FiringSquad Editors Challenge Round...
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| What About The Gameplay? (3 comments )|
by: Heavy_Storm (4) | Posted in cluster FiringSquad Editors Challenge Round 1 Prelim 2
Posted 76 months ago ( edited 76 months ago ) in category DEFAULT
What about the Gameplay?
|» MEDIA (4)|
Shadow Of The Colossus
Games have evolved a lot. Thirty years ago, you would move a vertical bar up and down on a screen to hit a ball (which was a white square). Today, you can talk on your microphone with VOIP, use a large number of function keys to perform many different actions and even move a small stick around to see that movement mimicked on the screen. You can buy equipment on eBay, or sell what your online avatar has got to make some dollars.
And, of course, there are graphics. From the white square we have come to astonishing images like those of the new Unreal Tournament, the glare effects in Half-Life II and the fluid animation on games like Shadow of the Colossus. We are nearing perfect world realization in games – everything looks as real as it gets. Smokes are simulated as particles and even sweat can be seen in next gen games.
Now there are real physics dynamics that can even be scary. You starting shooting on Max Paine and, while you watch rag doll enabled characters fly around, you can also see part of the background moving and disintegrating under your bullets. This adds to the feeling of depth and immersion that is required to bring a game into the hall of fame.
But, and what about the gameplay? Sure, time and technology has changed the way we play games. Less than twenty years ago, you moved a small ship sideways on a screen and keep pushing the single button on your pad to keep the invaders from hitting the ground. Today, you crouch, you climb, you choose from a collection of weapons. On games like Worlds of Warcraft, you choose clothing, equipment and even spend talents, which are a way to improve your hero.
(Img. 1) 20 years ago, all you did was frenetically hit a single button on your pad.
So, yeah, gameplay has changed. The question, however, is: how much? We’ve come from that white square to amazing lighting effects and life-like models. Where we had scripted events, now there’s real physics simulation. Even AI has improved a lot: enemies and such follow human behavioral patterns, while in the beginning all they did was shoot or attack in exact intervals. And when it comes to gameplay, we have come from the pressing of a single button to pressing six, eight, or maybe all the 102 keys in our board. We moved sideways in the past, and now games present a full 3D space to the player for exploration. Before, the only decision you made was which enemy to attack first, and now you must choose where to spend characters points, which guild to join, which path to follow.
However, half of those changes come from advancements in other areas. 3D space is more a graphical enhancement than a gameplay one. Dealing with better AI is, of course, AI improvement. Pressing more buttons isn’t that different from pressing a single one and character evolving in RPG or games that have RPG elements comes from Pen & Paper RPG, which are very old. All these are engineering improvements, improvements that come from research or from better hardware (that enable programmers to do stuff in real-time that weren’t possible before). But gaming is a form of art.
Producers have been, for some years now, taking less and less risks. The reason is simple, and has a lot more to do with business and marketing than with games themselves: costs have reached the sixth zero digit when you count in the advertising and selling efforts. So, if a title is known to sell, you go ahead and do it. But if you can’t be sure, you are talking about US$ 5 mi or more; enough to make you back out. And art is a risky business. Look at Black & White. Although the game has a number of die-hard fans, it was a commercial failure (even more if you take into consideration that Populous designer was the genius behind it). It took Lionhead many years to create the game, and it probably cost millions to get it done. After all that effort, a loss is taken very seriously. That is the reason why some gamers believe that, from Atari to the 16 bits era, games had more originality than nowadays. Indeed, it was possible to try out new stuff without risking bankruptcy.
Technology isn’t necessary to make revolutions in gameplay. The Sims is a proof of that: It’s a very different kind of game, and none of it comes directly from technology. Sure, in the Atari age it would be impossible to make such a game, but that doesn’t mean that it is over-dependant in graphics or other tech related areas. FEAR, however, is an example of that. Take out the AI and the great graphics, and you have a Wolfenstein replica. The only new thing is Bullet Time, and that appeared in a number of previous games. And worse, that also destroys the gameplay, because when you slow down time, the AI becomes dumber than the crocodiles in Pitfall.
Games like Shadow Of The Colossus bring unique gameplay to players. In this case, the gamer objective is to climb (most of the time) on a massive creature (the colossus) and find his weak spots. It is very diverse from the usual 3rd person exploring game, because is has a single objective, but the way you reach it is the great challenge.
(Img. 2) In Shadow Of The Colossus, the gamer has to climb giant creatures
The disbelievers must remember how they missed Half-Life II when playing Quake IV. Sure, the latter has marvelous graphics and sounds, but what really made us keep playing HL2 was Antlions “guns”, the possibility to grab a razor with the gravity gun and send it to cut an enemy head off and the spectacular vehicles stages (whether it was the car or the boat).
Roller Coaster Tycoon, the first one, is another example of how we long for better gameplay experience. The game wasn’t even innovating (it was, pretty much, “Theme Park revamped”), and when the first title came out, it was a 2D game during a 3D revolution, a black sheep. And still, the game sold out many copies and proved to be a success.
Don’t get me wrong here. I love the way we play games. I like to push that small red button on my pad a thousand times each minute, and get over-excited when I have to study where to spend the hard-earned experience point in a RPG (be it MMO or not), but I think that some things could be done to change the overall experience. Puzzling in games is almost a luxury now. You hardly ever have the once hated learning curve. Usually, you just sit and play. Some of the players may think that’s perfect, but I believe that learning new stuff when starting a new game is really fun.
There are exceptions, of course. Will Wright’s new Spore game is revolutionary. It has a lot of Sim City elements, Civilization and even The Sims built-in, but the designer was bold enough to present many new stuff, and to combine a lot of old stuff. The mechanics, so far, seem very simple. Click here and there to move your character, use a menu to select and buy stuff, but the game is innovating and – probably, since it isn’t out yet – just fun to play.
(Img. 3)Featuring a lot of technology, Spores proves that our main interest still is gameplay
And who’s to blame but ourselves? We love Quake so much that many people will rant about any different title that tries to do things differently. Open your browser in your favorite game related page, and there will be a lot of articles talking how good are the graphics in that new Command & Conquer clone, or how impressive is the AI on that online shooter. We are skeptical, and hate changing. The only problem is: we also are bored from the lack of it.
(Img. 4) Very simple and yet innovative gameplay makes Zuma one of the best games ever
If Wii succeed in getting Nintendo back to the top, there might still be hope. To make a good Wii title, designers and programmers will have to deal with worse hardware (when compared to top computers and last generation consoles) and create smart ways to use the gyroscope gamepad. Gaming on Wii has only to be fun; it doesn’t have to impress us with graphics, physics or AI.
In time, there might be a gaming revolution. Most likely, it has already begun with Wii and some titles. Producers will realize that having a hot-shot write a nice story and the best programmers money can hire will not be enough. The concurrence is getting tighter, people are able to choose from more titles and gaming is becoming more popular. Since prices are on the rise, we’ll spend more time choosing which title to buy.
So, next time you are tired of Quake, remember to respect the few titles out there that tries to do new stuff, and avoid the technology hype by buying and playing some underdogs and indie games.
|3 User Comment(s) • 3 root comment(s)|
| Droniac (114) Feb 26, 2007 - 12:59 pm|
|Heavy Storm... Black & White wasn't a commercial failure. It sold well over 2 million copies and was a huge financial success for Lionhead. It just scored really low & disappointed a lot of people - still, it was undeniably a huge financial success.|
No if you really want to quote a game that had massive potential, was totally original, scored incredibly high in the press and was extremely enjoyable - but fell flat on it's face because no one bought it... then talk about games like Sacrifice or better yet: Messiah... (coincidentally both games were from the same developer)
Shiny published two incredibly innovative, beautiful & enjoyable games called Messiah and Sacrifice around the year 2000. Both games scored incredibly high in the press and received masses of praises from fans. Yet neither of them sold well.
Just a few years later, Shiny releases a horrible game, loaded with bugs due to a pushed release, sub-par graphics, poor gameplay, not innovative in ANY way, low ratings in the press and loathed by fans... yet it was a MASSIVE commercial success, because it's name was Enter the Matrix - and that sold.
Now that's one heck of an example to use in an article like this ;)
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