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The most important aspect regarding this topic is also the most simple. It’s just a case of storage space, modern games take up several gigabytes of space which is literally thousands of times bigger than the games of yesteryear. Those lovely cartridges back in the 80’s and early 90’s had anywhere between 8 and 64 MB to store the entire game on, if you know anything about modelling or programming then you know that is not much at all. Especially when you consider all the technology that exists now which is designed to keep things as efficient as possible didn’t exist back then.
So you may
be wondering how this relates to games being easy, well it’s very simple. Adding
in a save system takes program code, creating a save screen requires art assets
to be made and more code to be produced. All of which take up space to be
stored, and when you only have a maximum of 64MB to store everything, there
simply wasn’t room for all the stuff we take for granted now. If these elements
were present in older games, they would be very short, which is another common
criticism of modern games in comparison to older games.
Another important aspect regarding this is that gaming has become a much more profitable industry. In order for that to happen, games have to be accessible for as many people as possible. Making games brutally difficult in this generation is simply bad business, and is the main reason harder games are far less common now. The constraints of the 80’s and 90’s are long gone as far as games that appear on a console or PC are concerned so making a game hard in this generation with all these bonuses while still being fair is no simple task. Which is way a game that has a truly complex difficulty structure is a rare thing, too often developers are content with altering nothing but the metrics.
While it certainly isn’t wrong to say that games are easier now than they were 10 or 20 years ago, it’s certainly a statement that is thrown around very carelessly. There was simply no margin for error in older games, everything had to work because once that cartridge was made, that was the game you would play. There is a much bigger error margin in this day and age; patches are always coming out to tweak a section that couldn’t be done in time for the release date. People made the best of what they had in regards to older games like Alex Kidd or Contra, and that is no different than what developers are doing now. Older games were limited in ways that modern games simply are not; games have evolved in the time that has passed. Developing a game for this generation is a whole different ball game in a vast number of ways that are ignored far too often.