"There are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt." - Audre Lorde, a poet who wasn't the first person to have this idea
The idea that there are no new ideas isn't a new idea at all. In fact, it's a pretty old one, and its veracity can be seen in the games industry too. Critics like to pooh-pooh the unoriginality of over-the-top, repetitive franchises that spawn unlimited uninspired sequels and rip-off clones. But is taking notes from great ideas of the past always a bad thing?
Hardly. In fact, we've found that some of the best new titles are appealing precisely because they took advantage of and improved on great ideas from the past. Read on to find out why some of the best upcoming and recently released titles might give you an unexpected case of déjà vu.
It feels like it's been a bazillion years in the making, but even after all that time we still want to play Will Wright's Spore. From its flexible customization options, which will enable you to build freaky creatures and humping aliens - to its YouTube-friendly sharing features and built-in comic book creator, Spore looks like an all encompassing videogame equivalent of web 2.0.
Above: Spore's robust Creature Creator gives players an incredible amount of freedom to customize their world. That is all
But Spore wasn't conceived in a vacuum. In a lecture at GDC 2006, Wright said he wanted Spore to be an "homage to all [his] favorite strategy games." After seeing and playing it, we think it's much more than that. Wright mixes a variety of elements from traditional game genres into the primordial soup of Spore, and references an eclectic mix of influences.
Whether it's the way you own and shape your experience in a sandbox game like Grand Theft Auto, or the process of upgrading your warrior with better gear to fight stronger monsters in an action RPG like Diablo, Spore borrows freely from concepts in past games and seems to be trying to capture the root of what made them so much fun. "I wanted [Spore] to be about 20 percent of the best of SimCity or 20 percent of the best of Civilization, because I - as a hardcore gamer - just don't have the time to invest in these games nowadays… I'd much rather have a lighter experience that distills all the core elements out," added Wright.
Every phase of the game has been likened to an important classic. Pac-Man, Diablo, Populous, SimCity, The Sims, Sid Meier's Civilization, and even the board game Risk, have all been referenced by Wright while talking about Spore. Think about that when you're tooling around with the Creature Creator options in Spore.
Somewhere along the line, we forgot that there was something to be said for games that punished you with unfair difficulty levels and laughed at your frustration every time you died. Enter Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved and its sequel. These titles are unapologetically hard. Like many arcade classics, the only constant in Geometry Wars is that you will die a lot and won't be satisfied until you play (and die again) in the pursuit of a higher top score.
Above: Blasting through swarms of enemies in claustrophobic spaces still feels as great today as it did over 20 years ago
But the idea of throwing ridiculous amounts of enemies at a lone player to the point of impossibility isn't new by any means. Nor is the game's over-the-top camera or the way it allows you to control your character's movement and the direction of your bullets independently. Both can be traced back to Smash T.V., which can in turn be traced back to Robotron: 2084, which can also be linked to Asteroids.
We're eager to get our hands on Gas Powered Games' Demigod, partially because just about every preview we've seen (and published), likens the RTS/RPG to one of the best mods ever created, Defense of the Ancients for Warcraft III.
Like Defense of the Ancients, Demigod will put you and your opponents in control of ultra powerful RTS hero units, which will be instrumental in turning the tide in epic battles filled with waves of units crashing against each other. And like Defense of the Ancients, Demigod will reward you with new skills and powerful artifacts as you level up from smashing through hordes of enemy pawns as you vie for control of the map.
Above: We're hoping that Demigod will help introduce the competitive RTS/RPG elements seen in Defense of the Ancients to the masses
But even though it's great fun, Defense of the Ancients is still a mod for a game that's over six years old and has one of the most hateful and elitist communities on the web. From what we've seen so far, it looks like Demigod may be able to bring Defense of the Ancients' great gameplay to the masses with better graphics, slicker features and hopefully, a community that won't bite your head off if it's your first time playing.
Of course, older games aren't the only things that influence new ones. In an interview on 1UP, Mirror's Edge's senior producer, Owen O'Brien, credited the film Run Lola Run and writer Joss Whedon as influences on the game. Mix in some parkour movements for added flair, and you've got one of the most unique first-person titles anyone has seen in quite some time.
Above: Like Lola, Faith will be doing a lot of running
Above: This is where we include an example of parkour and warn you about loud Eminem music
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