A Marriage of Extremes

Late last month IGN scooped new Revolution system specs through the tireless journalistic efforts and dogged tenacity for which they are known. What they found was a system that was not willing to pony up the horsepower (get it? Pony. Horsepower.) to compete graphically with Sony or Microsoft, but instead had the unmitigated gall to suggest a great gaming machine does not have to be financially crippling. Most forum going knuckle-draggers fell into the same tired ranks of blind criticism, defense, sarcasm, and trolling, or, perhaps trawling, that they always fall into when discussions of Nintendo arise. I don't really blame them. I find it hard not to say the same thing about Nintendo time and again either as though it were fresh material, like John Grisham writing about a plucky young lawyer who breaks all the rules. But, it finally occurs to me that maybe everyone's got it wrong. Maybe, the two approaches to design aren't mutually exclusive, which seems to be the prevailing rule in practice if not theory.

As I played Oblivion the other day on my rumbling powerhouse Xbox 360, I thought with a kind of mindless snobbery how very much the Nintendo crowd would be missing out in the next generation.

And then, with my next thought, I realized that I had fallen for an industry-wide hype about graphics that has very little to do with good games. I am a product of screenshot journalism and tech-specs lust. Part of me had, on some fundamental level, conceded that Nintendo owners would be short changed in the quality of their games because it could not render sword handles as well as the 360.

That kind of pervasive and infectious mentality is what permits developers and publishers to regurgitate the same game and the same franchises on a gaming consumer base that talks the talk, but virtually never walks the walk. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that Oblivion, a graphically superior title, is an exception to the rule. It may also be the best, and only example we have for a while of what a truly visionary and dedicated company can do when it marries the two extremes of gaming.

Thinking back over the past year, and the games that I've played and enjoyed the most I, come up with the following list:

Oblivion
Civilization IV
Guitar Hero
Geometry Wars
We Heart Katamari
Psychonauts
World of Warcraft

Save one, we are not talking about a collection of graphical powerhouses here, and yet I keep seeing these titles on this kind of list. One might almost be able to make the dramatic and Xtreme logical leap to a conclusion that, and I realize I tread upon gaming's most holy dogma here, graphical superiority does not alone a good game make. While Oblivion is unquestionably an amazing game to look at, had Bethesda done nothing more than slap a new coat of paint on Morrowind, as some feared they might, the game would have been as disappointingly average as public school and radio stations owned by Clear Channel. Oblivion is not a great game because of the visuals, nor despite them. It is a great game regardless.

Are we supposed to care how realistic the physics of individual armpit hairs are on the units of the Mongolian Horde, if, by having realistic-armpit-technology, we have to sacrifice the ability to actually see a horde? Should we fascinate over how many bumpy textures adorn the cancerous wart on the nose of some FPS mercenary if we're shooting him with the same old weapons at the always familiar Boxes-O-Varying-Sizes Factory? Should we boggle at the realistic blood spray ejected from the stripper we just ran down with our stolen convertible, if we're playing in yet another gritty, urban, ultra-violent environment.

Judging by a recent trip to Gamestop, where I was berated no fewer than six times for not bringing my trades with me, I'd say yes. And, why? Because they are the games to which we are told to anticipate, and enough of us buy into that.

Part of the problem has to be that we are rarely given better information to digest. And, that's not as much a fault of the gaming media as it is the medium through which they work. Would a screenshot of Guitar Hero have managed to convey the Jimmy Page awesomeness of the game in a preview? Could a Civilization IV preview have convinced me that the dark, wicked soul of Civ III had been suitably banished by a cabal of powerful holy men? Could anyone ever have convinced me of the hours I would spend on my Xbox 360 playing Geometry Wars of all things?

No, as gaming media outlets spawn like salmon on Spanish Fly, and readers demand quick sneak-peeks over long and articulate missives, the screenshot becomes the necessary soup du jour. Compelling visuals are a key part of a marketing strategy in generating interest, because if you want your big game to get the exclusive cover of PC Gamer, then you better have amazing screenshots ready, even if the title is years from completion. Design law at some point changed to: Visuals first, then gameplay as an afterthought.

Abusing great visuals are, I suspect, like abusing narcotics. The first few times you enjoy the overwhelming visual high, all the other problems just fade away, but then the buzz wears off quicker, the problems start sneaking back in, and you need more texture passes just to feel anything at all. Where once realistic shadows alone could satisfy you through six hours of repetitive gameplay, now shadows do nothing for you, and you need a complete physics engine, ambient lighting, and realistic skin. Eventually you start plugging in games, and they throw every visual trick in the book at you, but the high just isn't there anymore, and so you get strung out after a disappointing night of FEAR and in a Mountain Dew and Pizza Hut haze of sugar and fury you hold up a liquor store for Halo money. Then the cops come to your house, find you rubbing new screenshots of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and Vicks VapoRub on your chest, and haul your sorry tush off to the hoosegow for six month (out in 90 days on good behavior).

Consider, if you will, the interesting case of the PSP and the DS. The PSP strikes me as an attractive and visually compelling medium in which publishers dumped every cash-in franchise they could find. A whirlpool of bullet-points and market research that rejects daring and creativity as resoundingly as Claudia Schiffer would reject my suggestion that we totally start hanging out. There is nary a lawyer game, puppy simulator, or musical invertebrate to be found on the PSP.

And, the frustrating point is that the PSP and those developing for it could be making as interesting and unique games as are available on the DS. It's simply that somewhere along the line someone is choosing not to. They are investing money in taking the most advantage of the technical superiority of the system, and not in making a game with a unique experience and engaging style.

Nintendo, despite its many flaws, seems to be the only major player willing to go against the conventional thinking. In some ways, at the risk of going political, Nintendo is the George Bush of gaming, determined to do what they think is best despite and without any interest in what their critics might say. The more people tell Nintendo they can't be successful with an underpowered, dual-screen, stylus input, portable system the more Nintendo does whatever the hell they want to thank-you-very-much! Sony and Microsoft would have certainly abandoned the initial concept after the first focus group responded to such a system with the same kind of expression you might wear if your grandfather explained that he was a boxers man because briefs were too constricting for his unusual girth.

And clearly Nintendo's play is earning them a dominant place in the industry, great buzz, and strong sales. You see that, folks? That was sarcasm.

You see, Nintendo ultimately falls into the same traps as everyone else. In dramatically sacrificing technical proficiency they alienate a market that, despite its better angels, gives a serious damn about how what they're playing looks. The DS has some premier titles that demand to be played despite bland visuals, just like every other system, but for the average game for the gamer, visuals are relevant. Again, Nintendo, like Sony, is making a choice; one extreme for, and at the expense of, the other.

In the end, you can only buck the trends so far, before the market goes away. As long as the market thinks it needs fancy graphics for its games, then you have to make some effort to deliver. And as long as games featuring rap stars living out their snuff film fantasies to their own self-aggrandizing music sell a million copies, then those of us begging for change are going to look like the kind of idealistic, art-house miscreants you see attending film festivals in small mountain towns, drinking overpriced coffee and congratulating one another for having such a fine understanding of the craft.

But, consider this in closing. Imagine a company, for a moment, with a dedication to unique and playable games like Nintendo, with the technical strength of an Xbox 360 or PS3. Like the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup marriage of two great tastes that taste great together, what would gaming be like if we had more games that did both?

- Elysium

Comments

Like the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup marriage of two great tastes that taste great together, what would gaming be like if we had more games that did both?

Another interesting article, as always.

Although I don't own an X360, the way I hear everyone around here talk about it, not only does it dispense Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, but it also pays the bills and wipes your ass. If Lobster is to be believed, it may even be good for the occasional reach-around. I know this gets back to the whole innovation vs. design vs. fun vs. technology debate, but it would appear that an arguement could be made that Microsoft (gasp!) and the X360 are already accomplishing what you are wishing for.

Copingsaw, MS and the 360 has the potential to take steps in the right direction, though I think Oblivion is actually best played on a PC where you can implement the outstanding mods that customize game design. I love my 360, but I'm not championing it as a bastion of unique gameplay over graphics. I offer, as evidence, premier titles such as Madden, Fight Night, Full Auto, Blazing Angels, Perfect Dark Zero, and even Call of Duty 2, that sported outstanding graphics but no great leaps in gameplay and creativity. Not bad games all, but certainly Nintendo's track record for creating unique games along with the regular crowd is more impressive by far. I'm imagining a world where Nintendo's dedication to creating games is matched with the power of the 360.

Mmmm Reese's PB cups. More Easter candy references please. I'd like to throw in a little support for your point about Oblivion. Cause I don't get tired about hearing about Oblivion. My experience with Oblivion has been different than yours because I play it on my PC with a NVIDIA 5950 card. I can't even get grass to appear and have the game run worth a darn. My viewing distance is not very far and filled with Fog. I can't even read the words on signs because I have to run the graphics in such a low setting. My Oblivion experience visually really doesn't look all that different from the original Morrowind, but the AI and the voicework and plot and interesting quests make it a complete joy to play.
The other day on this very website I saw somebody's desktop picture, a forest in oblivion. I had no idea there were ferns in the game, or grass and trees that looked that amazingly realistic. SO although I'm having a ton of fun with it now, I will definitely want to upgrade. After playing through it once strictly as a mage (no fighter's guild, or thief's guild or Brotherhood quests) I'm going to set it aside until I can upgrade my PC or somehow acquire an XBOX 360 so that I can play the game through and experience it in all of its graphical splendor. Graphics aren't everything, but I want a taste of them.

Excellent article Elysium! You're point about 'Oblivion' is especially poignant: it's a fantastic game not just for the gorgeous graphics (although that does add to the overall package), but also because you can clearly see the amount of vision and effort that Bethesda put into the game. I can only hope that this will encourage other publishers out there to support the creative developers of the world with truly great ideas. The recent sales figures for "˜Oblivion' should optimistically send a message that "Hey, you know, this game took risks and tried something different, and look how well it's selling!"

I love my 360, but I'm not championing it as a bastion of unique gameplay over graphics.

Yes, but what you want is unique gameplay and graphics, not unique gameplay over graphics. I agree that Nintendo does have a proven track record of innovation in game design. Don't let this close your mind to innovation on other platforms. I think Oblivion provides much of the innovation your asking for. Not only is it tech-sexy but it is more open ended and immersive than, arguably, any other game world ever created. This can be attributed to graphics, programming (AI) and design and is only possible on a platform such as the 360 or a high-end PC.

Of course, until we start seeing more games like this, I guess the 360 still has a ways to go before it can be called a bastion of unique gameplay.

Yes, but what you want is unique gameplay and graphics, not unique gameplay over graphics.

Actually that is what I meant to say. Funny that the polarization is so ingrained that even after writing an article about exactly that, I turn right around and let the same conflict slip right back in.

Elysium wrote:
spawn like salmon on Spanish Fly

so this salmon flops into a bar...

Elysium wrote:
at the guarantee of going political, Nintendo is the George Bush of gaming, determined to do what they think is best despite and without any interest in what their critics might say

corrected

dhaelis wrote:
"Hey, you know, this game took risks and tried something different, and look how well it's selling!"

What risks did Bethsoft take with Oblivion, exactly? I'm not saying it's not an excellent game, it is... but it's their fourth ( not counting Redguard & Battlespire... or the phone ones) foray into this game world, and even thought it's pretty and mostly well written, they aren't taking a lot of risks here.

The advancement system was 90% there in Morrowind, they just added the level perks. And.... I'm drawing a blank on something I haven't seen somewhere else already ( whether in one of their games or not).

What they have managed to do very well over the course of this series is refine it very well. By placing so much power in the hands of the modding community, they get excellent insight into what gamers actually want ... and then they take it into the next game.

They've been smart enough to get excellent writers for the books, and the art design is outstanding. But I still don't see 'risk' there... they've done an excellent job of minimizing that.

I remember being flamed on other forums for my stance on the DS at launch, and how even though there was a shortage of quality titles, it changed the way we played traditional games, and the games would come in time. I was definitely intrigued by the tech behind it (as seen in my somewhat nerdy launch review.

I still say the same thing about the Revolution. It's both cool and confusing at the same time. It has great potential if used properly just like the DS, but again, I think it will take some time before people really start batting an eye in it's direction. I have a feeling the launch titles will showcase what it can do, but I think it will take some time to really show what it can do.

I'm definitely more excited about it than the PS3. I already have my next-gen super HD console, so really the only thing I care to see on the PS3 is some exclusive I can't live without - and Sony's been losing those exclusives slowly over the years.

I see where you're coming from when you say graphics don't make the game. However, I can still pull some old EGM mags out of my basement that discuss how many more colors the Master System has over the NES. Gamers will always care about graphics. Seeing as males make up the majority demographic of gamers, it's not hard to see this (pun intended!) because we tend to be more visually stimulated compared to women. (Generally speaking of course.)

Graphics are the appetizer, but the gameplay is the main course. I had a bit of the same epiphany you had while playing Oblivion (again, just like you.. very.. odd). When I first got the game, I would just sit there and pan the camera around soaking up the beautiful scenery. I would just randomly stop running through the wilderness to watch the damn grass sway. It's like I had actually been phsyically drinking the graphics, had gotten drunk, and lost all coherent thought. I snapped out of it and carried on.

I booted it up yesterday, and now that the honeymoon's over, I stopped staring at the sunset and started accepting it as the backdrop it is, and should be. I appreciated it for the level of depth and realism it provided, but I didn't focus on it - I had some rats to kill in a basement for a lady.

Graphics are what pull us in, the gameplay's what keeps us interested past the two week mark. I think the Gameboy Advance and the DS are a pretty good testament to this.

But don't get me wrong, I will always love me purty, purty sunsets.

Folklore wrote:
What risks did Bethsoft take with Oblivion, exactly? I'm not saying it's not an excellent game, it is... but it's their fourth ( not counting Redguard & Battlespire... or the phone ones) foray into this game world, and even thought it's pretty and mostly well written, they aren't taking a lot of risks here.

The risk was that the single player RPG market is essentially dead, and Bethsoft made one anyway.

Ely wrote:
Actually that is what I meant to say. Funny that the polarization is so ingrained that even after writing an article about exactly that, I turn right around and let the same conflict slip right back in.

We are so indoctrinated in this kind of thinking that you have to fight just to keep your head above water. The gaming media frames the argument for us so that we only have two positions to take. However, your dissent is admirable. I think this idea can easily be extrapolated into just about any aspect of our lives.

And as long as games featuring rap stars living out their snuff film fantasies to their own self-aggrandizing music sell a million copies, then those of us begging for change are going to look like the kind of idealistic, art-house miscreants you see attending film festivals in small mountain towns, drinking overpriced coffee and congratulating one another for having such a fine understanding of the craft.

You say that like it's a bad thing. Miscreantic-idealism for the win!

...but instead had the unmitigated gall to suggest a great gaming machine does not have to financially crippling.

Folklore wrote:
I'm drawing a blank on something I haven't seen somewhere else already ( whether in one of their games or not).

Fully realized, believable, expansive outdoor environments, maybe. But really, what it does that hasn't done elsewhere is to cohesively combine many disparate elements that you might have seen individually in other games into one pleasing (mostly) polished package.

And, like Mayfield said, the risk they took was to invest such a large amount of time and money into making a game in a genre that many consider to be a dying one, if not one that is completely dead.

Mayfield wrote:
Folklore wrote:
What risks did Bethsoft take with Oblivion, exactly? I'm not saying it's not an excellent game, it is... but it's their fourth ( not counting Redguard & Battlespire... or the phone ones) foray into this game world, and even thought it's pretty and mostly well written, they aren't taking a lot of risks here.

The risk was that the single player RPG market is essentially dead, and Bethsoft made one anyway.

How was the single player RPG dead? I know Bioware hasn't given up on it, and it's Bethsoft's bread and butter. Bioware did not do as well as they hoped with Jade Empire, but they've got Mass Effect & that Dragon thingie coming out.

People were chomping at the bit for a good single person RPG.

There's fewer of them because they cost a lot of money to make compared to other genres, but they minimize that risk because they know they have the fan base, they have a motherload of backstory already. The used other development tools when possible ( Havok, Gamebryo) and they did not try to reinvent the wheel.

I'm saying they did an excellent job by minimizing the risks, and putting out a pretty good end product. What I'm disagreeing with is the notion that they broke a lot of new ground here.

Damn you for taking my submission topic! Oh well, at least you saved me the trouble of failing utterly in comparison to such a well written article. My not owning a 360 would also have hampered the process.

I kinda blew my wad on graphics around Doom 3 and Half Life 2. Graphics is definitely the appetizer to the main course of gameplay, to borrow the metaphor. Appetizers don't sate you in any particular way, all they are for is to make you MORE hungry (unless you're going to TGIF and get the two for half price as your meal). I don't feel like I've matured as a gamer after playing some eye candy game with no substance. I just feel like I've watched someone's well crafted art. And while that's a nice experience, it's not really using my brain or other faculties.

Damnit, I'M your system Nintendo/Microsoft/Sony. Your console is just the method of delivery. How about you start making games that use MY potential instead of yours?

Damnit, I'M your system Nintendo/Microsoft/Sony. Your console is just the method of delivery. How about you start making games that use MY potential instead of yours?

That's your article right there, or someone elses. And damned if I don't want to read that article. Don't make me write it myself!

Elysium wrote:
Damnit, I'M your system Nintendo/Microsoft/Sony. Your console is just the method of delivery. How about you start making games that use MY potential instead of yours?

That's your article right there, or someone elses. And damned if I don't want to read that article. Don't make me write it myself!

Nooo, I didn't mean it! Where is that edit button?

I actually was thinking that as I posted it. We'll see, I have a couple days to write some things and decide what I like best.

You did not read that post [/jedi mind tricks]

Another reason we like graphics is the ultimate immersion factor 'VR'.

I remember the first time I went to a mall and saw a group of VR games. Two people played a shoot'em type of game. You had the full head unit on and the controller. When you turned your head you were able to see everything in that direction. Each player was hooked up to a TV as well so people could actually watch the games as well.

I remember spending 5 bucks a pop playing that game and just having so much fun even though the graphics weren't great.

Each generation of realistic graphics gets us closer to that level of immersion. Imagine playing GRAW with your friends with a VR helmet on.

Folklore wrote:

I'm saying they did an excellent job by minimizing the risks, and putting out a pretty good end product. What I'm disagreeing with is the notion that they broke a lot of new ground here.

Completely agree. It's not like Morrowind wasn't insanely successfully. I like the innovation born of taking chances, but not everything needs to be risky. Besides, there's plenty of other reasons to laud Bethesda. I hear they make a mean quiche.

While Oblivion is unquestionably an amazing game to look at, had Bethesda done nothing more than slap a new coat of paint on Morrowind, as some feared they might, the game would have been as disappointingly average as public school and radio stations owned by Clear Channel

I'm going to have to disagree here. Had Oblivion been Morrowind with a new coat of paint I'd have only put half as many hours it. That be about 75 hours, which is still 70 more than most games.

Like the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup marriage of two great tastes that taste great together, what would gaming be like if we had more games that did both?

Expensive? I don't mean that as a critique of your article. If more games were graphically and interactively as deep as Oblivion I would pay more for them. I had to get a DVD drive for Oblivion bringing my total to about $120, and I still feel like I paid too little.

Mayfield wrote:
Folklore wrote:
What risks did Bethsoft take with Oblivion, exactly? I'm not saying it's not an excellent game, it is... but it's their fourth ( not counting Redguard & Battlespire... or the phone ones) foray into this game world, and even thought it's pretty and mostly well written, they aren't taking a lot of risks here.

The risk was that the single player RPG market is essentially dead, and Bethsoft made one anyway.

They spent 4+ YEARS making an RPG designed for systems that didnt exist until the last year of development. I call that risky. The fact that Bethesda turned itself around so drastically made the risk acceptible, I think. If even a hint of the problems of Daggerfall had crept into Oblivion, they'd have lost all credibility with me (like BioWare has)

polypusher wrote:
Mayfield wrote:
Folklore wrote:
What risks did Bethsoft take with Oblivion, exactly? I'm not saying it's not an excellent game, it is... but it's their fourth ( not counting Redguard & Battlespire... or the phone ones) foray into this game world, and even thought it's pretty and mostly well written, they aren't taking a lot of risks here.

The risk was that the single player RPG market is essentially dead, and Bethsoft made one anyway.

They spent 4+ YEARS making an RPG designed for systems that didnt exist until the last year of development. I call that risky. The fact that Bethesda turned itself around so drastically made the risk acceptible, I think. If even a hint of the problems of Daggerfall had crept into Oblivion, they'd have lost all credibility with me (like BioWare has)

It's not like there were the same amount of developers, artists, writers, etc... for that entire period. They were smart, gave themselves enough time, and like I said before did not reinvent the wheel. I'm glad they produced such a great game, but I think it is more polish than evolution of the genre. That's not a terrible thing, by any means. It's just not the second coming of Torment.

And at the beginning of the development cycle, they would have had no idea that they would be releasing this on the 360.

Just curious, why has Bioware 'lost all credibility' with you? I played and had a lot of fun with Jade Empire ... have they done something terrible nobody told me about? ( I'm always the last to know)

I can't help but admire Nintendo's pluckiness. Their gamble that new experiences and lower prices can make up for lack of graphical prowess has, at least for the DS, been a winning strategy. It's one that they're obviously intent on pursuing with the Revolution, I think with the potential for similar success.

If there's any hope for that peanut butter cup, it's in Sony and Microsoft and their third-party developers taking note of Nintendo's successes, and taking more risks in game design. That won't be enough, though. The same consumers willing to throw down large amounts of cash for next-gen technology are going to have to demonstrate that they're interested in creative or quirky games.

Part of me worries that the majority of gamers willing to shell out for high-end hardware just aren't clamoring for new and intelligent experiences. Instead, they're content to accept the crap, shiny as it may be, that the industry and media shove down their throats. I hope that's not the case--I hope that given more exposure to creativity (in part courtesy of Nintendo), average Joe and Jane gamers will become more discerning in their tastes. Their appetites for new and better game design will be whetted, and they'll be more inclined to seek out and pay for experiences as clever design-wise as they are visually glorious. It could happen, right?

I just wished Nintendo had went with HD support in the Revolution.. hell they could have kept the same level of overall graphical power just a higher resolution. You be suprised how much better the same graphics look at 1280X720 vs 640X480. Naturally it would have required a more expensive and powerful GPU but it couldnt have added that much to the bottom line..

TheGameguru wrote:
I just wished Nintendo had went with HD support in the Revolution..
Yeah, it sounds like Nintendo fell on the wrong side of the chicken and egg problem with their Gamecube experiment. Since the Component Cable was a special order from Nintendo, not many people got one. Since not many people got one, they decided that HD wasn't important at all. If they had gone the same route with the Revolution, I suspect more HD cables would be bought, and they would be doing more of the "both gameplay and graphics" in the post-Revolution world. Of course, Nintendo could also add in HD in a v2 of the Revolution, and do the "both" thing in a couple of years.

TheGameguru wrote:
I just wished Nintendo had went with HD support in the Revolution.. hell they could have kept the same level of overall graphical power just a higher resolution. You be suprised how much better the same graphics look at 1280X720 vs 640X480. Naturally it would have required a more expensive and powerful GPU but it couldnt have added that much to the bottom line..

I'm totally with you on this one. I'll grant Nintendo a lot of passes given their track record, but to not even build in the capability for the machine to upsample the graphics to an HD resolution was just shortsighted. Sure, HDTV only has a 5% or 10% market penetration now, but that will change fast, and a lot of people are going to be miffed about the crappy image quality they get out of their Revolution when plugged into their new TV (not to mention the fact that the games will probably continue to lack true widescreen support).

Folklore wrote:
Just curious, why has Bioware 'lost all credibility' with you? I played and had a lot of fun with Jade Empire ... have they done something terrible nobody told me about? (I'm always the last to know)

They irked me with Neverwinter Nights and Knights of the Old Republic. KotoR had a number of showstopping bugs on Xbox. It affected me personally when I could do nothing in an area (even falling back on saves) that would not crash the game.

With NWN it was about empty promises on a Project Ego sort of scale. Originally (years before its launch) NWN was touted as a toolkit, not really a game. It was supposed to be a great system for creating your own D&D adventures. At some point the focus shifted so they could release (another) D&D game like Baldur's Gate with a meager toolkit. Attempting to use it and expand upon it was a lesson in insanity.

Their next titles will have to show me something truly stupendous (and prove that they are stable) before I will give them a chance.

And by the way, Bethesda did reinvent the wheel. After every game they completely trash what they just created and start from scratch. And even a skeleton development crew will have to consist of multiple concept artists, engine programmers, designers and management for it all. Its a damn good thing they did, because if Morrowind built on Daggerfall, it would have been a heap of trash and Oblivion wouldn't be off to a very good start building on the limited Morrowind engine. The reinvention allows them to build on experience with new tools, instead of working around limitations and old tools.

Good article and good points. I think Nintendo is being smart and playing off their strengths, making unique and fun games without trying to keep up with the cutting edge hardware. As everyone has said, the DS really proved that their schema can and does work. The DS is awesome but next to the PSP it's graphics are lacking.

I bet the revolution will really succeed and sell well to the average gamers, mostly younger children, where their entire income is their parents. MS and Sony has just gone so extreme, in terms of hardware and prices that come with it. Four hundred for a console and then sixty dollars for a single game is pretty expensive and I imagine just for the hardcore gamers, who are most likely the minority in terms of all the gamers in the world.

polypusher wrote:

And by the way, Bethesda did reinvent the wheel. After every game they completely trash what they just created and start from scratch.

Arena and Daggerfall look pretty similiar to me.

Arena:
IMAGE(http://www.geocities.com/TimesSquare/Arena/8461/arena.jpg)

Daggerfall:
IMAGE(http://img2.kult-mag.com/photos/00/00/05/88/ME0000058838_2.jpg)

I don't know, daggerfall looks quite a lot better to me.

Wonderfully written, and certainly gets the point across. Minor gripe about said point, though: it comes dangerously close to the "we deserve an SUV with Lamborghini handling and performance, preferably for a Mazda price - look, those guys did it, why can't you??". Well, sorry, dear consumer, can't have it all, at least most of the time.

Short checklist of popular agony haute-gaming-journalism subjects (yes, I'm looking at you, Escapist!!!):

- Next-gen production prices are skyrocketing: blame pretty graphics.
- 99% of games are rehashed tripe: blame conservative+greedy producers in love with pretty graphics and realistic boob/solid body physics.
- Innovation is rare and getting rarer: blame above.
- The small guys cannot compete: blame above. Maybe they shouldn't, which leads us to:
- Oh finally, the Indie Scene will come to our rescue, courtesy of Live Arcade and resulting loving embrace of mainstream. Yes, those guys always value The Craft and Gameplay over graphics and glitz (maybe because that's the only thing they can affort, baing barely able to pay for their Open Source toolchains).

Okay, considering the above is correct (which it must be, since it has been repeated to death in so many well informed op-eds), I think the conclusion is simple: don't hold your breath for another Oblivion. On the other hand, really good games are going to continue coming out, simply not on the same scale of awesomeness. It is no wonder that everyone who can get their mitts on The Big O is playing it to death, there simply hasn't been anything like it for ages. My guess is simply that such an event will continue to be a rarity, since not only does such an undertaking require an extraordinary amount of money, it also requires unprecedented talent and FOCUS across the board, which is incredibly rare. And looking at the last 2 years' publications, it seems that such talent will continue to be rare, as the Industry keeps losing experienced minds at a startling rate.

So: don't hold your breath, but keep hoping. Oblivion should last you a couple more months, at the very least

Duttybrew wrote:
(pictures)

I don't know, daggerfall looks quite a lot better to me.

Hrrrm, maybe when I thought I was looking at Arena shots I was really looking at Daggerfall.