Sunday, October 16, 2011

A new start

It has been a difficult weekend. Anyone trying to get to his blog yesterday would have found it missing. Indeed, it had actually been deleted, and by my own hand. As tempting as it is to go into the sordid details, I will not, as they are both embarrassing and inappropriate to share on a blog about playing relatively old, shitty games. Suffice to say I have learned that breakaway cords on heavy controllers are a good thing and that CDs bend quite a bit before they shatter after having been warmed in a console for a few hours. I have also slipped into an even more cynical view of any one persons importance in this vast digital jungle, but that will pass. Thankfully Blogger has an 'un-delete' function, lest this little corner of meaninglessness fall victim to the same bits of repressed rage that victimized several of my other possessions.

What has come out of this is my decision to keep this blog a little more focused; a little less bitchy and little more analytic. Ok, a lot less bitchy. I was complaining about the littlest things in Deus Ex without offering up any ideas on how to improve them. That places me dangerously close to Comic Book Guy, and I have neither the vitriol nor the girth to pull that off.

It would be tempting to write off the ending(s) of Deus Ex as a way to give everyone their cake and let them eat it to. After blowing up the last boss, a computer set up right of Minority Report complete with humans processor tied into it, you are presented with a room containing three button (with a fourth button down the hall that lets you kill everyone in the building, including yourself. This is the 'fuck you' button. Guess which one I chose?) Each button plays a different ending for you, and as long as you talked to the right people in the last level you can choose any one, regardless of how you played the game prior to that. This is lazy writing, and I will reference InFamous 2 again as a game that actually got the morality scale correct. In Deus Ex I had been siding with the pro-augmentation agenda the entire game, so I should not have been allowed to turn my back on them at the eleventh hour. I also find that the deciding the fate of the world literally with the push of the button to be terribly anticlimactic.

So there's the bitching, but here's an idea to make it better. First off, implement the morality scale from Fable or InFamous, but don't tell the player. Keep it hidden and use to determine the player's options at the end of the game. The climax should be the culmination of what the player has done previously, and last second twists really don't work very well (just ask M. Night Shyamalan). Secondly, the boss battle against the giant computer was actually pretty good, why not use that to determine the ending? The path to victory that I could see during the battle was to kill the humans being used by the computer to shut it down. I happily did so, as I had been filling things with bullets for the entire game. There should have been more ways to do it, say rescue the humans or hack into it to take control or walk away from the entire situation and let all the victims of the augmentation scrambler stay zombies. This would have been real choice, and it would have meant more than just pushing a button to see an ending, then loading up the last save and pushing the next one to see a different ending.


There is a great deal of excitement surrounding Dark Souls and I feel bad that I cannot share it. My experience with Demons' Souls was so awful, so much the antithesis of fun that I cannot being myself to give the series a second try. I read about people having deep experiences it in, about their grim satisfaction when finally surpassing an enemy that had killed them a dozen times before, and while I will never debate with someone why or why not that should enjoy something (anyone who looks at my playlist knows that opinions are simply not to be trusted) I do need to ask: can't this be done without killing the player every five minutes? From Software has given up on creating a difficulty curve, opting instead for a difficulty straight vertical line that they use to beat the player about the head and neck. Gamers who use this to build their own narratives are better men and women than I, and I almost envy their ability to do so. I cannot stand being killed for the sake of being killed; victory on a pile of your own corpses is not victory at all, it is moving forward by attrition.

The whole idea of difficulty for the sake difficulty feels very antiquated to me. It hearkens back to to when full price games were only a few hours long and their length had to be padded. The easiest way to do so is to make progressing balls hard. That just isn't necessary anymore. I submit that games like Dark Souls would actually be better with an actual difficulty slop instead of cliff. Teach the player how to play the game without killing them (example: Bayonetta) and they will come for more. Save the true bull shit difficulty level for a subsequent play through.

And no, I haven't played it so yes, my opinion holds little value. I said I was going to temper the bitching, no remove it entirely.

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