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RPGWatch Forums » Comments » News Comments » Gamasutra - The Designer's Notebook: Ten Years of Great Games

Default Gamasutra - The Designer's Notebook: Ten Years of Great Games

November 26th, 2007, 18:27
Gamasutra has a feature article up covering the last ten years in games from a designer's perspective. The article is cross-platform and genre, so it isn't primarily focused on RPGs in the strict sense of the term, but it reprises quite a few of the milestones of games year by year from various genres and in doing so touches on some of the contributions of the RPG.
From the intro:
This is necessarily a personal view, and I don't expect everyone to agree with me. I'm especially interested in games that I feel showed great imagination, contained important innovations, or left a lasting legacy.
They won't necessarily be the biggest sellers or the ones with the highest critical acclaim, however…I've deliberately avoided discussing sequels, for the most part — sequels are frequently better games than their predecessor, but mostly because their gameplay has been refined than because their designs have changed dramatically.
I've skipped around and grabbed a few snips of general interest (my bold):
1998 was a huge year. We had StarCraft, Baldur's Gate, and Unreal, among many other excellent games. StarCraft raised the bar so high for RTS games that even now, almost ten years later, it's still the preferred RTS for pro competitions. However, I think each of those three were most notable for their high polish and excellent balance, rather than their design innovations….
The most important thing that happened in 1998 was the inauguration of the Independent Games Festival…The IGF took indie game development out of the bedroom, made it respectable, and gave it media coverage. Indie games are now our most important source of innovation (Narbacular Drop, Darwinia, etc.) and my primary reason for optimism about the future of video games….
1999 also saw the arrival of EverQuest. EQ was in its day what World of Warcraft is today: the dominant MMORPG bar none. It beat the well-established Ultima Online and saw off Asheron's Call as a competitor…
Like Grim Fandango, Planescape: Torment was a commercial disappointment, and for many of the same reasons: its world was unfamiliar to most players and demanded attention and commitment. The game's art, story, characters, challenges, and even language (based on 19th-century British working-class slang) are all unlike anything seen before in the role-playing genre, or any other genre, for that matter. Planescape now has a cult following, and I consider it one of the greatest games of all time. Among other innovations it managed to create a reasonable in-game explanation for why your avatar is resurrected every time he dies.
Ion Storm published two legendary games in 2000, one legendary for the amount of hype that preceded it and disappointment that followed it (John Romero's Daikatana), and the other for the richness of its story and characterization and its imaginative gameplay, Deus Ex. I'll pass over Daikatana without further comment, but Deus Ex combined shooter, sneaker, RPG, and even a bit of puzzle-solving adventure game into a single unique title. Deus Ex gets my nod for important innovations…
…We got some significant games in 2003, perhaps most notably Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Call of Duty, and WarioWare. KOTOR put all of Bioware's famed skill at RPGs at the service of the Star Wars universe, with highly-lauded results. Since it was based on the d20 system and an existing franchise, I don't feel it broke ground creatively, but was an excellent title all the same…
2004 gave us World of Warcraft, City of Heroes, Katamari Damacy, The Chronicles of Riddick as well as numerous successful sequels… The Chronicles of Riddick broke ground by actually being better than the movie that it's based on. Games based on movies are not reliably good and many are distinctly poor, so this was an improvement of sorts.
Dungeons & Dragons finally got its own online game in 2006, which really should have happened ten years earlier. It was highly anticipated and of course the brand recognition is excellent, but WoW remains unconquerable. Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion came out and corrected many of the errors of its predecessor Morrowind; it was a massive success for a single-player RPG and advanced the open world concept so ably pioneered by the Grand Theft Auto series…
That brings us up to 2007, and of course it's not over yet. One key event this year was the non-existence of the Electronic Entertainment Expo. E3 had been a glorious extravaganza of self-congratulation, but by 2006 it was collapsing under its own weight. The noise, flashing lights, smoke machines, and booth babes turned it into a seizure-inducing monument to tastelessness…. The most important game of 2007thus far, and I predict overall as well, is BioShock. The game possesses that rare quality of being multilayered, and rewards replay and close attention…
More information.

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Last edited by magerette; November 27th, 2007 at 04:43.
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November 26th, 2007, 18:27
And it seems they succeed at forgetting Gothic once again, while they do speak of Oblivion.

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November 26th, 2007, 18:35
They left a lot of great RPGs out, as usual. No mention of Fallout, Arcanum, NeverwinterNights, the Witcher or plenty more. But he does say this is his personal choice, although I thought it wasn't very detailed about exactly what made his choices ground breaking.

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November 26th, 2007, 18:48
"advanced the open world concept so ably pioneered by the Grand Theft Auto series. "

Hahaha. This guy hasn't got a clue what he is talking about.
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November 26th, 2007, 18:53
I wondered if anyone would catch that.

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November 26th, 2007, 18:53
the world can be so open that for my part you need 6 days in real life to cross the map from one side to the other, but I rather have a lving world in a smaller scale like the Gothic games did so great. never played a game with a more living world than that.

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November 26th, 2007, 20:06
How was the Gothic world a "living" one? Nothing happened in the world (in any of the 3 Gothics) unless you initiated it. It was one big static thing waiting for you to trigger stuff.
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November 26th, 2007, 20:10
okay it might have not been a living world, but it felt alive. True nothing happened just by itself but say one game that does have that.
What I meant is, people aren't sitting around at one point just waiting for you doing nothing. it at least seems like they are doing their own thing, and animals hunt, sleep. you even had people peeing and such, so it felt like you were in a living world

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November 26th, 2007, 20:10
Originally Posted by BillSeurer View Post
How was the Gothic world a "living" one? Nothing happened in the world (in any of the 3 Gothics) unless you initiated it. It was one big static thing waiting for you to trigger stuff.
Huh? The towns all had schedules and people worked and slept and gabbed in the town square. Did you miss that part?

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November 26th, 2007, 21:07
Whatever you might or might not have thought of Oblivion…
The world was very much alive.
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November 26th, 2007, 21:16
Fallout was released in 1997 and he started with 1998, so that's one reason why it wasn't mentioned. I also wouldn't say that Fallout has been terribly influential; other than Fallout 2 and the three games the Troika developed, there really isn't a clear Fallout influence in any other games.

For the industry as a whole, Gothic was not a significant or influential release, regardless of the appeal it has to a particular segment of CRPG fans.

The author must have mainly been playing PC games in 1998, as that's all that he mentions. I'm not sure how one can write an article about significant and influential games that includes 1998 and not mention Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time. That's by far the most glaring omission that I see in the article.
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November 26th, 2007, 22:39
He does say it is a very personal list.

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November 27th, 2007, 04:41
For one how does Oblivion correct problems from Morrowind when it was an inferior game to it. The games that pioneered "Open World" games would probably be the early Ultima games along with many other games that came out after Ultima and before GTA.

PS. KOTOR is a good game but it has one of the crappiest combat systems ever and since you can't go through the game without fighting I have never finished the game.

PPS. He forgot Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines which is the best first person rpg since Might and Magic: World of Xeen. (in my opinion)
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November 28th, 2007, 19:39
Originally Posted by txa1265 View Post
Huh? The towns all had schedules and people worked and slept and gabbed in the town square. Did you miss that part?
Not at all. It was just eye candy and meant nothing to the game itself. And in any case most of the people didn't do all or even any of that. All the paladins spent all their time out on the docks never, eating, sleeping, peeing, or anything else. The guards were eternally at their posts, never relieved by anyone else. NPCs int he wilderness sat at their campfires forever waiting for you to come talk to them. Etc.

The schedule of one lady in town was get up, go stand in front of one of the market booths eating something every few seconds and saying snippets of sentences, then head home and go to sleep. Wow. Where'd she put it all? Did she pee on the ground under her skirt

So it had some vague semblance of a "living" world but not really.
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November 28th, 2007, 19:44
Oblivion had a few more tidbits in some people's schedules (the equivalent of the lady above would have gone to work, actually sat dow to eat meals, and maybe stopped after work at the inn) but essentially was the same vague-ish resemblence. It had a few NPCs out moving around in the countryside initiating things but nothing of much consequence.
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November 28th, 2007, 19:49
"Planescape …, and I consider it one of the greatest games of all time."

Wow, how can you guys not like him when he says something like that?
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November 28th, 2007, 20:31
I don't have any issues with games he did or didn't include per se—always bearing in mind that this is a generic list of all games of all genres on all platforms. He wasn't focusing on rpgs in particular, he merely mentioned some he thought were significant in the overall scheme of things. I was really kind of looking for him to discuss a bit more why or how certain games impacted design, but it's just more of a "personal favorites" list that perhaps influenced his own work. Which is fine.

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November 29th, 2007, 00:42
Reads like blog material.

There's the mention of D&D Online being the first online D&D game - Wrong. The very first graphical MMO was a D&D game (Neverwinter Nights from 1994).

There's the mention of GTA being the pioneer of open gameworlds - Yeah, not counting the numerous RPGs with open worlds that came before and the fact that all the GTA games I've played unlock the city districts/cities one by one instead of actually giving you an "open gameworld".

There's the mention of EQ containing "the most important innovations … from 1999" - yet the only thing mentioned is the player trading for real money which, AFAIK, wasn't even something supported by the creators.

And so on.
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