There’s a lot of really interesting commentary in this article by Alex Kierkegaard (relation to the philosopher? No, I could agree with this guy) on a review site I’ve never heard of. It deals with one of the real frustrating aspects of designing sports games: reviewers constantly ding us for not being original when we are essentially recreating a two hundred year old game. What do they want? Rocket packs? We get dinged for not having an extremely esoteric feature (online franchise mode), when Bioshock gets 100s and does not contain a multiplayer mode. (Side note: I agree with 2k not including a multiplayer mode, but it is so standard in the genre that one expects it).

Rather than comment on the whole article, I’ll leave it to you to read. I’ll just highlight some key quotes:

In fact, Virtua Fighter 5 and Virtua Fighter 4 should not even be regarded as different games, much in the same way as the experience of playing basketball in 2007 could not possibly have been much different to that of playing basketball in 2006. Does the number in the game’s title confuse you? Ignore it. Think of Virtua Fighter 5 as “Virtua Fighter Ver. 0.2963b” if you find it helps you see its essence more clearly. Because that’s all Virtua Fighter 5 is: a slightly more advanced version of the original piece of code.

Imagine for a second that the NBA suddenly decided to make some very important changes to the rules of basketball. We are talking drastic changes here, like doubling the size of the court or the number of players or the playing time, etc. etc. And imagine that a magazine wanted to run an article on this “new basketball”, which would discuss the changes made, their relative merits, and the effect these have on the flow of the game. In other words, imagine that the magazine wanted to review this “new basketball” game. What kind of person would they employ for this job? Some random dude off the street who had hardly ever played the original basketball in the first place, or an expert with years of experience?

So the point is that 2D fighting games are freaking awesome because people have been perfecting them for decades (consider that these games have reached such a level of depth and perfection, that those who play them do not even care about the quality of the graphics anymore!), whereas half the FPSes on the market right now stink because their designers are lazy and incompetent, not even daring to dip their foot into the vast ocean of possibilities that are out there waiting to be explored by the kinds of games they are making.

So good stuff. Can’t agree with all of it, but a strong case is made.