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  1. #1
    Enigma Nadir's Avatar
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    Default The Video Game Industry

    I've been involved with video games from a very young age. I've spent obscene amounts of time on them. Played them, loved them, modded them too (Red Alert was my first <3). But these last few years have witnessed my interest waning. I still play games, but no particularly "new" ones. I'm just not interested.

    My opinion is that the video game industry is becoming stale, and this is reflected in the games as well. Longer development cycles, higher expenses, big fish eating small fish, and a definite inclination towards graphics rather than gameplay - these are what I'm observing. There's a distinct lack of originality - sure, there have always been genres, but the rehashing is completely commonplace by now. Graphics are the main attractions, the most distinctive feature of today's games - gameplay is secondary, tailored to match the grandeur of the graphics or other immersive aspects such as physics. (And no, it hasn't been this way since the beginning.) For instance - Bioshock is a great game, but how is System Shock 2, released in, like, 1999, any less good? One could even argue the contrary.

    Maybe I'm just not seeing it, but, another example - a classic like Freespace 2, a space sim released in 2000, remains unbeaten. Why? Because there's no alternative (admittedly, Freelancer was good, but it was more like an arcade game than a true space sim). Possible alternatives can not, would not be able to sell as much as say, games like Crysis. And when they can't do that, the expenses remain unaccounted for, and developers go bankrupt. (Black Isle, Troika, Microprose, Ion Storm would be a few examples) So what happens? Genres disappear entirely or nearly so. (Adventure games anyone? Aforementioned space sims?) There's a reason why Planescape: Torment (released in late 1999, a RPG which is the favourite game I've played to date) is doomed to the status of a cult classic. It's stellar gameplay's recognition was dampered by its unattractive packaging, backward graphics even then. And since then the bar has sharply risen. (I would like to take a moment to voice my appreciation for exponential functions...) I don't see games like Torment anymore.

    The only game I'm more or less looking forward to nowadays is Spore. It is fortunate to have Will Wright's backing. And it'd better live up to the expectations of innovation placed upon it, or I'm going to be really disappointed. I'm also interested in the work of Introversion Software of UK, as they have been so far truly creative in all their games and been receiving the recognition they deserve.

    Thoughts? :)
    Last edited by Nadir; 03-05-2008 at 03:59 PM.
    Not really.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Noel's Avatar
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    First and foremost: YES! Another gamer 'round these parts!

    Secondly, I agree with you.

    Aside from your exemplary examples, it seems that you favour pc oriented games than console games, no? Cool! In regards to game play, PC Games innovate whereas consoles implement. That's not to say that there are no innovative console games e.g. Katamari Damaci; but for the most part PC Games have more flexibility in terms of new hardware/software/engines to push forward otherwise impossible ideas. E.g. Dedicated graphic cards running in an OS calculating game physics within a game. Since consoles are significantly cheaper than PCs, consoles offer inclusive inexpensive game play whereas PCs offer exclusive expensive game play. Consoles can implement PC games via porting and implement them better into the market due to their availability to everyone. E.g. Halo - The first "epic" fps for the console. As a pc gamer, I couldn't fathom how everyone thought this was the most epic fps game ever made. Deus ex/Half-life/SS2 came to my mind.

    On the other hand, I do admire the limitations consoles have. Since new consoles come out every few years or so, developers have certain restrictions to work with and from that, how can they create a fun, innovative and profitable game? That reminds me of the days of owning a Voodoo 3 for the PC. That graphics card lasted me many years and much like the console example, developers were in the same situation. If everyone has the same limitations, then creating a innovate story sells itself. I'm thinking Lucas Arts puzzle games here.

    But it seems with an increase in technological progress in the PC industry, story can't seem to keep up, if that makes sense. Shiny seems to be more profitable rather than story/replay value. With new hardware comes more software in order to play the newer software. E.g. Rather than just adding support for newer games, GPU drivers optimized existing hardware/drivers significantly - Nvidia Detonator glory days. A perfect example of this is one of my favourite games of all time: Vampire The Masquerade: Bloodlines. It was very shiny (being the first proprietary game using the new source engine), had a GREAT story line/characters/acting/replay value, but it fell flat. Why? Because it was riddled with bugs. Troika forced the game out to coincide with HL2 despite the need for more internal testing.

    But it seemed like Troika didn't have a chance otherwise for its publisher Activision put a great deal of pressure on its release. It seems the real decisions come from the publishers rather than the developers. Game studios seem to either go out of business e.g. black isle or become acquired from larger studios/publishers e.g. Bioware to EA . The much larger companies, like EA, can handle a game that flops whereas smaller companies simply can't - they have to either make an outstanding product or go under. And since the larger companies can suffer from games that flop and have the resources to create more games, then one can infer that larger companies aim towards quantity rather than quality.

  3. #3
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    I think the first game I modded was Freespace. I never got around to playing Freespace 2, because it was impossible to find. I really wish they would eventually come out with Freespace 3.

    Though my favorite space sim is Freelancer. That game desperately needs a sequel. Although the graphics were not great, the game had excellent implementation and presentation, not to mention excellent voice work.

    My dream is a Freelancer 2 that would be like Oblivion in space.

  4. #4
    Enigma Nadir's Avatar
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    Noel -

    Yes, I like computer gaming more than the console variant - I just can't get used to console gaming, I am thinking. And you make a good point about publishers' pressure which I hadn't considered - it is true that they are pushy. I basically agree with the rest, including Bloodlines being great. But the community released how many unofficial patches?

    &#220;berf&#252;hrer -

    I am sure that you can shadily obtain FS2 in some way. It makes FS1 look like a trial version by comparison. Freelancer, like I said, was excellent. Mouse Flight is the best control scheme I've played with, in a sim. Not to mention the ridiculous modding options. Seriously, now I feel like installing it. A sequel would be great.
    Last edited by Nadir; 12-19-2007 at 08:16 AM. Reason: I actually wrote a post.
    Not really.

  5. #5
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    I don't really mod games that much. I'm too impatient to deal with details. I did play around with Cry Engine 2, though.

  6. #6
    Wait, what? Varelse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Uberfuhrer View Post
    My dream is a Freelancer 2 that would be like Oblivion in space.
    Please, no. Oblivion wasn't that good. The levelling world drove me nuts, not to mention the ending of the main plot.
    We are not poets
    We have no right to make amendments

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Varelse View Post
    Please, no. Oblivion wasn't that good. The levelling world drove me nuts, not to mention the ending of the main plot.
    I'm with you there. Didn't really think much of Oblivion, either. But I don't like fantasy games.

    Maybe I should have said Grand Theft Auto in space. Now that'd kick ass!

  8. #8
    Senior Member Rohsiph's Avatar
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    I've been thinking about the state of the video games industry a bit today, having just finished Mass Effect, Half-life 2: Episode 2, and Portal.

    There are problems . . . but there are two solutions: poke around hard enough and there are plenty of independent game designers pumping out sophisticated designs (albeit with generally poor presentations, at least compared to the big boys), or wait long enough for the mainstays to release their perfected works. There's a lot of dross to wade through, and keeping up with industry news requires wading through it . . . but it's not a hopeless situation.

    Read recent interviews with famous Western developers, and all of them are aware of the need to move out of the glam over game tendency the publishers have been pushing. The industry legends get to do what they want, for the most part--like Will Wright, but also Sid Meier, Warren Spector, and, well, everyone at Valve.

    As a player, the industry is very healthy. As a prospective designer . . . well, with any creative industry, there's three immediate options: make something incredible by yourself, work on something showing off your talents to get picked up by the legends, or be happy making slop for the exoteric.

    This is no golden age for the industry . . . but it's even further from an elegiac time.

  9. #9
    Protocol Droid Athenian200's Avatar
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    I think games started going downhill around the time they went 3-D, however I'm always able to find good ones among all the trash. Actually, come to think of it, they're likely making about the same amount of good games that they always were, it's just that they're now mixed in with so many more lousy ones that it's harder to find them. Does that make sense?

  10. #10
    RETIRED CzeCze's Avatar
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    I disagree that the gaming industry has gone stale. I guess it depends on what you define as 'industry'. With gaming becoming more mainstream and technology becoming more accessible (or maybe just more geeks are being born ) there are tons of niche markets and games opening up. Online gaming is HUGE and people who don't consider themselves 'gamers' subscribe to sites like BigFish and play those arcade style games. And a lot more women game now.

    The biggest breakthrough in gaming IMHO has been the rise of immersive god games and huge MMORP..G..s?, that's kinda what gaming for me is about no limits within limits. The Sims really opened up gaming for everyone. And personally, I'll admit it, I love simulation games: dating simulation, child rearing simulation, talent management simulation, business simulation, etc. They've come A LONG way since Oregon Trail.

    And music games have gotten better and more interesting as well. There are some freaky horror games that have come out and continue to come out and the freakiness level is directly related to how sophisticated graphics and sound are.

    I'm not really much into 1st person shooters or action games, though I have noticed that game mechanics have gotten a more nuanced in general, like in Assassin.

    I think the issue you may be noticing is more that gaming has really come a long way from the 80s and 90s and now a recognized Industry. And it's a profitable industry. But hand in hand with copy cats and people relying on formula or pretty packaging, it also fuels better games and more diverse gaming.

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