So I bumped into another interview stating that Halo can keep going for 30 more years, that it's the current kids' Star Wars or Trek or whatever. And I felt sick to the core. Forcibly milked franchises are the worst thing.
I stopped to think. Is there any fictional universe that isn't full of contradictions and plot holes after a while?
Disney had to declare everything Star Wars to not be canon so they could keep going, because nobody in their right mind could ever hope to keep track of the extended universe insanity. Super hero comics keep rebooting and rehashing and rebullshitting to the point where characters stop being characters and settings become assorted, responsibility-free toyboxes.
And I fail to see, how anyone can care about a franchise at that point, or why anyone would want to do it for something they love.
I look back at things I like, and I look at how many of them have been fucked over by forced milking. Splinter Cell, Silent Hill, Hitman, Alien, Tomb Raider, Ghost Recon, Rainbow Six, Halo, Fallout, and that's just off the top of my head. We have come to the point where I want my favorite things to NOT get sequels, because I've seen too many times where the other road leads.
Just speaking of Halo specifically, it's ten years in and already the fiction of the universe is contradicting itself, and it's a bit hard to build three more decades of crap on foundation that's already getting shaky.
It becomes especially problematic when your franchise is supposed to be character driven. Maybe you had lead characters who used to have satisfying narrative arcs at first, but pulling them back into the fray again and again and again destroys the character and leaves you with a caricature.
Look at Batman, and look at different iterations that have to be eliminated and ignored for the character to have a coherent history. Can't be done, and as such, what is Batman, anymore?
When the franchise is about a setting, it's a bit easier to bend and stretch it to eternity. As much as I dislike Star Trek, being more about the setting than characters, it has easier time coming up with shit that won't instantly break, but even still it found ways, so many ways.
What bums me most here, is how underrated conclusions are. Don't people like endings? A satisfying conclusion for a good story is not only undesirable, but detestable. Of course from marketing standpoint, you want to make a lasting franchise so you don't have to be creative, but it seems most of the audience agrees.
A good story is like a good bowel movement. It is satisfying only when it's over, and keeping it going too much can only go to shit. Heroes fighting same villains over and over again merely paints the hero as inefficient, but coming up with new stuff is hard and eventually you'll run out of ideas appropriate for the setting. But rather than have a satisfying conclusion, it's rinse and repeat and keep fucking going, forever and ever and ever.
I'm not saying you shouldn't have a few sequels. As long as you can expand on a story, sure, go right on ahead. But also know when to quit.
Look at the end of Splinter Cell: Double Agent. Our hero has lost the last surviving member of his family, embarked on a suicide mission and betrayed by the institution he has sworn to serve and protect. Driven by sense of duty, he still completes the mission, but ultimately cuts himself off from his masters and vanishes.
Try telling me that wasn't the perfect ending for the franchise? Four games in, expanding on the character and building for the eventual downfall.
But no, on they went, backpedaling and invalidating all the emotional weight of the ending, trying to shoehorn in impossibly stupid conspiracy crap, eventually ending with character who shares nothing but name with the protagonist, and setting with no resemblance to what we had. Why even call it Splinter Cell?
In the case of Halo, it already ended. Halo 3 was a brilliant send-off for the heroes, the closest thing to a happy end the two could have.
But nooooo, yank them right back so be can have more. Of course you could keep exploring the universe without the main characters, but, let's face it, Halo isn't exactly the most original of settings. It was a good, dumb, epic action thing, with just enough of story to last through the trilogy.
The comparisons made for Star Wars and Star Trek are the ultimate punch to the throat. Those things are nothing but corpses dangling on strings, dancing for the fans. It's very tricky to be truly creative when anything you can do is determined beforehand. Of course it is the ultimate sign of creativity if one CAN take an old, stagnant thing and make it fun again, but that's the god tier of writing and nobody should expect that for just to happen.
It's said, that once a franchise reaches a certain point, it no longer belongs to the author, it belongs to the fans. I've heard that said in a positive light, and that makes it even more depressing idea. Don't ask fans what they want. They'll answer by what they already like. Your job as an author is not to give the fans what they ask for, but what they want. They're fans because they were given something new, surprising and fresh in the start, not derivative tosh. One would hope.
Focus grouping is the best way to kill creativity.
Of course me bitching about lack of creativity in video game franchises is a bit sad to begin with. Like expecting a deep and complex summer blockbuster, but, really, it doesn't matter what form of media we are discussing. We should expect better.
Plus, to switch tracks a bit to examine video game industry itself, we are looking at a franchise-driven market that runs on hits and sequels, and all the sequels we have going now are following hits from a decade ago. Sales are dropping on sure-fire hits, Call of Duty, Assassin's Creed, Halo, just about every big thing is on decline. It is the wrong time to be declaring how your thing that's slowly dying is gonna keep on dying for three more decades.