Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Late to the Party


I finally picked up a Playstation 3.  

I was an avowed Xbox user.  When given a choice between Xbox and Playstation 2, I chose the Xbox.  I picked up an Xbox 360 as an early adopter and eschewed the PS3.  But, after reading the fine press (and knowing several of the developers) on "The Last of Us", I decided to bite the bullet and invest.  So, I picked up a bundle that included a PS3, "The Last of Us" and "Arkham Origins".

After playing "The Last of Us", my feelings on the game is summed thusly:

The game is gorgeous.  The storyline is compelling.  I challenge any parent to not have a dry eye after the first 30 minutes.  Performing some stealth and avoiding disgusting fungal zombies is always a treat.

What genuinely has bothered me about the game is twofold. 

The first: the gamification of the narrative has really bothered me.  To put it succinctly, Naughty Dog crafted a fantastic narrative and visual experience, yet break the fourth wall with unnecessary controller interactions.  I lost count of the number of doors I had to press a binding to open where that binding was entirely and wholly unnecessary.  Worse, the door progression was not interactive - I wasn't bashing down the door - it was merely a progression blocker that could have been solved by a trigger and accomplished the same thing invisibly.  

What's worse - there is a trigger in some form in front of the door.  Something is tracking player location in relation to the door to know when to pop up the hint.  If this proximity sensor automatically keyed the "open door" animation sequence without the hint, the game would've been much cleaner and far more immersive.

This would have required a far more delicate touch in terms of path design, highlighting the dominant path appropriately, but would have taken an already cinematic game and made it more immersive.

The second: poor communication of weapon capabilities.  The first time I was given a long rifle, I lined up a shot on a poor soldier's helmet-less head and fired.  Watching the soldier play his hurt animation and the impact effect playing on the chest, I was surprised.  Frowning, I reloaded the checkpoint and performed the same action and missed the shot entirely.  The reticule of the weapon was an arbitrary point in space that does not react when the weapon was fired.  Therefore, the weapon was illustrating explicitly where it will hit, but was implicitly modifying the impact point invisibly to the player.

In a game where ammunition is supposedly (in keeping with the post-apocalyptic theme) limited and stealth paramount, this sort of gameplay is needlessly frustrating particularly when illustrating accuracy is such an easy thing to accomplish.  Further, the game tells you it is tracking weapon accuracy through the upgrade system.  This is data the game is already manipulating through player action without explicitly illustrating the manipulations.  Providing a player a 10% increase in accuracy on a weapon is moot unless the player understands the difference between the current and improved values.  To fix it?  Illustrate the current accuracy value through the reticule by illustrating the potential perturb of the weapon.  Improve the accuracy, shrink the reticule and show the player how much more accurate he has become with that weapon.

One is surely a nitpick, but a valid one from a narrative-interaction standpoint. The second is a genuine complaint about a core gameplay mechanic.  I'm sure that I will get back into the game, but right now, I'm really having to work up the "desire" to play the game.

And I know that I shouldn't.

Music of the Moment

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