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Have games really advanced much in the last 10 years?


Anne Summers
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On 23/11/2021 at 13:57, Vemsie said:

 


It already happened. While it may never be as mainstream as normal console gaming, the fact that we have so many headsets on the market right now in different pricing ranges and another big one on the way is testament to that. It also gave us some genuinely fresh and brilliant new gaming experiences, which is relevant to this topic.

I do think there is this generalization going on that AAA means massively expensive, risk-averse bloated open world collectathons in established franchises, but that's not quite what's going on. There was this fear that as technology progressed, mechanical depth and complexity would take a backseat to shinies. And you could point towards games like Hitman Absolution and even Bioshock Infinite a decade or so ago to prove your point. Capcom even decided to outsource some of their most beloved franchises, which lost much of their identity as a result (DMC and Dead Rising 3 and 4 being prime examples). However, much of last gen and this gen paint a different picture. Games like DOOM Eternal and Devil May Cry 5 have arguably the best gameplay in their respective series. They look and sound great and they play brilliantly. There is nothing shallow about them. Hitman 3 (and the entire World of Assassination trilogy for that matter) has some of the best and most complex level and simulation design in gaming with some interesting ideas like elusive targets added on top of them. Prey is an immersive sim masterpiece, a great vessel for player agency with fantastic level design.
Sure, I hear you say, but these are all games in established franchises? Where is the new stuff?

Well, let's not forget that three of the most acclaimed games of 2019 - the last year before the pandemic hit - were all new AAA IP that each did vastly different things. From Software's Sekiro is a very challenging action adventure that certainly doesn't stick to any AAA 'trends'. If anything, From Software is proof that you can become a premier developer that sells millions and millions of copies of each new game by sticking to your guns and inspiring other developers as a result (look at the Nioh games for example, but also countless indies and AA games like the The Surge titles). In fact, based on early word I wouldn't be surprised if their next new IP - Elden Ring - will become one of the most acclaimed games of all-time.

Then there is Remedy's Control. What's interesting about this game is that while it's technologically very advanced with lots of destructability, interactive environments and state of the art ray-tracing, it's also fairly cheap. Its budget is around 30 million dollars, a fary cry from the 180 million dollars that The Last of Us 2 cost to make. By choosing a Metroidvania style design in a single building and telling most of its story through environmental storytelling, they could make a AAA experience on a fairly modest budget.
This year saw another example of that with Housemarque's acclaimed Returnal, another new IP that isn't really comparable to anything in Sony's portfolio. It's a very gameplay focused title that makes great use of new tech without the need for a massive open world or hours and hours of motion-captured cutscenes. Returnal was not just a critical success, but also deemed a commercial success by Sony in one of their financial reports despite having sold 'only' 600K copies at that point. Why? Because it was never an expensive game to begin with, despite looking and sounding the part. By choosing a roguelite structure and telling almost all of its (interesting) story through environmental storytelling and playable first-person sequences as well as having only two voiced characters in the entire game (not including the news report), they managed to save a ton of money.

The third game in 2019 - and the one that won the most awards that year - I would like to provide as an example was Hideo Kojima's Death Stranding, yet another new IP. While this is an open world game with lots of cutscenes, it's also deliciously weird with little combat and a focus on crossing the terrain of a ravaged world, in which you literally and figuratively build bridges.

These are just a couple of examples. I could also point towards the game with the most nominations at the Game Awards this year, which is Deathloop. Arkane's game is yet another example of new IP that's not really comparable to most AAA games out there, save for perhaps their own portfolio. I could also tell you that the last Edge 10 went to Dreams, a Sony published tool for expressing creativity that was a gen in the making. And I could point towards Flight Simulator and Half-Life Alyx as other AAA experieces that are unlike anything else out there on the market right now.

Really, look a bit further than Ubisoft and EA (and even there you can find the odd gem) and you'll see that there are lots of strong AAA titles (and perhaps AA as well, I'm not even sure in which the Yakuza games fit for example) with interesting ideas and gameplay that don't fit the moniker of big open world collectathons that are wide as an ocean and deep as a puddle.

Of course, like in other forms of entertainment, you'll find the most experimental stuff in the indie scene, and that will never change. But they can co-exist, influence each other (look at how many indie games took elements from Soulsborne games) and both provide compelling experiences beyond what was possible before without sacrificing gameplay. Looking at gaming as a whole, I think it's never been more varied, and that's on top of things like new delivery methods, technological advancements and ways to play.

This is why I love you :wub:

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9 hours ago, JPL said:

For me it was the worst thing to happen to control systems in my entire gaming career and I’m glad it’s been shelved. Gyro aiming can be kept as long as it’s optional, but I don’t ever want to see the return of waggle.


I think I skipped the entire motion control fad - I never had a Wii or PS3, and I didn’t have room for Kinect.

 

So unless you count EyeToy on PS2, I didn’t bother again until PSVR…

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On 25/11/2021 at 21:48, kensei said:

I think the withering of motion controls has been a loss. What's left are good things like gyro controls and the odd motion controlled Switch game, but overall it's went backwards.

 

The Wii implementation and its imitators had limitations and was overused in the wrong places but when it worked it was magical.

 

I think eventually someone will circle back for a V2 and V3 and it'll work for a lot more games. It might pair well with VR too.

 

 

Good VR motion control is really that V2/V3 you're hankering after.  The technical issues of precision and latency are fixed. More than that, it can avoid the proprioceptive disconnect between a movement and what happens on screen.  

 

Motion controls to effect something on TV are always going to have issues of abstracting your movement to on screen actions. VR/AR can choose it's abstractions.

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7 hours ago, kensei said:

 

Wii Sports was an amazing slice of hand. I had lots of great times with it. Even just cutting grass by waving the controller in Zelda. It's just so nice and tactile.

 

But this attitude is why we can't have nice things.

 

There’s nothing nice about it to me though.

 

I’ve spent most of my life slowly evolving from keyboard, to joystick, to joystick with buttons, to pad with buttons, to pad with thumbsticks and now to pad with thumbsticks and paddles. A natural progression with a clear through line. I like how things moved forward, as it’s always allowed me to control things by just moving my fingers, with the complexity growing over time.

 

For Nintendo to suddenly jump in and say I now have to control things by waving my arms around like a lunatic, with both other manufacturers following suit, felt like a piss take. I had absolutely no interest in turning my hobby into a dance routine.

 

Yes, I’m being flippant and fair play to Nintendo for at least trying a new method, but in my opinion they tried and failed. Not only did it fundamentally change the way I interacted with games, it was quite simply nowhere near as accurate. If it had just been an extra peripheral that was needed for a few games, that would have been fine as I could have ignored it, but the way it permeated into everything for a few years was just too much.

 

I’m glad it’s been assigned to the bin.

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You're moving the goalposts slightly there ("assigned to the bin" != "no longer the primary control method of a console"); I'd imagine that Stanley's referring to the world of VR gaming, where motion controls are very much alive.

 

(plus, of course, joycons have motion sensing capability and are still occasionally used in that manner (see Mario Odyssey's needless waggle elements for the worst use of that functionality), so technically motion controls are part of the Switch's primary control method)

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9 minutes ago, Wiper said:

You're moving the goalposts slightly there ("assigned to the bin" != "no longer the primary control method of a console"); I'd imagine that Stanley's referring to the world of VR gaming, where motion controls are very much alive.

 

(plus, of course, joycons have motion sensing capability and are still occasionally used in that manner (see Mario Odyssey's needless waggle elements for the worst use of that functionality), so technically motion controls are part of the Switch's primary control method)

I’m not trying to move the goalposts, but maybe ‘assigned to the bin’ was a bit too strong. What I meant was I can quite happily play all my consoles these days with a proper control system.

 

I did mention gyro aiming still being a thing in my earlier post and I can’t even remember having to use waggle at all in Mario Odyssey, although maybe that’s just me blanking it from my memory, so I know it’s still around.

 

I also didn’t bring up VR as it’s nobody’s primary way to play games (is it?), so I thought it was obvious that got a pass. I was really talking about the mainstream consoles and I’m really glad it’s been demoted to the point of obscurity* there.

 

*That’s not still too hyperbolic is it?!

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Personally think controllers are too complex these days and the aim should be to remove the barrier to playing as much as possible to make interacting more natural rather than more abstract and difficult. 

 

When you have controllers with what 18+ buttons on them I think something has gone wrong somewhere and whilst the Wii controllers were sometimes not accurate enough I think personally it was an easier way to play games especially for those that hadn't evolved with gaming and the various iterations of controllers. They felt more intuitive to use. 

 

A "proper controller" is one that you don't know you are using IMHO and feels intuitive in the game you are playing to the point of feeling transparent. The Oculus controllers to some degree show where this can go when you intuitively pick things up in game and look at them etc.

 

Current controllers are fine for the legacy systems and 2D screens they are running on because you need the complexity on the controller due to the shortcomings of how you are forced to interact with essentially a simulated 3D environment on a 2D plane.

 

What we have at the moment is nearing the end of the line for 3D projections onto 2D screens. It's just a case of waiting until the tech that can do full 3D properly is at a stage where it doesn't have a barrier to entry. 

 

Waiting with anticipation here to see what Sony do with PSVR2. Which at the moment is the main reason I have a PS5. Sony have the power in the PS5 hardware to support more complex environments and deliver improved sensors etc. I was so impressed with PSVR. Mind boggles at what they will achieve on the next iteration.

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@JPLI fear you may be overstating the obscurity of VR there; the Quest 2 has sold 10 million headsets since it launched in October last year; which compares decently to the PS5's 13-14 million in the same timeframe. It certainly makes the Quest 2 a more mainstream console than, say, the Wii U or Dreamcast (and I think, given its functionality, it's fair to consider it a console).

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Just now, Wiper said:

@JPLI fear you may be overstating the obscurity of VR there; the Quest 2 has sold 10 million headsets since it launched in October last year; which compares decently to the PS5's 13-14 million in the same timeframe. It certainly makes the Quest 2 a more mainstream console than, say, the Wii U or Dreamcast (and I think, given its functionality, it's fair to consider it a console).

Maybe. I’ve just bought a couple for my boys for Christmas as well. Can’t wait to steal one of them to play Resi 4!

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Every time new motion controllers come out everyone says they’re finally great then you use them and they’re still janky shit that can’t track anything naturally and wildly vibrate your in game character occasionally. I’ve not used whatever the ones that came out for half life Alyx are called but the oculus and vive ones are just as shit as move controllers and Wii remotes. 

 

I’m yet to play a VR game that impressed me. I think maybe I just don’t want to wave my hands about when I’m playing games. Short of some insane setup with wireless hand tracking and and a wireless headset and an omnidirectional treadmill and some method that makes it feel like in touching something and adds weight to my hands if I’m not holding anything I can’t see VR ever working for me. I find the half arsed, pretend this stick you’re holding is a hundred things interaction, the weird moving while sitting still and the getting tangled in wires or walking into something every time it threatens to get immersive massively offputting. Maybe in 20 years.

 

21 hours ago, kensei said:

 

Wii Sports was an amazing slice of hand. I had lots of great times with it. Even just cutting grass by waving the controller in Zelda. It's just so nice and tactile.

 

But this attitude is why we can't have nice things.

 

 

Nobody managed to meaningfully improve upon the collections of mini games Nintendo made to demonstrate the controllers at launch. There’s nothing on the Wii that’s fundamentally different from Wii Sports or Wii Play. It’s like Nintendo went “here’s some cool ideas, what will other developers do?” and all the other developers went “we’ll just do that same stuff” and Nintendo were all “same lol. Also let’s ruin a Mario game with dogshit steering sections and endless pointer and waggle bits”.

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10 minutes ago, Broker said:

the oculus ones are just as shit as move controllers and Wii remotes.

 

I couldn't disagree more, thanks to the finger tracking on the Oculus controllers, though kinda like how games leaned hard into killing things for 40-odd years, the Touch controllers work best when you're holding a virtual gun - the trigger and grip are where you'd expect them, aim as you generally would, and things work out fine.

 

Anything more dextrous and they still fall down and I doubt the Valve Index controllers fare much better in this regard. Some haptic solution would be the next big thing there. If you can start touching things in the world, you'd be able to properly progress beyond shooting. Or whacking, in Beat Saber.

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44 minutes ago, Broker said:

Every time new motion controllers come out everyone says they’re finally great then you use them and they’re still janky shit that can’t track anything naturally and wildly vibrate your in game character occasionally. I’ve not used whatever the ones that came out for half life Alyx are called but the oculus and vive ones are just as shit as move controllers and Wii remotes. 

 

I’m yet to play a VR game that impressed me. I think maybe I just don’t want to wave my hands about when I’m playing games. Short of some insane setup with wireless hand tracking and and a wireless headset and an omnidirectional treadmill and some method that makes it feel like in touching something and adds weight to my hands if I’m not holding anything I can’t see VR ever working for me. I find the half arsed, pretend this stick you’re holding is a hundred things interaction, the weird moving while sitting still and the getting tangled in wires or walking into something every time it threatens to get immersive massively offputting. Maybe in 20 years.

 

 

Nobody managed to meaningfully improve upon the collections of mini games Nintendo made to demonstrate the controllers at launch. There’s nothing on the Wii that’s fundamentally different from Wii Sports or Wii Play. It’s like Nintendo went “here’s some cool ideas, what will other developers do?” and all the other developers went “we’ll just do that same stuff” and Nintendo were all “same lol. Also let’s ruin a Mario game with dogshit steering sections and endless pointer and waggle bits”.

 

Leaving aside the parts of this post that are just wrong, such as Vive and Oculus controllers being janky shit that can't track and are just as bad as wiimotes, I think this post is a decent illustration of the split between the audience for VR and traditional gaming that I mentioned earlier. 

 

Whereas you seem totally content with sitting down playing with a regular controller and dismiss VR motion controls as waving your hands about holding an item that doesn't magically change to the size and weight of what you're holding in the game, I'd be in the group that sees motion controls, even if imperfect, as a whole lot closer to matching the actions your character is performing in the game than just vegging out on the sofa wiggling your fingers and your thumbs around. I find it satisfying in a way that the abstracted traditional controls in 3d games have never been. 

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That’s totally fair. I think fundamentally I don’t want to play as a character who is limited to moving like I do. I can’t wield a sword for hours at a time, or swing it really hard or accurately and if I wanted to learn to do that I imagine I’d prefer actually doing it to some VR simulation. Constraining me to things I can actually do in real life makes games pretty boring when I’m used to being characters who are infinitely more physically capable than I am. And requiring me to improve my actual physical capabilities just seems a bit pointless. Plus barring those huge innovations, I feel like even for things I can physically do VR will always be inferior to the tactile experience of actually doing something. 

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Really interesting thread this and I'd challenge anyone who doesn't think VR has a future to play Astrobot.  Game of the year, possibly decade. Mario Odyssey was a great Mario game but it felt like more of the same where Astrobot was fresh and new. VR is the only method of delivery that offers the chance to do something you've not done before. 

 

Away from VR, everything  seems to be exactly what you've done before but bigger. Way, way bigger. GTA5 is fundamentally the same game as GTA3.  Flight Sim is an incredible achievement but the actual aeroplane itself handles and controls exactly the way it did in Flight Sim 2001, or Flight Sim 2010. It's smoother, it's HD, the map is photorealistic but the plane still has all the same controls in the same places on the dash.

 

Forza 5 is fundamentally the same as Burnout Paradise. But Forza is much bigger, has way more events, I design a character, give her a name, buy a house, race other players online, participate in fan made events, design my own events and suddenly, one day, I realise the game is way too big and I'm lost amongst it all.  Even the base game, free with Gamepass, seems way too busy and cluttered, never mind downloading the DLC.  Every time the announcer says "Hey Dragon, some new events have opened up" I'm impressed they recorded the dialogue with every selectable name in it, but baffled how it thinks I want more events. How much free time do they think I have?

 

I think Forza 5 demonstrates how far we have come, it's fucking incredible that something so overwhelmingly detailed can be made by humans. But it's so big I dont think I'm learning any of the tracks or mastering any vehicles, I'm not practicing and getting good and rarely playing any event more than once.  The whole game never stops talking, the music feels inappropriate, I've played for hours and might only be 5% in, and it feels like an overly cluttered mess of content.  If you take any corner less than perfectly you can rewind, I mean, where's the incentive to, you know, practice? Get good? Yet it's probably the pinnacle of human achievement in its genre, but it feels too big and overwhelming to play. You simply don't have the spare time in your life to retry every event and learn the handling of each vehicle. Its incredible and yet I'm somehow lost.  Bigger isn't necessarily better.

 

 

 

 

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10 hours ago, Broker said:

That’s totally fair. I think fundamentally I don’t want to play as a character who is limited to moving like I do. 

 

This is slightly reductive though. While VR does give you the ability to 'be' the character in the world it's not the be all and end all of VR games. Some of the best examples of VR use traditional methods of control when you are seated but just allow you a better perspective. Wipeout has exactly the same control scheme in VR as it does in pancake but the sense of being there just elevates it to a entierly new level, as does playing any driving game, or Flight Sim. There are also a number of third person games, like Astro Bot or Moss which again are controlled very traditionally with a controller but also benefit from the perspective change you get from VR.

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5 hours ago, dumpster said:

Flight Sim is an incredible achievement but the actual aeroplane itself handles and controls exactly the way it did in Flight Sim 2001, or Flight Sim 2010. It's smoother, it's HD, the map is photorealistic but the plane still has all the same controls in the same places on the dash.

 

Bit of a bizarre comment this, you might as well complain your modern car has the same pedals in the same order as your 1990 Corsa. It's almost like they're deliberately standardised?

 

And also the thread about tech advancement probably should be about all the incredibly impressive stuff you're dismissing more than "they didn't move the controls around arbitrarily, to no longer resemble the real thing".

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13 hours ago, Wiper said:

@JPLI fear you may be overstating the obscurity of VR there; the Quest 2 has sold 10 million headsets since it launched in October last year; which compares decently to the PS5's 13-14 million in the same timeframe. It certainly makes the Quest 2 a more mainstream console than, say, the Wii U or Dreamcast (and I think, given its functionality, it's fair to consider it a console).

And PSVR sold 5 million units... which is some going given that its a £350 peripheral that also needs a PlayStation console.

 

47 minutes ago, metallicfrodo said:

 

This is slightly reductive though. While VR does give you the ability to 'be' the character in the world it's not the be all and end all of VR games. Some of the best examples of VR use traditional methods of control when you are seated but just allow you a better perspective. Wipeout has exactly the same control scheme in VR as it does in pancake but the sense of being there just elevates it to a entierly new level, as does playing any driving game, or Flight Sim. There are also a number of third person games, like Astro Bot or Moss which again are controlled very traditionally with a controller but also benefit from the perspective change you get from VR.

Indeed. Nothing can convey the feeling of actually being in the world and taking on a new persona as much as VR. As mentioned walking, interacting and experiencing City 17 in Half Life Alyx through VR is just something else. Things like simulators actually feel like you are in the seat of the thing you are controlling. Think most of it is the fact you can move your head around a look around the place you are in that immerses the most and the way the controllers are designed to allow more of a natural interaction.

 

Not saying VR is the future of gaming - just a facet and an underdeveloped one at the moment.  For me it feels like something genuinely new and next gen - where we are ultimately heading too... why simulate a 3D world on limited devices that abstract the experience when you can be in that space?  

 

Suppose I do have an interest in VR going way back. Since reading about Case jacking into CyberSpace in Neuromancer in 1984 (whilst in reality I was thumping keys on a sub 100K rubber keyed 8 bit computer!) my final year project in building a virtual interactive world to explore over the web  (VRML anyone remember that?!). Sony have been somewhat pioneers in this respect and have been investing in research into VR since the 90s. So for me its exciting to see significant developments in the area over the past 5-10 years to the point where I could buy an Oculus Rift device last year for less than £300 and plug it into a home PC! So the development VR for me is the most exciting thing to happen in technology at the moment. Looking forward to a time when I can hit a button on my glasses and be transformed into a virtual space - where I can engage with people and have experiences - whether that be games or just heading into the workspace for meetings etc. We are not there yet but when we get closer it will change the way we interact and experience things together. No matter where we physically live or hampered by the limitations imposed by the physical world. I expect this is why Meta are pouring money into VR type devices because they are seeing what could be the future of things like Facebook and virtual offices etc. Working at home using MS Teams/Zoom etc is just the start. :)

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They really need to innovate more with flight sims. What about planes that fly backwards? Spherical planes? Procedurally generated bioplanes that fly by extruding tendrils upwards and consuming the body of the plane behind them?

 

They've spent too long trapped in this rut of accurately simulating the flight dynamics of real-world aircraft. Sadly, Microsoft Flight Sim has gone down this gimmicky dead end of simulating literally the entire world in photorealistic detail. Hopefully, someone else will come along and create some kind of flight sim MOBA with air juggles and combo kills, and where you can land and talk to anyone in the world, and go into their house to be cooked a simple meal.

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What I mean about flight Sim is that accurate models of flight and accurate recreations of planes date back to flight Sim 2004 and Flight Sim X.

 

Games have advanced so much since I played Sinclair's own Flight Sim on the 48K spectrum and of course you had no further computer performance to make anything better.  Then I had F18 interceptor on the Amiga which was a billion times better.  But as computer capabilities become more and more... Erm.. capable, you inevitably reach a plateau. Flight Sim for the Xbox is unbelievable in what they achieved but, going by the title of this thread, has the game advanced since 2010?  I'd argue that obviously yes the presentation has advanced but Flight Sim 2010 still had really accurate recreations of planes.  It also had the whole world programmed in  Sure it was green and blue and unrecognisable. But in terms of gameplay and modern performance that's all there is left to do - make the graphics smoother, more detailed, 60fps.  Because flying a plane is, ultimately, the same as it was 10 years ago.  

 

My point is that VR gives you something new.  A controller and a TV screen has reached the point where the gameplay of Flight Sim is much the same as it was ten years ago.  The racing in Forza 5 is no better or worse than Burnout Paradise.  But modern games dont have anywhere left to go other than better graphics, frame rates and more content.  You need something like VR to restart gameplay innovation because we have already achieved the best we are going to get with a TV and control pad.

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10 hours ago, dumpster said:

Away from VR, everything  seems to be exactly what you've done before but bigger. Way, way bigger. GTA5 is fundamentally the same game as GTA3.  Flight Sim is an incredible achievement but the actual aeroplane itself handles and controls exactly the way it did in Flight Sim 2001, or Flight Sim 2010. It's smoother, it's HD, the map is photorealistic but the plane still has all the same controls in the same places on the dash.

I agree generally (e.g. FH5), but to be fair early flight sims nailed the flight model so well that beyond making it look real, I'm not sure what else there was to do. I dunno though, feels like "look real" skirts over the monumental achievement of distilling the world down to 2TB of terrain data.

 

Anyone remember the daft VR units of the 90s? Massive thing, plonked in the middle of GAME or whatever. There were a few games, I played the one where you flew a Harrier Jumpjet. It was terrible, at least compared to PC flight sims of the era. Sadly that was the first and only experience I've had with VR, but the new Flight Sim in VR sounds absolutely astonishing, if you have the monster PC for it.

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2 hours ago, dumpster said:

But modern games dont have anywhere left to go other than better graphics, frame rates and more content.  You need something like VR to restart gameplay innovation because we have already achieved the best we are going to get with a TV and control pad.

Indeed... I am seriously at a point now where I'm shunning "new" games completely. Personally getting no buzz from them. They are over complex and time consuming because as you mention they are differentiating themselves these days by adding more and more content (DLC or otherwise) and making the graphics ever more shiny. It does get to a point where every "new" game you play just feels like every other game you've played before - either using tried and tested mechanics or borrowing a mixture of ideas from what has gone before. Think the main thing here is how long you have been gaming. The longer you have played the less and less impressed you can be with new releases. The last few games I've played I've done around 5-6 hours and dropped them.

 

The last one I played Forza Horizon 5. Initially the visuals sucked me in - lovely place to drive around then realised this could be any Forza Horizon game...  its the same old game loop - some things added to mix to create the illusion of something new. Its not a bad game just a Forza Horizon by the numbers. I don't care about amassing credits anymore, buying cars, houses leveling up. Sure it runs at a super high res at 60fps etc... does it make for a better game experience? Something new? Not really. At the moment I keep creeping back into older games because they are raw and distilled examples of genres that seem to have become bloated and overly complex over time.

 

I am not complaining however I think that modern gaming at the moment is stagnant for me. Its reaching the limits of what can be achieved with current legacy of a 2D screen/3D projections/pad type controller setup and agree it needs something to take it all up a notch.. revolutionary not evolutionary. Who knows what that will be. I am however keeping hold of the PS5 as Sony have at least tweaked the controller to offer something a bit different and of course they are still experimenting with creating new experiences in terms of VR etc. Not sure what to expect but well lets see. :) 

 

It will interesting to discuss this same topic in say another 10 years and see where things are at then! :) 

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On 23/11/2021 at 05:57, Vemsie said:

 


It already happened. While it may never be as mainstream as normal console gaming, the fact that we have so many headsets on the market right now in different pricing ranges and another big one on the way is testament to that. It also gave us some genuinely fresh and brilliant new gaming experiences, which is relevant to this topic.

I do think there is this generalization going on that AAA means massively expensive, risk-averse bloated open world collectathons in established franchises, but that's not quite what's going on. There was this fear that as technology progressed, mechanical depth and complexity would take a backseat to shinies. And you could point towards games like Hitman Absolution and even Bioshock Infinite a decade or so ago to prove your point. Capcom even decided to outsource some of their most beloved franchises, which lost much of their identity as a result (DMC and Dead Rising 3 and 4 being prime examples). However, much of last gen and this gen paint a different picture. Games like DOOM Eternal and Devil May Cry 5 have arguably the best gameplay in their respective series. They look and sound great and they play brilliantly. There is nothing shallow about them. Hitman 3 (and the entire World of Assassination trilogy for that matter) has some of the best and most complex level and simulation design in gaming with some interesting ideas like elusive targets added on top of them. Prey is an immersive sim masterpiece, a great vessel for player agency with fantastic level design.
Sure, I hear you say, but these are all games in established franchises? Where is the new stuff?

Well, let's not forget that three of the most acclaimed games of 2019 - the last year before the pandemic hit - were all new AAA IP that each did vastly different things. From Software's Sekiro is a very challenging action adventure that certainly doesn't stick to any AAA 'trends'. If anything, From Software is proof that you can become a premier developer that sells millions and millions of copies of each new game by sticking to your guns and inspiring other developers as a result (look at the Nioh games for example, but also countless indies and AA games like the The Surge titles). In fact, based on early word I wouldn't be surprised if their next new IP - Elden Ring - will become one of the most acclaimed games of all-time.

Then there is Remedy's Control. What's interesting about this game is that while it's technologically very advanced with lots of destructability, interactive environments and state of the art ray-tracing, it's also fairly cheap. Its budget is around 30 million dollars, a fary cry from the 180 million dollars that The Last of Us 2 cost to make. By choosing a Metroidvania style design in a single building and telling most of its story through environmental storytelling, they could make a AAA experience on a fairly modest budget.
This year saw another example of that with Housemarque's acclaimed Returnal, another new IP that isn't really comparable to anything in Sony's portfolio. It's a very gameplay focused title that makes great use of new tech without the need for a massive open world or hours and hours of motion-captured cutscenes. Returnal was not just a critical success, but also deemed a commercial success by Sony in one of their financial reports despite having sold 'only' 600K copies at that point. Why? Because it was never an expensive game to begin with, despite looking and sounding the part. By choosing a roguelite structure and telling almost all of its (interesting) story through environmental storytelling and playable first-person sequences as well as having only two voiced characters in the entire game (not including the news report), they managed to save a ton of money.

The third game in 2019 - and the one that won the most awards that year - I would like to provide as an example was Hideo Kojima's Death Stranding, yet another new IP. While this is an open world game with lots of cutscenes, it's also deliciously weird with little combat and a focus on crossing the terrain of a ravaged world, in which you literally and figuratively build bridges.

These are just a couple of examples. I could also point towards the game with the most nominations at the Game Awards this year, which is Deathloop. Arkane's game is yet another example of new IP that's not really comparable to most AAA games out there, save for perhaps their own portfolio. I could also tell you that the last Edge 10 went to Dreams, a Sony published tool for expressing creativity that was a gen in the making. And I could point towards Flight Simulator and Half-Life Alyx as other AAA experieces that are unlike anything else out there on the market right now.

Really, look a bit further than Ubisoft and EA (and even there you can find the odd gem) and you'll see that there are lots of strong AAA titles (and perhaps AA as well, I'm not even sure in which the Yakuza games fit for example) with interesting ideas and gameplay that don't fit the moniker of big open world collectathons that are wide as an ocean and deep as a puddle.

Of course, like in other forms of entertainment, you'll find the most experimental stuff in the indie scene, and that will never change. But they can co-exist, influence each other (look at how many indie games took elements from Soulsborne games) and both provide compelling experiences beyond what was possible before without sacrificing gameplay. Looking at gaming as a whole, I think it's never been more varied, and that's on top of things like new delivery methods, technological advancements and ways to play.


Why is this thread still going when we’ve had this spot-on answer already?

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  • 6 months later...
On 23/11/2021 at 09:36, Plissken said:

I keep going back to Deliver Us The Moon as an example of a very well written story.


I am playing this at the moment (nearly finished I guess as I’m at the reactor) and I agree - also the storytelling itself is top notch, all the different ways it conveys things. I love the foreshadowing of beats through the ‘Moonman’ books you find.

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Great topic, great replies. The only issue is this thread broaches too many ideas. Do books progress? Do movies? Either way, I do think our purpose in this life is to learn.

 

FWIW, movies over the last 10–20 years seem less and less significant, while videogames continue to fascinate me more. Are they the art of the zeitgeist?

I'm in awe of the of artistry and creativity that went into Yakuza: Like a Dragon, Baldur's Gate III, and Cyberpunk 2077. Games I couldn't of fathomed 10 years ago. Then again, my mind was similarly blown by Fallout 3 ages ago, and I generally expect to be amazed by the wizards at Nintendo.

Overall, to the topic at hand, I think the biggest development in the last decade, as mentioned earlier in the thread, is the emergence of indie auteurs. I think it's shocking to see GOTY's from small titles like Celeste or Slay the Spire.

I remember a 90's retrospective program about the movies. They interviewed famous directors on the future or demise of cinema. I think it was Francis Ford Coppola who prophesied a great future of film where masterpieces would be made by relatively unknown talent on cheap tech. At the time I thought his vision was impossibly optimistic. Go figure.

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Gotta be honest, I still struggle to accept that intellectually this industry might have peaked in the late 90s / early 2000s with games like System Shock 2 and Deus Ex or even Shadow of the Colossus. Or, even if it's a specific genre, Gabriel Knight Sins of our Fathers. 

A handful of games have been as mind-blowing since then, e.g. Witcher 3 or Dishonored 2.

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