Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Mirror's Edge, Dead Space Sequels

Mirror's Edge may not have performed quite as well as publisher EA were hoping, but that doesn't mean it won't be getting sequels. Probably once a year, if EA holds true to form. Same goes for their sci fi horror title Dead Space.

Joystiq reports on a conference call between EA CEO John Riccitiello and investors:

EA CEO, John Riccitiello, began the call by pointing out that 17 of the company's '08 titles earned aggregate Metacritic scores above 80, versus only seven the year before. New IPs – specifically Dead Space and Mirror's Edge – were praised, but Riccitiello pointed out during the Q&A portion of the call that these franchises will perform better once established. "Dead Space looks like a long-term big winner for us," he said, later confirming, "[Mirror's Edge] is going to go forward."
That's great as far as I'm concerned. Mirror's Edge is excellent, and possessed no real flaws that another six months in development couldn't have fixed. A sequel will give developer DICE a chance to smooth out the rough edges and show us what they were intending all along.

And yes, I've still got a review of Mirror's Edge coming, but I'm doing 14 hour days this week so it might have to wait till the weekend.

10 comments:

SPLastic said...

I am curious to see what these sequels are like - I've played a couple of hours of both these games, with Mirror's Edge proving to be disappointing, but Dead Space seems like an interesting concept.

My only question is where do you go in a sequel to a survival-horror game set on a spaceship? Another spaceship?

(Obviously there's plenty of potential for Mirror's Edge sequels).

Maybe EA could save themselves some time and make Dead Edge 2, a free-running survival horror title where you battle against and across the environment.

Greg Tannahill said...

Got Dead Space in my play queue, but there's plenty of places you can take it. You can go for sequels which are only connected thematically, a la Silent Hill. Or you can have "further outbreaks" a la Resident Evil. Think of all the zero G environments you can explore - a moonbase, a deserted space yacht, a space station, another... moonbase...

It might become clearer where they'll take it once I've finished Dead Space, I guess.

SPLastic said...

Good point, there are a lot of things they can do. A moonbase would be cool, especially on our Moon... a little scary, being "so close" to home :P.

Haven't finished Dead Space... not while Far Cry 2 sits begging for my attention.

Chris said...

"Mirror's Edge is excellent, and possessed no real flaws that another six months in development couldn't have fixed."

From your perspective as a gamer, perhaps... From EA's perspective, Mirror's Edge is fatally flawed, they just don't know it yet. First person platform games are unplayable by many, unpleasant for many, and enjoyable for just a few. Unless they give up first person, I suspect this franchise is commercially doomed.

I liked a lot of the design elements of Mirror's Edge. But like many players, by the end of the demo I knew I wouldn't be playing it.

From the point of view of the marketplace, if you're going to be in first person, you need to be killing things (ideally Nazis!), not negotiating the environment. :)

I'm prepared to be wrong, but...

Best wishes!

Greg Tannahill said...

Chris, pretty much everything you're saying about first person platform games was said about 3D platform games when Mario took that leap. And that's industry standard now.

Mirror's Edge would have benefited a lot from being a console launch game, like Mario 64, it's true, but it's got a lot of reasons it'll stay in the public consciousness, including a clean and unique visual style, a catchy and memorable theme tune, and absolutely fantastic controls.

It's a strongly marketable brand, because people can remember it, which means it'll continue to stand out on store shelves and in advertising campaigns. EA can put whatever they want into that box now and expect to see steadily climbing sales over the next two iterations. Their choices are effectively to rip out the combat and make it a pure platformer (preferred) or add a super dose of explosions and turn it into something like every other game out there (more likely).

Chris said...

Greg:

Thanks for letting me know you'd replied at my blog; I would have come back to check, it would just have taken longer. :)

"Chris, pretty much everything you're saying about first person platform games was said about 3D platform games when Mario took that leap. And that's industry standard now."

Really? I don't remember this from my memories of 1996 - but then I was drinking an awful lot back then. :)

The thing is, in the case of the transition to 3D platform games - and Mario 64 is certainly the title to single out here - the problem was that people didn't believe player control of the camera would work. And they were half right: you can still hypothetically hit a larger audience with 2D platformers than 3D platformers if (and only if) you can get support behind your title.

But the problem with first person controls are that many players feel physically ill when playing in first person. You can get used to using a second stick to control camera - we all have - but you can't overcome "screen sickness" as far as I can tell, because the moment you're affected by this you're out of the game.

Then there's the problems with judging environmental positions in first person, the other reason why first person platformers have always been a losing bet. Mirror's Edge is certainly an impressive step forward on many fronts, but I don't think it can make the grade while it remains in first person.

"It's a strongly marketable brand... Their choices are effectively to rip out the combat and make it a pure platformer (preferred) or add a super dose of explosions and turn it into something like every other game out there (more likely)."

Here, we are in agreement - both that it could be a strong brand, and also of the choice they face and the the likelihood they'll chicken out of the originality and go for the combat angle. If they do, the franchise is certainly doomed in my opinion.

It's certainly going to be interesting to see what Digital Illusions do next with this!

Steve said...

@ Chris - Are you sure you're not underestimating how many people enjoyed the game? Is motion sickness really that much of a problem? I know some people complained of it, but I did not think that it was that widespread.

Personally, I really enjoyed Mirror's Edge and look forward to a sequel very gratefully. It was the sort of game where you just knew it was going to be a critical rather than commercial success, so it's nice to see EA so keen to keep the series going.

If only Sega felt the same about Shenmue.

Greg Tannahill said...

Steve - sales figures suggest Mirror's Edge didn't perform as well as EA expected, although it didn't turn a loss by any stretch of the imagination. So there were plenty of fans, but not as many as a well-marketed top shelf game released over Xmas would have liked to have picked up.

Chris - The motion sickness issues (which I've personally never seen anyone experience) are likely related to the view bob; they're almost certainly something that can be eliminated on the graphics end. There's nothing inherent about first person that's unworkable, as endless shooters have shown us. The unique factors here are those related to platforming.

In theory what you're saying about judging distances makes sense, but having played through all of Mirror's Edge this was not a problem for me even once. Of all the frustrating aspects of the game, I never had to stop and think about whether I could make a jump or not. If there was any doubt, the level layout made it obvious that I was supposed to try.

I'm not able to think of a 2D top-shelf platformer that hit a larger audience than a 3D one for quite some time. The place to look would probably be the DS or the casual flash gaming scene. But rightly or wrongly there's still the feeling that if a system CAN do 3D it SHOULD do 3D, which appears to be borne out in sales numbers. And I certainly think going back to something like Assassin's Creed after playing Mirror's Edge is going to be difficult.

Neil said...

Have you seen the rather cool-looking Mirror's Edge 2D flash game?

http://www.bornegames.com/mirrors-edge-beta/

It's still in beta (EA are helping apparently), but it plays quite nicely.

Greg Tannahill said...

I've seen it but not played it. While I appreciate the technical prowess and suchlike that have gone into it, it just seems like the most redundant thing ever, much like a port of Wii Sports to the Gamecube or a sequel to Portal that boasted less portals and more shooting things in the face.

"Play Mirror's Edge - now minus all the things that made it new and special!"