Author Topic: Thoughts on Gaming (Trends Pt two)  (Read 13902 times)

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Offline Fineus

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Re: Thoughts on Gaming (Trends Pt two)
All i'm saying is, let's not confuse a cosmetic, minor change or transient novelty with actual real originality and uniqueness.
I've not seen BJM so.. if you say so!

To reply to the quoted bit though.. I suppose so. You could take an existing game model and replace it with Nazis, zombies, ghosts, pirates, cyber-goths, mutated civilians or whatever... that doesn't really make it original.

 

Offline Blaise Russel

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Re: Thoughts on Gaming (Trends Pt two)
i've been under the general opinion for the longest time that Valve tried to cover very sloppy storytelling with the whole "you know as much as gordon knows" pitch.

the game had gaping plot holes the likes of which i've never seen before, oh SURE you could LOOK at the various noteboards, etc. For example, i was able to ascertain that anywhere between 10-15 or so years are missing between HL1 and HL2, which fails to explain absolutely everything beyond the 7-hour war and ****.

Do you really need to know what happened after the 7 Hour War?

Okay, rather, you do know what happened after the 7 Hour War: City 17, all over the world. Oppression and forced assimilation. Earth adapted by alien overlords into something different. And instead of being simply told that Earth is now post-(alien)-apocalypse, you get to be shown it, in dilapadated buildings, inhuman guardians, constant surveillance, Breencast propaganda, frightened uniformed citizens, newspeak jargon, military units patrolling streets, block raids, dried-out seas, polluted canals, wrecked cars, highways in disrepair, monstrous wildlife, hideous zombies, alien materials and technology...

Like KOTOR2, I really appreciated the opportunity to work things out for myself, instead of being spoon-fed a story like pretty much every other game out there. Even if the story is fairly well-written, or at least constructed decently, it's so much more rewarding to figure it out on your own than to just be told it by somebody else.

Not that it was anything but fluff. The story of mankind's rebellion against oppressors from the stars doesn't have any holes in it whatsoever.



Regardless: what's the obsession with originality? I'd rather have a good game. Sometimes, unoriginality is exactly what is desired, as a Freespace 2 which decided to veer off into the realm of a non-linear trading game would have been extremely rubbish. Likewise a Thief 2 that was a criminal-syndicate management game or a Half-life 2 that was a quirky puzzle game that involved bombarding heavy metals with ionised neutrinos, or something.

 

Offline Fineus

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Re: Thoughts on Gaming (Trends Pt two)
Do you really need to know what happened after the 7 Hour War?

Okay, rather, you do know what happened after the 7 Hour War: City 17, all over the world. Oppression and forced assimilation. Earth adapted by alien overlords into something different...

There are ways we could have seen that though. Ways we could have been filled in on the gap. I can give it to you in about 15 seconds of additional intro sequence. Here we go;

Quote
G-Man shows up, gives you your spiel about being needed for services again...

Out of the void... a television (like the ones found in City 17 showing broadcasts from Breen etc.) moves forwards towards the player. Very much like Baz Luhrmann's intro to Romeo and Juliet.... news broadcasts of the events. Bad cuts to wide-spread panic and the invasion actually happening. Cut to the take over and riots as some try to resist... and then the news broadcaster is suddenly a Combine representative... and then Breen, telling the population that everything will be alright and that they should welcome their new overlords. Perhaps shots of different locations across the globe showing obvious combine influence. Lets not forget that although Half Life is not specifically based anywhere (no real world location) - it's still based within the real world to a certain level so Paris, London and New York still exist - and will no doubt have been levelled or assimilated into the Combine.

The television fades and G-Man shows up again. "The right man in the wrong place can make all the difference in the world... so wake up, Mr Freeman. Wake up and smell the ashes...".

Begin.

There you go. You - the player - knows what happened after you left. You know where you are in the world, who the enemy is and why everyone is the way they are. You know how everything fits together and from there the information provided only fleshes out the existing detail.

Half Life 2, improved by me.

 

Offline Blaise Russel

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Re: Thoughts on Gaming (Trends Pt two)
I'm sorry, but that's boring. Point Insertion becomes a rampantly unnecessary exercise in repetition. The entire universe is laid out, dissected, and all sense of discovery is lost.

Do we really need to see newcasts and montages of an alien invasion? Can we not just figure it out from what we see and hear? From Quisling Breen and his pseudo-scientific social-evolutionism, from dire warnings to not drink the water because they put something in it to make you forget, from citizens so far gone that they think being allowed to wait for a husband that was abducted and hauled off to places unknown is a favour, and that brutal raids on blocks is a common occurence. Surely it's obvious that Earth has been conquered by aliens.

Being led gently by the hand into HL2 so that you're not shocked or confused or surprised by anything robs you of any emotional impact HL2's dioramas and scripted sequences might have had. Brutal imagery of a totalitarian world government is explained away by the expectation of Alien Invasion; of course that policeman is hitting the civilian with a riot prod, he's a pawn of the Alien Invaders! Pre-knowledge of aliens distracts from the central concept of HL2: man's inhumanity to man.

Ultimately an intro that explains the 7 Hour War is detail that points in the wrong direction. HL2 isn't about aliens invading Earth - that's what HL1 was about. HL2 is about humans taking their world back. We don't need to hear about how aliens took control, and it should only be a matter for idle curiousity. I can't see how it could possibly make or break HL2.

 

Offline Unknown Target

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Re: Thoughts on Gaming (Trends Pt two)
We need to know what happened, Blaise. It doesn't cut it to throw a player into a story and go "The world has gone to hell, fix it".
It kills immersion - immersion is the feeling of "you are there, this is your world, these are your people, be their savior". Instead we got "you're Gordon. for some reason you're famous. The world is bad, go kill humans while saving other humans."

Think of it this way; in the beginning of Half Life 2, before you got to...oh, about the part where you actually see the Zen psychic alien things, could you honestly tell intelligent aliens actually invaded Earth? Like, the entire story of Half Life 2 could basically be "An evil human dictator took over the world, he released a bunch of genetically engineered animals, the entire place went to hell". Honestly - there is not enough backstory to go against that. There is no storytelling in the game, it's simply go from point A to B to C and kill gasmasked humans.

Sorry for the ramble, my head hurts a bit and I'm having some trouble forming my thoughts properly. Hope that came out right.

 

Offline Fineus

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Re: Thoughts on Gaming (Trends Pt two)
Edit: UT beat me to it.. but still;

I didn't feel emotionally impacted by HL2 though. For the most part I felt disconnected and frustrated. Sure there's an alien invasion - that much is clear. But everything else took a lot more deduction and in some cases there's been a lot of assumption made just to make things work. A number of others have also had this problem - that although the game engine is great, the graphics good and so on, the storyline began badly and didn't properly introduce you to the world you were to enter.

Once you got well into the storyline and met the likes of Ely and Alyx, you had a good grasp of what your current tasks were and why they were necessary. But an awful lot remained uncommented on. When you left Half Life, it was accepted that you stopped that element of the invasion. You were then hauled out of "the world" by G-Man and put to work for him.

So once you enter HL2, you're completely disoriented. Of course Gordon would be if he was in that situation, but in the world of computer gaming it doesn't help to leave your player wondering exactly what he's fighting for. Perhaps a slightly more revealing composition of dialogue from G-Man could have entirely changed all this. Something basically pointing at "this has happened, but wasn't intended. Fix it." but also hinting at the Combine being an adverse force, it not being according to his plans and you being the most capable man around. Something like this already exists, but it's a bit too well encrypted for the start of a game.

 

Offline Blaise Russel

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Re: Thoughts on Gaming (Trends Pt two)
Think of it this way; in the beginning of Half Life 2, before you got to...oh, about the part where you actually see the Zen psychic alien things, could you honestly tell intelligent aliens actually invaded Earth? Like, the entire story of Half Life 2 could basically be "An evil human dictator took over the world, he released a bunch of genetically engineered animals, the entire place went to hell". Honestly - there is not enough backstory to go against that. There is no storytelling in the game, it's simply go from point A to B to C and kill gasmasked humans.

But you do have a backstory: Half-life 1. You know that Breen's not just a crazy dictator because, aside from the constant references to the Combine as a higher, interplanetary power, you remember from HL1 that aliens invaded and screwed up the world.

Also, and this is something I've not understood before, I don't understand the relevance of the backstory to the actual story of HL2 and I don't see how its absence turns "evading the Combine while fleeing through the city canals" or "busting open Nova Prospekt with a horde of ant lions" into soulless "A-B-C shoot bad guys".

Why do you need a blow-by-blow account of the HL1-HL2 gap? Why do you need to be told what should be obvious?

Quote
"this has happened, but wasn't intended. Fix it."

Who said G-Man had a plan?  :confused:

I didn't think that things were messed up when the Combine were around after I killed the Nihilanth in HL1; I thought "ah, there's a third player in all of this." I can't say I felt disconnected and frustrated, more intrigued and excited that I was going to get to use my brain in a linear FPS.

 

Offline Unknown Target

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Re: Thoughts on Gaming (Trends Pt two)
Quote
But you do have a backstory: Half-life 1. You know that Breen's not just a crazy dictator because, aside from the constant references to the Combine as a higher, interplanetary power, you remember from HL1 that aliens invaded and screwed up the world.

Yes, but the game relies too heavily on assumptions. For instance, as far as I know, Breen IS a crazy dictator - there was no mention in Half Life 1 of the world being taken over and him being installed in an interimn government - I had to go online to find that out. And these "constant references" to the Combine - from the references, I could have easily guessed that the Combine was a giant corporation. The point is that the game explains none of this.

Quote
Also, and this is something I've not understood before, I don't understand the relevance of the backstory to the actual story of HL2 and I don't see how its absence turns "evading the Combine while fleeing through the city canals" or "busting open Nova Prospekt with a horde of ant lions" into soulless "A-B-C shoot bad guys".

It doesn't have a direct influence, but it tells you why you're doing things. It tells you who you're fighting. How many games have you played where they simply put a gun in your hand and told you to kill, and you didn't really care? Half Life 2 fell squarely into that trap. About a fourth of the way in, I just didn't really care what happened to the universe; I was just finishing it because I knew everyone would be talking about it. The lack of a backstory/any good binding of the main story makes the immersian almost nill. Sure, it has great graphical immersion, and that's what everyone always means when they say that Half Life 2 had great immersion, but they dont include the fact that the storyline immersion was almost nonexistent. You were Gordon Freeman, but what the hell were you doing and why were you doing it?

Quote
Why do you need a blow-by-blow account of the HL1-HL2 gap? Why do you need to be told what should be obvious?

We don't need a blow by blow, but we do need SOMETHING. All we want is basically "Aliens took over the Earth. Breen is in charge of their forces here. He's bad, because he tortures people, drives them to XXX, do XXX, etc go kill him."
All we got was "Breen is bad. Kill him."
It's not "obvious" - the entire backstory and whole reason for the resistence is clouded and not very immersive.


Quote
Who said G-Man had a plan?  :confused:

Who said he didn't? Once again, zero explanation. Although that part might be slightly excused.

Quote
I didn't think that things were messed up when the Combine were around after I killed the Nihilanth in HL1; I thought "ah, there's a third player in all of this." I can't say I felt disconnected and frustrated, more intrigued and excited that I was going to get to use my brain in a linear FPS.

That's HL1, not 2 you're referring to, right?



----

Ok, here's a good example. Imagine Freespace 2. You knew why you were fighting, right?  There's a rebellion, you're severed from Earth, you've got the tatters of a civilization and an unstable new alliance. You're fighting to protect the sanctity of that alliance and secure unity for the galaxy.
If Freespace 2 had been Half Life 2, this is the storyline; "Welcome! There's a rebellion, go stop it!"

Not very immersive, non? While Freespace 2 used backstory, context, and depth to create a believable and interesting universe, Half Life 2 relied solely on graphics to pull people in, and the story was left blowing in the wind, with no details and no depth.
« Last Edit: August 22, 2006, 07:17:44 pm by Unknown Target »

 

Offline Turnsky

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Re: Thoughts on Gaming (Trends Pt two)
well, on the concept of originality, let's take two games of a very simular genre.

Silent Hill & Resident Evil.
Both Survival horrors, both can be scary at times.
SH is Scarier, whilst RE is more action-y, the execution of both is different, dispite having roots that harken back to the days of alone in the dark.

whilst the concept itself is not absolutely original, the execution, and implimentation is somewhat original, but on the first iteration of the franchise, the others are just raising the bar in that specific styling within the survival horror genre.

Let's take a look at another game that was touted as original
Giants: Citizen Kabuto, at its core it's a 3rd person shooter with a dash of RTS, but the styling, comedy, and voice acting ("*GASP* TIIIIMMMYYYY!!!"), made it stand out from the rest.

Homeworld?.. the same, its basic concept harkens back to C&C, and before that, Dune, and before that, i dunno, however, what made homeworld stand out, is the 'absolute' 3d space, 3d models, music, and story.

True originality vs originality within a genre, two different things, BOTH need the right execution to stand out.
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Offline aldo_14

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Re: Thoughts on Gaming (Trends Pt two)
All HL2 really needed to do, IMO, was let you read the various newspapers you found lying about in deserted houses and whatnot.  That's all; if they're going to take the players' voice, assume that he/she wouldn't ask questions, and that no-one would see fit to explain the last xx years to them (in itself understandable), then they need to give the player the tools they'd have in 'reality' to find this info out.  The concept - player knows as much or little as the character and is hence as confused - isn't too bad of a one, but I became increasingly aware playing that I was only continuing for the sake of the 'big reveal' (which never came), pushing linearly forward without taking too much joy.  What could have been a far more immersive experience with just a little storytelling - even of an anecdotal nature - became a rather IMO disjointed series of triapses through increasingly meaningless locations. 'Look, i'm in Nova Prospekt'; what's Nova Prospekt and why should I care?

 

Offline NGTM-1R

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Re: Thoughts on Gaming (Trends Pt two)
It's kind of a sad commentary that I learned more about Half-Life 2's story by reading the strategy guide then I did by playing the game...
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Offline Kosh

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Re: Thoughts on Gaming (Trends Pt two)
Right now there is too much focus on FPS's being "realistic" instead of just fun.
"The reason for this is that the original Fortran got so convoluted and extensive (10's of millions of lines of code) that no-one can actually figure out how it works, there's a massive project going on to decode the original Fortran and write a more modern system, but until then, the UK communication network is actually relying heavily on 35 year old Fortran that nobody understands." - Flipside

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Offline Fineus

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Re: Thoughts on Gaming (Trends Pt two)
(I'm skipping the HL2 bit of this, you guys know what I think anyway..)

Right now there is too much focus on FPS's being "realistic" instead of just fun.

Can we have a game that's both realistic and fun though? I think so. Things like bullet physics add to the gameplay as well as being realistic. That said, games like Serious Sam do have their place in the world, it's still an FPS but it takes all notions of realism and chucks them out of the window.

 

Offline aldo_14

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Re: Thoughts on Gaming (Trends Pt two)
(I'm skipping the HL2 bit of this, you guys know what I think anyway..)

Right now there is too much focus on FPS's being "realistic" instead of just fun.

Can we have a game that's both realistic and fun though? I think so. Things like bullet physics add to the gameplay as well as being realistic. That said, games like Serious Sam do have their place in the world, it's still an FPS but it takes all notions of realism and chucks them out of the window.

I bet....take HL2, treble the fire rate of the SMG, and put one in each hand.  That'd be fun and not unrealistic.  Too much.

 

Offline Kosh

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Re: Thoughts on Gaming (Trends Pt two)
(I'm skipping the HL2 bit of this, you guys know what I think anyway..)

Right now there is too much focus on FPS's being "realistic" instead of just fun.

Can we have a game that's both realistic and fun though? I think so. Things like bullet physics add to the gameplay as well as being realistic. That said, games like Serious Sam do have their place in the world, it's still an FPS but it takes all notions of realism and chucks them out of the window.


One of the things I miss from the days of Duke 3D was the jibbing (followed by an interesting remark), or finding secrets with pop culture references (like the "Terminated" one in Freeway, or the "that's one DOOMed space marine" in the prison level)..........
"The reason for this is that the original Fortran got so convoluted and extensive (10's of millions of lines of code) that no-one can actually figure out how it works, there's a massive project going on to decode the original Fortran and write a more modern system, but until then, the UK communication network is actually relying heavily on 35 year old Fortran that nobody understands." - Flipside

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Offline Turnsky

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Re: Thoughts on Gaming (Trends Pt two)
(I'm skipping the HL2 bit of this, you guys know what I think anyway..)

Right now there is too much focus on FPS's being "realistic" instead of just fun.

Can we have a game that's both realistic and fun though? I think so. Things like bullet physics add to the gameplay as well as being realistic. That said, games like Serious Sam do have their place in the world, it's still an FPS but it takes all notions of realism and chucks them out of the window.


One of the things I miss from the days of Duke 3D was the jibbing (followed by an interesting remark), or finding secrets with pop culture references (like the "Terminated" one in Freeway, or the "that's one DOOMed space marine" in the prison level)..........

ah, corny one liners, slight amusement, but hardly anything that's original, unless the setting, or the game calls for it, such things can ruin the immersion, Alyx's "Zombine" comment in HL2 EP1 was rather amusing, even though you could tell that she was trying.
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Offline Blaise Russel

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Re: Thoughts on Gaming (Trends Pt two)
Yes, but the game relies too heavily on assumptions. For instance, as far as I know, Breen IS a crazy dictator - there was no mention in Half Life 1 of the world being taken over and him being installed in an interimn government - I had to go online to find that out. And these "constant references" to the Combine - from the references, I could have easily guessed that the Combine was a giant corporation. The point is that the game explains none of this.

But it does. There are thousands of non-verbal clues. Alien technology - flying scanners, towering citadels, inhuman-looking APCs, synths - synths! Organic robots! - assymetric constructions of an unearthly blue-steel hue. These things are far, far different to what we saw of humanity in HL1, even if 10 years have passed. Some outside influence has done something to mankind... certainly no corporation.

And Breen's Breencasts, where he is constantly subject to 'benefactors', who created City 17, who turned on the reproductive suppression field, who are attempting to evolve humanity into a higher state of being, make it clear he is a puppet of greater powers. Never mind Breen talking to a giant alien slug monster at the start of the game.

Quote
You were Gordon Freeman, but what the hell were you doing and why were you doing it?

You were helping the Resistance because Breen and the Combine wanted you dead. You know this. You know what the Combine are trying to do, who the Resistance is and why they feel obligated to stop the menace they unleashed on Earth. That the details weren't spelled out doesn't change the fact that they're there.

Quote
That's HL1, not 2 you're referring to, right?

What?

I felt like that in HL2. Intrigued, not confused beyond enjoyment. There was a mystery to solve and, as I said before, I would get to unravel it instead of the developers untangling it for me and saying "HA! Shock twist, everything explained, didn't see that coming, did you?!"

Quote
Ok, here's a good example. Imagine Freespace 2. You knew why you were fighting, right?  There's a rebellion, you're severed from Earth, you've got the tatters of a civilization and an unstable new alliance. You're fighting to protect the sanctity of that alliance and secure unity for the galaxy.
If Freespace 2 had been Half Life 2, this is the storyline; "Welcome! There's a rebellion, go stop it!"

Not very immersive, non? While Freespace 2 used backstory, context, and depth to create a believable and interesting universe, Half Life 2 relied solely on graphics to pull people in, and the story was left blowing in the wind, with no details and no depth.

Let's be fair. It's not like that. A more appropriate analogy would be:

Having played FS1, you know that 32 years ago, Terrans and Vasudans were brought to the verge of extinction by the Shivans, but in the end rallied and defeated them. However, Earth and Vasuda Prime are lost. Now you start the game in, let's say, Capella, dumped in the game with no idea what's going on right now.

You see posters urging citizens to 'stay strong in the midst of civil war' and decrying Admiral Aken Bosch as a traitor to humanity. Military vessels gather and prepare for war around you. People you bump into mutter darkly about the war and the 'NTF dogs', or moan generally in a nihilistic manner. A group of Vasudans, in amongst all the Terran ships, mourn the loss of relatives and cry "Why do they hate us? What did we ever do to them?" GTVA propaganda announces that Bosch's Neo-Terra is not a true replacement for the exile from Earth and that the Galactic Terran-Vasudan Alliance will someday find a way home. A pair of soldiers proudly boast of the latest developments in armanents. Finally, you reach your destination: a local GTVA military outpost. The base commander welcomes you aboard and you are assigned your first mission against the rebs.



The sad thing is, I think HL2 took a rather original approach to storytelling, integrating the story into the actually game instead of just constantly unloading plot fluff in manuals, command briefings and dialogues like most other games out there. That's life, I guess.

 

Offline aldo_14

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Re: Thoughts on Gaming (Trends Pt two)
HL2 took the approach of putting you with the same level of knowledge as someone in that situation....and then robbing you of any ability to glean information by yourself, whilst simultaneously removing 99% of the exposition.

 

Offline Blaise Russel

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Re: Thoughts on Gaming (Trends Pt two)
I've already explained how you can find out all the backstory in game, by yourself. Repetition of a statement does not make it become more true.

The original Half-life had a similar level of exposition, but nobody complains that they didn't understand what Black Mesa was all about, or what the Xen experiments were.

 

Offline aldo_14

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Re: Thoughts on Gaming (Trends Pt two)
Why did the combine want 'you' dead?