Rant for 1/11/98

I'm not dumping on the current state of video games, but I don't like the way things are developing. Gaming technology is growing faster than it ever has in the past. Back in the 1980's, game system technology was simply not the focus. The focus was on the actual game. Visual and audio quality just wasn't much of a factor. No one looked at Pong and said wow, those are great looking graphics! Even later games like Pac-Man, Space Invaders, and Donkey Kong were not admired for their graphics and sound (at least not by me). People played these games because they were fun and had unique concepts. Now most games are fueled by technology rather than good game ideas.

I'll admit that graphics can help a game that would otherwise suck, but what happens when those graphics are not state of the art anymore? You see that the game just plain sucks. I have realized that now that the Playstation and N64 have been out. The early games for these systems (especially Playstation) seemed awesome at the time. However, now that those games are being eclipsed by games with better technology I realize that these games that I thought were great are really not very fun. Examples? Toshinden, Ridge Racer, Extreme Games, and the list could go on... Games that are still fun after they are no longer state of the art are truly great games. However, even I am sometimes swept up by audio-visual delight and temporarily forget about the gameplay. Sooner or later that effect wears off though, and only the gameplay is left for us to judge the game by.

To technology's credit, 3D gaming has introduced a new element of gameplay that never existed before. It has allowed games to take place in realistic environments. This has improved some existing genres of games (sports especially), and it has even created new genres. However, in their zeal to exploit new technology, developers have tried to force some games into 3D molds and broke the games in the process. Platform games such as Super Mario Bros, Castlevania, Ninja Gaiden, Bionic Commando, and other games like these should always be in 2D. These games require the player to be able to see above, below, and to both sides of the game character. They were designed for 2D, and a transition to 3D would either destroy the gameplay or it would change the gameplay altogether. Take Mario 64 for example. This is the first Mario game to make the transition from 2D to 3D. It's a GREAT GAME, but the gameplay is nothing like previous Mario games. The name and characters are the same, but the gameplay is totally different. It is very likely that a hardcore Mario game fan could hate Mario64 because it simply does not have the same gameplay that earlier entries in the series showcased. Mario 64 is still a great game, but it's not really classic Mario gameplay. On the other hand look at Frogger 3D. The original Frogger was enormously popular, and the gameplay was excellent. The developers of Frogger 3D tried to fit the original game into a 3D mold and broke the gameplay in the process.

It seems that game developers are having trouble recognizing that some types of gameplay just don't translate well to 3D. I think that games that require extensive exploration like Zelda will be great in 3D. It's that exploration of realistic environments that made games like Mario 64 and Tomb Raider so fun. If you think about it, if both of those games had been in 2D, they wouldn't have been much fun. However, 3D and 2D gameplay are two totally different animals. What works in 2D may not work in 3D and vice versa. When developers realize this we may start to see more 2D games again while seeing 3D games that actually utilize the third-dimension to provide totally new gameplay experiences rather than just being eye-candy that looks nice but plays like horse excrement.

This concludes my rant of the current time period. Expect more rants in the future as I think of them. If you have any rants or responses to my rants e-mail me.

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