Thursday, May 22, 2003

This Is Not A Good Idea

In multiple different games now I've seen this: doing nothing recovers a vital resource. In Diablo 2, you stand still and recover your blue stuff. In The Getaway and Enter The Matrix and Wolverine's Revenge, you stand still and recover health. It actually makes some sense for Wolverine, I suppose. I can imagine why people implement systems like this:

- you can avoid putting those immersion-breaking power-ups into the game

- it makes the game easier and thus should appeal more to the casual gamer

- games where resources stay depleted can be problematic at save-time; if you save a game with depleted resources you may never dig yourself out of the hole you're in

Still, haven't people noticed the problems this creates?

- standing still and watching a resource meter recharge is about as fun as waiting for a level to load

- skill becomes almost irrelevant, both at a tactical and strategic level; if you don't need to conserve resources during an encounter, there's no reason to play that encounter intelligently (except that you'll have to spend less time waiting for your meter to recharge - I suppose if we consider a player's patience as a game resource there's still some motivation to be strategic) - and at the strategic level, you never have that choice of "do I keep going ahead with limited resources" or "do I backtrack and try to find some more resource?"

There must be some solution out there that satisfies all these needs...

[BTW: I'm just talking about single player games here. In multi-player games the amount of time a resource takes to recharge (Kohan) becomes a factor in your strategy.]

Sunday, May 18, 2003

Peter Molyneux

Check this out. Peter Molyneux totally beats himself up over all the games he's made, up until Black & White. I can only assume he's beating himself up now about Black & White: why? Becuase, to quote Jim McCarthy, "Bug Count is a Constant." We never finish our games. We put in as much coolness as we can in until we have to ship. Games aren't finished; they are abandoned. Then we take the wishlist features and bugs we marked "Will Not Fix" on our last iteration and try to put them in on our next. Which is something I should try to keep in mind when I criticize games; I always say things like "Why didn't they do this?" The answer is usually: "We wanted to, but we ran out of time."

Black and White seems like the sort of game where you get out of it what you put into it. Which is a risky sort of thing to make; it optimistically believes in the player, that they are going to come to the game open-minded, that they trust you enough to say, "I bet there's more cool stuff in here to discover." What did Rollins say? "This time, we're not going to leave anything to your imagination. We tried that the last time, and in our opinion, it didn't work." Still: the opportunity this risk affords seems totally worth it, to me.

He also talks about having a 'test-bed', what Cerny calls a prototype, what many companies call proof of concept. I agree that this is totally essential.

I only watched the first half, and then he started plugging B&W, but it was interesting up until then.