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The Trilogy Curse

The Trilogy Curse article

There has been a trend in gaming lately towards emphasizing the story of a game, of introducing a new game as the first in a trilogy. It is sometimes a good thing to have a plan of progression for new titles, especially since this shows gamers beforehand that if they enjoy the gameplay and story, they will be able to expect more according to the developers. However, more often than not, some of these trilogies seem doomed to failure. Are developers' ambitions overreaching their ability? Is it wrong for a developer to announce their game as a trilogy considering the long developmental period of games versus the life of their console of origin? Is it fair to ask gamers to track their favorite games across multiple consoles?

One of the biggest examples of this "trilogy curse" isn't even a trilogy. When Shenmue was first announced, it was planned to have sixteen chapters, of which the first title only explored one. Shenmue was ambitious, probably overly so, as the second title not only wasn't even released on the same platform in America (Shenmue was released on the Dreamcast, Shenmue II on the Xbox), but was only able to chronicle the next four chapters, leaving eleven chapters of the story untold. To this day, there are gamers the world over still hoping beyond hope for the announcement of a Shenmue III, although that announcement becomes less likely as time and technology progress and the original game retains loses relevance. To Sega's credit, Shenmue Online has been announced, but it seems unlikely that the game will be able to finish the story started by the original considering the radical difference in gameplay between Shenmue and an MMO.

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Advent Rising is another example of an ill-conceived trilogy that may have overreached the developers' ability. This game was an action/adventure hybrid penned by acclaimed science fiction writer Orson Scott Card of Ender's Game fame. Advent Rising was supposed to be the first in a trilogy chronicling the tale of Gideon Wyeth, one of the last surviving humans after an alien race exterminates humanity from Earth. Gideon discovers that humanity is despised by the Seekers because of latent psychic abilities that they possess, and another, more benevolent group of aliens trains him in the superhuman talents he possesses.

The Trilogy Curse article

While Advent Rising received mixed critical reviews, the title didn't perform as well as expected and future versions of the title were cancelled. Gamers and game journalists alike criticized the game for the bugs and glitches that plagued the console version as well as the story elements which were dismissive of the extermination of humanity and lacked believable characters. There was even a highly publicized contest for the developers to award a million dollars to a gamer that could find a hidden symbol within the game, but that contest was cancelled and unresolved. Ultimately, Advent Rising caused Majesco, its publisher, financial difficulties that nearly ensured the game would never see a trilogy resolution.

Too Human is another game that may suffer from the "Trilogy Curse", although unlike the former titles this game has yet to see a release date. This ambitious title was announced originally for the PlayStation and was moved to the GameCube and is currently in development for the Xbox 360, and because of this abnormally long developmental period, the game has been announced and incomplete for nearly a decade. Already announced as a trilogy, Too Human was an eagerly anticipated title considering its pedigree (its developers, Silicon Knights, are best known for the critically acclaimed Eternal Darkness, Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes, and Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain), its interesting premise of cybernetic Norse gods, and its action-adventure-role playing blend of gameplay.

The Trilogy Curse article

However, game footage at E3 2006 apparently disappointed gamers everywhere with its awkward camera angles, stilted gameplay, and uninteresting combat. In addition to decreased interest in the game, delays in development have made the likelihood of the entire proposed trilogy being released during the Xbox 360's lifetime unlikely, especially considering the still nebulous 2008 release date and the current difficulties faced by the developers in using the Unreal Engine 3.

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