11/08/2008

11-07-08 - Online Games

Being sick and stuck at home I've tried a few MMO's. I know, I know, slippery slope and throwing away life and all that. Meh, I'm sick and bored. Doing anything real gives me a head ache, I just want to zone out.

Guild Wars : initial download is super quick. Make an account, start up the game... oh another little download; I thought I downloaded the game already? no, okay... make a character... here we go... THONK. D'oh. Downloading 1 GB. Okay, I'll go eat and watch TV for a while. Oh, here we are. Doo dee doo. Grind grind. The game is pretty bland. The character classes are very interchangeable and they all start in the same area and play the same quests. Okay, zone transition... THONK.. downloading! WTF it downloads the zone very time I go to a new zone. That's kind of cool in a way, but I let it sit for a long time to download the game I wanted it to just get everything! Now when I'm in the middle of playing and want to go to a different zone it freezes up and downloads. This would absolutely blow if I was actually in a group and had to sit for the download. I got a necro to level 10 but man the PvE is just really boring in this game. Supposedly the PvP is good but I don't think I'm going to make it. On the plus side, the loads between zones are really fast, and the networking seems to be really good. Even in zones with tons of people I haven't experienced any lag.

World of Warcraft : bleck I hate the art so much but WTF I'll try it. Download 4 GB. Okay, let's go... downloading patch.. okay, install it... downloading patch.. okay, aw fuck, this is lame. I can't even get up and walk away because there are fucking a million prompt boxes for each of these patches. Downloading patch.. Ugh. Okay, I give up. WTF, how can you not make a single download that gives me the current state of the full game + all patches. It's downloaded probably 8 GB so far. Uninstall.

Everquest 2 : I tried it briefly long ago with Ryan and didn't like it, they fucked up the continent layout and the racial starting places and such that they got so perfect in EQ 1. Anyway, lets' try it again. Downloading... approx time left : 12:37:47 ; yarg. This will be okay if it actually gets everything and I can just let it run overnight, but if it pops up confirmations all the time, I will kill someone.

Do game developers actually ever play their games the way a new consumer would? I don't believe that reasonable people have tried this and think that it's okay. The vast majority of game devs never run their game at all in a full clean install the way a consumer does (you make some junior guy do it to make sure the installer is working right, but everybody else just runs developer builds).

I dunno about WoW but EQ2 and GW both suffer from letting you nerf yourself right from the start without knowing it. You can create a character and play for months and then discover that you made a foolish race/class choice or assigned your skills badly. The game devs try to create the illusion that all choices are valid, but the truth is that at higher levels you really need to have maxed certain abilities that are crucial. Giving the player choices which are semi-permanent and not obvious and can fuck them badly down the road is so bad. (GW lets you change everything at level 20 which is also broken in its own way).

All of these games have made the low levels ridiculously easy. You just talk to the first NPC and you're level 2. Literally. I know this is response to what players say they want "waah waah it's too hard to level up, the low levels are too boring". Yeah, yeah, stupid players. They want all the items to be super powerful. They want the wizards to have more health and the fighters to have spells. Shut up silly game player, you don't know what you want. Level gain is only rewarding if it's difficult.

ADDENDUM : Well I played some EQ2 and got a Dirge to level 12. Meh. For one thing this game is just dead, the zones are totally empty, nobody else is on, which ruins it. Also they totally nerfed the difficulty, made it too easily like WoW. That makes it feel like "Progress Quest" . Yay, I did nothing special and gained twenty levels. Plus the zones are way smaller than EQ1 and don't have that big real world open space feel. You progress so fast you never get to know an area. It's just not interesting to play these games unless you feel like you're going to stick with it and really build a character, and I know I'm not, which kills it.

Part of the magic of EQ1 was that it was pretty unforgiving; it's one of the only games in which I actually really *cared* if I died, which added a huge new level of tension and excitement and adrenaline and feeling of accomplishment. Of course I'm sure that I'm romanticizing the past as gamers tend to do. I'm sure I wouldn't put up with the ridiculous grind of that game today. We expect kinder games now.

Almost all old game devs like me have dreams of reproducing their favorite games from the past, but it's almost always a bad idea. There are reasons why games are different, a lot of those old games were just awful. Part of why we feel so fond for them is that it took a lot of investment to get past all their problems, so we became very attached.

On a semi-related tangent : if your taste doesn't match well with the mass market, you cannot make mass market products. You might think "I'm intelligent, I can see what the mass market likes and make something for them", but it just doesn't work. You have to really believe in what you're making, you have to think that boobies are great, and shooting stuff and big explosions is really exciting, that vampires and zombies are fascinating, and that everyone should wear space-marine body armor. If you don't really believe that, you can't make mass market games. If your taste is actually interesting and unique, you need to go ahead and make what your taste tells you to do.

To be a really successful mass market auteur, you have to be very smart and driven, and also actually have terrible taste and retarded ideas of what's cool, like the common man. This is where people like J.J. Abrams, Michael Crichton, Michael Bay, etc. shine.

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old rants