Another two weeks have passed and it’s time for another Odion’s Opinion. I’d like to first say thank you to the readers, I got such overwhelmingly positive feedback from the last edition that it really made my day. I thank you guys for your kind words and support and will keep doing this as long as you keep enjoying it!
The topic for this issue is the idea of Super Development. We have all played titles like Mass Effect, or Final Fantasy, or Grand Theft Auto, and we’re always impressed with the size and detail these games are able to provide. However this nagging thought has hunkered down in my mind. A lot of developers have expressed how massive and endeavour it is to create current generation games, it’s not like other technology or entertainment fields where there is just a natural progress in quality and size while only requiring the same amount of people. Each generation the size of development teams balloons.
This nagging thought is, will we ever see a day where a Grand Theft Auto is really the size of a city with fully created buildings on every block, and will we ever see a Mass Effect game where every planet in the galaxy is a real planet with real content for the player to enjoy. Is the idea even possible? Could you imagine a game that took place on a world with as much detail and size that it would rival our own?
Our best games are still very much roped events where we follow a path or numerous paths until we reach the finale. The ones that do try open world are never able to really create a world. Even in the MMO space you can never get lost in a forest or jungle and stumble upon a forgotten tomb, you never have to spend a few days making your way through a swamp. The main reason of course is because most of the time that wouldn’t be fun because of a lack of content, but imagine if it was.
Massively Multiplayer games are the only real attempts we have seen at creating a massive world of content, but even they fall into the same kind of scale when you look at a single zone. For the most part though this is to be expected, creating a world is not easy and is extremely expensive, but I wonder why companies are not investing in better creation technology.
One example that comes to mind that better articulates what I am trying to get at is the small scale MMO, Love. In Love the entire world is created by an advanced form of procedural engines, and unlike other titles like Hellgate London it successfully creates an enjoyable world. Now image if a real major technology firm or team really delved into this kind of programming and engine technology. Imagine if instead of 100 artists and developers being needed to create something like Uncharted 2 or Halo 3, small teams could create entire worlds or an extremely detailed environment.
This leads into another element of this idea of super development. No one has yet to really recreate an environment in a realistic fashion. There has yet to be a game where I truly feel like I am in a forest or a jungle, one that makes me feel that if I was brave and strong enough to head deeper in I may find some kind of secret temple that no one else had. I remember for instance nearly ten years ago when I first started seeing pictures for World of Warcraft and they were discussing their jungle zone Stranglethorn Vale. I remember thinking that it was going to be this massive jungle that I would have to spend days getting through, beating quests finding hidden areas and then I would finally make it through and find myself in a brand new environment feeling proud that I had survived my trip into the depths. Of course while the area was massive, the jungle was never so dense or so big that I ever felt lost.
The same wishful thinking comes to mind when I think about scaling or delving into a huge mountain or being in a massive city. No game has truly been able to capture these environments in a true fashion because developers cannot realistically create that much content.
Even our largest open world titles, the Grand Theft Autos and more recently Just Cause 2 feel more like models then virtual representations of a place. Just Cause 2 for all its details and mind blowing fun still felt like a world where someone placed a bunch of tall builds in Place A and called it a city, placed a bunch of mountains in Place B and said that was the mountain range. But that’s all they were, big models of the real thing, none of the towns or cities in Just Cause 2 felt like real environments or living places, the mountains didn’t feel like I was perched on the peak of a massive geological structure.
There is only one real example I can think of that came close to making you feel like you were in that particular environment. I am speaking about the level in the most recent Call of Duty title where you had to ice pick your way up the side of a mountain. That very short part of that level truly made me feel like I was on the side of a mountain, the wind was blowing, and snow was making me half blind, the ice cracked. It felt like a real experience.
Whenever you talk about anything of this nature one of the first things people bring up is the storage disc argument.
It’s not even logical to blame storage space for this lack of massive games. Graphical fidelity consumes so much space whether it’s a DVD or Blu Ray that to say one is more to blame then other is premature. It’s definitely a problem going forward and until we create a storage medium that really doesn’t have a reasonable limit (imagine a two terabyte disc) we will never be able to see such massive titles.
It’s a real shame when you allow the realities of the particular topic to settle in. We have all grown up imagining a game that truly put us in a world, a heroic adventure across magical lands, or a space epic that truly sees you enjoy a whole galaxy. But until some real breakthroughs occur, some real technological magic happens, will have to enjoy what developers can make for us now. They do their best but I can’t wait for the day when I am really able to run around a world like Pandora.
Yes I had to put an Avatar reference in.