Ludus Novus 015: Curse of Ludus Novus

Ludus Novus
Ludus Novus
Ludus Novus 015: Curse of Ludus Novus

What do we look for in digital game sequels, and why is it different than in other forms of media? Why don’t we see more sequels that give us more of the same good stuff?


The music for this episode is “Darien Gap” by Josh Woodward and is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.

This episode’s topic suggested by Lissa.

14 thoughts on “Ludus Novus 015: Curse of Ludus Novus

  1. On a completely unrelated note, reading over the referenced Penny-Arcade strip presented an odd experience: the dialog of the “Time Bitch” (whose actual name escapes me at the moment) is written entirely in the voice of Tycho. This is especially noticable since I began reading the posts on the front page of p-a in addition to the scripts.

    Such a realization gives the comic a strange surreal quality that it lacked on previous reads.

  2. The amount of effort it would take me to modify the comment system is totally not worth it, especially since I’d have to make sure that my changes didn’t get overwritten the next time WordPress updates their comment code.

  3. A highly interesting podcast. It made me start thinking about sequels in a way in which I hadn’t before.

    I, too, would love to see a sequel to Grim Fandango – and I actually think that the story setting is strong enough to support a new cast of characters. The Land of the Dead is portrayed in such a vivid and detailed way – and there’s so much that’s suggested that you aren’t actually able to explore – that I think a second run through would be very doable.

    I also got thinking about the way in which core elements are recycled in the Legend of Zelda. There’s pretty much always a Link and a Princess Zelda – and more often than not, a Ganon(dorf). And heart pieces, sword and shield upgrades, bow and arrows, etc. Because these elements are expected, when they are subverted or used in a way that we previously wouldn’t have thought about, games capitalise on their status as a ‘sequel’ to bring us an experience that would otherwise be impossible. The Master Quest version of OoT excels when it forces you to do new things with the items and songs that you never thought about in the original, and I think that Majora’s Mask is a truly great game because, along with doing many things differently, it used time in a radically different way, and altered the concept of ‘progression’ which was so heavily wired into its predecessor. In one sense, you never really make any progress until the very end of the game.

  4. i think the problem with videogame sequels is that with few exceptions they offer the same experience as the games to which they are sequels. i think the only thing “more of the same” really accomplishes is the dillution of the original. i’ve recently been involved in a lot of discussion of the megaman games, for example: there being nine of those games, now, it’s fairly clear that the games got more and more contrived as they went on because there simply was no other direction in which to take a set of concepts that were explored fairly thoroughly in the first (and arguably second) game.

    the sequels that interest me are the ones that attempt to provide a distinctly different experience from their predecessors. bubble bobble’s sequel, rainbow islands, for example. it’s a different game: you’re building rainbows to use as bridges and to defend yourself from enemies, rather than free-floating bubbles, but it’s a natural extension of the concept of using a projectile as both a weapon and a way of getting around. (interestingly, the success of bubble bobble meant that taito would eventually create a bunch of more traditional sequels that would attempt to merely provide more of the same.)

    or there’s the famicom disk system version of super mario bros. 2, which uses the same assets and the same set of rules as super mario bros. to create a very different experience, one which plays with the player’s expectations for a game that looks so much like a game she’s already played. i think we <3 katamari is another good example: it’s a game about sequels, keita takehashi’s fuck-you to the namco executives and katamari fans that forced him to make a sequel to a game he considered finished.

  5. auntie: I think I value story in games enough that I’m fine with the gameplay of a sequel being very similar to the original. As long as the original was fun to play, and the story is good enough, I don’t mind there being nothing new in the sequel. Part of this is that I personally prefer games that are heavy on story and light on pure gameplay.

    I think I agree with you, though, with your implied statement that some games don’t need sequels. Katamari Damacy‘s sequel was one of those games I was on the fence about. On the one hand, I wanted more of the awesome. On the other hand, the original really was a neat package, and didn’t require a sequel to explore anything new. And, indeed, the sequel didn’t really add anything but more hours of ball-rolling… which, you know, was still awesome.

  6. well, i think the question then becomes: can you really seperate a game’s story from its rules? i think that when we’re using the medium properly, you can’t.

  7. I think the story and rules should always go together… but I think that you can continue the story without adding new rules. See Half-Life 2 and Half-Life 2: Episode 1. The rules changes were miniscule: one trivial new enemy, a few interface tweaks. But they supported the story well, and the new story and content gave me more of what I liked from HL2.

    So yeah, I guess you can separate the story from the rules. They should always fit together, but multiple stories can fit with multiple rulesets. The developer should always consider the match between story and gameplay rules, but she may decide that the continued story is still supported by the old rules.

  8. the half-life 2 episodes struck me as a fairly unnecessary extension of a story that was already resolved, though. i spent most of them thinking “i’m fighting headcrabs again?”

  9. I’m betting you didn’t care much about Alyx. Episode 1 is one of my favorite games. It resolved the cliffhanger from HL2, where Alyx’s life is in danger, and it did an amazing job of making me care about Alyx as a character. She’s very effective as an ally, probably the most effective ally in any first-person game I’ve played, and she’s rendered as a real person with emotions, strengths, weaknesses, and a sense of humor. The gameplay, as you say, isn’t new; but instead of the game being about fighting headcrabs, it’s about fighting beside Alyx.

  10. Yes, and at one point picking up a pair of shotguns and fighting a hospital full of zombies beside Alyx… probably my second-favorite scene from that game, other than the (deeply flawed) scene where Alyx is recovering from the subway crash.

    Lissa has implied privately that I may simply be in love with Alyx. I don’t see how that is at all relevant. Alyx and my eternal love transcends such things as sequels and gameplay.

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