Archive for May, 2009

Random Rants: Consistent save systems

Posted in Random Rants with tags , , , on May 28, 2009 by Baggie

Having nothing particular to do tonight, as TF2 has been royally screwed up for the moment, I decided I would have a go at Mass Effect.
I had a level 31 soldier that I’d already played through with once, had high everything, and was playing through on hardcore, the hardest difficulty level I could play. It’s incredibly fun, because it’s method for making the levels harder is not making the indiviual enemies more difficult, rather making a lot more of them. There’s something magical about clearing a room full of 50 geth armed to the teeth with 2 AI compainions.

I WAS thinking of talking about the harder diffulty settings in games, how sometimes they’re totally unfair and sometimes kick arse, as I would have suggested for Mass Effect.

Then I died.

Now normally this wouldn’t have been a problem. I die in games a bit, as everyone does, and could just load to a earlier save, right?

Unfortunately the last save was half an hour back.

Singleplayer games are something I can relax to, something I don’t have to beat other players and just have fun. Very rarely do I become frustrated at them or even decide not to play them anymore. This particular incident made me crush the V can I was holding and bite on my bottom lip. I had just done half an hour of what ammounted to zero and while yes, it was fun, it means that if I want to continue I’ll have to redo the same half hour again, which effectively becomes work.

Terrific.

So now I’m going to write about save systems, and what they should and shouldn’t be.

Save systems have been around forever. You have 2 different types of saves, Autosaves and User Saves.

Autosaves are when the computer makes a save for you at certain different points. They’re the most common method of saving in console games, I can’t recall a console game that has included usersaves into it’s gameplay the way PC games have.

User Saves are just that, the user decides to save. The most common for of this is the quicksave, which is usually activated by pressing F5 or F6. Some little white text fades in saying “…saved” or something similar. This is a nice addition of autosaves, it means the user has more control over when to save.

Now, as much as I like quicksaves, I and most PC gamers I know have the tendency to quicksave every minute or some, almost compulsively. It’s something that becomes annoying after a while, even if I’m the one doing it. So if I can I try to rely on the autosave system if it’s good.

A good autosave system is something that is really nice for a game, particularly if it has no quicksaves in it, but it means that I can just relax and not worry if I’ve saved recently whenever I die.

Now, I’ve been playing more multiplayer games recently, and obviously they have no quicksaves. So I go into Mass Effect, knowing it has an autosave system, and play happily for half an hour, not pressing the magical F5 key after combat. Normally the autosave system is pretty good in ME, so it didn’t immediately come to mind as quickly as it would have in say Fallout 3. So I played for said half hour, until I got swarmed by some fast moving oversized bug things. Then a thought came into my head, “Oh shit, I didn’t quicksave, did I get an autosave since I started?”

The problem with this situation is that Mass Effect often autosaves pretty regularly, starting out as an Xbox game. So why would it leave a gap of HALF AN HOUR? It seems like a horrible design choice, though the 360 version had plenty of those, the biggest being both squad mates being ordered as one entity, so one squad mate could be profficient at shotguns and one at sniper rifles, but you couldn’t say “YouĀ  shotgun, You sniper.”, you had to say “Both of you, shotgun.” which was rather thick.

But back on point, save systems shouldn’t punish the user because the design team decided not to put a save point between 3 dialogue sequences, 2 elevator rides, and a hard combat sequence (This does happen, took me a long time to get through it), or a autosave after the 10 minute driving sequence or the 15 minute combat sequence. They should save between sequences, or offer an alternative. Assasin’s creed had you come back alive pretty much wherever you died, which isn’t as stupid as you think, and Bioshock had the vita-chambers, though that kind of screwed up hard, because there was no penalty for dying, you just run back and mindlessly attack whatever you were attacking before.

Bad or inconsistent save systems can ruin games that are otherwise terrific. While this isn’t something I’d stop playing Mass Effect for, becuase I can just quicksave every now and then, it was enough of an annoyance to make me quit the game for tonight, and it could be another week before I do the stuff I just did again, if not more, but if I was playing on the 360 and this happened I’d CERTAINLY not play this again, it’s just not fair on the player. I did quit Prince of Persia: Warrior within because I had to spend 2 hours on an unituitive puzzle and a incredibly unfair combat then parkour sequence that often killed me, otherwise it was a terrific game, but I’m not going to play if I haven’t got much of a change of completing the game am I?

Then again maybe tonight’s incident was just god punishing me for not updating on time šŸ˜›

New, Used, Abused: Chronicles of Riddick – Assault on Dark Athena.

Posted in New, used, abused with tags on May 20, 2009 by Baggie

Bonus post! Just for you guys.

A bit back I looked back at Butcher Bay, and if you’ve not read the review I highly suggest you do.

Anyway, Dark Athena is the sequel to Butcher Bay.Ā  Again made by Starbreeze, you follow a certain fellow as his ship he escaped from Butcher Bay in gets captured by a Merc ship, and has to fight his way out.

First off you start with a tutorial level. In Butcher Bay you learnt how to play by being put into a dream sequence, but half the beauty was that if you hadn’t seen Pitch Black you wouldn’t know that it wasn’t real. It was brilliant, and taught all the mechanics of the game rather well.
Dark Athena tries to do the same thing, but unfortunately it’s not quite so subtle.Ā  Riddick wakes up on the beach. Then he goes into a tunnel. Then he talks to some chap. Then he climbs up a ladder. Fortunately it gets better with the fighting mechanics, but alienating the player from base one: Never a good idea. I was wondering what the hell had happened to Johns, my spaceship or any relevancy to butcher bay whatsoever.

There’s two specific schools of voice acting and dialogue quality in this game. Riddicks, and the good stuff.
Riddick in the first game was nice and straightforward when talking to other people. He sometimes narrated the story a bit because the entire thing was a flashback, and it was really nice. In this game however he tends to prattle on about nothing, saying stuff like ‘I’m hells messenger”. Lines that, in short, make him sound like an absolute tool.

Then of course, is every other voice actor in the game.
Believable voice acting is something that’s becoming more popular in games these days, however they took the concept one step further by adding terrific voice acting AND expressive body language. The result is… amazing. I mean I could actually read the characters a lot better and it enhanced the experience significantly. You could easily tell when characters were freaking out, when they were confused, and when they were just batshit crazy. I don’t think I’ve seen this level of character emotion in a MOVIE before, let alone a game.

The gameplay retains all the elements, stealth, gunplay and melee, but uses them in different quantities. You’ll be shooting a lot more in this one than Butcher Bay, and the Melee is well… a lot more difficult.
The focus is now blocking and waiting for them to attack, and trying to get a quick-time event where you click when the weapons flash. The only problem with this is that the flash is a tad too late, so often the gap between the flash and the time where you can click is INSANELY short, which means the entire melee combat feels a bit broken.

The shooting is practically no different, aim at head, they die. Shoot out light, darkness, sneak behind and pull out brain. Nuff’ said.
Well actually there’s an interesting mechanic where you can kill drones and use their bodies for a meat shield and the guns on their arm to have temporary firepower, which is very interesting and quite fun at points.

The main difference is with the amount of stealth you’ll be doing. In Butchers you sneaked around quite a bit and shanked guards in the dark, hiding their bodies so other guards wouldn’t notice. In this one you still get that but after one kill you’ll practically always be found out, and have to just shoot everyone.

The story of Dark Athena is quite decent, though there was 2 things I would have prefered to have happened (minor spoilers):

First I would have liked to be captured at some point. Half the fun of Butcher Bay was finding holes in the system and exploiting them to make your initial escape. This game you’re helping others to get out, meaning you already have the unfair advantage, actually having weapons and having free roam of the ship. I want to rise from repression dammit!

Secondly, I would have liked a better ending. You’ve just killed the end boss, and then the cutscene ends with you going up an elevator….
Then what? You’re still on a ship filled with mercinaries for godsake, I want to be able to escape! What about Johns? What happens to this little girl you’re now protecting and never shows up again? I just want some damned closure.

One complaint as well: There’s a guy built like a tank in the second level. You’re expected to fight him to get to the next area. When he hits you when you’re blocking, he does the same damage if someone else hit you weren’t blocking. When he hits you when you’re not blocking, it’s the same as if you’ve been hit by a club without blocking. I couldn’t defeat this guy fairly even when I turned it down to easy out of shear frustration. I resorted to getting onto some pipes he couldn’t walk onto and running in, hitting him, and running away. On. Easy. On hard this’d be perfectly fair. Without that pipe I may have given up on the game entirely. Bad design there guys. The other two fights where you’re taking someone on in a fist fight or knife fight, brilliant. This one, horrible.

As I’ve stated before, Butcher Bay is a campaign on this game as well, and while the old voice acting and animations are showing a little age, it’s still terrific. I even found out a couple of things I couldn’t figure out last time around, and it’s quite fun, but really nothing you’ve not seen before if you’ve played Butchers before.

Graphically it seems like it’s over reaching. I mean it looks terrific, but on my laptop that runs crysis on medium-high, I have to run it in a window because it has a terrible fullscreen framerate. I don’t see why people have this fascination of creating games that cannot be run by a lot of the current market, seems like a bad business stratergy to me.

Multiplayer is something I haven’t really looked into, mainly cause I’m not downloading a 100 meg patch for multiplayer that I’ve been told has virtually no players. It has some deathmatch modes and some CTF modes too, but the main one I’d like to play is ‘Pitch Black’, where one character plays as riddick in a dark maze, and everyone else plays as mercs. You kill Riddick, you play as him next round. It sounds like incredible fun if Riddick is given enough space to stealth, otherwise it’d just suck, as gamers are notoriously good at spotting people trying to stealth.

Anyway, Dark Athena was entertaining if a little annoying at times. I’d suggest it if you were in the mood to stealth, particularly if you’ve not played butcher’s bay before. It’s an incredibly immersive game and has some pretty visuals, as well as the best acting I’ve seen ANYWHERE.

New, Used, Abused: Need For Speed Undercover

Posted in New, used, abused with tags , , , on May 18, 2009 by Baggie

Latest in the Need for Speed series, undercover takes a different direction. a good direction, well..

When I heard about this game I was hopeful that it might be something that I’d enjoy. It’s been a while since racing games have been worthwhile playing, and I thought this might be fun.

First off, you’re thrown into this highspeed car chase with a billion cops following you, and you have to escape by outrunning them. Well shit, this might actually be good! The scene ends.

You’re rewarded with a cutscene, with a chick telling some balding 30 year old that he has to infiltrate a group of smugglers by street racing (see Fast and Furious). First initial though was “I don’t want to play as this guy! He’s old, boring, and kind of a dick!”. But I figured I could look past that seeing as he never gets out of the car. So whatever.

Then I’m thrown into a blank and dull city, which looks like they stole the maps from Burnout Paradise. Freeroaming is back much to my dislike, but it’s okay, because you can basically start races on every street, again something I saw in Paradise. What happened EA? This was a brand you actually created more or less, and you’ve stooped to ripping off other racing games.

To their credit the cars handle pretty well, but they’ve taken out all the interesting race types but in most wanted, so you’re stuck with ciruit, sprint, and this weird mode where you have to race past someone for x minutes or x meters. It’s honestly not that fun. Oh, and sometimes you need to get the police on you, but it takes forever and really if I wanted to run from police I’d play GTA.

The graphics are good of course, but so is everything these days and really has since ceased to matter. Gameplay is what people want, which is why they play games like Plants Vs Zombies, Killing Floor or even World of Goo. You’ve got to make your game interesting to play, or there’s no point playing and people will quit.

Which is actually precisely what I did. After about 2 hours I quit because I KNEW that the game would just be more and more of this mindless crap. The game ended up becoming this mindless run from street to street without knowing what the hell was going on. It felt like a dream, but a really annoying pointless one. I want my characters to have at least 2 Dimensions, not… well none to be honest. I want my gameplay to be fun,Ā  not repeatitive and boring. I want to actually know what the hell’s going on.

This must be the shortest review I’ve made yet, but really there’s not much to say about this game. To my credit I’ve never quit a game before like ten hours before,Ā  so that’ll give you an idea of how much this game seems like a waste of time to me.

So buy this game if you don’t mind racing in what feels like a repeatitive sludge that was stolen from other franchises. Personally I now know why it was selling for $20 now.

Griefing and it’s elevation

Posted in Random Rants on May 12, 2009 by Baggie

Griefing, for you not in the know, is something spawned from the general unpleasentness of people, the flexibility of video games and the fact that you have no answerability to anyone in most situations.

The most common form of griefing is people shooting their own teammates, which is why in most games friendly fire is at the most an option that stays left off. This means people have to get creative with their griefing. There’s countless videos on the internet of people teleporting people to inconvenient places, blowing people off edges, tricking them into an ally of sentry guns, but mostly games are ‘grief proof’, thank god. (This discludes enemies of course, that’s just good sport!)

Normally the griefers give up, going to easier games probably. But extremely rarely you get people that simply just want to annoy peopleĀ  so much they exploit the smallest oversight or unfixable situation to stop people having fun. I don’t know why they do it, but occasionally you get people that have taken griefing to an artform.

There’s a couple of chaps called ‘Team Roomba’ that have made some videos called ‘Team Fortress 2 griefing” which show them teleport enemies into sentry fire, blocking doors by jumping RIGHT into the right place, even stuff simple like blocking sniper scopes with flamethrowers.

It’d be annoying beyond belief it is was to happen to me, but it’s still hilarious for some reason. They even use the door blocking technique to make the players answer triva questions so they can get out.(which would be something I’d actually want to happen to me.) It’s extremely well presented and somehow hits all the right buttons.

I bring this up because I had a similar experience a couple of minutes ago (that and I forgot to write again and this was convienient). Me and my friend found the Left 4 Dead VS servers were pretty dead, so we tried out campaign for old times sake. Then 2 chaps named Angry Otter and Larry FitzgeraldĀ  (I assume their pseudonyms) showed up and started running ahead. I figured they just liked rushing, which is basically running ahead alone to prove your awesomeness (keep in mind that you need teammates to get off the special zombies).

But not only were they running ahead, they were taking all the medpacks as well. I didn’t notice at first, thought the server had glitched or something, however we soon twigged they were doing this. Now this game has friendly fire on by default, they could have just shot us or something similar, but instead of griefing by aggression, they were griefing by denial. We couldn’t heal and they wouldn’t protect us, and yet it was HILARIOUS. The fact they’d gone to so much effort was hilarious.

Course things got a bit tense when they required us to go up an elevator, and the next map they killed us a couple of times, I think they baited a tank towards us as well. I managed to survive the finale on the last try by hiding in a closet with a shotgun (my friend was already dead by this stage), and hoping they wouldn’t shoot me when they came nearby to get ammo. I even saved one of them from a smoker, being a prisoner of gaming morals. I got to the helecopter with 5hp left just as it was landing, and then one of them turned around shot me, killing me.

It was too funny to be mad, the perfectness of theirĀ  practice of ruining our game was too funny to not laugh, and I probably had a better time in that game than I would have in a serious one.

Normally I’d have a conclusion but to be honest I’m too tired to make a point out of this. Just some rambling about the topic. Maybe I’ll write a review when I don’t have an neverending supply of assignments flowing in.

Wow, complications suck

Posted in Uncategorized on May 5, 2009 by Baggie

Hey guys, just a heads up that I’m not abandoning this thing, there was just some issues with the uni net, fixed now and will get a post up sometime along the week.