Since I started working at my new job I’ve been analyzing video games more and more. I suppose that is due to the exposure but I’ve seen one trailer that has me thinking. It’s the Dead Rising 2: Off the Record Trailer.
At first all I saw was some fat tourist that was messing around in a zombie filled world while other people were living and dying around him. I was really horrified until I learned who the man was: Frank West. The hero from the first game.
Then I realized just how perfect this was.
The Frank West shown in the trailer wasn’t the man who just barely survived the zombie encounters of the first game. In the first game we get an image of Frank being slowly pushed to the edge until you wonder if he can handle everything, zombies, saving people, his own survival.
Not in Off The Record. The Frank I saw was a man with experience. Someone who was no longer afraid of zombies. For him now this world was his playground. He’d mastered the skills needed to survive and more then that: he’d become what the players made him.
I’ll explain that in a bit. In most games these days when the company does a sequel they try everything in their power to invite new players in and make it seem like a fresh perspective. Introducing a new character (Metal Gear Solid 2, Dead Rising 2) or change the setting to the point where the player has to re-learn things thus invalidating the skills from the first game (Mass Effect to a degree and Metal Gear Solid 4).
It is based on the stupid idea that players need a fresh perspective when starting a new game because their character from the previous one is too experienced. Instead with this game what we have is, as I said before, a character that reflects the experience and experiences of the player.
I heard a lot of jokes about how in the Dead Rising franchise that, despite trying to save lives, most of the time you have a lot of room to just dick around. The footage shown in the trailer is the sort of thing players did with optional features in the game. Frank simply now represents that. He eats for health and thus he’s a heavy set guy. Defeating zombies aren’t challenging so now Frank plays with them. It’s his world and he knows it. He doesn’t shirk his responsibilities but things just aren’t threatening for him anymore.
Imagine if the Doomguy appeared after a few games after what the player did to him, suffering from overdosing on berserk packs, scarred to hell and back from hundreds of demon attacks. Mario would look like a gymnast for all of the jumps and flips he does. It’s a neat idea and I would like to see more games do it. Assassin’s Creed seems to be the only one now actively trying to show how an assassin’s technique improves over the years and becomes more streamlined with age in the case of Ezio, but otherwise it’s as if game developers are afraid to have characters start off with more powers at the start. Never mind that prior to the past two generations of console gaming, we had a 50/50 mix of main characters in adventure games that started at the height of their strength, such as the case Mario, Sonic and Mega Man (who actually kept abilities that he gained over the course of the games); along with other series where they regained weapons and abilities each new game such as with Link, Samus and Ratchet.
Hopefully we’ll see more of this design aesthetic in games but unless a lot of attention is drawn to it, we’ll loose an innovative way to blend storytelling and gameplay in the industry.
So t00 does this work exist.