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MMR: The Seven Signs of the Video Game Apocalypse

Last response: in Video Games
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October 9, 2006 4:36:52 PM

There have been some disturbing trends and unsettling events lately in the video game industry, which have spurred TwitchGuru to examine the possibility that judgment day is upon us. So break out your Bible because it's time to look for the signs of the apocalypse.
October 9, 2006 8:02:51 PM

Rupert isn't killing gaming. Sony isn't killing gaming. Even Microsoft isn't killing gaming.

EA killed the gaming industry a long time ago, and it is finally catching up with the industry.

I hate EA. I hate it like the plague.

They snapped up every single good gaming company, and relegated them to a corporate limbo.

It is the textbook case of a monopoly, or at least, and oligopoly.

Casualties include:
Maxis: Once the great maker and innovator of such classics as Sim City 2000, Sim Tower, and so many other cool Sim games... it is now making 1, boring, meaningless game in the form of 'The Sims' and a bunch of mediocre attempts at revitalizing the Sim City game itself, which was once so popular. I have been waiting for some innovation from them for a long time. Too much to ask for an update, and a more dynamic, Sim Tower (perhaps one that runs on XP or Vista computers)? Why was development of new and innovative games stifled? Why not think of something else ‘Sim’. I am sure it isn’t hard to find something else to simulate, and make it fun to play.
Westwood: Remember Command & Conquer? I do. I want to play it all the time. Red Alert was AMAZING. Why was it necessary to switch over to 3D? Why ruin the game play with unbalanced, buggy games like Tiberian Sun and RA2? These are the same guys who made that DEBACLE of a game, Empire At War (only the space battles were any good, what idiot came up with the build pad idea? No wonder they were the waste-product of Westwood) and they just missed the mark with Generals. Is it so hard to come up with a RTS that doesn't suck up the resources of the computer, as well as be fun to play? Warcraft 3 is a sorry supplement for a once proud modern warfare RTS genre...
Bullfrog: These guys made innovative games like Theme Hospital and Syndicate Wars. Now, they do nothing. Anybody seen a Bullfrog game of late? Anybody seen a sequel to any of their popular games? Why not?
EA Games: I remember when EA was synonymous with innovative and fun games. Now they are all the same, and didn't bother to actually improve the graphics engine by any stretch from about 1998 until the Xbox 360 came out last year. Sad. Very sad.
Janes: Didn’t they get gobbled up but EA too? Didn’t they used to make fun and interesting simulator games, even BEFORE the introduction of 3D cards? Longbow was so cool. Has EA made a cost-cutting decision, that because Microsoft makes a Flight sim, it is no longer necessary to bother trying to compete?

And finally, what REALLY killed the industry: The insane obsession with 3D graphics, which, quite frankly, aren’t even that impressive, and just lower my FPS...
Example: Rebel Assault 2. Goodness! That was a great game. Not because the game play was the most amazing, not even because the graphics were amazing (and they were too, to this day, one of the only games to have full screen videos instead of cheeping out on 'widescreen' and have it integrated into the game play as well). It was because the story was deep and intriguing. Where is the plot in Battlefront? Where was it even in X-Wing Vs. Tie Fighter?

I remember and old saying: Windows games were pretty, DOS games were cool. I still hold by this.

I have only played 4 native Windows games that ever captivated my interest, 'Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force', Duke Nukem Manhattan Project, Sim Tower, and 'The Hive'; VERY old games. All of their genres are dead. none of which had particularly mind-blowing 3dfx, 2 of which had great stories. And that was fine! I am still waiting for sequels to Rebel Assault, Tie Fighter (the windows versions were disappointing, XvT was horrible, and Alliance missed out on what was so great about Tie Fighter). Duke Nukem 3D. That was great. So much better that all 3 of the Quake games that came after. Hexen. No 3D. Still awesome.

This problem with 3D obsession I equate with Hollywood’s mad obsession with 3D. It makes no sense. Just because Jurassic Park was amazing in every way (to this day, I can’t tell witch scenes are CGI and witch are animatronics, it was THAT GOOD) does NOT mean that you can dangle a cartoon character Spiderman in the middle of a live action movie, and expect me to want to pay to see it… even though Spiderman is one of the coolest characters ever. Hollywood missed the point. There is a saying in the special FX biz: if the audience can tell, you have failed. Well, Hollywood has failed miserably, thinking that some poorly colored 3D models are going to be worth my money, when some Muppets will do just fine. So to has the gaming industry completely lost focus on little things like plot and game play (sounds like a line straight out of ‘The Big Lebowski’ talking about porn… feels just as perverted too.)
October 9, 2006 9:52:20 PM

I think its time that those dev houses that actually produce works of art take a stand, and tell these assholes who make shit games to GTFO. Many games are truely the most colaboratvie works of art we have in this day and age. I'm pretty sure we would all be pissed if Michaelanglo's David had a thing painted on it that said "Want your penis to look like this? TAKE VIAGRA!"

Seriously, many games are works of art, and deserve better than to be grouped with the dreck that attracts advertising companies and greedy media empires out to make a buck instead of produce a work of art.

Games that are works of art are just better, and probably thats what it will come down to. After the apocalypse we'll be left with the indi game studios that are self funded and have given mass media the finger.
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October 10, 2006 2:38:25 AM

I wouldn't say we are really doomed, just that the percentage of good titles will diminish to the 1-5% that all other forms of entertainment media devolved to and stagnated at.

Radio, TV, Movies one by one they all degraded in overall quality with only the occasional diamonds in the ruff. If it is mainstream media it will do this. Video games are working on it. Its nothing surprising and it will not stop.

3D was the most notable shift in this direction. When every game HAD to be 3D often quality plot and characters were the first things to go, and quality gameplay was next.

I'm just waiting for the videogame equivalent of reality TV to rear its ugly head and herald the coming of an age where video games are truly considered a mainstream media source for all ages. Then we will know how far we have to slide.
October 10, 2006 3:32:10 AM

Rob, what is the market for gaming today compared to when you and I were kids? (I was 5 yrs old in 83). Yeah, thats right, it was nothing in size compared to today and nothing in its sophistication level.

I started a thread on Blizzard last month and its progressive and highly profitable business quoting the online subsrciptions figure for WoW being a billion dollars alone for last year.

The market has completely changed from 20 years ago. The size of it alone is truly enormous, what with the advent of mainstream access to the internet at affordable rates combined with computing and console power at tremendous levels today compared to the Atari's and Commodore 64s of the Miami Vice ridden 80s.

The apocalypse you say? Try a Goldenage, my friend.
October 10, 2006 4:36:45 AM

With respect, I dissagree: Golden age was in the late 1990's. It was still new, and you had both creativity and connectivity. It wasn't as massive, I agree, but like most things that get too big, it lost what made it fun. It is certainly an industry, but WoW is not exactly what I would call a quality escape from reality, more like an over-priced reality simulator.
October 10, 2006 7:09:52 AM

That's cool that you disagree. I'm not here to bite anyone's head off. But I cant for the life of me see why or how "creativity" and "connectivity" will lessen in this decade. Just so I dont missunderstand anything, I'd appreciate it if you would elaborate further on that.

Remember when Microsoft said it would enter the console market? There was hurrah from some interested parties and then such pessimism from others.

The XBox opened up gaming to guys and gals who'd previously not been much interested. Like Sony's babies, Microsoft found itself able to successfully crack the big time even though so many said it was a mistake and that this was bad for gaming etc..

I will bet my bottom dollar that the greater corporatisation we see in this decade for the industry, the higher the levels of excellence right across the board we will see; this will especially be the case for you and I--the consumers.

The gaming market will have new opportunities that it could never have without the injection of new capital and new thoughts and new ideas from new players interested in making the industry even more successful.

Gaming is so untapped from a potential perspective and there is so very much more that it will have to offer over the next decade and beyond, that its crazy, in my opinion, to not believe that it will only get better and better from here.
October 10, 2006 2:08:12 PM

Quote:
Rupert isn't killing gaming. Sony isn't killing gaming. Even Microsoft isn't killing gaming.


I agree with this one. I liked EA in the 90's with there sports games but sense the new console I find there too commercial. The main reason I don't like EA now is because they took one of the sport licences namely the NFL licence and now they are the only company that can make a NFL football game. I mean I don’t like football anyway so doesn’t bother me much in that respect. But what is going to stop EA now with just making a half-@$$ed Madden game one of these years.
October 10, 2006 2:39:13 PM

Hmm, I see how you could read my post that way... I didn't mean to say that connectivity was 'less' than it was in the 90's. All I was saying is that connectivity existed in the 90's, and it balanced with creativity.

When I see GTA San Andreais, I look at a game that is certainly massive, but I see no creativity there. It is just a 'life simulator'. No innovative game play, just 'do the missions'. A game, in part, is about having a new way to play. After 3 doses of the GTA3 series, and numerous copy-cats, it is just boring.

Let me try and give another example: Unreal Tournament. Still, to this day, perhaps the most artistic game ever. It was a great game engine, with great online play options (totaly integrated net-play with later versions) and yet, subsequent versions of unreal split net-play off from story play, and the 3D, while more sophisticated and detailed, lact artistry, color, and vision.

I never had a problem with Microsoft getting into the 'gaming' industry with the X-Box, because they were already in the gaming industry with the PC. Their Sidewinder series of game controlers was quite possibly the best lineup ever, from top to bottom. And the games they produces were usualy quality (suprising equating quality with Microsoft, but there it was).

Just so everyone is clear, I am almost exclusively a PC gamer. I stopped with Consoles after the SNES, because my brothers had an N64, and I totally hated everything about it, from the controler, to the games, and the 3Dfx were so sub-par from what I was used to on my PC.

Limitations seem to drive innovation. George Lucas used to make good movies because he was pressured to get his dream out, invented new ways of doing things, and settled on compramises in certain aspects. Now that CGI has been invented, whatever zany idea pops into his head, makes it on screen, with no effort, and no impotis to improve. It made for 3 very crappy movies.

So to, computers are SO much more powerful than they were 8 years ago. Game designers were always trying to achieve realism as their benchmark for success, and when they compramised, great games were produced. But once computers became so sophisticated that they could literaly do whatever the programer told it to, the game designers just ran out of ideas. And because they are still in a mode of 'make it more pretty' instead of adapting with 'lets make a better, more flowing plot' they just keep increasing polygons per square inch, instead of investing in innovative game play and storyline, or at least artistic 3D.

Ok, rant over. I am glad that gaming is alive and well, but I am just so bitter that everything that got me into gaming is effectively not there anymore, and I am sitting with some powerful hardware sitting around my house that I won from clubit that I can't use, and honestly have no reason to...
October 10, 2006 3:07:06 PM

Quote:
But what is going to stop EA now with just making a half-@$$ed Madden game one of these years.


You are. And I am. And so is every other gamer out there. EA makes/sells the games, but WE buy them. And no one makes us. We do it because we choose to. So if EA makes a crappy game, we shouldn't buy it. And then they'd lose a ton of money. At which point we tell them we didn't buy it because it is crappy. So they make a good game again. We then buy it again. And all is well. I know this is a bit of a simplification, but this really is how it is. The gamer nation speaks with it's dollars, and any game developer/publisher that wants to stay in business will listen. Speak up and make your voice heard by hitting these businesses in the only place it really matters, their bottom line.


Quote:
Limitations seem to drive innovation. George Lucas used to make good movies because he was pressured to get his dream out, invented new ways of doing things, and settled on compramises in certain aspects. Now that CGI has been invented, whatever zany idea pops into his head, makes it on screen, with no effort, and no impotis to improve. It made for 3 very crappy movies.


Actually, what made these movies bad really was the story, not the CGI. I mean, the Force is caused by midiclorians? What kind of stupidity is that? You're right that many developers use fancy graphics to hide bad gameplay, but I don't think you can say that fancy graphics caused the death of good story and gameply. Look at Oblivion for example. Great graphics, but also a deep and compelling story, and great gameplay. bad games have always existed, even before fancy graphics, they are just easier to hide now.
October 10, 2006 5:27:58 PM

Quote:
Rupert isn't killing gaming. Sony isn't killing gaming. Even Microsoft isn't killing gaming.

EA killed the gaming industry a long time ago, and it is finally catching up with the industry. I hate EA. I hate it like the plague.


Jacobdrj, you make a some good points, and kudos to you for the Big Lebowski reference. However, I think that you're a little off in pointing the finger only at EA. To me, they're just a symptom of the problem (or plague), which is this: Big Fish (EA) are eating the Little Fish (smaller studios, publishers) more and more these days, and now the Biggest Fish (Big Media companies like Time Warner, News Corp., etc.) will buy EA and other big game companies. Thus, gaming will be co-opted by Big Media as a turned into a money-maker instead of an art.

Quote:
I will bet my bottom dollar that the greater corporatisation we see in this decade for the industry, the higher the levels of excellence right across the board we will see; this will especially be the case for you and I--the consumers.
The gaming market will have new opportunities that it could never have without the injection of new capital and new thoughts and new ideas from new players interested in making the industry even more successful.


BomberBill, you're certainly a glass-half-full kind of guy. I admire the optimism, and I definitely think you can find evidence to support your end of the argument. However, how much corporatization will be too much? I'm afraid too many Big Media companies will get into gaming even though they have no clue about the culture, technology and products. If they keep their hands off the games development, then maybe it will work. But this is a big business, so the chances of that are pretty slim. So you'll increasingly have Big Business calling the shots on how games will be made, and I can't see that as being a good thing.
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