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Boomer shooters sometimes make better fantasy games than RPGs

Discussion in 'General Gaming' started by Louis_Cypher, Oct 28, 2021.

  1. Louis_Cypher Arcane

    Louis_Cypher
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    Who else feels that certain FPS games captured the atmosphere of being isolated, inside a lonely mythic world better than many RPGs do? I think there is something really compelling about the environmental storytelling and minimalist world-building of several boomer shooters, although it perhaps goes largely unnoticed while you play. I feel many of them captured the feeling of being isolated inside a fantasy world better than many explicitly fantasy games. Other than Tolkien, very few people get 'long-forgotten darkness' right, which is a timeless concept embedded deep in psychology. That might be part of the reason horror is sometimes better at enemues, because being verbose is useless if your world's psychology and metaphysics are boring and trite. I also feel that the horror genre sometimes has better fantasy world-building than actual genre fantasy, in that something like 'Hell' intruding on reality (as in Hellraiser, Event Horizon, or Doom), is a ready-made complex metaphysical idea, that you can run with.

    [​IMG]
    Heretic (1994) [Chaos Uprising mod]

    [​IMG]
    Quake (1996)

    [​IMG]
    Blood (1997)

    [​IMG]
    Amid Evil (2018)

    [​IMG]
    Doom Eternal (2020)

    [​IMG]
    Arthurian Legends (2021)

    [​IMG]
    Wrath: Aeon of Ruin (????)


    Perhaps it is the immediacy of the perspective, that enhances the feeling of isolation and loneliness. Perhaps it is the lack of narrative, which make many of the early boomer shooters similar to Dark Souls in terms of telling their story environmentally. Perhaps Dark Fantasy being a sub-genre of horror, is more attuned to the psychological themes of being inside an alien world, yet contains some of the concern for logical intelligibility that fantasy does. Dropped into a Dark Fantasy world, you likely would be in a fight for survival, with only the environment telling you things. I play all types of RPGs, but I find blobbers too, are sometimes far more immersive than isometric RPGs, though again, not always, depending on the developer's mastery of their material. I dislike horror for it's own sake though; I want my protagonist to be pro-active, so don't go for things that are purely intended to gross you out.
     
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  2. Ash Arcane

    Ash
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    Oh, you left out "isolated and alone" when we were discussing that before. Very important distinction, since that makes all the difference. RPGs are most commonly party-based and there's lots of adventuring, talking, drama...the polar opposite.

    But, there are still plenty RPGs that provide this feeling just fine, so my answer is a big resounding NO: Ultima Underworld, Dark Souls, Fallout, System Shock 2, Drakkhen, Kings Field, Morrowind and then some. Way more immersive and atmospheric than Doom Eternal and Heretic.

    In their credit some FPS do lay on the atmosphere and immersion, but it's rarely ever quite RPG levels if you ask me.
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2021
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  3. Louis_Cypher Arcane

    Louis_Cypher
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    I agree on Ultima Underworld, King's Field and Dark Souls being great examples of RPG atmosphere (Japan-only 'Shadow Tower: Abyss' seems incredible too, in terms of FromSoft's catalogue), but note that I only argued 'some shooters' are better atmospherically, so I'm not actually suggesting anything that you needed to disavow, which would be a claim like "are FPS games better in atmosphere than RPGs". Please rest assured, I would never suggest that, or obviate the great RPGs. I love first person RPGs in particular when they are handled masterfully. There was a thread a long time back where I traced some of the history of first-person RPGs, with a few screenshots, which I'll repost here, just for interest:

    Show Spoiler
    ----------------
    Wizardry (1981):
    ----------------
    - Wizardry
    - Wizardry II
    - Wizardry III
    - Wizardry IV
    - Wizardry V
    - Wizardry VI
    - Wizardry VII
    - Wizardry VIII
    -----------------------
    The Bard's Tale (1985):
    -----------------------
    - The Bard's Tale
    - The Bard's Tale II
    - The Bard's Tale III
    - The Bard's Tale IV
    -----------------------
    Might and Magic (1986):
    -----------------------
    - Might and Magic
    - Might and Magic II
    - Might and Magic III
    - Might and Magic IV
    - Might and Magic V
    - Might and Magic VI
    - Might and Magic VII
    - Might and Magic VIII
    - Might and Magic IX
    - Might and Magic X
    ----------------------
    Dungeon Master (1987):
    ----------------------
    - Dungeon Master
    - Dungeon Master: Chaos Strikes Back
    - Dungeon Master II: The Legend of Skullkeep
    ---------------------
    Megami Tensei (1987):
    ---------------------
    - Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei I
    - Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei II
    - Shin Megami Tensei I
    - Shin Megami Tensei II
    - Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey
    - Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner - Soul Hackers
    ---------------------------
    Eye of the Beholder (1991):
    ---------------------------
    - Forgotton Realms: Eye of the Beholder
    - Forgotton Realms: Eye of the Beholder 2
    - Forgotton Realms: Eye of the Beholder 3
    ----------------
    Ancients (1991):
    ----------------
    - Ancients 1: Death Watch
    - Ancients 2: Approaching Evil
    -------------
    Ishar (1992):
    -------------
    - Ishar 1: Legend of the Fortress
    - Ishar 2: Messengers of Doom
    - Ishar 3: The Seven Gates of Infinity
    --------------------
    The Dark Eye (1992):
    --------------------
    - Realms of Arkania 1: Blade of Destiny
    - Realms of Arkania 2: Star Trail
    - Realms of Arkania 3: Shadows Over Riva
    ------------------------
    Ultima Underworld (1992):
    ------------------------
    - Ultima Underworld
    - Ultima Underworld 2
    ---------------------
    Lands of Lore (1993):
    ---------------------
    - Lands of Lore: The Throne of Chaos
    - Lands of Lore: Guardians of Destiny
    - Lands of Lore III
    --------------------
    Dungeon Hack (1993):
    --------------------
    - Forgotton Realms: Dungeon Hack
    ----------------------
    Menzoberranzan (1994):
    ----------------------
    - Forgotton Realms: Menzoberranzan
    -----------------
    Ravenloft (1994):
    -----------------
    - Ravenloft: Strahd's Possession
    - Ravenloft: Stone Prophet
    -------------------------
    The Elder Scrolls (1994):
    -------------------------
    - The Elder Scrolls: Arena
    - The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall
    - The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
    - The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
    - The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
    --------------------
    King's Field (1994):
    --------------------
    - King's Field I
    - King's Field II
    - King's Field III
    - King's Field IV
    ---------------------
    Anvil of Dawn (1995):
    ---------------------
    - Anvil of Dawn
    -----------------
    Stonekeep (1995):
    -----------------
    - Stonekeep
    --------------------
    Shadow Tower (1998):
    --------------------
    - Shadow Tower
    - Shadow Tower: Abyss
    -------------------
    Arx Fatalis (2002):
    -------------------
    - Arx Fatalis
    ----------------------
    Etrian Odyssey (2007):
    ----------------------
    - Etrian Odyssey 1: Labyrinth of Yggdrasill
    - Etrian Odyssey 2: Heroes of Lagaard
    - Etrian Odyssey 3: The Drowned City
    - Etrian Odyssey 4: Legend of the Giant God
    - Etrian Odyssey 5: Beyond the Myth
    --------------------------
    Legend of Grimrock (2012):
    --------------------------
    - Legend of Grimrock 1
    - Legend of Grimrock 2
    --------------------
    StarCrawlers (2017):
    --------------------
    - StarCrawlers
    ----------------------------
    Underworld Ascendant (2018):
    ----------------------------
    - Underworld Ascendant

    [​IMG]
    Ultima Underworld (1992)

    [​IMG]
    The Elder Scrolls (1994)

    [​IMG]
    King's Field (1994)

    [​IMG]
    Arx Fatalis (2002)

    [​IMG]
    The Legend of Grimrock (2012)


    I really loved Legend of Grimrock 1 & 2 in particular in terms of more recent games. It really nailed the atmosphere of being dropped in a mythic world. Really sad that there will likely not be any Legend of Grimrock 3. Monomyth is where my hopes lie, and it looks great so far. I think these games also have that beautiful atmospheric environmental storytelling going on. You don't really know much about the world of Legend of Grimrock 2, for example, but you can pick up on, or imagine certain things, about why and how the island has temples and stuff on it.



    Like I said in the other thread, I think there is some kind of psychological element to this. Not all fantasy RPGs pitch the emotional substance of fantasy correctly. When you first read a powerful book like Tolkien it effects you very deeply. It has a lot of hidden metaphysical meaning, and the substance runs deep. There are Jungian concepts like an 'ocean' representing 'chaos' in mythology for example, so that in games where you descend ever deeper into labyrinths, particularily flooded places, like in Dark Souls, where things get more surreal and mythical deeper underground, it is sort of like a journey into subconscious.
     
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  4. Falksi Arcane

    Falksi
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    I've really got to get "Amid Evil". It looks fucking spunktacular.
     
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  5. Vlajdermen Self-Ejected

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    It's fun but it tends to drag. The best retro-revival shooter is DUSK.
     
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  6. toughasnails Educated

    toughasnails
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    i think the immediacy and finitude of first person perspective combined with the avoidance of sort of "god's eye" perspective exposition of the world that you see in RPGs. They are better at evoking mystery, awe, weirdness for the sake of it. They are generally one offs and aren't building coherent fictional universes too. Something like Dark Souls starts this way but then ends up being codified in time, the mystery is gone, you get tons of autists online discussing its world and its rules like they are talking about some strict and abstruse philosophical system or mathematical theorem.
     
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  7. Viata Arcane

    Viata
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    Games that were released first are similar to a game that was released later. :philosoraptor:
     
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  8. Falksi Arcane

    Falksi
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    I need to get that too. Missed it on sale 'other day. It won't happen next time.
     
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  9. Louis_Cypher Arcane

    Louis_Cypher
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    Another one I came across that isn't out yet is Dread Templar:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
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  10. Vlajdermen Self-Ejected

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    It's arguably the best single player FPS ever made. It seems somewhat like a mishmash of other shooters - a bit of Quake, a bit of Blood, a bit fo Painkiller, and so on - but it's all executed well, and it has its own twist on all of that.

    I'm not gonna spoil it, best to go in blind. The last few levels were so intense, my heart was beating like crazy when I finished it. The first time a game did that to me in years.
     
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  11. JarlFrank I like Thief THIS much Patron

    JarlFrank
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    I agree. A big part of it is the level design. I love Quake for its tight gameplay and amazing level design, and especially modern fan-made Quake maps are huge lovely things to explore.
    Thief is also up there in the 10/10 department of peak level design. Again, its fan missions are often even better than the original, building upon the principles that made it great.
    Thief 1's Bonehoard is still one of the best dungeon crawls ever designed. Descending down an ancient burial ground filled with traps, undead, and difficult terrain... it captures the dungeon crawl feel much better than most RPGs.
    I have similar feelings about Tomb Raider. Big levels filled with traps, puzzles, and enemies. And you are all alone down in the long forgotten remnants of dead civilizations, trying to decipher the meaning of the ruins they left behind.

    It's the perfect combination of visuals, perspective, and level design.
    The visuals of oldschool (and modern retro) FPS (and third person 3D action games like Tomb Raider) are blocky and rough, but still filled with tons of detail. Quake looks so alien precisely because of how low res its graphics are. The surreal sections of Thief are so effective precisely because of its low poly blockyness. Late 90s/early 00s 3D is the perfect blend between high and low tech when it comes to computer graphics: high tech enough to portray believable places in great detail, but still low tech enough to have an otherworldly surreal vibe by default. The shiny plastic look of late 00s 3D doesn't even remotely reach the same quality, nor does the overproduced look of contemporary AAA. The 3D graphics around the turn of the millennium are good enough to show as much detail as you want, yet it still has a not-quite-real atmosphere due to the low poly models and low res textures. It feels more like walking through an impressionist painting than through a photograph.

    The perspective of first person is, as others have said, very immediate. You're instantly immersed in the world, there is no layer between you and the world you explore, you're not some disembodied camera hovering above your characters. Close third person like in Tomb Raider or Gothic also works because while it's not directly the eyes of your character, you still get to see everything from a close perspective. You can't just zoom out to look at everything from above. Your field of vision is limited by what you can actually see from your current perspective. This also enhances exploration since you have to actively look for places to go to and objects to interact with.

    And that's where level design comes in. While there are plenty of great, immersive first and third person RPGs, few of them reach the quality of level design that oldschool FPS and action adventures had. I love Morrowind to bits, but most of its dungeons are pitifully small. Gothic has an amazing world to explore, but again dungeons are usually tiny and a bit of a letdown (though one could argue that the overworld is a kind of dungeon on its own).
    While there are some truly excellent dungeons in some RPGs - I am very partial towards the monastery in Wizardry 8 for example, and Wizards & Warriors had above average dungeon design throughout - the average RPG dungeon is less exciting than the average oldschool FPS or Tomb Raider level. There's a lot of filler in RPGs: your generic 4-room-dungeon with a bunch of skeletons and that's it. Meanwhile oldschool FPS levels tend to throw curveballs at you, have secret areas everywhere (AT LEAST one secret per level has been a tradition since the original Doom), tight encounter design that uses the environment against you, keycard hunting, etc etc. Your average Tomb Raider level has a lot of jumping and switch pulling puzzles that use the game's rudimentary physics system and complex interactions between environment objects to present you with interesting challenges. When was the last time you stepped onto the hand of Midas in an RPG and got turned to gold? Cool stuff like that happened regularly in oldschool FPS and action adventures; RPGs, meanwhile, tend to veer more towards the generic. Most RPG dungeons are just collections of rooms filled with generic encounters.

    Encounters are another point. While oldschool FPS definitely have a power curve as you find better weapons, more ammo, armor and health, even low level enemies stay relevant throughout the game because you don't become OP through a levelup mechanic. The tight gameplay of FPS is an argument in favor of keeping leveling curves relatively flat and horizontal rather than staggeringly vertical. It's a lot more interesting when goblins continue posing a threat until the endgame due to their devious behavior and guerrilla tactics, than having your character increase his HP to such an extent that their damage output barely does anything to you. You can't hopelessly out-level your enemies in oldschool FPS. A shambler in Quake will always be a menacing sight.

    There is much RPGs can learn from oldschool FPS level design. My dream game would be an Ultima Underworld style first person RPG with mostly horizontal leveling (getting more abilities rather than making your health and damage numbers bigger) and Quake style level design.
     
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  12. Viata Arcane

    Viata
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    Imo, the highest point of FPS are their level design. It's no wonder most modern FPS sucks, their level design is a straight line.
     
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  13. Cazzeris Guest

    Cazzeris
    The point extends to other genres. Mario 64, Sunshine, Luigi's Mansion all had a sense of wonder about them, a constant feel of surprise that remained in place thanks to the focus on exploration, liberated control scheme, and NPCs that barely help you at all. Also a lot of unexplained fantasy concepts, like entering paintings, weird abstract worlds and optical tricks. I think that a game can gain a lot of power over the player when most of the logic is left obscured, makes you feel like a child entering a folk tale or something, which means a lot more than "atmosphere" and "loneliness". RPGs are an overcooked attempt at this, which makes them boring; while FPSs overestimate the value of action causing unrealistic level design and repetitive gameplay

    Now that I mention folk tales, I think that games can benefit from franchising. If there is already a bunch of Mario games, dealing with all the characters and nonsense, then it opens up the possibility of doing something bigger and crazier using those parts, and it doesn't feel unfamiliar since it retains former appeal. I guess that's also why most videogame sequels are cooler, but it should go beyond polish and expansion of game mechanics, since too little is being done establishing worlds and suspending disbelief. It's all about filling the game of pleasant surprises that have some impact, and that is made easier when there is a known reality that you can twist

    I don't know why Dark Souls has such recognition, since it is clunky, mediocre and self-aware in many aspects, especially compared to older games possessing the same qualities that people gloat about
     
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  14. Bigg Boss Arcane

    Bigg Boss
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    Probably the atmosphere.
     
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  15. Ash Arcane

    Ash
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    Probably the gameplay. Just a thought.
     
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  16. Lemming42 Arcane

    Lemming42
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    There's something extremely compelling about the setting of Heretic and Hexen. It's more in the things that it doesn't tell you than the things that it does.

    I really like Heretic 2 and the change in genre but the setting doesn't feel quite as constantly dread-inducing and foreboding as it did in the first game.

    Never got anything from Quake's aesthetic really, though. Just felt like a bunch of shit slapped together to give you a place to run around while shooting.
     
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  17. Cazzeris Guest

    Cazzeris
    If people cared about gameplay that much, you would be a famous man
     
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  18. Ash Arcane

    Ash
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    Thanks, but If Dark Souls was a walking sim it would have never enjoyed the popularity it had. I know there's a lot of decline faggots out there, but DS was a game that became successful from the merits of its gameplay first and foremost. Other game devs would market the absolute shit out of their trash and shove it down people's throats, then Dark Souls came along and filled a niche begging to be filled (a game with good old school gameplay, shocker!), didn't need much advertising the fanbase did that for them. I remember it all, too. While there was a lot of atmosphere and lore hype, the gameplay was the center of it all.
    Good atmosphere is often in-part a consequence of good gameplay also. Again, if the whole thing you just walked through it like a virtual tour, or if you had infinite health and steamrolled everything, suddenly the atmosphere would be negligible.
     
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  19. Morpheus Kitami Arbiter

    Morpheus Kitami
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    I think the issue is that most fantasy games aren't trying to capture the feeling of loneliness inside a mystical world. Ever since RPGs had the freedom to include all the text and dialog they ever wanted most developers gave up on that sort of thing, assuming they ever wanted to make a world like that to begin with. Even action RPGs do it so the PC is never far from a friendly NPC. Meanwhile it took a while for friendly NPCs to take off in FPS games. Early FPS titles with friendly NPCs generally felt like they were barely there at all. Though this said, a good chunk of early (pre-86 or so) RPGs tend to match even the best FPS, perhaps not at evoking the mental image of lost lost ruins of dead civilizations, but of being alone in an alien world. There also aren't very many Dungeon Master-clones being made these days, which has an effect on things.
     
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  20. Jenkem お前はもう死んでいる Patron

    Jenkem
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    it's not just boomer shooters it's first person games in general and it makes me think it's the best perspective for immersive games... most of what you said in the OP can be said about immersive sims too, which are certainly more on the RPG side of things.. had the same kind of feeling with KCD as well..
     
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  21. Ash Arcane

    Ash
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    Salute, first person is the best, but at the same time even third person games can be intensely immersive and atmospheric (e.g original Tomb Raider).
    Fallout 1 was pretty immersive too. But generally anything with the camera far away tends to be less immersive (isometric, side scroller), anything with the camera close is more so (first person, third person).

    Third person the camera is still IN the 3D environment, at typically human height level. Matching human perspective somewhat. First person does it best however, as it is literally you in the character's shoes, removing any additional visual layer to mentally suspend.

    Of course it goes without saying that camera perspective is not the only relevant factor when attaining immersion, and some first person games are less immersive than [insert camera perspective here] games, but I add this just in case. For the dummies.

    Camera perspective I personally consider to be up to approximately 10-15% a contributing factor to the hypothetical total state of immersion. It's important yet not wholly important.
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2021
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  22. Viata Arcane

    Viata
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    While I don't think it's important, first-person helps a lot if your goal is to make a game immersive as fuck. In a way, it makes the job easier, so to say.
     
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  23. Bad Sector Arcane Patron

    Bad Sector
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    Insert Title Here RPG Wokedex
    If we're talking about the 90s specifically and not modern boomer shooters, i think the reason FPS feel better at making atmospheric fantastical worlds is really the technology developers used at the time. FPS games in the 90s were at the forefront of tech and the tech was just barely good enough to create something that approximated a believable space and allowed for some form of 3D design (note that i focus exclusively on making atmospheric worlds here, not the gameplay elements).

    The vast majority of RPGs at the time - especially around the Doom, Hexen, etc time - were either top down (be it straight top down or using some isometric perspective) or used a Dungeon Master-like engine which placed a lot of limitations in how a map would be designed and explored. However RPGs that used more advanced engines, like the early TES, had very similar looks to the FPS games (and in TES' case the main drawback compared to FPS games - from a visual design perspective - was that most of the dungeons were random).

    Aside from their tech, most games of that era that tried to have a fantasy setting, be it FPS, RPGs, strategy, platformer, first person, third person, top down or whatever, used very similar fantasy art sources as inspiration and production methods (the DOS version of Deluxe Paint was a very common art tool until the midlate-90s for example) and had similar visual styles. It was the tech they had available that made the difference in what they could do with their worlds.

    During the 90s the 3D tech wasn't just for better bells and whistles, it greatly affected the sort of spaces a game could have. It wouldn't be until very late 90s/early 2000s when technology would be good enough to make any space you wanted (IMO you can do almost any type of modern game and game space on a GeForce 2 - with an appropriate reduction in visual quality of course, but it'd still be possible).
     
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  24. Lyric Suite Converting to Islam

    Lyric Suite
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    I think Thief does this best than any other game.

    Lack of narrative is probably as big one too, but i suspect that owns more to the ineptitude of video game writers than anything else (so less narrative, less retardation).

    When i played Doom the first time the atmosphere, lonilness and sense of immersion were among the best things i liked about it. That is why traditional level design is so much better, because it makes the enviorment real, something you actually interact with and thus something that feels concrete and not just some background decoration in some kind of theme park ride.
     
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  25. Norfleet Moderator

    Norfleet
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    Doom had the kind of inverse-horror atmosphere, where, in a traditional game, you would be trapped in a level full of angry demons, but instead, this is inverted and a bunch of demons are trapped in a map with an angry you.
     
    • FAKE NEWS FAKE NEWS x 1
    • Interesting Interesting x 1
    • Friendly Friendly x 1
    • Grab the minigun, there are demons here to smite Grab the minigun, there are demons here to smite x 1
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