Habboi's Blog of Games Design and All Things Awesome!

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Sunday, 18 January 2009

Are Games a Chore?

There are times when I'm playing a videogame for a few hours and I think to myself:

"I feel like I've done this already..."

What I mean is, when I play a game that lasts for many hours, I start to notice levels that may have been copy / pasted to extend the length. Another example is that there are also games that actually get you to do the same thing over and over. An example would be Assassin's Creed where you have to assassinate important people in the same way each time.

You have to ride your horse to the city, you then investigate, survey the area and rescue peasants. When you have enough information, you are allowed to assassinate the leader after watching a small in-game clip that pushes the story onwards.

Now don't get me wrong, I enjoyed Assassins Creed despite the fact you do the same thing over and over. In fact a lot of reviewers and players agree that the game does get boring after a long period. This is a problem actually because games are expected to last at least 8 hours nowadays but the problem is that as games have progressed, so has the consumers requirements and demands.

Players expect top graphics combined with unique gameplay that satisfies them and makes them feel good. Others like myself prefer story over graphics and sometimes gameplay.

I think this has to do with open world games that give the player choice. Let's look at the new Prince of Persia as an example. Unlike the older games, the new Prince of Persia lets the player choose where they want to go however this means they could go along one side and then go back and finish the other. The problem with this is, unless the programmers coded a mechanic that detects what areas have been done and what scenes have been watched, they have to keep the scenes pretty dry so that the characters don't mention something that has already happened and so on.

The old Prince of Persia games, I'm thinking of PoP2, felt more interesting because each area had a unique theme, the story progressed in a linear fashion and was generally exciting to find out what happens next.

Now I do enjoy some open world games such as Mass Effect which I've been playing for a good 20 hours so far. The great thing about it is, the game is filled with so much story and closes up a lot of loose holes that would take me out of the story. I really feel part of the games universe because of the deep story narrative and interactive talking.

If developers can find a way to speed up game development then there would be a lot more open world games that are unique and have tasks that don't repeat. Technology such as motion capture is slowly rising and being used a lot more in game studios because of the speed and ease of use. Look at the insane moves used in Devil may Cry 3 for example. I'd hate to animate all that by hand. Of course I'd have to learn the human anatomy first ;)

One more game that comes to mind is Mirror's Edge. I just finished it for the PC and felt it ended on a good length. Some of the levels were a little similar but that's fine since the city looks the same generally. However the team did a good job making each level unique. You jump on trains in one, climb a huge work site, slide down sewers etc. The music was really powerful as well. Made you feel pumped for action. The game is unique because it's the only game I can think of that lets you run across roof tops and do amazing jumping moves in first person. I heard they are making a trilogy and I will buy them if it is true but mainly for the story. No doubt the gameplay will be the same which is fine but they need to think of new locations and create new ideas that make the new games stand out. Otherwise it will feel like a chore.

Lastly, I've noticed that games are a lot more fun if you pace yourself instead of completing them in one day. It's something worth looking forward to the next day and extends the life of the game. Give it a try! I'm looking at you Nikki. (I doubt you'll read this.)

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Blogger CrowbarSka said...

You're right about Assassin's Creed. It was pretty fun until you reached the end of your first or second 'cycle', and then begun realising it was just repeated from then on. The gameplay suddenly became very stale.

However, I would disagree that the cutscenes advanced the story though. I found they pretty much all reiterated the same point: that maybe the one giving you orders was in the wrong, or maybe it's not even as simple as right and wrong. I felt they didn't need to keep hammering that point in time and time again.

28 January 2009 at 02:03  

Blogger Habboi said...

I suppose so. I actually didn't fully take in that point until the very end. The only break was having different areas, poor and rich so that made it a little more interesting.

I still think cutscenes progress the story and act as a reward for going through the same thing. Kind of like a lab rat.

2 February 2009 at 20:33  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Back in the days when everyone was having fits over the original Halo, I noticed very soon that it all too quickly became level after level of copy and pasted geometry. It's not so bad in games with a lot of story, but it can be a chore to trudge through, especially if you face the same enemies over and over.

I'm on the fence with regards to cutscenes, I used to be sold mainly on the cutscenes in some games and they really helped the story, and can be a form of player reward for progression. But at the same time, I can understand the argument that they remove control from the player, and if all they provide is the same information, it seems kind of pointless and a waste of graphics talent when more gameplay could have been included. I really favour gameplay and story over graphics, hence my backwards spiral in gaming fixes these days;-)

Hah, I must saviour games the most then, since there are so many that remain on my shelves uncompleted!=P But your right, rushing through them you miss a lot. I've never felt the need to complete a game quickly - okay maybe a particular section if I really don't like it - it just depends on the game.

For slower action I tend to wander around looking at the scenery or trying to get into hard to reach places that I'm not really supposed to. More hectic and the scenery flashes past as the enemies fall, but I usually go back once an area is cleared to look for any stashed goodies=)

Uniqueness is good but go back to all those branching trees and it's easy to see how creating new content can become a mammoth task. In my teensy weensy game I made in Director, simply giving the player two areas to explore meant creating a lot more assets than I intended (It's easy to see where I cheated!) and again you could just run through it and miss half the content. Still, I like those games that do have optional content that you can choose to go looking for=)

Developers get around this by suggesting freedom/choice as you know. What gets me is when you realise the world your rampaging around in isn't as 'open' as they made out. My response to these barriers is to shoot first, in the throat preferably as it cuts down on the answers. Ah but players trying to break your game is only natural. Oh and there's always the scenery..

4 February 2009 at 23:40  

Blogger Habboi said...

True words Dan. Funny enough I was reading one of the books for New Media and the guy states how gamers always try to break the game and no game code can ever account for what gamers do once the game is out there.

For example, some developer did a speech in an MMO and ended up getting killed because one of the admins forgot to tick the box that made him invincible. Gamers also found out they could use mines as ladders in Deus Ex.

Quite true and interesting.

26 February 2009 at 21:28  

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