How "streamlined" is the future of gaming? (A Rant)
Is anyone else finding the once grand Computer Gaming Industry's attempts to romance the console market highly frustrating? I realise the console market has the greater market share, I realise the console's source of input limits the options implementable in a game, and I, also, realise game Publishers pressure Developers to simplify their games in order to expand their markets, attract new consumers, and thus increase revenue...
BUT, lately it's starting to feel like computer gaming is losing it's soul... From Developers switching focus from PC's to consoles, and, therefore, poorly porting games back to PC, to depth being savaged from games to appeal to, what feels like, the lowest common denominator...
Don't get me wrong! I'm not bashing console users. I'm one of them... but I understand a console's strengths and weaknesses. And, I find the computer's strengths over consoles to include traditional genres like TBS games and RPG's. Why, then, am I being forced to suffer the slow atrophy of complexity that once highlighted the reason PC Games are my favourite pastime?
Why does Civ 5 feel like it's breadth and depth have been nerfed in favour of increased unit tactics and simplicity? Why are Bioware, once unassailable Paragon of RPG goodness, stripping the RPG elements out of their RPGames!?!?!
I know why, sadly, and I can't help feeling like I'm witnessing the beginning stages of the cancer that will end PC gaming...
Am I safe in assuming that this rant was brought on by Dragon Age II?
In the case of BioWare, I don't think the intent of the changes to Mass Effect 2 or Dragon Age II were to "dumb it down" for the console market, but rather to trim away the fat in order to create something that is much more focussed on playing a role within a grand story than about micromanaging stats and looting items. The idea that core of a role playing game is flitting through menus is a concept based around the limits of the medium that have since been dealt with. In the early days of RPGs there wasn't the potential to tell as grand of stories as you can find in Mass Effect or Dragon Age and so the most influence you had was on micromanaging your character rather than influencing an entire world of characters. I would argue that games like Mass Effect 2 and Dragon Age II are closer to the intent of the pioneers of the Role Playing Game than more 'traditional' RPGs are. That being said, there is still definitely a place for a more traditional RPG, and there's still an audience for them, but don't confuse what the heart of the genre really is.
As for PC Gaming in general, I don't think it will ever die out entirely. True, many of the biggest developers and franchises have shifted focus to the console market whether that's because of a growing audience on the consoles or the losing of ground on the PC platform to pirates, however, the PC is still home to many of the more interesting and unique ideas that will likely change the face of gaming for the future. Sure the consoles have gotten a few noteworthy indie games like Limbo and Flower, but just browsing through the Steam Store you'll find hundreds of incredibly unique games that the consoles simply don't have. Without the PC we wouldn't have games like Portal, Half-Life, or World of Goo. PC gaming doesn't have to die with the rise of console gaming, it just needs to find a way to reinvent itself, to do what it can do and the consoles can't, and while I think more and more block buster titles will make the consoles their homes I think the PC will excel in being a playground for developers to try out new ideas and concepts.
The future of PC gaming is online. Facebook games, browser-based games, those make up a vast percentage of PC games (few in the "hard-core" gaming community ever heard of them, of course). In emerging markets in East Asia like China, Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan and India to an extent, browser-based MMOs are the most popular type of PC game. They can run on lots of cheap computers, they are fun, they don't need installation and driver updates and that crap, and they can provide long-term gameplay. That is the market, and that will be the future of PC gaming.
That's all I have to say.