Back in the days of Ye Olde Spectrume, Commodore 64 and the Amstrad 464....e, you got lots of bang for your buck. Yes, the graphics might not have been up to scratch of today's graphical mastepieces, but the gameplay engrossed you, and it even challenged you. Taking away one of your precious 3 lives willy nilly meant learning from your mistakes, as another 2 slips meant back to the first level, even if you got all the way to the end of the game, as it's no continues for you, my lad!
But, thats the thing. Even though some games had one (very) huge area to explore, the gameplay was challenging enough to keep you playing until the small hours. Take Super Robin Hood on the humble micros. Yes, there was the huge castle to explore which meant just the one level, but death lurked around every corner, waiting to zap away some of your precious energy, and every screen was a challenge, and the castle WAS huge. Lots of enemies, keys to find, lifts to navigate and moving floors that you HAD to walk with all added up to to a very engrossing, and tough, game. Today's gamer has Call Of Duty Modern Warfare 3. Yes, the game has either single player or multiplayer, but the single player gives no challenge. Yes, you CAN die multiple times, but you can still keep going with what seems to be infinite lives, the very thing we wanted back in the 80's. It just means that you will eventually get to the end, but there's no hard work involved. It seems to be that what we eventually get, isn't really what we want. I mean, yes, I do play games from today, and I enjoy them, but I feel the challenge that once hit me tenfold has gone.
Another example is Julian Gallop's CHAOS. A turn based RPG, you cast your spells and guided your hero, while watching your back at every turn as one slip could mean certain doom for your wizardy bloke, and means starting all over again. Here's the thing: there's no save option. Once you die, thats it. In a modern game, like Neverwinter Nights, once you die, you have the option of continuing, meaning that you can just plow through it in no time (if you're a very avid gamer). Whereas games like CHAOS, once you die, you could try playing it a different way, making the game seem more interesting. You can argue that 'you can just start another game in RPG GAME X, and play as a different character', but thats not the point. The point is, is that instead of offering players just 2, or even 3 continues with which to complete the game, they're just saying 'don't worry about continues, they don't exist. You'll just respawn!'
And that's the thing. You can just keep respawning until you get to the end, crushing the challenge that was put before you like a paper cup. The challenge back then was can I make it past the first level, with my last life intact. One last thing is difficulty levels. This I do find a great help for people just starting out playing a particular game, if got right. Call of Duty, again, is a prime example of this. Modern Warfare was good, but on Veteran, it wasn't tough enough. World at War was also good, but TOO tough on Veteran. Getting the difficulty level right something many developers can't do. But when they can (FIFA), it makes the game good. But thats one thing the retro games don't have, but you know what? I wouldn't have it any other way?
But what do you think? Have your say in the comment boxes below.