Ludo, Ergo Sum

Ludo, Ergo Sum
Abandoning the past?

John Szczepaniak | 14 Mar 2006 11:03
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Do modern RPGs need to be over 60 hours long? The original Suikoden on PS1, an RPG that broke new ground, boasting hundreds of well narrated characters weaved into a complex political story, took me only a weekend to complete! But that didn't stop me from regarding it more highly than SquareEnix's bloated projects. Meanwhile, the extortionately priced Panzer Dragoon Saga has an exquisite length of around 20 hours. Its price results from being rightfully regarded as one of the finest examples in the genre, regardless of brevity.

Publishers claim they force changes to suit "market demand." And the result? Longer development times, overworked staff and skyrocketing budgets, which says nothing about the fact I can no longer spend my money on the types of games I want. To quell my disenchantment, I turn to retro games and enjoy previously missed classics. I also contemplate: What if companies started making older games again? I want to frolic blithely in a world where the industry doesn't try to suppress history or old ideas that are no longer mainstream.

But could things be changing? The Revolution will play downloaded NES games. I wonder if Nintendo will release NES development software, creating a Net Yaroze situation where civilians develop homebrew games. Imagine for a moment - the glory days of bedroom coding returning, along with simple, yet fun, games. Microsoft, too, is taking action. Cynics joke that Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved was the best 360 launch title, but Xbox Live Arcade and its simpler games may just be Microsoft's winning coup, this generation. The PC market also looks bright, thanks to Manifesto Games. We might see old fashioned games distributed, thereby generating focus for older, forgotten styles of play.

I only wish that as a technological plateau is reached and the industry matures, corporations will realize that they can still profit while giving niche players, like myself, the classically styled games we enjoy. Older abandoned genres, shorter play lengths, and 2-D sprite-based games are all still economically viable. This has been proven by the commercial success of retro, and things like Live Arcade. Hopefully, companies are paying attention, and will someday begin developing new games that are a little old fashioned.

John Szczepaniak is a South African freelance videogame writer with a preference for retro games. He is also a staff member on the Retro Survival project, which contains articles on retro gaming and is well worth investigating.

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