The Unbearable Awesomeness Of Being

Monday, March 28, 2005

DC, Washington DC

Should have included the Dreamcast somewhere. Oh well.

Apparently, DC's great world-spanning plot is called Infinite Crisis. Makes sense: Crisis on Infinite Earths had cosmic creatures vying for all existence, while Infinite Crisis features a funny looking satellite and Lex Luthor teaming up with Deathstroke The Guy That Pokes Things With Swords. I can just feel the cosmic repercussions.

Also, I figured out why people think these books have such great character development: It's the thought balloons. There's like pages and pages of Blue Beetle mentally reviewing how much Barbara Gordon gives him a great big chubby. Next up it will be superhero blogs, no doubt.

Meanwhile, ESRB continues their efforts to allow all ages to decently enjoy videogames... whoops nevermind Hillary Clinton hasn't been listening and is pushing Bush to make more studies because children are playing GTA. Since my motion to replace violence with more sex hasn't found ears, I suggest we wait for all politicians currently older than 30 to retire and groom their children and obvious sucessors into avid gamers. Do your part for the country, introduce a politician's son to Nintendo.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

You Still Can't Get Ye Flask

Whenever I get 'normal' people to play text adventures (or for the more pedantically inclined, 'interactive fiction'), they reject it as soon as they discover the computer won't understand 'grab the left glove from atop the fireplace' even if you add 'please' at the end. These are usually the same people that have no issue with the hundreds of buildings on MMORPGs that have apparently painted-on doors.

I've been playing City of Heroes recently, and it constantly impresses me with its simple design. Not simple in a good way, mind you: The palette of game actions is incredibly limited. You can attack villains with an array of 30 or so powers with various flashy effects, heal friends with a few other powers, open doors, find clues, jump up objects for the occasional badge bonus and.... that's it. I was surprised to find that you can make enemies fall in lava and get hurt: That's how low of an expectation I had for the game.

What do we learn from this? After twenty years of gamemaking, the designer's bag of tricks continues tiny as ever. Granted, many games are purposefully limited in this way: for example Tetris wouldn't be better if you could turn the blocks 45 degrees or choose what block you can drop; you're supposed to do the best you can with what the computer throws at you. But the new wave of games, so to say, seems to stick with these limitations more out of tradition or lack of creativity than to offer a challenge to players. Is there any reason why you shouldn't be able to talk a group of monsters into surrendering or throw a car at them or use their fallen comrades as blunt weapons? Of course there is - the programmers didn't add that.

If game companies spent nearly as much on adding gameplay value to their games as they do crafting beautiful threedimensional scenery and generic fantasy plots, we'd reach the skies. GTA and Metal Gear Solid would look like Pac-Man. (Which, in fifteen years or so, has not been improved upon.)