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Article - 'Overdoing Games' by Angroth

An item about Game Design posted on Oct 7, 2004

Blurb

A rant about sequels / prequels and how to avoid bad ones, whilst knowing how to get good ones.

Body

The Outline
Well let’s face it, sometimes sequels / prequels are just not the right thing to do. Some things are meant to be one off wonders, or maybe even one off pieces of crap never again to be touched on or possibly improved. We need to know when to cast aside what has been made, be it games, movies, books or pretty much anything. How many time have you thought, “Whaaat? No way! They’ve ruined it now.”? I’m hoping to give examples of times when projects should have been one off and also examples of when sequels / prequels were a complete pile of success and everything in-between. And from this you can hopefully learn some ideas of when to do a sequel / prequel and when not to.

There’s two things you should remember. One is that it’s all about the fans / audience who are attracted to it in the first place. Like Britney Spears trying to be badass; if you have 10 year old fans it just doesn’t work… Also the second thing to remember is that there’s no point arguing with anything I’m about to say; I’m not right nor wrong, this is opinion based. Either take my suggestions and advice or completely ignore them.

Let’s Not Touch THIS Again
Here you’ll find some of what I find to be games and movies that should never have been followed up.

To give you an idea of what I’m talking about I’ll start with the good old movie Speed (starring Keanu Reeves, sorry Rowain I had to). Now this was actually pretty darn good. I seem to remember quite a bit of hype surrounding it when it came out, which I guess it was worthy of. After all it has explosions, guns, Sandra Bullock, tension and a cool evil madman played by Dennis Hopper. Now personally I don’t see this movie with an ending that you can follow on. But 3 years later in 1997 came the sequel.

Here you will learn the first big mistake of making sequels / prequels. To continue a story that has a closed ending is almost always a bad idea. Another example of this is Conan The Destroyer. The original had a lot of thought and philosophy in it, as well as the main fantasy and fighting elements. These combined with its seriousness were what made it a hit and a notch above all the other fantasy movies that were soon to follow. So when Conan The Destroyer came, it took away anything thoughtful behind the movie including its seriousness then added some more combat and a lot of dreadful visual effects. It had continued a closed ending from the first movie. A completely closed ending is where everything is resolved or nothing else will ever possibly happen. Conan destroyed Thulsadoom who was the whole drive behind Conan’s life. Even if there were more “evil” plaguing the land, I’m sure Conan wouldn’t jump to it because it wouldn’t concern him. Fair enough the sequel did start with an okay story, bringing Conan back for not too a bad reason, but really it should have been left a classic and not ever touched again.

Conan The Destroyer also demonstrates another thing to avoid when making a sequel. This is the way that it strips certain aspects of the original and develops on others. This is normally the way forward with all things however this is also how you can get bad sequels. So not only trying to continue with a new crappy story that links on from a closed ending but it’s also emphasising different aspects. It’s worth doing a survey if you’re going to do more of something and less of another. At least this way you can please the majority of people by making more of what most people see as important and less of the insignificant or silly things. But it looks like they never followed this and assumed too much of what people liked in the movie, thus inevitably resulting in a not so good sequel.

Probably one of the biggest game examples of a bad sequel would have to be Metal Gear Solid 2. MGS was pretty revolutionary when it first came out, blending stealth and action in a way that could only be seen elsewhere in the Tenchu series. There were probably some other earlier stealth based games like Rainbow Six around at the time but I’m not entirely sure. One thing we can say is that MGS was the first decent stab at this genre, as Tenchu is a medieval based game and MGS is a modern / minutely post – modern setting. So what happened with MGS2? Well it was following a pretty tight ending, Metal Gear Rex was destroyed and everything turned out great (in the good ending) well at least from what I remember. Now MGS2 doesn’t have an awful story but you can just as well say it’s following on from a closed ending. Personally I’ve only played a small bit of MGS2 but combining my first impressions (and I’m open minded) with all of the reviews and friend’s comments that I hear, this game doesn’t really do MGS much justice. I think they developed on the stealth aspect slightly too much. As soon as I was found I would die, no doubt about it. Call me bad at the game, say what you will but I was always good at MGS. And to find I can’t batter a guard with my knuckles in a corner, or even return fire without dying makes me sad. So to me, this game is exactly like Conan The Destroyer. They tried to make it look better (and too concerned with this they messed up), followed a closed ending and developed a lot of aspects that didn’t really need developing at all.

Let’s Touch THIS Again
Here you’ll find some of what I find to be games and movies that were definitely good to have been followed up.

I’m going to start with X-Men 2. The original was a pretty nice movie, and the sequel was equal to if not a bit better. The first thing you might notice is that it did not have a closed ending at all. Magneto may have been in a plastic prison, cased closed. But then again, we always knew he was going to escape; he was still alive, it was inevitable as it clearly gave the impression of a sequel. Even Magneto himself said “You can’t keep me here forever.” And from that we can say that the ending was open. Not open in the sense that you have to judge what happens for yourself but open in the sense that it’s open to a sequel. So far so good I guess.

Next we can say that X-Men 2 remained tied closely to the original theme. Nothing happened that you wouldn’t completely see out of place in the first movie, which is good news. Yeah they joined forces with Magneto but you didn’t see sex scenes, a joust battle or a flying dragon if you know what I’m saying. It was all very feasible. One thing that it did have that wasn’t properly there before is a comic butt. Nightcrawler was the humorous character, much like Jar Jar Binks in Star Wars Episode I. Nonetheless he didn’t represent any new kind of humour, all of the jokes based around him were much like the same jokes and humour you would find in the original X-Men movie. So here we see a sequel developing in areas that the majority of it’s fans would like to see developed, therefore we have a good sequel.

You’re probably wanted a game example of this, no? I think I’m going to use Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance II as my example. I know this is actually the third Baldur’s Gate game, but to be honest it’s the second Dark Alliance II game so I can easily use this for my good sequel. To start, its ending was completely leading to a sequel. Your hero(s) were thrown into a new land and the lizard-man was seen conspiring with a greater threat than Eldrith. So this game, much like X-Men 2, was foretold to be coming just from the ending. But make no mistake, much like The Matrix and many of John Carpenter’s movies (like The Thing) an open ending for a sequel doesn’t always make a sequel a good idea. Some masterpieces are worth leaving to retain their dignity and keep them as classics or a “cult movie” as some people would say.

Anyways, so we have the open for a sequel ending. The actual game itself advances the areas the majority of its fans would like to see more of. So for example, it has more characters, more skills, more areas to go to and some new features such as the workshop system. It also has better graphics, which are often intrinsically expected with a sequel. And there you bluntly have it, another good sequel. We don’t see as much cleavage and hot women as we did in the last one. It dropped that idea I think. If it were to have lots of semi-naked hot ladies, including the playable characters it might attract new attention and lose old fans. There would have been more Duke Nukem fans playing it I’d imagine. Not that there’s anything wrong with Duke, he’s awesome. But you see what I mean. If they’d enhanced some of those minor and not important aspects, the sequel would have easily been a bad one, losing many fans by developing the wrong areas of the game and bringing nothing which was expected of it.

Some Things I’d Like To See And Not See
To finish I’m just going to list some movies and games I wish had never had (and will have no more) sequels / prequels and then some that I wish had more or at least one sequel / prequel.

Bad Sequels
Movies: Police Academy (how many were there? 8?), Matrix (all the jokes made the sequels funny), Conan (come on…), Lord of the Rings (no more please, please, please), Mortal Kombat (Annihilation sucked).

Games: BloodRayne (please stop the sequel in production, repetition + nazi’s = boring), Breath of Fire (not too bad but the series is as good as dead now), Tekken (this game is going nowhere), Final Fantasy (stop defying your name), Virtual Figher (get back to the megadrive / genesis!).

More Sequels Please
Movies: Mortal Kombat (I’m looking forward to the one in production), X-Men (it can’t be too bad, I want to see Juggernaught), Pirates of the Carribean (Jack Sparrow needs a movie of his own).

Games: Grand Theft Auto (make more, this is like The Sims but more fun), Soul Calibur (this game is great, merge it with Dynasty Warriors and it would be the best game ever), Summoner (good, dark, serious games, they need another one), Vagrant Story (I miss this game).