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TIGSource ForumsPlayerGamesHave video games been stagnating for the last two decades?
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Author Topic: Have video games been stagnating for the last two decades?  (Read 1387 times)
michaelplzno
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« Reply #20 on: November 08, 2021, 02:36:24 AM »

@gio I couldn't disagree more that graphics motivate new kinds of games. There were big breakthroughs when 3d was new that had to do with establishing genre norms which I think the OP is sort of lamenting doesn't seem to occur anymore, but graphics aren't what make games fun in my own view. Also, establishing new systems based on technological leaps belittles what designing games is. When game design is done right you can make new game systems without any kind of technological leaps, or at least very minor ones.

@Thaumaturge I just played Frog Detective 1 and unless there is some kind of meta narrative about the game it doesn't stand up on its own as a game that I even enjoyed for 20 minutes. The dialogue was long and boring, not funny, and the island's environment art looked like it was based on someone's first attempt at doing 3d art based on some kind of tutorial. The one thing I liked was the character design. I thought the characters had a lot of personality in their modeling and articulation. But other than that, I have no idea why this is in the IGF other than politics or something. I'm not even sure if its worth doing a video because I didn't really have much nice to say about it.

Edit: I'm looking at the Frog Detective's twitter feed and it just makes me sad that she's so well liked when the game is so weak. That's what I rant about the people at the top of the pyramid: the designer here clearly plays the political game and gets in good with the popular people and I don't think the game actually stands up.
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« Reply #21 on: November 08, 2021, 08:28:25 AM »

@gio I couldn't disagree more that graphics motivate new kinds of games. There were big breakthroughs when 3d was new that had to do with establishing genre norms which I think the OP is sort of lamenting doesn't seem to occur anymore, but graphics aren't what make games fun in my own view. Also, establishing new systems based on technological leaps belittles what designing games is. When game design is done right you can make new game systems without any kind of technological leaps, or at least very minor ones.
I was referring to overall game development novelties. I think what OP is saying is definitively happening just because every AAA new game that is made is a rehash of an older one with better graphics/different theme. Even 10 years ago there were breakthrough games every year, like LoL and Minecraft, those are brand new concepts released for the world, but now games are more like movies with a theme and we move on after we finish it.

I also agree that it doesnt take technological leaps to make good game design. I think it helps a lot however, especially for big budget game studios. And of course graphics isnt all of it, otherwise indie games wouldnt exist!
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michaelplzno
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« Reply #22 on: November 08, 2021, 11:01:25 AM »

Well I just got dragged for expressing my distaste for frog detective. Seems there is quite a cult built up around that one. I guess it was wrong of me to tag the developer? If I don't like a game I have to dislike it in secret. Oh well.
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« Reply #23 on: November 08, 2021, 06:27:27 PM »

Well I just got dragged for expressing my distaste for frog detective. Seems there is quite a cult built up around that one. I guess it was wrong of me to tag the developer? If I don't like a game I have to dislike it in secret. Oh well.

Surely getting dragged for expressing your distaste for frog detective is an act in the political game? Maybe you should do it more to get more fame.
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« Reply #24 on: November 08, 2021, 06:33:56 PM »

Even 10 years ago there were breakthrough games every year, like LoL

I played at least ten games like LoL but with worse graphics before LoL was made. AAA is never going to be at the bleeding edge of game design, simply because their power is to polish things to a far greater sheen than anyone else can dream of doing.

A funny thought for you: Hades's development budget (it's an indie game, wooo) was the same kind of size as Starcraft's development budget (Blizzard's big game release)
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« Reply #25 on: November 09, 2021, 07:32:25 AM »

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.

Well, it might be worth noting that without seeing much of your work I of course don't know how you're expressing your takes--that can have a significant effect, I do feel.

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.

I don't know--I have my doubts that, say, StarCraft (or perhaps more appropriately, Dune II) were primarily driven by graphical concerns.

I do think that technological matters like graphics very much can drive innovation, but I strongly doubt that they've been the only drivers of innovation.

So AAA games must have top graphics, and that severely limits what they can do in terms of a concept.

This, however, I do somewhat agree with: the constraints under which AAA games are made--including the constraints imposed by very-high-quality rendering and the associated assets--may well be a limiting factor in how varied they are.

Still, as I've said before, the indie space offers much more, I do feel!

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.

On the contrary, I would say!

I mean, just to pick out a few relatively-recent indie titles, there has been:
  • A dithered first-person time-stepping detective game in Return of the Obra Dinn
  • A 3D perspective-puzzle-solving game in Superliminal
  • A 2D top-down pixel farming/life-sim/adventure game in Stardew Valley
  • A stylised 2d roguelike in Hades
  • A psychedelic rock-opera rhythm/adventure game in The Artful Escape

And I suspect that I could find a fair few more if I were to search!

Not to mention other common styles, like 3D first-person horror games, or visual novels with painted art.

Now I do think that there are quite a lot of indie pixel-platformers. But even if we do say that this is a case of "follow the leader", that's hardly anything new--just look back to the age of the "Doom clone" for one older example, I do think.

@Thaumaturge I just played Frog Detective 1 and unless there is some kind of meta narrative about the game it doesn't stand up on its own as a game that I even enjoyed for 20 minutes.

Ah, fair enough. Each to their own!

(I do fear that it can be tricky to pick out something that another will like, especially when one doesn't know that other well.)

But other than that, I have no idea why this is in the IGF other than politics or something.

I mean, could it not just be that others have tastes that differ from yours, and thus what they value in a game differs from what you value?

(Don't misunderstand me--it's not my style either.)

Edit: I'm looking at the Frog Detective's twitter feed and it just makes me sad that she's so well liked when the game is so weak. That's what I rant about the people at the top of the pyramid: the designer here clearly plays the political game and gets in good with the popular people and I don't think the game actually stands up.

What makes you say that it's political, if I may ask?

Well I just got dragged for expressing my distaste for frog detective. Seems there is quite a cult built up around that one. I guess it was wrong of me to tag the developer? If I don't like a game I have to dislike it in secret. Oh well.

Ah, I'm sorry to read it!

(I won't attempt to speculate as to why you received that response--without seeing the tweet or the response, I'm not in a position to do so, I do think.)
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« Reply #26 on: November 09, 2021, 08:58:29 AM »

I played at least ten games like LoL but with worse graphics before LoL was made. AAA is never going to be at the bleeding edge of game design, simply because their power is to polish things to a far greater sheen than anyone else can dream of doing.
I think that is exactly what OP is referring to. That AAA used to be at the bleeding edge of game design (and I argue that they always had access to new and newer technology either it's graphics or console or online), now it makes movies essentially. 10 years ago insanely popular indie games like LoL or minecraft could make it into mainstream too, and I argue it is due to innovation. Now, the last uber popular indie game I remember was Among Us and I will be honest, I think it's overhyped.



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.

On the contrary, I would say!

I mean, just to pick out a few relatively-recent indie titles, there has been:
  • A dithered first-person time-stepping detective game in Return of the Obra Dinn
  • A 3D perspective-puzzle-solving game in Superliminal
  • A 2D top-down pixel farming/life-sim/adventure game in Stardew Valley
  • A stylised 2d roguelike in Hades
  • A psychedelic rock-opera rhythm/adventure game in The Artful Escape

And I suspect that I could find a fair few more if I were to search!

Not to mention other common styles, like 3D first-person horror games, or visual novels with painted art.

Now I do think that there are quite a lot of indie pixel-platformers. But even if we do say that this is a case of "follow the leader", that's hardly anything new--just look back to the age of the "Doom clone" for one older example, I do think.


I totally agree that indie games have more variety and such (after all we are in an indie game forum! :D). And I am sure there are tons of innovative game designs that I am not aware of. I simply share OP's sentiment that the ultra popular games that are mainstream right now seems like rehash of older games with a different skin + online multiplayer. It isn't something that makes me "wow that is totally new!" (they are sure well-made). I had the same sentiment when the switch was released. For me it was underwhelming because it was a reskinned gameboy. Each nintendo console had some kind of game breaking innovation, and not anymore. Same with the iphone. Maybe technological barriers have been reached.

I say that indie games are not as innovative as before because even with the freedom of game design that AAA companies do not have, I don't see some indie game becoming the top mainstream game anymore, that every kid/teen is playing, like it was 10 years ago. There almost seems to be a separate audience: AAA gamers, or indie gamer. I blame that on the lack of innovation (which is honestly a very optimistic take, it's something that we can change. a pessimistic take would be that people have such high expectations graphically now that indie would never be again mainstream haha).
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michaelplzno
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« Reply #27 on: November 09, 2021, 11:03:44 AM »

here's my thread: https://twitter.com/michaelplzno/status/1457661010492465157?s=20

And here's my video about it today:



Idk how to really express my point of view without being boxed into a corner or getting dragged, I admit that much.
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« Reply #28 on: November 12, 2021, 07:35:50 AM »

I think that is exactly what OP is referring to. That AAA used to be at the bleeding edge of game design (and I argue that they always had access to new and newer technology either it's graphics or console or online), now it makes movies essentially.

The thing is, I suspect that the AAA of yesteryear wasn't like the AAA of today. Indeed, if brought into the modern-day I doubt that many such companies would be identified as "AAA"!

I mean, look at the MobyGames entry for DOOM--one of the most salient of the games of old, I feel. Specifically, look at the credits section for the DOS version: there are all of fifteen people there!

By comparison, the credits page for the 2016 Doom lists "1091 developers, 50 thanks"!

So, I stand to be corrected, but I'm not sure that I'd say that there was a "AAA" segment of the industry back then!

10 years ago insanely popular indie games like LoL or minecraft could make it into mainstream too, and I argue it is due to innovation. Now, the last uber popular indie game I remember was Among Us and I will be honest, I think it's overhyped.

I'm not sure that Minecaft and League of Legends weren't outliers; exceptions even back then.

I simply share OP's sentiment that the ultra popular games that are mainstream right now seems like rehash of older games with a different skin + online multiplayer.

I'm not sure that I disagree.

However, I'm also not convinced that the popular games of old were actually all that "mainstream"--they were popular amongst the gamers of the time, but not the general audience.

It isn't something that makes me "wow that is totally new!" (they are sure well-made). I had the same sentiment when the switch was released. For me it was underwhelming because it was a reskinned gameboy. Each nintendo console had some kind of game breaking innovation, and not anymore. Same with the iphone. Maybe technological barriers have been reached.

That's fair.

Now, I don't have much experience of either the Gameboy or the Switch, from from what I gather the Switch offers far more in terms of usability, ease of access, and library.

People love their Switches; I don't think that I've heard of anyone saying that they find them redundant.

I say that indie games are not as innovative as before because even with the freedom of game design that AAA companies do not have, I don't see some indie game becoming the top mainstream game anymore, that every kid/teen is playing, like it was 10 years ago.

I may be out of the loop, but a few cases like Minecraft aside I'm not sure that many indie games really did become mainstream.

Popular amongst those who consider themselves gamers, likely yes. But actually mainstream--i.e. popular among the general audience--I'm not convinced.

There almost seems to be a separate audience: AAA gamers, or indie gamer. I blame that on the lack of innovation (which is honestly a very optimistic take, it's something that we can change. a pessimistic take would be that people have such high expectations graphically now that indie would never be again mainstream haha).

For myself, I don't think that I agree with either take. I think that, as with cinema, different people are looking for different things. An arthouse movie isn't likely to attract someone who wants an action-blockbuster, and vice versa.

here's my thread: https://twitter.com/michaelplzno/status/1457661010492465157?s=20

...

Idk how to really express my point of view without being boxed into a corner or getting dragged, I admit that much.

Okay, based on an admittedly-quick look at the thread, it does look like most people were upset that you tagged the dev in a negative review. Perhaps that is widely thought rude? I'm not sure.

Conversely, I don't see many people saying that you shouldn't feel as you do about the game, or even that it was a bad idea to share it. It really looks as though it was considered untoward to tag the dev in such a review.
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« Reply #29 on: November 12, 2021, 08:19:56 AM »

The thing is, I suspect that the AAA of yesteryear wasn't like the AAA of today. Indeed, if brought into the modern-day I doubt that many such companies would be identified as "AAA"!

I mean, look at the MobyGames entry for DOOM--one of the most salient of the games of old, I feel. Specifically, look at the credits section for the DOS version: there are all of fifteen people there!

By comparison, the credits page for the 2016 Doom lists "1091 developers, 50 thanks"!

So, I stand to be corrected, but I'm not sure that I'd say that there was a "AAA" segment of the industry back then!

Exactly. This is something I've been saying for a while - I think a lot of the feel attributed to "indie" games has more to do with team size than with funding source or business aspirations. A creative work tends to take different forms depending on how many individuals' input is included in it. There are different pros and cons to both large and small numbers. I enjoy the cohesiveness and personality of something produced by single individuals or very small teams. A larger team might tend to make something more polished or accessible, while potentially compromising the artistic vision by introducing elements that work against each other, since not everyone with creative input will necessarily be on the same page. It's all a matter of group dynamics, though - any individual game can go against any or all of these tendencies.
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Gio603
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« Reply #30 on: November 12, 2021, 11:10:22 AM »

The thing is, I suspect that the AAA of yesteryear wasn't like the AAA of today. Indeed, if brought into the modern-day I doubt that many such companies would be identified as "AAA"!

I mean, look at the MobyGames entry for DOOM--one of the most salient of the games of old, I feel. Specifically, look at the credits section for the DOS version: there are all of fifteen people there!

By comparison, the credits page for the 2016 Doom lists "1091 developers, 50 thanks"!

So, I stand to be corrected, but I'm not sure that I'd say that there was a "AAA" segment of the industry back then!

Exactly. This is something I've been saying for a while - I think a lot of the feel attributed to "indie" games has more to do with team size than with funding source or business aspirations. A creative work tends to take different forms depending on how many individuals' input is included in it. There are different pros and cons to both large and small numbers. I enjoy the cohesiveness and personality of something produced by single individuals or very small teams. A larger team might tend to make something more polished or accessible, while potentially compromising the artistic vision by introducing elements that work against each other, since not everyone with creative input will necessarily be on the same page. It's all a matter of group dynamics, though - any individual game can go against any or all of these tendencies.


I totally agree, devs in the past certainly didn't have as much manpower. And the feel of the game is certainly different, which is why I believe that even smaller indie games could become very big off of concepts! I was mostly referring AAA games as in leaders of the gaming industry at a certain period of time, so it's more of a relative to the competition.


I'm not sure that Minecaft and League of Legends weren't outliers; exceptions even back then.
They totally were outliers Cheesy But outliers are what defines an era imo, and I just can't help notice the difference between 10 years ago and now. Maybe in a few years some great indie game will take over again and it will swing back to AAA after, who knows!

I simply share OP's sentiment that the ultra popular games that are mainstream right now seems like rehash of older games with a different skin + online multiplayer.

I'm not sure that I disagree.

However, I'm also not convinced that the popular games of old were actually all that "mainstream"--they were popular amongst the gamers of the time, but not the general audience.
That is interesting. So you are saying that as more and more uber-casuals play games, they flock towards AAA which make them seem bigger although the innovative games are still played by the same hardcore gamer playerbase. But overall, the represent less % of the gamer population because of the new flock of casuals. I never thought of it this way, that's a new outlook.


About the analogy with the switch, I think it's a fantastic console but it's mostly because nintendo knocked it out the park with its selection of games in the library. It just lacks an element of innovation to the core gameplay compared to the previous consoles (ds had a touchscreen/pen, 2 screens even; 3ds had the 3d thing. wii had the spatial controller).

Also i didn't know there was a discussion about people being upset that michael tagged the dev in a negative review. Honestly I don't there is a problem. If the game is bad for you, it's bad for you, and it's your voice!
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michaelplzno
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« Reply #31 on: November 12, 2021, 01:11:20 PM »

What makes you say that it's political, if I may ask?

Not political in the baby politics "oh I have a grievance about something like the patriarchy or sexism or racism or something." but political in the sense that it was a campaign to make the game successful that involved canvasing the people who are in power to make the IGF and other things important. That is: the designer truly proved they were subservient and submissive to the current power structure and were willing to embrace the system's status quo and structure in a political way to get the game acknowledged. I don't think you can get nominated in the IGF without catering to some existing power node, a baron, a pyramid tip, and so on. I know because I was in the IGF once and when I realized how the powerful people I was cozying up to viewed the world I was literally sick.

Now to tie it back to this thread: games are stagnant because people who think differently are not seen as an asset but a liability. If someone has a lot of ideas for how to change the game (both the actual games being sold, and the game of the political structure for the industry.) that is not gonna be seen as a positive by the people who just want to sit around and do what they've always done forever over and over. There are indies who are making interesting cool stuff, but the more commercially appealing it is, the more likely it is the system will bury it because if some nobody spends a year making an indie game and it changes everything and becomes a hit, then some bloated AAA monstrosity that has a giant budget and a small army working on it won't be able to draw enough water from the troth. I remember when minecraft came out, there was a big article on gamasutra that eventually said "oh I guess its actually a good game" after the game had sold a million copies or something. And one day, the big news outlets, all on the same day, decided they could do minecraft stories. Again, how did they all decide on the date that minecraft was now ok to write about? Minecraft never either bribed the pay sites, or politically proved itself bound to the current system, so it had to be buried no matter how much people loved it.

If an indie proves they are accepting of the status quo they might get some accolades but the less their game competes with AAA the better they will be received, and furthermore, a lot of the big players will push the game to be less accessible and "fun" because it means less of the water from the AAA's troth is taken. I remember I was working on an innovative racing game that was free and fun and well made and one of the bigger guys was telling me "oh make the camera all wacky so that it makes the players sick" and it was a political push to make the game less competitive with the bigger titles. Like if I made my game really unappealing, just a joke that would only be played ironically, it might have a chance at making it because it won't compete with "real" games that deserve their slice of the consumer's dollars.

Steam has a big incentive to stifle creativity, which they do in a number of subtle ways, because if the AAA games did not dominate then the AAA games would all boycot steam and then steam wouldn't be the market leader anymore. So you are never gonna see an AAA big budget launch go starve on steam while some unknown indie game rises to the top no matter what they say about their lauded flat structure.

And that's the problem: in general, the system has closed as many doors as it can on new ideas simply because it makes producing crap much easier. The harder it is to claim a piece of the pie, the more pie there is to share among the players who already have a slice. This is true of literally everything and part of why I wish some structural change like the "potato hierarchy" would fix everything, but in reality, I'll just fight to have a piece of the pie and once I get it I'll hang onto it like grim death.
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« Reply #32 on: November 13, 2021, 12:34:33 PM »

** previous reply to this one **

I think you described the consequences of a totally capitalistic system with no morals, where from top to down, everyone is trying to survive. The top do not want to lose their positions so crank out low-risk games. The media do not want to lose their positions by sucking up to the top.

I didn't know about the gamesutra vs minecraft thing, that sounds very shady. Although nowadays, game news websites have really lost their influence imo, and articles do not generate as much buzz as 10 years ago. The industry is changing rapidly.

I don't necessarily agree with the political push against AAA. Rather, I just think it's hard to compete against AAA anyway so people have to change their ways to be unique. The consequence is the same: add a wacky camera to make it play ironically. I understand why you would feel like there is a bias towards AAA however.
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« Reply #33 on: November 13, 2021, 04:06:37 PM »

I don't like blaming capitalism, because it works for the most part, but sometimes it really sucks. It sort of gets you 70% of what you need and then the rest is lost.
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« Reply #34 on: November 14, 2021, 01:18:16 AM »

As has been said, that may be true for AAA games, but there is still quite a bit of innovation in indies.
For example Roguelikes / procedural generation have made a lot of progress in the last years.

However, the problem is that most indies can only afford making 2D-Games. I would love to have more innovation and originality in new 3D games. But I think that AAA 3D graphics are so expensive nowadays, that developers are not willing to take risks with these games. I miss the times when we got innovative AAA games like Deus Ex and System Shock 2.

Maybe gaming will experience a revolution when new software will allow it to produce high-quality 3D-Graphics efficiently at cheap cost.
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« Reply #35 on: November 14, 2021, 02:07:15 PM »

As has been said, that may be true for AAA games, but there is still quite a bit of innovation in indies.
For example Roguelikes / procedural generation have made a lot of progress in the last years.

However, the problem is that most indies can only afford making 2D-Games. I would love to have more innovation and originality in new 3D games. But I think that AAA 3D graphics are so expensive nowadays, that developers are not willing to take risks with these games. I miss the times when we got innovative AAA games like Deus Ex and System Shock 2.

Maybe gaming will experience a revolution when new software will allow it to produce high-quality 3D-Graphics efficiently at cheap cost.
I think we see that happening already with some 3d indie games using a lot of stuff from the game assets store. Right now the high quality stuff is scarce and people recognize them sometimes, but I reckon in 10 years, there will be so much to choose from that it will be easy to make a 3d indie game.

I also think that although we think 3D is not done a lot in indie that it has a lot of potential for innovation, it is also entirely possible that a 3D game has less room for innovation as placing a player in a 3D environment immediately asks for some level of realism (best example is gravity). In 3D a lot of the screen must be dedicated to make the player understand his position in the world, so there is less room to add extra game mechanism compared to a bird view playstyle. I may be totally wrong.
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« Reply #36 on: November 15, 2021, 01:12:47 AM »

Maybe gaming will experience a revolution when new software will allow it to produce high-quality 3D-Graphics efficiently at cheap cost.

That may very well be, and I do think that we're likely seeking some movement in that direction. I mean, look at some of the impressive-looking first-person-3D indie-horror games that have come out recently!

That said, I'm inlined to the feeling that we may also see movement should the thrust towards realism weaken further--should we see wider acceptance of stylisation in graphics.

Stylised graphics can, I feel, look just as lovely as realistic graphics--and can be far less intensive to make!
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« Reply #37 on: November 17, 2021, 01:50:59 AM »

As far as single player games, I think Spelunky was an important development for video games. Instead of a linear sequence of static maps and pre-planned encounters, the content is randomized and emergent. So each playthrough presents different challenges and you're learning how to survive and adapt to the game's systems instead of memorizing a set of scenarios.

Likewise with Minecraft: take a procedural sandbox and combine that with player creativity and agency to remap the environment.

Pokemon Go is another interesting one. You're playing a game while walking through the outdoor environment, combining a game world and overlaying it on the real  world's map, with your window into that world being your geotagged companion device. Something like that was never possible in the 90s or early 2000's.

Maybe gaming will experience a revolution when new software will allow it to produce high-quality 3D-Graphics efficiently at cheap cost.

I don't think it's graphics that are holding games back now. It's really their AI systems. Because we don't have the ability to have game systems react intelligently to player input, it limits the kinds of systems you can build into a game, and it's why even most AAA single player games often boil down to a carnival shooting gallery with extra steps, interspersed with static pre-scripted cutscenes.

So no, I don't think games have been entirely stagnant for the last 20 years. Applying new procedural techniques has been a big innovation, as well as taking advantage of novel experiences enabled by new technology. It's just that quite a lot of low hanging fruit has been picked.
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« Reply #38 on: November 17, 2021, 05:39:14 AM »

Is AI really the main factor that holds games back? I think we have very advanced AI algorithms at this point. But my impression is that most developers gave up on using them in games. Not because they are not feasible, but because games with highly developed AI tend to be less fun than games with "stupid" AI.
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« Reply #39 on: November 17, 2021, 08:32:52 AM »

As far as single player games, I think Spelunky was an important development for video games.

If I may ask, why Spelunky specifically?

It was far from the first such game, I believe (although it may perhaps have been the first to successfully implement procedural generation in a platformer; of that I'm not sure). Was it perhaps one of the first to gain significant public awareness?

... Minecraft ...

... Pokemon Go ...

On these two I do agree! While I'm not sure that either was the first of its kind (Minecraft had at least one antecedent, I think), both were perhaps turning points in the degree to which they succeeded at what they did, thus not only gaining attention but also becoming exemplars.

(Just as DOOM may not have been the first FPS, but was perhaps the FPS that really defined and popularised the genre in its early days.)
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