Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Quest for the New Shiny

Don't worry, this won't be another Brad posting...the man is getting flogged enough as it is right now, and I won't be saying anything else until there is something new. However, the main sticking point of his last post was the technology needed to run Vanguard optimally. Apparently, you don't just need a new video card, you need an entirely new system. This just isn't a line of thinking that started with Vanguard, it seems to be a problem (yes...it's a problem) with most PC developers. They design games for computers that don't exist...and it's getting tiresome really.

I remember when Doom III came out. Boy, was I excited for that one. I read all of the previews, saw all the videos and looked at all the screenshots. I loaded it up, and "enjoyed" the slide show that I was presented with. Sigh. No problem, I've done this before...off to the forums for tweaking and optimization hints. I got the game running smooth and my conclusion...the game sucked. It looked good...but it sucked. The game was just a haunted house simulator wrapped in a graphical tech demo. I played for about an hour and then uninstalled it. There you go, a game that brought my machine to its knees and it wasn't really a game, it was just a graphics showcase. Why oh why....

Oblivion. Great game. It has the story. It has the gameplay and the character development....but man, the amount of .ini tweaks and mods I needed at the time to actually get a good framerate was mind boggling. EQ2...and I've said this before, this game was absolutely unacceptable in terms of framerate when it came out. That technical barrier to entry was at least part of the reason why it didn't launch so well.

This almost seems to be a North American phenomenon...and I have no idea why. Why devs seem to insist on developing a game for computer specs that the majority or players do not have or cannot afford. Their reason...."We want our game to look good 4 years from now". My answer, "I won't play your game now, let alone 4 years from now, if my machine slaps me across the face for installing your game." Devs seem to be more obsessed with shiny graphics than interesting game play and story lines....and we as players are too. What's the first thing players say about a game, "It looks really nice", or "The game looks gorgeous". How the game actually plays is usually what comes after how it looks. Of course, some would say, "Hey, this is a visual medium. Of course we're going to comment on what we see first." Sure, it is a visual medium, but I would argue that it's a game first and eye candy second. Yes, there is a balance between the two. A great game that also looks great is optimal. I just think the pendulum has swung to far to the graphics side of things...hence part of the reason why VG finds itself in a bit of trouble and WoW finds itself with 8+ million players. I'm not a game designer by any stretch of the imagination, but I do know that there are ways to cheat to make things look good....like the creative use of textures to make a low poly object look spectacular. I'm sure there are other ways of "cheating" as well and I hope that future MMOs use these more and more as we move forward.

WoW was created for the "common" computer and it has graphically lasted 3 years, which is close to a forever from a technology perspective. Honestly, it probably has a good 4-5 years left in it. So, whats wrong with developing an MMO for today's computers, maximizing your player base at launch and getting a good 7-8 years of revenue from it? Answer...nothing.

D out.

P.S Just as I finished this, I noticed that Ancient Gaming Noob also wrote a piece on the technology side of Brad's post as well.

1 comment:

wilhelm2451 said...

Oddly parallel thinking. I was actually writing a couple of pieces on consols and the whole Vanguard system requirements (the box should say: System? Go buy a new one!) seemed to mesh right in.

And I got to make a piƱata joke.