The "Dumbing Down" of video games

Discussion in 'General Gaming and Hardware Forum' started by Shadow of the Wastes, Mar 7, 2011.

  1. Shadow of the Wastes

    Shadow of the Wastes It Wandered In From the Wastes

    Aug 8, 2010
    In a lot of discussions I'm in on the topic of gaming someone will bring up some feature or something and the discussion will turn into a worthless Pc vs Console debate. Worthless because all that ever happens is both sides screech back and forth at each other. I don't fanboy for anything because there's game on everything I like. I still (sometimes) take a stance in these, and it's usually against the pc, for the specific reason of the pet phrase of the tireless defenders of the computer, "dumbing down."

    An example: Mass Effect. I am not a big fan of the first game. The inventory was a trainwreck and sucked to navigate. Equipping things was both a pain and simply "find thing with most bars, equip til you get HAWSADZX X master spectre gear, never need other equipment." Combat wasn't fun. I didn't like the story because it was kind of derp. I expected worse of the sequel. Instead I was surprised because it was great. I made a topic to that effect on another board I frequent and was assured, several times, that it wasn't that good because it had been "dumbed down" because "console players can't do real rpgs." Here, "dumbed down" translated almost directly to "made better" and "console players can't do real RPGS" translated to "they simplified mechanics to make the game more fluid and fun."

    may expand on this a bit later
    but tl;dr
    consoles aren't the devil
  2. GreyViper

    GreyViper Where'd That 6th Toe Come From?

    Jul 2, 2004
    I think the problem of ME1 was that it tried hard to be action RPG like Alpha Protocol, but failed at that. Instead it was just action adventure with inventory problems. Its interesting that they managed this rather well in Jade Empire. As for ME2 I agree it was better in my opinion, but I think yet again id rather play Alpha Protocol, since it was more fun to me. As for direction Bioware is going, looks like they are moving from RPGs to action adventurers.
  3. Stanislao Moulinsky

    Stanislao Moulinsky Vault Fossil

    Jul 16, 2009
    They are the moment companies tailor every game to the average console player (or what they think it is).
  4. SkuLL

    SkuLL Chad McRealman Orderite

    Sep 6, 2009
    Played the first Mass Effect and experienced same things Shadow of the Wastes mentioned - some good concepts, but the whole thing was brought down for me by the clunky interface/controls.

    Watching the video reviews of Mass Effect 2 I can see they greatly improved on some factors, simply by pushing the game slightly towards action, focusing less on the mechanics that used to identify a true RPG. Was that a good move? Most likely, as it is apparently a lot more playable now. It did take away some more 'difficult' aspects, most likely to cater to the younger consoloids.

    What bugs me is that games are no longer difficult. Sure there's the odd indie game or adventure games, but shooters and RPGs specifically have gone really low in terms of difficulty - and by that I don't mean clunky inventory and wall-of-text dialogues. I simply mean things like puzzles, quests and choices. Playing any modern RPG, you know what will happen before it happens, it's easy as fuck to identify the bad guys/good guys etc.

    Lastly, I think game developers have to focus a lot more on the hype these days - that means multiplayer demos, stunning screenshots, top-of-the-line graphics... Otherwise the game will not be noticed by the X% of people who want new games for their new rig (be it PC or Xbox) and younger people who want a 'shoot-em-up' experience, not a deep, morally engaging story. Unfortunately for us classic gamers (I'm not using the term 'hardcore gamer' as I have no idea what it means), the number X is steadily rising while our numbers decline into the few old coots complaining on message boards. :(

    TL;DR, I know. Didn't read it myself, not expecting you to! :lol:
  5. Ausdoerrt

    Ausdoerrt I should set a custom tit

    Oct 28, 2008
    Consoles themselves aren't the issue. The increasing popularity of "multiplatform" games is. PC games have always been distinct from console games in style and content - partly because of different controls, partly because of different tradition. When games go "multiplatform", the devs never care enough to tailor them perfectly to every system. Provided that the difference between PC and consoles is greater than among consoles, PC usually gets shafted by getting half-baked games with graphics worse than what the system's capable of, shitty controls and interface, and gaming content that fans of classic PC games don't appreciate. Because these are AAA titles by major companies, they effectively crowd out anyone trying make money producing PC-specific games. People get impression that "console-style games are successful, let's make more" so the traditional PC genres are slowly dying out except for a few long-standing titles still supported by big-name companies (and even those are dying too).

    From the perspective of an RPG fan, why do I hate this? I used to think Console RPGs/JRPGs are hilariously over-simplified and boring. Now, I find Square's most recent PC RPG release more complex and engaging than Bioware's most recent PC RPG. This is world turned upside-down.

    Consoles aren't the devil, but the focus on them sucks. I want games I can play effectively without plugging in a controller, that don't reduce everything to near-mindless button-mashing. Those games are fun, and have their place too, but I also want strategy games with complex turn-based systems, and shooters that respond well to mouse movement so I can FUCKING AIM.

    Which is at the same time also ironic, because the devs insist on using ineffective, outdated technology. Predominant use of slow p2p MP instead of dedicated servers to name one. XBAWKS also chokes on any game that tries to have "top-of-the-line gfx" while there's been almost no visual improvements on PC for at least 3 years.
  6. Shadow of the Wastes

    Shadow of the Wastes It Wandered In From the Wastes

    Aug 8, 2010
    What difficult aspects did it take away?

    And then when they are "difficult" it's either because you can only be shot once and you die instantly or the enemy can take nigh-infinite damage.

    Or both.

    That's what's bound to happen. Any modern story has been done before. And it isn't just rpgs, it's most other games.

    Pretty much completely agree
    I read it. 'twas good.

    And Ausdoerrt, good points.
  7. Crni Vuk

    Crni Vuk M4A3 Oldfag oTO Orderite

    Nov 25, 2008
    I think games get more or less dumped down because it's a lot cheaper instead of design more sphisticated or complex games (particularly the writting and coherent level design seems to be forgotten). Most of the money spend on development today goes to the marketing. With titles like Cod or anything similar and very popular most of the time in the Millions much more then the actual programming costs. Thats quite some inflation here. If compared to the past where teams have been quite small and the marketing and advertisement very specialized only present in magazines and the internet. I mean I can remember times where you didnt even got trailers for some games. Nothing else but pictures.
  8. Ilosar

    Ilosar Vault Fossil

    Apr 20, 2010
    Marketing is a pretty hefty part of games cost, true, but from what I gathered speaking to various employees in the industry here in Montreal it's mostly the graphics and third-party programs that take their toll on the budget. Graphics are a given, all those spiffy effects cost a lot to make, but stuff like making sure Havoc works with your game (why does every game need Havoc anyway?), using different programming methods for different architectures (PS3), eventual license problems (apparently Activision has to pay some amount of money to use real gun names in their modern COD games), and myriad of little applications that make audio, video, and all that good stuff running together apparently cost lots of money too. The writing staff (at least at Ubisoft where I asked) is paid peanuts compared to the technical budget because of all the little stuff that adds up.

    Also, I disagree that games are in any way less difficult now. ME2 on Insanity was harder and more skill-demanding to me than any old-school shooter, and modern RPGs generally require more tactics while relying less on character build from my experience (good thing in my books). And don't even get me started on Demon's Soul...

    Apart from that, I do not engage myself in PC vs Console arguments. It's different philosophies, there's no ''better'' one. Some people want engaging experiences in video games, other instant action because they prefer their emotional investment in books or movies. I only have a PC at home, but I do not think for a second that my console-playing friends are dumber than me or anything, especially when they severely trounce me at NHL :).

    I will, however, agree that very few devs make PC exclusive games anymore. Only RTS games have changed little, because it's friggin impossible to make a decent one on consoles. But that doesn't mean cross-platform games are any less enjoyable for me or that they are somehow ''dragged down'' to the console's level.
  9. sea

    sea Vault Senior Citizen

    Oct 5, 2009
    Ausdoerrt hit the nail on the head there. It's multiplatform games that are the issue. Multiplatform titles eliminate the advantages that the PC has over other platforms, partially in visuals and functionality, but most importantly, in input and gameplay.

    Input is everything. Being able to sit close to a high-resolution monitor and use a precise mouse and keyboard to control a game is completely different from using a gamepad, and it necessitates not just differences in interface, but differences in gameplay as well. It's easier to make an interface built around a small set of functionality, than it is to make an interface built around a large one that still looks good and is usable. Why was Mass Effect's inventory system so bad? Because it was built around scrolling menus. Why are scrolling menus bad? Because they generally only work well with gamepads, and not so well on PC when the player has to manage a large number of items. The solution in Mass Effect 2, for BioWare, was to eliminate the inventory rather than create proper workable interfaces, which in turn hurt gameplay depth. This trend can be easily observed both explicitly and "behind the scenes" in the design of many, many multiplatform games, everything from the quest arrow in Oblivion to the reduction in biomod function and number in Deus Ex: Invisible War.

    One can't also forget the fact that console games need to be designed to be played on devices with relatively low screen resolutions. Ever wondered why console games tend to have oversized fonts, large GUIs and menus which don't fill the screen, but rather float about 25% into it, resulting in lots of wasted space? You have TV overscan and low-resolution SD displays to blame for that. Does it work well on PC? Not really, but it's necessary for consoles, and completely rebuilding a GUI for a platform is a big task and many developers don't have the resources to do make two entirely different GUIs that work well on both platforms, so they try to make one that works really well on consoles, and decently on PC.

    Of course, the way the industry is arranged, you pretty much have big "AAA" publishers with huge 100-500+ person development teams, just to keep up with the rest of the games on the market in terms of visuals and features. It's effectively a race to the bottom: the bar keeps going higher and higher, so you need more and more people to put out games in a timely manner. This means that you also need to sell more and more copies just to turn a profit, and it's typically easier to sell more copies than it is to significantly overhaul and improve your workflow and corporate culture. Because of this, you have a market flooded with extremely expensive games, and the large publishers just don't have room in their lineups to fund smaller, more efficient games which cater to niche markets. Whereas 10-15 years ago it was profitable to release a quirky genre game that sold a quarter-million copies, these days anything less than a few million sold is an outright failure. Indie games help to balance things out, but their development resources are far, far more limited and they just can't provide the same sorts of experiences as big studios. Is this the fault of consoles, directly? No, but it is the fault of the way the console business has chose to conduct itself over the last 10-15 years, and that's had just as real an impact on PC gaming as if it were outright deliberate.

    Effectively, multiplatform games on PC aren't just "no better than consoles", they're actually worse than games designed properly for the PC. Not every game needs to be designed as a PC game, but if a developer takes the time to port a game to the PC, I expect it to play like a PC game, not like a console game with nicer graphics. This includes proper controls, feature set, online functionality, etc. Instead, these days it's quite common to have gimped controls or missing features (Dead Space, Mercenaries, Just Cause 2) that the game now must struggle to be fun in spite of. That many games are indeed still fun even with poor controls and interfaces is a testament to the core quality of those games' designs. Frankly, console games have bested PC games in a number of areas (rigorous play testing and a focus on the player experience, for instance, has led to more playable, balanced and enjoyable games, largely a console-centric phenomenon), but we don't have an open dialogue where all games are able to learn from each others' unique successes and failures. Instead we have one which has strong-armed another out of business, and both have lost out, as neither are able to profit from each others' unique innovations.

    I love console games, and even grew up as largely a console gamer. But if Nintendo decided to release the next Zelda for PC, I'd sure as hell demand that it play like a proper PC game rather than a port. It's easy to say "just play it on a console", but then, there's the catch-22: you buy a game on a console, you show publishers that they need to focus their attentions on consoles even more; you buy it for PC, you have to put up with a sub-par experience. Stifling the PC market reduces choice and the availability of different styles of games, and that's not good for both PC or console gamers in the end.
  10. Kilus

    Kilus Not Australian Orderite

    May 3, 2003
    No. ME1's inventory was bad because with just Assault Rifles there are 11 different lines which goes into 75 different weapons. Then for the high end models each gun has two upgrade slots and a ammo slot. And hey there are lots of upgrade items and ammo types. Then you have other weapons, amour, tools and all of your party members have all that too.

    ME2 had a far better system in opinion. Just add in a few more guns to each type(or don't limit stuff to DLC) and leave in a upgrade slot and it would have been perfect.
  11. sea

    sea Vault Senior Citizen

    Oct 5, 2009
    The problem is that the RPG feel was lost because the player wasn't really improving his or her character over the game. You do unlock new powers, sure, but without more powerful equipment, everything is reduced to upgrades. By the end of the game, I had no idea what level I was, how much damage I was doing, what my armour strength was inrelation to when I started, etc. RPG character development is about statistical progression, and in Mass Effect 2 there was no feeling of that going on. In fact, the game is more or less just as difficult in the beginning as it is in the end - you don't feel yourself becoming more powerful, there's no way to go back to easier parts of the game, or to visit more difficult parts for that matter.

    Removing the inventory from Mass Effect 2 was just one of a number of changes, such as the "streamlining" of the skill system, and focusing far more on action and corridor shooting than character interaction and world building. This push in design firmly put Mass Effect 2 out of RPG territory and into shooter territory, as much as the dialogue trees might lead you to believe otherwise. What we have here, effectively, is, rather than an attempt to fix the game's interface while building on the positive factors of the first game, instead an effort to mitigate those problems by more or less removing game features. Did it make Mass Effect 2 a worse game? Not necessarily, but then, BioWare did plenty more things to render Mass Effect 2 inferior to the original that I won't go into here.

    I'm tempted to go into my usual ranting about why statistics in RPGs matter (hint: it's not because they're for nerds, or because RPG fans have a hard-on for "teh lootz"), but that might be getting a bit off topic.
  12. Crni Vuk

    Crni Vuk M4A3 Oldfag oTO Orderite

    Nov 25, 2008
    hands down Mass Effect 2 is a shooter. I never got the idea it would be some kind of "RPG". Not from the gameplay at least.
  13. LinkPain

    LinkPain Mildly Dipped

    Jan 18, 2011
    And it has a great story, some RPG like elements.
    It's a great action FPS game.
    But even if ME2 was simplified in some parts it is still a good game. No crap inventory but crap shotguns. Story is great again. But ME is originally a console game so no argue there.

    What about DA:O<->DA2? Was that fair?
    Either make an good RPG or don't, simple as that. They wanted to focus on more money through dlc packs, seeing as a console player would bother to get a new costume for a hero or something similar go figure.
  14. Ilosar

    Ilosar Vault Fossil

    Apr 20, 2010
    IMO, Mass Effect 2 less lost the RPG feel than dumped it like the weight it was for the game. The problem was that ME1 didn't know if it was a RPG or a shooter, and the mixing of mechanics made for a gameplay I found very clunky and boring, not to mention extremely poorly balanced (yes, balance doesn't apply in single-player RPGs, yadda yadda, but there's a point where spamming a single power like Lift that trivializes almost every fight breaks the game). If they had an customized upgrade slot for guns, 1-2 more choices per weapon slots and clear stats for guns (damage vs armor type, ROF, accuracy...), it would have been near-perfect for me.

    I imagine Bioware could have tried to refine the formula instead of scrapping it, but I was still very satisfied with the end result, it's in my personal top games of the last few years. Whenever it has a label of ''RPG'', ''action-RPG'', ''shooter with RPG elements'' or ''shooter'', I care very little, since labels have no value by themselves.

    In an ideal world, they would have improved the ME series following the sequel's model to provide a more focused, shooter-centric and, from my POV, better experience while making more ''old-school'' stuff with Origins to please classic RPG fans. But it seems this was not an option, sadly.
  15. Crni Vuk

    Crni Vuk M4A3 Oldfag oTO Orderite

    Nov 25, 2008
    ME2 has only a "great story" if you almost completely ignore ME1 because I find it totally stupid that you side with Cerberus which have been somewhat the Nazis of the Universe in ME1.
  16. Surf Solar

    Surf Solar So Old I'm Losing Radiation Signs

    Aug 20, 2009
    There was a story in ME2? I must've missed it between all the "awzum" missions to restore sanity for my beloved crew members, as it appears that almost everyone has its fair share of childhood dilemmas, just waiting for Mr. Shepard to solve, while he is on his holy mission to save Fereld... the Galaxy.

    And what exactly is better in the ME2 combat system? It's a (sorry :D ) popamole shooter, and even a bad one. You go in cover, wait for enemies head to show up, shoot, while your health regens. It's everytime the same, you come in room (oh, what might be the purpose of all these crates laying around he...), shoot, random dialog xy, shoot, etc.. It was just a streamlined mediocre game, the perfect example of "dumbing stuff down".
  17. LinkPain

    LinkPain Mildly Dipped

    Jan 18, 2011
    Hah! Good point!

    I also hated the way how ME2 combat looked like Gears of War.
    But i want to point something out, what a dumb down really works in ME-ME2:

    Inventory is too complicated > Take out inventory, profit!
    Combat: many spammed biotics, guns overheat too much > Take out heat, add imaginary ammo; make one primary op biotic for vanguard and one cool looking and modify the rest > profit!
    Too much skills > Take out 10 skill levels > profit!
    This one i don't get, take out shotgun blast > profit!
    Paragon Renegade too dumb > make a single button for choice in game while talking > profit!
    Vehicle is boring > Take out MAKO > profit!
    Mining boring > Take out mining, make scan > profit!

    If there is more please feel free to add. This is only my personal experience but based on some facts still. The point is that they usually shift delete instead of improving it. But in ME it really doesn't matter that much since it an action game. They simply took out much stuff, making a completely new game almost. So if you liked it the first time you will for the second. If not you play it still.

    But in DA2 :
    Take out Warden > profit
    Take out sensible RPG segments > profit
    Take out game time and add more linearity > profit!
    Add voice > profit!!!
    Add aaa skills and kills > profit!!!
    Add awesomeness buttons > profit!!!!!!!!!
    It's a totally new game > who cares, we profit!

    Again, IMO but we all now and saw it anyway. Your warden is out of the picture, you get an awesome character called Hawke with awesome skills and awesome cinematics. Even Shepard isn't that awesome ffs. It doesn't matter if anyone out there says that he knows for a fact that they kept most of the core game intact when it feels, plays and looks like a completely new game. What is the argument now?
    First it was piracy (look Crysis 2 leak stupidity), then how PC gaming is dying, then how casual players play more simpler games and there is no need for complex options. Everything is half truth there, the only real is they want to make fast profit on DLC when the game is out. Think it like a free MMO, you can play it for free but to unlock a dungeon it's x money, good potions are x money, armor is x money...