One of the major issues I have had with modern games is the big shift from 2D to 3D environments. Okay, I understand that this is no longer an issue with ‘modern’ games–that shift took place more than a decade ago–but to me it still rankles. It has since been joined by other shifts which are just as egregious in their implications, if not more so, than the 2D-3D environment conversion: invasive DRM, DLC (on-disc or otherwise), motion controls, and headache-inducing 3D all come to mind.
Because of my relative distaste for so many of these ‘advances’ (if one can even call them that), some might accuse me of being against innovation. This is not the case. There have been a number of developments which have earned my wholehearted approval. Whilst I still prefer boxed copies of games to their digital counterparts, Steam has shown that it can be done reasonably well–and, that it will keep all users up-to-date with the most recent patches. It has made it possible for Indie developers to share some truly excellent titles with a wide audience–something that would have been nigh-impossible last century.
The medium and graphic fidelity have also improved markedly, as has the attention to localisation, voice acting, and soundtrack. The result is a more professional business which–whilst it has lost some of the campy charm–has more often than not yielded better, not worse, results. The ‘bad’ voice acting of today is significantly less distressing than the bad voice acting of a decade or more ago. The localisations, too, occasionally reach sublime levels. Gone are the days of “They set us up the bomb” and “Displays the explanation of operating procedures to be displayed”, replaced instead with,
Argath: Listen well. A great host, with the Order at its van, prepares a sweeping campaign that will bring to book your turncloak Brigade. You will die. You will be hunted down to the last and slaughtered like the swine you are, for such is brigandry’s reward. But you, pig, are a lucky one. Tell us what we wish to know, and you may yet keep your bacon.
Prisoner: How the bloody hell should I know?
Argath: I’ll not bear your ribald tongue, rogue! Learn to guard it, if you’d not have it cut from your throat!
If that is not a marked improvement, then I do not know what is.
Ultimately, my resistance to new approaches stems from the inability of companies to make those approaches substantially and consistently improve the gaming experience. Motion controls are nothing new: Nintendo toyed with them in the 80s with the Power Glove: it was badly implemented then and resulted in crap–much like today. Whilst there has been more success with such things today, I am hard pressed to find evidence that the advent of motion controls has been the herald of a general improvement contingent upon its arrival. Rather, the reverse seems to be the case. Good motion control games are in the minority, and many otherwise excellent games have been ruined by having only a terrible motion/stylus control scheme to the exclusion of more traditional (and more frequently successful) controls.
The same thing is true of 3D gaming: it has been tried before. It was as useful then as it is now, which is to say not very. Because, unlike the advancements in sound, graphics, localisation, and reactive gameplay (that is, psychological developments in gameplay that increase the amount of fun being had by the participants), the innovations I rubbish above are tacked-on. Seldom do they contribute anything worthwhile to gamers. This is not to say they cannot, but rather that they so infrequently benefit–and so frequently harm–that one cannot help but draw connexions to the failures of the past and hope that, in time, these things too shall pass. Then, perhaps, some developers will focus more upon improving their games rather than upon finding new and innovative ways to cram new and innovative technologies into their otherwise lacklustre creations.