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Missing: An Indie Game Development Blog

Entries in this Writers Block

Falling Short: When video game plots fall flat.


I really had high hopes when I bought Modern Warfare. As a life long Call of Duty fan I am fully aware that each title is not a work of Shakespeare. It’s pure Michael Bay-esqe escapism with machismo and lots of set pieces. However, when previews listed this as more grounded in realism and darker tones, there was part of me who considered that the plot may take the same tone as movies as Sercio and Jason Bourne. 

What we got however was a simple repeat of the same old tired cliches and a plot so full of holes it could be renamed as ‘Call of Swiss Cheese’. Last night I finally completed the single player campaign and to be honest I had been putting it off for sometime because I had gradually lost interest in it. By the end I still felt the same: overwhelmingly flat and to put it simply ‘meh.’ The series has well and truly ‘jumped the shark’ (term: past its sell by date).

This experience got me thinking about an increasing pattern in the current slate of games: dull and uninspired single player campaigns. Sure not everyone will like the same genre of game but one must admit that it has been a long time since a game came out whose story and plot had the community talking for all the right reasons. Sometimes story fatigue is an indication of a much wider issue: a franchise has become tired or internal politics of a game studio, an example of this is every Ubisoft game post 2016 and the last Metal Gear Solid game. 

However, the real cause of this is not the studios or publishers because they are companies who are seeking to profit in business. Sure they can take chances and bring out something revolutionary and new but that is not the current public taste and thus not good business. Therefore looking at the idea of public taste leads us to exam two following factors: the overall gaming community and consumers, as this provide us with a possible clue of what is  the possible source of the problem. 

Before I explain what I mean by this, let me clarify: community and consumers for sake of this article are two separate entities because a proportion of the market are people who buy AAA titles and are not active in communities on different media platforms or are children/parents (NB: recent research as shown that this maybe decreasing). As such they are lured by advertising and well known titles, ie even my partner said to me around October last year ‘isn’t it time for a new COD to come out?’ 

Despite the grumbling and dissatisfaction in the gaming community about the state of certain franchises and publishing companies games continue to sell because the vast majority of consumers buy what they are familiar with. This in turn creates a domino effect: developers And publishers churn out titles to capitalise but at the expense of taking chances and time to develop something unique. There is no guaranteed profit in speculative risk.

So how do we change this? In my opinion public taste needs to change but in doing so I believe that we must see the popularity and craze about gaming to die. This may shrink the market because demand may decrease but will force companies to try new things to appeal to customers and as a result force the industry to evolve. 

Only through pressure and choice do we take chances. 



Yes, I know an unusual title and to be honest, slight clickbait because what it should really be titled is 'Motivation'. This is the key ingredient to video game development, particularly if like me you are starting out for the first time, because it will determine whether or not you complete the project or suddenly give up. For the last two years I have learnt the following; there are two types of people: those who like the idea of something and those with ambition to see it through. The first group are motivated by the romantic idea that the process of making a game will be fun because it will be simple and it earn millions. However, once they discover how hard and technical development is they give up. If this is you please do yourself a huge favour right now: stop. You are not going to achieve anything and you will burn out. 

Game development its a hard and time consuming task that often means you have to stay up late and be anti-social in order to find out why one aspect of the game does not work. An example of this is when I first started out using Unity and I managed to create a terrain and in my eager bid to try a character controller on the terrain and incorrect triggered a spawning effect whereby infinite models of the play model kept appearing. That stupid mistake took 2 weeks to fix and before I realised my mistake. This is also the difference with those that see the task through and are motivated by the passion of the process and learning something new. You have got to be ready to learn from your mistakes whilst maintaining that it is worth it because it is a creative outlet you. 

That was true in my case. During the initial development I burnt out because I had placed unreasonable deadline. When I resumed I chose to scrap the deadline in order to create something to help me deal with what I was experiencing. The sudden death and loss of my father in law and my grandmother. Both have had some an impact on me that I began to struggle with things in real life, except when I was focusing on a creative project. This in turn motivated me to try again and focus on what was more important.

ADVICE NUMBER 1: Take your time and focus on your motivation to complete the project. Do a little bit every night for an hour. Although it seems little, you will see how it impacts on the bigger picture.

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