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Bad Design 4

posted on September 6th, 2006 by jay

Today I’ll be complaining about the excellent KoToR, the ancient Heroes III and the crappy Samurai Western. As usual, I lied last time when I said this entry would be looking at an issue in Final Fantasy X. Maybe next time.

Hit A. HIT A!

Knights of the Old Republic: Bad Immersion — The characters in KoToR (for the Xbox) make reference to your controller. This makes no sense whatsoever and derails any believability. It is the equivalent to an actor in a movie showing the script to the camera and asking the audience to take a look at line 36. Some comedies do this and even pull it off (Mel Brooks writes excellent jokes about the characters being aware that they’re not real) but in serious drama it should probably be avoided. This analogy is actually flawed, it is even worse than just admitting to be a character, it is like an actor turning to the camera to tell the technician he needs to change the reel.

Some defend this method of introducing the controls of a game to the player. They will argue it is not any different if a character tells you to hit start instead of, say, if an overlay with no voice pops up and tells you to do it. I still greatly prefer the silent overlay. The problem is that every bit is important when it comes to immersion. It is not a black or white thing, the small things matter in drawing us into a game and something like the Jedi in front of me telling me to hit the left shoulder button really kills it for me.

Samurai Western: Second Player Afterthought — This isn’t a design flaw as much as a marketing lie. My friend bought this assuming it was two players, like the box claims, but it is nothing of the sort. The second player is entirely tacked on to a finished one player game. We take turns playing it one player because it’s just too painful playing as the cowboy who cannot aim for shit, gets stuck in every wall, barrel, table, and crate and reappears once every 8 seconds because the camera moved too far away from him. The two player mode in Final Fantasy 6, a turn based RPG, is far more exciting. Someone should take Crave to court for false advertising because calling Samurai Western two player is like calling masturbation sex.

Another stalemate. Not really, I just shrank the pic so you can’t tell the right side is going to be devastated.

Heroes of Might and Magic III: Lack of Interesting Conflict — Heroes 3 has the same problem War Craft 2 had. You either win a tremendous victory, or get your ass completely destroyed. There is very little middle ground in the game and even fewer turn arounds. While it may be just because I suck at the game, I never start a game losing and then slowly but surely make a come from behind victory. I build a massive force and crush the enemy quickly, get devastated, or slowly lose more and more ground with each battle.

This lack of interesting conflict cuts through much of the enjoyment of building characters in the RPG fashion the game allows for. I love leveling my heroes and learning new spells, but I can’t fight the feeling that it’s all ultimately for naught since this current game will be over pretty quickly and I’ll never see these characters again.

I once read that this game is too balanced. I made fun of the review to my roommate and we agreed the author must’ve been a moron. I think I now understand what he meant. The complete balance in the game prevents any kind of wild card; it forces the games conflict to proceed linearly. If I am winning, I will always continue winning, and vice versa. The buried Ark idea was probably thrown in to shake the game up a bit and create come from behind wins, but it’s amazingly difficult to get the Ark so it’s almost a useless feature.

When my computer can handle it, I’ll be sure to check out Heroes V. Maybe they have completely fixed this issue.

Next edition I’ll complain about, oh I don’t know, maybe Final Fantasy X or Fallout 2 or Legend of Mana or something. Just know that whatever I choose, it’ll change your life forever.

3 Comments

  1. Christian said on September 6, 2006:

    IRT Fallout 2 – I’ll rarely say this about any game, even my golden boys, but just how much could you find wrong with Fallout 2?  It has to be one of the best true RPG experiences ever crafted.       We must talk about this more later! 

  2. jay said on September 6, 2006:

    Looks like you’ll have to wait till next time! Mostly because I wrote
    the article so long ago I forgot what my beef was with the game.

  3. Matt said on September 7, 2006:

    Yeah, I’ve always wondered why game developers put that kind of dialogue in their games, where they vocally tell you to use a certain button. Metal Gear Solid is notorious for this, and in some ways, it did kill the atmosphere it was trying to create. I definitely agree with you on that. But you could also come up with the argument of how some characters never talk, but somehow the story still goes on, like Half-Life. That I also feel is a little jarring, but the reason why, which relates to your argument, is that it puts the player into the role of the character. An NPC telling you how to play the game theoretically makes you the character in the game, not the ditigal avatar onscreen. It’s somewhat bullshit (look at the success a talkable character can make in Vice City compared to GTA III), but its nevertheless a style choice that isn’t as bad as it seems. 

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