Sidenote about Metroid: Other M (includes endgame-spoiler)

November 21, 2010

Had some other game done something like the powerbomb usage at the end of Metroid: Other M without informing the player directly prior to the fight, but left it at mentioning the strength of the powerbomb only in the very beginning, THAT game would have been praised by the very same people, that are now complaining about it,  for its artistic, innovative choice. Did I like the way it played out? No, but then I also don´t care about games being artistic or not.

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BioWare hinting at new Mass Effect-game?

November 17, 2010

Out of nowhere, Electronic Arts decided to tease a new, yet unknown, BioWare-title. The only bit of stuff we have so far is a short video-teaser that shows no more than a rather generic military-guy and his gun. However, upon further observation, there are definite links between that teaser and the Mass Effect-franchise. As user Zenith pointed out by using a screencap of the teaser and a screenshot of Mass Effect 2, the gun-model that can be seen is almost identical. Not only that, but you can also see some hexagon-structures being used in the design of the unknown game. Following the teaser-video, BioWare released two binary-codes that translate into “55.845”, the atomic mass of iron, and “-128,5F”, which is -89,2°C, the coldest temperatur ever measured on Earth at Vostok, Antarctica in 1983.

That´s all the stuff we have gathered so far. Maybe BioWare releases more clues. At best, this marks the approaching reveal of Mass Effect 3. However, some kind of spinoff set during a previous event is more likely. Hopefully it isn´t some new franchise. There´s too much awesome stuff to tell and do within the ME-universe, and no matter if this is a ME3-announcement or not, it´ll be a long wait for the final part of the trilogy, so a spinoff to ease the wait would be welcome.


Relevant Continuity in Video Games

November 13, 2010

When reading a book-series or popular movie that is sure to see some sequels, you´ll most of the time get a fine, continuous piece of story. Even though each book or movie is fine by itself, the follow-up will make it clear to the audience that what happened in the past is relevant for the present time. That doesn´t hold true for video games.

Most video games are fully enclosed products, standing on their own. That is fine as long as a publisher doesn´t decide to turn that single game into a recurring franchise. Even though nowadays video games have become big, epic and, unfortunately, very cinematic experiences, they don´t really try to tell ongoing stories. Instead, they welcome you with the same main character and have you start a whole new mission. What happened in the previous game is but a page out of a book, it bears no more relevancy to the new plot. Part of that is also that video game makers aren´t daring enough with changing the main character. Having him develop both in terms of looks and behavior depending on his past adventures. It´s always the very same dude/girl. Be it Uncharted or Tomb Raider, Mario or a hundred else franchises – never do you get to know the bigger picture, never happens something of permanent relevance.

Each game exists as an individual experience

 

There are examples of games that successfully achieve such relevant continuity throughout their various installments, but these are rare and even then often rather shallow. Most prominent example would be the Mass Effect-franchise. Of course, being a western-rpg it is easier to include permanent developments since it is the players decision of what to do or not to do. Also, Bioware has the franchise planned as a trilogy from the beginning, so there is no uncertainty about how to proceed with what you have. Two other good examples, surprisingly, come from Nintendo. As much as story is not a big part of Nintendo-games, both Metroid and Zelda succeeded in creating a big overarching continuity that bears relevance to future and past games. Be it Samus destroying the home planet of the Metroids, later on fighting Mother Brain and then herself aka SA-X – each game takes its prequels into consideration. On a less pronounced basis, the same is true for The Legend of Zelda. This series´ fans are famous for their timeline-talks, and while I personally wouldn´t take pre-OoT-Zeldas into such talk, Ocarina of Time definitely started a continuous story that saw relevance even in the latest console-title Twilight Princess, showing scenes of Ganondorf and what happened to him in the aftermath of OoT. And then there´s the Triforce-mythology that overarchs each and every series-entry. Even the upcoming Skyward Sword seems to relevantly further the whole franchise´s continuity by showing fans the origins of the Master Sword. One very popular Konami-franchise also is known for its continuous story: Metal Gear Solid. Hardly a surprise, when this franchise´s focus is story foremost, and complaints about its individual installments´ uber-long cutscenes are common occurrence. You could also name the Kingdom Hearts-franchise, though I wouldn´t include it here. Other than the other mentions, KH feels like Square Enix is making up sh*t for each new game, further fucking up the whole series. And let´s not forget Assassin´s Creed, where Ubisoft just like that makes up another game only because of the franchises success. Killing an originally interesting story by thinning it out by filler. Oh well.

References to previous installments keep developing a sense of continuity

 

I´d really love to see video games being treated more like books/movies in that regard that their stories and characters keep developing instead of just creating new missions for a never-changing hero. And just in case someone wants to call me out for mentioning the Mario-series in a text about story: The Paper Mario-games have great, franchise-fitting stories. Continuity would work there just as well and maybe finally give Luigi the development he deserves. Luigi > Mario.


Unique and permanent Awareness for NPCs

November 7, 2010

Another problem regarding npcs in modern video games is their lack of unique awareness. I´m using a picture of Metal Gear Solid to show what I mean, but the same is true for all games, some to a lesser, some to a greater extent. When MGS-guard spots you, you´re instantly surrounded by more guards. What´s even worse, once you´ve gotten rid of all enemies on screen, alarm stops. A few moments afterwards, new guards enter the scene and act as if nothing ever happened. No awareness at all. The same goes for all Grand Theft Auto-games. Once you commit a crime, all the police officers in the world will be going after you. You cannot hide in the civilian masses, no, you have to get out of a certain radius to make the cops stop hunting you. And once you´ve succeeded in doing so, you will have no problem of walking next to a cop. Other examples would be western rpgs, where everyone in the world will know who you murdered or what you stole. Even The Legend of Zelda: Link´s Awakening did that, though it didn´t affect the gameplay, of course.

These games lack a permanent, broad awareness on the one side. Police shouldn´t stop going after you just because you get out of their 500 meter-radius. Guards of an enemy base shouldn´t stop the alarm until the invader has been captured. On the other side, these games also lack unique awareness. When one guard or police officer spots you, it should be that one npc only that´s going after you. Make him call for support, but no insta-spawning of helpers. Meanwhile, if I manage to get out of that one npc´s sight, I should be save and no other police officer should go after me since he wouldn´t know what I look like. At the same time, if I cross the line of sight with that particular officer from before, he´ll go after me without further warning. Expand that concept to civilians as well and the feeling of virtual worlds would change dramatically.