Four Gaming Clichés That Absolutely Need To Die

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A few days ago, news broke that Max Payne 3 would require ~35GB of storage space. That's a huge number; even Rage, released last year, came in at a hair under 20GB. If you've followed game development at all, you've undoubtedly come across figures showing how the cost of developing a next-generation title has risen at an geometric rate over the past 20 years.


Up and to the right, with a business model driven right into the dirt.

Much of that increased cost has gone towards creating art assets, with another sizeable chunk for hiring actors to do voice-over work. It's not a question of whether better graphics are something gamers want (they are), or if Max Payne 3 is gorgeous (it is). The cost curve is unsustainable over the long term, particularly given the trend towards handheld gaming.



What all of this suggests is that the game industry is in desperate need of an overhaul. Gamers aren't going to accept $80-$100 games, especially not with mobile prices in the 99 cent - $4.99 range and with food and gas prices on the rise. Attempts to seize the used game market and turn it into a profit source are liable to backfire and won't generate enough revenue to solve the problem in any case.

There's been some confusion on the point of this story, so I'm inserting a paragraph to address it directly.

If the long-term cost curve isn't sustainable and better art/special effects/voice overs are primarily responsible for rising costs, game developers need to find more sustainable ways of building better games. Unlike investments in art, which may only be useful for 1-2 titles, investing in building better games through improved AI routines, imaginative storytelling, and finding ways to make gamers feel more a part of the story can be carried over from engine to engine or even between console generations.

Solving The Problem One Headache At A Time:
As part of our positive approach to the problem (our therapist says it's a necessity), we've put together a list of some of the industry's most annoying game play clichés, from scripted sequences to impossibly incompetent NPCs -- and how they might be solved. Hopefully *will* be solved, because some of these techniques are older than dirt.

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I like Diablo III! Is it complicated well no, do I get to kill a lotta stuff yes, is it fast paced relative, is it fun yes, is it large in size as a file NO not at all from what I have seen. Anyway I am also playing Skyrim and SWTOR but it (DIII) is only a beta for now with limited access!

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So many true points here. Although i do look at graphics for a game i also look at the game play. if its no fun and boring, it can be the best graphics there is but i won't be getting it. I like a balance to be good :). that's not to say i won't buy a game because the graphics suck though.

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I agree with rapid, take d3 as the example. the graphics are good, maybe great but they haven't sacrificed gameplay. they try to hold to the original ideas behind D2 but hey the treasure pygmy's? those are awesome, not to mention the random scenarios like the jar of souls. The game industry needs more immersive game play. I loved SWKOTOR (starwars.) I played the game for 3 days straight beating every level and earning every possible side quest. the side quests and the hidden caves, plus the dialogue challenges were fantastic, like when you have to try and convinve Bastilla to help you defeat the last boss, if you convinced her she helps if not watch out. Girls hit hard.

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hahaha that game is alot of fun!

"A few days ago, news broke that Max Payne 3 would require ~35GB of storage space."

that is going to require an xbox up grade for alot of people i know! i love graphics but if it kills the gameplay, in my opinion its a waste! don't sacrafice making the game a movie over gameplay!

diablo is awesome along with skyrim

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Yea did you get a chance try the Diablo 3 open beta that happened this last weekend? i got into the beta and the game play is amazingly fun, i have won the game with half the characters, the monk, Wizard and barbarian.

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no I havent yet! I have been so busy with school! :/

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I get your point about the cliches making gaming boring for predictable but for some games that is okay. If all these features are implemented it could result in the 80 dollar to 100 dollar games that you fear.

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This is such a great article, and I totally agree with you regarding the unbreakable glass and stupid npc logic.

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My favorite Joel quote FTA -

"I'm wearing pieces of dragons I killed, I've got a demonic horse, an undead assassin helper monkey, and I can fling giants off a cliff with a well-articulated belch. I have a second deadly companion who follows me around as a pack mule. You have a broken sword and a badly-stained pair of pants."

LOL, priceless.

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I find it interesting that you start off with a comment about how gaming is getting increasingly more expensive and how that just won't do, and then you go off on "suggestions" to make gaming better. However, most of your suggestions would have the side effect of massively jacking up the price of production. Lets break it down.

--Scripted Sequences--

Sure more advances scenes as you suggested would be great, and a few games that do things like this often create a very immersive experience. You can't ignore that the extra planning for each and every scene would sink more time and money into handling each extra scenario the scene can play out to. You create more scenes so you create potentially more art, sounds, dialogue, and more to debug and playtest. Yes it works great, but it doesn't achieve the goal of making games cheaper or easier to make.

--Conveniently indestructable objects--

Every game that has destructable enviroments has had rave reviews on the features, but you don't dont discuss for even a moment what kind of technical success it is to do that. From a purely software programming point of view this kind of technology is incredibly difficult to implement into a graphical engine. Each game you listed here has gone through many iterations of the technology over several years until it finally got to a believable level of destruction. To make matters work mutable data types can frequently use more memory, and have problems being rendered as quickly as immutable data types. So this creates not only problems with engine design, but further complicates effect run speeds. The best way to balance this is to lower the graphics of some other aspect of the game. All of these considerations would also suggest that including this in every game would also jack the price of development up.

--mandatory success--

This goes back to similar points as scripted sequences. More branches equals potentially more art, sounds, voices, story planning, etc. Added level of complexity adds to development time, and therefore to the cost of the game.

Now don't get me wrong, all four of these items you covered would improve any game they are implemented in. The problem I have is that you somehow seem to assume this makes games cheaper or perhaps that these strategies are somehow easily implemented. Games are immensely complex productions and I believe you've oversimpified that fact.

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