Disposable Worlds And Imagining Brink 2

By Jim Rossignol on May 17th, 2011 at 11:42 am.


Playing Brink this weekend made me worry. But not about the usual things. I was worried that there would never be another way to experience the details of its world – no possibility for further exploration of the Ark and its precarious situation. This isn’t something I normally think about when faced with a multiplayer shooter. I certainly had no interest in finding out more about the world of Quake III, or Battlefield 2, because nothing in them really inferred anything outside those isolated battlegrounds. Their conflicts were their world entire. Not so with Brink, and, now that I come to think of it, a few other worlds, too. I begin to wonder whether game fictions might be too readily disposable.

Brink’s world design is its strongest asset. The fiction, that of a failed utopian floating city of the near future, is refreshingly clever, and it is delivered quite elegantly within shades-of-grey politics and gorgeous flourishes of human interest. Remarkably, for a shooter, there is no true good or evil, just desperation and need fuelling intense conflict. The spectre of The Real Problems Of Modernity haunts its speculative shooterisms in a way that most game fictions barely bother to think about. What a shame, then, that all this was for a multiplayer combat game, where the story will become invisible via repetition. It’s unlikely that we will ever be given tools for exploring this world in any other way. Games like this don’t tend to coin universes. No Mass Effect equivalent will be set in the halls and slums of the Ark.

But it should be.

World-building is a strange art, and the impulse to expand worlds beyond the original remit is a peculiar one. The other thing I spent quite a bit of time doing over the weekend was reading about the Dune universe, because I had only ever read the original books and was unaware of how it had been carefully expanded by Herbert’s own fans and progeny. It was as if they felt that it was too precious an invention to leave unfinished (as if any such work could be finished), and that it should be pushed to its limits for the sake of all those who enjoyed it. I have to admit I found that impulse a little distasteful, not least because Herbert’s own vision was so singular and esoteric. The expanded stories seem (on the surface) somehow less artful, and perhaps without the same stylistic flair. The same is often true of overly expanded game universes, of course, with the derivative works never having quite the same flavour as the original blast of ideas. That doesn’t mean I’m not prone to wanting more from a favoured universe: I’ll take all the STALKER I can eat.

How a universe is delivered and then consumed ends up defining how it is expanded. Take Mirror’s Edge. Often lauded for its visual design, I felt that the way the world was used within the game was actually something of a waste, and unlikely to inspire the kind of imaginative investment that players put into other worlds, thus demanding further world building. A better design, I felt, would have been to create a series of rooftop environments that you might have learned and repeatedly used, and a world you might have got to know better. Once familiar with these environments you’d find the best ways back and forth across them, using your actual skill as a runner to outwit the police. This, of course, is partly how the trials worked, which showed that the developers had created a world without fully realising how best to put it to use. (Not to mention the art-budget reduction of re-using assets over and over!) If Mirror’s Edge had used its world a little differently, I feel, we might have gotten a sequel, and a world, too.


Of course Brink is going to benefit from being a game where the same maps are used over and over, but in this case it’s to the detriment of an inventive fiction. What we see of the Ark is tantalisingly close, and yet out of reach. You’re in the world, but not really of it. Imagine the same gorgeous, clever scenario as a setting for an RPG, or even a linear shooter: something that allowed you to get to grips with the flavour of the world a little better. And perhaps that is what should be happening. Create the best world you can, game designers, and then use that to host quite different games. (Borderlands seems like an example of that sort of thing – a hub game into which different experiences were plugged for multiplayer and so forth. It didn’t actually have racing game DLC to expand its vehicular elements, but it quite easily could have done.) I expect to see this sort of thing happening more and more as game studios try to curb their spiralling asset-creation costs.

There was a lovely comment by someone in the recent Aion thread, which suggested that NCSoft should just use all the assets to create a single-player game. I couldn’t agree more. Just give me that world to wander around, fight a few monsters, and I’ll take a look. Trap me within the systemic corridors of an MMO level structure, and I won’t give it a second glance. The same is true for many other game worlds that will be lost to time. Codemasters’ racing game FUEL was a good example. I only hope someone realises what they had there and ends up building something more tangible with it than the lightweight racing game that was give to us.

I supposed what I am fishing for is the idea that Brink’s world should not vanish with this game as so many other game worlds have. I’m saying that it should get a sequel to the fiction, if not the game – something that allows us to explore its world through other game mechanics, rather than mission bookends and (splendidly acted) cutscenes. If Bethesda and Splash Damage have a “where now” for this game then I hope that they realise that the world is their strongest asset, and they need to let us loose in it.

Ideas are cheap, but that doesn’t mean game worlds should be disposable.

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68 Comments »

  1. Premium User Badge

    Devenger says:

    The audio logs were a delight to discover – I didn’t expect anything like them to just be hidden away in a menu. I don’t want to spoil anything in particular, but they all reinforce the idea that in such a broken world, good and evil are lost concepts, and a lack of communication can cost people their lives.

    It does seem a shame that Brink’s ‘story’ more feels like a snapshot in time, in which rages an endless war with no real resolution (though the campaigns for either side do give conclusions to the story of sorts, they are both open-ended, and they contradict each other – so there’s no true ending in any respect). It’s still a gem of a game, though. They didn’t do everything they set out to do, I don’t think. But they still made something wonderful, and I applaud them for that.

    • Bilbo says:

      The audio logs were outstanding, and I think too readily dismissed by the fact that they were hidden in a menu – but really, who wants to lose a match because their teammates are listening to audiologs instead of communicating? Unlocking them for later listening was a pretty sensible route to take.

    • Ashiver says:

      I really want Brink to be turned into a novel. Doom had books, Halo had books, and I’m not sure either of them deserved it but this game really deserves at least one book. The audio logs are predominantly back story and the in game cut scenes are ambiguous where they aren’t out and out contradictory, leaving for no real closure and little of the present day conflict being clearly told. I love the ambiguity short term, but I really want to know what the definitive truth is behind things as well, without that and without an ending the amount of closure the story actually gives is zilch.

    • BeamSplashX says:

      “Your Ark is huge! That means it has huge resources! RIP AND TEAR!”

    • Matt says:

      Have you read the DOOM books? They were pretty ridiculous, complete with a bizarre out of nowhere “hey now, we’re in a computer simulation” ending in the final one.

      (In my defense I read them when I was about 15.)

  2. Daniel Rivas says:

    I never really found much interesting about the world of Mirror’s Edge, per se. It was just the idea of a relatively serious and grounded game which wasn’t afraid of big, clean lines and primary colours. The unoppressiveness of it—which the airy soundtrack added a lot to—surprised me in a game for adults. It’s something I want more of, but not necessarily in anything connected to Mirror’s Edge.

    I’d love a non-violent game from Irrational, for example. That Columbia is breaking down, just like Rapture, makes me far less excited about Bioshock Infinity than if I could just wander around a city in the sky. And I always wanted a game set in a peacefully oppressed City 17; maybe you could be a photographer, unearthing Combine brutality and getting into scrapes, but never actually fighting anything.

  3. Anton says:

    Well said!

    I even wish Blendo’s Flotilla would have a proper storyline to it and allow us to explore the universe it is in. To actually seeing those anthropomorphic characters within the game world and interacting with them in a Mass Effect kind of way would’ve been a blast!

  4. Spinks says:

    Have there been many companies who set several different styles of games in the same gameworld outside a pre-existing IP? I can think of Blizzard (Warcraft 1-3 then WoW).

    But totally agree, it’s a shame to throw out a perfectly good setting. And where’s my planescape sequel …

    • Premium User Badge

      Oozo says:

      It might be more common on consoles – just think of all the mega franchises like Final Fantasy or Super Mario, that spun off in all kind of directions. In the case of the latter, it did help, though, that the fiction was not really too much about the details to begin with.

      Come to think of it, is it possible that this is something that is more common in Japan?

      To stay with the PC: Fallout Tactics? And might the new X-Com game count in some way? This might be one of the good things that could potentially come from all those companies rediscovering their long lost IPs – even though staying true to the fiction usually doesn’t seem to be too high up on the agenda.

    • Shadowcat says:

      I can think of a few other cross-overs of varying degrees. Ultima’s Britannia was lent to Blue Sky/Looking Glass for the Ultima Underworld games. Then there’s the “Might & Magic” and HOMM series. Also “Dark Messiah”, which although set in a different world, is apparently the setting for future M&M/HOMM games as well. Tamriel was home to the “Elder Scrolls Adventures” as well as the first-person RPGs. Heretic 2 went third-person… does that count?

    • Shadowcat says:

      might the new X-Com game count in some way?

      I think Interceptor and Enforcer already make for sufficient qualification :) (and in fact, I think the new game has a decidedly different setting, so that would actually be the one which doesn’t count).

  5. Premium User Badge

    tomeoftom says:

    <3 Jim Rossignol – at his best

    • McDan says:

      Definetely, these kind of pieces are his thing. Totally agree with the mirrors edge stuff, although I loved pretty much all of that game anyway and still want a sequel…

  6. Ian Roberts says:

    On the subject of Brink, does anyone know what the hell is going on with it not being available to buy on Steam if you are in the UK?

    • GenBanks says:

      Been wondering that myself, seems pretty disastrous to me for a new game to be inexplicably mia on steam. Especially since it’s a steamworks game.

    • Premium User Badge

      VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      The same happened with Risen which, although not Steamworks, was available to preorder on Steam in the UK, but then unavailable for 12 months after its release date—apparently due to an exclusivitiy agreement with the publisher’s own crappy online store.

      The same thing happened with Metro 2033, which also uses Steamworks, though it was restored to Steam about a month after launch.

      As far as I know, Bethesda has made no statement regarding Brink’s lack of appearance on Steam in the UK post-launch. But it’s wilfully stupid.

    • Premium User Badge

      drewski says:

      From the Splash Damage Twitter on Friday:

      “We’re looking at it and should have it resolved quickly.”

    • Premium User Badge

      VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      No, that was a different issue which prevented people here even activating their retail copies on Steam on Friday. That was indeed fixed pretty quickly.

  7. deejayem says:

    Amen, Jim! There’s two ways to build a convincing world – by giving loads of information and by giving barely any. There’s universes like Lord of the Rings or Dune or Mass Effect that have a whole history and sociology mapped out in forensic detail. And there’s universes like the world of Thief or Stalker that give you barely any background, just create a situation and fill it with characters and places that just … fit, feel right, work together to create an atmosphere/ambience/environment you can believe in. The second method sounds easy, but it really isn’t.

  8. Alexander Norris says:

    Yes.

    There really isn’t much more to say. Good settings are pretty rare, and it’s such a shame that Brink’s is going to go to waste like this. My first thought was “I wish they’d let me explore the rest of this world” and I suspect this is what I will take away from Brink ultimately.

    I didn’t get quite as strong an impression with Mirror’s Edge but the impulse was definitely there. If it’d been just a little better-realised, a little more alien and less present-day-ish, I suspect I would have felt this to a similar degree.

    I still want a game that would show me how the artefact trade has impacted world economics/politics in the STALKERverse, or a game that lets just live in the City, rather than spend a tiny amount of time robbing its riches as Garrett,

  9. Premium User Badge

    Oozo says:

    I shared and share that dream, and always put a lot of hope in the modding-scene.
    What good examples are there for mods that use a game world, but not necessarily the game mechanics, to deepen the fiction?

    • Lilliput King says:

      Totally agree Jim. It’s just a great setting. It’d be perfect for, say, an adventure game, though I’d prefer an RPG.

      Oozo: Portal Prelude springs to mind. Though it wasn’t very well written, it genuinely works as a prelude. It’s also just weird how well it fits with Portal 2′s fiction. It ends up feeling like a part of that universe. I won’t say more to avoid spoiling it.

    • Stephen Roberts says:

      Portal Prelude is pretty difficult. I make an attempt every now and then and get rebuffed by my impatience. And I’m one of the three people that hasn’t played Portal 2 yet so maybe I’ll finish Prelude first.

  10. Premium User Badge

    sonofsanta says:

    Top idea, wot.

    I think the practical problem comes from the fact that a lot of genres – at least, in console land – don’t seem to have much crossover between audiences. An FPS player likes to play FPS games and won’t even think to look at an RPG, so it might have a reduced audience on two counts those who don’t like the new genre, and those who disliked the original genre so look down on the IP.

    If the first person to do it does it well, though, it might break down said barriers, and open the floodgates. Because it would be spectacular, and save time and money, and maybe eve stop Kitchen Sink Design if the team knows they can just do a separate racing game instead of scratching that itch with a crappy driving section.

  11. SuperNashwanPower says:

    I wanna buy Jim a huggable plushie snork and maybe some miniature cans of tourists delight. And a Jellyfish Artefact hat. Then I will invite him to the Stalker Mad Fan Club party, and get him pissed on Cossacks Vodka, then have him deliver the keynote speech (still with hat) on Why Stalker is Awesome. And as a loving prank, we might, just a little bit, irradiate him. In a nice way.

  12. Njordsk says:

    Bioshock in ARk = massive win.

    You’re right, everything’s locked, I’d like to explorate it too. Go from the aquarium to the terminal, walking in the city at war. Man that’d be great.

  13. BritishTexan says:

    Bugger. I had a big long wordy-post written up and then my cat stepped on the keyboard and it was lost *sigh*. Tl:dr version for now; whilst I’m all in favour of expanding the universe of a good game/book, how it was done for the Dune books really didn’t work for me at all, sadly.

  14. Premium User Badge

    TheApologist says:

    I just want to add my ‘yes’ to this. Game worlds are a primary motivation for me in picking up and playing a game, and the world is what I daydream about and am left wanting more of. So, at least as much as more plot, I want more of the environments and architecture, the gadgets and gizmos the world allows, the clothes, the types of interaction with other characters it makes for etc etc.

    A straightforward sequel I guess usually makes for more plot, but I am more excited for Jim’s notion of non-sequelised, multi-genre products (as DLC, as separate games or whatever) giving me more world.

    PS and the upcoming game this made me think of most was Rage…

  15. Premium User Badge

    TheApologist says:

    Also, I wonder if this is why I pick up JRPG’s only to abandon them after a few hours. I like the worlds that get set up, but the linearity and the inability to explore and really interact beyond pressing ‘x’ irritates me and I put it down.

    I’m looking at you Persona 3…

  16. Tony M says:

    Interesting point, but I remember alot of journalists lauding Left 4 Dead for investing so much detail into a world/story that you’ll only see if you look for it. And didn’t RPS applaud Portal 2 for having elaborate details that could be easily missed. For Valve, its seen as a mark of quality that they do so much world building even when the gameplay doesn’t need it.
    (Caveat: I haven’t played Brink or Portal 2 yet).
    Tony

  17. Premium User Badge

    dangermouse76 says:

    Very well written mate. There is something very Logan’s about this game not in the story perhaps but in the world.

    I agree some worlds you want more time.
    Halo could do with some more of this for me I would like to be stuck around a little more in the Halo universe ( Deus Ex style ).

    The point is though some people don’t know what they have built until after the fact and have moved on. Hopefully they and some other company’s will pick up on this feeling a narrative creates a little more.

  18. torchedEARTH says:

    We live in a disposable culture. No sooner have you bought tech gadget v1, than v2 is out and so on.

    No more so with games. Let’s use Deus Ex Human Resources as an example. How many hype articles will there be on RPS before it’s launch?

    Then we will have a first impressions, wot we think and review possibly. DLC will get a mention, but on the whole we will be reading the hype articles about the next big thing.

    That’s fine though, I’m not complaining, it’s just we are in this cycle now where we are always excited about what’s next more than what’s now.

    Maybe I just have too much money to spend on bloody computer games!!

    Minewho? Terraria anyone?

    • woodsey says:

      I don’t think Human Revolution is too good an example of disposable culture, considering we’re all playing the first 10 years on. I think looking forward to the next one after all that time is justified!

    • Rii says:

      One of the benefits of the slowing pace of graphical advancement is that older games are more palatable today than they used to be. So that’s one thing working against the trend.

      I agree that the ‘disposable’ nature of the gaming industry is a problem. There’s no shortage of disposable film and television, but there’s stuff that isn’t too. And for the most part, those films that stand the test of time are readily accessible to and comprehended by the audience. Not so with games, where even if you can find the elder game in question you’re up against compatibility issues, interface issues, and comparatively enormous evolutions in presentation and mechanics over a short span of years.

    • Veracity says:

      GOG can help with that, sometimes. While older games do frequently look awful, I can’t think of any I’ve had to play for long before however they look just seems normal. Only sort-of exceptions are things like R-Type Delta, which I always thought looked like unintelligible arse (in a fairly standard PS1 3d manner), so I’m not sure it really counts.

      Doesn’t the industry – at least, the console-focused, blockbuster-led chunk of it where most of the money lives – need this disposability, though? With shinies more or less plateaued for one reason or another, it seems there’s far less reason to be jumping on whatever hype train is generating the most noise when we could just as well be playing something else from five years ago that doesn’t even look old.

    • Erd says:

      Any game with modability can also well exceed its ‘lifespan’.

  19. woodsey says:

    I wonder if the world they created was out of a want to do something different with a game, but they simply felt more comfortable with a multiplayer shooter.

    As for Mirror’s Edge, the latest update was that they were still working out what to do with the sequel, and that it definitely wasn’t cancelled. I agree that an open world would have made more sense – not to mention one with human beings in it (office blocks during the middle of the day with no people in makes for a weird world), and a greater emphasis on the give and take of such a society.

  20. Plopsworth says:

    I’ve often felt this way about MMOs. I’d love to have a look around in spectator mode in WoW or something, but I wouldn’t want to actually play them.

    I also feel this way in games like Mass Effect. The beautiful looking surroundings which you can see from balconies and windows are merely well constructed skyboxes. You don’t get the same sense of scale, location and exploration when you’re coralled in by unclimbable waist-high barriers. For example, You don’t really feel like you’re ascending a massive skyscraper in Thane’s recruitment mission since the layout is so horizontal. Compare that to tower-climbing bits in Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, Half-Life 2, Mirror’s Edge or even Dark Forces 2: Jedi Knight.

    Also, what Sands of Time and Half Life 2 do really well is have a clear landmark visible from afar, looming in the distance, which you know you’re constantly working towards. You also perform all of the movement of the game yourself, so you actually start to feel the distance and thereby the journey. Even games like Rainbow Six Vegas (2) have levels occuring back to back and major locations visible in the distance. I liked the bit in Mirror’s Edge’s menu where the mission selection shows the actual location and extent of the level in the mapped location of the city. I also wish someone would make a map of Gordon’s adventures in and around City 17 by joining all the consecutive levels back to back and mapping the geography out.

    Other worlds demanding further exploration: The Longest Journey & Dreamfall.

  21. tempest says:

    It’s interesting that you out Brink and Mirror’s Edge together when talking about this because, for some reason that I can’t really put a finger on, Brink’s world gives me the same feeling as the Mirror’s Edge world. I could venture a guess that it has something to do with the feeling of despair the setting exudes while the action takes place in a seemingly utopian place.

    Now, coming back to Mirror’s Edge, even though there weren’t many who loved it and it probably flopped commercially, it did become a cult classic, much like Firefly did in the world of TV or The Boondock Saints or The Man From Earth did in the world of movies. And many of the Mirror’s Edge fans have the same vision of how that world could be used to its full potential: create a free roaming game that takes advantage of the greatest asset of the game – its world. Take a look at the poll on http://on-mirrors-edge.com/ and you’ll see that “Free Roam” is the thing most people chose as an answer to the question “What feature would you want to see most in Mirror’s Edge 2?”

    I would like to qualify my desire for a free roaming game set in the world of Brink (or Mirror’s Edge). Free roaming by itself isn’t that good an idea. The only free roaming games that I played and that didn’t felt empty and impersonal were the Assasin’s Creed games and, to a lesser degree, Saint’s Row 2. The answer would be a game with the Deus Ex/System Shock choices & consequences gameplay set in a free roaming world filled with entities that look and and move in a believable manner, like in the Assassin’s Creed games. If you add parkour-style movement like in Mirror’s Edge and set everything in a world like those of Brink or Mirror’s Edge, then you would really have a massive hit on your hands. Yeah! Like that could happen sometime before the next ice ace… But it’s nice to dream, isn’t it?:)

    • Veracity says:

      Open world aspirations would do a fair job of guaranteeing I wouldn’t buy a sequel. They’d be tangential at the very best to any reason I gave a damn about the game, and would probably actively undermine it. Not a confrontational thing, I just think part of EA/DICE’s problem looking for a way to produce a sequel that doesn’t sell “only” a couple of million is that there isn’t all that much consistency in what people would be looking for in it. The cult is ripe for schism, if you like. Maybe not quite so severely, but it’s comparable to Elite 4.

  22. RagingLion says:

    Excellent piece.

    • ross_angus says:

      I agree. And with Jim too. Game tourists of the world, unite! Perhaps (I’ve not played it) we should also take over that pleasure planet in Bulletstorm, and fix it up all nice.

  23. jon_hill987 says:

    Am I the only one who just wanted a decent competitive team shooter and didn’t give a crap about the story/world?

  24. Feet says:

    I do so hope Mr Wedgewood has a read of this article, because it’s absolutely an idea worth consideration.

  25. Josh W says:

    I’m now imagining a strange subgame/alternative cutscene system, where you die, become a ghost, and can spectate matches or pass over the level boundaries to see the people living in the container cities and trying to stay out of the fight, keep their kids calm, and maintain hushed stalling conversation, reacting realtime to what is happening on the other side of the thin mental walls, with a clever mix of pre-scripting and dynamic adjustments and interruptions.

    It’s an impoverished way to explore, but it could be brilliant.

    Although I don’t think they’ve considered what “brink children” would look like!

  26. Premium User Badge

    AndrewC says:

    LA Noire shoulda been put into Liberty City.

    Or maybe Rockstar should have opened up the city to indie developers who maybe want to make a straight shooter, or a sims-style game, but are blocked from the AAA by having no money for assets or brand recognition.

    I gues WoW too, but I don’t like WoW.

    • Jad says:

      Or maybe Rockstar should have opened up the city to indie developers who maybe want to make a straight shooter, or a sims-style game, but are blocked from the AAA by having no money for assets or brand recognition.

      I love this idea. I really do wish that more things like this could happen. One of the cool things about the GTA games has been all the little games-within-games, where you can take a break from the crime simulator and become a taxi driver, or an ambulance driver. But those games are still fairly similar to the standard GTA “drive somewhere, do something, drive somewhere else” mission style. But to be able to play entirely different genres in Vice City or Liberty City would be absolutely fantastic.

  27. .backslash says:

    I wholeheartedly agree that it’s a splendid world and it would be a shame for it to go to waste, but I wouldn’t write it off as dead yet. The movie you get after finishing both campaigns pretty much screams “to be continued” and its accompanying achievement is something along the lines of “the story has just begun”, so it’s clear that Splash Damage have been planning to expand the story beyond the base game, as either DLC or a sequel.
    Whether the game is commercially successful for them to follow through is still in the air. Of course it would probably be more multiplayer manshooting, not the Mass Effect/Deus Ex type of game the setting deserves, but it’s still better than nothing.

    On the topic of a single game series spanning multiple genres, on the consoletoys there’s Halo Wars, an RTS set in the Halo universe.

    • Zombleton says:

      I was actually going to mention Halo Wars as a cautionary tale of how this can backfire. For me at least, playing Halo Wars somehow cheapened the Halo universe. The brilliant pre-rendered cut scenes only served to widen the gap between my own perception of the Halo universe and the unintentionally comical exploits of a bunch of tiny little men running around pew-pewing each other in an isometric RTS. There was just something really wrong about it.

      For me those two aspects of Halo Wars – the cut scenes and the gameplay – just didn’t seem to belong together. Stitching together the pre-rendered clips into a short movie and releasing it on DVD/BD would’ve been far better, I thought the game was just awful.

      Brilliant article btw Jim.

  28. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    Well said, mr. Rossignol. Well said, indeed.

  29. ShaunCG says:

    Your assumptions about the Dune novels by his son Brian and Kevin Anderson are spot-on, Jim. I read the first one as a teen and thought it was appallingly shallow and artlessly written. A few years ago I revisited some later writings from the duo whilst writing book reviews for an SF site, and I was not any more impressed.

    Your comment “for a shooter, there is no true good or evil, just desperation and need fuelling intense conflict” reminds me of the undersung FPS Frontlines: Fuel of War. Although the SP campaign focused on the American perspective (of course), the backstory paints a more sympathetic story of waning imperial powers lashing out to control resources and key geostrategic locations. Not to mention that it’s the Euro-US alliance who spend most of the game being the aggressors… a remarkably mature backstory for a decent bit of manshoots, that.

    Tempted to link to the piece I wrote about it a few months back, but I shan’t lest I be dubbed Spammercore.

    • Arglebargle says:

      The ‘xtra’ Dune books suffer from the fact that Kevin Anderson is a talentless hack. I guess Brian doesn’t have much artistic sense and judgement, or perhaps Anderson’s ability to churn out tripe was more important. This is also what can happen to an ongoing world when they fall into the wrong hands.

      Anderson’s early Star Wars stuff was similarly awful: The characters had the same names as those in the movies, but their personalities and behaviors showed little connection to what had been developed in those films.

      I liken his success to that of Madden Football or CoD. Or Hollywood, where you get hired because someone else hired you first.

  30. Kattullus says:

    Dwarf Fortress is that kind of project. Toady’s main aim is to creat a fantasy world simulator. Dwarf Fortress and the adventure mode are just two ways that world can be used.

  31. Davie says:

    I completely agree. This is basically what I think the problem with World of Warcraft is, and I’d be just as sad to see Brink’s setting disappear without further development.

  32. Confusatron says:

    Great article. This is why I like Command and Conquer Renegade. I know that as a shooter it’s pretty bad, but I really enjoyed the different perspective it gave me of its world. As an idea I think it was fantastic, it’s just a shame they didn’t work harder on making it stand out on its own.

  33. clockler says:

    If there were, say, an open-world FPSRPG set on the Ark, reusing the Brink character style (but making unlocks and such based on finding the items – and perhaps with some more customization, I found that somewhat disappointing at times), I’d play it.

    Imagine, if you will – the opening scene, selecting your voice actor (that multiple voice actors thing was good, though I imagine doing more than just “I need ammo!” lines would be quite pricey) and the archetype, and jumping into the game.

    A short cutscene showing your arrival on the Ark, in first person of course. The container city is still fairly small, everyone seems happy, everything is all chrome and plastic and gleaming fresh. Choose your side – Security or Resistance.
    Skipping forward a couple of years, to a minor riot in which the Security kill someone. Tensions escalate.
    Skip another year. The line between Security and their fellow man is drawn clear as day now. Another minor riot occurs, and this time, it escalates and fails to end, and the war begins.

    There are pipe dreams, and then there are pipe dreams, I guess. (A book is fine too)

  34. fartron says:

    Clearly the problem with Brink is that it’s not Mass Effect or Generic Linear Shooter 5.

    Who the hell wants complex tactical encounters and high speed objective based gaming when you can have the same bullshit that comes out of every other game studio?

  35. Balm says:

    I’ll take all the STALKER I can eat.
    Well, STALKER comes not only in game flavor, there is also a book that served a base for it and outlined concept of the Zone, “Roadside Picnic”.

  36. The Hammer says:

    As soon as I saw this article I was reminded of the brilliant article on gausswerks, which was based around this very subject, but written about from a designer’s perspective.

    http://designreboot.blogspot.com/2009/05/thoughts-on-game-recycling.html

    I completely agree with the point of view that so much of game development is wasteful. Unreal Tournament’s huge, extravagent maps with their often inspired artistry are ideal candidates for the creation of something new and fresh, and surely with the drastically lowered budget such projects would fit those twin definitions very well.

    The thought of those environments being used solely for the expression of multiplayer violence is kind of depressing. Designers beaver away on levels that, once built and shipped, will be left to gather dust. New levels will be made, and they in turn will wilt away after having their turn in the sun. Design, build, and decay seems to be the mantra, but surely this is a horrendous waste?

    I echo the calls that Mirror’s Edge is crying out for a sequel that refines its formula and perhaps introduces other aspects to its gameplay and fiction. I hope we one day get one.

    • Erd says:

      “As a friend once pointed out, many gamers’ criticisms can be likened to criticising basketball chiefly on the grounds that it is not football. This is not my intent here.”

      This was in the article you linked, and I can see alot of it in this thread too. Great find!

  37. JerreyRough says:

    More like disposable lore IMO, but none-the-less a wicked article.

    By disposable lore, I mean the kind of thing that happens in Warcraft (well, WoW) where they just change or warp previously canon material simply to suit gameplay. I used to really like the Warcraft universe and where WC3/Frozen Throne were going, but then everything changed in WoW. The world suddenly got a whole lot smaller and didn’t feel like an entire world any more. There are no massive forests that venture into; if your leveling up X class as Y race, then you’ll all probably kill the same guys in the same forest. That’s why I’m hoping big for the Old Republic because its locations look like they actually are massive.

    I think one of the biggest problems is that they design the game first, then the basic parts of the universe (usually). If they designed the universe first, then worried about the game, then I think there would be more potential for additional material because then it would be based on the universe – not the game.

  38. BooleanBob says:

    I nearly skipped this article because oh my goodness I have just read far too much about Brink already. I’m really glad I didn’t, because as others have pointed out already this is Jim on absolute radio (song).

    Of course the problem is the solution is the problem: economics. These worlds are ‘lost’ to us because we’re inherently looking from a perspective with a heavy bias to focus on games that (probably) won’t get the sequel their backers can’t justify. Games that did well enough for us to anticipate future iterations, even if we don’t expect them to do anything more interesting with, or realise the potential of, their worlds or fictions, don’t have that emotional ‘oomph’ of mulling on tragic waste and missed opportunity.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      Ah, but wouldn’t reusing these assets save a lot of money? Most of the hard work has already been done, so why not make some more money out of it?

  39. proshredder says:

    I think Brink could go on forever in that the game designers could have new sections for the city (new maps) if they just had new floating sections approach the ark and hook up to a corner. They could be a new “clan” or the military instead of the security forces…how about a floating section of the city hook up with a foreign government trying to take over. It could be endless. Hey, how about pirates? They could throw grappling hooks to attach to the main part of the ark. Maybe take hostages? What if your avatar could be captured and detained for the rest of the mission pending being released by the actions of your team?