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Wednesday, March 16, 2005


OK, my head is out of the hornet's nest of various GDC posts. There's a few that are must reads.

First, let's talk some Spore. Everyone's doing it, and there's a good reason why. If you are unfamiliar with Spore, I'm not going to waste the text repeating what others have written ... Gamespy has an excellent write-up and Kotaku has some screens handy. Now, go over to Don Hopkin's notes on Spore and pay particular attention to these lines:

Games used to be mostly code and very little content, so compression was important.

CDROM is the medium that was the death knell for the algorithm. Myst was a very elaborate and beautiful slide show, with a vast amount of data. It looked like they had a great time building this world. Building the world is a fun game in itself.

At the other end of the spectrum from CDROMs: The Demo Scene. Algorithmic compression of graphics and music.

and just for context, I'll point you back towards the /. article on .produkkt's 96k shooter demo.

Now take a breath.

And continue.

Essentially the way I'm reading this is that since the advent of mass storage mediums, game development has been drawn towards producing static, near photo-realistic (or at least high resolution) content in which the code resides within. Evolution in gaming has since then been largely rated in appearance - a fact which the power scale of video cards since the CDRom drive became standard can attest to. It seems that the industry is starting to saturate on this trend. Despite what many in the biz seem to want to say - that new tools and more powerful hardware offset the order of magnitude shift that game assets are taking ... the fact remains that not everyone wants to staff hundreds with a budget of millions for over a year in order to produce a game which one person will play for approximately two afternoons.

I've heard the talk about shaders, and how programmers won't be required to code every model's new skin, and how management tools streamline large teams and asset libraries. I've heard that. I just don't care, because I know that Half-Life 2 was shorter than Half-Life, that Deus Ex 2 was shorter than Deus Ex and that last I heard Republic Commando was short enough that you should try not to blink while playing. Even a personal favorite of mine, the new Freedom Force - I beat in just four nights. It's only chance for longevity is that work of modders building new assets.

Now compare that to Elite. That was a game that fit on a floppy and I played that game for months. Maybe even years. Elite built out a universe based on a formula. What demos like .produkkt's and Spore show us is that the concept isn't dead, that it is possible to evolve it, it's just been ignored while everyone was distracted by pretty pictures.

I don't think people are done watching the pretty pictures, but it does sound like some in the industry are interested in giving them some new choices. And I can't wait to see how it turns out.

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