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TIGSource ForumsPlayerGamesHave video games been stagnating for the last two decades?
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Lance of Longinus
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« on: October 28, 2021, 03:31:11 PM »

To me it seems that the last time of significant gameplay innovations were the 90s and that video games have stagnated throughout the 21th century and the only innovations centered on increasing profits.

I only started playing video games in the early 2000s, but even at that time sequels seemed to only offer improved graphics at the cost of dumbed down gameplay and I tried to play older games whenever I could find them. I've played Ocarina of Time almost simultaneously with the Wind Waker (and finished Wind Waker before finishing OoT because I got stuck with finding the hookshot), yet WW felt mostly like a rehash of the same, but with less dungeons and an annoying fetch quest near the end (though I still liked Wind Waker a lot, especially compared to TP and SS). I've played Super Mario Sunshine only a few years after playing Super Mario 64 and while the water gun was innovative, the level design was very monotonous, with the majority of areas having the same setting and mostly similar gameplay, and less areas compared to SM64 (though Nintendo is in that regard not an ideal example as they are the only big game corporation that managed to innovate gameplay at all in the 21th century).

I've only came into contact with SNES games through Game Boy Advance ports - and after playing games like Yoshy's Island, Zelda: A Link to the Past and Donkey Kong Country I became sad that I never experienced the SNES, as these games were a lot more enjoyable than the average game released in the 2000s. And that impression has only been confirmed again and again whenever I played another port or Virtual Console release of a SNES game.

There were a lot of old games that I've played for the first time in the late 2000s, the 2010s, or even just recently. I played the shareware version of Doom for the first time in the late 2000s and only played the full game for the first time in the mid 2010s as part of the Doom 3 bfg edition (and Doom 3 itself felt rather boring compared to Doom 1&2). I've played Blood for the first time a few years ago and Quake 1 just recently. Yet I enjoyed them a lot more than any CoD-like generic modern shooter (and I played CoD: Modern Warfare and Killzone 2&3 before them). They had complex levels and a colorful variety of guns and enemies, while most modern shooters only offer constant linear corridors or bland and empty open worlds (which all feel the same), a monotonous arsenal of automatic weapons and enemies mostly being generic enemy soldiers, armed with the same monotonous arsenal of automatic weapons.

I played System Shock 2 only after playing Bioshock 1&2, but it felt much more advanced; the weapons had much bigger differences, especially with some weapons using energy and others using conventional ammo; a wide range of effects compared to the mostly conventional weaponry in Bioshock. The space station felt much more like an actual place. The underwater setting in Bioshock might be more innovative in theory, but it was pretty much just a background with no real effect on the gameplay.

So I'm not just nostalgic.

It was in the mid to late 2000s that a trend started where nearly every game became a monotonous first or third person shooter with lots of handholding, forced autosaves with no ability to save manually or use different save slots and annoying hidden object searches. The only positive development were somewhat more accessible controls, though at the cost of all games getting shooter-like control-schemes. And things stayed mostly the same since then. Graphics still improved somewhat until the early 2010s, but even they got stuck. For more than a decade games have been looking almost realistic, yet never managed to go beyond that into full-blown photo-realism. The only thing that has changed since that point were numbers. More polygons, higher resolutions, ever more gigantic file sizes.

Games became a lot more restricted and focused on presentation and accessibility, but FMV games have already offered that in the past. The biggest real innovations have been putting most of the content into DLCs, lootboxes, achievements to stretch out the game without adding content, releasing games half finished so you have to download a patch to be able to start them at all and ridiculously large file sizes. Of course exceptions exist, but even those mostly stand out as being as good as 20th century games, but not really better.

The constant releases of loveless remakes and bug-filled remasters are probably the culmination of that (though I'm partially thankful for the latter, as playing a bug-filled remaster of an old game is better than not being able to play it at all).
« Last Edit: October 29, 2021, 07:07:09 AM by Lance of Longinus » Logged
michaelplzno
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« Reply #1 on: October 28, 2021, 03:48:20 PM »

So I do my youtube channel of games that try to do something different and I'm super proud to cover really cool games,  I do wish my numbers were better (a lot better) but even when I cover a game that has issues I still respect that they tried to do something interesting. The problem is that a lot of these "degenerate" games, the weird ones that aren't about shooting and also don't follow the trends have a much more difficult battle to become appealing to a large audience in a number of ways: first, powerful forces in the industry that want everything to come from a cookie cutter factory that is easy to control are difficult to master, but second, because its difficult for a game that tries something new to actually figure itself out well without a template to work off of. I'm trying to make my Matchy games and a lot of people might say that I should make them like animal crossing or one guy said I was bad because I didn't just copy other clickers and do the same thing they did. That's why I try to do my feedback to help those super cool weirdo games find their way.

Also, I don't think its just video games that are stagnating:there is a real block in a lot of creative and even non creative industries. The movies that come out are often very cookie cutter COUGH MARVEL COUGH and its almost never the case that a good comedy lands (with a few notable exceptions that I'm super grateful for) So I worry that we as a culture are stuck in THE WASTELAND where only the most safe and bland things can be deemed ok because the people who are at the top of the pyramid I hate on so frequently are just playing it safe.

As we've discussed on this very forum, the baby culture wars are not helpful, and the concern that some tiny thing will offend the entire universe is a problematic thing. Its good that we are working on optics and trying to make stuff that doesn't hurt the people who are the butt of the joke but at some point it becomes stifling and also if one mistake will ruin your career only the most cautious and bland people will have any chance of making it to positions of power.

So yes, I agree that the world is in a safe, cautious, bubble wrapped, safety scissors mode, and as a result its even more difficult for people with new ideas to have any kind of visibility.
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« Reply #2 on: October 29, 2021, 07:38:43 AM »

I'm inclined to somewhat agree--if we restrict ourselves to the AAA industry.

I'm guessing that, having grown large, having developed incredible budgets, that section of the industry has become somewhat risk-averse.

Conversely, however, I do think that I see interesting stuff come out of the indie section of the industry.

So, while I agree that the AAA side of the industry is perhaps less innovative than once it was, I don't think that I agree that the industry as a whole has stagnated.

One more thought is that, even back in the wild days of heavy experimentation, there was plenty of copying alongside the innovation. After all, the age that gave is Doom also gave us the term "Doom Clone". But the more-innovative titles tend, I suspect, to be more prominent in the history of the medium than the clones, and thus the former perhaps seem more common than they were.
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Moons in Crystal
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« Reply #3 on: October 29, 2021, 08:08:17 AM »

There's an incredible number of games available today. So many that I'm able to pick from only the ones that most suit my taste and never run out of good picks, without even considering anything made by a huge team of people with too much budget and too little creative control. Based on your post, here are some recommendations to try: Amid Evil, Return of the Obra Dinn, CrossCode, Legend of Grimrock 2, Outer Wilds, Uurnog Uurnlimited, Minit, Hyper Light Drifter.

Discovery can be tricky. I've found a number of people on Twitter with similar tastes in games, and retweets from them often show me something new and interesting. indiegamesplus.com is also a pretty good place to look. The kinds of games you want are almost certainly out there, but it sounds like they're just not coming to your attention as easily as the kinds that don't interest you as much.
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« Reply #4 on: October 29, 2021, 11:18:44 AM »

I do think discoverability is a big issue too: not just in games but in everything. I was talking to a friend about how women are often bombarded with this idea that bad boys are the guys they should date and the series "After" came up which I had literally never even heard of. I guess its marketed entirely at tweens to make sure they learn the lesson that trash men are who they should pine after? It sucks that culture is really forced on people at the expense of losing your identity to some kind of marketing machine.

Its great that there are a lot of people who are making new stuff that doesn't rely on the old tropes and some of the bad juju that a lot of commercial forces want to push. But yeah, without any kind of marketing machine, its impossible to find any new stuff that breaks the mold in the ways I want it broken.

My answer is to just focus on the stuff that makes it into my field of view, much like Sauron's wandering gaze, which has led me to some really cool people and friends, but damn, there has to be a better way right? You shouldn't have to find new stuff simply by hearing about it from a friend right? I mean then I'll have to get friends and everything.
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« Reply #5 on: October 30, 2021, 05:46:16 AM »

Based on your post, here are some recommendations to try: Amid Evil, Return of the Obra Dinn, CrossCode, Legend of Grimrock 2, Outer Wilds, Uurnog Uurnlimited, Minit, Hyper Light Drifter.

Return of the Obra Dinn in particular does some rather interesting things, I feel!

Let me see... I might add the following:
  • P.T.
  • Superliminal
  • Maquette
  • Before Your Eyes
  • What Remains of Edith Finch
  • The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker

In all fairness, these aren't "actiony" games, such as some of those that were mentioned in the original post, but I think that they each do something interesting in their mechanics.

And there are probably quite a few others that I'm forgetting! (I only recalled some of these by looking back at the archive of a Let's Player who I watch.)

You shouldn't have to find new stuff simply by hearing about it from a friend right?

On the contrary, I'm inclined to think that it's one of the better ways: far more nuanced and, well, intelligent than any current algorithm or marketing approach is likely to be.

... its impossible to find any new stuff that breaks the mold in the ways I want it broken.

If I may ask, what sort of thing are you looking for?
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Lance of Longinus
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« Reply #6 on: October 30, 2021, 05:55:42 AM »

It's not just a matter of what's available, but also what's the norm, what a video game is expected to be - and as a result what the average consumer is used to. If it is normal for the average popular game to tell the player exactly what to do at every point of the game, not doing that means players will be frustrated, reviewers will give it a bad score for not being up to current standards, potential customers will avoid it or return it after having tried playing it. If it is normal to have autosave checkpoints at every minute of the game, not having them will again frustrate players, which might not even know anymore what it means to save manually. And so on.

Games can go against the norm, but if they end up too much outside of it, either by being too retro or too unconventional, this will mean they will stay obscure. There will be few people playing them, buying them, or trying to make them. Aspiring gamedevs are also largely inspired by the popular games they grew up with. And ultralow budget games are fundamentally more limited in what they can be.

Though to some extent all of this is probably unavoidable as a side effect of games having become increasingly more mainstream. In that regard it's likely more about focusing on the lowest common denominator to increase the pool of potential customers than about avoiding risks (though this is obviously also important).

Also my issue isn't just innovation, but also what a video game is nowadays and how much you can still explore and play rather than being lead on a leash through the game (I've probably shouldn't have focused only on innovation on in my first sentences).
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« Reply #7 on: October 30, 2021, 06:11:26 AM »

If it is normal for the average popular game to tell the player exactly what to do at every point of the game, not doing that means players will be frustrated, reviewers will give it a bad score for not being up to current standards, potential customers will avoid it or return it after having tried playing it. If it is normal to have autosave checkpoints at every minute of the game, not having them will again frustrate players, which might not even know anymore what it means to save manually. And so on.

If I may ask, have you seen these effects in widespread action? (Bearing in mind that, I imagine, there's generally someone who's frustrated by a given mechanic; I find save-point-only saving to be annoying, for example.)

... Also, I would say that autosaves are in general a rather welcome development in the industry. ^^;

Also my issue isn't just innovation, but also what a video game is nowadays and how much you can still explore and play rather than being lead on a leash through the game (I've probably shouldn't have focused only on innovation on in my first sentences).

I mean, look at the recent The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild--a game that allowed, I gather, pretty much free exploration and that seems to have been a pretty major hit.

But overall, I'm not sure that dismissing the indie side of things leads to a more accurate picture: such games are being made, and do seem to find audiences.

If anything, I'd say that the definition of "what a video game is" has actually expanded significantly since the old days. Now you get the blockbusters, of course--but you also get niche genres, and personal testimonials, and arthouse games, and explorations of war, and so on and so forth.
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« Reply #8 on: October 30, 2021, 06:22:22 AM »

This only makes sense if you're looking at only AAA games (as others have said).

Also, the best stuff being obscure is sadly the rule and not the exception; people in general are lazy ignorant consumers who shovel garbage into themselves because they don't know better and never think it could be better, and are utterly snowed by the millions of marketing dollars spent to keep them complacent with boring uninquisitive taste.

Indie devs are constantly exploring new ideas, often by riffing on older designs (see eg Serpentes/qrth-phyl vs Snake, or Beast Breaker vs Brick Breaker).

I agree that many games are hand-hold-y and have no sense of exploration, but you just need to dig to find the gems, like with anything (music, books, etc).

Check out Michael Brough's games if you want a profound sense of exploration/discovery, especially Cinco Paus (IMO the current pinnacle of game design, by a wide margin): http://www.smestorp.com/

"ultralow budget games are fundamentally more limited in what they can be." I disagree -- budget mainly pertains to the quantity and quality of audio/visual assets that can produced. But truly great games IMO are not asset-centric, they're gameplay-centric (eg the magic of Tetris or Chess is mostly independent of audio/visuals).

Game design in itself (rules and behaviours) is relatively cheap to prototype and iterate on, and the resulting magical dynamics are the same whether they're rendered as sprites or shaded 3D models.

Here are some great indie games you should check out:

Cinco Paus
Imbroglio
Disc Room
Minit
Serpentes
Pigments (pico-8)
Getting Over It With Bennett Foddy
Dream Quest
Hyper Light Drifter
Teleglitch
Kero Blaster
Starseed Pilgrim
Probability 0
qrth-phyl
Baba Is You
Jiggly Zone
Spelunky 2
Wilmot's Warehouse
Lonely Mountains Downhill
N++ Wink
Celeste
Rain World
Tumbleseed
Uurnog
Freeways
Roguelight
Loot Rascals
Luftrausers
Unexplored
Downwell
Mini Metro
Snakebird
Stephen's Sausage Roll
A Monster's Expedition
Bonfire Peaks
Dicey Dungeon
vvvvvv
1001 Spikes
Necrodancer
Untitled Goose Game
Noita
A Short Hike
Ape Out
Return of the Obra Dinn
Beast Breaker
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michaelplzno
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« Reply #9 on: October 30, 2021, 05:09:43 PM »

If I may ask, what sort of thing are you looking for?

You may ask, thank you, and in fact you are the first person who has ever asked me what kind of game recommendation I want. Occasionally I get a very rare question of "what games do you play" followed by "Oh I like Call of Duty, sorry mr smelly goodbye."

I enjoy casual puzzles, chill games, and games that adhere to my own sense of fun which to define simply is getting rewarded for doing what you want. That is, if there is a lever that looks cool to pull, then pulling it is rewarded by the game's systems. I like playing with blocks, because there is no wrong answer and the limitations that exist are low and have a well defined reality to them. I like building things, organizing, but not to the point of monotony, once I see a solution I don't enjoy spending tedious hours implementing it. I like stories that aren't the generic "Young hero rises to save the world after quelling their own self doubts" Funny stories are the best, I dream of doing a gamedev feedback that is just me waiting in anticipation for the next punchline and then laughing when its delivered. I enjoy when the game feels meaningful: that is that there are stakes that relate somehow to the real world, that maybe having an epiphany in the game can make my own real life richer. But I don't want to have to suffer to "learn my lesson." I like cute and colorful stuff, like Saturday morning cartoons. I even like tactics and taking over the world, sometimes its even fun to be a heel and troll the game system! I love good banter where I can say wacky shit, or choose wacky options or tactics and still not destroy the experience.

I don't like shooting things, I don't like being made to cry, I don't like when tactics become just a question of how many permutations you can keep in your head vs your opponent. I don't like power politics, games where you make alliances and betray them.

I want to play based on what I feel: to quote a famous idiot, "if it feels good do it" I hate that my feelings are often wrong, and I HATE when games poke at me for that. EX: <Oh you wanted to make a deal with this sympathetic character, HAHAHAH your feelings are the enemy, turns out that this guy was Satan and now everyone wants to kill you.> (if its a funny enough reversal that trumps this hate, as in something makes me laugh when I do the wrong thing because it was SO wrong that it becomes a reward.) I want to feel like a kid riding a firetruck. I want the conclusion of the game to give me that weird feeling you get when you finish a big novel or a great movie, that its satisfying and fulfilling.

And I want to enjoy this game myself, or if I need a good crowd of people to have a fun experience I want that to be provided by the game.

So: what do you recommend?
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« Reply #10 on: November 01, 2021, 01:52:53 AM »

... and in fact you are the first person who has ever asked me what kind of game recommendation I want. Occasionally I get a very rare question of "what games do you play" followed by "Oh I like Call of Duty, sorry mr smelly goodbye."

Ah, I'm sorry to read that you've had so unpleasant an experience of it! :/

I enjoy ...

I see! That's a rather interesting taste that you have, I do feel! ^_^

(To be clear, I'm not being snarky there, but rather sincere.)

So: what do you recommend?

Hmm, let's see...

First of all, let me note that I'm perhaps not the ideal person to give recommendations to you--our individual tastes do differ somewhat, I fear.

That said, a few suggestions after some thought:
  • A Short Hike
    • A rather cute and sweet exploration-and-very-mild-puzzling game. Lots of traversal that looks quite fun, and interactions tend to be on the pleasant side for the most part.
  • Frog Detective / Frog Detective 2
    • A cute-and-amusing light detective game, if I recall correctly
  • Summer Gems
    • I'll confess that I don't know a lot about this one, but it looks like the right sort of thing...

(Sorry for the lack of "building" or "organising" games--I really don't find much interest in those myself, and thus haven't taken much note of them, I fear. Someone else might have better suggestions, however!)

(If not for your dislike of shooting things--and presuming that this extends to hitting things and other forms of violence--I'd likely suggest "immersive sims": those tend to hold to some degree of that idea of "if it makes sense that it should work, then it likely will".)
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« Reply #11 on: November 01, 2021, 03:09:26 AM »

Well this is helpful, I suppose I'll make videos about these and report back.

Thanks.

Edit: on the immersive sims, I think Goat Game is one of those? I don't like violence and also if you can just do whatever that becomes un-fun pretty quick too. As much as I hate to admit it, I do need some structure to have fun. Without gravity, blocks wouldn't be fun. In a way, gravity is the big bad of blocks.
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« Reply #12 on: November 01, 2021, 04:13:01 PM »

Here are my thoughts on "A Short Hike" didn't do too much for me and I've had more fun with some of the random games I've already played, even in the feedback section here, so I'm not so sure why this one is such an indie darling.





Anyway, will report back with others.
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« Reply #13 on: November 02, 2021, 07:50:29 AM »

Well this is helpful, I suppose I'll make videos about these and report back.

Thanks.

It's my pleasure--I'm glad to have been of service. ^_^

Edit: on the immersive sims, I think Goat Game is one of those?

I may be mistaken, but I think that Goat Game is a sandbox game, not an immersive sim.

Examples of immersive sims would be Deus Ex, Thief: The Dark Project, Ultima Underworld, and the like.

I don't like violence ...

Very fair. There are games like that around--as I've shown above, for that matter--but it may take a bit more digging to find them, I fear.

... and also if you can just do whatever that becomes un-fun pretty quick too.

Speaking for myself, I do tend to find the same! As a result, I'm not really a fan of sandbox games (e.g. Goat Game).

Here are my thoughts on "A Short Hike" didn't do too much for me and I've had more fun with some of the random games I've already played, ...

Ah, fair enough--I'm sorry that it didn't work out for you!

By the way, have you spent some time digging through itch.io? There's quite a range of stuff there--not all great, mind you, but I at least have found some fun experiences there.

... so I'm not so sure why this one is such an indie darling.

I mean, different people like different things; the fact that it appeals or doesn't appeal to one specific person doesn't speak to whether or not it'll be widely liked, I would say.

[edit]
One more thought:

Have you tried Stardew Valley? The farming aspect allows for organisation and some building, and the meat of the game seems to be social. There is some violence, but I think that it's optional.

Link: https://www.stardewvalley.net/
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Moons in Crystal
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« Reply #14 on: November 02, 2021, 01:22:40 PM »

Thanks for being friendly, I always worry about going all plzno on some game that is considered the holy grail of games and I just have my own grumpy POV that is a bit offbeat. I do think there is a lot going for "A Short Hike" but the gating is not something I can get behind. Though sequence breaking a gating is very satisfying. As in "Ittle Dew" which I did one of my first videos about MANY years ago.

Yeah, Stardew seems like the kind of game that would obsess me for a while so I'm not gonna touch it till I have some more time on my hands.

Edit: Imo "Ittle Dew" is much more of a forward step for "Zelda Likes" than a short walk.
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« Reply #15 on: November 03, 2021, 07:55:08 AM »

Thanks for being friendly, I always worry about going all plzno on some game that is considered the holy grail of games and I just have my own grumpy POV that is a bit offbeat.

It's my pleasure! ^_^

And I'm sorry to hear it if you've had such negative responses in the past!

I do think there is a lot going for "A Short Hike" but the gating is not something I can get behind. Though sequence breaking a gating is very satisfying.

That's very fair.

Actually, that does prompt some curiosity as to what the speedruns for this game (presuming that they exist) look like. What strange and wonderful techniques and breaks might speedrunners have found?

Yeah, Stardew seems like the kind of game that would obsess me for a while so I'm not gonna touch it till I have some more time on my hands.

Hah, fair enough! Well, I'm glad that we did at least light on something that might interest you--and I hope, then, that you find time for it at some stage! ^_^

Edit: Imo "Ittle Dew" is much more of a forward step for "Zelda Likes" than a short walk.

In all fairness, I suspect that the devs of A Short Hike were less trying to move a genre forward than to make something of a particular sort.
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« Reply #16 on: November 04, 2021, 01:32:16 PM »

Its not that I've gotten negative responses, its just that I feel really bad when I don't like something that is accepted by everyone as great, and it just makes me feel like I'm just being a jerk when I don't go with the grain. I'm trying to find some kind of compromise about me doing something that sort of isn't so counter to what everyone wants to do but its tough. That's just the story of my life.

Also the sample size on my hot takes is really really small so I don't know if my stats are even statistically significant at this point. I've started getting a bit more visibility on youtube but its still very Sisyphus mode in terms of making videos and having them flop and over and over.

Also I think I set the bitrate too low for that last video but I'll try to do better next time!
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« Reply #17 on: November 06, 2021, 05:22:34 AM »

Its not that I've gotten negative responses, its just that I feel really bad when I don't like something that is accepted by everyone as great, and it just makes me feel like I'm just being a jerk when I don't go with the grain.

Ah, I see!

I'm trying to find some kind of compromise about me doing something that sort of isn't so counter to what everyone wants to do but its tough. That's just the story of my life.

But why? There's nothing wrong with having tastes that differ from what's common, as far as I see.

And indeed, the fact that a given opinion is common doesn't make it more worthy--after all, "appeal to popularity" is a logical fallacy.

Or let me give an example from my own tastes: I find Tetris deathly boring. And that's okay! I don't say that others are wrong for liking Tetris, nor do I say that Tetris is a bad game. I just say that it's not a game for me.

My disliking Tetris doesn't reflect much at all for others liking it--and vice versa.

Also the sample size on my hot takes is really really small so I don't know if my stats are even statistically significant at this point. I've started getting a bit more visibility on youtube but its still very Sisyphus mode in terms of making videos and having them flop and over and over.

Also I think I set the bitrate too low for that last video but I'll try to do better next time!

Getting videos noticed is indeed a difficult thing, I fear. I have no advice to give there, either--it's something that I have trouble with, too!
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« Reply #18 on: November 06, 2021, 08:59:46 AM »

Thanks man, I should be EVEN MORE PLZNO muahahahahaha.



Its weird, I got a few very close friends telling me about how I had to worry that everyone was gonna think my takes were too hot but really there is no evidence that anyone has seen anything I've done so I guess I have to look at it objectively.
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« Reply #19 on: November 07, 2021, 09:55:53 AM »

People have much more expectations for games now, and one of them is better graphics. Graphics used to be a new tool for new developers to create a new genre (for example street fighter 2 was created because they can then include bigger sprites. Or 3D for Doom). Now, graphics has been stagnating so there isn't as much innovation. VR was supposed to be the next step but the hardware is still not there yet. So AAA games must have top graphics, and that severely limits what they can do in terms of a concept. Unless they recycle old concepts for reboot in 3D HD graphics, the game can flop and you are looking at a loss of a few 50millions of dollars in production. So better graphics = more money spent = can't mess around. The only aspect of creativity left is some small customization/storyline.

However, I do not think it has been stagnant at all. Minecraft was a big breakthrough. And even though you might not like PUBG/Fortnite they are also brand new ideas that are only possible with better internet for everyone.

I would say that games are stagnating for indie games especially because most games I see are some kind of pixel art-ish jumping around, or some management type game. Then again I would be part of this but this is still a thing

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