Kids Can't Handle Old-School RPGs Anymore

Lonan

New member
Dec 27, 2008
1,243
0
0
Tom Goldman said:
Kids Can't Handle Old-School RPGs Anymore



A college professor that teaches the history of videogames has noticed that kids simply cannot grasp Ultima IV.

Michael Abbott teaches a course called The Art and History of Electronic Gaming at Wabash College, and is known for spreading the videogame love to Portal [http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/102951-College-Professor-Requires-Students-to-Study-Portal]. In an interesting article he's written on his blog Brainy Gamer, Abbott discusses the trouble kids have with playing older RPGs.

Abbott exposes his students to older titles like the original Fallout, Rogue, and Planetfall in his course. Most of the students handle being taken out of their comfort zones with the isometric strategy title, ASCII roguelike, and text-based adventure, but there's one game in particular that they don't seem to be able to handle: Ultima IV.

Origin released Ultima IV on the Apple II in 1985 and it's acclaimed as one of the top RPGs for its time. Instead of having players focus on killing orcs, it required that they reach enlightenment within eight virtues to become the series' Avatar. Its character creation system, conversation system, and huge world are examples of what players liked about it.

But Ultima IV is very different from World of Warcraft [http://www.amazon.com/World-Warcraft-Cataclysm-Pc/dp/B002I0HKIU/ref=sr_1_1?s=gateway&ie=UTF8&qid=1285435557&sr=8-1] and other modern games that hold the player's hand and point an arrow at their goals. Abbott provided all the documentation that his students would need, but they didn't seem to realize that the reading the game's documentation was necessary.

One student said: "I've been very confused throughout the entire experience. I've honestly sat here for hours trying to figure out what to do and it just isn't making much sense to me right now." Another: "When I start a game I like to do it all on my own, but it's been impossible to do so with Ultima." A third: "I tried for awhile without any walkthroughs to get the full gamer experience sort of thing and within the hour I gave up because of a combination of bad controls and a hard to get into story for me at least. It reminded me of a bad Runescape."

The comments don't seem to be indicative of one of the top RPGs of all time. Students also call the game "boring" and "unplayable," but when Abbott questioned whether they read Ultima IV's documentation provided in PDF format, it turned out that not a single one had. "Wow," one replied when Abbott told him that the game's designer, Richard Garriott, expected players to read the manual first.

Abbott believes the "gap separating today's generation of gamers from those of us who once drew maps on grid paper is nearly unbridgeable." Indeed, this seems to be true about a lot of games from the 1980s and 1990s. While certain games were revolutionary for their time, even I find it hard to go back to older titles that I once enjoyed immensely, so it's unlikely for the average teenage Halo [http://www.amazon.com/Halo-Reach-Xbox-360/dp/B002BSA20M/ref=sr_1_1?s=gateway&ie=UTF8&qid=1285435989&sr=8-1] player to be able to realize the impact of a game like Ultima IV. Abbott no longer assumes "the game will make its case for greatness all by itself," and says he may take a more hands-on educational approach in regards to the classic RPG.

Source: BrainyGamer [http://www.brainygamer.com/the_brainy_gamer/2010/09/unplayable.html]

Permalink
You never mentioned how old the kids in the study were.
 

Sixties Spidey

New member
Jan 24, 2008
3,299
0
0
I dunno... I never even PLAYED an Ultima game yet I had to read the manuals to every RPG I own. Mass Effect up to Elder Scrolls up to KoTOR up to Final Fantasy. It takes a hell of a lot longer for me to get into an RPG that I read the manual before I play. ME2 was the only exception.
 

Therumancer

Citation Needed
Nov 28, 2007
9,909
0
0
Jaredin said:
Guess shows how much we have advanced in a way, and those who did not grow up with it, simply cannot use it
I think the opposite is true actually.

I think it's a matter of the people playing games right now being too dumb to play games of the past which were intended for a much smarter audience on average. It's part of the problem with broadening the market to include the mainstream, which mandates catering to the lowest common human denominator. Something people talk about here with some frequency, though this situation illustrates it.

I won't get into graphics, because I'll be honest in saying that the games of yore were pretty ugly compared to modern ones. There is no way to argue against the benefits of more advanced graphics. However it's the gameplay and depth of the experience that is really telling, with a lot of current gamers being unable to get into the whole idea of stat management, problem solving, or exploration. If you took "Ultima 7" made it with modern graphics, but didn't change the game other than making things look prettier, your typical gamer would totally freak about a game where half the point is to figure out what your trying to do. Not to mention travelling around the world trying to figure out the right questions to ask people to gather more information.

Today we have a gaming community where things like "Mass Effect 1" were too stat heavy for many players, leading to the more shooter-esque "Mass Effect 2". People want to be taken by the hand and not have to work on, or discover anything on their own.

Games like "Ultima IV" were made to entertain people who could make a "Commodore 64" run properly. Today if you put a C-64 in front of someone they would freak when they saw the little cursor blinking at them. It's doubtful they would put in the effort to learn something as "simple" as Load "*" ,8 ,1 ..... Ready? Run. Or the Apple 2 version which I didn't play much but if I recall required the use of Hidos. :)

At well, apologies for those that this offends, but I think it's sort of an illustration of how much gaming has actually regressed. It's gotten prettier, but with the common man involved it's also become all the lesser for it.
 

Jack Gruff

New member
Jul 24, 2010
23
0
0
Um... you were expecting them to just slide into these visceral experiences from long ago?

Well Mister prof, seems you haven't quite gotten into the modern gamer's psyche. Just because a game doesn't come with a manual the size of War And Peace doesn't mean it's going to be a WoW clone.
 

ssManae

New member
Aug 13, 2009
42
0
0
Dany Rioux said:
OMG! Drawing maps on grid paper! Me and a buddy spent nights and days doing that with the Eye of the Beholder back in the days. Those were awesome times for gaming. :D
And then you get to a game like Willow, where at least one zone has overlapping tiles if you try to grid paper it... Drove me and my brother nuts to no end, not sure we ever got past that part just due to those damnable mouths in the ground.

To the actual conclusion, though, it's way too sweeping. We have less than a half dozen kids that couldn't play the game because they didn't think to open the manual--as a life-long gamer myself, I still pop open the manual of every game out of habit--and no listing at all of not only the total number that failed to grasp the game but also the number of those that were successful.
 

Twilight_guy

Sight, Sound, and Mind
Nov 24, 2008
7,131
0
0
I can't help but feel that this is a crotchety old man story. "These kids today and there new fangled RPGs, they cant even play Ultima 4. They only play there wows and there final fantasies. When I was kid we had to draw on grid paper and we liked it and-zzzzzzzzzzz"

Games have changed and evolved over time. Of course newer players aren't going to get older games. Newer movie watchers don't get silent films either. This is roughly the same thing.
 

FloodOne

New member
Apr 29, 2009
455
0
0
I'm not surprised, today's games hold your hand from start to finish. Even open ended RPGs like Fallout 3 have map markers and a quest compass worked into them.

Can you imagine the amount of pissing and moaning if Fallout were to take away the quest compass? I bet 95% of all gamers would scream that the game was unplayable.
 

Therumancer

Citation Needed
Nov 28, 2007
9,909
0
0
theshadavid said:
I think this is true with a lot of old games. I downloaded Final Fantasy 7 over PSN and I could not get into it. It's not even very obscure like Ultima IV. I'm 16 I feel a little shafted not getting being able to play some of these awesome old games (I just can't get a grasp on Mega Man).
Ultima IV obscure?

That's funny, tbough I do see you perspective on things to some extent.


Ultima was one of the longest running series in game history. It produced 9 chapters in the main series, multiple spin offs (like Worlds Of Ultima, and Ultima Underworld), and of course it's fanbase was what made it the base for what many see as the first MMORPG: "Ultima Online".

Ultima IV was probably chosen for the class out of the series because it was one of the first RPGs made that didn't have a clear objective, there was no initially stated "Big Bad" at the end that needed to be killed. Quite the opposite the entire plotline as you find out by playing involvses your hero needing to become a paragon of virtue that can unite the land and represent an example for everyone. The final task does involve killing a boss of sorts, but that's incidental since your recovering "The Codex Of Infinite Wisdom".

This game was one of the first that combined both RPG statistics, puzzle/problem solving, and dialogue (a big part of the game is running around between towns as you find things to ask characters you met previously). Oh yes... and probably the gaming world's first morality system because a big part of the game is to not only be good, but to become a paragon of virtue which means you have to constantly act in accordance with the rules you find out as you play the game.

It also included the idea of character recruitment, at a time when most games had you make your entire party (including Ultima 3: Exodus), something that became a staple later on. As you advanced in Ultima you wound up doing a "seven samurai" type thing, finding the champions of various virtues (Valor, Honor, Justice, etc..) to join your group as your comrades in arms.

Ah well, all rambling aside, consider that "Ultima" was so prolific that the guy who invented it: Richard "Lord British" Garriot, was one of the first people to be able to engage in space tourism. :p
 

Requx

New member
Mar 28, 2010
378
0
0
theshadavid said:
I think this is true with a lot of old games. I downloaded Final Fantasy 7 over PSN and I could not get into it. It's not even very obscure like Ultima IV. I'm 16 I feel a little shafted not getting being able to play some of these awesome old games (I just can't get a grasp on Mega Man).
Your not alone in the mega man struggle, thats like one of the only games ill admitadly say,that its way too hard. That said dwarf fortress is a great ascii game.
 

Gildedtongue

New member
Nov 9, 2007
189
0
0
sooperman said:
Honestly, I don't think that kids not reading the manual is an excuse for the game being hard to get into. If you can't explain yourself in-game, then how well can you possible explain the rules in the manual? And if you simply feel like not explaining how to play inside of the game, you are being lazy.

Having a manual is fine, requiring a manual is bullshit. What if you lost it? The game would have been nigh unplayable at the time, right?
Well, let's start at the beginning, filesize. Nowadays people load on a 4 gig videogame onto their harddrive without pause. In the days of Ultima, every bit counted and text actually had some weight to it. If you spend more data explaining the game in game, then you've sacrificed room for actual content. Hell, this is why TSR's games included not only a manual, but also a "Quest Journal" that dumped text and pictures for the game to refer to for the player, freeing up space in those 4-6 precious 3.5 disks.

Yes, if you lost the material, you would have a bit of a broken game, but it also became a sort of DRM that didn't involve a stupid wheel. Not even counting the need to open and refer to words and numbers they'll ask at the beginning of the game, it made the game secure. Also, arguably people were better at keeping their materials with boxes and such. Hell, I've still got my Buck Rogers: Countdown to Doomsday reading and reference materials.

So, what I'm saying is "take a moment to remember the setting before throwing those sorts of judgements" Hell, I remember when a gigabyte harddrive was a big thing, and I'm only 27.
 

lomylithruldor

New member
Aug 10, 2009
125
0
0
sooperman said:
Honestly, I don't think that kids not reading the manual is an excuse for the game being hard to get into. If you can't explain yourself in-game, then how well can you possible explain the rules in the manual? And if you simply feel like not explaining how to play inside of the game, you are being lazy.

Having a manual is fine, requiring a manual is bullshit. What if you lost it? The game would have been nigh unplayable at the time, right?
Right. Manuals were the DRM of old times. I remember playing Day of the Tentacules and having to flip though the manual to find the correct recipe to make a battery (une recipe on each page of the manual, the game tells you what page).
 

Loonerinoes

New member
Apr 9, 2009
889
0
0
Eh, to me this brings the old question of accessibility.

The games of old (1985 was the year of my birth, so...yeah, that is quite old, considering I got into games by the 90s) were definitely innovative and resplendent and vastly awesome in these ways...heck Star Control 2 is one of my own all-time favourites and I find it a shame that modern games don't dare take some of its risks as well, because they weren't that big risks really and could be adapted to modern games easily I think.

Problem is...the more you innovate, the more you make your game 'special' the less people can plug into it. Planescape: Torment, for example, is still my all-time favourite RPG of the late 90s (even moreso than Baldur's Gate, and that's saying something since it was goddamn beautifully tied together, all three parts of it including the epic ending at Throne of Bhaal). But just because it was deep, thought-provoking and incredibly emotional at the very end for me, doesn't mean that it was easily accessible. A lot of people didn't want to basically 'read a novel while playing a videogame.' And you know what...I don't blame them! I understand that people want games to be about gameplay moreso than JUST story and walls of text and it comes as no surprise to me as to why it wasn't ever as big a hit as Baldur's Gate series was.

Similarly, the Ultima games were no doubt made in a time where it was assumed, that every gamer would pick up the manual first rather than make a tutorial within the game. This was because the audience back then was also vastly different! Now, 25 years later, the audience is how it is. This doesn't mean necessarily that it's dumber - it just means that today's audience expects things to be served to them on a silver platter within the game itself, whereas the audience of old knew that they had to get involved and deep into the math and theory behind every game in order to get anywhere significant within it.

It's just the way times progress. And really...it's the same thing as MovieBob lamenting the loss of the old James Bond girl charm. Yeah...they sure were something...but times have changed and things move on. And really, I'd say they've moved on to something interesting too, if quite different from what we saw in the past.
 

snow

New member
Jan 14, 2010
1,034
0
0
Jaredin said:
Guess shows how much we have advanced in a way, and those who did not grow up with it, simply cannot use it
How is making a game easy to the point of brain damage advancing?

I can't help but be turned away when games hold your hand too much. I'm not sure if it still happens but I remember a trend a year or 2 ago when they would give you an objective, and will remind you every 5 minutes of what you are supposed to be doing. It was unnecessary and ruined the experience of the game.

When I play on expert, god mode, extreme/legendary whatever the highest difficulty setting is in a video game, it feels like I would be playing on medium on some of the games from the past.

It's to the point now that games without these hand-holding mechanics get low scores. Why?!
 

Baldry

New member
Feb 11, 2009
2,412
0
0
I'd like to think I'd be capable to play it...but then again I am awesome...true story.