Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Evolution of a Gamer

I admit it... I played World of Warcraft for about 4 or 5 years.. quite steadily.  Because it's a 'grind' game, that took up pretty much an entire year of my life - non-stop for 1 year.

The are other games that are mini-grinds (Diablo 3, Borderlands 2).. content limited games that try and extend the life of the game by making rare and more powerful items increasingly harder to get.  I don't mean harder in the sense that you need more skill as a gamer to get them.  You need more luck as a gamer.  The chance of getting the rare item is exceedingly low, by design.  I think of these as casino games, where you have an unlimited amount of dollar coins and you keep pulling the lever of the slot machine over and over and over.. with a .0001% chance of winning anything.

So - game designers are intentionally creating a reward system that encourages people to waste vast amounts of time in between getting an actual reward.  Then, once you do mostly get all the things you've spent many hours trying to get, they release an expansion pack and start the grind all over again.

I won't be playing those types of games anymore.

Of course, multiplayer games can take up vast amounts of time as well.  First person shooters.. chess.. online poker.. whatever, can become addictive but they're not punishing you 99% of the time and rewarding you 1% of the time.  You play the game because you like it, not because you're grinding for anything.

I'll also play cinematic and story driven games.  You play through them, you enjoy the story and the game play, and then you get to the end and the credits roll.  That's it.. it's over.  I find that much better than a grind game.

I just bought Dishonored.  It should be about 40 hours or so of story driven sneak-hack-slash.  Once it's done, I'll uninstall it... unless I feel like playing through again in a different way to see how the story changes.  I played through Batman: Arkham City twice.. just because it was so good.


Steve said...

I think WoW was a bit different than Diablo 3 or Borderlands. Sure, it was a grind, but a grind w/ a goal and a lot of social interaction. Diablo 3, in the beginning, had a social aspect, when we were all leveling and showing off our leet new gear. That quickly diminished as the upgrades became minor, a few STR points here, or an extra crit % there. Sure you slowly get better, but so what. And when there's no one around to play with, yeah, it's just a RNG with a very low percentile to get anything good.

So, where does that leave things? I think I'll pick up Halo 4, at the very least it'll give me something to do for a weekend, and round out the Halo collection. I've also heard that it is quite good.

I recently jumped on a kickstarter for a space sim. I'm not sure if you're familiar with Freelancer, but it was one of my favorite games 10 years ago and I've been waiting patiently for the next great space sim to return. The game is called Star Citizen, http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/cig/star-citizen, it looks like the same idea with a lot of new and unique twists to it. Unfortunately, the game wont be released until 2014, so, I'm going to have to figure something out til then.

How's Dishonered? Looks like a combination of Skyrim and Assassin's Creed.

Tom said...

I never played Freelancer, but I know what it is.

Frankly, Dishonored is not nearly as good as the reviews would have you believe. The quest system is sort of like Skyrim, except it's totally linear. The design basically funnels you into certain locations, but they put guards in the way leaving you to sort out how you're going to kill them or choke them unconscious, or just go by them. The game encourages you to not kill them, but you can.

The mechanics in Batman are a billion times better. Plus the graphics in Dishonored are not nearly as good as we're lead to believe. It has a decent sort of distopian style, but lacks a lot of detail. I'm playing it in surround and my GPUs are running at about 40% utilization with every option maxed in the game and nvidia control panel. Again, Batman is way better in visuals.

The controls are a bit shitty too. Some of these types of games are better with a console controller, but again, Batman was so much better. I used the keyboard/mouse and it worked great. Each gadget had a quick use button and I could chain cool moves one after the other in combat, beating the crap out of the bad guys without having to make some moral decision about whether to kill them or not - they always just got knocked unconscious. The whole morality play in Dishonored is stupid. In Dishonored, using the 'powers' is a pain in the ass.

It has one of those systems where wandering guards can find bodies and set off alarms and shit, so you end up having to make a great big pile of bodies in one particular place. You choke them unconscious, carry them to your preferred gaurd body pile and dump them on top. After a while, you get a nice pile of bodies.

Batman also had cool mini games to do when not playing the campaign.. solving Riddler puzzles and such, and they were a ton of fun. Dishonored has no interesting puzzle solving except for opening safes. You have to find the combination to the safe to open it, which if you examin every single thing nearby that can be examined, eventually you'll find the combination. It's kind of a lame design.

So ya, I'm about 10 hours in, and so far I wouldn't reccomend it - despite the reviews saying it's a "must play". Maybe it gets a lot better at some point. Still, I'd rather be playin a new Batman game.

Steve said...

I've been thinking a lot about this post lately, for several reasons. First, you haven't posted anything else, so I keep seeing it, but also, because it is interesting to think about why certain games are fun and what draws us to them and what ultimately makes them no longer fun.

WoW, for example, was a tremendous amount of fun. Enough fun that we dedicated a good portion of our lives to playing it. What made it fun, and what made it stop being fun? For me, what made it fun, was leading a rag tag group of 40 mediocre gamers and eventually culminating in successful clears of challenging content; that and getting drunk and just playing games amongst good people.

What made it not fun? It’s a grind. Grinding for gear to get better to grind for better gear.

So, what's the fix to this? How do you make a game that satisfies all the fun elements w/o the negative?

Now, I don't mind the leveling process, I think it's fun, in some games it's a little too long, but in others it's fine. But it's necessary to really understand what your character can do and how to play him. (to an extent)
So, my ideal game would still have a leveling component, but the end game content... The end game is where I think games like WoW fail. What fun is it to grind it out just to occasionally find something that's a little bit better or that makes you a little bit better. What I'd like to see is everyone having access to all the gear necessary to clear certain content. The reward for clearing the content then, isn't gear, but rather the next tier of content. In return to getting to the next tier, is another level of gear that you're free to choose from. It’s kind of like giving everyone Good gear, then as a reward for clearing the molten core, everyone gets Teir 1 gear. Clear BWL, everyone has access to T2, etc. So the game becomes less about gearing up and more about solving challenges. Just because you can have all the best gear, you still need to know how to use it, what skills to use, and how to clear content that should be cleverly designed.

What makes MMO's and Diablo like games fun is also the social aspect. Playing games with friends, exploring new content together, showing off that sweet new weapon drop, or finding an item your buddy could really use. Console games on the other hand, rarely have the quality. I really enjoyed Skyrim, thought it was a great game, but I had no one to share the experience with, which made it less fun.

All that said, I’m still playing Diablo from time to time. It’s still enjoyable, looking for a sweet drop, mindlessly killing hordes of baddies for a few hours to unwind after a long day.

Anyway, just thought I’d leave a long winded comment and check in to see how you’re doing.

Hope everything is well.


Tom said...

I haven't had much to say lately. I saw a new ENT a couple weeks ago.. he ordered some new tests, some blood work and some weird inner ear tests and such. Those tests actually made me feel worse.

Seriously.. most of these tests were done with blacked out goggles on, which have cameras inside to record eye movements and such, while they did fucked up shit to my ears.. sounds, blowing hot air and then cold air in them, having me follow LED lights with my eyes and so on. It was just strange.

The ringing is off the chart now, and I've taken a bunch of valume to try and get it to quiet down, and it's not working. I suppose that if the tests point to a diagnosis, that's a good thing.

The audiologist seems to think that I simply have hearing loss which caused the tinnitus, and the rest of the symptoms are a reaction to that. Its basically backwards of the way I was looking at it.. I thought something caused all of these symptoms, including the ringing, instead of the ringing being the cause.

If that turns out to be the case, which is the worst case scenario, then they think that if they get me on hearing aids, with a built in tinnitus masking device, it'll help. What it is supposed to do is retrain the brain to ignore the frequency of the tinnitus, so it either reduces it or eliminates it, along with the other symptoms like the nausea and headaches.

So.. we'll see what the new ENT has to say this Friday. He seems smart enough, but his office staff is incompetent.

In the mean time, I found a couple of programs from searching google that supposedly work like the tinnitus masking devices, and I've got my head phones on with that shit going. Hopefully it helps, because this shit is bloody murder right now.