Monday, July 30, 2012

Important vs. Impotent Beginnings

Over the weekend, I decided to play through the original Half-Life.  This decision was spurred on by playing three other games of the shooter variety, all of which left me disappointed.  (Prototype 2, Resident Evil 5, and Inversion.)  So part of the decision was a need to play something that I knew I would enjoy, and the other part was to try and figure out just what was so great about Half-Life in the first place.  I learned a few things.

The starkest contrast between all three of these games vs. Half-Life was the beginning.  The beginning of a game is very important, especially in today's world where everyone wants everything RIGHT THIS MINUTE and waiting is an irritation rather than a part of everyday life.  In other words, if you don't give people instant gratification, you won't get their attention.  

So, it surprises me that so many of today's games include an unskippable tutorial as part of their first levels.  Especially shooters, since they aren't complicated games.  Half-Life has a tutorial, but it is a completely separate thing.  You don't even get it if you start a new game -- it's a completely separate option upon starting up the game.  And it's fully skippable.  I don't understand why all shooters don't do this.  Chances are, if someone is buying a new game release in today's world, it's quite likely they've played a shooter before.  Tutorials bore me.  And it's ESPECIALLY annoying when you incorporate the tutorial at the start of the game as part of the actually main story.  That means that even if I could skip it, I actually can't because then I would miss some of the story.

My point here is this:  There are a lot of games to play these days.  If you're not going to catch my interest quickly, then I'm going to move on to something else.  This is where those three games failed.

And here's where things get interesting.  The first five minutes of Half-Life consist of nothing more than a train ride.  It's not even gameplay, per say, unless you count moving around inside that tram car as gameplay.  So why is that good?  What drives me to continuing playing after that, as opposed to those other games, which had combat during the first few minutes yet also bored me?

The answer is simple.  It's good storytelling.  During that tram ride in Half-Life, you are given little tiny bits of information.  This serves to intrigue you, and make you want to explore further to find out who you are and what you're doing there.  It raises many questions.  Where am I going?  What will be there when I get there?  What will I be asked to do?  What is this place?  Who was that guy in the suit on that other tram?  And this is where the "badness" of these others games branches out a bit.  Prototype 2 bored me because the story bored me.  I just didn't care.  It was completely obvious that the only reason the game existed was to dismember things.  And doing something just because you can, without context, is not fun.  Sure, you have objectives.  "Dismember this person so you can gain access to the next person to dismember."  OH YAY.

In contrast, both Inversion and Resident Evil 5 have a story that could potentially have been good and kept me playing.  Inversion is about an invasion by monsters/aliens that quickly enslave mankind.  Basically, the EXACT same plot as Half-Life 2.  Yet it is horrible, because it wasn't done properly.  And I've come to the conclusion that it's horrible because it shows you too much too soon.  I much prefer to have a bit of mystery or intrigue to go along with everything, and that is one of the reasons Half-Life 2's story is superior to Inversion's even though they are basically about the same thing.

Resident Evil 5 bothered me for different reasons.  The gameplay was really the main thing, and it's pretty sad that a type of gameplay as simple as a shooter's could be screwed up so royally.  Over-the-shoulder views can be easily screwed up, and they screwed it up.  Games like Batman and Dead Space have done it properly.  But not this game.  And certain gameplay decisions like not being able to move while aiming, reloading, or meleeing are just bad.  I have a feeling that Inversion would have a similar problem.  Shooters these days feel like they need to innovate, which often leads to the controls being horribly confusing and clunky as a result because you have key bindings for all the special gimmicks.  Inversion has the gravity stuff going for it, and as a result the typical "aim down the sights" control of right-mouse and the typical "use" control of E was missing.  This didn't feel innovative at all.  It felt annoying.

What I would like to see someone do here in 2012 or sometime soon, is design a shooter that stops trying to be different and simply does everything that a shooter is supposed to do CORRECTLY.  After you do that, then you can add in your gimmick as long as it doesn't break what you've already created.  Half-Life 2 did this with the addition of the gravity gun.

The sad thing is, we're probably not going to see this UNLESS id does it with Doom 4.  

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Lately I've been contemplating closing down this blog.  To be perfectly honest, I don't find that I have much to talk about these days.  While it's true that I do enjoy talking about games, the simple fact of the matter is that there are approximately two billion people who also like talking about games, and a vast majority of those people are better at it than I am.  I've said from the start that I write for my own personal benefit, but it's also true that it does become difficult to do something when you don't see much point in it.

To point out further degradation of my enthusiasm for posting here, I can think of several recent things I could have written about that I just simply didn't.  That includes the garden, which is now in full bloom, my thoughts on 3D technology after seeing The Amazing Spider-Man, and my recent experiences with Killing Floor.  Any of those would have made good material for posts here.  And the truth is, it's not exactly correct to state that I didn't -want- to post about those things, though that does admittedly have a bit to do with it.  No, it's more that I didn't see the POINT in it.  I didn't feel I could make the posts interesting enough.

That may lead you to ask me why the hell I'm posting now, since this post is certainly uninteresting.  Well, it's therapy.  I've written as a form of therapy for years now.  As with most things, however, my current distaste for blog posts is not the cause of my frustrations, but rather a symptom of it.  I at least think so, anyway.  And now I'm about to write about some first-world problems.  Sorry, little starving African kids!

The first problem as i see it relates to my job.  For about three or four months, I was incredibly busy.  It was stressful, it sapped a lot of hours beyond my normal working days, and it was generally unenjoyable.  However, it provided me with something very important; something that is now lacking from my day-to-day life.  That something is accomplishment.  I've gone back to normal everyday tasks, and while I wouldn't necessarily say that I'm bored I would say that I'm not getting as much satisfaction out of what I'm doing.  Do I enjoy it?  Certainly.  Am I comfortable where I'm at?  Most definitely.  Am I being challenged?  Not so much, and there's the whole problem.  I'm left with a nagging and irritating feeling of frivolity.

So what's the solution?  Well, I need to find something that will give me that same personal satisfaction and feeling of accomplishment.  It's not like I haven't been trying, mind you.  

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

As most people who talk to me know, I hate Day Z.  This may seem hypocritical for two reasons.  Actually, scratch that, it IS hypocritical of me.  I fully admit that.  These reasons are:

1. I haven't played it.

2. Why am I talking about it if I hate it?

I'm talking about it because I don't necessarily -hate- it from the perspective that most people hate games.  It's not the gameplay I have a problem with, even if it's not exactly what I would want to see in a zombie survival game.  That's not it at all.  I actually think it's very cool that someone has taken such a serious and very realistic game (ARMA II) and have put zombies into it.

No, the problem I have with this, this MOD (it's not even a game yet) that every time I turn around, there are four new articles about it.  Why?  Why is it so important?  Why have I seen 20 articles about Day Z since Max Payne 3 came out yet PC Gamer has yet to post their review of Max Payne 3?

I know the answer to this question already, actually, I just don't agree with it.  It is constantly in the news because it's something no one has done before.  It is innovative.  And it is very popular.  I can understand this, and yes, I do think these things deserve to give the mod some recognition.  Get the word out.  Tell people about it.  But I feel the coverage of this mod has been excessive.  Do I really need to hear about it every day?  Is a "Daily Update" article really necessary?  I don't think so.

I suppose you could make the argument, "Well PD, if you don't like reading about Day Z, then just don't read about it you fool!"  I guess that's fair, but to my point it's kind of hard to do that when it seems that everyone is reporting on Day Z -instead of- everything else.  See my Max Payne 3 example above.

The only thing I can do, though, is simply wait for it to die down.  


Holy smokes.  The last post I wrote for this blog was on October 18, 2017.  Through the little more than  two years since, this blog has be...