Sunday, January 25, 2015

The P Diagram (or how to kill a franchise)

There is a relatively common trend that has been getting stronger and sweeping gaming as we know it. It is often an unexplained phenomenon, but at least we can quantify it so I came with a visual way of seen this aberration and that is the P diagram. Today we are going to see the how this kind of thing is happening based on this simple image:

This is the P diagram and it is how many game companies are treating their games. This is the process in which many great franchises are just buried as if they never had any success. The P diagram is not a complex thing to visualize as a whole, but let's start from the very beginning which is the sweetest spot on this cycle.


Birth is the step in the cycle that all game fans love. It is the moment a game releases and becomes a staple of your life as a gamer. At times we don't expect the game to be so good and we just take a leap of faith that is greatly rewarded once we start playing. This step is the part where the community, gaming media and others start praising the game for it's great content and presentation up to a point that it creates believers out of skeptic and although it may not be a perfect piece of software, it was good enough to spawn it's own strong fan base. After this initial success, the company may release a sequel or spin off just to keep the ball rolling, so this is where it all becomes hectic (in a good way) just before it all calms down.


Gaming companies should avoid saturating their franchises or else their quality will be affected (like those silly 1 game per year releases), so after the initial positive reaction goes cold, there is a set amount of time where there are no news about the franchise, but the fan base remains strong. It is the same as a blacksmith letting a red hot blade he just took out of the furnace to cool off in order for it to get solid. It is at this point of the cycle where brand loyalty (same as the blacksmith's sword) will solidify and become even stronger, causing a lot of hype and expectations. As this happens, fan fiction, speculations and rumors begin to flourish as well as a lot of fan service coming from the fans themselves. Now after some time passes, fans start running out fuel and will ask for new material and this doesn't mean more fan based stuff, but the real thing.

In a perfect world, companies would use this hype to boost public interest in their next production to unprecedented levels before releasing a new entry in the franchise that would shower them with money. Sadly the reality is that most of the time the spike in hype is just used to keep gamers interested in the company and not the game itself, so in a scum bag type of way they are using the franchise as a cheerleader rather than an official company product.


At this point hype is still very high, so the gaming media prepares itself to shoot some direct questions and sadly, company employees and higher ups get prepared to block or dodge them. This is the part where we find out that they have no intention of actually releasing the game or that they are just dragging their feet hoping that we just forget about it. This not only applies to making a new entries on a franchise, but it also to other forms of publishing like localizing a game from one region to another (because if a game stays out of your region it is basically as if the game didn't exist and it becomes nothing more than an annoying tease).

It is the murder part of the cycle where company officials come with the most ambiguous or plain dumb excuses. Sometimes they say things like "it isn't in our plans to release it" or they just go with "yeah, we are developing the game, but it is not a priority" or even with "we are waiting until we make another game that surpasses it". These are just some of the "great comebacks" that corporate fellow come up with, but if we throw some logic to those replies we would say that publishers are:

A) Oblivious to the fan base they have created.
B) Making the game one line of code per day.
C) Shoving unwanted stuff to us just because (like saying "Oh you want pizza? Well, here you have some plain crackers. Maybe if you eat enough crackers, we will get you a slice")
D) All of the above

Also at this point companies start making illogical "surveys" by releasing an HD version of an old game and using that as a barometer to see "if people have enough interest". Going back to the pizza/crackers example, this is like they are giving us a left over pizza slice from two months ago and expecting us to savor it as if it were freshly out of the oven, just to see if we still like pizza or not.


This is where the fans lose hope and brand/franchise loyalty takes a hit. Publishers can say whatever they want, but at this point nobody believes them other than those with the biggest sense of blind faith. At this final part of the cycle we finally figure out that we've been fooled. They talked a lot about it, showed us a glimpse of what probably was just some work that was left undone or some previously canned concept just to stir the hive and make us look towards them in order for them to show us their "new" stuff. At this point, fans of the game leave the bandwagon like fans of a losing baseball team in the bottom of the 9th inning and it is at this very moment that it becomes very typical to hear somebody come with the dumbest of remarks. A remark that would be like:

"Hey, I told you guys that people didn't wanted that franchise anymore"

So there we go, we get out empty handed while the publisher loops directly to the hype point again and the fan base gets thinner and thinner until there is really no more interest for what would had probably been one of those franchises that stood the test of time.

So now that all the explaining is done, let's end this by seen a list of 20 games that are currently stuck in the P loop, just to prove that this is indeed real and not something that was just made up:

  • Half-Life 3 (a lot of teasing, but nothing so far, it has become a joke).
  • The Last Guardian (not a priority, says Sony).
  • New Mother / Earthbound (Nintendo seems to be scared of their own game).
  • Final Fantasy 7 remake (remember the massive trolling at the Sony conference?).
  • Legend of the Dragoon 2 (Yoshida said that project started in 2001, but was left unfinished).
  • Mega Man Legends 3 (project probably canned just to spite Inafune for leaving).
  • Mega Man Universe (suffered the same fate as Legends 3).
  • Zone of the Enders 3 (project canned because the HD collection did not sold well).
  • Crash Bandicoot (Sony teases with the mascot, but doesn't get it back).
  • F-Zero (Mr. Miyamoto says that he doesn't "know" how to make another one that works).
  • Wild Arms (studio says they would like to make a new one, but nothing so far).
  • Suikoden (Suikoden 2 sells really well on PSN, yet Konami says nothing).
  • Metroid (it seems that Nintendo will use the old prime series as a barometer).
  • Contra (MercurySteam said would make it then fell silent).
  • Super Mario RPG 2 (in 2006 Square Enix said that if Nintendo wanted, it could happen).
  • Any Mistwalker JRPG (they say they have interest, but nothing else happens).
  • Phantasy Star Online 2 on the west (Sega says that it is not on their future plans).
  • Shenmue 3 (Sony and Microsoft flirt with the idea, but neither of them confirm anything).
  • Legacy of Kain / Soul Reaver (talked about it, then came with Nosgoth instead).
  • New Fatal Frame (not even the developers know why Nintendo has kept it in Japan).

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

5 Horror Movie Franchises That Could Become "Lone Enemy" Survival Horror Games

I apologize for the long hiatus after my last blog entry, but here I am again so let's resume our gaming conversations.

The "lone enemy concept" is the name I give to the concept in horror games that implies having one all powerful main enemy that hunts for you in a place that is tricky to navigate through. This is something that isn't that new as we had lone enemies before like Scissorman from the Clocktower series or even Nemesis from Resident Evil 3. The lone enemy scenario may be old, but it is a game play concept that has been given new life by games like Alien Isolation and The Evil Within.

Now some months after the release of those games, it becomes really interesting to think about what other horror series can make use of this concept and become great survival horror games by featuring a lone or specific enemy that will make mince meat out of you once it finds out where you are.


Friday the 13th:

If there is an horror franchise that can make use of the lone enemy concept is this one. With Jason Vorhees as the main all powerful enemy and Camp Lake as the setting, it is very possible to make a very interesting survival horror game. The camp counselor theme is also something that gives the player a certain level of freedom as the player could be able to create a custom counselor and interact with others or choose from a group of counselors to use, each with their own abilities just like in the NES game, giving it a sort of open world feeling.

It is not hard to imagine how awesome a game like that would look on PC and current-gen consoles, with Camp lake having all sorts of awesome lighting effects, many places to go through and lots of ways to make a survival strategy. The encounters with Jason would be swift, but deadly and they would require a lot of quick thinking (No, not QTE events) in order to survive and shake Jason off or try to protect your fellow camp counselors and kids. In summary, Friday the 13th is a great opportunity for this game play aspect to be used and although there seems to be a new Friday the 13th game in the works, there is no clear indication that they will be using this kind of concept.


Demonic Toys:

Demonic Toys is an American horror film series, first released in 1992 that follows the story of how a group of people end up in a haunted toy warehouse where a demon (who lives in the toys) is looking for a way to regain a physical form. A game based on this movie would most probably be a classic survival horror experience and while it doesn't specifically classify as having only one strong enemy (there are lots of toys), the demon been the only hostile entity is enough for it to be on this list.

A game about Demonic Toys would definitely rely on its atmosphere in order to be scary, so it would most probably have a 5 Nights At Freddy's look to it, with old discarded and worn down toys coming alive and hunting you through the warehouse as you slowly figure out what is really happening and how to stop it. The demon itself would make small appearances at some parts (in which you could easily die if you are not careful) and try to take your soul with or without the help of his toy minions. As for the overall mood of the game itself, this would be one of those where the clueless characters roam around the place looking for a way to solve the big mystery and live to tell the tale. It is sort of like the feeling we got when we got our hands on the first Resident Evil and didn't had a clue of what to do.



Alucarda is a Mexican horror film that was released in 1978. It's plot was about  a pair of orphan girls on a Catholic convent who make the mistake of  following the ill advise of a strange and dubvious group of gypsies, which leads to the awakening of a demonic force in the convent. This causes all sorts of macabre paranormal activity in the convent and the possession of the girls by the devil himself. While traducing a film like this to a game would imply that it would just be your "run of the mill" survival horror, it could be a lot more if you take into account that the hostile enemy here is the devil himself and the entire convent is his playground. In essence, it would follow the Clocktower formula although it would be a little more hardcore.

Players in this game would be using a simple orphan (unrelated to the movie protagonists) and would had to survive the night as the supernatural get a hold of the orphanage and gruesome things start to happen. Imagining a game about Alucarda kind of reminds me of the first Clocktower game (SNES) in which you had to use the character of a young girl in a similar environment, only that in Alucarda you are not trying to escape from a mad woman and a guy with giant scissors, but from all of the stuff that is been caused by the demonic forces that were unleashed. In this game you would have to know when to hide, when to attack and where to use cunning and logic to defend yourself from the demonic presence that the girls let loose. Different endings are to be expected as well  as complex interactions with adults and other orphans, so this game would be a little deeper than you may be thinking right now.

Nightmare on Elm Street

Nightmare on Elm Street:

It sounds kind of cliche to mention this horror franchise on par with Friday the 13th, but if you take a deeper look into it you will find that it could work. This one could totally make use of the now popular procedural game design, meaning that part of the game world can be randomly generated. Why procedural design? Well, because since the story in this franchise goes around the topic of dreams and nightmares, it would be a cool thing to have those nightmares be partially auto-generated, so each time Freddy attacks it won't feel the same. This could also be mixed up with how you develop the mental state of your character as you progress through the game (through interactions with other characters and overall progress), just so the hostilities don't become too predictable.

A game like this could be a sort of mixed bag of genres. For example it could borrow a lot from adventure games with problem solving as the main character and his/her friends go around looking for a way to defeat Freddy while sleeping as less as possible. Avoiding sleep means that your character will get tired and will go to sleep sometimes without a clear indication, which is an awesome thing considering that nightmares would be auto generated. On the other hand, the nightmares would be the survival horror part of the game where you would have to survive all of Freddy's insane traps and illusions and as the game progresses and these would be part random and part generated by how you develop your character's mind (the things you do, how you interact with the world while awake). Direct confrontations with Freddy would increase as you progress through the game until you have no other choice than to fight him and if you are not ready by then (figuring out how to defeat Freddy once and for all), well you must then prepare for a bad ending.

The Howling

The Howling (or other old school werewolf movies)

This is almost self explanatory in its own sense. One vicious savage like beast, thirsty for blood while running around some Victorian era town and you have the recipe of an intense horror game that would have the potential of keeping any gamer at the edge of their seat the entire time (even when just exploring around). Been pitted against a werewolf in this kind of place means that you would have to do what ever it takes to survive like making traps, finding (or making your own) weapons made of silver and looking for a way to survive while the full moon sits there with all its foreboding of your impending doom.

On a game like this, the big bad wolf would be able to follow you almost everywhere and that means that you would have to be very careful in the way of locking doors, making barricades and all that kind of stuff that can keep the enemy at bay and give you some time to explore the various places that the town has to offer. As you get farther into the game you would be able to actually fight back and little by little gain the upper hand until the creature is dead or day light comes. To spice things up, maybe some of the townsfolk could be against you, trying to sabotage your efforts and make you easy pray for the werewolf while you try to solve the mystery of what is wrong with the town and what you have to do with it.

So what do you think? If you have any ideas of other movies that can be turned into this kind of survival horror game, I'd love to read them.