Over at The Escapist, Shamus Young has an article (actually, the second of three) on sequels. Gonzo Game I: The Original. Gonzo Game II: The Return. Gonzo Game III: More Of The Same. Gonzo Game IV….well, you get the idea.

Of course, the series title is nothing new. Ultima, Might & Magic, Wizardry – to name three big ones – were “franchises”, as the term is these days. And Sierra was famous (or infamous) for its long-running King’s Quest adventure games.

Most series tend to run out of steam sooner or later. Ultima went downhill after VII (and V wasn’t all that great, either). So, for that matter, did Might & Magic. At least Wizardry went out on a high note with VIII.

The problem, as Shamus sees it, is that most franchises continue the same story with the same characters game after game. Any story can only go so far before it becomes stretched so thin as to be ridiculous. The characters so familiar we’re tired of them.

Bethesda is one company that has managed to avoid all that with the Elder Scrolls. Each game has taken place in a different province. Your character is always newly created; he or she has no direct links to previous events. New players can pick up the series anywhere without feeling lost over “what has gone before”.

I think Shamus has a good point that a franchise needs to change from game to game to keep it fresh. Retain enough to keep the fans happy, but change it up enough so that we don’t end up with “same-old, same-old”.

My own suspicion is that much of the “tired old story dragged on” comes from the top. Gonzo Game I was a big hit. Why change anything? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Risk-avoidance uber alles.

Son Of Return To The Sequel