You could say this is an "open letter" (and a response) where I discuss some points you can read on "Tale Of Tales' Dark Journey." This is a discussion about games as art, tech, and storytelling mediums. In that case, you should really go read that feature before you continue reading my post.
I come from a filmmaking background, so I am very interested on storytelling in pretty much any medium. Games, as we all know, can be a very powerful storytelling medium. This may sound somewhat contradictory considering the first game I released, SteroidS has no story at all, but Parasite (currently under development) will be relying heavily on story.
However, since I've also worked on CG animation, a very technical medium, I've seen how story can take a second place next to the technology used to tell it. I've seen how projects from smaller studios with less resources are often considered "not good enough by today's standards" set by larger studios such as Pixar o Dreamworks. The industry is falling into a technology trap it created.
I mention this because games seem to have fallen into that same technology trap for various reasons. Reasons clearly mentioned by Tale of Tales on that interview I hope you've already read. Don't get me wrong, I like technology and eyecandy as much as the next guy, but a few years ago we reached a point where games, as an entertainment and storytelling mediums are judged mostly by technical terms, because technology will supposedly make better games. You'd be inclined to think what makes a good game, what AAA means, or what makes gamers wanna buy games (that are not sequels).
Half of the time that boils down to how good or bad the graphics are...
And arguments about which game is better is sometimes based on what technology powers the games. According to some Youtube user, Battlefield 3 is better than CoDbecause it's developed using Frostbite 2, while CoD is built on the "oudated Quake Engine" (as a personal note, I haven't played any of them since, even if they look great, playing as a soldier in some war is not something that interests me).
By now everyone knows how gamers (and some developers too) are arguing that we need new consoles because "we've reached the limit of what current consoles can do" (which in some cases can be translated to "we want new hardware so we can have better graphics"), and how PCs are better for gaming right now than consoles (because, you guessed it, they can display better graphics). However, since devices such as the Kinect and Move are still pretty new, can we still say there's nothing more left on current generation consoles? I for one, as a dev, can't wait to try the Kinect to see what kinds of experiences I can make with it.
So, on one side we have gamers drolling over visual extravaganzas, judging how good or bad a game is based on how it looks. As you know, We launched SteroidS last week and it gained some hate from "hardcore gamers" based purely on the assumption it doesn't harness the power of Unreal Engine 3 (it was developed using UDK), and I'm pretty sure they actually means "it doesn't look nearly as good as Mass Effect and Gears of War, games that do harness the power of UE3" (and since we made it, I can assure you it does take advantage of the engine, but it happens to take advantage of Unreal Script and Unreal Kismet, but I didn't want to have the arcade game with the most photo-realistic big headed guys in the market since SteroidS is not that kind of game).
On the other side, we have developers adding so many technical complications into games because "that's how you push the medium forward" (another point taken from the interview I'm linking above, quoted here: "They created the technical hurdle. They're the ones saying that it has to be ultra realistic lighting and normal maps and all this shit, you know? You don't need that. That's something you want! Yeah, okay. You want to see technology go further. But it's not necessary."). If you want to move the medium forward, make a game that pushes the narrative side of games, not yet another game about a soldier blowing stuff up because your game engine has a sick particle renderer.
However, I have to say the media has contributed to this as well: "In terms of aesthetics, F.E.A.R. 3 provides passable graphics that look slightly dated but still get the job done." (That comes from the IGN F.E.A.R. 3 review, and while I haven't played the game, I want to play it because I liked the other 2, for reasons other than the graphics). As an indie dev, I've read many articles about how hard is for indie games to get even the smallest space in gaming sites because they focus solely on the big-budget-big-release games, hinting those are the only games worth looking.
Just take a look at the EpicBattleAxe website today. BTW, that site describes itself as "Gaming news and features that cut through the crap."
So far part of this post may sound like a rant, but it is not. It's me saying what many already know, and then saying developers should start looking into games in a more creative ways and not just focus on make the most photorealistic or technically advanced games possible, and also show gamers there's more about interactive experiences to getting "the best graphics money can buy." Make gamers think of games as something different.
That's what many indies are doing, just take a look at The Witness or the games made by the people that made me write this post. However, we all know indies will not change the way the world perceives games, because it doesn't matter how original the experiences they develop are, they will always be considered "niche-ish" and will be obscured by the next CoD or similar game that "pushes the medium forward" (meaning "pushes the graphics forward").
I will return to my regular schedule next week, but, as I said at the begining, I just wanted to share my imporessions about "Tale Of Tales' Dark Journey." Have a nice week.