4/16/08

April Round Table: Lonely Games

So hey, Man Bytes Blog. Sweet blog. Very well written. Very engaging. Few swears. Lots of measured, careful, thoughtful statements about games and gaming. So, apparently, Corvus does this Round Table thingie, so I'd figured I try a crack at it. The theme this time is finding common threads among your favorite games.

So, favorite games:

Odin Sphere
Any shooter by Cactus
Any shooter by Kenta Cho
God Hand
Dead Rising
Audiosurf
Shadow of the Colussus
GTA: San Andreas
Devil May Cry 3
Radian Silvergun
Spectromancer
Magic: The Gathering
Chess
Blackjack
Texas Hold'em
Dawn of War
Passage
Discipline: Record of a Crusade
Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence

...huh. It's weird seeing all those things together, isn't it. I mean, I constantly talk to myself about these games, but I've never actually written them all down before. Ya know, all as one. Huh. Well I can't see a pattern. So how about games I hate?

Discipline: Record of a Crusade
World of Warcraft
Odin Sphere
God Hand
Dead Rising
Darkened Skye
Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence

...Yeah. I still got nothing. Let's try observing why I hate these games!

Discipline: Record of a Crusade - First ending I got hurt Otokawa.
World of Warcraft - Grind
Odin Sphere - Grind
God Hand - Half-finished
Dead Rising - Brilliant story-telling technique, stuck telling a B story
Darkened Skye - wasted good allowance money on this
Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence - fucking control scheme from the 9th layer of hell
Bioshock - uninspired

... Hmm...Let's go back to the ones I love.

Odin Sphere - first game where I almost cried / I heart Gwendolyn
Any shooter by Cactus - Man's a genius
Any shooter by Kenta Cho - See: Cactus
God Hand - Ballsy design
Dead Rising - Ballsy design
Audiosurf - $10 for a game I'll play for the rest of my life
Shadow of the Colussus - Brilliant
GTA: San Andreas - WCTR
Devil May Cry 3 - 'Fun Factor'
Radian Silvergun - Good ole' shmup goodness
Spectromancer - Ingenious use of cards in digital format
Magic: The Gathering - a blast
Chess - European philosophy in 8x8 squares
Blackjack - Fun/random elements integrated into game of skill
Texas Hold'em - Fun/random elements integrated into game of skill
Dawn of War - Fun
Passage - Art
Discipline: Record of a Crusade - Taught be about player expectations
Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence - Sheer craftsmanship

I guess, when I look at it like this...none of these games pull punches. They don't meet you halfway. They don't concede anything. They are what they are, they know what they are, and by god they're happy with it. They're ecstatic even. They don't want to be movies. They don't want to be novels. They don't want anything more than to be just what they are; games. Now some of
them (SotC, Passage) use the fact that they're just games to show us something beautiful, to make 'art'. Others (DMC3, Radiant Silvergun) are content with showing us what we've learned how to do. Some show us the future, some the past. some show where we're coming from, and others give a hint of where we're going. But they're all happy just being games.

And looking at this list of games I hate, I see things that aren't happy being games, or aren't fully realized as games. They're not content. They're so...worried. Anxious. Unfinished. Or worse, they just don't care.

Like WoW. When I was playing WoW, I just got this incredible sense that the game doesn't care about itself much. I mean, I'm out here slaughtering these lizards, and for what? For some levels? If I murder Thunderlizard #3002212379872761, does anyone give a fuck? Does it change anything significant? All that happens is some fucking bright-ass pillar shines on me, I get some skill points, and it's right back the fucking grind.

And Bioshock; shit on a biscuit that game was pissed! It was so constrained, so trapped into what it thought an FPS had to be, into how a story had to be told. Into how combat has to work. It was so held back. Playing that game made me so sad, because all I saw was something awesome raging against chains it put on itself.

And God Hand, man God Hand. It fell apart around the edges. The center the meat, the main levels of the game were fantastic. Beating up wrestling gorillas, spanking hot dommes, suplexing thugs. THAT WAS AWESOME!!! And then you get to the Last Boss, and you're like SWEEEETTT!!! Double the POWER! And then you're like, let's do it again God Hand, this time, ON HARD...And then...the game forgets. I forgets about all those moments that you two had. It
forgets about that time you got BOTH God Hands, and you were like, "take this DEMON DUDE", and he was like "NO YOU HAVE DEFEATED MEEEE!!!" It forgot. How could it do that to me? After all those moments, gone. Did God Hand ever really love then?

So anyway, yeah, that's what I see from these lists. I see games that understand what they are, and games that don't understand what they are. The games I love know what it is that they're trying to do, and by god, they do it. The games I hate...not so much. You know what? I wouldn't even say I hate those games. I just feel bad for them. They're just so pitiful.

They're lost. Lonely.

I think this whole round table has been good for me. I think I'll do more of this kind of taking-my-thinking-on-games-apart stuff. But for now, I gotta go to EEE 120! PI AWAYYYYyyyyyyyyy......!!!!

4/12/08

So I got around to playing Karoshi 2...

Alot like Karoshi one. That is to say, the goal is to die, and it's surprisingly hard. Puzzles are fiendish, to say the least. All in all, a good old clever little time.

Oh, and it has a Shadow of the Colossus reference. Hell yes.

4/9/08

RTS Idea, or, FUCK ONSCREEN BUTTONS

You know what always pissed me off about RTS's? The fucking buttons in the GUI. Very briefly, look down upon your cheeto-encrusted keyboard. What do see? Other than tissue papers of course*. You see buttons. Loads, and loads of fucking buttons. Look at all them damn buttons. Thats more buttons than I've ever seen! Ever! Count them damn buttons dude!

I'll wait.

...


While you were counting, I looked it up on wikipedia. 104 buttons! Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! That's not even counting combinations of those buttons**! Why the hell would you need any more goddamned buttons!?!?

What does this have to do with the Falcon? Using the falcon, I would make a cursor-less RTS. The reason that RTS's have always had cursors is because people are dumb fucks. They just couldn't think of any other way to move around the map. Well with the Falcon, it simple controls the camera. All zooming, panning, etc, is done by that wonderful little piece of hardware. This means we can each squad assigned to a letter (Alpha = a, Beta = b, etc.). Let the number pad assign directions, and use a chess-like grid to tell them where to go. Etc.

*It's allergy season!
**which would be 5356 by the way. If you're only counting 2-combo's

Novint Falcon: Here's my idea...

So hey, a design challenge!

Here's my idea: an RTS. The battlefield? THE GLOBE*.

No really, the whole planet. You would have no cursor. The falcon would let you spin the globe. Moving the knob forward zooms in, pulling it back zooms out. The game would auto select your units, and using the keyboard (NO ONSCREEN BUTTONS THAT SHIT PISSES ME OFF) you would narrow down your selections, and issue orders.

More on this RTS to come.

*Not the one on the Thames. The other Globe. The bigger one

4/7/08

Why Dead Rising is How You Should Tell a Story in a Game

Disclaimer: I heart hyperbole

You know what always pissed me off about video game stories?

Let's look at Mass Effect. In ME, you play a dude who's gotta save the universe, with only the Best Human Ship EVAR (tm) and a Ragtag Band of Fighters (tm). Somehow, you manage to do so. Who'da thunk it?

So there's this mission in the game where you gotta get to a planet and save some alien dudes who need your help. You are told to get there quickly, so you can save them! Time is of the essence you are told! And in case that didn't convince you, the mission's name is Race against Time!i

But what if I don't wanna? What if I wanna roam around the universe for a couple of days? WHAT THEN MASS EFFECT!?!?!? Then...nothing. The dudes you needed to save never die, they just stay there, on their little paradise planet, waiting for you to just show up any old time you please.

What. The. Fuck. That's a load of bullshit. Seriously, if we (and by we, I mean 'I' since no-one reads this blog!) want the medium to advance we got to start calling this shit.

You see, there are only four (4) video games that I have ever played that told a story right. First and second are Portal and Half-Life. These games need no explanation. Third is Shadow of the Colossus, or, 'The Game That Makes All Others Look Like Steaming Piles Of Dog Shit, only WITH BLOOM LIGHTING!!!'

And the last is Dead Rising. Dead Rising is the singly most ballsy piece of game design in the past decade. What of the indie scene? Fuck the indie scene*. Those shitheads are playing for peanuts when compared to Dead Rising. Those indie fucks are busy re-treading retro, and making their shit candy-coated.** Portal was not ballsy.*** Was there ever any real doubt about Portal? Sure, no one foresaw how awesome it was going to wind up being, but people, this is Valve we're talking about. They made Half-Life. While we were still shitting out shlocky WW2 shooters, Gabe Newell and his team were busy establishing the standard in FPS's, which is the case to this day.

But what of the story? I'll give you that fact that yeah, Dead Rising doesn't exactly have the greatest story ever. But I'm not here to talk about the story of Dead Rising, I'm here to talk about how it tells it. And how it tells it is the way ALL GAMES SHOULD DO IT****

So how does it tell it's story? What is this method that just has my man-panties***** in such a twirl? Timed tasks bitches.

Just let it sink in.

It's still sinking in, trust me dude.

Still sinking.

...

Remember ME? Mass Effect? Remember the problem I had? Why did I have this problem? I propose that the underlying cause of this problem was Narrative Momentum (tm). The Narrative of the game had no Momentum of it's Own. I was the momentum. I moved the story. And I could move the story in such a way as to let it make no sense.

Dead Rising's structure does NOT let you do this. It puts me in my place. In every other fucking game, I might as well be God, for shit happens when I say it happens. Nothing in those other games can happen without my say so. "You can't die! I'm grinding here!" Since I am God, there is no such thing as sacrifice. No sacrifice, no suffering, no suffering, no conflict, no conflict, NO FUCKING STORY.

Dead Rising is basically saying "Fuck you player, I'll die when I wanna!" You're not there for a story event? Tough shit. The game moves on. You wanna save people? Bitch, you better be prepared! You better plan the fuck ahead. You can't just go out and say "Geh-hee wizz! Let's go get us some PP, by saving some people! It'll be no problem!" And then you're stuck, with a half-dead team of survivors at the grocery store, wand god-damnit you're about to miss a fucking story event, I came to damn far to screw up now, comeon you lazy shits FIGHT THE ZOMBIES YOU IDIOTS!!!!

Conflict. Story.

More to come, when I'm not so sleepy.

*DISCLAIMER: I love the indie scene. Seriously, I do. Cactus 4 evar!

**DISCLAIMER: I love Peggle.

***DISCLAIMER: I love Portal.

****DISCLAIMER: See the Disclaimer at the beginning of this post.

*****Are they comfortable? You bet your ass they are.