Is Innovation Necessary?

Is innovation neccessary in game design? does a game or sequal need to do something new in order to be good? or making a game that is well thought out and well designed is imprtant?

I stand by the statement, “A clone of a good game is still a good game.” Innovation is nice, it’s good for games categorically, but I don’t think any individual game needs to innovate in order to be good, and I don’t think innovation makes a game good by default.

Innovation helps games improve on their forebears and create new possibility spaces, but by default it does not make those possibility spaces deep.

I said this with regards to all the first person melee combat games recently, they’re not great yet, but they show that something is possible with first person melee combat that hasn’t been developed yet. This future development of really good FPS melee might just be a matter of putting together existing pieces correctly, or some future work of innovation, but what exists right now is pretty neat, but not amazing.

Or as a corollary, Nioh. Nioh isn’t really innovative at all, it entirely relies on existing concepts, most of which aren’t even in a unique arrangement, but I think it’s an amazing game.

Innovation may be necessary to improve on an existing formula to make it deep, or to bring new possibility spaces into the fold, but by itself it’s not an inherently good or bad thing with regards to the quality of any individual game.

Street Fighter 2 elevated the entire fighting game genre thanks to a frankly ridiculous amount of innovation. Smash 64 Pioneered a new paradigm of fighting game with more innovation and Melee piled even more innovation on top of that, however all of these could have been failures. There are games cast in SF2’s mold that totally suck and SF2 itself could have been one of them.

Enough has been pioneered that you can make good games without inventing anything, but sometimes the tools to make a game fit together the right way don’t exist yet.

So basically, innovation is kind of specific to the specific game, you can’t really generalize it. Innovation might be necessary for that game to be deep, or it might not add any depth, depending both on the implementation, the surrounding elements, and the innovation itself. I personally think most of the RPG genre lacks depth and could use innovation to really capitalize on what’s possible with that style of play. Innovation is necessary for improvement, but sometimes to make a good game, you don’t need to improve on anything, and sometimes improving something isn’t enough to make a good game.

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