Thursday, September 08, 2005

Will Episodic Content Calcify Gameplay?

As anyone who's read Laundry Sessions knows, we're big fans of episodic content (at least I am). SiN Episodes, Half-Life 2 expansions, Tell Tale's Bone, and others are all giving the episodic model a whirl, and a Half-Life mod team has recently adopted an episodic distribution model as well. With the episodic distribution of content gaining steam (pun intended), I have to raise one question:

Will episodic content lead to stagnation in gameplay?

Here's why this comes to mind: If individual game experiences are only a couple hours long, there isn't really time for players to learn complicated interfaces. I suspect that interfaces and control schemes will become even more standarized than they already are in order to afford quick "pick-up-and-play" experiences. In general, I think this sort of standardization will be good, making games more accessible and saving developers time. However, will the need to conform to some adhoc standard interface prevent developers from trying something new?

Film formats were standardized around the time that film became a mass medium. Generally, this is seen as a good thing and even a contributing factor in the maturation of film as an artform. However, it also cut out a lot of experimentation. On the other hand, I guess the constraints of standardized formats also provide a fertile ground for experimentation. Plus, people will always find places to experiment outside the standards of the mainstream.

Now that I think about it, I remember that gameplay isn't really the same thing as interface/control scheme. The gravity gun in HL2 is a good example of a gameplay innovation within a standard control scheme.

So anyway, I don't think episodic content will kill innovation, but I just had to raise the question.


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