Wednesday, May 9, 2012

What not to do

It took a good half an hour to get over the end of Monday's House (read: stop being all depressed and sulky). Playing through to the end of Neverdead did not help, as it stays true to most other Japanese action games and thrusts a last boss at you that is, at first blush anyway, so difficult that I almost wanted to stop playing. Then it decides that no, that wasn't the final boss, but this is. Psyche! That was just his first form, now fight him again with more hit points and faster attacks.

This is not meant as a indictment of all Japanese developers, but these are things that we, the gaming populace, should have left behind years ago. Being difficult is fine, but suddenly making jumping an integral part of staying in one piece when it has never been before (and you the character's jump sucks) does not equal a good time. I feel that Neverdead validates my action game formula:

Are you having fun right now?

No, then wait two minutes. Are you having fun now?

No, then turn it off.

Please note that having fun does not necessarily mean that the world is exploding and you are killing a zillion bad guys, but it does mean that the moments between the action-y bits need to be just as enjoyable as the action-y ones. It also means that boss fights should never drab on because you either can figure out what the hell to do or because you have figured out to do and just need to do it until your hands hurt. By this 'are you having fun right now' metric Neverdead fails almost constantly. The action is good, sometimes, but then the not action parts are hampered by unlikable characters and the boss parts are either too hard to long. When the stars align and it is it enjoyable it just doesn't last long enough.

This is not an impossible standard. God of War managed it five times if  you count the hand held versions. Devil May Cry got there almost every time. So did Bayonetta. Honestly, so do the Call of Duty games.

For some people, Demons' Souls does, but those people are crazy.

And in case anyone in the gaming production world is reading this (they aren't) here is how to fix it. When the game is mostly bug free but not quite finished hire a bunch of fresh testers. Pay them minimum wage and drop them in front of your game surround by one way glass. Then watch them. No exit interviews, no questionnaires, just watch. If most of them are leaning forward, blinking less, are visually anxious and excited, then you have a finished product. If not, start the stop watch. If they still look board after two minutes, it's time to start over.

...this is why I don't actually make games. I have no idea how it really works.

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