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The questions about the quality of modern video games were circling around my head for a few years. As in the previous decade i was pretty much living from writing and selling game engines and game makers, people frequently approaching me to ask, why modern gaming sucks so hard. Now (i think) i finally accumulated all of my thoughts about the reasons to explain what went wrong, and it seems there are multiple reasons behind the problem.
Gaming in the 90's and early 2000's were quite different from modern gaming. Nowadays, gaming is more like a social experience, mixed with a sport experience, or a logical challenge. Modern games are usually using the internet, where people can interact with each other, or chat with each other. If the game is not an online game, the game will still contact to the internet, where the buyer can buy extra weapons or items for the game in some webshop. The games from the late 90's significantly differ from this.
Compared to modern games, these old games don't use internet (as there was either no global internet existing back then, or people didn't had it in their homes). In the 90's, gaming was about experiencing something new. For example, experiencing new worlds. Especially RPG-s, where people were able to fight against monsters and dragons, watching love affairs to develop between the characters as the story went on. The stories was very long, finishing a game could take a year if the user played with it for daily 1-2 hours. Of course some games were focusing on fights, strategy, and other factors of a gaming, but even a strategy game had approximately a one year long life-span.
These games connected the people with the far unknown. People were playing these games after they arrived home from they school or work-place. There was games which had to be played alone (most of the PC and some of the SNES games) and people were playing some of games with their friends (most of the NES games) with two joysticks. These games were designed to comfort people, playing these games teleported the soul of the player into somewhere else for that one or two hours. People rarely played more than this per day, gaming was not mutually exclusive with having a normal social life.
Nowadays, if you are a fan of gokarts, you can just watch gokart videos on Youtube. You can search for gokart races in your region, and visit these gokart races. You can rent a go-kart, and practice in these races. You can make a video blog about gokarts. You can be expert of gokart driving, you can write books about gokarts, and advertise it. You can build a gokart track around your house, and organize races for other gokart drivers. You can make gokarts from $200 worth of junk you buy from the internet. You can sell these gokarts, and become rich. In the 90's if you was fan of gokarts, you was able to visit one or two race per year, and you maybe had a chance to drive them once or twice in your life. Otherwise, you had no chance to reach the gokart-experience besides playing gokart games on your computer. And that was it.
With the internet, you don't have to play some FPS commando game, as you can play it in real life with cheap airsoft guns. You can go to a forest where you can shoot out your eyes with your airsoft together with your friends. You don't have to fight against dragons in a castle in front of the computer to get a virtual girlfriend in a game, as you can register a social media account and get a girlfriend there, selecting one who fits your imaginations about appearance, hobbies, behavior. And of course you can bring your self-made gokart, which is more fun than playing a virtual gokart on your computer in a dark room. Games were not able to compete with reality. A virtual fps game will be never as fun as airsoft, a virtual gokart is nowhere close to the real thing. The traditional gaming became unviable. This meant the instant death of various forms of gaming, and new type of gaming arised.
Parallelly to the death of old games, the old gamers also left the community, and new type of people arrived. These people demanded quick gaming on their mobile phones, web games in social media, and a new type of hardcore gamers appeared. These new type of hardcore gamers are more antisocial compared to old ones. Modern AAA games are designed to satisfy these antisocial-type of people. First of all, a lot of these gamers are not fit enough to unleash the gaming experience to the real world even with the help of the internet. Therefore, the AAA games are targetting the people who are only viable in the virtual reality. The games which are not like this, are aimed towards clueless newcomers, who want some short kino-experience from the game, with nice rendered videos and spectacular sound effects. Some modern games require constant internet and long online times, and people will play multiple hours with them, sacrificing time from their real life, worsening their antisocial behaviors.
Nowadays, everyone can afford computers. You can go into a random computer shop, and get a quad core computer or laptop even for a few 100 bucks. The operating system will automatically detect the hardware, then you download the games you want from the internet. There are even some integrated gaming systems available, such as Steam. Then you just go to some random websites and discord servers and behave as you want, the worse thing that can happen to you is being banned, and you will have to register a new nickname. As modern gaming is aimed towards the antisocial people, the communities are accumulating less and less socially viable people.
In contrast, back then you required a lot of money. You needed to have various income sources to be able to afford gaming, or you needed connections where you was able to find good bargains on used hardware. A Pentium 1 based computer alone was not that expensive to find, but you needed skills to be able to determine if the computer will be strong enough to be able to play the games you want to use. There was no internet to google what a sound card is, or what the heck a PCI port is. You needed to chat with a lot of people (who also had no clue about things) but you still had to figure out the things somehow.
Once you had enough skills to buy a proper machine, you had to wait a couple more months to buy proper RAM and hard disks to your machine, and later on maybe a CD drive, a 3D video card. Putting your machine together took at least half year, and you needed money of several months worth of work to put it together. Some combination of hardware and software didn't worked properly, so you had to spend more on the machine to sort out all of the problems (even if internet existed, it was not like today, for example, there was no search engines to find out informations about a motherboard).
Then you had to buy various gaming magazines, newspapers, and you needed the connections to buy or copy these video games from somewhere. For example when Final Fantasy 8 came out, it was so expensive that it costed 2 weeks worth of hard labor to buy the game (on 4 CD). Imagine you were sparing money for two months to buy a role playing game. Then you dressed in your best cloths, used your best cologne, traveled 50 kilometers, bought the game, chatted with other buyers politely like a lord, and put the game into a diplomata suitcase with number-lock. Borrowing a game disc from someone and not returning it could have resulted serious beatings. Programmers, game developers, hardware experts were treated like gods. Unlike nowadays, when every autistic children without showing up anything in their life thinks they are some kind of juries and judges on the internet, back then not being super polite, careful, social, scientifically based easily could resulted your involuntary withdrawal from the world of gaming.
Gamers, and IT experts (back then, PC gaming also required you to be an expert) formed gatherings. These gatherings were called LAN-parties. Visiting these parties were free, but they was still extremely expensive. At least you had to buy a few blank CD-s (the price of a CD were equal to a day of salary). However you had to buy a proper computer case, namely a tower case, as most of the cases from the era was horizontal 486/P1 cases. You had to move your computer into these tower cases, you had to buy a networking card (back then that was not common, and was not integrated on motherboards, so you even had to research what it is). You had to buy various hard disk drives, people usually used 3 at least, and a CD burner which costed half a kidney.
You dressed up in your best but durable jeans jackets, or leather, washed your hair, used all of your colognes, and prepared for 3 days of non-sleep. When you brought your computer to the LAN party, your computer was probably around 30 kilograms, and your monitor was also about 20 kilograms. If you had no car, you may needed someone to help packing the computer, travel with you on a train, and help carrying your computer. At the LAN party, people connected to others, some parties were small with 5-10 people, some was big with hundreds or even more person. Then people shared their own directories, and copied the games and other software and material they needed, which took about 2-3 days. They burned maybe 10-20 CD's, put their hard disks full. After 3 days you were at home again, totally exhausted, but you had one year worth of entertainment with yourself.
As you can see, to be a gamer in the 90's, you had to invest a lot from your time, money, and you required outstanding social skills. Which is totally the opposite of a modern gamer, who frequently use their games as a form of escapism from the reality, being a gamer in the 90's meant you are basically a chad with outstanding professional, technical and social skills. The transition from the original traditional gaming society to the new generation of gaming, begin in the early 2000's. At around 2003, the antisocials were already the majority. The industry had to adapt to satisfy the new demands, the development of the classic type of games ended. Most of the classic games were totally economically unviable at this point due to the appear of the modern internet anyway, as mentioned previously, as FPS fans just started to use airsoft, and so on. Basically no "classic" game made into the 2010's, developers quit the industry as they didn't enjoyed writing web farming simulators and Hollywood effected WASD chat engines, giving the industry to new generation of developers, who knew how to attract the new, antisocial gamer generation, and how to extract the pennies from them.
Bahamut Lagoon is a tactical RPG. Its similar to a Final Fantasy, but the Battle System is somewhat similar to a chess match. You can prepare for 40-60 minutes long battles against armies. You control about six teams, with various dragons as well. Each teams can have 4 members, you can select the members of the teams freely, from the army of Kahna.
You play the battles like they are some kind of chess games, with magic and spells, but when two team reaches each other (you and the enemy), then a normal battle mode starts (similar to final fantasy 6 or so). Each character have its special attacks and magics. Its like a round based RTS+RPG hybrid, and when there is no battle, the gameplay is similar to Final Fantasy.
The story revolves around holy dragons. There is a girl, princess Yoyo of the Kahna army, who can speak with the holy dragons. She is the girlfriend of the main protagonist. We must ship the girl to a floating castle in the skies, so the girl can find holy dragon Valiotoria, so our army can achieve the final victory.
I didn't mentioned Bahamut Lagoon because i would like to see games similar to this, i have chosen this to showcase to show how the game dynamics were working back then, and how the games of the 90's was able to tie down the people to the chairs. Bahamut Lagoon wasn't even a popular game, but still better than literally anything that came out in the last 10 years (of course this is my personal preference). The programmers knew how to write code, that's for sure, the game engine isn't even super-complicated, probably a few 1000 line long code for the rendering and scene+walk handling based on a 2 dimensional array of chipsets, and maybe another few 1000 line for the battle system.
Modern gaming are not just bad because a large chunk of the community is insane, and the games are aimed to the antisocial people. Modern games are designed in bad quality game making tools, such as the unity engine. Modern game developers are not programmers, they don't know how the basics work. They download and license plugins and scripts which are implement some online chat system for the game, or some character animation code that makes characters to run if you press WASD. A game similar to Bahamut Lagoon would take probably a decade to make in the Unity engine, and the code would be 100000's of lines long, due to the total scientifical incompetence. What a modern game ,,developer'' is thinking is a mistake. Do they even know what an array is? Do they understand what a FOR cycle is? Do they have the smallest idea about what polygons are, when they use some 80 MByte snowflake model loader library to load them in a game design environment that allocates 20 GByte of RAM when its started? Was they even attending school, when they had to learn at the age 14 what sine and cosine is?
Back then, a game took about one second to load the scene between maps. Now they sometimes need multiple minutes, despite of having 1000 times stronger hardware. Where is the game dynamics? How walking around with WASD and shooting around is a game, for the ten thousand time? Where is the story? How a homosexual romance and ritual anti-male massacre is a story? Why a typical modern game takes 30-40 GByte of space? Why people are buying these? Where these gamers get their money, if they don't have job, they are antisocial, and they don't have any certification in any profession? Gamers must realize that the intention of these games are to put them into more antisocial sorrow, and must work on themselves to exit these toxic environments. Stop paying for this raw manure, and stop playing with these games for your own sake.