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April 26, 2012

There was an old gaming magazine from 2010 in the junk room–yeah, we have a junk room at work now since they’re packing up and throwing stuff away before moving–and it struck me how most of the advances in gaming were made three or four years ago, and how little has been done since then.  The article that caught my eye was “30 Characters that Defined a Decade” and it’s strange how so many of them would have been the same even five to seven years ago.  That used to be a lifetime in technology.

If I got the years right, the cover has:

Raz from Psychonauts – 2005

Master Chief from Halo – 2001

Alyx from Half-Life 2 – 2004

Shepard and the Illusive Man from Mass Effect – 2007

KOS-MOS from Xenosaga – 2002

Wander from Shadow of the Colossus – 2005

That dude from Heavy Rain whose name escapes me – 2010?

With the way technology has advanced (both in terms of flat-out horsepower and the advancement of developer tools) a small budget project can do what used to require a big studio.  I think that’s leading to more games and maybe bigger games, but not necessarily better games.  Good artists can produce amazing things when they have an idea and are given specific limitations to that idea–but now, by and large, those limitations don’t exist.  I know that sounds strange but to take an example from above, I don’t think there will ever be another game like Shadow of the Colossus.  Was it made that way because the PS2 was so limited, or because they were a small studio, or was the game always going to be set in such an amazing washed out, empty world?  I guess we’ll never know, but it seems unlikely that another developer is gonna take a chance and make a game that is so incredible but sounds so boring on paper.

That’s why I like the Wii.  I know the Kinect is cool and a technical marvel, but while Microsoft and Sony were having a hardware pissing contest, Nintendo said, hey let’s make a cheap system with an innovative controller, and let developers make cool games for it, even if they don’t have the most pixels and polygons.

That said, I’m totally getting a Steam Box if/when it comes out, cause on PC you get the best of both worlds: crazy high powered photorealistic games made by giant heartless companies, and cool inventive indie games made by two guys in their basement.

Speaking of which:

I know the whole “go back in time to play both players in a co-op scenario” thing has been done before, like by Braid but still, it has piqued my interest.

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