Sunday, November 9, 2008

Gripan gaems

As much as I love video games in general, there's several trends in games both recent and old that've been a kind of a pain in my ass ever since I've been playing these games, so I figure I should waste a blog entry in listing some of these flaws and the games that exhibit them. Starting with...

1: Bullshit difficulty
I have to confess: I've never finished the original Super Mario Bros. on the NES. Every time I'd get to a world I've never been at before, and thus haven't had a chance to memorize perfectly, I'd stub my toe on a Goomba or trip over a bottomless pit time and time again and would have to start my game over again. And throughout the third, fourth and even fifth generation, many other platformers would persistently use a similar system: Run out of lives and you start the game all over. This is not how you make a game more ”challenging”, this is how you make a game stupid and frustrating. This is bullshit difficulty.

Fuck you too, Goombas.

Bullshit difficulty isn't just restricted to platforming, obviously: How many shooters can you name with ammo pickups so stupidly scarce you wind up using your pisswig melee weapon half the time? (If you want to discourage players from using their guns, make them so weak any player with half a brain will just run away from every encounter they can, just let us use our guns if we want to!) How many times have you played an adventure game with a puzzle so ridiculously obtuse or hard-to-perform there's no way anyone could solve it without paying a visit to GameFAQs or shelling out twenty bucks on an official strategy guide? Learning to make a game more accessible and fair might still earn you the ire of ”hardcore gamers” who insist that anything that isn't stupidly, artificially difficult means that it's been ”dumbed down for the casuals”, but as we all know, hardcore gamers are masochists – besides, ain't no rule that says you can't add an extra bullshit difficulty mode just to please the hardcore crowd.

2: Widescreen schmidescreen
This is a personal gripe more than anything, but seeing as both of the two televisions and the monitor on my computer have widescreen aspect ratios, it would be rather nice if my games let me make use of them from time to time. Even now, when widescreen monitors are outselling fullscreen and 5:4 monitors by a wide margin, developers are only just starting to grasp the concept of widescreen gaming properly, and now that we're only about 7 generations into console gaming, console developers are finally getting in on the widescreen/high definition train. But take a trip barely three years back in gaming history, and it's a whole different story: Console games with proper, even decent widescreen support are few and far between, and even on resolutions with varying aspect ratios, computer games demand players to tinker with their settings files just to get the aspect ratio right.

Pictured: Far Cry 2, doing it wrong

Seeing as we've had widescreen tellies for almost a decade now, and even some PS1 games have featured widescreen modes, there's really no excuse why devs couldn't have catered to widescreen gamers for the entire last generation in gaming, instead of developing strictly for players with fullscreen Tvs. And all throughout the last generation, even if a game did offer widescreen support, it was hardly ever even perfectly implemented: Usually games would just snip off the top and bottom halves of the fullscreen picture and call it a perfect widescreen mode, not to even mention stretching in-game HUD elements and FMVs. And some developers (namely DICE, developers of the Battlefield series and winners of the Widescreen Gaming Forum's first annual Narrow-Minded award) even insist that being able to see more of the playing field gives an unfair advantage to widescreen gamers over people playing at a fullscreen ratio.
Fortunately, as far as widescreen goes, recent PC and console games have been getting a lot better at this, implementing proper widescreen modes and automatic aspect ratio correction (see: Every Source-engine game ever), and for older PC games widescreen solutions are usually available on the Widescreen Gaming Forum's comprehensive database. All the current-gen systems (as well as the original Xbox) also allow players play their games in widescreen if they so prefer – it's still a shame it took them so long to start getting it right.

3: Don't release it if it's not finished!
I remember playing Spyro 3 on the PS1 as a tyke, working hard for that elusive 100% save game, eagerly hoping to reach that final bonus level...until the counter froze at 99% even though I'd collected absolutely every damn thing in the whole game. So what went wrong exactly? Simple: I forgot to collect one of the dragon eggs in one of the speedway levels while I was visiting that level for the first time. The minute I left that level, I might as well have shut off my Playstation and tossed my memory card in a fire – there was no way I was ever going to reach 100% without starting over.
Pictured: Jurassic Park: Tresspasser: a broken, unfinished piece of shit.

PC gamers have had to put up with this sort of thing for much longer than console gamers – seeing as hardware configurigations for PC systems can be very different from one-another, and game-shattering bugs are easily fixed through patches, which are free to distribute on the internet, PC devs can get away with more and more flaws in their games as long as they promise to fix it in a patch. Now this very same issue seems to be rearing its ugly head to console gamers as well – all the current-gen systems have online connectivity, so developers are understandably tempted to half-ass their games and release a couple of patches if any bugs find their way into the final product.
Pictured: Gears of War: another broken, unfinished piece of shit.

But here's the thing: When I plonk down €60 for a game I've wanted to play for months, I expect it to work, I expect it to work flawlessly, and I expect it to work now, without having to wait a few months for these issues to be fixed. And even if a patch DOES come out at some point, there's no guarantee it'll fix all the bugs. (Thanks for not fixing the freezing glitch, Gears of War patch!) In the days of old, when a bug slipped through in a console game, the best the devs could do was fix it for a re-released edition of the game, but really, if you release a buggy game in the first place, your credibility is as good as gone and no amount of patching and re-releasing is going to fix that.
Finally, seeing as Duke Nukem Forever is still taking its sweet time, I'm expecting it to be the most polished, glitch-free title to ever hit the market – they've had more than ten years to polish to game to perfection, so if a bug slips through into a game that's been in the making for that long, there's really no excuse.

By the way, the rest of you guys can feel free to add to this list in future blog entries – I'd very much like to hear what pisses you off about the games you've played.


At November 9, 2008 at 5:18 AM , Blogger Cosmico said...

Pretty good entry, I've had loads of experience with annoying moments during gaming that I will probably post around here too... Funny, I never had a widescreen monitor, I though most games did it right by now, ...and if there's a thing that pisses me mostly are unoptmized engines (I'm looking at you, Serious Sam 2).

At November 9, 2008 at 6:43 AM , Blogger Ben Laserlove said...

I don't think developers are unhuman, and they should be given a second chance to fix whatever problem the game shipped with.

That said, if the game toke a long time to "develop", there's no excuse.

At November 10, 2008 at 11:47 AM , Blogger I-ray said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At November 10, 2008 at 11:49 AM , Blogger I-ray said...

I agree with the difficulty thing. To avoid creating pointless arguments, games should have varied difficulty levels to please pretty much everyone. Maybe they could reward HARDCORE players with something only the most dedicated, socially awkward nerds would ever want to see, like creepy fanservice art of the main characters.


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