Gamer Hate

Belligerently lacking in remorse.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Graphics Versus Gameplay?
I Hate Quick Time Events

It’s been something of a nuisance lately that 90% of the “casual” market games have decided that all players are insipid morons and must be stopped from doing anything remotely different from what the game designer intended. Sure, you might have a jump button, but good luck finding anything to jump off of, everything is covered by invisible walls. That lava in the background looks amazing, but you’ll never get to touch it. It seems like every really epic looking thing you find in a game, you can’t actually touch or interact with in any way, and when you can, you have to do it through Quick Time Events (the lamest invention in video game history, thanks Dragon’s Lair, you doddering old bastard). I swear, every time they put a quicktime event into a game, Gary Gygax dies a little inside (oh fuck, you’ve killed him… too soon?).

For those not in the know, a Quick Time Event (QTE) is when the game basically plays a branching cinematic. You choose the branches of the cinematic (which is pretty much always Win or DIE) by tapping or mashing buttons in the exact sequence that they ask for them. God of War did it, Heavenly Sword copied them, Resident Evil 4 had it, and they’re all copying Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace. Two games that no one wants to play anymore unless they’re waxing incredibly nostalgic to the point where they think they actually are reliving the 80s or have somehow traveled back through time to when the only place you could play games was the arcade and most of them looked like pixelated pieces of shit with the one exception being the laser disc run Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace kiosks. Those looked awesome! But they played about a thousand times worse than the pixelated pieces of shit…

These days the dichotomy between the graphics and gameplay has all but disappeared. You can make a game look as good or as bad as you want, and the gameplay can be as good or as bad as you like. The problem that arose from the increase in graphical quality (and this primarily concerns the rise of 3D graphics) is that things that LOOK really cool, are REALLY hard to program the ability to navigate on or around in a way that isn’t completely frustrating for the player. The intricacies of the artwork on a level can create all sorts of nooks and crannies that the character can fall or get stuck in that you could never possibly anticipate. So instead of relying on the geometry of the art to interact with the programming, we have to make blocky outlines of all the art that are much safer for the collision code to check and bounce against. That way all those nooks and crannies just look like nooks and crannies, they’re actually a flat plane that you will slide off or flatly stand on.

It almost seems like a step backwards. Why can’t the programmer make something that will deal with the art’s collision in a smart way and still be fun. Well, because it’s really freakin’ hard. Look at robots for example. They have a lot of trouble dealing with the flat surfaces of the real world. Programming simulations of that stuff is incredibly difficult to the point where millions of dollars of government cash has been sunk into the problem and only recently have we started seeing solutions. So instead the game industry takes the shortcut of ignoring the intricate 3d art that you’re navigating and puts collision boxes beneath it.

Which of course causes them to simplify all of their navigation areas. Sometimes to the point of absurdity. I’ve never been more frustrated in a game then when I try to make some simple jumps and I hit all sorts of invisible collision blocks. Of course, the worst sin is to remove jump from the game altogether. As though some inexorable God-like force is pushing down on everyone in the game and melding their feet into the surface of the earth. Honestly, if your game is 3d and you don’t have a jump button… Switch to 2D and make an adventure game.

Of course games can look too simple. Going back to play any game from 4 or more years ago will tell you that. I have fond memories of Super Mario Brothers, but when I play it… Well I don’t want to play it anymore. The same goes for Street Fighter II and any number of iconic games that I loved (and used to be cutting edge graphics wise) but are now just sort of sloppy looking messes. Only the very first games seem to hold up because they’re so pixelated that you have to forgive them for not looking super cool.

In fact, attempts to update the graphics on games like Galaga, Moon Runner and Asteroids just makes the game feel worse to play. Missile Command and games like it worked so well because of the simplicity of their design and their melding with the simple graphics. New graphics on those games just doesn’t feel… right.

Design has style just as art and music has style. When you are creating a game, it’s just as important to determine what your design style will be as it is anything else that’s going into the game. In fact, it’s more important, because design sets the tone for everything else. The reason Quick Time Events are a miserable failure in games, is because the design style is trying to fit the intended graphical effect. Sure, it’s pretty, but it’s also the worst of both worlds. You have an unfun game dynamic that requires you to look for button queues which means you can’t watch the fucking cinematic that you painstakingly made so cool and wanted them to watch in the first place.

And that’s just stupid…

posted by CommanderHate at 2:59 pm  

4 Comments »

  1. Very good points..

    That’s why I was extremely angry at Heavenly Sword for not having a jump (in an ACTION game too.. Com’on!!) function except in QTE..

    And that’s why I think the Street Fighter HD Remix is a horrible idea.. and unfortunately.. A horrible execution.. Yuck..

    Comment by Kohyunu — March 29, 2008 @ 3:30 pm

  2. I agree, except for the jump button. It always bugs me when a game dedicates a whole button to jumping if jumping isn’t actually useful for any part of the game. It’s especially bad if other important functions get overlapped on the same button in order to make room for a jump button.

    Sometimes a jump button is necessary, but more times than not it should probably be a context-sensitive action like in Ocarina of Time.

    Comment by Aaron — April 2, 2008 @ 9:44 am

  3. Good points there Aaron, I wouldn’t like a jump button there for the sake of jumping.. Yet I always think the Zelda series as more of an adventure than a fully dedicated action title such as Ninja Gaiden or Devil May Cry. So a context-sensitive jump for Link doesn’t feel limiting, but for a Kung Fu master such as Nariko not able to jump feels awkward to me.

    Kung Fu themes have so much potential to express over the top action. And to think that a character such as Nariko, who can fly 20 feet in the air and land on a bad guy’s crotch, can’t jump at her (or I should say the player’s) own will.. That feels wrong to me.

    Comment by Kohyunu — April 4, 2008 @ 9:09 am

  4. […] ever invented. This stuff came from the original Dragon’s Lair and is the subject of my rant on Quicktime Events in […]

    Pingback by Gamer Hate » Games That Won’t Let You DieAwesome or Bad Design?From Kohyunu — December 15, 2008 @ 7:46 pm

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