Thursday, April 21, 2011

Analysis: Cheapo Games Versus Top-Flight Games

NEWS: All Sega games on XBLA are on discount (up to 50%)...this ends on April 25 so go buy whatever you can, particularly OutRun Online Arcade and Crazy Taxi.


Now for something with substances.  I was going to talk about something else, but I saw this article on Joystiq and I guess this is a good discussion point.

Mike Capps, President of Epic Games, faces uncertainty on the future of games in the next five to ten years.  Now the studio "Epic" right there causes me great concern.  See this article (Warning: Profanity).  But anyway, he makes games for a living and I don't so he has some credibility.

First he talks digital redistribution of games.  Now is this a good idea?  It can be convenient, yes, but I talked until I was blue in the face about XBLA games like OutRun Online Arcade, Root Beer Tapper, and Paperboy being removed from the Marketplace.  Also consider popular games that rely on big servers saving massive amounts of player data, such as Call of Duty and World of Warcraft.  What if the devs decide to pull the plug on them?  All that work gone.

The difference between retail and digitally-distributed games is that you can preserve copies of hard games in physical (cartridge, CD) or memory (ROMs) format, but with digital games that are somehow hardwired to these big servers like Xbox Live and Playstation Network, they can go away and never come back.  Horrowing thought.

But what's more interesting is that he compares these big-ass $60 games to these small $2 games like Angry Birds.  Now to tell you the truth, I have grievances with both of them.  But what Mike is trying to say is that $2 games will take over $60 games.  Here's the way I see it:

The good news is that I think this proves that big, bloated game studios are pissing us off.  Back in the NES days, you could have studios of 10-20 people work on a game and it was (hopefully) good.  Nowadays, you have teams of 200+ people.  And because of the massive amount of effort to make these games, they cost a lot because of all the labor (duh).  So to ensure maximum profit, they always aim for broad demographics that will guarantee big sales--dirty, futuristic FPSes, medieval/Final-Fantasy/WoW adventures, Burnout racers, stupid Kinect games, etc.  You wouldn't get "neat" games like Super Meat Boy and Castle Crashers out of big devs.

Also, I really wonder how much "bigger" games can really get.  Aside from improvements in hardware that can render more polygons at faster speeds, could visuals really get any better?  You could spit out an Atari game in a few weeks, a NES game in a month, a SNES game in a few months, a N64 game in a year, an Xbox 360 game in a few years...where does it end?  More details and intricacies...well you may find a few shortcuts (i.e. a terrain generator that allows you to design a whole island FarCry-style without having to click every single polygon) but it's not getting any easier.  Stuff like scripts, sounds, art, etc. can't be sped up.

This is a bit of a glamorous return to old-school gaming.  The days of these big-ass movie-like games are taking a hit.  Okay, cool, I just played through an "epic" adventure in glorious hi-def graphics, now "where's the beef?"  Games like Angry Birds, Minecraft, Super Meat Boy, etc. say "Screw graphics and the story, here's gameplay."  Now that's pretty good.  Because these small teams are able to make games, you start getting more niche games rather than these "gimme" games like Madden and Call of Duty.  This is healthy because we're starting to see some new ideas pop up.

...But on the other hand, this move towards simple games can be bad.  I think in sort of a way, we've become more of a shallow bunch thanks to constant commercials, reality TV, "epic" YouTube videos, iPhone apps, etc.  This is where simple instant-gratification games take over, like Bloons Tower Defense and Farmville.  They are as simple as clicking on a few things and you "win."  Ooo, the monkeys are popping the balloons!  Ooo, my farm is bigger than my friend's farm, EPIC!!  Now just because a game skips on story doesn't mean it has to be shallow--take Rock Band and Daytona USA--no story, somewhat repetitive, but very challenging with lots of variety and room for improvement.  I want to see more games like those two.

I already talked before about how Cliff Blesinski said that the "middle-budget" game is dead.  Hopefully not.  I am getting sick and tired of these story/theatric-based big-budget games that don't last more than a few weeks (see Homefront and Medal of Honor), but I don't want to see crap little games that go for instant satisfaction more than anything.  I hope Cliff is wrong, but I don't know.

Either way, gamers win because they get games for cheap.  Too many fancy games and thus the devs have to jostle for sales by dropping their prices.  For instance, I bought Left 4 Dead 1 and 2 together off Steam for about $10 (problem is my laptop can't run either of them, rofl).  But this is not good for big game studios who will probably have to re-evaluate what games they make.

And now you know the whole story.

No comments:

Post a Comment