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Old 05-04-2006, 08:20 PM   #1
icenine0
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Default What happened to games?

This was initially a reply to Danoz's post, but since it turned into an essay, I figured giving it its own topic was a better idea.

What happened to games? I've often wondered this. In fact, my brother and I were having a discussion about it earlier this week. Games these days don't seem to have that "magic" or "uniqueness" that old titles have. People commonly reason that this is a misperception; games today are just as good, it's just nostalgia that makes old titles stand out. There are certain examples of this: Phoenix Wright gave me the good ol' vibe and Cave Story blew me away. I also adore all the modern 2D/2.5D titles -- Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Final Fantasy Tactics, and others.

But, honestly, I don't buy the nostalgia argument.

Objectively... what makes a game unique and charming? Design. Game design. Art design. Audio design. Creativeness, fantasticness, otherworldliness, immersiveness.

2D and older titles tend to have all of the above in spades. Modern 3D releases tend to not.

Think of the original Super Mario Brothers. Here is a game that forces you to accept it on its own terms. You're a plumber trapped in some strange kingdom with a fixation on fungus. You jump on mushrooms, you eat (absorb? who knows?) mushrooms, people wear mushroom hats and nothing looks or feels remotely close to reality. All is clumps of monocolored pixels and a hero who jumps thirty feet in the air. He's on a quest to save the princess who's never around; she's always past the next castle, over the next hill. The same strange man tells you as much in every fortress you pass. Sounds are ethereal and strangely cheerful bleeps and blips: otherworldly, entrancing, and totally divorced from day to day life.

What changed between then and Ghost Recon?

A tendency toward realism -- not just in graphics but everything.

Jak and Daxter? A well-drawn talking (in later games) animal protagonist with a wise-cracking sidekick who shoots stuff and beats things up. He is accompanied by a perfectly mundane orchestral score. Sounds fantastic, bizarre, creative? Absolutely, if you're a CEO of Sony looking to focus-group your way into your next billion dollars.

Now, to be fair, Jak and Daxter is creative in the context of its universe, a 3D realm that more-or-less abides by our laws of physics. Motion is exaggerated, but doesn't occur unexpectedly: you jump, you get knocked back, you hit things, you fall. Light plays off your character like he's a solid, physical object. His face animates smoothly. Modern 3D hardware enforces real life conventions. Lighting, perspective, smoothness of motion, realistic transformations, accurate sound, precision physics. You can evade it, but its natural tendency is to strait-jacket you into emulating this universe and grade you on that scale. How good are the graphics? You actually mean how real are the graphics.

Compare to Mario, the flatly colored stone-faced pixelman who freezes in vertical uppercut pose, statuesque, as he sails through the air from one ledge to another. He shrinks without explanation when struck by a foe. Compare again to Dragon Warrior, where characters wiggle and move in the same two frame sequence on an artificially enforced grid synchronized to some strange, cosmic clock.

In an old 2D title, everything you see is something processed by a human mind. Everything is -- has to be -- a visual story told by the developer. The game feels warm and human because the same human hands molded every image you see, every sound you hear. Animations were hand illustrated, not mo-capped. Music was composed, solo, by a man and a synthesizer. These people weren't striving for realism and trying to make "believable" experiences. They turned their thoughts into experiences.

In short, older games were symbolic. Modern games are real.

Today's youth may not see it, but the restrictions of those old systems required people to be beautifully, artistically and abstractly creative. You could do anything with a NES... except be real.
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Old 05-04-2006, 09:31 PM   #2
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Default Re: What happened to games?

This topic has risen many times. Over my years of examining modern games (which I don't paticularly care for) and older games (many of which I love) -- I've formed my own opinions on the matter.

Basically, I 100% disagree with everything you just said. It sounded like your big spiel boiled basically down to "older games were better because the graphics were worse and they forced you to use your imagination more". Which, if I may be so blunt, is a steaming pile of bullshit.

Games are as good nowadays as they ever were. In fact, they're much better in many ways... and not just in graphics/sound. Story, balance, length, complexity (where appropriate). It's all proportionately better.

You speak of realism. I look at Mario Kart, Super Smash Brothers, Castlevania. You speak of lack of creativity and otherworldliness. I look at Katamari and Pikmin. If ever there were surreal and abstract games -- there's more now than there ever were.

Inferior graphics capabilities don't somehow magically make the graphics more symbolic. If anything it's the opposite. If NES game developers could have, I'm sure they would have made more detailed graphics in a heartbeat. System restrictions (and nothing else) prevented them from doing so. If you saw a new game come out that had Super Mario Bros quality graphics -- people (possibly even including yourself) would ridicule it to no end.

Modern hardware doesn't restrict you to anything. It doesn't enforce realism... it doesn't even really make realism any easier to accomplish. There is nothing older systems could do that modern systems cannot. How you can classify this superiorty as a disadvantage to modern games blows my mind. It's like you're in Bizarro world.

Also, you seem to claim that older games didn't strive for a degree of realism. You cited game physics as an example, which totally had me confused. Mario jumped 30 feet in the air? Sure he did. But that kid from Startropics didn't. In fact, he could hardly jump at all. Or what about the Prince of Persia. If ever there was a character restricted to what an actual human being could do in a situation, it's him. And he's been around since like 1972. The dude from the Impossible Mission series -- same thing. Racing games, sports games are as old as any genre of video game, and they have always strived to be as realistic as possible (save a few exceptions).



Many people seem to make the mistake of looking at the great classics and comparing them to your average modern game. You seem to have made this mistake as well. Most modern games suck. It's true. But you know what? So did most older games. The ratio of good:bad games is, and always has been, very uneven. By comparing classics to modern games, you're comparing the best of one generation to hum-drum crap of another generation. It's totally unbalanced. It's as ludicous as someone claiming modern games are better because Metroid Prime for Gamecube is better than Birdweek for NES.

Yeah there are a lot of cookie cutter crap games out. Racing games are a dime a dozen. "new" sports games every year. None of that has anything to do with the games being modern -- it's always been that way.

So if the games are just as good, how come guys like you and me aren't as into them? It's simple: <u>we've gotten old</u>. Video games have gotten stale. Sure, a new game here and there might peak our interest and grab us, but as a whole, new releases aren't exciting. But younger kids don't seem to feel that way.... could it be they don't have an appreciation for the "classics"? Or could it be they're stupider or easier to please? Of course not -- they just haven't burnt out yet. It's all still fresh to them. But they'll come a day when they're having this exact same discussion about how Playstation 5 isn't as fun as Playstation 2 and all the problems with so-and-so feature of blah-blah systems.
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Old 05-04-2006, 09:43 PM   #3
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Default Re: What happened to games?

<blockquote><font class="small">In reply to:</font><hr>

So if the games are just as good, how come guys like you and me aren't as into them? It's simple: we've gotten old.

<hr></blockquote>

I'm only responding to this part on account of this remark.
You're not getting old. You're getting bored.
The games we're getting now are basic retreads, so to speak. Some more ingenious, some way not.
I enjoy getting lost in a bunch of 'em still.
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Old 05-04-2006, 10:12 PM   #4
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Default Re: What happened to games?

> You're not getting old. You're getting bored.

I suppose -- it isn't associated with your age. Touche

> The games we're getting now are basic retreads, so to speak.

Even the old "classics" were retreads. Super Mario Bros was hardly the first platformer -- there were a dozen incredibly shitty platformers for earlier systems (crap like Kangaroo for some Atari system -- I forget which one). Super Mario Bros just took it, enhanced it with better graphics sound and other features the newer system allowed, and spewed it back.
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Old 05-04-2006, 11:41 PM   #5
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Default Re: What happened to games?

] It sounded like your big spiel boiled basically down to
] "older games were better because the graphics were worse and
] they forced you to use your imagination more".

What I'm saying is that old games were less "real" and games today are more real.

It's like the difference between a photograph and a painting.

The concept and gameplay of Super Mario Bros. reminds me of a Salvador Dali painting.

I'm not saying that to mean that games are "high art" or some such, just that they're forced to be representational and are thusly more strange and memorable.

] Games are as good nowadays as they ever were. In fact,
] they're much better in many ways... and not just in
] graphics/sound. Story, balance, length, complexity (where
] appropriate). It's all proportionately better.

I see this as a "quantity" versus "quality" argument. More story is better story? More length is better length?
More balance is better balance? Games aren't Big Mac meals.

] You speak of realism. I look at Mario Kart, Super Smash
] Brothers, Castlevania. You speak of lack of creativity and
] otherworldliness. I look at Katamari and Pikmin. If ever
] there were surreal and abstract games -- there's more now
] than there ever were.

I still play and enjoy every game you mentioned there.
That's an important omission. There are tremendously creative 3D games, and I enjoy those titles as well. I loved Katamari and Pikmin and Super Smash Bros. All were intensely stylized.

] Inferior graphics capabilities don't somehow magically make
] the graphics more symbolic.

They absolutely do. Is a stickman more symbolic than a photograph? Then an 8-bit Final Fantasy I figure is more symbolic than a 3D vectorized bumpmapped Final Fantasy X figure. Yesterday's developers might have tended toward realism if they had the capability, but they didn't, so they didn't.

] If anything it's the opposite.
] If NES game developers could have, I'm sure they would have
] made more detailed graphics in a heartbeat.

That's been the trend. But I still really like really old NES games for their distinct feel. Reality always feels
like reality. NES games feel like NES games, SNES games feel like SNES games.

] If you saw a new game come out that had Super Mario
] Bros quality graphics -- people (possibly even including
] yourself) would ridicule it to no end.

Cave Story isn't too far off the mark, and that's an absolutely beloved indie title. People would scoff because they're paying $50 for new releases and expect cutting edge for that price, whatever cutting edge is at the moment.

] Modern hardware doesn't restrict you to anything. It
] doesn't enforce realism... it doesn't even really make
] realism any easier to accomplish.

I challenge you to make a bump-mapped, hundred-thousand polygon, freely navigable scene on a Nintendo.

To say modern systems don't make realism easier is absurd; they make it possible in the first place.

When I talk about realism I'm talking about the whole experience, not just visuals.

Simply rendering an object using a console's 3D technology makes it real. When you turn, your perspective changes as if things were right in front of you.

When you use its internal lighting features, things reflect properly, etc.

And the biggest of all - animation. Animation now consists of vertexes ultrasmoothly wheeling through a segment of space, or smooth mesh deformations, all painstakingly mathematically calculated so each line ends up precision-placed based on a predefined equation.

] There is nothing older
] systems could do that modern systems cannot. How you can
] classify this superiorty as a disadvantage to modern games
] blows my mind.

Obviously, many people prefer modern games. Many old-school players don't. I'm trying to put my finger on why.

Systems became, and are becoming, more powerful to emulate reality more closely.

To exploit the featureset of a system has effectively meant making your game look and sound more realistic.

There are exceptions, but this is the general trend. Games are far more interesting when they don't try to be
super-real.

] Also, you seem to claim that older games didn't strive for a
] degree of realism. You cited game physics as an example,
] which totally had me confused. Mario jumped 30 feet in the
] air? Sure he did. But that kid from Startropics didn't.
] In fact, he could hardly jump at all. Or what about the
] Prince of Persia. If ever there was a character restricted
] to what an actual human being could do in a situation, it's
] him. And he's been around since like 1972. The dude from
] the Impossible Mission series -- same thing.

Everything else, though, was not real. The graphics, the sound, the feel, the animation, the perspective,
the control scheme, and mechanics for the original Prince of Persia were unique.

] Racing games,
] sports games are as old as any genre of video game, and they
] have always strived to be as realistic as possible (save a
] few exceptions).

Maybe it's not coincidence, then, that those are my two least favorite genres.

] Many people seem to make the mistake of looking at the great
] classics and comparing them to your average modern game.
] You seem to have made this mistake as well.

Wrong. I'm stacking them up with the best. I, and I suspect many others, simply do not like most modern,
well reviewed games. I do like some. Shadow of the Colossus was also brilliant.

] It's simple: we've gotten old.
] Video games have gotten stale.

I still enjoy a lot of different games.
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Old 05-05-2006, 12:18 AM   #6
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Default Re: What happened to games?

> Obviously, many people prefer modern games. Many old-school
> players don't. I'm trying to put my finger on why.

I'll tell you why for me, it is my opinion that modern games rely on technology to tell the story and not the story to tell the story. The reason why I enjoy SNES games more than anyother system ever is for the most part the RPGs told the story by telling the story and adding just enough ambience of music, sounds, and sprites to support the story. Now games like the new Final Fantasies are graphics first then story. If they remade FF7-10 on the SNES I'd buy them in a heartbeat and play them until the end of time. What makes money nowadays JUST like in TV and Movies is FLASH (not you Roger =D) and special effects/graphics. If it looks good people will buy it--unless they are old-school gamers. When I have kids I'm hooking up my NES/Master System to our livingroom TV when they are 2-6 years old, then I'm replacing it with my SNES/Genesis/TG16 from ages 6-?, then I'm replacing it with the original PlayStation and so on. Sure when they goto thier friends houses they can play all the PS12 and XBOX1024 all they want--but when they are under my roof they'll start in the begining like I did (but at least they won't start with the Atari). Emulation probably will be the easiest way for them to play older games.
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Old 05-05-2006, 12:58 AM   #7
Disch
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Default Re: What happened to games?

> It's like the difference between a photograph and a painting.

I find this analogy flawed. I'll use Mortal Kombat as an example -- a older 2D system game which actually used photgraphs for graphics. Yet if it were to fit in your analogy, it would be the "painting" while fabricated images would be your "photographs".

3D rendered art is still art. It's just a different approach. It's hardly a snapshot of reality. In fact, I find that most modern 2D graphics (like for game backdrops and other things) look far more realistic than any 3D stuff.

> I'm not saying that to mean that games are "high art" or
> some such, just that they're forced to be representational
> and are thusly more strange and memorable.

I guess I don't see what you mean by "representational" and how old games do it any differently than new games.

You can tell the mushrooms in SMB are mushrooms. They look like crudely drawn mushrooms -- it doesn't take any interpretation to figure out that they're mushrooms. If a newer game wants to draw a 3D mushroom, it would be the same. You'd be able to tell it was a mushroom, it wouldn't take any interpretation to figure it out. The only difference would be that the mushroom has more detail.

For an analogy, it's like newer games are lavish, descriptive novels, whereas older games are like Cliffs Notes. (when speaking in terms of graphics/music)

> I see this as a "quantity" versus "quality" argument. More
> story is better story? More length is better length?
> More balance is better balance? Games aren't Big Mac meals.

I never said more. I was saying better.

> I still play and enjoy every game you mentioned there.
> That's an important omission. There are tremendously
> creative 3D games, and I enjoy those titles as well. I
> loved Katamari and Pikmin and Super Smash Bros. All were
> intensely stylized.

That's exactly my point. You're generalizing an entire generation of games -- yet right here you say that there are exceptions. OF COURSE there's exceptions. There's good and bad in all of it.

Yet everywhere else in all of your posting -- you make it sound like newer games are inferior. It sounds hypocritical to me.

> They absolutely do. Is a stickman more symbolic than a
> photograph?

No. They both symbolize the character. I don't see why you'd think a stickman is somehow more creative or clever. If anything it's less creative and clever.

> That's been the trend. But I still really like really old
> NES games for their distinct feel. Reality always feels
> like reality. NES games feel like NES games, SNES games
> feel like SNES games.

By "feel" I can only assume you mean "look and sound", since that's the only thing that makes any sense. And if that's the case, duh [img]/wwwthreads/images/icons/tongue.gif[/img] of course NES is going to look and sound like NES.

But if that's not what you mean you totally lost me.

> ] If you saw a new game come out that had Super Mario
> ] Bros quality graphics
> Cave Story isn't too far off the mark,

I sure think it's way off the mark. Cave Story goes far beyond anything the NES could do. I'm not even so sure you could get it on a SNES without sacrificing some effects. It's PSX or later quality at least. And that's just speaking in terms of graphics.

> To say modern systems don't make realism easier is absurd;
> they make it possible in the first place.

I misspoke. You're right in that modern hardware makes it possible to do more work in a shorter time -- and thus, making higher graphics possible/easier.

What I meant by it not making things any easier is the programmer still has to actually code the game mechanics. Making all these fancy 3D effects isn't as automatic as you might think -- it's a lot harder to get things like that working properly on modern systems than it is to draw a simple tilemap on older 2D systems.

> There are exceptions, but this is the general trend. Games
> are far more interesting when they don't try to be
> super-real.

There has to be realistic properties in games. If you were playing something that has nothing in common with reality, you wouldn't be able to relate and it wouldn't be any fun.

Games also have to have a side of fiction that makes them unreal. And they all do (even modern ones).

For every unreal thing about an older platformer like SMB, I'm sure you could name just as many (or more) unreal things about any modern 3D platformer. And for everything that's real about a 3D platformer, I'm sure you could find almost as many things that are real in a older platformer.

Mario is affected by gravity. He get hurt by fire and flying hammers. He has to touch coins to pick them up. He jumps farther when he runs. He can travel through large pipes (believe it or not, that's realistic -- I can walk/crawl through large pipes just fine) -- but only at their opening. Stomping on enemies hurts/kills them. All realistic properties. Sure some things are exaggerated, like his jump height, how long he can hold his breath underwater, and that kind of thing. And some things are downright crazy and make-believe.

Modern games have all those elements too. Things that are realistic, things that are exaggerated, and things that are off the wall. Things are no different now than they ever were.

> Everything else, though, was not real. The graphics, the
> sound, the feel, the animation, the perspective,
> the control scheme, and mechanics for the original Prince of
> Persia were unique.

"feel"? I still don't know what you mean by this. It's an awfully generic term that doesn't describe anything.
"animation" is graphics -- moot (See below)
"perspective" is graphics -- moot
"control scheme" is gameplay related, see below
"mechanics" is gameplay related, see below

When it comes down to gameplay (control scheme, mechanics)... I can't think of ANY platformer, past or present which has more aspects of realism than Prince of Persia. He can't jump that high. He can't jump very far. Falling too far hurts or even kills him. He doesn't have any super powers or special abilities. There aren't really any magical or fictional creatures crawling around trying to kill him (I guess maybe Jaffar had magic powers though?)

Which only leaves graphical differences -- but I thought you weren't just talking about realism in terms of graphics/sound. In fact... earlier in this very post you seemingly said the exact opposite:

> When I talk about realism I'm talking about the whole
> experience, not just visuals.

Which is it?

> Wrong. I'm stacking them up with the best.

The best according to your preference? Or the most popular?

You're mentioning several games you like, but you're not comparing them to any older games that you like. The only comparison I've seen was the Jak & Daxter vs. SMB comparison -- and from the sound of it, it sounds like you don't care for Jak & Daxter much.


But I don't really want/need you to do a million game comparisons. My point is there's good and bad in both modern and old games. You're generalizing waaaaay too much.
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Old 05-05-2006, 03:34 AM   #8
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Default Re: What happened to games?

I suppose the simplest way to sum up my argument is that there exists a reason beyond nostalgia that people still enjoy and revisit old games.

I didn't intend to say that modern/3D titles are inferior by necessity, only that they are, in fact, different. I could've used a word other than "good" in the opening paragraph of my first post.

There are technically far superior platformers to the original Super Mario Bros. just like there are technically far superior movies to Casablanca.

Casablanca is old, black and white, has monaural sound, and 1.33 aspect ratio. It's devoid of special effects and camera tricks, and yet it's still a tremendously engrossing experience. Its limitations are part of its charm. I don't think color would've benefited it.

NES games -- not just the good ones, but all of them -- have a peculiar and artistically interesting feel (by which I've meant "gestalt") with their blippy sound and 16-color palettes. They were forced to be minimalist and are groovy, like a 60s song with a solo grungy guitar.

To my eyes, frame by frame pixellated animation will always give a far more unique look than 3D rendering, and chiptunes will always hold an equal status to modern orchestral themes. Not because they're old and they remind me of my childhood, but because they give off a particular vibe and I enjoy stuff that looks, sounds, and plays distinctively.

Nintendo games didn't have to try to be surreal, they were weird by default. They were restricted to a crazy, blocky, beepy, grainy universe in a way modern games will never be again.

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Old 05-05-2006, 09:37 AM   #9
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Default Re: What happened to games?

Not for nothing, but I guess that makes me "Gamer White Trash". I liked Kangaroo, and stuff like Dig Dug, Mr. Do, and all the SMB scrollers.

But your point is well taken. Everything is an imitation, or a spin-off of something.
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Old 05-07-2006, 04:15 AM   #10
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Default Re: What happened to games?

> NES games -- not just the good ones, but all of them -- have
> a peculiar and artistically interesting feel (by which I've
> meant "gestalt") with their blippy sound and 16-color
> palettes. They were forced to be minimalist and are groovy,
> like a 60s song with a solo grungy guitar.

I don't think I like this idea...that would mean there was something GOOD about say....Super Hylidide. God I hate that game.
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