Playing the people we hate; Does a "bad" protagonist make a bad game?

Be warned, there are brief Bioshock Infinite spoilers ahead.

After discussing Bioshock Infinite with a friend, a game I haven't played since it was first released in 2013, I wanted to revisit some of the criticism that shrouded the game after it's launch and see how well they held up. Browsing through articles and reviews, I noticed that a lot of people seemed to have an issue with the characters in the game, specifically DeWitt.

We hear DeWitt repeatedly emphasise that there is no difference whatsoever between Comstock and Fitzroy, which is an astoundingly asinine assertion. Criticising a bloody uprising is fair enough, but to tar racism and revolution with the same brush and then dismiss the entire topic? That isn't just oversimplification, that's verging on cowardice.

Which started me down a path, considering whether it's OK for the protagonist in a game to be unpleasant, or imperfect. In some instances, such as with Kratos or Vegeta, we're happy to accept and even enjoy their moral corruption. So what is it that causes that inconsistency?

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I've had similar discussions with people before about The Name Of The Wind. The protagonist, Kvothe, is frequently arrogant, sexist, and demonstrates a plethora of unhealthy attitudes towards women which made me think, in spite of what the story apparently wants you to believe, that he's a bit of a twat. This is offset by the fact that an adult version of Kvothe is dictating his story from memory, the implication being that the story has been romanticized and exaggerated in equal measure depending on the current level of self-loathing Kvothe himself is experiencing at that exact point in time; clearly bitter and filled with regret over his actions it's difficult to tell if he's deliberately making his younger self seem obnoxious because he feels that he deserves the disdain of his audience, or if that's completely unintentional and the author, Patrick Rothfuss, genuinely thinks these are admirable and heroic characteristics. As I've said before, he's either a very good author or a very bad one. From the interviews with the author that followed I'd lean towards the latter, though he does seem to be making an effort to improve.

Ready Player One (the book, let's not talk about the film) is similarly subject to criticism - not only because the protagonist Wade Watts is a complete bellend, but because the author has repeatedly demonstrated in interviews that he is oblivious to this fact. The other characters glorify Wade's problematic behavior with starry eyes, making the entire novel deeply uncomfortable.

So does writing a "bad" character mean the book is automatically bad? For a story to succeed is a protagonist obligated to be virtuous and embody our most desirable ideals? And when they do not should we blame the character or the writer?

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The Death Of Bunny Munro by Nick Cave is a good counter example. The protagonist, Bunny Munro, is deliberately designed to be a culmination of detestable ideals; He's a cheater, a rapist, a pervert, a fat greedy moron who doesn't care about anyone but himself. His 10 year old son, also called Bunny Munro, adores him - a sweet friendly boy who thinks the world of his father and will do whatever he can to please him - the central dynamic of the book being that you know one of them is going to die, you just don't know which one.

It's an excellent book, despite the fact that the protagonist as about as deplorable a human being as you could hope to write. I think it proves quite succinctly that a character who is morally corrupt does not automatically equal a bad story. You can have great stories about bad characters. So why do some characters sour an entire experience and not others?

In games we frequently play horrible characters.

Violent men and women, murderers, assassins, thieves, monsters, and in one case an extremely vexed raccoon. One of my favourite games is The Last Of Us, the protagonist Joel essentially hired muscle. It's made clear repeatedly that he's done some pretty horrible fucking things to survive, and you yourself continue to do some messed up shit as you're guiding him through the game. He still resonates with me as a good character, however. By contrast the character of DeWitt seems like a dick, to the extent that it almost spoiled the game for me. Perhaps it's because of the way that the games other inhabitants seem immune to his bullshit, the way he is hero-worshipped by Elizabeth regardless. It feels undeserved? That undeserved-ness feels like the opinions of the writers themselves shining through, that this is what they think people should aspire to. We're OK to play and enjoy asshole protagonists as long as the other characters, the world, the writer, are in on the joke. That self awareness is important, and it's awkward when we don't get a sense of it.

The new Kratos has been praised repeatedly, but nobody is going to vote him father of the year, especially not himself.

It's obviously difficult to write good characters, because creating a personality which everyone feels the same way about is always going to be problematic. I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who thought DeWitt was badass and have no idea what I'm talking about right now. I'm sure a lot of people think the way Kvothe objectifies and treats women is cool too. I think the mark of a good writer should be the potential they leave for doubt, though; The potential for opposing opinions on a character's behavior is what gives them depth and makes them human - to be imperfect and to have those imperfections acknowledged and even celebrated.

So while hearing DeWitt preach nonsense isn't inherently bad, the fact that nobody questions him in the game is what causes us to do so in our criticisms of it. If DeWitt was an alcoholic womaniser and the other characters in the game treated him like as a useless scumbag then I think I'd like him more. It's weird how that works, huh?

Thanks For Reading,

Love Sweep

20 Comments

It's only been a week but I think I'm already done with Sea Of Thieves...

I was cautiously optimistic about Sea Of Thieves. Having watched some reputable streamers play the beta (admittedly with the cynicism that Microsoft had paid for them to do so) it looked like a fun, albeit repetitive sandbox. The full game boasted a larger range of quests and incentives to play, and after a friend suggested I sign up for the two week Microsoft Game Pass Trial I was able to take to the seas without spending a single dollar. The rest of my PUGB squad already had the game preordered, so it was a fairly easy transition, and we've spent the last week sailing about, shivering timbers, and other nautical verbs like that.

It's been less than a week and half my crew has already uninstalled the game.

There's a lot to appreciate about Sea Of Thieves. The game looks gorgeous, and as a longtime fan of both Eve Online and Guns Of Icarus Online this, on paper, was everything I'd ever wanted. A ship shared between multiple players with open world PVP. Awesome.

After a lengthy debate over which side of the boat was port and which was starboard (left and right respectively, thank you), we got going. There are three NPC guilds/alliances to align with, though we were told that it's better to level all three without prejudice as you're required to hit the cap with each to participate in the endgame content. Each of them had quests that were entertaining at first. Until we handed them in, and were given an identical set of replacements. 5 days later, we're still getting the same quests. Fetch quests.

Go to this island. Dig up some treasure/kill a skeleton/capture a chicken. Sail back. Slowly.

But we're fucking pirates though, we all agreed, and we're not going to do the manual labour when there's a whole server full of peons for us to have at. So we started sailing between outposts instead, looking for other players to fight. Unfortunately most other players seemed to have the same idea, and while ship-to-ship combat is fun, it would usually end in one of us being sunk and neither of us having anything to show for it.

For all its beauty, there are some bizarre gameplay decisions in Sea Of Thieves.

The assorted user interfaces are clunky and awkward, and the layout of the galleon is simply frustrating. Players can only carry 5 musketballs for each of their guns (two max) but apparently are able to simultaneously haul around 10 cannonballs? The result is you're frequently running below deck to refill your guns, as the ammo crate is frustratingly tucked away among the cosmetic/vanity items in the hold. However even a fully loaded weapon is problematic to wield, as there's no crosshairs and the bullet drop on long range weapons is bizarrely unpredictable. The sensitivity options of the controls are also minimal, with one slider for everything, and the sensitivity of the sniper is far too low relative to the default view. As a result almost everyone carries the blunderbuss shotgun and the sword, and the main tactic right now seems to be to get as close to the enemy as possible and then flail wildly. It's effective, but it feels sloppy, and fights seem more dependent on luck than skill.

Respawns are slow and tedious. If a ship sinks it will (usually) immediately materialise only a single island away with absolutely no penatly, which clearly benefits the attacking players rather than the ones defending; an attacker with nothing to lose can endlessly throw empty ships at their target with zero repercussions, while a treasure-laden defender is forced to tirelessly hold off their attacks or sail away.

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The core gameplay loops in Sea Of Thieves simply aren't fun.

You can spend hours sailing around feeling like you've achieved nothing meaningful - you can complete dozens of quests, amass a stack of gold, but the only things you can spend it on are cosmetics, the most extravagant of which are ridiculously expensive and would require weeks of monotonous playtime to unlock. The suggestion that I farm fetch quests for 10 hours in order to unlock a new coat does not sound particularly appealing. You can make your character look like more of a badass, but as there's no stats or weapons to upgrade and the combat is so shallow, you seldom feel like one.

The positive experiences we've had with the game usually take place despite its design, rather than because of it.

The skull forts, waves of increasingly difficult enemies, are a welcome change to the usual gameplay, and are one of the few elements of the game where you're rewarded proportionately for the amount of effort put in - when these events begin a giant glowing skull appears in the clouds and players from all around will sail towards it to take part. This often will result in some great clashes as players fight either to control the island, or to seize the majority of the treasure after completing the event.

The sandbox elements of the game encourage experimentation, and sneaking aboard an enemy ship with a barrel of gunpowder only to stealthily detonate it in the hold and sink their ship while they're off looting an island left me laughing maniacally for about ten minutes. There's moments in Sea Of Thieves which allow a fantastic array of natural set-pieces, and there's moments of brilliance where you can see and appreciate the potential of this game. The majority of the time though itstill feels like a beta, a game lacking in structure and purpose and inadequately rewarding the players who take the time to invest in it. The emphasis on cosmetics makes me wonder if some iteration of the game was heavily dependent on microtransactions, and I can't help but feel like the only reason there are no loot crates in this game is due to the recent public backlash. Either that or because there's simply not enough content to justify it. I can understand why several of my friends are so bitter about their purchases.

I appreciate there's an echo of EVE online in Sea Of Thieves; you need to be proactive about the elements of the game you find entertaining. If you only want to mine asteroids in high-sec then you can't complain that the game is dull - you need to go out and camp warp gates, or join a corp of players who are more PVP focused. And it's possible to treat this game as an opportunity to simply goof around - even if you're achieving little in a gameplay sense, there's value to be had in a sandbox where you can sail around with your friends. I do sometimes feel though that even if you start playing with this attitude, the game doesn't do enough to meet you halfway by providing you a good range of things to do together. You can fight enemy ships, sure, but the game rarely gives sufficient reason to do so other than the combat itself which, as we've already mentioned, is average at best.

There's obvious changes that could be made, meaningful ones, that would improve this game dramatically.

Any player you ask can probably suggest a couple; Use the brig to capture attacking players? Alter the layout of the galleon to encourage different types of combat? Let players carry more ammo so they can take part in combat for longer when off-ship? Increase the amount of weapon types and let players upgrade individual parts (scopes, stocks, grips)? Increase the variety of equipment to encourage certain types of gameplay and allow players to specialise? Hire a fucking gameplay designer to come up with some quests that aren't completely mind-numbing? Etc.

There's good times to be had with sea of thieves, but they are few and far between, and having spent a week with the game already I see little incentive to keep going. I feel like I've already seen everything the game has to offer and while the best of it is good, the worst of it is fucking dull. There are better, more consistent games out there for us to play.

It feels like Sea Of Thieves is constantly promising something better; there's going to be patches with new content. There's more exciting quests locked once you hit the level cap. There's cool cosmetics to purchase once you level up enough to buy them. There's more coming, eventually! The problem is the gameplay isn't interesting enough to keep playing, so I doubt most players will ever see it.

Thanks for reading,

Love Sweep

75 Comments

This is the first JRPG I've played in years and I can't help but love it

While researching games to play on my flight home after visiting family over the 2017 holidays, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 caught my eye. Having spent enough time with both Mario and Zelda and needing an alternative, it seemed like the obvious choice. The metascore was decent, but I noticed a trend when actually reading the reviews; they were all, almost unanimously, a list of criticisms and complaints about the game that had ultimately been dismissed because the author was a fan of the JRPG genre. Quietly disheartened, having abandoned the JRPG genre many years ago for being more trouble than it's worth, but with few alternatives (the Switch library still being in its infancy) I figured I would take it for a spin and form my own conclusions.

I'm really glad I did.

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If you've spent any time with JRPG games or Anime in general then a lot of the setup will feel immediately familiar: Teenage boy stumbles across a great power, forms team of adventurers who pledge to save the world. Or I suppose in this case, worlds, as each continent is a Discworld-esque titan, floating on an endless sea of clouds and carrying their respective civilisations atop their backs. Our heroes (each of whom can be controlled by the player as the protagonist, a nice touch) are each in possession of Blades - essentially magical weapons that come with a walking, talking, physical manifestation. In the case of Rex, the boy whom the story revolves around, the anthropomorphic personification of his sword turns out to be a scantily clad young woman by the name of Pyra. What are the odds, eh?

As the party of Drivers grows ("Driver" being the term for a character in possession of a Blade), so does the range of Blades themselves, each with their own elemental affinities which can be combined in combat to create devastating combos. There's a heap of generic "common" blades which contribute very little (both aesthetically and practically), but there's also a whole stack of "rare" blades, each with full character art and unique side-quests and full voice acting (in two languages, no less). The way you interact with the NPC's inhabiting the games many cities and towns will occasionally vary depending on who you have in your party, and there are plenty of secrets and alternate routes that only become available if you're equipped with specific combinations as you explore. Because acquiring the majority of these blades is handled by a gashapon (RNG) system, it's rare that any two players will have the same team, giving each adventure an element of uniqueness, which was also appreciated as I made my way through Alrest. This was especially true during combat, as finding a composition of Blades that felt comfortable (as each have their own weapon styles and movesets) became an art rather than a science.

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I'm not going to go further into the combat because I feel like it, rather unfairly, seems to already hold the majority of the attention surrounding the game on account of it's complexity. I will merely say that while convoluted; it works, and it's extremely satisfying once you've figured out your Blade composition and you can reliably pull off an extensive series of combos.

As already mentioned, the game comes with full audio for two languages, English and Japanese, and while I was tempted to play through in Japanese I found the range of English-speaking accents refreshing enough to stick with the default. The game employs Mancunian, Welsh, Scottish, Australian, and even Cockney accents, mercifully portrayed by locals and not American approximations. With the exception of the Nopon (the game's race of spherical birdlike inhabitants) I found myself invested in each of the expansive cast, and the game rewards this investment by fleshing out each character arc quite satisfactorily. I even found myself cheering on certain blades as their personalities were given substance. One such example is the Xenomorph-inspired Wulfric, a terrifying nightmare blade with a heart of gold.

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It would be remiss of me not to mention the boundless optimism and wholesomeness the game deals out at every turn. Despite featuring themes such as death, war, murder, violence, and heavily implying that it's possible to have sex with the human embodiment of your sword, the world is charming, colourful, and the protagonists are drowning in enthusiasm and positivity. At one point Rex shouts "We'll beat them with the power of friendship!" without a trace of irony and I couldn't help but roll my eyes, but in general the game is good, not just in terms of it being a game, but in terms of it's outlook. Which was a nice change of pace from the endless hours of PUBG that have otherwise been occupying my time.

Perhaps one of the strongest pulls of this game, that kept me coming back for dozens upon dozens of consecutive hours, is it's artistic creativity. The world bustles, each Titan scattered with increasingly surreal animals and monsters, teeming with flora and fauna in the bright oversaturated colours that Nintendo favours. It's a joy to explore, which is fortunate because each area seems to stretch on far further than it might initially appear. Even after sixty hours I'm still finding new areas to explore in the first city, both the smallest and the most compact of the games many metropolis. As you continue through the game these cities can be "developed", evolving to provide you with new quests, characters, shops and opportunities, so that you can return to each through the game and almost always find something new to do there. This contributes to the sense that the world is alive and not just some finite stagnant pool that, once drained, will not refill.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is not a perfect game. However, the game can accommodate it's flaws purely by merit of it's scope; not just with it's scale but with its range - it's many systems layered carefully on top of one another. Some of them might not be the most intuitive, but it all works, and it's built on a foundation of charm and easygoing optimism that's hard to fault. In the games own words:

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No Rex. It's not weird at all.

Thanks for reading

Love Sweep

8 Comments

The Wind Rises, Studio Ghibli - a review

Right from the start, the animation in this film is absolutely staggering. There's shots where a whole street of people are mingling together and the level of coordination for that shit is insane. I've spent years learning how to do that with a computer so the idea of a team of people doing it by hand blows my mind a little bit.

I have to admit my appreciation for this film was heavily dependent on having seen The Kingdom Of Dreams And Madness immediately beforehand, because The Wind Rises is actually quite a dull story, and without the context that Miyazaki provides in the documentary surrounding it's production a lot of the nuance would have been missed. It's also a very weird subject to glorify with such a bright and colourful film; despite its strong anti-war sentiment it's still technically a celebration of the invention of Japanese war planes that were used against the allies, which made me feel slightly uncomfortable when portrayed through the ghibli aesthetic.

From a technical/biographical standpoint I loved it. At face value though, it's somewhat lacking. I'm glad I watched it, though I probably wouldn't recommend to anyone who wasn't a die-hard Ghibli fan or who had a strong appreciation for traditional animation principles.

[This review was posted elsewhere on the forums but I wanted a copy here that I could refer back to. x]

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Microtransactions undermine achievement

This started out as a series of indignant tweets but I needed some room to really spread out. Alright, let's do this.

Microtransactions are everywhere.

Every fuckin' game has them these days. There's "free to play" and "not free to play but you can pay for optional cosmetics and then we'll release DLC free" or in some cases even "not free to play and we'll charge you for everything, all cosmetics and DLC because fuck you, you're idiots and we know you'll pay for it" models. Can't move for 'em.

Seriously, we're knee deep right now.

For the most part, I'm OK with it. I'm lucky enough to have a chunk of disposable income that I'm happy to spend on cosmetic junk for games in which I intend to invest a relative amount of time. New hats? Sure, why not. They make my PUBG lady look cool while she jumps out the aeroplane. Who doesn't like hats?

Now I'm going to shelve that line of thought and jump back ten years to World Of Warcraft. Those were the days, huh? When you spent hours and days grinding out the gear you'd need to complete your raid at the end of the week? And then when you successfully completed that raid and you got a cool new mount or helmet or... whatever it is Priests have. Staves? Sure. The point is that you earned it and you got to walk around with it and people would throw you jealous/admiring glances as you strutted through Orgrimmar. I assume they were admiring glances.. it's hard to tell. The models were pretty low-poly back in the day.

I don't even know what this dude is, but they've got some pretty sweet pauldrons. Is
I don't even know what this dude is, but they've got some pretty sweet pauldrons. Is "pauldron" even a word or did I dream that? Let me google. "A pauldron is a component of plate armor, which evolved from spaulders in the 15th century." Alright, that checks out. Mystery solved gang, everyone back in the van.

Anyway the point was that there was a sense of pride associated with the gear you owned. Every piece came with a story. This helmet came from the Firelands! These boots came from Ulduar! They were a physical manifestation of your achievements, and they weren't just cosmetic, there was a sentimentality attached to each piece. They gave your character character.

Fast forward back to Now

This helmet? I got it in a loot crate. I had to buy 16 of them to get it.

This isn't a rant about spending money because, as has already been proved multiple times, I will willingly and enthusiastically spend moneys on stupid virtual cosmetics without complaint. This is an issue of game design principles, and giving players an emotional attachment to your game that is dependent on an investment other than money. By making everything in a game available for purchase through external currency you undermine any sense of pride a player might have from earning it ingame. A system in which you can simply buy the same content that is otherwise earned trivialises the achievement of the player who invested the time to get it. So why should they bother? I think this is why so many online communities attempting to promote the loot crate model have so much difficulty retaining their fanbase; without that emotional attachment, loyalty will only last so long. Where's the pride in just being able to throw money at a game until you get what you want?

Why should anyone give a fuck that you've got a cool hat if they know you didn't even need to kill anything in order to get it?

Ultimately it seems in the best interests of publishers to lock the best content behind ingame achievement. Part of me suspects this is why Destiny was so wildly successful despite being so bloated. Sure, have microtransactions, but don't only have microtransactions. Maybe don't overcharge for redundant DLC packs either (Destiny i'm still looking at you, you bastard) but there's a balance in there which rewards everyone and keeps people coming back for more.

That's why the real indicator of commitment in Hearthstone is in the golden hero powers, not the cards you own, or that one time you made legend with a dumb pirate warrior deck.

Right. Good. Glad we all agree.

Thanks for reading,

Love Sweep

32 Comments

Games being held to different technical standards upon release

Like everyone else, I've been pretty obsessed with Playerunknowns Battlegrounds over the past few months. It's the game that I never knew I even wanted. Every match feels fresh, and I can't remember feeling so hyped about being able to play any game for a long while. Which is weird, when you think about it, because Playerunknowns Battlegrounds is a buggy mess.

The servers are inconsistent, frequently laggy, preventing you from connecting, or even sporadically crashing the game. The animations often freak out, launching characters or vehicles high into the air, or randomly glitching them through doors or out of buildings. Doors open, and then close again, and when you try to open them a second time it turns out they were open after all, so they close. Bullets ping off invisible walls, occasionally houses levitate 20 feet off the ground, and one time a car drove through a wall into a building I was looting. Twice.

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Even more fantastical are the nonsensical bugs for which there is no obvious explanation, such as the cluster of buildings north of Yasnaya in which you're unable to lean left and right when aiming, or the last 5 seconds of each parachute drop in which you yoyo up and down until the game releases you at an unknown height.

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These are bugs which are known, accepted and, beyond that, celebrated. Players will spend several times longer attempting to crouch-jump through unboken panes of glass than it would have taken them to walk down the stairs and through the open door. I remember crashing a buggy into a static tree only for my buggy to catch fire and immediately explode, roasting both myself and my passenger who, instead of raging, jeered at our random demise. Sorry, Ryan :P

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Cars flipping out into the atmosphere are applauded, and the many ways in which the game breaks are subject to youtube compilations which rack up thousands of views. People consider these flaws endearing.

Contrast this with the reception of, for example, Mass Effect Andromeda.

There's obvious differences between the two, but the one common factor is that: both were made available for purchase loaded with bugs. And before people hit me with the "but PUBG is technically still in alpha" - would you have felt better about the MEA bugs if they'd slapped an "alpha" sticker on the box? The term "alpha" may explain bugs but it doesn't excuse them, especially in the year 2017 when the lines have been blurred between Early Access and Commercial Release.

Also, let's be real, the notion that all the current bugs in PUBG will have been fixed by the time the game is made available on consoles is laughable.

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The point is that for almost everyone those bugs aren't a big deal. We're happy to accept them and play anyway. Which seems very inconsistent. I've been trying to wrap my head around it and here's what I've come up with:

  • Our expectations are lower because we paid less, and it's a smaller development team
  • As an indie game there was no advertising hype and, through word of mouth, people arrived at the game already expecting it's flaws
  • The developers have been so vocal and active in acknowledging bugs and attempting to fix them, even if the majority of the bugs are still present
  • The short-burst nature of gameplay means each match is essentially disposable and if something breaks it's no great loss of time
  • Because there is no narrative component to the game there is less danger of immersion being broken
  • People like to hate on Mass Effect?
  • Watching bugs happen to other people is infinitely more entertaining than when they happen to you
  • Some combination of All Of The Above.

Beyond all that, we seem to have collectively decided that we don't care that PUBG is broke as hell. Perhaps there's some "fun" threshold which we've crossed, and which invalidates all complaints? Perhaps because there's no pretense with the game, that it's not trying to be a cinematic masterpiece or high art?

I dunno, man. It's weird.

Anyway, thanks for reading.

Love Sweep

60 Comments

Expectations, patches, and killing the zeitgeist

There's something invigorating about being caught up in the zeitgeist of a videogame. Being able to compare notes and impressions, swapping stories and sharing discoveries, is part of why videogame communities like this one are such vibrant and interesting places. Being included in a sub-community of enthusiasts during a launch window is what drives people to pre-order and rework their whole lives so they have as much time to play as possible. That's a potent factor surrounding the hype and enthusiasm for videogames in general; It's about inclusivity, and solidarity, and it's important.

It's also why I have so little sympathy for companies that push out rushed videogames and then apologetically attempt to make good with proposed patches and updates.

Aaryn Flynn, general manager of Bioware, has announced that, fair cop, the quality of Andromeda is somewhat lacking in certain areas of the game. Bioware acknowledges these issues and, now they have your money, they're committed to fixing those problems with a series of increasingly convoluted patches. One of which is Fixing Ryder’s movements when running in a zig zag pattern. Cool?

No, not really.

I didn't buy Andromeda, after being put off by multiple reviews, so I'm indifferent towards what exactly is being fixed. What irritates me more is that this is slowly becoming an acceptable form of doing business; games are swapped for money and then, if people complain loud enough, the developer grudgingly agrees to deliver the level of quality which was expected in the first place. In the case of some, such as Bioware, those expectations are the result of a company pedigree. Others seem a little more deceitful. I'm looking at you, No Man's Sky (though I wish I wasn't, because you look bad).

And this sucks, because the zeitgeist is important! People want to be caught up in the opening-weekend excitement, and by relying on a series of ongoing patches you deny them that experience. Not to mention the fact that most people, having struggled through your broken-ass game once already, will be reluctant to do so again in a month regardless of what you add in a patch.

Not to bang the same drum, but pre-orders deserve some of this blame once again. I'd like to think that no developer is deliberately trying to push out a shitty videogame, but they have little incentive to make improvements if hordes of fans are already locked in to buy it regardless of launch quality. But let's look at the silver linings here:

  • Doing something is better than doing nothing. At the very least they're acknowledging the problems and trying to fix them. For the sake of people who brought the game, I hope those changes are meaningful.
  • The review scores aren't going to be changed regardless of patches. A lot of studios measure their success in meta-critic ratings, so this fuckup is now on Biowares permanent record. Hopefully they learn from this and we see improvements next time.
  • Maybe less people will buy into this preorder bullshit now they've been repeatedly burned. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice...

Thanks for reading

Love Sweep

14 Comments

Sweep's Big Old Destiny 2 Wishlist

Since the release of the Destiny 2 trailer I've seen a lot of whining (yeah, you heard me) about the tone and direction Bungue seems to be aiming for; the emphasis on Cayde-6's goofy, loveable rogue personality seems an unimaginative and hackneyed solution to what has, until now, attempted to be a sincere and humourless universe. Considering the original story was such a bland experience, devoid of any real personality (even Nolan North couldn't spice up those Ghost lines) until Nathan Fillian took over as Cayde in the later expansions, the general consensus amongst reviewers was that the best way to play Destiny was to ignore the storyline completely, so I have a hard time sympathising with anyone who wants to maintain the status quo; I'd rather have some personality that none at all.

Anyway, I could dive deeper into this argument buuuuuuuut I don't really care. And this is my blog, so fuck it. Instead i'm going to list off all the stuff which I want from Destiny 2 in no specific order.

Matchmaking for Raids

I can understand why on PC this isn't such a big deal, because the infrastructure for matchmaking is immediately available elsewhere on sites like reddit, but that's a hassle when you're playing on console. Use some smart filters to let players be specific about what they're searching for, and have some kind of system that indicates how many times each player has completed a raid so prospective groups can recruit appropriately. Which brings me succinctly to my next point;

Dynamic raids

The problem with having only one endgame raid is that after you've done it a couple of times it gets a bit repetitive. Raids, and raid secrets, are easily the best part of Destiny - having raids that change and evolve with their playerbase, special events, modifiers, and a range of rewards, could all extend the replayability of raids indefinitely. This would also prevent old raid content from stagnating - as new raids were introduced and the level cap was raised, old raids became redundant as the loot you received for completing them was considered more trouble than it was worth - why spend 5 hours completing this old raid when the new strike drops better loot in 15 minutes and it's green. For anyone joining the Destiny community late, the existing expansions (which you were still required to pay full price for) were a total waste of money as, even if you could find a group willing to run it, there were few rewards worth the trip.

Chat Wheels

Give us the option to issue basic commands with a chat wheel. It works, and it's useful. I don't play with a headset unless I know the people in my party, and being able to issue dumb orders like "follow me" or "regroup" is invaluable when trying to show the random knuckleheads online how to finish a strike.

Strike Design

See what I did there? Strike bosses need to be more than just a huge bullet sponge. A strike should effectively be designed in the same way as one segment of a raid. There should be puzzled (procederally generated, because you're going to end up doing them a bunch of times) and fights which encourage exploration, teamplay and strategy, with a more interesting dynamic than "strafe and shoot until the big alien falls over".

PVP

Iron Banner was awesome. The best way for people to showcase all the cool loot they got was to let them use it to unfairly blow the shit out of one another. I appreciate the attempt to balance all the weapons out and make PVP fair but it was never as satisfying.

Class identity

By the end of the final Destiny Expansion all the classes had kinda merged to become interchangeable. That simplifies things when you're trying to get a group together, but does trivialise the class choice to begin with. There should be more emphasis on complimentary skills and less focus on turning every class into a solo-proficient death machine. Synergy is the buzzword of the day, folks.

Alright, that'll do for now. There's plenty more ideas whizzing around so I'll probably update this as and when I feel like it. Stay tuned.

Thanks For Reading

Love Sweep

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Sweep's Big Old Destiny 2 Wishlist

Since the release of the Destiny 2 trailer I've seen a lot of whining (yeah, you heard me) about the tone and direction Bungue seems to be aiming for; the emphasis on Cayde-6's goofy, loveable rogue personality seems an unimaginative and hackneyed solution to what has, until now, attempted to be a sincere and humourless universe. Considering the original story was such a bland experience, devoid of any real personality (even Nolan North couldn't spice up those Ghost lines) until Nathan Fillian took over as Cayde in the later expansions, the general consensus amongst reviewers was that the best way to play Destiny was to ignore the storyline completely, so I have a hard time sympathising with anyone who wants to maintain the status quo; I'd rather have some personality that none at all.

Anyway, I could dive deeper into this argument buuuuuuuut I don't really care. And this is my blog, so fuck it. Instead i'm going to list off all the stuff which I want from Destiny 2 in no specific order.

Matchmaking for Raids

I can understand why on PC this isn't such a big deal, because the infrastructure for matchmaking is immediately available elsewhere on sites like reddit, but that's a hassle when you're playing on console. Use some smart filters to let players be specific about what they're searching for, and have some kind of system that indicates how many times each player has completed a raid so prospective groups can recruit appropriately. Which brings me succinctly to my next point;

Dynamic raids

The problem with having only one endgame raid is that after you've done it a couple of times it gets a bit repetitive. Raids, and raid secrets, are easily the best part of Destiny - having raids that change and evolve with their playerbase, special events, modifiers, and a range of rewards, could all extend the replayability of raids indefinitely. This would also prevent old raid content from stagnating - as new raids were introduced and the level cap was raised, old raids became redundant as the loot you received for completing them was considered more trouble than it was worth - why spend 5 hours completing this old raid when the new strike drops better loot in 15 minutes and it's green. For anyone joining the Destiny community late, the existing expansions (which you were still required to pay full price for) were a total waste of money as, even if you could find a group willing to run it, there were few rewards worth the trip.

Chat Wheels

Give us the option to issue basic commands with a chat wheel. It works, and it's useful. I don't play with a headset unless I know the people in my party, and being able to issue dumb orders like "follow me" or "regroup" is invaluable when trying to show the random knuckleheads online how to finish a strike.

Strike Design

See what I did there? Strike bosses need to be more than just a huge bullet sponge. A strike should effectively be designed in the same way as one segment of a raid. There should be puzzled (procederally generated, because you're going to end up doing them a bunch of times) and fights which encourage exploration, teamplay and strategy, with a more interesting dynamic than "strafe and shoot until the big alien falls over".

PVP

Iron Banner was awesome. The best way for people to showcase all the cool loot they got was to let them use it to unfairly blow the shit out of one another. I appreciate the attempt to balance all the weapons out and make PVP fair but it was never as satisfying.

Class identity

By the end of the final Destiny Expansion all the classes had kinda merged to become interchangeable. That simplifies things when you're trying to get a group together, but does trivialise the class choice to begin with. There should be more emphasis on complimentary skills and less focus on turning every class into a solo-proficient death machine. Synergy is the buzzword of the day, folks.

Alright, that'll do for now. There's plenty more ideas whizzing around so I'll probably update this as and when I feel like it. Stay tuned.

Thanks For Reading

Love Sweep

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I have no enthusiasm to keep playing Night In The Woods

Night In The Woods has been on my wishlist for a long time. Ever since it's inception in fact, from the earliest tweets and announcements surrounding the project. I even followed the developers on twitter. I say followed, because after a while I had to unfollow them. Because they wouldn't shut the fuck up.

I think that's a pretty perfect analogy for why I'm finding it so difficult to enjoy Night In The Woods. Aesthetically, it's gorgeous. The writing is, when you break down individual scenes, fantastic. The controls are responsive and tight, the entire thing feels unique and well crafted. This is all undermined by the game trying desperately hard to be edgy with every fibre of it's being. It's like someone took a novelty twitter account and stretched it out into a videogame.

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It's relentless. It bounces between pithy tumblr-esque post-irony and overbearing profundities. It's like a generic romantic comedy that needs to prove, behind the goofs, there's some actual depth to it's characters.

Consequently I don't know where to place it. It feels both cartoonishly shallow and pretentiously deep.

It's a shame, because the setting, and general tone, feels perfect. I love the small-town america vibes, being caught up in the crumbling economy. I thought the character Bea was massively more interesting when she hated Mae, and I can relate to a lot of the individual scenes that take place; Getting drunk in front of old schoolfriends at a party and embarrassing yourself? Yeah bro, I know that feel. Returning home to find your old friends haven't moved on and they resent you for leaving? More than once.

Maybe I'm too old. Or maybe this game just makes me feel old. Those are very different things. Maybe the game is trying too hard to fit into a meta-millennial landscape and succeeding slightly too well.

Either way, I feel alienated to the extent I don't want to play any more.

Thanks For Reading

Love Sweep

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