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Topic: Have Games Lost Something Important as Technology Has Improved?

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TowaHerschel7

@Mega-Gazz: I disagree, the quality of games has clearly dropped in recent years. Graphically games look better, but most games aren't very creative in-terms of gameplay and stories are constantly being recycled and or lack any imagination whatsoever.

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Rudy_Manchego

I'd also argue that gaming has seen two massive shifts in the last 20 years. 1) Gaming is more and more becoming a legitimate entertainment form as opposed to its position even 10 years ago. 2) The average age of gamers has moved beyond children and teenagers

What has this meant for the industry? Well, firstly there is more of an attempt to meet the middle ground, to appeal to as broad a spectrum as possible. It is the reason that casual gaming accessible games and franchises (with huge marketing budgets) win out every year in sales terms whereas arguably better and more innovative games only do ok business with more hardcore gamers. I am thinking here of second tier and indy releases.

The age of gamers increasing has also meant that primary media content buyers are beginning to feel nostalgic for the feelings of when they are younger. I don't mean that to sound patronizing but it is a trend across media. People are wary of cheap rehashes or cash ins but there have been some successful games that have managed to cater for peoples nostalgia in a respectful way. It is not just in games - take Stranger Things or Jurassic World in tv and movies. Nostalgia for the past automatically infers the present doesn't match up.

If you don't agree, just look back to gaming media in the 90's - it was aimed at kids and teenagers. Now, even the Guardian has a gaming section where middle age guys review games in the same was as their film critic counterparts.

Personally, I feel the current generation of games is upping the immersion in worlds and expanding on genres. That said, powering up my NES the other week gave me a legit thrill as it did when I first got one second hand as a kid (and still working).

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johncalmc

I think the biggest change in gaming thanks to technology has been on the reliance of gameplay within the medium. In the early days of video games, titles needed great gameplay to succeed. Today they don't. Telltale and Quantic Dream frequently release games that don't offer much in terms of actual gameplay, but still succeed thanks to their narrative chops. That's technology. Partially, anyway. Games don't have to rely on addictive gameplay any more - they can tell a compelling story and get away with it in ways that games on the NES, or the C64 (where I started out) could not.

Otherwise, they're largely the same. Go here, kill thing, go somewhere else. Now we're just killing things in hi-def.

Edited on by johncalmc

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Dichotomy

@Mega-Gazz: I don't think the cars and planes analogy really works, they are completely different forms of product. A much fairer comparison would be to stick in the entertainment industry, so films lend themselves well to a comparison. No one would argue that films haven't moved on in leaps and bounds, technologically speaking, since their conception, but they also have the problem of a lot of older films telling better stories and just generally being much more highly regarded. The films that tend to be well regarded that are released today usually lack huge budgets and focus on telling a story (our indie games I guess, but not quite). The bigger titles in both gaming and films are ones that are created with a mentality of 'film/game X did well, let's try to mimic that'.

In both mediums there was a point where technology was strong enough to allow creativity, but weak enough to not put bounds on that creative process (i.e. the lower costs allowed for some risks). In both things we still have people who work in those boundaries and tend to be received better than the mainstream. Don't get me wrong, I like the odd blockbuster, but it is the entertainment that makes me think that sticks with me. Also Pokemon Go is just a re-skin of Ingress

@Rudy_Manchego: I had a think about the nostalgia thing way before I ever thought of posting this as a topic and I can't say that is the reason for me. I see the 8-bit era as more of a nostalgia trip for me, there is the odd game I'd likely still enjoy, but I had no illusions that it was a new industry finding its feet and subject to churning out anything in the hopes that it worked. The 16-bit era however still mostly holds up today - a good game then would generally be a good game now. The 32-bit era was also mostly good, but we started to see profit margins, financial viability testing and the like take a more central stage once we got a bit of the way into it. Creativity was stifled over the worry people wouldn't buy a game that didn't fit the mould.

For me I generally still prefer playing games released around 1995-2005 (rough estimate) than more modern ones. I'd be fine if the industry was still moving on in any way other than graphically, but it isn't. I remember people used to laugh at the film industry because they still made Friday the 13th/Police academy sequels up to silly numbers, yet as gamers we seem to lap it up, the same game (although maybe this year it has rudimentary crafting) sold to us annually. CoD even gets away repackaging multiplayer maps from earlier games and selling them back at £12 a pop. Complexity has been removed from games in fear it will reduce sales and even games that were themselves simplified (like Fallout 3, Dragon Age etc) are simplified further. I think this is important since if you used to like RPGs because you had to figure out how to create a decent character rather than every combination being ok, shooters because you could get lost since you weren't funneled down a corridor of pretty set pieces or any of the other things removed by the simplification of the gaming industry then I think you understand part of why I feel our hobby isn't moving in the direction I'd personally like to see it go.

Mini rant over for now

Dichotomy

Mega-Gazz

Rukiafan7 wrote:

but most games aren't very creative in-terms of gameplay and stories are constantly being recycled and or lack any imagination whatsoever.

This is sorta what I mean. The games are better in terms of measureable metrics - sound quality, voice acting, graphics, user interface, etc..... but it has all been done before.

Mega-Gazz

Rudy_Manchego

@Dichotomy: Don't worry, I saw no rant, just some passionate thoughts. This is a great thread.

I'd kind of agree and disagree with some of your points. I I think that technology is at a point where this generation (and the last) has really been perfecting and polishing gameplay and environments from the PS1 and PS2 era.

If you look at the move from 8bit, through 16bit and then 32gb eras, each generation brought something new in terms of what was possible with gameplay. The NES and Master system (and other similar consoles) brought us platforms and puzzle games etc. The SNES and Genesis/Mega Drive expanded that and started to give more depth to games and created new genres. The PS1 era then took all that and introduced 3d environments and the PS2 made those environments more immersive. I would agree that since then, we are now just making those games larger and better looking.

I'd argue though that this is more the limit of technology than a lack of creativity. Now we are perfecting 3d environments and can acheive so much, where is the next leap going to come from? As much maligned by traditional gamers as it was, the Wii did try to create new gaming experiences - it just turned out to not be as enjoyable as playing traditional games. This is why VR is being touted as the next leap forward because it allows gameplay innovation.

That isn't to say there isn't innovation of sorts but it is largely within established parameters. Game budgets to achieve these games are also high and it is a general trend in entertainment to dumb down games to make them as marketable as possible. The same is true in music and cinema. There are so many superhero films because they largely turn a profit, even though most are quite generic. In response to that though, like in the movie industry, some blockbusters ARE good and are deserving of our time and the indie market is flourishing because they need a good gameplay hook.

So I'd agree that true innovation is limited at the moment and we are looking for that next leap as opposed to incremental improvement but that doesn't mean that there aren't games out there that aren't as good in gameplay terms as previous generations.

I was a huge player of 16bit games and there was a load of rubbish games then as well, terrible tie ins and poor game series.

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Speedy67

Online has taken over from local multiplayer, for one. Online takes over games nowadays and that isn't necessarily a good thing. I think also games are becoming more and more about impressive graphics and networking, and not fun or creativity, because, now that developers can do more than ever with their games, they are, and it's become something of an arms race.

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RR529

I'd say there was a big shift in gaming when dominance switched from the Japanese industry to the western industry.

There's so much design philosophy differences between the two cultures, it all feels so different nowadays (at least when it comes to "big" releases).

That's not to say today's AAA industry is bad, it's just that as someone who grew up playing SNES, 64, PS1, & PS2, nowadays I find myself more attracted to niche Japanese releases & the indie scene than the AAA world (I will say I like how accessible games have gotten in modern times).

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Dichotomy

@Rudy_Manchego: I would never debate there was a lot of rubbish in pretty much every generation of gaming, I just feel there are little in the way of standout moments any more. I remember being on another site when the current generation of consoles was announced and discussing how bad the focus on graphics in the presentations were. A lot of people couldn't understand that the leap in power of consoles doesn't have to mean a leap in graphical power, but instead could be used for bettering other parts of a gaming experience such as AI. When Unreal first came out and shipped with a multiplayer mode including bots that did a good job of mimicking real players it was a genuinely amazing moment. The memory is not their because of this unhealthy focus on graphics, but because of the actual game mechanics.

That is the thing though, we might be drawn in by the shiny graphics, but it is the actual gaming mechanics that a game will be liked for in the long run. For whatever reason the AI in games now feels no better, or even worse, than in the games we played over a decade ago (seriously, how many games still allow you to funnel entire armies through doors and pick them off one by one?) - I can only assume this is to eek out a few extra frames or a bit more bloom. I suppose you could argue that games are as good as they were back then (I don't think this is true though), but now look far better. However, that would just mean stagnation has set in.

Advancement in gameplay used to come from adding in game mechanics, or perfecting the ones we had. Now it seems more likely games will be stripped down to appeal to the masses, or popular mechanics will be shoehorned into them where not needed and hailed as being innovative. I suppose one analogy I could use is board games to describe the industry, if we take Snakes and Ladders, it is a simple game anyone can pick up in less than a minute - to me this is mainstream mobile gaming as it stands. A little harder to pick up is Monopoly, but no one has any real trouble with it, this is the equivalent level mainstream gaming aims at - it is a fun enough game which is easy to play and doesn't complicate things too much, your general CoD or Fifa release. The cost of that of course is depth. After this we get a board game like Pandemic, it requires a bit more strategy and has a learning curve, but isn't too hard. This is a Fallout 3 type experience. Then you have games like Arkham/Eldritch Horror, Dead of Winter and the like, they are much more involved and tend to have much deeper levels of complexity. They require some investment of time to get the most out of them, but tend to be a lot more rewarding once you do understand them. This would relate to games like Fallout 1 & 2, Planescape Torment and the like.

In a bid to make games more accessible, we tend to very rarely get the last category of games any more and when we do it is from Kickstarter or a very dedicated group of indie devs. We also are seeing even games in the Pandemic tier being simplified in the name of accessibility - look at Fallout 4 striping away features from Fallout 3 (and adding town crafting lol). While Fallout 4 was fun as an open world shooter, it was pretty empty in terms of anything deep. It is almost in the Monopoly tier for me now (these tier names are starting to sound a little silly now - if I use them again I'll do tier 1-4 with 1 being Snakes and so on). Telltale's Games are another example of this simplification, I used to enjoy the old point and click adventures even with the odd bit of wonky logic, but now they have been reduced to a story with quick-time events and that's pretty much it. In the 80s we had Dragon's Lair, a game slated for its style over substance approach of being a series of quick-time events which advanced a story. Telltale do it and it is revolutionary though, are people's expectations that low (before anyone says, yes the stories in the Telltale games are enjoyable, but then again so is reading a book).

Maybe I'm looking at it wrong, maybe it is the industry that is ruining gaming for me with their focus on graphics, accessibility and profit margins while technology is just a part of that problem. I mean the entire conference for the PS4 Pro just focused on Pixels! Resolution! 4K! HDR! and so on with no mention of something as mundane as gameplay, innovation or just plain old fun. One arguement I saw years ago against these constant resolution upgrades, which I guess is just as true today is that when you watched a film or TV programme on your old CRT telly at 480p would you say the image (graphics if you prefer) was more realistic in that at a much lower resolution or in games now at 1080p (or even 4K)? Because we could have focused solely on image quality over resolution and we may now have been seeing truly photo realistic images. Instead we'll need a lot more power to render those image at 4K, but by that time we will have moved on to the next resolution no doubt (I'm going to call it True 4K (tm) since we'll use the smaller horizontal lines number rather than vertical lines as was standard up to the 4K point, I mean this is just 2160p and the other number isn't even as high as 4000 - they even use the word Ultra to denote this isn't just the standard version which does have over 4000 vertical lines ).

Dichotomy

RPE83

@Dichotomy:
Totally agreed. Chess is timeless because it's a good game, no matter how intricate or simple the pieces, or whether its in video game format or physically infront of you.

I really like Extra Credits and David Sirlin's thoughts on game design. When Sirlin said that Streetfighter 2 was REALLY a game of controlling the x and y axis space between your characters, my mind was blown, but it's true.

To carry one with what you said with Monopoly et al, they are relatively simple to learn, but hard to master, which is the mark of a good game in my book.

Poker is a good example, a lot of people can pick up Poker quite quickly, by the rules, but the game is so much more than those rules.

Witcher 3 has quite simple mechanics, but you need the potions and dedoctions and correct character mappings to make it easier on yourself by being as efficient as possible in your death dealing.

Not always sure modern games offer a compelling narrative or mechanics and just rely on the same old tropes with fancier sheen applied.

RPE83

Drawfull

I wrote a massive missive and went on many tangents, but ultimately - for me - it comes down to the fact that games simply don't control as well as they used to (or should), and I don't think that's down to frame rate or whatever. I just feel there's less thought put into that now over wow whizz bang graphic spectacle set-piece malarkey. Almost like they're all developed in the midlands, and, well, "it'll do" (cheers JC).

Go and play any old game - even ports on the PS - maybe Crazy Taxi, R-Type (in original mode) and you'll feel the difference. If you have old hardware, console or arcade, you'll feel it there, too. You may not like it - after all, it's along time ago - but it's how it should be. If a guy (ripped off WR holder) can use a chinagraph (young'uns might need to look that up) to draw on his Donkey Kong screen so he knew exactly where to jump AND trusted it to work, that's where controls should be. They are simply not there now and haven't been for a long long time.

Drawfull

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