By MysteriousBob 14 Comments
I'm going on a Digital Game Design course. With this in mind, I realise that it might be worthwhile to articulate some of my thoughts on video games. Thats what a blog is for, right?
For most of my gaming life, I have been a console gamer. This being said, I have always had a healthy diet of PC games. A lot of my favourite games of all time are PC exclusives and the PC games I include on my imaginary top 100 list all have one thing in common- they're addictive time sinks. While I do enjoy a quick burst of a fighting game or a match on an FPS, sometimes I want to spend a longer amount of time just focusing on a slower paced game with a good sense of progression. Sometimes I just want to waste time.
This being 2012, I now expect gadgets to entertain me for every second of my existence I don't spend asleep. I have to commute regularly to work so four days a week I have two hours to kill sitting on a train. I would love to be able to load up one of these time killing PC games, make some progress in them and then save them. I believe there is great potential in bringing some of these classics to a portable system. I need to stress that these need to be genuine ports or remakes, not watered down 're-imaginings'.
And please don't mention laptops and netbooks, I'm talking new retail releases.
Civilisation (preferably V)
The civilisation series is synonymous with addiction and for good reason. These games can warp our temporal awareness and turn hours into perceived minutes.
Why would it be good for a handheld?
The strongest argument for this is that as a turn-based strategy game, graphics aren't particularly important. I'm not saying that a Civ game shouldn't be attractive but they're not exactly going to require a massive polygon count. Civ games are essentially board games. The system must be capable of presenting a clear world. Think Civ V's grid view but as the default. Civ would, in theory, technically work on most modern handhelds. We usually play handheld games to kill time until we can get back to our main gaming machines. What game is a better time sink than Civ? Its turn-based structure also lends itself to playing while travelling. Unlike an action game, you can take as long as you want with your moves. If your game is interrupted by a ticket inspector you're not going to lose because you have to look away. Multiplayer would also benefit. Civ games usually have hotseat modes but these can be rather awkward on a big home computer, having to look away with every turn change. It also provides a good stopping point for when you need to save and turn the machine off. Isolating it to a handheld screen conjures fond memories I have passing around a GBA for a four player game of Advance Wars in Sixth Form. Primitive? Sure, but it worked. A plane journey can last a long time you know. Its satisfying looking at how expansive your empire has made since you started. Civ V actually tracks your sessions, acknowledging you're going to come back over a steady period of time.
There needs to be plenty of screen space for displaying information clearly. With its clearly refined interface, this is why I cite Civ V in particular. The second screen of a 3DS might cope with it as may the big high res screen of a Vita. Despite not relying heavily on graphics, Civ games use a lot of RAM when the games reach the later eras. Load times get longer with every turn. The solution would be to limit the map sizes and player counts which would turn this into just another weak port.
Closest thing we have:
Civilisation Revolution (DS)
The console version was already a pretty dumbed down version of Civ (a game which actually aided Civ V's design). The DS version is a dumbed down port of a dumbed down port. I don't mean to bash it too much as it was clearly made on a budget but the main issue is presentation. The whole thing just looks like a bad mobile phone game from the turn of the millennium. Much of this is carry overs from Civ Rev on consoles but the artwork is poor, the tiles are unclear and the impressive scope of making your own country just doesn't carry over.
Sims. Addictive. Like I mentioned, this is the running theme here. Even though I'm a heterosexual 22 year old man, I occasionally enjoy playing The Sims. EAs marketing has turned this into a taboo making each game in series progressively more girly than the last in an attempt to grab that coveted female market. The Sims is the king of the casual games but I would argue that it never truly found its place where casual games thrive (no, not Facebook).
Why would it be good for a handheld?
There's a lot of stuff to do in The Sims. Create a house or public building. Make a family. Micro-manage a single Sim and play it like an RPG. Turn on free will and watch what happens. Play like a sociopath and do the old pool ladder trick. Its a time killer and without any real objectives and great variety you can play this game for a long time. I personally like building houses. The recent Sims 3 to console port proved that you can make a straight port of a Sims PC game and not have to turn it into a poor adventure game or burden it with a thousand limitations. Granted Sims 3 Console did have some deal breakers (why can't I have multiple families in one save?) but it did give me hope for EAs future after they had spent a good 10 years crapping out countless Sims games that didn't have its objective-less sandbox gameplay that made the PC original so popular. Load your game on a handheld. Mess around doing whatever and save it when needed. The lack of an object makes it perfect for casual play. When I'm on the train coming back from work, I want to relax and put my brain in stand-by mode. Shooting an army of space marines isn't really the experience I'm looking for in this situation. Hell, even a puzzle game like Ghost Trick can be too mentally taxing after a day at work. The Sims is the perfect thoughtless game and I mean that in the best possible way.
RAM again. There's potential for a lot to be going on at once in The Sims. The first Sims console game didn't even let you build a second floor. The Sims 1 could handle it on old PCs because it used pre-rendered objects and environments. Saving I imagine could also have problems. Probably. Some platforms may take issue with online content sharing although I personally never thought this was a vital part of a Sims game. Controls could have issues but seeing how everything has a touch screen it could be manageable.
Closest thing we have
The Sims On Whahoo Whahoo Island and about a thousand other disposable GBA, DS and PSP Sims games
I've played a good chunk of these games and none of them have been up to scratch. If you believe in the old maxim of quantity against quality well- here you go. I can identify the main issue as that they always attempt to emulate whatever current PC/console Sims game they're based on. But they're handhelds and a lot of the time the system just can't handle a huge house with 8 people living in it. A Sims game for a handheld needs to be made for a handheld. Just because the Sims 3 on PC and console renders a house in full 3D doesn't mean the DS version should. I don't want to only be able to control one Sim. Perhaps they should go back to the Sims 1 pre-rendered isometric style. I think the main reason EA don't do this is because it would be very difficult to market. Sims 1 gameplay footage doesn't look all that great alongside The Sims 3 for PC. I hope that the Vita can scrounge an experience on level with Sims 3 Console. Just let me build houses on an empty lot and I'll be happy with that. Or just make a port of The Sims 1 with all expansions. Make it tie in with the next five-year multiple anniversary. I'd buy it.
I'm not done yet, this shall be continued. If anyone actually reads it. Otherwise I'll just let it rot here.