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Welcome to the Retro Gaming Revival [roundtable]
This is an idea Anandxxx and I were throwing around a bit, I want to see if there is much interest in doing it. Basically it would be a semi-regular (weekly? bi-weekly? monthly?) roundtable where we discuss one or another hot topics in the current game industry. The only major difference between this and half the other threads around here is A. it is posted publicly on the front page of the Negative World and B. it is focused and (I HOPE) people will try to join in every time so we can get a set of regulars contributing to it. We should probably post some questions in each roundtable to start things off but really, any on-topic conversation is fine, the questions should be looked at more as a mere means to spur on conversation.

And the topic for our first roundtable is the industry's current obsession with reviving retro gaming. It is very clear that a lot of publishers are looking into their back catalogs to find franchises they can bring back, so much so that it is becoming not just its own little niche, but something at the forefront of the industry (especially on the downloadable services.)

Is "retro" gaming still valid on its own merits, or is it simply for the old folks to relive their youth? Are there certain qualities that have been lost over the years? Does the retro gaming revival have much to offer newer gamers?

The 8-bit Mega Man 9 was of course a very loved game, and some of that love came specifically FROM the decision to stick to the classic graphics and sounds, but how many franchises can actually pull that off? Do we care about playing an 8-bit Gradius at all (Rebirth,) or would we have preferred a more updated version of that franchise? Are there certain franchises that would work better in 8-bit (or 16-bit) mode and others than should be updated in a more modern way?

What about games like Space Invaders Extreme and New Super Mario Brothers that take the core mechanics of a classic but add in a ton of modern functionality? Do we want to see more games like that? Was NSMB lacking a bit because it went back to the original and built from there, ignoring certain innovations made in Super Mario Brothers 3 and Super Mario World?

Is the revival interesting only because these type of games have been gone for so long? Is it possible the industry will oversaturate itself with retro games, and kill the appeal? Does nostalgia lose its value once it becomes mainstream/current again?

Does the retro gaming revival actually help move the industry forward at all? Or is it a diversion, something we can grab some fun from but won't really benefit the progression of game development as a whole?

What do you guys think?

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Posted: 03/19/09, 18:14:10
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Roundtables: Do they work??

EDIT: I'll play along. Beats working.

This topic might be a bit too broad, though. You've sort of included every aspect of retro gaming. Maybe it would be better to ask one specific question at a time, like "Would you like to see more games in the style of Mega Man 9, or is it an unhealthy nostalgia grab?" Or have a debate on the quality of New Super Mario Bros., or something.

Wii Music?
Posted: 03/19/09, 18:19:39
Anyway, to actually answer one of my own questions...

I don't think Gradius is a franchise where going all the way back to 8-bit makes much sense. Whereas I think Mega Man lost a bit of the *feel* of what made it awesome (though X is still my favorite Mega Man game) when it transitioned to the newer consoles, Gradius is a series where not much has actually changed over the years beyond better and better updates.

In fact, I'll go so far as to say I don't think there are too many franchises period where going back to the 8-bit makes much sense. Mega Man is almost a special case, a franchise where just looking at pictures of the 8-bit games brings joy to my heart, and where I really prefer the 8-bit style of Mega Man himself over some of the more modern changes. But I'm not sure I can say that for too many other franchises. I think in most cases I'd prefer something more like Contra IV... stuck fairly close to the roots gameplaywise, but still had some updated gameplay and a very updated style that took advantage of the newer tech.

On the other hand...

Ew. Maybe Hudson should have just stuck with the 8-bit graphics for that one.
Posted: 03/19/09, 19:03:05
We should all do a podcast, or something. I've recently realized how goddamned inefficient the written word is. Many things that takes forever to express on paper can be quickly described verbally.
Posted: 03/19/09, 19:07:04
That's on my list of things to look into, though I've heard getting good sound quality if you do it with remote users is very tough. Of course some of us live close together so WE could do one, but that's something that we would need to get together regularly to do. Also my voice sounds terrible on recordings, I'm not sure why, I just sound retarded. I hate to put it that way, but that is how I sound. Maybe I sound like that in real life and just don't notice it. Hmm. It's on the list though. I have a couple new things coming to the site soon... well, maybe not SOON, but in the foreseeable future. Surprises galore!

Posted: 03/19/09, 19:16:00
I've always hated the sound of my own voice, too. I think everyone does.

I was listening to those interviews from EA, and I sound like a monotone Woody Woodpecker at double speed.

Regardless, sound quality would be okay, if we each recorded our own parts, but editing would be a real pain in the ass.

Oh, yeah. The topic. 8-bit stylings are fine, when they're used in the service of humorous/awesome retro chic design, as in Super Paper Mario and Mario Kart Wii, but I have no desire to play a new, actual 8-bit game. There's something to be said for making a game in the style of an NES classic, and even for keeping the gameplay limitations of the NES (although that seems like an odd decision, as well), but, unless the game is riffing on nostalgia, like Retro Game Challenge, I would rather just play a new, classically-designed 2D game with the best graphics possible. Without getting into a discussion of the comparative merits of the game itself, I adore the style and vitality of New Super Mario Bros. Contra IV is another retro update done right. It's pleasantly reminiscent of old-school games without being artificially constrained.

Here's where I look like a total hypocrite, because I would love 8-bit music. It was just BETTER, even though making music with the same limitations, but better fidelity, could be equally memorable.

As an aside, SNES games still look really beautiful. But I dream of what 2D gaming would have evolved into if it wasn't killed (or, at the very least, imprisoned) by its younger, stupider brother. I really want a new DS that has a higher resolution screen. As it stands now, 2D DS games are often barely distinguishable from 2D GBA games. I want the 2D norm to be games that look like Odin Sphere and Muramasa and Wario Land: Shake It (although I thought that game didn't 'feel' quite as tight as the handheld entries, perhaps due to the animation), and, no matter how much power they add, resolution is the limiting factor that is holding the DS back from delivering that.

I want Metroid Dread and NSMB2 and Castlevania and Bionic Commando and Strider and Ghosts'n'Goblins on DS 2 to blow my fucking mind, whether hand-drawn 2D or 2.5D. Yeah.
Posted: 03/19/09, 19:56:54
Well, as a musician who writes a bunch of game-like music and may eventually try to get some in a game sometime, I've looked at a lot of game music with great scrutiny. And I came to a conclusion, which is this... I don't think 8/16-bit music was better because of the medium per se. It was just written from a different perspective, for the most part. Back then game songs were SUPPOSED to be hummable and catchy. Now with the shift towards more and more realistic/atmospheric games, game songs are more like movie soundtracks... mood music in the background. But even movie soundtracks have more memorable parts because movies have a specific progression and the music matches that progression. Luke staring off into the dual suns of Tattooine in reflection while the music builds in the background, definitely an awesome moment. Games can only do that in cutscenes though. But yeah, I like the style of SONG WRITING in the 8/16 bit eras more, because they had actual melodies and hooks, something lacking in most modern game music. And I (sometimes successfully) try to bring it into my own music without sticking to the limitations of the mediums back then.

Still though, there are some newer games with awesome music that is written in the older style. Phoenix Wright is a good example, tons of awesome hooks in those songs.

What did you think of Mega Man 9 then? Would you have preferred a more updated graphical style?
Posted: 03/19/09, 22:56:24
I also like older film music, because it was always hummable. Today's ambient shit does nothing for me. I'm almost always looking for catchiness and stickiness from music. The Mark of Zorro, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Pee-Wee Herman's Big Adventure! Now those were themes!!

This old timer does go on... Anyway, I would have definitely preferred updated graphics for Mega Man 9, although I like the idea of the old-school gameplay. Wallowing in nostalgia is a dangerous thing. It's like that Mirror of... something backwards in Harry Potter.

Posted: 03/19/09, 23:04:49
Rebel FM did a podcast recently about music in video games. It was pretty interesting. They talked about how, just as zero said, the purpose of music in games has really changed. In the old days, the amount of storage space on the discs was really small so the music had to be repetitive. In order to combat the repetitiveness, the music had to be written in such a way that it was catchy and not annoying after hearing it so many times. One good example of this type of music to me is LocoRoco. The music in that game is so fun and catchy, I actually look it up Youtube and play it when I'm just around.

In terms of retro games that should stay retro, I think that Sonic should not try and do 3D. I actually don't think the old 2D games are really that great compared to the old Mario games, but the new Sonic games are totally bad compared to modern Mario games.

Doing a podcast would be sweet. Although we should try to keep these roundtables more focused because already the topics are starting to fly apart. Music in games and retro games seem like two different topics that are both valid
Posted: 03/20/09, 01:14:12
You know what I always thought would make for a good podcast? Doing something that's not tied down by time, something that would never be dated. There are already tons of people that talk about release lists, new releases, recent news, etc. But it would be cool to do something that would almost be archival at the time of recording. Something that could be listened to at any time, because of the universal topics and interesting discussions.

Like, interesting roundtables, historical perspectives, classic game debates, talk about gaming culture, in general. Even funny shit that has nothing to do with games. Ground that isn't currently being trampled to death by 1000 other gaming podcasts.

That way, people who jump in later could easily enjoy the earlier episodes and listeners could, if they wanted to, pick and choose which episodes to listen to by the topics discussed, not the expiration date.
Posted: 03/20/09, 17:40:46
That's actually a pretty interesting idea anand. I think it would be really tough to completely lose a timeline though because you inevitably talk about a game that just came out that you played.

I'd definitely be willing to do some podcasting. One of my friends from high school had a rock music podcast that had about 10,000 listeners which was pretty good because it was us just goofing around and then him playing awesome music.
Posted: 03/21/09, 03:00:42
That's a good point about song length. One of the things I realized when I started doing game music remakes (in midi) is that most 8 or 16 bit game songs are about a 2 minute loop at MOST. There are exceptions of course, but that's about where they fall in, and many are even shorter. I think the X versus Zero song in Mega Man X2 is like a 20 second loop or something, heh (and yet it is SO good.) And even the longer ones were often repeating parts with a few minor changes/additions.

For awhile I was working on a game soundtrack for Chefgon based off the old school principles and it amazed me at how quickly I could crank out some of these songs. They really only need 2 or 3 parts to them, as opposed to most the punk rock/etc. songs I do which have a lot more parts. Then again, punk rock was sort of started by stripping down rock and a lot of it is also short and not many parts, but I never got into that kind of song writing in rock music. Old school video game music though... works fine.

Oops, this really has turned into a music roundtable huh.

Anand I've definitely been thinking about a podcast and yeah, I would want it to mostly be stuff that isn't connected to time. And even with news, I'd want to be able to approach it with a fresher take than just "this game was announced, here is what we think about it." I've also thought about regular features, like maybe we have a feature where we talk about one classic NES/SNES game every podcast, or a feature where we talk about philosophies in games (Gamblor would like that) or the coolest robots in video games or whatever. Which is what we would be doing anyway, probably, but I think people look forward to definable features more than vague chatting. But still, I'm trying to get some other stuff going on the site before I even think about getting personally involved in a podcast... but if anyone ever wants to do one without me (for now,) we would host it of course.
Posted: 03/21/09, 23:14:16
That's true, Akisaka. It wouldn't have to be such a strict thing. People should talk about whatever they're interested in. But I definitely think weekly releases, and the like, are covered by enough sources. And, if a heavily-talked about game is discussed, it should be within an interesting framework, maybe. Or point-counterpoint.

Each person could also alternate to suggest, like, a classic album or movie, too. That might be a bit too off-topic, but it could be fun, if they're passionate enough about the subject to make a good case for it.

Really, though, podcasts live and die on clever interplay and humor, not on content. You've gotta have chemistry.
Posted: 03/22/09, 01:00:51
Now that we have a bit more activity should we start getting some more roundtables opened up?
Posted: 12/21/09, 02:13:53
I'm all for it. I'm already posting here much more than I used to, and plan to do so from here on out. (^__^ )
Posted: 12/21/09, 08:31:58
I'm fine with "retro" games, since I still play and enjoy older games alongside newer games to this day. If I play a newer game that's designed to be "old-school", and it's a good game, then that's great.
Posted: 12/21/09, 13:57:11
Roundtables are fun. I'd like to participate, or I can just read.

For me, I think it's a good thing that the industry is trying to go back to its roots. A lot of what has frustrated me about gaming in recent years is that they aren't innovating at all. Companies like Activision and EA fart out annual releases of Call of Duty, Tony Hawk, Madden, Guitar Hero, etc., and while those games have some new things implemented in them, not much has changed from year to year.

I like that developers are throwing it back to the days of old, when gaming was in its golden age. Games like Mega Man 9 show that even though the formula is tried and true, retro games are still a lot of fun to play. I'd honestly love to see more games throw back to the eight and sixteen-bit graphics of old.
Posted: 12/21/09, 16:45:58
Yeah, let's do it!

Then we could post (edited?) versions as feature articles, perhaps.

Should we have a roundtable topic nomination thread?

What did you think of Mega Man 9 then? Would you have preferred a more updated graphical style?

Oops, I guess I never answered this. I'm not really the audience for Mega Man 9, but I'm not a fan of the approach. It would make for a cool one-off, I guess. But if they're making Mega Man 10 in the same style, I'm calling foul. Just update the franchise in a pleasant way, you bastards. You could still do something cool, minimalist, and retro without actually going 8-bit. Nobody's clamoring for level packs for Super Mario Bros. 1.

Hmm... I wonder if there's anyone who would have rather had NSMB Wii use the style of SMB3.

EDIT: I did answer that. Jesus, I have a bad memory (and poor vision).
Posted: 12/21/09, 17:28:44
^ Heh, it's funny you say that about Mega Man 10, because as we know now, it's going to be presented in 8-bit, just like part 9 was.

I'm looking forward to it. Mega Man seems to work best in NES graphics.
Posted: 12/21/09, 20:24:58
I'm a little disappointed, since even though I like Mega Man 9, I don't want the series to be 8-bit from this point on, forever and ever.
Posted: 12/22/09, 01:06:07
I think it's interesting to see the industry looking to it's past. I for one don't mind the 8-bit styling of games because to be perfectly honest I have always been the type that doesn't care what a game looks like as long as it's fun and plays well. One of by biggest complaints about games today is that most games have lost that pick up and play capability. Since i am an adult now, and have a very pressing job it is hard for me to get deeply involved in some games because I just don't have the time. When I start a game like that there may be a point where I have to go a week without being able to play, and my job is very taxing as well so I tend to forget what was going on in the story and start all over again.

Older games didn't have this problem it was easy to pick up a game and play it for a bit, and then put it down and not touch for a month, but you could always just come back and pick up where you left off without any problems.

Don't get me wrong. I still love the 40+ hour adventure games when I have the time for them, I just wish there was a better balance between pick up and play games vs games that require your complete attention from beginning to end, and I definitely don't think ALL games should return to their retro roots, but I do think some could benefit from it. Mega Man was great, and I think that returning to his 16-bit roots might be the only way Sonic will ever be good again.

Interesting side note though, this trend is not only in video games, it seems lately everything from movies to the products you buy from your local grocery store are reaching back in to their past to generate interest.
Posted: 12/22/09, 03:15:47
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