Giant Bomb News

206 Comments

You Should Try Failing More Often, Detective Phelps

Why the impulse to always "get it right" is ultimately less interesting.

Could I have avoided this somehow, Zach?

Chasing a fleeing, desperate man across a falling construction set, it dawns upon me:

"I've fucked up."

Virtual heart racing from sprinting, I'm relentlessly tracking down a man that I've, up until this moment, deduced was guilty of a horrifying crime. He killed someone.

He didn't, though. And as I catch up to him, it's clear there are no more locations to visit, no more suspects to talk to, no more pieces of evidence to string along. The end of the road is in sight. While I (the player) know I've bungled the case, I know the suspect's innocent, and there were five questions that I shouldawouldacould answered better if I'd thought about the whole thing longer, my evidence points to him.

Someone has to take the fall, right?

Someone's got to pay, even if that someone isn't actually the right one, so the papers and the bosses and the neighborhood (does the list ever ever end?) are happy, and as the case draws to a close and I'm assigned my two-star rating, all I can feel is bitter disappointment. It's not the kind of controller chucking misery you get from screwing up a boss battle for the upteenth time, but a real "aw, shucks" realization that I've done a truly bad thing and it just felt wrong.

More games should let you fail. It's less rewarding to be right every time; it's not how life is.

In L.A. Noire, failures are still "succeses." The case is "solved." You might curse the sometimes frustrating adventure game logic driving the interrogations, but I can't help but thumbs up experiences where the fail state isn't just a game over screen. It's why seeing the "you got caught" message during the stealth sections feels so out of place. The rest of the game goes so explicitly out of its way to push players into gray areas, while the action remains black and white.

I twitch every time someone on my Twitter feed curses that they've been awarded less than five stars on a case in L.A. Noire and begin the case from scratch. Give failure a chance, ya'll.

Believe me, I understand the impulse--I have it, too. What's powerful is saying no to it and seeing how you respond. As gamers, we've been trained to achieve perfection, whether it's navigating a sea of bullets or collecting some hidden items. We don't like second place, especially if it's preventable. That's boring. Why should it always go your way? We're constantly asking developers to create more emotional gaming experiences, and though I can't say the same for you, but my personal failures burn more than my successes. They're what drive me to be better.

I'm reminded of the spit-take reaction to Aeris in Final Fantasy VII. I'm convinced the developers wouldn't kill her if they made the game today; they'd have made resurrecting her some achievement, otherwise it would tick too many people off. I want to get pissed off, feel sad, experience regret and engage deeper than the latest macho power fantasy (which I like, too!).

Want to play something moving? Try Jordan Magnuson's The Killer. I want that on a large scale.

There was a similar moment in Grand Theft Auto IV that I wrote about, too, in a post titled "My Conscience, And How ‘Grand Theft Auto IV’ Made Me Feel Regret." I talked about when you're asked to kill Playboy X or Dwayne. Letting Playboy X live presents a cooler gameplay path, with the possibility to grab a larger apartment, while Dwayne, recently released from prison and seeking redemption, offers me nothing as a player, besides toying with my virtual compassion.

I killed Dwayne. Here's how I reacted back in 2008:

"It felt wrong, though. In my gut, I was killing someone with a second chance. Dwayne served his time. But in a dog-eat-dog virtual world, it was about me. Except it wasn’t. It was about me, the player. When Playboy X called me up after the deed was done and denounced our relationship — calling me 'cold' — he was right. There was a knot in my stomach over this. I made the wrong decision. It was too late; the auto save function had kicked in. Dwayne’s fate was signed, sealed, delivered. I have to live with that decision for the rest of the game."

If I could have done that moment over, reloaded a previous save, I might have. How tragic.

I want more moments like that, please. Don't you?

Patrick Klepek on Google+
206 Comments
Posted by Kilnik
@Sharkington said:
And there's nothing satisfying about failing in L.A. Noire, because the game doesn't even acknowledge it in any meaningful way. Total and utter failure in one case has absolutely no bearing on any subsequent case. It's never even mentioned again.   
 
Except in the Dahlia cases, Cole is constantly asking if he got the right person; he's always bringing it up in my play through.
Posted by StarmanDeluxe

It's hard, living with your mistakes. Games let you erase your mistakes with a push of the reset button, which can be very appealing to perfectionists. Developers must approach consequence carefully in their games, so as not to alienate the player too much for making mistakes.

Posted by Giantstalker

Am I not getting something about that flash game, it seemed boring and pointless.

L.A. Noire is a well made game but the fact that it boils down to predetermined games of rock/paper/scissors started putting me off the interrogation sequences. "Fantastic technology but frustratingly executed" was what I took away from it when I stopped playing halfway through.
 
Doing things wrong, and having to stick with it, adds a neat flavor to a game. I agree. The way L.A. Noire works, with it's inconsistent "truth" "doubt" "lie" system, I consistently felt cheated out of a fair chance at interrogations and failure doesn't feel legitimate... especially when the next case completely ignores how badly you did on the previous one.
 
Basically I'm saying I like the concept but LA Noire's interrogations suck.

Posted by LackLuster

great article I feel the same way

Edited by Ario

I actually think GTA4 handled the moral choices very badly.
 
Take the choice between Dwayne and Playboy X, there was no "right thing to do," the choices were laid out with equal reasoning behind each, but you were clearly punished for going one way over the other.
In contrast to LA Noire, you're supposed to get the case right, so you'd expect to be punished for mistakes.

Posted by WoodenPlatypus

I never had much of a gaming conscience. 
Until my mother sat in while I was playing GTA4 on day. She was going crazy when I was shooting people in the park saying "A stray bullet could kill a child" (tried to explain there are no kids, she was having none of it) and then went wild when I ran over an old woman saying "That's someones grandma!"
Posted by MEATBALL
@MEATBALL
A friend of mine couldn't grasp this idea at all. I watched him repeatedly reload one of the earlier cases at the slightest hint that he'd messed up. Repeatedly. This time last year I witnessed him do something similar with Heavy Rain, which was even worse. I can't imagine how much playing these games that way would suck the enjoyment our of them.

Hearing Brad talk about needing to go back and reload an earlier ME2 save so he could get through it without squad/crew members dying is similarly frustrating. Sometimes "failure" in these games that allow you to make the "wrong" decisions without seeing a game over is just as valid or satisfying as doing things the right way. I felt absolutely terrible in my most recent ME2 playthrough when I failed to prevent Thane's son from becoming a killer and witnessed Thane's resultant depression. And you know what? In that case I wouldn't have it any other way. Sometimes it's good to let a game make you feel like a dog, it can be a really interesting outcome and another way that games can provide an experience quote unique to the medium.
Damnable iPhone! Hopefully that's still readable >_>
Online
Posted by kmg90

I feel proud in saying that I got the reference in the picture caption, it made me chuckle

Posted by the_OFFICIAL_jAPanese_teaBAG

luckily i saved right before Playboy X gave me a call.  at first i killed Dwayne and after Playboy X called me a "cold killer" i wanted to kill that fuck.  so i reloaded my save and killed Playboy X.  when Niko says something along the lines of "My name is Niko Belic!" while Playboy helplessly has his hands up, i shot him in the face with a shotgun.  felt soooo goooooodddd

Posted by HatKing

Perfectly stated, Mr. Klepek.

Posted by FrEeZe

You can tell a Klepek article just by the title

Posted by TeflonBilly
@golguin said:
As for LA Noire, I've never felt such disappointment in myself as I did at the end of the Golden Butterfly case. I got 1 star (the only one I got in the game) and I knew everything had gone to shit during those interviews.
The worst part was getting yelled at by the chief after screwing that one up. 
Made me super aware of my decisions going forward.  
 
I wish Heavy Rain had a truly watershed moment which made the whole "The game goes on"-thing really stand out. 
Other than chopping your finger off, I didn't find any truly memorable moments in that game. A real missed oppurtunity, considering the hype and myself being a rather big fan of Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy.
Posted by Yeahbuhwhat
@Kilnik said:
@Sharkington said:
And there's nothing satisfying about failing in L.A. Noire, because the game doesn't even acknowledge it in any meaningful way. Total and utter failure in one case has absolutely no bearing on any subsequent case. It's never even mentioned again.   
 Except in the Dahlia cases, Cole is constantly asking if he got the right person; he's always bringing it up in my play through.
He says those things no matter what, though, even if you're finding every clue, doing all the questioning perfectly, and arresting the "right" people. It's scripted story stuff.
Edited by MrKlorox

I thought it was the exact opposite. Killing Playboy X gave you the apartment and kept a "friend" in your contacts list. Whereas killing Dwayne left you with nothing.
 
The ending had much more of an impact for me. Choosing what Roman would want on the last mission gets him killed, allowing the insufferable Kate to live. To me, that's the better ending to the game: a downer. I was actually upset that Roman died and Kate lived, even though the game was pretty much over for me (save for some pigeons and stunt jumps). 
 
I wanted it to happen the other way, so I loaded up a previous save and re-did the last couple missions. But once I achieved the ending I thought I wanted, I felt nothing. Everything was good, and that didn't feel right. So I immediately deleted the autosave and kept my "bad" tragic ending because I want to consider what it did to my emotions as the canon ending.
 
With LA Noire, I keep every decision I make and penalties incurred during my first playthrough. Only when I go back and try to 5-star the case do I allow my partner to drive or quit to the menu after a wrong answer. I'm sure they could have fit the entire game on one DVD if they didn't allow you to get things wrong. Half the fun of questions is getting them wrong and seeing the reaction.

Posted by kylekrueger
@MrKlorox: your right killing playboy x gives you the apartment and Dwayne as a bitchy friend. killing Dwayne only gives you money
Posted by Red

I do agree with this. While playing the Killing, I attempted to kill myself by aiming at my character's head, and, although that didn't happen, I was still pleased with my ending. The only problem with this is that games need to give you every possible choice, like, say, killing yourself, in order to really make it feel like you failed or are a real person in a real world. 
I do love this concept though, and it's the reason I can never play evil people in games.

Posted by xxizzypop
@golguin said:
As for LA Noire, I've never felt such disappointment in myself as I did at the end of the Golden Butterfly case. I got 1 star (the only one I got in the game) and I knew everything had gone to shit during those interviews.
I feel like that case is there to make you fuck up. I only got a two star my first time through, but god dammit. That's the first instance of multiple suspects really and the first time that they really, truly let go of your hand and say: solve this case the way it's meant to be solved. 
 
That case is disheartening, but a learning lesson. It establishes what those actions in interrogation really mean, and drives home the point of getting the biggest scumbag off the street.
Posted by REDdimension

Nice, thoughtful article.  Thanks for the insight.

Posted by Daroki
@Minish_Driveby said:
Heavy Rain is a good example of this. There's no way to mess up the game, but some of your actions make you think you did the wrong thing.
I think that having previous experience with Heavy Rain helped a lot with LA Noire.  I appreciated the fact that both games let you fail, and if it ate at me enough, I could go back after the game was over and do it "right".  Unlike Heavy Rain, I immediately went back after finishing and started 5 starring cases to see the other options, while with Heavy Rain, I put the game on the shelf for six months to let it sink in.
Posted by BitterAlmond
@MrKlorox said:
I thought it was the exact opposite. Killing Playboy X gave you the apartment and kept a "friend" in your contacts list. Whereas killing Dwayne left you with nothing.  
Yeah, really. Dwayne is a more likable character, and if you kill Playboy X you get his sweet loft. No downside. 
Posted by PandaBear
This is news? *groan* Put it in a blog post, this is just opinion.  
 
THIS ISN'T KOTAKU!!
Posted by afrofools

I was playing the tutorial, and it wouldn't let me play the fucking game, if I chose the wrong answer it would make me do the whole tutorial again without being able to skip anything. I made up my mind then and there, I am not going to play this, I don't care how great this is, if the houser bro's are going to make me go through this shitty tutorial so I can play this awesome game I'm not interested. Traded the game back into the shop two and a half hours after purchase. There's plenty of quality games at the moment that don't force you through a tutorial. I appreciate the work that went into it, the clever use of facial animation, object interaction, and subtle features like the HUD, typography, and environment lighting (how it is easy to distinguish between things.)

Posted by ThePantheon

Patrick I love your articles. You have a really cool and captivating way of writing.
 
Good stuff, dude.

Posted by RiotBananas

Good read, I agree. 
 
Failing is what that game does best.

Posted by RaisingIndiana

Why is this on front page? Shouldn't this be a blog post?

Posted by BeautifulSpaceCowboy

Patrick, yes.

Posted by patrickklepek

@RaisingIndiana said:

Why is this on front page? Shouldn't this be a blog post?

Nope. We're going to be doing more editorial on the news page.

Staff
Posted by darkjester74
@patrickklepek said:

@RaisingIndiana said:

Why is this on front page? Shouldn't this be a blog post?

Nope. We're going to be doing more editorial on the news page.

If that's the case can we get some kind of flag or indicator indicating it as such?  It would be nice to know up front this is an editorial and not a news piece.
Posted by Marcsman
@patrickklepek said:
Could I have avoided this somehow, Zach?

Chasing a fleeing, desperate man across a falling construction set, it dawns upon me:

"I've fucked up."

Virtual heart racing from sprinting, I'm relentlessly tracking down a man that I've, up until this moment, deduced was guilty of a horrifying crime. He killed someone.

He didn't, though. And as I catch up to him, it's clear there are no more locations to visit, no more suspects to talk to, no more pieces of evidence to string along. The end of the road is in sight. While I (the player) know I've bungled the case, I know the suspect's innocent, and there were five questions that I shouldawouldacould answered better if I'd thought about the whole thing longer, my evidence points to him.

Someone has to take the fall, right?

Someone's got to pay, even if that someone isn't actually the right one, so the papers and the bosses and the neighborhood (does the list ever ever end?) are happy, and as the case draws to a close and I'm assigned my two-star rating, all I can feel is bitter disappointment. It's not the kind of controller chucking misery you get from screwing up a boss battle for the upteenth time, but a real "aw, shucks" realization that I've done a truly bad thing and it just felt wrong.

More games should let you fail. It's less rewarding to be right every time; it's not how life is.

In L.A. Noire, failures are still "succeses." The case is "solved." You might curse the sometimes frustrating adventure game logic driving the interrogations, but I can't help but thumbs up experiences where the fail state isn't just a game over screen. It's why seeing the "you got caught" message during the stealth sections feels so out of place. The rest of the game goes so explicitly out of its way to push players into gray areas, while the action remains black and white.

I twitch every time someone on my Twitter feed curses that they've been awarded less than five stars on a case in L.A. Noire and begin the case from scratch. Give failure a chance, ya'll.

Believe me, I understand the impulse--I have it, too. What's powerful is saying no to it and seeing how you respond. As gamers, we've been trained to achieve perfection, whether it's navigating a sea of bullets or collecting some hidden items. We don't like second place, especially if it's preventable. That's boring. Why should it always go your way? We're constantly asking developers to create more emotional gaming experiences, and though I can't say the same for you, but my personal failures burn more than my successes. They're what drive me to be better.

I'm reminded of the spit-take reaction to Aeris in Final Fantasy VII. I'm convinced the developers wouldn't kill her if they made the game today; they'd have made resurrecting her some achievement, otherwise it would tick too many people off. I want to get pissed off, feel sad, experience regret and engage deeper than the latest macho power fantasy (which I like, too!).

Want to play something moving? Try Jordan Magnuson's The Killer. I want that on a large scale.

There was a similar moment in Grand Theft Auto IV that I wrote about, too, in a post titled "My Conscience, And How ‘Grand Theft Auto IV’ Made Me Feel Regret." I talked about when you're asked to kill Playboy X or Dwayne. Letting Playboy X live presents a cooler gameplay path, with the possibility to grab a larger apartment, while Dwayne, recently released from prison and seeking redemption, offers me nothing as a player, besides toying with my virtual compassion.

I killed Dwayne. Here's how I reacted back in 2008:

"It felt wrong, though. In my gut, I was killing someone with a second chance. Dwayne served his time. But in a dog-eat-dog virtual world, it was about me. Except it wasn’t. It was about me, the player. When Playboy X called me up after the deed was done and denounced our relationship — calling me 'cold' — he was right. There was a knot in my stomach over this. I made the wrong decision. It was too late; the auto save function had kicked in. Dwayne’s fate was signed, sealed, delivered. I have to live with that decision for the rest of the game."

If I could have done that moment over, reloaded a previous save, I might have. How tragic.

I want more moments like that, please. Don't you?


I disagree about Dwayne. If you let him live you could use his homies on almost every mission after that. And they were pretty decent.
Posted by GiffTor
Posted by GiffTor
@Leakster: You can always turn off the music that lets you know when you're right or wrong - it's a gameplay option, that helps...although it doesn't eliminate the non-answer you get in response if you accuse someone of lying and you're wrong.
Posted by patrickklepek

@darkjester74 said:

@patrickklepek said:

@RaisingIndiana said:

Why is this on front page? Shouldn't this be a blog post?

Nope. We're going to be doing more editorial on the news page.

If that's the case can we get some kind of flag or indicator indicating it as such? It would be nice to know up front this is an editorial and not a news piece.

Maybe, probably not. The difference is pretty clear in the writing, you know?

Staff
Posted by shodan2020

Nice piece, Mr. Klepek. I agree. :)

Posted by nail1080
@ThePantheon said:
Patrick I love your articles. You have a really cool and captivating way of writing.   Good stuff, dude.
this, and please ignore the haters and trolls, I don't know why you even bother reply to them.
Posted by Orange

Great article, Patrick.

Posted by Marokai
@nail1080 said:
@ThePantheon said:
Patrick I love your articles. You have a really cool and captivating way of writing.   Good stuff, dude.
this, and please ignore the haters and trolls, I don't know why you even bother reply to them.
"Why is the supposed hardcore news man doing editorials and can we get some indication of what is what" = hater and troll. 
 
k
Posted by HarlequinRiot

I just realized after reading this there were star ratings for the cases. I never took the time to look at that badge/crest on the summary screen. Maybe that's a good thing though? I can always tell when a case isn't going well, but I just try to play through it hoping that is somehow works out. I need to go back now though to see how the cases were meant to be done.  
 
On another note, there are times when I'm interrogating and I have no clue what I'm doing. A lot of times, I can't pick up on how the choices (truth, etc) will lead the conversation or when to use a certain piece of evidence even if I know it proves something about the person.

Posted by PandaBear
@darkjester74 said:
@patrickklepek said:

@RaisingIndiana said:

Why is this on front page? Shouldn't this be a blog post?

Nope. We're going to be doing more editorial on the news page.

If that's the case can we get some kind of flag or indicator indicating it as such?  It would be nice to know up front this is an editorial and not a news piece.
Agreed. And for the record, people that criticise editorial opinion pieces appearing in the news section aren't all "haters and trolls" ... some of us are paid subscribers, actively supporting this website, and don't want it to become another video game blog.  All that does is elevate the opinion of one person. This is a BLOG post, Giant Bomb has an area for that! Use it and your fans will read it and those of us who don't care won't. 
 
(Also, I don't want to say that people who don't pay to use Giant Bomb are lesser fans, I was just making a point...)
Posted by nail1080
@Marokai said:
@nail1080 said:
@ThePantheon said:
Patrick I love your articles. You have a really cool and captivating way of writing.   Good stuff, dude.
this, and please ignore the haters and trolls, I don't know why you even bother reply to them.
"Why is the supposed hardcore news man doing editorials and can we get some indication of what is what" = hater and troll.   k
if you can't differentiate between the two you need to learn how to read.
Posted by rick9109

My one complaint about L.A. Noire so far is that you fail if you screw up the action, but always pass if you fail the investigation. If anything it should be the other way around.

But yeah I definitely think the option to fail at the story is just something that isn't prevalent enough in games.

Posted by besighyawn

I've been trying to not reset the game whenever I get a couple questions wrong in an interrogation, but it's really hard. Telling myself I'm "cheating" somewhat helps, but the urge to reset keeps gnawing at me, ugh.

Posted by BenderUnit22

I disagree with what this article is trying to give L.A. Noire credit for. For one, there are plenty of opportunities to fail cases, although they are mostly in the "action" sections. More importantly though, you shouldn't have to praise a game for letting you advance despite failing its restricted logic and arbitrary interrogation paths. Rather you should wonder why I often can't ask the questions I'd like to ask, present the evidence that would give insight into the case or why after failing to follow the game's reasoning I can't offer more evidence to conflict a testimony?
 
Continuing the story threads no matter the player's actions has been done to a much greater effect in Heavy Rain for example and in a way that didn't feel arbitrarily confined by the game's rules and logic but by personal judgment and moral ambiguity.

Posted by Ghostiet

Letting Playboy X live presents a cooler gameplay path, with the possibility to grab a larger apartment, while Dwayne, recently released from prison and seeking redemption, offers me nothing as a player, besides toying with my virtual compassion.

No, it's the other way around. Killing Dwayne gives you 20,000 bones and that's it. Killing Playboy X gives an apartment.
Edited by Sharpless

Good article. Ignore the gripers, Patrick. It isn't rocket science, figuring out which posts are news items and which are opinion pieces. It makes me weep to see people turning their noses up at quality gaming-related writing -- something which, in my opinion, is in short supply -- simply because they want to hold onto their own personal vision of what Giant Bomb is. Whether you're a paying subscriber or not, the site belongs to Jeff, Ryan, and the guys, and well-written opinion pieces only add to the site's overall value and quality.

Edited by WerewolfGuy

The problem with LA Noire is that the interrogation system was never consistent or logical enough for me to not feel cheated when I failed. Lie is too often only tangentially related to what the person is speaking about and the evidence in no way proves Phelps's accusation, and the option sometimes only makes sense after Phelps has made his accusation, which is different than the topic that preceded it. Likewise, doubt mostly just means "push for more information" rather than actually doubting what the person says, and so does truth, but more politely. On a few occasions completely valid evidence for lies is wrong, or the accusation of a lie is correct when chosen but completely wrong after Phelps has made an outrageous accusation following the choosing of that option. When I get something wrong, it is just too difficult to feel as if It is I who made the mistake, or that it is my fault and not the game's. The sad thing is, not having or giving the option not to have a grading system that told you right from wrong would entirely solve this. I still really like LA Noire a lot, if only for the presentation, but I restarted the game many times while playing it because of this issue and I wish it did not have grading, and was simply more forceful about not hurting civilians by making the player restart if they did this.

Also, I might as well mention that I support the inclusion of this article on the front page because it presents a valid and well written perspective on storytelling in videogames and the medium's unique strengths, which honestly there is just not enough of. Reviews are not at all objective and they ultimately also present the author's perspective on how videogames should generally be made and their strengths and weaknesses, so editorials such as these are just more focused extensions of that sort of writing that can provide in-depth analysis instead of merely broadly critiquing.

Posted by cikame

I already knew the cases were repeatable from reviews which i think put me in a mode of "arcade game, level 1, level 2, level 3"

I wasn't interacting and becoming involved with any of the characters lives, but i think the other problems the game has were a bigger reason for that.

Finished it yesterday, kinda boring.

Posted by Nedrika

It was the possibility, and likelihood, if failing in the Freespace games that makes me love them so much. I still find myself trying the missions over and over to try and get my wingmen to survive, or take out the beam cannon to save my escorted capital ship. I get insanely wrapped up in the fates of the other ships, I don't think I would be able to if it weren't for the possibility of controlling their fates.

Posted by darkdragonmage99

I got the same feeling when I was negotiating with Wrex and ended up having Williams  kill him.   

Posted by UnsolvedParadox

I ended up killing Playboy X, it felt like the right thing to do. Gameplay advantages didn't matter to me, I had to do what I felt was right for both myself and for Niko.

Posted by PandaBear

@Sharpless said:

Good article. Ignore the gripers, Patrick. It isn't rocket science, figuring out which posts are news items and which are opinion pieces. It makes me weep to see people turning their noses up at quality gaming-related writing -- something which, in my opinion, is in short supply -- simply because they want to hold onto their own personal vision of what Giant Bomb is. Whether you're a paying subscriber or not, the site belongs to Jeff, Ryan, and the guys, and well-written opinion pieces only add to the site's overall value and quality.

Fair enough. The site does belong to the guys, and my pissy subscription means nothing to them. They can do whatever they want, and so can I, so until these opinion pieces disappear for good off the NEWS page I'll vote with my dollar. Consider me out.