Monday, June 21, 2010

The downward spiral

Metro 2033 never managed to recover from being a ton of fun to look at and walk through but very little fun to play. This decent culminated in an escort mission in which you and your commanding officer are attacked from all sides by amoebas that ooze out of the walls and ceiling at random intervals. One hallway of this was bad enough, but when the first is done a second is thrown in for good measure. I am not sure what I did differently the two times that I succeeded, but it was not worth the thirty minutes of retries to achieve it. It's funny how just one section like this will sour an entire game. When I think back to Metro 2033 I wont remember the dank corridors and moody lighting, the excellent voice acting and story that makes just enough sense to warrant a cliffhanger ending. What I will remember are these damn hallways teeming with jelly filled death that I was forced to wade through to advance. This was not a failure is the art or development areas, this one falls squarely on the pale and underdeveloped shoulders of the testing department.

As much as they might want to believe it, artists, writer and programmers don't necessarily know what the average player is going to find enjoyable. They have their own visions of what is a good time, and I really doubt they match up with their own target audience. This is where good play testers come in. A good testing department should (or should be allowed to) give feedback beyond bugs. Is it fun? Should it be harder, easier, longer, more colorful, gorier, etc? For example, one of the reasons the Halo games play so well is that they test the ever loving shit out of them. The crazy bastards at Bungie make graphs and charts about how long people linger in areas, how long between kills, how often they stop to take a drink of Dew; you name it, they chart it, and they make adjustments accordingly. The end result is a polished game that almost anyone can enjoy. That clearly didn't happen with Metro 2033. I have a hard time believing that no one at any point of the process ever stood up and said 'yeah, these little round enemies that appear from behind you and kill you in one hit? They suck. The rest of the enemies kind of suck, too.' If they did, they certainly weren't listened to.

I have ventured a little further in the seedy den of youtube:

Not one day after the channel was up did I get my first comment: olol, you suck at SFIV, go back to Barbie Horse Adventures.

God, I hate the Internet.

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