April 16, 2011

My View on Game Challenge and it's Effect on the Replay Value of Games

One thing I've always had a knack at is getting into closed betas for certain games. I don't know why, but I generally get selected. Random luck or something like that. But more often than not, I keep wondering why I do. Oh I do the whole find as many bugs as possible thing but in the end, considering how games are created these days, I wonder why because I end up ruining my experience by the time the game goes live I find myself in a situation where I just don't really want to play it anymore. Especially since everything I worked for anyways was pretty much deleted.

But this boils down onto a point I was making in an earlier blog; Games today are just so brain dead stupidly easy it just really is no point to them these days. It is a wonder that MMOs are still so popular anymore, because they are nothing like how they started out. Companies are too busy trying to make their game accessible that they forgot they need to provide things that are challenging and elevate the player from their accomplishments in the end and the result is a game that is basically a waste of time and money in the end. Most MMOs these days are so ridiculously easy that they should of just made them single player games and been done with it because there was no point to them being multi-player.

But really, that's all companies and investors see these days. They look at gaming as something to make money on and they look to do it the cheapest way possible, cutting as many corners as they can so when the product ships they can say they made a profit in the end. It's intentional dumbing down of the system like this that has been hurting the gaming industry for the past decade. And to cover up the fact they are making these games so bone headedly easy, they try to wow people with hyper realistic graphics in press releases that people have to buy even bigger hardware to even run that it is just laughable that many people think this is awesome anymore.

I began my gaming life when I was young. And to date myself, my first game console was a ColecoVision. I ended up playing all night on games like Time Pilot and Donkey Kong with that thing. Eventually I got myself a Nintendo Entertainment System, and honestly, my NES and SNES days are the most memorable and fun gaming days for me because they challenged me to actually improve myself and to think my way through the problems of the game.

My favorite game of the Nintendo area would have to be CastleVania 3. it was challenging and it was hard, and even after you beat it the first time, you still had other ways to do it. Nothing ever felt as satisfying as taking an alternate route or beating the game with only Trevor Belmont as it did there. I also loved a racing game called Top Gear on the NES, it was simple, but fun and was also the first game that offered customization of the racer that I can remember.

Of course, the problem there is just that. Today's games are trying to be realistic and forget the fun on the wayside. People use to line up to play games like Top Gear and such and that Daytona Sega game, because they were fun they weren't set on ultra realistic mode, but racers today and games like them just aren't as fun because they try to be so realistic that the developers obviously forgot the reason many people play the game; to escape reality and just get away for a few minutes the non-sense of everything has to work this way. And in that process of trying to be realistic, they also make the AI so bone dead stupid that anyone who picks up the game will basically be able to win without any real challenge.

Honestly, how many people actually play the new games all that long these days after you beat it? Yet I can actually go back and pick up a Top Gear game and not feel bored one minute. People say games like Mass Effect have replay ability because of all the achievements, but I have only played it through once, and every time I try to play it again, I end up uninstalling it, yet I can go back and play Chrono Trigger on my SNES and still want to play it through again and again and again.

That seems to be the odd thing these days, I think people have gotten confused that big super graphics and flash mean the game is good when it's the furthest from the truth. And things that really impress me about games, people use terms like it's trying to tell a story to substitute the piss poor challenge it offers to the player or even the ability to make them think. Mass Effect bored the ever living piss out of me because all I did was following my way to the point objectives like a good little automaton. I didn't even have a desire to collect achievements, and I am a completionist, I like to get it all done. How sad is that? But I think my problem also stems from the fact all the hype around the game and I just felt so confined and unable to do anything and once you get out there you find yourself in featureless areas. It was like they spent all that time to make one specific part of the game pretty and the rest was just meh.

This I think boils down to a fact. People like to be challenged whether they admit it or not, and deep down they know these new games aren't challenging no matter how pretty and how interesting the little details might make it. It's why a lot of people actually will spend more time on retro malls playing the retro games over the newer games. They have longevity and lasting appeal. It's just how it is.

And this affects the MMOG market as well. Telling a story is all and well but unless your game is challenging and has lasting appeal and offers what MMOGs are suppose to offer and not just a single player game that was converted into an MMOG then you are in a position to have a game that people will continuously want to play. You are going to have to get off this ideal that story requires you to forsake all the good stuff about games and such. You need to stop listening to people that say they want realistic because they are really in the minority. You have to truly balance the experience and really plan each step out of the game. Don't try to sell your game on graphics alone. If the game can't sell itself then it's just not going to be fun a few weeks after it's launched.

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