Can a Game be Good Without Anything Extraordinary?

Do you think games with several different gameplay elements, where each of them is serviceable, but not great, amounts to a merely competent game, or can proper implementation of those features, make the overall product great. Does a game like Beyond Good and Evil succeed at it?

I’d say it’s competent or bad. I wouldn’t call Beyond Good and Evil good.

To make a good game, you can’t just do a bunch of things well. If anything I think it comes down to doing at least one thing really well, then continuing to do other things well or really well.

If you do a bunch of things serviceably, you end up with a game that has all this stuff that’s sort of okay, but nothing truly deep. You get more depth from multiplication/exponentiation than from addition. If you keep doing things serviceably, but they aren’t tied together into one thing, all at once, then you end up with a bunch of sort of shallow things. That’s kind of the issue with 3d Zelda, with BG&E, with Axiom Verge, and some (Novacanoo) have argued Jak 2 and 3 (I haven’t completed them yet, so my verdict is still out). They do a ton of things sort of okay, but they keep picking things up and dropping them, and not making them work together.

A lot of people like stuff like nonlinearity, like open worlds, like crafting, like leveling, like all sorts of stuff, but you can’t build a good game on this type of stuff alone. You can’t just structure the content interestingly, or add all sorts of modifiers and mutators for the content and expect a good game out of it. You can’t just add a bunch of features that are used occasionally and not in conjunction with anything else that have a reasonable technical implementation.

Kirbykid kinda goes over how Axiom Verge fails at this on a level design basis. He really talks about it at about 10:00.

The levels don’t integrate all your abilities, and change in the way you play through them as you gain more abilities by giving you different options between the abilities you’ve accrued, they at best just have an enemy-free shortcut if you use a powerup to access it.

I think you really need to succeed at building a central interaction that by itself is interesting. Divekick did this with two buttons alone, then they expanded it so there were a bunch of different characters that used those buttons differently, and expanded them all to have special abilities on top of that which they can activate. There’s lots of different ways you can achieve this, it doesn’t have to be combat, it doesn’t have to be puzzles, but you have to focus and deliver a strong core game before expanding out will be beneficial.

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