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View Full Version : "Niche", "modern", "outdated", "AAA", "old school"...what do the words really mean?



thesisko
19-10-2012, 01:11 PM
I just read this article (yes, I know that Kotaku sucks).
(http://kotaku.com/5952585/old-is-new-this-years-best-games-are-all-about-the-classics?tag=Dishonored)
>Removed link to article and inserted relevant snippets below<

From Dishonored to XCOM, many of the best games of the fall have learned from past classics and reworked them into smart, satisfying, fresh-feeling games
...
It's easy to forget that a lot of things about those older games just weren't very fun—I love Planescape Torment, but replaying it earlier this year, I was struck by just how fiddly and unsatisfying everything is. Ditto X-Com—that game is a seriously dense, not-that-fun-to-handle thing. What's been remarkable is how these successful games we're talking about, particularly the smart yet streamlined XCOM, take "old-school" design ideals and make them work better, and smoother, than ever.
...
Good point! As our expectations get higher and higher, and as video games start offering more and more polish, it's really tough to go back and play some of those old games.
...
We kinda want it all. The feeling those games gave us, but updated for our more sophisticated palate. I'm sure there are people who legitimately would be happy playing crusty action-point-based isometric RPGs forever, but once you play something like XCOM, it's hard to go back.


It seemed to reflect something I've been annoyed by in gaming media: A lot of gaming journalists (and gamers) use the terms "old school" and "modern" without acknowledging that the games they refer to had vastly different target audiences, budgets and sales expectations.

For instance, it's well known that Splinter Cell took a different direction because the developers felt that the slow and methodical stealth gameplay, while popular among fans of the (profitable) series, didn't have enough mass appeal to be a potential blockbuster á Call of Duty.

UI/playability issues notwithstanding, many revered older titles were pretty niche games with small budgets, and if they had gameplay that was rather complex/difficult it was probably because that appealed to their target audience. I would say that modern niche titles, like the S.T.A.L.K.E.R and ARMA series, and most of the games published by Paradox Interactive have similar qualities, as they also appeal to a certain niche.

Games like Dishonored and XCOM, rather than being an attempt to "revive" old school-values, should be regarded as an attempt to target a subset of mainstream gamers that might want something accessible, yet more demanding than the typical "AAA" shooters (the two authors of the Kotaku article certainly seem to fit into that slot). Demon's/Dark Souls, rather than being some kind of "return of old-school difficulty", are simply a refinement of similar From Software games and their popularity is the case of a niche developer gaining greater popularity.

A lot of what people refer to as "old-school" are simply genres and designs that have a niche appeal and many of them never went away or even lost any popularity. It's just that they've become overshadowed by games that have a much broader appeal. Casually associating these design choices with the term "old-school" hurts the perception of these niche games, since they become (in the eyes of mainstream media) associated with "not modern" and "outdated", simply by not trying to appeal to everyone.

If someone were to make a sneaker with similar design to Chaos Theory, I have a feeling that many reviewers would call the stealth "outdated" because that type of gameplay isn't appealing to as broad an audience as Conviction.

caljohnston
19-10-2012, 01:30 PM
I don't understand this logic. "Kotaku sucks. I know - lets give them money by linking to them!"

thesisko
19-10-2012, 01:58 PM
I don't understand this logic. "Kotaku sucks. I know - lets give them money by linking to them!"
I've read similar statements from RPS, so it's not unique to Kotaku. It was just a recent example that got me thinking.

Shooop
19-10-2012, 02:12 PM
Far as I know, "AAA" refers exclusively to a game's budget.

Hypernetic
19-10-2012, 02:19 PM
What they mean to me.

Niche = relatively small, but loyal fanbase.

Modern = Pretty much anything that follows the trends started around the early-mid 2000s. (You could probably just say everything since Half-Life 2 and get away with it).

Outdated = Any gameplay mechanic, feature, service, or technology rendered obsolete by new technology or methodology or that has fallen out of favor with consumers. For example, quick time events, full motion video, or using gamespy as a matchmaking service for an online game (borderlands).

AAA= A game with a big budget.

Old school = This can mean one of two things. It can be taken literally as in referring to actual old games (Super Mario Bros., X-Wing, etc) or it can refer new games that pay homage to old ones either in the form a remake or "spiritual successor" to an old game or game style (i.e. xcom, any game currently on kickstarter, etc).

thesisko
19-10-2012, 02:27 PM
Far as I know, "AAA" refers exclusively to a game's budget.
For new games, yes. But often gamers will compare a new "AAA" game with an old game that was clearly not "AAA" in terms of budget.

So for instance, when comparing Baldur's Gate and Mass Effect, they will do so from a perspective of "old-school RPG" vs. "modern RPG" and focus on how the design has "evolved" instead of viewing it simply as "lower budget niche PC RPG" vs. "AAA RPG with broader appeal".

Tikey
19-10-2012, 02:29 PM
Was Baldur's Gate a lower budget niche pc rpg when it came out or was it AAA by that time's standards?

thesisko
19-10-2012, 02:37 PM
Was Baldur's Gate a lower budget niche pc rpg when it came out or was it AAA by that time's standards?
It was pretty niche compared to Final Fantasy and Diablo. But I don't see how that is relevant.

Imagine if the entire gaming market at one point consisted of 10K people who all loved text-based adventure games. You wouldn't be comparing those games to Call of Duty just because they were AAA by "that time's standard". Their fans should be viewed as a distinct subset of current gamers, and there might even be more of them around today.

crazy horse
19-10-2012, 02:43 PM
Your description of XCOM is exactly correct. I see the points you've made yet there are many reasons for "casual" to have become almost synonymous with "modern" in gaming.

Oh, and Kotaku really does suck.

Tikey
19-10-2012, 02:47 PM
It was pretty niche compared to Final Fantasy and Diablo. But I don't see how that is relevant.

Imagine if the entire gaming market at one point consisted of 10K people who all loved text-based adventure games. You wouldn't be comparing those games to Call of Duty just because they were AAA by "that time's standard". Their fans should be viewed as a distinct subset of current gamers, and there might even be more of them around today.

I was just asking as It caught my eye that you called BG niche. I remember it being a big deal when it came out.
Just that.

dnf
19-10-2012, 03:37 PM
if market >=999.999, then niche, else AAA

Suggestion to the OP: Just quote the article to not atract curious people to that shitty site.

Finicky
19-10-2012, 03:37 PM
What they mean to me.

Niche = relatively small, but loyal fanbase.



Heavy emphasis on the word relatively, games that used to happily sell 500k or even 1m copies are part of this too, but if it doesn't appeal to a cod 11 million buyer size audience it's not good enough these days.

Also the definition of niche is not up for arguing, it's pretty unambiguous in its meaning.

Oh and fuck Kotaku, don't give them clicks.


AAA does indeed just mean bloated budget, the term has absolutely no bearing on quality.
Kind of backfired marketing term there, and unbelievably childish.
It's the kind of overemphasising a toddler would do to describe things, super duper mega awesome cool toy mom.

Heliocentric
19-10-2012, 03:56 PM
Just stop reading kotaku and lead a happier life.

Drake Sigar
19-10-2012, 04:03 PM
I don't have enough experience with Kotaku to know why it seems to be regarded as the Daily Mail of gaming journalism. Well, anyway, must we quibble over definitions yet again? All of these words mean something slightly different for each of us.

MOKKA
19-10-2012, 04:05 PM
By the way, who created the term 'AAA-Games' and what exactly does it mean? This is bothering me ever since I read this term for the first time.

As towards the topic. I think many people confuse 'change' with 'progress'. Just because some aspects of Gamedesign change over time, does not mean that the newer approach is inherently 'better'. It's just different.

Shooop
19-10-2012, 04:41 PM
I'm going off-rail with this, but I have to ask.

Where did all this absolute loathing of Kotaku come from? I know the posters are terrible and they have bad taste in shooters, but what's the source of all the sheer hatred for the site in general?

Finicky
19-10-2012, 04:41 PM
By the way, who created the term 'AAA-Games' and what exactly does it mean? This is bothering me ever since I read this term for the first time.

As towards the topic. I think many people confuse 'change' with 'progress'. Just because some aspects of Gamedesign change over time, does not mean that the newer approach is inherently 'better'. It's just different.

B movies (bollywood) reference ... turned into A+ , AA, AAA games when PR monkeys wanted to big up the shit they were trying to hock. That it ever escalated to three A's and some have tried to use 4 A's is just sad.

In reality the term is only used in large marketing campaigns, which then equates large budgets.
Hence an 'AAA' game is a game where a lot of money was spent on advertising and marketing.

If you want to make the hollywood comparison: Spiderman 2 , Mission impossible II, transformers 2 would be considered "AAA" movies, as shitty as they are.

Moon, amelie poulin, oldboy, district 9 or any other well made but not highly advertised in the US/EU movie would not be considered "AAA" at all by the clowns that use the term.

As I said, it has no bearing whatsoever on quality and it's best to ignore the term and just judge each game on its own merits.
The only thing the AAA monniker will tell you that (good or bad) it's going to be a mainstream game, and that you shouldn't take the opinion of the person using it serious, as they are just a pr mouthpiece.

LTK
19-10-2012, 06:31 PM
I'm going off-rail with this, but I have to ask.

Where did all this absolute loathing of Kotaku come from? I know the posters are terrible and they have bad taste in shooters, but what's the source of all the sheer hatred for the site in general?
I'm glad I'm not the only one wondering this. If you asked me, I couldn't tell you more than "they're a video game news site".

Heliocentric
19-10-2012, 06:51 PM
The letter ratings refer to "production values", essentially budget. Why despise kotaku? Because they chase clicks before legitimacy or accuracy.

Nalano
19-10-2012, 07:15 PM
What they mean to me.

Niche = relatively small, but loyal fanbase.

Modern = Pretty much anything that follows the trends started around the early-mid 2000s. (You could probably just say everything since Half-Life 2 and get away with it).

Outdated = Any gameplay mechanic, feature, service, or technology rendered obsolete by new technology or methodology or that has fallen out of favor with consumers. For example, quick time events, full motion video, or using gamespy as a matchmaking service for an online game (borderlands).

AAA= A game with a big budget.

Old school = This can mean one of two things. It can be taken literally as in referring to actual old games (Super Mario Bros., X-Wing, etc) or it can refer new games that pay homage to old ones either in the form a remake or "spiritual successor" to an old game or game style (i.e. xcom, any game currently on kickstarter, etc).

More or less this.

archonsod
19-10-2012, 08:13 PM
It seemed to reflect something I've been annoyed by in gaming media: A lot of gaming journalists (and gamers) use the terms "old school" and "modern" without acknowledging that the games they refer to had vastly different target audiences, budgets and sales expectations.


Budgets and sales expectations yes, but unless humanity has severely mutated in the past couple of decades I don't think the target audience was any different.


UI/playability issues notwithstanding, many revered older titles were pretty niche games with small budgets

No, no they weren't. That's why they're revered now, because everyone played them. Niche titles are rarely if ever revered, precisely because barely anyone played them. The original X-Com for example was anything but niche - designed by a legendary developer, released by one of the biggest publishers at the time across multiple formats and in a genre that was pretty popular to boot.
By those standards, the original Doom was low-budget and niche despite so many people buying it that it's often accused of kickstarting the PC gaming era, simply because it sold just over a million copies. By today's standards that's a flop even for an indie release.

Patrick Swayze
19-10-2012, 08:58 PM
Kotaku used to be an absolutely top notch blog but it feels like everything on there is just up for google metrics now.

They used to focus on actually Japanese culture and gaming, but now its just racist "lets make Japanese people look like weirdos" shite you get in the rest of the gaming media.

The whole Cyberpunk sexualised content controvesy over in the pictures topic on this forum, is over the picture Kotaku used instead of the others they had available, getting the emasculated posters panties in a twist.

It's just a click collector now, not even a glorified blog.

Hypernetic
19-10-2012, 10:34 PM
I'm going off-rail with this, but I have to ask.

Where did all this absolute loathing of Kotaku come from? I know the posters are terrible and they have bad taste in shooters, but what's the source of all the sheer hatred for the site in general?

For me I really started hating Kotaku when they started doing "off-topic" stories, more specifically when they started doing things like science stories and "what is Japan's fetish this week?" crap. All of the science stories were written by people who did not understand the material and often times were filled with factually inaccurate statements and misinformation. The Japan stuff was just plain stupid, like "What is Japan's fetish this week? Glasses!"... really? They really needed to write an article about men being attracted to women who wear glasses, as if that was some kind of new and strange thing that came out of nowhere?

Also, Brian Ashcroft banned me from the site for calling him a moron.

LTK
19-10-2012, 11:04 PM
The Escapist regularly runs news on science and Japan. Are they as bad as Kotaku?

Patrick Swayze
19-10-2012, 11:05 PM
For me I really started hating Kotaku when they started doing "off-topic" stories, more specifically when they started doing things like science stories and "what is Japan's fetish this week?" crap. All of the science stories were written by people who did not understand the material and often times were filled with factually inaccurate statements and misinformation. The Japan stuff was just plain stupid, like "What is Japan's fetish this week? Glasses!"... really? They really needed to write an article about men being attracted to women who wear glasses, as if that was some kind of new and strange thing that came out of nowhere?

Also, Brian Ashcroft banned me from the site for calling him a moron.

Yeah the real talent has left the site now, and the only one who seemed to actually know anything about Japan (Tim Rodgers) rarely seems to feature on the site any more.

I only visit Kotaku for trailers tbh, and won't be going near it now Halo 4 has been leaked, but the whole of Gawker seems to have gone right in the shitter the last few years.

Hypernetic
19-10-2012, 11:15 PM
The Escapist regularly runs news on science and Japan. Are they as bad as Kotaku?

I don't regularly read that site, so I can't commment on the quality of the articles, but if the writers have a genuine understanding of the topic they are writing about it's fine.

My problem wasn't with Kotaku having off topic articles, it was what was written in the articles. As I said in the post you quoted, Kotaku's writers quite obviously didn't understand the material they were writing about. Often times they would get easily verifiable things wrong, things about science, geography, or even history that could easily be verified with a quick google search. If you are going to write an article about science or history, you should at least check your facts before publishing it.

As for the Japan thing, I think that was pretty self explanatory.

LTK
19-10-2012, 11:53 PM
Okay, general bad quality, I can understand that. I obviously don't read Kotaku, but I do check the Escapist regularly, and they can be a bit overly sensationalist at times, both in the published articles and the forum posts. And let's not go into the forum...

Oshada
20-10-2012, 11:44 AM
Kotaku Australia generally have higher quality posts. Kotaku US is just bad.

soldant
21-10-2012, 01:45 AM
For me I really started hating Kotaku when they started doing "off-topic" stories, more specifically when they started doing things like science stories and "what is Japan's fetish this week?" crap.
I have the exact same issue with them, except lately it's "Hey guys, we just Googled this and look what we found! CONTENT IS AWESOME." And the obsession with anime and cosplay is wearing thin. Otherwise they're advertising products, thinly veiling them as "Look how cool this is!" articles. It's a mess of pointless opinion pieces and advertising intermixed with bits of news.


Kotaku Australia generally have higher quality posts. Kotaku US is just bad.
They might have been, but lately they're reposting a bunch of stuff from the US. The quality is on a heavy decline.

Sketch
21-10-2012, 02:49 AM
The whole Japanese thing is a bit of a given, especially considering the name. They do have Kotaku Core which is strictly gaming related. Either way I don't read it for the quality of the writing, just mostly because they are big and so get a fair amount of big news first.

Mohorovicic
21-10-2012, 06:17 PM
The Escapist regularly runs news on science and Japan. Are they as bad as Kotaku?

The fact that The Escapist does news at all is damning. That was supposed to be some kind of gaming-centered e-mag, remember?

Admittely that idea was trashed when they jumped from having actual journalists into publishing works of anyone who can put two words together. But still.

LTK
21-10-2012, 06:26 PM
I used to be in the habit of reading those magazine issues, yeah. Although, as an e-mag, I suppose you'll want to put out stuff in between issues too, to keep your readers busy. Or is that the obsession with pageviews creeping in again?