Where Gaming Went

•December 29, 2008 • 7 Comments

It’s been more than two months since my last opinion post. First off, I hope all have had a Merry Christmas and will have a Happy New Year. As one can see from the recent interviews from Ten Ton Hammer and Gamasutra, Red 5 will be announcing their project next year, something that makes me, shall we say, turbo-excited.

Now, this post is somewhat of a continuation of my last opinion post in that I will speak of common game ailments, but this post’s purpose has more to do with the present state of the video game.

I’m disappointed with 2008’s video games. Rather than go through a long-winded thing detailing why I’m upset with 2008’s video games, I’ll simply state that priorities are in the wrong places. With that said, I’ll go on to the gaming experiences I’m enjoying right now and what I’d like to see in the future.

I’ve been playing a lot of Counter-Strike 1.6 as of late. Perhaps my joy is being accented by other, poor gaming, but nonetheless, I enjoy everything about Counter-Strike: the clean UI, the simple and natural movement, the brains-and-brawn combat, the iconic and powerful-feeling weapons, the charming and nostalgic visuals, the ingenious maps (especially the player-made ones), and the simply complex game modes (including the player-made ones). When playing with players of similar skill level (as one should try to do with any competitive game), it is everything that is right with multiplayer gaming. That is to say, it bests all the Halos, the Call of Duties, the Gears of Wars, and the Battlefields.

Just look at what these games brought to the shooter genre: Halo brought accessible, online shooting to the consoles (the best achievement of those titles); Call of Duty introduced more realistic combat, something that could be considered neither inherently good nor bad; Gears of War brought a polished third-person-shooter experience; and Battlefield brought unpolished complexity. We are eight years ahead of Counter-Strike yet still behind it.

I view the 90’s as the strongest years for video games. We received the strongest, most revolutionary games in those years, from Super Mario World to Doom to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time to Starsiege: Tribes to Half-Life to EverQuest to StarCraft… the list goes on. And one of the things that made the PC games of these years so special was the player-base. Player-created content, from game modes to maps to communities to technologies to graphic alterations, made Half-Life, Tribes, Doom, EverQuest, and StarCraft among the greatest game experiences of all time.

From 2000 to the present day, communities of the same vitality have been scarcer. Certainly, Warcraft 3 and World of Warcraft have had their creative player-bases, but nothing of the same drastic nature (save for perhaps the Warcraft 3 mod, Defense of the Ancients) as the 90’s. So there is something missing in modern gaming that existed before, and thus I can come only to one conclusion: gaming has been sold out.

Gaming has been sold out to those who never cared about gaming. Gaming has been sold out to the jocks, to the yuppies, to the underachievers, to the egoists; to be broad, gaming as been sold out to the casuals.

We have drowned ourselves in accessibility. Of course, a degree of accessibility is needed if one wants to even get an audience in the first place, but we have completely forsaken depth and have packed our lungs and veins with the idea of ease. You see, the ideal gaming mix is to make the unnecessarily hard things easier and to make the unnecessarily easy things harder; so, a UI should be easy to interpret, but perhaps a combat situation shouldn’t be.

I’m not saying that gaming should punish the player; I’m saying that gaming should challenge the player. I always believed that to be the purpose of gaming: being presented with a challenge, learning to overcome that challenge, and then conquering that challenge. In a sense, I always thought gaming represented life. But now there are no challenges, there is no need to learn to overcome any challenge, and we never conquer any thing at all: we become immobile, and perhaps this actually represents our lazy, modern humanity.

I want developers to make strong cores, challenge the players, “Do better than us,” then give the players the ability to do better than them. Then we’d see a less empirical gaming industry; in fact, we would have a sort of gaming republic.

The only game released in 2008 that even slightly sates this desire is LittleBigPlanet, but unfortunately, that core is not particularly strong.

This is the one place I find myself in allegiance with indie game developers. I desire for more games made for the purpose of gaming. To make an insensitive comment, I liked video gaming when it wasn’t lucrative, when it was run more by developers, not businessmen. Although we cannot return to those times, we can rise up against the cold cogs of the economist machine, and replace product with art.

I don’t mean to say that money should never be a concern for game developers: such a thing would be imprudent. I only mean to say that money shouldn’t be the only concern, and that money can be found in almost reverse manners (that is, a non-focus on money can result in high income).

To relate this to Red 5 Studios, let’s look at what has been said about their creative and financial focuses. Mark Kern has stated that have given the business side of things to Webzen to handle so that Red 5 can focus on its game; Mark Kern has stated that the things that Red 5 crafts reflect the things that the developers, as gamers, want (at least a very large majority of Red 5 appears to be of core gamers); and various interviews have stated that the players will control important aspects of Red 5’s game. I believe Red 5 Studios to be one of the few studios that realizes how different the video gaming medium is from, say, the movie or music industries, that realizes the lost magic of video gaming, and that realizes what it must do to bring video games back to life. Here’s hoping.

– The Author

EDIT: The Community Manager position is open again.

Interview: Red 5’s Stealthy Plans, Upcoming MMO | Gamasutra

•December 24, 2008 • Leave a Comment

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It’s pretty much on the face. We want players to actually change the state of the game over time. Time is a very important concept to our game. We play with it in any number of ways. It is probably our key form of persistence, more than, say, geography, which kind of ties back into your content question. It’s more about how this world evolves over time, versus how big your world might be. I think, it’s all about what you do with it.

In that way, it’s a little bit more information about what we’re talking about, but we really can’t be more specific until the announcement.

Exclusive Red 5 Studios Interview with Chief Creative Officer Mark Kern | Ten Ton Hammer

•December 15, 2008 • Leave a Comment

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“It does mean we’re close [to making an announcement],” Mark said. “We’re still in discussions about the timeframe of the announcement and the nature of the announcement, but the team is chomping at the bit to tell the world about what we’ve been working on. When that moment comes, we’ll make sure Ten Ton Hammer is on the list.”

Exclusive Interview with Mark Kern – Talking Tabula Rasa, Science Fiction, and Consoles | Ten Ton Hammer

•December 4, 2008 • Leave a Comment

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I think we’re drawn to e-sports because it feels like a fresher experience. When we play games that have these aspects, we discover that these are the types of things that really excite us. Taking what we know from persistent online worlds and applying it to e-sports, it just resulted in great bouts of brainstorming. The ideas were just cranking out, and that led us to believe that we were really on to something. I think we’re really drive by our primary focus, which is all the gamers that are working at Red 5, and they act as a terrific weather vane for these ideas and their validity.

Red 5 Shuffles Execs, Appoints New CEO, President | Gamasutra

•November 24, 2008 • Leave a Comment

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MMO developer Red 5 Studios announced that former president and CEO Mark Kern is stepping down from his positions to serve as Board chairman and chief creative officer.

Michael Weingartner, previously the company’s vice president of Engineering, will take over as president and CEO. He joined the company in March of this year and previously held executive positions at Oracle, HP, and Talking Blocks.

[ARTWORK] Machine

•November 6, 2008 • Leave a Comment

All works belong to Red 5 Studios unless specified otherwise.

[ARTWORK] Planet

•November 6, 2008 • Leave a Comment

All works belong to Red 5 Studios unless specified otherwise.