Our first contestant on GUEST BLOGGER IDOL (chosen at random) is KURT. Here’s what Kurt would like you to know about him.
Kurt is an under-40 generation X slacker with several annoying idiosyncracies including a website. His 6 year old spell-checker was asleep during his recent blog-idol entry. Kurt hopes to one day get 5 stars on a Guitar Hero 3 song. Any song. Really. Just one. For the love of God.
And here is Kurt’s audition post.
Sometimes context is everything, so I’ll start off by giving a brief background on myself. I’m an under-forty year old gamer. I was part of the gaming arcade boon and bust. I had an Atari 2600, later played rogue and zork and moved into PC games. I’ve donated more hours and dollars to the gaming industry than I care to sum up. So why do I now feel like a jilted lover? Why has the gaming industry forsaken me?
Surely I now have more disposable income than when I was playing Joust at the ice-cream parlor. So why am I no longer desirable? I still maintain my rugged good looks, so that can’t be it. So I’m forced to assume that the only reason I’ve been cast aside is because the gaming industry actually doesn’t know what I want. If they knew, reason dictates, they’d come running back to me and return the 8-track tape collection they took when they left.
So that’s what I’m doing. I’m going to tell the gaming industry what I want. This is, of course, a single data point, but perhaps there are others like me. Others waiting for gaming lovers to return. To tell us that it’s all going to be OK because it was just a misunderstanding. I’ll dig into what makes a good game. A game I’d buy today if someone but gave me the chance. A good game has good graphics, sound, game-play and controls.
Let’s start at the heart of gaming from the gaming industry’s perspective: Graphics. High end graphics are about all we hear about when a new game is released; ‘Atmospheric effects’, ‘Texture Shading’, ‘Polygon count’. Let me share a secret. Except in some relatively rare genre games, I don’t care that I can see a realistic shadow on a tree, through the fog with actual solar-texture bitmap particles. I’m probably going to just turn most of that stuff off as soon as I start anyway.
I’m not trying to give license to having super low end graphics. Nintendo is really pushing the bounds of lazy graphics development right now. What I am saying is that the focus on graphics is misplaced. In terms of importance, it’s maybe 3rd. From my perspective, I think that Ultima 7 still has great graphics.
On the flip side, the improvements in sound have been slow and steady and useful. We’ve had excellent game sound since 1992 in Star Control II (and in the 1993 demo Second Reality.) I still listen to a set of Star Control II mp3s. So where are we today? Our expectations on game music are pretty high and they should be. It’s common to use full orchestras to handle the musical arrangements. Many games feature original scores of the same high-caliber as movies. MIDI is often used for dynamic content and I think that that is perfectly acceptable. I was not one of the angry chorus wondering why Zelda: Twilight Princess was using MIDI instead of full orchestral scores. The music is still great. It’s hard for me to wax nostalgic for the beeps and boops of yester-year, so on this front, I’m well pleased.
This brings us to game-play and controls. Whenever I see a controller with 20 buttons on it, I just want to cry. Between console controllers with loads of buttons and PC games that require a keyboard ‘map’ to play, I just feel over-whelmed. There has got to be an acceptable middle ground. There was a time when I really enjoyed playing some FPS and getting online (or playing on a LAN). Those days ended when I needed to memorize a thousand keyboard options just to ‘shoot my friends’.
Duke Nukem was a game I played and it was a lot of fun. I think it had some pretty simple controls. The next thing I know is that someone showed me the controls they used for Tribes II or something similar and I was completely confused. This is in part what put me back on the gaming console from the PC. PC games were getting too complicated with keyboard shortcuts and whatnot. Gaming consoles are following suit though with controllers that offer a thousand buttons and fit in the palm of 2 hands. The wiimote is actually a nice controller, which can be ‘expanded’ upon when the game genre warrants it. This makes a lot of sense. And if you are going with a console, wireless with rumble/vibration is a must. Don’t tether me to the console with a cable and don’t make me sacrifice rumble and other features found on the cabled versions.
So do you hear me game companies? Less focus on graphics, more on game play and simplicity. Oh, and if you want to just re-release Wizardry 8 as a port for the Mac, that’s good too. No. Really. Sir-Tech, I still love you! Please come back. I don’t really care about the 8-track tapes.