Thursday, 31 March 2011

Changing Games

Dragon Age 2 has upset me.

I really enjoyed the game. Sure, it had its flaws, but on the whole I was very pleased with the changes made since the original Dragon Age Origins. The fact that many fans of the original do not share this opinion would not upset me, but for the ferocity of the hatred these fans have for the sequel.

Dragon Age 2 was met with mixed reviews,
particularly among fans
I can ignore the odd hater or two hundred, but when fans write threads on the developer’s forum with titles requesting the firing of specific senior developers, it gets personal. I can’t even imagine how I would feel if I were one of the individuals being attacked in such threads.

So what have Bioware done to offend their fans so? Changed stuff. Ruthlessly – or so a hater would have it. If somebody feels something is perfect, then before you even tell them what the change is, their default stance is: a change from perfection can only be worse! This has been the case with Dragon Age 2, but the biggest pity is that not only were the changes good (in my opinion)… but they weren’t actually changing the core stuff at all!
Whats curious with change, is how it would have worked the opposite way around – if Dragon Age 2 came out before Dragon Age Origins. I hypothesise (in a statement that could never possibly be disproved) that fans would hate Dragon Age Origins.

So how does one implement change in a game series? Probably the same way you’d implement any change. So I did a search on how to cope with change, and found an iVillage article on this subject. You’d be surprised how applicable many of their tips are to changes in games. So here’s a summary, inspired by that article on how a developer should implement a change to a successful formula.

Football game developers delay planned changes
to deliver just the right amount of familiar and new.
Don't believe me? then you won't have any difficulty
identifying the game (and version) shown above...
Take your time. Thrusting a change onto someone is likely to result in an adverse reaction (see “sink or swim”). Leaving it more than 18 months is a bare minimum for a sequel with lots of change (nudge, nudge Bioware) . Implementing the changes over two or more games is better still, and will allow you to have hooks for the next game in the series. MIKENOTE: FOOTBALL GAMES

Get players on your side. Get them wanting the change: show them there’s good in it. Explain why the new is better than the old. Admitting the old was bad is a double-edged sword: you run the danger of being hostile to your fans’ nostalgia, but doing so often better demonstrates the need for the change. Handle with care.

Avoid Alienation. If you’re implementing a big change, then hang on to familiar aspects so it’s not totally alien. If you want to change so much that nothing is familiar, then take a bold step and give it a new name – if you had to change so much, it’s probably good to avoid the old title!

Some things simply have to be changed. Like this baby.
Don't let unpleasantness stop you.
Divide up the changes. Implementing changes over the course of the first half of the game (rather than all at the start) is great if possible. If not, consider releasing a demo ahead of release with some of the changes shown, provided they reflect the changes very positively.

Accept the changes. Don’t try and hide the changes away or tell players only small changes have been made – you’ll only make the shock greater. You’ve changed stuff for a reason (hopefully), so be confident about the changes.

No comments:

Post a Comment