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Modern Action Game Development: Is It DOOMed??
Split from Doom4 topic as I believe this is a pretty pertninent and passionate issue in it's own right.

All of us folks on func are passionate about some form of old skool gaming, right?? Almost certainly Quake / Doom and some their contemporaries, as well as tangential franchises such as Thief, System Shock, etc.

As such we have a pretty strong appreciation of what made those titles great (and often still great). Including but not limited to: User-friendliness, direct controls, simplicity, freedom of movement and exploration, fast paced action, atmosphere, purity of purpose, etc etc.

But also most of us have some passions about modern contemporary titles. Fallout4, Witcher3, Skyrim, XCom EU, Soma, Wolf TNO. Slick graphics (well okay not FO4...), cinematic presentation, strong stories, dialogue, cutscenes, RPG elements, specific missions etc etc.

(I'm skipping low budget indie games here but feel free to compare those if it's relevant)

Nevertheless, as per the Doom4 thread, I think there is a general feeling that games these days are missing the characteristics that made older games great, and that attempts to recapture those characteristics are incompatible with the demands of modern gamers AND the ethos of modern studios, and that attempts to blend old and new and especially remake or reboot old games are doomed...


Is this the case??

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Or headbob? I've never really played a game and given one thought to headbobbing.

I've never really played a game and not tried to disable it. I hate it, it's ugly, distracting, and objectively innaccurate (yes, in real life, your movement bobs, but GUESS THE FUCK WHAT your visual perception coordinates with your body and takes it into account so you don't get fucking headbob. The miracle of nature eh and when the fuck will devs realise how wrong in-game headbob is??). Also when it's excessive I often read sporadic reports of people feeling nauseaus (sp!?).

Checkpoints especially ruin boss battles, because there's no way I want to sit replaying a boss battle over and over again.

Hah! Then maybe Dark Souls series isn't the best blend of nu and old skool then...

I think checkpoints can be fine, IF they are done well. Forcing excessive replaying is utterly boring and immersion-destroying tho.

I like your list of Good Things About Modern Games. I generally like RPG-lite elements. At worst they are a minorly fun triviality (e.g. Tomb Raider 2k13), and sometimes they can be more interesting and certainly give more purpose to exploring and collecting stuff. A bit of story too, why not.

I think what I and others are hoping for is a blend of those modern perks, and modern GFX with some old-skool user-friendliness and brutally visceral action. 
I find SS really boring, largely due to the level design and aforementioned monster placement. It basically cut out a key element of great old-skool FPS which is puzzles, albeit simple key/exploration puzzles. Painkiller is guilty of the same.

I do wonder whether advances in AI have slightly scuppered FPS level designers. When your enemies can move more freely around the level it makes it very difficult to design the encounter in a truly interesting fashion, especially if they're pre-alert. Then again, it's increasingly obvious is there are invisible barriers restricting the enemy's movement because since Half-Life's node system we've come to expect them to be able to navigate semi-competently around a level. 
Good post, 10/10, would bang again, etc.

I guess when I and others moan about devs, we are really moaning about the dev/pub combo and who is actual responsible for the bad decisions made. Then again if Lun wants to think we are specifically moaning just about him, whatever...

Now then...

There will always be great action games, the better question is, what problems still need to be solved to make something that stands out above everything else? Better AI? Graphical fidelity? How visceral the weapons feel?

Really good question.

One thing I DO like about modern games is that the graphics and designs generally look very good. At the least modern GFX are "oooh purrrrty", at best they are used with clear focus by the devs not as arbitrary eye-candy but as a fundamental part of the atmosphere and vibe - SOMA did this very well as an example, TR2013 also.

Even games that look fairly ASS by current standards (Fallout4, taking interiors into account, Vermintide overall) still look pretty nice.

What this means a bit is that the playing field is hopefully getting a bit more level as far as GFX goes. In the past you could whip out something spectacular like huge outdoors in CryEngine or realtime shadows and self-shadows in id-tech-whatever and hype your game on that. These days despite some variety and some games standing out graphically (currently Battlefront is impressing me), you can't make so much of a dent with terrain and lighting and shit.

Which hopefully means devs/pubs have to rely on other things to draw people in.... And maybe gameplay would be a good start! Although maybe just throwing every possible fucking gaming option into a massive sandbox and pretending that quantity equals quality will be enough to fool people - BETHESDA I AM LOOKING AT YOU....

So how to make something standout??

Not GFX, most games look great or great enough.

Maybe effective and holistic aesthetic design. Really making the themes and atmosphere work. But that might be too subtle and not immediately apparent to make copies fly off the steam servers.

AI - definitely. There always seems to be room for improvement.

Story - done enough times, not that crucial.

Having all the extras working harmoniously - games do this, Far Crys are a good example, where the vehicle sections are fun, easy to pick up, make sense and not an out of place bore. But it doesn't provide that much of a hook these days??

I dunno maybe it would boil back down to gameplay.... 
On The Subject Of Dark Souls... 
...having some sort of relevant to old-skool action gaming despite not having PC functionality nor saving nor rebindable controls nor remotely similar gameplay...

I was watching COHH play through some Bloodborne and especially the Bloodborne DLC, and in part I see what DAZ is getting at. Ignoring the boss-arena-reload-fest that has as much to do with Quake as a side-scroller beat-em-up has, there are certain reminiscences.

First the level design, complex, 3D, intertwining, opening up new areas and shortcuts. Not open world, not superlinear, but with a good amount of exploration (and being fairly lost - think or "Telefragged" than "The Slipgate Complex" ;)).

Second, the style and atmosphere. One of his subs described it as "Lovecraftian gothic horror" and that seems right to me. It looked cool as fuck design-wise, and cool as fuck atmosphere-wise. Dark, gothic, evile, fantasy. Certain reminisces of the real world "fishing village", "cathedral", "lunatic asylum", but done with a somewhat surreal and thoroughly gritty tinge. This harks back to some of the old skool action games where it seems devs wanted to make vaguely purposeful and themed environments, but either lacked the technology to do so AND/OR consciously wanted designs to look a bit fantastical, and a rather cool blend could be achieved. This is something that might gets lost in the recent quest for realism (both real world realism and fantasy realism).

Just sayin' 
There seems to be a major confusion here.

Devs are responsible for 100% of the good features, and about 10% of the bad ones.

The other 90% of bad features is squarely on the money men.

All those bad features come from a circle of overpad publishers sat round a conference table, each trying to justify their salary while at the same time not be held accountable when it inevitably goes tits up.

And if the dev doesn't want to do it then they get fired and replaced by one who will do it, usually at half the salary.

Devs are the only ones on the player's side in any of this. 
Making Gameplay A Selling Point 
The main problem I see with this is that it's difficult to market. How do you screen shot great gameplay? You can't even just say "this game has amazing gameplay and you should buy it" because everyone says that already. 
The main problem I see with this is that it's difficult to market.

I think a good "market-man" can sell you anything. 
That's How I Wound Up With All These Hummels 
you market gameplay with a demo. studios don't release demos any more, because people don't download them because they're 3gb and last ten minutes, because they're all now a gigantic mountain of high-res content, because the game has to look amazing to sell, because you can't sell it on the gameplay without releasing a demo ... 
although usually by the end of a project, there is already literally negative time left to get everything necessary to ship the game done, let alone squeezing an entire new demo build in there. that's nothing new to 'modern' game design. 
It's really too bad no one seems to release playable demos anymore. It's one reason I refuse to buy new games at $60. I guess it's to be expected though.

What I usually do is wait until somebody does a decent "lets play" or "first look" on youtube, or just wait until the price drops to the point where I can afford to take a risk. 
Maybe a solution would be to put a whole episode in the demo, instead of limiting it to the first ten minutes. Such a demo would have a proper ending, with a cliffhanger to the rest of the full game's story, followed by a screen displaying an ad for the full game before the credits.

And to solve the problem with download sizes, the demos could be stored in floppy disks inside of Ziploc bags and sent through regular mail�

Anyway, the lack of demos may be the biggest reason why modern games are failing to catch my interest. I don't download pirated copies and I don't have money to buy games I'm not sure I really want, so I just pass. The only "game" I've paid full price for in recent years was the Ultra Street Fighter IV upgrade.

Also, I just don't follow people's opinions. People often likes games I don't, and vice versa. Even when a game is unanimously praised, that doesn't mean I'll really like it. 
People like to think of SS and Painkiller as modern old skool games, but for different reasons they both failed.

Painkiller was a nice gimmick for a single game, at the right time when there weren't too many arena style games and it featured some cool levels. But once finished, then you move to the plethora of indie mods (released officially by the publisher as sequels, of course) and actual sequels, and the odd copycats (Dreamkiller), the gameplay became an absolute slog to get through and lost all enjoyment. It was good for a single game, that was it.

SS was also well received for it's horde combat at a time when horde gameplay wasn't common. I didn't really play the first game, I got bored with it after a few hours, the second game was actually really good for it's time with it's graphics, but it was the same gameplay. By the end of the game, having to replay 100s of enemies and bossse all over again, fuck I'd had enough. SS3 was rubbish. Same gameplay again and you realised how dated it had become, with some of the worst graphics of that year. The design in all 3 was just big flat open brightly lit levels, not very memorable, apart from maybe SS2 for some of it's art style.

I actually haven't played Dark Souls yet, it was next on my list but I decided I've got a spare 4 days to sink into Borderlands 2 instead. I still think that's quite an old skool type game, only much more open and non-linear.

But it's not dark, and I guess what we're getting at is we want something fast-paced (not horde or arena) but also dark... a modern day Quake, right? 
Well, with Steams return policy demos would seem to be a moot point. 
Good point.

I don't have Internet access at home. I bring my laptop to my job when I want to install a Steam game, and I'd have to bring it again if I wanted to ask for a refund, which would be a nuisance� but I recognize I'm a minority in this case, and for the vast majority a refund can be good enough.

Still, shareware games had at least a semi-proper ending, and could be replayed over and over. The time limit for refunds forces the player to decide under pressure. 
I think you're positioning SS and PK at the wrong place. They're not meant to be "old school FPS", not Doom, Duke Nukem or Quake. These ones had (some) storyline, atmosphere, navigation, scares. SS and PK gameplay was more like one of those Konami top-down 2D scrollers: your ship against hordes filling the screen with bullets, along with powerups. A transcription of this gameplay to a 3D shooter, just for the fun of shooting and counting ammo / powerups. Their genre is "arcade FPS". Not a stipped-off Doom. 
I think a good "market-man" can sell you anything.

Along with mouth to mouth propaganda, the best of all. Forums and reviews would sell innovative gameplay. 
Not GFX, most games look great or great enough.

The trend right now (if you want to follow where the investment money is going) is in better (read: more immersive) graphics.

Valve, Oculus (aka zombie-id), Magic Leap, and a whole bunch of others are making a pretty big bet that VR / AR will be so life-like and immersive that gamers will never look back to PC and console games. While I agree with you that the playing field is starting to level in the sense that no PC or console game looks leaps and bounds better than its closest competitors, it'll be interesting to see how the public responds to the perception of increased fidelity and immersion via VR. 
Don't get me wrong, publishers and external partners do have their place, and often times have really valuable and insightful feedback. My point was just that there are a lot of compromised visions out there because of the way funding works under that model. 
"The time limit for refunds forces the player to decide under pressure."

Sure, but the line has to be drawn somewhere. You can't let people finish a game and then decide if they want to pay for it. 
You took it out of context.

My point is that demos and shareware are replayable. And shareware have proper endings, offering a full experience (although not *the* full experience). 
I agree, both have their uses. But as was explained above, developers making demos with the way games are done these days just isn't feasible. The refund policy will likely become the new normal. 
Games can and do market themselves on gameplay. Doom4 itself is trying to highlight the fast-paced action. There's been a few others with Youtube videos shouting about "No Cover Mechanics!" "No Regenerating Health!" "Pure FastPaced Action!" - unfortunately most of those generally look like dogturd and/or are MP only.

Deus Ex markets itself on the different gameplay options too. Far Crys do to a certain extent, plus elephants. 
Did someone say elephants? 
I Didn't Count Eleven Ants. 
I never grew up after JackJazz,
and still changing bionic deus ex. 
Jazz Jackrabbit 
Was ok, but Mario Bros 3 is the best platformer ever made. 
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