Author Topic: Thoughts on Gaming (Trends Pt two)  (Read 13901 times)

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Offline Turnsky

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Thoughts on Gaming (Trends Pt two)
okay, after much thought, particularly on the glut of WW2 based games out there, i've come to the conclusion that Game companies, Barring Bungie, valve, and a handful of other developers, are neglecting imaginative settings in favor of "Real World*" settings, case in point with the battlefield, call of duty, and the medal of honor series of games.
My feeling of this is that while other developers try (and maybe fail) at making a story or setting set in the future, alternate history or whatnot, the ones that make real war based games don't even try at all, and rip it straight out of a history book, and just concentrate on trying to get the "Feel" right. The Thing is, War is War, and it wouldn't matter if you're toting about a BFG, or a M1 Garand, if you get an Epic feeling into it, it might make all the difference between people seeing "a cool war game" or "yet ANOTHER WW2 game"
i mean, Killzone's early missions got it right, so why can't other developers?
It begins to feel the same after a while when you feel as though you're fighting the entire war all by yourself, and games shouldn't do that, really.
on another note, World War 2 wasn't the only war on this planet, and there's always alternate histories to play around with (see Iron Storm)
Hell, World War 2 set in the crimson skies universe would be a hoot.

alls i'm saying is, there's more out there to draw inspiration from than just a history textbook. :nod:

*Real world, meaning about as real as a reality television show.
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Offline Fineus

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Re: Thoughts on Gaming (Trends Pt two)
Quite so!

As you say, it's very easy (well, more straightforward) to refer to the hundreds of texts on events past and model the game on them using photos, news reels, props and even trips to the area - the result is a very real feeling but generally unoriginal game.

That said, is originality necessary for enjoyment?

I enjoyed Medal of Honor, I really did. It might have been based on real world events that have already happened but that made it no less fun to play. If anything the joy of WW2 based games is  that you probably learnt about the events in a history class in school or heard the stories from a relative or something.. these events have a very real presence in the world.

On the other hand, a world like Halos etc. takes a lot more effort to create convincingly. You're not just creating a game - you're creating a world for that game. It's like writing a book for the purposes of making a movie - you have to feed a lot more information into it to get a wholesome outcome. That said, when you do get an outcome it can be much much more rewarding. Considering a graphics engine can display quite literally anything a games company is capable of doing with it, there's a lot of potential there.

However the risk of alienating the user by creating a world that they can't identify with is a danger - and a game that doesn't suceed will not only go down as a bad game but an unaccessable game.

On the subject of (in war games) being a lone rambo type charachter - I think a lot of that is down to game engines of the period. Untill now we simply haven't had enough power to create a good looking world with a lot of NPCs (on both sides) inhabiting it. To act convincingly these NPCs need code to make them work for/against the player and for/against themselves as well depending on your own actions and theirs. That's a lot more work than simply coding an enemy that only fights the player, or a scripted sequence between NPCs. More and more though (Call of Duty etc.) we're seeing squads of soldiers going against eachother in a more realistic fashion.

Who knows, perhaps some day soon we'll see a WW2 game that's so definitive that it totally dominates the genre for some time to come - and other games developers will be forced to put their efforts elsewhere as they simply cannot match its WW2 presence.

 

Offline Turnsky

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Re: Thoughts on Gaming (Trends Pt two)
Quite so!

As you say, it's very easy (well, more straightforward) to refer to the hundreds of texts on events past and model the game on them using photos, news reels, props and even trips to the area - the result is a very real feeling but generally unoriginal game.

That said, is originality necessary for enjoyment?

I enjoyed Medal of Honor, I really did. It might have been based on real world events that have already happened but that made it no less fun to play. If anything the joy of WW2 based games is  that you probably learnt about the events in a history class in school or heard the stories from a relative or something.. these events have a very real presence in the world.

On the other hand, a world like Halos etc. takes a lot more effort to create convincingly. You're not just creating a game - you're creating a world for that game. It's like writing a book for the purposes of making a movie - you have to feed a lot more information into it to get a wholesome outcome. That said, when you do get an outcome it can be much much more rewarding. Considering a graphics engine can display quite literally anything a games company is capable of doing with it, there's a lot of potential there.

However the risk of alienating the user by creating a world that they can't identify with is a danger - and a game that doesn't suceed will not only go down as a bad game but an unaccessable game.

On the subject of (in war games) being a lone rambo type charachter - I think a lot of that is down to game engines of the period. Untill now we simply haven't had enough power to create a good looking world with a lot of NPCs (on both sides) inhabiting it. To act convincingly these NPCs need code to make them work for/against the player and for/against themselves as well depending on your own actions and theirs. That's a lot more work than simply coding an enemy that only fights the player, or a scripted sequence between NPCs. More and more though (Call of Duty etc.) we're seeing squads of soldiers going against eachother in a more realistic fashion.

Who knows, perhaps some day soon we'll see a WW2 game that's so definitive that it totally dominates the genre for some time to come - and other games developers will be forced to put their efforts elsewhere as they simply cannot match its WW2 presence.

true enough, look at wolfenstein though, it doesn't take -that- much of a stretch to add a definitive twist to the tale, sometimes all you need to do to make a game 'feel' original is to add a unique element to it.
and yes, whilst we didn't have the technology previously, it didn't stop the first call of duty (which had all the provision to have large scale squad combat) from using 'lone wolf' tactics in the latter british missions.
Quake 4 woulda benefited greatly from larger use of squad combat, although it was cool in its own right, Halo, etc, etc.

back to originality, here's an example, Take one WW2 game, Add zombies, and voila!, something somewhat different.  not a teriffic example, mind you, but it gets my point across. The trick would be executing it right, of course.
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Offline aldo_14

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Re: Thoughts on Gaming (Trends Pt two)
I thought Wolfenstein was one of the most boring and dull games I've ever had the misfortune to play.

 

Offline Turnsky

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Re: Thoughts on Gaming (Trends Pt two)
I thought Wolfenstein was one of the most boring and dull games I've ever had the misfortune to play.

maybe so, Aldo, but it -was- set in WW2, but yet it used various elements that set it apart from the other WW2 games that came later on.

i was merely using it as an example.
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Offline aldo_14

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Re: Thoughts on Gaming (Trends Pt two)
I thought Wolfenstein was one of the most boring and dull games I've ever had the misfortune to play.

maybe so, Aldo, but it -was- set in WW2, but yet it used various elements that set it apart from the other WW2 games that came later on.

i was merely using it as an example.

Set it apart by being ****, though.  RTCW was, as far as I'm concerned, nothing more than a mish-mash of tepid cliches that made it wholly unremarkable.  I think we need to look for genuine innovation - and I don't think Nazi Zombies achieves that any more than, say, Nazi Aliens or Alien Zombies (like the Flood, who are a good example of screwing up a great concept.... we have swarms of drones, very exciting, and then suddenly end up with... space zombies).

 

Offline Fineus

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Re: Thoughts on Gaming (Trends Pt two)
You do have a point though Turnsky.. what's to stop us placing you (the player) as a member of a squad in the British invasion force at Normandy. Your squad gets separated and lost in the northern French farmland. You come across a small deserted town and are promptly attacked by zombies/nazis etc. and uncover a vast Nazi effort to genetically improve humans etc.

Heck, you could forward this to modern day. As part of a secret group of amateur paranormal entheusiasts in America you get sent into (what turns out to be) an Area 51 type installation (think something like where Stargate is based or something). You sneak inside via stealth etc. and slowly uncover a twisty conspiracy to rival an X-Files story. All the weapons are based on the real thing etc. but you're shown just a little inventivness in the process.

 

Offline Turnsky

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Re: Thoughts on Gaming (Trends Pt two)
You do have a point though Turnsky.. what's to stop us placing you (the player) as a member of a squad in the British invasion force at Normandy. Your squad gets separated and lost in the northern French farmland. You come across a small deserted town and are promptly attacked by zombies/nazis etc. and uncover a vast Nazi effort to genetically improve humans etc.

Heck, you could forward this to modern day. As part of a secret group of amateur paranormal entheusiasts in America you get sent into (what turns out to be) an Area 51 type installation (think something like where Stargate is based or something). You sneak inside via stealth etc. and slowly uncover a twisty conspiracy to rival an X-Files story. All the weapons are based on the real thing etc. but you're shown just a little inventivness in the process.

precisely, hell you could have such events not to have anything to DO with nazis, just having them caught in the middle of something ancient and insidious, there's so many ways one could add a different twist to what's turning out to be an increasingly bland genre of gaming.
like, you could add something downright lovecraftian to the mix, or even go the route of doom, and so forth, and as you said, the area 51 type dealie (there was such a game, "area 51", main character was voiced by David Duchovony, ironically enough), i personally wish the talented developers would step off the bandwagon for once and do something that's even a little bit different.
Even adding something as creepy and psychological like from "FEAR" would work, too, especially if you had squad mates among you, just to see their fear to add further depth to the whole thing.

Aldo, i was using it as an -example-, i thought it was bland, too. Grey matter Development failed in the execution of what could've been rather fun, but since they were also following a bit of a legacy by way of Wolf3d, as with comedy, or a concept of something, it's all in the execution.
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Offline aldo_14

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Re: Thoughts on Gaming (Trends Pt two)
Aldo, i was using it as an -example-, i thought it was bland, too. Grey matter Development failed in the execution of what could've been rather fun, but since they were also following a bit of a legacy by way of Wolf3d, as with comedy, or a concept of something, it's all in the execution.

Yeah, but it's indicative of the whole problem of 'originality'.  Conspiracy-in-secret-base isn't original, really; original is leading a batallion of genetically modified vegetable soldiers across a blamange battlefield to fight an interplanetary was against an army of dinosaurs.  We're still defining originality as a series of cultural 'touchpoint' mix-and-matches rather than genuinely new ideas; grabbing settings that exist and giving them a 'twist' rather than creating all new settings.  That's my criticism of originality; generally speaking, it's not.

 

Offline Turnsky

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Re: Thoughts on Gaming (Trends Pt two)
Aldo, i was using it as an -example-, i thought it was bland, too. Grey matter Development failed in the execution of what could've been rather fun, but since they were also following a bit of a legacy by way of Wolf3d, as with comedy, or a concept of something, it's all in the execution.

Yeah, but it's indicative of the whole problem of 'originality'.  Conspiracy-in-secret-base isn't original, really; original is leading a batallion of genetically modified vegetable soldiers across a blamange battlefield to fight an interplanetary was against an army of dinosaurs.  We're still defining originality as a series of cultural 'touchpoint' mix-and-matches rather than genuinely new ideas; grabbing settings that exist and giving them a 'twist' rather than creating all new settings.  That's my criticism of originality; generally speaking, it's not.

a fair cop.

maybe adding "element X" to the mix might not be the right way to go, we've seen 'ubersoldier' blah blah blah, Timeshift looks interesting, and so on, i mean, the problem is, that since developers don't seem to be willing to produce anything other than what's currently on the bandwagon, and while nazi zombie pirate ninjas might be the ultimate of clichè's, and conspiracies, etc, it'd still be different than what we've seen currently on the shelves, while i'd LOVE to see something truely original (Bioshock FTW), a Twist in the tale, while not completely original, would be refreshing enough for some people to not see just one more WW2 game.
Heck, you could take the splinter cell concept and apply it to a WW2 game, and it'd be different. not original, but different, you see my point, here?.

i think we can mostly blame the big publishers for these kinds of things (activision, EA), as they seem to only want a quick moneyspinner to satisfy the crowd, and not to satisfy original, creative thinking that makes games that are unique in their own right.
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Offline aldo_14

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Re: Thoughts on Gaming (Trends Pt two)
Aldo, i was using it as an -example-, i thought it was bland, too. Grey matter Development failed in the execution of what could've been rather fun, but since they were also following a bit of a legacy by way of Wolf3d, as with comedy, or a concept of something, it's all in the execution.

Yeah, but it's indicative of the whole problem of 'originality'.  Conspiracy-in-secret-base isn't original, really; original is leading a batallion of genetically modified vegetable soldiers across a blamange battlefield to fight an interplanetary was against an army of dinosaurs.  We're still defining originality as a series of cultural 'touchpoint' mix-and-matches rather than genuinely new ideas; grabbing settings that exist and giving them a 'twist' rather than creating all new settings.  That's my criticism of originality; generally speaking, it's not.

a fair cop.

maybe adding "element X" to the mix might not be the right way to go, we've seen 'ubersoldier' blah blah blah, Timeshift looks interesting, and so on, i mean, the problem is, that since developers don't seem to be willing to produce anything other than what's currently on the bandwagon, and while nazi zombie pirate ninjas might be the ultimate of clichè's, and conspiracies, etc, it'd still be different than what we've seen currently on the shelves, while i'd LOVE to see something truely original (Bioshock FTW), a Twist in the tale, while not completely original, would be refreshing enough for some people to not see just one more WW2 game.
Heck, you could take the splinter cell concept and apply it to a WW2 game, and it'd be different. not original, but different, you see my point, here?.

i think we can mostly blame the big publishers for these kinds of things (activision, EA), as they seem to only want a quick moneyspinner to satisfy the crowd, and not to satisfy original, creative thinking that makes games that are unique in their own right.

Bioshock is exactly the type of thing we need/want, indeed.  I think sometimes developers do have original ideas, then step back and run away from them, sometimes.  Like, take the world seen in HL2, but rather than a linear and rather straight shooter-with-zombies, spin it to be a tale of surviving within the shadows of a dystopia formenting a rebellion. 

Of course, let's not forget the likes of Spore or Electroplankton, I guess.

 

Offline Turnsky

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Re: Thoughts on Gaming (Trends Pt two)


Bioshock is exactly the type of thing we need/want, indeed.  I think sometimes developers do have original ideas, then step back and run away from them, sometimes.  Like, take the world seen in HL2, but rather than a linear and rather straight shooter-with-zombies, spin it to be a tale of surviving within the shadows of a dystopia formenting a rebellion. 

Of course, let's not forget the likes of Spore or Electroplankton, I guess.

Hl2's a good example of originality, particularly the new episodic content, i think it's a good way to go for such a thing, since they can release one chunk, guage the fan reaction, tweak it to suit, and so on, i haven't forgotten spore, either.

herin lies the issue, though, while these are original, there isn't enough originality out there, i mean, a while ago, we all saw psychonauts (at least you guys did, i have yet to lay eyes on it), touted as truely original, and yet, we haven't heard a peep out of their developers since.
Interplay, in its heyday was host to some really unique games, Giants, Fallout, baldur's gate, Freespace, while not really, really, original since xwing was about, it was refreshing and different enough in scale to be a sleeper hit, just didn't sell all that well.
of course, when you do original, you gotta do it right, there's been a great many of "different" games out there that got a lukewarm reception from the gaming community, or after releasting a unique, refreshing game, the developer goes bust trying to release another title (see Troika development, whom, after releasing Arcanum, developed Vampire: bloodlines, and soon went bust).

also, you don't see enough of a follow-through of what could've been a really good franchise, Take Freelancer, Starlancer, and even crimson skies, for instance, both really nice concepts, but wasn't given a chance to really follow through with a 'proper' sequel (i don't count "CS: high road to revenge" a sequel) to fix whatever flaws it would've had in its first iteration (with the lancers, it was more of an issue of ship scale, and since the devs went bust/assimilated by MS, no more from them), etc.
the Star-Trek: Bridge commander was another good concept with fairly 'meh' execution, just not followed through correctly.

all this talk about devs has reminded me of something i've thought about in the past, since "Halo 3" is gonna be Bungie's final in that franchise, what are they gonna do after that?.. keep going with that franchise?, or Resurrect the "Oni" franchise from gaming limbo?, etc
« Last Edit: August 22, 2006, 04:32:07 am by Turnsky »
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Offline Fineus

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Re: Thoughts on Gaming (Trends Pt two)
herin lies the issue, though, while these are original, there isn't enough originality out there, i mean, a while ago, we all saw psychonauts (at least you guys did, i have yet to lay eyes on it), touted as truely original, and yet, we haven't heard a peep out of their developers since.
I've a theory behind that. Just because something is heralded as original, doesn't always mean it's welcome. Originality and "fun to play" do not necessarily come packaged with eachother - an original game can still be ****e - even if the basis is good.

I'll be honest, I don't think Half Life 2 has pushed the boundaries as much as it could. Look at the original of the series - Half Life. You saw all sorts of... well... everything really. There were bunkers, bases, train lines, science labs, reactors, military installations, rocket launch pads and the rest. And on top of all that they had an underlying storyline linking this massive linear yet well formulated setting together. As you travelled through Black Mesa you could look back and actually think "bloody hell, that was ages ago" - and actually feel physically distanced from where you've been already.  Half Life 2 lacks an element of that variety for me as you spend most of your time in City 17 and the Citadel. Ravens Holm was a great break in this as you were suddenly out of the delapidated and (mostly) identical city and in a mostly destroyed, boarded up town. It was a noticable change in variety as you used to get in Half Life.

For me, Half Life is still very much a benchmark for immersion. From the word "go" you are  Gordon Freeman. You're shoved into that charachter and there you stay for the whole damn time... seeing what Gordon sees and going through the motions. It's you that causes the resonance cascade - and when the confusion kicks off you already know your place in the world as a scientist in a secret facility that suddenly opened a door to another realm.

Half Life 2 (and so many other games) make the mistake of not explaining who you are and immersing yourself in the storyline before letting you go. I spent a good portion of HL2 thinking "I know who I am.. but what the hell is this place and how did things come to be this way?". I get that part of the storyline sees you torn out of Black Mesa and placed in holding for further use by G-Man etc. (apparently) but there felt like little real involvement in the process.

 

Offline aldo_14

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Re: Thoughts on Gaming (Trends Pt two)
HL2 was artistically emotive, but emotive of things we've already seen; name any post-apocalyptic movie or book and you 'see' (depending on context) the same scenes.

 

Offline Turnsky

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Re: Thoughts on Gaming (Trends Pt two)
i've been under the general opinion for the longest time that Valve tried to cover very sloppy storytelling with the whole "you know as much as gordon knows" pitch.

the game had gaping plot holes the likes of which i've never seen before, oh SURE you could LOOK at the various noteboards, etc. For example, i was able to ascertain that anywhere between 10-15 or so years are missing between HL1 and HL2, which fails to explain absolutely everything beyond the 7-hour war and ****.

Aldo, Setting has nothing to do with originality, you name it, it's been thought of before, i'd wager,
There's Post-Apoc
Pre-apoc
Steampunk
Cyberpunk
Fantasy
Future
Modern
Historical
all-of-the-above.
the list goes on, really. What matters most, is that one makes the best use of that setting, and create your own version of it. and thus making something really original.

of course, City 17 in its own right is your typical beat-up old soviet era city, buildings falling apart from years of neglect, and so on, so you have a point there.
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Offline aldo_14

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Re: Thoughts on Gaming (Trends Pt two)


Aldo, Setting has nothing to do with originality, you name it, it's been thought of before, i'd wager,

Even blancmange world?

 

Offline Turnsky

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Aldo, Setting has nothing to do with originality, you name it, it's been thought of before, i'd wager,

Even blancmange world?

there is loco-roco, your character is some kinda jelly-blob thing, so close enough.
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Offline aldo_14

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Re: Thoughts on Gaming (Trends Pt two)


Aldo, Setting has nothing to do with originality, you name it, it's been thought of before, i'd wager,

Even blancmange world?

there is loco-roco, your character is some kinda jelly-blob thing, so close enough.

I'll take that as a 'no', then :p

But I'm still seeing a complete lack of truly original ideas being put forward, at the same time.  Even Bioshock is itself seemingly part of a 'haunted house' style scenario as in SShock.  I'm beginning to think the narrative shortcomings of gaming prevent true originality, actually.

 

Offline Fineus

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Re: Thoughts on Gaming (Trends Pt two)
But I'm still seeing a complete lack of truly original ideas being put forward, at the same time.  Even Bioshock is itself seemingly part of a 'haunted house' style scenario as in SShock.  I'm beginning to think the narrative shortcomings of gaming prevent true originality, actually.
Find me an original film in the last few years then? The plethora of horror movies we've seen released that all follow the cliched haunted house/girl posessed/mad children type thing has been done to death... so much so infact that I now find new horror movies to be boring and predictable rather than even slightly frightening or amusing.

Perhaps we should work out what kind of originality we'd like to see. Would a simple twist on an old formula surfice, or do we demand complete originality in all aspects of a game? Black and White was supposed to be original but looking at it, it's very similar to your usual RTS; build up a base, gather resources, send your units (creature) out to fight and power up the uber-killing stuff (miracles). Again, Homeworld was deemed original and considering its controls it was - but its core RTS gameplay followed the same premise as above.

F.E.A.R? Half Life? Far Cry? All with original elements but ultimately you can follow them back to something older.

What then is a truly original game? How original does it have to be to be deemed "innovative"? Do you have to achieve a certain level of originality to have a good game, or can you be entirely unoriginal but put a slight twist on an old story?

 

Offline aldo_14

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Re: Thoughts on Gaming (Trends Pt two)
Wasn't Being John Malkovitch considered quite original?  (as something that jumps to mind)

All i'm saying is, let's not confuse a cosmetic, minor change or transient novelty with actual real originality and uniqueness.