How many times have you read a review or a Reddit post and heard someone say that a game was good but didn’t do anything innovative? Great games are sometimes dismissed because it didn’t do anything new. A great game is a great game, regardless of innovation. Innovation should only be out of necessity. The problem some developers have is they’re more interested in implementing the so-called innovation rather than making the game good. Star Fox Zero was an innovative game. The control scheme was quite different from anything I’ve experienced. Problem is, the game was total garbage. The “innovative” controls were an unwieldy beast. They were cumbersome and unintuitive. Switching your attention between the TV and the Gamepad overloaded the senses. The Sonic series is especially guilty of the crime of innovation for innovation’s sake. Sonic Team throws so much shit against the wall to see what sticks. But with every new release, they scrape the wall clean and throw even more shit at it. None of the new mechanics added get fleshed out enough. The poor blue hedgehog has no dignity left.
Plenty of great games did nothing new or innovative. A good game that doesn’t reinvent the wheel is still a good game. Bravely Default was a traditional JRPG, the kind that made Square-Enix famous. It wasn’t anything innovative, but its execution was brilliant. Square-Enix was constantly reaching to steer the Final Fantasy series in a different direction. Here comes Bravely Default that returned to Final Fantasy’s roots. Guess what? People loved it. Look no further than the indie scene to discover plenty of games that borrow from other games. They take previously established concepts and add their own twist to make it stand on its own. Indie developers often have a singular focus, fleshing out the ideas behind the game. Freedom Planet borrows heavily from many 16-bit era games, like Sonic and Megaman X. But once again, its all in the execution. I could go on an on about brilliantly executed games that weren’t technically innovative.
Innovation shouldn’t be the focus of developing a game. Its more important to make the game good rather than innovative. Necessity is the mother of invention. This mantra can also be applied to video games. Before making a game, ask yourself this, does this innovation make the game better? If the answer is no, don’t do it. The so-called innovation shouldn’t be at the center of your attention. A game that uses established ideas and is well executed is a good game. Always remember that. A game developer’s priority is to make a good game. Only innovate when necessity calls for it.