Soma's Blog

January 3, 2012

Fail to the King Baby

Filed under: Games — somanov @ 03:02

I am writing this as the end credits of Duke Nukem Forever roll. I spent half my life waiting for this game. In the beginning expecting it to be the greatest game ever made, later dreading its release well knowing how bad it was most likely going to be.

So, how bad was it then? I am afraid I need to chime in with the critics and say “pretty bad”. Disappointing? Well maybe, but that would be only half of the story. Lets get some gripes out of the way first: Yes the graphics are outdated, the level design is inconsistent and for a game that should be about shooting aliens there are far too many forgettable puzzles, platforming and driving sequences. (okok the game is also pretty sexist and immature but thats hardly a surprise now, is it?).

But the biggest problem is that playing the game mostly feels like a chore, not like entertainment. No matter what I did the game never started to feel like FUN. Even on the lowest difficulty level the game is downright frustrating. Unfortunately the challenge does not come from clever enemies or tough battles: the number one cause of the Duke’s untimely demise was getting stuck in terrain, closely followed by sluggish controls and drowning (whoever had thought that an underwater bossfight with a limited air supply sounds like a jolly good idea should get his head checked). Many of this unnecessary annoyances should have been found and fixed during playtesting. (Perhaps the controls-situation is a bit better on the PC but on the console the game almost had me rage-quit a few times..)

Long story short.. if this had been released in 2001 it could have been an ok game. But today.. not so much.

The truth is I am not even disappointed, after all I have read enough reviews and knew what to expect (one of the reasons why I waited so long to play it). The word that best describes my state of mind would be “sad”. Sad for all this game could have been. If you take away all the annoyances, all the minor problems and bugs what remains is a game that has its heart in the right place (and its big manly hand firmly on the boob of some cheap blonde bimbo). You can feel the love that went into making this game, at the bottom of this mess is an honest attempt to create the great sequel we all had hoped Duke Nukem Forever would be. It saddens me that they failed so badly.

All the more I would hate it if the story of the mighty Duke ended like this. How about another installment of the franchise? Here is an idea: get the engine from Red Faction Armageddon. Build a huge open world city. Then let the Duke and a horde of aliens wreck it. I just hope this doesn’t take another 15 years or I might be too old to hold a controller in my arthritic hands…


January 25, 2010

Dear Game Developers…

Filed under: Games — somanov @ 22:41

Warning here comes a rant… actually one I had coming for a long time. About a year ago I ditched PC Gaming and moved to consoles exclusively. Mostly due to laziness combined with the insane rate at which PC Gaming Hardware becomes obsolete. I own an XBox360 now, and I mostly use it to play shooters. During the holiday season I had the opportunity to finish a few newer titles, among them Dead Space, Halo ODST, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 and Army of TWO – 40th day .. All in All it was fun, but I ran into certain… annoyances… which seem to be a lot more prevalent on consoles than on the PC:

My console has a 60 GB harddrive. Why on earth am I not allowed to save my progress whenever I want? Almost every game I have played uses a checkpoint system and more often than not the checkpoints are spread too far apart. If I die at a bad moment I am forced to replay portions of the game which I already beat. For recreational gamers like me this is highly frustrating not to mention its a huge time-waster. I dont get whats so hard about allowing free saves? Its not nearly as complicated as having a graphics engine render a bazillion polygons at once..

Mind you I am not asking to make the game too easy. In fact I usually enjoy challenging battles.. but give me the opportunity to make a game as easy or as hard as I desire… After all I am the customer here, and I want to be entertained, not punished.. Apart from the game’s overall difficulty setting this is something that can be very easily achived by a save-anytime option. People who want their game experience to be hardcore are welcome to ignore the save-feature and people like me have an easy way to control the level of frustration they are willing to suffer.

Granted there are some games where the checkpoint system works well and the checkpoints are distributed fairly (for example the Halo series does this very well). In principle it should not be such a hard concept to grasp for game developers: try not to frustrate the player. Dont take achievements (like winnig a battle) away from me by denying me the opportunity to save my progress. If there absolutely HAS to be a checkpoint system, put a checkpoint at the end of each battle… and another one shortly before the beginning of the next… this brings me directly to my second point

Cutscenes are great! But they dont get better if I am forced to watch them serveral times.
In “Army of Two – 40th day” for example there is this great cutscene where you are charged by a heavily armored guy with a chaingun. It really gets your adrenaline going when you watch it the first time… Unfortunately the following fight is pretty hard and if you die you have to restart and watch the whole 40 seconds cutscene again. There is no way to skip the scene and jump right into the action. I had to retry this particular section about 10 times before I finally killed the guy, and watching the same video again and again got incredibly annoying. So.. PLEASE put a checkpoint after every cutscene or at the very least give me an opportunity to SKIP IT.

Game Length
I think this one might be closely related to the saving issues. I often hear people complaining about a game being too short. Maybe thats the reason why game developers create a “challenging” checkpoint system? So the game lasts longer and people dont complain so much?

Honestly I dont find a 10 hour singleplayer campaign too short. Its perfect for a lazy weekend. And personally I get a LOT more enjoyment from a 10 hour game that keeps me entertained than from a 30 hour game that feels repetitive or frustrates the heck out of me by forcing me to replay the same section over and over again until I finally get lucky enough to kill the stray sniper who puts bullets into my head from half a lightyear away.

I could probably come up with a few more annoyances if I wanted to, but what it really comes down is this: I play games to enjoy myself. I am past the phase in my life when I cared about beating overly challenging or outright unfair games just to prove to myself that I can do it. I rarely find the time to play games and when I do I want to experience a few hours of fun and entertainment, not repetition and frustration. I really wish console game developers would spend more time thinking about how to make games more enjoyable for non-hardcore gamers.

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