Making the case for epic video games

Some developers think epic video games will be long gone in a few years, but Don Reisinger wants to save them. Will it work?

Gamasutra yesterday featured a story about Junction Point's Warren Spector, who took issue with some of the prevailing trends in the video game industry.

"Game costs are going to be $35-40 million, even $100 million, and the expectations are huge," he said at the Game Education Summit last week. "You have to differentiate yourselves. One-hundred hour games are on the way out... How many of you have finished GTA? Two percent, probably. If we're spending $100 million on a game, we want you to see the last level!"

Spector went on to explain the video game business is changing and although it didn't care about the story in a game years ago, it's now one of the main attractions and certainly paramount in developer minds.

Although Spector made a number of good points, he seems to believe that epic titles like GTA IV, which are capable of lasting you as little or as long as you'd like, are a thing of the past and will slowly (but surely) die a slow and agonizing death. Spector ostensibly believes that developers would rather spend cash on parts of a game you'll see than those sections you won't.

His theory makes sense and it's difficult to argue with the logic, but if epic games fall by the wayside and we're left with titles that don't offer the kind of immersion we've come to expect in some titles, what does that mean for the video game industry?

Epic titles that may last 100 hours or more are the true masterpieces of gaming. Sure, you may enjoy a romp through Super Mario Galaxy or running and gunning in Halo, but when it comes down to it, the epic titles like Final Fantasy, Metal Gear Solid, GTA IV, Shenmue, and others, are truly the games that stand apart and make us love video games even more.

In an industry that's trying to look more and more like the movie business, how can it summarily disregard epic games? Sure, the vast majority of people probably won't see every animation in GTA IV or get through every dialogue possibility in MGS 4, but who cares? Both titles are epic games that rise above the derivative and boring, and deliver a totally new, exciting, and mesmerizing experience.

I understand that video game development is becoming increasingly expensive and time and cash are the two most important elements in creating a hit, but epic games should not be left out in the cold in favor or another crappy first-person shooter or more sports games; I've been there and done that.

If we look back at some of the greatest games ever made, few in that list are anything less than an epic tale that captivates our mind and time for over 50 hours. And sure, completion may have taken a while and some of us lost interest half-way through, but others stuck it out and completed a game that made them feel like a part of a world they had never seen before. The experience was greater than any epic movie they'd seen and certainly more interactive. Simply put, it was fantastic.

But can the same be said for Madden or Killzone? Katamari Damacy or Mario Kart Wii? I doubt it.

Epic video games are the only reason the industry is being viewed as "movie-like" and to simply forget about those titles and endeavor to create games that are slim on epic storytelling and big on the same old, same old, is nothing more than ludicrous.

Long live epic games.

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