Keep it Simple, Stupid
What's got Brett barking up the wrong tree this week in the Firing Line? One word: genre-bending. Has games gotten too complex as of late with dashes of multiple genres mixed together? Just give me my FPS without the superfluous narrative drivel! I just want to see things go boom without someone debriefing me about it.
Keep it simple, stupid
|Grafted features||Page:: ( 2 / 4 )|
And nobody seems to have considered that the addition of material from other genres might make games unpalatable to the dedicated fanbase. Making big changes indicates developers that are either woefully out of touch with their fans, or more interested in marketing ploys than designing enjoyable games. Sure, multiple Star Trek endings about getting it on with alien babes might be a selling point to the uninitiated willing to try a shooter for a change of pace. But itís apt to turn off more shooter fans than convert adventure gamers. Twitch gamers want to twitch, not collect experience points and hone their pickup lines. Adventurers arenít going to appreciate the interruption of their puzzle solving to blast bugs. Youíve got a game that nobody but the dedicated Star Trek geek is going to embrace. No offense to those noble basement dwellers whose pulses still quicken whenever Geordi calls for a level-three diagnostic on the sensor array, but this isnít a marquee marketing angle during these bleak days of Scott Bakula.
More than just shooters are being affected by genre-bending. Roleplaying games are often more concept than story today. Neverwinter Nights still seems like more of a sop to shooter-centric online modders than a properly thought-out successor to the Baldurís Gate series. Yes, the toolkit is amazing, the module-making community a wonder to behold. But itís not much of a roleplaying game. The original campaign is dull and the expansion doesnít seem to offer many improvements. Competitors like Gothic and Pirates of the Caribbean might not have made as many sacrifices, although the developers have cluttered up the story-telling and strategizing with arcade-style sequences. Do we need even a single game that mars roleplaying with real-time ship combat? One is surely going to be an albatross around the neck of the other. Strategy games are almost entirely real-time now, a desire to please action gamers with mouseslinging thatís killing sober second thought. Command & Conquer: Generals, World War II: Frontline Command, and many other recent strategy titles have come stripped of everything unrelated to hurling units at the enemy.
Thereís also the consideration that changing the learning curve so much might cause people to fall out of the loop entirely. Sometimes, grafted-on features make games so different, so challenging, that theyíre too difficult to play. Iíve been faced with that myself of late in the shooter genre. I feel like Iím growing out of touch, especially when it comes to multiplayer games like Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory. While Iím all for adding depth to deathmatching, there is so much complexity in this Splash Damage freebie that Iím at a complete loss. The classes, the experience points, the skillsets, the massive maps with multiple team objectives confuse me even after hours of play. I feel like someoneís rearranged my neighborhood, taking familiar houses and street layouts and jumbling them into such a mess that I canít find my way home. Itís unsettling to the point that I canít see continuing to play the game, even though the small part of me that isnít bewildered knows that itís a fantastic product.
Sometimes, white bread is the best choice on the menu. There is a real value in knowing what youíre playing. Particularly when youíre being asked to shell out $50 for the privilege with no ability to get your money back. When I buy a shooter, I want a shooter. When I buy a roleplaying game, I want a roleplaying game. When I buy a strategy game, I want a strategy game. Additional stuff is nice, if presented in moderation and is tied into the shooting and roleplaying and strategizing in a meaningful way. But itís not absolutely necessary if the heart of the game is intact. Thatís a lesson that I wish developers would learn before I have to endure any more tacked-on romantic subplots.
SIDEBAR: So my best friend, at age 24, finally decides to get drunk for the first time. Itís going to be so entertaining.
|Return Fire||Page:: ( 3 / 4 )|
Okay, I didnít buy Motor City Online, either. But I did get a freebie press copy and I paid to play the game for nearly a year, courtesy of the occasional drunken desire to trick out an old Dodge Charger and dumbly missing the credit-card cutoff every month. Oh, itís the ninth again already? Damn, Iíll have to make a note and be sure and cancel by the eighth next month. Et cetera.
Anyhow, even though I stacked up at least a hundred bucks in user fees for the right to play Motor City Online for maybe 30 hours, I am not outraged that EA sent it to the wrecking yard. Yeah, it was a massive waste of money and time, but I sort of knew that from the very beginning. Spending any amount of money and time on any game, massively multiplayer or not, is a huge waste when you get right down to it. I canít get any more self-indignant about blowing cash on a game than I already am. EA took my money and ran. So what? I could say the same about every other game publisher happy to accept a donation from my meagre reservoir of credit-card supplied funds. Iím ripping myself off whenever I pay and play. The moneyís gone and the time is killed, no matter if the game goes down in my record books as good or bad. Sorry to get so bleak and philosophical, but Iíve been eating a lot of Chinese food lately and I think the fortune cookies are making me finally see that making things go bloop-bloop, bleep-bleep on the computer screen isnít condusive to ďbuilding a life with divine prosperity.Ē Itís either that or the MSG.
But I share Tomís worries about the pricing schemes, particularly as it could be applied to previously free services like Blizzardís Battle.net (especially in light of ominous developments like the recent resignations of four company founders, including vice-president Bill Roper, over supposed morale problems under Vivendi Universal management). Everyone who goes online to play any sort of game is being asked to shoulder an ever-increasing share of the development costs and ongoing maintenance fees through exorbitant up-front prices and skyrocketing monthly charges.
What bothers me most is that the products arenít getting any better. Theyíre just getting glitzier. That $15 theyíre charging per month for Star Wars Galaxies must be purely so George Lucas can afford to adopt more kids, as it sure isnít doing anything for playability. And of course this is just going to push other games to adopt the same lofty price structure, whether theyíve licensed a huge franchise or not. If Motor City Online launched tomorrow, itíd go for at least $12 a month, and all itíd have to offer would be burly avatars with mutton-chops and customized Hemi Cudas.
That alone makes me think that weíre a long way from the ďMMO winnowingĒ of Tomís dreams. The promise of making of quick buck from a few months of gullible subscribers who, like yours truly, are too stupid to immediately cancel their accounts when they realize that the game is crap, is too high at the moment. Star Wars Galaxies isnít finished. It doesnít feature landspeeders or TIE Fighters, let alone Jedi Knights. Itíll still debut at the top of the charts and make millions. The lesson? Crap sells if itís got a big license attached to it. That alone will keep the money-grubbing alive, at least through the coming launches of similar big-name MMOGs based on The Lord of the Rings and the Marvel Universe of superheroes. And it canít help but persuade those who control Blizzzardís purse strings that they should be getting a piece of the action. Things are going to get worse before they get better.
SIDEBAR: Jakub is like Unicron... only bigger
|Screenshot of the Week||Page:: ( 4 / 4 )|
|<% print_image("01"); %>||<% print_image("02"); %>|
Brett ďOld FogieĒ ToddÖ I mean uhÖ the mack-daddy Toddster has let you know whattup wití da wackass overcomplicated games, yo. The brother here sez to keep it real, devs, or heís gonna have to bust a 9 in yoí ass.
He wants old school, he wants simple, he doesnít want any damn dialogue trees in the middle of alien-vaporization sequences. Is it really too much to ask an action game to be about action? Or maybe he really is getting on in years and just canít handle the l33t shizzle like Enemy Territory. You decide, you let us know - so take a deep breath and Sound Off!
|© Copyright 2003 FS Media, Inc.|