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At E3 2013, I had at least ten conversations that went something like this:
Me: So what did you think of Destiny?
Colleague: *yawn* It looks like a Bungie game.
Me: It should. It’s being made by Bungie.
Colleague: No, I mean it feels and looks too much like Halo.
Me: There are a lot elements in the game that are nothing like Halo, but I guess there are some visual similarities. But so what?
Colleague: I’m just tired of them doing the same thing game after game.
At E3 2013, I also had at least ten conversations that went something like this:
Me: So what did you think of Sunset Overdrive?
Colleague: *excited* It looks like an Insomniac game!
Me: It should. It’s being made by Insomniac.
Colleague: No, I mean it looks like what I expect from them. Resistance didn’t look and feel like an Insomniac game. This is more like it!
Me: I guess the tone feels more like what the company has done prior to Resistance, but I don’t mind when developers try different things.
Colleague: Yeah, but this is what I love about Insomniac.
In one case, people are criticizing Bungie for (supposedly) going to the well again. In the other case, people are lauding Insomniac for (supposedly) going to the well again. It’s funny, isn’t it? I’m not sure what the deal is — it’s like you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t. Destiny is pretty ambitious, but some people are down on it because it has some artistic and tonal similarities to other Bungie games. Sunset Overdrive is also ambitious, and it’s getting praised because it has some artistic and tonal similarities to other Insomniac games. In my head, this kind of inconsistency is causing game developers to sing Adam Lambert’s “Whataya Want From Me?” on an hourly basis.
There’s something comforting about creators — of any kind, not just game developers — using familiar elements. There’s also something exciting about creators trying something new. The results of both approaches can be good or bad. I get that. What I don’t get is the inconsistent pigeonholing game journalists and gamers are doing with these two titles. Why is it good for one developer to use a similar style and bad for another?
Don’t get me wrong. I respect the hell out of Bungie and I’m a huge Insomniac mark. I just think it’s unfair that Bungie is getting dinged and Insomniac is getting praised for the same reason.
Perhaps you can explain it to me. Are these judgements just? Are they inconsistent? Leave your thoughts on the matter in the comments section (please!).