Games today

First off, sorry for the complete lack of posting lately, I’ve got so much going on behind the scenes right (some ‘pay the bills’ client work, as well as some really exciting stuff) now that getting to the blog isn’t as easy as I’d like. I still try to leave comments and poke around the forum while stuff is compiling (around 15 seconds for Fraser’s Ride, a full minute for World 2, yikes!), but for the most part, here’s a bunch of stuff I’ve been holding off on that I wanted to try and address.

My last post mentioned the Too Human demo, and gaming sites have been reviewing the game sense, but the sort of stuff that really bugs me about the game is stuff that you never find in reviews. Game reviews always try to stay objective and non-biased, and I really think that that’s the worst possible way to review a game. Anyways, the first thing that really bothered me about that demo how you can shake the joystick back and forth, and your character freaks out back and forth, facing whichever way you were turning. Now, I know I always discount realistic physics in games, but I think there’s an important distinction to be make. I love physics in games, even (especially?) animations that imply physics with no sort of real impact on the game. I love taking sharp turns in Jet Set Radio and watching the skater lean into the turn, I think the heavy weight of the main character in GTAIV feels great, if not a bit unresponsive. 2d RARE games always had a great sense of momentum (Snake Rattle N’ Roll, DKC, even Battletoads). I always stress games giving feedback to the player, and when a game can portray a sense of weight, that’s what much more data being sent to the player to round out the experience. The original Metal Gear Solid had a problem with that, and today, letting your character turn on a dime is just unacceptable. Holding the joystick at an enemy and watching Balder hack away at a enemy just feels terrible. It’s basically the polar opposite of what the Wii is about, I intend for that enemy to be attacked, and Balder just does his thing, everything in between is left out. In this case, there’s not even a mashed button or tilted joystick to relate to each strike.

Anyways, thought I’d just like to address that, since it seems like ‘next-gen’ means something different to everyone. Plus, I guess I just really, really liked Silicon Knight’s awesome Gamecube game, Eternal Darkness.

[fyi: I’m terrible at writing long blog entries, I keep getting distracted and walking away from my computer]

Lets see, what else can I throw my 2 cents in on… Ah, the age old debate of ‘games as art.’ Duh video games are art, and not just because they’re made up of other arts, like music and graphics. Art is nothing more than a creation that’s meant to be interacted with. Most art is one-sided, to be looked at, or to be listened to. Today, people like to make crazy things that they consider art, like a leaky faucet, or a light up floor. Gameplay itself is an art, the way a person interacts with a game, the emotions and other data sent to the player, and the player’s reaction. This itself is an art. I would argue that video games as they are today are an imperfect art, in the same sense that gazing at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel through a 3d ViewMaster would be an imperfect interaction with the art.

‘Game feel’ just isn’t emphasized enough nowadays, probably because people have such a hard time putting their finger on exactly what that means in the first place. You can’t really bullet-point that in a sales pitch or commercial. But I would say that the ‘feel’ of a video game is the most artistic part of it, the purest interaction, best when it’s subtle and detailed, and even mostly subconsciously conveyed to the player.

To an extent, though, I almost want to feel insulted when games are called art. I mean, that’s it? Only ‘art’? Like Oscar Wilde once wrote, ‘All art is quite useless’ (This is, however, the internet, where the more useless something is usually means the more awesome it is).

While I’m at it, ‘realistic’ physics rarely help gameplay, or the feel of a game. I tried out the Force Unleashed demo on ps3 recently, and sheesh, did they forget to put gameplay in there? I mean, grabbing a stormtrooper and watching him flail about was fun, well, the first time. After I was able to clear out a room and get one guy left so I could actually appreciate the ragdoll instead of just getting grenades exploded at me, there wasn’t all that much left to do with him. But the camera follows them if you throw them really far. Because throwing baddies really far is epic. Apparently.

Less tech demo and more game, please!

P.S. Almost forgot, behold! Chuck and Norris!


  1. DrNeroCF

    Alright, I should probably clarify about ‘realistic physics.’

    I think people need to make a distinction between ‘detailed’ physics and ‘realistic’ physics.

    Lets put it this way: You cite Boom Boxx (amazing game, btw) as a game with realistic physics. True, when all the blox… er, blocks – are falling down, they all behave in a way which doesn’t suspend the belief that your mind has in this make-believe world. Looking closer at the actual physics, there’s not really any friction, unless something’s being pushed down on, and gravity is super slow. The physics are detailed enough that every block can influence another in a way that your brain can follow, yet they do so in a way that is good for gameplay, or because of the limits of the system and the math.

    Or, I slice my opponent upwards in Soul Calibur, the action feels meaty, there’s weight there, resistance, the move has a lot of power behind it, and because of that, my opponent reacts by being flung into the air. Realistic? Not at all. Conveying the appropriate data to the player? Absolutely.

    The physics in FPA aren’t realistic in the slightest, they’re just detailed. Most actions get reactions, yet everything is timed according to gameplay, not according to ‘realism.’

    Developers today confuse a world with realistic reactions with a world with detailed reactions. In Metal Gear Solid, a soldier saw a footprint and followed it, that was an awesome detail. Was the reaction realistic? Nope.

    The Force Unleashed plops the player into a world with attempted realism replacing detail. I can grab a storm trooper, and their middle ware tells him to grab onto a crate and stay there, because they consider that realistic. Is holding a baddie clinging onto a create not able to fling him around anymore while getting shoot by all the other baddies fun? Not at all.

    Shooting something and watching it fly into the air, or bounce around crazily, or even just make a stupid sound effect and dance around is usually more fun than shooting something and seeing it fall away ‘realistically.’

    Luckily, until now, the limitations of console processing power forced developers to use detailed physics, instead of ‘realistic’ physics. I’m very, very scared that ‘realism’ will be the industry’s next bullet point/bragging right/sales pitch (‘open world’ being the last, terrible terrible terrible idea that ruined many games, SSX: On Tour being one that I grieved for much) that developers will throw in to make their games more marketable and less unique or fun.

    I do think it’s funny that on IGN’s latest podcast, Mark Bozon said that he preferred the Wii version of Unleashed because it had less clutter and was basically more playable, ‘had a better flow to it’, I think he said.

    Also, Half Life 2 has realistic physics to an extent, but they’re all tweaked in a manner that lends themselves to gameplay. Being able to jump on creates floating on water, or getting saw blades stuck in wood, or the exaggerated way corpses react when you chuck stuff at them. I would be inclined to call those more detailed than realistic. Yeah, yeah, I know, Havoc, blah blah blah. Well, Smash Bros. Brawl uses Havoc physics too 😉

  2. DrNeroCF

    Wow, that was a long comment. So I’ll keep this one short… On games as art, yeah, games definitely have art to them. FPA and Block Adventure (which I did really enjoy, btw, has a great, solid platforming engine running the show, I would just recommend having platforms actually move the character, and the in game block to be the same color as the menu block), both have lots of doodles in them, but besides that point, the actual playing of the game is experiencing art in and of itself. Art is to be interacted with, even if it’s one-sided. Gaming is the best form of digital interaction that we have today, so by my standards, it’s as high an art as 1’s and 0’s can achieve.

    Speaking of games that are artistically heavy on the visual side, anyone bought Braid on Xbox Live? Absolutely amazing.

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