Author Topic: Has gaming plateaued?  (Read 2902 times)

Has gaming plateaued?
« on: September 26, 2018, 06:50:17 AM »
The generational leaps have become tiny technological steps. The lines between generations have even become blurred on console with half-measure iterations. Nintendo are operating on their own hardware-conservative timeline. So many people within gaming, from devs to publishers to players have one eye on the past with either retro-inspired games clogging up the indie market, genuine retro games on emulation, re-released consoles on the shelves, ports of ports in the charts, backwards compatibility a selling point and bone of contention and a nostalgic clamour for physical editions and manuals growing among enthusiasts. It appears that gaming is starting to eat itself - but is that a bad thing?


My favourite games released this year have been the ports of Ikaruga and Psyvariar Delta on the Switch. Next is probably Hyrule Warriors DX, followed by Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate. Celeste must make an appearance in the top five, the only 'new' game on the shortlist, a retro-inspired 16-bit throwback. Dark Souls Remastered is my most anticipated game (a port of the PS3 version, rather than a remaster in any meaningful sense).


I don't think I've ever had it so good or enjoyed gaming so much but it feels like we are treading water  nevertheless. I've played most of the big AAA games this year and while this is no criticism of that side of the industry (which makes some incredible games), I've found things like God of War quite underwhelming compared to comparable last-gen stuff like Uncharted 2 or TLOU. Has gaming plateaued, then, and so what if it has?








*Obviously, I haven't touched on VR there because I don't have enough experience. I had PSVR day one and returned it day three because it made me feel horrendous. It did offer something genuinely new, though, so I'd be interested in more developed impressions and I'll try out the next iteration, for sure. I tried Oculus at Arcade Club and that felt pretty good, just not very immersive in that environment compared to in my living room.

Lemming

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Re: Has gaming plateaued?
« Reply #1 on: September 26, 2018, 07:08:23 AM »
Not sure about plateaus, but I genuinely believe it peaked in the years 1997 - 2003. There's unbelievable variety and creativity in big-budget games in those years (and plenty of shit too, of course) and so many different franchises trying so many different things, aided by the insanely rapid pace of technological progress. It weirds me out to think that Half-Life, Tomb Raider 3, Zelda Ocarina of Time, StarCraft: Brood War and Thief all came out within the same 2 week period in late 1998. I can't think of any periods like that in recent memory.

So as for gaming plateauing, I think it dropped off after 2003 and, as of this decade, has settled into a pretty steady level of quality. There are plenty of good games in every year of course, but I made a list recently of games from each year 1990 - 2018 that I feel are relevant or enjoyable, and there's 30+ entries for each year 1997 - 2003, while I'm struggling to scrape together more than 5 - 10 for each of the last couple of years.

Indie and crowdfunded stuff is where the creativity seems to lie these days, despite all the retro-themed stuff. I don't mean to complain about AAA games, I'm as happy as anyone else to mindlessly run around stabbing/shooting shit for a few hours, but the vast majority of games that have impressed me with unconventional design or mechanics have been kickstarter efforts.

biggytitbo

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Re: Has gaming plateaued?
« Reply #2 on: September 26, 2018, 07:17:17 AM »
Yes it has because the hardware isnt progressing as fast as it did before and gaming is largely driven by technological advancement. The last major leap forward was crysis and that was 11 years ago. Assassins creed unity was 4 years ago. The only recent development is 4k but everything else has been minor incremental improvements to eye candy. Ray tracing looks good but its not the sort of thing that changes gameplay like the physics did in half life 2 for instance.

I think we'll have to wait for the next gen of consoles before we get major improvements to ai, physics and world complexity etc, that might make new types of games possible.

Re: Has gaming plateaued?
« Reply #3 on: September 26, 2018, 07:28:16 AM »
Not sure about plateaus, but I genuinely believe it peaked in the years 1997 - 2003. There's unbelievable variety and creativity in big-budget games in those years (and plenty of shit too, of course) and so many different franchises trying so many different things, aided by the insanely rapid pace of technological progress. It weirds me out to think that Half-Life, Tomb Raider 3, Zelda Ocarina of Time, StarCraft: Brood War and Thief all came out within the same 2 week period in late 1998. I can't think of any periods like that in recent memory.

So as for gaming plateauing, I think it dropped off after 2003 and, as of this decade, has settled into a pretty steady level of quality. There are plenty of good games in every year of course, but I made a list recently of games from each year 1990 - 2018 that I feel are relevant or enjoyable, and there's 30+ entries for each year 1997 - 2003, while I'm struggling to scrape together more than 5 - 10 for each of the last couple of years.

Indie and crowdfunded stuff is where the creativity seems to lie these days, despite all the retro-themed stuff. I don't mean to complain about AAA games, I'm as happy as anyone else to mindlessly run around stabbing/shooting shit for a few hours, but the vast majority of games that have impressed me with unconventional design or mechanics have been kickstarter efforts.

Metal Gear Solid, Splinter Cell, GTA Vice City, KOTOR, Ocarina of Time, Resident Evil 2, Silent Hill 2, Halo. Etc etc

Yeah fair play, I reckon 9 out of 10 of people's top tens would be from this era of video games.

Re: Has gaming plateaued?
« Reply #4 on: September 26, 2018, 07:33:34 AM »
Quote
“A” titles were made by an in-house team, under direct control of an experienced producer, with high quality standards and often a new IP or sequel to a previous hit. The majors.

“B” titles were lesser titles, made by 3rd party teams, elsewhere, supervised by associate producers. Farm league.

“C” products were add-on content like new maps, editors, soundtracks, cluebooks, ports or compilations.

Marketers could see a list of games in progress and plan ad budgets. As marketers often do, they began amplifying so the bigger of two “A” titles became “double A”. The idea spread and eventually grew to include triple A.
Quote

For the bad idiots who don't know what the fuck an AAA game is.

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Re: Has gaming plateaued?
« Reply #5 on: September 26, 2018, 07:36:49 AM »
Not precise but here's how it's felt:

1980-1990 - huge advance in gameplay, processing power, and the basis of computer gaming, innovation and new possibilities being explored - but not necessarily realism. By the end of the decade it is already incredibly difficult for bedroom producers to match the quality of content
1990-2000 - 3D, multiplayer online gaming up and running in a huge way by the end of the decade, major improvement in peripherals, fmv
2000-2010 - improve in cinematics and the integration of the experience. Environmental elements now able to be part of the gameplay. Vanishing loading times, more coherent online experience, more add-on packs augmenting games. More monetisation (yuk)
2010-2018 - progress now incremental and less attention paid to progressing graphics outside of AAA titles and big budget publishers. Indie games make a comeback and progress is directed at mobile gaming, hyper casual type stuff. Another crack at VR, making it possibly only a generation away from being a typical part of most gamers experience

Re: Has gaming plateaued?
« Reply #6 on: September 26, 2018, 07:40:23 AM »
Metal Gear Solid, Splinter Cell, GTA Vice City, KOTOR, Ocarina of Time, Resident Evil 2, Silent Hill 2, Halo. Etc etc

Yeah fair play, I reckon 9 out of 10 of people's top tens would be from this era of video games.

What age group though? There's a generation of 50 somethings who think gaming died in 1983 and another group who think perfection was reached in 1991 with Street Fighter II. And so on.

Zetetic

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Re: Has gaming plateaued?
« Reply #7 on: September 26, 2018, 08:20:05 AM »
I think we'll have to wait for the next gen of consoles before we get major improvements to ai, physics and world complexity etc, that might make new types of games possible.
Are these really technological challenges more than design problems?

Not that technology can't make design easier - but that seems more of an issue about accessibility of tech to small teams/lone developers.

Re: Has gaming plateaued?
« Reply #8 on: September 26, 2018, 08:34:47 AM »
What age group though?

The best age group.

biggytitbo

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Re: Has gaming plateaued?
« Reply #9 on: September 26, 2018, 08:54:09 AM »
Are these really technological challenges more than design problems?

Not that technology can't make design easier - but that seems more of an issue about accessibility of tech to small teams/lone developers.


Development is still lead by the consoles isnt it, which are extremely underpowered on the CPU. Unity is a good example of a developer trying to be overambitious with the world complexity in their game and it tanking performance on the consoles, meaning the subsequent games had to be massively dialed back, especially in the size of the crowds and the ai diversity. That's holding back games technically at the moment, until the new consoles come along.

biggytitbo

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Re: Has gaming plateaued?
« Reply #10 on: September 26, 2018, 09:00:05 AM »
Metal Gear Solid, Splinter Cell, GTA Vice City, KOTOR, Ocarina of Time, Resident Evil 2, Silent Hill 2, Halo. Etc etc

Yeah fair play, I reckon 9 out of 10 of people's top tens would be from this era of video games.


I think the reason the PS2 era was the best is because there were so many thriving mid size AA studios, who were able to make such a huge variety of odd, ambitious and experimental games without the burden of massive budgets and sales expectations. Since then the increase in budgets has segmented the market so we largely only have the low budget indie end were originally still thrives, but only on small scale games, and the massive triple A end, where the games are getting bigger but originality is proving too costly.


Stuff like Senua's Sacrifice is pretty much the only example of one of those variety of mid level games trying to do something a bit different has made much of an impact, or even got made.

Kelvin

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Re: Has gaming plateaued?
« Reply #11 on: September 26, 2018, 09:21:34 AM »
There is still a lot of ingenuity and ambition within the market; I think it's just been shunted into the vast ocean of the indie space, where the games get less attention - and far smaller budgets - than the high profile, heavily marketed, and relatively formulaic AAA space.

Even 10 years ago, there was still a relatively successful mid-tier games industry, which, at their best, bridged the gap between new ideas and a modest budget. Now the poles have moved further apart. Either you play a heavily refined, fairly consistent AAA game that does everything you've seen before, but incrementally better, or else you play a 2 hour indie game that tries a new type of gameplay, but feels rough and unpolished, and probably doesn't build on it's ideas in the ways a bigger budget game could. Clearly, I'm generalising, but I'm talking about an overall trend, here.   

I suppose these ideas do still make their way into mainstream games over time, but it takes longer for them to noticed and incorporated, compared to previous eras where it was mid-tier developers that were trying new things and taking risks.

Kelvin

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Re: Has gaming plateaued?
« Reply #12 on: September 26, 2018, 09:30:08 AM »
Also, it seems odd to expect constant large leaps forward in the medium, when you wouldn't expect films or television to make huge leaps forward every 4-5 years. If anything, it's much the same situation in every medium; formulaic, polished mainstream experiences, with an indie scene that pushes the envelope on a much smaller budget, and to much smaller audiences. The one exception might be TV, which doesn't have a conventional indie scene - although arguably that gap is filled instead by the internet/youtube now. All these genres are arguably more diverse than ever before. It's just harder to find the interesting (and good) obscure stuff in an age of so much variety, and so many outlets.   

Re: Has gaming plateaued?
« Reply #13 on: September 26, 2018, 12:07:29 PM »
Also, it seems odd to expect constant large leaps forward in the medium, when you wouldn't expect films or television to make huge leaps forward every 4-5 years.

I think that's just down to games being so intrinsically linked to computer technology which DID used to make significant leaps every 4-5 years, and game developers always seemed to be competing with each other over who could wow audiences the most with their new graphics, physics engine and so-on.

Films and television on the other hand have always been able to satisfy audiences with just good writing, directing & acting so technological leaps don't really seem all that important outside of the odd movie that makes a big splash with its SFX (e.g. Jurassic Park, The Matrix, Avatar).

Re: Has gaming plateaued?
« Reply #14 on: September 26, 2018, 01:15:07 PM »
What age group though? There's a generation of 50 somethings who think gaming died in 1983 and another group who think perfection was reached in 1991 with Street Fighter II. And so on.
They don't sound like gamers.

Re: Has gaming plateaued?
« Reply #15 on: September 26, 2018, 01:18:40 PM »
They don't sound like gamers.

I'll have to trust you on that.

Re: Has gaming plateaued?
« Reply #16 on: September 26, 2018, 01:33:26 PM »
Switch being portable, 4k consoles and vr are pretty big advances imo.

Kelvin

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Re: Has gaming plateaued?
« Reply #17 on: September 26, 2018, 01:50:34 PM »
Yes, that a good point. Switch is a big mainstream success of tech that never caught on previously. And although it's not really cut through in its current iteration. VR has the potential to be very big in 5-10 years. They just haven't advanced the industry in ways that fit the traditional narrative of "big leaps forward = big graphical jumps".

Zetetic

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Re: Has gaming plateaued?
« Reply #18 on: September 26, 2018, 08:18:45 PM »
[Assassin's Creed 45345] Unity is a good example of a developer trying to be overambitious with the world complexity in their game and it tanking performance on the consoles
It's a good example of a developer speaking a lot of nonsense to try to sell a bunch of different performance problems as down to "ambition" and "complexity". It struggled to render cutscenes on the Xbox at a consistent framerate.

The most significant advances in AI have mostly been about insights into what human's expect and attend to, and what sorts of predictability and signalling make for interesting game systems.

Zetetic

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Re: Has gaming plateaued?
« Reply #19 on: September 26, 2018, 08:25:06 PM »
Even 10 years ago, there was still a relatively successful mid-tier games industry, which, at their best, bridged the gap between new ideas and a modest budget. Now the poles have moved further apart. Either you play a heavily refined, fairly consistent AAA game that does everything you've seen before, but incrementally better, or else you play a 2 hour indie game that tries a new type of gameplay, but feels rough and unpolished, and probably doesn't build on it's ideas in the ways a bigger budget game could. Clearly, I'm generalising, but I'm talking about an overall trend, here.

I think that's not just about the industry, but about where we are with a vernacular of design in games - now we know what an FPS is and what to expect of its controls, and those expectations now weigh heavily on anyone making something a bit like an FPS. (But, yes, moreso, if you're throwing millions at making something.) There's less need for experimentation to make something playable but the tolerance for playability is, sort of, narrower.

If you've plateaued yourself and deliberately restrict yourself to a creatively narrow range of 'major' titles, then I could imagine it feeling as though games have 'plateaued'.



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Re: Has gaming plateaued?
« Reply #20 on: September 26, 2018, 09:17:25 PM »
A lot of the better indie game ideas from recent years seemed to stem from hackathons and a hackathon mindset. I think a lot of that is more down to it being a conceit that allows a developer to give themselves a base which they can build from instead of getting lost in the details than anything else.
Basically it needs to get easier to knock out prototypes of a wider range of ideas.


Beyond that, VR, eventually, might be the thing to actually move things forward in that it'll drive people away from the safety of 2D and put greater prioritisation on sound design, the general vibe of the whole thing, etc

Re: Has gaming plateaued?
« Reply #21 on: September 26, 2018, 10:49:38 PM »
Yea i feel so.

I went from a snes to  an Nintendo 64 mind blown
Went from N64 to xbox, again another jaw dropping moment, stuff like halo and oblivion huge leap  from snes.
Went from Xbox to 360 again another massive improvement in graphics, but not nearly as big of the last couple of generations,  oh and xbox live playing cod2 and GOW .
Then went from the 360 to an xbox one , hardly any change in graphics,  it just looked like everything had been polished up nicely,  also with backwards compatibility i now have 332 games from the GWG and buying digital downloads when they are cheap.

So despite me thinking the xbox1 didnt have a massive improvement stuff like BC and GWG every month makes it my favourite  console.

Cant see them able to top that with the next generation  consoles.

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Re: Has gaming plateaued?
« Reply #22 on: September 26, 2018, 10:53:04 PM »
Metal Gear Solid, Splinter Cell, GTA Vice City, KOTOR, Ocarina of Time, Resident Evil 2, Silent Hill 2, Halo. Etc etc

Yeah fair play, I reckon 9 out of 10 of people's top tens would be from this era of video games.

Tony Hawk’s Proskater 2 (Around Ireland With A Fridge).
TimeSplitters 2
Resident Evil 2

The pattern is obvious.

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Re: Has gaming plateaued?
« Reply #23 on: September 27, 2018, 02:17:24 AM »
Tony Hawk’s Proskater 2 (Around Ireland With A Fridge).
TimeSplitters 2
Resident Evil 2

The pattern is obvious.
Games with the letter S in the title

FerriswheelBueller

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Re: Has gaming plateaued?
« Reply #24 on: September 27, 2018, 02:18:34 AM »
Games with the letter S in the title

Games where the first word starts (or ends) with a T.

Duhhhh

Mister Six

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Re: Has gaming plateaued?
« Reply #25 on: September 27, 2018, 05:14:50 AM »
How's the OP defining "gaming" here? As Biggy points out, the gap between AAA titles and everything else has become rather vast, but honestly that seems like a good thing to me, from a raw gameplay point of view. Without teams of hundreds or massive dev PCs at their command, smaller developers are having to focus on raw gameplay and clever ideas. That cannot possibly be a bad thing.

I do disagree with Biggy here though:

Yes it has because the hardware isnt progressing as fast as it did before and gaming is largely driven by technological advancement. The last major leap forward was crysis and that was 11 years ago. Assassins creed unity was 4 years ago. The only recent development is 4k but everything else has been minor incremental improvements to eye candy. Ray tracing looks good but its not the sort of thing that changes gameplay like the physics did in half life 2 for instance.

I think we'll have to wait for the next gen of consoles before we get major improvements to ai, physics and world complexity etc, that might make new types of games possible.

I don't think you're going to see those advancements because devs with the manpower to make those strides are going to put their efforts into even more detailed textures, even more realistic lighting and even more whizzy particle physics rather than actually expanding on gameplay itself. Look at GTA V - thousands of people working on it, an insane level of visual detail, and missions that are more or less the same old shit they've been selling for years.

The next genuinely massive leap - and it won't come for a long, long while - is going to be properly procedurally generated games. Not just remixing levels like you'd see in a roguelike, but basically a Star Trek holodeck on a monitor. Tell it the kind of thing you want and it will pull it together from a vast library using neural networks. Turning game design into an extension of the imagination, without having to worry about learning how to code.

Until that point, it'll just be more of the same, but - for a while - with 3D Oculus specs on.

Re: Has gaming plateaued?
« Reply #26 on: September 27, 2018, 04:31:54 PM »
The point about procedural stuff is interesting because I have wondered about this before. Would any procedural software ever be able to design a world as tightly connected and atmospherically diverse yet cohesive as Dark Souls 1?

biggytitbo

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Re: Has gaming plateaued?
« Reply #27 on: September 27, 2018, 06:26:31 PM »
It's a good example of a developer speaking a lot of nonsense to try to sell a bunch of different performance problems as down to "ambition" and "complexity". It struggled to render cutscenes on the Xbox at a consistent framerate.

The most significant advances in AI have mostly been about insights into what human's expect and attend to, and what sorts of predictability and signalling make for interesting game systems.


I'm sure poor optimisation was a problem (as it usually is with Ubisoft) but having played it recently on a decently powered PC it's definitely doing stuff no game before or since has done, and certainly stuff that isn't possible on the current gen of consoles because of their CPU bottleneck. It isnt just eyecandy either, large scale crowd simulations, and the amount of variety in the way the NPCs look and behave, the density of the environments etc, all change the feel of the game, and affects the gameplay in interesting ways. Ubisoft stepped back from this in their subsequently open world games, presumably because they knew they couldn't get it to work properly on the current consoles, but I imagine its exactly the kind of thing we'll see more off when the PS5 and Xbox 2 or whatever is released.


Just Cause 3 was another one, another game that struggled on consoles because its was trying to do stuff that required beefier cpus rather than just prettier graphics.

Zetetic

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Re: Has gaming plateaued?
« Reply #28 on: September 27, 2018, 08:50:43 PM »
Would any procedural software ever be able to design a world as tightly connected and atmospherically diverse yet cohesive as Dark Souls 1?
Yes. (Trivially. If you want you can fuss about the nature of the procedure and the level of design required of that.)

The more interesting question is what would be the point? That kind of replayability (to do with particular kind of lack of information and discovery as a mechanic) and generativeness should serve some kind of purpose.

Zetetic

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Re: Has gaming plateaued?
« Reply #29 on: September 27, 2018, 08:53:42 PM »
the amount of variety in the way the NPCs look and behave, the density of the environments etc, all change the feel of the game, and affects the gameplay in interesting ways
Where does much of this fall in terms of 'AI' or 'physics'? Isn't an awful lot of this just about lining up a variety of stuff to shunt into the GPU?

Which, I grant, does reflect on the significance of technological advancement in the pursuit of naive verisimilitude - but doesn't have much to do with interesting, fun, meaningful interactions with AI or physical mechanics.

(Because mostly those remain a design problem. Where there's technological hurdles to investigating those problems in more interesting ways - and I'm far from convinced that these are significant - aren't they found on devs' machines, not on players'?)