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Four things games today need (that old games had)

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New games these days are good and all. I suppose. Thing is, as good as games have gotten today, there are a few key elements they’re missing. Things we used to have. Things we still need.

I think it’s time for a gaming revolution; I think it’s time developers learn some lessons from the people that got the industry to where it is today.

Or maybe this is just a grumpy old man making a list of things he wants that has little or no bearing on how things should actually be. You decide.

No saves (and finite lives)

F6-F6-F6-F7-F7-F7-F6-F7-F6. That’s pretty much how people were playing games a few years ago, until autosave checkpoints became the new thing. Kill an enemy, quicksave.

You could judge a gamer’s skill by which button he’d hit more, quicksave or quickload. I used to check the wear on people’s F7 keys and give them the nod of respect when the print was still clean.

Now of course the games essentially do that for you; every time you clear a couple of areas of enemies, a handy “game saved” notification will appear. You’re free to bullrush a collection of enemy troops as many times as you like, and the eleventh time you recklessly fling three grenades while spraying your assault rifle wildly, it actually works.

So you pat yourself on the back for a job well done, and move on.

Well bugger that, I say. How cool would Call of Duty be if you died three times and you were done? Nice try soldier, kindly report back to level 1 and get your shit together.

I’ll never forget that feeling of enormous pride (and relief) when my brother and I beat Contra for the first time. You actually cared about dying, you actually cared about finishing a game.

I want that back.

One life already? Scrub.

One life already? Scrub.

Insults and mockery

Well, this isn’t exactly something we saw in all games. Okay, maybe it was only text-based adventure games. Whatever. Shut up.

Anyway, I have pretty fond memories of various Sierra titles (Police Quest, Space Quest etc.) being stupidly difficult and then making fun of me for not realising that two hours back there was a stick in the background that I could fashion into a catapult which I could later use to smash a mirror an hour on and collect a shard of glass which could reflect a laser beam three hours after that.

Of course, all of that wouldn’t be explicitly explained, Sierra preferred to just call me a moron.

You could save in those games, but it almost didn’t matter. If you missed something critical, you wouldn’t find out until it was far too late.

Games are too nice now. Hell, you get a tutorial to make sure you understand how to climb a ladder or crouch-walk under a low beam.

And they don’t even laugh at you when you get it wrong.

Yup, that game is totally making fun of you.

Yup, that game is totally making fun of you.

High Scores

Yeah, some games still kind of have this, but they’re mostly casual/mobile games. I think developers are seriously underestimating our addiction to the virtual wang-measuring that is high scores.

Do you think Flappy Bird was successful because of the gameplay? The graphics? Come on. It’s hard as hell and gives you a score at the end. That’s it. Now go code something and be rich.

There is nothing more compelling to me than a game that lets me compare myself to other people. I was a die-hard DotA 2 fan until I discovered League of Legends had a ranking system.

Can you imagine how good Call of Duty or Battlefield would be if you had a little badge next to your name with your exact ranking on that particular server/region? Come on, I know you want that.

Without that number, this game would be nothing.

Without that number, this game would be nothing.

General Insanity

Games make far too much sense now. It’s all about gritty realism or traditional fantasy tropes. Even the post-apocalyptic RPGs or hardcore fantasy themed titles are bound up within the dull, boring border of things that actually make sense.

Most of the insanely popular games of my childhood look like they were made after someone spent three days huffing carpet glue.

A plumber rescuing a princess that eats flowers to throw fireballs? Sure. Landscapers that decide that what would really bring this castle together are bridgeless pits of fire and death? Seems plausible.

We never questioned any of it. Why does this tropical island have platforms floating in midair? Not something I ever actually asked myself.

I want a big, AAA title that makes absolutely zero sense. With no explanation.

  • Delano

    Quicksave and quickload… ah, yes, those were fun times. I won’t lie, checkpoint systems in modern games are more annoying than useful, often because they’re before a monotonous section that you end up having to do over a dozen times. I even remember old DOS games like Rise Of The Triad whose manuals plainly stated, “save often”. A more recent game that requires quicksaving is Black Mesa, but I suspect the commercial version will fall back on checkpoints.

    Scoring is a mixed bag. In today’s environment of cinematic and story-driven games, it’s less relevant, but I agree wholeheartedly that it really becomes a thing when you’re competing.

    As for insane games… I can recommend a few…

    • Chris Kemp

      Rise of the Triad… that game basically embodied the kinds of things old school titles could get away with.

      I must admit, I did plenty of the old F6-F7 in Black Mesa ;)

      • Delano

        Did you play the 2013 remake?

        • Chris Kemp

          Not only did I play it, I reviewed it :D It definitely had some charm.

  • BinaryMind

    [Warning: may contain spoilers of the first 5 old Tomb Raiders]

    I recently got all 10 Tomb Raiders and have been perusing a personal goal of completing every single one. The first 5 games really punish you if you forget to save. I once forgot to save for an hour, then died and had to start at a previous level. An autosave at the beginning of each level would be nice :)

    But the old tomb raiders were really crazy. They have the kind of stuff that, “makes absolutely zero sense. With no explanation” – like a floating metal head that shoots lazers at you in Rome. I laughed t that one. Or at the bottom of a deep Tomb, theres some dude riding a skate board and shoots you with UZIs… in a Tomb. It does not get more random than that.

    The new Tomb Raider has none of that as far as I can see (haven’t finished it). It has less character.

    • Alex Rowley

      The new Tomb is the best one in the series in my opinion. Then again I have never like the older ones anyway mainly because I thought the controls and story lines sucked.

      • BinaryMind

        The new Tomb Raider is more like all new games. it’s mainly just about action, lot’s of violence and swearing. The usual crap, like Farcry3 and Crysis. It just does not feel like a Tomb Raider game – just using the name. But again, maybe that’s just me.

        • Alex Rowley

          Well I wouldn’t say it’s just you as I have seen basically the same criticism brought against the game by others. I do disagree with it though lol.

          The game wasn’t a “America fuck yeah!” military shooter so that was already a good sign in my books, but for me the game was just fun, exploring the island and using the bow felt like it was an adventure.

          This is obviously personal opinion but the fact that it doesn’t feel like other Tomb raider games is a good thing. The series was dying a slowish death and this game has revitalised it.

          The game isn’t flawless and more exploring would have been very nice but overall it’s one of my favorites of the past few years.

          • BinaryMind

            I do agree with you there. The exploring is fun. Guess it’s just different. Got too comfortable with the old games :P

    • Chris Kemp

      I absolutely loved the new Tomb Raider, but you’re really making me keen to do what you’re doing. I did a similar thing with Doom not long ago, played through all the old weird expansions and then got deep into the world of mods. Which, by the way, there is still a huge community for even today.

      • BinaryMind

        Woah. Did I inspire someone to play more games? Awesome :P

      • Delano

        Have you had a stab at Brutal Doom? That alone makes Doom worth revisiting.

        • Chris Kemp

          Yep :) Was one of the many I found on my weird trip into the Doom modding internet underground

  • Umar Praise The Golden Sun

    What we need is not quick saves but Ink Ribbons

  • Alex Rowley

    I don’t really mind autosave that much. I do still quick save a lot especially in skyrim.

    The one thing I don’t want to see come back as a norm though is finite lives where you have to start the game from scratch. Well I can definitely see the appeal in it (it worked well in Xcom) I don’t think people play games to get frustrated all the time. It doesn’t mean developers have to treat us like brain dead monkeys though.

    • Chris Kemp

      I don’t know, I think it could make things really interesting ;) Obviously works better in some kinds of games than others though. Sinking 70 hours into an RPG and then dying…

      • ToshZA

        Hardcore character in Diablo 3, perhaps? :P

        • Chris Kemp

          Sigh, I did that once in Diablo 2. Think I died on level 14 or so and wanted to claw my eyes out.

          • ToshZA

            haha yeah it’s a completely different play style. You have to worry about survival more than dps, no more crazy running into the middle of a group and just unleashing your fury. In Diablo 2 I had a few HC characters, they were always fun. Haven’t gotten around to one in D3 though, might give it a try next time I plug my Xbox in.

          • Chris Kemp

            Yeah I think i just don’t have the patience for it. I imagine you’d have to spend a lot of time leveling your characters on side quests so they were always strong enough to get the main story without too much risk of death. I’m… not very good at doing side quests.

  • ToshZA

    The finite lives thing is in fact why I’m addicted to Rogue-likes at the moment. That feeling of finality, that feeling of “If I screw up, I start again. No excuses.” I love it. Those game are brutal, they test your patience and skill, they test how well you adapt, and most of all, they’re actually fun.

    • Chris Kemp

      Sounds like I need to get on this! Any in particular you’d recommend?

      • ToshZA

        FTL is a nice easy introduction to Rogue-likes, and there’s also the rather expansive, 100% (from their website, not the steam version – both of which are the same minus achievements) free, and moddable Tales of Maj’Eyal. Both games have me swearing and going back for more, every time. There’s also the local Desktop Dungeons for a much quicker fix, that game really is cool as well. Bite sized chunks of rogue-like.

        Apart from those I’ve seen a few new releases on steam. Not played them, but it might be worth checking out if you find your masochistic side suddenly rather appeased.

        • Chris Kemp

          Thanks Tosh! Been meaning to check out FTL for a while so this is clearly a sign ;)

          • ToshZA

            At FTL’s price point, you really should be playing it :)

  • MateldaN

    I am still playing Sonic Games and World of Tanks and Age of Empires as I think that old school games are the best. Love this article, sweet memories of my childhood are the best, Mario Bros forever:)

    • Chris Kemp

      I have very fond memories of playing Age of Empires over LAN. The good old days when playing online wasn’t an option :D

  • Rick de Klerk

    I certainly agree about the insult and mockery part. I think my favourite is when a game notices you’ve been struggling with a section and recommends you drop down to a lower level.

    That’s really what I want: passive-aggressive slams.

    • Chris Kemp

      Ohhh yeah I like that, the subtle dagger.

  • RooiBosTeaBagger

    How about some offline?


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