New and Old

Tonight we begin with a couple of different links. First, I have to give a shout out to Yahtzee, that writer of flash-based animated video game reviews who brings a heretofore almost unheard of level of bitterness to the game. The target of his ire this week is close to my heart since he takes Zelda and literally skewers the game headfirst on a pike.

As Mr. Yahtzee says, if any other developer (except perhaps Valve) spent their days repackaging their “IP” the way Nintendo does they’d be taken to task by an almost uncountable number of interweb forum dorks for being no better for “the industry” than that decrepit punch toy of the gaming forum bully: EA. And yet it doesn’t happen. Every new Zelda game is hailed as the next in a series of nearly orgasmic experience of sheer pure Nintendo gaming bli ss. A while back, Gamespot tried to call the most recent Wii Zelda a little bit stale and the site was nearly destroyed by the fanboy backlash. I have no love for Gamespot, but surely everyone can see that they were right about this one.

Anyway, as the subject of repackaged classic games rolled around in my head, I remembered that it came up on the latest Gamers with Jobs podcast. Here they read an email about how frustrating it can be to play older PC games on a modern PC with a modern version of Windows. As these things go, they were soon talking about whether old games should be remade or repackaged to be more playable on the new hardware. As usual, the GWJ people, like most gamers, I think, would rather developers concentrate on the new. We are often taught to think that variety and novelty are the engines that drive the video game development industry. But I disagree. There is evidence all around us that while the work may not be the most glorious, there are genuine opportunities to be had in concentrating on the old.

Consider that the current darling of the gaming industry, Nintendo, aside from a few clever hardware hacks and novel control schemes has basically weathered two console cycles and is looking to kick unholy ass in a third while basically coasting on a nearly unchanged set of core franchises that allow them to build games just by pouring new content into existing templates.

Consider that even those novelty-loving scamps at Gamers With Jobs who themselves admit to being high falutin’ gaming snobs are all completely in love with GameTap, a service that allows them to play old games without hassle.

Consider how much money Square has made by remaking every Final Fantasy game 12 times. Because they did this I get to play the first ten missions of Final Fantasy Tactics on my PSP on the road. How great is that?

I think people like playing their favorite games over and over again. They get attached to the mechanics and the little rushes of satisfaction that the familiar brings. After all, why would you play WoW if you didn’t like repetition? Also, while the history of video games is short, not everyone has been in on the whole timeline. Therefore, there is a lot of utility in bringing older classic games up to the modern platforms where they can be enjoyed again by literally thousands of new addicts, er, fans, who missed out the first time and don’t want to go digging up a lot of hardware by buying it from peterb’s basement.

Therefore, I have to say that I am fine with people making old games again. After all, one of the best games of this year, Bioshock, is arguably a remake. If the work is done with the love of the original as a first priority and it is done by people who are talented and competent enough to do a good job, I see no problem with it at all. After all, there is no difference to me between a new game and an old game I never played before. As long as they are both good.