Monday, November 26, 2007

The MMORPGs' involvement in gaming and my life

I know this has probably been reviewed, considered and thought of a thousand times over, but i have no intention of being 100% original. This is just my opinion; my little perspective upon MMOs and how they affect your gaming life.
As a kid, i've always been a fan of a type of game called RPG: those little adventures where you could create your own customised character, start small, and grow into something powerful.
It was later, when i got access to the internet, that i came in contact with a new, evolving (at the time) breed of RPGs. Not to say that i didn't hear of them before: i've been reading reviews of Asheron's Call and the like long before i had any internet access. Back then, these games were basically a lower graphical quality, larger world - version of normal RPGs. I didn't know, or had any interest in the phenomenon which keeps many gamers playing: human interaction.
But my time for facing the world came with the introduction of internet access and a nice little game which seemed too much like a Diablo 2 copy (not to say rip-off): Mu Online. I first saw it at an internet cafe and the first thing that came into my head was "hey, a new Diablo 2! Great, i was getting bored of the old one". Not to say it looked that much like diablo 2: everything was a lot more "shiny" than your regular game, with impressive spell effects designed to astound and amaze. Hesitantly, i began a new life in that game while searching for something to fill my time with. It was then when i first came face-to-face with today's MMO's most common concepts: grind. MU is a grind-filled game, so much that you can leave your character grinding while AFK and still acheive one of the best times to a certain level.
I didn't get far in Mu, because i interrupted my gameplay after reaching a high level (about 340) and joined one of my best friends in another, more promising online game called Lineage 2. Lineage 2 is a pay-to-play game, which means you have to pay a monthly fee to play it (a thing which i'm mildly opposed to), but this was a "private" server, a server hosted on another machine whose administrator didn't ask for any fee as a requirement to play. It was low-rate too, so the time needed to get to max level was pretty close to that of retail servers.
It wasn't as flashy, but it sure was more complex than the previous game. And this is where things started getting complicated: the game soon became a race rather than a thing to fill my spare time with, i was running through the game, slowly but surely becoming too impatient. I stopped reading quest logs, instructions, item descriptions, lore... the game suddenly turned into a race to match and overcome the top 25 of my class on that server. I can't say i wasn't getting bored: i was forced to kill a limited number of monsters (aka mobs) over and over again, using the same spell, seeing the same shitty animation a million times, and i had to do that faster than the others could. Needless to say, all was in vain because the server wiped its database and everyone started from zero again with the coming of a new expansion. I was disappointed; i wanted to get the game out of my head and quit it for good. After 2 weeks of sulking on high-rate servers, wanting to see everything there is to see about this game so that i could finally get it out of my system... i came back to the same server i started. This time, with even more will to play and reach the top. And so, my second ascent towards the server's hall of fame started, this time more vigurously and more aggressive than before. I played 14 hours per day, sometimes 16, sometimes standing awake for a full day and more, always trying to catch up those 2 weeks in which the others had risen to a higher level. The "no-lifer"ness didn't really bother me, nor does it bother me now; i chose a support class, and had a lot more fun than i had on my old DD back before the wipe. Overall, i have good memories of that time, and i can say i did something, however minor and irelevant in the long run, that benefited me as a gamer. Yet it didn't do good for my psyche. While before having access to the internet, i was exceedingly meticulous and patient (gaming-wise), now i could hardly play an RPG without zooming through all its content and crossing the finish line like a horse in a race. That's how i finished KoToR 1 and 2: i didn't have the patience to see all the areas, talk with all NPCs and so on. I spent the game like a speed-runner wanting to finish an FPS. I did notice the change, but it was too late to go back now. The server had a pause (a long, 5-month pause) in which i caught up to finishing other games and played on other servers, then i was back, and more willing to get to the top than ever. And i did... joined the biggest clan (aka guild) on the server, and soon became one of the the most popular support chars there (also the highest level support char). Soon, that guild led the server, and was even banned for making it unplayable for lower levels due to constant pk and monopoly. A second wipe was anticipated this time, and probably needed too: i had seen most high-end content, and now needed to study for my high-school graduation exams. It was then when i realised what the so-called gaming spree had done to me. Now i struggle to get my patience back, but i'm afraid i won't be needing it with games becoming less and less complex nowadays.
Why "so-called" gaming spree? Because i still consider MMOs to be cheap, simple clones of actually good games. Some of the pristine gaming elements which i expect to find in a game are missing: the feeling, the atmosphere, the well-thought storyline. The gameplay is a joke (the grind is something no game should have) but the gaping hole in it is somehow patched with what most people treasure more than actual gameplay: interaction between human beings, making friends and so forth.
As for Lineage 2, it wasn't long before i got GM status and i could see everything i wanted about the game, and once its content expired, so did my interest in it start to rapidly fall.
I didn't only play these 2 MMOs however, otherwise i couldn't have afforded to post this. I spent more or less time in many MMOs, including (but not limited to) RF Online, RYL Online, Anarchy Online and World of Warcraft. I seem to have taken a liking to the former, having found in it several aspects other MMOs lack (and also because i play freely on retail servers, courtesy of MisterDevil's budget). I guess this is what a well-made MMO looks like: it has at least a slight, passing resemblance to a good RPG, with the sacrifice of some human interactivity, but i don't mind, honestly. Needless to say, i play it casually now, stopping to take a breath and explore every content i can find, both high-end and low-end.
So to everyone who didn't yet start to play MMOs (i pray that there still are such people): don't consider starting them if you want to maintain a gaming carreer. Yes, you could live some of the nicest moments of your life, but you'll be disappointed when you probably find yourself not having any will to play single-player games anymore. And with singleplayer, you'll miss out on 60-90% of what a game was designed to be. Your call if you want to do that, but i wouldn't call myself a gamer if i did.
Later edit: still need to play eve online...

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Games VS Movies

And so it came to pass, that the gamers which once spent hours after hours of quality gaming, saw on the big screens the names of the games they have enjoyed so much .... being torn to shreds.
Maybe i`m just being just a little out of my mind right now, though i doubt that just two beers can do this to me, but this is just sick.
A few hours ago i saw a somewhat promising movie called "Hitman" and i`m only saying promising because ... heh .. the movie was supposed to be adapted from the game series : Hitman. Sure, the guy is bald, wears a nice outfit and so it happens to be an assassin but when it comes to adapting from the game series ... this is just crap. Comparing the two : game/movie the salty taste of dissapointment filled my mouth ... or maybe it was the beer.

First of all, 47 is supposed to be a big muscular mature guy with one goal in his mind, but in the movie 47 is more of an EMO batman wannabe kid with a few nice "toys". Second !!! The game was mostly based on stealth, but the nice movie showed the world otherwise. I don`t recall going in a room filled with enemies slaughtering them all using Matrix/Equilibrium skills as THE MAIN IDEA also i don`t recall having a Blood Rayne moment and use two fucking blades to cut to pieces the enemies... hmm Blood Rayne ... i`ll get to that later in this post. But enough with the crap, otherwise i`ll have to type here longer than it will take me to finish an MMO.
The movie used few features from the game, but still better than nothing, features like changing outfits, hiding bodies, and premeditating the target`s route ( muhahahaha in order to get max score for the mission :P ), and the classical laptop used to get info about the targets.

More about the movie. The main EMO *ahem* 47 is Timothy Olyphant, don`t know much about him ... and i don`t wanna know. Surprisingly there were two actors i liked from other movies/series like Robert Knepper or "T-Bag" ( from the Prison Break series ) in the role of some Russian agent who didn`t know when to give up.

To be honest, i think 47 is gay ... i mean ... if he let the Interpol dude live because of the girl ... why not just fuck the Russian bitch ?

More movies made after games

Let`s see now, ah yes .. Blood Rayne.
This movie was special, suffice to say that all the crap i can come with, the chick still is cool both in the game and the movie so it makes up for it. Simple and clean, the movie was about how Rayne turned from a circus freak into a killer using the blades and the game was about how using the blades to kill monsters, people and whatever can be fun.
No crap for this one because the movie didn`t manage to hurt the game in any possible way, even better .. the movie actually proved that Rayne could look good even in real life.

Almost forgot to add one more movie to this post :) The classical Doom

Ahhh ... Doom, the movie made after the well known Doom 3. This movie was quite unstable, often bouncing between GREAT and BORING. Crazy as it sounds, but this adaptation of the game ... just like the game, tried to be scary .... horror even :) but unfortunately for the fags who made the movie : alien brain-eating bone-crushing wall-hugging mutants aren`t new and neither original in the movie industry, and neither the idea of the almost dead hero who receives a last minute power`up which makes him strong enough to kill the insanely strong bad character ... thus ... saving the world. Overlooking the crappy part Doom had good parts as well, like the introduction of the Big Fucking Gun ( though any movie about a fps should have a BFG :P ) and the nice instant jump to first person view ... almost felt like playing the game, felt good. Come to think of it, the first thing i liked about this one were the soldier`s nicks/names : Goat / The Kid / Pinky / Destroyer / Razor ... etc ... nicks any FPS gamer would use :P

Thursday, November 8, 2007

"Next-gen" or "how to fuck up a game"

Before i start ranting like a crazy fast-talking squirrel (you know who i'm referring to), let me
point out that despite Master Chief being on the front title logo thing, this blog isn't about console games, and probably never will be. So if you are one of those random individuals who thinks console games > pc games, please press the shiny "X" button in the far upper right. And kill yourself while you're at it.
While i haven't been playing all games that recently appeared (mostly due to me being late on my pc specs and having to play them on a friend's pc, but that will be fixed really soon),
i've been noticing a really retarded trend devouring pc games like a hungering whale recently:
console game adaptation to the pc platform. This was pretty good news at first, since everybody's such a maniac about console games and brag all day about how uber they are, and because console game developers are making a shitload more money out of consoles and frankly pc games have started to disappear at a slow rate, the fact that they're still taking interest in this platform can only satisfy me.
Then i began playing, and saw the miraculously retarded limitations in the console games' gameplay and mechanics. I don't know about you, but i wasn't aware that "next-gen" meant "twice the better graphics at the expense of making something that can actually be called a worthy game". I thought it was only me, i thought the button-matching sequences in Jericho were just a fragment of stupidity sprung from the producers' minds, but after playing several of these games, including the massively acclaimed, game-of-the-year-awarded Gears of War, i was left with something that can only be described as "a bad taste". Now keep in mind that i'm not a huge fan of graphical quality in a pc game - i tend to give games with lower graphics, but better gameplay more credit than your overall left-click-based, gelatinous-pixel-shader-filled killing frenzies. So let's cut to my main argument: limiting gameplay by adding in things that seem cool at first, but you can't stop wondering if you're locked in a box every time from thereafter.
I'll be reffering mostly to Gears of War in this article. The thing about it is not that it's too simple or lacking content - it's simply limiting. First, the whole "abuse the spacebar to survive" thing. While it's an interesting and somewhat new concept, we all know that using something TOO MUCH in a game, apart from the mouse buttons, will eventually become ridiculously annoying, at least for those of you who aren't complete ZOMBIES. The game basically forces you to use the spacebar key to hide behind walls, barriers and such, totally altering the whole genre from "action" to "action and hide behind obstacles to not get your ass kicked". I may exaggerate a bit, but then again, so did micro$oft. For me at least, this game wasn't fun, just a total waste of my time: the focus shifts from "kill enemies" to "kill more enemies". While that would be fine in a normal game, the LACK of things you can do in this game is significant. It feels like you're in a very tight corridor for the whole game, only taking ONE route and killing enemies that pop in your way. The game only allows you to carry 4 weapons, which makes sense i guess, because they're all visible on your character. What i didn't understand was why in the world would micro$oft prefer NOT to use the standard first-person or third-person view, but rather change to a snazzy side-vision which is somewhere above and to the right of your guy, YET pressing the right-click button changes to an *almost* first-person view, also with a crosshair. Couldn't they just adopt the standard 3rd-person+crosshair view and keep the right mouse button for some more interesting features? Apparently not.
About the space bar: the space bar also makes you use some objects, or jump around in Max Payne style. The "press E then press spacebar repeatedly to use an object" made me look back on the old Half-Life games, when i didn't have to complicate myself with 2 buttons and left the effortless action as what it was. But here, for diversity's sake, sometimes you have to press the space bar, THEN press E... micro$oft probably thinks that it's some sort of proof of skill. Which would also imply that we are all retards unless proven otherwise.
Going back to the corridor argument, at one point in the game, your movement is also restricted by the lighted areas of the game: dark means die, light means live. If you enter a dark room with no roof, angry bats will come and rape your ass. And when a street is all dark, you have to shoot some conveniently-placed-but-otherwise-totally-ambiguous propane tanks to light the way so that you can pass, conveniently making this game seem like a corridor in outside areas, as well.
And what's with the life-regeneration thing that every goddamn action game has these days? Yes, i know micro$oft thinks we're retarded, and the fact that it thinks we're too retarded to find and use some healing kits or items that replenish our health might be just the explanation. In fact, you regen your own health so easily that you can just use the spacebar to hide behind an obstacle while you get your own life back to... am i seeing a pattern here?
Besides that, there's the unexplainable events of this game, like WHY in the name of GOD am i not able to get back on a stairway if i stepped onto the platform leading from it (which was where i had to go, because obviously, every place you DO go without dying in this game, is where you need to be). You'd think i'd want to backtrack a bit, probably pick some more "weapons" (i.e. ammo) from the ground, but no... invisible wall takes care of that. Invisible wall is your friend.
You would think that, with the next generation of games, you'd also have the next generation (i.e. EVOLUTION) of game mechanics, and more complex gameplay. But sadly, the game evolution today seems to be inversely proportional to the evolution of stupidity in the world.
I've played linear games before, but for Christ's sake, Mario seemed to be more non-linear than this utter piece of shit... at least in Mario, i could sometimes choose to go the low way or the high one. In this game, if i somehow came to a crossroads, the game would tell me to press Q which would point me to the low road, just because the high road would mean certain death. Kinda makes all that graphical eye-candy seem like being put there only for the scenery...
The next thing would be the button-matching sequence which is present in an increasing number of console-ported games... the little thingy where directions apear on the screen, and you have to press the buttons corespondent to those directions, otherwise you fail. I wouldn't have anything against this sort of thing if:
1. It didn't seem like it was taking you back to the stone age - for crying out loud, you have all those new and shiny graphics - USE THEM.
2. It didn't take your focus from the game itself to the buttons you have to push - i can hardly enjoy what monstruous and gorey fatalities the character is doing if i have to pay attention to "left, right, left, up, left, down, right" all the time.
Apart from that, i can hardly imagine playing a shooter with a gamepad, but maybe that's just me.
I know i'm just talking here for nothing; i can't change what brings money. And so far, micro$oft and the other console game publishers have so much money shoved up their asses that the probability for games being made to suit the futuristic public in the movie Idiocracy is fucking high. Still, i'm waiting for the age when consoles will be ground to dust and everyone will see what an affront to nature they truly are - either that, or they make better console games.