To Sequel Or Not To Sequel: Sequels Or In-Universe Branches In Video Games

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Sometimes a good story should just stay tied up, no ass-pulls or retcons for a sequel in sight. Of course this isn’t the case usually thanks to the fact that some people really like their money, undoing whole narrative impacts along with its characters in the hope of turning a few games into a franchise. Now let me just say right now I’m not a huge fan of the Assassins Creed series as my leaping backstab itch was scratched and never flared up again. However they do generally do something that I think more series in games and generally media should: new games set as a in-universe story.

You got a great set-up in gameplay and the characters are fantastic but you don’t wanna mess with the characters after the finale. Instead of making a new game that alters anything you create a game set in the same world, just following a different story. Maybe you show crosses between the first games adventure, having their actions alter yours or cause events before or after the events of the previous game to explain details.

Why was that bridge broken? Oh because your new character was running from guards and brought it down. That plot point you didn’t understand or these characters who seemed meaningless, given new life and meaning through the eyes of a different protagonist. It is similar to how some games let you play two different characters in a single story for different perspectives, just as different games rather than different character selections.

This sort of design choice expands the universe and allows for new additions without having to tie them altogether with the history of the characters previous games. I’m never happy when a game causes plot holes or inconsistencies but when you have a huge game series it isn’t exactly easy to keep track, sometimes creators should just try it elsewhere without the baggage. Of course it is still possible to ruin consistency by not paying attention to two characters simultaneously in a narrative but the potential for success I feel is much greater than that of failure.

I can’t stand when games continue a characters story beyond its peak. You don’t like it. Hell I bet the creative minds behind it don’t like it but the suits are breathing down their neck for more cash and they need an answer. A great answer is to give them what they want without trying to glue on more pages to a finished book, expand your world with a fresh take and let other characters be.

Not only does this way of doing things keep finished books finished, it means open books don’t get thrown out the window. If you have a plot that you have left open but don’t want to have to address it in a sequel as you expand upon the core concept you had originally, put us in different shoes. I like many hate going to the next iteration in something only to find out it adds bugger all the narrative or world, however if it is made clear it isn’t supposed to by following another I can deal with it.

Addressing the narrative in other games poorly is what the spin off Kingdom Hearts games did for many, with Chain Of Memories explaining who the hell Roxas is on a GBA game of all things, along with messing with the information given in KH2 within Dream Drop Distance. I don’t see exactly why those games had to even have our titular character in, we can still talk about his story if necessary without actually being him. That is what a good side-story is all about.

If something sells, it is clear a business would want to make more. If making more would be damaging to the established situation, work around it instead of butchering narrative integrity. Make your game world more resonating with stories beyond the character we know/have known. The number one thing that makes a game immersive for me and I suspect many others is a world that feels real, brimming with all the extras that make a universe exist beyond the view of the in-game camera. Make a story better by complimenting it with another riding alongside and flesh out the world even further.

Sequels should never exist at the expense of what the original brought about.

What sequels do you think ruined a story? What series would you like more in-universe games running on similar mechanics or even a few new ones? What makes a game world immersive to you, be it the people or the wildlife or the lore? Thanks for the read and I’ll see you later.

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  1. #1 by omarbanzai on May 26, 2015 - 9:20 am

    An interesting post!
    Yet, I wouldn’t be as critical as you are towards business executives.

    One one hand, you have to understand that video games cost more and more to make.Investing millions into a game project is anything but a light decision, and launching these kind of games are often a make-or-break decision for many studios.
    Just have a look at how much games like FFVII or GTAV cost: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_most_expensive_video_games_to_develop

    On the other hand, I, like many, am utterly disgusted when I see some titles that get creatively numbed and stripped to the bare minimum shell of a video game just to make quick cash.

    Call me optimistic, but there should be a synergy between business and creative minds.

    Business executives should ensure that that the creative guys have all the space and resources to fulfill their vision.

    Creative minds should imagine a concept that would appeal to not only a core audience, but also reach to a big enough market so it can make enough profit, so business executives are reassured in their decision.

    That’s why I think that games, especially recent ones, that managed to achieve both financial and critical praises should be given more credit.

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    • #2 by Prof.mcstevie on May 27, 2015 - 11:40 pm

      Games cost so much because there is more interest in pushing tech than actually making tech more efficient, it was the companies who turned the early years of HD gaming into a “bigger, badder and better” monster we see now. Games cost so much because of nobody but them, you can’t tout the most impressive graphics or polygons then expect costs not to skyrocket.

      There is an enormous amount of money wasted on small areas of games that aren’t that impactful to any of the elements of a game, money is poured into things like getting professional, well known actors for a goddamn opening narration and that’s it, bumping up textures when they don’t improve THAT much. Most games to this day use at most 2 processors when computers can have as many as 8, simply because nobody is using the power correctly. Intense CPU based elements are scarce while hair rendering gets its own engine.

      My problem is that they have built a world where 3 million sales isn’t a profit yet and are stuck making the cash cows for the assured cash or go out on a limb and risk bankruptcy like many companies. They headed a march into a battlefield that has brought many companies to their knees, fleeing to other income sources or removing age old names from the business.

      Creative minds and business minds SHOULD have a good sync, however business has damaged the land and it is only with the prestige of a name like Rockstar or a stroke of luck that anything great grows here anymore.

      Like

  2. #3 by brandonvynguyen on May 26, 2015 - 8:08 am

    There are plenty of games that I wish had sequels. But at the same time there are some that I think should have never seen the light of day. I totally agree, not only does it milk a franchise, but it stops any new IP’s from being created.

    Like

  3. #4 by Raffy Villa on May 26, 2015 - 6:34 am

    Grand Theft Auto IV did this perfectly with the two DLCs, The Lost and the Damned & The Ballad of Gay Tony, which featured protagonists that lived in the same city as Niko Bellic (hero of the vanilla game) and sometimes even crossed paths with him, the main intersection of which was at the diamond heist, an event in which all three stories converged. That was heaps of fun to watch unfold, to say the least.

    Like

    • #5 by Prof.mcstevie on May 27, 2015 - 11:32 pm

      GTA 4 without constant requests for bowling are fine by me.

      Like

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