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thesisko
26-01-2012, 11:19 AM
This is a statement I've heard increasingly often the past few years. It's usually used when someone is asked to explain why their latest game is less complex and more...eh, "cinematic" than their previous work or whatever game the IP was last used for. Or why it's an FPS instead of a strategy game.

But have they really? I always thought it was a question of targeting a larger market. Or are there really a lot of gamers who previously loved challenging and complex games and now loathe them in favor of a "streamlined" cinematic experience?

If tastes have changed so much, why do "hardcore" games like S.T.A.L.K.E.R., Dark Souls or most of what Paradox publishes actually sell more copies than similar games did in the 90's? Why is a 13 year old game still the most played one on Steam?

What do you think, have tastes truly changed or is it just a marketing term for "we're targeting a larger market"?

riadsala
26-01-2012, 11:38 AM
What do you think, have tastes truly changed or is it just a marketing term for "we're targeting a larger market"?

Well, you're still still agreeing with them... "the average tastes of the market have changed"

And, they probably have. Same with music. Jazz is no longer mainstream. But as Frank Zappa said, it ain't dead, it just smells funny. Same could be said for strategy games. Loads of interesting stuff being done, but they aren't like our strat games of old, and a lot of the best stuff is being done by indies.

Xercies
26-01-2012, 12:51 PM
I don't think tastes have changed I think the time that people spend on games have changed, the average gamer is 20s to 30s so they are probably working and have a family so the time they can spend on gaming has become less and less. So they want more step in and step out games that give them excintingness without having to spend 10 hours to figure out the rules and controls.

Thats my thoughts anyway.

thesisko
26-01-2012, 01:34 PM
Well, you're still still agreeing with them... "the average tastes of the market have changed"

But is that a valid use of the term? If only 100 people bought records and they all liked jazz, but then 500 more people started buying and they all liked pop...did anyone's tastes change?

riadsala
26-01-2012, 01:52 PM
But is that a valid use of the term? If only 100 people bought records and they all liked jazz, but then 500 more people started buying and they all liked pop...did anyone's tastes change?


and that's exactly why you have to be careful with averages.... :-)

thegooseking
26-01-2012, 04:42 PM
It's not a trend in the sense that it's irreversible; it's actually cyclical. Do you remember what we had before those "complex" games of the mid-to-late 90s?

That's right. "Interactive Movie" CD-ROMs.

For some reason the games industry seems to keep taking a crack at trying to be New Hollywood, despite the fact that we know why that's a bad idea. But I think it's beneficial to go through that cycle, because we learn a lot from that very focused experience that we don't necessarily learn from creating more complex stuff.

As for whether tastes have changed, I'd say "no, they've broadened", but we have the problem that the market has grown at a slower rate than the cost of production has grown, which means it's fiscally impractical to directly address that broadening taste - ergo, mass appeal. "Mass appeal" isn't stuff that the stupid masses like and the elite few hate; it's stuff that most people like, even if there's other stuff they'd like more.

squareking
26-01-2012, 04:51 PM
Gaming as a whole has enjoyed mass appeal in the past 8-10 years, meaning there's a new customer base that demands a few things no one made a fuss about before -- namely, accessibility. The least-common-denominator theory certainly applies here, though it's not the only explanation. Find a way to appeal to the majority of the gaming (and non-gaming) audience and you'll make bank; Popcap, for example, found a few ways to do this. So I wouldn't say tastes have changed on the whole. There's just new tastes to which to cater, who happen to make up a big portion of the market and have spending money.

Wizardry
26-01-2012, 05:36 PM
It's not a trend in the sense that it's irreversible; it's actually cyclical. Do you remember what we had before those "complex" games of the mid-to-late 90s?
Yes. Complex games from the early 90s. And before that, complex games from the mid to late 80s. Cyclical eh?

deano2099
26-01-2012, 06:01 PM
There's a few interlinking things.

Those who were gamers and grew up with hugely complex RPG and strategy games forming a major part of the gaming 'scene' are now older and generally have less time to devote to such huge games.

That shouldn't matter, as new young-lings should turn up and the absolute size of the market should stay the same (even if relative to the new mass market, it's smaller).

BUT, gaming is now mainstream, so a young person that wants to experiment with games will be looking a lot harder for that sort of complex experience, and will have to sift through a lot of shallower stuff.

buemba
26-01-2012, 08:24 PM
I think it's less about changing tastes from the gaming populace and more about rising expectations regarding sales from game publishers.

Back then if a game sold half a million copies it was considered a huge success, but now publishers can't seem to settle for less than CoD numbers. Granted game budgets have increased significantly too, which is why if 2K or EA want to invest a lot in a game they go for a "proven" genre, which right now means FPS.

archonsod
26-01-2012, 08:58 PM
But have they really? I always thought it was a question of targeting a larger market. Or are there really a lot of gamers who previously loved challenging and complex games and now loathe them in favor of a "streamlined" cinematic experience?

Nope. You've made two small mistakes there :

1. Streamlining / simplifying the rules =/= less complexity. Go find a game with simpler rules than Go. Note it's considered one of the most complex games ever created.

2. There was never a large market for strategy and RPG games. It's an utter myth. RPGs and strategy games were once predominant on the PC in the early nineties, but it's important to remember the people getting all misty eyed and wistful over the golden era were, at the time, the kind of neckbearded nerds that made Fox Mulder look like a fairly normal human being (which was easy to spot because they usually had a poster of him on their wall. Largely to perv on Scully admittedly).
It's not till Doom that the PC became anything more than a toy for the kind of geek who probably still lives in their mother's basement. Most gaming took place on consoles or the arcades. Even the dying embers of the old 16 bit era like the Amiga still saw far more sales of stuff like Sensible Soccer and Cannon Fodder than they ever did of anything remotely 'complex' (you'd be in pretty dodgy territory trying to argue Monkey Island was mainstream).

Kodeen
26-01-2012, 09:03 PM
Yes. Complex games from the early 90s. And before that, complex games from the mid to late 80s. Cyclical eh?

And FMV games

*shudder*

Wizardry
26-01-2012, 09:12 PM
neckbearded nerds [...] geek who probably still lives in their mother's basement
You sound incredibly bitter.

zookeeper
26-01-2012, 09:26 PM
but it's important to remember the people getting all misty eyed and wistful over the golden era were, at the time, the kind of neckbearded nerds that made Fox Mulder look like a fairly normal human being (which was easy to spot because they usually had a poster of him on their wall. Largely to perv on Scully admittedly).


I will not be spoken to in such a tone! I'll have you know that I never... uhhh...

ahh...

mulder... star trek...

... ...

uhh...



I moved out of mom's basement, all right!!

Nalano
26-01-2012, 10:00 PM
And, they probably have. Same with music. Jazz is no longer mainstream.

Jazz was never mainstream. Neither, consequently, was PC gaming.

Smashbox
26-01-2012, 10:03 PM
Jazz was never mainstream. Neither, consequently, was PC gaming.

686

10characters

vecordae
26-01-2012, 10:26 PM
My tastes have certainly changed. I don't have the time to devote to the kinds of super-huge grindfests I enjoyed as a kid and I don't have the patience to deal tedious game play. I really enjoyed Dragon Warrior, for instance, as a young man, but find the game to be incredibly dull these days. I've got better things to do than wander about in a circle and selecting "fight" for two hours. I still like the same general genres and settings as before, but with more streamlined interfaces, smarter mechanical choices, and better AI. Give me a game that I can pick up and play. Make it so that it gives me the opportunity to engage in complex strategic thinking without making me wade through an hour's worth of menus to do it. Make my challenges come from smart AI rather than a need to juggle 500 bits of arbitrarily generated complexity. Then take that and make it into an RPG, a strategy game, or a space combat sim and I will be happy.

soldant
27-01-2012, 01:55 AM
I can say I don't have the patience for huge, complex games anymore. I was happy to learn the basics for DCS: Black Shark for example, but I still can't work 60% of the cockpit, nor do I really care to. I can't sit through Dwarf Fortress because of its ridiculously complex interface and the initial difficulty curve, no matter how good the game is underneath all that. I don't have the patience for X3:TC anymore where I have to leave the game running overnight to make sufficient amounts of money to do anything interesting, or where I can take an assassination job, whittle the target's hull down to 1%, only to have the kill stolen by a stray blast from some other random ship such that I fail the job and get nothing for it. I don't have the patience for ARMA2 these days either, because I don't often have the time to dedicate to slogging through a mission only to be confronted with an abysmal engine that insists at running at 15FPS no matter what I do to it!

I remember the 90s mostly because the gameplay mechanics weren't so much "complex" as they were forcibly made complex by interface limitations. XCOM is, at its core, relatively simple in gameplay mechanics. It's not difficult to understand how to play the game. The actual learning curve is fairly gentle. The difficulty curve isn't because of the asymmetrical aspect. What makes it seem more complex is the interface, which is unfortunately somewhat crippled by such a low resolution of the time, as well as a few engine limitations.

Streamlining is great if done right. I'll take X: Rebirth as an example. There's LOTS of bitching about Rebirth being "streamlined" and basically being quite different from the other X games. But the X games have suffered from an abysmal interface which has been kept since the very first game, and it cripples the vast majority of the gameplay mechanics. Most of the time in the X games you're drifting through space doing absolutely nothing, or waiting for something else to happen. So Egosoft have worked to address these concerns. People also complained that you'd only pilot one ship but can swap into fighter drones. But that ignores the fact that most people stayed in an M6 or some other similarly heavy craft, because to get into larger engagements in a smaller ship would usually spell death (at which point it was game over entirely). The gameplay mechanics are different (or "streamlined") but not necessarily worse when taken within the greater context of the game, especially given most people's playstyle.

Changing tastes does not automatically equate with "make every game dumb", just that most of us don't have the patience to deal with games with needlessly obtuse gameplay mechanics or cryptic interfaces. That's not to say that "Shoot enemies to kill them" isn't ridiculous, or that insisting every game is a third person shooter is the right thing to do, just that uber-complexity is like the hardcore flight sim market - always a niche that has a few core franchises, but no mass appeal.

DigitalSignalX
27-01-2012, 04:53 AM
I used to despise sour cream when I was kid and teen. Now I love it. Used to love oatmeal. Now I hate it. Tastes change.

On the topic of games though, we say we hate games that are scripted cinematic sequences on rails without options.. but there always have been these games. Dragon's Lair (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragon%27s_Lair) is to Rebel Assault (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Wars:_Rebel_Assault) is to Battlefield 3's single player campaign. 30 years of shit we all swallowed and said, please may we have some more!

Tastes may change, but developers of AAA titles don't.

Gozuu
27-01-2012, 09:54 AM
PC Gamers went from accepting how a developers game played out to wanting to influence development.

It's all about lack of respect. People don't respect how the developer sees the game play out. I use people widely, which I probably shouldn't. But all I get from these discussion boards is people who are unsatisfied that they cannot decide how they play it out, instead of accepting that some developers wanted you to play this way.

I'm all in for hating on overpriced DLC, removing Advanced Options and such things. But for christ sakes, let the developers develop their game how they want to and stop being a little bitchy internet warrior.

soldant
27-01-2012, 10:00 AM
But for christ sakes, let the developers develop their game how they want to and stop being a little bitchy internet warrior.
Quick, someone find that "Entitlement" thread!

Sproutmask
27-01-2012, 03:36 PM
I think that the change in games in recent times that many people on this forum, myself included, perceive, probably relates to two things. There's the market for games and how that's evolved, which is well-covered by other posters. The other factor is more to do with the approach some devs take (I think it was Ken Levine who made this very same point recently) and that is that huge amounts of the budget for games will often go on basically making them pretty and filling them with scripted sequences and cutscenes (which presumably, what with the acting, direction and all the rest, aren't cheap), rather than going into developing better game mechanics. And with the budget gone on these elements, the devs want players to experience them, which translates into the big set-pieces being pretty much shoved into the player's face then railroading them on to the next one. Which from memory is pretty much what late 80's and early 90's interactive movies were like.

Ultimately as long as there are enough distribution channels for non-mainstream devs to be able to reach their market, gaming has the chance to avoid going the same way as films, where the dominance of big multiplex chains mean that indies frequently struggle to reach their audience.

Back on-topic properly, I'm not sure my actual tastes have changed massively since I bought my first PC game about 12 or so years ago but my circumstances have to the point where it's very rare that I get the chance to sit down with a game for a really long session. One recent example is that I've stopped playing WoW through lack of time. I also tend to either bypass or give up on games where your ability to play fades quickly if you don't constantly practice - I tend to find this most with flight sims, driving games and certain shooters. Conversely something short, sweet with fairly universal controls like Machinarium is something I enjoy now but might have passed over a few years ago.

Subatomic
27-01-2012, 03:38 PM
Nope. You've made two small mistakes there :

1. Streamlining / simplifying the rules =/= less complexity. Go find a game with simpler rules than Go. Note it's considered one of the most complex games ever created.

2. There was never a large market for strategy and RPG games. It's an utter myth. RPGs and strategy games were once predominant on the PC in the early nineties, but it's important to remember the people getting all misty eyed and wistful over the golden era were, at the time, the kind of neckbearded nerds that made Fox Mulder look like a fairly normal human being (which was easy to spot because they usually had a poster of him on their wall. Largely to perv on Scully admittedly).
It's not till Doom that the PC became anything more than a toy for the kind of geek who probably still lives in their mother's basement. Most gaming took place on consoles or the arcades. Even the dying embers of the old 16 bit era like the Amiga still saw far more sales of stuff like Sensible Soccer and Cannon Fodder than they ever did of anything remotely 'complex' (you'd be in pretty dodgy territory trying to argue Monkey Island was mainstream).

That's overly simplifiying things, and also not universally true. "Most gaming took place on consoles or the arcades" might be true for the US and UK, but in other places like Germany and Russia, consoles were far less successful and arcades didn't even exists outside perhaps the biggest cities. Because of that, video game culture evolved differently, and to some extent still is quite different here than in the "anglosphere". Some of the most successful games in the early 90s in Germany were quite complex, often locally developed strategy / management games (the Settlers-series, several soccer managers for example), which never were as popular in other gaming markets.

The last decade though has been, at least from my perspective, a period of "global mainstreaming" in that respect. Because games that only do well in one market, but fail miserably in another are no longer feasible for the big publishers to fund, they play it safe with games that can be marketed and sell well in as many markets as possible. This has somewhat eroded the differences of the gaming markets across nations, as there are far far fewer games that are only released in one country, but not anywhere else (Japan excluded, the gaming market over there is still quite different from that of "the west").

Wizardry
27-01-2012, 05:46 PM
That's overly simplifiying things, and also not universally true. "Most gaming took place on consoles or the arcades" might be true for the US and UK, but in other places like Germany and Russia, consoles were far less successful and arcades didn't even exists outside perhaps the biggest cities. Because of that, video game culture evolved differently, and to some extent still is quite different here than in the "anglosphere". Some of the most successful games in the early 90s in Germany were quite complex, often locally developed strategy / management games (the Settlers-series, several soccer managers for example), which never were as popular in other gaming markets.

The last decade though has been, at least from my perspective, a period of "global mainstreaming" in that respect. Because games that only do well in one market, but fail miserably in another are no longer feasible for the big publishers to fund, they play it safe with games that can be marketed and sell well in as many markets as possible. This has somewhat eroded the differences of the gaming markets across nations, as there are far far fewer games that are only released in one country, but not anywhere else (Japan excluded, the gaming market over there is still quite different from that of "the west").
I'm pretty sure the UK was more like Europe than the US. I don't know anyone who played on consoles in the 80s and early 90s. We also had an absolute bucket load of developers here who made Amiga and PC games, so I'm pretty sure the whole NES/SNES worship took place more on the other side of the Atlantic.

Subatomic
27-01-2012, 06:20 PM
I'm pretty sure the UK was more like Europe than the US. I don't know anyone who played on consoles in the 80s and early 90s. We also had an absolute bucket load of developers here who made Amiga and PC games, so I'm pretty sure the whole NES/SNES worship took place more on the other side of the Atlantic.

Good to know, I wasn't entirely sure how gaming developed in the UK compared to continental europe and the US, so I (apparently incorrectly) lumped them together. It's still an interesting point that gaming tastes varied widely between continents / cultures, and still do, albeit to a lesser degree than 15 years ago. This also extends to the popularity of platforms, for example the XBox sold rather poorly in Germany (of the top 10 games by units sold in 2011, non was on the XBox), trailing behind both the PS3 and the PC. As I understand it, the XBox is much more popular than the PS3 and PC in the US.

b0rsuk
27-01-2012, 08:00 PM
Tastes haven't changed. Computers have become mainstream. Less demanding to use. Having to learn something is considered bad. People who didn't care about computers back when they were hard to use want to have games which are not hard to play. The ratio of tastes has changed.

When 10 Korean families move in to your district, they don't change your taste. But your local oriental restaurants will see an increase in profits. If more Koreans migrate for some reason, you may see Korean restaurants pop up. Then you may see one or two "traditional" restaurants close, because even locals will enjoy an oriental meal once in a while.

What is actually happening is publishers thinking "Nerds and geeks are no longer a relevant fraction. It doesn't pay to design a game for their tastes. In the end, they will suck it up because games aimed at mainstream are the ones with shiniest visuals."

archonsod
27-01-2012, 10:51 PM
That's overly simplifiying things, and also not universally true. "Most gaming took place on consoles or the arcades" might be true for the US and UK, but in other places like Germany and Russia, consoles were far less successful and arcades didn't even exists outside perhaps the biggest cities.

Yeah, but I can't think of a single AAA Russian developer, so that's somewhat moot. Germany (West Germany anyway, East Germany was likely very different) had a vibrant arcade scene. The big problem however is up until the late 80s - early 90s, most games (whether computer, console or arcade) were broadly similar (if not ports).


Some of the most successful games in the early 90s in Germany were quite complex, often locally developed strategy / management games (the Settlers-series, several soccer managers for example), which never were as popular in other gaming markets.

Both the Settlers and management games were popular in the UK too (Settlers was also popular in the US. Championship Manager less so naturally, though I wouldn't be surprised if there was a hand-egg / Rounders / Hockey management game which saw similar results over there).
Note I didn't say such games weren't popular or successful, I said they weren't the mainstream. Yeah, The Settlers did well on release. It didn't do anywhere near as well as Sensible Soccer though, or Cannon Fodder, or Street Fighter II et al.


Good to know, I wasn't entirely sure how gaming developed in the UK compared to continental europe and the US
There was actually little difference between Continental Europe and the UK. In fact prior to the mid nineties when we all got internets and stuff, you could split the world into two essential gaming 'paths' - the 8 and 16 bit computers (Amstrad, Commodore, Spectrum et al) and their progression into the IBM compatible PC (Western Europe. Eastern Europe too, though naturally it was a different scene thanks to the Iron Curtain) and the Nintendo/Sega 8 bit and 16 bit consoles and their advance into the Playstation, XBox and Wii (US and Japan).
In fact the European market didn't really start to diversify until the nineties - one of the benefits of the early arcade style games is that there was little to no language translation required outside of the manual.

The problem with complaining about the mainstreaming of games is that it only works if we assume developers are robots without any taste of their own. A developer is (usually) likely to design and create a game which appeals to them first and foremost. And naturally, if a taste could be called "mainstream" then the odds are you're going to find more developers interested in it than not, by definition. Niche or alternative taste on the other hand is, by definition, going to have a smaller segment of the developer population who are interested enough to design a game around it in the first place.
In fact I suspect a large part of the perceived 'quality' of such games are down to this. It's not that the game is necessarily better, merely that as a general rule, the more 'specific' the niche is, the more the members of that niche tend to share interests. It's the same with most forms of entertainment / art forms - you tend to find those who identify themselves as core fans of a given genre, whether it be punk, western movies or Russian philosophical movements, have similar interests outside of the genre too.

Tei
27-01-2012, 11:12 PM
Human meat used to be called "long pig". And was very appreciated in some isles of the pacific.

soldant
28-01-2012, 02:17 AM
I'm pretty sure the UK was more like Europe than the US. I don't know anyone who played on consoles in the 80s and early 90s. We also had an absolute bucket load of developers here who made Amiga and PC games, so I'm pretty sure the whole NES/SNES worship took place more on the other side of the Atlantic.
In Australia at least we also leaned towards PCs in the early 90s. I didn't know anybody except a super rich cousin who had a console, and even then he spent most of his time on a PC anyway. That changed around the late 90s though.

Subatomic
28-01-2012, 10:02 AM
My perspective maybe flawed because my "video game socialisation" happened in the late 80s / early 90s, when the arcades were already in decline because of the home computer. Also, as far as I know minors aren't even allowed to enter dedicated arcades in Germany, though it may have been different in the early 80s.
Still, the first contact I (and everyone I knew) with video games was on the PC or Amiga and their exclusive games, like Commander Keen, Dune 2, the aforementioned Settlers, the LucasArts adventures etc. (I'm sad to inform Wizardry I didn't play any of his favourite games though, my first RPG that holds up to his standards was probably Baldur's Gate). This may again be my flawed perspective here, but I don't think fighting games and other arcade-y stuff was "the mainstream" during that time.


In Australia at least we also leaned towards PCs in the early 90s. I didn't know anybody except a super rich cousin who had a console, and even then he spent most of his time on a PC anyway. That changed around the late 90s though.

I think we can agree that it took until the current generation that console games significantly outsold PC games, with the impetus provided by the Playstation and Playstation 2 in the West, which were the first gaming consoles a few people I knew owned. 2007 was the first year in Germany wich saw console game sales with 544 million € revenue narrowly overtake PC game's 490 million €. In 2010 it already was almost twice as much, 884 million € (consoles) compared to 443 million € (PC). Those statistics are very interesting, because they show that apparently, the PC market hasn't changed that much, at least in volume, while the console market has grown significantly. As the average income hasn't grown over the last years (it actually shrunk), those aren't the same people spending more money, but new customers who probably weren't buying games before.

archonsod
28-01-2012, 11:38 AM
Also, as far as I know minors aren't even allowed to enter dedicated arcades in Germany, though it may have been different in the early 80s.

It's only establishments which have slot machines (i.e. gambling) that minors are barred from (which I think is actually a EU wide law). Didn't become an issue until the arcade scene collapsed (1993 or thereabouts IIRC)


I don't think fighting games and other arcade-y stuff was "the mainstream" during that time.

Street Fighter II sold 14 million copies on the SNES / Megadrive alone. Mortal Kombat II sold 2.5 million copies on the day it launched. Don't know about The Settlers, but I'd be incredibly surprised if it broke the million copies sold barrier at all.


I think we can agree that it took until the current generation that console games significantly outsold PC games

Not really. They were outselling the PC in the nineties (see the SFII figures above). I'm not in fact sure if it's changed all that much - in general, the PC saw more games sold in total, while the console market would often generate better sales figures for specific titles, but far less sales as a whole.