Friday, July 8, 2011

On My Mind: Radical Directions (again)

So around two months ago I had a post about "Radical Directions", basically questioning drastic changes for any specific franchises. Interestingly, I actually got a reply from someone who's working on the Ridge Racer game, suggesting that I should be more open to what's being done. Personally, I'm pretty open to major changes to game franchises (it's not like I'm that heavily invested in any of them), but when I blogged about those games, it was with the mindset of "what would the general public think". This is important, as most people aren't going to be as forgiving and as lenient in trying something new...

Then we got Burnout CRASH. wait, what the hell happened here? My initial reaction was one of "what the hell", and "wait, what the hell is this". This isn't the Burnout, or the various crash modes that I remember:

...or the Showtime mode which was found in Paradise:

...let's back this up a bit, and actually explain the old crash mode, and play a bit of devil's advocate in explaining why it's actually like the new game.

Burnout's Crash Mode (and Showtime) in a paragraph

One of Burnout's main attraction as a racing game was the incredible crash physics/particle effects when it first launched on the PS2. Crash Mode was probably an offshoot gameplay idea to take advantage of this visual effect. Players are given a certain setup to crash into, creating a chain reaction of crashes: the more cars are involved, the more damage inflicted, the higher the score. Modifiers such as item pickups were scattered around the stages, and so were specific patterns of vehicles, making it a very strategic puzzle experience. Takedown and Revenge followed up with other additions such as crashbreakers and traffic checking. Even Paradise' Showtime follows a similar formula of having pre-determined traffic patterns at certain road sections, forcing players to strategically plan out their path of crashing.

Why Burnout CRASH is exactly what we've been getting all along

If you analyze what's the core mechanic, the "strategically placed" crashes into patterns of traffic, then you realize that all the crash modes are exactly the same. Paradise' Showtime mode works the same in principle, even though it does not have pre-determined crash junctions, and in theory can last forever. The core mechanic of crash mode is still "a puzzle game where you find the optimal point to crash into", with sequels adding "and find additional points to get even higher score". If you're willing to distill the game to that, then yes, all the Crash mode (even Showtime) is that same game.

So why are people upset?

A picture is worth a thousand words, so here's the first two results for "Burnout Crash" on google:
Now compare that to Burnout CRASH:
... can you identify what's different?

Perception is reality, and that really holds true here. Never mind the fact that this isn't the full on Burnout game that people've been waiting for, the fact that this "crash mode", at first glance, seems to be nothing like the games of the old will disappoint people. Sure, the core principles of the game is the same, but how many people who played the game was able to truly appreciate that over "IT'S THE CAR PORN OF CRASHING"? When a brand is established, to be of a certain type of game, it's very hard to get away from it. Imagine the next Call of Duty being announced as a side scroller or Halo as a racing game, and you'd get the same responses here. Even if the game is based on the same idea and plays fantastic, there will be a backlash from fans asking, "well what the hell happened"?

Is there a remedy to this?

...outside of not doing something as drastic? I believe so, and in fact, I think Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light was the perfect example of how to do it.

One of the first things the developers did here was name the game differently. People will still recognize it as part of the franchise, but it was apparent that they were trying to disassociate the game to the core franchises. The other (and much more important) thing was to be upfront about the fact that this is a spin-off game, it is intended to be different, and it's not about delivering the same experience as before. While branding is important, it also creates expectation that any drastic changes as a negative move.

Like my other post, I honestly do hope that this new Burnout won't disappoint. I just hope they have a better plan to market this game to people who were expecting more of the same.

1 comment:

  1. The naming is a huge part of setting expectations and finding the right market. It looks more like Burnout Crash Minis.