Friday, January 28, 2011

Movement Is The Greatest Obstacle To New Games

Based on this IGN article about a new game from Platinum Games.

It warms my heart to read of a game that doesn’t exactly fit in a genre. It still fits a little but takes a core concept and makes it wilder, better, so much more involving. It’s like human beings are actually thinking. Not “how can we clone this with a minor difference” but “what is worth our time?”. Like when someone took FPS and expanded it with bigger maps, more players, and vehicles. Beautiful. Problem with that is expectations and polishing the gameplay so that it matches the more basic template. CoD versus Battlefield. How can you not rejoice just from the idea of Battlefield. “It’s a great FPS but plus destruction and flying things and awesome”. Course Battlefield doesn’t play as well as CoD in practice. That’s the fall of all these games that branch out; lacks a solid foundation.

Platinum knows how to make fighting games. And moving it online satisfies my two greatest wants / needs with 3rd person action games: I want to play with other people, I want it to be challenging and satisfying. I don’t feel good beating anything in single player games anymore. I play Fable and Mass Effect for story, seeing new things, and just being a part of something nifty. Oddly, I always feel good killing someone in multiplayer, even when they’re stupider than the A.I., though they rarely are.

And that freedom of movement that’s always part of 3rd person action games. About blurring the line between avatar and person. I don’t want a move list in any game. I want a well thought out theme. A developer saying “This game takes place in modern times and you use guns ‘n such to kill other people”. Then I want it to recognize my body for all inputs. No more “this game has blind-fire”. All games do because I can do it.

It seems unrelated, what I just wrote, but 3rd person action games make me think more of this limitation of movement within all games. Right, cause what moves can you do in CoD? Jump, crouch, prone. What moves in NG? Uh… a lot. Dozens that tie into jumping alone. Both Bayonetta and Vanquish seemed more aware of player wants in terms of movement. Vanquish sais it was style but the ability to navigate terrain that effortlessly was pure function. Even the speed was really player desire expressed in gameplay: “I want to be there, now”.

Movement is the big boundary holding back gameplay. Just take the FPS and add full range of movement. Now you have people jumping over cover, getting to places they couldn’t normally, being in different positions they normally couldn’t, combining themselves in novel ways (back to back shooting, lifting up). Then throw in power suits. Now you got people hurling each other across the map, making use of their opponent’s bodies (alive or dead) as cover or projectiles, and otherwise making themselves into something completely unexpected so their opponent doesn’t even think “shoot” before they’re dead because they didn’t understand what was going on.

So expanding the boundaries of games and being more fundamentally satisfying? Big promise. Undoubtedly a game to be excited for.

Knowing What You Got / Ninja Gaiden 3

Based on this IGN article about Ninja Gaiden 3.

I think video game “journalists” (aka Hack Writers that couldn’t get a real job) have to pretend everything is positive and only gently lay down sparse criticism after numerous reassurances that nothing bad exists in this world. So let’s be blunt. Ninja Gaiden didn’t have a story. If you really want to call what was there a story, then it was an exceedingly poor one. Nothing was connected to anything else. Even singular characters or events were cobbled together and didn’t seem coherent. The villain is the archetype Leader (Emperor) but also a monster because… monsters are bad. The Nunchuck dude from the beginning has easy access to the Dragon Sword but doesn’t take it even though he could kill the Emperor with it, thus negating the reason of sending Ryu out to kill him. It just seems dumb to even point out plot holes as the story doesn’t relate or connect to itself. It’s all a hole.

And now they want to make an “emotional” story. F.Y.I., “emotional story” is a buzzword that doesn’t mean anything. No really. What they mean is they want a story that players feel what they them to feel, when they want them to feel it. Good Luck. Only a few games in the entire spectrum of all gaming have done it. You want to go from Japanese Nonsense to Oscar? Good Luck. What you’re going to get is cliché, which is actually a step-up, far as technique in storytelling, from what NG has been. I guarantee that Ryu will have to sacrifice what he loves, lose hope, rescue Ayane, and overcome his own doubts to defeat the final evil.

Which is a shame but because unless they’re actually going to tell a new story, or tell an old one really fucking well, stick to the nonsense. It was fun. Playing NG with friends and dubbing the cutscenes yourselves was pretty enjoyable. It made up for how god damn hard the rest of the game was. The cutscenes were a release and could be a counted on source of fun within the game. It’s one reason why Devil May Cry is a better game. ALL the cinematics are purely fun. Just an excuse for Dante to demonstrate how awesome he is. He gets you pumped to keep playing.

Promising a new story for a game is worthless. Everyone promises a new (“emotional”) story. All it means is that if it’s a bullet point on the back of the box than the game has shit else going for it.

Here’s how I’m interpreting the new combat system that “makes you earn your kills”. 1) It’ll be slower. Like Assassin’s Creed. Those kills don’t feel any different to me than the ones where I’m 25 feet away before he head flies off and blood fountains out. Actually I like the latter ones. I sympathize with the poor bastard that trained so hard and I ran right by him like he didn’t matter. Or the demons that get every limp cut off. I really feel bad for those guys. They got a bad deal. 2) Exact timing for button presses, or like the IGN guy says, Quick-Time Events. They’re missing the point. It doesn’t matter how long it takes or how many buttons. That doesn’t make me feel I earned anything. I mean, the game that I think of right off the top of my head as far as making me feel especially good about killing something, is Ninja Gaiden 2. Because it was so fucking hard. You die once to one of those catgirl demons, you savor every subsequent murder you do on them from then on. Because they held you up for 2 hours, unable to progress. They made you look dumb. So cutting off their head as an afterthought to running along a wall makes you feel really good.

Ninja Gaiden was great to play. Why they are going to screw with a great combat system is beyond me.

The problem with Ninja Gaiden was the difficulty. Yeah, it was way too hard. But way too hard in a “this isn’t any god damn fucking fair” way. I could go up against Spider Clan Ninjas ALL DAY. ALL DAY. They were always fun to fight. Always made you feel like a Ninja when you killed one. Shit that wasn’t fun? Boss fights against tanks with armies of guys with rocket launchers. Can’t even fucking stand up. Or, after 6 hours in, having a boss that can only be killed by using the bow. The weapon NOBODY used because it was a pain in the ass to aim. Or robots that ignore the fact you’re slashing the shit out of them and punch you away, taking 95% of your health (1million souls for an herb! Just so you want to kill yourself in real life whenever you take damage) and knocking you away. Oh fun, we’re just hitting each other with no real interaction. Or the times when a horde of demons appears after a boss fight but before the save. If they let me save I would happily fight them. I loved how fast and brutal Ninja Gaiden was. That’s what made it. Just throw in more save points and take out obnoxious assholes that aren’t fun to fight. But then you’d get Devil May Cry or God of War… Really though, isn’t the reason you’re so proud of liking the game, finishing it, is because it was so hard? What niche is NG3 going to carve between stylish action and brutal action? Realistic? = Boring. DMC was considered a NG clone that was actually playable. If NG becomes easy then becomes not NG. Hey maybe it could be Dead Or Alive but a 3rd person action game! Essentially all 3rd person action games want to be fighting games but against lots of opponents with more emphasis on movement. This is why you should like DMC, it’s already really good. And the story is ridiculous but coherent.

RED - Movie Review

Red, with Bruce Willis. How can you not love Bruce Willis? Bruce Willis killing people. How can you not love Bruce Willis killing people? He does it so well. But expectations don’t go very well with this movie. It’s solid.

It’s just… When all these great actors / actresses get together, one expects a stand-out film. With everyone building off each other, playing off each other, operating at the top of their game. Here, everyone’s solid. Can’t complain. But I wanted a special movie. Everyone’s in their own bubble and rarely do they interact with each other in a meaningful way. Maybe its respect, everyone giving everyone room to do their thing. But nobody builds or plays off anyone. Marvin Boggs(John Malkovich) as a character demands it. Can’t let someone be crazy all by themselves. Then it’s just weird. It feels like he steps up, does his joke, then sits back down. Victoria (Helen Mirren) and Ivan Simanov (Brain Cox) have a little banter, over there by themselves, but I don’t remember any lines. Sara Ross (Mary-Louise Parker) does the typical “why am I here?” thing. Joe Matheson (Morgan Freeman) is a guy. He does things. Yeah, nothing special. Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) has a few very good action scenes then plays normal guy. I don’t have any interest in normal guy. I’d like a character.

I think it comes down to Red being a loose movie. It’s not over-the-top and it’s not serious. It’s in the middle. Potential plot holes are smoothed over with charm and a “just don’t think about it, not important to what’s going on”. Action doesn’t always make sense as far as why it’s happening. What it needed was a stronger reason to exist. Really sell that old versus young theme. Because I’m with them! Loved it when they called Cooper’s (Carl Urban) haircut cute. Loved the old guy (Ernest Borgnine) who was in charge of the C.I.A.’s records just letting Frank take whatever he wanted. Great guy. Just wish they shot young cute guys the whole movie. Wish Malkovich set a Hollywood record for most guns used. More of Victoria telling Sara that if she breaks Frank’s heart she’ll kill her. And Morgan Freeman having a running commentary throughout the whole damn movie. Picking people apart, tons of that wonderful dry humor. That alone would make this movie incredible.

Still. Fun. Just got me wishing for more or a stronger showing.