[Disclaimer: The Friday Night Rant is just that, a rant. It contains extemporaneous remarks which are not to be confused with this site’s journalism or editorial opinions. It is meant to be an entertaining take on the industry and may be divisive in nature.]
Tonight’s topic has been a plague this generation as far as I’m concerned. I’m sure you’re all sick of it too. I want to talk about games being developed with a sequel in mind.
On its face the idea makes a lot of sense. You have a property that is a franchise and you need to make sure that the gamer keeps coming back for the next entry. Or you have a new IP that you want to turn into a franchise and to justify the large investment a new IP takes you’ve got to sell sequels. What’s the answer? Well obviously you create a great game right? That will keep them coming back.
But there’s a second part of that calculation that has gotten out of control. In addition to trying to make a great game developers now automatically go for the cliffhanger ending. Now I’m not against cliffhanger endings per se, I think there is a place for them, but there’s a bigger problem at hand than some cheap cash-in tactics.
It’s just that when a whole game is developed to fill the spot before the next game it starts to become little more than a stopgap measure. I don’t believe you can make a game with a beginning, middle, and no end and have it be a powerful enough story to satisfy. The end result is a game with a story that not only doesn’t satisfy but doesn’t make much of a difference in the ongoing game world.
Was I the only one who thought Dead Space 2 did almost nothing to advance the larger arc? It was fun to get inside Isaac’s broken mind but never felt like I accomplished much. Final Fantasy XIII-2 already had one of the worst plots devised by mankind, not capping the end with “To Be Continued” would have been advisable.
Then you’ve got the ever-present danger of the desired sequel never coming to light. In that case it all just hangs out there with no conclusion. Killzone 3 hardly had any ending to speak of, but the one that was there demanded a Killzone 4 to wrap up its many loose ends. Could that still happen? Sure, but with Shadow Fall we already know the final outcome so there is hardly a point in continuing that plot line.
The bottom line is that it saps the creativity out of the game in favor of making the next project an easier transition. Every Bioshock is different and great, every numbered Final Fantasy used to be different and great, each Uncharted is a self-contained adventure. Part of the great challenge of making a sequel should be finding a way to keep going even after an ending, it breeds narrative innovation. Creating a stopgap game breeds narrative calisthenics. Even if developers know they will be doing a sequel they should proceed as if each game is the end.