For years now I have been on the lookout for games that would be based on a totally realistic set of rules and circumstances, and so far, I have been very disappointed by what hits the game market. Mostly the games (and movies and novels alike) are totaly unrealistic, and even the last shards of creative realism are sacrificed so that the average player can find the game more fun. The worst part of it is that average consumers are mindlessly swallowing what ever high graphics adrenaline-pumping game the industry tosses at them, not stopping a single moment to think if there is a drop of realism and common sense in the sea of designers' "creative outbursts".
Sadly, games don't need to follow any realistic and logical settings to be widely accepted; it's more like the other way around. As if realistics and well implemented logics repel players away. By this I mean primarily of sci-fi games, since they are most vulnerable to manipulation by insufficiently educated people, but that doesn't mean that other game genres have gone any better.
Generally, there are two sorts of games: realistic ones and commercial ones. A perfect analogy can be found in the diametral difference of two motion pictures: "2001: A Space Oddisey" - by late Stanley Cubric and Arthur C. Clarke on one side, and "Star Wars Trilogy" (tetralogy/hexalogy?) by George Lucas. The first was a milestone of SF, that was talked about in the highest scientific circles for years, a classical film that generations after us will watch. The other had an average profit of over 300 million dollars per movie (I think) and has created millions of fans worldwide, followers of an exotic universe. So what shall it be? For most game designers/programmers, the choice is clear: I Want My Starship To Have Velocity Limitations Even If It Is In Vaccum!
Sure, your average Sixpack Joe won't tell the difference. But if you do so, you will add further to the level of miseducation that modern culture has implanted into every single individual. You think about THAT when you drive your fancy red Ferrary earned with dirty programming money! Shame on you! Youth Spoiler!
I am not saying that unreal settings are not justified by good gameplay. I think now it's perfect time to mention StarCraft, my favourite strategy game. OK, so I admit, StarCraft is a very amusing game, even though it only takes 30 seconds to build barracks. I think we'll all agree that Blizzard would very soon go bancrupt if you had to wait for 6 months of gameplay for that SCV to buid a Supply Depot, right?
I will now give a couple of examples of totally unrealistic settings, not necessarily from the game industry. This does not mean you should try to avoid such settings - unless you're going for the "smart" players population. I have included 2 examples of illogical settings : one that is justified, and the other that isn't.
And now, here are some rare examples of incredibly, ~100% realistic games:
This is beyond all comment. You HAVE to play these games to understand what I'm talking about.
And here are the best games, those that show a very in-depth implementation of realistic rules, but only to those players that want to dig deep enough. These games have it all, the simple foreground, that can win any player, yet subtle and complex background that will only be important to those players who want to meddle with it.
A Moral Dillema
OK, so it basically comes down to this: should I make a realistic game, one for smart people, and thus automatically limit the target market to 2% of player population, or should I make another brawn-and-not-brain game that will sure be fun, sell off in millions of copies, but in doing so, further corrupt the unstable and subcebtible minds of consumers? Well, it's up to you to decide. There is a solution, of course, something every programmer who cares for his soul finds as his holy grail: to combine fun and realistic in games. To make the game that even the brawn of Quakers and highest brains of Ph.D. guys can handle with equal fun. So far, noone has even gotten signifficantly near this philosopher's stone of sorts. Can YOU do it? Are YOU the Chosen One?
Of course, I realize that 95% of players are BigMac-eating, Quake-drooling, Star Wars-admiring consume-all-Hollywood-bombards-you-with drones, so it's even preferable to deliberately make morronic games over "smart" ones; but I also realize that gaming and movie industry could have done a lot of things to prevent it. Trust me, this comes from a certified Mac-eating, Quake-drooling, SW-admiring drone.
OK, So I control ancient Egyptian tribe (Civilisation: Call of Time)? Fine. Care to explain me why do I keep running the tribe even after 7000 years? Wasn't I supposed to be dead by now?
Some Real Advice
Now, it's time for some real advice on how to make a quality, realistic games - and I hope to accomplish this also by naming the most frequent mistakes. Avoid such mistakes, and you are on a good path towards becoming an objectively developed programmer.
No, you don't need to ask quantum physics professors to unravel the misteries of universe to you before you start making a space sim. Hell, you don't even need to know a thing about space mechanics - judging by the content of modern space games. If you are a lone wolf programmer/designer (and in case you haven't noticed, this article was written mainly for that population), noone will ask you to further tire yourself with such things as Special Theory of Relativity. But hey, if you start messing with techs, try to make'em consistent and believable. Try to read just the basic things, and try to understand for one last time why Antimatter rifles CANNOT work on planets with high atmospheric pressure. And if you own a serious programming company, well, that's easy - you can just hire a creative consultant, someone who understands the core of the matter (and yes, I have no job currently, so... :) ) that will spare you of all that boring physics work, let you do the computer work while he edits the design concepts, and, before you know it, your company will be spitting out realistic-and-fun masterpieces that game industry will remember for a looong time.
Oh, and have just one more thing in mind: While there is not a dormant genius within each computer player, there is a dormant computer player within each genius.
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