Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Games, and where they need improvement.

The video game industry is a fantastic and wondrous beast, but it does have its flaws. Bad voice acting, inane archaic functions, and people fucking with what should be a set template for controller schemes are just a few of the annoyances we put up with.

Sure there is a governing body that controls the rating system in terms of what game is suited for what age group, but there is no watchdog group that targets games for shitty practices that need to be stomped out. If said group existed, I would hope that they deal with the following issues in games we play today.

Instant Text Scrolling.

When a game has voice I'm more inclined to sit through a cut scene and listen to the conversations, so long as the voice acting is fine (see below). But if there is no voice and only text the last thing I want to do is read everything at the same pace as the voice. I'm quite sure that everyone in the world that can read, does so at a much faster rate than they talk. So why do games feel they have to drag out the text in a slow typing style animation? What the fuck is wrong with instant text? I would kill for instant text, with the option to press 'A' when I'm done reading.

Some games do this but they hardly do it right. And if the game has the ability to do instant text as well as slow scrolling text, the scrolling will ALWAYS be the default. I do not know a single person who will choose slow scrolling text over instant. It puts this sense of limitation on me from the get go and usually is the defining factor in when I choose to never play that game again. Here's a little scenario:

I'm lying in bed and I feel I want to play a few minutes of that game I've been enjoying before I go to sleep, I grab my DS, I turn it on, and sit through 2 minutes of scrolling text. I WILL turn that game off and probably have such a bad taste in my mouth every time I consider playing it I'll remember the feeling of frustration I had and will respond with a resounding "meh". And the game will sit in my DS for a month unplayed. By the time I go back to it I'll forget what part I'm up to and either restart, or won't bother.

Another thing that gets on my nerves are games that DO have instant text, but force you to wait a few seconds before skipping to the next part. Games like Phoenix Wright that have associated animations with the text and you always have to wait for the animation to be done. But the problem is that game uses the same 4 animations for each character CONSTANTLY. Every time I see that old judge shaking his head slowly I groan. Sure the time isn't long but it builds up, and slowly chips away at your patience until you explode in a fit of gamer rage. Oh look, Godot is drinking coffee for the 700th time today.. wait wait wait.. oh I see, he spit it out. AGAIN.

Voice Acting

Look, if you're going to shell out money for voice acting, hire someone who is at least capable of doing it without sounding like a 'text to speech' program. Is it that fucking hard? Games with shitty voice acting must not know they have shitty voice acting. They use long winded cut scenes that make me want to kill myself, and they almost always include a female character with a voice 2 octaves higher than a screeching cat. It's disgusting.

I went to school with a guy who ridiculed me for playing games that still used text instead of voice. To this day I still don't know why. Out of all the games I've played over the years the number of them with good voice acting pales in comparison to the bad. It seems like bad actors are a staple of the video gaming industry and it's one of the many things that put a halt to it being recognised as nothing more than "cheap entertainment" in the eyes of the fuckers who don't play them (I'm looking at you Roger Egbert, when you die I will not mourn).

I do look fondly back on games like Resident Evil when voice acting was a new novelty and laugh at how bad they were, but come on, that was over 10 years ago. We've improved graphics beyond our wildest dreams in that time yet we're still at the mercy of a 6 dollar per hour D-list celebrity? Fuck off.

But the voices aren't always at fault, which brings me to


Any story, in any medium, needs to be well written to grab the attention of the reader. But a lot of video games gloss over an engaging story by trying to distract us with the game play.

I'm going to say this now, Fighters don't need a story. The worst part about any fighter is the shitty cut scene when you start playing a character, and the shitty cut scene when you finish playing a character. You've made a game that has muscle toned men and women with massive breasts, fuck using a story, just have a cut scene of her jumping about. Dead or Alive nearly does this right with its female characters, but if you're going to make your girls look like that, who are you kidding? Throw them in a skimpy outfit and be done with it.

Fighters are fighters. You chose your character, then you go on your way. From that moment on you don't give a flying fuck if your fighter has a troubled past, or is the brother of another fighter. All you care about is using the right combination of cheap kick moves to corner your opponent and make him throw his controller into a wall.

This method can be put to use in any genre of game (well... NEARLY any genre). If your story is shit, don't use it. Why spend thousands of dollars hiring game writers when your game doesn't need it.

Example: Super Mario Brothers. Story: Save princess

That's it. One of the greatest and beloved games ever to exist, and the entirety of the story can be summed up in two words. Even the latest versions of game are essentially the same story. Except Super Mario Sunshine, which is probably why I never finished it.

And that's a fun game. A story is great if it itself is great, but shitty writing is unforgivable. Some games don't need a story. Don't try to force one where it isn't needed. I can't stress enough how bad stories in fighters are, nobody gives a fuck about the inner workings off their character. Chances are you only chose said character because you know a combination of moves that allow you to win against most people with as little skill as possible.

Cut Scenes

I want to skip cut scenes, and I want the option in a menu to go back to previously seen cut scenes. Some games have cut scenes that take up to 10 minutes, and most of the time you can't pause them at all. You can either skip them, or just have to let them play. So if I have to be called away from my console for some reason I'm fucked. I have to shut off the game and re-watch the entire cut scene again, because that will be the only time in that play through that I'll be able to.

It's not that fucking hard, all the game devs need to do is link the call function to a menu to grab a viewed cut scene, hell even a fast forward, pause and rewind function wouldn't be hard to code as most long cut scenes are pre-rendered anyway, a 2 second youtube clip of a dog on fire has more functionality than your 60 million dollar game. There's something wrong there.

And on the other hand, I play games a few times through, and the last thing I want is to have to sit through an unskippable cut scene that I can lip sync to because I've seen it so much.

I'm not asking for the world here, I'm asking for a little bit of control.

Saving and Pausing

I want to save everywhere, I don't expect to save in mid battle in an RPG, nor mid fight or mid race in fighting and racing games. But I do expect to be able to save everywhere else. Save points are an outdated function that need to be purged. This will benefit users immensely but will also be a point winner for the partners/children/parents of users. Instead of responding with "hang on I gotta find a save point", you can reply instead with a more suitable "yep, this race has about 3 more laps in it". 3 laps in a race tells the person you'll be between 2-6 minutes, but sometimes finding a save point, especially with a cut scene in between that you can't skip (see above), you could be waiting for up to 20 minutes. And that's going to piss people off.

Some games don't let you pause properly either, instead interpreting the press oflisten to the conversations, sal button to pause) as a "skip forward" button, making you miss a cut scene, or an important line of text.

The Start button should always pause the game no matter what, in fact, if every game had the START = PAUSE ability and within that pause screen was a save option, that would be one of the greatest improvements in the history of gaming.

Confusing controller scheme and lack of choice

Some people like inverted controls and camera, others don't. What I hate is coming across a game that doesn't give me a choice to switch from their default option. You want to know how hard it is to switch controller inversion in code? It's not. The code is already there for left and right, up and down, just fucking swap the functions to the opposite direction.

I also want to customize my controller scheme, gamers get used to a certain layout in game genres. R trigger = shoot/accelerate/strong punch. What we don't like is some new game from a narrow minded company who bring out a shooter where shoot is X/Green, and the R trigger makes the character duck or something. That will frustrate the fuck out of anybody. I don't know what goes through the minds of these people when they bring out these games.

Any developer that binds "Up" to "jump", needs to be castrated. Back in the NES days when you only had 2 buttons some games couldn't help but use Up for jump, but now controllers have so many buttons they're running out of ideas of what to assign them to. And people still make Up = Jump.

Artificially prolonging the game play

Although I'm not affected by this as much, I have a friend who hates it, so it's making the list.

You're playing a game that involves RPG elements. Be it an RPG itself, or a platformer with a levelling system. At some point in the game you're going to hit a wall. You'll be pitted against a boss that rips your head off and shits down your neck every time you blink at him. And the only way you can overcome him is to gain levels.

Not just a few levels either, you'll have to level up at least 10 times AND equip the best rarest gear you can find AND max out your skill points AND have every enchant/potion/aura at the ready AND have a "how to kill buttfuck insane boss" walk through printed out at your side. Now THAT is cheap.

Something is wrong in the mechanics of the game where you hit walls like these, they should really give you enough challenges that level you naturally before the final battle so when you do confront the big bad guy, you at least give him a run for his money. Sure you might need to tweak your skills and gear, but having to spend another 6 hours levelling up just to tackle him? It sucks the fun out of the game for people. The natural flow of the game is halted and you're forced to give yourself a training montage while you grind the night away.

What I'm asking for in all these issues is not much at all, but games companies continue to churn out shit that makes the industry cry.

We need regulation and consistency.

We won't get it.

1 comment:

Ncc Tardis said...

Agreed, Agreed, Agreed... you see where I'm going with this.

They really are basic issues there, that Start=Pause rule should be LAW.