Though I agree with your sentiment in many situations, and programming has to be watched in case it becomes a runaway situation (to a programmer, a program they find interesting is never done, and games tend to be interesting things to program), but keeping them too reigned in is why we have so many cookie-cutter games... yet another Unreal Engine shooter that's the same as every other one, except it has different graphics and a different story, and so on.
To me, one of the best aspects of trying a new game is to see what the cool things the programmers have done. There we get things like destructible environments in Red Faction, and new graphical tricks that make things look more realistic.
Remember the first Hitman game, when you were walking by a guard and his head would follow you? This was a little thing, but it was awesome and actually added a lot to the experience. It was also one of the first game I recall using ragdolls, and I probably spent hours blowing people out windows with a shotgun, dropping them off ledges, and just playing with that one feature.
Some of the best classics of all time were mostly advances in programming. Like, say, Elite ("I bet we could procedurally generate stuff and put a whole damn galaxy on a BBC Micro with 32K of ram"), Wolf3D("Hey, if we only scale the textures vertically, we could do texture-mapping on a 386), Doom ("I bet we could get this going multiplayer over a network and change the face of gaming for all time.")
Granted, I don't think fancy footsteps are much of an example, but it is in the right spirit. Probably worse, if every development team insisted on writing their own engine, half of everything would be as buggy as Stalker for sure--it is nice to (mostly) be able to count on an Unreal Engine game being stable and well optimized (though the licensees could always add their own features on top of it).
Basically, I think creativity on the programming front is every bit as important, if not more so, than things like storytelling, and the game designers' tools are limited to what the programmers give them to work with.
Stormsinger wrote on Jan 23, 2010, 15:28:
Sounds like a seriously warped sense of priorities...which is pretty much what happens when you let the programmers decide what's important (they frequently mistake cool-to-code for cool-to-play). Do these guys -have- any game designers?