Thursday, September 06, 2007


I've noticed that most of the games I've gotten recently have been INFURIATING. All in caps.

I've still been trying to play through Fire Emblem, but it's infuriating. 90% of your characters die in two or three hits. This is made worse because they almost always kill the enemy that attacks them, making a perfect opening for another enemy to slide right in and attack. Of course, once a character dies, you need to restart the entire chapter, because a dead character is dead forever. It's like fun, except you're driving needles under your fingernails.

I've been playing through Dead Rising. It's a fun game, except that the boss fights are insanely hard. I'm level... 28 now, and I'm still stuck on the first "real" boss - a psychotic clown. He took me from full health to dead in one twenty-second-long air-juggle combo. It's not unusual. I only have a row and a half of health, only enough to survive getting repeatedly run over and shot by the Dead Rising Warthog-equivalent for a minute and a half. Pshaw, chain guns are nothing compared to psychotic clowns.

I did finally beat Gears of War, but I had to play it on easy. Even then, some of the fights were "hey, you did something slightly wrong! You die." I especially like the way they start to kill you for being in the dark about five minutes before they actually tell you that the dark is what's killing you. They also had the irritating habit of restarting you BEFORE the minute-long unskippable cut scene.

Okay, this one's great. I've been playing a bit of the New Super Mario Brothers. Except that it only saves when you BEAT A CASTLE. When's the last time I wanted to play ten levels of Super Mario straight? A decade ago? I'm not going to put it in sleep mode, because I want to use my DS for other games. So I still haven't reached the second castle. ARGH.

There's a deeply flawed thinking in these kinds of situations. It's more common in Japanese games, but western games often make the same mistakes. I don't mind a game that gives me a challenge. In fact, I like a game that gives me a challenge. But I like my challenges to be less discrete. I don't like WIN/LOSE, especially in games where "lose" means having to play large chunks of the game over again.

All I can presume is that these guys decided to "up the difficulty", but didn't know how to do that without making the player have to replay the area eight times.

Know your game mechanics. Know what constitutes a challenge and what constitutes just being an asshole.


Mory said...

I've got an idea for how Fire Emblem could be fixed.

1. It should be much easier. I can't tell you how many times I lost a really good fighter because I made one bad move with him. Too much perfection is demanded. It's not fun to do the same thing over and over and over. It is fun the first time, when you haven't gotten bored with the story behind it yet. So you always ought to be able to win the first time.

2. No restarts. You want to get a character back, you need to restart the entire game. Don't want to do that? Didn't think so. So you're just going to have to figure out how to win without him. This is war, and not everyone should be able to make it through. The game's saving every turn so that you should have to think about what you're doing, not just so that you should have to load from farther back!

3. The "hero" units should have some more HP than everyone else, but should not be the most powerful fighters in the game. They're the ones giving orders, not the ones dying. Not so inspiring story-wise? Tough. You don't win a war by flinging yourself into danger at every opportunity.

4. You should only be able to control a character if he's within a certain distance from a "hero" unit. (Say, 8 steps.) Outside that circle, he'll be played by an AI whose goal is to survive and get back to the group. That way, you'll want to keep the heroes in the middle of the crowd, which lessens the chance that they'll be killed. If a character levels up to a certain point, he becomes a "leader" unit who can control others- effectively the same in battle as the heroes.

5. Hero units don't get much EXP from fighting. They get a little bit of EXP for every enemy their troops kill, and they get lots of EXP for completing hidden goals in the levels.

Craig Perko said...

That would turn it into a completely different game with completely different balancing issues, but it sounds like a solid basis.