“Echoes” and the 25-Year Leap.


Echoes is a totally sweet game. If you haven’t already, you should try it out. As long as you don’t hate action games. It’s free!

After the jump I talk about the troubled thoughts I have regarding Echoes, as it relates to the games we design from day to day.

Echoes is somewhat like Geometry Wars. Indies have made many Geometry Wars clones, but they’re all pretty much sub-par, without the teeth that the original game has. (“Original” being used loosely since the game that is so popular on Xbox Live Arcade is a remake.)

Echoes is the first descendant of Geometry Wars I’ve encountered that really stands as its own game, but also works as well as the original (and it may even be better).

Mixed in with the Geometry Wars-ness is a healthy dose of Asteroids. Indies have made many Asteroids clones, but they are mostly not games that you would go out of your way to play. (One exception being Moonpod’s game Starscape, which I played for something like 10 hours straight as soon as I got it).

One thing I find compelling about Echoes is that, like Braid, it could have been made a long time ago — decades, even. But nobody ever thought of it. Instead we had this progression, layering one idea onto another, from Robotron, through Smash TV, through Geometry Wars, to Echoes, with probably a few other stops along the way. I would love the power to just shortcut that trail of influence and just have the final idea. There are surely a huge number of different, great games that could be made today, but nobody will think of them for 20 years. That’s so painful, when you look at the relative monotony of the games on offer.

Imagine if Echoes had been released in 1982 as Asteroids Deluxe, instead of the comparatively lame game that was actually released as Asteroids Deluxe. That would have been completely mind-blowing — and where would action games be today, after that big of a boost? (Robotron: 2084 was released in 1982, which is why I pick that year — the canonical 8-way dual-stick shooting game had been released, so it seems like a relatively small jump from that to this. Only, it took 25 years. [I can’t really say that Echoes is a fundamentally more sophisticated game than Robotron, but I think it’s juicier and flows better]).

I suppose this is kind-of rambling and doesn’t make that much sense. I just look at my list of Games I Want To Make, and I know most of them are not making this same kind of 25-Year Leap. At the same time, I know a huge number of such ideas are out there, and I could see them if I just developed the proper kind of vision. I’m not sure what to do about that, except to keep trying.

4 thoughts on ““Echoes” and the 25-Year Leap.”

  1. Is it really the case that no one imagined this for 25 years? Perhaps it’s simply that no one cared to implement it (for 25 years). It’s a straightforward mashing of Asteroids and Robotron. I just don’t understand how this is a leap forward and not a one of millions recombination.

  2. I don’t think it’s really just the idea of the game; it’s more like a combination of idea+execution+aesthetics that, I think, works really well.

    I’m not trying to say that combining Robotron and Asteroids is some great idea that will revolutionize game design. Just that — well, how many Asteroids-style games have been made over the years? They are mostly pretty terrible; often they are worse than the original Asteroids! Why? When Atari revisited the Asteroids franchise in 1987 with what, by then, were computers way more powerful than what ran the original game — why did they make the relatively lame Blasteroids, instead of Echoes?

    So, certainly plenty of people have cared enough to implement Asteroids games. I don’t think that’s really in question.

  3. Second Starscape – they go in a different direction by adding layers of strategy and story to a ‘realistic’ looking asteroids incarnation. The depth they added is immense and it would have been a great game with just that but oddly enough it was the story that kept pulling me along.

    Another diverting take on asteroids is Spheres of Chaos: http://www.spheresofchaos.com

    very trippy!

  4. this is definitely my favorite boss fight in the whole game. and it’s only te second boss. seriously, how many games let you fight a giant dragon wihle free-falling? this boss alone beats halo 3’s campaign mode. (i’m not saying halo 3 sucks, it’s a REALLY good game and i love it, it’s jsut that campaign is too short and linear and……yeah it sucks. people play ahlo for multiplayer)

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