Monday, October 11, 2010

Superiority of certain older games versus their modern counterparts

I've been reading message boards here and there, talking about how modern games compare to some of these older games, and often I've seen others who agree with my recent conclusion that these particular classics are superior in almost every way except graphically (see earlier posts about, for instance, Morrowind being superior to Oblivion, and Baldur's Gate being superior to Dragon Age).

However, I've seen more than once people expressing the sentiment that any such perceived superiority is only nostalgia talking. In other words, the games weren't really superior, we just remember them more fondly.

To that I can simply point at myself. I played the latter games first, and enjoyed them for what they were. I only played the earlier games after getting tired of the newer ones, and it took a good amount of convincing from friends to make me give them a chance. Graphics are important to me, after all. But after I got to know the games, it became clear how much content and gameplay had been removed from the more recent installments, with more emphasis put on unnecessary frills such as big-name actors playing the characters, or sensationalistic gore like the incessant (and time-wasting) slow-motion dismemberments in Fallout 3 or the buckets of blood in Dragon Age. (Here's a note for the developers: I always play with blood and gore turned off when I'm given the option. But I digress.)

At any rate, in these cases, the older games are richer and more complex and nuanced games; no question about it. And I say that as someone who is incapable of looking back on them like glories of the past with rose-coloured lenses (unless I were living backward through time like T.H. White's concept of Merlin), since I'm playing the older ones now for the first time.

I'll have to devote an entire post to exploring the possible underlying reasons why current games just aren't filling these giants' shoes, as well as game design philosophies in general.


  1. I read an article on why this is, but can't find the link anymore. Basically it goes like this:

    For major studios every 5 years or so the costs of making a new game become about 5x as big. So if the costs of developing a game in 2000 were $1.000.000, a similair game today would cost $25.000.000 to make. At the same time the retail price of games has remained pretty much the same throughout the last 20 years ($40-$50).

    As a result games now have to sell 25x as many copies to break even (cover the costs of production) than they did 10 years ago. But there aren't 25x as many hardcore gamers as there were 10 years ago so modern games are forced to target a much more casual audience.

    Unfortunately for us hardcore gamers, the causal players like their games pretty and comparatively simple. They don't want to be challenged by their games (at least not intelectually) or immersed into an alien world. All they want is a fun way to spend two hours of their free time (and there's nothing wrong with that per se). And this may sound elitistic but causal gamers are on average also less intelligent than hardcore gamers. It's not that they are stupid, they are just have average IQs while among hardcore gamers there are a lot of geeks & nerds with high IQs.

    So modern games target a less intelligent audience that is likely only going to invest a moderate amount of time in playing the game and that doesn't really care that deeply about the games they play anyway.

    The alternative are indie developers whose games are weaker graphically, probably shorter, but who put a lot more effort into designing good gameplay. For example I have pretty high hopes for Age of Decadence (

  2. I think we have similar ideas in that regard. Of course, I would argue that they're tying their own albatross around their neck by choosing to add all the expensive frills that supposedly attract the casual gamers in the first place, necessitating improbably large sales to those casuals. The budgets get larger, the ventures get riskier (due to the larger budgets), but the profits, at best, remain the same.

    I wonder what the development cost of wildly popular games such as Farmville were?

    At any rate, my hopes for quality games rest squarely on the shoulders of smaller independent developers who can publish their works on Steam or other such delivery systems, and bypass the large publishers altogether.