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  1. #21
    Activated Node lithander's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by archonsod View Post
    Trying to assess whether something has improved or not is impossible without considering what it set out to do in the first place.
    Exactly. Half Life changed the way FPS told a story and succeeded. Thief and Deus Ex tried to take the FPS approach and couple it with complex systems. Games like Morrowind aimed for a huger open world. Doing that back then shows ambition because it hadn't been done before. Doing it now - just with better graphics and refined gameplay - is a lack of ambition. It's just what makes sense from a buissness point of view. What did Farcry 3, Half Life 2, Deus Ex HR, Dishonored risk? They used established ideas. And focused on surface values. (They are great games but there's nothing astonishing about them)

  2. #22
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lithander View Post
    The characters that inhabit the world still seam fake, and that is not going to be fixed by higher texture resolution. They are puppets playing out the bits and pieces of the overall narration but they don't feel more alive then they've been in Morrowind.
    Bethesda's games are a mile wide and an inch deep. Obsidian's games are a mile deep and an inch wide. If you want a mile wide and a mile deep, you better pay for the privilege.
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  3. #23
    Activated Node lithander's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by archonsod View Post
    Trying to assess whether something has improved or not is impossible without considering what it set out to do in the first place.
    Half Life changed the way FPS told a story and succeeded. Thief and Deus Ex tried to take the FPS approach and couple it with complex systems. Games like Morrowind aimed for a huger open world. Doing that back then shows ambition because it hadn't been done before. Doing it now - just with better graphics and refined gameplay - is a lack of ambition. It's just what makes sense from a buissness point of view. Deus Ex HR, Skyrim, Dishonored... they do what has been done before just with up-to-date presentation and polished gameplay.

  4. #24
    Activated Node lithander's Avatar
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    Let's just consider a bottom-up approach. Let's say you had solutions for a lot of subproblems of making a game that don't require specific assets and authorial control. Techniques like Speedtree that allow you to generate believable plants and trees. Similar stuff for generating citys. Techniques that allow you to populate a world with believable agents. Synthesize speach and animations. Systems to simulate physics, weather, traffic, trade, social interaction. Wouldn't that give depth to the virtual worlds? You could make Far Cry 3 with the same main-story on the same islands but I'm sure it would be a different, better game.

  5. #25
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lithander View Post
    Half Life changed the way FPS told a story and succeeded. Thief and Deus Ex tried to take the FPS approach and couple it with complex systems. Games like Morrowind aimed for a huger open world. Doing that back then shows ambition because it hadn't been done before. Doing it now - just with better graphics and refined gameplay - is a lack of ambition. It's just what makes sense from a buissness point of view. Deus Ex HR, Skyrim, Dishonored... they do what has been done before just with up-to-date presentation and polished gameplay.
    The problem is, your issue reads a lot like this:

    "Man, when the automobile was invented, it was a revolution in its day! It completely changed the way we lived! But that was a century ago. Where are the new innovations? Sure, we've had incremental advances - automatic transmissions, anti-lock brakes, power steering - but where are my personal teleporters? How about flying cars or jetpacks? Hell, my car can't even drive itself!"

    Yeah, why don't we do that? Because you're talking a difference in scope that is measured in orders of magnitude. Nobody can develop an AI capable of presenting truly fascinating worlds through procedural generation partly because nobody's computer can handle it. Our games are more streamlined and with better graphics because that's what our computers are capable of. It's like complaining that we made the lunar lander in 1969, therefore we should have colonized Mars and have daily shuttle flights out by 1998.

    Quote Originally Posted by lithander View Post
    Techniques that allow you to populate a world with believable agents. Synthesize speech and animations.
    Have you seen any outfit capable of doing that? Ever? Nobody has synthesized speech with the nuance to carry the day. Nobody has invented a character through procedural generation that can hold a candle to one that is hand-crafted.

    Yes, if we could do that, we would. God knows certain people have tried. It's not like it hasn't been suggested before. It's just hokey and godawful and a hundred times more complicated than the switch from 2D to 3D.
    Last edited by Nalano; 17-02-2013 at 02:27 PM.
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  6. #26
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    You guys are failing to understand. I am not referring to deepening the money sinks of already cash flush companies. I am talking about spreading the money around to a larger number of people. That's how invention works. There are thousands of people who could make the great leap, whatever it may be, but only one or two are going to make it. And that is fine. Giving more people a chance to contribute their ideas would be great.

    Obviously many devs make the same games over and over, because that is what makes money. An indie dev may need less of a return in order to get a significant profit, but they still need one. And that means making Braid over and over.

    And they get rewarded for that too. How many indie gamers became media darlings, well indie wise on indie game sites and sometimes NPR, by making arty platformers and crap?

    I'm not really a fan of indie games anyways, I hate platformers for instance. But some devs made good stuff. I am nostalgic for some old games like SWG, but usually with a significant change and not just another platformer like most people seem to be.

    The problem is that creating the next great idea is not a financially motivated idea. Dozens of MUDs failed or blew chunks and only a few led to the creation of mmorpgs as a genre.

    Making millions is just not a good counterpart to creating new ideas.

  7. #27
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MoLAoS View Post
    I am talking about spreading the money around to a larger number of people.
    You're talking grant money.

    Like the National Endowment for the Arts.
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  8. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nalano View Post
    You're talking grant money.

    Like the National Endowment for the Arts.
    That would be one way to do it I guess. Probably the only way since corporations are greedy and shortsighted.

  9. #29
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MoLAoS View Post
    That would be one way to do it I guess. Probably the only way since corporations are greedy and shortsighted.
    So like I said:

    Quote Originally Posted by Nalano View Post
    What does this mean for gaming? To me, if you really want to see games with the depth suggested, you petition the National Endowment for the Arts to do with game designers as they do with prospective writers and painters: Give 'em a grant to hole up in some liberal arts commune somewhere for five years and make something worthy of their talents. But to even suggest such is to argue that gaming is a national treasure and should be fostered. Do you think yourself capable of making that argument forcefully?
    Nalano H. Wildmoon
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  10. #30
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    I wasn't really trying to suggest that a complex game needs a genius Great Person Overlord as a necessity. My lack of eloquence lets me down a little. I do believe, however, that a good game usually comes from a strong design vision, and that can either come from a capable leader or a core team who work well together and are all on the same page. If you're designing a big, messy game with tons of interacting systems that focus becomes even more important, and the judgement calls of what goes in and what stays, what works and what doesn't, become even harder to make correctly.

    It's all about difficulty of execution. Games with straightforward scope and limited systems still can take many people months and years of tweaking, putting features in, removing them, twiddling with the numbers and so forth, just to get something where everything works together and captures the intangible feel of a game worth playing. When it doesn't work you end up with your Trespassers and your Boiling Points. When it does you mostly get the Elder Scrolls stuff, "a mile wide and an inch deep", as the eloquent Nalano puts it.

  11. #31
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by arathain View Post
    When it does you mostly get the Elder Scrolls stuff, "a mile wide and an inch deep", as the eloquent Nalano puts it.
    The thing with the Elder Scrolls is that Bethesda doesn't care about characterization or dialogue or plot. The problem is that, if they did, they'd need a small army of writers - complete with regimentation and hierarchical supervision - to make a cohesive whole out of them. And were they to do that, their sales would be... exactly where they already are.

    Management is management, and allocating people is precisely the business of business. It's not an insurmountable task to have a large collaborative effort. But there has to be a reason to do so. If you want the writing of Obsidian plus the production values of Bioware plus the scope of Bethesda, you want a $180 game ($250 for the Collector's Edition) that takes eight years to make and needs ten million sales to break even. Any publisher's gonna look at that and say, "all that for an RPG? Just make it an MMO."
    Last edited by Nalano; 17-02-2013 at 04:06 PM.
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  12. #32
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    interesting piece. it's not everyday that we read a post like this.

  13. #33
    Obscure Node calabi's Avatar
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    All this talk about it being impossible to make these simulated emergent worlds in nonsense. You dont have to make these hugely complex emergent coded worlds, you just have to make people believe thats what you've done. You can just code alot of prescripted possibilities that the player is likely to encounter.

  14. #34
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus mashakos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nalano View Post
    The "great man" theory was thoroughly debunked a long time ago.

    The reason that development studios don't make deep games is because the return on investment is fantastically low for them. If 80% of players only see 20% of your content, then all the time and money you spent making the remaining 80% of that content was wasted.
    john carmack, tim sweeney, sid meier and hideo kojima are laughing at you from their aerial fortress.
    Yeah, I'm one of those who believes great work is not achieved by committee.

    and game publishers would LOVE to make deep games, which as I understand it are hamster wheels with a hook that will keep gamers spinning in place happily spending money on the same wheel for decades. Examples: D&D, WoW, Pokemon, Final Fantasy. What publisher wouldn't want to own this digital crack empire?
    The reason there aren't a lot of "deep games":
    a) the hook is pretty tough to think up and put in place, I mean the thought that went into the systems that make up Pokemon and WoW game designs is a masterpiece in itself even if the games are just blatant exploitation. Publishers have no way of knowing whether an untested hook will catch the fish (gamers) or not
    b) games like these take time to build momentum through word of mouth, sometimes never reaching critical mass e.g. Warhahmmer board games. When the stakes are so high, publishers are not willing to invest in something that will be cheered on by a couple of pasty faced game bloggers while being ignored by all the teens out there.



    Honestly I couldn't care less if a designer couldn't get his/her recycled ARPG game concept funded. We need to move forward and think up new ways of engrossing gamers, not the same rehashed ideas from 1994!
    It's fine to complain about FPS games crushing everything else, but the answer can't be yet another "deep roguelike ARPG set in Diablo's Large Intestine!!! LOLOL"

    and while people keep trying to recycle old ieas from the '90s, people back then went out of their way to try new things:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moonsto...rd_Days_Knight
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrier_Command
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wings_%28video_game%29

    It's pitiful that all we get from fans and developers is a push to "recreating childhood memories". When those time were about being new and creative.

    These two keynotes encapsulate my sentiments towards the subject:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S684RQHzmGA
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-Fnn0yOw74
    Last edited by mashakos; 17-02-2013 at 05:19 PM.
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  15. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nalano View Post
    I did a double-take for a moment before realizing those were Lithander's words you were quoting.



    The educational system has always been criticized as having intractable problems where "throwing money at it" never solves them. Those arguments have almost always been offered by Republicans who had no intention of funding public schools in the first place.

    In the sense that you can grossly mismanage a lot of money down the drain, they're absolutely correct. But that assumes that the money will always be mismanaged. The irony of this is, thanks to their insistence on pinching pennies everywhere, they get exactly the management they pay for, and as such the whole practice is a lesson in self-fulfilling prophecies.

    The school system in specific and the public sector in general has been hamstrung by a brain drain ever since the Reagan administration started defunding public agencies. We got unfunded mandates, so agencies which were supposed to keep infrastructure maintained or to oversee a sector of the economy gradually became incompetent - primarily because they couldn't afford to keep educated, trained staff at market-rate wages, effectively turning a public-sector job into a monkish vow of poverty - and this in turn fed into the Republican narrative that these agencies can't do anything right and we'd best not throw good money after bad.

    Teaching has become by far the lowest monetary return for a Master's degree one could get - to the point where getting a Master's in education has to be heavily subsidized else the prospective teacher will be awash in debt for much of their professional lives - leading any self-respecting post-graduate student to abhor teaching, and lo and behold educational standards have been slipping since the 1980s.

    So yeah, you can throw money at the problem. Money is, indeed, the defining issue of the problem. If you want the best and the brightest to come and solve these "intractable" problems, you pay them as if they were the best and the brightest, not the bottom of the bargain bin.

    That said, both your national health service and my public school system are public services. Gaming is a private enterprise, and as such I believe the solutions are somewhat different: Specifically, I believe the problem is profit motive. Sure, you get eccentrics who live in exile in Montana for a decade and come up with a complex system after ten years, but they're clearly not doing it for money. Most everybody else doesn't put in effort because the motive is pre-ordained: Make a profit first, and make a good game second.

    As I said earlier, making content for a game that most people will not ever even see is wasted time and money and a cut in profits. Further, I'd say, the extra three to five years or so that you'd have to tack on to development for your magnum opus RPG so as to present meaningful choices for all types of characters in a world where you have relatively free agency (ie: a sandbox with the depth of a narrative RPG) would, even if you could afford it, eventually just hurt you anyway as you lose the initiative to any company that's doing anything remotely similar and has a shorter development schedule. Their game may not be as deep, but your game will be seen as old hat by the time it does come out, effectively punishing you for your efforts. It's economic suicide.

    What does this mean for gaming? To me, if you really want to see games with the depth suggested, you petition the National Endowment for the Arts to do with game designers as they do with prospective writers and painters: Give 'em a grant to hole up in some liberal arts commune somewhere for five years and make something worthy of their talents. But to even suggest such is to argue that gaming is a national treasure and should be fostered. Do you think yourself capable of making that argument forcefully?

    This is so backward I barely know where to begin.

    Public education proved they were intent on wasting the money before Conservative - and by those I mean real conservatives, not establishment Republicans - began insisting on cuts. You want to throw money after 6-figure administrative salaries, free pensions and free health care benefits while the private sector employees who pay for your jobs struggle to get by with half what you receive while also donating to your paycheck? Fine. We will defund you. Since you seem intent on wasting 2/3 of the money going to education on the administration and retirement as opposed to spending it on students and, well, education, you deserve the cuts.

    Republicans are perfectly happy funding public schools. They are also perfectly happy providing those same support dollars to the STUDENT and allowing the student to decide where to go to school. As opposed to, you know, having the government make the choice for the student. Which was never their right to begin with. Intelligent Conservatives see government-run, unionized education for what it is: a propaganda machine intent on destroying any opposing view points and harnessing the power of mass indoctrination in order to create a nation of dependents.

    Of course this all assumes (wrongly) that public education deserves any funding AT ALL. Which it does not. Tax payer funded education not only gives government a complete monopoly on "the message" (as if Hitler didn't teach us enough about why THAT is a bad idea) it also places a larger burden on those who themselves place a SMALLER burden on society. I have no children; yet I pay more in taxes than people who do. In exchange for placing a smaller burden on society I get to pay for the burdens of others. While they get a rebate.

    And part of that funding goes to educate their children. Why? So we can better our collective society by the sweat of our own brows? No thank you. Public schools spend 12 years preparing kids for 4 more years of education. Twelve years. To prepare for four years. To in turn prepare for a job that will then need to train someone AGAIN in order to begin a career. That my friend is the text book definition of Inefficiency. And this all takes place while education throws six figures at principals, offers free retirement, free and nearly free health care benefits, and the most generous vacation time in the history of the working world.

    And you're claiming the answer to is throw more money at this sinkhole? No, thanks.

  16. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by lithander View Post
    The characters that inhabit the world still seam fake, and that is not going to be fixed by higher texture resolution. They are puppets playing out the bits and pieces of the overall narration but they don't feel more alive then they've been in Morrowind.
    They're not supposed to. TES has never been focused on characters.

    Quote Originally Posted by lithander View Post
    Half Life changed the way FPS told a story and succeeded. Thief and Deus Ex tried to take the FPS approach and couple it with complex systems. Games like Morrowind aimed for a huger open world. Doing that back then shows ambition because it hadn't been done before. Doing it now - just with better graphics and refined gameplay - is a lack of ambition. It's just what makes sense from a buissness point of view. Deus Ex HR, Skyrim, Dishonored... they do what has been done before just with up-to-date presentation and polished gameplay.
    Scripting was used in FPS games long before Half Life, HL stood out more because the scripted sequences were actually decent rather than tedious railroading. Thief and Deus Ex were both preceded by System Shock, Morrowind by Daggerfall and Arena. So no, they were doing the exact same thing then, just with better graphics and more refined gameplay. That's part of the problem, if you look at the games which actually did do something innovative they're almost without exception pretty crap. It generally takes two or three iterations of fine tuning a concept and it's implementation before it actually works.

  17. #37
    Activated Node lithander's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nalano View Post
    The problem is, your issue reads a lot like this:
    "Man, when the automobile was invented, it was a revolution in its day! ... Hell, my car can't even drive itself!"
    There are concept cars that can drive themselves. Automobile industry's spending $80 billion on R&D. Would make a hell of a difference if the game industry would to...

    Quote Originally Posted by Nalano View Post
    Nobody has invented a character through procedural generation that can hold a candle to one that is hand-crafted.
    Isn't that the point I'm trying to make? We can achieve a certain visual quality by hand-crafting assets. Can't do the same any other way (yet). So we stop trying to experiment with smart solutions because there's no immediate payoff.

    Let's say you'd spend $50 million on making the best text adventure ever. Would that game return the investment? Probably not. But the experiment would likely allow you to brake some ground on parsers and other low-level stuff - would allow you to write some nice papers. Who knows in what ways other games could profit by that. But you can't monetize it immediately so it won't happen.

  18. #38
    Quote Originally Posted by mashakos View Post
    john carmack, tim sweeney, sid meier and hideo kojima are laughing at you from their aerial fortress.
    We need to move forward and think up new ways of engrossing gamers, not the same rehashed ideas from 1994!
    It's fine to complain about FPS games crushing everything else, but the answer can't be yet another "deep roguelike ARPG set in Diablo's Large Intestine!!! LOLOL"
    The problem is most completely new ideas(!) don't make good games very often. They're things that sound good in theory but fail in practice or they take a long time to refine into even a semi-decent game. Sure the odd genius comes along who can think up something totally out of left field which is both brilliant and actually workable but it's rare

    There's nothing wrong with trying to iterate on old ideas. The PC-only genres of the late 90s died out, not because they had naturally run their course, but because big publishers chose to shift their resources to big console-friendly titles. There is still plenty of territory there for today's developers to mine without just totally copying the old games.

  19. #39
    Activated Node lithander's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by archonsod View Post
    They're not supposed to. TES has never been focused on characters.
    It's as Nalano said "depth" vs "width". You can't have a huge world, in depth characters and freedom of choice all at once. But that's not because a game is "not supposed to" but because to hand-craft a game like that would be far too massive.

    If you take the current approach of making games you can iterate as much as you want you'll never get a game like that done. That's what I meant when I said I feel the industry is trapped at a local maxima.

    Quote Originally Posted by archonsod View Post
    Scripting was used in FPS games long before Half Life, HL stood out more because the scripted sequences were actually decent rather than tedious railroading. Thief and Deus Ex were both preceded by System Shock, Morrowind by Daggerfall and Arena. So no, they were doing the exact same thing then, just with better graphics and more refined gameplay. That's part of the problem, if you look at the games which actually did do something innovative they're almost without exception pretty crap. It generally takes two or three iterations of fine tuning a concept and it's implementation before it actually works.
    This is true. The classics that were actually great didn't come out of nowhere. And even when teams were smaller design legends didn't invent their games from scratch and succeded at the first try. But I never claimed that. I was talking about ambition - they just where a lot bolder, dared to break new ground despite the risk of failure.

    @mashakos: Nice keynotes! Hadn't seen them! And I laughed at you D3 mockery. Guess part of the negative feedback the game received was people thinking "why the hell did that take 10 years to make?? It's just an ordinary game - didn't you promise me a new hobby?!"

  20. #40
    Activated Node lithander's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by archonsod View Post
    They're not supposed to. TES has never been focused on characters.
    It's as Nalano said "depth" vs "width". You can't have a huge world, in depth characters and freedom of choice all at once. But that's not because a game is "not supposed to" but because to hand-craft a game like that would be far too massive.

    If you take the current approach of making games you can iterate as much as you want you'll never get a game like that done. That's what I meant when I said I feel the industry is trapped at a local maxima.

    Quote Originally Posted by archonsod View Post
    Scripting was used in FPS games long before Half Life [...] It generally takes two or three iterations of fine tuning a concept and it's implementation before it actually works.
    Of course this is true. All those games that succeeded didn't come out of nowhere. Even when teams were smaller design legends didn't invent their games from scratch and succeded at the first try. But I never claimed that. I was talking about ambition. They were a lot bolder, dared to break new ground despite the risk of failure. Maybe because less money was at risk.

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