I have been away from gaming for quite a while. Fortunately this has been due to education. I've been studying, and trying to do everything that you need to in life and games sort of got the back seat for a long time.
That was until the air was thick with the taste of the new PS4 being released. At some point I started to get that feeling of an old friend, long lost, coming back from the dead. The Playstation Conference sealed the deal. I was hooked....again.
I've always been the inside sort of person. Much prefer reading a book under an umbrella when on holiday than being in the pool playing water polo or something. Games played a big part in that.
For the past few months I've been going through the games released recently, games released a long time ago, games released in the time when I stopped following the subject. And something strikes me as odd.
If you look at any game in the past that had success. It was a game that was either A) An awesome story. One which sucked you into the world and kept you there, B) Was extremely fun to play, or C) Both of the above.
Out of my own favourite games all of them tick the boxes above. But they also tick another box that wasn't even a box back in the day really. And that was graphics were not the selling point of the game.
Since being back I've been flooded with talk of graphics, graphics, graphics. Sure back in the day graphics were praised but graphics were also pretty new. I mean Space Invaders and other arcade classics were only made in the seventies. It was only 12-13 years ago that PS1 and PS2, games consoles were the scene and were lets be honest the highest graphics any reasonable person could want.
Then the Xbox 360 and PS3 hit the scenes, people flooded the stores for the consoles. The new games! The upgraded hardware, controller, touch sensitive buttons! BUT have you seen those graphics! It wasn't long before we were hooked on graphics. If a game didn't have good graphics it wasn't worthy of a place on our shelves.
PC got into the mix and is currently the leader in graphics. But why?
Now I asked myself this right about the time my new computer was flexing its muscles. I've always been a fan of FPSs and what a better way to benchmark a new computer than to buy Crysis? I bought it, fired it up and good god those graphics are pretty effin' sweet! Yes they are.
The gameplay on the other hand, not so fantastic.
Under the shiney coat of graphics there was not much left. The FPS was a generic FPS with some goodies thrown in. None of which are particularly ground breaking. Sure the nanosuit is cool and being able to throw men 15 meters across the ground through corrugated steel buildings was fun but not fun enough to make me care even slightly. What with shifts in gameplay meaning the same level of fun wasn't always possible depending on which part of the game you are in and in the end it does become a race to the end just to see how it finishes because the game leading up to it isn't all that engaging in my opinion.
So the first game I played after my return was a game that other than having a nice gloss to it, wasn't much of a game. Oh well, it was the first game I played it can only get better.
It does get better but not always. I suddenly realised something was up when I heard the fact that Tomb Raider, Bioshock Infinite and several other titles didn't meet their target sales figures.
How can this be? Two games which I played, that I thoroughly enjoyed because it ticked many of the original boxes, didn't earn success financially. They ticked all the boxes, even the graphical ones. And that is when it dawned on me.
When you look at a game, you know you are in a game. No game is so perfect you can be fooled into thinking you have slipped into another world. But the main thing that you are exposed to is the graphics. Everything you do, everything you touch and everything you think about touching will be painted in the graphical gleam that everyone seems to want.
Tomb Raider looked great, partly due to it being a reasonably short game, and being linear meant they had a lot of room to work with. Bioshock Infinite looked fantastic, it didn't go the photorealistic, "OMG I can practically taste that guys face he looked to real!" approach but it worked perfectly for that game. Both of which failed to meet their financial quotas.
It seems to me like passing your driving test. You pass your test with your test instructor sitting next to you and you are as green as grass. Never have you been behind the wheel without someone sitting next to you. Would you really expect to jump straight into a Ferrari and drive it perfectly? Games developers on that same time scale have just passed their test. They are happy and chirpy and can't wait to get out there and see how far they can push themselves. So why are they sitting in the seat of a car they cannot handle?
It seems to me that developers are pouring so much of their resources into graphics today that they are getting too far out of their depths. Graphics are one of the most important part of a game, and yet they are not needed to achieve success. Many games that are fantastic tick all of the gameplay boxes but how many of those truly tick every single box? I've never seen a game that was truely fantastic in visuals AND a great game to play. Many great games look great, but none of them are Crysis 3 quality. So why are we pushing for it to be so?
Even Halo 4 has been seen to take a hit in this department. Halo 4 is as of today the best looking game I've seen on Xbox this generation. The story wasn't terrible but the gameplay wasn't great. They spent too much effort tuning the graphics and not enough time tuning the gameplay.
This is why games are starting to feel in my opinion "empty". Just look at something like Skyrim, they set themselves tasks and they met them. None of the tasks involved the gameplay though and that showed. The result is that unless you mod Skyrim into the ground it is both tedious and dull all rolled into one Nordic looking landscape.
That brought me to Aliens: Colonial Marines. SEGA release a flop of a game. The gameplay wasn't great, the story wasn't great, the graphics are not winning any rewards. It ticks none of the major boxes. Yet SEGA made a profit from the game?!?!?!?!
How can this be?
It seems likely to me that SEGA did what everyone else stopped doing so long ago. They spent less time worrying about the graphics. Graphics which in the current world are costly to produce.
Unfortunately for them, Aliens was a bad game overall. What would have happened if the game was a perfectly written piece of Science Fiction, had a tight and awesome feeling set of controls and gameplay? But kept the same level of graphics? I think we would all be sitting down to play a little bit of Colonial Marines each night instead of whateverit is you are currently playing.
If you ask me graphics are ruining this industry right now. They are putting so much pressure on the limited finances of developers that we are starting to see major problems across the board.
If you want my advice, go get yourself a Nissan Micra, stop wishing you were driving a Veyron and stop wasting your valuable resources on aspect to games that are not essential.
I would still be playing my PS1, if only you guys had kept making awesome games for it. After all most of my top five are PS1 games. Take some of that with your graphics Crytek.