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Risujin

No Pretense Design

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I think this post is really ironic considering the last time I posted here I was singing the praises of story-based games, and now I intend to do just the opposite. [grin] I recently picked up a copy of Doom 1 (shareware!), and remembered just how fun it is! Its been more than a decade since its release and the game is just as enjoyable as the first day I picked it up. The only real update the game needed was modern controls (damned if Im gonna remember how I used to play with arrow keys and the control key...) which the wonderful Doomsday Engine provides with zero hassle. I also own a copy of Half-Life 2 and damned if Im ever gonna play that again. All the fancy graphics, scripted gimmicks, detailed maps, and supercomputer physics, its all pretense to me! The great thing about Doom is its a game without bullshit. You dont even get a background story within the game, much less scripted sequences! You're given level after level of badass pixely demon monsters and one mission: to ruin their shit! As I was playing Doom I was surprised to find that each level is actually larger than a section of Half-Life 2 (I mean in between two loading screens). There arent even any loading screens in Doom (or maybe there were but with 3 ghz of computing power theyre looong gone [smile]). The one thing I hated most about Unreal Tournament 2003/4 was the goddamn graphics. No its not that they were ugly, and the lag wasnt even that bad. But you couldnt see the bad guys! Yes, they blend into the freaking background! No such thing in Doom (except the transluscent bull-pig demons .. but uh thats on purpose [smile]), blocky brightly colored sprites pop out of the background and practically beg you to shoot them. And speaking of shooting, Doom packs some decent firepower. No more sitting around for minutes waiting for the wimpy Half Life 2 SMG to take down one guard. No sir, in Doom not only do you pack the firepower to take down multiple zombies in one shot but theres plenty of prey out there for you without even a hint of lag and no pause to the action. Moreover, hitting tab gives you a map. Forget the grav gun and its scripted puzzles, wheres the map in Half-Life 2?! The great point Im getting at here is that a lot of gameplay is often sacrificed when the focus of a game turns too far toward trying to impress the player. In Doom you can spit out whatever walls the player has seen onto the screen as colored diagonal lines and call it a map, youre done. But in Half-Life 2, the map is much too complex for such a simple trick. Once when reading a review of Half-Life 1, the reviewer was just giddy with joy over how the items were placed. He scorned the likes of Quake for dropping items in random places without any reason for the item to be there and in turn praised Half-Life for only putting health kits in medicine cabinets and the like. This is exactly the kind of thing Im talking about. I dont want to spend half an hour scrounging around a level looking for a fucking medicine cabinet! I want to pop open a secret wall and blasting through a pile of hell demons discover a rewarding cache of rockets, health kits, and armor. The items arent scattered without reason, the reason theyre placed the way they are is so that when youre bleeding and about to die you find a cache of health, when youre running out of ammo you find bullets. Its the pacing, stupid! Those of you who've read my last post probably think Im crazy by now, but let me explain. [wink] You see, Half Life has no story. That is, it has one, but it doesnt matter. It doesnt make sense, its told cryptically, and its completely irrelevant to the gameplay. And yet, for the sake of some retarded plot threads, the developers are forced to sacrifice their gameplay. Half-Life 2 would be the greatest game ever made if the game was about the story. That is, if it had a story that was really worth telling, like a good film, or a good book. Then all the focus on environment and story would have been well justified and Id be calling it the greatest game of all time. But it doesnt. The story is for all practical purposes identical to the little background blurb on Doom. "A science experiment has gone horribly wrong, a horde of monsters has sprung up out of nowhere, and now you have to kick some ass!" Sound familiar? Replace Mars with Black Mesa and Doom becomes Half Life. I dont consider myself to be in any contradiction with my last post. If your game truly has a message which consists of more than "kick monster ass", then by all means explore it, enrich it, focus on it! If not ... forget it! Its your game not your virtual reality simulation, not your blockbuster special effects movie, make it fun! Give your players the gameplay features they want to have and stop pretending youve got something important to say! [grin]

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Guest Anonymous Poster
If HL2 couldn't have a really *good* story. Good stories are adapted it to screenplay and capitalized on it to the extreme, not turned over to game developers. Half-life has a story barely meeting the quality requirements of a SciFi Channel original motion picture, but even the most simple stories can masquerade as an epic with a few unexpected twists, rewarded frustrations, frustrating rewards, and what-have-you.

Broken into its factors, Half-life is just a Resident Evil meets Area 51 minus half the shock and awe... with fragments of story frequently hindering the gameplay experience. Basically I agree with you, Risujin. Allowing a story, anything short of an true epic, to actually stop you and make you wait 20 minutes to continue on with the game should be considered a cardinal sin.

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Don't give up on plot. Find better ways to incorporate it into the game. And no cheating, a README file doesn't count.

shmoove

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Quote:
Original post by shmoove
Don't give up on plot. Find better ways to incorporate it into the game. And no cheating, a README file doesn't count.

shmoove


Hahaha, that's basically what I'm planning on doing! [grin]

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This makes me think of oldskool games that had ingame story, and the difference between them & modern games: in the past it was usually strictly in player control when to indulge in the story: read logs, initiate NPC conversations etc. Those were usually quite separate systems from the main game. But now it's so monolithic with things happening in the game world in realtime, so you have no choice but to wait for the Important Family Reunion Scene to finish...

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Over and over again I see, especially among newer game developers, the struggle to meet the expectation of veracity, that sense that the world you're in is somehow real. A cool thing with some games, like Doom, is that it doesn't matter.

I sense gamers are very much divided about what it is that they want. Do they want a reality sim within the domain of the genre, such that everything has just the right touch, or do they want something that's unapologetically limited but fun to play?

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