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Cooper42
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Postby Cooper42 » Fri Aug 01, 2008 1:48 am

Add my voice to the 'this is why we love you' chant.

I didn't need to watch Zero Punctuation, I've been feeling that way for years now. Almost the only originality in the industry comes from the indie, free games communities or Eastern Europe. And then it's, respectively, only the - very, very interesting, but short lived - experiments in game mechanics with cactus, messhof et al. or overly ambitious projects which hold so very much promise, but never quite get there such as Stalker, Pathologic and Boiling Point.

Sure, we have the best, most wonderfully produced games we've ever had. But they've lost something along the way. As long as some people, such as Introversion, are prepared to try and do things differently, things can't be that bad. And by differently, I don't necessarily mean originality - but a bunch of people who love games, making the games they want to make. That's what I miss about how games used to feel. The best art is always rough around the edges, but communicates a passion despite that.
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Postby shinygerbil » Fri Aug 01, 2008 2:06 am

Hmm, some big "triple-A" titles *do* get it right - for example, Bioshock is exactly the kind of game I'd like to see more of - but besides the fact that this doesn't happen often enough, the games themselves generally receive poor commercial acclaim.

Bioshock is also the perfect example of what you are talking about. Innovativity and creativity are two very different things, and both have their place; no game necessarily needs both. Bioshock was creative, which made it different; it was not innovative, but nonetheless I have never played anything quite like it.

I still think that games are maturing as a medium, although we do have a long way to go.
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Postby Phelanpt » Fri Aug 01, 2008 2:10 am

<3 :D
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The gaming industry as it is today...

Postby Crazy George » Fri Aug 01, 2008 8:31 am

As soon as video games became 'big business' there's been a decline in gaming quality. Flashy visuals that can be called 'a study in CGI' or 'competition in number of polygons' has dominated the field. Sadly enough, single player content on a few titles has been reduced to mere extended tutorials ending up with very weak AI behavior with the developers claiming that their titles are meant to be played 'online'. What's even more interesting is that a certain next-gen console's CPU is designed more towards graphic performance than anything else, resulting in simplistic AI routines simply because it can't handle them.

Quite often artificially created media hype tends to get player expectations high while the game itself is more or less mediocre. Let me elaborate using a few recent example titles who's titles have been altered. I let you figure out which I'm referring to...

RTS: A certain title -let's call it Battalion of Cowards- has been released with more eye candy than you could shake a big stick at. Single player content was kept to a bare minimum with engine shortfalls and glitches in the code that a couple of years after its initial release haven't been fixed. What's more alarming was the official approach that urged players to work around the problems by means of unnecessary 'microing'. In other words, it turned into a furious click-fest and bumper-tanks. Enter the hype-machine which hailed the title as the next big thing. Result: A more or less forgotten game.

FPS: 'Technoshock' was perhaps one of the most overrated games. In essence, the plot revolves around an underwater facility in which the player is thrown into claustrophobic environments, being able to see the surrounding ocean in very short intervals. It could have been set into an underground nuclear bunker and no one would notice the difference. In addition, it's quirky and 'nervous' controls, let alone the 'whack-a-mole' pseudo-AI left the player with more frustration. Finally, the limited range of available weapons in the game were plagued by the 'Resident Evil' disease i.e. scarce and very, VERY limited supply of ammunition. Media played their part and it was hailed as a masteerpiece...

Sandbox: 'Minimal Purchase Motorbike V' Realism over gameplay never helps. In fact it can be detrimental to an enormous extent as it was the case with that game. Sure, a city was included with detail right down to a beer can but when driving around and getting stuck into a fence more often than not, or even when the player gets punished for actually trying to think outside the box then the overall experience feels more of a chore than a well designed game. Unfortunately the visuals over gameplay disease has struck the series as well. Still, it was hailed as the next big thing since the invention of the joystick...

Phew! That was a long one.

Good hunting

P.S. That ZX Spectrum avatar brought back memories...
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Postby MrBunsy » Fri Aug 01, 2008 9:43 am

shinygerbil wrote:Hmm, some big "triple-A" titles *do* get it right - for example, Bioshock is exactly the kind of game I'd like to see more of - but besides the fact that this doesn't happen often enough, the games themselves generally receive poor commercial acclaim.

Unless I've missed something, Valve seem to have the same sort of ethos as IV (including the 'fuck the publishers' view, it would seem), but also have a large studio behind them. They do do sequels, but (apart from episode 1 :P) they never feel like cheap knock-offs.

Also, Steam has helped several small developers spread their games, so I don't think all hope is lost yet - some large companies still seem to get it right. But I'm in thorough agreement that most don't seem to have.
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Postby Pox » Fri Aug 01, 2008 9:51 am

I agree with most of what has been said here: the big-name commercial games industry has been moving away from caring about originality and gameplay towards what are essentially graphical tech demos with a poor excuse for a generic single-player storyline and a multiplayer mode which is quake or counter-strike with a quirk or two... however, I do enjoy many big-name games - COD4 had a very entertaining (while short) single-player game, and TF2 has a very well-engineered multiplayer mode. But other than Valve, there are very few big developers doing anything but Halo/C&C clones.
The games I really enjoy are those that are made to be enjoyable - say, any of Introversion's games.
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Postby Rkiver » Fri Aug 01, 2008 10:54 am

Bioshock got it right? Erm not really. Zero Punctuation once again covered that one rather well.

Back on topic, I've been hanging around here for years, and Introversion hasn't actually changed. Sure more staff, made more games, hit the big time via Steam, but it hasn't changed at all.

Never change. Keep doing what you are doing. And screw the EA-alikes.
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Postby shinygerbil » Fri Aug 01, 2008 11:02 am

MrBunsy wrote:
shinygerbil wrote:Hmm, some big "triple-A" titles *do* get it right - for example, Bioshock is exactly the kind of game I'd like to see more of - but besides the fact that this doesn't happen often enough, the games themselves generally receive poor commercial acclaim.

Unless I've missed something, Valve seem to have the same sort of ethos as IV (including the 'fuck the publishers' view, it would seem), but also have a large studio behind them. They do do sequels, but (apart from episode 1 :P) they never feel like cheap knock-offs.
Heh, I was also planning on mentioning Valve, but I felt myself going into a rant, and so I just left it at that ;)

Meanwhile...

Crazy George wrote:Sadly enough, single player content on a few titles has been reduced to mere extended tutorials ending up with very weak AI behavior with the developers claiming that their titles are meant to be played 'online'.
I can think of an example...Defcon. :roll:

Crazy George, I also disagree with your interpretation of 'TechnoShock' as you call it. The game may have been well received by critics, but according to the average gamer, well, just look at what you said. Simply put, gamers didn't like it. It wasn't to their tastes.

But I think that is an example of how the medium of games is improving. In the past, gamers have voraciously devoured everything thrown at them, and anything that they don't like, they shout at until it goes away. Now for some, this still holds true with Bioshock - because they can't appreciate it, they criticise and call it a "shit game", "dumbed down for shithead console gamers", "crappy gameplay", etc. It's a very immature reaction. For others, it was a wonderfully-crafted masterpiece, perfect in every way. And there are a few people who know that it is brilliant, but know that they don't really 'get' it, and don't really appreciate it.

Let's take an example in a slightly more conventional medium. The book 1984 by George Orwell. Generally considered fairly good, no? Well, I read it, and wasn't that impressed. But I know that it is a good book. Now, for others, it is a wonderfully-crafted masterpiece, perfect in every way. (Note that nothing is ever perfect - everything can be improved - but thinking about such matters is futile. Books that I consider perfect, I know that they could probably be improved, but there is no need, as they are perfect enough for me. Due to the fact that patches can be released for games, gamers seem to think that their every wish must be pandered to.)

...So where are the hordes of people going "omg 1984 is so gay, it's for fags lolomg"? They don't exist. Because people know that with books, the same as with music, film, and any other medium, there are going to be things you like and there are going to be things you don't. In fact, with most other media, you will generally find that you only like a small subset of what actually exists, because there is so very much out there. Now, games have only been around for a very short time in comparison, so it's hard to be so picky, but it is certainly possible these days.

And that is the way it should be. If you don't like a game, it doesn't mean that the game is shit. It means that you didn't like it, that's all. It's easy enough to tell the difference between a piece of music that is well-written and well-performed, or a piece of music that is frankly crap, without even having to like that music. The same is true with games, but most people just don't look deeply enough.
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Postby Icepick » Fri Aug 01, 2008 11:21 am

I don't know anyone who doesn't like Bioshock, I think it's a fantastic game.
There's a line to be drawn between not liking a game because its bland, unoriginal etc. and between not liking a game because everyone else does (or because someone who talks really fast told you not to like it, *cough*)
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Postby Xocrates » Fri Aug 01, 2008 11:23 am

I think that 1984 is a bad example, simply because the book is too ingrained for any criticism of it to stand out as relevant. Indeed, if you look at most modern books they usually get as much flak/praise as many videogames, regardless of quality.

In other words, you cannot compare the maturity of videogames to the maturity of books/movies. A "classic" videogame will usually have between 10-25 years and most of those have little to do with modern games (stuff like pac-man, frogger, etc) the ones that do (usually games like half-life and Starcraft) still receive a lot of flak. Most modern day gamers played them when they come out, and many don't understand what's the fuss about those games, sure they were good, but there were other games that at the time they probably preferred over them and were forgotten.

1984 was written some 50 years ago. I wonder how many on these forums were actually alive at the time. More yet, I wonder how many actually found the book that great when it came out.

Here's another example: War of the Worlds. I once started reading it and stopped after a few pages because I seriously did not like the writing style (and indeed one friend of mine actually said he preferred the Spielberg movie to the book). Another: I seriously did not understand all the fuss around Godfather Part 2.
So why do I not go around shouting about it? Mostly because it wouldn't make a difference. They are already too ingrained. Yet even yesterday I saw folk saying "No Country for Old Men", which won a bunch of oscars and tons of critical an viewer praise, to be an absolutely awful movie.


So, I don't think the medium is improving, I just think the medium is still too young. Ask me again in 50 years.
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Postby xander » Fri Aug 01, 2008 3:10 pm

Xocrates wrote:So, I don't think the medium is improving, I just think the medium is still too young. Ask me again in 50 years.

90% of everything is crap.

90% of all books written are crap. However, the books that we are still reading that are, say, more than 50 years old, are the books that were good enough to rise above the level of crap. Thus, the older the book, the more likely it is to be good (in that older books that were crap are hardly ever published, and almost never read).

90% of all movies filmed are crap. However, the movies that we are still watching that are, say, more than 50 years old, are the movies that were good enough to rise above the level of crap. thus, the older the movie, the more likely it is to be good (in that older movies that were crap are hardly ever released, and almost never watched).

90% of all video games created are crap. However, the video games that we are still playing that are, say, more than 50 years old-- oh! wait! Here is the problem! Video games haven't been around for 50 years. We haven't had a real generational filtering. Many of us on these forums are old enough to remember some of the very first video games ever made, if not the original OXO or Tennis for Two. This, more than anything, is why there are no "classics" in video gaming, like there are in other media. We might call this a lack of maturity, but I rather think it is simply a lack of age. I think you hit the nail on the head.

There are games on the market right now, and have been games on the market for at leas 30 years, that will probably stand the test of time, and that people will probably still be playing in the future. I think that Oregon Trail and StarCraft might be on that list. I would hope that Shadow of the Colossus and Tetris are on that list. However, we won't know until a new generation of gamers (i.e. our kids) starts playing those games -- honestly, think that is the real test. Things last because they appeal not only to the ethos of the moment, but they transcend generational differences and say or do something lasting and universal. If you like a game, and your kids like a game, and your kids' kids like a game, then there is a pretty good change that the game has broader appeal, and will last.

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Postby martin » Fri Aug 01, 2008 5:45 pm

I'd have to agree with that xander, however of course if the "graphics are necessary for a good game" ethos continues then a lot of people aren't going to play old games because they look rubbish, which is a real shame because some old games are really good. Of course some games companies have got it right, by going for deliberately stylised graphics (uplink/darwinia/defcon are good examples) which will never get old.
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Postby Xocrates » Fri Aug 01, 2008 5:48 pm

martin wrote:however of course if the "graphics are necessary for a good game" ethos continues then a lot of people aren't going to play old games because they look rubbish, which is a real shame because some old games are really good.


Mind you, how many people do you know that watch silent era movies on a regular basis?
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Postby Mas Tnega » Fri Aug 01, 2008 6:04 pm

The "graphics are necessary for a good game" ethos had its purpose in the past (let's face it, some examples only become playable when you can finally see what you're doing), but it's like saying constantly expanding your vocabulary will make your novels more interesting.

What would you think of an author whose shining quality was constantly writing things like "...the loquacious orator's glamour in contradinstinction to the circumambaguous demagogue's affronting disposition..."?
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Postby xander » Fri Aug 01, 2008 7:12 pm

martin wrote:I'd have to agree with that xander, however of course if the "graphics are necessary for a good game" ethos continues then a lot of people aren't going to play old games because they look rubbish, which is a real shame because some old games are really good. Of course some games companies have got it right, by going for deliberately stylised graphics (uplink/darwinia/defcon are good examples) which will never get old.

Video games, like movies, rely upon sight and sound to present a story. The sights and sounds have to be sufficient to tell the story, or the film/video game will not work. For instance, I think that Citizen Kane would have been nearly impossible to do as a silent film, and The Wizard of Oz very specifically relies on color to help tell the story. The same stories could have been told with less advanced technology, but they would have been very different films, and may not have been remembered. Thus, there are times when graphics are important.

However, there are still a few things that remain from the infancy of film -- Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, for instance or Metropolis. In the same way that a few silent films survive, I expect that a few of the early games will survive (Pong, maybe; Tetris; Pac-Man; &c.). As there are movies that use old techniques to create a different visual or aural style, there are games that do the same (Darwinia might be a good example). However, as time goes on, most games (and films) rely on modern technology. Sometimes this eclipses the story or moral, which makes a bad game or film. Sometimes it doesn't, in which case it helps the storytelling.

So, it is a question of ambition -- graphics are important for creating many kind of interaction and storytelling. The problem occurs when the graphics (or other technology) becomes more important than anything else.

xander

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