Re: [stella] VBLANK or VSYNC first?

Subject: Re: [stella] VBLANK or VSYNC first?
From: "Glenn Saunders" <cybpunks@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 23 Oct 2001 18:52:35 -0700

Modern games aren't games.  They are mini-movies where the price

Interactive fiction is what they are, or simulations. They can be fun, but it's just not the same kind of experience as a classic game.

Just as chess is often considered a sport, games of all kinds are really sports.

All these games have a high concept which is not driven by
graphics (and often driven by the limitations of the graphics of
the day).  Would Asteroids be a better game if the rocks
were lovingly rendered in 3D with craters and natural lighting?

I think the problem is that it's impossible to create a furious assembly-line type of business model around very elemental game concepts that work as well on the 1000th play as the 1st. As Rob Fulop stated, there are only a very few core concepts in gameplay. The coinop industry rewarded the 1000th quarter in order to create profitability for the operators, which helped the coinop manufacturers sell more units. That was the prototype from which all classic gaming spawned.

That's why Atari 2600 games that were popular had very long sales curves. What you were selling was more like Monopoly or Scrabble that you could pull out again and again vs. a DVD of Twister that you might watch once or twice and shelve.

But that's not the way the industry thinks of itself today. If people saturate themselves with a game and then keep playing it, it just prevents them from buying more product. The industry needs to justify its excessive output. That's why I think the industry wants to move more towards a movielike experience with BUILT IN lack of replayability, in order to convince you to buy the sequel.

And the thing is, the hardcore youth gaming public by and large thinks that's the way it should be. When you see a classic pack for a modern console, the reviews usually criticize the games as being "repetitive". They don't appreciate the randomization built into the games. They only see that the game only has a limited number of screens and limited types of sprites. It's the superficial variety they crave, not unique gameplay experiences. Even if the superficial variety exists only until you reach "the end" of the game, they are used to that. To them, all games have a finite number of hours of gameplay, like watching a movie results in 90 minutes of viewing time vs. a real life game of chess that yields a lifetime of gameplay.

Speaking of team sports again, how many new types of team sports have been developed in the last 50 years, for instance? How many truly original board games have been created in the last 50 years? Card games? The only newish card games I can think of are UNO and Magic The Gathering.

If you go to a Java game site it's always the same games. Various card games, board games, and a few lazily slapped together classic game clones.

If you accept that classic gameplay is desirable, you have to also admit that creating new and original play patterns is very very difficult. 90% of homebrew games are arcade ports of one sort or another. That's not to demean them, but it does show how difficult it is to truly innovate at the gameplay level. And innovation would go a long way to spark more interest in the hobby. A well-tuned implementation comes with it its own rewards, but one can't deny that the wonder that you felt when Space Invaders came out in the arcades, introducing genre after genre, probably will never happen again.

The vast majority of classic style play patterns were created by 1984. I like to mention Oystron because it's like a post-modernist classic videogame, like a good Beck song. It's enough of a blend of tried and true gameplay that it can not be pinned down as a copy or port of anything. It's not impossible to create a new original classic style game, but it's a lot harder than it was in 1978, that's for sure.

Given that the 2600 has such a large catalog, it sure does make it hard to come up with a 100% original concept for a homebrew, even if it's a porting project, as the author of Warring Worms has discovered ;)

So aside from the conspiracy theories, I think the above is also what has led to a de-emphasis on improving gameplay, instead focusing more on what CAN be markedly different from game to game, namely the story and the graphics.

Unfortunately, along with the de-emphasis, a lot of modern games actually have inferior gameplay/control schemes vs. classic games, and they hope that the eye candy is strong enough that you don't notice.

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