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On the Degeneration of Today's Videogames

Merle D. Zimmermann - 9/14/99-28/9/99
I think, having observed many different computer and video- games over my seventeen years of life, that the quality of the entertainment available today is not up to par with that available in the early 1980s-late '70s.

Although today's hardware is infinitely superior to what was available then, the games that are present now rarely have more then two (or in the case of auto-racing games, three) different playing modes; one and two player. Some games have a difficulty option, but all that the great majority of them do is give you less life or fewer continues.

The original Atari 2600, for instance, offered at least 16 options for play on the most primitive of its programs. The more advanced titles such as Space Invaders offered fifty or sixty different modes that you could get the game in, each one radically different from the others.

Also, today's games are much the same- after you have played one or two racing games, for instance, you have probably played them all. Although the new systems that are around today (PS-X, for example) provide the programmers with 650 MB of space to write their program in (one CD-ROM), most projects are merely new versions of games that came out last month, only with different graphic and level designs. About the only category where this has not occured (much) has been in the relatively new RPG-type game (which, these days, has just disintegrated into a semi-interactive "push the button and see the next part of the story"-type production) where the designers usually introduce a new battle system with each game.

Still, there are suprisingly few actually new and unique games being released in this day and age.


I have also noticed that the majority of the programs produced today are much smaller than their 1988 counterparts; where we used to see old Nintendo games which included fifty or sixty levels (see Super Mario Brothers 3), today there are many fewer levels included with each game.

Taking Spyro: The Dragon as an example: The game has 6 worlds, and the most extensive one (the last) only has six different areas (counting the starting area which consists of a circular platform with doors to the other 5 locations). This game barely has more levels than Super Mario Brothers [1], which took up a mere (if I remember rightly) 16 kB. (Mario = 8 worlds * 4 levels/world = 32 levels total) Spyro, occupies more than 650 MB, which is more than FOUR HUNDRED THOUSAND times as much data for a similar gaming experience (once you get over the pretty graphics)...


Game Developers are also spending much less time working on building interesting game engines and are giving a disproportionate amount of their attention to promoting what little they actually did. Often, a new game is just the same as its previous incarnation with slightly different graphics and a new set of impossible jumps.

There are always exceptions to these empirical rules, however, and this one is no different. A few good (but mostly unknown) game programmers still exist, and the games which they create can be downright amazing (As an example, check out thefully- interactive 60fps mirror sequence in world 8-3 of MDK. Nanotek Warrior is also an example of the incredible things that a clever team of developers can make-it must be the most disorienting game that I have ever played that was actually fun :).

Good programmers, though, seem to be a dying race, which is quite unfortunate, considering the hardware that is coming to the home-audience next year.


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