Video Game Stuff

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Re: Video Game Stuff

Postby quetzalcoatlus » Tue Feb 07, 2012 4:25 pm

ntw3001 wrote:
quetzalcoatlus wrote:Enjoying Fallout 3, but I need to work on the combat aspect of it a lot. Also, "Butcher Pete" is a hell of an earworm. I've already noticed the gameplay mechanics of both this and Oblivion are a bit similar, so maybe as I get better at one I'll get better at the other.


I did not find this. I picked the perks that, after a few levels, made combat like a point-and-click game. Open up 'shoot man' menu, click on head four times, watch short film again. I did get tired of it. New Vegas had the giant bonus of guns-that-shoot-straight, so you can actually use them without VATS.


I think it's more that I'm not really used to the combat system itself - I've never played any other Fallout games, and other than Elder Scrolls, I think the only thing I've really played that's set up similarly is Bioshock, which I never got terribly far in. I intend on going back over to that shopping mall and practicing on raiders and the like.

So yeah, Splatterhouse: Kinda frustrating, but nevertheless addicting, because it just makes punching and disemboweling demony thingies so dang fun. Weird fact I just learned: The voice of the Terror Mask sounded familiar, so I looked it up, and it turns out that it's Jim Cummings, who was pretty much recycling his Darkwing Duck voice. So, essentially every time you die, Darkwing Duck calls you a pussy.
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Re: Video Game Stuff

Postby giantsfan97 » Tue Feb 07, 2012 11:37 pm

Jemry wrote:There are a lot of pages in this one and I'm lazy, are there any people who play League of Legends here?

I don't play it, but I have watched a lot of it (not exactly by choice). It is actually the most watched video game in terms of people watching professionals live streaming their own play.
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Re: Video Game Stuff

Postby Zombie Protestor » Thu Feb 23, 2012 10:02 pm

First official trailer for Borderlands 2 has been released, along with a release date of September 18, the day after my anniversary. I know what I'M getting as an anniversary present!

Anyway, here's the Youtube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCWJUSulnro
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Re: Video Game Stuff

Postby ntw3001 » Thu Feb 23, 2012 10:37 pm

Ahh Borderlands yeeeehawww
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Re: Video Game Stuff

Postby EsBe » Fri Feb 24, 2012 12:00 am

I've been watching the recordings of the marathon speedruns here that I missed when they were live. The Zelda:OOT and MM videos are peppered throughout with more cheers and applause from the audience than any other runthrough I've ever seen. Next, I get to see someone tackle System Shock 2.
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Re: Video Game Stuff

Postby PonderThis » Fri Feb 24, 2012 9:26 am

Well I'm not much of a gamer but I did play a little bit of Evercrack back in the day. I was watching the Borderlands trailer and a stray thought occurred to me: What would it take to create a MMORPG with a plot? I don't mean a plot for individual players (aka "quests"). By their very nature, the worlds upon which MMPORGs are set are pretty static.

But here's an idea. Suppose you set your MMORPG on a "moon" somewhere. The thing is just teeming with badguys, right? But here's the thing: They don't respawn. So the first players who "land" basically get massacred. But after a while they form a beachhead. And ever so slowly more and more of this moon is "cleaned up". Now just to make things interesting you could occasionally have a ship land with more bad guys whenever it looks like the moon might get cleaned up too quickly. But eventually the goal is reached and the game is "over".

Well, that's no fun (and a terrible business model) for an MMORPG, right? No, you see, while people are playing the hell out of that your development team is working on the next moon. So once moon #1 is cleaned up, moon #2 becomes available. Assuming you buy the new version, of course. Now once the second moon gets going, you can reset moon #1 for new players. Lather, rinse, repeat!

So would that work or am I just totally missing something?
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Re: Video Game Stuff

Postby Zombie Protestor » Fri Feb 24, 2012 11:33 am

You want your company's graphic designers designing landscapes that only players who play in the first few months will ever see?

I think a way to build on that idea is to try to have players push, planet by planet, into the heart of the opposing aliens and finally wipe out their base, all the while losing planets to the opposing faction if you pull too many resources away from. That way, it recreates what an intergalactic war being fought in three dimensions would be like. Once that one is wiped out, a new threat appears.
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Re: Video Game Stuff

Postby EsBe » Fri Feb 24, 2012 12:27 pm

Pretty sure you just reinvented Eve Online, except the aliens are other players. :P
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Re: Video Game Stuff

Postby James » Fri Feb 24, 2012 4:57 pm

The main problem with introducing real consequence to multiplayer games is that a significant portion of players want to see everything, or at least feel like they would be able to if they spent enough time. And beyond that, years of single-player games and other hero-lead narrative media, as well as a natural and understandable desire to be powerful and significant, have lead players to expect to play a pivotal role in all major events. Finally, the expectation of home media is that it be accessible in perpetuity: the consumer is king, and should be able to access what they've paid for at any time (never mind the rapidly diminishing technological relevance, and, perhaps to a lesser extent, gameplay sophistication*). Even in the much smaller-scale and brief context of a non-massive multiplayer game it can be hard for developers to keep things from feeling flat: introducing systems that allow for variety, development, and a general feeling of personal contribution can be a challenge. The increased emphasis on personalization, character development, support abilities and more detailed scoring schemes is an attempt to keep players of all competencies engaged for longer. Interestingly, all bar the last could be argued to have been borrowed from RPGs, perhaps a hopeful signal for the idea, but it's worth pointing out that the RPGs from which they're being borrowed are all very much hero stories.

For a story-driven game to be effective, it must have varied and interesting content. This is costly to develop, which is why most MMORPGs are essentially a lot of people playing a relatively small-scale RPG with a lot of other people milling around in the same geographical space. There are, of course, things that make it more interesting than that, such as PvP servers and trading, but the meat and potatoes is recycled for everyone.

Returning to the point about player agency, I believe this is the reason why a lot of large-scale games partition action into smaller units. MAG sounded very impressive and possibly interesting with its 128-player matches, but as I understand it the way they handled it was by dividing the players into smaller squads, and sending the squads to different parts of the map for most of the round. The reason they do this is entirely valid: if you don't do that, you tend to end up with unmanageable mayhem in one area, but it does make one question the actual value of having all the other players in your world, if you don't directly interact with them. I imagine there is something interesting about being in a huge map and roaming from area to area as the battle progresses, and I believe the rounds do end with a big mêlée in the middle, which is crazy and probably quite fun but would become tiring before long, but the fact of the scale seems to be less crucial to the fundamental substance of the game than it might at first appear. There is also a meta-game element whereby territory on a world map is won or lost according to the outcome of matches, but since it's a competitive game and nobody likes to lose forever, I imagine there are incentives for new players to join losing factions, and being an endless war it all seems rather meaningless to me.

So I suppose your idea of having an actual conclusion is appealing, but that comes up against the desire for all things to be at least theoretically accessible at all times. World of Warcraft has experimented with meaningful world change with Cataclysm, but I think that's very much a case of replacing old content with equivalent new content: it's a "refresh", and places don't necessarily serve their old function any more, but somewhere does, so it shouldn't pull the rug out from under established players too badly. I'm not a player, though, so please correct me if I'm wrong.

Anyway, this is meandering quite badly, so I'll try to summarize the various options I can think of:

a) The story is scripted and plays out at a meta-game level, whilst the gameplay itself is not story-driven.
This is quite achievable (the main obstacle, I imagine, would be generating lots of level assets, but MMOs already do a fairly good job of this). It's difficult to keep people engaged and feeling like their contribution is important, however; are they just wiping out wave after wave of an immense horde of enemies? I can see some sort of satisfaction in seeing the scenery gradually change as you push back the enemy line, and in knowing that this was achieved through combined effort, perhaps, but I don't see it being enough of a draw to justify itself.

b) The story is scripted and is integrated into the gameplay.
The problem with these is the conflict between agency over one's own story and agency over others'. To guarantee them a significant role in their own game, the player must to a certain extent be insulated from the actions of others. You will see others in your world, and might be temporarily affected when they, for example, kill a quest-giver, but in the long run you will have the same opportunities offered to you as to everyone else. To allow them the ability to change the world with a specific action, they must be able to deny others to do the same. To script enough meaningful events for all players would be prohibitively expensive, and probably impossible to implement.

c) The gameplay is story-driven and the story is procedurally-generated.
There have been experiments into procedural generation of story, but I can't imagine interesting and meaningfully distinct (yet inter-connected) stories will algorithmically generated any time soon, if ever.

d) The story is implicit and emergent from the gameplay, which is systems-based.
This is probably the way to go. I believe it's pretty much the way that Eve works. The only practical way to make everyone's time in a game distinctly interesting is the same way in which people's lives can all be distinctly interesting: have the story emerge through human interaction, rather than having it prescribed by a scriptwriter. To best allow for this the gameplay has to be largely systems-based, as it gives players the flexibility to behave and interact interestingly, and to enact or infer complex thought processes. In an FPS, there isn't really any way to express your back-story and thought-processes, other than being a pacifist or a traitor. In an MMORPG people verbally communicate an awful lot, and sometimes in-character, but I don't feel like it really corresponds a great deal to the actual stuff that's happening in the world. In Eve, however, a person can infiltrate a corporation, work his way up to a position of trust, then empty the coffers and cause a massive crisis for them. I've never played Eve, but I have played Neptune's Pride, and although I tired of it fairly quickly (I'm quite an impatient person), the very hands-off game design allowed for all sorts of amazing interaction between the players. The systems themselves are very simple, but the diplomacy meta-game – which is entirely emergent and not at all embodied in game systems† – can be incredibly tense and engaging. You have to invest a certain amount of effort to get anything out of it, which was my problem with later games – I just didn't have the energy to properly get into it – but when you do it can be really fun and quite unlike anything scripted.

I guess my point is that systems allow for emergence, which is your best bet with keeping things interesting. People can build their own stories around unexpected events, and the unpredictability can keep things fresh, be it the diplomatic dealings that blossom over a competitive territory war, or the haphazard nonsense that a good physics system can offer.

I'm running very low on focus and steam at this point, so I'll try to draw things to a close:

Ponder, your idea is interesting (particularly the PvE nature of it, which would allow for meaningful progress not really possible in PvP games), but as I've tried to outline above, I think there are several difficulties in making it work in a way that people would find satisfying. That's not to say it's not possible, but unfortunately it's kind of an experimental idea, and MMOs are very expensive to develop and run, so I don't see anyone taking the risk any time soon. I don't feel like I'm explaining myself very well, or keeping my thoughts in very good order, but hopefully there's something of worth in this post.




* That said, retro gaming looks past these things and finds real value.
† Actually, allegiances can be codified in premium games, meaning that sensor data can be shared between players (i.e. you can see what your allies see). This is an elegant and effective mechanism for allegiances, but I think I may prefer it without, which is how it was in the free games I played. When an allegiance exists in words only, you have to rely on the information your allies are giving you, and only your wits stand between you and treachery, things can get pretty tense.
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Re: Video Game Stuff

Postby ntw3001 » Sat Mar 17, 2012 2:29 am

Chelmsford City winned League 1 and are going to go and get murdered in the Championship. It will be awful. We are over £1 million in debt! We need a bigger stadium, but cannot build one because we have less than no money. How awkward! Also, I only have one decent centre-back. Why is every good player in this position freakishly expensive?
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Re: Video Game Stuff

Postby ntw3001 » Sat Mar 17, 2012 2:38 am

Oh good,the TV people gave us a million pounds. I hope this season is not expensive!
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Re: Video Game Stuff

Postby EsBe » Mon Mar 19, 2012 12:38 am

I meant to, like, get stuff done this weekend, but a few days earlier I started replaying Neverwinter Nights 2 Mask of the Betrayer, and goddamn is that a good game. It's got what I think is one of the best stories of any CRPG in, I'd say, the last decade at least. Too bad it's on one of the buggiest, finnickiest, most annoying game engines around.

For example, that stupid companion AI. If it were a turn based game I could simply pick an action each round, but it's not. So I have to leave companions to their own devices, which usually entails casting whatever spell will end battle the quickest, regardless of whether or not just letting me hit the bad guys with a stick is already doing a dandy job. I mean, seriously, my second melee companion is a god of bears. He is a bear god. We can handle six baby apes who we're only attacking because they looked at me funny and my character is a vengeful bitch. Save the "does low damage but forces vampires to save or die" spells for when the vampires attack, thanks. Zomg, I hate CRPG AI. Even with 3rd party AI mods it still sucks.

I'll probably end up replaying it again sometime because until now I didn't even realize there was a completely happy ending, so I probably missed a lot more as well. Also I have to stop rolling female characters, because I always end up falling for Gann. Not that I'm complaining.
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Re: Video Game Stuff

Postby MysticalDescent » Sun Apr 15, 2012 9:10 pm

I've been playing Battlefield 3 lately. In all honesty, I'm not that impressed by it. I wouldn't compare it favourably with Modern Warfare 2, for example.

Ignoring the surprisingly offensive fact that the campaign is on disc 2, almost as an afterthought, and that the campaign was laughably bad, I'm just not much for the multiplayer gameplay. The maps are all enormous, possibly as a consequence of the inclusion of vehicles, especially the jets. What this means is that quite often, nothing is going on. There are, say, 12 players on each team. At any one time, it's not too much of a stretch to say that around half of each team will be in the air somewhere. The other half will be spawning, usually at two bases a million miles away from each other, and are then left on an enormous map to find each other. There's one particular map where one team spawns on top of an aircraft carrier and about 50% of the time are subject to helicopters and jets just spawnkilling for the entire game. Oh, and the menus are largely rubbish. I liked Modern Warefare 2 a lot, I played it a lot, and really enjoyed it. The maps were a lot smaller, so there was a lot more action, and I generally had a pretty good idea of what was going on everywhere on every map. Killstreak rewards gave you a sense of achievement, as well as being useful. You were actually able to compare the guns that you could possibly use on menus that were a lot clearer and didn't do that stupid interference jolting thing every single time you selected an option. You don't get any of that with this game, you just run around a lot looking for enemies most of the time, or become fixated with speculatively firing at aircraft.

I like some of the aspects of the game. I like the destructible environment. I generally like the idea of vehicles, even if I don't particularly like the way it all works in this game. I think the classes are pretty good as well. Maybe things would be better if I knew enough people who played so that I could make up a squad. All in all though...meh. 5/10 so far. I'll start Modern Warfare 3 soon. It's a shame, I was expecting better after all the hype.
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Re: Video Game Stuff

Postby EsBe » Mon Apr 16, 2012 3:25 pm

I pulled the trigger on Legend of Grimrock on Saturday and ended up playing it most of the weekend. It's a grid based dungeon crawler that throws you into the top of Grimlock with nothing and lets you figure everything out, which is refreshing these days. You can do stuff like manually annotate rooms on the map, try to guess spell recipes before you find the instructions, brew potions, etc. The only bad bits are the graphics, as there is only one wall tile for each tileset. There are a few patches of moss or roots, and occasional wall hangings like torches, hangers, chains, and rings sprucing up the dungeons of Fragglerock, but the brick seams and textures are always the same. I feel like they could have gone further for a game in which you look at nothing but walls. I hope the Legend of Grim Fandango level editor comes soon, though; that'll be fun.
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Re: Video Game Stuff

Postby chrismachine » Mon Apr 16, 2012 7:28 pm

MysticalDescent wrote:I've been playing Battlefield 3 lately. In all honesty, I'm not that impressed by it. I wouldn't compare it favourably with Modern Warfare 2, for example.

Ignoring the surprisingly offensive fact that the campaign is on disc 2, almost as an afterthought, and that the campaign was laughably bad, I'm just not much for the multiplayer gameplay. The maps are all enormous, possibly as a consequence of the inclusion of vehicles, especially the jets. What this means is that quite often, nothing is going on. There are, say, 12 players on each team. At any one time, it's not too much of a stretch to say that around half of each team will be in the air somewhere. The other half will be spawning, usually at two bases a million miles away from each other, and are then left on an enormous map to find each other. There's one particular map where one team spawns on top of an aircraft carrier and about 50% of the time are subject to helicopters and jets just spawnkilling for the entire game. Oh, and the menus are largely rubbish. I liked Modern Warefare 2 a lot, I played it a lot, and really enjoyed it. The maps were a lot smaller, so there was a lot more action, and I generally had a pretty good idea of what was going on everywhere on every map. Killstreak rewards gave you a sense of achievement, as well as being useful. You were actually able to compare the guns that you could possibly use on menus that were a lot clearer and didn't do that stupid interference jolting thing every single time you selected an option. You don't get any of that with this game, you just run around a lot looking for enemies most of the time, or become fixated with speculatively firing at aircraft.

I like some of the aspects of the game. I like the destructible environment. I generally like the idea of vehicles, even if I don't particularly like the way it all works in this game. I think the classes are pretty good as well. Maybe things would be better if I knew enough people who played so that I could make up a squad. All in all though...meh. 5/10 so far. I'll start Modern Warfare 3 soon. It's a shame, I was expecting better after all the hype.

I disagree with most of the things you said in terms of your evaluation of them, but your descriptions weren't far off. The menu is bad, and the campaign was not great either. The multiplayer, though, is incredible to me. There is so much to do and so much open, useable space to do it in. The level you mentioned was a bad decision and I hate having to play it, but the general size of the maps to me is a huge bonus because I get to go places and do things and fignt individual battles. You know what I did any time I played modern warfare? Died due to someone I wasn't even looking at, while fighting two other people in one of the 3 pinch-off points in the map while missiles randomly fell on me or dogs bit me or something. There is just so much more to appreciate from a game that allows you the time to actually consider what you might like to do and where you might like to go, rather than glancing around and looking for the nearest cover for when I get attacked where I stand because everyone knows where I spawn.
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Re: Video Game Stuff

Postby MysticalDescent » Thu Apr 19, 2012 4:45 pm

chrismachine wrote:
MysticalDescent wrote:I've been playing Battlefield 3 lately. In all honesty, I'm not that impressed by it. I wouldn't compare it favourably with Modern Warfare 2, for example.

Ignoring the surprisingly offensive fact that the campaign is on disc 2, almost as an afterthought, and that the campaign was laughably bad, I'm just not much for the multiplayer gameplay. The maps are all enormous, possibly as a consequence of the inclusion of vehicles, especially the jets. What this means is that quite often, nothing is going on. There are, say, 12 players on each team. At any one time, it's not too much of a stretch to say that around half of each team will be in the air somewhere. The other half will be spawning, usually at two bases a million miles away from each other, and are then left on an enormous map to find each other. There's one particular map where one team spawns on top of an aircraft carrier and about 50% of the time are subject to helicopters and jets just spawnkilling for the entire game. Oh, and the menus are largely rubbish. I liked Modern Warefare 2 a lot, I played it a lot, and really enjoyed it. The maps were a lot smaller, so there was a lot more action, and I generally had a pretty good idea of what was going on everywhere on every map. Killstreak rewards gave you a sense of achievement, as well as being useful. You were actually able to compare the guns that you could possibly use on menus that were a lot clearer and didn't do that stupid interference jolting thing every single time you selected an option. You don't get any of that with this game, you just run around a lot looking for enemies most of the time, or become fixated with speculatively firing at aircraft.

I like some of the aspects of the game. I like the destructible environment. I generally like the idea of vehicles, even if I don't particularly like the way it all works in this game. I think the classes are pretty good as well. Maybe things would be better if I knew enough people who played so that I could make up a squad. All in all though...meh. 5/10 so far. I'll start Modern Warfare 3 soon. It's a shame, I was expecting better after all the hype.

I disagree with most of the things you said in terms of your evaluation of them, but your descriptions weren't far off. The menu is bad, and the campaign was not great either. The multiplayer, though, is incredible to me. There is so much to do and so much open, useable space to do it in. The level you mentioned was a bad decision and I hate having to play it, but the general size of the maps to me is a huge bonus because I get to go places and do things and fignt individual battles. You know what I did any time I played modern warfare? Died due to someone I wasn't even looking at, while fighting two other people in one of the 3 pinch-off points in the map while missiles randomly fell on me or dogs bit me or something. There is just so much more to appreciate from a game that allows you the time to actually consider what you might like to do and where you might like to go, rather than glancing around and looking for the nearest cover for when I get attacked where I stand because everyone knows where I spawn.


Maybe it's just playing style, then. When I played Modern Warfare 2, I used to just know pretty much exactly what was going on at every point on the map. I can't really explain that properly, but I just had a pretty good idea of what was happening and where. The maps on Battlefield, save for a few, are usually just too big for me to be able to work that out. I just tend to be stuck having to trek and trek and trek to the objective and to then go in blind. Maybe I'll get better at it, I don't know. I'll try and look at it your way.
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Re: Video Game Stuff

Postby James » Sat Apr 21, 2012 12:21 pm

Phil Fish may be something of an obnoxious prick, but Fez is a pretty good game. Many people have been saying that the world-rotating mechanic isn't the actual meat of the meaningful puzzles, and that it in most cases can be solved by "rotating until things fit"; this is more-or-less accurate, but I still find a lot of enjoyment in those simple-yet-mind-bending transitions, and the associated subversion of some pretty fundamental intuitions. The stuff beyond that is also very cool, and kind of necessary to keep the game from over-extending its mechanic.

Anyway, if you have an Xbox you should probably play it.
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Re: Video Game Stuff

Postby MysticalDescent » Sun Oct 07, 2012 8:02 pm

I have written about Call of Duty/Battlefield before and I don't really want to go down the comparison route yet. Both games are very different and it depends what you're in to, really. I can be in a mood for either. Anyway, I've just started Modern Warfare 3.

I'm struggling to see what all the complaints were about. Masses of people screaming that the game was just a glorified map pack. If you buy a game with the intention of playing multiplayer only, completely ignoring two thirds of the content, and you expect that one of the most successful game franchises of its type will completely change its winning formula for this title, then you get exactly what you deserve for your own dang stupidity. To be honest, I've been playing it for a week and haven't even touched the multiplayer yet. Campaign first (I always feel that the campaign is the first thing to do in any game, possibly from years of playing games offline), then I've been doing split screen special ops, which is just challenging enough to be fun, and I'll probably go back to the campaign to sweep up the achievements on Veteran when I've got all the missions up to three stars. After all that is done, then I'll look at the multiplayer. The game costs good money, I'm not just going to disregard most of its content.
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Re: Video Game Stuff

Postby James » Mon Oct 08, 2012 3:41 pm

I think it's a problem a lot of game series have: game 1 is a revelation, game 2 is a valuable refinement, and game 3 is mere iteration. The story writers' best cards have already been played, and the mechanics are established enough to put the developers off messing with them too much, particularly when the existing audience is so huge and entrenched. It's kind of an impossible problem. In terms of the story, Call of Duty 4 was genuinely surprising and delivered in an unusually well-executed fashion for the time, with plenty of cinematic punch. Reproducing the surprise is the hardest thing, as each sequel requires the same amount of original thought from a potentially dwindling pool of relevant ideas. Another game that suffers from being the successor to a revelatory antecedent is Portal 2; I think Valve handled the challenge more effectively by changing the scope and focus of the game. It still doesn't capture my imagination and excite me like the original does, but it's about as worthy a successor as we could hope for. Infinity Ward, on the other hand, seemed to take a more mechanical approach. They iterated on the game-play and escalated the story. For the first repetition, this was rather effective: although the original was very polished, there were still some rough edges worth smoothing, and whilst it was rendered less believable,* the story could support the even-larger-than-life developments. By the third, however, a breaking point had been reached. The mechanical changes seemed increasingly arbitrary, and the story increasingly cartoonish. That sounds more damning than I mean it to. The changes being arbitrary doesn't mean they're bad, just that they're nowhere near essential, and the story being cartoonish is fine, but it doesn't have a shade of the impact the original did. I think the latter suffered more than the former. Game-play is quite well-suited to gradual iteration, provided the audience is prepared to pay for it, but the limited repertoire of the writers has become increasingly apparent. They can ratchet up the size of the explosions, the scope of the theatre of operation, and the stakes, but the story beats are all essentially the same, to the point that they're almost following a template. At this point I'm actually more interested in the Black Ops arm of the series, as Treyarch are more willing to experiment with the form and content of the story. Whether that spirit will survive into Black Ops 2 remains to be seen, of course.

Don't get me wrong: I enjoyed all of the Modern Warfare games and put a lot of hours into them, and I think I understand at least something of the problem faced by Infinity Ward, and, by extension, any developer working on a series; particularly one with so much money riding on it.

Sorry, that was only tangentially related to what you posted, MD. You're right that the people getting furious about it are being unreasonable, but I think it's interesting to consider the reasons behind what legitimate core their complaints might have. Still, if it infuriates them this much, perhaps they should avoid sequels altogether.

* Not that the original was ever exactly The Wire.
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Re: Video Game Stuff

Postby IanC » Mon Oct 08, 2012 4:31 pm

I find Infinity Wards games to be overrated, and on the same scale, i find Treyarchs games to be underrated.

I prefer Black Ops to Modern Warfare. But i don't think i can be arsed with Call of Duty in general anymore, so i probably wont get Black Ops 2.

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Re: Video Game Stuff

Postby EsBe » Mon Oct 08, 2012 5:50 pm

I am replaying Thief now, and gosh darn I forgot how tough it is. Garrett's voice acting makes up for everything, though.
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Re: Video Game Stuff

Postby MysticalDescent » Mon Oct 08, 2012 7:03 pm

James wrote:I think it's a problem a lot of game series have: game 1 is a revelation, game 2 is a valuable refinement, and game 3 is mere iteration. The story writers' best cards have already been played, and the mechanics are established enough to put the developers off messing with them too much, particularly when the existing audience is so huge and entrenched. It's kind of an impossible problem. In terms of the story, Call of Duty 4 was genuinely surprising and delivered in an unusually well-executed fashion for the time, with plenty of cinematic punch. Reproducing the surprise is the hardest thing, as each sequel requires the same amount of original thought from a potentially dwindling pool of relevant ideas. Another game that suffers from being the successor to a revelatory antecedent is Portal 2; I think Valve handled the challenge more effectively by changing the scope and focus of the game. It still doesn't capture my imagination and excite me like the original does, but it's about as worthy a successor as we could hope for. Infinity Ward, on the other hand, seemed to take a more mechanical approach. They iterated on the game-play and escalated the story. For the first repetition, this was rather effective: although the original was very polished, there were still some rough edges worth smoothing, and whilst it was rendered less believable,* the story could support the even-larger-than-life developments. By the third, however, a breaking point had been reached. The mechanical changes seemed increasingly arbitrary, and the story increasingly cartoonish. That sounds more damning than I mean it to. The changes being arbitrary doesn't mean they're bad, just that they're nowhere near essential, and the story being cartoonish is fine, but it doesn't have a shade of the impact the original did. I think the latter suffered more than the former. Game-play is quite well-suited to gradual iteration, provided the audience is prepared to pay for it, but the limited repertoire of the writers has become increasingly apparent. They can ratchet up the size of the explosions, the scope of the theatre of operation, and the stakes, but the story beats are all essentially the same, to the point that they're almost following a template. At this point I'm actually more interested in the Black Ops arm of the series, as Treyarch are more willing to experiment with the form and content of the story. Whether that spirit will survive into Black Ops 2 remains to be seen, of course.

Don't get me wrong: I enjoyed all of the Modern Warfare games and put a lot of hours into them, and I think I understand at least something of the problem faced by Infinity Ward, and, by extension, any developer working on a series; particularly one with so much money riding on it.

Sorry, that was only tangentially related to what you posted, MD. You're right that the people getting furious about it are being unreasonable, but I think it's interesting to consider the reasons behind what legitimate core their complaints might have. Still, if it infuriates them this much, perhaps they should avoid sequels altogether.

* Not that the original was ever exactly The Wire.


I get what you mean, but maybe that's a little harsh on Portal 2. I felt that whilst Portal was a fine game, it was very much a smaller game that was part of a larger set. Portal 2 seemed to me to be a very good transfer from a brief component to a much fuller standalone game. I know there are the odd things to complain about, but I thought they did as good a job as they could. That's only a small niggle with a large passage of text that it's very difficult to disagree with. As a developer, it must be quite difficult. You don't want to completely overhaul your winning formula, but you have to keep things fresh and original game by game. I don't think that it helps that they churn these games out relatively rapidly. Unless you've got a trilogy or something planned across the games so that you have a storyline that carries on, rather than a series of games where the plots are a bit detached because you've had everything closed up neatly at the end of each game for whatever reason, putting together a decent, non-repetitive plot is going to be quite difficult. I suppose the people at Ubisoft do a good job with Assassin's Creed in that regard, as every game is just different enough and has enough in the plot to keep you going. They do seem to milk the franchise a little too much, though, with a new game every fifteen minutes. Revelations seemed to be an exceptionally short game. It was nice to have an ending for Ezio and Altair, but it just seemed to be the end of that storyline with a small game attached to the side.

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Re: Video Game Stuff

Postby chrismachine » Mon Oct 08, 2012 9:32 pm

I found Portal 2 to be a very satisfying game to play, and the coop part was really enjoyable with a buddy who was new to the franchise and really only got the game because I had talked it up so much before its release. As a BF guy, the part about the evolving gameplay makes sense to me, as I was initially a bit dismayed that they had overhauled the character perks the way they did (and even the symbols I used as a quick reference for what type of dude I wanted were flopped in some cases). Obviously I am resistent to change, and equally obvious was my ultimate acceptance of what had been done, and enjoyment of trying to perfect what I had been given.
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Re: Video Game Stuff

Postby James » Wed Oct 10, 2012 3:31 pm

Perhaps I misrepresented my feelings about Portal 2. Taken on its own merits, it's an excellent game – possibly my favourite of last year – but it didn't have the impact or importance of the original. I guess those shouldn't be equated with actual quality, but the two are certainly related. I think Portal 2 was a good solution to a very difficult problem: how to succeed something that traded so much on revelations; first its novel and brilliantly-realized mechanism, then its genuinely surprising final chapter (at least, it was for me). Its emphasis on spacial reasoning and exploration is an excellent fit for the medium, and gives the player a rarely-matched sense of involvement and genuine agency. Portal 2 succeeds by acknowledging that it can't just do the same thing and hope to have the same effect, so it does something different: it tells a larger story, with more characters and more characterization, and a different (though related) aesthetic and sense of place.

An aside: For me, most game experiences happen very much at arm's length, if not further. This is a practically inevitable consequence of the simulation of complex systems: since the complex systems can't be accurately represented, a highly simplified model is used, and whilst it may be an effective facsimile of the external qualities of the systems, the player's interactions with it are abstracted to the point of being only nominally related to the original thing. As an extreme example, take conversation. It's one of the most common things in human life, yet it poses a tremendous challenge to anyone who wants to represent it realistically and in an engaging fashion. The traditional approach is to employ dialogue trees, but those are just miniature choose-your-own-adventures, and don't give the player much scope in the way of subtlety or personal expression, and practically speaking there can only be so many outcomes. Of course, there's something to be said for having a professional author the character in an interesting way, but I tend to find the dissonance between my purported agency and this external authorial voice distancing. Perhaps one day procedurally generated conversations will allow for exciting and interesting interpersonal experiences in games, but that day, if it's coming, is a long way off. This is one reason so many games involve running around and shooting people: it's comparatively simple to model characters moving in 3D space, draw lines in front of these characters, and subtract from a health value when those lines touch other characters. But even this involves computer-controlled character behaviour, which means AI, which is another huge challenge. There are certainly contexts in which computer behaviour is hard to distinguish from human behaviour, but that's because the interaction is so anonymous and rudimentary.

Portal neatly avoids almost all of these problems. There is basically no AI in the game, other than robots, which can be expected to behave in predictable and mechanical ways. More importantly, the action of playing the game – moving around and pulling a trigger – is simple enough to be effectively represented, and is also a major component to the storytelling. Other than GLaDOS' dialogue (or should that be monologue?), the entirety of the story is told purely through your movement through and observation of the facility. This gives the player a deep involvement in the story, simple though it is. You move and look without artificial restriction, and that's how the story unfolds. For me, this is what's exciting about computer games as an expressive medium. I enjoy all sorts of games, but the ones that actually speak to me in the same terms as a good film or book are the ones that accommodate the characteristics of the medium, rather than work against them in an attempt to ape the form of other media. For the time being, implicit storytelling seems to be one of the best ways of achieving this. I'll be interested to see what other ways the most can be made of the medium. I dare to hope for great things.
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Re: Video Game Stuff

Postby EsBe » Wed Oct 10, 2012 4:57 pm

James wrote:Perhaps one day procedurally generated conversations will allow for exciting and interesting interpersonal experiences in games, but that day, if it's coming, is a long way off.

I wonder if you've stumbled upon something. What if, all along, the purpose of Omegle was to generate dialogue responses to players in real time... :o Actually that sort of reminds me of the premise of The Diamond Age.

Oh, and as an aside to your aside, I have of late gone a bit hipsterish (I know, woe is me) and started rejecting modern games that focus on stories, and instead I tend to only play games with a strong game component. Not that I have anything against the "interactive movie" genre of game, I have rather simply grown weary of them. I hear too many people dismiss Game X for having no substantive story, to which I would retort that neither to tennis nor football. In fact, the over-reliance on having deep stories kind of hampers gameplay, because the more intricate details you craft into the plot, the more you have to restrict the player's actions so they don't accidentally contradict the writer's vision. Bleh.

That's why I have recently found that games with "simple" stories in them (Quake, Serious Sam, Crysis, to name a few shooters) are a lot more enjoyable than stories with "simple" games in them (Crysis 2, Half-Life 2, and practically anything advertised in TV commercials with edgy visuals contrasted with calm or symphonic music). Typing this has actually reminded me of SpaceChem, which has both a pretty good story as well as brutally difficult, but enjoyable, gameplay. I'm guessing it's because the two don't really interact with each other at all.
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