Game genre

Games are always ranked in their respective category, RTS, RPG, FPS, racing, flight simulator, etc. Come to think of it, computer game (I have to exclude console games from my illustrations since I am not at all familiar with them, but I don’t see what I say here cannot be hold true for them as well) is a strictly genre entertainment, much like movie was (and largely still is) years ago.

But there have been suggestions that the best game in its category is the one that intentionally blur the boundary.

For example, the best RPG in 2006 has been Oblivion. Why Oblivion is good? It is partly because this game has stunning graphics and exciting battles comparable to a FPS, whereas still keeping all the charisma of the RPG genre: freedom to roam, mod possibility, unpredictable encounters and their consequences.

These advantages would become clearer if we compare Oblivion to NeverWinterNight II. The latter is just another RPG, although the graphics sees some improvement.

As for RTS, few would deny that Company of Heroes is a striking game. Why? Again, compare it to Age of Empire III, which is a conventional RTS game, not only that COH successfully deploys many interesting characteristics pertinent to its content, but we can see COH is definitely one step ahead toward a more cinematic scenario. The ability to zoom in, adjust the angle, and the fine detail (at present) in close-up completely revised the definition of RTS genre. The detail is not as fine as, for example, Call of Duty II, but sometimes, especially in the cinematic replay mode, you get a sense of the macro-action.

Now, as for FPS, some believe that 2006 did not produce a satisfactory FPS which can be said on par with 2005’s F.E.A.R. This is probably because that neither RainbowSix Vegas, nor Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, nor any other game in the category, show a significant advance in terms of graphics. But do they offer a fresh insight of the genre? I think in a sense they do.
Both these two games offer a mode of team operation. Unlike previous FPS where you fight alone and be “doomed”, or have dumb companion that you have to escort, now we have a really operable team. In GRAW you can strategically deploy your group members onto different map locations. You can customize their weapon to achieve a desired combination. You can order them to fight, move, cover; you can watch the live video feed from their helmet. In RSV you have only two team members, but they are so indispensable in numerous door-clearing or flanking jobs. Although in these two games the team you command is still far less intelligent than those you may encounter, say, in a online multiplayer CS game, it does make your fighting more pleasant.

If we take this as a step of incorporating RTS elements into a FPS, imagine what the future RTS-FPS game would be like. For example, you would be a soldier first and assigned various missions. You will learn to fight as well as, command. After you accomplished your training you will be in charge of smaller combat scenarios. And the scenario will grow as your capacity grows. In the end, you would have no difficulty operating a thousand men because they would be much more intelligent than those you can use in a RTS game today.

The other possibility is to go for a RPG like freedom, that is, the opposite direction of Oblivion. Most of the FPS nowadays are based on a storyline. And the best of them, like F.E.A.R, does have a very good storyline. As the credits shows, the ultimate goal is produce a film out of the game playing experience. But is the film meant to be watched only once? Would you play it again? In F.E.A.R., Your route is restricted to the only one and the exact enemy will be waiting for you at the exact location of this route. It is just so repetitive.

What do gamers want? It is probably high time for the industry to have a good reflection of the issue. Of course there is the graphics. But aren’t we putting too much emphasis on it? I recently upgrade from ATI 1600pro to 1950pro and get a performance boost of approximately four times. But does that make a difference? I wish I could say yes. But the only impression I get is that it is probably not enough to make a real difference. What will make one, then? Geforce 8800? But again, how many percent of the gamers can afford the price?

Instead of urging us to buy new graphic cards, the game industry can do something really beneficial, that is, to be more creative in the game design. Creativity is a vague word and it is difficult. I know that. But if you cannot create something entirely new, just borrow elements from the other genre. And that will do for now.


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