Tuesday, November 25, 2008

PS3 Games

In the last few weeks I've managed to set aside a few hours to play computer games on the Playstation 3 a few times. Which hardly seems newsworthy, but for me it's very unusual. I virtually always have other things I want to, or have to, do, that take priority over computer games. And really I'm not a big fan of computer games in general; most of my friends all my life have spent a lot more time on them than I have.

As someone who spends truly incredible amounts of time on MUDs, this is an odd thing to say. But to me a MUD is not a computer game. It's a game which happens to involve computers. But it's a game played between people, which uses a computer as mediator and facilitator. What appeals to me about it is the role that the people play in it, not the role that computers play in it. To some people this will come off as splitting hairs; but to me, the difference is huge. (Admittedly, I do a lot of things in Lusternia that aren't involving other people much if at all, but I do those in service of other things that do.)

One of the games I've played, the only one I actually purchased for the Playstation 3 (it's primarily just a Blu-ray movie player for us), is Echochrome. This is a dizzying (literally) abstract puzzle game involving three-dimensional spaces that have the same kind of paradoxical properties as Escher paintings. You have to not merely work around those paradoxes, but learn to use them, to solve the puzzles. It's an incredible idea for a game and it works. I've solved about a third of the puzzles so far.

I also dabbled in the demos of a few other games and one of them, to my surprise, has engaged my interest. It's a driving game called Stuntman: Ignition. Tongue firmly in cheek, the game puts you in the driver's seat of a stunt car filming an action sequence for an over-the-top action movie... or perhaps a parody of an action movie, it's hard to tell. You have to navigate an increasingly insane course at lunatic speeds pulling off complex stunts, ideally close together in sequence. It's also frustrating in that it's nearly impossible to even complete the course, let alone with a good score, so you just do it over and over and over. And yet somehow in spite of this I actually enjoyed it so much I decided to put it on my Christmas list.

I also tried out a few others that didn't do it for me. Resistance: Fall of Man was brutal and challenging, but offered no directions or explanation. I played a while before I even realized it wasn't a WW2 game (only by happening to see that the enemy corpse I walked past was an alien). There's no input on what you're supposed to be doing beyond "not dying" so you can just sit in one spot strafing all day without realizing the game won't advance until you reach a particular point that is not obviously different from any other particular point. When I finally did advance, the next step was the appearance of some creature or machine that was brutally efficient and unharmed by any of my weapons. After a long grind of trying to hit it in different spots and ways in hopes of finding some vulnerability (and coming back from scores of deaths to try again) I decided I just didn't care that much. Whoever made this demo should have included a cut scene explaining, at very least, the situation, your goal, and maybe the controls.

A few other driving games did better (I'm not normally a huge fan of driving games but the genres I used to like seem to have mostly died out so driving games are often the best available) but still not great. In one you have to drive a course while shooting other cars -- in theory. In practice, unless you are already an expert in the game on your first time at it, you will never catch up with those other cars, so you won't get to shoot them. You can instead play a free-for-all version with no race, but that just means six computer-controlled cars gang up on you and blow you up instantly. The game really needs an "easy mode" or a "first level" in which you can learn what you're doing -- and that should be part of the demo. Then again, I'm not their usual customer base, so maybe this is fine.

1 comment:

litlfrog said...

Whoever made this demo should have included a cut scene explaining, at very least, the situation, your goal, and maybe the controls.

This. Without understanding the situation and providing some way to discover what you need to do, the lovingly designed survival/action game quickly looks like an annoying screenful of pixels that are deliberately wasting your time.