Monday, March 03, 2008

Harder! Harder!

(This isn't pointless snark, I'm getting to something.)

Maybe I'm just getting slow in my old age, but has anyone else noticed that more and more games seem to have really irritating segments that don't use the same play style?

For example, I'm playing Black Site right now. It's Gears of War without the cover mechanics. I mean, really. I keep thinking I've already played it.

On the current level, there's a giant plant monster on a bridge, and you're manning a helicopter's turret. The thing is that this challenge (presumably a boss) involves primarily shooting down balls of fire that turn and arc.

I keep dying, because the rest of the game has been about shooting bad guys until they fall over dead. I'm having a hard time switching gears to this oldschool "shoot the missiles", especially with thumbstick controls. (This isn't mentioning the fact that the last checkpoint was ten minutes before and your other squad member is just sitting on his ass in the copilot's seat.)

I find this is true in a lot of games. In God of War, I was thoroughly stymied by a timed segment. In Skate, I'm screwed by the race sections. There seems to be a modern obsession for creating these play types that aren't part of the rest of the game.

I can see the theory behind it. Switch it up, keep it feeling fresh. They do vehicle segments, races, weird requirements... it feels like I'm seeing a juggling act.

Now, one game that did well was Time Splitters: Future Perfect. While it did have a few irritating parts, the majority of the weird screwy games are extras. Some of the extra games are irritating and pointless, some I love to pieces. But I bet that each player finds different weird games attractive.

Classically, these kind of "side-games" are not common. I think to a large extent it's because we have so much more space and computation to throw around: we can create a segment with different rules because we have the power to do so. It's fairly recent, only really happening since GTA3.

But I think it's almost a cop-out. It's almost like saying "my core mechanics aren't interesting, so here are some distractions!"

What do you think?


Ryan said...

Oooooh man... The games based on The Matrix really annoyed me with the different types of game play.

Enter the Matrix randomly had you either driving or being driven around. If you were driving, it was sometime not obvious where you needed to go. If you were being driven, the driver really sucked at driving! Also, the end game for one character was completely different from the rest of the game!

It was similar for The Path of Neo... The final battle used a completely different combat system. Why did I bother to get good at the other combat system when I have to use something else at the very end of the game? I never did finish that battle because the new system was totally unintuitive.

I can't be the only person who played those games purely for the martial arts/bullet-time gunnery. By switching it up, they actually made me less interested in the game.

Craig Perko said...

That's what I feel. I mean, if you want to have a "Neo Drives a Car" game, make it an extra that gives you a medal or a new costume or something.

Patrick said...

I'm stuck on a level of Even More Bloons (talk about stacking distractions) that requires a completely new physics manipulation that there is no prior training for. So the question is, does the extreme difficulty of the Nth iteration of a game result from unprecedented depth or over-extension? Where do you draw the line?

Craig Perko said...

I think it's a sign that too many games are suffering from feature bloat.

Red Bull said...

I 100% agree with you. A game should have a small set of central mechanics that are tight, interesting and expressive. But I have to disagree with including God of War in your list of effenders. Since it had those timing/mashing sections throughout, I think they count as "core" mechanics.

Craig Perko said...

Perhaps you're right: it was fairly early in the game when I got irritated and quit.

Jojo said...

I agree, and the number of games that do this recently are enormous. I don't think that the problem is having too many mechanics in the game, but in forcing people to play with these new mechanics when they aren't central and (often) aren't polished.

Craig Perko said...

Yes, and it should also be noted that I suck at some kinds of gaming and am good at others. I don't want to have to play the whole game on "easy" because I suck at thirty seconds of it.

Anonymous said...

Hardly a new phenomenon!

Did you ever play Pirates? Lots of NES games had something like sidescroller segments followed by top-down shooting or what-have. Actually it used to be quite common, like the Cinemaware games for example.

Craig Perko said...

To some extent, you're definitely right. This isn't a new phenomenon, but it is a rapidly growing one.

But it's important to have a clear difference in our heads between a shitty segment of a game and a core game mechanic. I'm not arguing for simpler games.