I pride myself on looking for innovation, however I often fail to find what I am looking for. I truly am willing to try anything, but instead of venturing I often find myself returning to known genres and areas. Often it is easier to just rifle through games until I find another RPG rather than find something I am uncomfortable with, but would no doubt provide captivating gameplay, for me it’s a matter of entry barrier. It would be so very easy to pick up a game I could quickly become familiar with and engross myself in, rather than a game I would need to think about and learn from.
This, I feel has become the attitude of many developers I am not trying to generalize, however it is not all that often I see a revolutionary title being released. It seems that ideas are being recycled, which is fine because often the best ideas are those built on the basis of others. There would be no Braid without Mario; there would be no Dust: An Elysian Tale without Castlevania. Those games built upon those original ideas, then deferred from certain areas to create a uniquely innovative experience. It would appear developers have figured out it is easier to take a good idea recycle it and sell it, than it is to conceptualize something new with the risk of it failing and lose more money than a recycled idea would.
This is where my disappointment in the current development of a genre comes from. Horror games evolved for about a solid minute then proceeded to once again stagnate and become a series of similar clones. I cannot describe to you the disappointment I have been feeling whilst looking at the Greenlight page. While they are harder to find now that the format has changed, Amnesia: The Dark Descent clones are infesting the horror section. There are so many physics-based, weaponless, first-person horror games that it is difficult to even figure out if one is possibly innovative that is unless you spend the time looking at the dev pages for each and every game.
So, I suppose my formatting is different than most weeks and I have not yet said why Amnesia and Lone Survivor are important. Their importance comes from the fact they are good games, but they both shine a light on the good and bad of innovation. Let me set this straight before I move on to anything else, Amnesia and Lone Survivor are excellent titles and both innovated the horror genre in different ways. Amnesia’s brand of horror caught on, whilst Lone Survivor seems to be an innovation of which no copies have been made, however they both were innovative and show distinct effects innovation can have.
Lone Survivor shows a less rippling innovation or a sort of huge splash in a pond which has hardly any lingering effects. Perhaps it was due to the odd styling and heavy dialog, but Lone Survivor was a difficult game to make, it took the devs 4 years to get the game to market and has two distinctive branching storylines. The horror of Lone Survivor is psychologically based rather than based on cheap thrills and sudden jumps. Horror such as this is executed through solid writing and tense environments with these qualities requiring a great deal of work, time, and money to create; all things of which indie devs do not always have a great deal of.
Amnesia operates differently to Lone Survivor, it was no less innovative than Lone Survivor but offered a different type of terror to the player. Amnesia approached horror with dialogue, but to a much lesser extent. There were not many characters, and the graphics engine was nothing unusual or innovative it created something new, but relatively easily to copy. Physics-based doors, which required the user to actually open the doors using the push or pull of a mouse was a very cool concept, equally interesting was the sanity meter for the main character Daniel. These aspects were innovative but they are easily recreated as developers knew that these could be reused and still offer a palatable horror experience.
I suppose I am approaching this from a philosophical approach. The importance of both games goes way deeper than just as successes which had different effects on the genre, but the most learnable lessons of both games comes from what they say about the development of games. Amnesia is a revolutionary idea, but one that is easy to build again and a copyable experience. Lone Survivor is a first of its kind and last of its kind type of game, rather than build the next revolution by creating new mechanics like Amnesia and Lone Survivor did, there is a trend of leeching on to the ease of Amnesia. Amnesia and Lone Survivor are important because they show which ideas will be borrowed and which will be lost respectively, the graspable and the difficult.