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Have games really advanced much in the last 10 years?


Anne Summers
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Regardless, for me the ultimate era was the Dreamcast era (including OG Xbox, PS2 and Gamecube). Everything was so shiny and fresh, nice arcade games, not too many overlay complex gameplay systems. And many iconic games, on Dreamcast: Phantasy Star Online, Shenmue, Rez, Super Monkey Ball, Soul Calibur, Crazy Taxi, Jet Set Radio, Seaman, Daytona... probably forgetting tons. Probably also has something to do with my age back then... everything from that time hit strong. 

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Better than arcade ports, even. Soul Calibur really was the dog's bollocks on Dreamcast.

 

And I still attempt to shoehorn Phantasy Star Online onto any device I own in case I need to play it, but that's another tale for another thread!

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3 hours ago, Majora said:

 

The problem with your GTA example is that it means you would need to craft interiors for every single building on the map which would be a ludicrously enormous effort, even if you liberally reused assets across the map for similar building types. The sheer variety of buildings in a typical GTA map means you'd have to create an enormous amount of assets for the interiors to make it believable.

 

It's one of those things that are nice in theory but I can't see every actually happening. Not in a GTA type world anyway.

 

While I agree with you 100% on this I wouldn't be surprised if it could be done, even during this gen of consoles. 

 

With AI and machine learning being worked on in every corner of the industry, we've already seen a lot of examples of what can (and can't) be done by AI and it will probably continue to grow more advanced. 

 

We've already gotten used to procedurally genererated levels in games by now and even though it's been a bit hit and miss I don't think it's too far fetched to think that procedurally generated buildings backed by AI could be a thing in the very near future. 

 

The Unity engine can already make procedural buildings (and I'll presume the Unreal engine can do it as well) out of the box so I guess we can't be that far off from making interactive, furnished procedural buildings. 

 

The big question is, though, would that actually add anything of value to a game? The thing is, by being able to walk into hundreds of houses, office buildings, stores etc. you're quickly entering uncanny valley unless you also populate these building with people, pets, wear and tear and loads of other details that would successfully add immersion to the game. On one hand you'll have a big ghost town with empty buildings to explore as opposed to a fully populated map of buildings with hundreds of NPCs that would surely distract you from the main objectives of the game?

 

I dunno, since I'm not a games designer I'll rather see what the future brings us. I'm having a blast with a lot of the games being released these days I'll rather continue to spend my time ejoying them instead of thinking about what would or could be nice. 

 

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Love the idea that delivery method has progressed games. 
 

Loads of games are now released these days knowingly broken and you have to wait for multiple enormous patches from the dev before you get the final product. At that’s if they don’t just completely give up on fixing it like Cyberpunk.
 

Added to this Sony are gouging anyone unfortunate enough to buy a digital only version of the PS5. 
 

I’d consider it a mixed blessing at best. 

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In addition to those already mentioned:

- I’m not sure The Outer Wilds could have been released in 2011 and worked: insufficient memory?

- I’m sure that the majority of the systems that build up the world in Red Dead 2 couldn’t have existed on the 360/PS3, if only because Red Dead 1 exists. But also memory.

- And No Man’s Sky’s procedural generation is a few cuts above; and a few cuts above where it was in 2015 (or whenever it released) as well.

 

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Difficulty levels and not being afraid to seriously test the limits of player's abilities is something that has evolved in the last ten years, coinciding with Dark Soul's 10th anniversary (happy birthday you beautiful bastard) this year. That goes directly against the "push forward to win" structure that we moaned about before Souls made everything super hard.

 

So thanks for that, Miyazaki.

 

 

 

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While not new, the experience you can now have at home with an affordable VR headset boggled my mind. The first time you experience using your hands to knock and fire an arrow and have it just work in Skyrim is something else - not to mention that you are (virtually) in the world as well. 

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I've enjoyed the ongoing acceptance of different art styles over the last decade.  I'd pick Sable as a recent example.  A small team couldn't make an open world game like that without it's art style, before you get to the other stuff that enables it to exist. The tools are accessable enough they can actually produce it and the market/distribution is broad enough to justify the developers giving it a go.

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23 hours ago, Pob said:

 

I think it's a great example of where something may be technically possible but expectations of fidelity have made it untenable. As you say, you'd never be able to create assets of the desired quality to handle it all. But it might be possible on a much simpler 3D open world (like that voxel-powered 100% destruction game that came out a couple of years ago) with destructible buildings. Perhaps something more akin to GTA3, but made today.

 

What game was this?

 

I can think of a 2D pixel-based destruction game from the past couple of years (Noita), but not a 3D voxel one!

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2 minutes ago, Nick R said:

 

What game was this?

 

I can think of a 2D pixel-based destruction game from the past couple of years (Noita), but not a 3D voxel one!

 

Teardown.  It's interesting how the design of that evolved to make something enjoyable out of it's destruction. 

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I think games have largely gone backwards in my view. With maybe the notable exception of the rise of indie games. Big publishers have gotten worse and worse with business practices and monetising and subscriptions and pay to win. Releases are always buggy, everything is games as a service, everything feels predatory (like they are trying to nickel and dime you or get you addicted to something). And games are also more expensive. No real innovation in terms of gameplay other than maybe breath of the wild. Ten years ago dark souls was released, Skyrim, Witcher 2, Saint Row 3, Portal 2, Arkham City. We have literally gone backwards since then. 

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1 minute ago, Oz said:

I think games have largely gone backwards in my view. With maybe the notable exception of the rise of indie games. Big publishers have gotten worse and worse with business practices and monetising and subscriptions and pay to win. Releases are always buggy, everything is games as a service, everything feels predatory (like they are trying to nickel and dime you or get you addicted to something). And games are also more expensive. No real innovation in terms of gameplay other than maybe breath of the wild. Ten years ago dark souls was released, Skyrim, Witcher 2, Saint Row 3, Portal 2, Arkham City. We have literally gone backwards since then. 

If you think about it a different way people are still playing nearly all the games in the list I made (or rereleased versions) who the fuck was still playing GTA 3 when Skyrim came out (released ten years earlier).

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Well, there’s always a bit of an odd transition period when the new consoles come out, plus all the pandemic stuff so I’m not overly surprised by this.

 

Plus: a good game is a good game! 
 

And the sage nodded wisely and shuffled off…

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1 hour ago, Oz said:

I think games have largely gone backwards in my view. With maybe the notable exception of the rise of indie games. Big publishers have gotten worse and worse with business practices and monetising and subscriptions and pay to win. Releases are always buggy, everything is games as a service, everything feels predatory (like they are trying to nickel and dime you or get you addicted to something). And games are also more expensive. No real innovation in terms of gameplay other than maybe breath of the wild. Ten years ago dark souls was released, Skyrim, Witcher 2, Saint Row 3, Portal 2, Arkham City. We have literally gone backwards since then. 

I don't think Skyrim is a great example, mainly because 's hard to argue that, say, Fallout 4 with it's building mechanics or Fallout 76 with its social element isn't a significant step forward from Skyrim in terms of gameplay. But that's an isolated example, certainly most other franchises haven't evolved that much.

 

GTA is another one I guess, ok so there's no destructible environments yet, but GTA Online has pushed the boundaries of what's possible in a shared online game world in some interesting ways. 

 

Online in general is one area where gaming genuinely has evolved a lot over the last decade, I guess. 

 

 

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Yes probably. Online play is more seemless. But we have not really iterated with new ideas about how to use online connectivity. Other than loot boxes.

The last meaninful innovation about how we use online still came with messages and invasions in dark/demon's souls. which was ten years ago!

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One thing I really miss is adventurous triple A games. Everything the big publishers push now is so safe.

 

On 23/11/2021 at 09:43, Anne Summers said:

Absolutely, didn't think of this while I was writing the post but storytelling is one area where I feel games have really improved during the current/ previous generation. 

 

I did think we would have got destructible scenery, by now, though. Thinking back to the time GTA 3 came out, for example - I'd like to have thought that by the time we get GTA 6 - 20 years later - that if I fired a rocket launcher at a suburban home, it would knock the wall down. Or that I could take a chainsaw and hack down the front door if I wanted to get in. Perhaps that will happen by the time GTA 6 comes out but I doubt it. 

 

There’s no chance of this being in GTA6, it will be the same thing as 5 but prettier.

 

On 23/11/2021 at 10:07, Plissken said:

 

I think that destructible scenery is nice in priniciple but doesn't work in reality.  I'd be amazed if several devs haven't tried it while putting a game together (Crackdown 3 being a famous demo example.)

 

I think that it is very difficult not to affect the game balance.  If one imagines Forza Horizon 5, that would be largely flat by the end of the players second day.

 

Surely you just need to make the buildings quite sturdy? I’m assuming in real life you couldn’t level a building with 5 grenades, which is what a lot of games with destruction physics seem to aim for.
 

On 23/11/2021 at 10:24, Isaac said:

We are still living through huge gaming innovation trends, they just aren't as obvious as "nicer graphics".

 

Two of the biggest that immediately come to mind from the last 5 years are the delivery model, namely subscription-based gaming services (such as Game Pass) giving you access to hundreds of games for one monthly fee, and even more importantly, cloud gaming.

 

Cloud gaming is nascent but has the potential to be absolutely fucking massive, a total revolution in how the gaming landscape works. In the short term, it'll mean anybody can play games, anywhere, on anything, with just an internet connection.

 

But long term it can lead to new, supercomputer-powered experiences impossible on home hardware, which is really fucking exciting.

 

I feel like a way to get more games cheaply and the idea that maybe cloud games will be good one day are pretty weak if they’re the best examples.

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

 


It already happened. While [VR] 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.
 

 

VR is, of course, the right answer. Whether it's in everyone's homes or not, VR's the biggest shift in gaming since the move to 32-bit systems with fully 3D worlds within them. 

 

Funnily enough, I was explaining VR to my old mum just yesterday. To get close to understanding how different it is, you have to explain how the controllers are separate and wireless, tracked in fully 3D space and have haptics that sense where your digits are. 

 

With this, you not only detach interaction from the abstract point and click (or analogue stick and A/X) of 2D controls, you make physical interaction a core gameplay mechanic that is actually fun and fascinating. Add to that the use of gravity (either enforcing it or taking it away) and all sorts of other perspective and immersion effects and it stands as something totally new. 

 

Regardless of whether you enjoy it or not, or can't engage because of accessibility issues, it's a tectonic shift in how games can work and what they can do. 

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37 minutes ago, Treble said:

 

VR is, of course, the right answer. Whether it's in everyone's homes or not, VR's the biggest shift in gaming since the move to 32-bit systems with fully 3D worlds within them. 

 

Funnily enough, I was explaining VR to my old mum just yesterday. To get close to understanding how different it is, you have to explain how the controllers are separate and wireless, tracked in fully 3D space and have haptics that sense where your digits are. 

 

With this, you not only detach interaction from the abstract point and click (or analogue stick and A/X) of 2D controls, you make physical interaction a core gameplay mechanic that is actually fun and fascinating. Add to that the use of gravity (either enforcing it or taking it away) and all sorts of other perspective and immersion effects and it stands as something totally new. 

 

Regardless of whether you enjoy it or not, or can't engage because of accessibility issues, it's a tectonic shift in how games can work and what they can do. 

Think VR has the issue that gaming in general did when it first came about. It was niche and started to gain traction as people started to experience it. 

 

The main blocker is that its well a bit intrusive at the moment in that you have to wear a headset etc and look like a geek wearing it - so perhaps a bit of social stigma with it. Where as having stuff on a TV with a traditional controller is kind of socially acceptable in the way people "get it". 


Of course VR also doesn't work for everyone (motion sickness etc). However as tech improves, headsets get smaller and hand sensors less intrusive and people start to experience it more is when it will gain more traction. 

 

The other thing to consider is that as a consumer accessible (in terms of price etc) VR has only been around really since Oculus developed a usable system back in 2012. So in terms of time that is only 9 years. Gaming on the other hand as a consumer device (consoles etc) has been around for over 40 years so its a really young tech in terms of been on an easy accessible market. The development in that 9 years has also been huge - to the point where we have wireless devices etc with the Quest. That you can buy for under £500. 

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Totally agree - the tech isn't quite there yet to make it function fully as a consumer device (people interact with it despite the flaws, not because they don't exist). 

 

Other than VR, I'd say there's potential for new experiences with the speed of data transfer now possible. Being able to stream stuff in at that kind of speed *should* allow for stuff like real-time deformation and destruction, weather and environmental changes, and all sorts of stuff we've been chasing for years. 

 

At the moment though, AAA publishers can't even ship a complete and working game most of the time, so I'm not holding my breath! 

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On 23/11/2021 at 10:38, Majora said:

 

The problem with your GTA example is that it means you would need to craft interiors for every single building on the map which would be a ludicrously enormous effort, even if you liberally reused assets across the map for similar building types. The sheer variety of buildings in a typical GTA map means you'd have to create an enormous amount of assets for the interiors to make it believable.

 

It's one of those things that are nice in theory but I can't see every actually happening. Not in a GTA type world anyway.

 

I think this kind of stuff we could actually see in the not-too-distant future thanks to AI helping to create interiors and so forth. 

 

Although it hasn't heralded a big advancement in gameplay, the use of AI to create procedurally create detailed environments has been a big leap forward in recent years. Loads of AAA games, especially open world, now use a ton of 3rd party AI tools to make stuff like trees, props, terrain, water simulations, whole landscapes, you name it. I think we're going to see systems like this (AI or otherwise) do even more of the heavy lifting in the world construction department.

 

Look at Horizon Zero Dawn for example. They used tools to help shape and procedurally generate a huge landscape, then assigned rulesets to change the terrain textures and flora depending on their elevation, proximity to water and so on. That's how they got such a believable looking world even within a stylised setting, with the software doing so much work. For me although we haven't had that many gameplay innovations in the last decade, compared to previous decades, the level of immersiveness and realism in games has been astounding. My mind and eyes boggle at almost any new game these days, especially triple A titles which just look and sound incredible.

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One thing is that the basic language of games has settled. If you pick up a third-person action game, you pretty much know how to control it because the best practices have become clear over the years. It's not like when you would switch from Mario 64 to Tomb Raider and have to learn a new system. So with that there's more focus on world building, narrative, characterisation, and less experimentation.

 

Cost is obviously hugely important too, of course, which is why something like Death Stranding is such an anomaly. And the constant upgrading of TV resolution can't have helped - ensuring much more effort is being put into basic performance at the expense of complex design.

 

Still, look at the range of lower budget games these days and there's often something new emerging. Not cutting edge technologically, but in terms of what games can be and how they work.

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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.

 

I think the last gen was the worst one of all. It merely continued and refined the previous generations games and they weren't always better. Hoping more form this one - the massive reduction in loading times certainly helps.

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On 25/11/2021 at 17:12, footle said:

VR motion controls aren’t motion controls though. To work they’ve actually got to give an illusion of being precise, if that makes sense.

 

Yes. Even in "good" VR games like Beat Saber the move controller system shits the bed and your lightsaber detaches from your hand and floats uselessly ten feet in front of you

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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.

 

I think the last gen was the worst one of all. It merely continued and refined the previous generations games and they weren't always better. Hoping more form this one - the massive reduction in loading times certainly helps.

I had a Wii from launch day and used it for the whole generation, even getting the motion+ adapters at some point (maybe for Zelda?) and unfortunately not once did I have that magical moment you mention.

 

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.

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Sin and Punishment 2, the Prime re-releases, and Resident Evil 4 show just how great those controls were when implemented correctly. How many times have people said they make Resi 4 too easy? That’s not a bad thing, if anything they should have aggressively upped the game’s speed to compensate.

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3 hours ago, Floshenbarnical said:

 

Yes. Even in "good" VR games like Beat Saber the move controller system shits the bed and your lightsaber detaches from your hand and floats uselessly ten feet in front of you

 

 The move controllers are atrocious and were never fit for purpose with VR. The Quest controllers are massively better.

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1 hour ago, JPL said:

I had a Wii from launch day and used it for the whole generation, even getting the motion+ adapters at some point (maybe for Zelda?) and unfortunately not once did I have that magical moment you mention.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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To be honest I've been bored by the idea of increased TV/monitor resolutions,better reflections or shadows etc as a justification for hardware upgrades for a good while now.  I skipped the entire PS3/360 gen due to just being bored with the whole idea of mainstream gaming, and I'm still there regarding AAA games played on a TV with a regular controller. My return to modern gaming was with the Wii U and the appeal there was local multiplayer and gimmicky wiimote and gamepad stuff.

   VR is a massive advancement in immersion, which for me is more important than pretty much any of the other things that are being discussed in this thread. The VR missions from Ace Combat vs the regular game on a tv. RE7 psvr vs TV, Half Life Alyx with its motion controls vs any single player fps game played on a tv with a traditional controller.

If that isn't progress, I really don't know what would be. I've been reading for decades about how mind blowing Mario 64 was at the time. I played it at the time and sure, I thought it was a fine game, but even as a kid I wasn't in any way blown away by the switch from 2d games on a 2d screen to 3d games on a 2d screen in the way others seem to have been.

VR was basically the first time in my life that I really felt like I was experiencing a game changing advancement in gaming.

 I wonder if it's a matter of imagination or something.  I've always gravitated towards arcade style gaming as it's instantly gratifying and based around exciting moment to moment gameplay. Always found story/campaign based games quite boring and never really experienced much in the way of being immersed in a game before VR. Maybe others find it easier to become immersed in non-vr games.

 

I've been wondering if VR and TV gaming will just end up as two distinct things with essentially two separate fanbases with little crossover.

It always seemed to be assumed that VR was a natural progression that gamers would embrace but the last few years make me doubtful. I think it will always be too much effort for a lot of people. Even if it's stand alone/light/cheap, you still have to stand up, clear a space, put something on your head and move your body. Its a different proposition to sitting on the couch after a day's work playing a game on the TV using a controller.

The split is already noticeable to an extent with the lack of coverage of/interest in the Quest 2 and VR in general among a lot of mainstream gaming media and on the other hand VR centric forums/subreddits where people seem to have largely moved away from TV gaming in favour of VR.

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