Elden Ring - AAA game publishers have hard lessons to learn

Silver

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Windows Central has an editorial on the lessons AAA game publishers have to learn if they want to replicate Elden Rings success.

1. World-building over Hollywood production values

Indeed, Skyrim is something Elden Ring has frequently been compared to, and it's a comparison I don't mind making either. Much like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and the previous titles, one thing remains more true above all other comparisons from me, and that's the consistency of the world-building.

Neither game goes particularly deep on cinematics, although the few cinematics that Elden Ring does have are utterly awe-inspiring. And that's the point, really, sometimes less is more. But one area where that isn't true is world-building, which refers to the effort made to deliver a consistent, believable world.

In Elden Ring, it feels like every object in the game has a place in the lore and game's world. Nothing is placed there randomly or capriciously. From the emblems and designs of weapons and armor, to the placements of certain monsters, everything has lore implications. Why do living jar enemies explode into a wash of gore and giblets after being killed? Why are there mountains of them piled up at Elden Ring's erd trees? Why is Caria Manor full of disembodied hands trying to murder me like horrible fleshy spiders? I know that nothing here is arbitrary, due to the reputation FromSoftware has built up over the years. Through item descriptions, and through relatively light detective work, an entire world reveals itself to the player. A world with seemingly endless depth that truly sparks the imagination, and dare I say it, allows the player to use their imagination.

Bethesda Softworks follows these precepts, in Elder Scrolls games, Fallout games, and no doubt Starfield too. But, for whatever reason, few other developers really take their world-building too seriously beyond the most basic surface level. For some reason, they think spending $$$$ on heavy mo-cap and Hollywood-grade acting is somehow a better use of funds, over building a believable world that is cohesive and consistent across all of its design precepts.

Even if you don't read all of the item descriptions in Elden Ring, the hints and details you're given throughout the game give the world more life and believability than the last dozen Assassin's Dogs Cry Recon games do, while being more memorable. And hey, more marketable. People discuss the game's mysteries at length across socials, sharing the things they've found. I'm still haunted by a weird, fossilized face I found in the hidden basement area of Castle Stormveil.

[...]
More information.
 

Couchpotato

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Yeah how about no. :(

Look I'm glad Elden Ring was a success and supposedly revolutionized the game industry, but I don't want every new RPG to emulate the Souls formula.

What makes games interesting nowadays is the vast variety of them available.

Probably doesn't matter as the writing is set in stone as publishers will look at the games success, and jump on the bandwagon. Wont be for a couple of years at least.

Alright rant over. :biggrin:

Still I would love to play a story driven Skyrim RPG with Soul elements.
 
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forgottenlor

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His argument is not that the game is successful because of the Soulslike combat or other Soulslike game mechanics, quite the contrary. He argues that it has to do with the world and lore of the game. In fact he argues that it is successful for many of the same reasons Skyrim was, which obviously does not have Soulslike combat. I actually think he has a point. If your making an open world game, make a game that's a joy to explore, where you always find new an interesting things. I would actually only disagree with one point of his review, I think AC:O has these qualities as well. Finding new things in that game also kept me wanting to explore. But there are plenty of open world games I've played that were just big for being big's sake and were just full of the same random loot and tasks everywhere.
 

booboo

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For me the exploration aspect alone is not enough: I need a compelling story to push me forward (and nots imply moving from one combat to thenext) My only experience with DS was DS2, and that really just seemed to be an endless cycle of fighting/dying and monster respawning (the latter being something I truly loathe in a game). And grinding (absolutely required). While those aspects are a core part of the design, I doubt I'd return to any game like this.
 
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Nereida

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This is a no-brainer. Yes to more handcrafted areas, characters, environments, and items, that all are placed where they make sense and connects them to the rest of the world around them. A world where everything has a reason to be where it is, but it doesn't need to be spelt out, so the explorers can figure it out and feel that sense of discovery and serendipity - and do away with all the "procedurally generated" crap, the "random loot" and whatnot, that all it does is making the game feel less compelling and worth exploring.

I don't see who could ever disagree with that in a story based RPG, other than people that will obsessively disagree with anything that has to do with Soulslike games.
 

JFarrell71

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I've posted a bunch of comments about FROM games and Elden Ring specifically and I've been accused of being a fanboy and all that jazz. And I do love and have loved their games since I gave Dark Souls 2 a shot.

But 50+ hours into Elden Ring, I have come to the unmissable conclusion that I don't like the open world.

The scale is undoubtedly cool. There are a number of places where you can get high up, and to be able to look around and see the castles and cities and ruins in the distance and know that you can go there (and there and there) gets the blood going, no question. But mostly I just want to skip to those parts where I'm in those castles and cities and ruins. The in-between bits are mostly a lot of running around through a lot of very similar looking terrain, fighting endless wolves and such, finding items no more interesting than "mushroom" and other crafting supplies.

When the game is like its predecessors, I love it. If you smushed together all of the major areas you would have a very good (and still very large) Dark Souls game. I'm just 75% bored by the rest of it. You can't play it like a Souls game, exploring every avenue in search of neat stuff, because most of the time there isn't any. I'm used to inching my way close to precipices to see if there's a place I can drop down to where there might be an item. In Elden Ring, there never is (in the overworld). Promising trails lead to nothing 99% of the time. I scour the sides of mountains for crypts and caves and find nothing so often that I'm thinking I'd rather use a guide to find them than look for them.

The whole thing has been an exercise in mixed feelings for me. Everything I love about their games is still there, so generally I do still love the game. But the open world component added almost nothing for me except for that sense of scale, which was actually present to a lesser degree in previous games, when you could often see other areas off in the distance from the zone you were in.
 

Arkadia7

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Elden Ring is selling well, but let's have some perspective. This is not a game that will revolutionize anything.

There are plenty of great and better games who will still top it in the total sales numbers, regardless. We are probably looking at the high point of Elden Ring's numbers, with 12-13 million sold at this point; a result of a great marketing campaign, plus - as I always said - an excellent title/name for a fantasy game, and a legion of fanboys/fangirls who have managed to make the game into a hit, with word of mouth and 10 out of 10 type reviews.

What does Elden Ring bring to the table, that is new? Open world? No. Red Dead Redemption, Fallout 3, GTA V, all did it better.
Legendary difficulty?
Dark Souls games already did that. And there are dissenting whispers saying that other recent games like Sekiro were better in terms of harder difficulty.

Hell, even fans of the game are acknowledging now that the open world in the game is a drawback, and is more on the empty and waste of time side, than a rich and good addition to the game.

Here are some sales numbers of huge blockbusters, that I doubt Elden Ring will reach:

GTA V - 160 million sold
Red Dead Redemption 2 - 43 million sold (not trying to brag, but I praised this game to the moon months back here at rpg watch after playing it, and you can find my old posts showing that)

Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim
The Witcher 3 - both games sold 30 million

Hell, I wonder if Elden Ring will even reach the sales numbers of a forgettable entry in the Call of Duty series - Call of Duty: Black Ops at 26 million units sold!

Make your final guesses/predictions here, as to the total sales number of Elden Ring….:biggrin: (just kidding, I'm kinda poking the bear here, but I'm honestly skeptical)
 

khaight

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The relevant comparison is to how many units those other games sold at this point in their release cycle. Skyrim didn't move all of those thirty million copies in its first three weeks. It remains to be seen what the long tail on Elden Ring will look like.
 
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Nereida

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It will depend if it keeps being sold as well, projections are good, considering it's selling better at this point than any other RPG ever. One thing to note is that both TES and GTAV thrive heavily on mod communities and such which gives them staying power and that's the merit of the devoted modding communities. FROM don't provide any tools or easiness towards modding, and in fact, they usually ban people from using mods while playing online, so there is that.

Here is something mind-numbing, to put things in perspective. If you multiply the number of players by the number of hours they played, Elden Ring was played more combined total hours during the first 24 hours of its launch, than Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous in the entirety of its existence.

And again, that's only Steam, at a €60 price tag. If we count consoles the gap grows exponentially.
 

Arkadia7

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It will depend if it keeps being sold as well, projections are good, considering it's selling better at this point than any other RPG ever. One thing to note is that both TES and GTAV thrive heavily on mod communities and such which gives them staying power and that's the merit of the devoted modding communities. FROM don't provide any tools or easiness towards modding, and in fact, they usually ban people from using mods while playing online, so there is that.

Here is something mind-numbing, to put things in perspective. If you multiply the number of players by the number of hours they played, Elden Ring was played more combined total hours during the first 24 hours of its launch, than Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous in the entirety of its existence.

And again, that's only Steam, at a €60 price tag. If we count consoles the gap grows exponentially.

I will give you that, Elden Ring is a big hit. I acknowledge that.

That said, let's be honest, it will not even get close to a GTA V in total sales - my opinion.

I even doubt it will reach near 30 million in total sales, and The Witcher 3/Elder Scrolls V will still maintain their position in terms of sales records for
fantasy rpgs.
 
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Nereida

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I prefer not to make wishful predictions that suit what I would like to happen, but if it sells as well as The Witcher 3, arguably the greatest PC RPG of all time (at least until now), then that's the success of the decade already.
 

Pladio

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It's not my kind of game, but I hope. It does well. From what I've read and seen it does seem like a labour of love from the devs and it has a bug fan base so hope they do well.

It does not seem like it's a game just created for the sake of making money and nothing else.

Obviously I can be completely wrong about that. :)
 

JFarrell71

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I will give you that, Elden Ring is a big hit. I acknowledge that.

That said, let's be honest, it will not even get close to a GTA V in total sales - my opinion.

I even doubt it will reach near 30 million in total sales, and The Witcher 3/Elder Scrolls V will still maintain their position in terms of sales records for
fantasy rpgs.

What point are you trying to make? Is anyone making the argument that Elden Ring will be the best selling game of all time? If there is, I haven't seen it, and I wouldn't agree with it.

But who cares? A game doesn't have to break all time records to be influential. That much should be obvious.
 
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SirJames

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@JFarrell71;
Yeah, I agree with that take. It's an awesome game but I don't think the open world really added that much to it. When I think about....

What does Elden Ring bring to the table, that is new?

My main thoughts are more about the little gameplay changes. Like having a jump button and jump attacks. The shield block counter. That sort of thing. The mount and fast travel and level-up at bonfires are great for keeping the open world tedium down a lot. I think the crafting system, though I never use it, is better than having to go back to NPC shops if you want a consumable. (You can also just kill the shops to get their bell bearings then buy everything from Roundtable Hold)

I think there's a lot of little refinements that do improve on the old souls games. ER does "bring to the table" a lot of good things.

Another example would be the weapon art system which is pretty great, being able to pick a weapon art and then also pick Heavy or Fire or Bleeding for all weapons at the bonfire is much better than hiking to a blacksmith and using a finite fire weapon stone to be locked in to a brand.

But what will it bring to the table to gaming as a whole? It's hard to say. I'm not sure many developers would want to risk making their games less accessible just because Elden Ring sold well. There have been a lot of souls-like games but they generally don't do that well. The fans want real From Software games more than just souls-likes.

There's a rumor they'll be making a mech game next, Armored Core or something. I bet that sells alright just because its From. I'll be getting it, if it happens.
 

JDR13

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There's a rumor they'll be making a mech game next, Armored Core or something. I bet that sells alright just because its From. I'll be getting it, if it happens.

I'm not sure if that would be something you'd like. Assuming it's similar to the older games in the series, it'll be a third-person shooter. I'm surprised FromSoft is returning to Armored Core if the rumor is true.
 

bjon045

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With this many sales (on just the pc) it is likely they will be able to fund multiple teams to work on different games. This level of success from a smaller studio (head count vs the likes of Rockstar etc) is very rare.
 

NFLed

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Yeah how about no. :(

Look I'm glad Elden Ring was a success and supposedly revolutionized the game industry, but I don't want every new RPG to emulate the Souls formula.

What makes games interesting nowadays is the vast variety of them available.

Probably doesn't matter as the writing is set in stone as publishers will look at the games success, and jump on the bandwagon. Wont be for a couple of years at least.

Alright rant over. :biggrin:

Still I would love to play a story driven Skyrim RPG with Soul elements.

I almost typed mostly the same thing. I agree that having variety in different games is important.

Speaking for myself, I enjoy other games which have plenty of cinematics.
 

fadedc

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So I actually love the open world in Elden Ring, and I've been a little more indifferent to the open world in games like witcher 3 or Skyrim. It's mostly because the Elden Ring open world is still clearly hand designed, and often functions like one giant dungeon rather than a patch of empty wilderness with occasional points of interest scattered around. For me getting to the next big castle can be just as interesting as exploring the big castle. And I'll often explore a part of my map I've never been to, not just because I'm hoping to find a point of interest, but also because the land itself might be just as interesting as any mini-dungeons I find. So I'd say that's something that's very different. As well as just taking the souls formula and making it more accessible. For the record I've been playing for a very long time and have never grinded once. Though I don't really tend to grind in any souls game really. Maybe the first a little. But Elden ring has so much to do and explore that there is really never a need to grind, if your stuck on one thing you can always just go out and do something else.

I would disagree with the writers faith that nothing in the lore or monster placement is arbitrary though. The soulslike games aren't designed to have cohesive lore. From what I've seen from the designers comments his goal in them is more to inspire your imagination and let you speculate about what's going on, but that he doesn't necessarily have any more clue than anyone else.
 
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