[PATV] Wednesday, November 28, 2012 - Extra Credits Season 5, Ep. 14: Combining Genres
[PATV] Wednesday, November 28, 2012 - Extra Credits Season 5, Ep. 14: Combining Genres
This week, we discuss the best way to approach genre blending.
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To make you play longer.
I think you just punched a developer in the face earlier in the video for that very reason.
Obviously prestige modes are to show off your e-peen. But, I think the stat resetting is actually more beneficial to the e-peens for those of us who don't play 40+ hours a week.
Think about the biggest hurdle to cross with CoD multiplayer. The toughest part is learning the levels and what weapons/perks are good, bad and OP. And while everyone obviously starts at the same point, there are many players out there who spend a lot more time on the game and thus learn them in a shorter time period (albeit probably still at a similar pace) and thus have an advantage.
Both times I've started a new CoD title (which has only been MW3 and BO2) have been a little while after release. In the beginning my K:D ratio starts off in the crapper mainly because I'm new to the levels and people know them better. Once I get to be around level 30 (when I've got a fairly good grasp of the levels), my match K:D ratio rounds out to about 1:1. Then, once I've learned the maps completely and figured out my best loadout my match K:D becomes positive. The problem is at level 30ish when I'm finally grasping the map, my lifetime K:D makes it look like I'm an idiot (which I am, but CoD doesn't need to know that). So, the option to reset everything once I figure out what the hell I'm doing is a nice feature.
As for why they put the RPG element in... Anyone who has ever played an RPG can tell you that this no greater drive to level than the shit you get at each level. This is especially true when you are actually allowed to customize your characters the way you want to (think of D&D or Vanilla/BC WoW). Getting a new feat, spell, or talent point unlocks a whole bunch of opportunities and make you feel more powerful (there's no better feeling than playing a mage in a D&D-style game (Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights, and hell ACTUAL D&D) and finally getting a fireball spell).
The same can be said about CoD with it's guns and perks. You unlock new weapons/perks as you level, and you can even level those same weapons to unlock parts for the guns and the ability to customize how your weapon looks. Hell, in Black Ops 2 you can prestige your weapons, so that your custom emblem that you made can be on your weapon.
Oh yeah, you can also unlock emblems and call signs by doing different achievements for each weapon/perk/lethal/tactical that you can use.
So yeah, there's a lot more to do with the game, and thus many will play it longer as a result of that. But the design itself isn't just to make the game longer. It actually adds a desire to play in order to become more powerful. Getting rapid fire on the MP7, unlocking the RPG, or being able to customize your sniper so that you can never be seen are just a few examples of feeling more powerful through leveling.
I did find it odd that they didn't even give a nod to Borderlands (or if they did, I didn't catch it). There was the obvious reference to Mass Effect, but with quests, a talent tree, and upgradable weapons and armor, Borderlands is probably the quintessential FPS/RPG of this generation.
Really, in a multiplayer shooter, the real drive is to beat the other guy. Stratifying your playerbase by time played and giving one strata the access to the best guns just makes everyone else feel hard done by. What's the point in playing a game where the other guy tears you up with guns that are very much superior to your weaponry? Especially when you finally do kill such an opponent, you can pick up their weapon and go on an instant rampage.
The whole reason why that reset button is there is not because the mechanic works well in CoD, it's because you want to turn the damn thing off to have any chance of having a shot at the core gameplay. Once everyone uses it, and is on an even playing field, then you can judge who is the better marksman and not just relying on their hours grinded. And the button is far easier and less exclusionary than making everyone grind to level 50 (or whatever) before they can play in whatever competitive league you want to set up.
Yes, people who play shooters want to express mastery over opponents, but tipping the scales to one side isn't the way to give them that. It should come through practise and learning, not unlocks and killstreaks.
As for Bioshock and the pipe-dream game, I don't know if calling it out on being mismatched is a good move. Rapture's central philosophy was a place where a man could make himself. And so throughout the game they presented you with various ways you could manipulate the environment to achieve your main goal. Guns, plasmids and hacking largely, as well as save/harvest. You didn't have to use all these paths if you didn't want to, but of course exploring all the paths yielded all the rewards, so completionists are going to take all the routes anyway. In any case, ideally these paths should be matched to different styles of player so that people can find a route that they enjoy through the story whilst feeling like they own their character. The puzzles are there to appeal to people who like thinking challenges rather than fast paced battle challenges, and I don't think that's a bad thing.
This being said, you could replace the pipe-dream puzzle with some other puzzle. But what? If you wanted to keep player agency in the puzzles, you could go the Deus Ex/Thief route and just make it jumping/stealth puzzles that bypass security/enemies. But this doesn't give you the opportunity to subvert security for your own defense as easily, and with the large amount of enemies in Rapture, as well as needing to take down the Big Daddys somehow, this would throw you into gunplay territory more often than not.
You could potentially replace the hacking minigame with button pushing, but that eliminates the challenge and the choice, and you can always use autohacks or research to bypass hacking entirely at the moment anyway.
So all you're really looking at is replacing one hacking minigame for another. You could have hacking as a screen within a screen (which wouldn't make much sense in steampunk land) and have the world still react whilst hacking, to try and keep the player immersed in Rapture instead of Pipe Dream world. But in any case, you've got to give the player puzzles to allow them this second route through Rapture, and pipe dream is just as good a puzzle as most hacking games out there.
So yes, it doesn't fit into FPS territory very well, but it does provide an alternative to straight FPS play. And for the game to deliver its story, these alternatives are necessary. So I think Bioshock wouldn't be nearly as good a game without a puzzle based element like the hacking pipe dream system, and if not pipe dream, what other hacking puzzle would have been better instead?
Physics-based first person perspective puzzle game sound like a fairly good description of a game, whereas FPS/Puzzle sounds like a glued-together science project more than a game intended for the market.
In the end this is just another way to look at the same thing, but when you just look at what elements* you want instead of what genres you'd like to "combine" it's easier to mentally avoid extra baggage that doesn't improve the game.
Camera: top-down, side scrolling, first person, 3rd person, ...
Player(s): Single Player, Co-Op, competitive, ...
Time: real-time, turn-based (action points, cards, dice, ...).
Core: Solving puzzles, resource management, war game, assassination, ...
Additionally, by making it a reward and a status symbol CoD voluntarily gets people to reset their stats, which is something very few players would do with just a button that you could press at any time which said "Go back to level 1". This buy-in gets people back on the treadmill, reinforcing the element of the system CoD borrowed from RPGs; without playing into the competition/dominance aspect at the core of the game, CoD loses this.
For anyone who haven't heard of this game (and I'm betting quite a few), Valkyria Chronicles is a Strategic RPG which game mechanics combine a mixture of turnbase/3rd person shooting mechanics to deliver a well thought and unique experience which quite frankly hasn't been seen in any other game this generation: Heck, Extra Credits even recommended it in their "Games you might not have tied#1" episode.
For a more detailed view of the game, you can check out the episode below.
And seriously, if your put off by this game just because of the cell shaded graphics, PLEASE look past that because you will surely miss out on a very unique and wonderful experience. Fans of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, you will LOVE THIS!
Here's a link if you're into that sort of thing:
She is currently working on a collaborative album as well as the soundtrack for the indie game Cryamore, all in this style
Which is a retardedly pithy way of saying that there are some amazing awesome games that don't get buys despite the quality of the craft. There are just some subtle nuances, innovations, or perfections that some well-done AAA games nail that just plain don't hit most people's radar unless they're gameavores. Valkria, Grim Fandango, Panzer Dragoon Saga, and on and on: they didn't sell because they either weren't hyped because the pub/dist didn't believe; because the public percieved it as a "genre" instead of the next in the "brand" they & their piers were loyal to; or because the people with pocket cash didn't appreciate the game mechanics etc. The AAA developers made a great game, but only the "versed" reviewed it, sought it out, or collected it.
This happens to great small genre/indie games all the time: Tale of the Sun, Poy Poy, Stretch Panic, Mister Mosquito: innovative and sound game mechanics, but too quirky and low-key to catch attention from anyone but critics and the community (you'll see gameplay mechanics from those PSOne/2 games in today's). It's just that sometimes, there's a truly noteworthy AAA effort that consumers don't care about, but will contain noteworthy stuff for the future.
New AAA-clone titles coming more frequently than the "new" FPS sports crack RTS quarterly re-releases make me want to poke some companies in the eye. (If "they" made that into a game, would it be FTP?)
I've got to disagree with your comment on the CoD leveling system reinforcing the competitive play / dominance fantasy. I believe it diminishes it, by disconnecting the player from their influence in the game.
That is, if I have unlocked a good gun, I can't tell if my good runs are because I am besting my opponents, or if they are stuck with inferior weaponry. Similarly if I start playing, I can't tell whether I just suck or if it's just because of the standard loadout I'm stuck with until I unlock the weapons everyone else is running around with.
Now this might have changed in the new CoDs, and people aren't running around with silenced p90s whilst the newbies are stuck with lower clip, damage and noiser rifles, but a brief look around the net says the system hasn't changed much, with guns still being drip-fed to you. They may have made the balance better, so unlocks don't make the starting equipment completely obsolete, but I doubt it, as then what would be the point of ranking up.
So, I'm prepared to be wrong here, but unless CoD has changed so that newbies have a 50/50 chance of winning against a long time player skill differences aside, then all the rank system does is artificially dampen a player's effectiveness until they have all the most effective weapons. And that, IMO detracts from the core experience on both sides. I know it's the main reason I don't play CoD.
We're in an age we're AAA companies are pissed scared to step out the proverbial walls of their own comfort zone which results in many titles that are released being nothing more than copies of another titles or predecessor games: you can't really call it "innovating". I use that term sparingly because when you talk innovation your talking about something that really presents something new within the gaming industry and not just something borrowed or added to enhance the experience (which is more of an improvement).
I think AAA companies really gotta step it up a notch and be willing to experiment with what the medium can offer to its consumers (I'm probably speaking the obvious though). I mean take Valkyria Chronicles which I talked about. This game got the Guinness World Records 2010 award for best SRPG and was well loved for its 3rd Person Shooter/Turnbased mechanics however went under the radar due to a lack of advertising from Sega (due to lack of faith in its popularity) which in turn caused a lack of understanding by the gaming community to the true value of such a game. However you take a similar (just slightly) game such as XCOM: Enemy Unknown which was well marketed by its team to ensure a well understanding of what the game would deliver and it was well received. I even went to many sites that reviewed XCOM: EU and recommended VC and I let me tell you, people took notice to its similarity to XCOM and were shocked that such a jewel had gone unnoticed for a long time.
Point is we got a lot of titles that are prime example of genres that blend well together and as consumers, we should have the courage to venture out and try such titles or be damned and stuck in the never ending titles of the same thing all over again.
That's an argument I hear often, but is pretty difficult to back up. There are some AAA developers that constantly re-iterate the same games over and over again, but they're related to their publisher issues, and they aren't the majority. Bethesda, Bioware, Valve, THQ, even Activision which is usually only synonymous with Call of Duty or Guitar Hero on the internet, still has a huge and varied catalog of games. Even Bungie has done a lot of different work and split off their Halo franchise to focus on publishing games themselves.
All AAA developers aren't afraid to create in new directions or change up their settings. Some are pressured by publishers, and some are genuinely good at what they do within a specific genre.
Still, it was a nice episode.
Technically, I guess you could say that video games have two genres, the narrative genre and the mechanical genre. Certain mechanical genres lend themselves more easily to certain narrative genres, but there is no reason that an FPS, an RPG, and a puzzle game couldn't all tell a science fiction, historical fiction, or mystery story.
The reason we tend define games by their mechanical genre is because video games are first and foremost an interactive medium and it is the mechanics that define that interaction.
And for everyone who is interested in following a great indie project, and dev-diary, check out forcedthegame.com/i/r.php?u=2PJbTf
In that context, I think the "Get them to play longer" of leveling or upgrading is really about "Discovery" aesthetic. Each time you upgrade, you discover what your new capabilities can allow you to do.
Also, on the "leveling as discovery" idea, there are also games that go full-on skill-tree, which again is something you have to explore just as much as locations.
Also consider Katamari Damacy. A big part of the appeal to me was that as you get bigger, that transforms how you interact with the world. You discover how different this same location feels, now that you're a 5m ball instead of a 5cm ball, for example. And so an RPG where you level, the same location can feel completely different if you are level 1 or level 20, based on your capabilities.
Boktai = Stealth + RPG
Mighty Switch Force = Platformer + Puzzle
- Racing + FPS = A racing game where after the race, the top racers leave their cars and battle for the trophy with guns!
- Turn-based Strategy + Soccer (I will not be surprised if someone tells me it already exists.)
- Street Fighter Management Edition: pick fights, hire a coach, manage publicity and see if your character remains top fit in the ring!
EDIT: In fact, management edition would be a great extra in a fighting game.
Now I want to analyze Borderlands a lot more in reference to what this video discussed.
Has anyone here played PQ: Galactrix? If you haven't... don't. I thought it might be like PQ in space, and in a way it is, but they replaced the gems with hexes, meaning the board can slide in six different directions based on how you match your colors.
On the surface, it sounds like a cool mechanic for this type of game, but it introduces a huge new level of chaos into the system, because the increased number of options for play also means it's a lot easier for a match to give the AI a perfect gem match to totally screw you, even (especially?) after you've chained two or three together in a combo.
And yes, the outro music this week is sweet.
I compare the BIOSHOCK hacking minigame to the ones from DEUS EX HUMAN REVOLUTION and the differences are glaring. Both serve a similar in game purpose in allowing you to subvert enemy assets to your side. But the Deus Ex one felt good and the Bioshock one didn't.
I think the key here is how they related to the core gameplay. Despite its shooter elements, Deus Ex was a game about stealth. The hacking games were too: the threat in them were all related to evading detection while using your assets to reach a goal. Moreover, a key aspect of DE's core engagement was that of choice: choosing a less risky path or a more challenging one with better rewards. The hacking game was similar, with its optional objectives and optional rewards.
Bioshock's hacking game is so glaring to me because the other elements of the game also emphasize choice: you can choose your weapons, tactics, plasmids, and powers and customize yourself to a point that when the game presents you with a scenario where there is only One Right Way to do things it's jarringly out of place. The story uses that disconnect brilliantly. But in the hacking minigame it just feels lazy and unpolished.
Now, I don't want to rag on about Story, because I really enjoy it, if it is implemented well. I don't mind if it is not always there though. As long as a game has an atmosphere, and feels right to me (stealth games in particular), a good story is not required. Think about Portal 2 for a moment. You are stuck in an old laboratory, trying to escape past insane/evil robots. That is nearly it for story, but the comments and the atmosphere were perfect.
... I really am ragging on story. I don't hate it that much and I wish I could come up with better examples.