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  1. #1
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    Are games more dumberer then they use ta be?

    Since I first read it many years ago I've been rolling around this quote from Roberta Williams, famed game designer and cofounder of Sierra Online.

    Back when I got started, which sounds like ancient history, back then the demographics of people who were into computer games, was totally different, in my opinion, then they are today. ... I think in the last 5 or 6 years, the demographics have really changed, now this is my opinion, because computers are less expensive so more people can afford them. More "average" people now feel they should own one.
    In a nutshell, she claims that because computers used to be expensive and difficult to use it set a high watermark for the ability of the average computer user.

    Erik Wolpaw, then of Old Man Murray, "famously" rebutted her claims. Diplomatically.

    First of all, I feel compelled to rebut her clearly in the rough language of "average" people: Fuck you, you pompous fucking bitch. To recap: Roberta Williams' failures are in no way her own fault, but are due to the fact that you, dear reader, are an uncultured dimwit.
    This rebuttal is dated 1999. That's a long time for a dusty old argument to roll around my head, but it has been.

    I started playing PC games around 1984 when I was 6 years old. My family was (and is) very middle class, but my parents are well educated and encouraged me along a similar path. That encouragement coupled with my curiosity kindled my fascination in computers. I was a whiz at batch files, memory management, boot disks, multiconfig bootloaders, juggling IRQs and DMAs, and all that. I completely immersed myself in the hobby which taught me patience and problem-solving. I felt this made me the ideal audience for adventure and puzzle games. I had few friends who could stomach Police Quest, preferring the likes of Operation Wolf.

    So yeah, I kind of agree with her. It used to take problem-solving skills just to get a game to run reliably, and game designers of the day assumed their audience would surpass that barrier of entry.

    Discuss! Does this belief make Roberta and I a couple of dicks? Are games dumber today or are they just streamlined to maximize the most rewarding parts? Is this a thing?

  2. #2
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus b0rsuk's Avatar
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    - tutorials forced upon you and can't be skipped
    - vita-chambers (Bioshock), defibrilators(Rage), spirit world(Prey). Because dying in a FPS game is too harsh.
    - dying in a ARPG is also too harsh. So when you "die", let's just reduce some item durability, which can be repaired at a shop.
    - fewer TBS games with fewer options and things to do. Even RTS games are a niche now.
    - Command&Conquer 4
    - fewer and fewer games come with map editors or mod tools. I suppose we're too stupid to use them.

    GAME OVER screens are now apparently frowned upon.
    (...)

    It was a different demographic. Computers and software were designed for techies, engineers, people who actually enjoy problem solving.
    Last edited by b0rsuk; 26-06-2012 at 09:31 PM.
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  3. #3
    Lesser Hivemind Node Spider Jerusalem's Avatar
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    yes and no. there's no denying that the (more) widespread accessibility of gaming hardware (consoles included, perhaps consoles especially) has necessitated the development of more, ahem, "user-friendly" mechanics in the big budget titles, but by the same token, the proliferation has also led to a huge library of games being developed, enough to suit all tastes.

  4. #4
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus b0rsuk's Avatar
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    Yes, you can choose any game as long as it's an FPS.
    pass

  5. #5
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Heliocentric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by b0rsuk View Post
    - vita-chambers (Bioshock)
    Go play SShock 2, it had them too.

    Quote Originally Posted by djbriandamage View Post
    Are games dumber today or are they just streamlined to maximize the most rewarding parts?
    Both, because games are lots of separate things.
    Some games are more complicated too, Space chem, Crusader Kings 2, Dwarf Fortress.
    Last edited by Heliocentric; 26-06-2012 at 09:36 PM.
    I'm failing to writing a blog, specifically about playing games the wrong way
    http://playingitwrong.wordpress.com/

  6. #6
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus vinraith's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Spider Jerusalem View Post
    yes and no. there's no denying that the (more) widespread accessibility of gaming hardware (consoles included, perhaps consoles especially) has necessitated the development of more, ahem, "user-friendly" mechanics in the big budget titles, but by the same token, the proliferation has also led to a huge library of games being developed, enough to suit all tastes.
    It's actually an interesting quandry, and something I've wondered about many times: Clearly more games are made these days than in previous eras, but are more good games made these days? The same number? Less? I really don't know. It seems like it's a lot harder to find solid examples of certain genres (RPG's in the old sense of the acronym, for example), while other genres (TBS and 4X titles, say) have managed to retreat, regroup, and rally in the niches, and others (wargames) have been so steadily niche that they basically seem unaffected.

  7. #7
    Lesser Hivemind Node johnki's Avatar
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    I don't necessarily think games are "more dumberer than they use ta be". I think the thing is that gaming as a whole used to be a niche. Now it's not so much of a niche. And so, the games that older gamers used to know and love are still a niche - a niche that used to be gaming as a whole, whereas commercialized gaming is coming in with games that are easier to understand and play.

    Of course we're going to see games that are "dumbed down" and "easier" than legacy games, but there are more and more people that weren't part of the original niche of gaming that, frankly, find those games to be too hard and way too time consuming.

    The games people used to play do still exist, just in places a little more obscure than the FPSes and such.

    EDIT: Cases in point: Dwarf Fortress, Aurora (the 4x game), most of the Naval Warfare Simulations catalog, the increasing amount of roguelikes, like Hack, Slash, Loot and Dungeons of Dredmor, DEMISE: Ascension, The Void.

    I mean, clearly they're not exact replicas, but they're still out there.
    Last edited by johnki; 26-06-2012 at 09:43 PM.

  8. #8
    Lesser Hivemind Node fiddlesticks's Avatar
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    I find it somewhat ironic that Roberta Williams of all people is complaining about games becoming dumber. The King's Quest series with its trial-and-error gameplay wasn't exactly a bastion of logic and reason.

  9. #9
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    Let's look at shooters and notice these things:
    -you move a LOT slower in these than you used to. (and this is a big one imo)
    -smaller fov , smaller more confined maps, large enemy models means you are always aiming at a big target (no more pixel frags)
    -death of vertical gameplay/low gravity in pretty much all online shooters
    -mouse acceleration/smoothing active and often unable to be turned off in pc shooters : if this isn't a sign that eye hand coordination is no longer a priority for developers then what is?
    -regenerating hp
    -death of recoil and spread in the modern shooters, guns are now magical sticks that pepper bullets at the place you point at endlessly
    -noone seems to care about netcode or hit detection anymore, suddenly p2p matchmaking became standard and half of young shooter fanatics won't even know what rcon tools are, or what choke and packet loss are.
    -death of movement gameplay : even the pseudo 'oldschool' shooters like Hard Reset don't have a strafejump speed modifier anymore
    -99 percent hitscan weapons, and some easy to use grenade launchers: say goodbye to rocket launchers and rocket jumping, spinfusors, shock combos etc
    -chest high walls, because regenerating health is not enough

    Shooters have become super shallow easy to pick up and with an extremely low skillcap.

    The problem with this is that with the high skillcap, movement gameplay etc the satisfaction that comes with a good learning curve is also completely gone.
    That has been replaced by filling bars and getting 'achievements' and stat tracking.

    PS I am aware of tribes ascend and team fortress 2, I hope you are aware that they are both the exception to the rule.


    For racing games: rewind button, much more forgiving games in general especially the arcade/action ones.
    I think split/second was the only hard arcade racer in the last 5 years.
    Last edited by Finicky; 26-06-2012 at 09:53 PM.

  10. #10
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus vinraith's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by johnki View Post
    The games people used to play do still exist, just in places a little more obscure than the FPSes and such.

    EDIT: Cases in point: Dwarf Fortress, Aurora (the 4x game), most of the Naval Warfare Simulations catalog, the increasing amount of roguelikes, like Hack, Slash, Loot and Dungeons of Dredmor, DEMISE: Ascension, The Void.

    I mean, clearly they're not exact replicas, but they're still out there.
    I think you're mostly right here, though I'll reiterate that old school RPG's in the 80's and 90's sense of the term don't seem to be surviving in the corners like other genres of this sort, certainly not in the kind of numbers they did back in the day.

  11. #11
    Lesser Hivemind Node johnki's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Finicky View Post
    The problem with this is that with the high skillcap, movement gameplay etc the satisfaction that comes with a good learning curve is also completely gone.
    That has been replaced by filling bars and getting 'achievements' and stat tracking.
    With this, you could argue that it's not games getting more shallow, but the people playing them, needing hard coded numbers to tell them how well they're doing, rather than just "pwning face" for lack of a better term. :P

    EDIT:
    Quote Originally Posted by vinraith View Post
    I think you're mostly right here, though I'll reiterate that old school RPG's in the 80's and 90's sense of the term don't seem to be surviving in the corners like other genres of this sort, certainly not in the kind of numbers they did back in the day.
    Well, so long as Spiderweb Software is around, there's at least one outlet for a steady stream of oldschool RPGs. They're not as oldschool as they used to be, but for all of the changes that have happened, most of them have been for accessibility and not difficulty, so far as I can tell from what I have played of Avadon.

    As for other companies, I can't think of any others off the top of my head other than Decklin's Domain, and I'm a bit hesitant to add Grimrock's developers to that list because I haven't actually played it.
    Last edited by johnki; 26-06-2012 at 09:52 PM.

  12. #12
    Lesser Hivemind Node TillEulenspiegel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vinraith View Post
    while other genres (TBS and 4X titles, say) have managed to retreat, regroup, and rally in the niches
    To some extent. But if I want an experience like Warlords III for example, as far as I know my only decent option is to load up Warlords III again. Same for X-COM or Jagged Alliance 2. What I'm saying is that I liked the "mainstream" TBS genre of the 90s, while the niche-y TBS games don't particularly capture my interest.

    What disappoints me in general with the state of the industry is that I see so many unexplored avenues for potentially great games, while the same basic formulae keep getting repeated with minor tweaks.

  13. #13
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus vinraith's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TillEulenspiegel View Post
    To some extent. But if I want an experience like Warlords III for example, as far as I know my only decent option is to load up Warlords III again. Same for X-COM or Jagged Alliance 2. What I'm saying is that I liked the "mainstream" TBS genre of the 90s, while the niche-y TBS games don't particularly capture my interest.

    What disappoints me in general with the state of the industry is that I see so many unexplored avenues for potentially great games, while the same basic formulae keep getting repeated with minor tweaks.
    Fair point. Without numbers in front of me I'm hard pressed to determine whether, on volume, we're seeing an equivalent number of strong entries in this genre. I suspect we might be, but that the diversity isn't where it used to me. There's a relative glut of space 4X, for example, and a relative poverty of (well executed) fantasy 4X for example.

    Also, why the hell isn't Warlords 3 on GOG?

  14. #14
    Lesser Hivemind Node johnki's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vinraith View Post
    Also, why the hell isn't Warlords 3 on GOG?
    Last I checked, the original author is still selling physical copies for upwards of $30.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by johnki View Post
    With this, you could argue that it's not games getting more shallow, but the people playing them, needing hard coded numbers to tell them how well they're doing, rather than just "pwning face" for lack of a better term. :P

    .
    Well yeah, obviously the games are trying to pander to the new target audience.

    Also there isn't any room to 'pwn' face anymore, the way you word it it sounds like they stacked the tracking/achievements/gold stars/filling bars on top of the oldschool huge learning curve (movement gameplay, leading shots with non hitscan weaps, mastering spread and recoil times, strafejumping etc) but they have replaced it instead.

    Gamer babies used to have a big fat booby to suckle on and now they get a gold star encrusted pacifier and security blanket instead.

    I think it's what many older gamers don't realise or won't accept, that we aren't the target audience anymore for the vast majority of the industry.
    Thank god for pc gaming being an open platform, at least we get some indy game breadcrumbs tossed our way now and then. (though now EA is trying to get in on the indy fad too)

    This is also why the whole attempt to push 'cloud gaming' made me cringe so incredibly hard during the last 2 years, yeah let's turn pc gaming into a walled garden too, what could possibly go wrong for the gamer...
    Last edited by Finicky; 26-06-2012 at 10:07 PM.

  16. #16
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus b0rsuk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heliocentric View Post
    Go play SShock 2, it had them too.
    I played SS2, and back then it didn't bother me because it was a very rare mechanic. Still, I reloaded after each death to try harder... or smarter.

    Some games are more complicated too, Space chem, Crusader Kings 2, Dwarf Fortress.
    The trouble is - whenever a "smart" game appears, it's much harder for it to gain publicity because of huge budgets of AAA games and their marketing. RPS is one of very few game news sites even bothering to mention games like Lesbian Spider-Queens of Mars, Dominions 3, Unity of Command, Enviro Bear 2000, board games, Receiver, or Underrail. Civ 4 had a team of 17 programmers and 25 or so artists. People who play Civ 5 tell me on the hardest difficulty AI will not declare a war on you...
    pass

  17. #17
    Lesser Hivemind Node Spider Jerusalem's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vinraith View Post
    It's actually an interesting quandry, and something I've wondered about many times: Clearly more games are made these days than in previous eras, but are more good games made these days? The same number? Less? I really don't know. It seems like it's a lot harder to find solid examples of certain genres (RPG's in the old sense of the acronym, for example), while other genres (TBS and 4X titles, say) have managed to retreat, regroup, and rally in the niches, and others (wargames) have been so steadily niche that they basically seem unaffected.
    it's true that old school rpgs have fallen on hard times, but the recent wasteland 2 kickstarter (and other kickstarters) at least indicated that the fan base is still out there, with fistfuls of dollars ready to throw at things.

  18. #18
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus b0rsuk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fiddlesticks View Post
    I find it somewhat ironic that Roberta Williams of all people is complaining about games becoming dumber. The King's Quest series with its trial-and-error gameplay wasn't exactly a bastion of logic and reason.
    A smoking doctor can tell you not to smoke, because it's bad for health. It doesn't make his advice less relevant.
    pass

  19. #19
    Activated Node BTAxis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by b0rsuk View Post
    Civ 4 had a team of 17 programmers and 25 or so artists. People who play Civ 5 tell me on the hardest difficulty AI will not declare a war on you...
    Quite apart from this being essentially two unrelated statements, I thought the thing with the Civ 5 AI was that it always declares war on you no matter what you do.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heliocentric View Post
    Go play SShock 2, it had them too.
    1. You had to activate them.

    2. They cost nanites to use. Quite a lot on the harder difficulties.

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