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Same Story, Different Day
I was thinking lately, counting the games that have passed through my hands for the last few years, that something is missing. Something changed, I wasn't sure if it's me, the guy who is hardly getting impressed, or if there was not a single product that offers enough features to be considered innovative in the game industry.
When I start playing a shooter, I already could guess what the weapons will be from the first few minutes. When I try some new real-time strategy it will just be the next world domination attempt for three to four factions and the only different thing will be the unit types. I agree that some unit ideas are very interesting but there is no warranty for this – we normally have the human race, the race of the bad guys and a third “unknown” race that is often very strange and freaky. Enough stereotypes!
I already start to hate most of the game characters, their flat jokes and phrases, their typical hero clothes, and their big guns. And I don't hate them because this is wrong, no. I dislike them because I see them in nearly every game I play – brainless with empty souls. How are such games supposed to grab me? I wish the characters were more like us, more like real people – contradictory, confused, unpredictable. In Max Payne, for example, there was something more than bullet-time and good arsenal. There was a guy passing from the one side to another. I could see the struggling between the good cop and the family man who lost his hope.
This is the definition I can give for the majority of the games released after 1998 when the gaming industry started to grow very fast and when even the greatest minds were forced to obey the rules. By rules, I mean not to make anything that requires continuous development and an unknown chance of success. This killed quests. To not invest money in things that could be done cheap. This is how the end of interesting story lines and lore came. To invest everything in the technological perfection and to promote the products around this. This even changed the new age gamers, making them think more of the game engine and the number of polygons rather than thinking of the game itself.
Why does no one care about the fun factor anymore? I'm asking but I know there is no valid answer. The game studios started to care about the small details only after leaving the whole picture behind. Will that shotgun just shoot like in any other shooter, or it pretend to be realistic? Don't get me wrong, this is not bad but what's the result of it? One time gratitude for the effort and one big disappointment for the game as a whole. This is what happens to a series like Wolfenstein, Soldier of Fortune, Medal of Honor, Battlefield, and others. Or it's maybe me who doesn't find any difference except the little cosmetics and the technological part. I'm wondering until when the game studios will fool us that we play new games, or it's maybe the player's likings that changed.
I'm asking because from the last shooters that I barely played, I only enjoyed Serious Sam and that was years ago. The game was simple and yet with its own charm. The rules were simple, get a gun and kill everything around – and as you probably noticed, that was the author's idea. The rest of the shooters for example, I wasted my time to guess what the authors considered successful in a specific game situation – most of the times I just miserably failed at it.
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Once Upon a Time...
...games used to be fun! The new trend seems to be simulation. Do the authors of Colin McRae Rally really think this is driving? I'm pretty sure it's not, but many gamers believe they get real driving skills from this game.
I won't even comment on The Sims. Or wait, sorry, I will. Are we that lost and desperate to play games that simulate our own lives instead of looking at the mirror and realizing that we have the controlling device of a living person? Do we have to party and go to vacation in a game rather than taking a walk in the park? I guess not because this is one of the most popular titles lately.
The only company that I find successful since it appeared on the stage is Blizzard Entertainment. Diablo, Starcraft, Warcraft – three successful gaming series that people are still playing and whose continuations everyone tremble for. World of Warcraft – the most successful MMORPG and best-seller among any games, a game with bigger lore and storyline than all the other games have together. This is how companies should look like - there were once other good studios, but they corrupted with the time.
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I wish to believe that the game designers will break their own chains and will make a revolution in the industry. I wish to see them playing their own games for fun and relaxation instead of counting the few dollars profit from the 76th Sims Expansion. I wish that the new technologies are just a characteristic and not the core of new games. When will this happen? I can only shrug. And if you wonder how am I writing articles about games I don't like. Well, I'm just entering the role of a new age gamer while trying to keep a particle of the real player inside me.
The change must start somewhere. Maybe if we all look back at the past when games were played in low resolution without Dolby Surround and when the people were actually playing, enjoying, commenting despite the technical disadvantages and loving this forgotten aspect that some of us know as gameplay.
Until then, I'll sit and wait for the game where I will play a gamer who plays anothe gamer that plays a computer game that simulates one's life, yes.