Curmudgeon Gamer
Curmudgeoning all games equally.
09 November 2006
I hate "original IP"
This week's podcast has Jeremy Williams, a guy I normally appreciate hearing from, utter this (my emphasis):
One thing that we're not talking about here is that [Gears of War] is an original IP [intellectual property]. So for a game that is not a sequel to receive so much industry promotion and to have this kind of hype behind it is very, very uncommon.
I know that jmro and other Microsoft-lovers are going to say I'm just being hypercritical of an Xbox 360 game (and here an especially well-reviewed Xbox 360 game). That's fine -- I'm used to it now. But is anyone else galled by the ever growing use of "original IP"? I'm told that this means "new story and characters" and, perhaps more appropriately, as a synonym for "not based on an existing license".

The problem with calling things like this "original IP" is that most new stories and characters are really quite poor. If your story and characters could be made up with a modern version of Mad Libs, then the distinction is meaningless. Assuming the GameSpot review of Gears of War is accurate, the story was an afterthought: "The game's story isn't very deep, and aside from a very brief mention in the front of the manual, it doesn't really bother to fill you in on the details behind the conflict or the main character's incarceration." That's not original -- it's lazy.

So then what does "original IP" mean in this context? A brand new first-person shooter? New guns? New "I'm going to make you my b-tch!" voiceovers? That's hardly original. While it might be a very, very polished first-person shooter with awesome weapons and brilliant multiplayer and the snappiest one-liners since the original Die Hard, it's still not horribly original. Moreover, while you can't technically call it a sequel (a point that Jeremy raises), if you threw the name Unreal Championship 2007 on the front I doubt most people would notice. It's not like Epic walked away from everything they knew about first-person shooters and created something brand new from the ground up.

I'm sure I'm stepping on someone's Gears-of-War-loving toes, so as always leave your all original IP (gripes) in the comments below.

[Removed references to "first-person". See comment below. -jvm]

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--Matt Matthews at 12:39
Comment [ 18 ]

Comments on this post:

Unreal Championship and Gears of War certainly have some things in common.

One of them is that neither is a first person shooter.


Beyond that, I haven't been able to play Gears yet (no time, no copy of the game...maybe in a couple weeks).

By Blogger Jeremy, at 09 November, 2006 14:49  

Removed references to "first-person", Jeremy. Thanks.

By Blogger jvm, at 09 November, 2006 15:47  

I think "original IP" in this case means that if I made a game called "Gears of War 2" or a game that had mean-looking pasty aliens that I called "The Locust", Microsoft and/or Epic could sue me.

Otherwise, yeah, the overall story and setting are not particularly "original". Maybe you could argue the reloading gimick is. Dunno.

Otherwise, "original IP" is mostly PR babble, and sounds better in a press release than "pretty space marine game".

By Blogger Dan-o, at 09 November, 2006 17:28  

The problem with calling things like this "original IP" is that most new stories and characters are really quite poor.

I'm not sure why the quality of stories and characters are required for economic success or non-sequelness.

What games over the last few years have had good stories worthy of cg-original IP? Aside from SH and, well, that's about all I can come up with right now -- perhaps some IF? -- what has great story? Maybe MGS, but not as a traditional story. Are you bringing up AoD again? Heck, Warioware, which you dislike (Matt), admittedly, essentially has no story beyond the most trivial frame.

Obviously there are more memorable characters, but it would seem that's often because players add their own story. I don't remember Lau because he's Pai's father and has possibly been killed. I remember him because I do a decent job kicking butt with him (and, unfortunately, even better with Pai).

By Blogger rufbo, at 09 November, 2006 18:12  

Hm, Indigo Prophecy's story was good as far as I got into it. Stupid third party memory cards :(

By Blogger Zachary, at 10 November, 2006 00:06  

Games with reasonably good stories and/or characters? Dino Crisis (the first, not the second or third, although the second had an intriguing twist at the end), Driver (the first), Parappa (the first), Ace Combat 04, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, Silent Hill 1 or 2 (as you've already noted), Twisted Metal Black (a bit of a stretch, perhaps), Tomb Raider: Legend, Shenmue.

If we're going into Windows games, I'd add Grim Fandango and Bob would probably suggest The Last Express.

I think my brother, cgm, would suggest Beyond Good & Evil, another I've not had time to play. I'm told Eternal Darkness is good, but I've not had a chance to buy and play it yet.

Some of these have new mechanics and story. Some of these build on an existing series yet add something new enough for me to give them a pass of sorts. Ace Combat 04 is like that, as are Tomb Raider: Legend and Prince of Persia.

Maybe I misunderstood the question, but those all have stories I thought were a good deal better than usual.

By Blogger jvm, at 10 November, 2006 00:08  

I don't see why the Gears of War promotion should be unexpected, original IP or not.

It is a relatively early game that always drew notice at shows (even if the notice was people arguing whether it was pre-rendered video.) Why wouldn't you push it heavy, if you are going to push anything?

I also see a comparison to Black, in the apparent visceral appeal of the game. Black, too, was an original IP that got heavy promotion. And it was a game that drew notice.

By Anonymous Baines, at 10 November, 2006 02:41  

And Eternal Darkness is an iffy game, particularly depending on what you expect.

It is Lovecraftian-style horror, which is enough to disappoint many.

But beyond that is a very real mood-killer. The enemies are color-coded like Skittles. A neon green zombie just isn't as disturbing as it could be. This was presumably done because magic uses a rock-paper-scissors method for extra effectiveness against enemies, but it really makes it hard to show the game to a friend and call it any kind of horror.

And the magic system makes a lot of the game a cakewalk. Actually, it really isn't that hard a game to begin with, outside of certain areas.

On the other hand, there are spots that are really good. The voice acting is good and sometimes great. The autopsy reports are great, both the sketchs and the voice-over description. Some moments are really good.

And a lot is... very videogame-ish.

By Anonymous Baines, at 10 November, 2006 02:49  

I liked Eternal Darkness, but reached a point where I just got stuck (some arabian? character in a hole where I would just get killed over and over). Black, I played a couple missions of and didn't see what all the fuss was about. About the only stand-out thing about that game to me was the audio. The zones were sterile and I didn't feel much compulsion to go back into the game, even though I typically have that collectors mentality (the game kind of checklists you on the zones and you can I guess earn special weapons).

To get back to Gears of War though, IIRC, originally the locusts were created for "Unreal Warfare," which they were not really working on (apparently still in the demoing stage) and canned in favor of moving staff onto UT2003.

Repurposing assets is nothing new in gaming though. Phantasy Star Online was a completely different game for which they appropriated the title and some characters from the RPG franchise at the last minute (PSIII was too). US Mario 2 was something different that was barely touched to add Mario characters.

I wonder if the whinging about whether it's an "original IP" or not is really stemming from engine-itis. That phenomenon where a game that is supposed to be totally different feels exactly like a mod of the flagship game for that engine (apparently pretty much all the source games have that problem currently, they all feel like a bad half life mod).

If that's the case, then get ready for disappointment with Assassin's Creed, because it's just Prince of Persia.

By Blogger Jeremy, at 10 November, 2006 12:59  

Arabian character in a hole? The kid with the chakram?

Along with the WWI kid (and you can cheese the WWI kid scenario), that is one of the more difficult sections.

Arabian kid's amulet heals him, for a little bit of help. (With a little experience, you don't need it. But a beginner probably wouldn't find it to be enough.) You can abuse Trappers to heal. Intentionally trigger them and take the red portal. Ignore the chakram, as they are worthless as weapons. Realize the big sword can be a liability in cramped corners, which is why the game gives him the option of also wielding two smaller swords. The Horror and the horde of enemies near the end are his worst spots.

By Anonymous Baines, at 10 November, 2006 17:00  

Baines: Sorry, but whose post were you replying to? I'm lost.

By Blogger jvm, at 10 November, 2006 18:11  

I think everyone here has gotten off the track. "Original IP" is in reference to new story and characters. The quality of the story or the characters is irrelevant, the point is whether or not you have created a new brand that is recognizable and marketable.

In recent years it has been more important to development houses to own their stories and characters, in a similar fashion to creator owned comics. Previously a large company owned all the characters and stories, and could fire and hire writers and artists at will. A similar thing has been happening in the gaming world with companies like EA buying up development houses like Maxis and Bullfrog where the team gets moved or broken up and EA ends up with all the rights to the games and characters created. The only way for a development house to stay somewhat solvent is for them to have bargaining power - so now they've been keeping the rights to their IP and just having the big companies distribute the game.

The more desirable IP you own, the better your chances of staying in business are. Thus the incentive to create original IP. Now Epic owns both the Unreal IP and the Gears IP, two strong sellers. Now they have more bargaining power to publish their next game, they just have to promise a Gears sequel for 360 for the next holiday season. Also, if they run into financial trouble, they can sell that IP (like I believe that 3d realms did with Max Payne) for a bunch of cash to finance their next projects.

It doesn't matter if you (or every reviewer on the planet) thinks that Gears is just another shooter retread with a weak story. It matters that its selling units and has gotten plenty of gamer interest and is now a recognizable brand. It now has value in the marketplace, maybe not to you, but Microsoft would love another hit the size of Halo, and Epic would love for that to be Gears of War, a IP they have complete control over.

By Anonymous Boraxplunder, at 10 November, 2006 21:26  

Beyond Good & Evil was a good story. I regret that I may never see the sequel.

My better half suggests:
-Shadow Hearts-Malice Meter & Battle System, with Judgment Ring and Fusion ability
-Radiata Stories-Divergent storylines & class/race warfare
-Xenosaga I-Story and Varying attack types, with boost option
-Grandia II-Another difference in battle system

By Blogger cgm, at 10 November, 2006 22:13  

jvm: I was replying to jeremy, who had mentioned getting stuck at a possibly Arabian character stuck in a hole in Eternal Darkness. That is most likely Karim's story, and is one of few more difficult spots in the game.

By Anonymous Baines, at 11 November, 2006 00:26  

Was mentioning my name in the story a preemtive attempt to discredit my reply, or just a trick to lure me into responding? I'm no microsoft lover, but the 360 is pretty much as good as it gets. Keep in mind I preferred the PS2 to the original XBOX by a fair margin.

Either way, Original IP means story, characters, and world, whether its good or not is irrelevant.

Also Gears plays unlike any 3rd person shooter I've played, including Unreal Championship 2 (the 3rd person one). It has no shortage of unique mechanics.

Maybe its more like Kill.Switch, with the cover system? I haven't played that one.

It has a lot more in common with GRAW and other tactical shooters than action FPS/3PS.

By Anonymous jmro, at 11 November, 2006 03:02  

jmro fell for it.

By Blogger jvm, at 11 November, 2006 06:11  

a profound response

By Anonymous jmro, at 11 November, 2006 21:44  

All original IP means is that something is a new "brand" that can be more than trademarked, it can be copyrighted as well.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 17 November, 2006 21:42  

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