Up For Debate - Are video games becoming too complex for their own good?

Written by Chad Norton on Sat, Jun 27, 2020 5:00 PM
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Video games are great, we all love them here I’m sure, and the bigger the better right? Sure we have many varied experiences ranging from short narrative-focused indies, to large open-world sandboxes. But as we start to usher in a new generation of technology and graphical fidelity, are games starting to become too complex for their own good?

If you’ve ever experienced a game that is simply too complex that it’s actually turned you off from it, then be sure to let us know! We’d love to hear all examples, even in cases where it’s in fact the opposite feeling. Are they really too complex now? Or are they just simply getting better?

The most obvious example would be the recent delay of Cyberpunk 2077 again for the second time. Whilst the developers assure that the game is completely finished now, these extra couple months will provide enough time to catch all the bugs and fix any known graphical/performance issues before the title’s official release.

But does that mean CP2077 became too complex for its own good? Not only has it technically been in development for nearly 8 years (it’s been over 7 years since that iconic CGI teaser was released), but it’s been delayed twice due to bugs and technical issues.

We can also draw upon Rockstar’s controversial development process, which saw a big scandal after Red Dead Redemption 2’s release that highlighted the extensive ‘crunch’ period developers had to go through.

And then, of course, there’s Assassins Creed: Odyssey, which has been heavily criticized for too much ‘bloated’ gameplay and has been publicly fixed in the upcoming Assassins Creed Valhalla. Sure, you can argue that AC Odyssey isn’t exactly ‘complex’, but the amount of content in that game sure does scream that it’s trying to be that to some extent at least. Dying Light 2 is another game that comes to mind, which still hasn’t got a definitive release window yet...

So are games starting to become too complex for their own good? To the point where big titles will always be delayed once or even twice nearly a year after it’s initial release date? Where developers will be asked to crunch for extended periods of time? And to the point where it actually might turn players away? Let’s debate!

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08:41 Jun-30-2020

in my opinion yes but its a good thing as it makes accesibility to wider range of people

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18:12 Jun-30-2020

Yeah, but people that would like simething actually requires more than pressing 2-4 buttons with nothing else in mind, except for timing, kinda bored with the games.

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18:17 Jun-30-2020

well all old school games were like that 2-4 buttons

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18:27 Jun-30-2020

not that old school games. I'm talking about games from the very late 90s and the 2000s. Yeah NES games and Atari games were 2-4 buttons.
But take WoW for example. Usually you have 12-24 buttons depending on the class and spec(in previous expansions even more), and you don't just spam them, there are rotation order + rotation priorities, situational abilities, utility abilities, crowd control abilities, damage boost abilities, Damage Over Time abilities to be refreshed, buffs to be refreshed, boost effects to be maintained, having many spell combos, etc, etc. That's what's fun about it. That's complexity of just the combat.
Then you add all the stats, die rolls and everything you have to be thinking about and then the specific enemy stats and mechanics(not in the open world content).

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20:09 Jun-30-2020

wow is mmo its obvious that it uses a lot of shortcuts + for skills tho its not really as you say even tho there are bunch of skills/abillities everyone just use and spam only like 6 not including boosts as thos are not constantlly used and its like that in every mmo out there hmm now when i think about it doom 2016 is a great game and it uses just 5 buttons, forward,jump, fire, glory kill, so it all should depends on genre

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21:13 Jun-30-2020

yeah true, but I'd like if they added more and more mechanics, after years of playing games, things just have become so basic.


And no most rotations in WoW are usually 8-10 buttons and you do maintain certain buffs so you do press them about 1/3rd of the frequency of the regular rotation and when there are procs and thus priorities in the rotation it's very different and some rotations gain extra buttons for that as well. And back in older expansions rotations were even more buttons, but they pruned the classes and now they are unpruning them and seeing alpha gameplay, it seems we are back to having about 20-30 buttons on the bars just for spells.

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21:28 Jun-30-2020

"after years of playing games, things just have become so basic" thats exactly problem with us who are playing for ages, whenever we try some new game it feels as if we already played it similar how we complain how games in the serie looks same as each other while we want something new as bec of it we call it a trash game or not recommend it, while there are people that are just getting into the gaming world and they are having the blast with thos same games we trash, so problem is in us as much as in developers that

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23:12 Jul-01-2020

I don't call it trash, I've always liked more of the same if it's equally as good(or obviously better). That's why I like sequels, but I still want gameplay and mechanics to progress, both for the player and for the enemies(or if it's PvP, just for the player obviously), as well as level design, level interaction, objectives, etc, etc. And my biggest problem is that games are actually getting dumbed-down, watered down, or "mainstreamed", which saddens me.

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04:45 Jul-02-2020

As for MMO's I preffer Aion to most others. You actually have to aim to hit something, so button mashing is out of the window.


Regarding new gameplay experiences, for me only VR holds any hope of actually revolutionizing how we play games.

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09:42 Jul-02-2020

never tried it but is it not similar as black desert online?

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13:02 Jul-02-2020

When it comes to combat yes.
But from what I recall there's a lot of grinding in Black Desert Online. If my memory serves right, you only get xp in Aion from completing quests. That's what I liked the most when it came out.

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14:50 Jul-02-2020

true black desert is all about econommics getting land and property then upgrading it and so on which is the reason i stoped playing it after a just a week as i was feed enouth with beutifull visuals and combat but it wasnt enouth

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13:34 Jun-29-2020

click 'Alt' to drink
thirst level high
LOL

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15:39 Jun-29-2020

good one

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15:50 Jun-28-2020

I think in terms of complexity no way ... games are too dumbed down in my opinion .. and developers keep bloating it which makes it worse .. Games like GoW, Last of Us 2, RDR2 .. they stand out now because of this. Innovative approach is lacking in the industry .. anyone remember prototype? risks pay off sometimes.

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20:38 Jun-28-2020

why arent you rhyming?

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22:35 Jun-28-2020

You've clearly equated the complexity of the presentation with the complexity of it's design, and those 2 things are not anywhere near as intertwined as you might expect. A game can be a massive technical challenge to put together and still be the most simplistic, on-rails experience for the player you could possibly imagine.

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09:06 Jun-29-2020

I think you misunderstand. Although presentation is a major quality for the games I mentioned, their designs are equally innovative. Take RDR2 for example. Having an evolving interactive camp/community to look after which is deeply woven within the narrative is genius in my opinion.

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15:45 Jun-28-2020

In a way, yes!
Not adding anything new to a genre would be boring so I understand why the need for more options and more complexity. And it is easier to "add" stuff to a game than come up with a completely "new" but simple way to play.
If you are an avid gamer, this is good since you keep getting something new at least. But if you dont game for a while, it can easily get too complicated.

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15:00 Jun-28-2020

Complex? No. Being filled with grindy activities that do not contribute to the lore or main history of the game? Yes.

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14:52 Jun-30-2020

Games become more open world, because it's awesome to explore the world of a game, but this often comes at a cost.



  1. The way you're pulled in and out of the main story (Mirror's Edge Catalyst for example). It literally feels like you pause the story line to do side quests or explore.

  2. The amount of repetitive side quests. (again same game example). Time attack (package delivery), time sprints, find collectables.


It's difficult to create an open world which is very dynamic, where you see progress of the NPCs and the surroundings.

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14:14 Jun-28-2020

YES. YES THEY ARE. Shadow of of Mordor vs Shadow of War is a good comparison. You can finish Mordor inside 25 hours while finding all collectibles side quests and upgrades and is a very satisfying and fun game to finish. War on the other hand is a different story. If you want to ace everything (incl Shadow Wars) without frustrating mission/siege failures you need to invest at least 60-80 hours.

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10:13 Jun-28-2020

If a game is feeling like a grind then its a bad game, should be fun from the word go and not let up. If a game does not pull me in after 30 mins its usually never loaded agin.

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14:54 Jun-30-2020

Well, every game with any kind of progression system has a grind, otherwise the progression system feels useless (Kind of like leveling up every time you completed a quest, it's bloated and useless). Doesn't mean it's always bad, CoD MW2 was a decent example, where you had to grind your way through attachments to unlock the next one.

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08:44 Jun-28-2020

bruh too complex?! just think it through a little bit longer and it will be easy to understand

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11:59 Jun-28-2020

On top of that games are getting dumbed down and simplified.

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06:59 Jun-29-2020

Also that

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14:57 Jun-30-2020

I disagree up to a point. I don't think I can make a good comparison, because I haven't played a lot of old and new games. Anyway, RPG games become quite complex because there's so much to do (typical RPG stuff anyway), however, semi old games, like Portal didn't really require you to look up stuff on the internet and in manuals. However, old games (like PS1 era) were complex to a point that you'd buy a magazine which guides you. I remember when my brother bought one for Pokémon.

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18:10 Jun-30-2020

Having many things to do =/= complexity.
Complexity is when there are tons of variables within each system and each thing to do. And when there are many varaiables in the combat system, from 50+ stats + die rolls(strictly talking about RPGs btw), to having to press more buttons, to having to press the right buttons in the right moment to having priority based skill rotations, etc, etc.


The Witcher 3 for example, all you have to do is spam roll or parry and smash the attack button and with some skill, you can kill everything like that... Complexity = 0.

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02:53 Jun-28-2020

i agree on ac oddysey and origins, never got to finish those games because it was too long and tasks became tedious and boring.

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14:59 Jun-30-2020

In terms of game length, I wished games were small in gametime but full of content. I still have roughly 5 games I want to finish and I just can't get to them, because I also want to watch Netflix series. Oh the struggles.

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22:49 Jun-27-2020

well nowadays games became too much of a grind. There are ex.levels with ex.abilities you can use and there're dosens of them and it takes a lot of time to learn and use them which is minus. Cant there be a normal 3A game without all this stuff...

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06:01 Jun-28-2020

Well said.

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21:02 Jun-28-2020

i dont mind them, but thats probably one of the reasons i dont finish it completely. Because u need to invest hours of gameplay just to learn ability or to finish a level. I even think of starting to play games on easy difficult just to be more releastic. You shoot 1 person or hit it with a sword and he dies. Not hitting millions of times and doing nothing and then he one shots you...

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08:18 Jun-29-2020

Never viewed the easy setting in that way, but you've got a point.

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01:40 Jun-29-2020

Edit: misread ur post, completely agree :)

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10:36 Jun-29-2020

i didnt read your commend before edit so you're free for now.

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22:29 Jun-27-2020

I would say no, they didn't become too complex. Though I can totally see how it can feel like it, since AAA industry has bit of a habit to find something that works and just keep doing that, meaning they tend to focus on more complex games, instead of introducing diversity, which dropped down to smaller developers or indie developers. But I like both, I can appreciate simplicity or complexity,..

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22:35 Jun-27-2020

... if they get done right. As for developer standpoint, well, the way I see it, that is their job to deal with and get paid for. Yes, it is harsh, but then again, I also could complain about my job, even if it is not game developer, but I don't, it is what I get paid for, no matter the problems they throw at me.

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22:27 Jun-27-2020

Nah

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22:06 Jun-27-2020

Well, it's not just that. I might getting old but during the last 3/4 years playing video games is becoming almost like having a second job due to their complexity/longevity. Which is strange, because I have that feeling only when I play modern stuff, it doesn't necessarily happens doing some retrogaming (ps2/ps3 era).

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22:05 Jun-27-2020

Honestly, no. besides, if it is, or does, than AI will fix that problem

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21:16 Jun-27-2020

If they're going to spend hundreds of millions or billions on a 2-hour movie, they can do the same on a 100-hour game.

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21:02 Jun-27-2020

AC:Odd's problem is if your running a distinct build, e.g. Assassin, then probably 1/2 of the game has nothing different gameplay wise because you would have maxed out the build's ability tree way before the end thereby making the game feel even more bloated.

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21:00 Jun-27-2020

As far as CP2077 is concerned CDPR hasn't made a FPS before so I think it should be expected that it would take longer to create and iron out the bugs. All that extra R&D they've needed to do in both single & multi-player would add up.


If you have the opportunity as a dev to make a more complex game you can push and develop your skills and those of the players and isn't that what we want?

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19:33 Jun-27-2020

I wouldn't be shocked if we reach that uncanny valley experience sooner, rather than later, especially with Unreal Engine 5. I'm looking forward to next-gen games :).

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19:17 Jun-27-2020

Tons of boring side stuff =/= complexity.

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05:20 Jun-28-2020

Gold comment.

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18:50 Jun-27-2020

Depends on the dev. If we are talking about space citizen than if you keep adding features the game will never be out. There is always a balance between realism and fun i feel RDR2 take it too far with animations where the game starts to disrespect your time. I did like the balance witcher 3 had great detail but didnt make you look at animations every time you crafted am item/sword.

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