March 29, 2013

Dumbing Down of Games is getting ridiculous

One thing I think has been becoming predominantly bad lately is the fact that graphics have been overtaking gameplay in the modern game. Long ago it used to be about making fun, engaging games that players could spend hours playing, but lately the new thing is “revolutionary” graphics to cover up the shoddy gameplay aspects of the current generation. And I don’t say that lightly. Each new generational leap, especially in the console market, has been about pushing the graphical quality of the game while the gameplay quality has either been becoming dumber in the process or completely forgotten, and this is just terrible.

I think the evidence can speak for itself in this regard. When most people talk about gaming they typically refer to games that they use to play a lot of when they were younger. Games that had gameplay in them and encouraged smart thinking, versus what we have today which is either too easy to play or just has so much hand-holding going on that you spend more time screaming “Yea, I get it” at the screen than actually playing. The popularity of the retro market booming, I think, has more to do with the fact people are getting tired of the dumbing down or lack of actual gameplay in a modern game and wanting to have a game that plays, you know, like a game instead.

Let me voice my opinion of a recent retro game that is getting a “modern” update; DuckTales Remastered. Now I, like many people who played the original, was quite excited about this and it made me wish I still owned a console to take advantage of it, but as news started coming out about the game I started scratching my head. First thing stated, the game was made easier. Now for people who never knew that collective sound you heard was the fact the brains of a lot of fans just fell out of their head at how stupid this remark was. Why? First and foremost, DuckTales was not even a hard game, not even on the hardest difficulty. It was memorable and fun not because of its epic challenge but because of its gameplay and how fun it was. The most challenging part of DuckTales was just collecting the secrets which in themselves weren't terribly secret, or the fact the text from the supporting characters crawled slowly.

This is a game that on my first night owning it I beat it but I still continuously played over and over because it was fun. And the part that baffled me the most is how the developers actually think the average game player is so stupid that they can’t understand a concept such as “Down + B” to use a standard skill after jumping. Seriously? I mean this is how far gaming has devolved and that a graphical update to a classic, but albeit easy game is revolutionary, but the gameplay of said easy game was tough it needed to be made even easier? I don’t know how to rate this but it definitely falls within the ballpark of facepalm worth.

A lot of games, modern and retro refits, are being remarkably dumbed down lately for the sake of process, and through each dumbing down the identity of the game is being lost in the process. Hell, you can see such dumbing down in current on-going series games that exist today. A prime example, again pointing this one out, are BioWare games. Each successive game in a series they've developed is losing all the things from the original and being replaced by one button solutions that remove identity and in many cases, fun from the actual game all for the sake of making sure the developers perception of the average player is met. And do you know how the developer perceives the average player these days? Quite simply as a dumb sack of stupid incapable of understanding that “Down + B” lets you use the pogo jump ability of Scrooge McDuck in a DuckTales game.

This is insulting to the intelligence of gamers, and the sad part is, there will be a large enough crowd that applauds these things saying it streamlines things for the casual market. Seriously? Are you really going to try and call casual gamers retards and too stupid to tie their own shoes? Because that’s basically what you are claiming.

KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) is an often quoted thing from people who defend these types of decisions but there is a line that needs to be drawn. The constant pop ups explaining how things work, the ridiculous hand holding, and other things that just annoy people lately are becoming exceptionally more intrusive. The sad part is, the games of yesteryear could teach more with less without a visual pop up in an entire tutorial stage than the modern game can do in 10 tutorial stages that they often plug into the game making the game annoying and less fun for all. There's keeping it simple and then there is just calling you an idiot, and it often baffles me how many people want to be called an idiot.

There is a large reason that retro market games are picking up in popularity and it isn't just nostalgia; it’s because those old games were actual games, and even they could tell better stories than the current generation of games that exist today with less padding to boot. Most gamers are grown up, or pretty intelligent people. Many have been gaming for decades but it’s getting more than a tad insulting that we get treated more like children who don’t understand simple concepts such as “Down + B” to use the special pogo move. This is the reason people hate remakes, is because it treats the audience like a retarded idiots that shouldn't be near a toaster instead of intelligent people able to understand the basic concepts of movement in a game.

I recommend watching a very good overview of this very concept from EgoRaptor on YouTube called Sequl-itis here. It at least paints my view, using a good game, Mega Man X from the Super Nintendo as an example. Warning, NSFW.

But yea, words like innovation, graphics and even emotions *shivers at the David Cage stupidity of the century* is now trumping things like gameplay, fun and entertainment. It's gotten so bad that even gamers have been swallowed up in the river of stupid and actually believe that graphics are what makes games now. No, they don't. Not even close. Good gameplay, fun and entertainment is what makes a good game. If graphics are all you live for, then just go look at high definition renders with single photos, because there are your graphics, heartless, soulless and no inspiration.

Back to a previous point, people keep quoting KISS a lot, but the funny bit is, developers try to simplify things so much they make the damn thing even more complicated in the end. When half your game is bloody tutorials, it should be time to realize you fucked up somewhere. When you need to interrupt the flow and features of a game to have a pop up to explain to an FPS player how to aim and shoot a gun in your FPS game, you fucked up somewhere. I think developers and gamers need to take a step back and take a long look at why games today are no where near as fun as the games of yesteryear.

March 12, 2013

Why I despise multi-guilds

I touched on this in my rant about GW2, but I think this deserves more explanation and talk about my view why I think that multi-guild is a terrible thing and will only increase guild drama. I don’t think people have to go far in GW2 to see this has already begun to happen, but let’s get it out of the way and discuss it at length. I will try to keep each point to its own paragraph, but they will undoubtedly bleed into each other as I have a tendency to ramble. So, without further stalling let me get into the reasons why multi-guilds are terrible.

First and foremost, for the multi-guild system to work you need to represent a guild, but you can only represent one guild at a time. Right out of the gate you are already going to garner hurt feelings from people as a lot of the functions of one guild are locked out until you represent it, including the chat features, and any contribution you give only goes towards the guild that you are representing. This is just stupid in and of itself. Why even have multi-guild in the first place if all of the guild features are going to be locked out to you unless you represent them? Not to mention this also causes hurt feelings because people on both sides of the fence feel you should be pulling your weight for them. And you are left in the issue of who do you represent more.

Next on my list of why multi-guild is a bad idea is pretty simple one; it destroys community. If you can casually hop in and out of a guild, ignoring that people are going to get offended by this, then it doesn’t foster the idea that growing a community in a game is even something to strive for. Guilds are a large part of the backbone of a gaming community. But casually tossing the one last bastion of gaming community into the recycle bin like that completely negates all that. It just creates more undue tension and drama as people are stressing over who they should spend more time with.

And now my biggest gripe about multi-guild systems is this; it makes it way easier for spies to get into guilds of opposing factions to relay info to enemies. If people don’t think this is a big deal for PvP then you obviously have never played an MMO in PvP or any PvP based game before. This is one of the issues that GW2 has, outside of bots and cheaters, the number of people that relay information to opposing groups. And if you think that PvPers would not find that edge by getting alternate accounts, then you really have not played MMOs before. Just go over to the WoW forums and see how much of a stink has been raised by multi-boxers (players who play more than one account at once) because the /follow command was removed from PvP.

You want to know how to solve multi-guild issue. I’ve brought this up before in other forums, but it’s a fairly simple concept that, believe it or not, older MMOs from the early days actually used. It was called guild alliances. What makes this different from multi-guilding you might ask, well many things. First, an alliance is a separate chat channel and you can participate in an alliance chat, even if you are in another guild. Furthermore it bolsters community and healthy competition between the guilds in an alliance. Finally, it removes a lot of undue pressure on individual players from their guild that their guild might be offended they aren’t representing them enough. It leaves the control within the group of power, and it doesn’t cause break ups or harsh feelings. It solves all the issues and creates no extra drama that multi-guilds would undoubtedly create. Even if your guild is not hardcore PvP, a guild in the alliance most likely would be so wouldn’t be hard pressed to find it.

That’s my feelings on the whole multi-guild thing. It’s stupid, it’s creating undue pressure on individual players as well as the guilds in question, it removes any resemblance of community that MMOs even have left and it’s a breeding ground for battleground spies. I don’t know why developers have been opting for this when they have to see the negatives vastly outweigh the one positive multi-guilds have, and foregoing a system that has existed almost since the beginning of the modern MMO era, and that is Alliances.

Anyways, feel differently about it, leave a comment below.

March 2, 2013

My reviewing/ranting about Guild Wars 2

This is kind of a subject I wanted to avoid, but I realized the more I tried to ignore it the more it ate at me. This is going to be a review/rant at GW2 and tearing down the walls that the fanbois and apologists built up in defense of that game. Now, I want to preface this, there is no misconception, there is no I just haven’t played it long enough as many of the fanbois will undoubtedly say. I have, I’ve spent several weeks playing the game, a few of them devoted to just finding a class that wouldn’t bore me to tears, because make no mistake, this game makes the cardinal sin by being mind numbingly boring in the worst ways for an MMO.

I am going to get this point out of the way. Right out of the gate you are pretty much required to grind things and while people kept clamoring and claiming everything you would do in GW2 would be epic (including ArenaNet, so no backpedalling their boys, like you did when you tried to claim GW1 wasn’t an MMO after years of claiming it was), you are still met with grinding that would make even the most hardened EQ1 fan cringe. Each class is repetitively boring and while might start out fun, all of them fall into the same trap as losing steam by the time you reach around level 15. And losing steam in the worst way to.

Part of the reason for this issue with the character classes is they are completely aimless. You have no idea what they were designed to do, how they should function or in what way would be best. You meander around looking for something to fill in but you can’t, and instead try to get by being a jack of all trades. And it isn’t a problem of just not understanding the class design, it’s clear that ArenaNet had no real design in mind just what they felt would be cool, because while some classes have a lot of great tools, others have questionable tools that leave you wondering what were they thinking, and it’s almost like they didn’t even bother balance testing a lot of this.

Quests are superfluous, as you are doing menial tasks from farming for lazy NPCs to picking daisies for incompetent star crossed lovers. There is nothing epic about these fights so already that’s one lie out of the gate about everything you do is epic. Later on the quests devolve into killing X rats, and while people will say no it doesn’t, I’ve done at least 8 different zones and ended up doing the same kill X mobs in all the heart points every time. This is the absolute worst facet people hate about MMO quests, and all they did was move the quest giver from someone you talked to, to a local area for nothing new. Hell, the epic battles are actually so far and few between and give so little rewards I actually had to beg people just to tackle a giant in the Charr zone. And when you get a big battle event it’s not even that epic as you are watching several dozen people doing damage and nothing really else with zerg mentality going full steam.

In addition to this, you don’t feel rewarded. The thing about WoW, Champions and such, every level you felt a little bit rewarded for reaching that level, even if it wasn’t a big reward. In GW2 the gulf between getting something new and interesting is so far and between that just getting there feels like you are walking barefoot over rusty nails. And that’s only up to level 30. Once you pass level 30, you’ve already hit the peak for what you potentially wanted. Even the trait gaining doesn’t even feel like milestones because you get so little for your investment.

The world itself is so god awfully big that it is actually a detraction from the enjoyment of this game. They basically said at the office let’s do WoW but EXTREME and obviously people nodded their head in agreement because the terrain is unrealistically big, the buildings are unrealistically big, even the architecture is unrealistically big. And while there are some very beautiful areas, they are far and between. I hate designs like this, you don’t make your world actually big in design to make it feel big. This is incompetent game design and drives me up a wall.

This also brings up the waypoints in the game. This is the only game, I’ve ever played, that waypoints are actually mandatory, not a convenience to your enjoyment of the game. Waypoints should be conveniences to your game, not design requirements. But they don’t allow mount travel, but everyone has a way to increase their movement speed, in some cases significantly, and of course there are the gobs and gobs of waypoints.

Next, the story. Oh god this story. I thought SWTOR was a badly written game, whoever wrote GW2’s story should feel ashamed. They set back the whole story in industry a good decade with this mess. It’s like they hired Stephanie Meyers, or the lead writer was taking notes from her or something. And let’s not get on the voice acting, because it was obvious the voice actors were only there to get a check, because the way the lines are read are so cringe inducingly bad, I can’t believe people take this atrocious mess seriously and think it is good. This is as bad as the prequels with as many plot holes as the TNG movies.

Then oh boy the bugs, bad controls and crappy camera. This is the first game I’ve ever played that has actually made me rage because of how poor the controls are. And there are also numerous bugs that constantly get to me, in addition to the poor camera and just poor responsiveness of the controls of this game. One bug that always annoys me, despite the game has a solid lock on and I will be locked onto a target, facing it all the good stuff involved and my character will still turn to face at something behind me and start shooting at it once I start pushing my fire button. This is not an uncommon occurrence either, I tend to get into large fights because of this bug alone with crap I had no interest in fighting.

And barring the buggy camera not getting to you, the jumping puzzles are so insultingly easy that I wonder why they even bothered with them. The hard ones are actually based around speed running while platforms disappear underneath you not on actual precision jumping because very little of the precision jumping is actually anything that can’t be easily corrected in the game by a simple jumping back up.

So that brings me to the PvP maps. After 30 levels of the teeth gritting bad story and the mind numbing heart quests of kill X mobs, I decided to just PvP my way to 80. Except that 3 of the 4 PvP maps are the exact same map, right down to the last detail, and that the only map with anything different is the 4th map. But, and unfortunately for me, my realm was hopelessly outnumbered, because the server pop is actually only high (according to the server list) while the other two realms are in the very high status. On average, the other two realms generally bring odds that favor them 3 to 1 against us, average, per realm (it’s often higher odds against us). Nevermid that fact we never get that outnumbered bonus because… who the fuck cares obviously, because while 50 baddies might be attacking a keep with only 15 of us inside of it defending.

In short, as far as the PvP is concerned, it’s obvious ArenaNet didn’t think too hard on it. Gear and level play important roles there, no matter how much people try to say you get auto leveled to 80, that doesn’t help matters when people are using top PvP gear and maxed traits against you. They make a big difference. And that isn’t even bringing to the table the fact that this is zerg PvP at its worst. I’ve been told people feel the maps are too small, but that isn’t even the problem, it’s the maps are the exact same except 1 of them, and the other problem isn’t their size, its if one faction dominates they can set up way points inside keeps they control. The problem also isn’t the size of the maps because they are entirely too large, but the fact that any point that gets taken over can be near instantly retaken over in almost an eyeblink.

There isn’t even time to set up defenses if the PvP is especially aggressive, and considering, again, my server has the other two servers deciding to beat down on us cause we are a small server we tend to have very little chance to actually set up defense until everything we fought for is lost. And what’s sad at points is our server proves that we can actually keep them at bay, but when they fight together against us that means we are outnumbered 6 to 1 and due to fast turn arounds it’s impossible for us to maintain territory.This doesn't even include the fact that the game is riddled with bots,a nd in PvP bots and cheaters are especially prevalent which apologists or fanbois will try to downplay.

This also brings up the issue I have with guilds. Since anyone can be in any number of guilds, it makes spies quite a large possibility. I know on my server there is a guild leader that likes to think he’s a great leader (funnily enough whenever he leads our alliance we lose everything) and tries to claim that he doesn’t have guildies on other servers despite we’ve seen them. He’s a laughing stock and claims he doesn’t run a spy ring. However, most everyone knows differently. I personally hate this multi-guilding non-sense as all it does is breed contempt between people when someone isn’t devoting time and just makes it easy for spies to get in.

In the end, just to put it bluntly, GW2 isn’t a very good game. It’s very dull and repetitive, it blows its wad on anything shiny very early on and snoozes the rest of the time for the rest of the game. The PvP is poorly implemented and balanced with obvious copy pastaing going on for the maps that are also poorly designed, with several important structures within siege weapon distance from a safety zone for specific areas. People believe the trinity is dead in the game but it is obviously still there, as doing content like dungeons if someone isn’t healing and someone isn’t drawing agro, you tend to die, a lot. And even more comical people believe the game play is vastly different from other MMOs, yet I still just watch cooldowns on powers thus my attention is still focused more on my hot bar than actual game screen. So in the end, this is yet another game that made a lot of promises, and failed to deliver on. Sorry for GW2 fans if that isn’t praise, but I am going to be honest about this stuff.