Experienced Points: In Defense of Reboots

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Jun 16, 2015

Filed under: Column 165 comments

My column this week is about how rebooting a series gives you a license to make something new and unexpected.

You could turn it around and say that this is really a column about how making story-based sequels is a trap for the writer that turns something fresh and new into mindless fanservice and plot holes.

In today’s Square Enix press conference at E3, they showed off the upcoming Deus Ex: Humanity Divided. Instead of amazing us with a daring new world, they ticked off the list of stuff we expect to see in the game. Yes, the Illuminati will be there, those rascals! Instead of being intrigued by the premise I listened to the presentation thinking, “This doesn’t fit with Deus Ex lore at all, and conflicts with known events both past and future.”

Discussion: What other games would benefit from a clean slate approach to lore? Which ones are sacred and shouldn’t be rebooted?


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165 thoughts on “Experienced Points: In Defense of Reboots

  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

    What other games would benefit from a clean slate approach to lore?

    Asscreed definitely.

    There are no sacred cows.If they want to reboot something,go ahead.But at least try to stay true to the feeling of the original,instead of trying to turn it into a fps for no reason.Xcom is the perfect example of this,and how a reboot should(and shouldnt,in the case of the fps one)be done.

    1. Thomas says:

      I still think Assassins Creed just needs to ditch its lore altogether. Including the ‘Assassins’ part. Become the franchise about open-world historical games and that’s really all I need.

      That way if they want to make a game about pirates, they can just make a game about pirates without needing to explain how the pirate is kind of but not really an assassin.

      The mechanics can be what ties the series together.

      1. Wide And Nerdy says:

        I assume that, even with a game like the Creed series (which I’ve barely played) a big part of the appeal is the gameplay. If the character is doing the same mix of parkour stealth and backstabbing (or whatever it is) then you’re limited regarding what the character can be. A librarian skilled in parkour and murder? A pirate? A centurion?

        But if you substantially change the gameplay, you’re no longer scratching that itch for that audience. We think we want something new but most of us want more of the same (see, every sports fan ever).

        1. The Rocketeer says:

          A pirate, be an assassin?

          1. Thomas says:

            They’ve already had stories where people have parkour and fighting skills without becoming an assassin. Those are the two real big hooks and you can tell stories about lots of characters within that.

            And that’s what they’ve basically done already. Altair was an assassin through and through, but Ezio’s story was really a revenge story about an Italian noble, ACIV the dude was basically just a pirate who was only sort of an assassin and so on…

            Admittedly if they’re going to keep the exact same stabby gameplay they might as well still be Assassins (but no real bigger Assassins vs Templars storyline, instead just an ancient guild of assassins), but I was imaging the series could try some wilder swings of gameplay every now and then. If you keep the parkour and the fighting you’ve got some scope to have more of a warlord figure or things like that

          2. Wide And Nerdy says:

            A caveman?

        2. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Gameplay is the biggest appeal of it.The parkour is easy and epic looking.Of course,you need big stuff to use it in,so big epic cities like london,paris and such are ideal for it.Though I wouldnt mind climbing in modern new york(thats why prototype was so cool),or even a fake modern city(like saints row 4s steelport).The cliffs and the trees of asscreed 3 were underwhelming(not to mention samey).

          Then there is the boat stuff,which was also great,so pirates are ideal for the reeboot.Just call it pirates creed,and earn money.

        3. Neil D says:

          It actually wouldn’t be too far from where they’re starting to make a street-level superhero game, a la Nightwing or Daredevil.

      2. pdk1359 says:

        Yes, this.
        Keep the past life BS of the animus (for whatever handwaves they inevitably call upon) and some kind of scheme that the animusers are researching. keep the mechanics.
        1st game, modern guy plays history guy, doing and seeing things, whatever, & there are hints of things to come. item of forshadowing; certain collectibles cause weird visions, ala the masks in Enslaved:oddessy tot he west, with a bonus scene at the end (producers love that stuff).
        2nd game, follows the same pattern, but there are hints of weirdness, and the events of the time don’t match history past entering the third act and then stuff really goes off the rails, gainax ending. the collectibles offer cheat unlocks, link in many old games, where they can be set to change minor game features (big head mode, rainbow blood, etc) but nothing too significant.
        3rd game: the reveal, eldritch horrors and madness, you’re basically fighting Giygas from earthbound and things go bonkers, you get super powers and the third act of this game is parkour through an insane landscape of floating derbies and horrortechture trying to track down and wreck the BBEG that smashed the world, way back when. Epilogue of the game, if you did things right, the guy playing history dude (or dudes & dudettes, preferably, however many people were playable over the three games) wakes up from the machine, but isn’t entirely out of his mind, and realizing that it’s happening again.
        4th game, you play as the guy who’d played the history guys/gals with secondary missions in his own memories/the past, the future, etc. Eldritch horror attacks Hawaii
        for a change of pace, New York was over booked.

      3. Zak McKracken says:

        Well, there is no historical reasons why assassins would have been better at parcour-type climbing than, say, ninjas, or pirates, or some people living in or around the large rainforests (the whole Tarzan stuff), or any number of examples I’m overlooking here or which could be invented for the sake of the game.
        So you could have a game about parcour-ing and stuff, but it could be set in a different place, time, involving different narratives but similar mechanics. Nobody would miss the stupid Illuminati.

        And, maybe as important in the light of keeping it fresh: There’d be ample opportunity to change gameplay around a little to give people pleasant surprises (climbing trees vs. climbing buildings, hunting vs. assassinating or stealing), or mention beloved details from previous games, as appropriate.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Ninjas would be perfect,especially because of the appeal of ninjas.And you would get to fight against samurai.

          1. Soylent Dave says:

            No, ninjas fight pirates. Tsk.

      4. Thomas Adamson says:


        Then they could do what I really want, a game about wandering around ancient Rome (As in the city, not the empire) listening to intrigue and stabbing people.

        A game covering the periods of the Dictatorship of Sulla and the
        First and Second Triumvirates would be perfect.

  2. Zagzag says:

    Even the fact that we call them “reboots” say something. Nobody talks about “rebooting” Final Fantasy, for example, since there’s no expectation that any given Final Fantasy will continue from a previous one.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Indeed.Its the direct sequel that surprised everyone when it first became a thing.

    2. AileTheAlien says:

      A non-game example that also doesn’t have the expectation of being an extension of the previous stuff: Mad Max. All the movies are basically unrelated stories, with new factions, people, etc. Continuity and canon are basically taken or discarded a la carte. In the immortal words of Jay and Mike, “George Miller don’t give a **** about canon!”. Heck, there’s even two completely different characters in MM2 and MM3, which are both played by the same actor; One is an autogyro pilot, and the other is an airplane pilot. Even Max himself changes traits a little, from one movie to the next. :D

  3. Jabrwock says:

    Fallout. Then they don’t have to worry about trying to set the game longer and longer after the bombs fell, and still having to set it in a landscape that looks like the bombs fell 50 years earlier.

    I’d like to see one set from the perspective of a non-Vault dweller. It’s been 20 years, the majority of the Vaults are still closed, the super mutants are still about as common as DeathClaws, and the Brotherhood has only just started to move out from their home base to start securing tech.

    1. AileTheAlien says:

      Heck, I’d be happy with a game where you focused on looting and scavenging, and maybe some combat. Could be a nice little bargain-bin game, that only takes an afternoon to play and finish. Like, maybe your end-goal is to get to X dollars, or acquire Y piece of pre-war tech. It could even have little randomized missions, and/or main mission, for each game. Would be a really easy game to make, since you wouldn’t need to put much effort into story, characters or dialog; Just Mad-Lib everything! :)

      1. Adeon says:

        You might like NeoScavanger. It basically captures the scavenging feeling of Fallout.

        1. AileTheAlien says:

          LoL! Spam filter ate my comment! I *did* buy Neo Scavenger, at Xmas, and it’s amazing fun! Just too realistic compared to Fallout, when I want that type of stuff. :P

    2. It’d also be easy to isolate the games from one another by “impassable wasteland” or “radioactive mountains” so you could concentrate on just one locale at a time. If some future master of continuity wanted the Toronto Wasteland to have contact with the Salt Lake Wasteland, fine and dandy, but in the meantime, they can have totally separate continuities without worrying about conflict. More importantly, it gives you new places to explore each time.

      1. AileTheAlien says:

        A well-made game could even get away with focusing on towns/cities in a single river valley, mountain range, etc. All depends on what scale you want to set for yourself.

        In fact, the original Fallout (drink) had a lot of sectors of the map, which were radioactive enough that you’d die instantly most of the time, and after a day or two if you jacked yourself full of Rad-X. Basically, everything a square or two outside of the bounding polygon, which contained all the important stuff. :)

        1. krellen says:

          I’m not sure of this, but you might be conflating Fallout with Wasteland.

          1. AileTheAlien says:

            I don’t *think* I am, but I may well be. I think Fallout took it from Wasteland, but made it more gradual, instead of the very-fast (if not instant?) death from Wasteland. Or I could just be confusing a *large* portion of the map, with only a *small* portion of the map, especially in the SE corner near The Glow, and maybe the NW by the super mutant base. I thought for sure those areas were dangerous…although I could also be confusing some of the Fallout 2 map instead. ^^;

    3. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Is there really a reason why we cannot have fallout in some other part of the world?I mean yeah,the 50s thing is mostly american style,but nothing says you cant have that overlayed on berlin,or tokyo.After all,the war was in the 2077,long after globalisation takes full effect.Heck,you can have it set in canada if you want to keep it in the north america.Frozen wastes are still wastes,you dont need sand everywhere(patrolling the nunavut desert makes you wish for global warming).

      1. Tom says:

        I always rather wanted to see a Russian Fallout. How would things play out differently, above ground and below, if a vault dweller was spat out into the wasteland from a vault built and run under exaggerated communist principles, instead of the exaggerated capitalism of vault-tec and posiedon oil.

        1. newdarkcloud says:

          They’d probably rely on subway tunnels and use bullets as currency.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Please,that would suck and no one would play it.

  4. Robyrt says:

    Limiting myself to only series in active development:

    Far Cry – #4 was saddled with a lot of unnecessary callbacks to previous games, when it’s on a completely different continent with all new characters. The series’ signature fun consists of sneaking around in a beautiful exotic locale with a sniper rifle, then having NPCs criticize your morals, not any of the plot, characters or setting.

    Dark Souls – This is another series whose fans are mostly interested in being surprised (and slaughtered) by new things, not by following the epic adventures of their heroes and locations through a series. #2 in the series had way too many references to #1, and a plot that was basically designed to tell you that your epic quest in #1 was pointless, and your current quest is pointless, and you should feel bad. With this kind of baggage, #3 is going to need a serious reboot. The success and rapturous reception of Bloodborne proves the fans will buy anything with this style of gameplay, no matter what the box says on the cover.

    1. Jacob Albano says:

      The callbacks in Dark Souls 2 are especially strange since — in addition to the breaks in continuity — the design team said Lordran and Dranleic can be thought of as being two separate landmasses on opposite sides of the globe. So it makes no sense for Dragonslayer Ornstein to show up as a boss, or for the fragments of the Lordvessel to be in the basement of Majula, or for any of the souls of the original bosses to be in the custody of the Four Great Ones…I could go on and on.

      It’s rumored that DS3 is going to be set in Lordran again, so theoretically it’ll be less of a reboot and more of “we don’t talk about that middle game”.

      1. Darren says:

        I think you could make the argument that a landmass on the opposite side of the globe is easily reached if you just put enough effort in while you dig; it’s more of a metaphor. Think about how the character in the opening of DS2 travels to Drangleic by traveling through a lake, which calls to mind either a reflection or passing through into an existence on the other side of something.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Far Cry ““ #4 was saddled with a lot of unnecessary callbacks to previous games

      Really?I cant say Ive noticed.Then again,I cant say I was paying attention to anything other than what pagan min was saying.

    3. Darren says:

      I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Dark Souls fans are uninterested in narrative and continuity. In fact, I’d say they are very interested in those things! The lore aspect of Dark Souls, and particularly the way that lore is delivered, has fueled a pocket industry of critical evaluation essentially separate from any discussions of the gameplay mechanics. It’s enough to bring a tear to this English major’s eye.

      Having said that, the criticism of Dark Souls 2 is that it is, rather explicitly, a retread of the original game’s story. While Scholar of the First Sin went some ways towards making this feel like a meaningful choice, it’s generally viewed as being fueled primarily out of fear of alienating an audience that, unusually, very much wants to be challenged.

  5. Thomas says:

    To be honest it might be harder to think of franchises that _shouldn’t_ have a lore reboot.

    If the series ends or its going to die under the weight of it’s own narrative and mechanical baggage. See Tomb Raider.

    I don’t get endless stories, maybe if I read comics more I could understand, but it seems like if you want a satisfying narrative it needs to have a satisfying ending. And equally tastes and design sensibilities change and you can get trapped in a pile of iterations so high you’ve completely forgotten what you were designing the mechanics to do in the first place. (The Arkham series would be in huge danger of this if Knight wasn’t their last one)

    1. Wide And Nerdy says:

      Their stories are designed around that. When they’re doing it “right”, you get an endless overlapping sequence of arcs with resolutions. Batman beats the Joker but every now and then he’s hearing this voice in his head that dispenses helpful advice. So you have resolution on the Joker, but stay tuned because you need to know what this voice thing is.

      Then the voice thing plays out and its a Mad Hatter plot which Batman thwarts. But this mysterious figure shakes his head and retreats to an alley to inform the Moon Council that the Batman experiment failed. Turns out Secret Crisis of Worlds is ramping up and everything will change forever.

      And so on and so forth. Its not one unending arc with no payoff. Its a constant string of cheap payoffs. Its like the Skinner Box in comic book form. Its the Candy Crush of literature.

      Similar deal with soap operas. Jackie and Blayne are finally together, but Susan is missing. Then she’s found but she has amnesia and before that gets resolved, her husband Rick, stressed over having a wife who no longer knows or loves him, turns to Rachel for comfort with benefits. Susan gets her memory back, will she find out? Will she need to win her husband back? Should she? In the meantime she discovered a passion for Brock that she never knew she had, so now that she has her memories back she’s having to decide between Brock and Rick.

      EDIT: Should note, video games sometimes pull this trick but it falls flat. It only works when the release schedule is frequent enough to keep you invested in the plot. Games fare better with gameplay and world building to keep their customers coming back.

      1. Mark says:

        Oh my god I have got to know what happens to Susan.

        1. Syal says:

          She learns about her husband’s affair, just in time for the visiting FBI officer to face off against the Black-And-White Lodge.

      2. Thomas says:

        “Its a constant string of cheap payoffs.”

        That’s the bit that always gets me in endless media though. Like for a while I can subsist on the smaller arcs, but once you get a feel for the larger pattern you realise that eventually Batman is always going to swing back to the status quo, somehow.

        The soaps that keep it going, keep it going by constantly losing characters and creating new ones. Eventually Harold’s story kind of gets told because the actor quits or dies and then they introduce new people with new stories.

        And the ones that don’t die off. Like Friends ended when they’d explored every possible dynamic between the characters, How I Met Your Mother ended in a kind of similar way.

        It always seems to me like you might as well tell finite stories and then try something new

        1. Wide And Nerdy says:

          Well they do occasionally try. The Wolf Among Us is an adaptation of an original comic series for example. As, I believe, is Walking Dead. But there’s a hardcore Batman fanbase so they keep printing Batman.

          But the other aspect of the comic book industry is that for decades their business model was built around the idea that their audience will age out. So if you eventually notice the pattern and move on, thats kind of expected. They do work towards retention but they also have jumping on points for fresh blood. Events. Reboots.

    2. newdarkcloud says:

      You European guys probably aren’t too used to it, but American media tends to constantly have this problem.

      I can name many different franchise that should have died (or been rebooted) long before they went off the air. From what I hear, Europeans are much more lax about letting a TV series end and then moving on to the next thing.

      American media tends to love squeezing every last possible from a series before it just withers away.

      1. Soylent Dave says:

        That’s often because our stuff (at least in the UK) has one or two writers, whereas comparable American stuff will have a team of writers. It seems like it would be much easier for one writer to call it & end the series on a high.

        The flip-side of that is that many of our greatest series’ have 12 episodes.

        (it is also notable that some of that American stuff is really successful in Europe. And that some of the UK stuff that follows the same format (up to and including not knowing when to die and doing the death-knell, ran-out-of-ideas “what if all the characters went on holiday together?” episodes) are disproportionately popular in the US – like “Are you Being Served?”)

  6. Tom says:

    I can’t really think of many examples, but I can think of about three good reasons to do a reboot:

    1. The original canon was crap to begin with, and/or has become too convoluted and self-contradictory to continue without being rebooted.

    2. To recover from a previous reboot that was badly received (unlikely to work, but could be spectacular if pulled off).

    3. To explore alternate histories/realities/interpretations of an existing good canon *without* actually abandoning the original (I guess that’s actually somewhere between a reboot and a spinoff).

    I will very rarely appreciate a straight reboot of an existing good franchise, because that necessarily entails abandoning something good; in that situation, I will basically always favour sequels and/or remakes instead.

    1. AileTheAlien says:

      Well, remakes are basically a superset of reboots. Unless you count “remake” as “remake, keeping the existing story/characters/etc”.

      As for hating reboots of good things – yeah, I think everyone generally agrees with that. Like the 2014 Robocop movie – the original was already a very good movie. If somebody wanted a good Robocop film, they could already just (re)watch it. Completely unnecessary, and on top of that, they made it worse than the original. Like, it’s hard to improve on already good things, but it’s waaaaay easier to improve on stuff that was done poorly the first time.

      1. Tom says:

        Yeah, by “remake” I meant the latter – identical plot, characters, script, locations, title; updated engine, interface, graphics, sound, etc. I guess I should have specified that, because it’s easily the rarest kind of re-anything in the gaming world. No idea why it’s so seldom done – so many classic titles are screaming out for remakes, inaccessible to new generations of gamers because their technical aspects are too damn old and clunky, even though their gameplay and content are still as engaging as ever. The poster child for this is Planescape Torment.

        1. Ranneko says:

          We are kind of getting that with the various HD/definitive/”We have no backwards compatibility so this is a way of getting more cash” editions.

          They don’t redo everything, but they do spend some time updating the assets that need some care and attention.

          1. Peter H. Coffin says:

            That’s a “remake”, if I’m understanding the use being established here. No substantive changes to plot or events, even if there’s polish to mechanics and assets redone.

      2. Syal says:

        I’ve still got my fingers crossed for a They Live remake, though.

        1. AileTheAlien says:

          They Live is actually pretty fun to watch, as-is. :P

          Now, if you wanted to remake Teenage Caveman

          1. Syal says:

            I know; I was using it as potential refutation of hating remakes of good things. It’s a really good small-budget movie, that could be a really good big budget one if people knew what they were doing with it. It could be the X-COM of cinema, where both versions are really good in different ways.

            Although… I kind of do want to see a Teenage Caveman reboot now. So, thanks, I guess.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              I know; I was using it as potential refutation of hating remakes of good things.

              Why not use planet of the apes then.Not the crappy Mark Wahlberg thing,but rise of the planet of the apes.It is still a good movie,even though it kind of rewrites the canon of the original somewhat.

              1. Syal says:

                …I never saw it.

                1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                  You mean rise.You never saw rise,right?Because if you never saw the original,Ill have to revoke your nerd card.

                  Well then,how about the thing?The 50s movie goes into a completely different place than the 80s remake,but neither is considered bad.

                  1. Syal says:

                    Never saw Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Never saw the original Thing. Never saw the original Fly.

  7. Wide And Nerdy says:

    “You could turn it around and say that this is really a column about how making story-based sequels is a trap for the writer that turns something fresh and new into mindless fanservice and plot holes.”

    The problem with comic books summed up. And yet, you’d never get people to reliably buy monthly titles if not for it. So I have no answers.

    “No matter how many supermutants, vaults, plasma rifles, and deathclaws you see, no Fallout will have quite the impact of the first one, because the first one was the only one where you had no idea what you were going to find.”

    Which may play a role in why Fallout New Vegas is my favorite Fallout and why a bunch of people most fondly remember Fallout 3. Thats when we had that exploration and discovery experience

    1. Jabrwock says:

      I didn’t mind the location of F3, because it was the first Fallout to show a major city post-war. F1/2, the biggest town was New Reno?

      So part of the fun of F3 was in exploring how a bigger population centre handled the… erm… fallout… of the war. F1’s draw was the “not knowing”, although thanks to Mad Max and other post-apocalyptic settings, we had a rough idea (slavers, small medieval style towns, monsters, military outposts, etc). F2 was “how have things changed”, and F3 was “how did other areas handle the destruction of civilization”.

      The problem, was in the execution. It felt like it was shortly after the war, but they were trying to tie it into a story that was much later in their rush to include shout-outs.

      New Vegas went the F2 route (“how did the world change after game X, and what new threats have emerged?”). I think that’s why it was better received than F3, which really should have been done as a reboot.

      1. Thomas says:

        So to play semi-Devil’s Advocate, the audience could learn to not care so much about rigid continuity?

        Like I don’t feel the need to match Deus Ex: Human Revolution to Deus Ex in terms of canon and I’m not going to mind if Deus Ex: Something Rising? doesn’t really match up exactly between DX:HR. As long as I can still understand whats going on and everything I need to know is established within the game then it’s cool.

        I wish continuity hadn’t become such a big thing in Bioware games. They could tell better stories if they made up the past instead of trying to match it to the player.

        EDIT: As an example of how I imagine that would work, The Elder Scrolls games follow on from each other, but not really and the designers are more than happy to retcon the crud out of previous games if it suits them for this one.

        In not such a good example, the Metal Gear Solid games always end up inventing their own versions of what the previous games were and I’m very happy to just role with it. “Oh the Boss was actually you’re father and was trying to create a soldier super haven? Cool. What does that mean for this story now?”

        1. Jabrwock says:

          The problem arises when you try to do world-defining events.

          If the plot kept their macguffin to local problems, you could keep hopping around and while you acknowledge other stories (hey, hear about that science-y place up in Boston? I hear they have human-looking robots!), you aren’t necessarily tied to them.

          When you try to make things bigger (BoS sends out a delegation to the East Coast) you end up tying the games’ plots together too much, and you inevitably paint yourself into a corner unless you keep getting more and more creative with your stories.

          Or if you’re going to have world defining events, have them mean something. Affect the world. Enclave falls, suddenly we have a power vacuum. Upper Canada re-establishes itself, now there’s a new faction.

          The problem is when the developers assume we care about the intricate details of the world after we leave that area. We care about the setting. If we visit an old area, fine, revisit the old details, because they affected that area. If we’re someplace new, you can have a few cameos, but you have a new place to explore, a new area with new details.

          1. Tizzy says:

            If there is a setting that should allow writers the luxury of discrete unrelated islands of settings, it’s definitely a post-apocalypse à  la Fallout. I appreciated the efforts to make New Vegas stand on its own.

          2. World-defining events, indeed. For all of his other problems, the one that finally got me to give up on Tom Clancy was when he nuked the Super Bowl. Up until then his stories were semi-based on real events (i.e. the “rescue” of a Soviet nuclear sub crew) or were in the realm of espionage and Top Secret events, so I, as a civilian, would never know if they happened or not. Then the stadium went kerboom…

            1. Peter H. Coffin says:

              And, see, to me that just came off as a tired rewrite of Thomas Harris’s Black Sunday.

        2. krellen says:

          Fans probably would have been able to get over things being different in DC from the American Southwest. Fallout 3 should have been a “reboot” with very little ties to the original Fallout – it would have been a vastly better story. I don’t think NMA was outraged because “thing X” from Fallout wasn’t included in Fallout 3. For me, it was all the things that had no business being in DC that were the issues.

          I don’t think “fans” were worried about the continuity problems that ruined Fallout 3, for instance – or most other games. It’s the developers being worried about it that is the issue.

          1. Not to mention that gamers who enjoy RPGs with multiple endings and varying choices should be used to the idea of continuity changes from one game to another. Fallout kinda-sorta does this (and has since Fallout 1&2) by having the “canonical” way the previous games worked out being the basis for the sequel. In a way, unless you were a completist or played the game as the devs intended, that’s akin to a reboot.

            Of course, that can make people angry as well. It’s probably best that (if the rumors hold true) that Three Dog may or may not be a recording, since I’m sure a great many people enjoyed ending his existence and would hate to have that choice invalidated. :)

        3. Syal says:

          Unrelated: thanks to this, I’m now going to mentally replace any instance of “Rising” in a movie or game title with “Is Up”.

      2. guy says:

        The Boneyard was in the ruins of LA.

        1. ehlijen says:

          And Fallout 2 had San Francisco, or at least part of it.

          1. evileeyore says:

            And if you traveled far enough in Tactics you came across several ’tiles’ worth of ruined city basically where Denver should have been.

            At least I thought it was where Denver should have been.

  8. Orillion says:

    Just a little nitpick, but the Mancubus wasn’t in the original Doom. It was in Doom 2.

    Oh yes, and as for series that could really use a reboot: Elder Scrolls. Every game is separated from its predecessor by decades at least, but background lore for each game seems to fuck the rest of the continent (besides where you are, strangely) more and more. You could, for example, never go back to Vvardenfell.

    Rebooting the continent, changing the rules so everything is less predictable, removing the focus on the Blades (because it’s practically honorary at this point) and hiring competent writers (so they don’t fuck it up again) would do wonders for the series.

    Sadly, this almost certainly won’t happen, even if Zenimax were inclined to let it, because Todd Howard is a tool.

  9. Kyte says:

    On the other hand reboots don’t let you use the same characters. I want to see more of Jensen, for example. I liked him, his arc and his voice. Especially his voice.

    1. AileTheAlien says:

      Alternate universe Deus Ex stories – Go, go, GO! :D

      1. The Rocketeer says:

        Augmentations are cheap and plentiful but they are only compatible with SUPER INTELLIGENT PANTHERS.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Actually,they do.Tom braider had a couple of reboots now,and all of them had larry craft as the main gal,with a different back story every time,but the same badassitude presented.

      1. Kyte says:

        The difference is Lara Croft is not so much a character as a character archetype or such.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          And adam jensen,the guy you are choosing responses for,is more of a character?Or jc,the guy who is congratulated/scolded for actions you pick for him?

  10. Decius says:

    The Fallout series follows the evolution of war in a post-apocolyptic world. Weapons change, people change, reasons change, but war never changes.

    Super mutant army vs the world; enclave vs. barely mutants. brotherhood remnants vs super mutants and robots; brotherhood vs wasteland; House vs NCR vs Legion vs Independents. The players change, tactics change, but the resouces we use to fight are the same resources that we fight over. War never changes.

    The thing is, Fallout wasn’t awesome because it had deepish commentary about war. It was awesome for things orthogonal to what it was about, and the sequels mostly kept what it was about but didn’t take the same pains to also be awesome.

    1. Tizzy says:

      The feeling of discovery that shamus writes about captures eerily well my experience with Fallout 1. It is more true with that one game than with any other that I’ve ever played. It may have helped that I’d been given the game for free, had no idea if it was any good and had very low expectations for the setting.

      Fallout 2 brought much-needed improvements in gameplay/interface, but never that sense of wonder.

      1. Syal says:

        It was also the only game in the series where the scenery changed if you took a long time to go there. I didn’t see the real Necropolis until my second playthrough, because in my first playthrough the Super Mutants had overrun it by the time I found it.

        1. AileTheAlien says:

          I replayed it over the Xmas break, and I never saw the “real” Necropolis. I thought I was being clever, cool, and doing everything “fast”. “Not fast enough!” says the game! :P

  11. Christopher says:

    It’s an interesting question, and I don’t think there’s a right answer. Long-running video game series already do this in different ways. I appreciate that while there are more than twenty Final Fantasy RPGs, there are at least half as many different universes they take place in. Same for Tales Of. Same for Zelda. Castlevania has familiar locations and enemies, but the protagonists are different almost all of the time on account of being each others ancestors. Mario actively does not have an overarching story of any kind, but mixes up the gameplay to keep it fresh. Street Fighter does have a story, but it’s difficult to notice. When the story isn’t the main selling point of something, it’s usually better to have familiar faces around. There can be investment in the progress of a setting, too, so even if a story is done it’s nice to come back ten years later and see what’s up. You don’t necessarily need a “hard reboot” to keep an old series interesting. It can even be detrimental to have the same name(or in some cases, the exact same name as the original game). Spiritual sequels work just fine.

    Robyrt mentions Dark Souls, and the “souls” series is a great example. It’s all the same stuff over again with changes here and there, but writing it into the story as “cycles” is pointless and annoying. There’s no need for the same universe. So far there have been four games in three different settings, and the one that took place later on in the same universe as another suffered heavily for it in the intrigue and lore department. It’s gonna feel like a Souls game no matter the setting, especially as long as some bald jerk kicks you down a hole during a cutscene.

    I think direct sequels are called for when there’s more obvious plot coming. Golden Sun 1 to 2, Mass Effect, that sort of thing. Or if you’re making something that’s by nature serialized, like the court procedurals in Phoenix Wright. Establishing a new universe with a new attorney every game would do it no good, except make it a bit more difficult to guess who the perpetrator is when the supporting cast don’t show up every case. But now they’ve done seven games of that and are doing one set, what, a hundred years ago? That’s fine too. As is them making Ghost Trick, a completely different game that still feels like it carries the spirit of Phoenix Wright.

    1. Trix2000 says:

      I was actually thinking of pointing out Zelda (and many other Nintendo titles, honestly) because the series sort-of exemplifies how useful it can be too not get bogged down in connections between games. As much as the games have common, there’s never been a direct correlation between the stories and characters of each game (barring the fact that they reuse character concepts/names) as each one is decidedly in its own time (with the possible exception of Ocarina -> Majora’s mask).

      It ends up leaving a lot of room for experimentation, which is why you get so many variations within the core concept – changing the seasons, traveling between two worlds, sailing the seas, flying in the sky, etc etc. There’s little need to adhere to anything more than basic concepts (ie: Gorons live in mountains) so there’s plenty of room to craft a narrative and mechanics in a way that feels fresh and different.

      That’s not to say there isn’t a lot of baggage the series carries along anyways (as I said, they reuse a lot of names/characters and concepts), but ultimately there isn’t much worrying about continuity (crazy splitting timeline and its promoters aside) to tangle up the core narrative. I really think it’s part of why the series is still popular, even when a lot of core mechanics and concepts remain the same.

      I think that same deliberate partial-disconnect between games has helped a lot of Nintendo franchises stay fresh and relevant over the years (YMMV of course).

      1. Lachlan the Mad says:

        Speaking as a longtime Zelda fan, I think that the games have only recently begun shackling themselves to continuity. Basically, ever since that nonsensical three-universe timeline was made, the games have been more and more about the continuity of the universe — for example, Skyward Sword felt the need to be the new first game in continuity and establish why we have this Link/Zelda/Ganon reincarnation cycle going on.

        That said, the games are still far, far less continuity-obsessed than others. Each game in the series draws from the universal lore, but also introduces their own unique stuff. Other games in the series have never felt the need to establish where the Loftwings went after Demise was defeated, or what the Minish do when Link doesn’t have the magical shrinking ability which lets him chat to them. Actually, that unique lore is precisely why I think the official timeline is nonsensical. I much prefer the idea that Link, Zelda and Ganon are reincarnating through different parallel universes.

  12. John says:

    This ties back into your articles on thematic rather than chronological sequels (such as the Final Fantasy games versus the Fallout games).

    Thematic sequels do best when the original story was written as a self-contained tale ( Deus Ex, Fallout, Babylon 5, the original Dune trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, etc., would be good fodder for thematic sequels rather than direct chronological sequels): they allow you to tell stories set in a similar universe, but so divorced from the events of the first story that you can explore different ideas while keeping a similar milieu and tone. The advantage of this is that you can still slap the original story’s name on the side of the box and be guaranteed monetary return. The disadvantage is that folks may go, “But this isn’t the same game as the first one! Bummer.” While this can be done well, it requires the author be more flexible than most to tell a good story that still retains themes from the first tale.

    Chronological sequels do best when written as an integrated whole with the first story (see about half of the list above as good examples of how to do that): they allow you to continue the first story while maintaining the same characters and setting. The problem with this is serial stories need the first one to sell exceptionally well in the video game world: making an AAA game is frelling EXPENSIVE.

    So we come to reboots: they have many of the same bonuses as a thematic sequel without the need to adhere to universe canon. Unfortunately, they also have the same detracting factors.

    I guess I’m trying to say that things aren’t a matter of whether thematic sequels are better or worse than chronological sequels, which are then better or worse than reboots; I’m trying to say that good writing is really the key. Giving the consumer a “fresh, new story” feeling isn’t really dependent upon the framework of the story: it’s dependent upon the storytelling ability of the author.

    1. AileTheAlien says:

      Yeeaaaaahhh! Frelling is way cooler than the other fake swears! Gorramn drek, if you ask me! :P

  13. RCN says:

    Am I the only one that feels it’d be very interesting to see what the world of Fallout looks like outside the United States? Or is the Americana too ingrained to the formula to be feasible?

    1. The Rocketeer says:

      On one hand, I think Americana is such a huge part of Fallout that setting a Fallout game elsewhere is sort of missing the mark, like how a S.T.A.L.K.E.R. or Metro game set outside of Pripyat and Moscow would be putting a familiar name on an unrelated, maybe even incompatible context.


      But when people propose this hypothetical of, for instance, a Fallout game set outside of the US, and they make this argument, rejection of the concept seems to take the form of, “If that’s what they want, they should just make a new IP not bound by the existing baggage.” And I agree that, if we could pick and choose what games get made and don’t get made according to the fond wish of our hearts, that would be best.

      But this is the real world. If it seemed like Bethsoft or Obsidian or whoever gets the chance could be making a Fallout game outside the US, I’d accept the idea in a heartbeat, because the reality isn’t that we can choose between this and the ideal self-contained dream game in our mind; the reality is that that dream possibility is a complete fantasy compared to that hypothetical setting-displaced franchise title, which is itself a radical fantasy for how unlikely it is to ever happen.

      Take what you can get, when you can get it.

      1. RCN says:

        I for one like to think how other countries would build their own counterparts to the Vaults, how they’d deal with the radiation, how the environment would change, and what different breeds of mutants you’d find elsewhere.

        For instance, there are tons of ruins and old tunnels in Europe that could shape something different. Or how would super-technological countries like Japan or South Korea defend themselves (assuming they weren’t completely wiped out, I vaguely recall something bad about Japan from the two original games, but can’t say for certain). Or China, the other half of the equation to the great war. And Latin America? It seems like a place that wouldn’t attract too much of the nuclear heat during the war. Likewise, Africa, though there are only a few places that could feasibly shield their citizens from the radiation. Still South Africa is a big candidate. Then there are the ludicrously rich Arab Emirates or the aggressively militarized Israel. The elite of both these countries would conceivably also be able to protect themselves.

        1. Tizzy says:

          The Heart of Fallout is a send-up of the Red Scare and what it bred. It is a bunch of easily accessible references that many people get. E.g., I remember growing up seeing pictures of American bomb shelters from that time in books for kids.

          For a foreign Fallout to work, you would need to tap into similarily-powerful tropes accessible to many. There must be some, but it’s not immediately obvious to me, especially to find tropes that would fit particularly well with the existing Fallout.

          Then again, I’m no Rutskarn…

          1. Incunabulum says:

            This is similar to what I’ve said about this before (elsewhere) – the mix of ’50’s stuff and the background themes are done well because the devs (FO1/2) *knew* that stuff and were intimately familiar with American life.

            Jumping over to China, which is in most ways a completely alien culture, would mean having to find trustworthy partners who live that life *and* are familiar enough with the west to translate it.

            Otherwise you’d get the videogame version of yellowface – just a facade of poorly understood stereotypes.

            1. RCN says:

              Yeah… but even as pervasive as American culture is in the globe… I will tell you, 50s Americana is weird and alien to me. It feels fake and deranged, like an entire nation going through more than a decade of weaponized denial.

              And in the end the 50s and the Americana just feels like backdrop to me. The wasteland is the main attraction, and what people did in it. But I guess people are only comfortable in exploring the apocalypse in their own backyard…

              1. And really, how unbelievable is it that a wasteland culture based on “the ancients” wouldn’t happen? We’ve had so many civilizations that at least give lip service to the Greeks and Romans (we still use their architecture in nearly all of our cities, and who hasn’t at least heard of a toga party?), and we don’t have their robots and speaking tech running around reinforcing their language/culture just by their mere presence.

                But again, I think it was more of Fallout 1 having 50’s-70’s tech in their game along with comic book super-science that required a kind of “green screen future” to be maintained, or the presence of mp3 players and cell phones would be an even bigger violation of the lore than dumb-dumb Super Mutants.

                1. MichaelGC says:

                  I don’t think RCN was saying that the use of 50s Americana is odd within the story, but just that 50s Americana gives RCN an odd vibe in general. And I’d agree that it does have its creepy aspects: everything a little too cheerful and innocent; everyone a little too rosy-cheeked. It’s a bit David Lynchey, somehow: this thin veneer of glowing wholesomeness… but does something dark lurk beneath? (That’s the vibe I get, anyway – can’t speak for RCN, of course.)

                  Makes perfect sense to use it in a story set in the USA, though! It would be fun to see what they’d do in other locales, if they had the interest in doing so, and the background knowledge to make a decent fist of it. I’d like to see what became of Britain, for example – not because I need to feel included, but just ‘cos it’d be fun! We wouldn’t use bottle caps as currency, for example. Oh no – it’d be 200 year old teabags all the way.

                  PS Amusing to note – and this doesn’t detract from the point you were making – that toga parties are very much a U.S. phenomenon! Well, I thought it was amusing, anyway, given the context.

                  1. Tom says:

                    Brit here; lost it at the teabags. Although tea actually has historically been used as money; in China they dried and compressed it into hard blocks, shaped and stamped with patterns.

                  2. That’s another bit about the pre-war culture a lot of people seem to forget: It was a world on the brink of war, where paranoia, patriotism, and militarism were running rampant. It goes some way to explaining why there are guns everywhere and why robots are set up to murder anyone without proper ID or if they can’t contact the home office.

              2. ehlijen says:

                I don’t think Fallout without being set in America would work. You need a very specific mix of fear of nuclear war, lack of fear of a credible invasion and believe in Science. You need both an age of fear (not war, fear of war) and an age of optimism in recent history.

                For most of the world, WWIII wasn’t just an issue of irradiating the planet for a century, it was a matter of actually being invaded. In that scenario, any vaults being secured in time and lasting once closed are not realistic prospects. You’d not get a fallout style wasteland, you’d probably get something more like the western front of WWI. And I believe there was a recent indie game about that?

                I think the only other country you could set a Fallout style RPG in would be the soviet union, and between Stalker and Metro I think we’ve seen some examples that show that wouldn’t give us a tweaked Fallout.

                In short, I think Fallout is set in the US for very specific reasons that are needed to make it work.

                1. MichaelGC says:

                  I don’t disagree with that last sentence, but the listed items certainly applied to Britain, for one. But it’s those factors plus the age-old ‘write what you know’ adage which mean I don’t disagree: you’d really need a British Bethesda to do British Fallout properly, or an Australian Bethesda to do Oz Fallout, etc. etc.

                  1. RCN says:

                    Well, post WWII in Latin America also was a strange time. In some places, it was a time of progress and optimism thanks to what was gained through diplomacy from the war (Brazil got a huge bump in metallurgical technology thanks to some furnaces ceded by the USA for the privilege of using the Brazilian coast for their military mobilization and having the Brazilians joining the Allies). For others it was a time of introspection (Argentina was too closely aligned with the Axis, and their defeat had a profound impact). This led to an era of incredible popularity to some really bad dictators, but that soon also led to the deposition of said dictators and the adoption of full-fledged democracy…

                    Well, until the red-scare swept down and the people were so terrified the middle-classes gladly put dictators back in power thanks to both American propaganda, political influence and espionage. I can confidently tell that the Red Scare affected Latin America in more profound and terrifying ways than it did the US itself.

                    1. MichaelGC says:

                      Aye, that’d be fascinating to explore in a game – wouldn’t necessarily have to be Fallout, even. Assassin’s Creed set in 1970s Buenos Aires, perhaps? :D

                      (Or maybe not – I’ve never actually played an AC, so I don’t know if they really do their settings justice. I get the sense they mostly do, though, so – whilst it certainly helps – I guess I’m being a bit over-stringent in saying ‘only folks from Country X can properly do a game about Country X’.)

          2. Disc says:

            (Edit: As an European) I really don’t get why it’s necessary. I first played Fallout when I was in my early teens and I wasn’t exactly familiar with all the possible Americana references yet I still found the world interesting and the game enjoyable. I was familiar enough with the concept of Cold War and such and seeing stuff like Nuka-Cola as an obvious reference to Coca-Cola but that’s about it. The Americana gives it a specific flavour, that I could agree on, but I still can’t see how it’s necessary. Even as I grew older and I learned more about American history, it still doesn’t feel that important other than in the context that we’re (still) physically in the United States and that the established history of the area should reflect properly on the present. And that’s what that games do (mostly) very well.

            All in all, I just never really had much investment in the Americana and feel like its importance is grossly overestimated. It works well as a backdrop, but it’s not really why I’ve enjoyed the games.

            1. Disc says:

              I think the real problems with outside America perspectives start with language. It wouldn’t really fit having the usual “citizens of Whateveria all speaking English with bastardized accents”, considering the series has made a point of it that the whole world isn’t actually English. There’s tribes and people within US territory alone who have evolved their own languages over time and can barely speak English. Though it could definitely be interesting to have to deal with in-character language barriers, I’m just not sure how you’d pull it off in a way that feels natural.

              Cultural differences can be tough, but I don’t see them as insurmountable issues. It of course helps if you’re a native to the culture, but there’s a lot you can learn just by doing proper research.

              1. Syal says:

                NPCs start out speaking their own language, a few points into Intelligence gives them thickly accented English, and every point after that makes the accent less noticeable until it’s totally gone.

                (And you set it in Greece for the easy jokes.)

    2. ehlijen says:

      The closest I can suggest is a german game called The Fall: Last days of Gaia.

      Sadly, no official english version exists, though last I heard a translation mod was being undertaken (that info is years old though, sorry).

      You never really find out where the game is set, I think. It is truly set after the apocalypse, with very little reference to pre fall nations or ideologies. It doesn’t say anything about how any given nation survived, but it’s probably about as lacking in Americana a post apocalyptic RPG as you’re going to get.

      That said, it was a war that did the world in, but an environmental collapse triggered by an eco terrorist attack, not that anyone in game cares. So no radiation, just dry sand and salt everywhere.

      1. RCN says:

        I am not opposed to the Americana, and being completely divorced from culture is completely missing the point of what I meant.

        For instance, I’d be fascinated at how Germany is doing after Fallout’s nuclear apocalypse, but I really couldn’t care less about some generic identity-less nation after some indeterminate apocalypse…

        1. ehlijen says:

          That’s not really what I meant, either.

          The apocalypse wasn’t indeterminate, it was global warming kicked up ten gears by gross misuse of a terraformer meant for Mars.
          People are trying to fix it and fighting over who gets to have the fixed bits and where to fix things first.
          And the groups have faction identity (not as fleshed out as in Fallout, but it’s there), it’s just not based on prewar nations because those are gone.

          But the game has no nostalgia over the prefall times, no. Everyone is more concerned with how to make a life in the now. There are no vaults, and no vault dwellers (there was nothing to hide from), and thus no ‘from the past’ perspective on things.

          But fair enough, I misunderstood what you’re after. But really, that’s the kind of setting I’d have wanted from Fallout 3 (and which Fallout 1 and 2 delivered): it’s not about seeing how broken everything is, but how people have rebuilt something new from the ashes, something that new that may not have anything to do with the old.

    3. Daemian Lucifer says:

      No,you arent the only one.I wouldnt mind seeing 50s americana outside of the usa.After all,we’re all living in america,america is wunderbar.

    4. Phill says:

      I think you pretty much have to stick to the US to be honest.

      Exploring other countries might make sense if the fallout setting was a plausible, mapped out portrayal of life after a nuclear apocalypse. But as Shamus’s article points out, it is nothing of the sort. If you are realistically trying to envisage what a post-apocalypse would look like, it would be nothing like Fallout, particularly 200 years after the bombs.

      Instead, the central conceit of Fallout is the comedy what-if of the post apocalyptic setting in parallel with the cold war with its genuine (and entirely justified) fear of nuclear devastation. You have the contrast between the ‘Happy Days’ style 50’s (which has only a passing resemblance to the real 50’s) and the grimness of post-armageddon struggle for survival. That disparity is the core of the fallout concept (as distinct from, say, Metro 2033).

      You don’t necessarily have to keep to the 1950’s US setting – you could make it work just as well with perhaps 1970’s Britain, with the mods vs rockers, Brighton beach, punk music, the IRA. Okay, so that’s all a bit grim for the feelgood nostaliga. Maybe I need to watch “That 70’s show” to get a fluffier take on the decade (from a US perspective). And I think within the context of the game you could easily have Fallout 1 as 50’s US culture, Fallout 2 as 70’s (UK or US) because it keeps the same shtick of the survivors bringing back the culture from the past without really understanding it.

      The downside to a non-US culture, is that the audience becomes much more limited to the people who have nostalgia for that place and time, Whereas thanks to the global saturation of US culture – and Happy Days – the Fallout setting is actually recognisable (and to some extent relateable) to people outside the US too.

      All of which suggests that the next Fallout reboot should take place in a post-apocalypse New York that is primarily influenced by ‘Freinds’.

      1. krellen says:

        In my mind, the US (and maybe China) was devastated by nuclear war, but the rest of the world is just going on blissfully untouched. The US is an irradiated wasteland so the rest of the world leaves it alone, thus allowing Fallout to happen.

        1. Ringwraith says:

          I think this is mentioned in that other places are better off, as the remains of Europe are what’s referred to as the ‘Commonwealth’ and they’re the ones responsible for building human androids, so they’ve obviously a bit further ahead.

      2. Wide And Nerdy says:

        There are other cultures that have successfully exported classic depictions of their cultures, Japan and China amongst them. It wouldn’t be as recent but thats more because America is such a young culture. Post apocalyptic Samurais and ninjas would be fun. And you’d have plenty of robots.

        Witcher’s slavic mythology is recognizable too. And imagine neo-Vikings.

  14. ArguablyHuman says:

    Discussion: What other games would benefit from a clean slate approach to lore? Which ones are sacred and shouldn't be rebooted?

    While i would say that anything can be rebooted, and i wouldn’t consider anything sacred, i can think of specific universes that don’t need a reboot to get the sense of wonder back to them. Fallout itself is a great example – all you really need to do is make the next game Fallout: London, or Fallout: Sydney(assuming that you don’t want to leave the anglosphere) and you erase most stale conventions of the setting. No more BoS, no Enclave, completely different mutated fauna(Australia would be really fun here), all new aesthetic… too bad Bethesda will never do anything like that, huh?

    ps Long time reader, first time poster, sorry if i’m coming off a little incoherent, it’s kinda late here and english is not my first language(i’m completely sure i’ve bungled at least some punctuation here)

    1. Incunabulum says:

      Sure, but what do you do when the writers have no familiarity with actual Australian life and culture (let alone attempting a twist on that culture and extrapolating it through several decades of alternate future) and there’s just a bunch of Paul Hogan and ‘shrimp on the barbie’ references?

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        That didnt stop the writers from making niko belic,and everyone seems to like him.

        And lets not forget “leliana has a terrible french accent”.

        1. ehlijen says:

          Niko was primarily an immigrant to the US interacting with US citizens, as opposed to a citizen of his country of birth interacting with fellow countrymen. That’s makes things a tad easier.

          Leliana’s accent I don’t get? She’s not-French, so why is her not-French accent an issue?

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            I wasnt talking about niko as an american,but niko as a yugoslavian.His talks with his cousin,his “reverting” to the native language,it was a bit grating.

            As for leliana,Im referring to Shamus calling her accent fake,despite the actress actually being french.

            Oh,and lets not forget life is strange,made by a french studio,set somewhere in the usa.

            1. Ringwraith says:

              Also with voice actors with “fake” accents, in FFXIII, two characters have Australian accents, the who is actually Australian was the one who had their accent criticised.

              Happens all the time.

  15. Rayen says:

    Needs a clean Slate: Resident Evil (although they tried and it didn’t work), Mortal Kombat (Although they tried and it didn’t work), Any fighting game really, Assassin’s Creed (Sorta, and they sorta did) and Kingdom Hearts needs to start being careful.

    Sacred: Nothing is Sacred

    1. The Rocketeer says:

      I think at this point you’re either fine with Kingdom Hearts being a self-indulgent deviantArt continuity vortex or you just aren’t the game’s audience.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      What do you mean it didnt work?Wasnt ix sort of a reboot,and that one was praised for its story?

  16. The Rocketeer says:

    I keep seeing the title of this post as “In Defense of Robots,” and I keep having this reflexive response of, “Traitor! Collaborator! You’d turn us all over to the machines, you sympathizer! Chrome polisher! Once you’ve handed the world to the automatons, you’ll be tightening screws on a soylent compressor 20 hours a day and you’ll deserve it!”

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:


      1. Primogenitor says:

        One could even say there is a … (wait for it) … Good Robot (ba-dum-tish).

        Thank you, tell you friends I’ll be here all week.

        1. MichaelGC says:

          Don’t be fooled by the cutesy face and wide-open welcoming arms! I’m convinced that “Good” Robot is actually eeeeeevil, but has world-class public relations.

          PS Still chuckling at ‘Chrome polisher!’.

  17. ehlijen says:

    I think the perfect example of what a reboot should do were XCOM – Apocalypse (mind you, it was not a perfect game!) and XCOM – Enemy Unknown.

    They kept the basic idea of the original (three layers interacting (tactical, global long term, global immediate) and the basic premise (dem aliens took’er brains!)), but each threw out everything else and tried to reinvent the game with loads of new features. Not everything worked (in apoc’s case, a lot didn’t), but the end result in both cases was definitely something new and at least interesting for anyone into the genre. I enjoyed both games immensely and can see myself replaying any of them at some point (hardware permitting).

    But then, XCOM never had much canon to build or destroy. It lived and died on a simple premise and strong gameplay. The story was only ever changed and developed to drive changes to the gameplay (new aliens, new tech, new ways for the world to get unhappy…).

    1. AileTheAlien says:

      Technically, Apocalypse wasn’t a reboot, was it? I thought it was a sequel, set X years after the first (two) game(s). It had companies which manufactured and sold a lot of the formerly “alien” technology, to other people/companies on Earth. e.g. The hover vehicles, elerium technology, and hover-power-suits.

      I do agree though, with XCOM Enemy Unknown. That was a proper reboot of the series, and a pretty darn good one at that! :)

      1. ehlijen says:

        I guess, though it really didn’t need to be. I’d call it a gameplay reboot, in that it was clearly more than just an evolution of the same game, and it deliberately went new directions (some of which worked, others not so much).

        Either way, I wish more companies were that brave.

    2. AileTheAlien says:

      Also, Apocalypse definitely experimented the most, with adding new game systems. They added gravity to the destructible terrain in the tactical maps, and even let you blow up buildings in the main city-map too! Plus, brain-suckers! :P

      1. ehlijen says:

        And I think it’s the only XCOM game with non-omni disciplinary scientists! Loved the Toxi-gun as an idea, despite how broken it really was.

  18. ehlijen says:

    A game I’d like to see rebooted: Trespasser

    Physics puzzles, survival adventure, dinosaurs, open world island, tomb raider style acrobatics and archery….it could work, no?

    1. Syal says:

      I mentioned it on the last post, but I’ll say it again because I really want it to happen now; Final Fantasy 8 deserves a reboot. It’s got huge scope to it and would be amazing if they went back and made all the elements flow into each other, instead of each new idea and plot twist coming in like a brick to the face and dropping away just as quickly.

    2. AileTheAlien says:

      Or you could keep the puzzles and hand movements, and ditch the shooting and platforming. Make it use them fancy new VR goggles and hand gesture recognition technology! :D

  19. This sounds like an issue of mechanical design. The real question is what games have gameplay elements not directly tied to their narrative structure and are therefore transferable to different settings. I suspect it would require these elements to be either so unique as to be recognizable on their own – Katamari for example – or so standard as to be a template – see: Uncharted/every-third-person-shooter-released-in-the-past-ten-years.

  20. Mephane says:

    Okay, here is a game series that should really get a total reboot on a clean slate. As in, keep the core concept, but throw out everything else – the places, characters, story:

    Saints Row. Let it be once again about being a gangster boss in a whacky GTA, but stay away from superpowers, aliens, the matrix and so on.

    Basically, take the SR3 gameplay into an entirely different city (preferrably something like GTA V with not just the city, but the landscape around it, too), with entirely new characters and start completely fresh. You may keep the “3rd Street Saints” name for the gang, but I wouldn’t even care if that got dropped.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      I agree with the reboot of that(arent they doing it anyway?),but not the sr3 gameplay part.Sr2,sr3 and sr4 were all based on different games,so Id like sr5 to be based on something else entirely as well.Maybe a twist on la noire?

      1. Disc says:

        “Maybe a twist on la noire?”

        That’s.. sort of one of the endings in SR:Gat Out Of Hell.


        God basically retcons history and this is where they’d end up.

    2. Primogenitor says:

      No, Saints Row shouldn’t have a reboot – I want to see where it goes next. How do they outdo the setting of the last few games?

      1. V8_Ninja says:

        They can’t. Once you go to space you can’t up the ante any further. You could maybe start dealing with metaphysical concepts, but writing very literally about those ideas doesn’t open itself up to exciting storytelling.

        1. Shamus says:

          I like how this can apply to the current state of either Saints Row or Super Mario.

          1. Christopher says:

            I would happily accept a Saints Row game that takes place half in Steelport and half inside the body of one of the villains. Unfortunately, they’re all dead. I’d settle for Pierce’s Inside Story though.

        2. Wide And Nerdy says:

          They did. Gat out of Hell upped the ante again (at least I consider a different plane of existence to be a step up from space).

          Maybe they could go some place like Asgard? I could see them partying it up with the Norse or Greek Gods.

      2. Neil D says:

        With all game manufacturers shying away from taking any kinds of chances at all, I have to give Saints Row all kinds of credit for taking their open world driving franchise and making the driving component completely obsolete. I have to imagine the conversation went something like this.

        “But if we give the player the powers to run faster than cars, up the sides of buildings, and even fly, then there is no reason at all to drive any more!”

        “Hmm. Well… is it fun?”

        “That’s the problem – it’s too fun! We’re making a driving game where nobody is going to want to drive!”

        “I see no problem. Ship it.”

      3. Mephane says:

        Well this touches what Shamus also tweeted. A gameplay sequel to SR3, not a continuity sequel. And no, SR4 is not a gameplay sequel because almost every aspect of the gameplay, while still being present, is overriden by the superpowers, for example vehicles are entirely irrelevant once your running/jumping/gliding becomes strong enough.

    3. ehlijen says:

      I disagree. The superpowers and scifi nonsense are what sold SR4 to me. I tried SR3 but the only part I truly enjoyed as its most SR4-like bit (mars mission). I didn’t actually like the gangster boss part. I was glad I was basically playing Zap Brannigan.

      1. Wide And Nerdy says:

        Agree on the powers and sci fi. I like that the gang has grown so far beyond its roots while still bringing a touch of that street flavor with them. Gang living large is like an entire musical genre given life.

  21. MichaelGC says:

    Which ones are sacred and shouldn't be rebooted?

    Chuckie Egg!!

    Yeah … the prospect is not something which keeps me awake at night.

  22. ColeusRattus says:

    One question remains though: If you get rid of fanservice and start over as a clean slate, why even bother with tacking the name of an existing IP on? What’s there to gain over using a new IP?

    As I see it, and as I have experienced it in the past, the fans of a franchise expect being catered to. But if you get rid of all the shout-outs and other defining charactertistics, you are going to alienate existing fans, which coud cause them to skip entries in the franchise further down the line, losing you some sales. That happened to me with the Rainbow Six series, which I stopped caring for with the release of Lockdown (allthough I might be the only person to still remember that game at all). Even worse, you might actually have a good game, that will still be shunned and vocally talked down by old time fans, because due to the game’s name, it’s niot regarded as a unique entitiy, but always compared to it’s predecessors

    And concerning new customers: They do not care about that series or franchise. In fact, having a game tied to a certain title might actually also hampering sales, as people who might enjoy the “reimagining” might be put off by the name, because they didn’t like those games in the first place.

    Is it really just the unwillingness of publishers to take risks that drives this need to pressure new games into existing franchises?

    1. Syal says:

      On the flipside, a new IP with a similar setup to a well-known one is already going to be heavily compared with it, and runs the risk of being dismissed as a copycat.

  23. Primogenitor says:

    What’s the difference between a hard reboot as Shamus suggests, and an “inspired by” homage type game? Yes, a reboot carries the same name – but that has no guarantees attached about the quality, style, or creators.

  24. boota says:

    a couple of franchises that need rebooting as far as i see it

    max payne
    command & conquer

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Oh yes,c&c definitely needs a reboot.

  25. Hal says:

    Instead of rebooting, I think a lot of games could benefit from swapping genres. Some examples:

    Warcraft went from real time strategy to third-person adventure (MMO)RPG
    Fallout switched from an isometric third-person adventure to first-person shooter/RPG
    C&C:Renegade was an FPS set in an RTS world

    That last one wasn’t necessarily a successful example, but I think the point stands. Swapping game genres lets you tell different kinds of stories without having to unload everything that came before it or tell the same dang story over and over.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Thats a terrible idea.Those two successful ones were successful because they found a new audience,not because they were telling something different or better.Especially fallout,which tried to tell the same(but worse)story to new people.

      1. MichaelGC says:

        So, no interest in a Life Is Strange MOBA? No? What about Spec Ops: The Hidden Object Game? Darn, I thought we were nearly ready for Kickstarter. Alright, wheel the drawing board back in here…

        Marlow Briggs’ Mayincatec Indefenistrable Driving Simulator?… OK, we’ll stick a pin in that one for now.

        1. Syal says:

          Just what the world needs; a crossover between Marlow Briggs and Desert Bus.

    2. Neko says:

      I agree. Bioshock Infinite could have been interesting if it was anything other than a shooter. The Gears of Halo Duty: Modern Battlefield series could work quite well as some form of strategy game. You could make a city-building sim game set in the Mass Effect universe, with Cerberus giving you a fixed amount of funds to set up a rogue cell somewhere as long as your base is able to produce sufficiently deadly mistakes.

  26. John says:

    Hrm. As a cranky old man, I’d just like to say that the problem with these newfangled modern games is that they have altogether too much story to begin with. They’re like light-cycles from Tron. With each new game in a series, there’s less room for maneuver, and eventually–inevitably!–the series runs smack into a wall. And really, there’s no excuse for that, especially in AAA development. Any AAA developer who has not realized by now that if he produces a successful game he will also be forced to produce a sequel or three is bad at his job. A game should have exactly as much story as it needs, and no more. (Exactly how much story a game needs depends on what the game is trying to accomplish, and I’m not gonna get into it here.)

    For instance, I’ve always wondered why the Elder Scrolls games are all set in the same world when they don’t seem to have much to do with each other, plot-wise. Based on my brief foray into Daggerfall, the games are full of little books of lore, which I concede are cute and add flavor to the games. But when a little book of lore from the new game contradicts a little book of lore from the last game it makes the kind of player who takes the time to read little books of lore really angry. So why not set the new game in an entirely new world? The players can still have their little books, so they’ll be happy. Honestly, I see no downside here.

    1. Mike S. says:

      Another problem with setting sequels in a single world is making the stakes too high. If you’re “only” saving a city in a fantasy game, or a planet in an SF game (stipulating that “save the X” is going to remain an overused plot arc), then there’s a lot more room to maneuver. (And the game could attempt to approximate the actual size and complexity of that “small” setting.) But games go straight to global consequences, and then try to escalate from there.

      E.g., Mass Effect had a deep galaxy they could have mined for a dozen games or more. (Especially since it was explicit that Citadel-explored space was the tiniest fraction of the Milky Way, albeit scattered across its breadth.) If they hadn’t insisted on going straight to the galactic apocalypse.

      Now they’re burning their bridges and moving two and a half million light years to avoid having to declare one of the ME3 endings canon and deal with the implications. It’s probably the right answer for them, given the circumstances. (The last thing they need is to tick off two thirds of their already agitated fandom by declaring their ending void, and a reboot of the same story this soon would probably lead to riots.) But I only hope that the need to up the scale doesn’t mean that Mass Effect 7 has to take place outside the Local Group.

      (It’s a real shame that the flaws of Dragon Age 2 meant that the experiment with reducing the scale of the action wound up being chalked up as a failure.)

      1. Trevel says:

        Mostly I’m just hopeful that this means we’ve heard the last of Earth. ME3 would have been much better if Earth had been destroyed in the tutorial.

    2. MichaelGC says:

      That is a cracking analogy!

  27. Ian Miller says:

    If they rebooted or remade the X-Wing and Tie Fighter series, I don’t think I’d mind either way, as long as they kept the same general depth of play, variety of spacecraft and missions, and avoided the pitfalls of Star Wars: Attack Squadrons. (Although, at this point, I’m so desperate for a Star Wars starfighter sim I would have taken Attack Squadrons and been reasonably happy that there was something out there for me.)

  28. Otters34 says:

    “Instead of being intrigued by the premise I listed to the presentation”

    The Shamus listed hard to port, the sharp change in the wind brought by the howling presentation bellying its sails and bending its masts, wood creaking ominously as bounded over the waves.

    “Seen it a million times” grumbled Captain Young, looking sourly at the grey churning sky above him, the air tearing at his coat.

  29. Cybron says:

    I think it’s definitely harder to come up with games that *shouldn’t* have the slate wiped clean. I can think of very few games where I’m so attached to the status quo that I would really hate it if they made a new story that ran parallel to the original.

    The problem, of course, is the risk that they’ll muck it up (see DmC or Castlevania).

  30. Shamus I saw in your tweet you mentioned adblock.
    I’d recommend uBlock instead. It’s a open source project (which adblock is not).

    And having used adblock for a long time andnot uBlock for a long time I like uBlock much better.

    It is very easy to toggle the blocking on a page/site and you can also quickly toggle blocking on a page of external fonts, cosmetics, popups, or even a strict mode.

    And that’s just the simple mode. There is a “hidden” advanced mode that let you micromanage the blocking if you really want to go crazy (it look similar to how you manage a firewall of sorts).

    It is supposedly making pages faster than other blockers, as it only loads what is not blocked.

  31. When I say dated I mean mostly technically (too few polygons/edgy), game engine not working/looking right (stretched, limited resolution support, etc). Audio quality, texture quality.
    Not all of these are reboot wishes, just a continuation or similar is also desired.

    Assasins Creed
    Major reboot into a Secret Agent franchise (parkour/sneaking/climbing/blending/clues mechanics can all remain be improved further).
    Agents have existed since way back so a franchise could span several game dating back a few hundred years, allowing players to get new/better tech over the years.
    The advancement of time could happen as part of the games story or make leaps in time between games.
    A coherent bond between games could be made by making the spy agency the link. (a new player character each game)
    References to past games/spies could be snuck in here or there.
    It may sound like a mix between Alpha Protocol, The Kingsman, James Bond, Jason Bourne. But wouldn’t that be awesome?

    No One Lives Forever / NOLF
    Due to industry asshats this will always remain dead.
    New franchise name, new main character.
    But keep the style/theme of it. A female super agent, three games, one in the 60s one in the 70s and one in the 80s.
    Bring in all the tropes, add a mix of classic NOLF and Archer humor.

    The Force Unleashed
    The premise was awesome, the force unleashed looked/felt awesome (I still seeing that “bringing down” a star destroyer scene.)
    The game showed what Darth Vader could have been.
    Set the game in the past (during a Jedi/Sith war) let the player be recruited by either Jedi or Sith.
    Will they follow the Dark or the Light or will they carve out their own path. And should they follow the light or the dark will they vie for rule/control?

    KOTOR / Knights Of The Old Republic
    Not as much a reboot as in a new Star Wars singleplayer RPG is needed in a similar style. Think about the Dragon Age Inquisition engine but a Star Wars game instead.
    Easily spanning 2-3 games with savegame/worldstate carryover to the next game.

    Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines
    The best Vampire game ever. It’s a shame this kinda died with the game studio. Luckily it was finished, sadly it needs community patches to be playable.
    Trying to imagine how it would feel/look in a modern engine and one could draw parallels to maybe Deus Ex: Human Revolution

    Blade Runner The Game
    Essentially a old school point and click adventure but using voxels and other crazy/innovative things for the time.
    A modern game/engine of this might look more like the new Dreamfall Chapters.

    The Mafia and Mafia II games was amazing.
    The first game took place in the 1930s.
    A franchise could easily have a series of games set in 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s.
    It could start with a guy/kid on the street getting into the family and climbing close to the top.
    A second game could continue this and by the end allow the player to become the leader of the family.
    A third game could take this further with family rivalries and the player becoming the don of all families in the city.
    A fourth game could take this to the point where the game ends with the player becoming the don of the country.

    The Witcher
    Rather than a reboot it’s a continuation, but without Geralt.
    You play as a (male or female) trainee from another Witcher branch/family.
    At some point you run into Ciri (possible romance regardless of gender?)
    This assumes that Ciri finishes her training and continues as a Witcher after the end of Witcher 3.
    To allow more traveling/variation events surrounding Ciri (maybe allowing to play as her at points) is interspersed allowing the player character to “move” to other parts of the world.
    The world in Witcher 3 was just a small part of the entire world.
    Potential the male/female player choice could also be playing as Ciri if you choose female and playing as a new male character if choosing male.
    This would allow (and encourage) playing through twice to fully see the story of both.
    And here’s the replay-ability trick to ensure you play through at least 4 times.
    If you play through with one of the characters then those choices are remembered when you play through as the other character, so they will influence each others stories.

    Aliens vs Predator 2
    The way this game interwove 3 story lines from three perspectives was awesome. The best Aliens vs Predator game made IMO.
    I don’t care if they do a replica remake with just a new engine etc. The game is still awesome but is very dated technically/visually.

    Half Life
    The HL3 ship has sailed. A proper reboot of the franchise would be better (using a Source Engine 3?).

    Mass Effect
    There is ME4 coming. and the universe is big enough so a continuation rather than reboot. Would have been interesting to see first contact from the perspective of another race though.

    Or anything similar to it’s plot.

    GTA: Vice City
    I want my 80s fix dammit.

    System Shock
    Because Shamus.

    Medal of Honor
    Only this time from the Japanese perspective during WW2.

    It still is good but getting very dated.

    X-Wing and Tie Fighter
    New games of both are needed, because Josh.

    Jedi Knight: Outcast / Jedi Knight: Academy
    The games are getting very dated.

    Max Payne
    1 and 2 are getting dated.

    A pretty good franchise but could use some re-imagining.

    Splinter Cell
    THe main character is so old now. Starting with a new character would be best (same name or not?).

    The Battletech universe is dearly missed (loved the cartoons).

    Monkey Island
    Who wouldn’t want more Monkey Island in any form or shape? (common Disney)

    Dead Space
    There is so much more to the mythology here, reboot or spin-off or whatever.

    Resident Evil
    Need I say more?

    Silent Hill
    Need I say more?

    Saints Row
    Only a reboot is possible as a continuation is not really possible, but the reboot could be part of the plot itself thanks to the ending of SRIV.

    Star Trek: Elite Force I & II
    These are pretty dated. But are pretty good Star Trek games. You felt like you where part of the crew. Need not take place on the Enterprise and Voyager. Another ship or Starbase would also be fine (THe Federation had many starbases and ships)

    Family Guy
    No idea if there was a proper adventure/RPG game or not but… Done the same way as South Park game was done. (Obsidian you can do this, I’m sure.)

    Indigo Prophecy

    Tron 2.0
    Best Tron game ever. A Tron 3.0 or something, please.

    Or any other Mage centric game dammit.

    Elder Scrolls: Morrowind
    Because Rutskarn

    L.A. Noire
    Anything, just anything.

    Neverwinter Nights
    Classic but dated.

    The first games are getting long in the tooth.

    Dead Island
    Just make a game that match that trailer.

    Frontier: Elite
    Best single player Elite game.

    Any game, just let people create (and evolve though the game) their own mutant.


    Just let us play properly evil instead of a faux-evil.

    1. Disc says:

      “Dead Island
      Just make a game that match that trailer.”

      Think that would need a whole another studio. After three games, I can only really conclude that Techland is way better at developing game mechanics than at writing and if the trailer for Dead Island 2 (developed by another studio) is anything to go by, we’ll be pretty far from the goal yet again.

  32. The recent Mass Effect 4 announcement trailer was fine IMO. On BioWare’s blog it’s hinted that character in the trailer is not the play character.

    My guess is that N7 is sort of Shepard’s Legacy, and that N7 travels around getting rid of all traces of Reaper tech etc.

    That N7 character either dies (and the player picks up the mantle), or is recruited or get mixed up in the whole thing or something. Or maybe you start as a new recruit.

    Myself I kinda like the idea of the N7 character asking for your help, and there you are a “local” who was just given a dying wish and a uber space ship with an AI as your only companion (at first).

    We’ll see later what BioWare is cooking up, so far that trailer told us nothing. Then again it’s next xmas they are realizing so leaking story stuff now is a tad early.

  33. Core says:

    “In the original DOOM, the first encounter with the Mancubus was thrilling: Here is a great big monster. You don’t know what it is, how it works, or how it’s going to try to kill you, and that uncertainty created tension. Now it’s like seeing an old friend, “Hey! The new Mancubus model looks cool!” ”

    I’d just like to make a comment about this particular piece, the genius of the original DOOM’s(well, or DOOM 2, as it’s one of the creatures added to the sequel unless you’re referring to the original series as whole) design didn’t lie with making a mystery out of its mechanics, the mancubus has a total of one attack pattern that could be described as ‘suppressive fire’ – something readily apparent moments into that first encounter, but with how it could reuse that one simple design in different circumstances to great effect via level design and placement. Doom isn’t a game about one-off designs, it’s about covering the majority of ludic archetypes imaginable for a straight up shooter while giving them easily recognizable, and in some cases, almost iconic shapes that players can speedily discern and respond to, which is why you still get new user-made levels for the original Doom to this day.

    On the other hand the mancubus in the context of DOOM 3 and its core movement and shooting mechanics is really just an almost immobile bullet sponge that you defeat by playing a few rounds of peek-a-boo.

    So I don’t think novelty is important for DOOM at all, strong design fundamentals are, and we haven’t actually had a game like that on any modern engine, and a new mancubus design with an AI/moveset that prevents any sort of a degenerate DOOM 3-esque approach to those things while still covering its original ‘area denial’ purpose would be far more surprising to me than any new monster design, and looking at the E3 gameplay, that just might be the direction they’re moving in as it is.

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