Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Renaissance of Game Play Elements

Have anyone of you gone through one of those moments when you are playing a game and you acknowledge that the game is good, but in the back of your mind you feel like there is something missing? Maybe your sense of exploration is not been satisfied enough, or you feel that certain game mechanics and details you enjoy are missing. This really depends on how were the games on your early days as a gamer because they have a pretty strong influence in your gaming taste and although we sometimes want those cool things to stay there forever, things change. In the case of games, there have been a lot of game play elements that are not been used so much anymore and some us us can't help but notice. Luckily for us, there are some of those things that are making a comeback since the last days of the previous generation and entering in to the current one. This is very exciting considering the over-simplification of game play that went on in the last 8 years or so.

gaming renaissance
The gaming renaissance is upon us!
The reason for this comeback is something that many gamers thought would eventually happen and after many years it finally did, as modern game play elements ran out of steam. It seems that game developers got aware that following the same trends of previous years would make their games too simplistic, which has become suicide for a gaming franchise. The "less is more" way of thought in game development has reached its peak and it is slowly declining as the game design of old is once again showing up, this time with the face of cutting edge technology.

If you are still wondering which are these game play elements that are making a comeback here a small list of them:

Wolfestein The New Order dog food
Because in this game, even dog food goes.
  • Diversity in design: If we follow the last games that were released on the previous generation and the see the ones that are on the market since the beginning of the current one, we can notice that game worlds are regaining the diversity of design they used to have. We are seen maps that feel like a real place, while the simple "smoke and mirrors - rooms connected with corridors" style has been relegated almost exclusively to dungeon crawler games and the occasional indie production.
  • Keeping alive with the use of items: This means a significant decrease of the duck and cover game mechanics. Now don't think that this approach will entirely vanish into thin air because some first person shooters will remain the same, as this was the game play style that gave them success from the beginning. Now the use of items is something that is coming back in those types of FPS that are plot driven. Take for example games like Wolfestein: The New Order and the upcoming reboot of Doom if you need any reference. It is also relevant that some recent new indie FPS games have also gone back to health and armor items as a way of survival in their game worlds.
Evolve Monster
The hunters will be lacking is everybody wants to be the monster.
  • Hard discoveries and secrets: There was a time when a game had tons of things to discover while going through the main story. This kept many of us, looking every where for that easter egg, collectible or stash of useful items. Now I don't mean the type of discovery that you can just find by going into the obvious "secret" room, but the ones that really get you out of your way in order to find them. This game play element resurfaced in the previous generation with the Demon Souls - Dark Souls games, but since then it has been slowly gaining momentum and now, games like Destiny are following this trend by having the players go deep into uncharted territory in order to find those golden treasure chests or even Wolfestein: The New Order, where each map has its own unique secrets to find.
  • Crazy first person shooter environments: Sometimes the concept of the game itself is considered a game play element because it is the base in which everything is built upon. First person shooters are still popular, but their concept had started to become stale as game companies kept taking the safe route by using the proven "militarized" concept. Nowadays this has been changing as a bunch of new and fresh first person shooter game ideas have emerged with games like Titanfall, Evolve, Destiny, Dead Island 2 (which apparently will be different than the first one) and even the innocent, but fun looking game Splatoon for the Wii U. It seems like game companies finally decided to give a chance to different things other than the usual "sir, yes sir" military campaign approach. 
  • The return of looting: Finding loot is one of the most fun things to do in a game because it gives the player a feeling of reward each time a loot is found. This kind of thing has been absent for a long while and replaced by linear systems like stores or plain old treasure chests, but nowadays the loot fest is coming back and we as gamers will once again have a reason to search everything in the game. Examples of this are: looting unlockables in Watch Dogs like new songs, vehicles and weapons, enemies dropping good stuff in Destiny, looting the environment in Evolve (feeding as the monster or finding tools as the hunters) and so on.
Resident Evil Revelations
Will Resident Evil be part of this renaissance too? Only time will tell...
Wrapping it up:

There are still some game play elements that are missing, like letting the player backtrack at will instead of dividing the game in sections, complex, but fun systems designed for the creation of items or the setting of equipment and meaningful side-content that doesn't feel generic, just to mention a few. Those may still be missing in action, but it has been so far so good with the ones we have been getting back. It really seems like modern game design is looking to the past in order to move into the future and that is good not only for the old school gamers out there, but for everybody. At this rate (given that the gaming industry doesn't find a new trend to get stuck in) this generation will be full of cool things that will level the field between the old and new, like some sort of renaissance in gaming that paves the way for the return of creativeness over business-like thinking.   

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