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Classic Games (Games) Entertainment Games

What Made Those Old, 2D Platformers So Great? 249

Posted by Soulskill
from the simple-yet-entertaining dept.
TheManagement writes "Many current developers of web games seem to have a fondness for 2D platformers. However, their desire to capture what made Sonic and Mario games so great is rarely achieved. In an attempt to breach that gap, Significant Bits takes a look at three common design principles that made those classic titles so enjoyable. 'To start off, the interface needs to be quick and responsive. Input should have an immediate effect on the character in order to foster a sense of full control. Granularity and different control techniques, i.e., pressing, tapping and holding, are also important as they provide a level of precision to the movement. ... Now, as far as the environments themselves, it's not a coincidence that they're often filled with all sorts of slides, bridges, trampolines, ladders, etc. In a way, they're simply playgrounds for the player, both literally and figuratively. They're catered to the moveset, and they enhance the flow of the game.'"
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What Made Those Old, 2D Platformers So Great?

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  • by LittleJedi (1197983) on Sunday May 24, 2009 @01:02PM (#28075683) Homepage
    The fact that you were younger and less jaded then.
    • For me, it's the total difference in attitude. Back then, I was a kid with no disposable income to spare. Your parents rented you some games from the video store for the weekend and you played the hell out of them. Very seldom did you get the exact games of your choice, so you learned to just deal with what you got. It didn't matter of they were clunky or poorly designed, or if the music was no better than 8-bit blips composed by someone totally tone-deaf who figured the NES's "noise" channel was a substitute for any instrumentation; you were on a holy mission to beat the game(s) within the rental period. Eventually, you even acquired a taste for some of the crappier ones that would later manifest as nostalgia. You'd give anything, any genre a chance. The information just wasn't available the way it is today. If Nintendo Power said it was awesome, you prayed to the greater gaming deities that it would show up in the ma and pa store that had a game rental shelf. If some kid on the playground said "Sega does what Nintendon't", you bashed his head in with a rock. It's just how it was.

      Now I just find myself cherry-picking for the AAA titles, going for the well-reviewed games, or even following the PR hype train. Games with glitches like "all enemies inevitably randomly lose the will to live and walk into a wall before arbitrarily phasing out of existence" no longer have the chance to penetrate the market, or our nerd hearts.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by KDR_11k (778916)

      I disagree, the 2d platformers (at least the post-SMB ones) tend to hold up very well even now. They're probably the genre with the least real evolution, you can play SMB1 without feeling it's missing much from the later games in the genre. Sure, that by itself could mean the genre as a whole is outdated but at least to me the games are still a lot of fun (at least the good ones).

    • by CAIMLAS (41445) on Sunday May 24, 2009 @05:13PM (#28077633) Homepage

      Not so. My son (who is 5) enjoys 2D Mario games on the Nintendo better than he does Mario 64 on the N64 (the first of the genre to have full 3D, IIRC). And he enjoys the "mini-game" Donkey Kong throwback in SMB3 better than those.

      Hell, when I was a kid of 10-13 I remember spending quite a few hours playing old Atari games when I had newer stuff available to me. The games had to be better because the graphics didn't compensate for a poor game experience by 'distracting' the player.

    • by bonch (38532) on Sunday May 24, 2009 @05:35PM (#28077821)

      Normally, I would agree with you except for the incredible sales figures of New Super Mario Bros and the fact young gamers are still playing the older 2D games. I don't think there's a secret to their popularity--they're fast to get into and require no prologues or tutorial missions. You can stop playing at any time and easily jump back into it later. It's simple fun.

    • by centuren (106470)

      The fact that you were younger and less jaded then.

      Plus, we're older and nostalgic now.

  • One word. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by boarder8925 (714555) <thegreentrilby.gmail@com> on Sunday May 24, 2009 @01:04PM (#28075691) Homepage

    What Made Those Old, 2D Platformers So Great?

    One word: nostalgia.

    • Re:One word. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by boarder8925 (714555) <thegreentrilby.gmail@com> on Sunday May 24, 2009 @01:06PM (#28075713) Homepage

      What Made Those Old, 2D Platformers So Great?

      One word: nostalgia.

      Not at the time, of course.

      • by BikeHelmet (1437881) on Sunday May 24, 2009 @04:43PM (#28077403) Journal

        That was amazing! I need to try splitting my insightful posts in two.

        • That was amazing! I need to try splitting my insightful posts in two.

          Assuming these insightful posts are like the normal, uninsightful posts, then a good benchsaw should do it.

      • by Petrushka (815171)

        Agreed. Even at the time, whenever there was a choice between a 2D platformer or an open-world game, I'd almost invariably prefer the open-world game.

        My first gaming was done on an Atari 800, and I can't think of a single 2D platformer that I miss. My preference was for open-world RPGs like the Ultima series or Alternate Reality; open-world simulation games like Star Raiders, Elite, or Rescue on Fractalus. Even among non-open-world games there were plenty of alternatives that I'd take in preference to any 2

    • Re:One word. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gyrogeerloose (849181) on Sunday May 24, 2009 @01:09PM (#28075737) Journal

      One word: nostalgia.

      That, plus the fact that you didn't need to memorize 150 different keyboard commands to play one of those old games. Most of the newer games became too much like work for me to ever really enjoy them.

    • by anss123 (985305)

      One word: nostalgia.

      I played Mario World the other day and to my surprise I found it somewhat "complicated" (You have little Mario, Cape Mario, Spinning Mario, etc.). Once upon a time I could play it to 96 stars in my sleep but today Nostalgia was the only thing that kept me playing (had to get to an old favorite level).

      Donkey Kong Land OTOH is still great fun though, more so than New Super Mario so perhaps I just hate plumbers, IOW 2D platformers are not dead to me - even if that's the nostalgia talking :-)

      • Re:One word. (Score:4, Informative)

        by boarder8925 (714555) <thegreentrilby.gmail@com> on Sunday May 24, 2009 @01:43PM (#28076003) Homepage
        I'm not saying that there's a lack or nonexistence of good or great 2D platformers, I'm simply saying that the greatness of 2D platformers in general has been greatly hyped and overestimated.
    • Re:One word. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Aminion (896851) on Sunday May 24, 2009 @01:57PM (#28076131)
      Nostalgia, indeed. I would, however, like to suggest that by lacking in the graphics department, old games were more immersive because you had to use your own imagination more and not rely on the developers' extended imagination. It's basically one of the main points that Scott Mccloud emphasizes in Understanding Comics [wikipedia.org] and I think the idea translated well to computer games. On the other hand, modern games usually have superior audio and graphics design, and more sophisticated storytelling, all key elements of great games.
      • Re:One word. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Jurily (900488) <jurily@NOSPam.gmail.com> on Sunday May 24, 2009 @03:34PM (#28076915)

        On the other hand, modern games usually have superior audio and graphics design, and more sophisticated storytelling, all key elements of great games.

        I beg to differ. They can add to a game, but they don't make one. Just contrast Civilization and Spore. Not to mention D&D.

        The thing you're talking about is Photoshop or Movie Maker, not a game.

      • Re:One word. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by BikeHelmet (1437881) on Sunday May 24, 2009 @04:52PM (#28077483) Journal

        The devs back then had to spend a lot of time on the level layouts. When you can't rely on gfx or sfx to make your game a success, you have to spend a lot of time ensuring every aspect of the game is high quality.

        That means reasonably good graphics/sound effects(even if "bleeps and bloops" are the best possible), good level design, difficulty level which ramps up over time, etc.

        Far too many modern games have poor level design, or difficulty fluctuates randomly, or the input scheme is awful. It can be quite irritating.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by fractoid (1076465)

          The devs back then had to spend a lot of time on the level layouts. When you can't rely on gfx or sfx to make your game a success, you have to spend a lot of time ensuring every aspect of the game is high quality.

          I'd turn that around on you, and say that when you don't have to spend most of your development budget on graphics and sound effects, you can spend a lot of time on level layouts, gameplay, etc.

          This is one of the things that REALLY killed indie game development as a serious contender (although I'll grant it's coming back with casual and mobile gaming, huzzah!). Back in the 8-bit era, a programmer could create a near-commercial-quality sprite sheet in an afternoon. For a larger game, you'd have an artist an

    • Re:One word. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Rary (566291) on Sunday May 24, 2009 @02:00PM (#28076155)

      What Made Those Old, 2D Platformers So Great?

      One word: nostalgia.

      What about limited alternatives?

      When the first video game was made, it was the best video game in the world. When there were a dozen titles, more than 80% of games were in the top ten.

      Today, we've all seen a gajillion games in our lifetime, so anything new that comes out has some serious competition to even be considered "okay".

      • > What about limited alternatives?

        OK, that might apply to SMB and a few other games, but by the 16-bit era there were hundreds of 2D platformers and most of them were shitty.

      • by fractoid (1076465)

        When the first video game was made, it was the best video game in the world. When there were a dozen titles, more than 80% of games were in the top ten.

        Excellent point. It's like the way fans of 'classic' music complain about "this crappy music they make these days". There're maybe half a dozen bands from the 50s and 60s that are still played regularly today, and they're still played because their music was and is good. In 2060 there'll be maybe half a dozen bands from the '90s and '00s that get played regularly because they were good. Probably more because the world is so much bigger a place now, but the principle applies.

        Like you say, new stuff that come

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by moosesocks (264553)

      Survivorship Bias: We tend to only remember the good ones.

      That all said, the signal-to-noise ratio does seem to have decreased in recent years, with most successful titles being part of already-established franchises.

      (Offtopic: I haven't played a good RPG in ages. Any suggestions? Doesn't matter how old (or new) it is.)

    • Re:One word. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by meringuoid (568297) on Sunday May 24, 2009 @03:10PM (#28076701)
      Not quite. I'd say two words: Shigeru Miyamoto.

      Go download a NES emulator and a collection of ROMs. Play through a representative sample of 2D platformers of the late eighties and early nineties. My God, most of them suck so very, very hard. How did anybody ever enjoy this utter rubbish?

      Now play Super Mario Bros. 3.

      There, you see the difference? Exactly. This isn't nostalgia taking games that were never very good and inflating them to become unwarranted classics. This is time acting as a filter. All those awful games have sunk into richly deserved obscurity. So when somebody publishes a 2D platformer today, we don't compare it against the whole genre: we compare it against Mario at his absolute best. We're going to see some kid's band he's formed with his mates, and we listen critically, and flame them for not being anywhere near as good as the Beatles.

      A small number of truly great games, that's what we remember. We've forgotten the crap.

      • Exactly. Now go and look at a modern flash games site. You will see games of a similar complexity to those 8-bit games, and around 90% of them are rubbish. Maybe fun to play once, for five minutes, but not much replay value. On the other hand, a very few keep being fun over and over.
    • nostalgia

      No. For one, as my sibling has noted, that couldn't be it at the time. As a poster further down has eloquently noted, "button Fail! button button Succed! ENDORPHINS!!!"

      I hold that over the last twenty years, computer games haven't been getting more fun to play. They've gotten better looking, better sounding and more imersive (it's cool how the B button on the wiimote feels kinda' like a trigger...).

      But I think there's a limit to how far you can push the endorphin high. (Isn't it dopamine?)

      If that's corre

    • by Haoie (1277294)

      Not easy to build that into a modern game, is it?

      Unless you, mmm, literally wear 3D rose tinted glasses?

    • Nostalgia didn't exist back then. It had to have been something else.

  • Nostalgia (Score:3, Informative)

    by Blakey Rat (99501) on Sunday May 24, 2009 @01:07PM (#28075719)

    That horrible wasting-mind disease known as nostalgia. On average, the same percentage of platformers were good as, for example, the percentage of first-person shooters that are good. The thing is, people still play the good platformers-- like Mario 3 or Sonic 2, and as a result, they completely forget about the thousands of crappy platformers out there.

    If you want a more even perspective, take a look at Something Awful's ROM pit: http://www.somethingawful.com/d/rom-pit/ [somethingawful.com] They review the bad platformers you've forgotten.

    Now, can we please stop seeing topics like this based entirely on nostalgia?

    • by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld@@@gmail...com> on Sunday May 24, 2009 @01:18PM (#28075817) Homepage
      Now, can we please stop seeing topics like this based entirely on nostalgia?

      But if they stop posting topics like this, in a few years we'll start reminiscing about them. "Remember those old topics based entirely on nostalgia? Weren't those great? I miss those days..."
    • by mickwd (196449) on Sunday May 24, 2009 @01:23PM (#28075843)

      Now, can we please stop seeing topics like this based entirely on nostalgia?

      Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Dusthead Jr. (937949)
      One of the things that kill me about people who say stuff like "games where better back in the day" is that they only talk about all the good (and popular) games. They seem to filter out or forget all off the crappy ones. They will talk about how games were more unique back then, never mind all of the Mario clones, the countless shoot-em-up, and beat-em-ups, and the RPGs. Don't forget the movie tie ins and the other licensed crap that was invented back the. These are not some new recent ideas. There are fo
      • Re:Nostalgia (Score:5, Interesting)

        by grumbel (592662) <grumbel@gmx.de> on Monday May 25, 2009 @12:42AM (#28080137) Homepage

        They seem to filter out or forget all off the crappy ones

        Well, yeah, because there where enough good ones so that we didn't have to play the crappy ones. Look at the adventure genre, LucasArts had a new title ready every year and each of those was awesome. How often do high quality adventures released today? Not much at all, most are rather mediocre. And that is ignoring all the non-LucasArts adventure games from back in the day, some of them where pretty awesome too. And now don't let me start on the flightsim genre, as that is pretty much dead and burried today and the amount of good flightsim is close to zero.

    • by mobby_6kl (668092)

      Yep, another good source is always the Angry Nintendo Nerd [screwattack.com]. The Moonwalker video is pretty good and of cousre there's plenty more in the archive somewhere.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Stormwatch (703920)
        I think I saw that video. The nerd complained that the moonwalk move is useless - which is incorrect. In the last stage you can use it to walk on conveyors without losing speed.
    • by retchdog (1319261)

      Horrible ROMs is where opinion gets interesting. Everyone likes Mario 3 well enough; but only certain people can tolerate Clash at Demonhead. I rate it as one of the best NES games ever, along with Solar Jetman which had huge seamless gamefields and very challenging physics. Too challenging and weird, which is probably why it failed, but there's still nothing like it. It's sort of like a single-player story mode for xpilot [wikipedia.org].

  • by VMaN (164134) on Sunday May 24, 2009 @01:09PM (#28075745) Homepage

    What I absolutely hate the most about any modern 3d game is that even a relatively beefy machine, I get a noticeable LAG on the input, even if framerates are good, unless i set graphics options to low/low/low etc .

    It makes my games unplayable, and I lose interest because it prevents any kind of immersion.

    • by KlausBreuer (105581) on Sunday May 24, 2009 @01:57PM (#28076133) Homepage

      While I do agree with you, it has certain advantages: when I buy this game for real cheap in two years, my PC is powerful enough to set it to max/max/max.
      Then I have a nice game with good graphics for a low price.

      What, you think I'd buy a brand-new game? Full of bugs? Idiotic copy protections? Ridiculously high prices? Needing much more CPU/GPU power than my high-end PC offers?
      You must be joking.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Razalhague (1497249)
        ...and that, ladies and gentlemen, is why developers go bankrupt even if they make good games.
        • Then maybe they should fix the problems:

          Full of bugs? Idiotic copy protections? Ridiculously high prices? Needing much more CPU/GPU power than my high-end PC offers?

          Of course, sometimes they actually produce a brilliant, excellent game, the critics love it, and nobody buys it. Let us all mourn the passing of "Psychonauts", and possibly go buy it on Steam.

    • When people measure game performance they usually only measure framerate. Nobody measures control latency, so this encourages design choices that trade responsiveness for framerate. Things like alternative frame rendering in multi-GPU setups instead of split frame rendering, and triple or higher n-buffering. Even if it's not a conscious choice, people get away with lazy high latency design because by nobody mentions it in reviews, so by the time the buyer finds out it will be too late. In complicated en

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Mad Merlin (837387)

      It's in a similar vein, but another thing I find really annoying is when games draw their own cursor instead of using a hardware accelerated cursor. It instantly makes me not want to play the game ever, as the mouse is incredibly choppy in comparison, no matter how fast your system is.

      For example, yesterday I had a hankering to play Heroes of Might and Magic 3, which is a game that was released in 1999 and required a Pentium 133 to run. While it's still as fun as it always was, the cursor is still choppy, e

  • by 4D6963 (933028) on Sunday May 24, 2009 @01:11PM (#28075755)

    2D is a superior approach for such games because they allow you to see everything in your vicinity, makes moving simple, and so on. It's just the better approach for such games.

    That's the problem with the novelty effect of 3D, it had us under the delusion that 2D was a thing of the past and that everything had to be 3D, as much as possible, as if it was something you couldn't get too much of.

    It surely has a name, but that's just a common thing when a novel technology/technique/approach appears to believe that it can replace entirely anything else. Which means I believe soon enough when the novelty of 3D graphics will have died for good then we'll see ourselves definitely sticking to 2D for certain types of games. Just because sometimes it's better (see Sonic on Genesis vs Sonic in 3D)

  • Older video games did not require much sacrifice to play. Because your social life was not significantly affected, playing them was less of a lifestyle decision than it is with today's video games, which require more serious consideration. I don't remember anyone worrying that their roommate might be addicted to Pac-Man.

    Especially the Atari 2600 version. Man that sucked.

  • Lack of options (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AnonChef (947738) <anon...chef@@@gmail...com> on Sunday May 24, 2009 @01:16PM (#28075807)
    Seriously
  • by Zerth (26112) on Sunday May 24, 2009 @01:19PM (#28075825)

    *button *button Fail

    *button *button Succeed ENDORPHINS *button *button Fail

    *button *button Succeed ENDORPHINS *button *button Succeed ++ENDORPHINS *button *button Fail ANGER

    Continue ad infinitum

    The trick is to space out the fails such that you don't give up to quickly, but not so far apart that you don't break the flow every now and then. The other trick is to have enough wiggle in your gameplay such that success can be defined many ways, not just winning.

    Oh no, carp came in when I flooded the plump helmet field, there are skeletal elephants blocking the caravan, and someone has an odd mood for jello? I'm screwed! *massive endorphin rush* [dwarffortresswiki.net].

  • They weren't great, most of them. Anyone who grew up in the 80's and 90's videogame era, knows that at least 90% of those old 2d platformers... were truly, brokenly awful.

    Fortunately, those are rarely remembered - the reason why we consider them 'so great', is because it's only the good ones that get remembered and replayed, years later, with any fondness.

    • by SirLurksAlot (1169039) on Sunday May 24, 2009 @02:09PM (#28076229)
      Warning: This may turn into a "Get off my lawn!" post.

      They weren't great, most of them. Anyone who grew up in the 80's and 90's videogame era, knows that at least 90% of those old 2d platformers... were truly, brokenly awful.

      I grew up in the 80's and 90's and I don't remember a lot of platformers being awful, but I do remember a lot of them being extremely difficult. TMNT and Battletoads for the NES are two examples that come to mind. I don't know how many times I had to replay the underwater stage in Turtles before I got fast enough to beat it, or how many times I had to replay the racing stage in Battletoads before I didn't get creamed by an obstacle. Awful games for me were the ones that had confusing controls or puzzles that just did NOT want to be solved, but really there weren't a lot of those that I can recall. For the most part games had a good (read "simple") set of controls, straight-forward goals and were at least somewhat forgiving of mistakes (You died? Guess what, you have two more mans!)

      I honestly think that games back then had better gameplay for the most part. They were less complicated and more focused on just having fun. Games today are all about shiny glitz and how many polygons are being handled at once. Games were also a lot cheaper back then, and there was a lot less marketing and hype involved, so even if a game wasn't all that great it's not like you were out $50-60 and crestfallen because it didn't live up to your hopes.

  • by Kjella (173770) on Sunday May 24, 2009 @01:25PM (#28075871) Homepage

    Without 3D, and often without mouse, you got people doing advanced A-B-B-A-Select-Start-A whatever combos to play the game. Now it's a lot more focus on being in the right position to fire their gun or do the jump and kick. Yes, 2D games are great and fun in many ways - but they're also quite limited. Don't get me wrong, I loved the old isometric games, but I also love the freeform 3D capability of rotating the view, zooming the view to watch exactly what you want from the angle you wnat. Very often the flat 2D battles would involve exactly one tactic, moving in the same way around the screen each time. In 3D you might still have much of the same but it's always more different, more varied. I think a good eaxmple would be old Super Mario vs Super Mario Galaxy - essentially the same game in 2D and 3D. I much prefer the 3D version. Same with King's Bounty: The Legend which I think is a much underrated - the freeform 3D makes it so much better than old HOMM games. Sorry, but the only time I think 2D is that great is when I put on my big old nostalgia glasses.

    • by Virak (897071)

      It said "platformers", not "fighters". The vast, vast majority of 2D platformers have simple control schemes, even more so than 3D ones. You seem to have a case of some sort of bizarre anti-nostalgia. Please go play Super Mario or Mega Man or something like that and readjust your flawed view of reality.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Malorion (1561745)
      3D *can* improve a game, but if that's what you're relying on to make a better game, your design needs a whole truck load of work. KB:TL is a better looking game and better than the older HOMM games but, IMO, that's because there's more detail all round. 3D makes it look prettier, it does not alter the base game. I recently played through Rick Dangerous via WinUAE and I can't imagine a 3D version that I would prefer more. Indie developers that make 2D platformers and adventures in "the old style" are pro
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 24, 2009 @01:27PM (#28075883)

    One of the thing that made these 2D scroller feel so great was the perfect scrolling synched with the "VBL" (Vertical Blank Line). There were many amazing 2D scrollers, for example, on the Amiga. The screen could refresh at either 50 or 60 Hz depending on your location (europe and US, for example, had monitor with different default refresh rate).

    This is not at all "nostalgia": it's not something I'm making up. It is not an opinion, it is a *fact*. You cannot argue with a fact.

    A game run on a system that refresh the screen 60 times per second, where the game's background move by 1 pixel (or 2 [1,2, 3, 4 used to work fine]) at every refresh at a very special "smooth" feeling that has *never* been matched.

    It wasn't just Sonic's great control, the cool game elements, the great "simplification" that 2D brings: it was also a very special visual "feeling" due to having the game's logic intrinsically tied to the hardware it was run on.

    Years after my "Amiga 2D scrollers time", I was playing competitive Counter-Strike, using "low-poly" mods to enhance the framerate of my (sucky) PC. I reached 99 fps but 3D games will never *ever* reach the smoothness that a good 2D scroller tied to the hardware had.

    The young generation shall never understand this. I'm probably very bad at explaining it. It's something you need to see to understand what the "old grandpa's" are "nostalgic" about.

    Just like demo from "the scene", way before it was called "the scene" had amazing effects that newer demo simply cannot match.

    Sure, you have 3D effects using 100 millions polys/sec running at 800 fps (just half-joking) but the "smoothness" of the good old 2D Amiga demos has never been matched.

    Food for thoughts.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Joce640k (829181)

      3D games can also have perfect sync (and many of them do, especially on consoles...)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 24, 2009 @01:36PM (#28075941)

    Braid, World of Goo, N+, etc.

    The article talks about 2D games like they were things of the past and no good ones existed today...

  • I can think of a good list of reasons why 2D platform games were (and to an extent, still are) great.

    Firstly, I'd say replayability. The best-looking game of the time was just another game once you finished it. Most games of the time opted for difficulty settings, which provided a sense of replayability without significant design challenges (adding more monsters is easy). I myself became burnt out on those, because they got repetitive and nothing was new beyond a plot twist at the end; I enjoy the length

  • No limits (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Sunday May 24, 2009 @01:50PM (#28076075)
    One of the things that make 2-D platformers stand out today is that you don't feel limited. When you played Super Mario World you don't think about the limitations of the SNES, there are no load times, rarely any lag, etc. Most 2-D platformers were abstract, you didn't think "Oh, Mario's mustache isn't moving realistically", you concentrated on the game. When you got to the SNES/Genesis era, it seemed like any limitation was banished forever for 2-D games, you got bright multi-colored visuals, music that was quite catchy, you had no load times (unlike CD based consoles), and with expansion chips such as the Super-FX the games really got more impressive as the system went on. When games started moving into 3-D and realistic 3-D, things started to get more realistic. They moved out of the abstract. You noticed that Mario was really blocky, round visuals were rendered as squarish, etc. They felt limited. While in a 2-D game you had total freedom within the course till the end, early 3-D games had to constrain you. Even though you could see hills as far as the eye could see, whenever you ran after them you were hit by an invisible wall. The hardware also felt limited, with the rise of CD/DVD based games you introduced loading times, this took you away from being totally immersed for 5 seconds and somewhat ruined the effect you were in another world.

    Today things are starting to get better, 3-D seems less limiting then before, yet with the rise of HD TVs, faster CPUs, etc. I doubt that we can really get seemingly unlimited 3-D games until close to the next revolution, be it true 3-D, VR, or something different. The rise of flash memory, faster drives and HDs in game consoles have cut down on load times too. But still 3-D doesn't seem as limitless as 2-D platforming was.
  • Ok I'll admit many 2d games blew.
    But the good 2d games had some good points..
    no odd lag, because it was dedicated. Crisp use of the monitor.

    in Donkey-kong knowing when to acsend a ladder is critical.
    in Battlezone (3d but extra-old).. using the blocks right was a monster.
    in Super Mario.. knowing that you will land on ground was a trick.
    oh.. and death was usually one mistake away..

    "Pac-Man Fever" was only a song, not a medical diagnosis.

    Now theyre not world of warcraft... but imagine WOW w

  • by Twinbee (767046) on Sunday May 24, 2009 @02:11PM (#28076241) Homepage
    I find many modern 3D games have a low "button-press-per-minute" count. Whilst older games always had something going on almost every second, recent titles just get the player to sprawl around for hours. Give me an older title such Bank Panic [klov.com] or Smash TV [wikipedia.org] (both arcade) over a modern 3D shooter any day.

    For the games which aren't like that, then they're just too easy I find as well. I've recently bought great playing games such as World of Goo [worldofgoo.com] and Zombies Vs Plants [popcap.com], and although they are great fun while they last, it's over all too quickly - more proof that games today are geared towards the masses for 'throwaway' purchase like a McDonalds. It's pretty sad.
  • Game Over (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Haxx (314221) on Sunday May 24, 2009 @02:15PM (#28076287) Homepage

    On the old games, they actually ended when you made 3 critical errors. The whole idea was to get better each time you played to get further into the game and possibly beat it.

    Today all games are about experience gaining and gold hording. Play lousy for 6 months, get to level 90 so you can kill the creatures with one click. Oh, and the game only ends when you stop paying your monthly bill.

  • Shenanigans (Score:5, Informative)

    by yerktoader (413167) on Sunday May 24, 2009 @02:23PM (#28076331) Homepage
    So a good number of people have stated nostalgia, and out of those the majority have said that 2d platformers were mostly or all bad. Yet I've not seen any examples of how or why.

    I call bullshit.

    Platformers have continued to achieve success, and while they're far less common than they used to be, many of them have received rave reviews, and deservedly:

    Castlevania: Symphony of the Night(1997)
    Contra: Shattered Soldier(2002)
    Neo Contra(2004)
    Psychonauts(2005)
    Bionic Commando Rearmed(2008)
    Mega Man 9(2008)

    And there's many more that I haven't listed. I think what made those games great back in the day is what makes them great now - simple to interact with, but challenging enemies and environments. Great soundtracks, great graphics, great fun.
  • by log0n (18224) on Sunday May 24, 2009 @02:54PM (#28076581)

    There just wasn't anything better at the time. My generation.. it's all about how great Quake/Doom/Duke Nukem and how nothing lives up to the gameplay they offered. The more immediate generations will proclaim how nothing before Halo was any good and very little after has come close.

    20 years from now we'll have the same thing.

    (personally, I think the games we have now are the best (playing/looking/story(not everything of course)/etc) we've ever had)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jonaskoelker (922170)

      There just wasn't anything better at the time.

      On my Wii, I have Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (a made-for-the-Wii first-person shooter) and the shareware versions of Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and Quake.

      Sure, MP3:C has some neato cutscenes and the environment has more polygons. But all three ID shooters are quite viable competitors to MP3:C, because they're great fun (and I really suck at Wolfenstein...).

      Now, it should be said that MP3:C have few and quite easy monsters. In a sense it feels more like a first person action adventure than a shooter (but maybe

  • by RiotXIX (230569)

    The speed of sonic, or mario jumping / ducking bullets or onto moving platforms - you could test your hand-eye skills without getting a headache. They should make a spectacularly good looking 3d platformer. I remember playing sonic 3d recently and returned it after an hour. It didn't take as much skill / speed I felt.

    Also, dare I say it - the graphics are capable of looking better? They can look hand drawn animation, not like bulky blocks put together. Although this distinction is fading now.

    Button presses

  • I think that production costs make it impossible to make many games. Fewer games means less diversity. Less diversity means less chance that a game will get made that I really like.

    I remember the wide variety of games that were out there when I was in my twenties. Now, there is so much sameness. Duke Nukem, Call of Duty, Doom, . .. they're all fundamentally the same.

    Open source holds super-great potential, I think. A good project leader can develop a good object-oriented skeleton and developers can fi

  • RTFA anyone? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Froobly (206960) on Sunday May 24, 2009 @03:30PM (#28076879)

    Maybe people here should actually read the article before commenting on it. The article isn't just your average list of top ten games from the '80s, or "boy, games sure suck right now" rant. The author actually lays out some decent guidelines for what makes a good sidescroller, given the benefit of experience.

    So many of the posts seem to be parrotting the "nostalgia" line, while refusing to acknowledge that some of those games were just plain *good*. Super Mario Bros. 3 and Mega Man 2 are good games, and the existence of Pac Land doesn't make them any less good. The article does a pretty good job of explaining why.

  • They were the best games AT THAT TIME. Ther was almost nothing else but 2d, so companies made the best they were able to do.

  • Most of those games were built when space was a luxury on a chip, and processing power was a luxury on the console. To make a decent game, it just had to have kick ass gameplay. Also, the games were just as expensive as now, so with inflation they were even more... to get people to buy a game, it had to be even more incredible to play. Finally, The gaming market was much smaller, so the appeal of games had to be better to keep people engaged in getting new games. Today's video game market is completely

  • With 3D (and starting with Mortal Kombat fighters) things started to get horribly complicated, as another poster pointed out. You threw the ball, you were the ball, you were the football player catching the ball.

    But none of this made the game better long-term.

    I think the Wii solved this by making the controller much more intuitive. Right now, I'm having a ton of fun on the iPhone with a game called iFighter. It's a ton of fun. And 2D. But 2D with the accelerometer.

  • You can immediately get into games like Super Mario World. You press left, and your guy goes left. Press right and your guy goes right. You don't need to look at a manual to figure out what key does what, and figure out how to manipulate the camera to see what you need to see. You just play, and the guy responds just how you want him to.

  • by massysett (910130) on Sunday May 24, 2009 @11:06PM (#28079733) Homepage

    People say it's "nostalgia." I don't think so. Those old video games were simpler.

    Controllers now are like Space Shuttle controllers or something. Too many buttons, too complicated. I must have given up on the modern console games around the time of Madden for the Nintendo 64. The N64 controller had a whole bunch of buttons (maybe 15?!) and Madden used them all. I could not keep them all straight.

    Now these games try to be so realistic that all they end up doing is reminding you how pathetic you are that you are sitting in front of a TV, controlling these little virtual men, rather than going out in a field and tossing a ball or coaching some kids or something.

    These high-end console games have just gotten too complicated. Some people have figured this out, though, and are cashing in:

    * Wii. People on Slashdot love to make fun of it. I guess they're the same type of folks who thought iPod was lame compared to some junk from Creative Labs. But Wii is simple. You don't have to sit around for hours just learning how to work the thing.

    * iPhone apps. Simple, simple games. Cheap to develop, they sell for cheap, and I heard a story about how a guy who wrote one of those things cashed in big. Similarly my girlfriend was sitting around for hours playing Brick Breaker on the BlackBerry.

    * Online games. No I do not mean WoW kind of stuff. I mean Yahoo Games kind of stuff, like Text Twist. Simple games.

    So really I would say that the old 2D games are still around. They are just a lot cheaper and more plentiful now. Now they are cell phones, iPhones, and Yahoo Games and the like. I am willing to bet that between Wii, iPhone apps, and simple online games, there is cumulatively much more time spent on simple games than on this hyped up console stuff that takes hours worth of training to get anywhere on.

    A Slashdot fallacy I see all the time is conflating "gaming" with "several hundred dollar consoles" and "fifty-dollar games," which is why people say "there aren't any games on Linux." There are plenty of simple games on Linux, and there are plenty of old 2D style games still being played now. It's only a relative few people who are obsessed with these expensive, all-consuming games.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by freedom_india (780002)

      Exactly. Well Said.
      The reason Wii became such a monstrous success is because of its simplicity. Its graphics isn't that great.
      I took one look at XBox 360 controller and did not buy it because it looked "so alien".
      I need a controller that goes with the flow. Like a joystick and one button.
      Or two buttons max.
      The key to earlier games being so good is because these guys knew human psychology and physiological limitations. Plus add to the constraints of those era.
      The human brain can at most do 3-4 tasks parallel

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