What if different developers worked on the same series?
Halo 4 was recently released on the Xbox 360, and it’s the first proper Halo game that wasn’t handled by Bungie Studios, and it has me thinking. (I know, that’s dangerous.) What I’m most impressed by are the positive review scores it has received, including our very own Halo 4 review.
As a gaming enthusiast, I sometimes hold onto traditional values and reminisce about how good things were in the past. When something comes along that threatens to change something I find to be sacred, like a sequel that might not be necessary, it’s my instinct to be skeptical. We’ve been burned in the past by greedy publishers, or development issues to follow-ups that have tarnished some of beloved series.
When Bungie announced that they would no longer be handling the Halo license, and would be pursuing development outside of the Xbox 360 as a more independent studio, I was a bit saddened. When Microsoft announced that they were holding onto the Halo license and that more Halo games would be developed by somebody other than Bungie, I immediately saw the Halo legacy going right… down… the…. drain.
Of course Microsoft would be in it for the money, rather than release a quality game, I thought. They would ruin the Halo name by releasing a half-assed sequel. Yes, it would make a lot of money because of the name alone, and we’d probably see asinine games like Halo Kart Racing and Halo Party (apologies for the blatant jabs at the Mario franchise).
But that’s not what happened. 343 Industries, who developed Halo 4, were faithful to the Halo name while expanding upon the series’ lore.
But the Halo series isn’t the only series where we judged incorrectly. For the longest time, Treyarch was considered to be the “B-team” when it came to development for the Call of Duty series. Call of Duty 3 and Call of Duty: World at War, which were both developed by Treyarch, didn’t exactly set the world on fire. On the flip side, Infinity Ward, developers for Call of Duty 2, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, were constantly praised for their releases.
That is, they were until Call of Duty: Black Ops was released. Now Treyarch is on the map as a serious developer, and the sequel to Black Ops hit store shelves last Tuesday.
What I’ve been thinking about is, what would happen if, in order to release popular franchises on a regular schedule, that different development studios would take the lead, following a certain formula, but giving their own spin on the series.
Much like the Harry Potter films, or the recent Twilight movies (apologies if I made you cringe), each movie has a different director, and each film had a slightly different feel to it. The characters are the same, the plotlines are similar, but the style is a little bit different.
If a developer like 343 Industries, even though they’re backed by Microsoft, can faithfully handle a popular license, why can’t other games be developed in a similar fashion?
Harmonix did a great job with the Rock Band games, but maybe when the series started running its course, a different development studio could have come in and given it fresh set of development eyes. Sometimes when you’re so involved with a project, so close to it, you can’t see the imperfections.
It’s just an idea, and it’s likely not a feasible business model, for unappealing and risky decisions. Maybe it’d work out, or maybe it’s just end in disaster. But I really think it would be interesting to see how different developers could handle certain game franchises.