E for Everyone, Except Me

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I agree re Bethesda (and in general) - Hopefully the DaggerXL project will bear world-simulating fruit.

I'm not sure how you can say Matrix Games' price points are lower. They might be slightly lower, on average, than they were during the Talonsoft / SSI days, but they are far more expensive than most other PC games. This might seem like nit-picking, but I think it's very much to the point of your article.

People comparison shop, and the internet has made it easier than ever. Matrix Games has given up on the broader PC marketplace to focus exclusively on a small audience of affluent die-hards who will think nothing of forking over $70 for another hex-based treatment of El Alamein or the Vicksburg campaign. And they almost never drop the price, no matter how old the game. Last I checked, Korsun Pocket was still going for $50, and that game came out in 2003.

When I picked up Steel Panthers or Close Combat 2 back in the day, they didn't cost me more than any other game. Now, if I'm going to splurge on a wargame, it's going to cost me as much a Day 1 console release. Even if said wargame is a few years old. How can a niche ever expect to win new converts when its publishers create such a high opportunity cost?

So don't look at Matrix Games. Look at Paradox Interactive, instead. They are making hardcore strategy games like Europa Universalis and Hearts of Iron, pricing them competitively, AND they're also doing the same with classic-style wargames like Rise of Prussia or Achtung Panzer. Achtung Panzer has really good graphics, kick-ass action, and it was $20 new.

One final comment: if you care about these great niche genres, and if one of their big problems is that they do not sell many copies, shouldn't you be doing more to champion them? For years PC Gamer had Bill Trotter spreading the gospel about wargames, and CGM had Tom Chick, Bruce Geryk, and Troy Goodfellow among a lot of other great writers going to bat for sims, strategy, and wargames. You write about your sense of alienation from the modern gaming industry, but you're in a far better position than most to help broaden the audience for the type of classic gaming we both love.

Great article. It was an enlightenment for me, I must say. However, if this is true, and at the moment I see no reason to doubt it, then we are indeed doomed. We the old school gamers will likely never ever get again what we loved and what we want, because the root is the evil of Capitalism itself.

As it is for so many other things, I might add.

elikal:
Great article. It was an enlightenment for me, I must say. However, if this is true, and at the moment I see no reason to doubt it, then we are indeed doomed. We the old school gamers will likely never ever get again what we loved and what we want, because the root is the evil of Capitalism itself.

As it is for so many other things, I might add.

that "evil" capitalism is the reason there is a video game industry in the first place. why was the video game market reaching new heights in america and japan, advancing out of control, while soviet Russia had virtually no video game market. in a command economy (such as communism), there is no reason for an entertainment industry because it detracts from the time spent progressing the government agenda. even if they did commission for video games to be developed, you could be sure they wouldn't go beyond simplistic propaganda.

the problems outlined in the article are not the fault of capitalism. is there a problem with wanting to stay in business? no matter what economic model is followed, you cannot stay afloat without money. would you want a company spend $25 million developing a game for people who enjoy taxidermy, making it kickass? of course, since taxidermy isn't exactly popular, it only makes about $200,000 and forces the studio into bankruptcy. you cannot expect an industry to survive if you advocate it behaving in a way that destroys it. what if all the big-name rock bands began spending money developing multiple polka albums to appeal to fans of that? sure, you'd make a small minority happy, but you would be making much less money. continuing in that trend, you would be unable to stay afloat.

I'm just wondering, how would the situation be any different in another economic model?

A thought provoking article. Here's a reply I did on my own site though.

I had to think more about the economics that the E for everyone except me article. What is he suggesting that we do? His complaint is that the market can't support AAA titles outside of a few genres, but it seems that the real reason he's complaining is that AAA games in genres that he doesn't like make games in genres that he does like look worse by comparison. Given this, what does he suggest be done about it? You're not going to change the economics of the situation and make realistic strategy games a better investment for developers unless you recruit 3-5 million more realistic strategy game players.

Thus, it becomes a bit like those who complain that those other people have a million dollars and I don't. You can do one of two things. You can either work hard, and improve the situation for everyone. Your genre's games will improve, but so will the AAA games. They'll still be infinitely better graphically than your genre, but at least yours will be getting better as well. This is the path that we're on now with gaming. If you look at niche genres now, they're tons better than those same niche genres were years ago, it's just that everything else has gotten better faster than those niches.

The only other way would be to do what Communists and Socialists do to economic systems. Take from the AAA developers and give to the Niche developers. You hobble the AAA games so that they can't develop games with better graphics than the niche games. This would have two effects. Gaming graphics would increase at a much slower rate for everyone. Not only would the AAA shooters and such still be at a Doom 1 level, but Strategy games would be stuck at the same timeframe as well, with low end 320x240 MCGA graphics. Everyone suffers.

I know which way I would choose. While Disgaea and the Atelier series have nothing on Ratchet and Clank or Uncharted, they're still much better than the older RPG games that I was playing. We're still in a Book publishing style medium, it's just that a handful of books can afford much better paper, much better ink, and such that cost so much more to setup. Just because someone else has rich graphics doesn't mean that they're hurting the graphics that you're experiencing. In fact, the trailblazing that they are doing will lead to better graphics for all games, just not quite as good of graphics...

Irridium:

Dexiro:
Maybe we should return to N64-PS2 graphics, maybe with some modern game design applied to SNES style games ;D

This would be a great idea.

God of War 1 and 2 shows us that impressive graphics can be squeezed out of PS2 era tech. And with todays hardware, coupled with PS2 graphics, that opens up a lot more for developers to experiment with. And with the money you save with the graphics, the games cost less to produce.

You would save even more money if you took PS2 era Graphics and put them on modern tech.

Modern tech allows for increased abstraction and usage of third party libraries, allowing you to leverage the work of others to decrease the development time of your product. Producing God of War 2 graphics on a PS3 would be far cheaper than producing identical God of War 2 graphics on a PS2. The larger the distance between your chosen hardware and the target graphics style of your game, the cheaper it will be to produce. You can get away with so much more laziness on modern hardware. The problem, of course, is that if you're anything but the best looking game on a platform the critics will pelt you for it.

What we need to adjust are user's and critic's expectations, including those of the author of this article. Not every game needs the most up to date graphical look and feel, and those who play in niches shouldn't expect the most up to date graphical look and feel. Be happy that a game you like is being produced, even if it has PSP level graphics on your shiny new PS3.

Improving the hardware is a great thing to do and will decrease the cost of games in the long run, if only we could keep the bloody media from expecting everything to look oh-so-sparkly because it's running on new hardware.

Imagine this. If they made a PS4 tomorrow that had a newer graphics chip, but everything else remained the same... would it increase or decrease the effort spent on making 3d games for the system? Increase or decrease the effort spent making games run at 1080p at 60fps? As long as you don't raise people's expectations of graphical fidelity, it would decrease the effort because you don't need to spend nearly the amount of time cutting things down to make it run fast in 3d or at 1080p... The only thing forcing budgets to increase for new games is the unrealistic expectation that people have for all games to look the absolute best you can squeeze out of the system.

kazriko:

Irridium:

Dexiro:
Maybe we should return to N64-PS2 graphics, maybe with some modern game design applied to SNES style games ;D

This would be a great idea.

God of War 1 and 2 shows us that impressive graphics can be squeezed out of PS2 era tech. And with todays hardware, coupled with PS2 graphics, that opens up a lot more for developers to experiment with. And with the money you save with the graphics, the games cost less to produce.

You would save even more money if you took PS2 era Graphics and put them on modern tech.

Modern tech allows for increased abstraction and usage of third party libraries, allowing you to leverage the work of others to decrease the development time of your product. Producing God of War 2 graphics on a PS3 would be far cheaper than producing identical God of War 2 graphics on a PS2. The larger the distance between your chosen hardware and the target graphics style of your game, the cheaper it will be to produce. You can get away with so much more laziness on modern hardware. The problem, of course, is that if you're anything but the best looking game on a platform the critics will pelt you for it.

What we need to adjust are user's and critic's expectations, including those of the author of this article. Not every game needs the most up to date graphical look and feel, and those who play in niches shouldn't expect the most up to date graphical look and feel. Be happy that a game you like is being produced, even if it has PSP level graphics on your shiny new PS3.

Improving the hardware is a great thing to do and will decrease the cost of games in the long run, if only we could keep the bloody media from expecting everything to look oh-so-sparkly because it's running on new hardware.

Imagine this. If they made a PS4 tomorrow that had a newer graphics chip, but everything else remained the same... would it increase or decrease the effort spent on making 3d games for the system? Increase or decrease the effort spent making games run at 1080p at 60fps? As long as you don't raise people's expectations of graphical fidelity, it would decrease the effort because you don't need to spend nearly the amount of time cutting things down to make it run fast in 3d or at 1080p... The only thing forcing budgets to increase for new games is the unrealistic expectation that people have for all games to look the absolute best you can squeeze out of the system.

It could actually benefit PC gaming as well. In fact it could benefit it massively.

Lets say the developers choose to focus on what average specs are today and develop for those specs for 5-10 years.

In that time they'll learn about the hardware, make better use of it, make games quicker for it, and the games will be cheaper. Plus as time goes on the hardware will get cheaper and cheaper, meaning more people can buy said hardware and buy/play your game.

So in the end you spend less, make better games, and sell more copies. Everyone wins.

Wow, fantastic article!

It has me a little worried about the future of gaming, though...the moment I stop being able to buy games like Demon's Souls is the moment that my passion for games starts to dry up.

Luckily for me, I'm still young and naive. I'm just as excited about some of Nintendo's latest and greatest as I ever was; Metroid: Other M looks superb, and Paper Mario 3DS has me all kinds of excited.

However, I think I get what you're saying. There's a lot less for me to get excited about this year than any year previous, even with all of the technological innovation. I've had the sinking feeling for a while, now, that videogames are moving in a direction that I'm not entirely on board with - I argued, vehemently, that New Super Mario Bros Wii is a flawless game, overlooking the fact that a 'superguide' had been added, and the background art, at times, looks even simpler than Super Mario World...I thought that was due to having 4 players possibly on-screen simultaneously, but I could be very wrong.

I love Nintendo's innovation, but I don't like how some of my favourite games are being made 'easier', like Megaman 10. What's the point of a platform game when all the holes are covered up!? The level design had me worried that, in making the game more accessible, Capcom lost out on a lot of chances to make their game even more interesting, missing out on using the weapons as effectively as they did in Megaman 9.

Anyways. I'm all for casual games, but keep them the hell away from my Megaman and Metroid!!! I've gotta say, to close, that indie games hold more sway over me than a lot of the biggest releases out there...I think that, even if the day comes when sub-genres are lost forever, innovative games will live on through indie game networks, like Steam, PSN, XBox Live, and, to some extent, Wiiware.

I'll always have my virtual console, at least.

I know 100% how you feel...I feel very much the same way.

I still love video games, but the era in which I used to love /most/ video games as opposed to one or two every now and then is long since passed.

Nowadays it feels like videogames are marketed mostly to 13 year olds with ADD and frat boys who want to frag their friends. I get boobs and explosions shoved in my face more often than is healthy when playing RPG's and strategy titles.

"I still cherish the dream that MMOGs could be simulations like Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies, and not massively multiplayer amusement parks like World of Warcraft"

I am with you on this one Archon- I want to truly roleplay, not just overcome challenges in a perpetual upgrade treadmill.

Well the indie market flourishes like never before. Each platform has its own market, and each market works well. I see no reason for complaint. If I want a good game of a specific type, I'll go to that online market place and find a good indie-made game. In this place, games have been more innovative en creative then before, with very playable results.

I really, really don't get the complaints. You don't like a big-budget title? Don't buy it. Get an older title, or get an indie title and you're settled. It's even cheaper then before. I would even say that this is a great time to live in as a gamer!!

I must say i'm into older games as well. The newer ones just don't strike my fancy as much as i always hope. Plus, i never actually get around to getting any of the newer games. I always stop by places like game stop, and just buy what looks good and is used. Normally it's also one of the much older games people normally have played so many times their sick of it. Although i can say that some of the newer games that have come out have some impressive graphics, i prefer the game play in older games. I feel more adventure and action in the older games. I'm not into the online gaming like World of Warcraft, mainly because it requires you to pay every month to play it. I'm not that into online gaming, so why would i pay to play every month? Some times i have more important things to get done during the week, so i can't sit around and play all day to fulfill the amount i have to pay.

Also, when the Wii system first came out, it was cool. But then i got rather tired of it. The majority of the Wii games i've looked at just aren't that appealing to me. I like to stick to what is now considered an 'old' system - the PS2. And yes, i do still enjoy playing my Nintendo 64 just because it's fun to see how the games have evolved. But Mario 64, for example, is old and still addicting to play. It's still full of fun.

Basically, i just agree that i'm into older gaming.

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