casual ripples effect pt1
When the name Konami is mentioned in a conversation, it brings up images of Metal Gear Solid, Contra, or maybe Castlevania. What it doesn’t conjure up is a DS application designed to teach girls how to put on their make-up. It would have been priceless to see the looks on Konami fanboys’ collective faces when they were thrust with the reality that the same company that gave them Solid Snake and asexual vampire hunters was now giving preteens with DSes lessons on how to look pretty.
This certainly isn’t the first product of the sort. Nintendo released a “face training” game that supposedly teaches you a smile that can get you laid anytime, but this is certainly the first time a company that’s known for traditionally “hardcore’ games has devoted this much attention to the space.
The ripples spread out even further to the DS’ competitor, PSP. With games like loco roco and echochrome announced, it’s clear that Sony is no longer banking on the hardcore to win the war, but trying its best to portray their machines as casual gamer friendly as well. One of the little surprises coming out of TGS was a game called Patapon by SCE that looked and felt like a lemmings game that you controlled using a beat. Button presses correspond to beats on a drum, and certain combinations or beats would make little stylized tribesmen move forward or attack huge stylized T-rexes. This is a huge step in a different direction from the original PR platform Sony had fr the PSP, hawking it as the most powerful and graphically capable handheld device ever.
As a parting thought, I’ll direct you to the website for Team Fortress 2 (pictured above). TF2 has a pedigree that not many games out there can boast of, having been the gold standard for many a FPS multiplayer fanatic. TF2 has been in development since 1999, during which the game sported a more realistic half-life-ish look. But if you take a look at the characters now, it’s obvious the art direction has taken a drastic U-turn. The cartoony art style looks like something that might be out on Wii, and is a far cry from the art direction in Half-Life 2. This lends it a personality that separates it from the average multiplayer FPS, and I’d argue that the game benefits from it.
It’s a longshot to even assume that valve were influenced by the success of DS and Wii, as the game was already in development way before the release of those platforms. But what can be said, and what the staff over at GFW radio (love that podcast by the way, shoutouts to jeff green and crew) mentioned in their podcast, was that the art style was far more inviting and accommodating than say, Halo 3. It was like watching an old Looney Tunes cartoon, they said, and made it look less threatening to the person unfamiliar with FPSs.
Did Valve remake Team Fortress 2 to cater to the casual market? Only they really know, but I bet you it expands the market far more than Halo 3 ever will.
Be sure to check out this introductory video on the Engineer character from TF2 as well, it’s all sorts of fun.