: Newsflash: Innovation Can Fail

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Newsflash: Innovation Can Fail

It has been a running trend amongst video game critics for years: many sources always put far too much emphasis on "innovation;" i.e., if a game "does something new." Well, there are two major issues that renders such emphasis absurd: 1. gaming is no longer in its infancy; asking for something new with every last big release is almost like asking the same of movies, and 2. innovation can, indeed, fail.

For whatever reason, the aforementioned emphasis has bred the belief that all innovation is always good. I checked the exact definition of the word innovate and it says, "to introduce something new; make changes in anything established." You will note there's no mention that these changes need to be positive, which instantly proves that "changing" or "new" can be poorly implemented, thereby causing a poor result. A perfect example is the recent Tony Hawk: Ride, which has experienced poor sales due to terrible critical reception. Now, Tony Hawk himself has jumped to the defense of his new game, saying that too many reviewers already "had their minds set" before ever playing the game. I don't believe that for a second but the interesting part is the rest of his quote:

"I'm proud of what we created; it's innovative, responsive and fun."

I'll agree with the innovative part, but he tosses the next two adjectives in as if they were givens; as if that innovation automatically translated to a quality gaming experience. Let me explain something to Mr. Hawk and to all these other self-righteous critics who believe that if a game doesn't do "something new," it's inferior to any game that does: there have been a lot of attempts to try new mechanics or new ideas in games before, and a great many of them fail. Most people don't know this because they're not playing the junk that features such failures, but I have to review them and trust me...new ideas and changes don't always work. In fact, they rarely work, which is why good innovation is hard. If it wasn't hard, it'd happen every damn day.

But I'm straying from my primary point, here. What I'm trying to say is that while I encourage developers to give us fresh stuff, and while I appreciate all efforts to be different, we must all accept the fact that innovation can fall flat on its face, as it did with Ride. No, it's not responsive. And because of that, we fail to see how it can be any fun. It's just bad. It just doesn't work very well. Sure, we love the idea, too; ambition should always be applauded. But everyone involved with that project should man up and admit it didn't come out well, return to the drawing board, and earn a second chance at earning the gamer's approval. You can't do that with poorly represented innovation. Shadow of the Colossus is amazing because it featured several new gameplay ideas but those ideas were extremely well executed. That's the difference, people.

And in the end, I'm pretty sick and tired of critics handing out the tired old, "oh, but it didn't do anything new" complaint. I heard this in relation to Uncharted 2 and I just wanted to throttle the person who said it. Who gives a sh**? It's quite possibly one of the most polished, most professional, and oh yes, most entertaining games in the industry's history. Lest we forget, the latter bonus is the reason we all play. Innovation can be great and we need it so the industry doesn't stagnate but damnit, there are other things to consider. Lots of other things. Like, oh, I don't know...if it's any freakin' good.

12/11/2009 Ben Dutka

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Comments (35 posts)

WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, December 11, 2009 @ 10:09:22 PM
Reply

Three words: Heavy Rain, Bitches!

I kinda feel bad for ol Tony though, he feels the need to defend something they worked hard on but when something sucks it just sucks. Hard in this case.

That's one reason I'm looking forward to Dante's Inferno, I don't really care that it could be considered a God of War clone, I mean doesn't that formula work? Hellz yeah. All FPS games were once called Doom clones and look where they are.

Last edited by WorldEndsWithMe on 12/11/2009 10:10:18 PM

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Qubex
Saturday, December 12, 2009 @ 2:08:10 AM

That was the most perfect post opener I have ever read... The world truly ends with you :)

Q!

"i am home"

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tes37
Friday, December 11, 2009 @ 10:22:43 PM
Reply

I read on a different gaming site that in order to review TH: Ride, the site had to purchase it. They said Activision wouldn't send them a copy to review.
I guess they had to make every penny they could

Last edited by tes37 on 12/11/2009 10:25:01 PM

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Tristan
Friday, December 11, 2009 @ 10:24:15 PM
Reply

Can we go back to the 80's or 90's? Where almost everything was responsive and fun.

All your base are belong to us!

Last edited by Tristan on 12/11/2009 10:27:05 PM

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LegendaryWolfeh
Friday, December 11, 2009 @ 11:38:30 PM

You have no chance to survive, make your time.

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SnipeySnake
Saturday, December 12, 2009 @ 1:44:14 AM

Man i wish i grew up on that time. Games were fun then.

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Beamboom
Saturday, December 12, 2009 @ 7:57:57 AM

If you really mean that SnipeySnake, then just buy the small games on psn. They are in essence what the games were before. Simple in concept, repetitive in action, linear in story and short.

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tes37
Saturday, December 12, 2009 @ 9:34:11 AM

@ SnipeySnake

Most games were fun, but some games back then were just too hard to beat and with no way of saving progress, you always started from the beginning each time. Coin-op was the big thing instead of home consoles.

I was playing Akari Warriors with a friend in a laundrymat in Dallas when some people came in to rob the game machines. I refused to move from my game because I put my money in and wanted to play until my character was killed. They told me if I moved they would punch in loads of credits, so I did. My friend and I played until we beat the game and it shutdown like we fried it or something. Some games from way back seemed like the dev. had no intention of you beating it. I do still like oldschool and miss it sometimes, but most games have changed for the better imo.

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Willcome2Urf
Friday, December 11, 2009 @ 11:13:09 PM
Reply

There are only three primary colors but we continue to find interesting uses for them every single day. I don't mind having a million first person shooters as long as we can continue to find innovative and FUN ways to deliver the gaming experience. Portal is one of the most amazing games I have ever played. It didn't push any technological boundaries or introduce any new hardware. Something new doesn't always equate to something innovative.

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Willcome2Urf
Friday, December 11, 2009 @ 11:16:33 PM
Reply

Games like Uncharted 2 are laying the foundation for truly narrative gaming. A study in whats to come for interactive cinema. If that's not forward thinking I don't know what is. Plus it's just awesome gaming.

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Beamboom
Saturday, December 12, 2009 @ 7:59:49 AM

Now *this* I agree with. Interactive cinema, that's the genre. And as such, it's definately the best release so far in the history of gaming.

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just2skillf00l
Friday, December 11, 2009 @ 11:33:24 PM
Reply

Honestly, that's why I think some people don't see UC2 as a big GOTY contender. Because it wasn't innovative. That is the dumbest reason not to give an awesome game, which is UC2, the GOTY award. MW2 didn't do anything different either. It is just so popular and so established as a franchise that it doesn't need to do anything different. A simple disfigured clone in MW2's case will suffice and grant it awards beyond other game's developers widest dreams.

However, UC2 was innovative in a way. It introduced stunning visuals like never seen before in the gaming industry; making use of vibrant colors as opposed to the washed-out visuals some games expose us too. So it was innovative in it's own unique way. And I'll be grandly disappointed if this awesome game doesn't get the GOTY award. Who can sincerely say it doesn't deserve it?

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WorldEndsWithMe
Friday, December 11, 2009 @ 11:46:45 PM

MW2 is proof positive that innovation isn't really required.

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Highlander
Saturday, December 12, 2009 @ 12:19:29 AM
Reply

I think it's kinda like this. innovation is invention, the creation of something new, something that isn't merely a reworking of an existing product. It doesn't have to be an entirely new genre, but it needs to have something truly new about it. That would be innovation.

As time passes and new ideas are harder to come by because products and markets mature, we get to the point where innovation slows and instead we have evolution, or refinement. I think that in many ways games (like movies already have) are getting to that stage of their life. A good developer can polish a concept and use it in a new game, refining and evolving the concept a little when compared to the previous version.

I believe that when this maturation occurs, the consumers become so conditioned to the sequels, prequels, parody, tribute and 'cover' versions of things that they like the 'warmth' of the familiar concept, and characters. So an entirely new movie with a new concept and cast comes along and may not be well received.

In video games the current market has a saturation of sequels. Madden 10, NHL 10, Call of Duty MW2, Guitar Hero 5, GT5, Forza 3, FF XIII, R&C ACIT (which is something like the 9th R&C game). he market likes sequels, it like the familiar. Look at games that are truly 'new'. LBP, slow initial sales, but a long tail. Uncharted Drakes Fortune. Low initial sales but a incredibly long tail and massive sequel. New, innovative games may be so 'new' and different to everything else that they scare some, and perhaps attract others. Valkyria Chronicles is another good example. It's part JRPG and part SRPG and part tactical combat. The art style was new, and it wasn't an established cast or backstory. But, it's a beautiful game that any RPG fan should be able to enjoy. Yet it's sales have been slow, perhaps because it's too new?

In the long run, I believe that innovation may come in new forms. For example, it would almost be innovative for a game to use a traditional JRPG turn based combat style. It might be innovative for a game to have an involving, thought provoking story, or perhaps even characters that people actually love enough to shed a tear or laugh with joy during a game. Producing a sequel by the numbers isn't hard, you add familiar characters, setting and art, throw in some new upbeat music, a bit more action and a struggle of good vs Evil. Sorted.

But, if truly innovative ideas become few and far between, innovation may be more about the approach to quality that the developer takes. makers of games will have to find other ways to innovate.

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tes37
Saturday, December 12, 2009 @ 8:03:48 AM

We need a couple more developers that have an attitude like Yngwie Malmstein has with music. He stated a long time ago that he doesn't listen to other peoples music so that he always sounds like himself. Funny thing is he sounded alot like Randy Rhoads, but that was a good thing. Developers who ignore others and do their own thing usually come up with fresh ideas and interesting concepts. I'm willing to take a chance on something new if there is some excitement from the developer about their game. I'm in no way suggesting they throw out things that work, but I'm always on the lookout for the new and unique.

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BigBoss4ever
Saturday, December 12, 2009 @ 1:02:37 AM
Reply

"...innovation can, indeed, fail...." --- awesome topics that voiced out what has been on my mind in this entire generation of games. give 1000 points for bringing that up Ben.

Look at those games, or just look at the RPGs, we no longer have the classic feeling of the golden RPG era, so far as to many true RPG lovers or gamers just dwelling on the old ps1/ps2 rpg collections to satisfy the dreams and fantasy offered by those titles

Last edited by BigBoss4ever on 12/12/2009 1:05:02 AM

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A2K78
Saturday, December 12, 2009 @ 1:14:06 AM
Reply

As I said in another post nothing about Tony Hawk Ride, there is nothing innovative about the game because the play style have already been done in arcades.

As for innovation failing, innovations don't fail but gimmicks do fail, Tony Hawk being one of those gimmicks. To say that innovations can fail would be to say that innovations like the walkman or even the US Constitution can fail. To further add innovations always carry risk whereas gimmicks are nothing but an evolution of a fads or simpily put it, something that already have been done.

Looking at the current state of the game industry there haven't been nothing really innovative in the very long time aside from the fact actual game innovations seem to flourishing well in the arcade industry.

In the end people need to learn to seperate innovation from gimmick.

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Alienange
Saturday, December 12, 2009 @ 1:19:58 AM
Reply

According to Arnold's review there's a lot more wrong with Ride than just the stupid controller. I think they were fresh out of ideas for skateboarding games when the memo from Kotick arrived on their desks saying "Listen drones, add plastic to your games or get out."

Last edited by Alienange on 12/12/2009 1:20:26 AM

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Qubex
Saturday, December 12, 2009 @ 2:12:08 AM

He deactivated them!

Q!

"i am home"

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A2K78
Saturday, December 12, 2009 @ 1:23:12 AM
Reply

"Look at those games, or just look at the RPGs, we no longer have the classic feeling of the golden RPG era"

Maybe this has to do with the mainstreaming of gaming, ever stop to think about that?

"In video games the current market has a saturation of sequels."

The current market have notjust been saturated, its been stagnated. The funny thing is western game developers seem to making that stagnation even more apparent. I mean how many shooters/FPSs are we going to get in 1 year?

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Highlander
Saturday, December 12, 2009 @ 1:33:43 AM

Infinity + 1?

;)

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SnipeySnake
Saturday, December 12, 2009 @ 1:45:13 AM

Thats why i hate most western games.

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Fane1024
Saturday, December 12, 2009 @ 9:10:11 PM

Western game developers innovate 100 times more than Japanese developers. If it were up to the Japanese developers, we'd still be playing 2D side scrollers and nothing else.

There are lots of reasons to praise Japanese developers, but innovation is not one of them. Gimmicks, yes. Advancements, no.

They just devise new names for the same out-dated systems.

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BikerSaint
Saturday, December 12, 2009 @ 2:14:08 AM
Reply

<<<<I mean how many shooters/FPSs are we going to get in 1 year?>>>>

Well, I for one am not thrilled with all the FPS, but I am looking forward to this upcoming FPS called "HOMEFRONT"

Penned by John Milius (Apocalypse Now & Red Dawn), Homefront is set ten years into a global energy crisis, and follows the American Civilian Resistance as they fight to reclaim their homeland from 2 years of oppressive North Korean occupation.

With the fourth largest standing army in the world, the now nuclear North Korea has overtaken not only South Korea, but has become a major internal threat to a struggling United States. http://www.homefront-game.com/#/home


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BTNwarrior
Saturday, December 12, 2009 @ 2:23:51 AM
Reply

well inovation is great, but it usually is only successful if it is a small inovation that builds on old standards. Kinda like how it was innovative for FPS to start using L1 as the aim button instead of clicking the right analoge stick, the first game that I ever played that did this was COD4, not sure if it was the first to do it but after that little inovation every FPS that doesn't have it feels wrong

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___________
Saturday, December 12, 2009 @ 2:28:39 AM
Reply

i think that was quite obvious.
perfect example would be LAIR.
that was the first game to fully support six axis and MAN were the controls a pain in the ... guitar hero another perfect example.
i use to love playing that game using my DS3 controller, ever since they added the other peripherals i cant do that :(
innovation does not automatically mean a good thing.
but every good game needs it.

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Banky A
Saturday, December 12, 2009 @ 3:33:11 AM
Reply

Mmm tricky.

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JackC8
Saturday, December 12, 2009 @ 8:33:39 AM
Reply

I don't think that Tony Hawk game was a failure of innovation - if the board had actually worked, and if the skateparks hadn't been dull as dirt, it might have been a good game. It's a failure because of greed. Let's give people a bargain basement piece of s*** board so Kotick can get a new 150 foot yacht and impress all the other rich folks at Saint Tropez.

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Lotusflow3r
Saturday, December 12, 2009 @ 9:34:16 AM
Reply

lol

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Gone
Saturday, December 12, 2009 @ 9:36:04 AM
Reply

"If it wasn't hard, it'd happen every damn day." - That's what she said.

Innovation leads to motivation.

If it ain't broke don't fix it (Gran Turismo's policy).

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tes37
Saturday, December 12, 2009 @ 11:17:25 AM

That post you made and deleted the other day in regards to being hypnotized was rather funny.

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Gone
Saturday, December 12, 2009 @ 12:10:08 PM

Thanks. Sometimes I try to be funny, but then realize people get carried away with the thumbs down for being funny.

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tes37
Saturday, December 12, 2009 @ 12:45:47 PM

I wouldn't worry about the thumbs down too much. I just try not to offend Ben and Arnold, or the person I'm joking with.

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swapnilgyani
Saturday, December 12, 2009 @ 12:49:46 PM
Reply

I think the best of example of innovation that worked on some levels and failed on others is Mirror's Edge.

The concept of a game on free running, the white-washed layout of the city with interactive objects glowing red - all of this innovation worked very well.

The controls, on the other hand, while certainly innovative, just felt frustrating many times.

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bigrailer19
Saturday, December 12, 2009 @ 12:55:50 PM
Reply

innovation can fail yes, but its what pushes the industry. You fail and try again, but in some cases its not worth trying to build upon some things.

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