PC Gaming, now and then

Discussion in 'General Gaming and Hardware Forum' started by Edmond Dantès, Aug 5, 2008.

  1. Edmond Dantès

    Edmond Dantès It Wandered In From the Wastes

    Jul 15, 2008
    Now, I’m not that much of an old-timer, I’m ‘just’ 23. But I’ve got a great bottle of whiskey next to me and I’ve got this incredible urge to rant on about ‘the olden days’ like some ancient demented person. So if you got bored from too long conversations in RPG’s, don’t try to read through my brainfarts. Otherwise, thanks for reading. Feel free to add your own nostalgia.

    Remember the times when your hand wasn’t held every step of the way? The time when you had to find out things yourself, when you’d find yourself being slaughtered, amused, surprised while trying to find the way to your quest. Instead of just following the big neon ‘compass’ arrows to your destination while mashing the buttons the game recommends.

    In fact, back then you were forced to find things out yourself because the internet wasn’t as readily available. But hell, it felt great to get through Baldur’s Gate I & II all on your own. You knew you had to leave some things behind, things you couldn’t do because you didn’t count on it, because you couldn’t reach them. But that’s what replay-ability used to be for.

    Partly, the gaming industry ruined this feeling of accomplishment. The other part was us and all our faqs, walkthroughs and whatnot. I know, you can just not look at them. But part of the fun of finding things out was to actually be a bit frustrated, to actually leave some things alone because you didn’t figure them out this run. To actually not become the super-duper-strongest person in the world because you just couldn’t do everything. To actually struggle a bit. Now, with games holding my hands left and right and often even driving me forwards like I’m not just old and demented but also disabled, patience wears thin with the olden ways. I less and less appreciate this ‘finding things out yourselves’ and more and more associate it with unnecessary hassle. But this hassle was a secret formula to a rewarding fun experience.

    When you played the first time through Thief on expert setting, when you went through Hitman without killing any civilians, when you played through Baldur’s Gate II on a higher difficulty setting, all without using a faq, or a walkthrough, don’t tell me you weren’t proud of yourself. And you still are.

    Nowadays this feeling of accomplishment is being recreated through hard work in the gaming world. These are called MMORPG’s and Achievements. Under a veneer of fun actually lies the making of a second job. But once the fun wears thin you’ve suddenly got all these responsibilities, to your friends, your guild. And while accomplishing stuff through hard work is fun, it just isn’t playing a game anymore. Instead of giving yourself some cool target you wanted to reach (like playing through Deus Ex on realistic without killing) the targets are already set, your creativity bound, and suddenly you’re trying to get all those nasty ‘achievements’. But fun already left the premises, leaving a note telling you to install Planescape Torment.

    And then there’s this development of ‘simpler is better’, entering our world with the instant design-flaw of ‘oh let’s just design for one system and then port from there to the others’. We all know where this ended. The system you design for is the one with the most limitations, because then you won’t have to do any unnecessary work (read: optimize the game).

    And down went the Baldur’s Gate franchise. Don’t get me wrong, Dark Alliance was a somewhat enjoyable experience, but it wasn’t what Baldur’s Gate was all about. Great dialogue, strategic combat, with a lot of atmosphere. Not mindless hack & slash.

    And gone was the detailed world of System Shock 2. I’ve never so happily read the page long description of a packet of crisps while my head was being bashed in by some mutant. I’ve never had so much incentive to play through the game multiple times, weapons expert, psy, harder and harder. Nowadays we have Bioshock. Fun and very atmospheric, yes. But it fails with the detail; it fails at being an RPG. It’s just a very easy, creative shooter.

    And horrible became the Deus Ex franchise. I’m not trying to say that JC Denton had a lot of character, but hell, the young punk they tried to make you play in the second game was simply an insult. Gone were the nice descriptions, enter the ‘new and innovative single ammo-system’, enter the new limitations set by your 'favourite' console. When they say sandbox-gameplay, the dev’s shouldn’t have taken the dimensions literally.

    And now there’s Fallout 3.

    It’s not that all games nowadays aren’t fun anymore; it’s just that they can’t seem to reconcile themselves with how games used to be and build on that premises. It’s as if people used to have fun creating a game, as if they got some satisfaction out of creating a detailed world. Nowadays, when we can’t finish everything in a game on our first walkthrough, get all the ‘achievements’, basically work our way through, it’s as if people associate this with a design flaw.

    Having consequences to your choices has been the holy grail of RPG’ing for a long time I feel. Mostly this was limited because it meant the game-makers would’ve had to do double the work. But entering consequences was always a valiant target. And even if you can’t give real consequences, games should at least give the illusion of a consequence. Hell, it was great to be bad-mouthed by your boss in Deus Ex, to be reminded that you’ve been killing an awful lot of people by your brother. Little things, details. The entire world doesn’t have to change, but give me some NPC’s I can care about in a game, make them complement/criticize me and then give me choices.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m still enjoying myself nowadays playing some games. But games should go back to being more fun and being less of a job, make me care more, be detailed if it fits the setting, and be created while enjoying it, for good old fun.
  2. rcorporon

    rcorporon So Old I'm Losing Radiation Signs

    Jan 31, 2008
    I tend to agree with most of what you posted here.

    Although I'm a tad older than you (29) I have been a gamer since the Atari 2600 arrived.

    I remember when ALL games, not just RPG's were a lot harder than they are today. Today games are significantly easier than they were in the past.

    It's too bad, although, with the expansion of the industry, it seems almost inevitable.
  3. alec

    alec White heterosexual male Orderite

    May 21, 2003
    I agree. Per ruined FO and FO2's magic for me.

    Again I agree. You can just see how much fun the developers must have had whilst creating FO and FO2. You sense it in every little detail, in the Easter Eggs, in the floating text, in everything. Arcanum was the last game I played in which I sensed a similar thing. Everything I played after that felt dull and uninspired.

    I don't. So I gave up. The last game I bought was Titan Quest. Played it for about an hour and then I gave it to a friend. He thought it rocked the kasbah.

    My friends suck.
  4. rcorporon

    rcorporon So Old I'm Losing Radiation Signs

    Jan 31, 2008
    I think that Valve enjoys the process of making a game.

    Portal was one of the most enjoyable games I've played in a while. The humour was simply great, and the level / puzzle design was quite inspired.

    Too bad Valve hates the PS3 :(.
  5. Daimyo

    Daimyo Sonny, I Watched the Vault Bein' Built!

    Oct 26, 2007
    I agree with most of your post, but for me life has changed too and that plays a huge role in things;

    While it felt great to try and fail x 10 before finding a solution back in the day, today it does not hold the same charm. When I was younger - (14-22ish) I had the time to roam around experimenting in games, but now, at 29, with a wife, a job, and trying to stay fit I just don't have the time, and thus, sadly, have to refute to the odd walkthrough or FAQ now and then to make sure the 2 hours I finally set aside for gaming don't feel like a total waste.

    Adding to the irony is the fact that now, with a job and all, I can finally afford all the games I used to have to leave in the shelves, so while I have perhaps 5% of my previously available game time, I probably have 400% more games I'd like to get through and enjoy myself with.

  6. Edmond Dantès

    Edmond Dantès It Wandered In From the Wastes

    Jul 15, 2008
    I definitely have to say that part of what changed wasn't just the games but me as well yes. Time becomes so much more valuable when getting older. Suddenly, when I'm gaming a few hours, I find myself unable to do things planned, like running a few miles, reading up on some good history books for my study, writing my paper. A game suddenly requires a hell of a lot more to keep me from doing important stuff.

    But FAQ's and walkthroughs are so often not used to get further. In my case, I have this tendency to become a completionist, I have to get everything done, or at least as much as possible. This never used to be there, because I knew I couldn't figure everything out.

    Also, I think part of what makes a game great is its tendency not to need a walkthrough. Lately I've been playing through Half Life and Half Life 2 again. I find myself enjoying it immensely. And there pretty much wasn't a single time I had to resort to a walkthrough. Same with more creative games like Psychonauts, or games from some small companies like Dejobaan’s “The Wonderful End of the World” (yes I know it’s a Katamari Damacy clone, but since I can’t get Katamari Damacy, I’m happy with it). They are just an enjoyable experience to play through.
  7. Unkillable Cat

    Unkillable Cat Mildly Dipped

    Jan 5, 2004
    Yes, games have become easier over the years. One of the biggest factors there is that developers identified redundant gameplay elements designed only to frustrate and annoy players and removed them. Examples of this are the countless ways to die in any given Sierra adventure game, games that require hair-fine reflexes to overcome obstacles only to have control interfaces that did not account for hair-fine reflexes, and illogical solutions to puzzles.

    Is anyone still wondering why the Adventure Game genre died? Or why games do not have so many puzzles in them anymore? Here's your answer.

    Of course, todays designers have come up with new redundant gameplay elements designed only to frustrate and annoy players. On-line grindfests, achievements, unremoveable in-game tutorials are just some examples.
  8. Autoduel76

    Autoduel76 Look, Ma! Two Heads!

    May 14, 2007
    As others have pointed out, its not just that the game industry has expanded, but life has dramatically changed for many gamers.

    At 33, now I have a wife and a baby, along with many other responsibilities I didn't have 10 years ago, let alone 25+ years ago when I started gaming.

    Part of "the problem", is that that is something that's true for a growing segment of gamers. Probably more importantly, an even bigger percentage of the game designers have the same life issues.

    Personally, I still like a challenge and, if I get a game I'll play it on the hardest settings (when possible). But, I know many others do not. And, when it comes to things like PC upgrades, driver updates, compatible video cards and such, I found myself taking the path of "no thanks, I'll just stick to the Xbox 360).

    And I'm not somebody without any PC knowledge. Hell, I'm the IT manager at the company I work for and much of my time at work is spent upgrading PCs. I just have no desire to spend any time fiddlin with it in my ever decreasing spare time.

    With not having as much time, the very first thing to go was my desire to play any kind of game mods, or anything. And the second thing to go was any desire to play any online games. I can't even squeeze in enough time to finish all the single player games that I want to, I'm not going to bother playing them again with various mods, or in various online modes, after I've played them once.

    And those two things are about the only real benefit, IMO, to PC gaming over the consoles anymore. So, I haven't upgraded my home PC (with anything other than some things I need for work) in a few years and have played almost everything on the Xbox 360.

    So you can go ahead and blame people like me for the increase of focus on the console market over PCs.

    Now, as for the difficulty of games...well thats been decreasing since day 1. Not to be offensive, but since you're 23, you are the "kids" that I was the one blaming for ruining the difficulty of my gaming 10 years ago. Ironic, No? Not meant as an insult, I just find the vicious cycle amusing.

    Lets see. The Coleco vision was my first home gaming experience followed shortly by an Apple IIe. I was also no stranger to the arcade in the early 80's. These games were tough! Unforgiving as hell. Clunky and impresice was certainly part of it, and the arcade games, especially that were designed to eat up your quarters on 30 second intervals...

    I bitched like crazy when Space Quest/Kings Quest and adventure games of their ilk went from keyboard interface, which required you to search your vocabulary and rack your brain to get everything out of each room, to "dumbed down" point and click gaming that really felt like it was designed for toddlers to me.

    And I was dragged kicking and screaming into any type of real time combat, for RPGs.

    But the reality is gaming was a pretty niche hobby back when I started. It wasn't seen as cool. With each generation that came after me, it became more and more socially accepted. Now, one of my best friends is a high school teacher that tells me they have video game clubs, and groups, in their high schools. They didn't have this when I was a kid and, if they did it would have been the geekiest of the geeks that would be seen in there. The Dungeons and Dragons dorks would have held a higher status than a videogame club member would have.

    Today, the captain of the football team might be a member.

    There's much broader appeal to games, which means less specific catering. That's simply the reality. Perhaps someday it will become big enough to branch off again into smaller and smaller niches that do more specific catering while making good profits. But we are quite a ways off from that.
  9. iridium_ionizer

    iridium_ionizer Where'd That 6th Toe Come From?

    Jul 24, 2007
    Many times I find myself wishing for an option at the start of games that doesn't relate to game difficulty but rather game duration - especially for action games. I don't see why game designers don't let busy people get through a 40 hour game in just 6 hours. All that they would have to do is have the game skip from cool game moment to cool game moment and just include a few brief in engine cutscenes to tie it all together.