In the comments section of the last post, Kirtai posted a link to a Cracked article on trends in gaming.
It being Cracked, I was expecting something rather facetious; absurd, perhaps. This was spot-on, though, and echoes several things I've noticed myself.
I'm not thrilled at where gaming is going. Brushing aside for this discussion things like DRM and sales models where you never get an actual, physical product; there's still the matter that most new games suck.
Honestly? I haven't bought a game in months. The last game I bought was either STALKER: Call of Pripyat ($15 on the Target bargain rack) or VtM: Bloodlines ($19.99 on Steam because no one in the free world had it for sale on disc anymore). I don't really have plans to buy any in the near future, either.
The game situation now is so bleak that I'm actually a solid year beyond where I'd normally upgrade my computer to keep up. Why bother?
Let's run down some recent titles, shall we?
Dawn of War II: Have the first game, and its three expansions. I liked one of them -- Dark Crusade. Soulstorm did away with everything that made DC great, and DoWII looked to be more of the same.
Neverwinter Nights 2: Again, own the first one and expansions. Again, liked one out of the pack. Hordes of the Underdark rocked. The rest were ordeals to be survived, not stories to be enjoyed. 2 was said to be more of the same by virtually all; except with considerably worse reliability.
Resident Evil 5: Didn't like the first four. Aren't they out of zombies to be attacked by, yet? Shit, at least in the movies I get to look at Milla Jovovich hurt people. The games don't even do us that courtesy; and instead insist on sticking us with a male protagonist whose ass I really don't want to stare at for forty-nine hours of key-seeking boredom.
HALO 47: Played the first one. Was bored out of my goddamned mind. Generic shooter #11,790. Have largely ignored the series since.
Battlefield Whatever: Lost interest in this series during Battlefield 2 in what? 2001? 2002? EA/DICE are the only folks I'm aware of that can give Bethsoft a run for their money for the title of "most unstable game launch ever". Seriously. You Gamebryo players don't know. DICE's patches had about a one in three chance of corrupting your game install with every new version. Every patch. I think I reinstalled BF2 six times trying to get 1.3 to work. Then DICE announced that "realism would never get in the way of 'fun' in the game" which told me it would always be the bunny-hopping bullshit they had been thus far putting out. When BF2142 turned out to be a massive mess of spyware, I just stopped watching the series at all.
Call of Duty et al: First one was a great game. The others, not so much. They pretend real hard to be realistic, but in the end aren't anywhere close. The Modern Warfare series has convinced an entire generation of neckbearded douchebags that they're worthy of joining "special forces", as well. I'd pay money to watch that assault on a Taliban stronghold.
The Witcher 2: Not sure on this one. The first one was good, but mainly because it was different. Here was a fantasy world that was dark and ugly; full of poverty, racism, and plenty of people motivated by sex. The combat system was also fairly new; combining not just poisons and oils with sword combat, but also adding different styles that were suited to specific situations. The second seems to want to follow that model... and derivative works rarely turn out well. Plus, the ending to the first one (at least the ending I got) seemed kind of... tacked on at the last minute, rather than a real conclusion.
Dragon Age 2: I wanted to like the first one, I really did. I started like eight games, but never finished it. Between reliability problems, clumsy storytelling, clumsier controls, a retarded AI, romance that didn't really serve any purpose, and the just flat out poor story, I was never motivated to slog through it all. Why anyone would want more of the same is beyond me.
Oblivion/Fallout 3/Fallout New Vegas: You'd think that I, being a prolific modder for all three games would start singing their praises here. Gods' own truth? All three are mediocre games, at best. Lame main quests, hit-or-miss side quests, tons of bugs and crashes despite multiple patches each. I mean, New Vegas' GECK has been out for almost eight months now, and they still can't be bothered to enable error reporting in the script editor. They also still haven't fixed the semi-auto refire bug in the engine; despite the fact that it was present from day one in FO3. Really, the friendliness of these games to modding is the only reason they're worth the sticker price.
Crysis: I never played this one. The specs were ridiculous when it was new, and aren't to be scoffed at today. From the synopsis I read when it first hit, I wasn't inclined to upgrade to play it. Time travel suit? Journeyman Project, anyone? This seemed like a remake; without the learning a bit about a history, and with a lot of first-person-shooter tacked on to seem "intense". No doubt the upcoming sequel will be the same thing.
Somebody tell me: why in the hell should I lay out six or seven hundred bucks on computer upgrades or a new system? Gaming seems to be formulaic, these days. You either grind online (and pay a monthly fee for the rest of your natural life) or get railroaded through some hack writer's ham-handed attempt at an action story.
I don't think I'm getting jaded. I still like my old games... it's just that these new ones suck. Much like new movies, they're virtually all derivative works; slapped together as fast as possible for budget reasons.
Now, I will confess: Skyrim has me... mildly hopeful. It'll suck at release, we all know this. But hopefully, Bethsoft has paid attention since 2006, and knows that mod-ability is the key to their games selling worth a damn. As long as it has a robust toolset similar to the one we know (and hopefully uses a similar scripting language...) it should have serious potential. Will it be worth buying a new PC for? Probably not... but by November, this system will be four years old, and on its last leg if not outright dead. They just don't build 'em to last, anymore. Not that Gateway ever built them to last, but that's a separate rant on its own.
What say you, readers? Am I off-base, and just being a codger? Or have we all really lived through the glory days of gaming, and now only get to look forward to getting reamed by DRM over and over in the pursuit of whatever the flavor of the week is, once it's been dumbed down to console-gamer level?
And just to be even more depressing: realize that we will likely never again see a proper simulator -- be it Battletech/Mechwarrior or Spacefighter. Even flight sims are getting pretty thin. No, we're moving square into a gaming future made up of Wii-bowling, drunken fratboys teabagging each other in Halo, and WoW's fifteenth expansion that ups the level cap by ten yet again, and adds a new dungeon raid that requires six hundred and twelve players to work in perfect unison for seven hours to complete...
Almost enough to make you want to go buy some printed-on-paper books to read, innit?