Posted by Rampant Coyote on March 24, 2010
One of the amazing things about indie games is how some of the old-school aesthetics are coming back into vogue – and not just among the pure “indie” titles. Yeah, any budget-busting AAA title is going to have the most up-to-date 3D graphic effects money can buy, but a lot of the big success stories of the last year or two have been from games that wouldn’t have looked all that impressive or out of place five, ten, even twenty years ago. Think about what’s happening on the handhelds, the iPhone, web-based gaming, downloadable console games, downloadable indie computer games, and the social gaming phenomenon.
So is retro the new cool? Not exactly. But once upon a time I mourned the loss of 2D graphics in games, claiming that much could still be done with modern technology with all-but-abandoned perspectives. And now – I’m being proven correct. Go, me. Now why didn’t I cash in on it?
But amongst indie games, particularly web-based games, it goes even further. Some pretty awesome stuff has been done with fat pixels and clever ideas. The games may look and sound way, way old-school. But…
Old-school covers a lot of dimensions. Not just graphics. Not just gameplay. It seems what’s happening now isn’t so much a return of old-school, but a return for some lessons. A chance to explore some territory that was abandoned in a race in the mainstream industry for the fastest return-on-investment. While in the grand scheme of things the less-than-40-year effective history of video games is pretty short. But it’s also been an incredible breeding ground of ideas in that time, many of which are waiting to be revisited and explored.
Because they can. Thanks to online distribution, and a growing acceptance of games that don’t need to have expensive, cutting-edge graphics or multi-million dollar production values, it’s possible for small developers to take the risks and attempt to innovate from a foundation long abandoned, rather than being limited to building on one of last year’s hits.
And for me, the innovation and refinement is the point. Let’s be honest here – in a lot of cases, the reason these older types of games (think – platformers, side-scrolling shooters, or the party-based & turn based first-person dungeon crawlers – a personal favorite) were abandoned. Often, it was because the market was saturated, and we players got bored with them. Simply going back and doing a minor, low-budget rehashes of well-worn themes when it’s getting easy to go over to GOG.COM or XBLA and play the originals in their full retro glory isn’t going to score many points with me. (But it may find its niche…)
What I’m seeing and hoping to see more of isn’t a turning back of the clock. But I think our “little” hobby needs a remedial course in some lessons taught in the old-school. So I’m glad to see school is back in session!
So here’s my question for the old-school gamers out there: What would YOU like to see come back? What lessons out there would you like re-learned? What old-school design idea would you like to see revisited with new technology by a new generation of game designers?
Filed Under: Indie Evangelism, Retro - Comments: 13 Comments to Read