Odd title, huh? Well buckle up kiddo, ’cause I’m gonna drop some truth bombs.
I would just like to preface this article by saying this whole idea that’s been burning inside of me for a few weeks now was heavily inspired by INSIDER’s recent ‘How Pixar’s Animation Has Evolved Over 24 Years, From ‘Toy Story’ To ‘Toy Story 4’ video on YouTube. You can check it out below for additional context!
Still here? Great. Let’s get down to business.
Pixar is well known throughout the film industry for developing and creating some of our childhood’s most notable movies, from Monsters Inc, to Finding Nemo, Toy Story, Cars and The Incredibles – They’ve forever been on the forefront of visually stunning animated films, and it’s their drive and mantra that I believe the gaming industry could take a few notes from.
Take for instance one of their most critical films, Monsters Inc; the film – starring Billy Crystal as Mike Wazowski and John Goodman as Sulley – wears it’s development-oriented pride on it’s sleeve, focusing on the still-brilliant animation of fur.
With every film Pixar creates, a goal is kept in mind throughout – With Monsters Inc, it was perfecting the animation of fur. With The Incredibles, it was animating full human models. With Finding Nemo, it was animating underwater life and aquatic animals. Toy Story? 3D Models and perfect lip-syncing. Cars? Metallic textures and lighting.
Learning these lessons from every single one of their individual films, Pixar turns inwards as they then implement these newly perfected mediums into their future films. The fur from Monsters Inc got transmuted to the hair in The Incredibles, and the water animation got carried too from Finding Nemo – Gaming rarely – if ever – adopts this iterative development style into it’s franchises, with only minor improvements and goals in mind for new IP’s and existing franchises being made at best; even the mightiest of franchises, such as The Legend of Zelda and Assassin’s Creed are guilty of this, with either tiny, minor adjustments, or massive overhauls designed in a radically different way.
Yet we never see franchises build up their core gameplay styles or focuses with the intent of building up their ambition and worlds – Take for instance this example; The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild does many, many things right, but is ultimately a largely different experience to anything else The Legend of Zelda franchise has to offer…
…What if, however, with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2, Nintendo were to double-down on the combat mechanics, for instance? Breath of the Wild 1 already has rather compelling combat, but there was a clear amount of wiggle room for improvement within it’s mechanics. Rune integration, weapon types, ranged combat, expanded mounted combat and better resource crafting regarding your combat options would be a fantastic use of Nintendo’s limited time, and would help bring the ruined world of Hyrule into a whole new level of immersion and depth. Breath of the Wild 1 already perfected the feeling of adventure and discovery. Since Breath of the Wild 2 is re-using the world of Hyrule, it’s time to find a new primary focus.
Much like how Monsters Inc ported it’s fur and hair animation systems into The Incredibles and beyond, Breath of the Wild 1 can port it’s sense of discovery and world scale into Breath of the Wild 2 with relative ease, and focus on a new primary angle.
Many, many studios like to believe they work in a ‘true agile environment’, where they constantly improve on products, services and titles before moving onto the next one… But to be honest, every single one of them is failing to be ‘true’. Adopting this ‘true agile environment’ means to take your franchise, learn on it’s successes and mistakes, bake it into the new entry, and innovate.
Innovation. Another word that I don’t think we see enough in this industry – Yes, we see innovative systems like Xbox Game Pass, Stadia, XBLA’s social boom in the 360 era, or the birth of console online gaming with the PS2 and Dreamcast, but we rarely see it with our games.
All I want is a singular franchise that’s willing to admit and learn from it’s mistakes. We don’t need to stick to one game forever. Iterative and reflective development is key to not only maintaining a fresh view on the industry, but also maintaining your user and consumer base. Make your games. Stand your ground. Don’t be afraid to look back on your mistakes and for the love of God, stop spontaneously changing things too little or too much.
Just be like Pixar, for God’s sake.Become a Patron!