Monday, July 25, 2011

Random Shots: Old Genres Made New Again

  • Every time I read something new about Xcom, it makes me want to smash my head into a wall. Way back when it was announced in April 2010, I said my peace and let the subject lie. But then this interview with Christoph Hartmann from 2K Games comes out and drives me up the nearest vertical surface.
    He explains: "The '90s generation of gamers all love Xcom and we own the IP, so we thought OK, what do we do with it? ... But the problem was that turn-based strategy games were no longer the hottest thing on planet Earth. But this is not just a commercial thing – strategy games are just not contemporary.["]

  • I don't really know how to react to that. Is Hartmann, and by extension 2K Games, willfully ignorant or is he just spinning his PR plates as fast as he can? Not that the answer really matters because it's just as stupid either way.

  • All one has to do is look at some of the biggest games coming out recently to see that old game genres are still viable:

    • One of my favorite games of the last two years is Torchlight. There hasn't been a decent action RPG for years, but then Runic gave us a game that calls back to the original Diablo in feel, but updated for the modern era. How good is it? Well, Runic recently announced that they sold one million copies. And I cannot stop playing it.

    • Starcraft II. Blizzard released a game that plays just like a game that came out in 1998, dismissing all of the innovations in the RTS genre from the intervening twelve years. Business suicide? Of course not. It sold 4.5 million copies.

    • One can discuss the merits of the game from here until the end of time, but Duke Nukem Forever sold a crazy number of copies. According to NPD figures, it sold 376,300 units in its first month. While some (many?) of those sales are from people wanting to see the train wreck firsthand, I believe that there are also many who yearn for a style of shooter that has disappeared in the Call of Duty era.

    • And although it's a brand new game, Panzer Corps follows in the footsteps of SSI's classic Panzer General. I'm glad that the developer, Lordz Game Studios, reminded us that even hardcore strategy games can be made for a mass audience.

  • I might not have bothered to write this post if it were not for this article from Ars Technica. I've been hearing a lot of grumbling lately that people miss space simulations like Wing Commander and TIE Figher. Evidently someone at Seamless Entertainment was listening because they are developing SOL: Exodus. If there some way to preorder, I would have done so already.

  • These examples are not unique. Game genres don't go bad, they just fall out of fashion. It takes work, dedication, and some small amount of love, but there is no reason that any genre of game cannot be resurrected.

  • If 2K Games can't figure out how to make Xcom into a true successor to the original game, while modernizing the design, I call that a failure of imagination. Maybe, just maybe, they should be ashamed of themselves.

  • For more discussion of the issue, check out the most recent episode of Flash of Steel.

© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.


  1. I never played the original Xcom but that guy's comments drove me up the nearest vertical surface as well when I first read it.

    I somehow missed the news on Sol. As once of the grumblers who misses the X-Wing simulators, thanks!

  2. One could argue that some of your examples of old genres being resurrected are simply due to being a sequel. Torchlight is the exception there, of course.

    But otherwise, I do agree with you. Personally, I would love to see more turn-based strategy games. I'm a big tabletop and D&D fan and would love to see some companies play with the system in any fashion. Coincidentally, I'm also horrible at tactical shooters and prefer the run, gun and explosion style.

    Given that a huge percentage of gamers are in that 90's generation, reviving these styles would bring in some dough.

  3. @Straw, that's the point, Xcom would be a sequel as well.

  4. @ Blue Kae - I am so amazed that this game is being made. Keep your fingers crossed!

    @ Straw Fellow - Sequels, certainly, but they have gone bad in the past. Lest we forget Deus Ex and Invisible War.

    I wholeheartedly agree with you. I would like a game system that makes me think, not just react.

  5. xcom is one of my favourite games of all time and it stuns me that people are just so plain unwilling to try different game genres.

    It's laziness and cowardice.

  6. Amen man. I agree that guy's comments were a localized substantiation of insanity. 1. how many modern gamers know or care about X-com? 2. Of that population, how many would be willing to check out a FPS simply because it bore the X-com name?

    The answer has to approach zero. It may be in the hundreds or even a few thousands. Even assuming the X-com name gets them some free hype...the FPS is the most crowded genre both on the PC and consoles. Unless their gameplay is utterly stellar (i.e., far above the genre norms), that tiny bit of hype won't help them much.

    Compare that to X-com 2 the strategy game, where they could have practically phoned it in and had a decent audience. What in God's name are they thinking?