[~2700 words; ~1600 on jump cuts; ~1100 going off on tangents towards the end]
I was musing about video games the other day and for some reason, out of nowhere, I got this vision for the use of a sequence of jump cuts that I don’t think has ever been seen in a game before.
And the more I thought about it the more I realized that the act of suddenly, and without effect, cutting from one scene to another is almost never used in games. Almost all games have an uninterrupted, linear sequence of events that play out through an unbroken span of time. The breaks that do happen are between levels, if the game has levels, or through cutscenes that create bridges between two different locations.
So, recently I watched Chris Franklin’s Errant Signal video essay on Dark Souls 3 and he touches on the idea of an easy mode for Dark Souls to make it more accessible to a greater number of gamers; he posits that you would lose something special about the game if you played on easy mode.
I guess there is a bit of a discussion going on about this in the game community because recently Franklin tweeted an essay by Cameron Kunzelman who responds to the Errant Signal video as well as several other sources that suggest an easy mode for Dark Souls 3 would be a bad idea. Kunzelman argues that this isn’t true, and you can read his thoughts in the post I linked to. (Right as I was about to publish I saw Chris Franklin tweet another well written essay, by Joe Köller, that’s basically saying the same things that I’m saying in this blogpost, except in fewer words and slightly different focus.)
All of this got me thinking. So, this discussion about whether there should be an easy mode for Dark Souls 3 goes beyond Dark Souls. It goes much deeper, into the very nature of how games are designed and played.
The real issue here is: How much control should the players have over their own experience? Usually the game community will argue for more player agency because choice is integral to the gameplay experience. So, it’s ironic and hypocritical that when it comes to Dark Souls 3 (or, as an older example, skipping combat sections in Mass Effect) suddenly players are saying that there shouldn’t be any player agency regarding how you progress (See Appendix A).
This kind of strict authoritarian control over the audience is something I’ve argued against for years (the link is to a post I made years ago arguing the same thing as in this post, although it is long and rambling and even I don’t have the patience to read the whole thing anymore). Players shouldn’t be forced to replay sections of a game over and over just to progress to the next area unless they want to engage in that experience. They should have the option of either playing the game as it was intended or playing the game as is most enjoyable for them. And if they choose not to play the game as intended, and they miss out on something, then that’s their loss.
Giving people more options opens up the medium to exploration, analysis, interpretation, and intelligent discourse, which only benefits the community and the individual player. (See Appendix D)
And part of what frustrates me with how restrictive the Dark Souls method of design is that other mediums don’t have these restrictions. Books, film, and even board games don’t force me to experience them in only one way (See Appendix A).
I was looking at Bethesda’s 2015 E3 presentation of the new Doom and I had some thoughts. Mainly they were about how what we were seeing WASN’T a Doom game and how modern developers either don’t understand what made Doom fun or don’t care. I mean, they don’t have to care because the brand name sells itself, but still.
One of the things that Doom was praised for was the speed of its gameplay and quantity of monsters to kill. Doom 3 was later derided for its lack of speed and lack of monsters. And now New Doom/Doom4 also looks pretty slow and pretty absent of hordes of monsters.
What developers like Bethesda and New id may not realize is that the speed of the the original Doom wasn’t just about the physical speed of the player.
There’s certain prerequisites that you need to meet before you can have a fast paced game with tons of monsters to kill: the visual communication of the playspace must be clear to the player; the types of monsters must be visually distinct from each other and from the environment; the playspace must be large and conducive to a range of movement; and the monsters have to actually be slower than the player.
A lot of that has to do with communicating to the player quickly and clearly. The more clear your visual design and enemy design happens to be, the faster the player can interpret the playspace, and the faster he can make decisions, leading to a faster gameplay.
But let’s take a look.
This post is a critique and criticism of the Variks dialogue we saw in Bungie’s Twitch reveal of the Prison of Elders.
Note, this is a rage post. I throw down some opinions here. In some parts am I overreacting? Probably! And I’m okay with that! It’s healthy to rage every now and then.
Also, I intend to make a second post in the future where I put my money where my mouth is and rewrite Variks’ dialogue myself.
So, I recently saw the Prison of Elders reveal on Bungie’s twitch. You can find recordings of it all over youtube if you haven’t seen it already.
As I watched, a realization slowly began to dawn on me: Variks’ dialogue is the most moronic, imbecilic, talentless, pointless, worthless, vacuous, idiotic crap that I’ve ever heard, seen, or read.
This is part two of four parts to my analysis of Bungie’s Destiny.
Check out Part 1, where I look at visuals, level design, enemy design, etc.; Part 3: I spend my entire blogpost discussing how things have been named in Destiny; and Part 4: where I predict the future of Destiny’s story based on evidence that Destiny is a symbolic retelling of the story from Bungie’s Pathways into Darkness, but from the point of view of the monsters.
BOSS BATTLE DESIGN (analysis in the form of a haiku):
Big guy, lots of health,
stands still, and minions respawn.
Over and over.
CHARACTER CREATION (analysis in the form of a limerick):
You choose how you look in the game,
Don’t matter if it’s cool or it’s lame,
Ex or Awoken,
And the humans are token,
In the end, they play just the same.
A while back I wanted to write an article where I redesigned Halo 2. Basically, created a Halo 2 that would have actually done Halo 1 some justice. It was going to be two parts, a critique of the real Halo 2, and then then a design article about a better, hypothetical Halo 2. I never finished either, and I probably never will. So here’s the unfinished first part, where I critiqued Halo 2.
If anyone wants more of this, let me know.
There are no images in this post, deal with it, if you dare.
For some reason I’ve been thinking about Halo2 recently. Thinking about what it did wrong, what I expected it to be, and what it should have been.
One of my major disappointments was how the Halo sequels didn’t actually continue the story.
So, I’ve always been annoyed by some terrible aspects of Half-life 2’s story. I’ve already talked about Half-life 1’s being pretty silly, and how I don’t think Alyx Vance is a strong female character, so here we go again.
Are there people who claim that HL2 has a well written story? I don’t know, but here’s why they’re wrong if they exist.