Thursday, January 20, 2011

New Year's Gaming Resolutions

Ok, it’s nearly three weeks into the New Year, but I’ve been busy. We all moan about the things we wish developers would and wouldn’t do, the cheap habits they’ve got into and the beloved mechanics we wish they’d bring back. Gamers are a demanding bunch, and it seems to me that if I’m going to demand greater effort and commitment from developers, then I should show greater effort and commitment myself, so here are my personal New Years Gaming Resolutions. I’m hoping the rest of the Megabits team makes a few gaming resolutions as well, particularly Bojeeva, who needs to resolve not to lend people Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard - not unless they’ve done something really rotten.

I will not get the hump...
I have a hard drive full of games that I’ve saved after the first twenty minutes and have yet to return to. And not bad games either, these are good games, triple A titles that I’ve bought and started with plenty of vigour and anticipation. The thing is, that first twenty minutes of a game when you haven’t yet accessed enough plot and abilities to get you truly engaged but are having to devote all your concentration to learning the basics tends to be enough to soak up all the enthusiasm I bring to a new game. Once that’s expended, the game is forced to sit on my hard drive for weeks or months until I regain my enthusiasm. They all get played eventually, but I do wonder if that enforced gap between prologue and act 1 has detracted from my appreciation of the plot or pacing of some games. Who knows? All I can say is that in 2011 I will get over that hump in the prologue, and won’t abandon a game unless I’m abandoning it for good.

I will not play on easy...
Honestly, I never used to play on easy. I used to regard at as only a few steps up from cheating, not to mention a waste of the money I’d paid for my games. You know how it is though: a mate lends you a couple of games, you buy a couple, a few arrive from Lovefilm, and before you can say ‘short attention span’ you can see an entire years worth of gaming stretched in front of you: no surprises, no impulse plays, just grind. At least, that’s what happened to me a few months back, and the only way I could see to loosen up my gaming log jam was to get through the games a little quicker. The thing is, I now look at the list of titles in my gaming library and see half a dozen titles that I just don’t feel I’ve finished, despite having sat through the credits. So, resolution number two is to ignore the easy modes. If time is short, I’ll just play fewer games.

I will not play on saddo settings...
And as a counterpoint, I can’t help think of the hours I wasted attempting to slog all the way through Call of Duty 2 on Veteran difficulty. It would normally take me about a week to finish a Call of Duty game (excluding the surprisingly short Modern Warfare), but in the case of CoD2 it took me about a week to finish the first three campaigns. At one point in the slog through Stalingrad I seemed to be spending twice as long staring at the loading screen as I was playing. There were times when simply moving from one room to the next would occupy days of gaming, and slowly but surely the game’s narrative broke down. How could it not, when each new section is preceded by hours upon hours of repetition? So, resolution number 3, I will not turn games from play into hard work by grinding through them on high difficulties just to get the GS.

I will not bitch about duration...
This one comes up time again in the reviews I read, and occasionally in the reviews I write, and I’m going to put a stop to it now. I am no longer going to moan about games being too short. I’ve just finished Split/Second: Velocity and it was very short, and perfectly sized. Any longer and it the joy of the explosive action would have worn off and been replaced by a feeling of déjà vu. Then there’s Portal: two hours if you’re good, six if you’re slow, and one of the most perfectly paced games I’ve ever come across. Conversely, the dumbness of the last two Call of Duties has made me wish they were over sooner. Dead Space was great, but those dim, creaking corridors got samey a couple of hours before the game had the decency to end, and don’t get me started on my tiresome slog through the first Mass Effect. No, I’ve decided, a game isn’t too short just because it’s good enough to leave me wanting more. I will only call a game too short if I feel genuinely short changed (say, less than six hours of good gameplay), and I’ll make sure that padded games don’t get an easy ride just because they give you a lot of play per pound.

I will not use mealy mouthed reviews to justify bad purchases...
Sometimes reviewers give bad games slightly wishy-washy, mealy-mouthed reviews because they’re trying not to give the game a thorough pasting in front of the PRs that supply the next disc of review code. But no matter how cynical you are, I’ve got news for you: that happens much less often than you think. More often, a review is wishy-washy because the reviewer is genuinely ambivalent. They may have identified plenty of strong elements that just don’t add up to an excellent whole, or they may have drawn the short straw and been forced to review a game that has excellent niche appeal but limited value for the broader audience. If you read and write enough reviews you soon learn to identify whether a game is great for a limited audience or rubbish, but in the hands of a gentle reviewer. Problem is, if I’ve got an urge to play a bad game, I’ll happily convince myself that the latter is the former. Nam games, American Civil War games, avant garde manga-styled roguelikes bursting with excellent character design, all these appeal to me. That’s why I convinced myself that the polite distaste in various reviews was more positive than it really was, and bought Shellshock: Nam 67, Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood, Darkest of Days and Baroque. Oh God, I can’t believe I spent good money on Baroque. Well from now on if I know something smells fishy I’m going to think tinned tuna rather than Thai calamari.

I will try new games and genres...
Did I mention that I’ve just played Split/Second: Velocity and thoroughly enjoyed it? Not so strange you might think, except that I thought I hated racing games, and haven’t played one by choice since Wipeout Fusion. Granted, I’ve been forced to play Forza and Superstars V8 for work, but given my druthers I’d usually steer clear of racing games. This got me thinking-I used to be a stat busting micro manager, utterly at home in the menus of a football management game or an RTS, yet I’ve played neither for years. I love the thinking behind most JRPGs, but never play them as I’m convinced that the reality will be grind and tiresome turn based team combat. My experience with Split/Second has made it clear that I’m hidebound, and have ignored games and genres that probably deserved more than an offhand dismissal. With that in mind, I will try several new games and new genres this year.

So, anyone else got any resolutions?

1 comments:

More variety in the games I play for me... partly why I'm pleased to have embarked on another Gamerscore Challenge this year. Also, think I'm going to try and beef up the difficulty settings a bit too!