Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tadgh Kelly is talking about the effect of age on video games: "I don't think gaming needs saving, but rather that the older gamer market (which is still emerging) is simply underserved. I also think that the phenomenon of Kickstartered games is largely being driven by so-called "graymers" who either want to set the world to rights ("Adventure games aren't dead!" etc) or are simply missing an old love and want to relight that flame."

I find the link between graying gamers and the recent surge in Kickstarter game remakes interesting. And somewhat worrying. Nostalgia can be dangerous when used to part people from their money. What people want is their youth back, but what they end up spending their money on is a remake of a game from the 80's. Elite was a great game in 1984, but there are good reasons why we don't have procedurally generated universe exploration games any more. And adapting old games to the new millennium isn't always easy.

For example XCOM: Enemy Unknown is quite well done, but it is significantly less complex than the original, with a much simpler "action point" and "posture" system than before. I think the game does a reasonably good job of recreating the feeling of the original, without having players go through all the hoops from yesteryear. But others complain about the remake having been "dumbed down".

Some of the games of the 80's would today be considered unplayable. And I'm not talking about graphics here, or the fact that you can't find a modern machine that runs the old code. These first home computer games were designed by people who only knew arcade games, where killing the player relatively quickly was imperative to get him to throw another quarter into the machine. Thus games like Manic Miner today appear rather punishing. And they had very little of what we today would expect in terms of "story" or "content", because you can't in fact put a lot of that into an 8-bit game.

So you feel nostalgic and end up buying a game like the Baldur's Gate remake, only to find out that the horrible graphics and bad pathfinding simply aren't acceptable any more today. There are a lot of old game concepts that I would like to see re-invented, but there is a danger that we'll just get a direct remake with all the inconveniences that have caused game development to move on from those old games.

Ultimately as a "graymer" our first games are not the only point of reference we have. Most of us didn't go into hibernation or hid under a rock. We not only played the games of the 80's and the 90's, but also those from the 00's and 10's. And just like everybody else we now consider certain conveniences in games as absolutely necessary. It will take some real genius to re-invent a game like Elite and bridge the nostalgia with modern game design. Just because some Kickstarter project has the name of one of your favorite old games in it doesn't mean much.

I disagree. It is not about nostalgia. Not that in my early 30-s i could be classified as gray. Just balding :) First - the kickstarters can be seen as amnesty for some people for pirating content when they were younger, poorer etc. Second current publisher funded market is in trouble. There is little innovation and precious little gameplay. Third - the plenty of high profile kickstarters that didn't reached their target shows that the funders have some basic filtering capabilities.

Also some games were better in the past. HOMM can't top number 3 for 12 years now, ubi just can's seem to get it right. NFS Porsche Unleased is still the best nfs. And also the most beautiful. And Ninja Gaiden black and Prince of Persia sands of time are also unmatched. So it is worth funding evolving these concepts.
Some of it is nostalgia, some of it is specific styles or designs in gameplay that haven't been touched in many years. I bought Grimrock for exactly this reason and learned an important thing (for myself): I hate that style of game now. But Baldur's Gate? Love those old isometric RPGs and still play the originals via GOG.
I agree with a lot of what you say. Nostalgia is a powerful force etc.

Remaking Elite in a way that is accpeted in today's gaming environment will indeed be difficult.

But you do sometimes see remakes that work. XCOM being the obvious recent example.
A lot of people are playing and enjoying that game while being way too young to have been nostalgic for the original series.
There's a lot of old game genres that can be quite fun but are no longer $60 games.

Sid Meir is pretty much been making all his money by remaking his old hits for the budget market. I enjoyed his remake of Pirates and I'm currently enjoying his remake of Railroad Tycoon. So there is a place for these games, and honestly since the game concepts had to carry themselves on being interesting and fun because the graphics and sparkle weren't going to carry the game.

I have no idea why the WIng Commander space fighter genre went away; that stuff was crazy fun and there's no reason you couldn't do it very well today. Star Control would be a great $20 Steam game. I'd be all over a $30 remake of Master of Orion.

There's a lot of gems in the past that could be competently redone and brushed up in a commercially viable way. Call it artisanal gaming.
Speaking of Nostalgia, has anyone ever played the game "Castles" or "Castles II" from the early 90s? I have been trying to find a modern version of these games and can't quite find anything like it.

People have mentioned stronghold, while the idea is similar, I feel that whole series was very poorly done.
"Elite was a great game in 1984, but there are good reasons why we don't have procedurally generated universe exploration games any more."

What's that reason? The procedurally generated world explorer Minecraft is the biggest indie success ever.
Not to mention Weird Worlds and FTL.
I remember Castles II.

I was a bit disappointed in it because I was picturing making these tremendous castles with crenellations and ramps and murder holes and stuff.

Nah, just make a square with a moat and buy lots of archers.

I would like to see a modern take on it. With multiplayer it might be quite fun. You know, test your fortifications against real enemies.

There was recently a study done regarding music tastes and why older people always end up preferring the music "from their time". Turns out, according to this study , there is a certain age (teenage years) where things like music are being "imprinted" (not sure what to call it, but something like that).

Hence, it's no coincidence that if you were hearing ABBA music during your teens (something my parents listened to in my teenager years) that you most likely still enjoy ABBA (and similar melodic music) to this day. It's that music that "never gets old" .

I won't be surprised if games have the same effect. There are games i played during my teens that most likely stuck with me, despite those games not being "better" (if not worse) than today's games (we can argue the same thing with music). I would probably have been totally blowned away with something like Mass Effect 2 in my teens, as opposed to Eye of the Beholder or Might & Magic .


Well i suppose that would explain all the hoo-hah going on with "Star Citizen", Chris Robert (creator of Wing commander) . People want more Wing Commander.

I'm also sure they did remake Master of Orion a few times already? There's another series that is very close, Galactic Civilisations , not too old.

Yes, I believe Kreegor is wrong. I don't think *everybody* thinks that HOMM 3 is the best HOMM.

If I took some long-standing series of video games, e.g. Final Fantasy, and asked 1000 gamers which was the best Final Fantasy and their age, I could plot the results in a cloud which would show a clear correlation: Older gamers would prefer older Final Fantasy games, younger gamers the newer ones.
Tobold, I think that is correct, but for a very specific reason.

Games like FF have the storyline as a HUGE part of the game and it is a major part of what draws players to those games. While playing FF games the player establishes a sentimental connection or devotion to that game and the characters because they immersed themselves in the story and have a special place in their heart for it.

While this happens with other genres as well, story based RPGs tended to do this the best by far compared to any other genre.
Bug Byte, the software house that released Manic Miner, also released Twin Kingdom Valley, probably the first adventure game with moving and thinking npc's. It was not all arcade games, or games without plot. There was a balance.

I'm not at all convinced that this is just nostalgy or Kickstarter driven. Old remakes, sometimes by original programmers, are now popping up elsewhere, too. For example, Lords Of Midnight is being re-made for iOS.

I think that some of us have been disappointed with modern games just repeating and covering old ideas with fluff, and for us original games with original ideas are more appealing because of the simplicity. No one tries to re-make Go with fluff, right?

It's true that we don't have our C64's any more and would like to play the original games with our phones and pads. Therefore the need for porting great old games to new platforms, Kickstarter or not.
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