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Has the Console Arms Race Stalled?

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the settling-in-for-the-long-siege dept.

Games 231

An article at Eurogamer argues that even with a successor to the Wii on the horizon, the console arms race we've watched over the past few decades is in the process of changing dramatically, with base hardware taking a back seat to software and peripherals. "Even the most basic yardstick for console improvements has become a little hard to read. It used to seem like a reliable idea that every five years or so, consoles would catch up to the PC — a platform which sees advancements every few weeks — and remain competitive for a while, before the PC's cutting-edge accelerated away. ... However, the upgrade cycle appears to have slowed considerably — with games that actually demand cutting-edge systems being few and far between, and core gamers far more likely to continue happily playing on two-, three- or even four-year-old PCs than they were in the past. ... If not a halt to progress, this is certainly a slowing — and probably one which is welcomed in most quarters. Consumers love improvements in graphical quality, but most would probably prefer to see any major increase in development budget being spent elsewhere — more detailed content, more expansive storytelling, more progress in areas that have been neglected in the former headlong rush to cram more polygons and effects onto every screen."

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Yes. (2, Informative)

Vegeta99 (219501) | more than 3 years ago | (#36206802)

Yes it has.

Re:Yes. (3, Interesting)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 3 years ago | (#36207218)

Despite how much the Slashdot and Gamer community decries DLC... it's kind of to 'blame' in my opinion.

I still play TF2 more than anything else. It was released in October 2007 and it still feels fresh.

We're not only stagnating on the engines our games run on... we're not even necessarily playing new games.

Hardware manufacturers aren't the only ones who are realizing that it's more profitable to hold onto what you've already made and just make more of it.

Sticking to the current Source Engine has probably saved Valve a boatload of money. Epic Games has continued to improve Unreal Engine 3. But it's mostly be evolutionary add-ons and optimizations for multiple platforms. They're able to ship more copies of UE3 without having to re-invent the wheel.

We're also going to hit a bottleneck. With rasterization every little effect and feature is a unique hack. In order to have those hacks work together is a nightmare. And then artists have to spend a significant portion of their time optimizing their assets for a rasterized pipeline.

I think we're hitting the limits of what people can manage to keep straight with rasterization. The future is raytracing in my opinion--it's just too slow at this very second. But it's fundamentally far simpler and easy to create content for. You want a reflective material. Great. Create a ray. Shoot it in the reflection vector. Once it hits something it'll follow that shader's properties. And so on and so forth.

Lighting, shading, rendering, effects.... it's all easy and straightforward to write. It's just kind of slow. Maybe Caustic's OpenRL and Optix will fix that in the future. Time will tell. But the status quo is an unfortunate dead weight hanging around the advancement of image fidelity.

Re:Yes. (1)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 3 years ago | (#36208296)

TF2 sort of jumped the shark with the engineer update. Valve hasn't released hardly any new "official" maps since launch (besides the Arena maps), and opinion varies wildly on the quality of the included "community" maps. While it's been a financial success and is probably a keystone to their development process as a whole for the source engine, it feels played out to me. I finally lost interest in early 2010. I will log in from time to time, but the same 10 maps by no means "feels fresh".

Re:Yes. (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 3 years ago | (#36208186)

A longer explanation would be that each generation of gaming consoles effectively are a dead end. There is no upgrade path for the hardware, the operating system on a new generation isn't really designed with backwards compatibility in mind and the consoles are locked down to a level making it only possible for the most extreme hackers of each generation to really do something outside the ordinary with them. Gaming consoles are there for consumption, not creativity.

Re:Yes. (1)

JMJimmy (2036122) | more than 3 years ago | (#36208380)

I would whole heartedly disagree.

GameCube->Wii
PS1->PS2->PS3 (well, should have been PS3)
50% of Xbox titles -> Xbox 360

They're offering a limited upgrade path it seems but I see Microsoft's move with Kinect to be the biggest move in offering an upgrade path. While not the same as a PC upgrade path they want you to upgrade your current system with Kinect. While it's technically a peripheral, it adds substantively to the console's capabilities. Further, it's USB which means it will be able to be used with the next generation of Microsoft console. In addition Microsoft has already stated that gamertags and achievements will carry over to the new console, this effectively means that the hardware is being replaced with no substantive change to the user.

The real problem as I see it is that software simply can't keep up with hardware. By the time companies have vetted a technology, trained their staff to use it, those staff becoming effective at using it, working out the bugs, etc you're usually several years into the life of a console. Those are usually just the major dev houses that can afford to do that - the rest must wait on the tools to catch up to the hardware. When I think about it of the 1,506 titles with achievements (those without are indie/xbox originals) currently on the 360 I would say fewer than 50 games show a significant ability to take advantage of the underlying hardware.

I think a perfect example of what I'm talking about can be seen in the Prince of Persia series on PS2 - the same hardware underneath but the 3rd game is so much more advanced than the first (and not just in terms of graphics). Assassn's Creed series (PoP code underneath) continues this, each game is technically more and more impressive for the 360/PS3 and I doubt they have tapped the potential of either console.

Re:Yes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36208436)

Oh, come on! While I agree this isn't enough to be modded informative.

Is this a bad thing? (2)

Pricetx (1986510) | more than 3 years ago | (#36206820)

I for one have never really seen the point behind spending thousands of (pounds/dollars) on a gaming pc capable of playing the latest games, only to be surpassed within a few months. As things currently stand, it's actually opening PC gaming to a far wider audience as the price of an adequate gaming rig is quite reasonable. Also, i'd rather have longer and better games than I would slightly better looking ones. And even still, games with modding support can often receive graphical boosts down the line anyway.

Re:Is this a bad thing? (3, Insightful)

feedayeen (1322473) | more than 3 years ago | (#36206942)

I for one have never really seen the point behind spending thousands of (pounds/dollars) on a gaming pc capable of playing the latest games, only to be surpassed within a few months.

As things currently stand, it's actually opening PC gaming to a far wider audience as the price of an adequate gaming rig is quite reasonable.

Also, i'd rather have longer and better games than I would slightly better looking ones. And even still, games with modding support can often receive graphical boosts down the line anyway.

Since when have you ever spent a thousand bucks on a PC and then faced a situation where you where not able to play a game that comes out just months later? If you're going to the Gray Box Store and buying the cheapest thing you see with a mouse, keyboard, and LCD, sure, you can't play everything at even decent visual levels, but you're looking at $400 pre-built computers at this point but even that thing should be able to run Crisis with decent settings*.

Would I like to see games improve in quality? Absolutely! But how? Developers are working on that, they have things like motion capture trying to attract a more communal experience that we lost with online play. We have achievements to add to the since of competitions that used to be covered by the guy who got high scores and filled up pack man arcade with his initials 'BUT'. If you want a longer game, you can do the side quests of hunting 200 chickens. These are all fat though, actual quality comes from story lines and the writing, but this is easier said than done. Mods and DLC's are the easiest way to accomplish this problem, but they are not everyone's cup of tea for obvious reasons.

*HP Pavilion Slimline s5710f PC - $410 on Amazon, pre-built with mouse and keyboard

Re:Is this a bad thing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36207152)

Since when have you ever spent a thousand bucks on a PC and then faced a situation where you where not able to play a game that comes out just months later?

October 2007 [wikipedia.org]

Re:Is this a bad thing? (1)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 3 years ago | (#36207226)

But that was just proof of a developer 'future proofing' their work so that even on computers that hadn't been created yet people would continue to get advances without re-releasing a new game/engine.

Crysis has grown and evolved along with the hardware over the last 4 years. Now we can play Crysis as it *could have looked* 4 years ago. So we're still getting an evolving product without the developer having to do anything.

Re:Is this a bad thing? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36206980)

spending thousands of (pounds/dollars) on a gaming pc capable of playing the latest games

Honestly, I keep hearing people say this, but this is simply not true.

I'm fairly certain I can define myself as a hardcore gamer. And whenever I buy a new pc, I buy high-range but not ultra-range parts, keeping the total price below ~750 Euros (monitor not included).
And my current pc has already lasted 3 years, being able to play ALL the latest games. And my previous pc lasted about 5 years, also all the while able to play all the then-latest games.
Both pc's I've upgraded in their lifetime only once: adding some memory (which costs maybe 40).

Sure, at first all the settings go at high and everything plays fine, and when it gets older you can't crank all the settings to the highest anymore, but NEVER below medium.
A pc easily lasts 4 years capable of properly playing the latest games.

ps. Screw graphics, this is the age of the indies!

Re:Is this a bad thing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36207126)

You could say that gaming PCs replace the console treadmill, which has stagnated. Game consoles used to be released quite regularly.

It's about ROI (5, Insightful)

Anubis IV (1279820) | more than 3 years ago | (#36206828)

It's not really saying that the console arms race has stalled, but is instead saying that the graphics arms race has stalled, which is probably true, and that efforts are shifting, which is also probably true.

After all, just as dpi in printers stopped being a selling point once they all got "good enough", and just as megapixels are becoming increasingly irrelevant as a differentiating factor between cameras, so too are the graphics in today's games reaching a point where the return isn't worth the investment for the developers. Graphics are already "realistic enough" for most people, and trying to move things closer to photorealistic gameplay is probably not worth it, since the return they get is minimal, while the effort required is exorbitant. Instead, spending it on improved gameplay or other elements is a better return on their investment.

Games like Minecraft doing so well just hammers that point home.

Re:It's about ROI (2)

Zumbs (1241138) | more than 3 years ago | (#36206848)

Graphics are already "realistic enough" for most people, and trying to move things closer to photorealistic gameplay is probably not worth it, since the return they get is minimal, while the effort required is exorbitant. Instead, spending it on improved gameplay or other elements is a better return on their investment.

Indeed. Let the movies go for photo realism. When the tech gets cheaper and more mature, it can be used in games. Meanwhile, I look forward to an increased focus on gameplay and storytelling. Who would have thought that consoles would bring about such advancements ... ?

Re:It's about ROI (1)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 3 years ago | (#36207350)

yes, so many many games seem to invest everything in making things look pretty and somewhere along the way... they forget it's supposed to be a game they're making rather than some kind of interactive movie.

Somewhere around Oblivion or perhaps slightly beyond that is where I stop caring about how pretty a game is and being able to see every follicle on a characters beard really doesn't add much for me.

On the other hand being able to interact with the world in more interesting ways, have the game surprise me with unexpected events or just having a good story adds massively to a game no matter if it looks like crysis or dwarf fortress.

Re:It's about ROI (4, Interesting)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 3 years ago | (#36207358)

In fact the graphics might be as realistic as some people want them to be. I like FPS and sandbox type games, but I am not sure I would want to play one that is photo real. Part of the fun of these games is that its cartoon violence. If they reminded me more of the terrible things I have seen, or the really terrible things I have seen on the news I think it would remove the joy of play.

Do you really want to drive down a street in GTA past some meth-head twitching with withdraw showing their missing teeth and jaw swollen infection? Do you really want see the guy you just shot go pale and grab at the wound in despair? These games are about escapism to some degree and while up to a point making them more and more realistic made them more emmersive, we are near the place where if we carry it much farther we are going to start feeling bad for the fates of the characters. If that is what you want perhaps you'd find a John Stienbeck novel more satisfying than a game.

Re:It's about ROI (1)

boristhespider (1678416) | more than 3 years ago | (#36207524)

This is a very good point. When I play GTA3, for example, I find myself not caring about the game and just stalking the streets at 3AM finding old ladies to kick to death. I'm not sure I'd enjoy that very much if it looked real.

Re:It's about ROI (0)

Medevilae (1456015) | more than 3 years ago | (#36208076)

Just Cause 2 looks pretty damn good on a PC, and the enemies DO grab at their wounds and scream and cry when you kill them. I try not to pay attention to it, or I start feeling really bad. :(

Re:It's about ROI (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#36208670)

Graphics are good enough, I would prefer they spent the extra resources on better writing and designing an aesthetic to wrap the whole game in. Or perhaps even QA, when a console game can't be released without significant bugs, you know that there's serious issues.

Re:It's about ROI (2)

Charcharodon (611187) | more than 3 years ago | (#36207536)

The tech has gotten cheaper and more mature. ATI has eyefinity cards that can run games at 5700x1200 or 5700x2400 resolution, for under $250-500 (using multiple monitors) people have just stopped updating their machines.

We had this problem a long time ago about the time the Quake game engine ruled the roost. Everyone was playing Half-Life, Counter Strike, and Team Fortress. They would run on a sub $100 graphics card. These days its about the same.

It's not even really a developement cost that is at issue. Companies are so scared to challenging their customer base and are happy to just print money. Look at WOW, Valve, etc. I used to play EVE online and they more or less just rolled over with upgrade plans when large portions of their users screamed about a Dx9 card being the minimum to play the game.

Everyone goes on and on about improving content and gameplay and screw graphics, but I hate to tell you graphics IS CONTENT AND GAMEPLAY!

Remeber way back when playing a game walking through a forrest ment a half dozen trees and big open areas were completely devoid of all vegetation. Ask any FPS gamer how much they enjoyed trying to run and gun against snipers in that! Now you can not only walk through a forrest, but have streams, rocks, undergrowth, and destructable objects, you can do it for miles! If that doesn't sound like fertile ground for both gameplay and content. Give Bad Company 2 a try to see what a forrest full of trees does for gameplay. Give Fallout 3 a look to see what it does for story telling.

I would like to see games push the boundards a little more, but in defense of the cheap/broke gamers, maybe the rollout can go a little slower. On the other hand people hanging on to 5 year machines that could be upgraded for the price of a couple of dinners and trip to the movies I loose all sympathy.

Until games are to the point where I can walk into a room of my house marked "holo deck" graphics are not yet good enough.

Re:It's about ROI (5, Interesting)

aix tom (902140) | more than 3 years ago | (#36206990)

Exactly. I also still remember soundcard "arms race" where they trumped each other with the midi channels and sample quality every few months. That also has reached a "good enough" level so that nobody really cares about that any more. The same thing is or will be happening to graphics.

Re:It's about ROI (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 3 years ago | (#36208434)

Good analogy...the sound card is now a moot point in choosing a computer (in fact the "sound card" ceased to exist in Windows 7)

I think graphics still have a way to go until they reach that point though...integrated graphics still leave a lot to be desired.

Re:It's about ROI (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#36208704)

I don't know about that. PC game graphics for some genres are still increasing dramatically. I think a part of the problem is that you can't typically upgrade a console in ways which would make this happen. With PC games you typically have the luxury of throwing in a couple detail settings above what typical computers can handle to give a bit more life and to satisfy the people willing to spend huge sums of money on their rigs. That typically doesn't happen with consoles for obvious reasons.

A $100 video card upgrade can do wonders for performance and the experience, but with consoles you're largely stuck buying the next generation. And good luck if they don't make one. I'm shocked at how bad the graphics on my PS3 games look compared to some of the better PC games. Sure the PS3 games like FO:NV don't exactly look bad, but they're definitely not as good too look at as higher quality PC versions.

Which admittedly isn't that big of a deal, I tend to get sucked into a game far enough that I don't spend much time noticing that, but still.

Re:It's about ROI (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 3 years ago | (#36208384)

That's rubbish, graphics cards are still advancing at a ferocious pace.

What's happened is that:

a) Content production has plateaued so those graphics cards are just being used for higher frame rates and higher resolutions, not new effects (are there any effects left to do?). Upping the level of content would be massively expensive - you'll need twice as many people working on it.

b) The spread of graphics card ability is wider then ever so the difference between a high-end card and what they're aiming at is quite wide (which introduces a vicious circle because less people see the need to upgrade their graphics)

So...the advances in graphics cards is mostly for benchmark bragging rights. People read a magazine and see which company is faster this week and buy that brand when in reality there's not much difference between the two. These days you're not going to be disappointed because you made the wrong choice between AMD/NVIDIA.

Graphics lure them in.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36206834)

Graphics and shiny things lure people into a game but it is the storytelling and immersion that keeps them playing. Maybe for AAA shooter titles that doesnt matter, because they have your money. For other games with more DLC or say MMO's with subscriptions, thats important.

Re:Graphics lure them in.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36206864)

I suspect it is more due to the cost of producing a game with high end graphics. It's very expensive and gets more so the more pixels/polygons you add.

Re:Graphics lure them in.... (1)

FiloEleven (602040) | more than 3 years ago | (#36208522)

This is very true, and is one reason I think a lot more interesting stuff is coming out in places like XBLA than anywhere else. People seem to forget that 2D is still a viable medium for good gameplay and interesting new ideas. I don't even own an XBox, but the amount of cool stuff on Live Arcade is steadily pulling me towards buying one. I'm sure there will be the occasional disc-based game worth playing, but most of them look like "Just Another FPS IV: Multiplayer Rehashed" to me.

It makes a sad sort of sense though: when you're spending millions of dollars to create a game with high-end graphics and lots of realism, you want to be pretty sure it will make money so it ends up being very formulaic with maybe one or two things that differentiate it from the other "AAA" titles. There is no room for a spectacularly odd game that thousands will rave about but tens of thousands will ridicule when your break-even point is $30 million. When it's only $30,000 (and many XBLA games cost much less than that) you can take those chances. They don't always pan out, but when they do the gaming universe is more greatly enriched than by the $30 million title.

Down to Software...For Now (2)

softWare3ngineer (2007302) | more than 3 years ago | (#36206846)

They need give software a chance to catch up. Hardware is not the limiting factor anymore. It doesn’t take much crappy programming to trip you up when you are trying to render billions of pixels consistently within a small window of time, throwing in some network latency for good measure.

Re:Down to Software...For Now (1, Informative)

lucian1900 (1698922) | more than 3 years ago | (#36208200)

Actually, that's not really true. Consoles are extremely underpowered (yes, even PS3 and Xbox) and they're often the quality bottleneck for crossplatform games (PC and consoles).

Demographic Shock (3, Insightful)

Ensayia (912026) | more than 3 years ago | (#36206856)

The Nintendo Wii and various versions of the handheld DS have outsold everything else so powerfully that companies are now forced to rethink their previous strategy of better hardware = better console. Given those factors and that the casual and 'family' gaming market has vastly overshadowed every other demographic and It's easy to see how the entire gaming landscape has changed since the PS2/XBOX/Gamecube generation. One rather bad downside to this trend is that shovelware is surging in this current generation, and has caused me to even stop buying games for my Wii. It's all obscure JRPG nonsense or movie games / shovelware. I haven't played my Wii in several months and do not plan to anytime soon, if I can smuggle it away from the GF I will probably sell it off cheap to a family who eats that crap right up. In case you couldn't tell I'm a PC gamer, which seems to be the only remaining platform for deep and intricate games. Even this is slowly withered by everything now having to be tailored for both the PC and consoles which usually leaves the PC port with the short end of the stick.

Re:Demographic Shock (4, Insightful)

QuantumLeaper (607189) | more than 3 years ago | (#36206988)

The real problem is whoever is in the lead gets a truck load of shovelware, and that been happening since the Atari 2600...

Re:Demographic Shock (2)

Ensayia (912026) | more than 3 years ago | (#36207006)

Somewhat true, but I would say whichever is the easiest platform to develop for gets the shovelware. This is the reason we see My Little Pony and ZhuZhu Pets on the Wii instead of the notoriously hard to develop for PS3. We get movie games even on the beefier consoles because large movie companies can pay the extra dollar to make it happen.

Re:Demographic Shock (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36207222)

The real problem is that you don't have a girlfriend.

Re:Demographic Shock (1)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | more than 3 years ago | (#36207504)

He might be in the market for Photo-realistic porn then!

Re:Demographic Shock (2)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 3 years ago | (#36208062)

if you think shovelware is surging you must not have been paying attention in the past, shovelware has been a problem always, you remember all the greats from the NES/SNES/Genesis era, but there were many not-so-greats and a fair share of omg-why-am-i-playing-this titles

Re:Demographic Shock (1)

FiloEleven (602040) | more than 3 years ago | (#36208568)

I like to think that reduction of shovelware is one of the upsides to the (inevitable, IMO) trend towards a download-only model for games. If you have an integrated, online shop for games, you'd be stupid not to incorporate a rich rating system--something that takes taste into account like the Netflix system. Shovelware will naturally sink to the bottom, and even if it means no less is produced, it will take less effort to seek out the good games.

RTRT is the next hurdle (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36206866)

In terms of the graphics race, I think the next big thing to hit consoles(or gaming in general) would be Real-Time RayTracing. Consoles typically have specialized hardware(although they seem to be heading towards general-purpose these days), so a specialized RTRT chip wouldn't be out of the question if it were cheap enough and fast enough. Things like Caustic Graphics OpenRL come to mind.

Re:RTRT is the next hurdle (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 3 years ago | (#36208486)

Real-Time RayTracing simply isn't going to happen.

a) It's not desirable. It looks cool for scenes with shiny spheres in them but it doesn't match the way light works in the real world.

b) The amount of transistors needed to do make it happen would produce WAY BETTER results if used for other rendering methods (real time radiosity...?)

Re:RTRT is the next hurdle (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#36208724)

In the long run, that's the way I imagine things going. A large part of the problem right now is that it really needs an accelerator, but at this point I don't know of any companies that make them. But in the long run, most of the complaints I have about graphics would be solved with a move to ray tracing. It's surprisingly jarring to have shadows misbehave and yet it's also very difficult to get right.

Quality v. Content (5, Interesting)

JJJJust (908929) | more than 3 years ago | (#36206872)

Graphics aside, it's no secret that there's been a big change from a mantra of "quality, quality, quality" to "content, content, content"... and non-related content at that. A PlayStation did one thing - it played video games. The PS3 can do nearly everything... even function as a computer if you don't upgrade the firmware.

In prior years, it would take you at LEAST a week to finish a campaign on any respectable video game. These days, you can finish a video game completely in two days. Then spend five more days fiddling with the "bonus content". If they spent more time developing a good story as opposed to unlockables, that race may accelerate again. Developers aren't struggling to use the processing power they have at their disposal. There's no reason for innovation at this particular time.

We need to get back to a time where developing solid and expansive CORE content -- not extras -- was what mattered.

Re:Quality v. Content (2)

Ruke (857276) | more than 3 years ago | (#36206982)

Why? People seem to enjoy the extras more than they enjoyed the old "monolithic" style of games.

I'd love to come up with a more nuanced discussion of game design than "no u," but your post contains noting but sweeping generalizations, without citing any specific examples. What PS1 games were so much better than anything that we've got nowadays? What exactly do you mean by "core content" as opposed to "extras" - can you name any historic or current games that exemplify your point?

From where I'm sitting, I'm having a hard time imagining anything other than you simply being nostalgic for the games that you played as a child. I'm more than willing to believe that this isn't the case; however I'm apparently having a failure of imagination.

Re:Quality v. Content (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36207190)

You try play Star Control II without a tutorial, that kind of game would have taken you more than two days to complete because you had to piece everything together. I'm so bad at C&C games that the missions take me ages! That's how I like it.

With the industry moving toward multiplayer, DLC and 'achievements', I feel like I am being manipulated into playing. I'm not playing for enjoyment, it's for an artificial goal that has been imposed from outside the game, like breaking the forth wall. I just want to play the storyline and enjoy it! I don't give a crap about achivements which they seem to put such a massive empathis nowadays. I like upgrading my character and working my way up, like in Baldurs gate. That's fun.

Re:Quality v. Content (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 3 years ago | (#36207432)

Do people really enjoy them? A lot of the companies still making 'monolithic' games are doing better than the ones pumping out short games with DLC or that rely on achievements to extend the game. Sure there are achievement addicts that buy / rent loads of games to have loads of achievements but can you call that enjoying a game?

The games people hold in the highest regard are the Super Mario games, the Zeldas, the Starcraft series, etc. They're games that are more 'old school' than new school and they make tons of money. Hell even Pokemon does better than most games and it's virtually the same grind that you played since Pokemon Red/Blue.

People just don't don't get a choice in most instances because companies refuse to put time and effort to make a long quality game so you're stuck picking the best amongst what you get. As a result a lot of games don't do that well and now publishers finding it harder to make money and everyone's happy to stay on old hardware as long as possible to keep costs down.

Re:Quality v. Content (1)

Superdarion (1286310) | more than 3 years ago | (#36207068)

A few weeks ago there was this story on slashdot about how most people don't finish the game's main story anymore [slashdot.org] . I don't think adding more would do anything to help the perception of quality.

Re:Quality v. Content (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#36208750)

I finish more games now than I used to. A large part of that is that the games I'm playing tend to have a more realistic learning curve. Also typically if I'm getting frustrated playing it usually gives me something else to do in the mean time. Old school FPS games like Doom and Quake were a real bitch if you couldn't handle a particular part of a level and lacked the determination to load time after time after time for however many tries it took. Granted that's not much of an issue for a hardcore gamer, but for those that aren't so dedicated it can kill the chance at finishing a game.

Also, bugs that eat saves definitely kill any interest I have in finishing a game.

Re:Quality v. Content (1)

SolemnLord (775377) | more than 3 years ago | (#36207426)

In prior years, it would take you at LEAST a week to finish a campaign on any respectable video game. These days, you can finish a video game completely in two days.

I've watched people beat Super Mario Brothers in under ten minutes. I guess it's no longer respectable? The time it takes to complete games hasn't changed. Action games (once platformers and top-down shooters, and now FPSes and 3rd person shooters) take a handful of hours to complete. RPGs take tens or hundreds of hours. Casual and arcade games take minutes to play and end up eating hours or even days of your life. I enjoy the Mass Effect series as much as I enjoy Super Mario World. I've also grown up and gained a great number of responsibilities and obligations that cut into the hours I used to spend playing video games. Sure, it "only" took me six hours, over three nights, to play through Portal 2's single player once. I had fun, and didn't feel ripped off. And when I'm playing video games, that's all that matters to me.

Re:Quality v. Content (1)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | more than 3 years ago | (#36207514)

It took several weeks to complete each of the Commander Keene games - partly cos it took so long to load from a floppy disk!

Re:Quality v. Content (1)

boristhespider (1678416) | more than 3 years ago | (#36207646)

Try playing Hero Quest on a Sinclair Spectrum or C64. About eight minutes to load from tape... and then another five minutes per level, and another five minutes to save your progress.

Re:Quality v. Content (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 3 years ago | (#36208502)

Yeah, but learning how to complete Super Mario Brothers in under ten minutes takes weeks.

Re:Quality v. Content (2)

grumbel (592662) | more than 3 years ago | (#36208592)

The time it takes to complete games hasn't changed.

Yep, some numbers of games I played over the last year:

Outlaws(1997) ~11h (main story + extra missions)
Tie Fighter CD-Edition(1994) ~40h (main story + add-on content)
Mass Effect 2(2010) ~36h (main story + all side quests)
Dead Space(2008) ~12h (main story)
Dark Void(2008) ~7h (main story)
Phantasmagoria(1996) ~6h (main story)
The Void(2008) ~28h (main story)
Zelda:OOT (1998) ~30h (main story, no sidequests)
Batman: Arkham (2009) ~10 + ~7h collecting items
Metroid Prime (2002) ~16h (main story)
Metroid Prime 2 (2005) ~24h (main story)
Metroid Prime 3 (2007) ~14h (main story)
Metroid 2 (1991) ~4h (main story, but played with map)
Super Metroid ~6h (main story)
Random modern European Adventure Games ~8-12h
Infinite Space DS (2010) ~50h

It is not exactly a perfect random selection, but contains a bit of everything and it shows that there have been 8-12h games in the past and that there are 30h+ games today and of course vice versa. That's not even counting the console 2D platformers and arcade games that are generally 1h or 2h long and stretch their playtime with lots of retries.

That said, many games today feel short. I think sometimes it is due to obnoxious cliffhanger endings that leave you unsatisfied and sometimes it is due to games being just to simple and easy to require any kind of effort or thinking, thus 10h of running through a game without ever encountering any problems can feel a lot less then 3h of actual challenge.

I think a large part is also the fault of main stream press and perception. When games like Modern Warfare get hyped to an extreme and come with a 4h campaign that is going to leave some people wanting more. Same with games like Kayne&Lynch, Homefront or whatever. The issue with those games is that while they are short, they aren't all of todays games, they are a very tiny portion of it, but you very rarely hear as much marketing hype for a 30h+ hour game as you hear for a 5h game. Its the short and consumer friendly games that get the hype, not the hardcore stuff that requires reading a manual and takes 30h, it still exist, it just flies under the radar for most people.

And for me personally a big issue is also that games today just don't hold up to my past expectations. I mean I played Elite in 1991, X-Wing in 1993, EF2000 in 1994 and Operation Flashpoint in 2000, those where all amazing games in their times and some 10 or 15 years later I simply expect games that far surpass those, yet I far to often see the opposite, games that don't even try to do anything close to what those games accomplished. Instead of building large scale dynamical worlds far to much games limit themselves to simplistic "cinematic" experiences, that feel fake, forced and just aren't much fun.

Re:Quality v. Content (3, Interesting)

captjc (453680) | more than 3 years ago | (#36207932)

A PlayStation did one thing - it played video games. The PS3 can do nearly everything... even function as a computer if you don't upgrade the firmware.

The Playstation is a bad example. It was always the Media Center of consoles. The first one gave users a CD player (some say a pretty damn good one too) when most people were just beginning to buy CDs. The PS2 brought DVDs into many people's homes. Lastly, the PS3 is all about Blu-Ray and video streaming.

If you want an example of only playing games, that is Nintendo. The Wii is their first console that did anything other than play games and even that isn't that much compared to the PS3 or 360.

In prior years, it would take you at LEAST a week to finish a campaign on any respectable video game. These days, you can finish a video game completely in two days.

As for single player campaign length, I think there is also the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia in play. I believe that game design has improved much over the last 10 years, length included. On average, games have become shorter, but IMO it is not necessarily a bad thing. I believe that plenty of older games have about the same amount of content (give or take) but seemed to stretch the length out with tricks like too much repetition, back tracking, and difficulty spikes that kept you replaying over and over until you got it right. It only had the perception of length. Go back and play some of those old school classics and see for yourself. Many modern games (the good ones anyway) eschew this (or at least try to keep it to a minimum) in favor of a 8-12 hour campaign.

For myself, I prefer a game that is 8-12 hours over one that is 40+ hours. Besides the repetition of "kill hoard, reload, repeat" and wading through 20-40 hours of backtracking and kind of crappy story lines it is easy to get either bored and lose interest or say "screw it" and put it into god mode and finish in a few hours. Whereas I can beat a 10 hour game in a day if I really wanted to or a couple hours a day for a few days. If anything, I find myself finishing more games now than when I was a kid.

What I am saying is the quality is the issue and not length. I have rarely concerned myself with bonus content. Once I finish the game (being the end boss), I am done. I don't care about finding the hidden coins or getting the skulls or every achievement or what-have-you. It is extra content for the "true believers." Don't concern yourself with it if you don't want to but don't fool yourself into thinking that it would be a better game without it. It would be the same game just minus the filler. The big difference is that filler used to be in the campaign, now it is more of an optional extra.

Re:Quality v. Content (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#36208764)

I got my PS3 primarily for blurays, I also play a few games on it, but it was mostly about blu ray. In retrospect I don't think I would've bothered because by the time the format wars finished the ability to stream more or less replaced my interest in owning.

Console creators don't have the motivation (2)

mentil (1748130) | more than 3 years ago | (#36206874)

The Wii's successor is rumored to have more horsepower than the Xbox 360/PS3, so it's not like the arm's race is over. Sony and MS simply realized that hardware improvements that have been made possible in the past 6 years don't translate to drastically better graphics sufficient to get people to buy a new console yet. Also, Sony isn't looking forward to selling another $800 machine priced at $599.
It's easy to forget that 2 console generations ago, consoles output at 320x240 resolution. Now, console games can run at higher resolutions than many computer monitors. The obvious quality improvements that come with increased resolution aren't going to come again in the near future.

Re:Console creators don't have the motivation (5, Insightful)

Superdarion (1286310) | more than 3 years ago | (#36207074)

It also doesn't help that monitors' resolution race has completely halted at 1080p.

Re:Console creators don't have the motivation (2)

Charcharodon (611187) | more than 3 years ago | (#36207574)

It's back on, at least in little spurts. Go over to Dell's website. They have a 27" 2560x1450 monitor for under $1000 now. Which is better than the 2560x1600 which has been sitting at $1500 plus for several years now.

I think that once the thin is in race is over, should be soon I'm seeing 50" TVs now that less than 3cm thick, they'll get back to ramping up the graphics.

Personally I'm wanting three of those 27" monitors run off one of ATI's high end offering. Would be very sweet.

Re:Console creators don't have the motivation (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 3 years ago | (#36208084)

i used 1024x768 for more than ten years of my life, then i upgraded to 1440x900 I am not a programmer by trade and i'm not as young as i used to be, unfortunately windows handles high resolutions very poorly and as such i would be squinting most of the time to read menus and text on screen..

Re:Console creators don't have the motivation (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 3 years ago | (#36208546)

That's a question of dot pitch, not the number of pixels on the screen.

eg. For ages the 'standard' resolution was 1280x1024 and you could choose 17" or 19" monitors. The 19" monitors obviously have bigger pixels.

The same thing still happens...if your eyes aren't as good as they used to be then look for a screen with bigger pixels.

Re:Console creators don't have the motivation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36208554)

Sorry, but Windows handles high resolutions perfectly, you just handle windows poorly. You need to increase you monitor's DPI setting.

Game quality has lagged... (4, Informative)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 3 years ago | (#36206900)

... one of the real issues is risk aversion and title stagnation. Every modern game has to cater to the lowest common denominator due to game budgets, in a way the lust for pretty graphics has caused game developers to reduce the game aspect of games and simplify games to such an extent they become little more then stale worlds of aesthetically pleasing art. It's been a long time since I've seen game (not a movie or movie game as I like to call them) based on _just_ the idea of the game rather then going for the special fx and bling. Take the latest L.A. Noire, the more graphical horsepower has increased the less the focus is traditional games and more on cinematic experiences and IMHO that is a negative thing since the more passive games become the less interested I am.

It's one of the reason I can't stand modern "RPG's" there is barely any participation left because the action gaming mechanics have been ripped out of them to make sure people who don't like participating in their games can watch and run through the content. This is bad because it alienates what many of us got into gaming for in the first place - to participate rather then be pushed through content on a conveyor belt of automated-combat. FF12 takes the cake in what I consider the devolution of games where all you have to do is navigate once you set your auto-battle. At that point why even bother "gaming"? Why not just a walkthrough on youtube of someone else playing and get the same experience for $0 money down?

Re:Game quality has lagged... (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 3 years ago | (#36207292)

Thankfully it seems we are getting a resurgence of the "shareware" era, this time via steam and the download channels of the xbox360 and ps3. There seems to be a massive number of experimental games coming out via those channels that are made by small teams or individuals, much like how ID Software got started by allowing the first chapter of Wolfenstein 3D and Doom to be shared.

Consoles never catch up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36206902)

Consoles never catch up with the PC ... Especially the xbox .. Its made up of sub par components barely adequate for a low powered server. the Sony gizmo is a little better, but its so hard to program, even Prof BrainBox starts to cry. And dont get me started on the Wii , outdated two years BEFORE it went on sale. Wii 2 will be a bit better.

Not prettier, but realer (5, Interesting)

Leo Sasquatch (977162) | more than 3 years ago | (#36206966)

Graphics look amazing. Crysis on high-res looks like you could open the TV screen and pick a leaf off a tree. But the immersion factor of the gorgeous graphics breaks down when you try to play with them. When you shoot a car windscreen, and it doesn't break. Or shoot the tyres, and they don't pop. Or the gas tank and it doesn't explode.

Even sillier - shoot your AI squadmates in the head, and they just go "Ow, quit it!". Worse, you have a magic gun that won't let you pull the trigger if you're pointing it at a non-enemy. I played the opening level on Halo Reach, and was so bored when I got to the first farmer, that I just shot him in the head to shut him up so I could get on with alien-killing. Well, the gun went bang, and a blood-spatter hit the wall behind him, but he never missed a word of exposition. I shot him 10 times - the same thing happened. On the 11th shot, I just died. Up until then, my teammates hadn't seemed concerned about my actions, and they didn't actually take offence, just some mighty vengeful god struck me down until I agreed to play nice.

Or the world looks open and inviting, but you're just as much on rails as if you were playing some arcade light-gun game. Like Bad Company 2, where any deviation from the set path gets you a 5-second countdown to insta-death. Or Gears of War, where you're a grotesquely-muscled space marine who can be forced from his chosen path by three chairs piled on a table.

The thing is, many games have got bits of it right. Just Cause 2 gives you an enormous world, and near-total freedom within that world. Heavy Rain changes the gameplay based on your actions. The Witcher makes every choice have a consequence you might not like, but at least you get to make the choice. Modern hardware has the power to create incredible, immersive game experiences, but a lot of studios would rather make Big Guns, Shiny Metal 5 using a well-established engine because that's easier, cheaper, and practically guaranteed to sell to their target demographic.

Maybe the next arms race will be environment engines that come a little closer to replicating the properties of objects, so that glass always breaks, wood and cloth always burn, and you don't need the red key if you've got the rocket launcher.

Re:Not prettier, but realer (2)

Superdarion (1286310) | more than 3 years ago | (#36207088)

Or the gas tank and it doesn't explode.

I know, completely off topic, but I want to mention that the mythbusters busted that myth. Gas tanks don't explode when you shoot them.

Re:Not prettier, but realer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36207282)

Depends on what you shoot them with ;-)

Re:Not prettier, but realer (2)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 3 years ago | (#36208584)

We want our games to have movie physics, not real physics. Gas tanks should explode. Walls should be demolished. Explosions should cause only minimal personal injury (nothing more than a little clothing damage and soot on your face) as long as your feet are not on the ground. All bullets should be potentially dodge-able, except for NPCs who have delivered all of their exposition.

Re:Not prettier, but realer (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36207188)

Quite insightful there with the object destruction. Something that's bugged me about the Arma series is that there isn't realistic penetration. It seems like there was some if you shoot a .50 cal through a tiny wooden fence, but it was hardly consistent or predictable.

It might take a while before it happens in a game, but to me it's a very important thing in a tactical fps -- model ballistics as well as you can. For example, not every tree will stop a 5.56. Some are rotted internally, some have different levels of hardness. That same rifle round may not stay intact through a windshield to strike the target on the first shot while a slower pistol round will. And so forth.

Re:Not prettier, but realer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36207240)

but a lot of studios would rather make Big Guns, Shiny Metal 5 using a well-established engine because that's easier, cheaper, and practically guaranteed to sell to their target demographic.

Shut up! The plebs might catch on!

It's because hardware has stalled (3, Insightful)

Gordo_1 (256312) | more than 3 years ago | (#36206974)

Beyond increasing core counts (which appears mostly useless for most gaming engines beyond a couple), nothing much is doing in the world of CPUs these days.

I remember choosing between a 486 @ 25MHz versus 50MHz for an extra several hundred bucks. That's twice the clock speed within a single CPU generation for those who are keeping track.

A generation later I purchased a Pentium 75MHz, and 18 months after that upgraded it to 233MHz. That's triple the clock speed.

I even remember having a 400MHz Pentium (II I believe) and about a year later upgraded to a 1GHz P3. That's 2.5 times, not to mention the greater efficiency per clock of a P3 vs a P2.

I now sit with a nearly *5 year old* dual core 2.4GHz CPU (overclocked to 3.3GHz mind you) and I can't find even a $1000 CPU that will give me anywhere near a worthwhile performance bump for anything other than super specific parallelizable applications like scientific computations or workstation-style 3D rendering.

This transistor efficiency stall has also hit the GPU market in the past few years. Have a look at how much Nvidia or AMD have pushed top end GPU performance in the past couple years. They're making incremental 15-20% bumps per generation -- that's nothing like back in the TNT/3dfx days when you could count on a 50-100% framerate jump with each successive generation.

Consoles are stalled because GPU/CPU technology is stalled. If CPUs and GPUs were were keeping up with the previous pace from the 90s, we'd have software/games that pushed those limits.

Re:It's because hardware has stalled (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36207028)

facts aside, hardware has lagged and stalled.

+ insightful imo

development has shifted, not stalled (2)

dutchwhizzman (817898) | more than 3 years ago | (#36207170)

The power you have from your dual core and graphics card, can now be had for half the electricity bill, probably less. True, if they could, they'd double performance and have you choose which one you wanted, but they did find a place where they could improve.

It may not mean much to you, but here, in Europe, we have significant taxes on electricity and it can save you US$100/month if you just turn off one of those heavy computers of yours. I used to have a few servers running in the meter closet for firewalling and fileserving. Right now, I have a WRTG for firewalling and a popcorn with a USB drive for files. This has taken my electricity bill down by over US$1000 per year.

Although I agree that game development has stalled and hardly uses the extra RAM and cores, I do think they will do so in the future. The better the physics models of the cars you emulate are, the longer you'll want to play the game. The more variation in any form of AI, the more fun you'll have playing. Running things like physics models or AI on separate cores will eventually make game play better. It's just a matter of time before game companies figure that out. Regarding revenue, I think WoW has figured out how to keep on making money from a game that essentially isn't that special.

Re:It's because hardware has stalled (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36207212)

Clock speed is not an accurate measure of overall performance. PC graphics are already far beyond what consoles can hope to do even with tricks like upscaling and interpolation.

Re:It's because hardware has stalled (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36207242)

I'm sorry but it doesn't seem like you have any clue of the gaming world. It's the one field in consumer computing where you still could use every bit of power provided by the hardware.

If you compare the latest generation of consoles with an up to date PC you'll see that the consoles don't even come close in terms of performance anymore (we aren't talking about 1 or 2 generations passing since their release. Those things are from the stone-age. They could barely keep up with the computers of their time). There is no "stalling" yet (it might come but we aren't there yet).

What is stalling however is the capability of the software to use the extra power. Since it's the common perception is that money is made on consoles, games are written for the legacy hardware found in those. PC ports are becoming an afterthought you do to get a bit of additional payoff from your console game.

Consoles aren't stalled because of technology. They are stalled because they are, at this point, cashcows that print money. Updating to new technology would mean raising prices or starting to subsidize the new generation (again). Then there's platform fragmentation (why doesn't this xbox (480) game run on my xbox 360?) and a whole lot of inertia (how many consoles are already out there?).

In short: It's not hardware

Re:It's because hardware has stalled (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36207588)

Most of today's games are more GPU- than CPU-heavy. I don't even think most games have that much of a use for a 4Ghz CPU, let alone 10 cores clocked at that. As far as GPU tech is concerned, core count is much more important than clock speed, so the efficiency of transistors isn't the bottleneck (apart from power drain, that is).

So, I don't think we've hit the ceiling hardware-wise. We are certainly stalling on the software side, however. Just look at WinXP still having >50% market share, even though it doesn't support new versions of DirectX. It simply doesn't make business sense to release a game on PC that requires the latest hardware when the vast majority of users can't even use new hardware they might have. You are forced to develop for the lowest common denominator, which is DirectX 9, unless you are targeting enthusiasts.

Consoles suffer from similar problems. They could develop native games for each platform that push the hardware to its limits, like they were doing in the PS2 era. Instead, devs aim to get their games on all platforms, so again they develop stuff that can be ported everywhere with minimal effort/cost. So, you get games that run exactly the same on both XBOX and PS3, but look worse than they would had they been created specifically for either platform.

Today's mentality is the reverse of what it used to be: once upon a time, devs would develop for the most powerful platform and cut stuff out to optimise for the lesser configs; today, they develop for the lowest platform and add a couple of things in when porting to more powerful platforms. It's just more economical that way.

At the end of the day, the arms race is stalling because of a mix of bad business decisions, a bad economy, no unified APIs/toolkits/whatever for porting and optimising code and graphics, and the fact that games have been turned into a faceless, cutthroat industry that only cares to push out 'good-enough(TM)' product and take your money.

Re:It's because hardware has stalled (1)

lucian1900 (1698922) | more than 3 years ago | (#36208278)

That's largely because most of the low-hanging fruit has been picked, and also because of the stronger focus on efficiency there is now. I think it's good, we don't need more powerful machines. My 800mhz ARM netbook is fast enough for most things, and a 2.4ghz dual-core CPU is good enough for anything.

Re:It's because hardware has stalled (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36208726)

But 3D rendering (rasterised or raytraced) is one of those super specific parallelizable applications. Compare the trailer for Skyrim with videos of Morrowind. We've come a long way in the last 10 years.

On the bright side ... (1)

lennier1 (264730) | more than 3 years ago | (#36206998)

At least it's slowed down because many games are developed with consoles in mind, tacking on a port to the PC in the last minute and therefore coming nowhere near what a PC game could look like.
Shitty controls on the PC (e.g., Dead Space, Prototype, Star Wars: Force Unleashed) are just an extra bonus because someone simply tried to map the gamepad buttons to the keyboard.

Re:On the bright side ... (1)

captjc (453680) | more than 3 years ago | (#36208026)

While I have played many a game that has been ruined by bad controls, at least many companies are now allowing the use of gamepads (usually 360 controllers only) to play them as they would be played on a console.

What I can't stand is not giving that option (I am looking at you, "Beyond Good and Evil"). What is worse is games that don't even allow key remapping. Both are uncalled for in this day and age.

Re:On the bright side ... (1)

lennier1 (264730) | more than 3 years ago | (#36208100)

Maybe, but if I wanted to use a gamepad I'd be using a console in the first place.

I won't cut my car in half just because someone only paved a road barely wide enough so a motorcycle can use it, leaving only a small empty strip on each side "just in case".

Re:On the bright side ... (1)

captjc (453680) | more than 3 years ago | (#36208178)

Not everyone want to spend the money on a console when they have a perfectly good PC.

Beyond Good and Evil is a good example. It is a bad port with horrible controls. I bought it during a Steam sale never thinking about it. When I tried playing it, I found it practically unplayable. Had they given support for a gamepad, I would at least be able to play it like the console version. However, the mentality of "Gamepads are for consoles, Mouse / Keyboard are for PCs" render the game useless.

The fact is that PC ports will almost always be rushed. But when a game is developed for a gamepad, there is no reason to remove gamepad support just because it is on PC.

(Yes I know I can get software to map keys to the gamepad, but that is besides the point)

Replayability and multiplayer are related! (1)

Superdarion (1286310) | more than 3 years ago | (#36207048)

and core gamers far more likely to continue happily playing on two-, three- or even four-year-old PCs than they were in the past....

What? People played starcraft for ten years! What about Diablo 2? Warcraft 3? Age of Empires? All these have in common two things: First, they're from related genres, which just comes to show my ignorance on other genres. Second, they have really strong multiplayer, which adds replayability far beyond that provided by a good story.

Re:Replayability and multiplayer are related! (1)

boristhespider (1678416) | more than 3 years ago | (#36207258)

To be honest I even still play Warcraft 1 a lot. That gets replay value not so much from multiplayer but from the fun of utterly annihilating the opposition by camping fifty archers on the path from their village to yours and then building an enormous city with a ludicrously large army. Warcraft had its flaws but for me it's still the most fun "strategy" game I've played.

I'm going to go and play that now, actually.

(Also, I want to play Thief again. I might set up a Win98 virtual machine simply to be able to play it...)

Re:Replayability and multiplayer are related! (1)

John Saffran (1763678) | more than 3 years ago | (#36207278)

and core gamers far more likely to continue happily playing on two-, three- or even four-year-old PCs than they were in the past....

What? People played starcraft for ten years! What about Diablo 2? Warcraft 3? Age of Empires? All these have in common two things: First, they're from related genres, which just comes to show my ignorance on other genres. Second, they have really strong multiplayer, which adds replayability far beyond that provided by a good story.

Good point, I think you can add modability to the list of characteristics of games that live for a long time .. I was just playing a Rome Total War (initially released in 2004) mod today, and frankly it stands up better 'playability' wise than the latest iteration of the series.

The pressures of the development and release cycles mean that most games are released somewhat half to nearly finished state, with many having release day patches, so it generally takes in the order of years for a game (plus expansions) to reach where it can be considered done from a development status. Add gameplay updates by modders, eg. graphical refreshes, story extension or unit rebalancing, and that adds a few more years to the life of a game.

There's hundreds of games released every year, yet those that have some unique characteristic seem to live for a long time. You might generalise that as a 'community', be it a multiplayer community or a modding community .. these games live a long time.

Re:Replayability and multiplayer are related! (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 3 years ago | (#36208650)

That some games are good and have long lifetimes is irrelevant to the point.

Right now you can buy a new AAA game and it will run on a 3 year old PC, that wasn't cutting edge when it was bought and has had no upgrades at all, just fine. That was unheard of not that long ago.

Obviously a 5 year old game will run on a 5 year old PC (well ignoring the odd game famous for needing super hardware).

Very yes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36207084)

Hardware is becoming more powerful than the software requires most of the time that it throws the development prices up too high.
And in the case of PS3, the size of the disc is more than enough space for your average games. (but this has the advantage of intelligent data mirroring to improve loads)

Not to mention this recession has been making a huge dent in everything for a while now.
Hopefully this will wake up developers of all areas to better ways to manage project spending, better techniques to develop in their specific areas and not be as wasteful. Oh, and not cheap out too much and have to pay millions to cover the screw-up later on. (Looking at you, Microsoft)

Many developers are waking up to the small-scale games market (finally) and throwing out some nice, simple, small games that are actually really fun to play.
I wish more of them would do this.
I'd give anything for some classic-style RPG games up there, it is the perfect marketplace for them.
Come on Square Enix, you should be doing this!

All of these factors have some contribution.
And in my personal opinion, I think it is a good thing.
Software is easier to update than hardware. And you don't need to deal with compatibility problems as often, either.
Look at the different versions of hardware with 360 and PS3, that has confused the hell out of people as it is.
3 visible versions should be the only thing people should have to care about at the most. A basic version, a standard version, and a premium version. There should be no in-betweens that people should have to care about. It should just work.

As for the PC industry. Digital Platforms like Steam, GfW, those are keeping gaming afloat. More and more indie developers are flocking to these platforms since it is accepted as pretty fair DRM methods for the services it offers and has a decent number of users.
As these platforms grow, the more your average PC users join it. These are people who just barely know about PC hardware as it is. They aren't going to be going out every year buying new hardware just to play the latest greatest games that don't exist.
That "don't exist" part, too, came from the recession. The latter half of the decade slowed down considerably.
Games Developers are trying to target as many people as possible now. This means gimping the engine to play on lower end platforms. This is a wrong approach, but it is the cheapest approach since PC industry still deals with a lot of piracy too. They can't be spending time making the game scale perfectly from a netbook to a near-super computer without losing a huge amount of money if they game bombs. It is way too risky.

Yeah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36207090)

My last upgrade was in '07. I intended then that I would've upgraded by now, but it hasn't been necessary. Then again, I'm a gamer who's finding more value in the classics, including emulated classics, than in "Arkham Asylum" or whatever the latest blockbuster was.

Re:Yeah (1)

boristhespider (1678416) | more than 3 years ago | (#36207270)

Likewise. I'm finding myself playing games on DOSBox and emulated Megadrives/SNESs/Game Gears/Sinclair Spectrums on the infrequent occasions that I play much. The last console I bought for myself was a GameCube and it sits almost unused alongside my DreamCast and a second-hand XBox. (I do still play Perfect Dark on my N64 a lot though.)

WTF? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#36207336)

It used to seem like a reliable idea that every five years or so, consoles would catch up to the PC

Well, that's a mistaken idea.

Assuming they mean meaningless specs-man-ship, I've had a 1600x1200 monitor on my desk since the late 90s or so... Not sure which console in the early 00s "caught up" to that.

Assuming they mean variety of gameplay, where's my hex strategic wargames? My non-arcade flight sims? Assuming we start the console era around 1980, that means they're about 30 years late?

Stalled alongside the economy (3, Interesting)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 3 years ago | (#36207374)

The console arms race has stalled largely because the economy has stalled. Developing a console, investing in manufacturing facilities etc. is quite an expensive process, one that a company really doesn't want to go through unless they feel that they will be able to sell the console as well as a large number of games for it. In this economy, it's going to be very hard for people to rationalize plopping down $500 or $600 for a new console. Furthermore, since console hardware capabilities are (relatively) fixed, by the time the economy picks up again your competitor will be able to utilize the latest and greatest technology to come out with a console that is better than yours, and you will be stuck like that for the entire life cycle of the console. So there is actually a rather large disincentive to release a new console at this point. The risk to reward ratio is simply too great.

If you got steam... (1)

Nrrqshrr (1879148) | more than 3 years ago | (#36207376)

Check out the best selling game for this week... Yes, an Indie game.
I used to be one of those kids who enjoy tuning their computers and upgrading RAM and graphic cards every year, but now I don't really have any reason to do that anymore. I spend my gaming time playing indie games like Terraria, Minecraft, or, recently, AI War [indiedb.com]
Of course it's not really indie games' fault for the whole race slowing down, but you know there is something wrong when you are more satisfied by games made by one or two guys than by those made by big studios. (ok, nothing particularly wrong with that, actually, but whatever)

It's too expensive that's why (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 3 years ago | (#36207414)

I think console gaming has been coming really shit lately mainly with Microsoft tainting it with the PC gaming mentality. It's now more acceptable to release shit in a broken state, we get less variety and more sequels. I think MS and Sony relied far too much on pushing the limits with hardware and need to keep their consoles around longer to help everyone recoupe their costs.

I don't think it's that impressive that MS is breaking compatibility for a a new disc format. I appreciate that they will replace the console for free but why should I go without a console for days or weeks for a software update? If gaming is so expensive that they just can't afford to ship games on multiple discs then I think they're doing something wrong.

I think they're also unsure what to do because the next generation will yet again be even more expensive and they realised they got owned by the cheap outdated Wii and I wonder if they can even afford to let that happen again.

Nintendo's Wii may not have been as exciting technically but they did the right thing and they were right in that HD was unnecessary. Even a year or two ago the stats were saying most people did not use HD with their xbox 360.

Re:It's too expensive that's why (1)

dadelbunts (1727498) | more than 3 years ago | (#36208494)

How is an HD unnecessary? I load ALL my xbox 360 games into my hdd as soon as i get them. Why would i want slower load times and increased wear on my dvd drive? Burned through like 4 PS2's like that. Not to mention i dont have to worry about disc wear. You can also purchase full titles for direct download. Honestly it seems to me like you just have an anti MS stance.

Graphics (0)

lyinhart (1352173) | more than 3 years ago | (#36207428)

I can't believe people are settling for the current generation's graphics when they could be so much better. Think about a Grand Theft Auto type of open world game with character models as good as a one-one-one fighting game, that would look amazing. It's not necessarily about photorealism - it's about pushing the boundaries of current technology.

And the new consoles should at least render games natively in 1080p. The current generation can't even do that with the vast majority of games: http://forum.beyond3d.com/showthread.php?t=46241 [beyond3d.com] Indeed, most games render natively at 720p, when virtually no TV available does 720p natively. So you end up with a horribly stretched out picture with most displays.

bash vs csh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36207442)

Yes, it has stalled. Bash development seems to be at a standstill, and csh has fallen off the face of the planet. Only Microsoft has done much recently with Powershell.

Because the manufacturers lose money on consoles. (1)

jpapon (1877296) | more than 3 years ago | (#36207456)

Manufacturers are not making new consoles simply because they lose money on each console sold. [blorge.com] They have to recoup those losses through game sales. They clearly have very little incentive to release a new console, since the longer they can keep milking the old ones, the more profitable they become.

The exception is the Wii, which actually was in the black for each unit. Not surprisingly, it seems that Nintendo is going to be the first to release a next-generation console. Hopefully this will force MS/Sony to release new consoles as well to keep up.

Re:Because the manufacturers lose money on console (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36208518)

Exactly... it is because Microsoft and Sony spent a lot of money getting their consoles to be great where as Nintendo wanted an interactive console. Microsoft and Sony are now reaping the benefits of having a next-gen console and more games that are finally coming out. They are playing the long-con(release a next-gen console, and wait for money to trickle in from game sales), where as Nintendo went with interactivity instead of graphics, reducing their hardware cost and overall cost as a result, playing the short-con (maximum sales in the shortest amount of time). This and their interactive console shot up game sales as many kids, and some adults went out to buy the interactive games. Microsoft and Sony have no need to upgrade, but Nintendo needs to upgrade their consoles because they are getting killed on the graphics front(hell the Wii doesn't even have a dvd player). Oh and others are right, there has been no real upgrades in any CPUs or GPUs for a while now. They just add more without making what we have faster which is what would really help especially on games.

However, I do not agree that Sony and Microsoft will have to release a new console... there is no reason for them to, and even if the Wii2 or whatever they are gunna call it gets HD graphics finally, they still have nothing on either console. Think about it, the Connect and the Sony Move gave them the interactivity that the Wii had over them, what else do they need? Nintendo is just trying to keep up

Fun is the key (1)

archer, the (887288) | more than 3 years ago | (#36207856)

I'm still happy with my PS2. I have no interest in taking the chance of spending $300+ on a new console and game, when I have no confidence I'll find a game I like. After all, there are no returns once the packages are open...

Re:Fun is the key (1)

captjc (453680) | more than 3 years ago | (#36208092)

I have no interest in taking the chance of spending $300+ on a new console and game, when I have no confidence I'll find a game I like. After all, there are no returns once the packages are open...

It is a BS excuse. A new 360, PS3 or Wii can be had for $200 and older games for like $20 new. The used game market is filled with great games for relatively cheap. As for finding a game you like, that is what friends and online reviews are for.

Remember also.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36208036)

This is the first really severe economic crash we've had in the "computing age". There has been small crashes in the past, but nothing of this sort of scale. It was bound to have some effect on development cycles, and certainly it has had an effect on consumer habits.

The great recession? TSMC's stall? (2)

TurtleBay (1942166) | more than 3 years ago | (#36208304)

Don't forget, we also just came out of a crazy bad recession. This would have been a bad time to release a new console and it is harder for the companies to justify console development costs when investors are demanding cost cutting. Additionally, TSMC has been stuck for over a year on the 40 nm node. The cancellation of the 32 nm process may have impacted some of the plans of the console makers. If they were planning on a chip that simply wouldn't be feasible/economical without a die shrink, then now have to wait for 28 nm to become a widely available and high yielding process, but so far this process is not ready for production silicon. TSMC won't be able to produce the quantity or yield of parts that the console makers will need on 28 nm until at least early 2012.

Yeah, the IPhone won (2)

2bfree (113445) | more than 3 years ago | (#36208496)

With smartphones becoming the main computer for the general public (not the /. crowd of course) it's no surprise that phones will take over as the main game 'console' for consumers. Video Game companies are still coming to grip or flat out ignoring this reality and $1.99 games.

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