Am I just getting old or ........

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Gashead
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they just don't make games like they used to!

I am worried that I am turning into a old person! These days I feel that whilst new games are great (Fallout 3 for example) I don't get the same kind of immersion that I used to get from playing classic games back in the day. Now surely this should be the other way around as graphics and sound have improved.

I think that Bill's article regarding feelies etc (Game Packaging: A Look to the Past When Treasures Beyond the Game Were Within the Box) is very valuable in understanding this. But why I was more immersed in Ultima IV say that the Witcher. Was it really due to a cloth map etc?

The feelies and the accompanying literature (e.g. History of Britanna) bring the world more to life than cutting edge graphics ever can. I think in part this is due to the fact that you were required to use your imagination a bit more. In the same way that a movie of a favourite book can never live up to your expectations (and you own imaginings). Also I think the great thing about the box contents (using Ultima as an example) was how for instance you could read about the history of Trinsic and see in on a map and then actually 'travel' there for yourself. This made the game world seem more real as it gave the illusion that this place actual existed as there was evidence several difference sources.

Or am I just deluding myself? As I get older and more jaded I just can't recreate my youth! I prefer to go with the alternative and less depressing conclusion that game designers have lost their way a little in creating the worlds only on screen rather than reaching out to us on an individual level.

What do you think?

Gashead
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Modern games

You make a really good point Rob about technology pushing games to new heights. This has definately slowed down although I still buy the latest Nintendo platform to play the new Zelda. As you say the games industry is very mature now and is struggling to come up with anything original. Of course games now cost so much to develop that taking risks is difficult and most of the money men prefer developers to play it safe and release yet another FPS. That said there are some great games being released don't get me wrong. I think this is more about how I feel about them rather than the quality of the game itself. Fallout 3 for instance is a great achievment as was Oblivion.

Anyway all this soul searching got me thinking and instead of continuing to try and find a modern game to keep me busy I decide to relive my youth. I've downloaded an Amiga emulator and at the moment I am playing Syndicate mainly. But also Alien Breed and Sensible World of Soccer. I've even ordered a USB Kempston Competition Pro joystick for the true authentic experience!

Of course it is 15 years since I have played Alien Breed and SWOS and either my reflexes have been dulled in the meantime or these old games were really hardcore!! Probably a bit of both.

Anyway to prove that I am not a miserable backward looking git I am going to start a new thread about people's favourite game that has recently been released.

Catatonic
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Game audio has room for

Game audio has room for improvement. Imagine a racing game where the music gets more intense or relaxed based on what is actually happening in the race. (As much a creative challenge as a technical one.) Or how about an RPG where, instead of canned dialogue, every character you meet has a unique voice. (Today's speech synthesis still sounds too robotic)

Rowdy Rob
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Old game veterans like us.
Gashead wrote:

they just don't make games like they used to!

I am worried that I am turning into a old person! These days I feel that whilst new games are great (Fallout 3 for example) I don't get the same kind of immersion that I used to get from playing classic games back in the day. Now surely this should be the other way around as graphics and sound have improved.
(.........)
Or am I just deluding myself? As I get older and more jaded I just can't recreate my youth! I prefer to go with the alternative and less depressing conclusion that game designers have lost their way a little in creating the worlds only on screen rather than reaching out to us on an individual level.

What do you think?

As an "old" gamer, I've battled these thoughts within the last year or so myself, only to find myself sucked into a new game every so often.

A lot of it has to do with how we saw the videogame/tech world back in the day. There was ALWAYS advancement in the state-of-the-art to wow you and get your attention, if not your money. Space Invaders was "Wow," but then look at Galaxian! Then Donkey Kong, Pole Position, Tempest, Marble Madness, Street Fighter 2, Dragon's Lair, and so forth and so on. And that's just the arcades... look at what was happening in the console and computer gaming worlds! There was always something new to see and do.

It seems that games have largely "topped out." I remember when computer music used to wow me (I had a massive collection of "mods" on my Amiga), but now music technology basically allows games to have full-scale, professionally-recorded soundtracks that are no longer dependent on the sound-chip's technical abilities (for the most part), as long as the chip can play back digital audio. Heck, there are even games dependent on this modern ability, like "Guitar Hero" and "Rock Band." The thrill is gone, musically. Games are not pushing the hardware to new heights, audio-wise. There doesn't seem to be much more that they can do with game audio.... it's pretty much arrived at its final destination.

Graphically, it's just bigger and better polygon engines, but it's still polygons. Occasionally I am "Wowed," (see "Fight Night"), and they're doing great stuff now, but it's hard to get psyched about graphics anymore. It doesn't appear that games have changed that much in the last near-decade.

However(!)..... modern games are still fun! They're just different, and appeal to a new generation. Remember the original "Star Wars" movie? It took it's time and knocked your sox off by taking its time and building a whole new dazzling world. The newer movies are non-stop effects shots that SHOULD impress, but don't draw you in quite the same way. Well guess what, the new movies are received much better by the younger generation than "Star Wars" was, which many younger people tell me is quite boring.

If you REALLY miss old-school gaming, I must inform you that old school is not dead, it's just underground. There are MANY freeware games out there of all genres that are old-school that you would like. I don't know your tastes, but chances are I could point you in a good direction if you wanted me to. Often, the freeware games are just as fun as some of your old favorites!

Keep an open mind about modern games, though. There's much fun to still be had if you give these new games a chance!

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Bill Loguidice
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Just a side comment to

Just a side comment to disagree with one thing you said. Nintendo didn't realize "gameplay is king" with the Wii. Nintendo realized "casual is king" with the Wii. If anything, there's MORE gameplay on the PS3 and Xbox 360, with far less shovelware. What Nintendo tapped into was approachability. Honestly, if gameplay mattered over accessibility, then the PS3 and 360 would have done far better against the mass market Wii.

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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You are of course completely

You are of course completely right in that gameplay is king. Something that Nintendo recognised with the Wii instead of continuing the push the graphics envelope a la PS3 and 360.

I am somewhat obsessed by Ultima so I'll use the series as an example again. Do the games really get better as the graphics improved? Possibility (apart from Pagan and Acension obviously) or is just that the later games build on the world you have already imagined?

Where graphics definately make a difference is things like Star Wars games (or games based on movies in general). For example Jedi Academy is far more immersive than Jedi Arena (on 2600) because the graphics are far more evocative of the subject matter and world of the Star Wars.

All this is subjective of course but for instance the Witcher got great reviews. I played it, the graphics are good, the voice acting is fine but it just didn't engage me for some reason. After reading the Infocom chapter of your vintage games book I played the Lurking Horror for old times sake. I was absolutely hooked and this is a game that relies on text and imagination alone. I think it has to do with the point that you made in that text adventures and other games where you use your imagination give you an increased illusion of freedom and because you can express yourself you feel more involved. You hold part of the gameworld in your head rather than just observing it on the screen. I think this is the key because no matter how great the graphics are this is a passive experience and as an observer you feel less like you are actually participating in the world.

Of course there are no absolute hard and fast rules here. As you mentioned Half Life 2 manages to immerse you in the world and have great visuals. However it is the strength of the characters and the acting that draw you in because you do feel as if they are talking to you personally and they therefore engage you. This I think is because of the 1st person perspective unlike the Witcher where because it is in the third person you are observing only.

Bill Loguidice
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Videogame "Art"
Matt Barton wrote:

To some extent, audiovisuals are polish. And we all know what you can't polish. On the other hand, they can be artistic to the point where we don't care if the game itself is rather simple. I'd cite the Psygnosis shooters here. You might love the gameplay, but I think the artwork and music is so great that I could play them even on trainer mode and still enjoy the experience.

Certainly "Braid" is a perfect example of that. While it's a polished puzzle platformer and would be fun anyway, the included audio-visuals provide an artistic, emotional touch that bring the game to that next level.

Vintage Games book!
Xbox 360: billlog | Wii: 1345 2773 2048 1586 | PS3: ArmchairArcade
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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Matt Barton
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audiovisuals
Bill Loguidice wrote:

I believe it's *sometimes* easier to immerse yourself in slightly abstracted worlds than more fully realized worlds, a la text only novels (books) versus graphic novels (comic books). Perhaps that's the main failing with games today and immersion, but certainly I believe it's a combination of factors, some internal and some external to the individual and the games themselves.

Nice! I feel the same way.

To me, a lot has to do with the mood and pacing of a game. I was trying to get through Max Payne, and while it was a good game, it just seems stuck at 11 and very railed. That's fine, I guess, but I also like a game like Half-Life 2 that just seems larger and more flexible.

There's no doubt, though, that sometimes less is more when it comes to this stuff. We see that very clearly with Rogue. You can't play that game without an imagination; just doesn't work. I felt the same way about Pool of Radiance and older games; you have to imagine your characters and even play act some.

I've been playing Empire: Total War, which is a fantastic game. However, the graphics are sometimes almost too good. For instance, when you have a huge army colliding, you can really zoom in and see individual units striking out. That's great to see, but it does take away some from your own imagination--in earlier games, I would always visualize the tanks rolling over the hill, etc. (Empire), or warriors clashing in Warlords. Now it's pretty much just shown on the screen. I guess there is still plenty of mental work going on, but it does seem a little less engaging at times. I guess ultimately there's a beauty in something like chess, where you have to imagine everything, vs. something like Battle Chess, where you can see the animations play out and admire the eye candy.

My test is to ask myself if I'd still enjoy Game X if it didn't have the fancy audiovisuals. What if the gameplay of Game X was adapted for something like the C-64? Would it still be fun, or do you really need those audiovisuals to make it interesting? A game that can't hold on its own without the audiovisuals just doesn't have longterm appeal.

On the flipside, I love games that really go all the way graphically. I don't just mean polygons and what not, but a really well-thought out theme and interface. If something just looks well-made, it makes a difference. I hate to see a fancy game with a generic looking menu screen or (worse) interface.

To some extent, audiovisuals are polish. And we all know what you can't polish. On the other hand, they can be artistic to the point where we don't care if the game itself is rather simple. I'd cite the Psygnosis shooters here. You might love the gameplay, but I think the artwork and music is so great that I could play them even on trainer mode and still enjoy the experience.

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Bill Loguidice
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Interesting thoughts and one

Interesting thoughts and one I think we all wrestle with as we get older. Certainly distance from when the memory was created creates a certain fondness. And certainly remembering back to our youth when we had more time to devote to leisure things versus our adult lives when such time becomes less and less frequent and there are far greater distractions doesn't help.

With that said, I believe newer games are no less fun, but there are far more of them. It's very hard to keep up. The way games and gaming is set up now is for a quick churn. You're supposed to blow through these things relatively quickly and move on. Gaming is everywhere.

Fallout 3 is an interesting example, as personally I own the PS3 version (got it cheap, otherwise I would have went with the 360 version) and got the second tier collector's package, with lunch box and bobble head (there was a higher one with the Pipboy replica). So you *could* replicate that Ultima feelies experience, and certainly the downloadable content for the game keeps extending the experience, something even Utlima lacked until Ultima VII with the various add-ons. With that said, one argument against modern games like Fallout 3 and The Witcher, et al., is that because of advances in storage space, more of the story is in the game, leaving LESS to the player's imagination. I believe it's *sometimes* easier to immerse yourself in slightly abstracted worlds than more fully realized worlds, a la text only novels (books) versus graphic novels (comic books). Perhaps that's the main failing with games today and immersion, but certainly I believe it's a combination of factors, some internal and some external to the individual and the games themselves.

Vintage Games book!
Xbox 360: billlog | Wii: 1345 2773 2048 1586 | PS3: ArmchairArcade
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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Matt Barton
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I couldn't agree with you

I couldn't agree with you more, Gashead. Steve Meretzky (Planetfall) talked about this as well as several others we interviewed for Woot!. They said, and I agree, that buying a game should be about more than what happens on the screen. What you can hold in your hands, touch, and even smell (scratch'n sniff cards, hello!!) make for a richer experience. I always enjoyed opening up a new game and finding an excellently produced manual, reference cards, and the occasional cloth map or trinket. I hate that most of this stuff is now regulated to the "collector edition" or whatever, which is usually so much more expensive. I think even a "regular" game ought to include at least a nice manual.

I loved that some of the Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie games came with novels, which I read and enjoyed as much as the games. I love those sorts of bundles. I see it like a good meal--no matter how good the steak may be, you also want a great baked potato, asparagus, and a nice glass of iced tea. Even with a great game, it's even better if you have those superb "fixin's" to round out and enhance the experience. It's all about presentation!

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