Monkey See, Monkey Do: Copying in Gaming

Imitation may be the most sincere form of flattery, but copying others now seems to be the norm in the video game industry. It’s been the same story over and over again, a game comes out with a new mechanic people seem to love, and suddenly every game must have it, even when they don’t need it. Here we take a look at some relatively recent gaming ideas that were once original, but quickly became the standard in their genre.

Gears of War: Cover System

It is hard to imagine there ever was a time without the Gears of War cover system. Yes kiddies there was a time where 3rd person shooters were basically 1st person shooters with a different camera. I remember when Gears of War was originally shown off at E3 2005 and I remember being wary of its new style. It had been tried before. I remember playing Kill Switch on a PS2 demo disk and the cover system just didn’t work. It just wasn’t fun.  But Gears of War pulled it off, and then suddenly any 3rd person game was basically required to have a cover system. Cover has now become the standard. Even games that shouldn’t have a cover system decided to implement it (Killzone 2 anyone?). Needless to say, cover-less 3rd person games are now a thing of the past thanks to Gears.

Halo 1: Health Regeneration

Games used to be a little harder, lets admit it. A game like Dark Souls would not be seen as the ruthless game it is if it were released a decade or two ago. And Halo’s health regeneration was just one of the many steps into an easier gaming world. Don’t get me wrong, health regeneration is good. I remember first playing Halo and recalling how well it made the game play. The flow overall felt better. The days of us getting stuck at a save point with low health and virtually no chance of making it further were now gone. But because this is what people have gotten used to over the years, it suddenly had to be in every shooter. Suddenly “realistic” shooters like Call of Duty and Medal of Honor suddenly started featuring this new mechanic, turning the typical marine into a superhuman.

Battlefield 2: Multiplayer Weapon Unlocks

Multiplayer games in first person shooters used to be one off fights. Everyone would start the next game anew. Battlefield 2 was the first multiplayer shooter I can recall that had weapon unlocks that really did it right. The unlocks kept you playing by adding rewards and made the players try different classes in order to unlock everything. And the weapons still held their balance. The final unlockable weapons could still be bested by the starting weapons, but at the same time added just enough diversity and power to keep you wanting more.

Halo 1: Weapon Limit

You could argue that more than a few games featured this mechanic prior, Counter-Strike for example, but Halo was the game that really standardized the system. The “infinite space backpack” of gaming characters was always mocked by gamers growing up, but I would have never guessed that a weapon limitation would actually be the norm in gaming. But thought more through, it is easy see why this mechanic works so well. Adding realism of course, but it also gives the player better control. The system allows the player to always know which weapons they are carrying and allowed them to switch between them at a click of a single button. The overhead of changing between weapons was suddenly limited and players could easily switch to their secondary weapon mid firefight with the player barely noticing.

Call of Duty 4: Kill Streaks

I kind of hate to admit it, but Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare really is the most revolutionary multiplayer game of this console generation. Virtually every multiplayer game has adopted the many mechanics introduced by this single game (Perks, Leveling, Weapon Unlocks), but kill streaks were really the most original idea of the bunch. Kill streaks are simply put, addicting. The concept of being rewarded for subsequent kills adds not only the chance for sudden upsets and gameplay diversity, but it also made players care about death. Where as games like Counter-Strike are more punishing on death by making you sit out the rest of the round, Call of Duty made players care about death by rewarding them for surviving while engaging their opponents. The thought of “this respawn could be the one that gets me to a helicopter” has definitely kept more than its fair share of gamers up late at night.

Gears of War Horde/Halo ODST Firefight

ODST took a bold decision with its multiplayer. When you think Halo, you think competitive combat, but ODST decided not to split up the already large Halo 3 community and instead took a different route: coop. Though originally brought to the masses thanks to Gears of War’s horde mode, ODST seemed to be the one to really showcase the mode and its potential. Next thing you know virtually every multiplayer game featured a coop option. From Call of Duty to Team Fortress 2 and even Uncharted. The more diversity in my multiplayer the better.

Batman Arkham Asylum: Fighting System

Here is a recent one that many might not even realize has spread to most modern action games. Arkham Asylum really was a surprise hit when it came out. Superhero games had quite a bad stigma prior to Arkham Asylum’s release. None of them seemed to do it right. Arkham Asylum worked because it didn’t ride solely on its namesake, it actually had a good core game that the developers smartly were able to wrap the Batman license around. And at the core of that game was the rhythm and combo chaining based fighting system. Implementing this system into a game almost instantly adds a new level of complexity to an otherwise boring and repetitive brawler. It now seems to be thrown into almost every action brawler, and so far that has added a new life to a previously stagnant genre.

Call of Duty 1: Killcam

Killcam actually is a pretty old concept dating all the way back to 2003 with Call of Duty 1. Now it seems to almost randomly be thrown into games, half the time with no actual purpose. Even Halo 4 is now going to implement one. While originally implemented in Call of Duty as almost a novelty with no use other than restricting campers, killcams seem to now be added into every FPS probably based solely on the fact that it is featured in the almighty Call of Duty. I guess it is better than looking at your dead body while you wait to respawn though…


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Author: Chris Fadeley View all posts by
I am UF alumni and a computer engineer. I know virtually every useless fact about videogames ever. I like computers and potatoes.

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