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Default Rampant Games - "Old School Goodness" Now Poison?

September 28th, 2010, 00:52
The Rampant Coyote wades in on the "unplayable" old games issue raised by The Brainy Gamer recently. Jay takes a general approach, rather than focusing on Ultima IV, but makes some good comments:
While it was largely an accident borne of technological limitations, I think that these games demanded a level of investment on the part of the players. You couldn’t just “jump into” the Wizardry dungeon for a quick 15-minute session. You would get lost. You would die. While an experienced player could maybe make a quick foray without adequate preparation, to actually have a prayer of medium-term success you needed to commit to the game. You needed to invest a chunk of yourself into it. You needed to take action outside the pressing of buttons on the keyboard. You needed to grok the manual. You needed to map. You needed to take notes. You needed to plan.
But here’s the thing – I keep calling it an “investment” for a reason. As players, we got out of it what we put into it. Our investment into these games made them “real” in some small ways. We willed them into an existence beyond the monitor and floppy drive when we committed to studying up on flight maneuvers and what all those switches, dials, and gauges in the cockpit meant and how to use them. We gave them life when we drew out our maps on graph paper, and wrote up notes and connections of clues by hand like a real-life mystery. And we didn’t have an Internet full of spoilers to do all the work for us, either.
Thanks, Guhndahb!
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September 28th, 2010, 00:52
I think I enjoyed the follow up comments the most. I think he was right that the MMORPG do take some investment in time - both for the game and socially - that harkens back a little bit to the older games. Of course they also have their heavy dose of addiction as well.

I am on the fence though. I was one of those people who did make maps, and kept journals, and had lots of notes playing games. Of course there were no easy to access fansites or, later, pausing the game and alt-tabbing to a website. On the other hand it was part of the fun - a way to sink totally into the game. Staying up late, totally immersed.

On the other hand I am 45 now, with a job and tons of real life duties, and I don't always have the time. Still I love manuals - and I will always read the manual front to back when I am lucky enough to get a game that has one. I also soak up all the lore - in game or out.

Yet I can't say I mind having my maps in-game, easier game saving, tool-tips and the like (although god but I am sick of big !!!! over everyone's heads).

So I agree with most of the points I also yield to less work approach to the games but balance that with no Wiki or Cheat sites until I finish one play through. I really strive to play the game fairly on my own, like the old days, the first time.

On a side note I have friends in my WoW guild or literally gorge themselves on spreadsheets and fansites for their characters. They will spend days crunching numbers, quests, and items to eek out even one more DPS point or increase a resistance another 1%. Not sure if that is the same thing or just being obsessive … but it reminded me of the effort I use to have to put into some of the old games.

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September 28th, 2010, 03:12
Hmmm, he's got a good point. Though what about the investment during the game? I remember being quite surprised at how many people considered the ability to alt-tab in and out of games to be EXTREMELY important. I couldn't figure out why. I know some of the more heathenistic gamers would turn off the in-game music an play their own, but that doesn't take much alt-tabbing.

Well, it turns out that they've got to answer an instant message. Or an email. Or a tweet. Or check up on facebook. Or Weather Bug says there's a chance of rain 18 hours from now and they have to look up the details. Or whatever. Of course they are going to have troubles with complexity! I wouldn't be able to make it through a 10x10 maze, either, if people pestered me about what I planned to have for dinner every 90 seconds.
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September 28th, 2010, 08:11
My problem with old school games is that I no longer have the patience I used to, probably due to being spoiled by mini-maps and quest journals. It's very difficult for me to enjoy a game now if I have to write stuff down. I was able to enjoy Ultima V Lazarus where I had to write things down but I'm not sure I have another one of those left in me. In addition to patience, time is an issue, I just don't have many 4-hour-consecutive blocks of time for gaming, it's more like 90 minutes here and maybe 2 hours there and when that is spread out over a couple of days between sessions I forget many of the details. I used to enjoy the Might & Magics II and III etc. back in the day but now it's too tough for me.
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September 28th, 2010, 10:05
I think it is the pace of our life that has changed a lot since 10 or more years ago ,i can not stand old games and it is because of their mechanics , not so much that they require personal investment but because gameplay wise are tedious , repetitive and time consuming in a non creative way.
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September 28th, 2010, 10:56
Originally Posted by Tragos View Post
because gameplay wise are tedious , repetitive and time consuming in a non creative way.
And WoW is nothing like this??? Nah, this isn't about those game mechanics.

IMHO this can be narrowed down to the effect of two important gadgets of our everyday life:

1. The remote control effect and

2. The cell phone effect.

The remote control has conquered our whole life. As long as there were only 3 big TV networks (and some insignificant local stations) noone really needed a remote. But with the upcoming new networks (and even more commercial breaks) we got overwhelmed with the task to manually switch channels. Yes, we could, but if so we would act economicaly reasonable and switch a lot less. As a result we would miss a lot that's on TV and watch stuff we wouldn't want to. So zapping with the remote became our second nature - this had nothing to do with laziness, it was about comfort and the wish to get the most out of our medium.

This is why I can't stand Might & Magic II anymore, even if I really like the graphics. I am able to accept most of the tedious gameplay mechanics, but I don't want to waste my valuable life time (or more precise gaming time / TV time) using clunky interfaces (or manually switch channels).

This surely doesn't mean I am able to accept every tediousness and boredom if the UI is good. The fact that I didn't like Dungeons Siege I a bit does prove this.

2. The cell phone has conquered our life totally. Don't get me wrong: I have a cell phone but I don't like using it. I got late on the train and never felt I really need my cell - not even for my job. On the other hand I have students who couldn't spend 2 minutes without a cell for the life of it. The organise their whole life using the cell: texting friends, adding dates, phoning their parents, reading news, making photos, listening to music and so on. The cell phone is their main social tool - as is their PC which for them is just a bigger cell phone. (Hell, even my wife autostarts their ICQ.) They have a complex social life in the digital world and that is their main priority - and so FarmVille and WoW are their games. These are Games in Social Networks or Social Networks as Games and so their priorities and and their demands (easily accessible; P2P communication etc.) have changed a lot compared to my generation, haven't they?

I don't like FarmVille or WoW but my gaming ours as a GamersDad are very limited and my doesn't like waiting for a hug just because I have to wade through a complex conversion or wait for the next cut scene to end while playing Dragon Age.
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September 28th, 2010, 11:13
When someone proves that a life with convenience is worse than a life without it, we'll have something to talk about.

Personally, I'm seeing two ways of living life and they're just different. I can enjoy life without investing myself needlessy, and I can enjoy life even when I have to do that anyway.

So, I don't really see the point in debating this from the nonsense nostalgia viewpoint. Stuff evolves, and though it's not necessarily better - it's not necessarily worse either. You have to come up with RATIONAL reasons, or accept that you can't.

As an old-school hardcore gamer, I'm not looking for a "back-to-basics" revolution. I'm looking for EVOLUTION. I don't want to go back to reading long manuals or mapping dungeons. I want to see GAMEPLAY evolve and I want to see genres moving FORWARD. I don't see that, unfortunately, at least it's extremely rare.

But you can't call redoing ancient concepts evolution. You have to go back and think about what quality was present, and then you have to evolve that. You don't recreate those old games by handing people paper and pencil and ask people to map stuff again, because that's nothing but hard work. Hard work isn't fun, it never was. It's just that there was a time when it wasn't PERCEIVED as hard work, because games hadn't EVOLVED beyond it.

What developers are doing today, is going back and COPYING old-school concepts and then dumbing them down and making them accessible. That's not how you evolve things either. That's how you steal things and halfway ruin them, because you don't understand or care enough about gameplay.
Last edited by DArtagnan; September 28th, 2010 at 11:26.
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September 28th, 2010, 11:54
Originally Posted by Sir_Brennus View Post
snip
Although i dont have a cell phone and i am not watching tv -so no remote control either i mostly agree with you.
Old is Old , going back to those games is like growing massive chins and teeth at the expense of our brains , those stuff has already be rejected by evolution, or maybe become obsolete .


Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
Hard work isn't fun, it never was.
There is a new Paradox's game called Victoria 2 , i see it as hard work and i am not the only one yet many people love it , i think they are just weird .

Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
What developers are doing today, is going back and COPYING old-school concepts and then dumbing them down and making them accessible. That's not how you evolve things either. That's how you steal things and halfway ruin them, because you don't understand or care enough about gameplay.
I think that the "dumbing" down thing isn't entirely correct , i mean Sacred 2 was mechanics wise , graphics , engine etc much better than Sacred 1 ; same can be said for Vampire the masquerade , TES and others ; thing is that although Devs delivered evolved gameplay their games lacked soul .
It isn't nostalgia , people go back and play oldies because there is something there, i'd say that the devs had more love when they made those games and gamers can feel that .

Modern games are the sum of technology , devs ability and gamers demands so we are very responsible for the quality of the final product ; we are playing the games we asked to be made .Maybe we are losing our soul or something ?
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September 28th, 2010, 12:05
Originally Posted by Tragos View Post
There is a new Paradox's game called Victoria 2 , i see it as hard work and i am not the only one yet many people love it , i think they are just weird .
Oh, I don't see that as hard work. I see it as a game that will reward investment into understanding complex mechanics, but there's a good reason for those mechanics. It's just that I don't really care for the subject matter - and the EU engine should have been killed off ages ago. They're milking slight iterations of the exact same game over and over, and I'm more into new things - than replaying the same game 10 times in a row.

I think that the "dumbing" down thing isn't entirely correct , i mean Sacred 2 was mechanics wise , graphics , engine etc much better than Sacred 1 ; same can be said for Vampire the masquerade , TES and others ; thing is that although Devs delivered evolved gameplay their games lacked soul .
It isn't nostalgia , people go back and play oldies because there is something there, i'd say that the devs had more love when they made those games and gamers can feel that .
Nah, I don't think Sacred 2 evolved gameplay over the first one. In fact, they just added meaningless complexity and kept the EXACT same issues present in the first one.

The issue with both games is that the character systems sucked, because they didn't give you tangible rewards in terms of power feedback. You kept improving incrementally, and you kept running into scaled enemies - effectively nullifying the sensation of progress. They also both had HUGE worlds, that were completely void of genuine diversity and were basically just hollow and samey.

You might call it a lack of soul, and that's as good a way of putting it as any.

I call it a lack of design competence and a lack of understanding when it comes to appealing to the human psyche.

Modern games are the sum of technology , devs ability and gamers demands so we are very responsible for the quality of the final product ; we are playing the games we asked to be made .Maybe we are losing our soul or something ?
No, I'm playing the games developers THINK the masses want. They could be right, or they could be wrong - but they're definitely not delivering what I'm asking for. I can't blame them though, because appealing to me - won't make them rich.
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September 28th, 2010, 16:02
But here’s the thing – I keep calling it an “investment” for a reason. As players, we got out of it what we put into it.
This reminds me of a ("the") discussion "we" had at the RPC last year.
The point of the discussion was why there were so few "newbies" in the pen & paper RPG area.

During that discussion, one person raised the point of young people rather being passive nowadays. Or, to put it with this blog's words, they just don't want to invest time and energy into games anymore.

He actually used a word that is ihmo very difficult to translate into the English language. In the word "bespaßen" or "sich bespaßen lassen" lies the word "fun" in a way that makes the meant person pasive.

It is like … as if I would say "I was told". This is a sentence (or a part of it) that makes me passive.
"Bespaßen" as a reflexive verb, "sich bespaßen lassen" probably translated therefore as "to let oneself be funned" or "to be funned", as a try, with the word "fun" used as a verb that makes the meant person passive.

Edit : To be entertained.

Which means nothing but : "I don't want to invest in(to) it, instead I want to be passive, and I want someone to make the fun to me." Or something like that.

I think, this is also currently coming into the gaming area. People believe things are unplayable, because they want "ease of use", which is = "no investment needed".

The question is, where does this come from ? Watching too much TV ?

“ Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.“ (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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September 28th, 2010, 20:52
Indeed, be sure to read the comments. I found some of them as valuable as Rampant's excellent post. He should be proud to draw such astute comment posters to his blog.
Originally Posted by Alrik
Bespaßen
Interesting. I like that distinction. That would make a good loan word - like "schadenfreude" (although the latter is also so much fun to say ).
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September 28th, 2010, 22:26
Actually, in my opinion, the comments are where the action usually is. My posts are usually lame and I just hope they start a conversation.

Anyway - yes, there are some great thoughts on how to encourage that investment - or to make it active instead of passive (the Bespaßen idea). I think in some ways it's about expectations that have been set.

Back in the day, our expectations were different. We knew that playing an RPG entailed a certain amount of active engagement. We knew it because most of us who played these games were familiar with pen & paper RPGing (definitely not the case anymore). We were used to the idea that the manual was an essential part of the experience, and how "rolling up" a character was part of the fun.

Gamers' expectations are different now. Possibly because the above only appealed to a subset of the audience. But even as an old-school gamer, I find myself having to "adjust" to an older game. It can take a bit of time & effort.

What I was really getting at with the article is figuring out how to invite or encourage the kind of investment from players that we had in the old games / era without requiring it.
Last edited by RampantCoyote; September 28th, 2010 at 22:36.
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