Here’s a question: Why does Shinji Mikami have to go elsewhere to make a horror game that resembles Resident Evil more than Resident Evil does?
Mikami, the creator of Resident Evil, is no longer at his old studio, with the same relationship with Capcom — he’s pursuing the type of game he wants to make. He still has his reputation, of course, and everyone knows what he’s capable of. But leaving something you’ve built from the ground up is never pleasant.
It would be more understandable if he wanted to pursue a crazy, untested idea. But he pretty much just wants to do the same thing: Make a horror game more about a chilling atmosphere than bombastic action. Shouldn’t that be something he can do right at home? Isn’t that what Resident Evil is for?
Over the course of the series, Resident Evil lhas become less itself and more Gears of War. It’s taken significant strides away from its roots, while its creator explored other projects like Vanquish, or Shadows of the Damned.
Now he’s making a game for Bethesda, called The Evil Within. It looks frickin’ amazing. It looks closer to what a Resident Evil game should look like than what Resident Evil has been for years. Why did he have to move?
We’ve seen similar stories with other franchises. IP is sacrificed at the altar of industry trends. It’s an argument for the role of auteur, the name on the front of the box. You wouldn’t see Sid Meier letting Civilization go off the rails.
Following trends is the safe thing to do. It’s no wonder in this costly triple-A environment that the nameless, faceless powers that be want to minimise risk and emulate a proven concept. How quickly we give up the role of leader for that of follower.
The trouble is, during that transition, the franchise keeps its name. In a bid to have its cake and eat it too, the IP owner will attempt to leverage its playerbase while shifting gears to capitalise on a new trend. It’s why Resident Evil is now an action game with grotesque horror elements. It’s why Supreme Commander 2 was so watered down. It’s why Command & Conquer 4 was a MOBA hybrid.
And lately, it’s why former staff are leaving to create spiritual successors to the beloved games of the past. While their sequels aren’t official, the misguided canon of franchise decision-making lacks the “spirit” these developers are capable of. Those former Command & Conquer developers are now making Grey Goo, an old-school RTS that people will want to stick with.
In an effort to respond to the market, executives might be forgetting the people under them who made the market. They’d do well to remember the ones who set the trends, instead of just riding them, as they salivate over their newly announced DOTA clones.
I won’t notice. I’ve reinstalled Counter-Strike, a game that has barely evolved in 10 years.