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    “3D Has Ruined Video Games” is not a new idea. It’s 20 years old and it’s actually (somewhat) true.

    The lack of realism isn’t that much of a concern. One could argue that there’s a long uncanny valley to video games, but I wouldn’t be convinced. The truth is that games don’t need to be realistic to be fun. We’ve seen, over the past 20 years, an apparent decline of quality in gameplay and storylines– at least, if we look at the high-budget games that seem to get the most exposure. It isn’t directly the fault of 3D, though. There’s no reason why you can’t create a Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy VI in 2016, either as a 2D or using modern 3D capabilities.

    What ruined games was the higher budgets (now in the high 7-figure, and even 8-figure, range). This meant: (a) fewer games, (b) more power held by executives/money-men, © design by committee, and (d) more pressure to recoup costs quickly by having a badass trailer. At the low end, the market is flooded with turn-crank commodity games that have little thought put into them and are essentially plays of the lottery.

    Ironically, I’d bet that there are (as @mattgreenrocks seems to allude) far more good games being produced in 2016 than in 1996 (in the same way that the high art being sold in Manhattan for $5M/painting is utter garbage but there is almost certainly more good art being produced right now, in obscurity, than in any artistic high era). It’s just a much larger industry, and more designers can get into it. These days, the problem is the distribution channel. It seems a lot harder, in 2016, to figure out where the good games are. There were only about 750 SNES games released in the U.S. (and maybe a third of them were in that “really good” category, hence the “Golden Age of Gaming”). There are probably at least an order of magnitude more games produced today… with a lower fraction but a larger number (many sitting on the long tail in obscurity) that are good.

    In 1995, the really good games (as games) were also at the forefront of video game graphics. You knew where to look. In 2016, it’s not that way. Looking at the AAAs, I love these games as a programmer (because the technical accomplishments are quite impressive) but hate them as a game designer, storyteller, and aesthete. This also means that you can’t tell a good game just by looking at a few screen shots.

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      Most AAA titles aspire to be little more than the season’s Michael Bay title of video games. Artistic integrity is seen as a liability.

      Despite this, 2016 is an excellent time to be gaming. Gameplay-heavy games are having a bit of a resurgence. Rocket League is a huge success, Overwatch is dominating, and MOBAs are still a huge genre. Indie games have done much to carry the mantle of unique aesthetics and gameplay when AAA would not, and we’ve seen those ideas percolate through the industry.

      I think the author’s complaint is about both the gameplay and the design aesthetic. AAA games are pretty lackluster at both, esp when it comes to replayability and how well the games age.

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        When everything is highly-detailed, screenshots may look very good, but gameplay suffers because the player can no longer tell what’s important.

        While I get his point, I think the sameness is actually an advantage for certain types of multiplayer gameplay. I haven’t played Call of Duty much, but the environmental sameness makes camouflage and surprise much more frequent in multiplayer games. (At least in my experience.)

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          I understand, but disagree. For me, a great deal of the fun in Fallout 3 was finding the occasional important detail. I always got a kick out of a character in one settlement making off hand remarks about other characters. Even more so in Oblivion/Skyrim where it sometimes resulted in “buggy” behavior. A character you need for a quest wandered into the woods and was eaten by a bear? Oh well, guess you’re not doing that quest. That’s life.

          This arguments here work if you approach a game as a thing that needs to be done. Shoot the monster, click the switch, step on the plate of win. Fallout certainly contains a lot of distractions, but that’s why I like it. It’s fun to wander around without the relentless focus on next task, next task, next next next.

          Which leads me to some things I found confusing. Doom is great because sometimes you can find a secret door that lets you depart from the single track map? But Fallout 3 is bad because it lets you explore outside? It’s a strange argument that Fallout 3 is bad because you can’t do literally everything you want (get into a car, etc.) but Doom is a great game because you can’t do anything. The enemies in Fallout 3 are pretty well identified. If you wanted to play it straight through just like Doom, shooting all the baddies, next next next, you can certainly do that.

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            So, I think a better comparison for Fallout 3 would be to Fallout New Vegas–substantially the same tech, much of the same canon even, but two different takes on how to tell the story and design the mechanics of the game. Fallout 4 was a huge disappointment to me (after 176 hours) because non of my actions or machinations really mattered in the story, and I didn’t even get an after-action summary of what happened to the people or places I’d interacted with: something that is a hallmark of the series going all the way back to the first game!

            I think the reason that Doom gets lauded for that exploration but FO3 doesn’t is that in Doom the levels are pretty much “find keys, find switches, go to exit” but they still have useful secrets in addition to the normal exploration. In FO3/FO4, the secrets are more like easter eggs, weird little side things in a world that tells you exactly where to go with the quest markers.

            If you want an unfair comparison (because frankly the graphics and the actual game narratives are completely different between them), compare FO3/FO4 with FO, FO2, or Arcanum. Bad graphics (by today’s standards certainly), but no hand-holding for better or worse, and no hinting how dialogue will effect things. You have to use your head. The newer games are a lot less demanding of players, because they tell you what to do and where to go and how people will react to what you say. FO4’s use of the conversation wheel, for example, is goddamn travesty in a series that used to put great emphasis on talking through problems.

            Have you played any of the STALKER games, by any chance? I found those to be really enjoyable just to wander around in and explore, because the worlds felt much more alive and less set-piecey than the newer Fallouts.

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              Maybe. I found exploration in doom pretty boring. It consists of running along every wall and hammering space. Is that fun?

              Sometimes I think the map markers in FO3 are too easy. But I’ve decided I like games that help me out. The fun was never not knowing where to go. Maybe it’s a poor compromise, but if it means I never get stuck pojnding my head against the wall for ten hours, I’m ok not using my head otherwise.