Kids Can't Handle Old-School RPGs Anymore

 Pages 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 NEXT
 

Kids Can't Handle Old-School RPGs Anymore

image

A college professor that teaches the history of videogames has noticed that kids simply cannot grasp Ultima IV.

Michael Abbott teaches a course called The Art and History of Electronic Gaming at Wabash College, and is known for spreading the videogame love to another course where students must study Portal. In an interesting article he's written on his blog Brainy Gamer, Abbott discusses the trouble kids have with playing older RPGs.

Abbott exposes his students to older titles like the original Fallout, Rogue, and Planetfall in his course. Most of the students handle being taken out of their comfort zones with the isometric strategy title, ASCII roguelike, and text-based adventure, but there's one game in particular that they don't seem to be able to handle: Ultima IV.

Origin released Ultima IV on the Apple II in 1985 and it's acclaimed as one of the top RPGs for its time. Instead of having players focus on killing orcs, it required that they reach enlightenment within eight virtues to become the series' Avatar. Its character creation system, conversation system, and huge world are examples of what players liked about it.

But Ultima IV is very different from World of Warcraft and other modern games that hold the player's hand and point an arrow at their goals. Abbott provided all the documentation that his students would need, but they didn't seem to realize that the reading the game's documentation was necessary.

One student said: "I've been very confused throughout the entire experience. I've honestly sat here for hours trying to figure out what to do and it just isn't making much sense to me right now." Another: "When I start a game I like to do it all on my own, but it's been impossible to do so with Ultima." A third: "I tried for awhile without any walkthroughs to get the full gamer experience sort of thing and within the hour I gave up because of a combination of bad controls and a hard to get into story for me at least. It reminded me of a bad Runescape."

The comments don't seem to be indicative of one of the top RPGs of all time. Students also call the game "boring" and "unplayable," but when Abbott questioned whether they read Ultima IV's documentation provided in PDF format, it turned out that not a single one had. "Wow," one replied when Abbott told him that the game's designer, Richard Garriott, expected players to read the manual first.

Abbott believes the "gap separating today's generation of gamers from those of us who once drew maps on grid paper is nearly unbridgeable." Indeed, this seems to be true about a lot of games from the 1980s and 1990s. While certain games were revolutionary for their time, even I find it hard to go back to older titles that I once enjoyed immensely, so it's unlikely for the average teenage Halo player to be able to realize the impact of a game like Ultima IV. Abbott no longer assumes "the game will make its case for greatness all by itself," and says he may take a more hands-on educational approach in regards to the classic RPG.

Source: BrainyGamer

Permalink

1985? Oh good, so I wasn't even alive yet. Now I don't feel bad about having never heard of it before.

Also, those students seem a bit silly. Sure, I'd probably try to play first without the manual too, but once I was confused as all hell, I'd go back to the manual and read it instead of just giving up.

I think this is true with a lot of old games. I downloaded Final Fantasy 7 over PSN and I could not get into it. It's not even very obscure like Ultima IV. I'm 16 I feel a little shafted not getting being able to play some of these awesome old games (I just can't get a grasp on Mega Man).

Am I the only person who ever reads the manual? I love reading the fluff that comes with videogames, and when it comes to CRPG's, you often NEED to read the manual.

Stupid children.

EDIT: Then again, it might be because I'm so damned old. 29 isn't exactly a spring chicken anymore.

OMG! READ?!

What is this "read" of which you speak?

Well reading the manuals is pretty much the only way you can actually play an Ultima game, and even then it's also harder to play 2 or 3, which pretty much tell you nothing about what you're actually supposed to do. At least Ultima 4 is clear on that. Also, I find it's actually easier to play old-school RPGs now, thanks to the glories of internet walkthroughs.

JaredXE:
Am I the only person who ever reads the manual? I love reading the fluff that comes with videogames, and when it comes to CRPG's, you often NEED to read the manual.

Stupid children.

EDIT: Then again, it might be because I'm so damned old. 29 isn't exactly a spring chicken anymore.

I'm always disappointed with manual sizes nowadays, back when I bought Age of Empires 2 you got a manual the size of a freaking book, detailing everything, unit stats, upgrades, actual historical value, etc. Now I'm lucky to actually get a manual, or to get one over twenty pages (the first five describing how you install the game).

theshadavid:
I think this is true with a lot of old games. I downloaded Final Fantasy 7 over PSN and I could not get into it. It's not even very obscure like Ultima IV. I'm 16 I feel a little shafted not getting being able to play some of these awesome old games (I just can't get a grasp on Mega Man).

Is it a combat issue or a plot issue that turns you off from Final Fantasy 7? 'Cause you're not alone, 7's plot is very 'love-it-or-hate-it' and I'm part of the latter category.

Very interesting, but not surprising studies. I guess its just a difference in mindset.

I wasn't even born in 1985, but even I know of the Ultima series. Lord British made them well. I'm glad to be of the minority that could grasp it, it's an excellent game and I'm greatly saddened that people just can't get into it now.

Kids just like to be told exactly what to do in games now, it takes the challenge out of it.

Honestly, I don't think that kids not reading the manual is an excuse for the game being hard to get into. If you can't explain yourself in-game, then how well can you possible explain the rules in the manual? And if you simply feel like not explaining how to play inside of the game, you are being lazy.

Having a manual is fine, requiring a manual is bullshit. What if you lost it? The game would have been nigh unplayable at the time, right?

JaredXE:
Am I the only person who ever reads the manual? I love reading the fluff that comes with videogames, and when it comes to CRPG's, you often NEED to read the manual.

Stupid children.

EDIT: Then again, it might be because I'm so damned old. 29 isn't exactly a spring chicken anymore.

Man. Same.

Like the kid saying he can't get a grasp on Mega Man?!

Really it's simple jump and shoot, but I suppose picking the right order to fight the bosses in via trial and error is a bit much for kids now a days.

I was bitching about this the other day. I bought Red Dead Redemption and aside from some riding a horse over a cliff or 'oh gee my cat's on fire' moments of distraction I've not died. I've not had to rest so often because I got a cover system and I regen like Wolverine. Granted I started on normal difficulty like I usually do, but my biggest gripe is the Google Maps cowboy edition. It's just terribly easy to follow the yellow lines.

Oh and kid who couldn't get in to Mega Man, don't worry so much about FF7. It wasn't a good game back when I was your age. Just had a lot of hype.

interesting and kind of weird as im young myself i like ultima 5 more than FF13

I'm just 20 but still.. it pains me that this is so. My first complex game was Anno 1602 and Settlers 2.. I read the manuals, having learned to read not that long ago, and set out to try..

Speaking as someone who's currently working his way through the Gold Box RPGs for the third or so time (on Curse of the Azure Bonds at the moment), I guess I can kind of understand...though admittedly, these ones were my childhood.

Still, though, not reading the manual? That's kind of odd, though I guess if they're in pdf format, you might miss them if you don't know they're there. Not to mention games today more often have help functions in the game itself, so I can understand some of their confusion.

JaredXE:
Am I the only person who ever reads the manual? I love reading the fluff that comes with videogames, and when it comes to CRPG's, you often NEED to read the manual.

Amen, brother. I think I still have a stack of old manuals around here somewhere, for games I haven't played in years. Inspires me to pick them up again, every so often...

when I saw the title i was like "hey, Im 13 and PREFER older rpgs!- oh ultima? jesus christ yea I can't handle that...."

theshadavid:
I think this is true with a lot of old games. I downloaded Final Fantasy 7 over PSN and I could not get into it. It's not even very obscure like Ultima IV. I'm 16 I feel a little shafted not getting being able to play some of these awesome old games (I just can't get a grasp on Mega Man).

you can't get a grasp on... mega man?
(catch phrase incoming)

IT BAFFLEZ ZE MIND!

(hint: if your playing mega man 1, abandon all hope, if your playing MM2 go after metal man first. he is the easiest boss but his weapon is overpowered as all hell.)

Im 18 and I love old school RPGs, Ive never played Ultima but Ive heard of it and would probably like it

sooperman:
Honestly, I don't think that kids not reading the manual is an excuse for the game being hard to get into. If you can't explain yourself in-game, then how well can you possible explain the rules in the manual? And if you simply feel like not explaining how to play inside of the game, you are being lazy.

Having a manual is fine, requiring a manual is bullshit. What if you lost it? The game would have been nigh unplayable at the time, right?

I'll note that Ultima was made in 1985, where technical requirements made it far more difficult to actually portray a plot or quest lines in-game. Ultima 4's manual was a savior, it had pretty much everything you needed to know in it.

PDF format? The best part about manuals was that they were books that you could read outside of the game. Having to alt-tab out every thirty seconds before you learn how to play the game properly is frustrating as hell. ...and yes, I am aware that you can print it off yourself, but it's never quite the same; manuals in those days were often works of art by themselves.

"Why are there all these words in the way? And where's the shoot button?"

I agree. Wanna be gamers today are actually pretty stupid. They get hand-walked thru most things, call a game trash when they're too stupid or unskilled to play it, can't figure things out, and usually follow along with the 'main stream' when it comes to gaming. Good thing they got fps mp/sandboxes to keep the little 'tards busy.

well, I still can't believe "awhile" is allowed to remain an actual word while "alot" - which is the single biggest grammatical error I ever see ANYWHERE - is considered incorrect.

baka52:
interesting and kind of weird as im young myself i like ultima 5 more than FF13

Well to be fair, I love paddle ball more than FF13.

Pff. I have a problem, first place I go is the manual, supposing it is a gameplay issue. The bigger the manual, the better, right?

So, what was the conclusion? What was the point? That games back in the day weren't as accessible to players? That people were more intelligent? More patient? That games were more limited and thus required documentation rather than in-game tutorials?

Or that Ultima IV doesn't live up to todays standards?

Abbott believes the "gap separating today's generation of gamers from those of us who once drew maps on grid paper is nearly unbridgeable."

I don't know if I'd go that far and to be honest, Ultima was a little boring. It had some cool ideas but if I remember correctly, even the game's original designer was frustrated with how it was produced. Also, and this is very recent too, I've been wanting to play old pen and paper kind of games, as well as several of my friends, who find modern games too restrictive. So I don't agree with that statement at all.

(Planetfall is an excellent choice though. I love that game.)

Guess shows how much we have advanced in a way, and those who did not grow up with it, simply cannot use it

I think the greatest hurdle in getting into old games is almost always the interface. I don't mind bad graphics or reading manuals, but if I have to press 12 different keys just to change the equipped weapon, that does put me off.

I'm a big Ultima fan but I haven't been able to get into earlier Ultimas because of the interface barrier. It's just not enjoyable to me like that. On the other hand, I regularly play old games that had a good interface.

We're too used to good graphics and intuitive interfaces, I guess?

OMG! Drawing maps on grid paper! Me and a buddy spent nights and days doing that with the Eye of the Beholder back in the days. Those were awesome times for gaming. :D

The pussies.

But seriously, those games are unbelievably complicated but a good lot of them are worth exploring and experiencing fully. There are even complicated RPG's these days, like Persona 4. Of course, they are nowhere near as confusing the older ones were, but still pretty damn challenging and worth tinkering with.

Oh and btw:

A third: "I tried for awhile without any walkthroughs to get the full gamer experience sort of thing and within the hour I gave up because of a combination of bad controls and a hard to get into story for me at least. It reminded me of a bad Runescape."

Runescape is already bad. :D

Well yeah, they're incredibly complicated games anyway- having to then pick one up when it use a vastly different mechanics to those we currently use is a big ask.

I beat this game on the atari 800XL in the late 80's. It had two 5 1/4" disks that had to be swapped/turned over all the time and if you attacked lord british you got your arse kicked into next week.

mjc0961:
1985? Oh good, so I wasn't even alive yet. Now I don't feel bad about having never heard of it before.

Also, those students seem a bit silly. Sure, I'd probably try to play first without the manual too, but once I was confused as all hell, I'd go back to the manual and read it instead of just giving up.

Nowadays manuals are just used for reference and controls and such are mostly explained in tutorial gameplay. The testers may have been expecting a similar thing.

Psh, today's gamers are just weak.

...kidding.

burntheartist:

baka52:
interesting and kind of weird as im young myself i like ultima 5 more than FF13

Well to be fair, I love paddle ball more than FF13.

lol, took the words right out of my mouth. i barely managed 5 hours before i just couldn't take it anymore. i lost all motivation to play

Actually, I think this kind of shows why you can't have a class on computer games. Or, that if your going to have one, why you need to put some strict standards on who can take it. This is not the first thing I've read on this class, and it seems more like a sociological experiment in seeing how current people react to older games in practice, than anything really educational.

I think the "OMG, they expected you to read the instructions?" bit is sort of indicative of the problem of what has happened with gaming becoming mainstream. Most of these guys probably would never have been able to get a Commodore 64 or Apple 2 running well enough to be able to game regularly.

Ultima 4 is a very deep game, and involved a lot of elements that I actually miss in games today. I regularly rage about how RPGs in paticular are constantly being dumbed down.

But then again, as a lot of people besides me have pointed out, this is what happens when anything gets marketed based on the lowest human denominator. The market just can't handle a game that can't be adequetly explained by a 15 minute tutorial, or any real exploration or ambigious goals.

Ultima, especially Ultima IV, and Might And Magic were both kind of cool to the gamers of the time (who were also frequently pnp RPG gamers) because half the fun was exploring, and "adventuring" in the truest sense, and gradually figuring out what the exact objective was and how to go about it. Although admittedlt both games gave a good hint hin the title ("Quest Of The Avatar", and "Secret Of The Inner Sanctum")

 Pages 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 NEXT

Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
or
Username:  
Password:  
  
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
or
Register for a free account here