Shenmue created the foundations for some of the patterns followed by the industry to build open world games, the most common design to deliver games to the players in our days. Everything started with the pursued of a dream. Yu Suzuki was well known to create arcade games during several generations and he wants to develop something different, something disruptive. Shenmue began as an RPG based on Virtua Fighter, the concept was growing over the years and finally the first structure of Shenmue were developed for Sega Saturn. In fact, there is footage of that jewel in a beta state.
After a long development, Shenmue was released for Sega Dreamcast in 1999. Shenmue was ahead of its time including an insane level of detail in its interaction mechanics. A game filled with immense possibilities and complex behavioral patterns in NPCs. Shenmue is still a relevant experience, a different game to be discovered for its attention for detail in the secondary content. In Dreamcast days, Shenmue should have took advantage of Dreamcast’s online capabilities to face players on Roll it on Top, Big or Small or Lucky Hits, among other gambling minigames. Currently, is very easy to find the best online casinos to enjoy this type of games, but during Shenmue I and II years, possibilities were minimum. Moreover, this feature could have helped the game to scale its possibilities.
The balanced and the secondary content
Games are designed with different layers. The core is the content that the player has to complete to beat the game, the other layers are distributed mainly as secondary material. The Witcher 3 presented an innovative design where secondary content were well defined as this type of missions, but the quality was placed at the same level as the primary content. Shenmue presented a different design scheme. The game offers a real representation of real Asian localizations and Ryo Hazuki, our protagonist, must investigate to progress. The best way to investigate something is to ask others.
You have to ask to gather information and move forward to the next person that could help you. In the process, those persons have their own schedule. They come to work in a specific time, they come home after labor or spend some time in the city. You need to find them, but sometimes you will have to spend some time until they arrive to the point of interest and during that time you can enjoy the secondary content of Shenmue. The design is brilliant, Shenmue creates a complex net of characters with their routines and considering that time in the game is an active factor; you have to consider that you cannot do what you want when you want. Intervals are placed on purpose to force the player to explore the world.
Shenmue III, change of mechanics with the same intentions
The formula presented by Shenmue I and II were feasible 20 years ago. Nowadays, developers tend to remove all those moments where you have to do a specific action in a specific moment. This trend force games to introduce a different design to attract players to secondary content.
In Shenmue III, the progression and the RPG parameters are interwoven with the secondary activity. Maybe you need to improve your martial arts skills to beat a character, then spend some time training with the different minigames focused on that. If Ryo need money as easy as spend some time with the gambling options.
Shenmue is perfectly balanced. The games could share some mechanics with other games, but there aren’t experiences like Shenmue. Inimitable.