Over at Horriftic Intentions, brannagar has posted a bit about what he thinks the community wants. My first mistake in getting involved in that discussion was that I was sent a link to the post and didn’t pay attention to the fact that the blog is a Rift fanboy site. I don’t mean that in a derogatory sense like some people might. I just mean that the author is clearly excited for the game, has already taken the stance that Trion (the makers of Rift) knows all (and agrees with him). Had I known, I probably would never have commented there at all and instead come straight here to talk about the issues at hand.
Essentially, of the four points he makes, I completely agree with three of them. Two, flying mounts and arenas, on the grounds that just because one game (and for most people that one game is WoW) has them that every game should have them. The third, the random dungeon finder, because while I’m certain it leads to more progress in games like WoW, I ultimately feel that the implementation destroys community. Why bother meeting people and making connections when you can just use the tool, get a group, and then never play with those people again?
The fourth point of his, the one I disagree with, is that some people are asking for an Auto-Face or Stick function for PvP. As you can see from the comments once I stuck my nose in and the two of us bantered back and forth, clearly brannagar likes circle strafing. I’ve mentioned my views on circle strafing on here before. And if you dig around you’ll find a few more times I’ve brought it up, especially where I say that Fallen Earth actually does it well in that you actually move slower while strafing.
Upon reflection, I see that I was actually mistaken. There shouldn’t be accuracy and damage penalties for movement. Yes, it is more realistic, but it would serve mainly to irritate players. Looking back at my old posts, I do think a speed penalty should apply for various reasons, but even so there are much better ways to handle this.
You see, circle strafing has plagued FPS games for a long, long time. The solution on the PC where people use a keyboard and mouse was for players to crank up the sensitivity of their mouse so that small twitches left and right would rotate their character through wider arcs more quickly and allow them to keep the strafing player in sight. However, when FPS games became more popular on consoles, and especially after the introduction of the double stick controller which allowed for much better circle strafing, asking people to crank up the sensitivity of their controllers actually had an adverse affect on the rest of game play. So, FPS games innovated by adding in the ability for players to perform a 180 degree turn with a single button. While not completely nullifying circle strafing as a tactic, it allowed the target player a fighting chance to catch their attacker on the flip side.
This is what MMOs need for PvP. A 180 degree flip would do wonders to level the playing field as immobile casters have to deal with highly mobile melee characters while still allowing attentive melees to change direction of movement and not giving the immobile players automated assistance.
In the end though, while I’m glad for the outcome in that it let me realize what is really missing from MMO PvP combat, I was also reminded how annoying it is to argue with the faithful. It’s possible that brannagar could read this (that’s the downside to linking to things, the authors can find out you are talking about them), and he might even come here to tell me how wrong I am and that a 180 flip would be stupid or game breaking and how Trion is luckily smart enough to never consider putting something like it in. And that’s a shame, because I’d much rather discuss how to make PvP fun for everyone without breaking it for anyone, and as it stands, circle strafing makes the game broken for people who can’t defend against it.
And that doesn’t even begin to touch on collision detection and line of sight issues. Being able to break a caster’s spell by stepping through the caster is totally broken design, and yet is the way most games work. Maybe we’ll cover that in another post.
This month over at Man Bytes Blog’s Round Table, the topic is game difficulty.
When I try to think of examples of games that I played that are either “too hard” or “too easy”, I usually wind up going way back to the King’s Quest and Hero’s Quest series of games by Sierra. Of all the games I have ever played, I think that King’s Quest III: To Heir Is Human is probably the most difficult game I ever played. Not because it was really all that hard to figure out or challenging, but because the game used a typed interface and required keywords, which were not provided to you. If you wanted to pick up a duck and put it in a pot it might take a good thirty minutes or more to discover that you needed to “get pot”, then “hold pot” and finally walk to the duck and “put duck in pot”. It was, in a way, very similar to the maddening “open eyes” command you needed to execute at the beginning of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy text game, only it happened a lot more frequently. On the other end of the spectrum, Hero’s Quest employed an almost entirely mouse driven system. In fact, to win the game all you really needed to do was walk into a room and drag the mouse across the screen over every object and see if the cursor changed. If it did, you clicked on it.
It is those two ends of the spectrum that determines how much effort I am willing to put into any game. If a game’s control system is so obtuse that even when I am sure I know the answer I can’t seem to actually solve the puzzle, or if I walk into a room and it is covered in highlighted objects and glowing question marks and exclamation points, I lose all interest in playing.
This even applies to MMOs… when I first tried out EVE Online, it was clearly an example of the first. There were no tutorials on the UI, nor was there much in the way of any sort of quests or missions. I ended up doing the things in game that were the easiest to figure out (mining) and was bored out of my skull. I quit. Later, I would return after they added in a number of tutorials and more missions, and it has gotten much better. On the other end you have World of Warcraft where if it isn’t marked by a giant floating exclamation point there is almost no reason to investigate at all, and once you have investigated the exclamation point you are rewarded with a bullet list of things to do before you return to the giant question mark.
To me, from the point of view of having to figure things out without struggling and not being given “the” path, I understand why I played EverQuest for so long. In that game you entered the world with a note saying to visit your guild master. You did, and in most cases were rewarded with your first quest, where they asked you to do something, but you weren’t given a bullet list. Learning that talking to people got you quests, you would then talk to other folks, some of which had quests, and some of which just added flavor to the game. As you traveled, you talked to more folks… visiting an inn? Talk to all seven NPCs while you are there. Of course, some people played the game in such a manner that they felt required to talk to every single NPC in a town, running themselves ragged and making detailed maps and notes to be sure they had talked to absolutely everyone. I never did that, I just talked to the NPCs as I found them.
Of course, EverQuest is not like that any more. Now they have co-opted WoW’s features so that new quests do give you a quest log bullet list of highlights. You don’t even need to bother reading the quest, and if the NPC doesn’t have the appropriate level range in the tag over his head, you can just avoid them altogether.
I can see the argument that some people use against EQ, in that its quests didn’t properly lead you from one area to the next. Breadcrumbs. But in newer games, I feel like they’ve got so far as to bypass breadcrumbs and just install a rail system. They don’t suggest I should try the next town so much as they point all my quests to the next town and if I don’t go there I won’t have anything to do. The problem is that often I would like to go some place that is personally more interesting, but I get there in WoW and find there is nothing to do because I went the “wrong” way.
Outside of MMOs, whenever I play a single player game, I always feel that I need a good strong narrative to keep me going. I enjoy Half-Life 2 and Bioshock because as I progress of location to locations, even though I know I am on a rail and there is no other way to go, the story and the action keep me wanting to go that way. Then I pick a game like Lost: Via Domus and I barely played into the game at all… I just didn’t want to go the direction the story wanted me to go. I want to explore the beach while the game wants me to run into the jungle, and just as they finally manage to make me interested in the jungle they are now forcing me to go back to the beach. Someone is shooting at me and I want to fight them, but I’m not allowed to, whereas in HL2, someone is shooting at me, I’m not supposed to fight them and the I don’t want to fight them, I want to run.
Anyway, this post has been enough of a rambling mess, so I am just going to stop now… I’m not even sure I managed to cover the Round Table subject…
I’ve always wanted a Wacom tablet, and for my and the wife’s two year wedding anniversary, I bought one for myself. I bought her one too, a larger one with more frills because February 14th through March 13th is a gangbuster gift giving season for me (Valentine’s, the anniversary, and then her birthday). Anyway, I really love the thing. Being left handed but having accepted the right handed orientation of all software and hardware design for PCs, I’ve never been able to draw well with a mouse unless I was willing to take hours to make images that should have taken minutes. My right hand on the mouse works great for gaming, but never for the really fine motor work of graphical art. But with the tablet, I’m able to move the task of drawing over to my left hand without having to fight with software and seeking out rare left handed mice.
I’m not great at drawing, but its nice to be able to doodle directly into the computer what I would normally be doodling on pieces of paper. There are a few examples of my new digital doodling handiwork rotating through the banner images here on the weblog, and there will be more to come.
The wife also got me another gift, one I didn’t pick myself, for our anniversary: Burnout Paradise. I’ve always been fond of the Burnout series of games, and this one is no different. The single player game play really isn’t much different from prior games, you race, you win, you gain rewards. Where this game really shines, however, is in the online play. While previous entries in the series offered online racing, Burnout Paradise offers up what they call “Freeburn” which is where you get into game with up to seven other people and can explore the city together. During this Freeburn, the host can initiate races or can pull up one of 50 challenges for everyone to do together (there are 350 challenges in all, 50 for each grouping of players from 2 to 8). The only disadvantage to the new Burnout game is the “sandbox” style set up for the single player. Races begin at intersections and proceed to wherever, and if you fail to win the race, you have to drive back to the start to try again. It can be extremely frustrating if you lose a race by just a couple of seconds several times in a row.
I’m really enjoying both of my new toys.
I hate playing First Person Shooter games on a console system. The step back from a keyboard and mouse set up to a console game controller is just too much for me. However, games for consoles have been getting better and better, and upgrading my computer over and over keeps getting more expensive. So I’ve been looking at the next generation consoles… So far, the XBox 360 seems like a good one, and I like the idea of online play which it excels at. But the Playstation 3 promises to be backwards compatible with all PS2 and PS1 games, which is something I miss on other systems. I currently own a GameCube, and I’d kill to play classic Super Mario Bros. if they’d let me. It wasn’t until I was really looking into the Nintendo Revolution that it hit me as to what I really want from a game system… Double Fisted Gaming.
I look at the Revolution controller, the new wand thing… and it sounds both neat and annoying. However, it also sounds like halfway to what I want. Imagine playing a shooter game, with the wand-like controller as a gun, and a second controller on your other hand to control movement. Not two thumbsticks like current games, but two completely separate controllers… like a keyboard and a mouse.
Now, I know game companies like the idea of people being able to sit in any position and hold the controller… but you know what? Screw ‘em! I want a second controller “keypad” that I strap to my leg or something, or rest on a table and give it about a dozen or so keys, maybe even a scroll wheel (for weapon switching in FPS games). Take that and the Revolution wand and I’ve got me a “keyboard” and a gun in my hand. Hell yeah!
If you are a designer out there and want to make fansy controllers for game systems.. please, PLEASE, steal this idea!
I have been known from time to time to check the weather report. If I have plans for the weekend, or am going on vacation somewhere. Sometimes, if I’ve heard about a storm coming in, I’ll even pop over to Weather.com or some place and see the predictions. But I don’t come even remotely close to being considered obsessed about it.
The people in the office I currently work in, on the other hand… I just don’t get it. They monitor the weather like a hawk eyes a field mouse. They meet in the aisles between the cubicles to discuss recent developments, storm or no storm, the way most people might discuss a recent vacation or a movie they just saw. And I just don’t get it.
What could possibly be so interesting about the fact that today is two degrees colder than yesterday as well as five degrees colder than it was on the same day in some other year? Who cares that three different weather sources are predicting different chances of rain?
If someone out there knows, please, I beg you, explain it to me.