Top 5 Friday: Things That Need A New Take

Today I’ll be listing the things I think need a new take, but when I say that, I’m not confining my self to a genre, platform, mechanic, or anything else really.  I’ll be covering all the bases.  There are a lot of things in the gaming industry that need a breath of new life, so I’ll be running the gamut.  As always, feel free to comment and add your thoughts, tell me why I’m wrong, etc…

5.  Wrestling.

I’ll occasionally look up wrestling highlights as some strange form of masochism.  I’m not really interested in becoming a true wrestling fan again.  That said, I kind of miss wrestling games.  I remember really enjoying them, but these days they seem more like a Madden type of franchise.  Yearly offerings, little innovation, etc…  Also, at this point virtually everyone understands that it’s fake.  In fact, the only players who might think it’s real are most likely too young to buy the game anyway, so let’s just drop the facade.

I believe that a wrestling game where the focus was less about winning a fight and more about creating an engaging match.  You could switch between the in-ring performers, with the AI controlling whoever you weren’t.  You could queue up big moves, kick-outs, etc…  You’d also be in charge of keeping the fans engaged and surprised, while maintaining your roster’s health.  As an example, having every match be a cage match and having the same performer jump off the top of the cage would be exciting, but it wouldn’t take long before that performer was out with an injury, derailing his popularity.  It would be decidedly strategic in gameplay, but it would be a fresh take on a genre that desperately needs it.

4.  Crafting.

Raise your hand if you love crafting.  That’s what I thought.  The audience in my mind has scarce few hands in the air.  Let’s be honest here, no one loves crafting.  In fact, I’d argue that it’s a completely misunderstood and misused system.  To elaborate, most crafting systems involve the following; gather a bunch of stuff, (possibly) learn a recipe, put all the ingredients in their proper spots in special crafting menu, receive item.  This is not engaging at all, and the only real challenge is the act of collecting the material which typically isn’t difficult at all but instead time consuming.

I’d propose that someone create a crafting system that actually involves craftsmanship.  I’m sure that I could look up how to forge a sword on YouTube and make one.  Would it be a nice sword?  Absolutely not.  Would it vaguely look like a sword?  Maybe.  By contrast, the Japanese blacksmiths who forge katanas out of specially chosen iron ore are masters.  Their work is beautiful.  It’s not about simply about gathering enough iron.  The quality of the iron matters, as does the ability of the hands that work it.  Crafting should be about crafting not gathering.  Granted, I don’t know exactly how to implement something like that, but I’d still love to see it.

3.  Time Travel.

Time travel isn’t dealt with all that often in games, and when it is, it’s often a sort of half-baked implementation.  Sure, Super Time Force does some cool stuff, but I think there is still a lot of room to grow here.  What’s more, the concept of time travel, when properly implemented, opens up some really great world building opportunities.

Imagine and open world (and it doesn’t even have to be a very big open world) where you could travel back in time at will.  Instead of acting out scripted behaviors, the NPCs would all act based on a set of criteria.  As you changed said criteria, they’d act differently.  For instance, if the game had a simple stock market simulator you could see what stock was going to rise, then go back in time and buy it all up.  People you encountered the first time you lived that day might treat you one way, but when you encountered them after becoming rich they would act completely different.  There are so many interesting possibilities there that it’s almost mind-boggling.

2.  Inventory systems.

Far too often inventory systems are difficult to navigate.  This, to me, is utterly ridiculous.  All an inventory is is a list of items with a count of the amount for each.  This type of software exists in virtually every type of business in the world.  Whether the inventory is groceries at a store, or available operators to do a service, inventory management has been studied and improved over the years; is it so hard for games to use a bit of that research?  I mean seriously, most game inventories are cumbersome, some to the degree that I’ll stop playing the game.  What’s so frustrating about this is how simple the problem really is.  I understand games having buggy or cumbersome systems for stuff that is new and interesting, but that’s not where inventory management fits here.  It’s been a staple of video games (and everything else) for, well, forever.  It’s time game inventories caught up.

1.  Character creation.

I’m a big fan of creating a character; my wife even more so.  It’s fun to choose the look of your avatar.  The trouble is, most of the time neither of is happy with the end result.  It’s not for the reasons you’d think, either.  Most character creation tools have a pretty healthy assortment of options, it’s just that they all look too similar.  The vast majority of the time created characters look like clones of one another.  Sure, there are sliders for brow depth, chin size, and eye angle, but their often not enough to feel different.  The Sims 3 is an especially good example of this type of thing.  The character creator in The Sims 3 seems rich and detailed at first, but it doesn’t take long until you realize that virtually everything you do results in your character having the same vague look.

There’s no reason why character creation needs to be so prevalent, to be honest.  In Mass Effect I’ve always just played as the default look of Shepard.  In Diablo, you don’t get to pick what your class avatar looks like.  If you are going to include character creation tools though, at least make them worthwhile.  I, for one, am thoroughly tired of creating characters that look like they have no personality.