TACK N°4 – NOSTALGIA : Embrace the old way or the new one ? Game design being put to the test by nostalgia.

Which games age the best ? Does the remake of an old game or the revival of a worn out genre necessarily need to be accompanied by a change in the game play mechanics or should they be left as they were to better embrace the return to the past.

Some of Tack’s readers probably grew up with the Nintendo 64, the console that welcomed the first 3D games created by the company nippone. With the rise of 3D platform games, initiated by Super Mario 64 in 1996, Banjo-Kazooie developed by Rareware, was a striking milestone. The flawless precision of the platform, levels designed with distinct environnements, a memorable soundtrack, these were the elements remembered by the raving critics. The first one of the “Banjo” saga impacted a whole generation of players, hungry for similar experiences such as “Spyro the Dragon” or “Rayman”.

Even though 3D platform games were incredibly popular during the second half of the 90’s, the concept slowly died out due to the fact that they were quite redundant, apart from the very successful Mario Odyssey & Galaxy, the more recent productions relied on different genres. But after two decades of nothing, a group of former members of the Rareware studio decided to start a Kickstarter to fund a spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie. With its colorful and dreamlike universe and it’s gaming system worthy of a 3D platform game, the game Yooka-Laylee charmed it’s players. The duo (Yooka a green chameleon and Laylee a purple bat) could have been mistaken for the original protagonists of Rare’s golden age : the hero with a big heart and his flying sidekick. Released in 2017, Yooka-Laylee wasn’t as successful as they’d hoped, with fans being unpleasantly surprised: the gameplay was seen as archaic, the movements hadn’t been updated since the Nintendo 64 era, an unmoving camera and the many positioning flaws are a hindrance to the players movements. Beyond the homage that it represents, Yooka-Laylee is weighed down by the basic Game design mistakes that were already present in the 90’s.

A video game can testify to the passage of time, with the graphics and game mechanics
leaving their mark on the design models. Thus, it should be interesting to compare the
original Doom released in 1993 and the 2016 reboot. The game designed by John Carmack and the id Software Studio, was one of the first to use 3D immersive graphics, and offer the opportunity to use an array of frantic mouvements and a first-person perspective.

In the 90’s Doom became the inspiration for a new game genre : “Doom-like” is what first person shooter games were called before being replaced by FPS (first person shooter).

After a few follow ups and adaptations, Doom was rebooted, with it’s univers intact. And in 2016 players could once again find themselves on planet Mars with the demonic portals and the Cacodemons, Revenants and the other creatures risen from hell. In addition the id Software title was entirely reimagined to better conform with the design essentials of a worthy modern FPS. The inertia and the players movements underwent huge improvements and the level design was better arranged to allow for more verticality. These modifications are still consistent with the ideas introduced by the original Doom, the levels architecture already proposed battles on different levels, inclined walls, open spaces and lifts.

Doom 2016 largely reworked their battles so that it would offer a particular rhythm. To recover ammunition and life points, the hero has to fight demons in single combat. The game design forces the player to throw direct attacks, the games system doesn’t rely on the “covering” mechanism like in Gears of War, where the aim of the game is to hide behind a part of the decor before attacking. Through these combats the game-feel aims to make the player feel a certain kind of power via the avatar, by chasing and squashing these demonic creatures, in a very fast game with fluid movements to allow for better action.

Modern FPS borrow many gameplay elements from role playing games such as the skill set, grinding, the dialogues and interactions… present in Far Cry or Destiny. Doom made the choice to offer an immersive experience, with an unrestrained rhythm of action like it’s predecessor. These choices allowed it to stand out among the new releases and bring back a cool breeze of the old school.

The Doom remake succeeded in modernising a 30 year old formula by awakening the player’s nostalgia. The game design choices are a tribute to the 90’s productions with a return to the source for the genre of fast paced FPSs.

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