Wednesday, December 31, 2008
On Gamespot, users were allowed to vote for their Game of the Year. A Gamespot blog author asked why people voted for what they did. Was it based on what game was the most fun for them? Or the most "artistic"? Or what?
For me, the Game of the Year was Metal Gear Solid 4, even though I'd only give it an 8.5 / 10. It wasn't the perfect 10 Gamespot gave it, but for me it was the best I had played.
Here's what I ended up posting in the comments section after reading how some feel that MGS4 did not use its interactive medium effectively, instead relying more on cinematic storytelling norms.
It's odd. For movies, my favorite movies are usually the ones I have the most fun watching. But for video games, my favorite games are more likely to be less about how much fun I had, but how good their storytelling was. You could almost say that I like my movies to be more like video games, and my video games to be more like movies. I voted MGS4 for GOTY, but I'm not sure if MGS4 was the most fun game I played this year. MGS4 left such a lasting impression that I can still clearly remember moments from it today, even though I haven't played it in months. I think I have more fun playing Battlefield 2142 or COD5 online against people, but ultimately these were just exciting experiences not unlike playing a game of basketball or riding a rollercoaster. Like a game of sports, there's no moral or ideology I'm trying to accomplish in 2142. I'm killing for the fun of killing. It becomes a pointless, hedonistic struggle.
I think another reason why I like movies to be more like games is because when I watch a typical movie, it's hard for me to identify with what the characters are going through. After all, no matter what I do while watching a film, the character will proceed forward to whatever ending is in store for them. The character is in the situation, not me, so I'm detached from the story. I'm powerless to help or hinder the characters in a film. So if a movie is more "superficial and fun", like a game, at least I can enjoy that aspect. Story alone will just leave me with a passive, observant feeling.
But a game's story is totally different. I propel the story forward. Through my struggle, I'm fighting for the story to continue. It doesn't matter if it's told through passive cutscenes or through branching dialogue trees, because the story won't continue without my help. Solid Snake's struggle becomes my own. I think this is why I think story is so important in games for me. I need to say about the character "You're a good person, and what you're trying to do is important, and I'm going to help you achieve your goals." And Solid Snake's goals felt important. Another thing that's important for me is that the struggle I partake as a player reflect the struggle that is happening in the story. One of my probs with Bioware games is that their gameplay is ridiculously easy and simplistic, while their storytelling is great and epic. The former weakens the latter's impact. If I'm mashing buttons in a simple and repetitive way to defeat "The Greatest Evil There Ever Was (tm)", the Evil seems a lot less evil. This is why I don't understand the reverence people have for Bioware, Bethesda, and RPG games in general. Neither company releases games that give me that sense of gameplay struggle and challenge befitting their storylines. The "immersion" of being in a Survival of the Fittest post-apocalyptic wasteland is destroyed when I can succeed in every battle by merely hitting the VATS button.
The Metal Gear series is the strange and unique entry in the action game genre that combines the storytelling you expect from an RPG, with the challenging, fast paced gameplay of an action game. It gave me exciting challenging gameplay experiences, and then made my actions feel important through its story. It's rare that a game does all of that together.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
The demo for Lord of the Rings: Conquest came out on the Playstation Network. Here are my impressions that I posted on Gamespot's forums:
I'm disappointed but I had quite a bit of fun anyway. The frame rate is too low when playing online, although it strangely improves to very acceptable levels in the Tutorial singleplayer mode, where there is even more action on screen than online. Graphics feel out of date, and I honestly prefer the graphics and animations from EA's Return of the King game over this one o_O
The melee combat does not feel that deep, and as someone else said, the lack of a Lock-On feature makes things a bit confusing. I would've liked a lock on feature for the melee classes at least. Right now you have to move both joysticks, then move your thumb off of one joystick in order to use your attack buttons. So your thumb is constantly going back and forth between the right stick and the attack buttons. Just feels kinda weird..
The Scout is interesting in that it feels so much like "ninja" class. He does martial arts and such. It feels out of place but still cool.
The horses seem kinda pointless. You get knocked off a horse very easily. I can only see it being used as a fast way to travel, don't think anyone will be fighting on it for kills..
My big gripe with the combat system is that it just doesn't look like what we saw in the film. Instead it has a very arcade game feeling to it. Archers are running about while shooting arrows. Warriors and scouts are running about frantically while swinging their weapons like madmen.
Multiplayer does not have a battlefield feeling at all. I was under the impression that in multiplayer, there would be ARMIES of AI running around while the human players also battled, thus giving you a big sense of epic fantasy warfare. Instead all you see are the players. 16 people on a battlefield. Wow. 16! Sigh..
Friday, December 19, 2008
Anyway, I found some cool videos on Hulu I thought I'd share on here. First up is "Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog." It's a romantic comedy musical about a wannabe supervillain. Made by the creator of Firefly and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I really enjoyed it! The second video is "Speed and Angels", a documentary about two people who have wanted to be fighter pilots since they were kids. The documentary follows their pursuit of that dream. Any fan of military aviation will love this. (Sucks that the embedded videos overrun my blog borders though.)
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
I was really looking forward to this MMO as the press was describing it as a big change to the MMO formula. Having not enjoyed a single MMO yet, I was excited to see if Warhammer Online would hook me into the genre. But nope.
I focused primarily on the PVP combat scenarios and found the game to be both boring and its controls needlessly complicated. The boredom stemmed from the core mechanics of MMOs, I suppose. My primary goal was to get my statistics to increase. That's pretty much it. There was no compelling story driving me forward. Get more money, get a bigger weapon, get more hit points.
The controls, I thought, were complicated due to the messy mash-up of turn-based, statistics heavy RPG mechanics (inherited from pen and paper games like D&D) and real-time gameplay.
As a melee fighter, I had to do the following in a typical combat situation: move mouse onto rapidly moving enemy, left-click. Hold right mouse button while using WASD and moving mouse in order to close the distance. Continue throughout battle. Use 1-6 keys to trigger special attacks and to use items.
Maybe for seasoned MMO players this is par for the course, but to me the number of buttons I was pressing to pull off relatively simple tasks seemed to be out of place for this style of game. A total of twelve different keys were repeatedly hit in a typical fight. And I thought my eyes had to be in far too many places. How's my health? How's my enemy's health? How's my mana? Has my skill recharged? Has my other skill recharged? What buffs/debuffs do I have on me? What buffs/debuffs does my enemy have on him? I can see how all these demands are easily met in a turn-based RPG situation, say a Final Fantasy game. Or how the demands are not a big concern in a real-time, PVE situation where the enemy is a braindead NPC monster that isn't moving at all (thus leaving the player with just the 1-6 keys to worry about). But the PVP situation seemed to throw everything into a mess.
My rating: 5/10
Interesting feature: Female pain noises sound "orgasmic."
Armored Core For Answer
I really need to stop buying games from FROM Software.
I'm a fan of "mecha" media, like Mechwarrior, Robotech/Macross, Transformers or Gundam. To me, robots are like a form of futuristic armored knights, and they anthromorphize military equipment in a way only a robot can. So even though I never really liked Armored Core 4's demo, I was interested to see if For Answer's 2 player co-op campaign would be enough for me to give the game another chance.
The campaign was really dull. Fodder enemies wait around the map doing nothing, patiently awaiting your arrival so that they can be killed off with ease. Every few missions, you fight an enemy closer to your level. Here, I ended up feeling like my primary battle was with the game's controls, and not with the actual enemy. In order to effectively pilot your mech, you have to use the two joysticks, the four face buttons which shoot and change weapons for you, as well as the triggers. The right joystick controls your facing, while the X and square buttons (on my Sixaxis) shot my weapons. This means I could not control where my mech was looking at while shooting at the same time. This causes a serious and common problem. Anytime you are shooting your weapon, you are giving your target more and more time to leave the center of the screen. It's a very awkward setup that can't be fixed up entirely, even by customizing the controls. Imagine if an FPS game forced you to choose between tracking your enemy with your gun, or shooting that gun. Yeesh.
So the co-op play didn't change the fact that the game just wasn't that great. There's no story to speak of, and the multiplayer combat never feels particularly satisfying. And the voice chat seems broken. Seems pretty rare for a PS3 game to have decent voice chat though. Lame.
My rating: 6/10
Interesting feature: The game seems to take a jab at relaxed immigration policies. One of the factions in the game is considered very pro-democracy, but it is said that its "ideals are being eroded due to its immigration policy which lets anyone who wants to enter become a citizen." Not sure what to make of that, but it caught my ear.
A friend of mine was a QA tester for the bulk of this game's development cycle and had convinced me the game was going to be terrible. But I thought it was really fun. I liked how the game has no HUD. Your health is on the back of your character. Your ammo is on the readout hovering above your gun when you aim it. You access items through a hologram system, and the game doesn't let you pause the game to use items either. All this really helped to immerse me into the game. The sound design was excellent, too.
My biggest complaint is that the game spent far too much time in dark corridors. The first three quarters of the game has a very repetitive look and feel to its environments, and there are few areas that I found memorable. I never felt the same way about Resident Evil 4, which seemed to keep different kinds of environments coming at the player at a good pace.
I liked the controls of Dead Space and wish Resident Evil 5's creators would emulate it.
Rating: 7.5 / 10
Gears of War 2
I thought the campaign was significantly weaker than Gears of War 1's campaign. The level design seemed far too linear in that enemies were constantly appearing straight ahead of me, and there seemed to be far fewer opportunities to flank enemies than in the first game. This resulted in a pretty repetitive campaign. Get behind cover. Wait for enemy to pop up behind their cover, shoot enemy, repeat until they die.
There was no story to speak of, and the multiplayer continues to squander the game's unique cover system. Nearly every battle ends in a near point blank range battle between shotgun users. And being caught out in the open is hardly a risk like it is in other FPS games like Rainbow Six or Call of Duty since you can infinitely dive around. Weapon choice remains shallow, and they've actually made things worse by allowing you to use your grenades as a kind of proximity mine, resulting in a lot of cheap feeling kills.
Rating: 6.5 / 10
An incredibly boring game. This game's popularity completely baffles me. I played it for at least 10 hours and felt half-asleep the whole time. I kept playing hoping to see something exciting or interesting happen, but nothing ever came. I can only imagine that players are enjoying the post-apocalyptic nuclear wasteland environment of the game, which is pretty unique for a first-person game.
What else appeals to fans of this game?
For me, the combat was extremely simplistic, and felt far inferior to even the most basic FPS games of 10+ years ago. Some have said that instead of treating it like an FPS, view it as an RPG combat system but from an FPS perspective. Even if I do that, what is really here that makes the combat interesting? I press V to engage the VATS system. I choose my target. I execute. All enemies are quickly dealt with in this manner, and I didn't even do anything! I didn't see any tactical or strategical depth to the combat of Fallout 3, and while I'm not a big fan of RPGs to begin with, I was under the impression that their combat typically has some kind of challenge...
Rating: 6 / 10
Left 4 Dead
Technically excellent, but the game feels very repetitive after just a short while, and in many ways, does not feel any deeper than those House of the Dead light gun games you can find at an arcade. You shoot zombies. You shoot a lot of them. I can see a lot of potential in the game if many additions are made, but as it is right now, I have no idea how EA/Valve justified its multi-million dollar advertising campaign, or how gamers justify paying full price for such a shallow game. I paid $20 thanks to a Black Friday deal, and even that seems too much.
Rating: 7.0 / 10
The game needs more game modes. More things to do. Here are some suggestions.
- There needs to be more risk-taking opportunities for players. More reasons for players to leave the group. Right now, everyone knows to stick together. But as any zombie movie fan knows, things get most interesting when the group splits up. When there's some in-fighting between the humans. I think there needs to be powerful and rare items in each game that selfish players might leave the group for in hopes that it will ensure their survival, even if it means increased risk at first.
- There needs to be a strong scoring system. Right now, it's hard to tell who the best player was in the group. You can sorta get a feel for it by waiting for the credits at the end of a scenario, but that takes up to an hour to see.
- Create a game mode where ammo is much more limited. I feel like I always have far too many bullets.
- Create a game mode where two teams of humans are in competition. Not only must they fight each other, but also the zombie hordes. Perhaps the escape vehicle of a map only has room for ONE of the teams. Both teams race to the end, killing each other on the way there, while fighting off zombies. Weapon and resources are limited, and killing enemy survivors means you can take their stuff.
Another idea.. one team is the military, the other is of survivors. The military must fight their way to the survivors, who are themselves fighting increasingly powerful waves of zombies. The military then escorts them out to safety.
Another idea... the military has been sent in to cleanse all witnesses, along with the Infected. The survivors need to evade the military and the zombies. This would create interesting situations where the survivors might lead the military into a Witch or Tank, where the zombies would actually be saving the survivors. This idea could also be a three-team game mode. Zombies vs military vs survivors.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
I spent a couple months working at Perfect World Entertainment as a game tester for their North American release of their game, Perfect World. I made this trailer for them. Tell me what you think.
I think the music goes really well with it, but being my first trailer for anything, it does feel sloppy in a lot of ways. You can see targeting circles around the feets of enemies, there are screen ratio inconsistencies, and other problems. D'oh! I'm glad the Youtube viewers like it, though. I have to say that I feel kinda dirty making a trailer that spices up the game so much, when I personally found the game dreadfully boring. Haha.
After my temp contract was up at PWE, I got a job as an Audio Video PC Technician, and did that for about 3 and a half months. This was a cool job in many ways, and definitely had the coolest bunch of coworkers I've had. I got to have all expense paid trips to Orlando and Seattle, too. And the job itself was easy enough. I mostly just pushed and lifted heavy objects around. It was good exercise, but the commute was too much, and ultimately I've decided to return to school for some Cisco networking training, which I hope will get me a better paying job that is closer to home. I've also landed a great part-time contract job doing audio editing work. It'll be the perfect job for me if I can get more hours.
In my next post, I'll try to review all the cool (or not cool) gaming stuff that's been pouring in this season.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Saturday, June 28, 2008
Suppressive fire in FPS games, or lack thereof.
If you've watched many war movies, you've probably heard one of the characters yell out "Lay down suppressive fire!" or "Give me covering fire!" at some point. And with FPS games like Call of Duty and Battlefield trying to emulate these war movies, you'd probably assume that suppressive fire was a battle tactic that would be emulated in some way in these games, and in their multiplayer portions particularly. But for the most part, the tactic of suppressive fire is ineffective in FPS games. Why is this? And what can be done to change this?
Today, I played Battlefield Bad Company. As in most FPS games, the light machine guns found in Bad Company are some of the worst weapons in the game. Not being accurate enough for long range shooting (the realm of assault and sniper rifles), and not accurate enough on the move for close quarters combat (the realm of submachine guns and shotguns), the LMGs don't really have a role to fill. This is true of the LMGs in most other semi-realistic FPS games, too, such as Rainbow Six Vegas, Counter-Strike, and Battlefield 2. In all of these games, it is rare to see a LMG-using player top the score charts (and if they do so in the Battlefield games, they're usually there because they are supplying ammo/health to other players).
I later played some Company of Heroes, an RTS game where the machine gun is far more useful. A few seconds of machine gun fire on any infantry unit will send them to the ground with the "Suppressed!" status, slowing their rate of movement and fire drastically. A few more seconds and they'll usually be given a "Pinned!" status, unable to do anything at all but cower in fear.
Seeing that "Suppressed!" indicator pop up time and again in COH made me go to Wikipedia to look up what Suppressive fire is exactly, and why the tactic is so absent from FPS games and its treatment of machine guns.
Note my emphasis above. "To be kept fearful." I think this is the key element that is missing from FPS games, one that keeps LMGs from doing their job of suppressive fire. And it is missing for an obvious reason: FPS players aren't afraid of bullets or death like real soldiers are. Unlike in real life, FPS death is just a temporary affliction, usually one that lasts no more than 10 seconds. It's no wonder suppressive fire and the LMGs that are supposed to be delivering it are so ineffective in FPS games.
Suppressive fire (also known as covering fire) is a term used in military science for firing weapons at or in the direction of enemy forces with the primary goal of reducing their ability to defend themselves or return fire, by forcing them to remain under cover.
Suppressive fire differs from lethal fire (i.e. shoot-to-kill) in that its primary objective is to get the enemy to "keep their heads down" and thus reduce their ability to move, shoot, or observe their surroundings. While soldiers may be injured or killed by suppressive fire, this is not its main purpose...
To be effective, suppressive fire must be continuous enough to keep the enemy suppressed - that is, to force them to remain behind cover. As long as the enemy can be kept fearful (emphasis mine) of the next round coming in, they will not consider moving or shooting back. If there is so much incoming fire that the enemy can not move or shoot, the enemy is said to be pinned...
Any ranged weapon with a reasonably fast rate of fire can be used to suppress. But suppressive fire is usually delivered by specialized weapons, such as machine guns. Within an infantry squad, this role is usually filled by squad automatic weapons,also know as SAWs, like the FN Minimi, the RPK and the RPD, especially when attacking, as these weapons can be quickly deployed. Suppressive fire can also be delivered using other weapons such as assault rifles, but the volume and intensity of fire generated is less than that of machine guns, as the rifles overheat more rapidly and require reloading more often.
So how can suppressive fire, and the idea of "fear" be put into a multiplayer FPS game? And can it be done without reducing the fun of the game?
I've got three ideas that I've borrowed from other games.
#1 - Warhammer's Morale
Like fear, morale is another emotional concept that is absent from FPS games. In Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War, players were able to wittle down the morale of squads with certain weapons or spells. Once a squad's morale hit zero, the squad "broke" and became very ineffective. At this point, the player had little option but to take that squad and retreat it out of the battle, where its morale could regenerate back up.
In an FPS game, morale could work almost as a second kind of health bar. Once depleted, the player would be unable to fight (use any weapons of any kind) and be forced to find some kind of safer ground. And the #1 reducer of morale would be light machine gun fire. Now, the LMG fire wouldn't have to HIT the player, and I think that's important. The bullets would merely have to land near or whiz past the player in order to decrease their morale bar. In this way, the idea of "keeping the enemy's head down" with the sheer volume of fire of an LMG would be emulated.
Perhaps LMG bullets would create temporary "areas of emotional influence" depending on where they were going and where they impacted. If the target is near or inside these areas, morale depletes. Once morale is gone, the target must leave those areas, and regenerate morale a bit, in order to use weapons again.
While I would love to see this idea in an FPS game, I'm not sure if this would provide most players with a deeper game play experience... or a more annoying one. Having a "morale" bar, and one that can so drastically affect game play when it depletes, may slow the pace of the game too much for some.
#2 - Metal Gear Solid 4's Psyche
In MGS4, Solid Snake has a Psyche meter, which represents his psychological state. As it depletes, he becomes a less effective soldier. He moves slower, shoots and reloads slower, he controls weapon recoil less effectively, and when aiming a gun, his hands sway more. None of these negative effects are so disabling that you can't fight at all, though.
As above, being in proximity of LMG fire would have a negative impact on your soldier's Psyche. Low enough Psyche and your effectiveness becomes a bit less than what you'd normally have.
I like this idea the most because it is the most subtle. While it wouldn't recreate the idea of suppressive fire to the extent that I'd like, it is probably the most tolerable of the ideas for the mainstream FPS audience. It gives the LMG user that extra reason for being while not pissing off everyone else too much :-P
#3 - Company of Heroes' Suppression system
Finally, the COH system of suppression could be emulated in an FPS. Players who are taking LMG fire would first be suppressed, and forced to crouching or prone positions. Rate of fire would be reduced. This idea would probably be too frustrating for most people though. Like with the Morale idea, the flow of the game becomes too altered. Imagine being suppressed, forced to crouch and shoot slower as the LMG's teammates flank your position and open fire on you. The feeling of vulnerability would likely be too high and frustrating.
So those are my three ideas. What do you think? While I would love to see all three ideas in action, I think something like #2 is the most reasonable.
That being said, I also feel the likelihood of FPS fans ever seeing a well done suppressive fire system of any kind to be very low. FPS LMGs will probably continue their current "nearly useless" status for years to come, as there's no indication that any FPS developer has plans to emulate the "emotions" of war fighting that the suppressive fire tactic is designed to exploit. Without the emotional/psychological element in FPS games, suppressive fire is an idea that will continue to remain in the real world and in the dialogue of war movies.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Monday, May 19, 2008
In the End from jerry ku on Vimeo.
Here's my final project for a video editing class I took this semester.
I'm graduating from school on Saturday with a B.A. in Broadcasting/Electronic Communication, w/ an emphasis in Audio Production. It's funny.. if you had asked me 4 years ago if I'd be getting an "arts" degree, I'd have laughed out loud. Me and art? Pshh, whateva! But here I am now...
I'm glad to be done with school, but at the same time I'm a bit pessimistic about finding a job related to my degree. I'm hoping to land an Audio-Visual Technician job right now, but no luck so far. Pressing buttons on a machine and listening to sounds and pictures come out is something I can see myself doing for a while. :)
I've got a lot of games to catch up with. I still want to replay some games on harder difficulties, like Onimusha Dawn of Dreams and Ninja Gaiden Sigma (the sequel comes out in 2 weeks). Then I've got to try that World Ends with You game on the DS, Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword, and Echochrome on the PSP. I've also got Lair for the PS3 waiting to be played through (they came out with a patch that lets you finally play the game using analog controls instead of the motion sensor controls). And Grand Theft Auto IV on my 360, Rainbow Six Vegas 2 on the PC. Maybe I'll start Crisis Core over, too (started that on Hard difficulty. BIG mistake.)
Hmm. That's a pretty huge list. Maybe I'll have to skip replaying some of those games... Metal Gear Solid 4 is coming out soon...
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Monday, March 24, 2008
Monday, February 11, 2008
Sunday, January 27, 2008
I've been playing Company of Heroes, World in Conflict, Warhammer 40K, Mario Galaxy, Earth Defense Force 2017, Team Fortress 2, and Rock Band.
Rock Band's such a great game. I highly recommend it to everyone :) Ever since I started playing the game, I've developed a great deal of respect for real drummers, as I can't complete most of the songs on Hard when playing the drums.
One of the weakest aspects of Rock Band is that the songs have pretty crummy vocals. Most of the songs just aren't very good songs to sing. I can't imagine any fans of Karaoke Revolution or Singstar really getting into Rock Band for long. This game is really biased in favor of the guitar and drum players. Most Rock Band players don't seem to mind though, judging by the leaderboard statistics. Because so few people bother to pick up a microphone, I rank around #2,000 on the leaderboards. Meanwhile, my guitar and drummer position is in the #20,000 and #30,000 area! It's not because I'm so good at singing, but simply because no one is interested in singing. Still, I give Rock Band a score of 9/10.
World in Conflict is a fun RTS game, but it seems overrated to me. It scored mostly 90% scores in the press. But the game's rock-paper-scissors mechanic feels too simplistic for me to get into. The biggest strength of the game is the multi-player, where it has a very convenient pick-up-and-play system, similar to what you'd see in FPS games like Call of Duty or Battlefield. You can join a game and leave anytime you want without feeling like you're dooming your teammates by doing so. World in Conflict... 7.5/10.
After enjoying the Cloverfield film, I picked up Earth Defense Force 2017 on Ebay so I could shoot giant monsters rampaging across a city. The graphics are pretty crummy, but they get the job done. It's a simple and fun arcade shooter. Not worth the original $40-50 price tag that it released with, though! Earth Defense Force... 7/10.
Team Fortress 2 is a fun game. It seems to have become really popular, judging by how often I see it mentioned on various game sites and forums. This baffles me, as the game seems almost identical to Team Fortress Classic, which I swear I was playing around 10 years ago. I would've liked much more change to the formula. 7/10
I also played through Mass Effect a couple of times. This game was a disappointment for me. The gameplay, like in most Bioware games, is pretty terrible. The AI is awful, the shooter combat is too simple and less exciting than the Doom and Heretic games of 10 years ago. The story was top-notch and had me playing through the game in marathon sessions until I could complete it, but with poor gameplay, the game has almost no replay value once the dialogue has been fully explored. Mass Effect felt like a high-tech "Choose Your Own Adventure" book, and not an actual game. I give it a 6/10.
Mario Galaxy is almost the opposite of Mass Effect. The game play is fantastic, but has no story at all. It's fun when you're playing it, but without even a basic story to follow and propel me forward, I've had trouble actually wanting to play the game. So it's ironic. The game is far superior to Mass Effect, but without a story, it's hard to appreciate. 7/10.