Everybody loves pizza, and everybody loves video games. Some dude has a Madden tournament, so he orders Pizza Hut. When the pizza comes, it’s delicious. Gooey cheese, crunchy crusts, warm sauce, crisp toppings – they all add up to make a delicious slice of heaven. Just like the parts that make up a pizza, a good game requires good ingredients.
Let’s get culinary for a moment. A pizza has four main parts: crust, sauce, cheese, and toppings. The crust must be firm; it has to support all the stuff that goes on top. Next comes the sauce; it’s the underlying tanginess you get in every bite. After that is cheese, which adds zest to the pizza and holds the toppings in place. Those toppings – ingredient number four – are the “icing on the cake.” They’re that little extra something that brings the whole pizza together.
Now let’s get back to gaming. Every game has four main parts: its engine, graphics, story, and features. We’ll examine and explain each one as we come to it.
Engine: The Crust
As I said, the crust must be strong enough to support everything else. Likewise, a game engine must be capable of keeping a game afloat. You know all those javelin glitches or pop-up problems? That’s an engine issue.
When a pizza crust is weak and flimsy, everything literally falls apart. When a game can’t even keep itself going, everything collapses. Thankfully, we have things like the Unreal engine that do their job well.
Graphics: The Sauce
When you bite into a slice of pizza, the underlying tanginess of the sauce sticks with you the whole time. In the same way, graphics are always present; you see them the entire time you play the game (duh).
So would you want a bland sauce? How about one that’s too spicy? We don’t want a game with flat-faced people and monochrome buildings, nor do we want one that’s overly stylized. A perfect balance like Borderlands is where the money’s at.
Story: The Cheese
Cheese holds the toppings in place, but we’ll get to that in a moment. For now, let’s take a look at how similar it is to the sauce; it also stays with you for the whole time. So with a game’s story, the same thing occurs. The overarching “save the princess” or “defeat the world’s dictator” will always be present.
Nobody would want sour cheese; nobody would want cheese that’s too sharp. We don’t want a story that was written by a first grader for his homework assignment, and we don’t want a story that’s too complicated even its creator can’t explain it all (I’m looking at you, Kojima). A good example would be Fallout 3. There’s a simple plot of finding your father and purifying DC’s water supply, but there are also a myriad of optional quests with their own lore for the player to try out.
Features: The Toppings
Features are pretty self-explanatory: Nathan’s hookshot in Bionic Commando, Ratchet and Clank’s plethora of weapons, etc. You may be wondering why this came after story. It’s simple: a game’s features should be built around a story, not the other way around. It should be “What could Link use in this dungeon?” – not “Let’s make a boomerang! Where should we put it?”
These toppings are what really seal the deal for the buyer. Sure, extra cheese is fine, but pepperoni is just that much better. It was cool to duke it out in fighters, but Mortal Kombat’s addition of finishers took things to a whole new level.
A Good Game: The Whole Pizza
A pizza needs to have all parts. With just crust and cheese, you get garlic bread; with just crust and toppings, you get a sandwich. You need all parts to complete the pizza. Likewise, you need all parts – engine, graphics, story, and features – to have a good game. You simply can’t leave a part out. Just story and graphics? That’s a comic book, buddy.
So what do you think? Do you think a good game could go without one of these essentials? You know my thoughts. Sound off below!
(By the way, typing this totally made me hungry. Sorry if reading it has the same effect.)