Picked up a copy of HW2. You could say I opened the box with some anticipationthe first one remains one of my favorite games. It was immersive–the story was engaging, the sound built and maintained the mood, and the interface still is the easiest 3D RTS I’ve ever seen. As for the sequel it has spawned, HW2 gives a great first impression–the production quality is certainly there. The graphics, interface, and sound have all taken evolutionary steps that are great to see. Lightning, however, did not strike twice.
I kept wondering what was missing from this game. Its beautiful to look at, it sounds great, the interface is much improved. Maybe it was just the story…I didnt care. Somehow the story was less three dimensional than the ships that flew through it. The first game managed to strike an almost magical balance where each part of the game worked together like an instrument in a professional orchestra to produce the subtle tones and brilliant sounds that move an audience with their song. Homeworld 2 had the technical competence, but the story didnt rise to the same level.
The more games I play, the more I become aware of just how difficult it must be to write a good story and then orchestrate the instruments of a game to bring it to life. More often than not, game studios focus on what they can control–the technical content. I guess they calculate that it is better to work on bump mapping and lighting effects than become embroiled in the quagmire of authoring a good gameworld. I wonder if they are setting themselves up to compete for second place’then again, maybe they really just want to target a smaller niche. Not every title need be a blockbuster to make money.
I daresay that LucasArts doesn’t owe its success to superior technology. They have a better franchise–a game world that the players want to be a part of. I wonder how a game studio could do by focusing on building a compelling game world first, with the technology ever the servant of the story. Maybe this is what some companies try to do by licensing a world from the movies or a book. Considering the bad name movie tie-ins have, I suspect too many of them use the world they’ve licensed as a static backdrop rather than as the creative engine of the game.
Updated on October 5th, 2013
Some of the links were broken. I replaced them with working links to pages with the same or similar content as before.