Long read: What might the ultimate character creator look like?

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What's New? (14th Dec, 2007)

New PAL releases.

Mankind, as a whole, is a gigantic failure, hovering above a pit of depression on stilts of pretence and obfuscation. We have massive summits about deciding how much to try to stop polluting the world to death, and then don't decide anything. We pull milk out of cows, transform it into spread and drape it across cooked bread to avoid being slightly peckish when we turn off BBC Breakfast and walk to work 20 steps behind the fit one from the 5B. We have little internal debates about whether this is stalking. We forget to ring the council, so we look up what that song is from Sky Sports News (it's Requiem for a Tower, Movement 4 by Corner Stone Cues) and order a DVD of Congo. We go to bed wondering if we've got enough hats. What we don't do, no matter how bad it gets, is buy new games on 14th December. At least, that's what videogame publishers think, which is why less than a handful of them have bothered to release anything today.

Videogame publishers, eh? What do they know? One of my minor frustrations since I sat down and tried to think of something to write about this morning is their continued attempts to reinvent genres. For a start, when is a reinvention really a reinvention? Are there parameters? Is BioShock a reinvention of the choice-versus-consequence archetype espoused by Looking Glass because it's designed to mislead your expectations and then poke you with them? Is Viva Piñata a reinvention, even a distortion of The Sims (in friend of Eurogamer Owain Bennallack's phrase "an apologia for consumerism"), because here you lovingly hoard living creatures and then dispense with them callously in order to acquire other, newer ones? Is this paragraph a reinvention of What's New because it seems to be stumbling vaguely interestingly in the direction of some semblance of a point despite the usual stream of consciousness? [No - Eurogamer Publisher]

But enough questions. What's New has never liked questions, which is why even though it is one it never uses a question mark when writing about itself in third-person. What's New is all about solutions, and so - and since it's nearly Christmas - we have decided to help our adversaries the videogame publishers by pointing them in the direction of a few genres crying out to be reinvented interestingly, and then offering tips on reinventing them. Feel free to post your own in the comments. Or just tell me which dates I got wrong as sarcastically as possible, or ridicule what we've written. We don't care - we just want to finish up so we can get back to writing the entire website because everyone's gone on holiday.

Yearly Sports Games
Like the ugly one who is related to Phil out of Eastenders, every year game publishers slam someone else's piggybank to the ground and then scrabble around looking for pounds in all the coppers. We were bored of this when consoles only had two controller ports and USB hadn't been invented, but it still happens because it works. The people who make these games mean well, and think very hard about it. When I visited the people who made FIFA earlier this year, I was struck by just how stupid I am and how much they are not. But you have to wonder if there's another way, because it presents a difficult question about our medium: is this approach symptomatic of creative immaturity, or is it one of the distinctions that puts us ahead of film and music? It could be either, or neither. But you know how we feel about questions. French developer F4 is making a massively multiplayer sports game - a world of sports, updated continuously, with a subscription fee - which seems like a potential solution. Another is surfing the EPG on Freeview and then making it the game's mission statement. "Matt's thrown into a panic when Rachel announces the school musical is to be performed earlier in the day for a VIP audience, and Eddie's ex turns up out of the blue." FIFA 2009, get on with it.

A Woman Who Dresses In A Way That Would Offend Victorian Grandmothers Fighting Things
So, Tomb Raider, Kameo, Ninja Gaiden Sigma, and everything with a girl in it ever. Why can't women in games dress down? I don't want to play as Gemma Atkinson. What happened to sweaters? And trousers? And, for that matter, pants? The first game developer to produce a female-fronted game where you can barely make out the shape of the heroine's chest gets a lifetime supply of What's New mentions. Seriously - every time you release a game, I will devote a paragraph to you. I was 24 the other week. I don't find women in hot pants exciting. I don't want them to lick things, or talk like Keeley Hawes (only Keeley Hawes may talk like Keeley Hawes). I want them to be normal, rounded people with insecurities and dreams and council tax. I don't care if they're jumping over a dragon to grapple God's lost mouse-mat inside a volcano of hammers: give them some clothes. And checkpoints.

The One Where The Penguin Slides Down A Hill And You Click Jump To Make It Go As Far As Possible
The important thing when reinventing a genre, one assumes, is to tap into the psychology of the player. What is their motivation? What do they like? The mistake here would be to assume that the player wants the penguin to go a long way when it jumps off the hill. The player doesn't care about the penguin, or the long way, or even the hill. The keys to reinventing the penguin/hill/time-wasting genre are not to be found in the ignitions of making the penguin jump using the Wiimote, or putting flying sharks in the way, or including a dropship. Once we understand the player, who is just trying to avoid doing anything useful with their pointless life, we realise that the key is to make it shorter and less taxing but also more colourful and with celebrity gossip. The ideal reinvention of the penguin game is to have Amy Winehouse tobogganing down a rainbow, with marks being awarded depending on how much of her hair you can carve off as she goes through the razor-sharp entryway to prison to see her husband. There could also be bonus points if you can remember his name. Or care about either of them.

Mini-Game Compilations
Something that isn't a mini-game compilation.

This week: