I don’t really have a ton to talk about this morning. I played some Gorgon last night but was in truth mostly out of it. I feel like maybe I am coming down with something, either that or it is simply just allergies going nuts with the start of spring. Whatever the case I have been sitting around in large part numb and hazy. None of these make for great writing fodder. Instead I am going to talk a bit about Boss Key productions and the track record they are starting to develop for creating uninspired “also ran” titles. Lawbreakers was not a great game… it wasn’t horrible but it also really didn’t add much in the way of unique and interesting game play that made it stand out among the already large pack of “Arena Shooters” or whatever you want to call the “Overwatchian” genre that seemed to evolve rapidly and then quickly devolve into Overwatch and everyone else.
The above is a clip that my friend Ashgar loves to link when we start talking about derivative games in a genre… and it is bookmarked to the important part. For those without YouTube access when you are reading this I will do my best to quote Graham Stark from Loading Ready Run.
The Following is a public service announcement for any game publishers trying to get in on the Battle Royale craze now… you are too late. If you’re already in progress you might be okay if your game has a compelling hook like the team at automaton promising a cloud-based server structure that could support up to a thousand players on a map larger than Skyrim… but if you’re just starting it will be too late and we need only look to the multiplayer online battle arena genre for proof.
Why this is all coming up this week is that Boss Key after failing to gain traction with Lawbreakers… set its sights on the next big thing the “Battle Royale” genre and cranked out a game show based 80s inspired game called Radical Heights. The problem I see however is that it doesn’t really seem to offer something new that Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds or Fortnite are currently offering. Fortnite became popular for two reasons… it added a Minecraft aspect to the already popular Battle Royale genre and was free to play allowing players to hop in quickly and start playing with zero cash outlay. Radical Heights is free to play and available through steam… but seems to lack the “building stuff” hook. The 80s/90s hybrid theme feels lazy as well… because there are ways to do genre nostalgia that are amazing… Blood Dragon for example… and then there are ways that feel like cheap neon colored pandering.
The most frustrating thing about the “Gameshow” trappings that the game seems to be draped in is the fact that it is a giant missed opportunity. 1990 had an amazing battle game that was inspired by the moving The Running Man, and pitting players against waves of oncoming enemies for cash and prizes. Smash TV seems like a game that is just begging to be converted to the Battle Royale genre, and could also serve to change it significantly in the process. Imagine that each player or group of players starts in their own room and are slowly working their way to the center of the maze. The rooms all start off as PVE encounters as you have to face waves of encounters and varying obstacles, then as you get further you may or may not start encountering other players where you have the choice to group up and split the loot or take each other out. In both of those scenarios to make it interesting you need to present palpable reasons why you might want to group up, and other reasons why you might want to go it alone and try and take out the interlopers.
Not all of the rooms need to be mindless waves from a spawner… some of them could be puzzles that need to be solved or crazy environmental effects that are going on that you need to survive a certain amount of time before the door opens. All of which happening in a behind the back/over the shoulder third person shooter interface with the rooms being large enough to make that not feel completely claustrophobic. In the end you wind up creating something that is a riff on the battle royale genre that comes at from a different direction… rather than just cranking out another game going after all of the same beats. The best thing about this specific formula is it would allow for massive boss battles similar to how the original Smash TV did… and tweak the “map gets smaller” thing into something infinitely more interesting. Additionally it could hit all of the 80s/90s nostalgia beats without feeling like a costume that your game happens to be wearing.
Regardless of all of this… I think the core of my frustration comes from having a lot of hope in Boss Key when it was initially founded. Unfortunately it feels like the Cliffy B brand doesn’t mean anywhere near what it used to.