Monday, November 11, 2013

Batman: Arkham Item Collection

I liked Batman: Arkham Asylum. It was a cool game with decent combat mechanics, decent graphics, and a fairly interesting story. But the best thing about it was the Metroid-style gameplay.  You can't get to this area with out this weapon or that item. It was Metroid - in 3D instead of first person (Metroid Prime was ok) and it was BATMAN! Can't go wrong, right? I liked it. I've probably played through the game 3 or 4 times by now. It was great.

Then I heard about the sequel, Arkham City - woah! More BatMetroid!  So of course I purchased the game and played through it. I played for about a week, probably an hour or two hours a night. Each time I'd play I noticed that the game had a completion percentage. As stated I played for a WEEK! I kept thinking "Man this game is HUUUGE!" I've logged about 8 hours or so and it's only at 35% complete! So one night I booted the game and I entered a door, or accessed a panel, or something. I can't remember. But I trigger this huge battle and then the Joker dies. I was like WOAH! They killed the Joker!? No way. I'm only at 35% so this crazy clown is gonna come back and surprise everyone!


WTF? I finished the game? I went back and checked my percentage and it was only at 35% again. I must have missed an entire area of the game! So I looked around the net and realized what had happened. The makers of this game decided that ridiculous ITEM COLLECTION was "part of the game."  This made me absolutely furious. Instead of creating more actual game, or story to go through, the game designers got lazy and decided to put these little Riddler trophies all over the game world. I'm the type of person that absolutely ignores stuff like that. If it's important to complete the game, like a weapon, a map, finding a location, etc then it's definitely in my span of attention. But if it's some little goofy trophy that will trigger a Riddler audio clip, I skip it. It's not essential for the game and in no way is it "fun." I was livid. I spent $60 on this game only to get about $30 worth of actual game.

That was the last straw. Arkham City was the last game I actually went out and purchased with my own money. After that, every other game I've played I've acquired by other means. I refuse to pay $60 for an unfinished product, or an unpolished product. This is what fuels piracy. These unfinished half-games with 'downloadable content' that is a required purchase in order to get the full story, or the real ending, etc are what cause people to say "screw this. I'm downloading it." The worst thing is when there is downloadable content that has to be purchased and then you hear that immediate sound of unlocking that tells you there was no actual download, it just unlocked what was on the disc - the disc you ALREADY PAID FOR.

I know I'm in the minority, but I really don't care for online multiplayer, so when I play games like Battlefield or Batman or whatever, I prefer the offline game. Single player. If I want multiplayer, I'll fire up my arcade cab and play a few rounds of Street Fighter with my friends. The best thing about that is that my friends aren't all prepubescent high-pitched idiots with a bad case of racist-mouth.  At least the trash talking during a match in Street Fighter is funny, and colloquial.

If game companies sold their game - IN ITS COMPLETE FORM, MIND YOU - in a stand alone version without the need for multiplayer, or whatever, and it was cheaper. Say $30 for a game with a COMPLETE SINGLE PLAYER  CAMPAIGN, then I'd be happy to keep purchasing games. Until then, it's Redbox, a friend's copy, or the game is totally "downloadble content."

Friday, October 4, 2013

Combo Videos

Wow I guess this blog didn't really get the attention I meant to give it. Oh well.

I was responding to a post on facebook by a friend of mine who was talking about FPS games and camping. Someone commented that they should remove Sniper rifles from games because a Sniper is "a glorified camper."  I have to agree with this, utterly and completely. There's nothing more annoying that some jackass that's sitting behind a tree and picking people off. If you're good at the game, why not come out fighting and get some actual fun kills? What, you'd rather just sit there? You know you're playing an online MULTIPLAYER game, right? So why would you just hide and pick people off? Oh its because you're an idiot.

Anyway, you know how your train of thought can change what you're thinking in a fraction of a second? One second you're thinking about changing a tire, which makes you remember a small portion of a memory of something else like a birthday party you attended when you were 13, then a few seconds later you're thinking about that time you accidentally saw your 3rd grade teacher's boob when she bent down to help you.  That's kinda how this post got started.

For this post, it began with that facebook comment. I ended up on the thought of fighting game combo videos. I hate them. I think they are completely useless and an insane waste of time. But the worst thing about them is that they're impractical.  Most of the combo videos you see involve one environmental variable. This very variable is what makes them - to me - completely pointless. That variable is PRACTICE MODE.  Practice mode is meant for practice, and yes it is also meant for honing in your combos, timing, moves, et cetera. The practice mode is great for doing this because your opponent will not fight back. He just sits there taking the beating of a lifetime, shrugging it off after a few seconds and becoming ready for another pounding into oblivion just for you, over and over again until you master that crazy move set. A vast majority of combo videos out there use practice mode. The combos that are displayed are always these huge lavish things that are 30 or 40 hit progressions. But they rely on the opponent being in the corner and not blocking. Or jumping - and not blocking. Or dashing toward you - and not blocking. Or dashing away - and not blocking. Crouching - and not blocking. How is that even practical? Do you really think Daigo is going to sit there and not block while you try that 30 hit combo in Third Strike? The fact is you will never pull that combo off with a live opponent. Unless of course that live opponent says "go ahead and show me that combo." But if that happens, how is that any different than practice mode? You're not really accomplishing anything.

I would love to see a really solid, several - powerful - hit combo in whatever fighter is out there. I know there are a few of these vids out there, and they're great to watch. I love watching online matches that have been recorded by the players, or watching some of the EVO fights. Some of those are pretty cool. But these guys that post their 900 hit combo vids for game X while in practice mode are just boring and lame.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

List of Game Design Stupidity: The Escort Mission (Dead Space 2)

I decided to title each blog post with the topic in question, which in this case is The List of Game Design Stupidity: The Escort Mission, and then also mention the game I'm currently playing (Dead Space 2).

I'm only about 30 minutes into Dead Space 2 and it's not terrible. I was never a huge fan of the first game, though it was rather enjoyable. For the most part it was pretty good, but it did break one of the items on the The List of Game Design Stupidity, as referenced in my very first post on this blog. Because of this rule being broken, the game irritated me enough to make me quit playing it. Now, while we'll discuss The Escort Mission in this article, I'm still fine tuning the List itself, so I can't really reveal the entire thing at this time. The List itself will be comprised of at least two sections. Section A will be General Stupidity & Annoyances; Section B will be called Dealbreakers.  Incidentally, the topic in question - The Escort Mission - is at the very top of the Dealbreakers section. It's Cardinal Rule #1. It is one of the most important rules of game design and as such, it should NEVER be broken so as to avoid a blight on the game's legacy.

What is an Escort Mission? Well, it's simple. In the game you're playing, your character or avatar in-game is tasked with escorting another character - usually an NPC - to another point in the game world. Now, this doesn't include searching missions, key finding missions or even 'carry the bomb to the end of the corridor' missions. Escorting is exactly that which it depicts. You literally guide or accompany a character, pet, item, or vehicle to another point in the game. What makes this even more of a Dealbreaker is when the game requires you to protect the NPC in question. Can the character defend himself? Rarely. Does the character start the Escort Mission with only half health? Usually. Will the character run into a battlefield only to get shot up because of poor AI/Collision detection? Always. The least game designers could do (because they can't come up with anything better) is to make the NPC able to defend him/her/itself while following you. Give them a gun, or maybe don't let them take damage. I have to look out for #1 when I'm trying to destroy that base full of the enemy - I don't need to be worried that some dipstick NPC is going to get his face shot off. These types of missions do not make a fun game. They detract, and as I've stated before; it's a Dealbreaker.

Unfortunately, Escort Missions can be implemented in a vast number of ways in a video game.  There's the typical 'get character X to point Y in the game without getting him/her killed/damaged', but there are also the 'protection' missions, which are just an offshoot (and not a very creative offshoot, by the way) of the original Escort Mission archetype. Well, what are these offshoots, then?

Did you ever play Dead Space? There are 2 or 3 points in the game where you play a game of "Asteroids" using the ship's main cannon.  You must protect the ship you're on by taking manual control of the main cannon and destroying incoming debris and asteroids.  What makes this one even more asinine is that you spend most of the previous trekking through the ship trying to get the AUTOMATED cannon to fire - and you end up having to take manual control, thus making all of that hard work you just finished completely and utterly pointless. (Editor's Note: This situation touches on another topic of discussion, called the Continuity/Theory rule on the list. This will be discussed at a later time.) To make matters worse, the ship you are protecting doesn't start with 100% 'health,' so you're doomed from the get-go. This doesn't make me go 'whee I'm having fun.'

A similar type of mission can be found in Gears of War 2 toward the end of the game. You are tasked with defending a few radio towers while countless Locust throngs attack on several sides at the same time.  Even though there's an entire COG army ready and available to do it, you and your team alone are tasked with defending these towers. And of course, no one seems to know it's happening so they don't help you.

These two situations are perfect examples of the 'evolution' of the Escort Mission. We play games to get to the next checkpoint without dying, or to collect that Magic Sword to defeat Ganon. We don't play games so we can play baby sitter or follow the leader, or to protect the ship/building we're currently in. It's a space ship. In the future. It should have shields. I don't need to play Asteroids, I need to kill Necromorphs. For that, Dead Space 1 and Gears of War 2 are games that I never finished, nor care to finish. I don't care what the story is - if the game pisses me off enough, I'll quit.  No one likes Escort Missions. I guarantee it.

Rule #1 on the Dealbreakers section of the List of Game Design Stupidity states: Do not under any circumstances put an Escort Mission in your game.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Video Game Stupidity

Welcome to the Video Game Stupidity blog. The purpose of this journal will be to describe, vent about, discuss, work through and hopefully help to alleviate some of the dumber things gamers experience in their video games and computer entertainment. We've all been there, unfortunately. We've all been playing a game we've spent our money (or in some cases, bandwidth) acquiring and have enjoyed them - for the most part. But the problem is we encounter something that is just hideously ridiculous in our beloved game. Maybe the game has terrible control. Maybe the physics are all messed up. Maybe the camera is more of a hindrance than helpful. Maybe they changed a foundational element about the game in one of the many sequels that aren't as good as the original. Either way, the game in question is ruined and it makes you not want to play. At least that's how it happens in my case.

But why would I let a single thing like X or Y ruin an entire game for me, you may ask.  Well, the problem is this; I'm in my mid 30's, and I've been playing video games since I was about 6 when my uncle got me my first Atari 2600.  Since that Atari, I've owned many game consoles ranging from the ColecoVision to the Neo*Geo Home system to the newer generation systems and even several Arcade cabinets.  I once considered myself a 'hardcore' gamer, but I don't any longer.  I don't mean to say one can get 'too old' for video games, (I don't believe that can happen) but I do like to think that I've 'grown up' when it comes to gaming. Don't get me wrong, sometimes I do like to have a "Halo Weekend" with my friends, but most of the time, I play casually.  I also like to play a game to 'get through' it so I can find out the entire story. I don't care about difficulty, or achievements. Sometimes I'll play the game on the easy setting so I can just enjoy the game and get the entire story. But some games prevent you from the 'entire experience' unless you play on the highest difficulty. That's not fun for me, and we'll talk about that in a future post.  I also don't usually play online.  In fact, the only reason I even have Xbox Live currently is so I can use Netflix, not to 'pwn n00bz' on Halo (I'm not even that good). I don't have the time and/or patience to play in-depth games too... er... in depth, I guess you could say.  I have become a casual gamer. When I do play video games, it might be for an hour or two at a stretch. Sometimes I might get into a game and play on a Saturday morning. I may not even realize I've been playing all morning. I'll 'wake up' about 12PM and realize I've wasted the entire morning in my underware in front of my TV with a game controller in my hand, but those times are few and far between now.

I seem to find many faults that 'break' games for me. These faults take me out of the game world, or just ruin the illusion.  There are some standards I have personally set for video games and if these standards are not met (with some wiggle room) I will stop playing, no matter if I haven't reached the conclusion or if I'm at that last level. I_don't_care.  Once a game pisses me off enough, it's over.

One thing you have to keep in mind is that we are no longer in the infancy of video gaming and/or game design. We are in the 7th generation of home game consoles. We are now in 2011, and the first multi-game or 'modular cartridge' console was released in 1977 - that's nearly 34 years ago.  Game designers have had plenty of time to perfect their techniques and design methods. For the most part, this has proved true. We've gotten plenty of brilliant games in the last 30 years, but we've also gotten some real stinkers - and unfortunately, we've gotten some 'good' games that have been ruined by Video Game Stupidity. This blog is here to talk about some of the inconsistencies in videogames, game design, or game 'theory', as it were.  The word 'theory' might not have been the best way to describe what I mean, but what I mean is this. Let's say we're playing a game that is supposed to be 'scary'. The game F.E.A.R. is a good example here. It's supposed to be a 'scary' game, but most of the 'scare' tactics used in the game are simple "BOOGAH BOOGAH BOOGAH!!" moments.  I.E. - Long periods of walking through silent corridors only to have a monster/badguy loudly burst through a door with weapons ablaze. That's not scary. It's annoying. But what some designers 'discovered,' was if they made the hallway DARK enough, it amplifies the illusion of danger and makes the game 'better.' Well I'm here to clear something up about that concept.


You know what making your game 'dark' accomplishes? It makes me turn up the brightness on my TV or your game options so I can see where I'm going.  It doesn't scare the player, it blinds them. that does not make your game better. It makes it worse, and it makes me not want to play it.

The darkness situation brings me to the subject of: The List of Game Design Stupidity, as I've come to call it.  I'm not going to give the list out just yet, since this is only the first post on this blog, but we'll discuss the list in due time. Feel free to check in every once in a while to find out more.  I may not post here every day, since I don't play games all that much anymore but I will post when I have something to describe, or I feel like revealing one of the items on the list.