Nov 16, 2013

Retro Feeling - Only a Few New Games Can Compete

I'm having a retro game trip at the moment. Is it only me to have that kind of good feeling playing this old games? Apparently not with all that stuff on the Internet.

Why does so many people appeal to ancient games? Is it for the same reason people watch classic movies? I don't think it's that easy. Sure, you watch old movies when you have watched them before. On the other side, some rare classic movies are attracting young people lately.
In games, many more old games appeal to young players. You could even speak of a trend to old games.

Game conventions like in Cologne in Germany lures with big floors of retro games and showing off ancient hard- and software. And people storm those places. So something must be tempting.


I think there are a couple of reasons for this. First, almost everything you see in gaming was invented in early video games times. Believe it or not, motion sensors, real 3D gaming, and most of the gaming concepts, if not to say all, were already here decades ago.

Then there are the essences of the games. Not only the game concept as a whole, but the sense you are playing for. No matter if score, level or coins, the reason people play are almost the same than in the 70s & 80s, but without the clutter. Yes, a clean and easy concept. People understand these games and know what to do without even reading a word about the story.
And here is a point. We have all these new games, with basically only few real new innovation, but a very complicated gameplay and an arguable story.

Radar Rat Race (VIC-20)                      Space Taxi (C64)


The few really new game concepts set their own retro status later on. The most important game types imho was the first person shooter. Doom and Duke Nukem did it, but there were 3D shooter, as it were called in the early days, before these two. Wolfenstein 3D which got banned in Germany and had a massive success everywhere. But Doom pushed everything forward. Those 3 were the inventors of a genre that is one of the few still very alive in PC gaming.
The second game type that was invented later, is the concept of Grand Theft Auto III. A world were you can act freely and decide when and where you make missions. For the first time you find yourself not playing for a new highscore, despite that you have a percentage meter to solve everything in the game, but to end up driving around the city, doing this or that, shopping in stores without any sense, or caring about your outfit within the game.

GTA IV

Last but not least you have the MMORPG-genre. It was a phenomenon from the beginning. World of Warcraft did the job. The concept however is old. It's an roleplay-game where you fit in a carefully created world. Quests and social interactions with real players did change everything. For the first time you had to think about manner and behavior in a game, to play together well with other real people instead of dumb computer generated chars.
However this genre seems to be on the decline. It's time intensive and you have a conceptional problem: How can new players be attracted when old players have the world under control? New servers only lead to "twinks", old players that knew the game very well, leveling up new chars. New gamers are stranded if they don't have friends already in the game. And the beginner areas are ghost cities. Gone the times were nice people helped each other to solve a quest or fight an instance boss. Now they were demanding in-game gold for their "services".
Even the introduction of Free-to-Play games without a monthly fee to play, has little success so far, even with big brands like "Star Trek" or "Star Wars".

Runes Of Magic

And now all of these games are somehow beaten by some horrible graphics, no or very basic and fishy stories, and extremely simple game concepts. That shows one thing for me: Games are still for fun. Players are getting tired of extremely complicated stuff and insane concepts based on the basics of a decade old game. Just more shiny. GTA is simple to play, first person shooters are a simple concept, and Angry Birds is a simple game. The retro games got a push from the touchscreen game scene. Simple games are very famous on smartphones and tablets.

People begin to ask themselves, what does a game really need to get you banned on the monitor or display? The answer is fun. No matter if a strange looking sprite is about to eat dots the screen, or a power-sucking 3D graphic engine rocks the desktop and your wallet.
In our minds, the Pac-Man is as real as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the movie. We just need to have imagination. And luckily it seems it's still there.


Related articles:
Why Retro Games Rule
30th Anniversary of the Commodore C64
Frodo brings your C64 Games to Android