Gamer Hate

Belligerently lacking in remorse.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Fixing Games : No Man’s Sky

I recently completed No Man’s Sky (or at least, as much as you can complete it). Spoilers will appear in my design analysis so you are forewarned. This is a new series in which I pick apart the bad components of games and attempt to fix them through my knowledge of game design.

Review
No Man’s Sky is a Minecraft styled planetary resource collection adventure game. You collect resources, turn them into upgrades that make you more efficient, and then explore the galaxy. The primary goal is to get to the center of the galaxy, and if you succeed you are rewarded with another galaxy to explore. That is effectively where I stopped playing the game. There is a side story about Atlas, which allows you to create a new star, but otherwise seems to tell you that following the path laid out by the developer is a fool’s errand… However, I haven’t fully translated the Atlas’ words yet. I plan to do so on my next play through in the new galaxy.

Atlas Eye

An incarnation of the Atlas.

Progression
One of the main problems with No Man’s Sky is that the sense of progression that makes the early portions of the game so compelling, quickly falls apart once you have the majority of upgrades and complete your 48 slots of inventory space. These two things effectively cuts down on 70% of the fun exploration aspects of the game. Buildings become much less important (only trading areas where you can sell goods off are still needed), and it makes exploration much less fun.

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Upgrading Inventory.

Progression – Sub-space Home
The most important thing missing, and the one that actually had me baffled when I never got it in my playthrough, was a place to call home. A place where you could store critical materials you wanted for later, as well as capture and place creatures and plants you had found on your journey. The whole time I was seeing crazy things on planets (and taking screenshots), I kept thinking, wouldn’t it be cool if I had a house to decorate and I could grab these plants and animals and put them there? Then allow other players to tour your home for that sense of achievement and sharing that is sorely lacking from the game. Add on yet another layer of building and creating inventory space in the home and you have another 10+ hours of good times for the player. Just require the player to be outside a planet’s atmosphere to access it (same as the warp drive), and you have plenty of reasons for them to fly in and out of planets for the additional storage.

Like this, but more expensive.

Like this, but more expensive.

Inventory Fix – Progression
The easiest and most obvious fix for this is to add tabs for inventory space on the player. If they had simply done that, the players sense of progression and the need for Units (the in-game currency) would remain throughout. For example, if they just added one tab and made each new slot cost 2 million units, people would be very interested in gathering money and filling in those slots. Continue the cost increases on the inventory slots, and you effectively maintain the sense of character progression for at least one entire playthrough. Add up to 5 tabs and I doubt anyone would ever complete their inventory in years.

Maximum character inventory.

Maximum character inventory.

Upgrades Fix – Progression/Variety
For a game that relies so heavily on procedural generation of planets, animals, and perhaps even galaxies, it’s bizarre to me that they wouldn’t look for procedural variation in their itemization. They have all the variables needed to do so, and it would have added many many many hours of additional gameplay for people who like to collect things. So for example, instead of having a Sigma, Tau, and Theta that is an incremental upgrade of your mining beam’s ability to destroy rocks. Why not have a Sigma, Tau and Theta version that varies in where its stats are focused. So you might find a Beam Focus Destruction Sigma, which destroys chunks of a resource faster as you are mining than the Beam Focus Spread Sigma, which increases the area of the resource being destroyed. You could have individual variation within that where you expose the stats, and see that you found a Beam Focus Spread Sigma that affects 50 to 100 cm more than the other Beam Focus types, and thus you now have variation and incremental periodic upgrades for players to be seeking. If you wanted to cheat, you could even check what they have on their multi-tool and put a leash on the range of what they find next (e.g. they have the 60cm version, so when that type drops again, it’ll be 61cm to 70cm). All of the upgrades can be generated in this way, adding a significant amount of replayability (as people change tactics from one to another), as well as keeping that feeling of progression throughout.

Imagine variations that did fire, poison, or frost damage when bounced...

Imagine variations that did fire, poison, or frost damage when bounced…

Upgrades Recipes – Progression/Variety
Along with the Upgrades Fix I mentioned, you could maintain the recipe building by adding a secondary pop-up window during the construction process where you get to tweak your variables on the thing you are creating. However you can only tweak them to the degree that you have found that level of upgrade. In the prior example, if you build a Beam Focus Spread Sigma, you can only build one with a spread up to the number of cm of the upgrade type you have found. Alternately, you could forego building anything and require players to find these upgrades in the world and then apply them to their ship or suit. Either would work, though the latter would require a bit more work, and the former would have the player’s recipe menu explode to gigantic proportions. Allowing the player to tweak the variables once they’ve “absorbed” a recipe that allows for it feels right for the game to me though.

Inventory Fix – Buy/Sell/Trade
One of the most annoying oversights, and the easiest to fix, is to simply add a button or modifier key that allows you to increment or decrement excess resources by 1 inventory slot worth of that resource (250). Each inventory slot on the character is 250 resources, so having a modifier that allows you to instantly set your selling of a good to 250 makes perfect sense. It would have cut down on probably the most annoying aspect of selling resources in the game, and it’s undoubtedly an easy fix.

Why you no take increments of 250??

Why you no take increments of 250??

Main Story Spoilers Below
The Path of Atlas – Story/Progression Fix
What a horribly missed opportunity here. I can’t even fathom why they would build this unique space, screaming for a boss fight, and then simply not do one in it. Not only that, but the main point of Atlas seemed to be to indicate that the player following the path the developer set out for them was enslaving themselves to the developer’s will when they should be out exploring on their own and doing what they want. I got it… I got it. I still have to get enough Atlas words to translate the full text of what Atlas was saying (as opposed to what the narrator was intimating), but I doubt the gist of it will change too much. That said, if the point of Atlas was to make the player feel enslaved and like the path was pointless, tack on a bunch of a normal tedious questlines into the Atlas. For example, you go to Atlas 1 and it looks at a planet in the system and tells you to go get X Venom Sacs (or Gravitino balls, or whatever) and bring them back to it. Maybe it tells you to go to a nearby planet with animals and to name them all Poosnake. So many things could have been done to add hours of gameplay onto that main path, but I did the whole Atlas series in probably an hour just jumping from one to the next. No boss fight, no real sense of loss (hell those Atlas stones made me a ton of units), and an obvious somewhat ham-handed message that I was trapped in a simulation. Meh.

Jaded intellects indeed...

Jaded intellects indeed…

The Ending – New Galaxy Fix
To be fair, this actually was my favorite part of the game. What??? If you don’t know, what happens when you reach the center of the galaxy is that it pans back out to the edge of the galaxy and then you find a new galaxy, and you are crashed on the surface there with every system on your ship and multitool wrecked. So you have to dismantle to get iron to rebuild your mining laser (cause you can’t mine since it’s destroyed), but yeah, you’re starting from square one, exact same start as when you first begin the game. Is there more to it than that? I don’t know yet, but I get the point. It was the journey that mattered, and now you’re starting over in a new galaxy. With another opportunity to gain more Atlas words before you deal with the Atlas quests… But this time you have already got everything that made the early game interesting. You just need to get lucky finding proper resources and make your way off the planet. It’s somewhat fun, because rebuilding all your systems is quite the epic quest, but overall, I’m not feeling that compelled to play again. Which is why I think they need to add something on here that makes it something more… Maybe a new Atlas? A new voice that’s taking over the Atlas? Something, anything so it’s not just the same thing over again…

You can watch the ending:

 

Procedural Planets Player Markers – Player Generated Content Fix
Because all the planets are procedurally generated, you find a lot of crazy missed opportunities. Deep crazy looking caves that lead to dead ends with nothing in them, underwater secret coves that have nothing in them, every planet is rife with disappointing areas, caves, and buildings. So, why not give players tools with which to make them cool? Let us build and place boxes, put things in them (animals we’ve found, resources, tools we’ve built, etc). Let us place down signs, change terminal text, or even make voice recordings. Yeah, I know, this would spiral out of control pretty quick, but there is no disappointment greater than landing on a discovered planet and finding that literally NOTHING is different from any other planet you’ve found before. There’s no indication a player was ever there. Not so much as a mined resource (and I ran into plenty of named systems and planets near the system core, so I know it’s not a fluke). I’d say that is the greatest disappointment I had with the game, because I knew when I saw no marks from other players anywhere other than system names, I knew that all the effort I had made naming things on other planets and systems was effectively useless. I never saw another player outside of a spaceship, and I could never confirm for sure that any spaceship I ran into was a human (they traded the same even when I thought they behaved oddly). Nothing disappointed me in this game more than knowing for sure that all my efforts to leave a mark had been in vain.

It can sure be pretty though.

It can sure be pretty though.

Which seemed to be the core message the game was sending me at the end of the day. If you didn’t appreciate the journey, you just wasted hours of your time (in my case, 137 of them).

That's a significant investment of time...

That’s a significant investment of time…

posted by CommanderHate at 1:47 pm  

Monday, May 25, 2009

Resident Evil 5
Another Shitty Game

Five years… This took five years to make? I really don’t understand how a game that is basically Resident Evil 4 with a desert theme takes 5 frackin’ years to make. The only game company that can take 5 years to make a game and innovate so little is Blizzard, and Capcom, I’m sorry, but you’re no Blizzard.

How the hell did you spend 5 years making this game and end up making it WORSE? You can only buy new goods at level loads? What the hell is that about? Are my weapons being air-dropped from the sky? Why did you remove the trench-coat guy? The only annoyance was that he only had one line of dialogue for opening and closing his inventory screen. That was it! Otherwise it was fine. Oh wait, I know, you wanted the innovation of team play and you were too frackin’ lazy to program a way for players to interact with menus without disrupting the action… What are you stupid? Put the trenchcoat guy in a corner where there are no zombies…

I also hate your real time inventory management. What the hell is wrong with you? It is NOT FUN to have to deal with a clunky inventory interface when zombies are baring down on you. In fact, it’s the opposite of fun, it’s an incredible annoyance that has no place being in a video game. Which brings me to my major gripe about Capcom’s Resident Evil game design theory.

Making an interface or interaction in the game world difficult and/or shitty on PURPOSE does NOT enhance the “scariness” factor of your game. It enhances the ANNOYANCE factor of your game. Resident Evil 5 is a big annoying piece of crap with none of the innovation or interest that originally grabbed our attention in Resident Evil 4.

Don’t you get it?! Resident Evil 4 was interesting because it took the things that were good from previous Resident Evils (i.e. zombies coming at you, oppressive atmosphere, limited ammo/weapons) and added things that made it BETTER! Being able to properly aim, being able to run away without it feeling like a total piece of shit (though it still wasn’t perfect) and being able to upgrade your weapons. How did you frack this all up in RE5? Allow me to explain.

You added NO INNOVATIONS! Instead you gave us a moronic partner who we now have to micromanage and share assets with, a REAL TIME inventory management system which still sucks and is made all the worse by having to deal with it in real time, and a brightly lit desert world where we shoot Africans instead of Spaniards. Everything else is EXACTLY THE SAME!

Five frackin’ years to make a game worse! Let me know when you want to make RE6, just give me all that money and I’ll get you a team of texture artists to make the game in a snow environment. I’ll use the other 12 million to make a good game.


Resident Evil 5 – D+

    Pros:
  • Interesting take on oppressive environment.
  • Mostly the same as Resident Evil 4
    • Cons:
  • Shitty inventory management in real time in a horror setting, NO, BAD!
  • Poor storyline (but it’s an RE game).
  • Idiotic partner wastes your ammo, your herbs and bitches constantly.
  • You already played this game and it was more fun the first time.
  • posted by CommanderHate at 7:51 pm  

    Tuesday, February 3, 2009

    Resident Evil 5
    Quick Impressions

    Hey look, it’s Resident Evil 4 but the hot black chick hanging with you is more like the Spanish guy with the gun instead of the helpless little girl.

    Also, fuck the developers for not either getting rid of inventory management by moving it entirely onto set keys, or pausing the game while I deal with it. If the goal was to keep a real life intensity going at all times, you fail. Inventory screens are NOT something you deal with in real life. If you are in a combat situation you have a place for everything important on your person and you can grab it within seconds. You need to switch entirely to quick select with the d-pad.

    Or you need to pause the game when you bring up the inventory screen.

    I know why you did it too you cheap bastards. You don’t want to slow down multiplayer. Well it’s time to buckle down and find a proper solution with the quick select menu.

    Recommendation: Try Metal Gear Solid and see what they did… It’s not quite right, but it’s close to what you need.

    posted by CommanderHate at 7:20 am  

    Monday, December 22, 2008

    Commander Hate’s Best and Worst of 2008

    Seems like a good way to close out the year, yeah? Well, agree or not, here are my opinions on the best and worst games of 2008.

    The Best Games of 2008

    3. Professor Layton and the Curious Village. (Nintendo DS)
    I love puzzle games, and Professor Layton had fun little puzzles in spades. If I complete the game it’s either a testament to my stubbornness or a testament to how much fun I was having playing the game. In the case of Professor Layton, it was both. In addition it had a new (to me) and interesting art style that made it a joy to explore. I also consider this a great example of how adventure games on the DS can be very successful.

    2. Fallout 3. (PC)
    I also love RPGs and recently have had an affinity for RPGs with FPS elements in them. As much as I have disliked the Obsidian series, the leveling and customization features of Fallout 3 have made me very happy to play. Add to that a fascinating series of short stories to stumble upon while exploring a nuclear devastated Washington D.C. and you have a winner. The best part of this game is that no two players seem to have the same experience, even when exploring the same areas, making Fallout 3 a testament to well crafted design.

    1. Braid. (Xbox 360)
    This is probably always going to be one of my favorite games. It demonstrates so well what happens when you tell a story through the gameplay itself. Not to mention it’s my favorite use of using rewinding time as a game mechanic ever… EVER… And time rewinding is usually crap in games. Braid is the best game of 2008, so if you haven’t played it yet, go, now… play.

    The Worst Games of 2008

    I must preface this by saying it’s not my policy to play bad games. In fact, if I even get a whiff of awfulness from a game, I don’t buy it. So, since I’m only going to talk about games that I’ve actually played (since there’s no other way to have a valid opinion on the quality of a game), this worst list might include some people’s favorite games.

    3. Final Fantasy Tactics A2 (Nintendo DS)
    You dropped the ball Square. As much as I love FF Tactics, this game had the worst and slowest gameplay of all of them so far. The gameboy advance version had a simple way to speed through the boring parts of combat. Hit the shoulder button and it would skip through animations to the next action. WHY THE HELL DID YOU NOT PUT THAT IN THE LATEST VERSION OF THE GAME?! Seriously, I could have played through the game in 1/10th the time if I didn’t have to watch every stupid slow animation of every character doing things for the thousandth time.

    As much as I enjoy the gameplay and character building aspects, the story was unforgivable. We do not enjoy the whole “I’m a loner kid in school but I find this magical world and am forever changed” shit. It sucks… It really sucks. The original FFT had a hint of it, but was a very deep and involved story that had all sorts of revenge and death twist plot elements strewn throughout. Why don’t you go with the story elements that originally made the game a success instead of the one thing people didn’t like about the GBA version?

    Oh and your stylus controls that were made just for the DS? FRIGGIN FAIL! The only reason to use the stylus was if you wanted to be frustrated and angry when it totally misinterpreted whatever you were tapping with the stylus… FAIL!

    2. Warhammer Online (PC)
    I found almost zero innovation in this game. It was pretty much a clone of World of Warcraft but with really ugly art (even at the highest settings on a good PC). There was nothing special about the quests or the characters or the combat. Pretty much a yawn fest from day one. Been there done that, don’t want to do it again, thanks so much for trying, better luck next time. The game was so boring that I can’t even find the anger within me to get worked up about it.

    1. Age of Conan (PC)
    Another MMORPG, but this one promised to be different by having an in-depth fighting gameplay mechanic. For the most part, yes, good stuff… Unfortunately they rushed the game out the door a bit too fast and ended with an epic failure. Why? Because the animation speeds of women were SLOWER than that of men and caused HUGE discrepancies in damage per second values from one character to the next. You could have the exact same class with the exact same equipment but if they were female, they SUCKED compared to the male counterpart.

    What was the core of this problem? The animations were taking longer for women than men. How the fuck did this get by QA? This wasn’t just a balance issue, it was a complete cluster fuck of the entire game and made a mockery of PVP as well as level advancement since an entire gender had a SEVERE advantage. You cannot release a game with such a tremendous failing. You especially cannot release a PVP based game with such a tremendous failing of BALANCE!

    If you knew about this before you released it and chose to release the game anyways, you have no ethics and I seriously question your moral judgment.

    Fin

    So, there you have it, the best and worst of 2008. At least, in my opinion. Do you agree or think I’m an idiot? Post your comments and your own opinions on the best and worst games of 2008.

    posted by CommanderHate at 6:03 am  

    Monday, December 15, 2008

    Games That Won’t Let You Die
    Awesome or Bad Design?
    From Kohyunu

    Kohyunu was wondering something about the latest Prince of Persia game.

    “One of the biggest thing I noticed was that you cannot die. Even if you deliberately try and fall off a cliff, Elika is there to save you. She even saved me when she was trapped and couldn’t move herself!

    What’s your take on it? What was your initial reaction to the ‘No death’ design choice, and how did you feel when you played it? (If you played it that is 😛 )”

    Well, to be quite honest I haven’t played the latest Prince of Persia so consider my opinion highly academic, but I have discussed the game with people who have played it and I’ve come to some conclusions about it.

    First of all, not being able to die in games isn’t that uncommon. Some of my favorite games don’t always have a death condition. Particularly adventure games and puzzle games of a story nature (like Professor Layton, Myst and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney) don’t ever allow you to die unless it’s a story ending possibility (though those three examples don’t have that). Dying in those games doesn’t make a whole lot of sense as it just causes you some frustration and you never pick that option again. They’re like choose your own adventure books (my guilty pleasure as a child) where you would pick the option you thought was best, mark the page, peek ahead and if it abruptly ended the story you would pick the other option.

    In fact, my favorite game of 2008 did not allow you to die. A game called Braid which was about time travel (and apparently nuclear weapons), and every time you died you would simply rewind time to a point before your death was imminent. Given that the game was about time travel and that rewinding time allowed you to try and retry the gameplay puzzles to your heart’s content, it worked perfectly for that game (and when gameplay also expresses ideas, it’s a true joy to behold). The Prince of Persia Sands of Time had a somewhat similar ability to rewind time, but it had a limitation on it to prevent the game from being too easy. It seems the latest PoP has done away with that limitation.

    The first problem with an action game that doesn’t allow you to die, is that there is no challenge to the game anymore. The point of an action game is to develop your twitch gaming skills to allow you to advance through obstacles that may have been too tough only a moment ago. With an NPC basically dragging your ass through everything, you don’t really develop your abilities and as the game progresses in difficulty, you will continue to suck at it so you will spend more and more of your time being rescued by the secondary character. Not exactly heroic…

    The second problem with an action game that doesn’t allow you to die, is that the primary reason to play has been done away with. If there is no risk of death in combat or skill challenges (because everytime you fall you are rescued), why are you playing? If the story is good, that’s great, but that’s a reason to watch a movie, not play a game. If you don’t have to work to get the next tidbit of story, what are you really achieving by playing? How can you take pride in your victory if you didn’t really accomplish anything to get it?

    Well apparently the solution to this is to make the boss encounters reset everytime you would normally have died but are saved. What are the boss encounters? Well they’re sequences of button presses that are displayed on the screen. Probably the worst style of gameplay ever invented. This stuff came from the original Dragon’s Lair and is the subject of my rant on Quicktime Events in games.

    To reiterate my points on that though, you’re basically forced to push a sequence of buttons which cover the screen and interrupt your view of the gameplay, and if you fail you have to try to push the same sequence of buttons again exactly. “But Commander, isn’t that in essence what every game is,” you ask?

    NO!

    In most games you get to choose how you solve a problem as well as exactly how you do it. There are margins for error in many directions in those situations. If the button presses are exactly the same everytime then there is no element of discovery, you’re just playing Simon Says, but not even a fun version of it. You’re told a button to push and you push it. It’s more a reaction time test than anything else, which can be fun for a few minutes but should never ever ever ever ever be the basis of an ENTIRE FRACKIN GAME!

    Yes, I know, you Dragon’s Lair diehards are totally pissed at me now. I’m sorry but Dragon’s Lair at least he had the good taste to hide the button pressing gameplay within the game itself. It’s still a reaction test but at the very least you can still see the whole sequence play out without some stupid button appearing on the screen. Though to be honest, Dragon’s Lair was more a memorization test, because I don’t know anyone who had a fast enough reaction time to play that game without having done it at least 100 times before.

    So, not being able to die in games is not inherently bad. I just don’t think it was the right solution for an action game like Prince of Persia. Between the latest Prince of Persia and Mirror’s Edge (in which you die constantly and must frustratingly start over and over and over) I think there’s a happy medium. Perhaps Prince of Persia Sands of Time got it right with their limited time rewind?

    No, I take that back.

    I think the correct answer for Prince of Persia is to come up with a more compelling reason to play. From what I’m hearing, continuing through the story is the only satisfaction you get, and the rest of the gameplay is the annoyance that’s in your way to that. You trudge through constantly being saved by your companion, but there’s no fun in mastery because there’s no chance of defeat. Perhaps what Prince of Persia needs is some actual thought provoking decisions to make during gameplay that aren’t just jumping puzzles or Quicktime Event boss fights.

    I think most action games are missing that “something new” that will escalate their gameplay to the next level. We need a mixing of genres that will make all games more compelling. Right now, Braid is the only game to have truly impressed me as far as that goes, but I can’t help but think that if all these game companies would try to actually innovate in the area of gameplay instead of slightly improving what they already have, we might have a wonderful revolution in games.

    Time will reveal all I suppose.

    posted by CommanderHate at 7:46 pm  

    Thursday, December 11, 2008

    Compulsive Gaming is NOT an Addiction
    CommanderHate was WRONG!

    Previously I had indicated that gaming could turn into an addiction just like any other abuse substance. That put some enthusiastic gamers in the same boat as alcoholics. Well, that assessment may not be entirely fair in light of this article, which makes some very valid points. Although the article does agree that there may be some who are true gaming addicts, it points out that the vast majority who participate in MMORPGS to the exclusion of “reality” tend to have a social problem rather than an addiction problem.

    This makes a lot of sense from what I’ve seen of hardcore gamers who never seem to leave their homes. The truth is that they just never got into the social scene, or were purposefully excluded from it by bullies or simple social awkwardness that made them the butt of jokes. If you had to choose between spending the majority of your day being picked on and laughed at, or being a hero, which would you choose? I think everyone would pick the hero, even if it’s somewhat lessened by the fact that it’s not happening in reality.

    Though it’s important to note that the MMORPG has changed the dynamic of escapism to include a very critical social element. You ARE adventuring with real people, and there are still bullies and bad things that can happen to you there. The difference though is that within the game world you have the power to do something about it. In fact, since a lot of the people who tend to play MMORPGS were bullied themselves, there are a whole group of people devoted to stopping the bullying of others within those games. In WoW for example, if you’re being picked on by a group from the opposing faction, sending a shout out in the public channels will often get at least one person to come out and try to take care of the offenders. These people will then often corpse camp the enemies until they escape, thus showing the bully that they’re not going to be allowed to continue that kind of behavior (at least right at that moment and in that area).

    It’s interesting that in school and other social situations where one person is being bullied, the typical response is for others to either ignore the situation or to join in and further abuse the person who has been picked as the target. Perhaps MMORPGS aren’t just to escape being bullied, but to surround ourselves with people who are more willing to fight for what is right. That isn’t to say that there aren’t assholes in MMORPGs (because there are plenty), but that there are more people who are willing to do something about it. Is it the power of your Avatar that allows you to take action in the game world whereas you would not in the real world? Is it the anonymity of it all?

    Within the gameworld the consequences of taking actions against bullies is relatively low. At worst they might corpse camp you and waste some amount of your time. At best they are unable to defeat you and you can continue to bully them until they leave. I think it’s the draw of the chance to be a hero in someone’s eyes that keeps some people coming back to the game. I also think it’s the chance to be the bully that keeps others coming back.

    Either way, the ability to act out your social fantasy of either being the hero or the bully is a very powerful draw for MMORPG players. It makes sense that it would become a compulsion, particularly since it can be so difficult for the socially awkward to play either role in real life.

    posted by CommanderHate at 12:13 pm  

    Tuesday, December 2, 2008

    3D Cameras and Effects in Modern Games
    Threat or Menace?
    From Kohyunu

    Kohyunu has had some trouble with the cameras in Fable 2 and Mass Effect that have left him feeling a bit nauseous. In Fable 2 there’s a blur effect added when you rotate the camera, and in Mass Effect there’s a jittery blur effect associated with sprinting. As far as Mass Effect, I believe the inspiration for the sprint blur came from Gears of War which has a shaky follow cam. In fact, a lot of games tried to imitate that shaky “news camera” feel after Gears came out. A lot of them didn’t quite understand why Gears did it though.

    It wasn’t about making a shaky follow cam, it was about the feel of the world. The follow cam when you ran really added a lot to the feel of Gears of War. You felt like a soldier embedded in conflict because if you’ve ever seen news footage of soldiers in hostile situations, that’s pretty much what it looks like.

    But what it spawned was a wave of imitation that didn’t quite live up to the original purpose. Adding a motion blur when something is supposed to be moving “fast” is nothing new. So I wasn’t only not surprised to see it in Mass Effect, I rather expected it. It honestly didn’t bother me at all.

    Fable II seems to be a little different though. What’s going on is that they’re adding a blur effect to camera rotation to try and give it a “real world” feel. When you turn your head quickly in… uhh… life… There’s a blur effect caused by your eyes not having a focal point. The thing is, in real life you don’t spin your head around in an unfocused way. You usually keep your head turned toward an object. It’s also typically a quick movement even if you’re not focusing on something, probably less than 2 seconds. So while they’re trying to imitate something that occurs in real life, they failed to see how it doesn’t really occur to the degree that they’re doing it (not to mention we don’t have 3rd person perspectives of ourselves).

    Anyways, despite that, I really didn’t have a problem with either game’s cameras. I’m just used to 3D gaming I guess. In fact, the only time I was ever made nauseas by a game was when I was playing the original Marathon (for the Mac and btw I’ll always consider it a thousand times better than Halo). They had a fake 3d thing going on with 2D sprites all over the place. The whole thing was a bit disconcerting and extended periods of play could really get your stomach rolling (if you know what I mean). After that though, everything was easy to take in.

    I honestly think that it’s just something you get used to. Some games take things a bit too far (like Fable 2), but really that’s just a matter of their QA process needing to have a nausea check process. Perhaps get some people who don’t often play 3D games in and see if they can stand playing for more than an hour without getting sick. That sort of thing.

    Honestly the number one thing I look for when designing a game camera, is that it lets you see everything you need to see, and in all other cases is totally unnoticeable. If you’re able to just intuit how the camera works and you never even need to think about it, that’s a good thing. The best cameras in video games are almost always the ones you don’t even remember anything about.

    posted by CommanderHate at 11:39 am  

    Thursday, November 20, 2008

    Dear MMORPG Makers
    I Am Sick of Fucking Grinding XP

    Dear MMORPG Developers,

    I have played many of your games. I grinded to level 60 in Everquest just before they raised the cap. Then I quit because I’d rather gouge out my own eyes than continue grinding xp in a game that takes it away when you die. Then I hit 50 in Dark Age of Camelot, and that was quite a feat. I got to 30 in City of Heroes and 30 in Age of Conan. I also hit 70 in World of Warcraft (60 with two other characters).

    So then I picked up Warhammer Online, and I started grinding xp and questing. I think I got up to level 6 or 7 when I just got inexplicably pissed off. Now let me be clear. Nothing at all bad had happened on my screen. It was simply that I turned in a quest and my experience bar increased a bit. THAT is what set me off. That fucking experience bar. It’s followed me in every MMORPG I have ever played, and I fucking hate it.

    I am so glad that Blizzard showed everyone that you don’t have to horribly punish everyone when they die by fucking with their hard earned experience, but when is a MMORPG going to show us that you don’t have to sit there for 4 hours a day for 2 months grinding and questing fucking experience points out of brain dead monsters in order to compete at the end level game in PVP? Look Mythic (the Warhmmer online creators btw), I understand that RVR (realm versus realm) is the big deal of your game. But no one wants to compete in RVR until they’ve achieved a level where they can effectively compete. So I say, cut the grinding right the fuck out of your MMORPG and concentrate on your strength.

    We’ve done questing! We’ve grinded xp by killing shitty mobs in one area for hours at a time until we level and need to find a new place to grind out xp. It’s stupid! And while I can appreciate earning xp for killing other players, the sad truth is that if you aren’t already max level, you’re not going to effectively do shit out there on the battlefield except cycle die and fuck the game up for your team mates who all had the good sense to level to max before going to bat for your side.

    Recently Wrath of the Lich King came out, and I must admit, they’ve got questing down. Leveling from 55 to 58 doing the Death Knight quests was hella fun. It was a new experience and thoroughly enjoyable. They make you feel epic. I want to feel epic! But now I’ve burned through that content and I’m back to Burning Crusade content. Content I’ve already done. I don’t want to do it again, but here I am grinding experience points out of stupid collection and kill quests that I fucking hate. Every level is like a slow death for me, and each one seems to take FOREVER. But I can’t pvp in the battlegrounds yet because I’d be a burden to the team and very few people play in the BGs for the lower levels (other than 19) and those that do have RIDICULOUS equipment that they’ve min/maxxed for months so that they’re nigh-unbeatable.

    My point is, unless you are doing custom amazing content that has never been done before in an MMORPG to get you from level 1 to whatever the cap is, don’t fucking do it. Let me get to whatever level I need to in order to compete and have fun. If I have to spend more than 10 minutes killing random mobs to get xp, you have failed to entertain me. This is supposed to be a fun game, not my second fucking job.

    So get over yourselves. You are not special or unique. Every fucking MMORPG out there has done kill quests and collection quests. They were fun once, in the first MMO we played, but only the first 2-3 times we did them. Then they sucked and they always will suck. Grinding xp is not new in a MMORPG and if you want to separate yourself from the rest of the pack, don’t put it in your fucking game. Find something new and different, because I am not going to fucking grind out another 40-80 levels in a god damn MMORPG ever again.

    With Love,
    -Commander Hate

    posted by CommanderHate at 11:36 am  

    Monday, August 11, 2008

    Braid : Formal Review

    I did a short review before when Mr.Blow granted me the privilege of an early version of the game. How have my views on the game changed now that I’ve completed the final release version on XBox Live Arcade? Little to none. Let’s do a breakdown as different people like different things.

    Gameplay

    Braid is an exquisite medley of nostalgia and completely innovate new game mechanics, combined to form a sandwich entirely made of awesome. Seriously though, the ability to fast forward and rewind time has been toyed around with repeatedly in games of the past, but this is the first time where it actually fit perfectly and was implemented perfectly in the history of video games. Whereas most designers would immediately try to restrict or build costs into a time rewinding mechanic in order to make the game “fun,” Jonathon Blow has built a game around utilizing time rewinding without any sort of chains, backlash or other bullshit that made those previous time travel games a miserable failure (or at least not as fun as they could have been).

    Most game designers would immediately flinch and say the game is too easy because of the time rewinding mechanic alone, but they would be wrong. Deep thought must be put into every puzzle that advances progression, and time manipulation is the key that opens the locks. Each World of the game gives a slightly different way to manipulate time, and all of them have many brilliant puzzles.

    For those who have started playing and are getting frustrated or stuck, do not worry. I swear that every puzzle is completable and that despite their seeming impossibility, once you have finally figured it out you will be amazed by how natural the solution feels. All it takes is time, thought and effort. If you find yourself repeatedly trying to do something that seems absolutely impossible, reconsider your thought process and see if there’s a better solution that utilizes your time manipulation mechanic. If you’re thinking of giving up, do not. The end level is absolute genius, and to miss it is to fail at life.

    Art

    I’m not an artist by any means, but it is rare for me to play a game and be absolutely enthralled by the background images. Everything within the game is beautifully rendered in an ethereal way that fits in with the spiritual journey you go through as you push Tim towards reality. Art is often in games, but rarely have I thought of games as art. Braid, in all its ethereal beauty, is art in game form.

    Music

    The music suits the game well, and I am particularly fond of how it speeds up and slows down with the time manipulation mechanic. Hopefully it will bring a lot of new people into the realm of enjoying classical music.

    Story

    The story of the game works perfectly with the overarching theme, and more importantly, fits in with the gameplay perfectly. It’s all leading you to something, something brilliant and achingly sad. You can see it in the words as you progress and when it all becomes revealed, you feel it in your soul.

    My only criticism here is the writing itself. While the implied meaning of the paragraphs are quite good and perfectly set the scene for the levels you will experience, the writing itself feels mechanical and a bit placid. Perhaps this is the intention, for Tim seems to be obsessed with the mechanics of things. However, it is slightly out of sync with the elegance of the world within which he imagines himself. I would like to think that someone who can dream up worlds so achingly beautiful, would also have the words with which to accompany them.

    I also must admit that I did not fully “get” the final few books that I found in the world. I think I understand the general meaning of them, and while I did get some closure from it, I felt they were lacking in cohesiveness with everything else I had experienced. It’s almost as though they were written on such a high level that they failed to mesh with the very explicit meaning of the end encounter of the game.

    Overall

    The game has come together beautifully, and honestly, little has changed since I played the initial version. I think I may have found a few of the puzzles to be a tiny bit tighter in execution, but that could be my imagination playing tricks on me. Every puzzle completion was a moment of joy for me. It’s simply an exquisitely well thought out and executed game. If you have any interest in game design, you must play this game.

    Braid – A+

    Pros

    • Amazingly crafted gameplay
    • Best use of time travel ever done in a game.
    • Elegant and brilliant puzzles
    • Exquisite artwork that fits perfectly with the theme and gameplay.

    Cons

    • Slightly mechanical writing style detracts from the perceived overall theme.
    • Epilogue felt slightly disjointed at points from the rest of the game.

    There you have it, a perfect game in my opinion. The cons are totally personal feelings, but since rating a game is entirely about a person’s personal perspective, I felt obligated to put them in. Weighted against the whole, they are absolutely insignificant to me. Go get this game, now!

    WARNING: Comments may contain spoilers. I highly recommend you finish the game first.

    posted by CommanderHate at 1:29 pm  

    Wednesday, August 6, 2008

    EGM’s First Ever Successful Magazine Release
    A Colossal Breakthrough For Video Game News

    It is absolutely unprecedented. I have long been a reader of many types of gaming magazines, but for the first time ever I was actually enthralled by the content of one. The gaming media has long been the red headed step-child of actual news media sources, and for good reason. They have lagged far far behind their “real news” journalist brethren. But for the first time ever, I picked up and read a gaming magazine and actually read every sentence of every paragraph of most of their news stories.

    The most exciting recent event to happen in gaming news news (not a typo) was when then editor of EGM, Dan Hsu had a little Q&A with then Microsoft 360 executive Peter Moore. The questions he asked were borderline inflammatory given the garbage most game reporters have asked in the past, but more importantly, the questions were poignant and freaking relevant. I was excited by the interview and was hoping to see a turn around in the gaming news industry. Of course the answers to the questions were less interesting than the questions themselves and unfortunately no one picked up the torch that Hsu had lit.

    One and a half years later, the latest issue of EGM has finally taken game news reporting to a new level. The September issue (#32) goes in depth into the roots of our gaming history and they have several interviews with classic Japanese game maker icons. They discuss the rise and stagnation of the Japanese video game market, and really analyze what the problems could be in Japanese game development. It’s a thing of beauty really, and it’s what I’ve been hoping to see come from all of our video game news sources.

    I suppose this makes EGM the New Yorker of gaming magazines, but whether or not it’s going to continue to give us this sort of content remains to be seen. I would like to see some more hard hitting questions from their reporters, particularly directed at Sony and Microsoft executives, but I suppose not everyone has Dan Hsu sized balls. On another note, I miss the Hustler of gaming magazines… PCXL… (sigh)…

    On the other hand, with Hsu out of the picture, EGM’s new editor-in-chief James Mielke seems to have taken the whole magazine into a very positive direction for themselves and the game industry as a whole. Will other magazines follow suit? Probably not… To do what EGM has done requires journalists to actually go out and talk to people (you know, like they’re supposed to) and the game news media is notoriously fucking lazy (and often pathetic with even simple to find knowledge).

    I would like to see this taken even further though. Hsu’s hard hitting interview may have gotten him critically chewed out by fans and haters alike, but it’s something that is still missing from video game journalism. Perhaps the sad truth is that the gaming magazines are all but slaves to the advertiser’s dollars, but I hope that’s not the case and we’ll soon see another gamer journalist take some real questions to their next interview with a Sony or Microsoft executive.

    So, kudos to you EGM folks. If this trend continues I may continue my subscription (although I’m still annoyed about you tricking me into subscribing for an extra year). For anyone out there lamenting the state of video game journalism, take a look at this issue and let me know if you too are pleasantly surprised.

    posted by CommanderHate at 10:54 pm  
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