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The Modern Game Dev Predicament #SimpleSolutions

With the great advancement in hardware power and graphical computation today the gaming industry has been facing an ever developing challenge, one that has only become more apparent within starting from the last 10 years or less. This problem is that with the greater power and computational standards available in today’s latest systems, gamers simultaneously expect two major things:

1. That the games are good

2. The games make use of the hardware they’ve invested their hard earned money into

As a result of the greater complexity, detail and work required to make full use of the latest technology, the cost of making such cutting edge games, along with the labour and time to make it a finished and polished product has become exceedingly expensive against potential profits; whether it be for bigger AAA studios who have to deal with more complex management or smaller studios where each team member has to put in a lot more hours to make up for the lack of resources.

A lot of the time, games end up glitchy messes, or even the polished games with nearly no bugs that run smoothly are often less like games and more like interactive experiences or simply the focus can lean more on production value than gameplay. Those that try to balance the two, splitting the team or studio’s focus often resulting in a less finished or more buggy product, or one that seems incomplete or lacking in content. This has influenced the trends along with the new standards in online downloadable content, making it possible for consumers to download patches and updates to broken or incomplete games, however this incomplete product shipping trend has hurt the reputation of many companies and the gaming industry, particularly AAA games.

To counter this we have experienced a parallel trend, particularly from indie developers, but now also being emulated by some larger studios, to make games that are purely gameplay focused and new or retro themed regardless of the available hardware power. This has allowed for the development of many excellent games that don’t suffer the issues often found in bigger games as mentioned in the last paragraph. However the issue here is gamers scratching their heads wondering “Why did I need to upgrade the hardware if the games could still run on much older generation system?” When the titles cost less or are ported from mobile which experienced its own boom, with technology that was behind the game performance of modern consoles, consumers are willing to accept it; but when AAA games cost so much and are not as good as these games oftentimes, the consumer may feel an overall worse experience than on a retro console (particularly when you add downloading, installation, and update time non-existent in earlier video game systems).

That is why I’m writing this article to suggest a way to appease both the consumer’s desire for good gameplay in a polished and complete game while still being able to enjoy the best their hardware can perform simultaneously. My solution is quite simple and can be found present in some higher budget mobile games or the occasional indie game made for PC or home console. What I’m referring to is to make a game that uses the latest in graphics, mapping, visual effects or particle systems, animation, physics, and post-processing to give a potentially photo-realistic or highly detailed graphics in realtime while making the actual scope of the game very small (opposite of open world) while still making the gameplay fun, challenging, in a tight and polished package. This would keep the games manageable while still making use of the latest technology without having to compromise game quality or polish.

Some very basic ideas to get your mind going are these; but within those limitations the creative possibilities are endless:

– Chess, checkers, cards or any other classic physical game played in a virtual Photorealistic environment with added effects and so on

– A VR or AR fighting game in a ring with limited depth of field (DOF) to focus on the fight

– A photorealistic sports game that doesn’t require huge arenas or works in VR/AR with limited DOF: Squash, Ping Pong, Ro-Sham-Bo, etc…

– Any unique variation on the above or any other potential idea whether the same as, similar, an amalgamation of parts from, or completely different than what’s already been made in the past or is being made now.