Matt's Podcast 8: Nincompooping all over the games industry

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Matt Barton's picture

Hi, all. I'm back this week with another hour long, poorly organized rant about everything from why L.A. Noire sucks as an adventure game to why Arkham City is to quests what bullet hell is to bullets. I also talk about the real reason why we hoard videogames and how, no matter how many games we collect, we'll never find The One.

Foam and cry with me by downloading this downer now!
Matt's Podcast Episode 8


slenkar (not verified)

Hunter gatherer urges, urgh, got to download more games from 'The home of the Underdogs'

Browsing the games on abandonware sites used to be more entertaining than playing the games, with the older games you have to really read the manual and make maps.
I used to try the old games without reading the manuals and got totally confused, so went back to browsing the games.
Nowadays I read the game manual and it helps.

Joined: 02/07/2012
I still listen to a lot of

I still listen to a lot of the same music as I did when I was younger as I have always had excellent taste in music 9_^

Sebastian's picture
Joined: 02/07/2012
The problem of the retrogamer

Hi, Matt.
I've recently heard your podcast in my work here in Argentina. I know you from the Matt Chats, I start to watch since a year by now. I speak spanish and I have a mediocre english, so, I apologize for future mistakes.

Before, I want to say this is the second podcast I've heard and I found it very usefull for someone who don't stop thinking in games. I think this is a problem that I don't want to talk about it now. But, anyways... is not so bad, is kind of a nice problem. :P

I voted in the hoarders poll. I'm one of the hoarders. I am 31 years old. I'm a gamer since the early '90. Before I play some games in my father's Commodore 64, but I cross the "point of no return" with a clone pc 80286 and that magic era.

I know that I've got more games that actually could play. But, I don't care! It's like a pointless hobby but I enjoy all the process. I'm talking about: finding the game, read about it, adquiring it, and the posibility of play it. :S :P :)

I also have a freaky system to decide what game I will play next. It's a little embarassing explain it. Even to other gamers. :P
I am playing games from the '80, the '90 and some newers ones. If some game doesn't like me, I left him. Neither am I a masochist. But even, I've got an endless list of games from all eras.

As to the retrogamer problem, it's true in someway. Some games are clumsy and annoying to play it nowadays. Back in the days, we have some drawbacks (in our discipline ;) ) that the new generation gamers cannot even look at. One example, it would be getting stuck in any adventure/action game and don't quit till we found the solution. Or quiting for major duties, but thinking all day about the solution, talking to your friends and breaking our heads to solve it.
And now, that "nectar" we seek in every game is opposed against a vast database of glorious games, and is normal to get dissapointed with many of them. Then we sound like and elder saying -"they just don't make it like before anymore"-.
I believe that in many actual titles, it's true that lacks of that "magic" "passion" you feel from the developers. Many games are just marketing projects, and all that is lost in the process. But even in larger projects, still there are many talented game designers who do the job pretty well.

And there is a derivative topic from this one, the difficulty "for the masses" of the newers games, the rules of the gameplay simplified, and others related to the massification of the gaming since the days of the hardcore nerds. :P

I still glad to see a Civilization V. But is a reality that is an exception in a sea of FPSs...

Ok, enough for now.

Saludos from Buenos Aires!

Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
Joined: 01/16/2006
I don't think claiming that

I don't think claiming that older games are better than newer ones is necessarily just a generational thing. The gaming industry--specifically, how games get made--has fundamentally changed since the 80s. If you've been gaming since the early 80s, you've undoubtedly experienced this shift. Essentially, we went from games being made by one person or a very small group to games being made by committees.

Predictably, this increasingly complex division of labor has yielded high results in some areas, most particularly those that benefit most from high specialization: graphics. Unfortunately, it is also responsible for the horrible sameness we get in the modern industry.

An individual designer might be able to radically shift gears and do original work on a regular basis, re-tooling and re-skilling with each project. That is EXACTLY what happened back in the 80s. However, you can't expect a team of a thousand people to suddenly abandon their approach and do something different. They just want to make COD 16. Can you imagine going into a modern games studio and telling all the artists that for the next project they'll need to abandon Photoshop and 3DMax and use new programs designed especially for the project? They'd probably walk out in en masse. Yet this is precisely what life was like for game developers back in the 80s, back when games were original.

Unfortunately, increased specialization and division of labor leads to conformity. Small teams of "jack of all trades" who build their own tools from scratch will have explosive originality, but will suffer in areas that require a great deal of professional training (you can't be trained to use programs that don't exist yet!). In practical terms, this will mean very primitive assets, but rich diversity.

Case in point--Myst. The establishment spoke in unison that the game was ridiculous and simple. They were mostly upset because Cyan's folks weren't part of the professional class--outsiders to the industry, coming out of left field. Yet the masses loved their products because they WERE original and nothing like Sierra or Lucasfilm adventure games. I'm sure that if the Miller brothers had approached either company with Myst, they'd have been told in no uncertain terms that they were rank amateurs who had no idea what it takes to make a commercially viable game...

Unfortunately, there's nothing like the invention of CD-ROM on the horizon that could put a couple guys in a position to "pull a Myst." That's pretty much a unique situation, since Myst was widely regarded (if perhaps wrongly) as a breakthrough in audiovisuals, which is traditionally an area that is dominated by the biggest, best-established developers. I'm not sure how someone today could leapfrog companies like EA and Activision with a product whose graphics blew their best stuff away...

AmigoMike's picture
Joined: 10/06/2010
Hi Matt, Very much enjoyed

Hi Matt,

Very much enjoyed the latest podcast and wanted to share my thoughts after listening.

I mainly wanted to give my two cents on why I hang on to some games. I have around 20 or so computer games in mint condition that are from the early 90s which was the time when I first got into gaming in general.

These games, especially those from Origin, were not only excellent games but the packaging was so well done. I also agree with your comments in the podcast where you make the claim that it is this kind of aspect that help make games collectable, not a title that includes 'collector's edition'

I have a very nice copy of Ulitma 5 with all the original documents and 5 and a quarter disks. I display in not unlike a painting or other work of art. It reminds me of a time in my life that was very special. I haven't tried to play Ultima 5 in many years and frankly don't think I would enjoy it if I did. In my opinion, the gameplay is a bit dated. For me, the physical copy of the game now has sentimental value that conjures up fond memories of my childhood. That is why I keep it and many others like it.

Keep up the great work.

Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
Joined: 12/31/1969
Good podcast entry, good

Good podcast entry, good thoughts... Besides us talking about hoarding of late, I've been reflecting as a game historian and writer about the sheer amount of of games available. I don't just mean vintage stuff - that's a different issue - I mean new stuff. I've always prided myself on staying on top of every game for every platform (or at least as close to that ideal as possible), but in recent years I've found that increasingly difficult and in fact in the past few days I realized I'm losing the war, not just the battles. Computers, consoles, handhelds, phones, tablets, Web/social games, etc., retail and downloadable stuff--it's a MASS of new stuff every day, and even just trying to play/experience the high points is next to impossible. This makes me sad. I'll definitely need to come up with a plan to reach a happy medium where I can experience as much as possible while not stressing out about missing out on things.

As for the videogame and computer collecting thing, I find it a slippery slope. Once you start, you (I) feel compelled to keep feeding the beast, which leads to "hoarding". At some point that will have to stop too. Time is simply not on our sides anymore.

Matt Barton
Matt Barton's picture
Joined: 01/16/2006
I agree, Bill & Mike. I find

I agree, Bill & Mike.

I find it impossible to even keep up with one genre and one platform, much less everything. That'd just be nuts to even attempt IMO. Adventure games are considered dead, yet there must hundreds of them popping up every year, mostly episodics and imports, but also plenty of indies and tribute/remake kinda stuff. Definitely enough to keep you busy. Then of course there's all the re-releases on iPads and such. Too much!

I depend pretty heavily on this board and Matt Chat fans to keep me updated on the important stuff. I get lots of emails about such and such a game or project I should check out. I guess I've done enough episodes that people tend to know what I like, so it's been very good for me. Unless it's a self promoter, I usually take the time to visit the site and at least look at the shots and see what it's all about.

We are definitely drinking from the firehose with new games. As you say, even excluding all the old stuff (even "old" as in over a year old), you're still getting knocked off your feet. I feel like I'm doing good if I can keep up with the latest batch of AAA shooters, CRPGs, and of course the occasional indie. Then again, I have no special need or desire to play everything. Most of it is mediocre or simply not to my taste. I especially feel this with the iPhone stuff. I mean, come on, enough is enough. I'm getting sick of being spammed by everybody and their grandma's poodle's "studio" cranking out insipid games left, right, and upside down.

Quantity is NO SUBSTITUTE for Quality. Give me three great games a year and I'm more than satisfied. Give me fifteen hundred mediocre games and I'm pissed off as usual.

Shawn Delahunty
Shawn Delahunty's picture
Joined: 08/01/2011
Similar Thoughts

There is a fine line between "collecting" and "mindless hoarding". It's natural, in any medium of human expression, to hit this stage. That we're hitting it in Video Games is no surprise--the ability to "collect" games, as a non-wealthy average consumer, has been with us about 35 years now. That seems to be roughly the limit before it becomes flat out impossible, unworkable, and unreasonable to collect 'everything'. (Temporarily setting aside the arguments about 'what is worth preserving', quality of the games/platforms, whether there is merit in "Preserving the Turds" as a lesson in what not to do, etc.)

Arthur C. Clarke wrote about this in an essay or article I read many years ago. I am only roughly paraphrasing from under-caffeinated memory here, but in that article, he was talking about having recently purchased ALL of the "old, classic" pulp magazine issues for Science Fiction, from the 1920's onward--on microfiche. (That should give you some idea how old the article was.) He then expressed a kind of regret and sadness that newer authors, younger folks would be "missing out"--that he and his contemporaries were probably the last folks who could honestly state that they had read EVERYTHING which had come before them in their field. That after this point, it simply wasn't possible to keep up with the sheer volume of new written Sci-Fi material--no human could do it any more.

If you dig around on YouTube, you can find an interview with Nolan Bushnell in which he talks about his frustration at losing that "complete grasp threshold". He mentions that it came right about the time that Atari was going gangbusters in 1976-ish. Before then, he knew EVERYTHING about the video game field; every chip manufacturer, every disk manufacturer, what the latest projects and R&D and new products were, their capabilities, the pros and cons of each. He states then that "it all just exploded", or words to that effect.

The next inevitable phase is the "discerning collector". Which of course leads to fragmentation, in the sense that different collectors will value different things--look at antique furniture collectors, painting collectors, etc.

It's weird to think that the "wicked cool" arcade games of my youth, are now gaining the same status as other parts of "dusty history", like marble statues and the like. Perhaps it is this process though, which will finally 'validate' video games as an art form--similar process to what occurred with cinema. Going from the hand-crank, flip-picture peepshows from the 1800's, we got to silent-films, then "talkies", and after enough time passed, film went from being "mindless pop culture entertainment" to "Art."

Urgh. Have to get back to writing what I'm SUPPOSED to be writing...


Joined: 01/21/2009
games as art
bitsweep wrote:

It's weird to think that the "wicked cool" arcade games of my youth, are now gaining the same status as other parts of "dusty history", like marble statues and the like.

I know we all talk about it, have seen game collectiosn/preservation (bill we are looking at you).. but that sstatment, when you think about it rrealisticly , its probebly pretty true. I think we are still in the 'almost" area... a few pioneers are getting some collections togther, even a few are putting them on display. We havent entered the area where they will really be seen for what they are. Will there ever be more then a game or two in "real" art collections to show them off.. not the game, but "here is an example of an aracade game" type displays. Will a PacMan ever be a mona lisa? I doubt it.. to many of them.. or will e get to the point games like Tapper or Wakko with there cool cabinets be the "art" and the plain cabs be the junk? Or will the game be the "art" part of it? I must say I wonder how it will play out.. i was thinking there are to many.. but are there? any more? Then i think of old radios from the 20-40's before TV almost any of them (the cheap, the junky, whatever) are worth something as a colletor item (i know, I collected them when i was young) and there where millions. its just time.. and us old guys when we get inot our elder years who will tell the tale.. The real problem will be the "good" games WILL gain value.. but will the 'average" games? I had several games in the 90's.. and sold um all.. big mistake..
I had a FAROUT pinball, not the best, not super rare, but not huge numbers either.

Time soldiers -in a DIG DUG cab!!!!!! with all the DIG DUG MANUALS!!! and the original wiring harness and game sitll inside.. just bypassed with the Time soldiers game (jamma)... so it was both games.. just one was unhooked. But haveing an arcade game in the house, i could be thete entire game on a quarter.

Champion Baseball 2 in a MINI Cab, have heard it was rare (in a mini cab).. but cant confirm..

and for a short time... (bought it for $200 and sold it for $400)

man if i had the room.....

Joined: 01/21/2009
I hate to say this as it

I hate to say this as it sounds so life changing.. but I really think im at a crossroads right now. I love my gaming, and still do regular. But as with all things you hit lul's.. i think i have been in one ofr a year plus. I always hit them with MMORPG's and lay off them for awhile to play months latter and get addicted all over again. But it hasnt happned. WoW expansions alwasy brought me back.. but.. my main is still not max level, i just cant do it.. SUre I ground a worgen and Goblin to max level, but they are not "everything" so to speak.. my main has most achivments, vanity pets, mounts, the good drops.. you know the drill... all the seasonial stuff etc.. I keep peaking in and yawning.. The New Star Wars game never really excited me, but a slight change in my playstyle (evil, somethign I just have never been able to do) reved me up for a short bit.. but it didnt last . Even my few weeks with Skyrim (personaly, think its a good game) ended quite a bit quicker then i woudl ahve guesses.. The new batman, wonderfull game.. but a few soild hours and i just didnt care. Demons SOULS my "game of the last 5 years" game had a sequal come out which is in effect all the same goodness.. i cant play for a few minutes without losing interest. I mention Wolrd of Tanks all the time.. and YES i still play a few matchs nightly.. but even that is starting to wane.

SO.. is it my age, my lack of ability to transfer to the console/phone market? is it game burn out? am i "growing up" so many of my old game friends havent played any games in years.. even the non gamers who where EverQuest addicts never played after it "died" out.. To a one most of my fireds now do what i laughed at my parents for doing.. work all day, turn on the TV and fall asleep , wake up and go to bed.. maybe go see one of the kids playing some sport ( most my firends kids are just leaving the nest). We dont hang out like we did.. I'm starting to do them OLD GUY hobbies.. RC planes, even a round of golf (still can see the skill it requries, but cant play it like I want to be good).. NEVER was a tv watcher.. im starting to slowely start..

Am i makeing the transtion? to middle aged tv slob? leaving my gaming days behind? I wonder.. This was all on hording.. and I was.. yes said was.. Im skippingt he last few STEAM deals.. i skipped last months GAMEFLY sales.. not that i didnt see a few deals.. but I just felt.. "i wont play um" something I have never felt before... Has the glut overwhemed me.. so many games I cant see the good through the piles?

With all that said.. i hope not.. I keep saying iM just in a longer lul then normal. I still like comming here and talking a bout um.. I still dont see any game as BAD.. just less playabel now.... It is the hayday for a gamer it seems.. but to many can be bad too.

and last thing.. Matt.. 3 good game a year.. you said at end.. so what where they? for you? or wasnt there three this year?

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