only the hardcore, the industry would stay small. Less people would be in the industry, less money would be in the industry, and less innovation would take place. Worst of all, less people would play less games--and that just sucks.

And I never said that we shouldn't demand innovation. I'm as disappointed as anyone that IndieCade got a display area of a shoebox at a convention as big as E3. I'm not a shareholder, but I think we have to recognize that companies like Ubisoft have means and ends that make sense, uncomfortable as it may make some. The ends is to make money, and the means is by providing quality gaming experiences. In the eyes of companies like Ubisoft, gamers are (in admittedly impersonal terms) consumers, and we speak with our money. If a big group of gamers (yes, the "lazy crowd" are gamers too) buy into it, then Ubisoft is doing no wrong.

To the point of the "lazy" epidemic, what's the basis for that? People want their action quicker, sure, but that's hardly because they're lazy. It's because gamers have come out of the basement. Many are parents, career-people, etc. With a full-time job and a new puppy, I've had hardly any time to game in the past month. I'm hardcore as hell, but sometimes a quick game of Angry Birds is all the time I can spare. It's not because I'm lazy--it's because I'm busy.

Actionization of games like Splinter Cell, or Dead Space, or whatever, isn't a "dumbing-down"--I think that's the major misconception. They still stand to offer extremely satisfying game experiences. They are different, however. These changes happen for a reason. Far too many people like to cry that the sky is falling whenever their favourite franchise takes a turn they don't like. I understand the frustration, but all of the doomsday talk is absurd. Innovation will always be around, even in games like Blacklist. AAA summer movie blockbusters haven't killed the kitschy arthouse film industry, yet.

Are you really trying to say people aren't lazier than they've ever been? Are you sure you want to go down that road?

#20 Edited by Zenogiasu (193 posts) -

I would recommend that you look at the video link provided by Salarn, in regards to alternatives. The ghost/panther system is an interesting design decision that provides character choice, expands replay value, and doesn't lose anything in the process. Not everything is zero-sum; we can gain without loss. I see this new direction as a plus, but I understand why some wouldn't like this reorientation and would prefer to cling to a more classic game design. My comment about progress was just pointing out that that's what we're looking at with Blacklist, not necessarily that it's an objectively positive thing--progression along a linear timeline, rather than progression along a scale of increasing game quality.

And I wouldn't expect you to just shrug your shoulders and play an actionized game regardless--I just expect you to not buy it, and to express your opinions here on the forums like you're doing now.

And I really did mean it when I said that niche games will always be around. But niche means small. As franchises like Splinter Cell and Dead Space get bigger and bigger, expect their design philosophy to change with them.

#21 Posted by Zenogiasu (193 posts) -

@Jimbo: Perhaps our definitions differ. I mean two things by using the word "evolution":

1) Ubisoft is adapting to a changing marketplace, much in the same way organisms adapt to new environments. I don't want to get too carried away with this metaphor, because I suck at biology.

2) Evolution in the strictest sense of a linear progression across time--perhaps this goes without saying. Like I said in response to BigChief, I do not believe that games automatically get better as time marches on. That's the dream, but we all know that's not the reality.

I imagine you mean a devolution in terms of quality, which is certainly a subjective measure. I don't think any individual game mechanic can be objectively "good" or "bad". The vast majority of people might have loved, say, Ocarina of Time, but it's not an objective classification.

#22 Posted by Salarn (469 posts) -

@JackOhara: We are focused on making a game, I'm building as I type this. There are lots and lots of gamers out there, if there was a way to accurately poll them to to find out exactly what they want, that information would be invaluable. One of the goals of Blacklist is to have an story that is appealing and engaging to the player, as much as you might dislike cutscenes they do a great job of delivering story. We have lots of interviews from E3 all over the internet expressing our desire to have gameplay to be inclusive to both old stealth fans and newer action fans. It's an additive process, not subtractive. Adding new elements and improving the old.

Half-Life was a great title when it was released, wonderful game, very successful FPS. I can't say wither it's better or not than than the most recent Call of Duty game, which was also well received by critics and very successful FPS.

Our goal with Blacklist to make the best Splinter Cell yet, as previously mentioned, if we do our jobs right it'll appeal to fans of both "Stealth" and "Action" or any mix in between.

#23 Posted by BigChief (503 posts) -

@Zenogiasu: Watched the video, and it's interesting. Choice of how to play seems to be something that's coming up more and more often, with what they're saying about The Last of Us and all that. And I played Deus Ex: Human Revolution and loved it, so fair enough. I can't help but wonder if dividing attention between a bunch of different play styles would run the risk of making each of them more shallow. Jack of all trades, master of none, but that's just wild speculation on my part. It's better than those genres dying altogether.

My comment on niche games was in reference to what you said about Dark Souls and Amnesia (two games I absolutely adore) and other niche games and genres being around now, but will probably have to adapt to the New World Order in the future. What I'm saying is I don't know why they couldn't continue to exist as they are now, even if they are small. Amnesia wasn't a huge blockbuster of a game. I'm alright with these games being smaller, there's no way around that, so long as they continue to exist.

I mean, that's the way the market is now. We have niche western RPGs coming like Wasteland 2 and Shadowrun Returns. We have niche JRPGs like the ones Atlus puts out, or Dark Souls. We have niche survival horror like Amnesia. As long as we keep getting games like these, even if they aren't huge blockbusters, I'll be fine with the state of the industry. Variety, and all that.

#24 Posted by Salarn (469 posts) -

@BigChief:

We have an amazing staff working on Blacklist, last count was somewhere around 280ish men and women, but that number goes up pretty fast. We are making sure we cover everything we are promising to deliver.

(personal opinion follows)

The state of the industry has never been better, the shear quantity of games coming out every week is staggering. Games from free to $60+, Games from your phone to high-end PC, Games for an audience of dozens to an audience of millions.

If you want to play a Pigeon Dating Sim, well you got it. If you want to play a niche horror game, well you got it. If you want to play a game staffed but literally hundreds of people costing millions of dollars, you have lots of them too. Not to be an old grump, but back in my day, there were fewer games released in a year than there are in a month today. Kickstarter has been amazing, people can fund what they want down to a razors edge, if you watch kicktraq.com every day there are a half dozen video games, some are funded some are not, people are deciding what is being made like never before.

#25 Posted by JackOhara (227 posts) -

@Salarn said:

@JackOhara: We are focused on making a game, I'm building as I type this. There are lots and lots of gamers out there, if there was a way to accurately poll them to to find out exactly what they want, that information would be invaluable. One of the goals of Blacklist is to have an story that is appealing and engaging to the player, as much as you might dislike cutscenes they do a great job of delivering story. We have lots of interviews from E3 all over the internet expressing our desire to have gameplay to be inclusive to both old stealth fans and newer action fans. It's an additive process, not subtractive. Adding new elements and improving the old.

Half-Life was a great title when it was released, wonderful game, very successful FPS. I can't say wither it's better or not than than the most recent Call of Duty game, which was also well received by critics and very successful FPS.

Our goal with Blacklist to make the best Splinter Cell yet, as previously mentioned, if we do our jobs right it'll appeal to fans of both "Stealth" and "Action" or any mix in between.

I think you are misunderstanding what I mean when I say game. 'Game: noun - A form of play or sport, esp. a competitive one played according to rules and decided by skill, strength, or luck.'. I'm not talking about the cutscenes or the sound or the graphics, I'm talking about the part you actually play. An accurate way to poll players is to listen to people on forums like this instead of ignoring them like they are 'niche' or some such. I don't dislike cutscenes, some have been done very well, but they are a cheap way to move the story along. @Salarn said:

Half-Life was a great title when it was released, wonderful game, very successful FPS. I can't say wither it's better or not than than the most recent Call of Duty game, which was also well received by critics and very successful FPS.

Is this statement really alarming to anyone else?

#26 Posted by BigChief (503 posts) -

@Salarn: I don't really disagree about that. For the record, my intent was not to malign your team, I actually don't follow the Splinter Cell series so I can't speak with any authority on it. I was speaking more about general trends. And I do agree that times are good now. If anything, I've been seeing a bit of a renaissance in niche games lately, between Kickstarter and Steam, with successes like Dark Souls and Amnesia, and even Minecraft, if you count it, since it's so different from anything else out there. I'm seeing more exposure for indie games, and it's much easier to find hidden gems just based on word of mouth. I'm speaking more about the original poster, who made it sound like those types of games will either change or go away in the future. He even used the phrase "the death of niche" in his closer. Which I don't think will happen, and if it did I would probably quit gaming.

If I can go a little off topic and address something you said earlier, about marketing having to target new players, as opposed to fans, who will be interested anyway. I don't necessarily disagree, but I think that doesn't work as well if taken to an extreme. Again, I'm not talking about your studio in particular, because I don't think you have this problem yet. But let's talk about Hitman. It's another franchise I don't really follow, so I only really have anecdotal evidence, but the long term fans of the franchise seem to hate that game and are convinced it will be awful. I don't think you can necessarily count on old fans to stay interested if you show nothing at all that appeals to them and focus entirely on new fans.

For the record, I do appreciate that someone from the industry is willing to chime in on this discussion, it's been very interesting.

#27 Edited by Salarn (469 posts) -

@BigChief: I didn't take anything you said to be a slight against the team, I was just addressing your concern that our focus would be too divided, we've got as much talent as we can find and still hiring to make sure we don't leave corners untucked when making the game.

(personal opinions follow)

Niche will never die, as long as enough people want something they will either make it or fund someone to make it. There are games being made by single people only because they wanted the game, it's great to have that happening in the industry.

Big titles grow and change a lot, take Mario for example. Super Mario Bro. is a completely different game than Mario Brothers. Super Mario 2 wasn't even a Mario game! Super Mario 3 was a power up feast compared to 1 & Lost Levels. Mario World added back tracking, switch houses, mounts. Mario 64 was in 3D! Sunshine had a water pack. Galaxy 1&2 had micro worlds to split gameplay into tiny chunks. Every game is considered to be great by some and terrible by others.

I only have half a moment to address you other topic, to be more precise, marketing has to work harder to attract new players than existing fans. They need to give someone reason to look up from their current favorite game and watch a trailer or five minute demo. You are right, you can swing the marketing to far and risk losing old fans, the five minute demo did have some stealth kills, it did have some gadget use, and it did have explosions, action, and story. The 12 minute demo had more enemies (dogs), more gadgets, more climbing navigation, and more story. The final game will be extensive in length and hopefully will have everything for splinter cell fans want old and new.

#28 Posted by mpgeist (643 posts) -

Its a small miracle flight sims still exist in this market. Thank god developers like eagle dynamics and bohemia are around. I enjoyed conviction, grudgingly, but after hearing this stuff about Blacklist I'm moving on from Splinter Cell.

#29 Edited by NTM (7542 posts) -

I love the first three, Double Agent not so much, and at first I thought to myself "Well Conviction is a fun shooter, but why is it a shooter!?", then later on I fully accepted it and wish it'd be the same game play throughout, just improved. I think Blacklist is looking fantastic, and I'm kind of happy they're not going back to what the first ones were. Conviction did well with it's action and stealth game play even if they took out some mechanics (like moving bodies, and other stuff), and it's now one of my favorite types of game plays. Also, people don't understand what Visceral is doing with Dead Space 3! It's getting annoying.

#30 Posted by Salarn (469 posts) -

@NTM said:

like moving bodies

That's in Blacklist. So is other stuff! :)

#31 Edited by NMC2008 (1237 posts) -

So people want the same game again? I wonder what would have happened if SCDA and Conviction were like SCCT, and you watched the blacklist trailer and it too was like SCCT, would you guys be happy or would you be calling for change or would you be ok with 6 games with the same gameplay?

Also, where would the story be? What would have taken place after SCCT? SCDA couldn't take place as is, then what happens to justify another stroll in the Third Echelon park for Conviction of SC5? Even more so, what about now? I thought the Splinter Cell games were more or less about Sam Fisher and his life in the NSA, I mean we are follow this character's life now, would you rather been another character in Conviction and have Sam retire after the daughter situation? I mean I have 0 problems with the series progression as this is Ubi's story to tell and I am here to listen. My Body is ready for Blacklist.

#32 Posted by KillyDarko (1888 posts) -
@TheHumanDove said:

Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory was the last of the mohicans

#33 Posted by DxBecks (72 posts) -

I'm all for continually innovating a game series and making each game play slightly different from the last, but as a long time Splinter Cell fan, I don't like where the games have gone. Blacklist doesn't look good at all, if I want action I will play Call of Duty, or Uncharted or Gears of War, I play Splinter Cell for STEALTH, not action. I am aware that stealth doesn't always mean Chaos Theory style stealth, some segments in Double Agent were awesome stealth segments where you had to sneak around in broad daylight with no gear, that was a new experience, even if it didn't work well throughout the entire game. Another issue I take with is the quick kill, the game does all the work, true I have to perform a stealth take down, but after that I press a button and bam, two-three enemies are down without having to aim, shoot, or move. Bring back the Light Meter, bring back the Sound Meter, and put a focus on stealth, not action.

#34 Posted by Chroma_Auron (112 posts) -

My problem with actionization is that it's a cheep way to cater to everyone but pushes those who originally got the games, away from the series. It doesn't improve the series but completely changes it to the point where it's almost unrecognizable from it's predecessors. It would be like code masters changing an f1 simulation series into a racers with guns series. It devolves the diversity of games into a pit of soup that tries to appeal to all but never reaches the heights it could.

#35 Posted by bluefish (546 posts) -

@Zenogiasu: These franchises do get bigger and bigger and times are tough in games but didn't the old Splinter Cell's get more popular with each release?

I just mean that: Dead Space 1 comes out, it's really good and some people buy it. By the time 2 comes out more people know it and what it's about so won't 2 be bigger? Providing it's just as good/better doesn't the logic hold true? The people that are getting into the more accessible experience are likely not doing their research beforehand on sites like this, they get their info from buying it used on the cheap or having it recommended by a friend. Their expecting something like what they've already played.

A guy who, years ago, played Chaos Theory will likely not be expecting or wanting the upcoming one. I'm not saying he will/will not end up liking up, but it's not why he's at the store, yea? I work in gaming retail and a lot of feedback on the new Ghost Recon is pretty unremarkable from customers and it's an entry that is as close as the series has come to playing itself. There has been buzz on a handful of games coming out of E3 and Splinter Cell is not one of them. It looks like a well made product but this more actionized Splinter Cell isn't something that a lot of people want. Max Payne 3 has a lot more buz and stronger continuing sales (from what I can see) than Ghost Recon and it sticks to an older formula that is notably old school and more challenging. Admittedly RockStar has a strong marketing machine but countering that it's an older franchise that's been out of the public mindset for many years.

I wish I knew sales figures for Conviction vs. the older entries in the series because they might prove me dead wrong. But I feel in my gut that Dead Space 2 didn't hit it's moderate success because it was more action'y than Dead Space 1. It his that success because Dead Space 1 was badass, as scary as games get this gen and people found that out in the time after it's release.

#36 Posted by Dad_Is_A_Zombie (1212 posts) -

To be fair, the real Sam Fisher has been gone for a while now...

#37 Posted by light_grenade (124 posts) -

Man if this is going to be the case. Fuck progress

#38 Posted by Kothre (5 posts) -

@NMC2008: I hate that stupid "people just hate change and want the same game!" argument. No....people hate bad change, they don't hate change. Have you played the first two Splinter Cell games, then Chaos Theory? Chaos Theory improved on a lot of mechanics. It was actually quite different from the old games, but kept the parts from the old ones that made them great. What real fans want is a refinement of the stealth, not an overhaul of the franchise into an action game with pseudo-stealth elements. There's a clear difference.

The problem is that niche doesn't exist nearly to the degree it used to. Pure stealth games are almost non-existent now, which is the problem. Splinter Cell is was very unique, now it's trying to be like Jason Bourne mixed with Call of Duty. For God's sake, Sam can call in airstrikes. *facepalm* Okay, metaphor time. Imagine if your favorite metal band, no, ALL your favorite metal bands (if you don't like metal, replace with your favorite genre) starts playing mainstream rock. Would you just say "well, I realize all I wanted to do was listen to the same genre over and over" and gleefully embrace mainstream rock? I don't think you would.

#39 Posted by Alkaiser (366 posts) -

All I can say to your point is...

Where is the tomoe-nage? I don't give a crap about Splinter Cell unless I have a man-missile armed at all times.

#40 Posted by Grimhild (722 posts) -

@TheHumanDove said:

Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory was the last of the mohicans

Pretty much sums it up for me, too. Even though I enjoyed Conviction, it didn't really feel the same. It was definitely more of a quick and dirty play style that I didn't have to devote the same amount of finesse to, and as such felt much less rewarding. I'll probably still play Blacklist, but with completely different expectations.

As far as upcoming stealth fixes go, anxiously awaiting the revival of the Thief series. Hopefully it will still retain some of that Looking Glass genius. The first one blew my mind...

I have to go play it now.

#41 Posted by LiquidPrince (16166 posts) -

Do you guys read the word niche as "neesh" or "nitch" ?

#42 Posted by NMC2008 (1237 posts) -

@Kothre said:

@NMC2008: I hate that stupid "people just hate change and want the same game!" argument. No....people hate bad change, they don't hate change. Have you played the first two Splinter Cell games, then Chaos Theory? Chaos Theory improved on a lot of mechanics. It was actually quite different from the old games, but kept the parts from the old ones that made them great. What real fans want is a refinement of the stealth, not an overhaul of the franchise into an action game with pseudo-stealth elements. There's a clear difference.

The problem is that niche doesn't exist nearly to the degree it used to. Pure stealth games are almost non-existent now, which is the problem. Splinter Cell is was very unique, now it's trying to be like Jason Bourne mixed with Call of Duty. For God's sake, Sam can call in airstrikes. *facepalm* Okay, metaphor time. Imagine if your favorite metal band, no, ALL your favorite metal bands (if you don't like metal, replace with your favorite genre) starts playing mainstream rock. Would you just say "well, I realize all I wanted to do was listen to the same genre over and over" and gleefully embrace mainstream rock? I don't think you would.

Alright, say they made Blacklist like SCCT, how could you improve the mechanics of SCCT, mind you some people say this game is or near perfect, how do you improve the SCCT formula? Or do you give blacklist the exact same formula in a new suit? I am asking the question seriously, no snark, I honestly want to know. Also, I wish Dragonforce would sing jazzy tunes. :P I mean I get that people loved the stealth mechanics of old SC, I loved them too, but it's time to move on, others whom didn't like SCCT like Conviction so this is just a case of not being able to please everyone I guess. Also, I hear people(not in this thread yet) bad mouthing Mark & Execute, well you don't have to use it, try playing deniable ops without it while trying to be full stealth, that shit takes time, I tried and it took me 34 minutes to clear 1 section of 3, or maybe I am just awful at it. :P Anyway, I am starting to ramble, I just think people need to either accept the new direction and part ways with Mr Fisher or play it for what it is and stop whining about the death of stealth in SC. You want stealth? Play Velvet Assassin. LOL! I'm sorry.

#43 Posted by TheHumanDove (2523 posts) -

@LiquidPrince said:

Do you guys read the word niche as "neesh" or "nitch" ?

neechee. e's are silent though

#44 Posted by TheDudeOfGaming (6078 posts) -

Hmmm, yes, yes yes yes... But on the bright side the violence looks really nice.

#45 Edited by Rohok (554 posts) -

You don't know what you're talking about at all, seriously. Go back to mainstream.

#46 Edited by Kothre (5 posts) -
@NMC2008 said:

@Kothre said:

@NMC2008: I hate that stupid "people just hate change and want the same game!" argument. No....people hate bad change, they don't hate change. Have you played the first two Splinter Cell games, then Chaos Theory? Chaos Theory improved on a lot of mechanics. It was actually quite different from the old games, but kept the parts from the old ones that made them great. What real fans want is a refinement of the stealth, not an overhaul of the franchise into an action game with pseudo-stealth elements. There's a clear difference.

The problem is that niche doesn't exist nearly to the degree it used to. Pure stealth games are almost non-existent now, which is the problem. Splinter Cell is was very unique, now it's trying to be like Jason Bourne mixed with Call of Duty. For God's sake, Sam can call in airstrikes. *facepalm* Okay, metaphor time. Imagine if your favorite metal band, no, ALL your favorite metal bands (if you don't like metal, replace with your favorite genre) starts playing mainstream rock. Would you just say "well, I realize all I wanted to do was listen to the same genre over and over" and gleefully embrace mainstream rock? I don't think you would.

Alright, say they made Blacklist like SCCT, how could you improve the mechanics of SCCT, mind you some people say this game is or near perfect, how do you improve the SCCT formula? Or do you give blacklist the exact same formula in a new suit? I am asking the question seriously, no snark, I honestly want to know. Also, I wish Dragonforce would sing jazzy tunes. :P I mean I get that people loved the stealth mechanics of old SC, I loved them too, but it's time to move on, others whom didn't like SCCT like Conviction so this is just a case of not being able to please everyone I guess. Also, I hear people(not in this thread yet) bad mouthing Mark & Execute, well you don't have to use it, try playing deniable ops without it while trying to be full stealth, that shit takes time, I tried and it took me 34 minutes to clear 1 section of 3, or maybe I am just awful at it. :P Anyway, I am starting to ramble, I just think people need to either accept the new direction and part ways with Mr Fisher or play it for what it is and stop whining about the death of stealth in SC. You want stealth? Play Velvet Assassin. LOL! I'm sorry.

That's actually a good question. I do firmly believe that Chaos Theory was nigh close to perfect, but there's always room for improvements. I'll skip the obvious things like "better graphics, better AI, updated engine etc." As odd as this may sound coming from me after saying that I don't like the recent changes to the franchise, I actually do believe that Conviction had some very good ideas in it. The first one would be the cover mechanics. Not necessarily because they're good in a gunfight, but because it made moving around very swift and fluid. I really liked the "jump to from cover to cover" mechanic that the game had in it. Introducing a Deniable Ops type mode would be a plus as well. I'm a sucker for extra modes. On top of the ones that Conviction had, I'd also put in a "Ghost" one that has you getting to the end of the level or completing some objectives without taking anyone out. Challenging? You bet, but Hunter and what not would still be there.

Chaos Theory was, in my opinion, a bit too easy. Now, I'm not asking for the brutal difficulty of the first one. I don't like artificial difficulty like in the original. The AI just magically found bodies even though no NPC actually saw them. Even the 'three alarms = INSTANT FAILURE" system was dumb and also unrealistic. Pandora Tomorrow eased up on that a bit, and Chaos Theory further. My minor beef with CT's difficulty is that the guards had a tendency to patrol in the dark. Who does that? They're seriously just going to walk around in a dark room all night? That, and the light meter didn't act very realistic either. You could go from max light meter to completely invisible just by walking to the corner of the room. There should also be a distinction between killing and knocking out other than a rating meter; it should have some sort of gameplay effect as well.

Open, sandbox-y levels with multiple ways to get in and out are always a plus, too. The bank level from Chaos Theory is a very good example, but not every level even in Chaos Theory was that open ended, and even the bank could be expanded upon. My version of Blacklist would be very non-linear a la Hitman: Blood Money, a great example of the kind of level design I'm talking about. Each mission generally has five or so completely different ways to take your target out. I've even found some methods I've never seen anyone on the internet use. Now that's good work on the developer's part. I realize that's asking a lot; my main point is just non-linearity in general. Even Chaos Theory was relatively linear even with the branching paths. The main thing is to avoid scripted events as much as possible. You know, the things that make levels the exact same on a second playthrough. Things like scaling down the building in Shanghai in Double Agent (terrible game; I at least hold Conviction as " a decent game, just a bad Splinter Cell game." Double Agent just sucked). It may be cool the first time around, but when you play through the level again, it just isn't that fun. You can keep things like that in there, but it shouldn't be the only way down.

Well I think I've touched on the main points. I'm sure there are a few small things that have slipped my mind, but that's basically the gist of it.  Like I said, the stealth genre is dying out fast. The problem is exactly that "everyone wants the same game" according to developers because everything is getting CoD-ified. There's an oversaturation of military shooters on the market trying to appeal to Call of Duty players, now even games that aren't meant for that market are trying to hook those players in by adding elements from that genre into their own games. While new Splinter Cell isn't Call of Duty clone per se, it's definitely sacrificing what made it stand out from the crowd. People (I think I can speak for many old SC fans) don't like the direction the series is going because it's trying to be too much like every other game on the market. We just want something different, not another "run around in daylight killing dudes and calling in airstrikes" with only leftover classic SC mechanics. :)
 
And when you think about it, how much do Call of Duty games differentiate from each other after 4?

#47 Posted by Zenogiasu (193 posts) -

@Rohok: Someone lock the thread; he got me. Discussion over.

#48 Posted by Rohok (554 posts) -

@Zenogiasu said:

@Rohok: Someone lock the thread; he got me. Discussion over.

Bout time someone recognized my oratory finesse.

#49 Edited by Psycrowtik (5 posts) -

@Rohok said:

@Zenogiasu said:

@Rohok: Someone lock the thread; he got me. Discussion over.

Bout time someone recognized my oratory finesse.

That fat guy in the truck stop bathroom a few years ago recognized it too.

#50 Posted by Rohok (554 posts) -

@Psycrowtik said:

@Rohok said:

@Zenogiasu said:

@Rohok: Someone lock the thread; he got me. Discussion over.

Bout time someone recognized my oratory finesse.

That fat guy in the truck stop bathroom a few years ago recognized it too.

Damn that was good.

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