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Modern Action Game Development: Is It DOOMed??
Split from Doom4 topic as I believe this is a pretty pertninent and passionate issue in it's own right.

All of us folks on func are passionate about some form of old skool gaming, right?? Almost certainly Quake / Doom and some their contemporaries, as well as tangential franchises such as Thief, System Shock, etc.

As such we have a pretty strong appreciation of what made those titles great (and often still great). Including but not limited to: User-friendliness, direct controls, simplicity, freedom of movement and exploration, fast paced action, atmosphere, purity of purpose, etc etc.

But also most of us have some passions about modern contemporary titles. Fallout4, Witcher3, Skyrim, XCom EU, Soma, Wolf TNO. Slick graphics (well okay not FO4...), cinematic presentation, strong stories, dialogue, cutscenes, RPG elements, specific missions etc etc.

(I'm skipping low budget indie games here but feel free to compare those if it's relevant)

Nevertheless, as per the Doom4 thread, I think there is a general feeling that games these days are missing the characteristics that made older games great, and that attempts to recapture those characteristics are incompatible with the demands of modern gamers AND the ethos of modern studios, and that attempts to blend old and new and especially remake or reboot old games are doomed...


Is this the case??

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RMQ Did That 
It would regen to <skill dependant number, but never above 25> and while it was regenerating, you were dealing double damage.

For everything that didn't work about that mod, this bit was just right. 
So, I'm just playing Borderlands 2. I've got cheatengine running which increases movement, probably by about 30%, and jumping. I've also disabled reloads and recoil, ain't no one got time for that shit.

Basically this feels like any 90s fps. I've currently got some super fast sniper rifle that bounces bullets all over the show at a rapid fire rate (like an mg) and is laying waste to everything. Not too easy though, there's still plenty of bullet sponges in this game.

Just sayin... that's a game that (with a couple mods) feels old skool, but with modern day standards. The only thing it fails at is bad save points, and maybe fixed FOV but I haven't looked into that. Oh and no fucking skill settings, which is why I've got cheatengine on.

In your list of examples, yep I hate unbindable controls. I've pretty much been forced back to WASD instead of using the mouse for forward/back movement. To be honest WASD is much easier on the hands, so I use glovepie to use both during a game. If in combat I'll use mouse for movement, if I'm just wandering around I'll use wasd - it gives the mouse hand a break. Most games can be rebinded though.

FOV? Do many gamers really care about that. Or headbob? I've never really played a game and given one thought to headbobbing. Console gamers probably don't even know what FOV is.

Unskippable ads/movies/cutscenes. These days though, the partners need to get their shit in there. I'm sure the developers don't want those ads in either, but it's necessary. Just like movies.

But cutscenes, to be honest, there's very few games that have unskippable cutscenes, and even less that put save points just before them. I can't actually think of any example. I know there's some, but I haven't found that it's a large portion.

Skill settings; most games still have them. Most games don't appear to do a good job of them and most skill settings there ends up being barely any difference.

Invisible barriers... well in old games' defence, the only reason they didn't have invisible barriers is because they couldn't handle doing large open, outdoor environments. In Quake you didn't need them, it would just have a wall or a door. I really don't want to go back to all indoor games just to avoid having a barrier. But some games are far worse than this than others, usually the more budget games. Big budget ones seem to handle it better and don't put you on an invisible path.

My big issue with modern games is checkpoints instead of quicksave. That shit has ruined the challenge in games, because I haven't to put it on a skill level to ensure I'm not dying much, because I can't stand having to replay through shit I already played. Back in the 90s I'd be a quicksave whore and save after every fight, so I was never replaying anything from too far back. Checkpoints especially ruin boss battles, because there's no way I want to sit replaying a boss battle over and over again.

Also games' tendency to only allow 1-3 weapons at a time is completely fucked.

There are good things about modern games though:
I personally think health regeneration is better than collecting health packs.
Most games have levelling and upgrades now, which is usually interesting. Though perhaps it'll get tedious after a while if every single game has it.
Story and cutscenes, further bridging the gap between games and movies, which I think is a good thing. I like me a good story in my game. Someone suggested on the Doom4 thread that it should have no story, just individual levels. If that happened I think Doom4 would have really failed at taking advantage of what being a modern game is. Sure make them skippable, but ya gotta have story. 
"Sure make them skippable, but ya gotta have story. "

Man, I totally disagree. Doom doesn't need a story. Fallout does, and I'm glad it has it. But Doom ... not really. 
You can't say Doom has no story. Having no story would be the equivalent of a game that's made of squares and just wanting the player to roll with it.
Story at the most basic level for a game means context; Mario has to save Peach from Bowser ; Demons from Hell have erupted in a base of Phobos and you gotta wipe them out. Context means the game exists as an actual fictionnal piece and makes you care as a player, and that's the bare minimum that should be done at the very least.
The antithesis of this would be to have a story without context. See BF3's singleplayer for example: stuff is going on for sure but the context is nowhere to be seen. 
purity of purpose

I think this is arguably the biggest factor. Doom and Quake were both products of a studio that really didn't have to answer to anyone financially or creatively. They made the game they wanted to make.

This has probably been posted somewhere on here before but this: is a great example of a Doom / Quake pastiche made by just one person, so there's no pressure to recoup a big investment or grab some kind of market share. It'll be released and hyped by the people who want to play this kind of game and maybe trickle over into the realm of wider recognition.

The "purity of purpose" games usually come from developers who fall into these two categories

- scrappy self-funded team who assemble with a vision for the kind of game they want to play (Doom/Quake, Half-Life, Minecraft, etc.)

- huge, established companies who make so much money that their "purity of purpose" is mostly unconstrained by time and money so they can realize their grand visions (Oblivion/Skyrim/Fallout 3 & 4, Grand Theft Auto series, <insert open world game here>)

And then there are the thousands of games that don't fall into either category that you may or may not have enjoyed but their purity of purpose was not the driving force behind their production.

Maybe I've been unlucky, but every single game I've worked on has had an external partner who had checklists for things they did or did not want in the game. Decisions that came from people outside of the people who were actually creating the game. In the case of sequels, expansions, etc., this is a given. You need to fulfill expectations set by the original.

But even outside of the realm of sequels and expansions, there's always a ton of decisions being made for you (the developer) by whoever is funding the game.

It'd be interesting if there were more games made by people looking to solve a problem. Half-Life (again) is a great example of that. It wasn't like a group of people got together and wanted to make *any* game, Gabe specifically wanted to have a cinematic experience with realistic AI and mostly achieved that goal.

There are a lot of developers out there now who are trying to push their pure visions into the world, but run up against funding issues. The result is the developer works on something they don't have that unquenchable burning passion for, and a mediocre/OK/uninspired but good game is the result.

Great games are rare because having a great idea for a game and having the money / technical ingenuity to bring it into the world is also extremely rare.

I don't know anything about Doom 4's production, but how could it possibly have a purity of purpose when it's the 4th incarnation of a 20+ year old game and none of the original principals are involved. It just doesn't line up.

There will always be great action games, the better question is, what problems still need to be solved to make something that stands out above everything else? Better AI? Graphical fidelity? How visceral the weapons feel? 
(sorry, I'm pretty bored) 
Wow, Thanks For The Link To Http:// 
The game looks very interesting. Hopefully it will not be like Serious Sam or Painkiller in terms of monster placement, though.

Will keep an eye on this one. 

Right, that's a good way to put it. Doom doesn't have a story ... it has a context. And for games like Doom, that's all you need. 
The game looks very interesting. Hopefully it will not be like Serious Sam or Painkiller in terms of monster placement, though.

Procedurally generated levels. Don't expect too much depth from the monster placement. 
See Now There Are A Pair Of Relatively Recent Games That Should Have.. 
...worked in an old-skool fashion but didn't.

Painkiller: no atmosphere, a bit too hordey.

Serious Sam: less than no atmosphere, 2D, far too hordey. 
But, But 
I like Serious Sam.
With modern games tendency to throw more and more shaders and polygons at the expense of <cough>gameplay<cough/> and monsters count it was a breathe of fresh air. I would even say that it felt old-school-ish.

Hordeness was one of the things that made that game so great, for me at least.

Yes, it's as flat as CS/COD levels, but it fits gameplay perfectly. Actually there was few places with intense vertical fighting and that just didn't work for that game. 
But Serious Sam motto was exactly it. It was designed as a 3D FPS implementation of a 2D arcade shooter. 
I liked both those games.

SS is a Doom clone, and a pretty nice one. I even liked the melee it introduced in the last one.

Painkiller had great weapons and I liked the card mechanics as well.

But yeah, neither had much atmosphere. 
Or headbob? I've never really played a game and given one thought to headbobbing.

I've never really played a game and not tried to disable it. I hate it, it's ugly, distracting, and objectively innaccurate (yes, in real life, your movement bobs, but GUESS THE FUCK WHAT your visual perception coordinates with your body and takes it into account so you don't get fucking headbob. The miracle of nature eh and when the fuck will devs realise how wrong in-game headbob is??). Also when it's excessive I often read sporadic reports of people feeling nauseaus (sp!?).

Checkpoints especially ruin boss battles, because there's no way I want to sit replaying a boss battle over and over again.

Hah! Then maybe Dark Souls series isn't the best blend of nu and old skool then...

I think checkpoints can be fine, IF they are done well. Forcing excessive replaying is utterly boring and immersion-destroying tho.

I like your list of Good Things About Modern Games. I generally like RPG-lite elements. At worst they are a minorly fun triviality (e.g. Tomb Raider 2k13), and sometimes they can be more interesting and certainly give more purpose to exploring and collecting stuff. A bit of story too, why not.

I think what I and others are hoping for is a blend of those modern perks, and modern GFX with some old-skool user-friendliness and brutally visceral action. 
I find SS really boring, largely due to the level design and aforementioned monster placement. It basically cut out a key element of great old-skool FPS which is puzzles, albeit simple key/exploration puzzles. Painkiller is guilty of the same.

I do wonder whether advances in AI have slightly scuppered FPS level designers. When your enemies can move more freely around the level it makes it very difficult to design the encounter in a truly interesting fashion, especially if they're pre-alert. Then again, it's increasingly obvious is there are invisible barriers restricting the enemy's movement because since Half-Life's node system we've come to expect them to be able to navigate semi-competently around a level. 
Good post, 10/10, would bang again, etc.

I guess when I and others moan about devs, we are really moaning about the dev/pub combo and who is actual responsible for the bad decisions made. Then again if Lun wants to think we are specifically moaning just about him, whatever...

Now then...

There will always be great action games, the better question is, what problems still need to be solved to make something that stands out above everything else? Better AI? Graphical fidelity? How visceral the weapons feel?

Really good question.

One thing I DO like about modern games is that the graphics and designs generally look very good. At the least modern GFX are "oooh purrrrty", at best they are used with clear focus by the devs not as arbitrary eye-candy but as a fundamental part of the atmosphere and vibe - SOMA did this very well as an example, TR2013 also.

Even games that look fairly ASS by current standards (Fallout4, taking interiors into account, Vermintide overall) still look pretty nice.

What this means a bit is that the playing field is hopefully getting a bit more level as far as GFX goes. In the past you could whip out something spectacular like huge outdoors in CryEngine or realtime shadows and self-shadows in id-tech-whatever and hype your game on that. These days despite some variety and some games standing out graphically (currently Battlefront is impressing me), you can't make so much of a dent with terrain and lighting and shit.

Which hopefully means devs/pubs have to rely on other things to draw people in.... And maybe gameplay would be a good start! Although maybe just throwing every possible fucking gaming option into a massive sandbox and pretending that quantity equals quality will be enough to fool people - BETHESDA I AM LOOKING AT YOU....

So how to make something standout??

Not GFX, most games look great or great enough.

Maybe effective and holistic aesthetic design. Really making the themes and atmosphere work. But that might be too subtle and not immediately apparent to make copies fly off the steam servers.

AI - definitely. There always seems to be room for improvement.

Story - done enough times, not that crucial.

Having all the extras working harmoniously - games do this, Far Crys are a good example, where the vehicle sections are fun, easy to pick up, make sense and not an out of place bore. But it doesn't provide that much of a hook these days??

I dunno maybe it would boil back down to gameplay.... 
On The Subject Of Dark Souls... 
...having some sort of relevant to old-skool action gaming despite not having PC functionality nor saving nor rebindable controls nor remotely similar gameplay...

I was watching COHH play through some Bloodborne and especially the Bloodborne DLC, and in part I see what DAZ is getting at. Ignoring the boss-arena-reload-fest that has as much to do with Quake as a side-scroller beat-em-up has, there are certain reminiscences.

First the level design, complex, 3D, intertwining, opening up new areas and shortcuts. Not open world, not superlinear, but with a good amount of exploration (and being fairly lost - think or "Telefragged" than "The Slipgate Complex" ;)).

Second, the style and atmosphere. One of his subs described it as "Lovecraftian gothic horror" and that seems right to me. It looked cool as fuck design-wise, and cool as fuck atmosphere-wise. Dark, gothic, evile, fantasy. Certain reminisces of the real world "fishing village", "cathedral", "lunatic asylum", but done with a somewhat surreal and thoroughly gritty tinge. This harks back to some of the old skool action games where it seems devs wanted to make vaguely purposeful and themed environments, but either lacked the technology to do so AND/OR consciously wanted designs to look a bit fantastical, and a rather cool blend could be achieved. This is something that might gets lost in the recent quest for realism (both real world realism and fantasy realism).

Just sayin' 
There seems to be a major confusion here.

Devs are responsible for 100% of the good features, and about 10% of the bad ones.

The other 90% of bad features is squarely on the money men.

All those bad features come from a circle of overpad publishers sat round a conference table, each trying to justify their salary while at the same time not be held accountable when it inevitably goes tits up.

And if the dev doesn't want to do it then they get fired and replaced by one who will do it, usually at half the salary.

Devs are the only ones on the player's side in any of this. 
Making Gameplay A Selling Point 
The main problem I see with this is that it's difficult to market. How do you screen shot great gameplay? You can't even just say "this game has amazing gameplay and you should buy it" because everyone says that already. 
The main problem I see with this is that it's difficult to market.

I think a good "market-man" can sell you anything. 
That's How I Wound Up With All These Hummels 
you market gameplay with a demo. studios don't release demos any more, because people don't download them because they're 3gb and last ten minutes, because they're all now a gigantic mountain of high-res content, because the game has to look amazing to sell, because you can't sell it on the gameplay without releasing a demo ... 
although usually by the end of a project, there is already literally negative time left to get everything necessary to ship the game done, let alone squeezing an entire new demo build in there. that's nothing new to 'modern' game design. 
It's really too bad no one seems to release playable demos anymore. It's one reason I refuse to buy new games at $60. I guess it's to be expected though.

What I usually do is wait until somebody does a decent "lets play" or "first look" on youtube, or just wait until the price drops to the point where I can afford to take a risk. 
Maybe a solution would be to put a whole episode in the demo, instead of limiting it to the first ten minutes. Such a demo would have a proper ending, with a cliffhanger to the rest of the full game's story, followed by a screen displaying an ad for the full game before the credits.

And to solve the problem with download sizes, the demos could be stored in floppy disks inside of Ziploc bags and sent through regular mail´┐Ż

Anyway, the lack of demos may be the biggest reason why modern games are failing to catch my interest. I don't download pirated copies and I don't have money to buy games I'm not sure I really want, so I just pass. The only "game" I've paid full price for in recent years was the Ultra Street Fighter IV upgrade.

Also, I just don't follow people's opinions. People often likes games I don't, and vice versa. Even when a game is unanimously praised, that doesn't mean I'll really like it. 
People like to think of SS and Painkiller as modern old skool games, but for different reasons they both failed.

Painkiller was a nice gimmick for a single game, at the right time when there weren't too many arena style games and it featured some cool levels. But once finished, then you move to the plethora of indie mods (released officially by the publisher as sequels, of course) and actual sequels, and the odd copycats (Dreamkiller), the gameplay became an absolute slog to get through and lost all enjoyment. It was good for a single game, that was it.

SS was also well received for it's horde combat at a time when horde gameplay wasn't common. I didn't really play the first game, I got bored with it after a few hours, the second game was actually really good for it's time with it's graphics, but it was the same gameplay. By the end of the game, having to replay 100s of enemies and bossse all over again, fuck I'd had enough. SS3 was rubbish. Same gameplay again and you realised how dated it had become, with some of the worst graphics of that year. The design in all 3 was just big flat open brightly lit levels, not very memorable, apart from maybe SS2 for some of it's art style.

I actually haven't played Dark Souls yet, it was next on my list but I decided I've got a spare 4 days to sink into Borderlands 2 instead. I still think that's quite an old skool type game, only much more open and non-linear.

But it's not dark, and I guess what we're getting at is we want something fast-paced (not horde or arena) but also dark... a modern day Quake, right? 
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