28 July 2009

Rant - Lost Planet

Well, for a while there i thought LP was an okay game.... if a bit quirky in its control scheme due to the separate movement and aiming thing which, IMO, affected the game in a negative way. Because you were free to move around independently of your reticule/aiming target you often would not shoot when you wanted to because your in game body was facing slightly the wrong way.... most of the time this wasn't important but the whole reason for this rant really threw that into contention.

I played through a few missions without much mishap though i died twice in the introduction sequence which i found very confusing and it also seemed to have ridiculous amounts of drain on your heat units which i never found to be much a problem in the main game. Then i hit "the wall".

"The wall" is usually in every game: sometimes there are multiple walls, ones that are big and small, ones with multiple steps to get past. Some people call them difficulty spikes because their location is either incompatible with the player's and game's skill and difficulty ramp. Either way, we all reach a wall in every game we play. Most walls are surmountable but every so often we reach a wall that we just cannot climb over unless we dedicate hours upon hours of playing that same section through.... some people turn to walk-throughs but they aren't always helpful when you discover that you've been doing the right thing.

My wall in Lost Planet was meeting the woman in the pink mech (Vital Suit). I watched a cutscene in which these two face off for a moment before being dropped into the middle of it.... and boy, was i ever dropped into it! The battle is ridiculous.... i replayed it 10-12 times before deciding that even if i ever beat it (which i was close to doing on two occasions) would i want to play through several more hours before hitting the next wall? The game, up until that point, had been pretty easy and i wasn't really looking forward to dropping the difficulty just because of one unbalanced encounter.

"How was it unbalanced?", you might ask.

Well, the two most frustrating things should have been addressed during development. First-off.... when she hits you or your mech (you can fight in or out of the mechs) with a rocket blast or the laser you are effectively stunned as well as damaged which immediately stopped any action you were performing. The recovery animation for getting unstunned lasts as long (if not very slightly longer) as it does for her to fire off another rocket.... which she often did. What this led to was what some people affectionately call, "rocket juggling".... where i was taking disproportionate damage to the mistake i made. Oh, and she could kill my mech in about 2 rockets and two laser hits.... which isn't very much at all.
Add to this the fact that, even when i hit her, she was never stunned meaning that she could carry out her attack freely while i was crippled. For example, if we hit each other simultaneously, i would sit there, unable to do anything while i recovered from my stun and she would sit there and fire another rocket at me, lengthening the stun period and allowing her to fire another round at me. The only saving grace of the AI seemed to be that she was required to occasionally switch between rockets and laser which gave me some breathing room to manoeuvre around and recover a little.

The second frustrating thing was that i couldn't always fire.... which is probably related to the aiming/movement scheme i mentioned above. Because the mechs are so slow and unwieldly in tight places my main tactic was to pull out my rocket launcher whilst on foot and try to kill her as much as possible before getting into my mech and running away/whittling her life down. The problem with this was that sometimes when i fully depressed the trigger the damn launcher would not fire - though i would stand still..... and when i did fire i was stuck to the spot for some inexplicable reason for around a second afterward - which led me to be vulnerable to attack by rocket and laser.

Of minor irritation during the encounter was the fact that when her rockets exploded they would exude this thick, admittedly cool-looking, cloud of black, bilious smoke which obscured my view of everything behind it. I could not see her but she could still accurately fire at me..... just another example of the bullshit AI 'super sight' we're all used to in many games.

Oh, did i mention that she could move around really fast as well? Some sort of rocket skates that i didn't have access to.

I really thought that game designers were learning this console generation? Cheap tricks and unbalanced/unfair feeling encounters are just not fun. I don't need to feel like a god of gaming - i know i'm not that good. I just want to be on the same or similar footing as the enemies i'm expected to kill. Don't give them special exemptions from the game's rules that apply to me and me alone. Don't make it so they have bullshit moves that i don't have when utilising the same technology or powers.

The game is being sent back as we speak. I have no time for this sort of thing.

27 July 2009

Rant - Game logic: Lost Planet edition

Okay, so i get that it's a gameplay mechanic but let me get this straight..... The humans return to the planet that is extremely cold and basically uninhabitable due to this cold because they encountered some giant insects that produce (well, have inside of them) heat energy which gets dropped when they are killed. Now, when you're in the game you pick up this energy and it gets used up by your suit and the mechs that you pilot to keep you alive in the cold.

The rate at which you run through this energy is around 2 units per second at idle but when in a VS suit it increases to somewhere between 5-15 per second if you're doing anything other than walking.... you can effectively run through 1000 units easily in a combat situation that lasts less than two minutes.

Oh, did i mention that the amount of heat energy you pick up from the deceased insects is pretty negligible most of the time, like 50-100 units or so? The larger units like mechs and huge things usually have 200-500 units but they're far fewer in numbers.

It makes no logical sense... i'm burning through this stuff while killing these things. It's not cost effective or an energy efficient process. In one mission that took me 42 minutes I collected 32,000 heat units but ended the mission with only 8000.... That's 24000 units completely lost. Why are we on this planet again?

Despite running down so quickly you get a lot from the beacons which inexplicably contain 1000 or so units which kind of makes the whole mechanic pointless since you're always able to keep your heat units topped up by these frequent reservoirs. The game would have been better served by just having regenerating health (as it already does) and none of this heat unit collecting stuff.

1 July 2009

If you don't agree with this you must be a corporate ass-kisser...

And while i'm on a non-game specific bent i may as well get my feelings about another phrase:

Angry Internet Men.

Whoever invented this phrase (i have a feeling it was someone over at RockPaperShotgun!) needs to go and hide away from humankind forever. Originally it was supposed to be a term for the most extreme people who overreacted and could not be logically reasoned with in any way, shape or form.... these people are just stereotypically angry and there's nothing anyone can do about it to shut them up or for them to really make much sense.

The phrase has evolved into a sort of derision or dismissal of any argument that goes against 'the establishment'. Complain about LAN functionality being removed from Starcraft 2? You're an AIM. Be annoyed by erroding consumer rights in the games industry? You're an AIM. Complain about Diablo 3's lightness and wow-gayness? You actually are an AIM - that's a legitimate use of the phrase ;)
Like the terms "ad hominem" (often AIM is an ad hominem) and "straw man" it's begining to get carted out during any discussion that has an argument against those in authority or control - regardless of whether the situation warrants the use of those terms. People use them to try and blindly discredit and undermine the arguments of their opponents by sowing seeds of doubt in third parties on the legitimacy of the arguments.

It seems like anyone who rails against a decision these days is a "whiner" or an "angry internet man" in the eyes of fans or the general public.... from the eyes of the publishers and developers they are "pirates". In response to the questions of 'Why no LAN option?' in StarCraft 2 the posted message just reads as a literal - if you want LAN then you must be a pirate - so stop leeching off of society and buy our game, no questions asked.

We would not take out LAN if we did not feel we could offer players something better.

If I were to buy StarCraft II or any other title, I know the money I spent would be going to supporting that title. Personally, I would be upset that others were freeloading while others are legitimately supporting a title that has great potential and goals of making this title have 'long legs.'

If you like a song a lot, buy it, and that artist will only come out with more awesome songs for you. If you like a game, buy it, and we will promise to constantly work to make the player experience better at every corner we can.

Support the causes you believe in (This is applicable to all things, not just gaming).
Don't be a leech to society, innovation, and further awesome creations.

Similar intonations have been made by various figureheads throughout the gaming industry whenever DRM schemes have been questioned. Frequently it's a case of, "The people who care about DRM must be pirates and the rest who don't, don't care because they don't know about it."

Don't you just love arguments that rely on cultural division between 'them' and 'us'?