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Dumbing down or butchering a game

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Every time a sequel is announced to a game I like there is a moment of excitement, ideas race through your head and I start to wonder what improvements they will make. Sadly this has started to change to dread instead and wondering what they will do to dumb down the game. I'm a console player as well as PC but every time they announce that the game will be released on both warning bells ring for me. The latest game to suffer from this is Supreme Commander. This game spoke to most TA fans. It brought new life to this game, new hope to this massive scale of RTS. Now when the second game is released it is a huge let down for me and many other TA lovers. When designing a game or a sequel in this case that is built upon the concept of resource management and grand style of TA why turn against this fanbase? I can understand the money side bu why not create another game instead of a sequel?

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I too suffer the "sequelphobia" that many gamers have as well.

What appears to be the problem is apparantly the cropping of features to cram more storyline or maps into that disk or download, depending on how the game is acquired.

Maybe one thing that in a way ticks me off is the fact that many game producers are not learning from others'/their previous mistakes.

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What exactly do you see as being butchered in SC2?

I've not played it yet, but I'm sure Chris Taylor would call it something like a new game that is more refined in concept. One review I looked at say it's as epic as TA but as simple to play as SC1.

There's always spring...

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Original post by Cosine
What appears to be the problem is apparantly the cropping of features to cram more storyline or maps into that disk or download, depending on how the game is acquired.

I doubt this is the case. Code takes up space, but it's not THAT big.

The reason games are being "dumbed down" is so they are more appealing to the massive demographic of casual gamers. Do you remember the first game you played? It was probably very simple. My first video game had 3 controls: left, right, and jump. It's boring to someone with years of gaming under his belt, but it's not so intuitive to someone who doesn't have that background.

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Sounds like what Deus Ex 2 Invisible War did to Deus Ex. They could have kept the different ammo, more complicated inventory, lockpicks and multitools and so on and still expanded the levels etc etc.

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Original post by Hodgman
What exactly do you see as being butchered in SC2?

I've not played it yet, but I'm sure Chris Taylor would call it something like a new game that is more refined in concept. One review I looked at say it's as epic as TA but as simple to play as SC1.

There's always spring...


Based on the demo, it's far less epic. The UI in particular makes the thing seem awkward and 'gamey'. The units themselves seem to have far less punch. Even the experimentals are kinda wimpy compared to the awesome power you got from seeing the first game's. The fatboy is just a big tank now... The addition of research and downplaying (removing?) the neighboring building benefits (and removing upgrades/levels) makes it feel a lot more like 'yet another RTS'. Battles go even more towards 'throw more units until you win' stupidity.

But the UI is really what struck me. The original game had such a clean ui. You could zoom from space on down and then see useful details. Now it seems like you're looking at an image and just zooming into it. The icon-view is way too busy and unclear. And even zoomed in there's no details. Just noise.

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I do agree the zoom in SC2 looks a little more boring, but in general I'd say if you don't like the sequal then don't buy it. There's no clearer message that you can send the developers than that!

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I was once an avid RTS player and like to think I was pretty good at them.

I don't much bother now though, on account of the games not supporting >10 units before the FPS crashes. I weakened and bought SC recently though and just finished the single player missions on hard. Decent fun but seriously samey.

Then I thought about playing skirmish. Tried a big map with 3x good AI's. Lost early a few times. Finally figured out how to win, ran out of units. Downloaded the patch to up the limit, started again. Beat the game this time, but it took all of Sunday playing at 10fps.

Uninstalled it now. Do you think the sequel is gonna run faster or slower? No? Same here - I'll pass. Starcraft 2 will be just as slow when you have a real battle going, I guarantee it. And my PC ain't no slouch either. Developers just don't make games for currrent pc's anymore.

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Original post by CadetUmfer
When's the last time getting MORE complicated has benefited a genre or IP? Adventure games, perhaps? Flight sims?


What about FPS? We're not exactly looking for the red key card anymore, and FPS games are one of the most straightforward of genres out there.

Open world sandbox games have become more complex. GTA used to be about driving around in top down perspective either gunning people down or doing very limited missions.

And what about hybrids? Or 4X Strategy games???

I think this "we must simplify everything in order to reach everyone" meme is very short-sighted. Not exactly sure where it's coming from (consoles?) but I'm glad to see that not all game series are falling for it.

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I don't think it's coming from consoles. I mean, console gaming has been around just as long, if not longer, than PC gaming (the Atari 2600 came out in 1977!). I think it comes from a desire to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. More people than ever are getting into games these days, so the non-hardcore market is becoming enormous, while the hardcore market is basically staying pretty much the same size.

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Original post by Codeka
I do agree the zoom in SC2 looks a little more boring, but in general I'd say if you don't like the sequal then don't buy it. There's no clearer message that you can send the developers than that!


Indeed. I wouldn't have even commented if it wasn't specifically brought up in the thread.

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Beat the game this time, but it took all of Sunday playing at 10fps.


Seriously? My machine is 4 years old, and wasn't top of the line then. I could run near the unit cap for 8 players and still saw ~30 fps. I have to wonder if your machine isn't as good as you think, or you demand high visuals for everything, or if you're playing the game in some neurotic fashion (30+ factories pumping out grunts)...

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I had to up the unit cap to several thousand as that's how I like to play against AI's - fend off massive hordes whilst building an impregnable base. There's no fun tit-for-tatting against "someone" with no personality on the other end.

However, older RTS games allowed me to do this just fine. RA2 vs 7x brutals is great fun. Against one going head to head like you would a human just isn't - but that game and ones before it at least allowed you the option. On much older HW than I have now.

My GPU is top of the line, the rest of my system is maybe two years old. That was the stuff of SciFi when Red Alert was made. I could play in the style I like on TA no problem.

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Original post by Wavinator
I think this "we must simplify everything in order to reach everyone" meme is very short-sighted. Not exactly sure where it's coming from (consoles?) but I'm glad to see that not all game series are falling for it.


I agree. I'm finding myself more and more drawn to indie games like dwarf fortress. They may look awful, but these games have a great deal of complexity which gives rise to some amazing emergent gameplay which is becoming increasingly hard to find.

Of course, many of these games are hard to get into. DF for instance, is notorious for its learning curve. The original SupCom also had a steep learning curve, and I think that this put off a lot of players. My feeling is that developers are trying to make their games more accessible.

The holy grail is a game which is accessible, yet deep and complex. I think that a lot of modern games are focusing too heavily on the former, while sacrificing the latter.

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Original post by Sandman
The holy grail is a game which is accessible, yet deep and complex. I think that a lot of modern games are focusing too heavily on the former, while sacrificing the latter.


They're a bit mutually exclusive up to a point though. No matter how much you tune your interface, gameplay and help resources to make it accessible, complex depth will by definition be not accessible enough for some part of your typical audience. Complexity and depth takes time to develop as well, so it's a choice wether or not you accept that your extra investment may only serve to reduce the size of your audience. For most publisher-funded game development companies, their choice should be pretty obvious.

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Original post by remigius
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Original post by Sandman
The holy grail is a game which is accessible, yet deep and complex. I think that a lot of modern games are focusing too heavily on the former, while sacrificing the latter.


They're a bit mutually exclusive up to a point though. No matter how much you tune your interface, gameplay and help resources to make it accessible, complex depth will by definition be not accessible enough for some part of your typical audience. Complexity and depth takes time to develop as well, so it's a choice wether or not you accept that your extra investment may only serve to reduce the size of your audience. For most publisher-funded game development companies, their choice should be pretty obvious.


Again, this is short sighted. A company doesn't live for one game alone. Making an accessible so-so game isn't going to get you word of mouth and it certainly won't get you any sort of customer loyalty.

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I can think of a number of games off the top of my head where the first game was fantastic, and the sequel was stupidly and unnecessarily dumbed down and simplified.

Dungeon Keeper 2 for example
Theme Park 2
(both bullfrog games oddly enough!)
Escape from Monkey Island
All of the above games were converted to pointless 3D with no soul, and any kind of substance in the story removed.

Sadly I think the reason behind this is because once a game does well, the 2nd game is made literally to extend the franchise and earn money, rather than being a product of imagination and creativity.

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Original post by remigius
Quote:
Original post by Sandman
The holy grail is a game which is accessible, yet deep and complex. I think that a lot of modern games are focusing too heavily on the former, while sacrificing the latter.


They're a bit mutually exclusive up to a point though. No matter how much you tune your interface, gameplay and help resources to make it accessible, complex depth will by definition be not accessible enough for some part of your typical audience. Complexity and depth takes time to develop as well, so it's a choice wether or not you accept that your extra investment may only serve to reduce the size of your audience. For most publisher-funded game development companies, their choice should be pretty obvious.

Quality takes time and money. Would you say the obvious or default choice for a company is to skip it and just con people into buying the product?

Unless we're talking children's games, complexity generally goes hand in hand with quality. Readers outgrow picture books and gamers outgrow mini-games. Even someone for whom mini-games are the appropriate level of complexity will eventually become better at them and then want a slightly more complex game to be satisfied.

The way I see it, developing mediocre games for an average person is a good way for many companies to lose money, because companies like EA and Activision are highly efficient at it already. How do you compete with them in efficiently pumping out crap?

You have to have a hook and more often than not it is interesting complexity. Good design is cheaper than good art or impressive technology.

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Original post by Telastyn
Again, this is short sighted. A company doesn't live for one game alone. Making an accessible so-so game isn't going to get you word of mouth and it certainly won't get you any sort of customer loyalty.


Don't get me wrong, I agree it's short-sighted. But it seems to be what a good deal of game companies out there are doing and have been doing for years. I'm just saying it's understandable once you get funded by a publisher, because despite all their image-building, they're in the game to make money.

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Quality takes time and money. Would you say the obvious or default choice for a company is to skip it and just con people into buying the product?


I wouldn't say that, although for some companies it might even hold true (movie tie-ins anyone?). My point is that when your ass is on the line and your publisher is coming down on you with deadlines and budget cuts, you're not gonna be much inclined to invest in depth and complexity that might actually even drive away part of your target audience.

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The way I see it, developing mediocre games for an average person is a good way for many companies to lose money, because companies like EA and Activision are highly efficient at it already. How do you compete with them in efficiently pumping out crap?


I used to think that too, but even shallower indie titles seem to outperform more intricate works. Not all folks are looking for depth and complexity and they sure as hell don't want to buy a game that makes them feel stupid. If you want to go for broke on making a really deep game, oozing quality and focussing on a select audience, you're gonna do exactly that, go broke. That's fine if your highest goal is just to make that super game and you're comfortable with betting your company on the good reception of it, but it doesn't make for stable long-term business.

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Yup. One instance of "dumbing down" I like is when devs actually find something that is troublesome for all but the twitchest of players.
For instance, Warcraft 3 introduced units with "auto-cast" so you didn't have to micro every single special buff like you did in Warcraft 2.
But what I really dislike is when devs eliminate the sometimes annoying features that were annoying because they actually gave depth to the game. The biggest one of these I see all over the place (Homeworld 1 -> 2, SupCom 1->2, Warcraft 2->3) is the elimination of a specific resource. Why cut fuel from fighters? it adds a great strategic element, since you can no longer just throw fighters into the fray or leave them on constant patrol. Or why remove naval/air units and reduce the resource down to the new standard "2". Why reduce my choices from chess back down to playing checkers?

A second the views on SupCom 2. It is just "less epic". All the big maps seem small. All the units seem weak. The graphics are less detailed (and LOD pop). The "physics projectiles" are gone, replaced with direct fire weapons with hidden dice rolls. The zoom and UI went down hill (SupCom 1 really moved everything forward with the revolution in UI work they did). I wish I hadn't jumped the gun and pre-ordered the game, waste of money.

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I agree. I'm finding myself more and more drawn to indie games like dwarf fortress. They may look awful, but these games have a great deal of complexity which gives rise to some amazing emergent gameplay which is becoming increasingly hard to find.

Of course, many of these games are hard to get into. DF for instance, is notorious for its learning curve. The original SupCom also had a steep learning curve, and I think that this put off a lot of players. My feeling is that developers are trying to make their games more accessible.

Same thing I'd say for EVE online. Epic and fun game, but the learning curve (read depth of play) keeps a lot of people form seeing what is really there. There is a lot more than just "personal achievment" involved in a good online game. Something that I think is lost on many people thanks to WoW. EVE bolsters more achievements for the masses and rewards for people who work together to build something great.

A lot of this rings back to another thread I saw talking about Modern Warfare 2's online play. People are quick to call out "camping", "noob tubing", "sniping" as unfair just because they suck at it and can't learn from their mistakes. Sure the game isn't the best balanced in the world, but kill cams make it easy to find and hunt snipers and campers. Noob Tube grenade launchers have a slow reload and only 2 shots (and an arcing path). And if you don't like that those are perfectly valid strategies in a game, maybe they should make a FPS where you don't have any of those weapons... too bad few people would buy it (varied FPS tactics mean something. look at how many copies of MW2 sold anyone?)

I find it sad how games have drifted towards making it so you can't lose, and the game plays itself. What ever happened to games like Myst? or any of the Lucas Arts adventure games? Games used to have puzzles that stumped you for weeks because there was no online hint guides. Now everyone runs to a FAQ the first time they die just to see where they went wrong.

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