Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Truth about Modern Games

Bill from dubious quality just wrote down the truth:

[..] First, the single-player campaigns of most games aren't even games anymore--they're movies. Wonder why the single-player campaign of your favorite FPS only lasts six hours? It's because it's incredibly difficult to make a six-hour movie, let alone something longer.

Really, it's probably more accurate to say that instead of movies, games are like the old mine cart amusement park ride. You get on the cart, it goes forward on rails, and surprising things pop out at you along the way. Welcome to the world of the corridor shooter. It's not a game. It's a ride, or a guided tour.

Why would anyone want to make a game like that?

Well, like I said, making a six hour movie is hard--but, and this is important, it's easier than making a real game.

Think about Ultima IV and the amount of content contained in the game. Sure, there was a storyline that needed completion, but the sheer number of things you could do as a player were absolutely amazing.

That story, and that level of interaction, required a complex game design and an incredible amount of detail.

Today? Modern Warfare 55 is not complex. It's just a corridor, and you run through that corridor shooting at shit and blowing things up. Complicated world design? No. Elaborate set pieces? Yes.

Games used to be complex. Now they're elaborate. It's a huge difference. And I think in a design sense, it's much easier to make an elaborate game than a complex one. It certainly doesn't require as much skill. [..]

Visit his blog to read the entire piece.

Also have a look at Systemic Babble who has a thread about it.


  1. "First, the single-player campaigns of most games aren't even games anymore--they're movies."

    Took the words right out of my mouth. I was actually just about to write about this topic for a post today.

    Modern games keep touting the buzz word "cinematic" as if it's a good thing and as if it describes a better gaming experience. It is not a good thing and it describes less of a gaming experience because it takes out the interactive nature that is necessary for games.

    Games are not movies and they should not aspire to be like movies. A movie will always be the best at being a movie, and if a game dev wants to make a game "cinematic" then he or she would be best off pursuing cinema.

    This topic is what prompted me to commend the design of DEFIANCE, which will have a tv series running alongside the game as a separate entity. I can't say that I'm excited for the game itself or that I expect great things from it, but by having the narrative distributed in its own proper format and the game left with the ability to capitalize on being interactive entertainment, you can make both experiences stronger, adding them up as a much more satisfying whole.

  2. Recently I've been watching a lot of games on youtube while I play Diablo 2. There are a lot of games out there these days that are interesting to watch, but I've been having trouble finding games that I find interesting to play - hence an 11-year-old game taking up most of my actual gaming time.

    Maybe I should go get Ultima IV and play that again. Wow that was a good game.

  3. Hey nothing wrong with cinematic experience. You know just enjoy the ride. I rarely play single player campaigns of MP shooters but played trough BFBC2 recently. YOu know what? -its a decent quality cinematic experience. Brains off. stuff blows up. relax. I d say it was a better experience than most of Hollywood blockbusters

    It just not virtual worlds . Nothing wrong with both to exists.

    "Games" are way to broad word imho to describe all different things from angry birds, farmville, modern warfare, dragon age, minecraft, eq ,wow .etc -

  4. I agree with you, Max. I think these movie-games are fun. But they don't replace games. And they certainly don't replace virtual words.

  5. "YOu know what? -its a decent quality cinematic experience. Brains off. stuff blows up. relax. I d say it was a better experience than most of Hollywood blockbusters"

    Why not just make it a Hollywood blockbuster then? If the campaign is being played for the cinematic, brains off experience and not for the quality of interaction, then wouldn't it be best to not be coy about it and just make the presentation a proper cinematic work?

    I agree "game" isn't the best word, but "interactive entertainment" does a good job to explain what they are and what they aren't. Modern games are increasingly pushing for faux interactivity, a thin veil of apparent interactivity on top of what really is a movie. The identity crisis doesn't make them stronger, Uncharted 2 would have been a great movie if the "game" elements didn't keep getting in the way.

  6. I find it a little daring to compare Ultima to shooter games, let alone FPS; obviously they are worlds apart, but then they always would have been? the earliest shooter games didnt offer any freedom and they were all highly linear too. just think doom or contra or what you will, if these weren't 'corridor shooters' then I don't know. am not sure the shooter genre is the best way to analyze changes.

    all that said, I do agree of course with the general sentiment of the movie approach and cutscene overload in many of today's games. I've actually linked a very similar article myself lately that discusses the issues of games 'going movie', maybe the link is interesting to someone:


  7. "Modern games keep touting the buzz word "cinematic" as if it's a good thing"

    Just want to echo Gild's comment here. I cringe whenever I see this on a box for a shooter or adventure game. Not only because the game should be less of a movie, but more because it isn't a very good movie.

    Uncharted is a good example there, would make a great movie if the game didn't get in the way. Other games would make a great game if the movie didn't keep getting in the way. Nobody bought Halo for the single player campaign, they bought it for the multiplayer, because that was a good game. They didn't give a rat's ass about the story because it wasn't that great.

    I'd love to see more work towards marrying the two experiences, but I couldn't tell you the work that would go into that.

  8. Have you played, or at least seen, any of Stalker (that game I mention now and then)? It's a FPS, but in a sandbox setting. Of course there are highly-linear scripted parts, but those are parts, not the entire experience. It uses a lot of RPG elements like inventory management and missions, without those really taking over and detracting from the gameplay of shooting things.