Dimensions of Quality - what is your priority?

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evilkinggumby
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Sat Jun 28, 2014 11:21 am

KwisatzHaderach wrote:Another thing that evilkinggumby mentions, that I'm sure overlaps with my "soul" aspect of games: how the devs feel when making a game.
I have to agree with you, I think good working conditions and passionate developers and staff will certainly help a game excel to be an historic great game. When you have a slew of dev's working on a game and they're overworked, poorly paid, uninterested or uninspired, and just 'hammering it out' you may knock out a game fairly quickly (by today's standards) and it may even be a AAA great looking game, but when you look at all aspects you start to see a severe lack of depth, care, and creativity in many design elements. Luckily, some games still manage to stay popular because where the games lack, are areas the fans of said games are less concerned.

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Seeing a game that feels less 'manufactured' (in terms of game development, anyhow) and more "baked with care" really can make a difference. Look at cake or pie or muffins. Having a pre-packaged mass produced muffin from a gas station when you are hungry is ok, it gets the job done and it tastes ok and there is no real harm done.

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But having a "baked this morning" pastry thats still a little warm from the oven, made by hand with locally collected ingrediants and no preservatives and made with a sense of pride, it just comes through on so many levels. As a consumer, I enjoy it because in various ways (texturally, psychologically, flavor, smell) I can sense the difference. In this day and age, it's getting tricky in some areas of the U.S. (and likely other parts of the world) to find local handmade goods, so more and more people are being raised on JUST manufactured goods made on the assembly line.

With gaming, think about how many youth and new gamers enter the market and all they know and see is modern gaming, where a lot of the "best" and "most popular" games are of this assembly line process. Created across hundreds of devs, without passion, without "soul" (to use Kwasatz term, because it really is true) and without the care and pride a smaller dev would have. These poor gamers don't know just what they're missing.

Then they go looking back and checking out "retro" gaming and seeing how things once were. Games released with all kinds of "feelies" in the box, with tons of content upon initial release. Less buggy, more diversity, tons of imagination and experimentation. It's no wonder we've seen a fair surge in retro appreciation for gaming and a shift in modern gaming design to try and emulate and replicate those old games made with pride.

Sadly, a lot of modern devs (indie and big box alike) are just "emulating" that vibe, not actually producing it. Those games end up feeling "like" the older games we appreciate, but not necessarily something truly akin to the old games, or destined to become "timeless". AGain, they are still manufactured, rather than crafted.

I am curious if people understand what I mean, and can cite a recent (last few years) game that manages to feel like old school games in terms of soul, pride of craft, passion for their medium, and overall fun presentation?


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One that I think captured this (imperfectly, I will say, but damn close) was Torchlight. Sadly the first game never got multiplayer implemented, which would have made all the difference, but Torchlight II fixed that and continued some of the fun of the first (though not quite as well). The game had a nice art style, so didn't need to be a graphical powerhouse, had great music and sound, voice acting, easy to use (but tricky to master) controls and gameplay, loads of maps to explore and battle through, characters to try, loot to get, pets to customize, and even random generated treasure maps so after beating the game you had more to do for fun. And really it came with no DLC or micro-transactions or ways to gouge the consumer. It was just a right adorable, whimsical (but also dark)yet lengthy game. I really loved playing both games (possibly the second was funner due to playing alongside my friends).

Thoughts?
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KwisatzHaderach
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Sat Jun 28, 2014 1:47 pm

I see evilkinggumby and I share a taste for homemade stuff (and concern about today's gamer's progeny). In Germany there has been a strong movement towards handcrafted goods (not only food, but everyday utensils). Problem is, as long as you (or your family) doesn't make them yourself, they are wicked expensive. It is simply not possible with a "normal" income to afford everything handmade, more often than I'd like I have to go with a compromise or with an outright industrialised product.
The situation with games is the exact opposite though. I think it is a generalisation to say that the more money is behind a game, the less likely it is to entice soul, pride of craft and passion. But it is also true. evilkinggumby explained why; the more money is on the line, the higher is the pressure, the bigger are the studios, the less the individual dev can make an impact on the game.
So, handcrafted Indiegames, baked in the old woodstove according to grandma's recipe, usually come really cheap, while industrialised mass produce AAA games come really expensive (at least for a few months).

As to your challenge concerning a game with the old virtues: well, there is always Natural Selection 2 of course. It showed incredible production values, inventive gameplay while relying on proven competative concepts, all with a pretty slick and thought-out art and graphics.
A game you might be more prone to identify with would be Faster Than Light. I bought it maybe a year ago, played it excessively, then dropped it after a few weeks. Recently I came back to it (the game has received a huge update) and again, I can't get enough. I just can't believe how delicate its game design is, how deep the gameplay, how abundant the tactical possibilities are. At first I was a little repelled by the looks, I'm not such a fan of retro pixel art tbh, but I overcame my initial resentment and I have to admit everything about the visuals is just right. Combat effects feel chunky and satisfying/terrifying, everything gives just the right amount of feedback to back the analytical and tactical gameplay just right. Sound effects are stellar too and the music... well I think I praised that in another thread already.
Overall, FTL looks rather plain and brittle on the outside, but it achieves a level of immersion by relatively simple means that few other modern games reach.
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david
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Sun Jun 29, 2014 5:56 am

@Vallug, EvilKing and Kwisatz... I think the points you make are valid, and these views are becoming more and more widely held. Most modern AAA games are made by massive teams, and involve so much cost and investment risk, that the commercial issues may become overpowering, and the uniqueness of the vision (if any) may become watered down.

Even my very favorite game, Splinter Cell: Blacklight suffers from a 'corporate standard' idiotic techno-military-macho story (sidenote: I am a bit ashamed to admit that my choice of game has such a dumb story, glorifies violence, isn't an indie and lacks even the slightest insight and artistic nuance). As a general rule, indie games do seem to have more 'soul'.

As you say, for better or worse, the games industry has grown up from its primitive days, and some money-grubbing cynicism certainly exists imho, though one could argue there was a measure of cynicism back in the early days too - you may remember, for example, ET on the Atari 2600 (considered to be one of the worst video games ever released, and perhaps a significant factor in causing the great video game crash in 1983). At the time Atari buried a stock of brand new cartridges in a hole in Mexico (it became an urban legend, and was recently dug up in front of tv cameras): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atari_video_game_burial

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KwisatzHaderach wrote:In the olden days it was an achievement (winkwink) to even purchase a game
@Kwisatz... so right, games were really expensive back then, and we were just kids I guess, so buying them was such a big investment! Though I think we are lucky to have grown up with a new form of entertainment, and in some way we have matured in parallel with it @EvilKing... just like you perhaps, I used to read my computer game magazine, over and over again, drooling over the reviews and photos of the latest awesome titles that I couldn't afford (except two or three at Christmas, and maybe two or three on my birthday) :D Back then, in Ireland, my magazine was Computer & Video Games a UK-based monthly covering games for hardware dinosaurs like the Sinclair ZX Spectrum (which was my first machine), Commodore 64, BBC micro, Amstrad, Vectrex, Colecovision, and in the arcades too.

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Vallug wrote:Personally I've been at a low point in interest in many new games as a lot of them have been meh to me.
I can relate, over the last year or so I've been absolutely in the same position, trying to play big-budget disappointments like Assassin's Creed 3, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon, Borderlands 1&2, Batman Arkham City & Asylum, Tomb Raider, Far Cry 3, Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon, Bioshock Infinite, Skyrim (sorry, I just couldn't get myself into it), Crysis 2 & 3 (though I loved the original), and Deus Ex: Human Revolution. But I hasten to add that there have been decent AAA titles, on PC and console, and maybe I didn't give the aforementioned games a fair chance... time is precious :mrgreen:
EvilKingGumby wrote:I am curious if people understand what I mean, and can cite a recent (last few years) game that manages to feel like old school games in terms of soul, pride of craft, passion for their medium, and overall fun presentation?
It is fair to say that, in the last few years, indies have become well-positioned to deliver a uniquely crafted and -possibly- visionary experience of one person: although indie games are usually smaller in scale or scope, as you has pointed out in another thread. If I'm honest though, in terms of just 'great fun to play', in the last few years I'd have to say Splinter Cell: Blacklight & Conviction, even though their stories are drivel, they lack soul and they aren't indies.
KwisatzHaderach wrote:I see evilkinggumby and I share a taste for homemade stuff (and concern about today's gamer's progeny)
In line with what Kwisatz and EvilKing describe, imho indies have become part of the 'home-produced' counter-culture. Hopefully indies can continue to offer something different, something more personal (and sometimes well-crafted ;)) occasionally WILDLY original and/or with excellent gameplay - Dear Esther, World of Goo, Little Inferno, Limbo, Super Meat Boy, Fez, Spelunky, Overgrowth, Bastion, The Binding of Isaac, FTL, Natural Selection 2, Papa and Yo, Gone Home, EnviroBear 2000, Goat Simulator, Torchlight 1 & 2, Frozen Synapse, Surgeon Simulator, Ridiculous Fishing, etc. etc.



Just as a side note, imho it helps that modern game development tools (the big 3d ones like Unity, Unreal Engine and -maybe- CryEngine, and others 3d and 2d too) allow AAA and indie developers to work much better at lower cost, although audience expectations regarding game production values are much higher too.
EvilKingGumby wrote:I give Seith and David Kudos for adding that bit of seasoning to this game, and really, making it a gem AND a joy to anticipate. :)
You are generous to include me in your kudos - thank you! Though I am the most chatty but the least valuable GOAT team member ;) Imho it is the wizards... I swear to you, I genuinely believe that Seith and Jeremiah are wizards... who deserve kudos though. Perhaps also Paul (helping out with writing) and Cyrille (helping out with programming, he's Cosmogonies on the forum) too :mrgreen:
Vallug
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Mon Jun 30, 2014 12:05 am

So, to tie it all together I guess, we hope for a unique game which can find it's place in our hearts as a classic. Which is already true for me, I've been hoping for a game like this for years. Strueth, I watch the gameplay video just to experience that hope. And also to hear the music.
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evilkinggumby
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Mon Jun 30, 2014 1:44 pm

Vallug wrote:So, to tie it all together I guess, we hope for a unique game which can find it's place in our hearts as a classic. Which is already true for me, I've been hoping for a game like this for years. Strueth, I watch the gameplay video just to experience that hope. And also to hear the music.
Well Said. That's it really. I am hoping it is every bit as magical as it seems, or more so. Strangely I am seeing a few segments on various youtube channels talking a bit about what i brought up (after I brought it up mind you) in regards to the fun factor and the appreciation for games harkening the old feelings of yesteryear. I watched SuperBunnyHop's(don't hate on the name, it's kinda silly but he does some great videos about gaming and is fairly neutral yet methodical on his views) newer video talking about recently discovering Japanese Indie games, and he echo's my sentiment that a lot of modern indie games trying to emulate the old retro classics just don't quite get it; but strangely, japanese indies are still right there in how they should feel/play/enjoy. All in all I was surprised at what he was seeing, and saying.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zawk-CtKvl4

One other thing he mentions in a different video, and I heard in a few ways at other sites about this years E3, was the idea of "fun" and how it was much more appreciated and necessary at the con's for gaming. That idea is definitely reflected here in this thread. I think despite our varied tastes in games and style and fun, we all have a keen sense that we like to enjoy games, gaming, and anticipating upcoming games as they're developed. We want to see fun games, play fun games, and enjoy media about fun games. And really, there are a lot of times the past couple years I don't recall the word "fun" being an important factor. Maybe I'm being cynical, or my hindsight is not as rose colored as it once was. But even when say Mass Effect 3 was incoming, and I was REALLY psyched to check it out, I lost a lot of my enthusiasm and "psyched" edge as stories came in and media was handed out and word about cramming multiplayer in it and blah blah bad ending and stuff all flooded the interwebs with bitter resentment.

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I still bought it (on sale) and played it and generally enjoyed it (though it felt like a lot lesser of a game than ME2) still, but by the time I was done I found I was pushing to the end not because I was having fun or a great time but because I was determined to see the end and be done with it..

I don't like reaching a point in a game where my sole reason to keep going is momentum and not "fun".

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Now I know David said he couldn't get into Borderlands 1 or 2 but that was a series I can say was closer to "fun" (if not one of the few this past years) because it didn't take itself too seriously, had a keen art style that wasn't "OMG PHOTO REALISM" and felt more like old school arcade action. I loved finishing out the first one and i was feeling fatigue towards the end of BL2 but I still enjoyed it and felt satisfied when it was complete (and played on with the DLC for quite a while).

I guess my point is this: we all want to have FUN with games, despite how different our definition of "fun" is. So far GoaT seems like it will be FUN (from start to finish) and I hope if Seith ever see's all this he'll understand and agree that the game can have whatever story, character, tone, genre, action or strategy he wants. But after all that, at it's core, the game has to be "fun". :) I think that is what he always intended for it, and has in store for us.
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Vallug
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Mon Jun 30, 2014 6:19 pm

Also I would appreciate a story that would make me cry because the only game I've shed tears over was Tony Hawk's Pro Skater.
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david
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Tue Jul 01, 2014 11:01 am

@Vallug... I haven't played Tony Hawks Pro Skater, though with movement controls (like Kinect 2) and/or a board-like peripheral (like in Tony Hawks Ride, but perhaps better implemented) I'd certainly be tempted by some virtual surfing, snowboarding and skateboarding. What was in Pro Skater that brought you to tears? :D

Hopefully GOAT will bring a flavor old-school titles: as for me personally, I was comforted when I played an early build of GOAT to test performance on different graphics cards. The movement controls were tight. Although GOAT isn't a platformer in spirit, there will be platforming elements. As for me, I'd like to have GOAT movement controls that are as tight as the best.

@EvilKing... you are so right, it's all about the FUN! :D But I guess, as game lovers, we tend to drill underneath the surface to learn more, and also find the components of 'fun'. But in the process -with all the news, opinions, information and disinformation available online- perhaps we do lose our innocence ;)

It was really interesting to see your video on Japanese indies: these guys really should get a publisher in the western world. The games seem decent and deserve a place on Steam for an appreciative audience. The Japanese aesthetic anyway really appeals to me. By the way, because of my game backlog, perhaps I haven't given Borderlands 2 a fair try. I really enjoyed the art style (cell-shaded is my favorite, XIII and TF2 for example) and games with humor are GREAT*! So if you enjoyed it I'll look to playing it again.

@Kwisatz... as you say, regarding FTL I admit that the graphics did put me off! But with your endorsement I'll definitely give it some playtime.

*I bought 'Enviro-Bear 2010' for my android phone yesterday, and I'll be downloading it for free on my PC... it might be the funniest thing I've ever seen!
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evilkinggumby
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Tue Jul 01, 2014 11:56 am

Jusat an FYI Borderlands is a lot more fun with friends, so if you do ever figure on giving it a shot let me know and we'll have to see if we can hook up for an online session. Having a second human player makes the game slightly harder, but also means there is someone around to watch your back AND save you if you're bleeding out and can't shoot anything in sight to pop back up. :)

And a second person is one more pair of eyes to spot gun chests and loot drops. :)

LOOT!!!

lol
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david
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Wed Jul 02, 2014 6:06 am

@EvilKing... Ok sign me up for a 'Borderlands 2' session!

Just gimme some time to practice and study a bit first though so I can appear reasonably competent :mrgreen:

Then we'll go on a RAMPAGE!

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