Roadwolf's portal for his random thoughts and ponderings

The end of an era?

Computer games have been around since the early 80's.  They started off as text based adventure games where players would have to type in answers to continue on their quest.  Kind of an interactive book, in a way.  Computer games then developed into Adventure/Puzzle, Action/Shooter, Role Playing Games/Racing games, and Strategy/God Games (like Sim games).  Each with its own niche of the market. The early popular games seemed to form the standard, which everyone seemed to wish to follow.  Kings Quest was one of the first big Adventure Games, followed in the 90's by Myst which is considered the most modern series of adventure games.  Myst is of course no longer being produced.  It seems that no one wants to make adventure games anymore, where the players have to solve complex puzzles every few minutes. The Action/Shooter genre included titles like Wolfenstine 3d and DukeNukem3D as early hits.  DukeNukem3D was a big success, with its included level editor, users could easily edit and create their own levels, to the extent of actually designing working subway systems, and other such effects.  While shooter and action games continue, you will likely find that they have been dumbed down to include more killing, and less thinking.  Also, the graphics have been improved, but very rarely you will find a built in mission editor in a modern action game.  Apparently the technology which made DukeNukem3D's Editor possible is far too advanced for todays computers... RPG's or Role Playing Games have been the only real genre which has advanced in any way since the 90's.  The advent of MMORPG's and the Release of Everquest, caused a big stir and a lot of excitement in the online gaming world.  MMORPG is of course a 'Massive Multiplayer, Online, Role Playing Game'.  RPG's have become the games by which almost every other game is tested against, specifically World of Warcraft.  World of Warcraft, created by Blizzard and released in 2004, initially targeted the fans of Blizzards previous hit strategy game (Real Time Strategy) "Warcraft".  World of Warcraft was to be the RPG MMORPG which followed the storyline and lore of the famous RTS series.  With a large fanbase backing it, WoW became instantly successful.  While WoW did have many initial bugs and problems, those were worked out fairly quickly, and the developers strived to make the game playable by anyone, but aimed specifically for the late teen and early 20 market (as the people in their early 20's would be the previous fans of the Warcraft series). WoW's popularity made it become the yardstick by which new games had to measure up to.  While it may not be the most interesting or in depth MMORPG on the market (Serious Roleplayers generally prefer Everquest 2 due to the fact that children generally find its interface more difficult to use then WoW, it is a more mature environment in which to RolePlay) WoW is surely the most popular, especially with younger players.  I have known several youngsters, who would play WoW at the age of 8 to 10 years old, who were very good at playing the game...  This shows that even a fairly complex game, can be mastered these days by anyone.  Most of the players I knew from WoW considered themselves casual players, yet they had no problem learning WoW at all. The Gameplay in WoW is fairly simple, but diverse enough to make it interesting enough to keep playing.  You have a number of different spells you can use,  often more then you need.  And you can choose which spells you wish to use, and if you feel that you aren't getting the effect you want, you can re-spec your spell book, to get some new, or more powerful spells in certain areas.  Your character is completely customizable to your own needs in WoW, and that type of customization is something that few other games have managed to copy.  WoW can be a giant online Sandbox game, however you do have to work to get money and ranks in order to do whatever you wish.  But in general it does fulfil the 'sandbox', and open ended gameplay that many people desire in a game. Of course this brings us to the RTS or Strategy genre.  Strategy games really have not improved much since Warcraft II.  There are some games in the genre worth mentioning, like Company of Heroes, and perhaps Supreme Ruler 2010, if you like oldschool world domination type games, but otherwise, there really has not been a big hit in the last few years.  Especially in the way of a sandbox style RTS game.  Warcraft II was a hit, in some part, because it had a built in editor.  Many user made maps were made, and a player could spend hours upon hours playing on his custom designed maps, against a computer, or online against their friends.  To my knowlege, no RTS game since Warcraft II has had such an indepth editor (altho I believe Warcraft 3 had one).  The only real strategy game which has really come out as a market indicator, has been Civilization 4.  It I believe defines the absolute bare minimum of what a modern Strategy game should encompass. Racing games, have kind of died.  At least on the computer.  On the console they are big hits, along with the simple shoot em up action games.  Consoles are becoming more popular these days.  The problem I think however, is that Consoles are ment as a subsititute for TV.  They are ment purely for mindless entertainment value.  Few of them really make you think, or really let you create something and express yourself.  And it is this ability to create something unique that the gaming world has been lacking for quite some time.  Many developers, even those for PC games, are making their games so simple now that zombies can play them, and win. While yes, a console game may be more entertaining then watching the latest episode of American Idol...  Or any other 'reality' TV show...  Consoles are not really a creative output and can never really become a unique experience. This brings us to Sim games and God Games.  The early Sim games such as SimLife, SimEarth and SimCity were instant hits.  Being able to toy with any aspect in the simulation, from income flow, to genetic makeup of a specific sub-species of an animal, made these games perfect for people who wanted to create, experiment, and express themselves.  While they were advanced for their time, these games did catch on fairly quick and grew quite a following.  Today I look back at those games and I see how very advanced they were, and it amazes me. These games really have not come far since their hayday in the 90's.  Infact, pretty much every sim/god game I have seen produced in the 2000's has been below par, and marketed to 'casual gamers'.  With the exception of Flight Simulator X and Trainz 2006.  The problem I have here, is that Sim games are totally my style of gaming.  I like to tinker with physics, and watch what happens, I enjoy micromanaging the inner workings of a government, and I love designing and building an empire - from the cities, to the transportation system.  Again, Civilization 4 would have to be the most recent, decent game which kind of falls into this genre. The release of Simcity Soceities was initially interesting for me, but as soon as I read "gameplay will be much different, and more scaled down, then the previous SimCity titles" and "This game is intended to introduce the casual gamer to the Simulation Genre" I quickly lost interest.  This ment the game was going to be super basic, and had no real merit as a simulation game.  I didn't even bother purchasing it. I had been excited for the release of Spore for about 3 years now.  I figured maybe this would be the long awaited yardstick by which future simulation and god games will be measured by.  Boy was I wrong. While yes, Spore was innovative, and has some amazing features, and has some great content sharing and creation tools, the gameplay itself is very basic and dumbed down.  EA stated that the game would be playable by anyone, and was ment for casual gamers.  Just how casual are these gamers supposed to be?  If an 8 year old kid can kick ass at World of Warcraft, which is far more advanced in gameplay then even the hardest difficulty of Spore, then I imagine that spore must of been written to appeal to a 4 year old child?  While yes, sure, the creature and other editors allow you to create the various content items which populate the game.  And surely this is some form of creative expression, but it quickly becomes clear that your creations do not amount to anything.  Sure you could create a tank with 20 various guns on it, but those guns are only for show, they have nothing to do with how the tank works in combat, and in the end are really only for looks.  Infact a tank which has religious propiganda all over it, works exactly the same as a tank with guns all over it, in Spore.  The fact of the matter is, that while Spore may be nice eye candy, and may be innovative, it lacks in depth and re-playability.  The creatures you evolve really don't matter either, once you advance further in the game, the way in which they evolved has no real lasting effect.  You could literally evolve a circular blob, with legs, and nothing else...  not special body parts at all,  not even arms..  and yet it can command a inter-stellar empire just as well as a highly advanced alien race with 6 eyes and 4 arms....  So in the end, your creation has no real effect on the outcome of the game. In Spore the gameplay itself in the Space phase is seriously lacking as well.  The early classics in which the game took its ideas from were far better then Spores space stage even pretends to be.   Microsoft's Freelancer, a single player space action game, was far far better then anything remotely close to Spores space stage. Spore was marketed as a interactive single player game, playable on many platforms, and even on your iPhone...  It included built in links to YouTube so you could show off your otherwise meaningless creations, and personal homepages for each player to display their creations.  It is playing a lot on the web community aspect of the game, thinking that people will compete and show off their creations and brag about them and such.  But really...  anyone can make something decent looking in Spore.  Just what use is it other then something interesting to look at, and watch? Spore was supposed to be a introduction to sim type games,  just like SimCity Soceities...  did they not learn from SimCity Soceities that people do not want watered down simulation games?  I suppose not...  But the wuestion I have is this:  If Spore and SimCity Soceities were supposed to introduce new people to the simulation genre, then what about the longtime fans?  Where is an advanced simulation game which the former fans of SimCity 2000, can embrace?  It seems that they are being left in the dark.  Apparently Maxis is not concerned with the old fans...  as far as they are concerned, they can continue to play an unimproved version of SimCity 2000...  Well it seems that Maxis does not really know what it is doing.  It is barking up the wrong tree.   What made WoW a big hit was that Blizzard aimed it directly at its previous fans...  NOT at introducing new customers to its revenue.  Had Spore or SimCity Soceities been aimed at impressing former Sims or SimCity fans, instead of trying to appeal to a wider range of people, then perhaps they would of been the big hits that Maxis intended them to be.  Instead they are just watered down shells of a game which could of had potential. I dearly await a decent game which truly lets me dive into experiments, and modify its inner workings so I can tune it to my own needs.  Oh to see an editor like the one featured in DukeNukem, in a modern game! I suppose that is all over now however.   Being creative is a job for the developers,  not for the players apparently.  We are only supposed to be subject to the creativity of others, and have to wait to purchase expansion packs, which contain more content, instead of creating more content ourselves? I often find myself going back and playing those old classics.  And ya know what?  I enjoy them even more then most of the newer games out today.  Graphics only go so far.  I believe that most people really want depth and re-playability, and challenge...  I would gladly give up graphics for that anyday. The days of creativity are being sucked away fasted then you can say 'mass media'.  It is sad that our ability to express ourselves is becoming limited by everything from the (lack of) freedoms we have in posting on our own websites, to the games we play on our computers.  I think the only thing we can really do to be creative anymore is to become an artist, composer or writer.

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