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How to Make a Good Sequel

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How to Make a Good Sequel

Post by CyberpunkCentral on Tue Jan 04, 2011 7:28 pm

Sequels have become quite commonplace in today's gaming market. Walk into a game store, and everywhere will be the number "2", with "3", "4" and "13" also making occasional appearances. Thinking up a new intellectual property (IP) is hard work, but it's easy to just slap a number and perhaps a snazzy subtitle on the end of your game's name, tweak the graphics and add a new feature or two, right? Actually, no.

Have a look at GameRankings. You will notice that the majority of sequels attain a lower average score than their predecessors. Reviewers generally think they are making these reasons perfectly clear: "A lack of innovation in the franchise". But that's not always the case. We tend to judge a sequel by much higher standards than we do a new IP, because if it looks and feels like the previous game in the franchise, in our eyes, it may as well be the previous game in the franchise. So what, exactly, causes the sometimes-fatal disease known as "Sequelitis"? Let's use some examples and have a look. I'll be using GameRankings, as it includes a large number of reviews. And just because standards do change over time, and we reviewers can be slightly random at times, I will only be including games where the discrepancy is more than 4%.

But first, a brief word about the whole "did not evolve" thing. I think it's really just a line reviewers use when they want to reduce a sequel's score, but aren't quite sure why. Take Assassin's Creed as an example.

Assassin's Creed II (PS3): 90.47%
Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood (PS3): 91.50%

This doesn't count as breaking the 4% rule, because review scores favour old games, and yet Brotherhood attained a higher score than its (fantastic) predecessor. Brotherhood has evolved less than the large majority of games panned for being "too similar" to their predecessors. Actually, Brotherhood got this comment as well, but it doesn't seem to have affected reviews very much. Anyway, without further ado, the five lessons:



Lesson 1 - Don't Take Six Years to Make Your Sequel
Gran Turismo 4: 89.61%
Gran Turismo 5: 84.69%

When you take six years to make a game, it had better be the pinnacle of game design. Every time you delay a game, your customers grow impatient and begin to think "This had BETTER be good". Yes, GT5 was an enjoyable racing game when it arrived, but it wasn't the brilliant, awe-inspiring game that we were expecting. This doesn't only apply to sequels, but people's expectations for the GT franchise are already extremely high, and six years of development just added to that. As such, this isn't as much of an issue for sequels to mediocre games.

Lesson 2 - Don't Re-Use the Same Engine Over and Over Again
Fallout 3 (X360): 92.79%
Fallout: New Vegas (X360): 83.64%

The Gamebryo engine has been in use for four years now, and New Vegas is exactly why it needs to be retired. When you try to cram a new game into an old engine, it is going to be a mess. New Vegas is considered one of the buggiest (good) games of this generation. Fortunately, Bethesda has already learnt its mistake, and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is using a brand new engine. Oh, and while we're on this point, don't let another developer use your engine. Ever.

Lesson 3 - Try Not to Lose Your Lead Designer
BioShock (X360): 94.95%
BioShock 2 (X360): 87.89%

AND a more extreme example:

Devil May Cry: 92.60%
Devil May Cry 2: 73.61%

Don't get me wrong; I enjoyed BioShock 2 very much. It was entertaining and pretty brutal, in a good way. But without the artistic genius of Ken Levine, well, it felt like it was missing something. A heart. A reason why we should care about any of the characters, or the story. I have no idea how he does it, but he does it pretty darn well. I've heard it argued that this is one of those "did not evolve" games, but I don't quite agree with that. A range of new plasmids and tonics, new weapons, a new setting, and the whole Big Daddy gameplay on top of that. Pretty much the same was true for DMC2. Mikami had little input in the development of DMC2, and it ended up being decidedly average. This one only really works if the original was a good game, which is not a prerequisite for making a good sequel (as we'll see later)

Lesson 4: Don't Get Rid of What People Loved in the Original
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (X360): 73.88%
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II (X360): 64.19%

The Force Unleashed wasn't exactly the pinnacle of game design when it launched, but it had one thing going for it: story. Really, everything else sucked, except for, arguably, Force Push and Force Throw. Nobody is denying that TFU II is a much more polished game and that it's better designed to boot. I'm also sure that nobody would deny Revenge of the Sith has better special effects than Empire Strikes Back. And yet, the latter is a better film, and TFU is a better game. Story is more important to a film than a game, but Star Wars is Star Wars, and if the story isn't good, you can't enjoy the rest of it. It was the saving grace of the original and the killing blow to the sequel. Just look at the "good ending". Come ON.

Lesson 5: Don't "Evolve" Too Much
Command &Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars (PC): 85.45%
Command &Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight (PC): 63.97%

This is perhaps one of the worst sequels ever. When you have a long-running, well-loved and well-received RTS series centred around base building, the last thing you want to do is "evolve" and get rid of it completely. If you change from your predecessor too much, you lose any connection with it, and fans of the old game will not be fans of the new. And with this, I think we can hammer the final nail into the coffin of the "games must evolve" theory.

But enough negativity and broken dreams. Let's take a look at some genuinely improved sequels, and see if the five criteria apply.



Prime Example 1
Uncharted: Drake's Fortune: 89.70%
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves: 96.41%, Several Game of the Year awards.

This will be the least improved sequel on this list, because Drake's Fortune was actually a great game in its own right. But Naughty Dog stepped up to the plate and delivered an incredible experience.
1) This took only two years to make; nowhere near six.
2) Two years, and they still improved the engine. It was also developed in-house, so Naughty Dog knew how to use it.
3) Amy Hennig was the Director of Drake's Fortune, and though her job was split up for Among Thieves, she remained Creative Director.
4) Beautiful environments? Improved. Brilliant characters, dialogue and story? Improved. Actually, this calls for a new lesson.
5) It still felt like the original Drake's Fortune at heart, just a much more polished version.

Lesson 6 - Improve Everything.

This might sound like a given, but very few games actually do it. You might think "it's okay, we'll leave this as it is", which will mean that, at best, it will be as good as before, or even worse, "We'll improve this by making this other thing worse", which is exactly how we ended up with Force Unleashed II. If you leave something unimproved, it will come back to bite you.

Prime Example 2
Assassin's Creed (PS3): 78.82%
Assassin's Creed II (PS3): 90.47%

There was far more room for improvement here, because Assassin's Creed wasn't particularly good. The criteria:

1) Again, two years.
2) Fine, the same engine here, but look at how beautiful Assassin's Creed was to begin with. These rules aren't necessarily set in stone. And again, two years, and an in-house development engine.
3) I said that this wasn't a requirements for sequels to average games, but they still kept Patrice Desilets. The ideas behind AC1 were good; just not the execution.
4) What did people love in the original? Viewpoints? Better than ever. Assassinations? Far more frequent, and without the absurd monologues and menial side-missions that accompanied them. Platforming? Still there in huge quantities.
5) Even though it did improve everything, anyone playing ACII could tell that it was a sequel to AC, and no fans of AC would be alienated.
6) Combat was improved. Story and characterisation were massively improved, as was sound. Even the already-solid platforming was improved.

Prime Example 3
Killzone: 73.92%
Killzone 2: 90.07%

As with Assassin's Creed II, there was plenty of room for improvement, and Guerilla did a fantastic job.

1) Four and a half years, but it was a new platform, and the game did actually live up to expectations, and exceed many, because its predecessor was so mediocre.
2) It would probably be a cause for concern if Guerilla used the same engine on two platforms, so it's good that they didn't.
3) Nobody actually seems to know who directed Killzone, but Mathijs de Jonge did a fantastic job outdoing them.
4) This didn't actually happen, but Killzone 2 was never really marketed to the Killzone audience.
5) Pretty much the same as 4)
6) Everything certainly was improved, from the graphics, to the sound, to the gunplay.

Killzone 2, then, is a special case. You can, in extreme circumstances, just pretend that the original never existed, and go from there. This is an option when you expect the sequel to be FAR better, and when the original wasn't very popular to begin with, so there is no risk of alienation. Your game had also better be pretty awesome, so even the fans of the original will see some new charm here.

So, there we have the six criteria that seem to fit most games. Again:

1) Don't spend too much time on development.
2) Change your engine every so often, and if you can, use one that you've developed yourself.
3) Try to keep the team the same, especially if the original was good.
4) Don't get rid of the parts of the original that people loved.
5) Don't try to evolve too much and forget what made the original great.
6) Improve everything, because one bad aspect can bring the whole game crashing down.

Source: VGChartz
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Re: How to Make a Good Sequel

Post by TRF on Tue Jan 04, 2011 8:39 pm

Very interesting read, and I agree with all of the points.

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Re: How to Make a Good Sequel

Post by chobo500 on Tue Jan 04, 2011 8:56 pm

More Examples from these catagories:

1:

Splatter House 3: 80.00
Splatter House 2010: 65.22

Final Fantasy XII: 90.64
Final Fantasy XIII: 85.17

Jak 3: 85.42
Jak: the lost fronter: 69.50

2:

Modern Warfare 2: 93.39
Black Ops: 88.64

(this series breaks both rules of using the same engine for the past 3 years, and having 2 different devs share the engine.)

Crackdown: 83.16
Crackdown 2: 71.19

3.

Metroid Prime 3: 90.16
Metroid Other M: 79.17

Call of Duty(i'm not going to repeat the scores.)

Crackdown

Jak 3 to Lost Fronter

4.

MK 3: 80.23
MK 4: 77.31

5.

Banjo Kazooie: 92.55
Tooie: 91.08
Nuts and bolts: 80.64

Metroid Prime 3 to other M

Final Fantasy XII to XIII

6.

Crackdown


Call of duty

Note: these are not 100% accurate.


Last edited by chobo500 on Thu Jan 06, 2011 11:31 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: How to Make a Good Sequel

Post by Gutzahn on Tue Jan 04, 2011 10:34 pm

Nice article! I guess i agree with it.
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Re: How to Make a Good Sequel

Post by TRF on Tue Jan 04, 2011 11:17 pm

chobo500 wrote:More Examples from these catagories:
Final Fantasy XII: 90.64
Final Fantasy XIII: 85.17
Not a very good comparison because the game was on new console technology, plus it was completely different than XII, not to mention there were many iterations of the series in between.

Metroid Prime 3: 90.16
Metroid Other M: 79.17
Another unfair comparison because the game is completely different and not part of the same series.

Viva Pinata: 85.39
Viva Pinata Party Animals: 58.00
Again, unfair for the same reasons as listed above.

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Re: How to Make a Good Sequel

Post by MEGAlan on Wed Jan 05, 2011 1:53 am

I enjoyed Fable 3 much more than Fable 2.

The reviews were wack.
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Re: How to Make a Good Sequel

Post by chobo500 on Wed Jan 05, 2011 2:06 am

TRF wrote:
chobo500 wrote:More Examples from these catagories:
Final Fantasy XII: 90.64
Final Fantasy XIII: 85.17
Not a very good comparison because the game was on new console technology, plus it was completely different than XII, not to mention there were many iterations of the series in between.

Metroid Prime 3: 90.16
Metroid Other M: 79.17
Another unfair comparison because the game is completely different and not part of the same series.

Viva Pinata: 85.39
Viva Pinata Party Animals: 58.00
Again, unfair for the same reasons as listed above.

Vivia Pinata I will give you.

FFXIII's Core game play was drastically changed and many people did not like the linear game play style that takes away the feel of a JRPG.

Same goes with Metroid. they changed development hands from Retro studios to Team Ninja, Whom made some of the Best Metroid games, and they changed the main game play by, Once again, making it more linear and making it a third Person Action/shooter with some First Person elements rather then in in First person all the time. Some people bitched about Samus's bad voice acting, some hated the monologues, And need I remind you of the Whole Adam Authorization whining?

Now I will admit that final fantasy games have different universes per game, but metroid is metroid. the Prime games don't deviate away from samus or the main story-arch of the Metroid series.

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Re: How to Make a Good Sequel

Post by TRF on Wed Jan 05, 2011 3:19 am

chobo500 wrote:
Vivia Pinata I will give you.

FFXIII's Core game play was drastically changed and many people did not like the linear game play style that takes away the feel of a JRPG.

Same goes with Metroid. they changed development hands from Retro studios to Team Ninja, Whom made some of the Best Metroid games, and they changed the main game play by, Once again, making it more linear and making it a third Person Action/shooter with some First Person elements rather then in in First person all the time. Some people bitched about Samus's bad voice acting, some hated the monologues, And need I remind you of the Whole Adam Authorization whining?

Now I will admit that final fantasy games have different universes per game, but metroid is metroid. the Prime games don't deviate away from samus or the main story-arch of the Metroid series.
A better game to use instead of Party Animals is Trouble in Paradise (it's part of the main series and holds a 82.25%). Final Fantasy XIII is an unfair comparison because every Final Fantasy game is different. Different story, characters, combat, etc., so you can't treat Final Fantasy XIII as a game apart from the series. As for Metroid, the Prime series is different than Other M. If anything, it's like a pseudo-recreation of the original sidescroller Metroid series. It would be one thing if it was part of the Prime series, but it's not. It's a completely different project with different ambitions and whatnot

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Re: How to Make a Good Sequel

Post by Stoney on Thu Jan 06, 2011 10:06 pm

MEGAlan wrote:I enjoyed Fable 3 much more than Fable 2.

The reviews were wack.

This X1000.

Fable III is ALOT better than Fable II. That's why I usually look out for one or two reviews and not judge it on Metacritic. CVG are probably the most reliable site. And they gave Fable a 9.2.
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Re: How to Make a Good Sequel

Post by TRF on Thu Jan 06, 2011 10:07 pm

Yeah, I dunno what went wrong with the review process for that game. Fable III is better than Fable II in every way imaginable. I can't even play Fable II now. It's so hard to go back.

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Re: How to Make a Good Sequel

Post by chobo500 on Thu Jan 06, 2011 11:42 pm

TRF wrote:
chobo500 wrote:
Vivia Pinata I will give you.

FFXIII's Core game play was drastically changed and many people did not like the linear game play style that takes away the feel of a JRPG.

Same goes with Metroid. they changed development hands from Retro studios to Team Ninja, Whom made some of the Best Metroid games, and they changed the main game play by, Once again, making it more linear and making it a third Person Action/shooter with some First Person elements rather then in in First person all the time. Some people bitched about Samus's bad voice acting, some hated the monologues, And need I remind you of the Whole Adam Authorization whining?

Now I will admit that final fantasy games have different universes per game, but metroid is metroid. the Prime games don't deviate away from samus or the main story-arch of the Metroid series.
A better game to use instead of Party Animals is Trouble in Paradise (it's part of the main series and holds a 82.25%). Final Fantasy XIII is an unfair comparison because every Final Fantasy game is different. Different story, characters, combat, etc., so you can't treat Final Fantasy XIII as a game apart from the series. As for Metroid, the Prime series is different than Other M. If anything, it's like a pseudo-recreation of the original sidescroller Metroid series. It would be one thing if it was part of the Prime series, but it's not. It's a completely different project with different ambitions and whatnot

FFXIII is part of the Main FF Series. it's not a spinoff to the series(though there will be spinoffs to FFXIII).

that's why I was wrong about Viva Pinata. I was comparing a main series game to a spinoff.

And for Metroid, what games do I compare it to? Super Metroid, or Metroid Fusion? Either way, my point stays.

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Re: How to Make a Good Sequel

Post by TRF on Fri Jan 07, 2011 1:25 am

chobo500 wrote:
FFXIII is part of the Main FF Series. it's not a spinoff to the series(though there will be spinoffs to FFXIII).

that's why I was wrong about Viva Pinata. I was comparing a main series game to a spinoff.

And for Metroid, what games do I compare it to? Super Metroid, or Metroid Fusion? Either way, my point stays.
So what if Final Fantasy XIII is a main part of the series? There's really no difference between a main Final Fantasy game and a spin-off Final Fantasy game, unless I'm missing something. The gameplay and story in Final Fantasy have always changed between iterations. Other M, however, IS a spin-off, or at least it's not part of the Prime series. For one, it doesn't have the word "Prime" in it. Secondly, it's got a different story. Finally, it features a talking Samus and new gameplay.

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Re: How to Make a Good Sequel

Post by chobo500 on Fri Jan 07, 2011 2:06 am

TRF wrote:
Other M, however, IS a spin-off, or at least it's not part of the Prime series. For one, it doesn't have the word "Prime" in it. Secondly, it's got a different story. Finally, it features a talking Samus and new gameplay.

THAT'S THE POINT!

Some people didn't like the gameplay style or the voice acting or story changes that were made. The Prime games were the first(and only at the time) Metroid games in 3D. So when people saw Other M, it was probably jarring at first to see such a dramatic change of gameplay for the franchise(especially with the controls).

Personally, I liked Other M. But I can defiantly see why a lot of people hate it.

BTW: Other M is part of the main series. It takes place between Super Metroid, and Fusion.

so technically, it could fall under the 1st category as well. But I won't because of the Prime games.

P.S

with final fantasy



this vid pretty much sums up my argument.

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Re: How to Make a Good Sequel

Post by CyberpunkCentral on Wed Jan 12, 2011 9:05 pm

This article is now irrelevant, seeing as "LittleBigPlanet 2" has a lower score than the original.
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Re: How to Make a Good Sequel

Post by chobo500 on Wed Jan 12, 2011 9:12 pm

CyberpunkCentral wrote:This article is now irrelevant, seeing as "LittleBigPlanet 2" has a lower score than the original.

the rule is that it has to be 4% off. LBP and LBP2 are 1% off(besides, not all the reviews are in yet.)

same applies to Halo 3 and Reach. 93 to 91.



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Re: How to Make a Good Sequel

Post by adro on Wed Jan 12, 2011 10:50 pm

chobo500 wrote:
CyberpunkCentral wrote:This article is now irrelevant, seeing as "LittleBigPlanet 2" has a lower score than the original.

the rule is that it has to be 4% off. LBP and LBP2 are 1% off(besides, not all the reviews are in yet.)

same applies to Halo 3 and Reach. 93 to 91.



yup, when the game came out, also do affect it's score.
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Re: How to Make a Good Sequel

Post by SlySonji™ on Thu Jan 13, 2011 2:17 am

I agree.

COMPLETELY.
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Re: How to Make a Good Sequel

Post by MEGAlan on Thu Jan 13, 2011 6:08 pm

CyberpunkCentral wrote:This article is now irrelevant, seeing as "LittleBigPlanet 2" has a lower score than the original.

Oh boo-hoo. One point lower.

This article is relevant. Metacritic isn't always dead-on accurate with it's scores. We use it because it generally corresponds to the public's popular opinion.

Generally:

(97+) Near Perfection
(93-96) Incredible
(90-92) Excellent
(86-89) Great
(82-85) Very Good
(79-81) Good
(75-78) Favorable

LBP2 did everything on that list and it scored similarily to the original. Meaning that this list must be spot on.
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Re: How to Make a Good Sequel

Post by CyberpunkCentral on Thu Jan 13, 2011 6:43 pm

MEGAlan wrote:
CyberpunkCentral wrote:This article is now irrelevant, seeing as "LittleBigPlanet 2" has a lower score than the original.

Oh boo-hoo. One point lower.

This article is relevant. Metacritic isn't always dead-on accurate with it's scores. We use it because it generally corresponds to the public's popular opinion.

Generally:

(97+) Near Perfection
(93-96) Incredible
(90-92) Excellent
(86-89) Great
(82-85) Very Good
(79-81) Good
(75-78) Favorable

LBP2 did everything on that list and it scored similarily to the original. Meaning that this list must be spot on.

Actually "LittleBigPlanet 2" currently has a 92 score on Metacritic while the original has a 95 score Rolling Eyes

Have you even bother reading the whole article?
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Re: How to Make a Good Sequel

Post by chobo500 on Thu Jan 13, 2011 8:20 pm

MEGAlan wrote:
CyberpunkCentral wrote:This article is now irrelevant, seeing as "LittleBigPlanet 2" has a lower score than the original.

Oh boo-hoo. One point lower.

This article is relevant. Metacritic isn't always dead-on accurate with it's scores. We use it because it generally corresponds to the public's popular opinion.

Generally:

(97+) Near Perfection
(93-96) Incredible
(90-92) Excellent
(86-89) Great
(82-85) Very Good
(79-81) Good
(75-78) Favorable

LBP2 did everything on that list and it scored similarily to the original. Meaning that this list must be spot on.

we're using Gamerankings. Not Metacritic.

and remember, there is a 4% rule.

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Re: How to Make a Good Sequel

Post by MEGAlan on Fri Jan 14, 2011 6:19 pm

CyberpunkCentral wrote:
MEGAlan wrote:
CyberpunkCentral wrote:This article is now irrelevant, seeing as "LittleBigPlanet 2" has a lower score than the original.

Oh boo-hoo. One point lower.

This article is relevant. Metacritic isn't always dead-on accurate with it's scores. We use it because it generally corresponds to the public's popular opinion.

Generally:

(97+) Near Perfection
(93-96) Incredible
(90-92) Excellent
(86-89) Great
(82-85) Very Good
(79-81) Good
(75-78) Favorable

LBP2 did everything on that list and it scored similarily to the original. Meaning that this list must be spot on.

Actually "LittleBigPlanet 2" currently has a 92 score on Metacritic while the original has a 95 score Rolling Eyes

Have you even bother reading the whole article?

I did...92% is still a great score. I still don't see how it is irrelevant now.

All of the points on the article seemed valid and logical.
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Re: How to Make a Good Sequel

Post by CyberpunkCentral on Fri Jan 14, 2011 7:14 pm

MEGAlan wrote:I did...92% is still a great score. I still don't see how it is irrelevant now.

All of the points on the article seemed valid and logical.

May I ask where did you get 92% from? Laughing

You didn't even bother going to GameRankings did you? The article is using GameRankings NOT Metacritic.
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Re: How to Make a Good Sequel

Post by MEGAlan on Fri Jan 14, 2011 8:19 pm

CyberpunkCentral wrote:
MEGAlan wrote:I did...92% is still a great score. I still don't see how it is irrelevant now.

All of the points on the article seemed valid and logical.

May I ask where did you get 92% from? Laughing

You didn't even bother going to GameRankings did you? The article is using GameRankings NOT Metacritic.

...

Actually "LittleBigPlanet 2" currently has a 92 score on Metacritic while the original has a 95 score


I got it from you...You were referring to the Metacritic scoring..

If we are using GameRankings it's even less of a deal. LBP2 on Gamerankings holds a 93%. LBP1 on Gamerankings holds a 95%. That's only a 2 percent difference, that didn't break the 4% rule..so according to the article it is a good sequel. Maybe you need to read it yourself? Or maybe learn the difference between 95 and 93? You still didn't give me a reason why that article is now rendered useless, and I doubt you will anytime soon.

http://www.gamerankings.com/ps3/954843-littlebigplanet-2/index.html
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Re: How to Make a Good Sequel

Post by CyberpunkCentral on Fri Jan 14, 2011 9:44 pm

MEGAlan wrote:I got it from you...You were referring to the Metacritic scoring.

I was correcting you because you just assumed "LittleBigPlanet 2" was 1 point behind the original on Metacritic. When it's actually 4 points behind as of now.

MEGAlan wrote:If we are using GameRankings it's even less of a deal. LBP2 on Gamerankings holds a 93%. LBP1 on Gamerankings holds a 95%. That's only a 2 percent difference, that didn't break the 4% rule..so according to the article it is a good sequel. Maybe you need to read it yourself? Or maybe learn the difference between 95 and 93? You still didn't give me a reason why that article is now rendered useless, and I doubt you will anytime soon.

http://www.gamerankings.com/ps3/954843-littlebigplanet-2/index.html

Oh and the only reason why I said this article was irrelevant before was because "LittleBigPlanet 2" is a great example of what a sequel should be according to the article. Yet it got a lower score then the original. But the game didn't break the 4% rule, so I guess you're right.

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Re: How to Make a Good Sequel

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