Sunday, November 07, 2010

Why I Don't Buy

I normally don't do completely me-centric posts, but I'm going to talk about my purchasing habits.

I spend a lot of money on games: I buy at least two a month, normally much more. Not all of them are full-price. For example, the 40 games I own on never cost more than $15 each. However, I'm fine buying full-price games: I recently bought Fable III and the most recent Street Fighter for both 360 and PS3.

Right now, I buy literally every western RPG I find, indie or published, and quite a few of the Japanese ones. However, I'm going to change my policy: I'm going to stop buying RPGs or tactical games that came out on a console. I won't even be buying them for the computer. It's just gotten too painfully terrible.

There are many reasons, and they've finally combined in enough force to completely kill my interest.

First: "authentication". The plague of computer games, I buy many games that have minimal authentication - perhaps they require you to enter a code or something. However, I have found that all games that are released for both the PC and a console invariably have excessive authentication in the PC version. It's an old argument, but I'd like to point out that I don't even bother stealing these games: there are plenty of games with less excessive authentication, I just play them.

Second: "distractions". For some reason, RPGs for the console have started to get excessively metagamey. This includes continuous, repetitive, and invasive fourth wall breaking of every sort. The three most common types are A) begging you to spend real money for DLC. B) Constant and obnoxious accomplishment flogging. Just giving you an accomplishment for everything is stupid enough, but it's particularly bad when they pop up messages telling you that you're a bit closer to getting a pointless accomplishment.

C) is the most distressing: ruining the game by introducing elements from your console account. For example, in Fable III, the hero promises to make things right for the villagers. Up pops a contract-like thing. It says, "I, craigp, promise to" and shows my damn account icon. WRONG. The hero promises, not the login account. This is a ROLE PLAYING game, not WiiFit. Ugh.

Authentication and distraction are just the two most minor problems.

The "social invasion" is a plague for role playing games. Whenever you play a console RPG these days, it continually reminds you how well your friends are doing (automatically picked from the list), sends your stats to them, and lets you send gifts around.

Having a multiplayer mode is one thing. But continually reminding you that the RPG world you're adventuring in is just a shallow game? What kind of idiot decided that all games, even immersive RPGs, should have Facebook-style networking?

This social invasion actually has other characteristics: the games tend to act as much like a Facebook game (or set of games) as possible. To mention Fable III again, you are not a hero or a revolutionary. You are a landlord. The main gameplay is not the combat, but the retarded color minigames. All of this play inherits largely from casual games.

Again, casual games are fine. But I want to play an RPG. As far as I can tell, there are literally no Western RPGs released for the console in the past few years that aren't primarily collections of minigames.

This walks hand-in-hand with a general dumbing-down of gameplay. You can actually watch each western RPG chain get dumber and dumber. Mass Effect 2's gameplay was maybe half as complex as Mass Effect 1's, which was pretty simple already. These RPGs are sacrificing complexity in favor of simplicity, and often in favor of the worst parts of MMORPG play.

The last major problem I have with console RPGs is the lack of user generated content. If an RPG is released for a console, then even the computer version won't have much customizability. Gone are the days when you could make your own missions, add your own art. Even in games which are about customization, such as the Sims III, the scope is dramatically reduced compared to what is technically possible. These limitations are imposed.

These factors have finally become too much to deal with. Buying console RPGs is just guaranteeing a failure. I'll probably try to buy more Japanese console RPGs, but they have some other flaws (such as 5,901,503,053,915,913,051,390 hours required to beat them).

Right now, I think that RPG video games in general are in a trough: there aren't very many good ones being released. There are lots of pretty ones being released, but they're so crappy.

So I'm focusing mostly on indie games these days.

How about you?


Isaac said...

Triple-A RPGs have had a bit of a revival, but nothing that I've felt really pushed the genre. Not that I've played very many of them lately, being busy with the indie games.

Of course, I think that the indie games are currently at a throwback stage right now; most of them have a nineties (or eighties!) flavor to them. I'd guess that this goes back to good RPGs being so content intensive.

At least we have indie RPGs now. In the actual nineties I went heavy into roguelikes because action-RPGs took over the AAA market. (Yes I'm aware of the irony.)

Craig Perko said...

There are more AAA RPG titles being released, but they're horrible. Indie RPGs exist, but they're rare and very archaic... :P

Pippin said...

"Mass Effect 2's gameplay was maybe half as complex as Mass Effect 1's, which was pretty simple already."

This is kind of off topic to some extent, but as I happen to be playing ME2 right now (and ME recently), I was wondering where you get the "half-as-complex" idea from? I'm not saying I disagree, just wondering which aspects of the mechanics/rules/etc. lead you to make the statement.

Darius Kazemi said...

Have you played Recettear? It's the indie RPG about running an item shop. It's a complete throwback and I find it mostly unplayable due to its extreme old school vibe, but I respect what it's doing and you should check it out.

Craig Perko said...

Darius: I'll look into it. It's surprising how these games hide in the cracks. I sure hope there's no Steam requirement, though, or I'm not buying it.

Pippin: It's been a while since I played them, but Mass Effect 2 had fewer types of equipment and less customizable equipment. It favored the "recharge completely all the time you little wuss" method to insure that any given combat had absolutely no ramifications on the rest of the game.

While many people didn't like the planet exploration games, I didn't have anything against them. Their replacement - a minigame - is undeniably less complex and less immersive.

The only thing I thought was more deep than in the original was the ammunition system. It didn't make any damn sense, but at least it made you occasionally have to switch weapons instead of just using one weapon all the time in every encounter. Still, it would have been preferable to engineer encounters that are easier WITH DIFFERENT WEAPONS.

This isn't to say ME2 was a bad game. But it was a very simple game. Gorgeous, interesting characters, some fun plots... but as RPGs go, quite simplistic.

Darius Kazemi said...

Recettear can be bought on Impulse, GamersGate, or Steam. GamersGate and I think Impulse as well don't require a special client to download the game.

Darius Kazemi said...

Also, I take back my complaints about Recettear. I actually played through the demo, past the interminable opening dialogue scenes (which you can skip) and am GREATLY enjoying the game now.

Craig Perko said...

Sounds like high praise. I'll buy it when I get home.

Matthew Rundle said...

Can you talk about which things modern indie rpgs should do? Which archaic attributes should be jettisoned?

Craig Perko said...

Hm, I really think that deserves its own post. However, the problem is fundamentally in the engine: most indie RPGs that seem out of date have really poor graphics and extremely archaic menu systems.

I guess indie RPGs could just really benefit from a touch of innovation. But I understand that even just providing the content is a pretty significant effort, so asking them to write new engines to support things like real-time combat or crafting systems that don't suck might be a bit much.

TickledBlue said...

I gave up on CRPG's ages ago. Most of my gaming friends see me as a bit of a curmudgeon as I bitch and moan about the lack of immersion, boring and repetitive gameplay and little in the way of true character development.

They point to good story, citing Bioware as purveyors of such. I say I'd rather read a good book than put up with the story most AAA RPG's tout as 'good'.

I've run and played pen and paper rpg's since I was 12 and I often think that as the current crop of traditional roleplaying games expand their horizons with so many excellent indie games and ideas starting to seep into the mainstream their computer/console counterparts are going through some kind of de-evolution.

Personally I stopped buying them as well and I watch from the outside all the achievements on Steam my friends clock up in Fallout New Vegas. I'm a little sad that I seem to no longer find that kind of thing fun. I don't know whether it is as much the games themselves to blame as it is my ravenous consuming of them in the past that have made my tastes so jaded now...

But it's meant I'm trying other things I wouldn't have tried in the past. Giving my time to things like Minecraft, Polynomial and the less indie such as STALKER and Just Cause 2. I'm enjoying them just fine, and I get my roleplaying fix with my friends as I slowly drag them towards more indie games using lures like the Dresden Files RPG with the hopes of getting them to join me in a game of Don't Rest you Head, Hot War or maybe one day Universalis.