Tom McShea came off as a fucking douchebag in that "interview" about authenticity. Is he so dumb that he can't get the difference between authenticity & realism?
MODERN COMBAT SHOOTERS WILL NEVER BE "REAL"
I suppose that this would be a continuation of a previous blog post of mine, and I confidently say that I have a very strong fact that backs the above statement: whatever is in video games will never be tangibly real, and this extends to modern combat shooters.
(For those of you who are pedantic, yes, I am aware that whatever that is in a video game is technically real, i.e. they are the results of programming and software design, both of which are undeniably very real. The content and gameplay will never be tangible though - nothing can change this.)
The likes of Greg Goodrich (who is the lead producer for the rebooted Medal of Honor games) do seem to realize this, but their solution to address this is only semantic: they switched from using the phrase that is "realistic" over to "authentic", and focused more on the settings of the game instead of the gameplay (which has many, many designs that would remind a more conscious player that they are playing a video game, and one in a subgenre of shooters that is stagnating in design).
Perhaps the game-makers can highlight plenty of interviews with identity-obscured consultants to present themselves as being serious in making their modern combat shooters, and I have no reason to doubt this, nor the beliefs of their consultants. I am not one to pour so much scorn readily.
However, I am one to take things at just face value - and the face value of these consultations is that whoever the game-makers' consultants are, their identities are not immediately publicly identifiable, at least until cases such as the American consultants being (somewhat) revealed through events out of the game-makers' control occur.
As long as the identity of whichever consultants that are referred to during the development of the game are not verifiable, the game-makers will never allay suspicions - or rather, conspiracy theories - that these consultants are made up. Consequently, it will never allay presumptions that hyped-up modern combat shooters are not designed with heart and sincerity.
To cut the likes of Greg Goodrich and other modern combat shooter producers some slack, they do appear to believe in their products - this is very important for any product-makers trying to sell their products.
On the other side of the spectrum, there are people like Tom McShea who couldn't take most modern combat shooters at face value: that he has no less than two articles on Medal of Honor strongly suggests that he does not merely stop at considering modern combat shooters as yet more entertainment products that exploit the settings of real-life conflict.
Some of you would like to think that Greg Goodrich has the upper hand in this back-and-forth, but the wiser of us know that neither does. Both are stubborn, and there is no bridge of compromise between them.
Unfortunately, as vehement as he is, Tom McShea has yet to utter that word frequently: "boycott". He has mentioned phrases like "putting money where my mouth is" (which would make him poorly suited to review most modern combat shooters), but he has yet to adopt that word.
(I am aware that uttering that word is a very, very strong suggestion of bias on a part of a journalist - far more than just writing ranting editorials.)
As a side note, the likes of Tom McShea do appear to appreciate modern combat shooters like Spec Ops: The Line that provides darker views on modern conflict fiction. (Yes, I used that word - "fiction". As gritty and nasty as that game's plot development is, it is still fiction.)
Summary of the above: There would be more peace of mind all-around if everyone can accept that modern combat shooters, being a subset of video games, are not "real" and never will be, and don't go beyond thinking this.
THEY HAVE PRICE TAGS
Modern combat shooter titles, with the exception of America's Army, have asking prices. This is a fact, and nothing can change the reality that game-makers generally ask for money in return for playing their games.
Not to mention the collaborative deals that game-makers make with other product-makers.
Of course, without a breakdown of where the proceeds from a unit sale would go to, no one but the game-makers themselves would know whether they are driven by profits or that they are really sincere in making their games for people to play and only want to cover costs, or anything in between.
However, as long as the price tags are there, and the utilization of the proceeds from sales remain opaque to consumers, the suspicions and presumptions of greed will always be there.
Take-away: If game-makers are actually conscious about the complaints, flaming, rants and criticisms about them being driven by greed, they can well address this matter by divulging more details on where each cent from a unit sale would be going to.
(That is not to say that free modern combat shooters are free from bashing of course; America's Army has its share of cold water).
The cynical would say, with a mix of scorn and amusement, that America's Army is the only "sincere" modern combat shooter.
GAMEPLAY LIMITED BY SETTINGS
I will tell you about one of my peeves about modern combat shooters, which also happen to be the main reason that I have not had significant interest in modern combat shooters since Half-Life: Counterstrike.
The biggest obstacle that this subgenre of shooters faces now is the limitations on gameplay brought about by their settings, which concern real-life armed conflict. The need for believable facsimiles of modern combat made the gameplay of these games difficult to discern from each other, and also renders their designs very predictable.
There's ALWAYS at least one Kalashnikov in every modern combat shooter.
There had been attempts to shake up the gameplay, such as the transition from merciless one-way-trip-to-zero health system seen in Counterstrike to the very forgiving regenerative health system in present-day modern combat shooters (neither of which I personally find believable), but game-makers can only do so much before the more observant of critics (and cynics) point out that they are losing "authenticity".
The most sophisticated modern combat shooter game thus far is the latest in the ArmA franchise, which not only has players taking on many roles such as artillery commanders or even marine forces taking underwater routes, and then waging battles across vast battlefields, maneuvering by air, water or good ol' land. However, even such sophistication would hit a wall soon. After all, the requirements of the settings will limit the gameplay to what can be considered believable.
Despite the relative smoothness of this demo of ArmA III, you can expect bugs in Bohemia's products.
I am not certain how this subgenre could ever evolve, though I am sure that sooner or later, even the most ardent modern combat shooter fans would notice that the gameplay in them has not changed by much. It could take a direction similar to that of Spec Ops: The Line, but this is a thematically-oriented game design, and how easy it is to sell is uncertain, not to mention that it could not be woven into competitive multiplayer gameplay, which appears to be the main selling point of the AAA modern combat shooters.
Alternatively, there had been game-makers that are trying to move into near-future combat settings, which offer more flexibility in gameplay designs, though the aforementioned criticisms of loss of "authencity" remain and perhaps more so, as such games would not be modern-combat shooters anymore; they already have sci-fi elements, as some of the technology shown in them have yet to go beyond prototype or even conceptual stage, or are actually extrapolations of existing near-future technology.
The Warhound being one of the latter.
Another alternative is that they adopt sandbox-like gameplay, not unlike what is being done for the Far Cry franchise. However, a modern combat shooter would start to lose its identity too. In fact, it would be difficult for anyone to consider that the Far Cry games are modern combat shooters, other than similarities like the presence of firearms and other fundamentals of what makes a shooter.
Take a hard look at this and say - without flinching, cringing or any other expression of doubt and disbelief - that this is a modern combat shooter.
In other words: Modern combat shooters are more than likely doomed to stagnation in gameplay designs because of their need to adhere to their settings.
That's what I would write for this blog post. The matters mentioned above may seem obvious to some of you, but any down-to-earth reminders about modern combat shooters should do you some good.
Also, do keep this in mind: If you like modern combat shooters and don't mind paying to play them, then don't let anyone tell you otherwise. If you don't like modern combat shooters and despise them, you may want to keep your despise to just these games and not extend it to people who like them; it's their money and time - not yours.
I don't understand you.Games are never meant to be real.Although they may have realistic visuals and gameplay elements,you can never compare them to real life experiences.FPS games weren't realistic back then and they aren't right now.Besides you must know that the AK47 and the M16 are the most commonly used weapons these days.Its actually a part of the game that is actually realistic.Besides who needs realism?People are actually begging the devs for more Sci-fi games as they are fed up of military shooters.
@gamefreak215jd Indeed. After releasing a vast amount of generic and incredibly similar war shooters I'd say we are now mature enough for something new.
I guess MoH did have more authenticity that McShea thought.
Thats quite a lot of comments for a User Blog. Oh, wait... Half of them is from Gelugon, never mind.
@Scorchstar Actually, out of 298 comments, 157 of them are from Gluegon_baat. This is what happens when moderately intelligent, unemployed, heavily opinionated people get an Internet connection. They spend all day obsessing over a website, trying to ensure that their opinion is heard, even by people who don't care and aren't interested. When they're not doing that they're starting arguments with people who disagree with them. And they're smart enough to output so much content, but they're too stupid to realise that it achieves nothing (especially when it's such poor quality.) It's very sad, but makes my life look wonderfully prosperous in comparison.
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@Gelugon_baat@jellyman68 When I claimed that you were doing exactly what you were criticizing me for doing, your response was "...so what I am? I am aware of the irony, and I am not embarrassed one bit." Take into account your misunderstanding of the word "irony" (you say "irony" when you mean "hypocrisy") you pretty much did explicitly acknowledge it.
@Gelugon_baat The funny thing is, when I accused you of being a complete hypocrite before, you acknowledged it and didn't see it as a problem. You seem to have changed your mind since.
I wasn't responding to every single point made in the comments section either. And I don't think I've involved myself in a conversation, only to attempt to undermine the purpose of the discussion.
@Gelugon_baat Yes. How is that relevant?
@Gelugon_baat I was elaborating on someone else's point. They too were mislead by the amount of comments on here. People expect to see an interesting discussion when they see so many comments on a post. Instead they find that half (or as I pointed out, more than half) the comments are from you responding to every single point made, even if it's not directed towards you.
@Gelugon_baat Counting your posts takes about 3 seconds if you're not computer illiterate. There's always a good reason why people don't give out any personal information at all. And in your case it's clearly not for security reasons. I also don't think anything I've posted on this site qualifies as a rant.
@Scorchstar I should correct the typo - "Gelugon_baat"
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@Scorchstar And I thought I post way too many comments in a page.
@Scorchstar He's probably trying to get the super rare Forever Alone emblem.
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This kind of reminds me of my oldest Soapbox posts, and that's not really a good thing.
There's not much that either isn't already obvious (big-budget modern shooters wanting to make a profit, for example) or not supported by much evidence beyond considering concepts on a philosophical level without much substance (saying that AA is the only "sincere" shooter because it doesn't make a profit, even though its intent is advertising the Army to the public through an interactive marketing campaign, for example).
Keep in mind that I'm just trying to give a little advice here, nothing more. I think you have a decent amount of potential, but only if you try to flesh out the content behind your reasoning.
But, in any case, my argument beyond the structure of your blog was mainly that AA is more of a publicity product, while shooters like Call of Duty are more commercial. Sincerity comes more from the ability of the creator to say their product is more of a work of art than anything, even if they also make a profit from their efforts.
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First off, there is research you can do before writing a blog about something. I remember having to do a fair amount of background research on console history in order to make a Soapbox entry I felt was of adequate quality for gaming history month. Having factual information to back up your assumptions gives your statements much more credibility. I'm only telling you this because, now that you're a Soapbox contributor like me, I want you to improve the content of your writing. Though your grammatical structure is great, it really is the content of your writing that matters to the reader.
Second: yes, I did note the text preceding "sincere," and I still think that the sincerity of a shooter is based on the perception of its creator(s) rather than having the desire for profit completely disregard the artistic sentiments of people who create games. A shooter can be both profitable and a work of art.
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So much wrong with this blog post:
Modern Combat Shooters will never be real? Was this supposed to support an argument, or be your main point? Either way, it's ridiculously obvious already, and doesn't seem related to anything else you said.
No one's complaining about a lack of authenticity, unless someone(Danger Close) claims they are being authentic and obviously aren't. That's not why the shooter market is stagnating.
What themes? You don't even elaborate on what that means. Who says they need to adhere to them, even if you did outline these "themes"?
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@Gelugon_baat Real-life conflict? That's not a theme, that's a subject. The themes that such a subject presents opportunities for are vast, and it's not a problem of the subject that the genre is stagnant, it's the emphasis on the gung-ho mentality of characters, and on using large set-pieces and explosions. It's all the modern shooter genre has done so far.
The themes left unexplored in the genre are many. How about a game that explores the loneliness felt by a family man (MoH: Warfighter, but done properly) or a game that deals with the moral implications of government-sanctioned violence(Spec Ops may have dealt with this, but I haven't played), or a game that takes some time to explain the hardships and plights of extremist muslims(what led them to do what they do?)? That's something that hasn't been done before(in games), and it's a side of the story that many Americans aren't used to hearing.
My point being that there is a plethora of untouched themes within every game genre, and the modern shooter is no exception. The source of stagnation isn't the "theme"(which is pretty much absent in most shooters), it's the focus on spectacle rather than storytelling.
@Gelugon_baat Fair enough.
@Gelugon_baat A paradox is essentially meaningless. That's not my problem, it's poor communication. There is no truth in it.
Yet ArmA fails to account for any kind of human qualities; it only focuses (if anything) on the mechanical efficiency of man-made killing machines. There's nothing interesting about it in terms of gameplay mechanics. Everything is very straightforward and fairly derivative. It's not even an accurate simulation of warfare as far as communication and camaraderie goes. Not that it isn't the finest example of a realistic simulation of warfare, it's just not a very interesting video game in terms of design, in my opinion.
Obviously we have very different ideas about what constitutes a "modern shooter". Realism is of little concern to me, I'm more interested in how the games develop mechanically and present interesting themes through game mechanics. I don't think that most people's idea of a modern shooter is exactly based on "realism" per se, so I'm not sure why you seem to assume that's the best (or most important) quality for a modern shooter?
@Gelugon_baat Loss of identity? I don't think any developer really cares whether their game is labelled "modern shooter". You're just making a confusing statement. It's meaningless.
I think you could very easily have an open-world sandbox game take place in the modern world. Doesn't ArmA's campaign take place in an open-world environment?
By suggesting that modern shooters are stagnating because they're constricted by their settings, it's as if you're suggesting that they've adopted enough "features" from the real world (their setting) that they're essentially simulations of real warfare...
@Gelugon_baat There's a meaning to the word catch-22. It's a type of paradox.
Regardless of setting, I think I Am Alive's concept of surprise attacks and the dynamics of human behaviour could definitely apply. When you hold a gun on someone, they could definitely reach a breaking point, like in I Am Alive, or have their partner sneak up on you, things like that. NPC behaviour in general (which both my examples relate to) presently doesn't go beyond enemies that take cover and fire shots at you. Human beings are more complex than that. Specs Ops has some interesting scripted decision moments where you converse with enemies for a short time, but those are still limited, and always end in the inevitable death of your enemies.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.'s a bit's more of a stretch, but I can definitely see some interesting faction mechanics in an open-world shooter, in terms of groups that may have conflicting interests and fight each other, and maybe even turn against you with the right reasons.
@Gelugon_baat That first statement is a catch-22. Senseless.
There's still plenty of ways, including the two I've listed, that modern shooters could evolve mechanically.
How would the settings see to their lack of evolution?
@Gelugon_baat Considering it directly conflicts with yours, I'm a little surprised that you have nothing to say about it. It's uncharacteristic of you, at any rate.
@Gelugon_baat And what about my points concerning shooter innovation?
@Gelugon_baat That's the word I was looking for... :P
@Gelugon_baat I agree with just about everything you said.
One issue: themes are concepts, ideology, or feelings that the author(s) try to convey through any storytelling medium. Again, there are many themes that could still be expressed within the subject matter of "real-life conflict", but that in itself not a theme by any definition.
But back on subject, I'm actually interested in discussing the relationship between theme and gameplay. I disagree that we've seen all the gameplay mechanics possible in shooters of any type.
As an example, I'd point to the interesting and fairly unknown I Am Alive. That game has some interesting gameplay mechanics in terms of how characters react to guns, knives and other weapons. The game may not categorically be a shooter, but some of its innovations in NPC reactions could easily be implemented in shooters, in terms of how a character reacts to an unexpected hold-up.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl's also done some very interesting things in terms of dynamic factions within the game world. The game's world feels frighteningly alive. Granted, it's not particularly a "modern" shooter - it's a modern alternate-history shooter (with RPG elements) - but again, this kind of dynamically changing game world could easily be implemented into a modern shooter like the older Battlefield games.
What's your take on that? Do you really think that modern shooters can't evolve beyond shooting dudes in the head? I'm not asking the question sarcastically; I'm actually curious as to how you hold that opinion.
@Granpire He just wants to hear himself talk.
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