When we see a door we expect us to be able to open it. When we see a key we expect to pick it up. When we get a pistol we expect to use it to kill stuff. When there's a hallway in Resident Evil, we expect it to be scary as hell.
There are all forms of expectations when we play games. Many are based on other similar games, like when playing an FPS you keep comparing it to how other FPS games work. If you get a handgrenade, you'd expect to throw it. Not to pull the pin, hold the grenade and then die.
Whenever I play a new Mario-game I can be sure of a few things. Like that it'll be accessible, charming and that I won't pee myself because of fear. Hopefully I won't pee myself at all, come to think of it. Anyway, my point is we always have references while playing and we base our expectations on those.
One of the most brilliant ones I've ever played is in the "Lost in Nightmares" expansion for Resident Evil 5.
Back in -96, the first Resident Evil was released and while the game became a hit, there was one part in particular that came to become an instant cult classic. I'm talking about a hallway in which dogs jump in from outside through the windows. The first time around, players weren't ready for it and it scared the living shit out of them, me included. I remember actually having nightmares... Come on, I was 10 years old.
Whenever people talk about scary moments in games, that scene is brought up.
All of the following Resident Evil games of course had more (in amount) scary moments but I don't think anyone was as effective.
In the Lost in Nightmares expansion, you're playing in an estate extremly similar to that in the first game and to the right of the main hall, just like in the original, there's an identical hallway and guess what; it gave me the chills. In addition, you also hear dogs barking. Not nice!
Déjà vu in all its glory. When walking in the exact same corridor again, you get that eerier feeling if knowing that you're in a very, very scary place, but because it's something new at the same time, you do not know what's gonna happen.
It's an excellent example of a good use of the references players that knows about the first Resident Evil have.
If you haven't played it, I'm not gonna spoil what does, or does not happen...
Yesterday, I made a Chocolate Flavoured Sponge Cake. It wasn't all that hard, because I was following a recipe, telling me what ingredients to use and how much of each. It even told me in what order to implement them.
I knew somewhat what I was getting, even before it was done. I expected a sweet, smooth taste and it was what I got. After all, it was a Sponge Cake and after all, I was following a recipe.
There's a new Zelda game out; The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks. I'm expecting a boomerang, bombs and a bow. After all, it's a Zelda game and after all, it's following a recipe.
I haven't played Spirit Tracks yet, but I've played a bunch of the previous titles on the NES, SNES, GB, GBC, NGC, N64 and the Wii. (No, I haven't played the CD-I.) And it's a fact that the Zelda games are all cooked using the same tried and proved recipe each time. Sure, there are variations in the spicing and and presentation, but overall, it's always the same amount of eggs, exploration, salt, bombs, sugar, chests and baking powder.
I'm not in any way saying this is a bad thing. Heck, it obviously works and based on the reception of each game, people still love it.
But what I'm thinking is this: How much is gained and lost when using an old and expected recipe for a game?
I don't know, but it's something I've been thinking about for a few days now. Let's continue with Zelda as our subject. At the moment, I'm playing Phantom Hourglass, because I haven't finished it yet and I don't think I should start playing Spirit Tracks before I have.
Even at the beginning of the game, I "knew" I was gonna get the boomerang. When I saw open eyes in the walls, I realised I would probably need a bow and arrow to shoot it, before the game had actually told me that such a thing exist. This is because it's nearly always the case in Zelda. Whenever I see a crack in the wall, I know I'll need bombs and I'll now I'm gonna get them eventually per default.
Again, this isn't a bad thing, per se. It makes me excited and makes me wanna keep on playing so I can break those walls. It makes me feel comfortable and enjoyed while playing.
But a lot of the "Wow-factor" is gone when I get these items. I'm not thinking "Wow, bombs! Awesome!, I'm thinking "The bombs... Finally.". Not to say that I'm not happy when I get them, I'm just so much more happy when I get something new for the Zelda franchise.
Zelda isn't the only game. Of course not. I heard a new Mario game is out on the Wii. Does it have a fire flower? I thought so. I wonder if there will be huge enemies, chests with magical orbs and quick time events God of War 3? So, played Metroid recently, how about those missiles? And let's not forget the morph ball.
I realise you can't change a game completely when making a sequel, of course developers should keep what's good and of course they shouldn't mess with the foundation.
But I can't help but to wonder what is lost when doing this?
Home Alone with Macaulay Culkin, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation with Chevy Chase or Jingle All the Way with Termi..Erm... Arnold Schwarzenegger.
There are many christmas movies and many of them have followers that even though the movies aren't great, they watch them every year during the holidays. It becomes a tradition and that particular movie gives you that jolly christmas feeling.
Bet you don't have a particular christmas game? It's too bad really but most people doesn't, including me.
Christmas movies are most often low- to mid-budget production but they still make it work, riding on the christmas theme. Movies, in comparison to games are often more able to stand against time. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation is 20 years old next year, yet it's still running on TV right now. I'm watching it while writing this. It's not great, heck it might even be too much to say it's even good if you ask me, but it still works somehow.
I'd love to see some enjoyable christmas games! More than indie and flash-games. I mean smaller professional games; maybe for the XBLA, PSN or Steam.
Right now, I can only think of one real christmas game: James Pod 2: Codename RoboCod for the Amiga (and some other formats) by Millennium Interactive. I remember playing this every now and then for the Amiga 500, enjoying every minute of it!
James Pond is a walking fish with body armour, who is in a battle with his adversary Dr. Maybe. Dr. Maybe has captured lots of penguins as well as toys. Given the code name RoboCod (a pun on RoboCop), the remaining penguins send James on a mission to rescue the other penguins, retrieve the toys and defeat Dr. Maybe.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Pond_2, available 23/12-08
You're in Santa's toy factory and the final boss is Frosty. I mean, that's just pure awesomeness!
I want christmas games for christmas! And I want those games to be able to stand time, so I can play them every year.
It's now 45 minutes to Christmas Eve here in Sweden, so I wish you all a Merry Chstimas!
Edit 24/12-08: Haha, shortly after I posted this I realized; I'm not watching Christmas Vacation at all! It was National Lampoon's Vegas Vacation that was running on TV! The Christmas one is tomorrow. Sorry!