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Default Digging up the past for good game design

August 29th, 2007, 17:59
I was going to post this as a response to Magerette's thread on the potential impact of Bioshock but I pulled it. It's an idea that I've been developing for a few months now:


One thing I've noticed in a trend of successful games is digging up the past.

Games like Pirates, Bioshock, Civ IV are based on previous designs that were highly successful and there's a concerted effort in them to duplicate what worked in those games and up date them.

Older games like Might and Magic VI, Wizardry 8, Diablo, Heroes of Might and Magic, Civilization 2 and Fallout were very successful in bringing the spirit of their predecessors to the now. They were so successful their predecessors are almost forgotten as sales for those new games dwarfed the originals.

Even moderate success can be found with games like Freelancer and Space Rangers.

Rather than churning out the next FPS, RTS, Diablo clone, Fighting Game, or JRPG, I think in this age of skyrocketing costs developers should look to the past successes and pitch them to publishers.

These games offer new experiences to new players away from the repetition of games that only offer the same thing in a different flavour. Such clones have to offer something extra special to do well and spewing out sequels tends to just dilute the brand. Lara Croft is a great example of this.

Developer of The Wizard's Grave Android game. Discussion Thread:
http://www.rpgwatch.com/forums/showthread.php?t=22520
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August 29th, 2007, 18:09
That is really a general trend - progress is evolutionary. Generally things are revolutionary very rarely - innovative, sure, but generally in limited areas.

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August 29th, 2007, 18:30
Revolutionary ideas aren't sometimes even bought.
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August 29th, 2007, 22:32
Without doubt you have a point, Lucky Day. And it is something done in all media. If it's done well, then it succeeds. If it's a cheap knockoff, some buy it not knowing the original was better, but those who do shy away. It can work for or against a film, a musical track or a game to "cover" an older one.

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August 29th, 2007, 22:37
If you think about it, there's a fair bit of "back to the future" going around in the indie arena (Eschalon, UFO:ET), but it would be nice for the big-budget boys to get a little of the fever. The problem is that, as we've seen with UFO:ET, games that copy the old formulae can get slammed by reviewers who often put too much emphasis on "innovation".

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August 29th, 2007, 22:57
You are right it may be too general a topic TXA but I'm trying to use specific examples.

It is taking some indie developers to take a chance on some of these things. UFO:ET was maybe too retro for some of the new reviewers but Pirates certainly hit the mark.

To be sure there are many that miss the mark. Every few years they insist on making a new Pac Man game yet I see the TV Pac Man controller thing still on all the shelves at the major stores. Not coincidentally I think does the Ms Pac Man version come with Galaga but not Galaga '88.

There's a new Combat for the Wii I think and the new Pool of Radiance could eat your Operating System. Frogger 3D bombed I understand.

On the other hand the Baldur's Gate was totally retro in its design with games such as Jagged Alliance and the Ultimas named as

Developer of The Wizard's Grave Android game. Discussion Thread:
http://www.rpgwatch.com/forums/showthread.php?t=22520
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August 30th, 2007, 06:01
Yeah, bring back the Ultimas!!

If God said it, then that settles it!!

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September 7th, 2007, 03:27
One unusual game from the past that was conceptually brilliant was Alter Ego.

In it you literally lived your life, male or female, and followed of path based on the choices you make and must except the consequences.

Another one was Omega. In one of the first online Multiplayer games Origin had players pre-program tanks in a macro language then uplaod them to a central BBS and let them duke it out PvP. The best tank program wins.

This latter idea I've heard has been done since and marketed as an educational game.

I'd love to see a remake of Seven Cities of Gold. If you haven't played it it might remind you Pirates or Colonization. There's never been a modern remake of it.

These games were all highly creative and defied genre. There seemed to be a competition at the time at who could come up with the next best concept in video game design and not just rehash someone else's idea.

Developer of The Wizard's Grave Android game. Discussion Thread:
http://www.rpgwatch.com/forums/showthread.php?t=22520
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September 7th, 2007, 04:41
Older games had, often it seems, more depth to them than more recent games. Now, it's all about the graphic flash and frenetic gameplay and whatnot, while so many of the games I grew up on (aside from the arcade type games) had more going on beneath the surface.
Of course, nostalgia is a powerful thing, too, so that can never be discounted when comparing the old with the new.

I think my biggest gripe though is about the predominance of real-time over turn-based, and how turn-based is marginialized to ultra-niche games (many of which I have zero interest in). It's almost as though developers don't want to allow the game players time to think, because they might see through the thin veneer of the games
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September 10th, 2007, 19:38
Today it's more about developing software to take advantage of cutting-edge hardware than it is about creating fun games. Customers tend to want the "latest and greatest."

But it's getting harder and harder to create cutting edge stuff. You almost need an advanced degree in electrical engineering to even begin to really understand the chips Nvidia and ATI are making now. The stuff coming out of Intel and AMD is even more complex.

Chip-level capabilities have greatly outpaced the system-level capabilities of the PC. Vista should have been a huge step forward along those lines, but we all know the story with that.

Something has to give, and right now it's creativity. That's too bad.

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September 11th, 2007, 13:47
Personally I think we're just more picky now than we used to be; we didn't have the same amount of options in the past. Also, it's common to remember yesterday as a better day.

I do feel that BG2 is the best RPG ever made, but most of the games at the time were certainly not exceptional. Is Icewind Dale any better than Neverwinter Nights 2? If so, why? Was Command & Conquer 1: Tiberium Dawn any better than C&C3: Tiberium Wars? What was better about it?

Other than 4-5 titles (PS:T, BG, etc) from the past that were truly exceptional, I feel game development is the same today as it was back then. The exceptional titles pretty much all came from the same bunch of developers (Black Isle), but other than that I certainly do not feel that the rest was all that great.

Need for Speed was Need for Speed, the FIFA games were FIFA games, Civilization was Civilization, FPS games were FPS games and so on and so forth. Noone is going to tell me that Duke Nukem was a better FPS than Bioshock or Halo.

If we try to look outside the few titles we all love so much, game development is still the same today. Personally I would replay Gothic over Fallout any day, and Gothic is a 2000+ game while Fallout is one of the greats of the late 90s (yes, I would replay G2 NotR over Fallout 2 any day as well).

I think we will see more great games in the future, Mask of the Betrayer and The Witcher coming already this year, and the upcoming title from PB certainly seems interesting. The same can be said for Dragon Age and various other titles that are in development right now.

So, it's not all bad, and I see no reason to "go back in time" or to re-make old games. I'm looking forward to the titles coming in the next few months/years.
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September 11th, 2007, 14:40
I've been browsing through the newest issue of the German magazine "PC Games", which is now 15 years old.

As I was browsing through it, I saw nothing but RTS and FPS.

I remembered, that in the early days (yes, I still have some of the old magazines), the computer games were much more diverse. We not only had several genres more (puzzle, Jump & Run, Adventures), but also *much* more creativity and almost no sequels at all.

And everyting was much more colourful.

I think it was so, the position or sort of that nowadays the consoles have, at least the more family-friendly ones.

But nowadays, while browsing through the magazine, I saw nothing ut dark colours, fight, combat, war, nothing else. I was sooo disappointed.

The PC s nothing more that an "fighting-action-game" platform.

How sad, compared to the mid-90s.
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September 12th, 2007, 06:43
Look at modern mainstream cinema: Sequels, combat, dark and/or bleak colors. Looks like it's a general trend for entertainment media.

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September 12th, 2007, 18:30
In an role playing games maybe as well (I'm speaking of DSA/TDE here).

The world has definitively become much "darker" with the arrival of … the heirs of Borbarad.

Another great thing in that direction ("fade to grey" comes suddenly into my mind) was the great assault on the main capital, Gareth.

Someone of the team responsible for the world said that the world should remain neither black nor white, but rather grey and "dirty".

Personally, I don't like this. It's like having a second "Film Noir" age in everything.

Dark Ages ?

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September 12th, 2007, 23:59
I've been browsing through the newest issue of the German magazine "PC Games", which is now 15 years old.

As I was browsing through it, I saw nothing but RTS and FPS.
Most of the innovation in games I remember were long before that Alrik. That's what I'm referring to here. That may coincide with my next point on exploiting hardware, as around 15 years ago was the beginnings of the popularity of the CD-ROM, PC Sound Card, and Online services.

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Today it's more about developing software to take advantage of cutting-edge hardware than it is about creating fun games. Customers tend to want the "latest and greatest."
I think that makes a good point that they are strictly geared to take advantage of new hardware features and that may be part of the problem.

The earliest PCs were basically the same computer for years. They rarely had more than rudimentary upgrades in their next model but if they did the next model didn't show for years.

The first culprit was the IBM PC. The history books like to say it was fast because it was 1.7mhz when all other computers were 1.0mhz. This is bogus. Intel's 8088 process was garbage and everyone in the computing world knew it since the Altair's used Intels. They problem was that IBM was not going to throw money at their rival's business partner, Motorola.

Being a giant corporate machine that has been sponging off their clients, IBM was never known for innovation. They had serious problems with their PCs and since they weren't creative the constantly threw money at it to accelerate it and add more memory. It was the only thing they understood. The other point was planned obsolescence. A faster machine would motivate people to replace their old one.

But since IBM wasn't creative and they were pretty much only used for Wordperfect and Lotus 123 there wasn't any push for graphics or sound. In fact, what it did do with the same technology that other machines had was pretty pathetic. An RGB monitor on an Amiga or Apple ][gs was something to behold. On an IBM it just that: big blotches of Red, Green or Blue.

And the other culprit is one I mentioned before, the collapse of the American gaming industry and the rise of the Japanese. Japan has never been known for its creativity and they foisted clone after clone of the same games on us. Since it was cheaper to import there wasn't a lot of motivation for home grown software (at least at arcades and on consoles).

The worst combination of the two, the focus on hardware and the import of Japanese games, was the sudden popularity of 16 bit processing in the late 80's. Now we had all these bigger sprites and multiple colors, but the same type fighting and shooting games and linear RPGs.

One of the more recent culprits of the same sort of the thing was the invention of the "3D" card which redfined its meaning in computers. Suddenly scores of games were being developed, only this time they had to be in "3D". Lord help you if you published a game that wasn't in this 3D in the late 90's and early 00's.

Its so bad that the president of Sony recently called American popularity of FPS as lacking in creativity.

Personally I think we're just more picky now than we used to be; we didn't have the same amount of options in the past. Also, it's common to remember yesterday as a better day.
That's definitely a point, Maylander. We who played them are aware of the quality of these old games but its next to impossible to show someone younger why it was enjoyable and we can get blinded to our own bias.

I had been thinking that at one time with computers it was pretty easy to get everything that was good that was out there, and it mattered a lot less of what kind of game it was. That's an impossible task now with so much to choose from.


I think one of the things that helped the creativity was the lack of genres, at least for the platforms available. They were literally building for the first time.

They started by porting Arcade games and bringing sports and tabletop games (ie D&D) to the new machines.

Developer of The Wizard's Grave Android game. Discussion Thread:
http://www.rpgwatch.com/forums/showthread.php?t=22520
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September 13th, 2007, 12:37
I read that there is a new incompatibility between directx 10 and 10.1, which - according to what I've read - requires new hardware.

I think this is "the drop that lets the barrel flow over", as we say here in Germany.

I think that Microsoft is in part controlling the graphics hardware industry indirectly, because all of the graphic card makers want to comply to directx. No matter, which version.

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 14th, 2007, 00:48
Originally Posted by Alrik Fassbauer View Post
I read that there is a new incompatibility between directx 10 and 10.1, which - according to what I've read - requires new hardware.
That has been confirmed as untrue by a Microsoft rep.
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September 14th, 2007, 04:20
Sorry about the long rant. I wonder if anyone actually read it.

On the other side of things there are definite issues with older games.

For one thing, the early computers programs were very math and text centric and have obvious media shortcomings of todays games.

Did anyone find that about Pirates? Perhaps that's why older computers lent themselves so well to RPGs?

Developer of The Wizard's Grave Android game. Discussion Thread:
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September 14th, 2007, 13:30
Originally Posted by Lucky Day View Post
For one thing, the early computers programs were very math and text centric and have obvious media shortcomings of todays games.
That could be true - simply because the graphics capabilities of computers back then were not that great.

An very old saying I once read went like this:

"A game is never as good-looking as its box cover."

(Was kind of a "Murphy's Law" thing.)

How times have changed !

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 21st, 2007, 19:20
I sometimes feel i have been playing the exact same game for the last 15 years (Doom) when I'm not playing Rpgs. Bioshock included.
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