Tiny Revolutions

The MMOGosphere is all atwitter about Star Wars: the Old Republic going microtransactional. Critique-geeks seem to have an obsession with naming and classifying things. Evolutionary? Revolutionary? That feature’s just an evolution of Game X yada yada. That’s a totally revolutionary game. Blah blah blah. What does history say?

MUD was arguably the seminal multiplayer online RPG. It may not quite have been the first, and it may have just been an evolution on the pencil-and-paper mechanics of fantasy RPGs — but an entire genre of online games for decades were named after it. Vive la revolution!

Katamari Damacy was a revolutionary kind of game. There was less focus on difficulty and complex systems, and a lot of focus on fun. The graphics were whimsical. The premise was downright silly. The song is stuck in my head — AHH THE SONG! Controls were intuitive and a ton of fun. “Success” meant getting downright ridiculous. So, as the Prince of All Cosmos rolled his Katamari around, with EVERYTHING sticking to it, and you eventually roll around a globe picking up entire continents, gamers geeked out. As a piece of artistic game design, it was brilliant! And it was a budget-priced title at release. And yet, what are the ongoing effects? Where are the other neat, whimsical, budget-priced games? Oh sure, there are a few gems like Braid, but if you asked 95% of XBox 360 owners about it, they’d say “What’s Braid?” So… where’s my revolution, dammit?

World of Warcraft (a game which needs no Wikipediazation) has clearly revolutionized the MMORPG genre. Gameplay and design? YADC – Yet Another Diku Clone. Very little real advancement of the idiom, genre, or mechanics. Graphics and presentation are about on-par with slightly older games (which is a good thing, as it massively increases the number of systems that can run it well). If you presented me the naked design, I’d guess that the game was awful. But in practice, the execution was just so excellent that it’s redefined the genre. Thanks, Blizzard — the AAA MMORPG is now forever doomed! After WoW’s 10+ million subscribers, no title costing tens of millions of dollars will be satisfied with a paltry few hundred thousand, which WAS the bar for success before! Now, no responsible AAA development company can risk much deviation from the established pattern of success. A pox on the revolution!

Civilization ushered in the golden days of PC gaming simulation games. The series progressed over time, usually growing slightly in scope or complexity. And it never really made the jump to mainstream… although a slightly slimmed-down version is now on the current consoles. Revolutions happen in unexpected times and places!

What will be the next Tiny Revolution?

About Tachevert

A cofounder of www.WorldIV.com and full-time geek, Tachevert writes about whatever strikes his fancy. Despite the inherent contradiction, he can often be found videogaming or attempting to run.
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