=== I apologize in advance for the long length of this post. It wasn't supposed to end up being so lengthy when I started to write it. I would appreciate it if you read at least most of what I wrote before replying. Heh. Excuse my verbosity. ===
OK, let's look past all of the on-the-surface changes modern games have had, such as improvements in CPU, RAM, and audiovisual power; business changes like paid-for DLC, in-app purchases, and in-game item purchases; networking features like "cloud" save file synchronization, digital game purchasing & downloading, online gameplay, voice chat, text chat, video streaming, online profiles, online high-score boards (Oh right, "leaderboards" is today's correct terminology.), "friending," "liking," virtual badges, trophies, trading cards, etc.; and in-game changes like adding achievements with distracting on-screen notifications instead of the old do-this, unlock-that systems.
Let's focus on the deeper stuff, the things which lie below the shiny surface of modern gaming.
Has the design of modern games changed too much for you compared to the older games of the "pre-Internet age?" Now, I don't literally mean pre-Internet, I mean games from back before Internet-based features were so ingrained in them, so integral to them. For the sake of argument, let's say games ranging from 1970 - 2004.
For me, they have changed too much.
Games of yesterday expected you to either know what you were doing from experience with similar games, or to actually read the manual to learn about the story, characters, controls, and gameplay. Today, the player isn't expected to do any of that, but instead to be walked, with his hand held, through a series of endless tutorials.
Back then, your character and you had to explore, by yourself, through the game world. Today, you either have some form(s) of AI companion(s) that help you out all the time, or you are always online with other people. There is no isolation, no absorption, no exploring by yourself.
Today, there are thousands of distractions all the time, from "Your friend is online!" notifications, to achievement/trophy notifications, to unexpected "in-game DLC shop" characters, to connection problems, to unreasonable connection requirements (always online for offline-style, single-player games), to bugs, glitches, and technical problems, to patches both large and small which prevent you from playing until they are applied, to feature additions and removals, to menu/UI redesigns (usually terrible), to voice/text chat requests and pop-ups, to notification "lights" on the games' and apps' icons, to (I've heard) advertisements on the Xbox menus, to labyrinthine system menu designs and redesigns, to having the ability to start games marginalized off to the side to have the "OMG, buy new stuff!" ads/notices front and center, to people sending out group invites, online game session invites, friend invites, and "Let's trade!" invites.
OK, perhaps that steered a bit too much back towards "network features" instead of game design.
Back in the day, it was all about pushing yourself to your limits, to be the best player you could be, all for the sake of besting the game. You didn't need to be the best player in the world at any particular game, but you did need to be good to finish the game. You learnt patterns, you learnt weak points, and if you didn't know anyone who knew the answer to a situation, you had to figure it out yourself. You needed to figure out how to get a large number of lives/tries/continues early on so you would be prepared for the long haul. It was you versus the game.
Today, the single-player campaigns are very easy and forgiving and almost as un-challenging as watching a movie. Really, watching a movie is about as "difficult" as it gets. You don't need to learn, you don't need to improve, you just need to do what the screen tells you to do... and you can usually take all the time you would like to complete the current requirement. Time is not of the essence, no matter what "exciting" events are unfolding around you. And you have an unlimited number of continues, so in effect, you have an unlimited number of lives and thus, unlimited tries to complete any task. Unless due to a technical reason (game glitches, file deletions) or the user for some reason choosing to do so, you will never have to start the game over. Even if the lives are somehow limited, they are so plentiful that combined with lots of save points, you are never in danger of running out. But if you somehow do run out, the game's continue screen will just shower you with tons of lives.
Today's multi-player games are a different story though. There, you seemingly must do everything in your power to improve, from self-improvement, to hours collecting experience points to level up your character's stats, to spending in-game money - it all seems required just to remain competitive. And the game is always reminding you of this by comparing you to everyone in your "friends" list and comparing you to everyone in the world. It is no longer "good enough" to be good enough to finish the game or to be competitive with your house guests or true friends - these days you are encouraged at every opportunity to try to be the best versus everyone you meet online.
That or the multi-player game goes to the opposite extreme, telling everyone they did excellently no matter how terribly they played, rewarding everyone with points just for playing, and punishing good players by giving them the worst power-ups (or no power-ups at all) while giving the best power-ups to the worst players.
Yesteryear's multi-player games were different. There was no "Buy more power with dollars!" nor "Play this game for dozens of hours to level up your fighter for versus play." All you needed to do was to improve yourself by spending a modest number of hours practicing and learning a few special moves from the game's manual or pause screen. You didn't need several copies of a game for multi-player (unless playing a handheld game, and sometimes not even then) - all you needed was one copy of the game whether on a local computer network (LAN party!) or playing split-screen on your TV. The only real requirements for multi-player gaming were having a console, a game, a few controllers (often multiple ones were packaged with the console anyway), and a few friends or family members. A good analogy was that it was as fun as playing a board game with buddies but simpler as the computer/console would take care of minding all the rules and pieces.
And the leveling-up and upgrading of your character/units just to progress, ugh! Why can't it just be, "You must be good and get better," to proceed? No, today, no matter how good you as a player are, you must engage in an endless stream of uninteresting battles against fodder enemies to gain EXP for your character or units, so that your character or units can upgrade and branch out in the tech tree or skill tree or level sphere or whatever it is called. No-o-o-o-o-o, it can't be that TRAINED SOLDIERS are already prepared to go into battle, or "We've killed that enemy type enough, we are experts on battling it now, we can skip battling that type of monster or attack," or that leveling grants automatic skill improvements and unlocks, no, you must select which stats will go up with the small pool of stat boost points you were granted for leveling up, and you must choose not just the class, but also choose the skills which the character(s) gain. This just makes the game all the more complicated to design, program, and play! It makes the player stress out about whether he made the right choices. It wastes time and money on these things instead of spending it on those things which could be make the game more fun and simpler to understand!
And all this work is to both permanently buff characters' stats and unlock new abilities. How about this, game designers: give me all the 'upgrades' and abilities at the start of the game as I am "The Chosen One," and I will figure out how to use them and get past all the obstacles in my way as I have been given all of the tools which will be required. How's that, huh?
And the whole experience is watered down for the sake of maximizing the total number of possible hours of playtime.
"Let's have the player go on fetch quests /AND/ go back to previous areas which he has already explored!"
"Don't give the player the tools or the opportunity to collect the tools he needs at the beginning or 'just in case' before he encounters the need for them - that way he has to return everywhere later when he has item XYZ... then let's repeat that with every tool!" (That's pointed at you, Zelda series! This behavior goes way back, but it used to be much less obnoxious.)
"Let's make him move really slowly so that the slow movement alone adds another ten hours of play time."
"Let's have the character 'see no reason to pick that up' when the player tries to pick up an item even when it is really obvious that the item can be picked up or will be able to be picked up later so we can have them backtrack when they encounter a puzzle or situation which requires the item." (That's pointed at you, modern adventure games! Let us pick up whatever we want, dammit! Are we watching a movie or playing a game? The main character is supposed to be our on-screen avatar, our representation, our way of interacting with the world, so if we want him to move or carry out an action and he is capable of it, then let it be!)
"Why let them just select their destination from a map and instantly travel there as they have already traveled along that path or been to that town and proven themselves capable of handling the area, when we can make them waste time by manually driving or walking there instead?" There's often nothing of interest along the way anyway, so let us skip the boring bits!
"Let's have the on-screen dialog text c-r-a-w-l o-n-t-o t-h-e s-c-r-e-e-n v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y to add a few more hours to the game. The player shouldn't be able to speed up the text with a setting or a button press. Forbid the ability to skip dialog: we took the time to write it, they need to read it!"
"Let's put so many side quests into this game that it will double the number of hours the players could spend in here even though completing any of them or all of them won't make a big difference to the player's abilities or knowledge!" I used to try to find and complete every quest in RPGs back in the 8-bit and 16-bit days of console gaming whether it was a main quest or a side quest. It helped to flesh out the game's world and provide insight into the characters and their lives and how their world worked. But nowadays there are so many same-feeling, pointless-seeming quests that I skip every optional quest. However, there are games like the Professor Layton ones which PUNISH you for this behavior by having the protagonist encounter some "gatekeeper" characters that won't let you go by until you've solved some specific number of puzzles or quests even though those characters... HAVE NO WAY OF KNOWING HOW MANY PUZZLES YOU HAVE OR HAVEN'T COMPLETED!
Respect the player's time, game designers! Only keep the parts of your games which are interesting or exciting, and cut the cruft! Haven't you ever heard that less is more? If we could complete your games in less time, we could complete more games in the same amount of time. That would feel like a real achievement. And you could sell more games and sell them for less money each while making more profits overall as we would have more time and need for picking up more games as we'd get through them sooner.
AND YOU COULD SPEND LESS TIME AND MONEY DEVELOPING EACH TITLE INSTEAD OF SPENDING TEN OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS AND TWO TO TEN YEARS WORKING ON THE SAME GAME THE WHOLE TIME. Haven't you noticed how the length of game makers' resumes/CV's have shrunk over time? It's because you all spend so much time and so many resources making a single game anymore! Your entire career can be broken by one badly-received game! It's a whole decade and fortune down the toilet with one poor selling piece of software. It's why there are no more "AAA" game developers left in Australia for crying out loud!
In short, today's game are too focused on being constant sources of revenue, being "social" whilst ironically isolating you from real socialization, maximizing hours by watering down the experience and piling it full of filler content, and being "accessible" to the point of lacking challenge. Thus they lack interest from an adrenalin-loving action gamer from the old school such as myself.
There are a few exceptions to these "rules" (trends) these days, but they are sure getting harder to find. For now, I will continue to play some modern games, but it looks like the time is nigh when I will have to resort to just playing the games of the old school.
=== What about you? Are you fed up with all the changes, seemingly for the worse, that modern games have had? Are any of these changes actually bright spots for you? Or are today's "upgraded" games actually downgrades from what we had, and that the real upgrade is to going back to what we collectively had, seeking out what you enjoyed best and those you haven't played yet? What is the actual best way to play for you? ===