Every 5 or so years in gaming there seems to be a huge leap. Just look at the transition between Atari 2600 games compared to NES or SNES games. Remember the jump to full on 3D graphics with the N64/PS1 and how cool that was. 3D graphics then became fine tuned in the ps2/xbox/gamecube era to something that wasn't just a blocky blur. Fast forward to the far flung future of 2005 and along came the "current" generation of consoles which brought us complex shading and bump mapping that blew my mind the first time I saw it in action. Along this road the PC maintained a lead in graphics technology and the continuous incremental advancement that it continues to do to this day. But what's next? If the next generation of consoles will be about as powerful as a high end PC is now, will it change much?
I feel we are still at some very incremental stage in computer graphics where every iteration just adds more shaders and triangles but still doesn't look a whole lot more interesting than 2007's Crysis. Yes video cards now are over 10X's more powerful than the 360 but they certainly don't look 10X better. Battlefield 3 maxed out looks very cool but it's really Dice's multiplayer style that is the real draw which really hasn't change much since Battlefield 2. We have yet to see any advancement in rendering technology that comes close to the jumps between vector graphics > Sprites > 3D graphics > DirectX/OpenGL.
Yes there have been attempts to reinvent the wheel. Kinect's/Wii's motion controls are a crazy new way to interact with technology and games, but what is it used for? Party games mostly. Sony's push to sell 3D tvs also effected gaming but in the end 3D, although a cool little feature, hurts your eyes after a short period of time and is very much a fading gimmick. If anything the best implementation of 3D is the 3DS, I can play that for 2-3 hours on max 3D just fine and it really makes a game like Ocarina of Time 3D look more impressive than anything new I've seen recently. Glasses free 3D really is the only way it can be enjoyed. Maybe motion controls and 3D will be better implemented in the future and change gaming forever but where it's at now I'm not that fussed about either.
The main reason the current generation was so significant is because along with a considerable boost in fidelity, came a console that was designed to be online. Achievements, multiplayer and DLC became a standard. Yes the original Xbox and PC gaming started the trend but Xbox Live on 360 really did nail it. The future will likely bring more social networking, digital downloads and multiplayer experiences but again it's only gonna be very incremental to what we already have (and have already had for a while now if you consider Steam).
So what's next? Will the next generation of consoles bring something new to the the table or will a slightly better coat of paint suffice?
No this post really doesn't have anything to do with Braveheart (that I am aware of). I play a lot of games as I am sure many of you on the site do. But not every experience is an enjoyable one. Yesterday I had a rant about how god awful BF3's single player is, but in reality a lot of the pain was my fault in the end. It's time to man up and figure this shit out, so I can enjoy all my future gaming experiences.
1. The worst offender - The act of brute forcing my way through a campaign from start to finish so I can be done with it and move on. If I am having this feeling towards a game then there is immediately a problem. Firstly I can't really be enjoying the experience if I am feeling this way. I shouldn't find myself yelling at the game when I die, resulting in having to re-do a checkpoint, because the gameplay should be so much fun that I'd happily head-shot some more goons. But I don't stop. I keep going. I beat BF3's single-player in one sitting in fact. Secondly I shouldn't feel the need to get through it in one sitting, I should be segmenting the experience so it lasts longer. This should be my first warning indicator about a game, because often it starts off on a sub-conscious level.
The simple solution - If I am enjoying the story but not the gameplay, Uncharted 3 for example (which I painfully beat on Normal and wished I hadn't), turning down the difficulty is the way to go, even if it means starting over. Playing through a mediocre game on easy can be more fun than it really should be. However if I am not enjoying anything about the game, I need to just shelve it. Even if I am half way through, just pushing through it to get my money's worth is a waste of my time and misery.
2. Next up on the list is - Don't stop playing my favorite games because I feel the need to get through this thing they call the 'backlog'. I need to just play the game I feel like playing at the time, even if it is just a craving for a game I have already played and beaten. Who cares. The concept of a backlog can be confusing because it shouldn't exist really. Generally when I buy a new game I play it through to completion and if not I'm either not in the mood for that kind of experience it is offering and when I feel like shooting zombies for instance, I can go back and pick it up. But I should not pick it up just so I can clean up my backlog.
3. Obsessive quest for power - Whether it'd be making the most bad ass character in an RPG or trying to collect all those stupid achievements, I need to re-focus on just enjoying the game. This means no grinding for soul gems all day in Skyrim to max out enchanting. I need to progress my character at the speed the game designer intended. This means the difficulty remains challenging and I don't end up grinding. This is also why I haven't played an MMO for a long time, I find the the quest to get the best loot and player build painful. For some people however this is the only reason they play games. When I play with one of my friends in co-op games its all about getting all the achievements and making sure he has the best character build/weapons (better than mine anyway). I'm not the same but I do love skill trees and player builds I just need to turn off the part of my brain that wants to get caught up in the math of % damage output. I'll let crazy people enjoy that part.
4. This one isn't an issue but a solution (and somewhat of a tangent) - Mixing things up makes it more fun. Alright I love making new player builds in Skyrim (I think I'm on my sixth). It's somewhat freeing seeing that level 1 on my character screen and being able start out from scratch knowing the infinite possibilities of how my character could turn out. I love the feeling of getting a new perk point and having all sorts of great options to dump it in. Then I hit a point where I have purchased everything I wanted and things become boring. So for me I get a high from playing through a game with a different build.
I have been playing reckoning since its release day and I am enjoying it. I have been playing a straight warrior mainly because greatswords are extremely powerful and combined with relentless assault, makes you a force to be 'reckoned' with. But it got old after about 10 hours because there was nothing in the might tree left that made any difference to how I played. Nothing! So why keep playing if my character is already a badass at 1/3 through the game. Well thank the gods(or whatever religious icons appear in Amalur) Reckoning knows this and has a respec option that is super easy.
First I tried a might/finesse build that used poisons to enhance my greatsword and bows for ranged damage. But the issue was that bows are weak and useless from what I could tell (why have an arrow limit that takes forever to come back when other range weapons you can spam forever) and my character just felt weaker than my straight might build. Early on I also dabbled in a might/sorcery combo but changed to straight might because I made the mistake that I discussed in issue 3.
Then I did it! I made a Jack-o-all-trades build and haven't looked back. There is always a perk to upgrade in one of the skill trees that will be useful. So far I am using daggers for stealth and close combat, Chakrams and spells for ranged and the might skills Relentless Assault and Scorpion's 'get over here' spear for their usefulness. The combat makes me dodge, switch between ranged and close combat and is overall more fun than just activating relentless assault and pressing X to win. So if the combat in Amalur is boring you then go jack of all trades and mix it the f@#$ up.
So there you have it. Some may find themselves in similar predicaments and I hope my solutions will help you out. But that being said human beings all seem to be wired completely different. One person's trash is another's treasure and things I hate will always be loved by others. But I feel in the end if I can figure out what experiences in life fill me with happiness and try to rid myself of obsessions that lead to tears, I'll be a happier person. I will probably continue to figure out the inner workings of my brain and why I enjoy playing games. It will be necessary if I have any chance of fighting through the barrage of sequels and sameness, to try and enjoy gaming like I used as a kid. The moral of this tale is really simple. Don't do things you hate because you feel (or have been told) you should. For freedom!!
Ok, I apologise for what is going to be a rant. I just played through BF3's single player campaign because despite how mediocre people have said it was, it couldn't be that bad right? Wrong! It is awful! Beautiful maxed out on pc, but damn awful.
Dice haven't really made that many single player games so I guess they could be forgiven, mirrors edge was ok and the Bad Company games had some decent humor, but man had nobody played through this before release. All you do in it is shoot ants through a scope. Little tiny ants in the distance that occasionally shoot a rocket at the car you were using for cover because it was scripted to do so. Wow is this game scripted in all the wrong ways. If your not shooting ants your getting jumped by some random dude round the corner where a little scene plays out that looks completely stupid. Or your attacked by a killer rat, how suspenseful that was.
I don't know how they did it but they took everything that is wrong with a COD campaign, ignored everything that makes it a fun roller-coaster ride and replaced it with shooting ants in a field. All the scripted moments were broken and looked weird. The only set piece that worked really well was the jet scene which was fantastic. A shame it is surrounded by such a turd of a game, albeit a beautiful turd. A very beautiful turd.
The story, well if you can call it a story, is completely divided into flash backs by people yelling at you and telling you to go over the events that led up to this moment. Its like Black Ops but worse ( to be honest I thought the story in Black Ops was decent). There is a scene towards the end where you ''act out" the event that they are so angry at you about and if you don't you die for no apparent reason. Then you have to watch the scene play out all over again. I did this scene 4-5 times because the first few times I had no idea what it wanted me to do. Then when I finally got it right, the scripting got stuck and I had to reload my checkpoint and once again watch the scene play out.
Anyway that's probably enough ranting, at least the multiplayer is amazing, but why include this in a package that was already offering dozens of hours worth of fun in the multiplayer alone. I would have given this game something like a 9/10 but after playing this I think I have to drop the score to about hmm... a 2/10. Sorry Dice.
Ok, I know what you're thinking. Mighty Thor has to be a Nord with a gigantic hammer; that would make sense right? Wrong. Mighty Thor is an Orc with a hammer because orcs have no doubt the best race power, Berserker Rage. This power mixed with a set of heavy armor and a badass hammer equals clobbering time. The resulting double damage output and half damage received is a great daily power and the only one I have really used that often.
Mighty Thor is the first character I have made on the PC version of Skyrim. This means from the get go I loaded up a few mods like improved skyforge and bag of holding. Nothing that will greatly change the experience, just enough to make things a little better. I stand by the fact that the console versions still look amazing and I commend Bethesda for that, but that said the PC version shines the brightest and looks real nice. Loading off a SSD is pretty great too.
For the first 10 or so hours with Mighty Thor I was having a great time. Crafting my own heavy armor and completely ignoring enchanting. Then I made a poor decision. I was at about level 22 and thought it was about time to max enchanting and make some badass armor. Little did I know that patches seem to have made enchanting take forever to level past 60 skill. It is no longer worth the time it takes to (a. collect 100s of soul gems and (b. sit in that menu enchanting 100s of crafted iron daggers. I got it to about 80, gave up and just console commanded my way to some ultimate armor that would have taken at least another few hours of grinding. Then I took him out for a spin and realized the foolish mistake I had repeated for the second time.
Once you craft and enchant an ultimate armor set there is no point playing the game anymore. You can't die and you one hit everything. This is what happened with my first character I made on Xbox. I obsessed over making the most overkill armor: enchanting armor that boosts smithing then smithed up some uber armor so I could then enchant while drinking enchanting elixirs so after that I could make armor that improved my damage output to over 300% of what it would normally be. If you survived that last sentence then you know what horrible spiral I fell into. This is one I fell into again with Thor and then I realized what I had done!
This isn't World of Warcraft, I'm not raiding with this character so what does it matter. I hated that obsessive part of WOW, aka grinding for the best loot so that you could raid for the best loot so you could get better loot blah blah blah. Who cares, it's all BS really. There's a point where a game becomes a job that your not being paid to do. I was getting dangerously close to that with Skyrim. It was time to let go and I hope this changes the way I play these games in the future. Don't obssess over making the ultimate character build. The best thing about Dark Souls was that there was no ultimate build and that game would mess you up no matter what. That's how it should be. Every battle encounter should be life or death. When you cover your character in health regen gems it ruins your enjoyment (which I did in Armalur, thanks Jeff!).
So I jumped back to my pre-'console commands hack save' where Thor had decent armor with some decent enchantments earned through honest means and the fun started to return. Then I started playing with the Creation Kit but I think that is something for another post. If you read this, thanks and I wish you merry Skyriming.
I've played a lot of Skyrim, which certainly isn't hard with such an engaging game. The first character I made was a warrior who wore light armor and used a sword and shield (and later switched to dual swords). He was your standard jack of all trades and with him I did all the main quest lines and guilds. It was fun but once I maxed out enchanting and smithing, all the challenge was lost from the game as my dude became a tank that did ridiculous amounts of damage. My second was a mage who focused on Conjuration/Destruction. This time I brought Lydia with me too and I had fun decking her out with cool weapons and armor so she could tank for me. The mage pretty much became a support class for my summons and companion. Then I made a Khajit unarmed fighter based on that forum post for laughs but that didn't last me long.
By this point I had to force myself to take a break from Skyrim (by getting obsessed with Dark Souls instead) and when I felt like returning to Skyrim I realized there was one more build left to make, Mr Sneaky. I never touched much of the stealth stuff in Oblivion so Bethesda's implementation of stealth was mostly new to me. After a few hours of playing this way it became clear that this was the most fun I had playing Skyrim so far. I focused purely on 'sneak' early on to get the 15x knife backstab skill (and then became a member of the Dark Brotherhood for the gloves that double it to 30x), so that my backstabs got the job done. The risk-reward nature of this play style became apparent when I ran into a sabercat head on and it destroyed me. I loved the risk, knowing that if I failed at being hidden I would be as good as dead. I then invested in illusion magic so that if I did get spotted I could calm so I could find a spot to re-hide. I also used my bow mainly to cause distractions.
I love how every time I re-rolled a character in the game, it became a very different experience and it is something I wish more games did. Rather than just replaying a game on a harder difficulty, I 'd prefer 'the way' you get through each scenario changed making it a new experience with the same content. This is one of the reasons I am looking forward to Bioshock Infinite because of its 1999 mode and Kingdom of Armular: Reckoning for its destiny system. Other games I can think of that have done this well were the Deus Ex games. With the raging success of Skyrim I hope it inspires future games to be more open and less guided.
On the game of the year awards podcast the bombsquad talked about sequelitis and why Uncharted 3 made very little impact on them, but is there a way they can make a second sequel without this happening?
I feel once you get passed the first sequel of a game, unless the game is a hugely different game, it will never be as good. Uncharted was fun, Uncharted 2 was the perfection of Uncharted. There was nowhere else to go without completely changing the formula. The same happened with Modern Warfare 3, Gears of War 3 and so on. But this did not happen with Skyrim. Why? because with each iteration the elder scrolls games have been very different games in a completely new area of the world but still keeping the feel of an elder scroll game. Say what you will about the Final Fantasy series but the only reason they are up to such a high number is that each game is dramatically different.
Mass Effect was decent and Mass Effect 2 was the perfection of the formula so this has me and a lot of other people worried. It is possible that Mass Effect will still be a great game, but the odds are against it getting the praise of the original. What I would like to see is a simple yet deep character perk system or the return of loot. Something to freshen up the gameplay in a way that is not 'We made the shooting better' or 'we're making this more accessible for the mainstream'. You did all that last time round! I guess I'll have to wait and see.
Heavy Rain is a good game, no doubt. But I really didn't find myself enjoying it. Yes it had its flaws, the story was dark and depressing, the controls were awful, some sequences were just stupid and the voice acting was mediocre. However I think the main reason I couldn't enjoy it was that I felt I had no control despite the game telling me the opposite.
Just looking after the kid at the start was a pain because it wanted you to find stuff in the house but you have no idea were anything is. So you end up walking around with the terrible controls bumping into things, where in real life that character would know the contents of his own house. Another thing was that one wrong button press may lead to getting your character killed or injured without realizing what that button press represented or meant in the first place. Also the fact that I controlled multiple characters forced me to lose any personal attachment to anyone in particular. I think I would have preferred a game where you controlled the story, giving you the impression you are writing the story as you go along. Either that or you know exactly what your choice mean like in the mass effect universe.
Despite these flaws I still think this game is a huge step in the right direction. The quick time action sequences were very well done and a lot of fun, just a lot of time they just didn't fit in with the story or were completely unbelievable. In the end I think they chose the wrong type of story for this type of game. A more fictitious action adventure title would have been great fun. In the end I much prefer to watch a well written drama piece rather than trying to play one. To each his own but I hope this type of story telling in games is taken further, because there is definitely a long way to go.