This past week, Epic Games developer Cliff Bleszinski (known more commonly in the gaming community as CliffyB) ruffled some feathers during an interview discussing the upcoming Gears of War: Judgment by claiming that “in this current console generation . . . we’ve taken a lot of steps to grow the audience and . . . [modern] games have become more linear and easier, so it feels like a lot of quick-time-events.” While recent throwback games such as Demon’s Souls or Dark Souls may beg to differ, the point he raises is an interesting one, and worth consideration.
Bleszinski, here, is essentially stating the (obvious, but touchy) fact that mainstream game developers have been watering down the difficulty of the product, much to the chagrin of grassroots gamers, in order to cater to wider, more mainstream audiences. The comments of linearity and quick-time-events are not-so-subtle shots at franchises like God of War and Uncharted, which are fine games in their own right, but won’t be mistaken for Dark Souls anytime soon. Gone are the days of Mega Man, Contra, or Abe’s Oddysee. The mainstreaming of gaming has, generally speaking, seen an end to the nigh-impossible platformers of the 80s and 90s. The engagement of extreme tests of skill has been replaced with a wariness of consumer frustration and engagement by story, graphics, or gore. This isn’t a surprise, nor is it necessarily a negative. It is, however, an interesting gradual commentary on the focus of the mainstream vs the niche.
Bleszinski continued: “The more I play games like that the more I turned off to them and just want to get back to systems interacting with systems, and get back to a game that, you know, when was the last time a game really challenged you and asked something of you, right? There’s a reason why Demon Souls and Dark Souls have taken off lately. It’s because they really require you actually try.”
As he notes, a few games have recently attempted to revisit the days of the old school, Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls chief among them. The success of these games does generate a bit of potential for a renaissance of grudgingly appreciative aggravation and frustration in gaming, but certainly not enough so as to perpetuate a steady trend.
And so, Dear Reader, we ask you: are modern games too easy? Are game developers pandering to the lowest common denominator and hand-holding gamers to an unreasonable extent? Or is the tradeoff worthwhile to have peace of mind of your character’s survival and progress, and to be able to focus instead on stories and environments? Let us know.
In other gaming news this week, a Journey collector’s edition is in the works, Final Fantasy VII and VIII return to PC, The Last of Us goes multiplayer, Mass Effect 3 is getting a single player DLC, Skyrim: Dawnguard launched, and more.
- thatgamecompany will package Flow, Flower, and Journey together into a bundle of gaming goodness come August. Make time for these games — you won’t regret it.
- Big news for Final Fantasy fans: a Square Enix information slip-up leads us to believe that FF VII and VIII are coming to PC soon, via Steam.
- PC gamers have unearthed plans for an upcoming Mass Effect 3 Single Player DLC, buried within the files of the newly released Extended Cut.
- Skyrim: Dawnguard was released this past Tuesday. It’s as good a week as any to return to Tamriel.
- Far Cry 3 has been delayed into November. Shack News had a hands-on preview from the floors of E3, detailing the series’ darker, disorienting turn. (Bonus: see if you can find the surprise cameo from Dexter’s Sgt. Doakes in their second preview video.)
- Curt Schilling recently spoke out about the collapse of his gaming venture, 38 Studios (developers of Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning), his personal investment in the company, and the shock and cost of failure. An interesting perspective, but a curious one in many ways, given the difficult nature of producing a successful MMORPG (as BioWare is learning), and especially given that he was attempting to jump right into the genre without testing the waters first on a smaller, less ambitious project.
- Did Naughty Dog overthink Uncharted 3? IGN examines the question from the perspective of graphics, controls, and story.
- According to an interview with Naughty Dog developers, The Last of Us will feature multiplayer, but the focus will not be on co-op play.
- Finally, courtesy of Conan, we bring you SkyMall, Super Diabetic Mario Brothers, and (wait for it) UFC: Sexual Tension.