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abstractimmersion

old school vs. new school

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As a type of "old-school gamer," I read nerd_boy's post below with interest. I chose my own screen name as a description of what I felt to be the fun of older games, and I'll attempt to explain this feeling here. I'd like to introduce some terms--the opacity, translucence, and transparancy of games. Transparency is how closely a game models action in reality. By reality I simply mean realtime and realspace. For example, I'm including a well rendered monster in Doom 3 in this reality. This is what people are talking about generally when they talk about wanting games to be more "realistic," or when they're hoping games become "more like movies." Opacity in a game is movement farther away from modelling reality. Chess, for example, could be considered an extemely opaque game. Of course, these terms are meaningless in puzzle games like tetris, and other games that aren't really trying to model anything in reality. You'll notice that tetris would be tetris on the NES or the PS2. The PS2 version would look prettier, but the game would play the same. Transparency needs advanced graphics and high processing speeds. Games that benefit from higher transparency are the games that are selling, and indirectly selling systems--FPS's, EA sports games, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. The more transparent these games are, the better they are, and they've been pushing the graphical envelope. Moving in 3d requires a lot of processor power as well. Not all genres require transparency to be good. RPG's and similar games (like say, Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past) don't really benefit from higher transparency, because they were never really trying to model reality. What old school gamers miss is the translucence of the older games. Translucence allows a gamer's imagination to fill in the details between what's presented on screen and what it's supposed to signify. THe graphics and gameplay don't pretend to be exact representations of real space, and it allows the gamer to enjoy the game on a more abstract and imaginative level. It's like the difference between reading a book and watching a movie. I think where nerd_boy misses the point is that gaming doesn't need limits so much as it needs the creativity the limits inspired. Personally, I think there's only so much one can do with transparency before it gets boring.

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I think I understand what you're trying to say, even if your keywords (imho) don't make a lick of sense. First and foremost, as far as the english language goes, you're using synonyms and antonyms, and yet, you approach them from a stance that they are seperate and unique entities.

I would say simulation is a better keyword for how closely a game models "reality"(and I too define reality by meaning realistic within the sphere of the game world).

Abstraction is a better term for moving towards or away from "reality" but both of these things (transparency/opacity) seem to be opposites(by your definition). So perhaps as a game becomes "more transparent" it becomes either more simulated, or more abstract. Transparency works as a metaphor here because one could say that a highly realistic game would be "nearly transparent" in that the game cannot be easily seperated from reality (in the context of the game world), while it becomes more "opaque" as we lose the transparency be it from poor game design, poor graphics, whatever.

Finally, translucence, which is a direct synonym of transparent, definitely needs to be changed. Perhaps ambiguity would be more fitting, but it is important to note that transparency and opacity might be directly related, moreso opacity. As a game becomes more transparent, the player becomes more immersed in the physical images that they are seeing and therefore, there is less need for their imagination to fill in the gaps, lessening the amount of ambiguity in the game.

With that being said, I do think that you're on to something with this theory. While most of today's games become more and more graphics intensive, and as those graphics become more and more life-like, we begin to feel physically transported to another world rather than imaginatively transported. This could be the reason that text-based MUDs continue to thrive despite the multitude of MMOG's flying around. Where one immerses you physically within a game world by sending to your eyes and ears the physical sensation of that game world, the other immerses you mentally in that world as the text descriptions of the scene, much akin to reading a book, fill your mind with mental images of your own creation that will always only play a small second to actual real-life experience.

But I don't think it's safe at all to say that gamers who miss the "old school" are simply more imaginative than gamers who prefer the "new school", especially considering many people ride the fence on this issue and enjoy a fair mixture of both the old and the new. Perhaps as others stated in nerd_boy's post, it is an attempt to recapture something of our youth, considering the younger players now-a-days would think that we were playing on an abacus if they saw a copy of Super Mario Bros. But instead they will create a whole new generation of nostalgia as they fondly recollect UT2004, Counter-Strike, GTA, etc... as the games of their childhood and long for those "Good Ol' Days" when the latest and greatest is full-immersion VR simulators or some other funky thing people have yet to think up.

Anyway, that's my two cents, something to chew on,

Vopisk

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"translucent" != "transparent"

I chose the words because I wanted to denote a continuum between farther from reality and closer to reality, with light serving as a metaphor for reality. "Translucent" is the wide grey area between "opaque" and "transparent."

Playing football in Madden '06 is more "transparent" than playing a war game in chess. Final Fantasy 6 is "translucent;" not attempting to directly imitate reality, but supposedly being set in some sort of real, 3d world.

This doesn't have anything to do with nostalgia. I still play old games because they're fun, not because I want to be 13 again. I still play a lot of X-Com, Master of Magic, and Final Fantasy Tactics. I play through LoZelda: LttP and River City Ransom once every year or so, because I enjoy them (Although I play the GBA version of RCR now).

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My own theory is that older video games, not having access to realism, were better as "games" and more directly comparable to board games or puzzles (like those blacksmith puzzles made of horseshoes, etc.). Newer video games seem to be moving more toward story telling. In some the designer tells a story, in some the player tells a story, but the story/atmosphere seems more important than the game as such.

I think this fits the opacity analogy. Playing the NES Mario games wasn't about a story or experiencing a world, it was about beating the game. Solitaire is about beating the game. Chess is about beating the other player in a game. The Adventures of Lolo was about the puzzles. I think many gamers "of the new school" would be like "So you're a blue... thing that shoots... eggs? Yeah... I'll just play my games and you just go smoke whatever it is that you smoke...". They aren't interested in enjoying that world any more than gamers "of the old school", but the old school wasn't concerned about the world.

Is it as clear cut as that? No. Is there overlap? Yes. Are there new games that are good "games"? Yes (especially flash games). Do I think that invalidates the conclusion? No.

And, for what it's worth:
Quote:
Wikipedia
In optics, transparency is the property of allowing light to pass. The opposite property is opacity.

...

Translucent materials allow light to pass through them only diffusely, and hence cannot be clearly seen through.


So, translucent would be an apt description of games that are somewhere between the opaque(abstraction) and transparent(simulation). We didn't really need to introduce new terms because we already have the terms "abstract" and "realistic", but I think opacity may be a good analogy to help with the "ambiguous" (not as abstract as chess, but not as realistic as Doom 3) games like Zelda:LttP.

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Quote:
Original post by Way Walker
My own theory is that older video games, not having access to realism, were better as "games" and more directly comparable to board games or puzzles (like those blacksmith puzzles made of horseshoes, etc.). Newer video games seem to be moving more toward story telling. In some the designer tells a story, in some the player tells a story, but the story/atmosphere seems more important than the game as such.


I really dislike the story-telling angle that is so hot right now, but that's another thread.

Quote:
I think this fits the opacity analogy. Playing the NES Mario games wasn't about a story or experiencing a world, it was about beating the game.


Actually, I'd say it was all about experiencing the world.

Quote:

The Adventures of Lolo was about the puzzles. I think many gamers "of the new school" would be like "So you're a blue... thing that shoots... eggs? Yeah... I'll just play my games and you just go smoke whatever it is that you smoke...".


Yeah, exactly.

Quote:
We didn't really need to introduce new terms because we already have the terms "abstract" and "realistic", but I think opacity may be a good analogy to help with the "ambiguous" (not as abstract as chess, but not as realistic as Doom 3) games like Zelda:LttP.


I can't really think of a good word to denote the grey area between "abstract" and "realistic," though. "Ambiguous", is, well, ambiguous. So, I felt the need to craft a metaphor, since I was trying to draw attention to the grey area and how it demands more imagination and is what is most lacking from the new school games.

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Original post by abstractimmersion
Quote:
I think this fits the opacity analogy. Playing the NES Mario games wasn't about a story or experiencing a world, it was about beating the game.


Actually, I'd say it was all about experiencing the world.


I'd agree if by this you meant experiencing the puzzles and gameplay offered by that world, but I think it's unlikely that's what you mean. I think you're enjoying the goombas and pipes as a world to be explored, which is more what I was getting at with "experiencing a world" but less in line with how people talked about these games. People talked about them like puzzles; they abstracted away what little realism the game was dressed up in. Gamers collected "coins" in many games without a coin in sight.

Quote:

Quote:
We didn't really need to introduce new terms because we already have the terms "abstract" and "realistic", but I think opacity may be a good analogy to help with the "ambiguous" (not as abstract as chess, but not as realistic as Doom 3) games like Zelda:LttP.


I can't really think of a good word to denote the grey area between "abstract" and "realistic," though. "Ambiguous", is, well, ambiguous. So, I felt the need to craft a metaphor, since I was trying to draw attention to the grey area and how it demands more imagination and is what is most lacking from the new school games.


Which is why I thought it a good analogy.

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This could be the reason that text-based MUDs continue to thrive despite the multitude of MMOG's flying around. Where one immerses you physically within a game world by sending to your eyes and ears the physical sensation of that game world, the other immerses you mentally in that world as the text descriptions of the scene, much akin to reading a book, fill your mind with mental images of your own creation that will always only play a small second to actual real-life experience.


Looking at how popular books remain in spite of television and interactive storytelling games, I'd say this is a spot-on observation. When playing Zelda on the NES, the graphics and gameplay didn't provide much immersion, but the nature of the story and the limited information that could be conveyed through the game 'interface' (in the broadest sense) stimulated your imagination to provide a great gaming experience.

Today, most games show and tell everything there is to know about the world you play in (which sadly isn't a whole lot in many games today). I think that would be the main defect of today's games, other than that they're lacking the appeal to our childhood nostalgia. To add depth to a game, I think you need to incorporate a decent back story, leave certain bits of information mysteriously underexposed and you'd have to appeal to the player's imagination. 'Old games' had to do this out of necessity, lacking storage space, graphic and sound capabilities and corporate funding.

Lucky for us old fart gamers, some more modern games have returned to these roots. When you take a look at Shadow of the Colossus for example, it's a puzzle game made fun and mysterious because you simply don't have all the answers. And as mr. Aonuma, director of Zelda:WW, stated Link doesn't have voice acting, since that might not match up with the players' mental images of how Link should sound. They actually chose not to use a common feature in video games to give the player more room for his or her fantasy.

Let's just hope this trend I see isn't only wishful thinking [wink]

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Quite a true observation, I often find myself becoming visually bored of high-quality games, yet seem to always drift to the old pixel/blocky-3d games. I think there's a certain level of over-saturation in newer games, you see the most amazing mind-blowing countryside, characters and world presented to you, leaving nothing to your imagination. But after that there isn't much else to see, how many times can you be blown away by the same thing? Since it doesn't leave anything to the imagination there isn't much reason to even think about it anymore.

I don't think its entirely a factor of Nostalgia, these old methods are somewhat like styles of Art, you don't see people throwing away charcoal and calling it "Old school" when pastels come along. I see Pixel-Art/2d and other old methods the same way, not obsolete but simply a different method of presentation and style.

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As someone who started gaming as old school gaming was coming nearer to its end, I'd have to say that I enjoy both, just as much.

'New school' is obviously much more frequent now, and I love thoses games, and everyso often comes a game that looks old school, or has elements of old school games, I love both just as much really.

I think if Old school games were still in style they wouldn't be the games we love today, and the industry would be bored, and longing for the 'new school' games we have at the moment.

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To the "core" of a game, graphics and sound don't mean doodly squat. A piece of drek can have the neatest graphics and sound and be unsatisfying. An old school game I remember as being quite fun was Earthrise. The background was an asteroid was heading toward Earth, a base had been established on it to provide the propulsion to steer it away. Communications with the base had been lost. Go there, find out what happened, stay alive long enough to fix it in time to avoid collision with earth. We are talking 16 available colors, 320x320 available pixels and the very first soundblaster audio card that didn't work with most games so you had to rely on "internal sound". So you took this really crude, boxlike guy around salvaging things like rope and wrenches etc, avoiding torn out ladders etc even taking a honey bee you put in an empty jar to transport it through vacuum to occupy an alien plant while you blew the biosphere up to access the engines room....poor bee. Anyway, it was the unexpected things you encountered in the game that made it fun. It was the imagination of the design not the graphics or the rather pathetic sound.
Being able to use your own imagination is important yes, but equally so is the enjoyment of the other person(s) imagination. I enjoyed the lovely graphics of Fable. I enjoyed the oriental plot twists of Jade Empire. I was tickled by the humor of The Sims. Its important to engage the players imagination but you're only going to do that when you impress, surprise, delight them with your own.
That's what us old farts miss! It doesn't help either that the older you get the less new things are under the sun to surprise and delight us. The nostalgia isn't for the times or the style of games but for that delight it gave us.

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