In the vain of the 32-bit generation, based on the presentation of JRPGs like Final Fantasy (FF)7, we should make modern games with the same kind of graphical dynamic to add interest and originality to the very high-end, yet currently one-note market in the AAA industry.
The difference with the format of the old game would be today’s cutting-edge engines and modern day power in the graphical department as a AAA standard, what would be the same however, is switching between different graphical styles along with varying aspects of gameplay; story, adventure, battle, upgrading, stratagem, etc.; cutscenes, as well may have different degrees of graphical presentation from using the in-game engine to pre-rendered or alternate styles.
“This would not only be for diverse presentation styles in a logical organization, it would be for the best design suited to each specific gameplay style engaged.”
Though this does exist in modern AAA titles, the diversity or dynamic between graphical styles for each play mode, tends to be less dramatic or more subtle, diluting the potential for a range of art styles better suited to each mode. Instead the trend of modern games has been opting for cohesion, possibly compromising better gameplay in order to maintain a consistent presentation style. Modern AAA games also tend to be developed using the same assets in different contexts with cutting edge realism or graphics, yet have gradually reneged the possibility for a different set of assets to be implemented each with their own gameplay-oriented look for the current play mode; something which was more apparent in certain retro eras on console and PC. This would not only be for diverse presentation styles in a logical organization, it would be for the best design suited to each specific gameplay style engaged.
“Because each style would be separated from each play mode, it would not interfere with the gameplay experience.”
Though this sounds like we would get a very incongruent and inconsistent product, but because each style would be separated from each play mode, it would not interfere with the gameplay experience. Also each unique graphical presentation style would not be existing in order to be different but rather to lend itself best to the current play mode. This was the reason it was done in FF7, yet nowadays it seems to, at best, only be standard to change how the exact same assets are used or placed, including cutscenes and mini-games, rather than transferring the same designs onto different sets of assets each with their own graphical style.
This can limit the diversity in each game, not only graphically, but gameplay-wise. Though up to the 16-bit era, we did have these concepts implemented (3D bonus levels in original Sonic games, etc.) this style of diverse graphical presentation became much more exploited in the next generation. Gone were some simple full screen images with little movement, in came full motion videos and cinematic cutscenes. Out went 2D sprites as the norm, in came 3D model based characters. Tile based levels went out of style with the addition of pre-rendered backgrounds and basic 3D environments.
Yet as the power of hardware increased even more in later generations and graphical computation improved, the trend moved less towards that kind of diversity, particularly found in JRPGs and moved towards open worlds which were massive, immersive, real-time and 3D with a level of detail never seen before. This influenced many other genres including JRPGS.
The game industry grew up, but did it also leave something behind?
“With the rise in the indie scene we also saw a rise in the retro inspired or retro-like games. “
In came the indie scene that began to grow with the rise of the mobile device market, that was adopted earliest by smaller less-established studios. Some came out with runaway hits like Angry Birds, others yet developed more in-depth experiences in a place no one thought before, showing that AAA was possible on a mobile (Gameloft). With the rise in the indie scene we also saw a rise in the retro inspired or retro-like games.
A rising trend in substance-over-style products of high quality
“I am looking to influence an already rising trend, and I know my idea is not unique yet I still stress that now it is time for these two worlds to converge.”
Imagine an action-RPG level style like Bastion or Diablo for dungeons and missions, an open world hub like Xenoblade between missions, Civilization style strategy before launching each mission on a bird’s eye map like FF3 affecting the mission for the realtime action modes. Beyond this, cutscenes can be pre-rendered with any desired level of realism or stylization based on the core production design. Though this is already happening (“AAA Indie” is a recent development), I am looking to influence an already rising trend, and I know my idea is not unique yet I still stress that now it is time for these two worlds to converge. Rather than just moving forward and assimilating to the big corporate trend of “everything-at-once as long as the technology can handle it” or the indie trend of “bring back the old styles that an indie can handle but higher resolution” we need to look at it like “ the open-world or 3D adventure concept is only one element, so are the wealth of previous generational styles each elements in the overall system; a new style for each mode of the same game.”