Making a video game can best be compared to operating an enormous puppet. Actually, it can’t, but I still have Little Shop of Horrors on my mind, so naturally enormous puppets are too. The more complicated it is, the more people it takes to operate it, and the greater probability that it’ll all come crashing down.

I have a book, one of several, about video game design. In it, it has a little chart showing how many people it required to make a game per generation of video games. Text-based games were innocent enough, they only required one or two people. A lot of basic games could be made individually or in a small group. Around the time of the first PlayStation – the time when I jumped on the video gaming bandwagon – a typical video game needed about twenty-five people to make. A PS2 game needed about fifty, and next-gen games are predicted to need about a hundred or more.

It’s possible I haven’t played enough next-gen games yet (something I hope to fix soon), but I think the PS2/Xbox/GameCube era (technically, the sixth generation of video game consoles) was where classic video games hit their peak. Enough detail to form a rich world and environment, but not enough to make it movielike. Sixth-gen games, as realistic as some of them look, still have an element of fantasy to them that separate them from, say, CGI movies. In other words, sixth-gen games were smooth but not realistic.

So far, it feels like the seventh-gen games don’t give the game designers enough limits. With seventh-gen games, you can throw as many levels and graphics in as you want. Sixth-gen games still relied on tricky algorithms and clever level mapping (especially in the Jak and Daxter series, for example) to fit as much detail as possible in without overloading the system. But now? I look at a game like Assassin’s Creed, and it’s all detail and no design. Honestly, the only reason why it kept my attention for so long was the sheer level of detail. If it were a sixth-gen game, I’d have quit halfway through thanks to the repetitive gameplay.

Soon, though, the impressiveness of seventh-gen games will wear off, and focus will return to gameplay once again. But what about those games two generations before, the fifth-gen games, where it was all gameplay and no graphics?

I miss the old games like Spyro the Dragon. Running around, collecting little gems, deciding who to “charge” and who to “flame”. Going to PlayStation Notebook gives me gaming nostalgia. Okay, so maybe not really, but it might do that to you. But damn, I miss those days. It didn’t matter how good the game looked, because really, you didn’t have that much elbow room in terms of graphics. It was all about whether it was fun.

The new Spyro series sucks, by the way. Know why? Because it’s all graphics and no gameplay. DUH, people.

I’m dying to play the newest Ratchet & Clank game, and I wonder what the makers of Sly Cooper and Jak and Daxter are up to. Hopefully they won’t be hit by the graphics craze and they’ll continue making good games.

But seriously, Spyro kicked ass. I would not want two little dragon horns stuck in my back. And he’d set anyone on fire. Although, the dragons you freed in the first game were kind of annoying. “Thank you for releasing me!” “Thanks for leaving me stuck in this game without any kind of help whatsoever, jerk! Respect your elders? Hah!” The second game just gave you “orbs”. The third game was by far the best, though, where you got to save little baby dragons. When the little baby dragons didn’t give you any useful gameplay tips, well, that was okay, ‘cuz they were cute.

I gotta find my memory card and boot up Spyro again someday. Have you collected all 150 eggs and 20,000 gems in the last game?

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