The fundamentals of fun
What makes a good game?

What do all these games have in common? Outrun, Marble Madness, Super Stardust, Zelda 3, Super Aleste.

But what makes a 'good' game? What seperates the good games from the bad? To get even close to answering this, we need to dismantle all of the components in a game.
Let's start by splitting up a 'game' into 3 parts: Graphics, Sound, and a mysterious cryptic factor called 'playability'. No, hang on, graphics is maybe a subset of playability isn't it? Outrun just wouldn't 'play' like Outrun if the action was viewed from a bird's eye view instead ot the driver's perspective - even if the game's underlying control, design and layout was identical. As you can see, this is the kind of thing that makes game analysis all very confusing, but it leads us nicely into what I'll now refer to as the 'game dimension'.

How many dimensions in the playability?

Not to be confused with the graphical dimension, this refers to the 'levels' of control in a game. For example, car games such as Gran Turismo or Sega Rally look 3D, but their control dimension is actually mostly in just 1 dimension. Mostly you're steering just left or right to navigate. Acceleration and deceleration could arguably count as another dimension, but this would still make the game 2 dimensional at most.
On the other hand, certain graphical 2D games play as though they were in 3D. Examples might include Zaxxon (up/down left/right in/out), Midnight resistance (mainly 2D, but the extra joystick adds an extra dimension to the gun movement), and even Asteroids (this time, the same joystick doubles up to give a third dimension for the shot direction).
Then there's sound in a game. Most of the time, the sound and music add to the aesthetic background in the game, but this isn't always true. A siren could provide that vital split-second warning that a boss will fire an instant death-laser covering the full length of the screen.

All of those 'little' things.

R-types mini spiral explosion, The graphics can certainly look different, and they all probably inter-relate to some degree, but now I'm going to try and split them up further:
Sound: The , sound effects, and that all-important backing music.
I have often noticed that some of the best sound effects try to match the pitch of the accompanying music. But what makes a great tune or sound effect? We've hit a brick wall here. The answer is blindingly complex, as it goes to the very root of aesthetics. Visit the Music and Art aesthetics page for more info. Playability: This splits off into graphics and control. Graphics: Are they clear, elaborate, and do they complement the rest of the game? We're looking for beautiful graphics, but also functional graphics as they need to be servant to the playability. In fact, what you see on the screen is very closely tied to the Okay, now I'm stuck. , sounds effects, and general aural soundscape. Graphics

This page will be completed sometime in the future, but for now, I'll post up some useful links:

OPCFG - The organisation for the preservation of classic forms of gaming.
I love the first paragraph from this site - so funny - and true!

The Scratchware Manifesto
There has to be some reason why game standards have dropped in quality over the past decade. I'm not quite sure if I agree with all the opinions in this document, but it certainly provides an insight into the gaming industry.

Flat Batteries - The most overrated games ever
A look into why some of the most popular games ever made, are in actual fact, not very good at all ;-)

Skytopia - Forum
Various threads on why yesteryear's gaming was more fun.

Read further cool stuff from Skytopia...
Return to the Skytopia Project and articles Index

----------------------- I think it's backlash against 3D gameplay. I'm not talking about 3D graphics, but rather 3D gameplay and interacting with things in a 3D world. In 2D, you can do a lot of really cool things because you don't have to think about depth, like how far you have to jump to get to a platform. In 2D, it's obvious. You also don't have to worry about camera angles, which have gotten better in the last 10 years due to improved AI, but they still pretty much suck. I hate backing against a wall in a 3rd-person platform game and seeing the camera go berserk. I also believe that 2D games, especially platformers, give you more freedom to goof around. If a game has a good "feel", you can go all kinds of cool chain-reaction moves which are pretty much impossible in 3D games. 3D games have usually been more procedural due to the interface complexity. I can jump off a platform, smush rows of goombas, and punch a brick to get a coin in one shot. With a typical 3D platformer, you pretty much do one thing at a time -- walk up to something, jump, move again, pick something up, shoot, walk, talk, then walk some more. That's my theory as to why the Wii's 3D controller is wasted on waggle games. Thinking in 3D is actually very difficult. Of course, style matters, too. 3D graphics often lacks the color and graphic power of good 2D. I like remakes of old games, but they cannot either be exact replicas of the old games, or use too much technology. Geometry Wars is a real favorite of mind, as it brings back the old arcade feel, but still offers a pretty fireworks show. Games like Mega Man 9 really turn me off. I have fond memories of 8-bit gaming, not 8-bit limitations. --------------------------- It's true. Recent games aren't games so much as simulations. Simulations can be fun at times but they don't have the same game play value as a real game. It's the difference between running around in a field with a paintball gun or playing Scrabble. Both are entertainment but only the later is really a game under that meaning of the word. Most current games aren't designed for gamers - they are designed for people who want to spend a huge amount of time involved in complex simulations. Most of us don't have time or energy for such complex simulations and have satisfying enough lives that we don't need pretend ones so this sort of game doesn't appeal to us. It's just not the same sort of beast that classic video games were. ie. I have a real wife, a real child, real friends, and a real job so I don't need or want to waste 16 hours a day playing Sims or WoW but I'd still sit down and play a classic platform scroller for 30 minutes every now and then.