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First off, let me get the disclaimer out. I've not programmed/designed advanced games(Asteroids and Breakout are about the most advanced I've gotten). I have done a great deal of research on current and past games and their designs. And this is not meant to be a rant about current day games or start a flame war. Now, even though modern day games are still fun and whatnot, many people will(and have) admitted that they still enjoy the old games, often over current ones(not sure if that applies to MUDs and MMORPGs). This includes people who didn't really grow up with many, if any at all, of the older games. By older games, I mean the ones that ran on extremely limited machines, with such consoles as the SNES and the SEGA GENESIS being in the grey area, possibly included in the old moreso than the new, and everything before them, obviously, are 'old'. One could theorize that this is because the game ideas are all used or beaten to death. While this does have elements of truth in it, I personally don't feel that this is the whole reason, but possibly a small facet of the problem. Others could argue its because games are now made by large corporations, and most important decisions are made by 'suits', or people who don't really know all that much about games and programming. Again, this does have its merits. But the reason, in my mind, that is largely overlooked is LIMITS. And yet, I feel, it plays an equal, if not more important, part in the problem. Back with the old games, if you've done the least amount of study in that area, they were extremely limited. There were only so many colors you could use, and of that you could only pick from the ones provided. The sound, when there was sound, was pretty basic, for the most part. The amount of space in there was so small, that I highly doubt all the text in this post would fit in some of the machines, even if you didn't have to have the text graphics as well(required by some consoles). And the programming was, well, assembly. I doubt that some programmers today, and so called computer-scientists(the ones that graduate yet don't know jack squat about basic stuff, such as hexa-decimal and important 'basics' of computer programming) would be willing to even look at the code, let alone code it to begin with. Before I get on to why these limits made games better as far as graphics/sound/gameplay, I'm going to go into the programming bit(perhaps not wholey suitable for the game design foroum, so you can skip on down to the next paragraph if you like). There are limits today imposed upon programs that would have probably killed, literally, many games for those machines. Granted, there are reasons these days for some of these, such as security for computer machines and what not, although these were usually done by hardware in the large cartridges(NES) and such. Take modern day APIs. Granted, they have 3D capabilites(some argue that 3D helped with the downfall, but that is another argument, much more flame-war-ish, altogether). But to make a 2D game, you have to do tons of stuff, often depending on the API. But with the consoles, you were given almost, if not total, complete control over the machine. Granted, one mistake could cause problems, but the way they were designed it wouldn't be permanent(as far as I know). All sorts of tricks were pulled using these lack of limits to make the machines do more than they were intended, even thought to be able to do. And these were clever tricks. Back then, you used your brains, and learned almost everything through trial-and-error with, possibly, the list of commands by your side and maybe a few snippets of code. Nowadays, I will grant that there is much benefit to be gained from reading tutorials and books, etc., but I personally feel that there are people who are becoming 'addicted', if you will, to books partly, and mostly to tutorials. People read these tutorials, and continue to glean most of their knowledge from these, often practicing cookbook programming and voodoo coding(look in the Jargon File for definitions). They then use only what they learn, not trying to find why it does what it does, etc. I believe this is detrimental. Sure, tutorials and such are great when your starting out(perhaps a new language or concept), but you should be able to use what you learned, and what you've learned from other things, to expand upon it without always trying to find out how someone else has done it, or get someone to do it. I'm not saying that it is bad practice to see how someone else has done it, but in the least you should outline, perhaps in psuedo-code, how you would do it, and don't just copy/past or look/type the other's work in. Put your touch to it. Try to perfect it, make it faster or smaller or whatever your needs are. As for the actual components seen by the player, art/music/gameplay, these too were 'enhanced' by the limits. For the most part, with the art, the colors you had to choose from were selected pretty well, particularly with the machine's limitations. And artists squeezed every detail they could into the work. I'm not here to denounce non-pixel artists, indeed I'm impressed by much of the work out there, but pixel artists are something different altogether. Many of them worked hard and redid an 8x8 many times, I'm sure, along with putting up with programmer's requirements, at times probably thinking programmer's were just trying to be mean. The gameplay was much better as well, in my opinion. For starters, due once more to the limited space, instead of getting lengthy replies on where something you needed was, you got short answers that were at times, granted, insanely difficult, but actually made you use your brain. And for the adventure/action genres, it was by far more fun, due in fact to the difficulty, and the inability to save every 5 seconds. Plus, people bragged about finishing a game or completing a certain level or quest. And when they did that, they would go back and try to see how fast they could do it. It was an additional element of fun. True, you can still do the samething now-a-days, but cut-scenes do kinda add to the time. Anyway, now that I've told you where I think we lost it, I'd like to A)here other opinions and B)try to find possible 'solutions', since I don't want to present the problem without the solution. Granted, the solution wouldn't be all that popular, I'd imagine. I doubt that anyone is going to make/sell a 'limited' console now(except for LaMothe's, but that was kinda expensive and non-standard from what I've heard). I suppose that we could emulate an imaginary machine(which wouldn't be breaking any copyright laws, then), but it would have to have a large backing to be pretty commonly used. Self-imposed limitations are always an option, but they require self-discipline, and also take the fun and point from limits, which is too work around them as much as possible, and even push them. Quite a few special graphics techniques, to my understanding, were derived from breaking so called limits of the machine or manipulating the machine in such a fashion that is not allowed by the compilers today, let alone trying it on the hardware. This has turned more into a rant, it seems, than what I meant it to be. If so, I apologize to the moderators, and also, if it is deemed that this is not for the Game Design foroum, please move. Thanks, and thanks for reading as well. Note: In the time that it took me to write this, apparently I forgot to put what the problem was. Replayability. And, no, this wasn't a post/rant about how old games are superiour to new ones. I apologize if it seemed that way, although now that I reread my post, I can see how it could be derived. [Edited by - nerd_boy on January 26, 2006 10:27:27 AM]

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I did a search on your post and the only question mark I found was in the title. This leads my to believe your post was an opinionated rant. If you want advice, please ask direct questions, otherwise you are only standing on a soapbox.

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try to find possible 'solutions', since I don't want to present the problem without the solution.


What is the problem?

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some argue that 3D helped with the downfall


What downfall?

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This has turned more into a rant


I would have to agree.

Look, I enjoy the occasional Nethack session as much as the next guy. But to claim games are now somehow inferior because they break relatively less hardware resource limits than before -- I don't buy that. In absolute terms we're lightyears ahead of the days of old-school gaming rigs. Personally, I had 8-hour sessions when I was a kid playing Skool Daze, I have 8-hour sessions now playing Half-Life 2 or Morrowind, but I sure as hell wouldn't bother with Skool Daze for eight hours straight anymore. The bar has been raised even if the relative amusement level has stayed fairly constant.

It's really all about player expectations. I have no doubt ten years from now HL2 will seem like an extremely limited and one-dimensional experience with poor visuals. I'm also sure there'll be some historian claiming it was so much better than the games of 2016. And I'm sure I'll have an emulator handy just as I have one now, to relief myself from the occasional surge of nostalgia... ;)

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I'm afraid there will always be programming mechanics, those who use modules that are known to work and string them together to produce a quick whole. WTH, there's nothing wrong with making on honest living. Innovation in almost any field (except chemical and medical research) mainly comes from the private sector. The much maligned "hobbyist" has the time to look a little deeper. The unrealistic deadlines and the practice of delegating different portions of the game to different programmers lends itself to an assembly line model where the emphasis is not on innovation. Its a business not an art and thats just the economic reality of it.
I would prefer not to go back to the old limited languages. I hated Pascal and once had to produce a masked banking input screen for it. Any who know how the old relic worked it had a very inconvenient numeric limitation. But it also had a function for turning a numeric input into a character string input. After about 20 pages of code and about the same number of nested loops and gazillion if then statements the numeric limitation had been overcome...individual numeral by individual numeral. I don't want to go there again, thank you very much.
Having had to grok a new code by intuition, I much prefer books. I want to be able to look over the code that has come before me, the common errors that occured and I want a language manual that gives every recognized statement with a short synopsis of what it does and what it needs. Then I'll decide the best way to get from point a to point b in my program.
Back in the day, the programmer, artist and audio guru were often one deep and had a shared vision of the goal, they worked closely together both physically and intellectually. It was their baby not their next assignment.
I have hopes that as more programming knowledge reaches more people and direct marketing gains popularity, we will again see an upsurge in imaginative, enjoyable games. Just the instance of people expressing dissatisfaction with the gaming status quo is a hopeful step in a more interesting direction :D

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Actually, I have to agree with the OP. I don't have the time right now to elaborate too much, but in a nutshell:

Before I was programming, I worked with limited systems too. Starcraft triggers, Graal scripts (a kinda obscure "MMO action RPG" in those days)... sure they weren't exactly ASM, but to do something you had to think a lot about how you would break the system. It is true that challenge fosters creativity. Some of my most imaginative creations were done in these systems. I even had a Starcraft maps site (Jotaf98's Science Vessel :P ) with dozens of tutorials on how to put this special effect in your own maps.
When I went to programming, Visual Basic didn't have good support for DirectX and BitBlt wasn't very fast. So people resorted to all sorts of insane tricks to optimize the hell out of it. When I think about some of the tile systems I used, I wanna smack in the head the person that makes me use fixed formulae to dump triangles to the graphics card.

With the ability to draw anything in high-resolution with 16 million colors, to put as many objects on the map as you want, to define all the gameplay mechanics you want at will, developers are shocked with the gigantic number of possibilities. So we resort to the cozy formulae that everyone uses. This is a known and documented psychological phenomena, and we all suffer from it.

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Original post by nerd_boy
Back then, you used your brains, and learned almost everything through trial-and-error with, possibly, the list of commands by your side and maybe a few snippets of code. Nowadays, I will grant that there is much benefit to be gained from reading tutorials and books, etc., but I personally feel that there are people who are becoming 'addicted', if you will, to books partly, and mostly to tutorials. People read these tutorials, and continue to glean most of their knowledge from these, often practicing cookbook programming and voodoo coding(look in the Jargon File for definitions). They then use only what they learn, not trying to find why it does what it does, etc. I believe this is detrimental.
Fine, but what you're talking about is completely not relevant to the professional game industry, and probably not relevant to the indie sector either. It's an infection of the amateur development community, which is what dominates the GDNet population. Programming now, for consoles or PCs, is every bit as challenging as it was back then -- it's just that the challenges lie elsewhere.

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Original post by Promit
Fine, but what you're talking about is completely not relevant to the professional game industry, and probably not relevant to the indie sector either. It's an infection of the amateur development community, which is what dominates the GDNet population. Programming now, for consoles or PCs, is every bit as challenging as it was back then -- it's just that the challenges lie elsewhere.


True, I will grant that, but back then, mainly with the really old computers, anyone could program for it. I'm sure that the consoles nowadays are still cutting limits. But what is available for the general programmer isn't that limiting(which in some instances is good, I'll grant). I did state that I hadn't experience in making advanced games, but from what I've read at supposedly credible sites, that computers are so advanced that it isn't really required to do anything in remotely low languages(save for extreme math equations and some graphic card interactions). And about the amateur developement being the dominating force, yeah, that's probably true. But we're trying to learn. [wink]

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Challenges aren't dominated by limitations anymore, that's the point you're missing. There are LOTS of challenging things going on in all parts of game development, it's just that they're not so much concerned with handling the limitations of the hardware.

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Ironically...

1) It is not that games have been getting worse, but simply that you have higher expectations now.

or it is...

2) You are attempting to relive/capture your childhood experience, which is impossible because your smarter and more aware now now. (GOTO #1)



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Original post by nerd_boy
from what I've read at supposedly credible sites, that computers are so advanced that it isn't really required to do anything in remotely low languages(save for extreme math equations and some graphic card interactions)

Why is that a bad thing? Are you trying to say there's no challenge to making games today?
You're missing another factor. Today, most of the development may have moved on to higher level languages, for good or ill, but the scale of games have also moved on. Today, the challenge isn't "how do I write Tetris in asm", but "how the hell am I supposed to make the game I want in less than 8 years?"

And trust me, that is every bit as challenging. [wink]

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For the most part, with the art, the colors you had to choose from were selected pretty well, particularly with the machine's limitations. And artists squeezed every detail they could into the work. I'm not here to denounce non-pixel artists, indeed I'm impressed by much of the work out there, but pixel artists are something different altogether. Many of them worked hard and redid an 8x8 many times, I'm sure, along with putting up with programmer's requirements, at times probably thinking programmer's were just trying to be mean.

And how was that a good thing, exactly? Did the game look better because each pixel had been remade 20 times? Are you saying a sprite of 8x8 pixels looked better for being a technical limitation? It wouldn't look as good on todays computers?
And do you think people spend less time texturing and making meshes and animations today?

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The gameplay was much better as well, in my opinion. For starters, due once more to the limited space, instead of getting lengthy replies on where something you needed was, you got short answers that were at times, granted, insanely difficult, but actually made you use your brain. And for the adventure/action genres, it was by far more fun, due in fact to the difficulty, and the inability to save every 5 seconds. Plus, people bragged about finishing a game or completing a certain level or quest. And when they did that, they would go back and try to see how fast they could do it. It was an additional element of fun. True, you can still do the samething now-a-days, but cut-scenes do kinda add to the time.

Hmm, again I disagree. Gameplay was always better. The grass was also greener, there wasn't all this trouble with young people, people put in a decent day's work and... yeah, all that nostalgic/romantic junk we humans are so good at accumulating.

The (in)ability to save had nothing to do with technical limitations, and in cases where the game designer thinks it's worth it, there's still no quicksave today. But some games have moved on, to realize that allowing the player to save his game can actually be a good thing. So today, we get variety. Some games allow you to save, some don't. How is that a bad thing? How is it better than having *no* game allowing you to save? (Oh, and the oldest adventure games *did* allow you to save at any time. So I think you might have gotten your facts mixed up there. And I'd like some evidence and/or explaining of how games were "by far more fun".)

And cutscenes? That is so 90's. [wink]
No, seriously, the use of cutscenes have gone *way* down since games first switched to CD-ROM, and every game had to have at least 30 minutes of cutscenes. So again, I fail to see the problem.
No clue what you mean with the "short answers" part, and don't know how using your brain relates to the length of the text in a game, so I'll skip that.

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Quite a few special graphics techniques, to my understanding, were derived from breaking so called limits of the machine or manipulating the machine in such a fashion that is not allowed by the compilers today, let alone trying it on the hardware.

That depends on which language you use. And people still go right up against the limits of the hardware, as much as ever.

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But with the consoles, you were given almost, if not total, complete control over the machine. Granted, one mistake could cause problems, but the way they were designed it wouldn't be permanent(as far as I know). All sorts of tricks were pulled using these lack of limits to make the machines do more than they were intended, even thought to be able to do. And these were clever tricks. Back then, you used your brains

I'd like to ask what makes you think it's in any way different today. You may not be given complete control over the machine, but you certainly have control over the parts you need. You can still pull as many tricks as ever, and you still have to use your brain as much as ever.

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learned almost everything through trial-and-error with, possibly, the list of commands by your side and maybe a few snippets of code. Nowadays, I will grant that there is much benefit to be gained from reading tutorials and books, etc.

Again, I think you're wrong.

25 years ago, people sat at home, typing in code that was printed every month in games magazines. Back then, the only option you had for learning was pretty much tutorials. It was certainly the most common way to learn.
And yet you're claiming that tutorials *today* are too widespread, or a problem? I think you're looking at this upside down, or rather, not looking at all. You're talking from how you *think* the world looks, rather than first looking at the world to actually check whether you're right.

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I doubt that some programmers today, and so called computer-scientists(the ones that graduate yet don't know jack squat about basic stuff, such as hexa-decimal and important 'basics' of computer programming)

Care to back that one up? Or should we toss it on the pile of "I don't care to actually study the stuff I'm talking about, when I can just talk about what I think I'd see if I'd bothered to look"?

I think you may just find that "so-called computer scientists" today learn more basic stuff than your average game programmer 20 years ago knew. Of course, a CS graduate might not be better at *games* programming, but your average "old-school" game programmer didn't know much of the basics of a computer either. Not beyond the instruction set, and how to make it draw stuff on the screen. Game programmers back then usually weren't computer scientists.

Ok, to summarize, you're probably right that some old games had much more replayability than many new ones. Probably. But I really don't think all the nostalgic "modern hardware poses no limits", and "games were better when programmers had to work harder to achieve things" stuff is just, well, nostalgic stuff, which has nothing to do with replayability... [wink]

Another thing you're missing is that the market is bigger today. If you have learn of 8 new games in a year (On the level of Tetris or Pacman), then of course everything seems replayable. First, games like, say, Doom 3 weren't easy to make 25 years ago. But Pacman or Tetris was. Hence, people made Pacman and Tetris. Lots of them. Everyone and their uncle wrote their own Tetris clone.

Today, people are still writing Tetris clones. Or using Tetris as minigames inside their main game.
But today, there are also 200,000 other games coming out. And so, it's harder to spot the one focused on replayability. Not because there are fewer of the replayable ones, but because there are more of the other ones.

And finally, old games might not be as replayable as you think. Try playing some older games. Odds are half of them will drive you mad within half an hour. Even if you remember the gameplay as almost flawless, it might not be.
I dug up the original Warcraft a while back, because I loved playing it back then, and figured I'd give it a whirl again.
Honestly, it sucked. Everything has moved on so much since then. The gameplay was primitive and clumsy, so were the graphics and the interface.
It wasn't actually replayable any longer. [wink] And Warcraft isn't even all that old

So no, I don't think we have "lost it", it's just that, as stated above:
Quote:

1) It is not that games have been getting worse, but simply that you have higher expectations now.
2) You are attempting to relive/capture your childhood experience, which is impossible because your smarter and more aware now now. (GOTO #1)

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Hmmm... Well, as far as not all of the post relating to replayability and moreso the hardware, yeah, that was more of the rant. I kinda have my own personal opinion about that stuff, but whatever.

Also granted some of my sources were slightly old, and I can't really deny that part of it was more "I-didn't-really-study-in-depth" deal(although I did do it somewhat). So now I look like an idiot. [grin] Nothing unusual there.

But I still hold my ground on the replayability(not so much playable now vs the new ones, but still enjoyable after just finishing it). It may have had to do with the lack of titles, I hadn't thought of that, really... Though there were some elements that helped in the replayability as well.

Well, at least I'm learning stuff.

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You are attempting to relive/capture your childhood experience, which is impossible because your smarter and more aware now now.


Exactly the statement that woke me up from my biased view of the gaming industry and pretty much my crusade against high level programming I felt compelled to undertake some years ago [smile]

Seriously though, the claims you make against these "so called computer-scientists" is a bit of a narrow view. While it may be true that CS graduates now-a-days know less about low level programming, has it ever occurred to you that this might be because the high level programming fields have become so vastly broad subjects that it is impossible to maintain your knowledge of these, let alone all the lowlevel stuff?

I used to pride myself on my hardware knowledge, but I safely bought my last computer at Dell so I did't have to worry about that. I used to pride myself on my knowledge of the Java programming language, but I am realistic enough to leave certain aspects to the experts in those fields. And the list goes on and on. Some 15 years ago, you would simply have to write a basic windowing system for your Dos-based game. Today, the API for working with application windows alone probably contains more functions that an entire operating system back then.

As Promit pointed out, the challange lies elsewhere, the focus has shifted. Today, it is no longer an issue of what you can do with your limited hardware, out of which you had to squeeze every last clock-cycle. It has become an issue what you can do with your limited time, the huge API's and the enormous content demands.

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Also granted some of my sources were slightly old, and I can't really deny that part of it was more "I-didn't-really-study-in-depth" deal(although I did do it somewhat). So now I look like an idiot. [grin] Nothing unusual there.

Hey, nothing wrong with looking like an idiot... I do that all the time. [wink]

Anyway, everyone occasionally thinks thing were better back then. It's just important to realize that 95% of it is just nostalgia. But only 95%. There were some brilliant games being made back in the "good old days", and some of them did have qualities you don't see often today. But there was also a hell of a lot of junk being made. And countless clones of the same 3 games.
And moreover, there are still great games being made. But they tend to be different from the ones we had 20 year ago. And isn't that a good thing? Personally I'd be sick of puzzle games by now if the industry still hadn't moved beyond those. [lol]

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But I still hold my ground on the replayability(not so much playable now vs the new ones, but still enjoyable after just finishing it)

I know what you mean, and in some ways you're right. But keep in mind there are loads of different games being made today. Some of them might be as replayable as anything you've ever played. Others are, as you've noticed, only fun to play once. Again, variety. Isn't it a wonderful thing? [smile]

Or to put it another way:
We've already got Tetris and other replayable games. Why not keep playing them then? I mean, that's what replayable *means*.
Only the non-replayable games need constant reinventing. Only the games you play once or twice max have to be expanded with new features, different gameplay, new storylines and better graphics.
The games that are all about replayability don't need that, so why try to add it?

[Edited by - Spoonbender on January 26, 2006 5:16:51 PM]

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