The state of our gaming nation

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Hi I just thought I'd make a few comments about our gaming society and the way it's changed over the last 10-15 years. Many years back when I first opened my C-64 pro-pack computer system (age 9), my eyes glowed and I trembled with excitement. I unpacked it and set it up (instructions aside) and Proceeded to play the VERY BASIC games included. Some were text based, and a few like mothership, graphic based. I stayed awake all the first night and into the second night, totally fixed to the screen, my imagination running wild.... Well then there was the Amiga (bless its soul) and finally Pc started to catch up. The reason I wrote this was to just test the water and see how many people will agree with some of my thoughts. At first I thought my recent bout of impatience with modern games was a side-effect of growing up, and that If I was a kid now I'd be going mad on the new generation games-consoles, etc. But after much game-play and a lot of frustation and thinking, I've come to the conclusion, that almost all of the games today are relying on various combinations of powerful graphics, long-winded storylines, processing power...yadda yadda, u get my point..a race to be the most tecnological. Back in the day, the fact that the games relied on certain levels of imagination, and simplicity was sometimes the only option due to Kb allowance, had that major side effect, it gave more room for imagination, and less room for dissapointment. kinda like the difference between the original Starwars series, and the computer generated New Gen Starwars. Take the example of most real life sports, Tennis, golf, cricket, surfing..... They all have one thing in common. They only involve a minimum of variations in control. The content is usually limited to one screen or scenario. Its the fun of being able to master and gain skill of something graspable, we dont expect to hit the golf ball and have flames trailing behind it, or bats consuming it and then telling you to proceed to the 9th hole of doom! Games of today require you to work your way through 800 different locations, frustrated at backtracking 80% of the time trying to be a Pirate of the Carribean, just one example, They all work on boring marketing guidelines of minimum gameplay times, Market stuctured crap and have basically been smothered by the boring sods who handle the money and licencing. I can walk into a gamestore, mull around for an hour and not see one original game idea. I mean why did pack-man become so famous? Some might say because it was the best game they had at the time. Partly right. It was pushing graphics at release, yes, but people still love it now, its a classic. You have to wonder if the idea would get a second glance at a game devs conference had it been lodged now instead of then. But it comes down to its main drawcard. Simplicity! It stands with great human pasttimes like Snooker, Pinball, 10 pin bowling, Solitare, heck even pee-knuckle. Its good wholesome quick to get in to, FUN. Spacey games were spacey games when thet were "space invaders" "pacman" "simcity" "bubble bobble" then they started trying to be too damn much! I just thank the computer gods that I got to experience the golden age of gameing, and Maybe in 10-20 years when graphics are just super realistic the "sport sims" and "mindless platforms" will be immersive enough to enjoy. Game devs looking for ideas? Spend some time thinking of the the tiny number of legendary games that have been. Most of which were in the earlier days. Think about what people like to do in real life that are impractical to do, make some simple buid'em up games, and some simple single screen games. Xenon2 wasnt a bad emulation of space invaders. simcity was good simple fun. 1943 was great, how often, if ever do you see a game like 1943 on PC?? ask yourself that....

Sorceror Bob's picture

*throws an enter button at viperNZ*

TheBigJ's picture

I agree with some of your thoughts but have to put my own forward:

I have a similar gaming history to you, it seems. I started on the C64 and moved on to the atari, amiga, master system, NES etc. From the beginning I was fascinated by gaming. The very act of interacting with a virtual environment intrigued me (at a limited 6 year old level). Thinking of the games of those times today still brings back warm memories. Games of that time were well designed, fun and just great to play.

However, fun though they were, modern games are more fun. Look at some games I have completed recently. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Neverwinter Nights, KOTOR, Max Payne 2. I loved all of these games for their story and their design in general. It would be madness to claim that the original Prince of Persia is better in any way, shape or form. SoT has better graphics, yes. It also has better story, better design, better music, and is more fun. I know this because after completing the new game I replayed the old game. The old game is good, but compared to Sands of Time, it sucks.

I'm not entirely sure what it is that you are trying to suggest was better in retro games, but you do mention size/length. Generally, a game should be played as much as possible. Perhaps the real question is how long should it take to play a game once? Games of differing genres demand different length. A Beat-em-up like Tekken or SoulCalibur has a fairly small environment and can be played though in a matter of minutes. Other games, like RPGs, require much longer times (often 40+ hours). But has anything really changed?

Compare ZORK to KOTOR. They both took ages to play. If you compare games of different genres, you're likely to to see huge differences over time, like comparing Bubble Bobble to Pirates of the Carribean or Neverwinter Nights. Doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

On to marketing. Here, I partly agree with you. Publishers decide what games get published. They make these decisions based on what games sell, and have sold in the past. If a particular game has sold well then a similar game is more likely to get signed then an original concept. This is unfortunate as it makes creative innovation difficult. However, this too is debatable. After all, publishers make these descisions on games we buy. Well marketed games make publishers/developers more money and future games have larger development budgets thus making later games better and the circle goes on.

Basically, the point I'm trying to get across is that the things that made games good in the olden days still make games good today. But now we have new and more exciting things to play with. Some people, like yourself, aren't satisfied with this. Maybe you're too easily distracted by pretty graphics and ignore the underlying gameplay. Maybe you just grew up. Modern games are fun too. If you went back in time and gave the creators of pac-man modern game technology do you think they would use it? And if they did, would you still think of pac-man with the same emotion you do now? I know I would.

Just my two cents.

Edit: Typo.

unknownuser1's picture

I also have fond memories of older games, but there is one problem with comparing new games to older ones. Our age. How many times have you said that kids cartoons now are crap compared to what we had? Go back and watch some of those old cartoons now. They are really bad. We look at things from our youths as a youth, and not as an adult. I'm sure that if you went back and played some old C64 games, they just wouldn't hold you as much now as what they used to. I loved playing Wonderboy on my old Master System, but I am sure it would give me the shits now-a-days.

I agree with your comments on older games being more about imagination and less about graphics. To a certain extent. Devs back then had to rely on more original titles as they didn't have the ability to wow people with amasing images or sounds. They couldn't store a couple of gig on their DVDs. Now we have that ability, there is an expectancy to use it. As much as we complain, how many of us would go and buy a new game that looks like something from 1985? I sure a hell wouldn't. I own a nice system, and I want to test it out as well as having fun. If I want to play a game from 1985, I will. It is also more difficult to design a more original game today as designs have been done. Pong wasn't that original (ping pong), but it was a new format, so we felt it was.

There are still some companies who try to base their games on originality. Smilebit still being my favourite of them (Rez, JSR). I guess it is just the weakness of growing up in the past and trying to compare the now to the then. It just can't be done. Have your fond memories from your childhood, but don't let it ruin any fond memories you may have now.

ScORCHo's picture

Why there is such a strong connection with older games with our generation is because they were more personal, and by that i mean they took more effort, concentration, and imagintation therfore becoming like a part of you. I can remember playing text adventures and just sitting staring at the screen with nothing but words on it, but in my head there is this whole world being created, with the different creatures and towns, and imagining the different roads and what would be the best way to go. And then the games started to get pictures and everything, which they still let you imagine yourself in there, but the pictures helped.

Games nowdays are are extremely fun because everything is pretty much given too you. There is a 3D world where you can actually look and walk around and interact, talk to people, even real people, so your brain isnt using as much power for imagination, you can just play and let the visual take you in. And this is what people want, because most people are lazy.

I should also add people are impatient.

GooberMan's picture

quote:


Originally posted by ViperNZ

how often, if ever do you see a game like 1943 on PC??

Just because it's not on the shelves doesn't mean it's not out there. There's a growing online market that is thriving on selling games based on old concepts. The other month, I saw a remake of Marble Madness being played on one of the computers at work. RealArcade and similar services are examples of where you can find things like that.

Simplicity is all well and good, but there are complex games that are considered classics. Civilisation is regarded by many as the best game of all time, and that game is far from simple. Likewise, there have been games that have been made too simple and are just plain boring to play as a result. Simplicity does not necessarily mean fun and addictive gameplay, and the same goes for complexity. It's all about the challenge. The challenge in Pac Man was to get all the dots before you got ghosted. The challenge in Civilisation was to be the best civilisation in the entire world. The gameplay should serve the challenge and do it justice, it shouldn't sell itself short for the sake of simplicity or overcomplicate things because it can.

Maitrek's picture

It's all well and good to notice that there are some ailments within the modern game, but whining about them doesn't actually help much.

As for the whole rose-coloured glasses argument that old games suck compared to modern games? I can tell you now that I played System Shock 1 for the first time about a month before System Shock 2 came out, I played through the first one, loved it, then I played the second one, and the sequel was awful compared to the original, I never even personally finished the sequel because it bored me to tears with how crap-tastically it was designed. I've puked up better designs after binge drinking.

I'm personally very critical of the jobs that game designers are doing these days, there is only a faint shred of creativity and innovation in even the most 'revolutionary' games that are brought out these days. Worse than the lack of creative game design, is the amount of simple mistakes that are made during the game design process...the bits of game design that just don't match up with the intended audience, or the intended 'genre' (a word that I hate) or just the general mechanic and flow of the game.

At least the artists are mostly doing a good job of giving the most tired 'genres' and game designs a fresh coat of paint.

hobonation's picture

Old games are just the best, If you would class Snes as old, It has the best games EVER MADE! w000t!

smeg's picture

quote:


Originally posted by Maitrek

At least the artists are mostly doing a good job of giving the most tired 'genres' and game designs a fresh coat of paint.

Interesting quote, and probably more meaningful than you intended.

Artists are not pushing the boundaries any further than game designers. What was the last game you played that had a truly unique visual style? XIII? Zelda? Ico? We have more polygons and more neato special effects with each hardware iteration, but our games still look the same.

The fact is, every level of game production is stifled to some degree; design, art, script/narrative etc. What you have to understand, is that this is a good thing - sometimes. Usually games are kept in line with existing standards (either imposed by the console manufacturers or by the gameing public).

I have designed a PC stratergy game that ONLY accepts keyboard input. I have also designed a FPS that is controlled entirely with the mouse.

Of course, neither of these is true. But i'm willing to bet my 2 cents that you first reaction was a "Huh, you can't do that!" not a "hey, i wanna buy that!".

Revolutionary concepts run a VERY serious risk of losing the player. They also run the risk of selling a grand total of 7 copies as a result (3 of which may be returned by unsatisfied customers).

Really what people want is a happy medium; a standard genre (that you are familiar with) with a new twist or angle. Or maybe a NEW genre, but those are kinda hard to find. :D

Hmm, sorry. I kinda got carried away there. :)
cheers

DaMunkee's picture

I agree with everyone on every point (is that a politicians answer or what? :) )
As every point is true, but as we all learned in this classroom of life, there are exceptions to everything.

What I mean is this. Publishers/developers are restricting what they make due to what they feel is most important. Unfortunately for most, that means whatever will bring in the money. But at the same time, some still value original ideas as the most important. (Look at games like Pikman, Rez, etc...) Even good creative renditions of classics are have come. (Ikuragi for example, if you haven't played it yet but enjoy 1942 style top down scrollers, pick it up!) There is and will always be something for everyone, it's just sometimes you have to look harder then not.

As for my own personal taste, I'm tired of the tried and true "hits" Counter strike, great, Battlefield 1942, great, but I don't want to play both! Now give me a gimmick, something I've never seen before and I'm so there! Recently I picked up Life Line for the PS2. All in all, the game is probably a 3 out of 5 rating, but I still like it because to play the game, you Tell the main character to do stuff (usb headset required). Pikmen was a steller game and will probably pick up Pikmen 2 provided it's different enough from the first. I guess as I get older, I value my time more. If I'm going to spend the time with a computer instead of a my partner, well there better be something I've never done before to make it worth it :)

On a related note, I believe the game industry is following almost exactly in the footsteps of the Movie industry. There you have your blockbusters that of course do well because of the hype... hmmm sound familiar? (Doom III) But you also have those few producers who still challenge the norm (View Askew/Kevin Smith). The end result of their work, a small fan base that grows and grows but still doesn't reach the money level as the blockbusters. And then you have the flops, those that try and try but fail either because they rushed the movie(almost any game), copied someone elses script/plot(An ex cop, wakes up, has to kill everyone) or made the same movie with new actors/art(every blizzard clone out there) just to name a few. Now if only the game industry unionizes like the Movie industry did, then the 100 hour work weeks may disappear :)

My 2.5 cents.

ViperNZ's picture

I'd just like to thank everyone who has so far contributed to this post. I might just desipher a bit of my initial ranting, as I have a habit of over-indulging a thought beyond reasonable limits! I accept all the comments so far and also acknowledge there will be a spread or different angles to take this from. The key of my point was... A byproduct of struggling to get functionality in games of earlier times was innovation, and that innovation took a whole load of time, and in that time!..... they got a big bag of opportunities to think of funky little details in the game. The graphics of today ARE a great thing, but I liked the comment earlier about Txt based games leaving it all (graphically) to our imagination, Now we have great graphics to help our imagination along. I for one have great imagination, so maybe its that part of me that's protesting sub-consiously. Soon the graphics will close in on ulra realism, and then maybe we'll get Virtual Reality, and full immersive fun, but until then, all I ask is for more thoughtful content. The only reason I mentioned Pirates of the carribbean was because I think its the best example of a game that looks pretty good, but thats it!! The game was almost unplayable! No edge of your seat stuff like Eye of the beholder! Again thanks peeps! see ya!

hobonation's picture

Well, I anit given no-one no cents. Get a job u bums![:D]

errrr....I really gotta take up a hobby......

Morphine's picture

The thing that gets up my nose about most games nowadays is the lack of feelings. Feelings that the character may have and the gamer not having the ability to decide for themselves the course of action. I laugh at games that boast they have "multiple endings." Yeah, THEIR endings, not the gamers, pre-chosen to fit in what they feel like.

I believe gamers should have more choices in games, not so much that they have to make every stinkin decision but to have enough choices available so that they can fully immerse themselves into the character/team they are controlling.

That's my 5 cents because 2 cents isn't legal tender. [:D]

Maitrek's picture

quote:


At least the artists are mostly doing a good job of giving the most tired 'genres' and game designs a fresh coat of paint.

Yeah. I mainly intended that comment to point out that all games have nowadays is slightly different eye candy - no discredit to artists, you are all true professionals doing a great job - exactly as you are expected to.

The problem is that most people are 'just doing their jobs'. They've gone and taken what is, arguably, an expressive/artistic medium, and they've turned it into a commercial process. Now I'm not one to rant about marx, but there is a disturbingly strong theme of neo-marxist musings amongst almost *all* decisions made at the upper levels of game production.

Commercialism and artistry are not mutually exclusive. The problem is, that some marketing dickwits have got it in their heads that only 15 y.o. and under ppl play games, and that all they want to play is CS, BF1942, UT2K4 (sorry to all under 15 y.o. sophisticates out there, this is just what a bunch of marketing reps think, not what I think).

quote:


I have designed a PC stratergy game that ONLY accepts keyboard input. I have also designed a FPS that is controlled entirely with the mouse.

The first thing that sprang to my mind (my game design mind) was 'how' (and after that, why) :) The problem with alot of game design is that it's not engineered backwards. We don't really start with a goal (ie, I want to make the interface accept one mode of input, I want to ellicit this feeling from the player, I want the player to attempt this etc) and then figure out the 'how' from there. More often than not, we start with some basic building blocks and engineer some stuff that fits on top of an already 'approved' design.

For me game design starts with 'why'. Why should I make this game? This usually comes from that 'artist' lurking in any game designer. From here springs forth what the game is or will become, you figure out what the game is going to bring to the people who play it, what the game is supposed to do, what you are trying to get out of the game yourself. After you've figured out what the game is supposed to do, then you figure out 'how' the crap you are going to do it.

The thing that makes my ears bleed is when someone says - 'I'm going to make a part role-playing character based tactical arcade rail shooter part turn-based strategy micro-managed conspirator simulator'. It completely ignores why that game is going to be made, and almost straight away defines how the game works (ie based upon previous concepts). It's a recipe for a balls up.

When John Carmack made Catacombs Abyss (I think that was the first FPS) do you think he said 'I want to make a First Person Shooter'. No. He probably thought to himself 'I want to see a game where the running and gunning appears through the characters eyes'. The 'why' behind the game from some innate sick desire to watch people die (I can't prove that, I've never asked him myself), the what evolved from there, and the how was merely a matter of over-coming programming challenges and designing the interface around that.

And as if Kevin Smith/View Askew challenge convention. Although, they have done well with their movies on a non-hollywood budget, it doesn't mean that they don't make hollywood esque movies :P Still they are kick-arse funny movies, and in regards to Chasing Amy...uhh...that was kinda meaningful.

quote:


I believe gamers should have more choices in games, not so much that they have to make every stinkin decision but to have enough choices available so that they can fully immerse themselves into the character/team they are controlling.

Interesting you should mention that. Ye olde Doug Church and Warren Spector (okay they aren't old, but the are older than me) harp on about that all the time (I don't really listen to warren spector though, just DC). Of course, I pointed out that 'choices' really only change the context within which the game plays out. More often than not, the choices are hardly game-changing, nor do they alter the way the game plays to suit the player. At best they are 'plot customising' options, but they don't really make the game any better or worse.

What I think is more important to focus on, is developing our games so that not only does the game environment evolve around the player (and player-character in the case of an role-based game) but the way the game challenges the player, the kind of tests the player receives, and how the player is rewarded is based on the choices that the player makes and the games interpretation of the players actions.

Some players like to explore, some like to kill, some like to loot, some like to help. Some players like to receive riches, some like moral justification and status, some like developing NPCs relationships (not that kind of relationship you freak) etc etc.

Games have a long way to go in this regard, and although I admire the work of alot of the big-wigs in the industry (Peter Molyneux, Doug Church, Shigeru Miyamoto (sp?), Harvey Smith (sorta), Tim Schaefer) they are all trying to push the boundaries to get where they want to go, but their hands are tied by publishers expectations and even some of the fans expectations.

What is my point here?

I have NFI, just some random musings that I won't even charge $0.05 for.