Lord Roke's Blog

Posted on May 25th 2009 at 03:05:28 PM by (Lord Roke)
Posted under frustration

Gaming Frustrations

Why do we finish some games but quit others some games way before the end credits have rolled? What makes us give up at a certain point rather than carrying on until the (bitter) end? This is my take on the phenomena of throwing in the towel.

Let me just say I'm not a completist by any means. I have a shelf full half finished or games that have I've not started (some still in the wrapper: Persona 4 for instance), but when I buy a game I do so with the intention of completing it. When I say "complete" I mean finishing the single player game on Normal difficulty.

As a rough estimate I'd say I complete between 10 and 20 percent of the games I buy. So why do I complete some games and not others. Off the top of my head I've come up with the followings reasons.

Frustration

This is probably the number one reason I give up on certain games, they become frustrating and the frustration outweighs the fun. When an entertainment product leaves you feeling stressed and agitated then that its no longer justifying its existence. This seems to be a big problem with a lot of games. I guess the games developers have to tread a fine line between offering the player a challenge and making game that's too difficulty but sometimes it's not necessarily a case of a game being too tough.

GTA4 is a good example of frustration - which in my opinion could have been easily avoided. At this point I'd like to have a moan about GTA games in general. When GTA3 came out I was blown away by how great the game was. I would sit at work thinking about it, dreaming up plans for my approach on the next mission. With GTA3 I got pretty close to end but a mission became so frustrating that I gave up. The main reason this has happened with every GTA game since then is due to the check pointing and not the lack of quick restarts. Shockingly 7 years after GTA3 this issue has still not been resolved. Yup, this brings me to GTA4. This is a relatively new game yet it still has the same flaws as GTA3, you can't quick restart, you loose all your weapons if you die and most annoyingly of all the missions are not broken down into decent sized checkpoints.

For example, I decided to give GTA4 another blast a few weeks back, after 10 minutes back in the game I was back in love GTA and questioned why I'd not made more progress. After repeating a mission 4 times I soon realised why. This particular mission involved: Step 1 - stealing a police car; Step 2 - lookup a convict on the police computer; Step 3 - track him down to a burger shot; Step 4  follow the baddie back to his hide out; and then finally Step 5 - kill baddie and all his friends. I managed Steps 1 - 4 without a problem, but the shootout ensues at his hideout leaves me dying on the floor in a heap (dead).



As I've not played the game for ages I forget how to take cover (ok this sounds like an excuse but the controls on this game are rather flaky for a 3rd Person action game). So I restart the mission again.. Now why, why, why, do I have to redo Step 1, 2, 3 and 4 all over again? I've already completed these steps flawlessly.. It takes a good few, very dull, minutes to repeat these steps before I can get to the part I messed up. To me this repetition serves no purpose, all it does is drag out - and water down the Fun per Minute ratio. Now maybe there are people who like this kind of punishing restart (the same kind of people that like have pins stuck in their eyes) and get some sense of achievement out of completing a mission in one go without failing anything but I'm not one of them. Why not stick a check point in the game? At least after Step 4 which involves a 2 minute drive from one part of the city to the other! I paid good money for this game but as I'm not prepared to put up with the lack of in mission checkpoints I don't get to see the end game. Personally, my free time is severely limited, to the extent that I need to spend it as wisely as possible. This is probably the reason I loved Saints Row (1 and 2) - there are instants restarts, which are very well implemented. By the way - check out the Saints Row franchise - it's not as polished as GTA but a lot more fun.


Getting Lost

with the sheer number of good games being released at the moment it's tempting to stick a game in and then whip it out as soon as then next hyped up triple A release comes out. This means I often "park" a game for no other reason than something bigger and better that's just dropped through the letter box. So when the hype dies down and I go back to the game I was playing previously I spend a long time trying to remember where I am in the game and what I'm suppose to be doing. Now this is more of a problem on some games rather than others. I would say RPGs are particularly bad offenders as they are all about the story. To get round this problem perhaps there should be a recap" options where the game provides quick catch up of the story and how the game works. To summarise: games need to be easier to get back into after they've not been played for a while - all systems have a date stamp on the game saves so where this is greater than 2 weeks there should be display the recap option. This would avoid the painful hour of wandering around aimlessly hoping something will jog your mammary so you can remember what's going off and how the game works. The fact that I know that I will have to spend this house getting back up to speed means I dont even bother going back to some games.

Getting Bored

There's not just too many games - there's too many long, drawn out games. The demographic of gamers has changed, many of us are older (30s+) and have full time jobs and families. A lot of us don't have the time to spend on games like we once did. I'm not saying I want short games but why make a game 40 hours if you only have enough game play ideas to cover 20? I would sooner have a short game that's of top notch quality rather than a long game where an idea has been stretched too thin. I thought Gears of War 2 was about the right length - the story was good and it was worth getting to the end. The main was the game didn't outstay it's welcome, just as I was starting to loose interest I could see the end in sight and pushed on to the finish line. I feel like I got my monies worth out of the game, there was also plenty of multiplayer action to increase the games longevity for those that want it.

Game difficulty

As I mentioned by default difficulty setting is Normal but sometimes I like of a challenge so start off on hard (My rationale for this is Halo 3 - too easy on Normal - just right on Legendary).. I started Killzone 2 on Hard but it turned out to be too difficult (i.e. rubbish controls - how can I take cover with a shoulder button, zoom in and lean out of a corner with only 2 hands, 8 fingers and 2 thumbs - need at least another one of everything to pull this off). It would be nice to be able to switch difficulty without having to restart the entire game. Or if you get stuck on a section of a game why not have the option to drop down to "Easy" to get through it.

Buying too many games

I've already mentioned this, and this is my fault, there are just so many good games out now. It seems so easy to buy too many games especially as a lot of the good ones are released in the run up to Christmas. I don't intend to do this but I get sucked in by the hype like everyone else. I say to myself, "I'll skip Far Cry 2 and pick up cheap in the New Year" but then I find myself clicking the Buy button on Amazon.. which means the game I'm half way through gets shelved while I try and get into the latest release.

If games contained less of these problems Im sure I would get more out of the limited time I have to play them and even push up the percentage of games I complete. There will always be certain games that you dont finish, for whatever reason, perhaps I need to devote more time to each game and buy less games overall. Maybe I need to put be more tenacious and not give up so easily :-)








Posted on May 22nd 2009 at 11:14:53 AM by (Lord Roke)
Posted under Racing games Forza 2

I've enjoyed a variety of racing games over the years. In fact the first videogame I ever played was Night Driver on the Atari 2600.

The first simulation type racing game I played and enjoyed was Revs (BBC Micro). The game was a Formula 3 simulation with very nice pseudo 3D graphics. I seem to the recall the game being very difficult to learn and rather unforgiving which would put a lot of people off. You even had to use a clutch when changing gears (press the C button), but the game was highly rewarding when you got the hang of it. If you came any where in the top 6 cars you'd definitely earned it as the game took large amounts of concentration to put in good lap times and move up the field

In those days (the 80s) I would go to the Arcade on a regular basis and would always head to latest racing game as these tended to have massive custom cabinets with amazing graphics. A couple of arcade games spring to mind - Outrun, pumped plenty of 20p coins into this as game looked and sounded amazing. Then there was Monaco GP - again this was appealing for the awesome cabinet (complete with F1 Paddle Shifters) with force feedback etc.

Sega Rally and Daytona are probably my all time favourite arcade racing games. Both games blew me away when I first witness them running. This was not the first time I'd seen a 3D racing game but the first time I'd seen 3D graphics looking so polished and moving on screen so quickly and smoothly (must have been 60 FPS). The force feedback from Daytona took the game play experience to the next level and added massively to the immersion. The only problem with the game was it was 1 a go and this was 1994  which was a lot of money to a student in those days.

At home there were not that many racers to get excited about. As they failed to recreate or come close to the feeling of immersion created by a custom built cabinet. I found games like Gran Turismo to be sterile and overly complex, in fact this game did nothing for me. I bought it and thought it looked amazing but once I'd watched the intro and been blown away by the amazingly realistic replays I found the game dull and uninspiring. This is one of the few games which Edge magazine game 10 / 10 but left me feel cold.

The only games of the mid 90s that did much for me on the home consoles were Ridge Racer and Mario Kart. MK was a classic from the start - for me the SNES version was the best as I loved the mechanic of picking up coins to get a boost from the engine. The game was perfectly balanced and had some fantastic tracks. Ridge Racer was pure arcade and very well done. It's the only game that came close to recreating the arcade feel in the home environment, the way you could throw the cars round corners with spectacular power slides was a marvellous racing mechanic - I spent many a date trying to best the White Angel car (very tough).

Coming more up to date it's apparent that the racing game no longer holds the place in my heart it once did. Maybe I've seen everything the genre has to offer but I also think that a lot of racing games have become too hardcore and too bloated. Hundreds of cars and loads of tracks doesn't do much for me. Neither does the focus on realism and career modes. The racing games seem to have lost some of their pick up and play compactness when compared to the racers of yester year (rose tinted glasses firmly in place at this point). There are some exceptions. The burnout games have been a breath of fresh air and lots of fun. Getting back to the arcade style of racing and adding spectacular crashes has been a minor revolution for the genre - Burnout 3 then added the takedowns which again took the gameplay to another level. A truly wonderful series.

Then there's Forza 2 - which seems to have the perfect balance between simulation (rewarding following the racing line and breaking at the right time) and approachability. The game is very much a GT clone but does the GT thing without feeling so clinical. When you hook up the 360 force feedback wheel and bolt it to a table you have a very good racing game. A game which looks brilliant, it runs at 60 FPS which makes all the difference in a racing game, and sounds fantastic. The game also has a good online mode. It can be picked up very cheap now so it's a game worth checking out even if you don't particularly like racing games. The best thing the game adds to the racing game canon is the on track corner / breaking guide. Chevrons on the track show you where to turn in and when to break. This is great when trying to learn a new track and gets you on the racing line without removing the skill from the game, and of course it can be switched off if you want more of a challenge / more realism.

In terms of the future - there's nothing on the horizon that's looking to do anything new. Blur looks like it might be fun but in all honesty I'm not that excited about it. I will have a look at Forza 3 as I do rate the F2 very highly. GT5 - I'm sure this will look amazing but I still don't like the style of presentation in GT games so will probably give it a miss.







Posted on May 20th 2009 at 01:52:55 PM by (Lord Roke)
Posted under World of Warcraft, MMO

Warcraft Update

Hi - a bit of background. I wrote about trying Warcraft for the first time back in January, since then I've levelled up a Night Elf Druid to LVL 37, a Drawvern Hunter to LVL 21 and a Human Warlock to LVL 15. Overall I've enjoyed the experience - sometimes when stuck I've swithced from my main (Druid) to the Hunter - the different styles of play being a refreshing change. This is the first game I've ever played for 4 months straight so it must be doing something right!

But now I'm struggling - loosing my motivation to carry on - I really want to LVL higher but the game seems to be getting very repetitive.

Playing WoW it sometimes occurs to me that the game may be playing me; let me explain what I mean. I feel the compulsion to play WoW a lot - as I mentioned I've been playing it now for 4 months and in that time I've logged in most days with only the occasional days off. I've also joined a guild - the members of which are friendly and helpful, although I've only grouped with them once. But now I'm struggling to determine whether I've enjoyed it or not. The thing with WoW is it's all about the journey (this is what I've read) - there is no end game as such - but as much as keep telling myself this I just want to level as fast as possible, which may be the cause of my current lack of enjoyment in the game.

It's not like I have any particular goal in mind - although in the back of my mind I believe that the game is better as you get to the higher levels and able to get on to the newer content (Burning Crusades and then on Wrath of the Litch King). But in driving on to level up I find I'm enjoying the game less and less and it's becoming a choir. It got to the point last night where I turned the game off after being killed several underwater - which meant I couldn't recover my body so had to suffer resurrection sickness which meant I was killed again.. it was at this point the game was getting far too stressful and I decided i needed a break - so i logged out and switched on the Wii and booted up House of Dead: Overkill - which was refreshingly simple and easy.

If anyone has any suggestions as to where I'm going wrong with Warcraft then please let me know. Is it just harder to level when you get to the high 30s (37). Is there something else I should be doing in the game - PVP or maybe more instances? I've only done the Deadmines and the Stockades - which i went through with very high level characters so all i did was pick up loot. Or is it time to park Warcraft and get back on the 360 / PS3 / Wii which I've neglected for months (since Jan)?



Posted on Jan 12th 2009 at 01:16:11 PM by (Lord Roke)
Posted under World of Warcraft, Addiction

The 11th Jan 2009 was the day it started. It was the day I finally decided to take the plunge, to risk everything I love and everything I own. I've struck the match, heated up the crack and taken a drag. I'm nervous as I sit here today at work, I realise after a few hours of playing the game yesterday - I've spent a lot of time thinking about WOW and a lot of time talking about it. Could these be the first signs of addiction? I've even attempted to pull a reformed WOW addict off the wagon by suggesting he joins me and play WOW. I need to know whether this is a game or something run a million miles from.

Of course, like everyone else I've heard lots of stuff said about WOW and how addictive it is. So I've always been curious to check it out for myself. I feel like its the one phenomina in gaming that I have not sampled. Until now I've avoided it, partly due to not being a massive RPG fan and partly due to the fact you have to pay a regular subscription fee. One of my best friends has played the game before and managed to get reasonably far into it (level 60), he always warned me that if you get sucked into WOW then you may as well sell your XBOX, PS3 etc as you won't be playing anything else once you "get into it". So I was curious to see what all the fuss was about, and I wanted to see if the game was as good as everyone made out. I was also intrigued to find out how addictive the game really is - and whether this addiction is due to the game being so much fun or whether it was something more negative, like scratching an itch, or feeding a habit (I.e. from compulsion). My opinion before playing was its a bit of both.

The reason I decided now was a good time was to try WOW was boredom. I have a 360 which RROD'd a few weeks ago and is currently on recuperation vacation in Germany, hopefully my friend Mr 360 will be on the way back to me ASAP before I get sucked in to WOW. I suppose it was my own fault for relying too much on the 360 - I should have spread the games out more, but all the games I really like on the 360 - so for the past few weeks I've been doing other stuff.. like watching TV and films.. I was so bored last week and decided to check out some of the video nasties from the 80s (these are films which were banned by the BBFC, also known as, British Board of Film Classification) at one time or another.. I started off with a family favourite - Cannibal Holocaust.. This is a cautionary tale of what happens when you go into the Amazon to make a film about cannibals without doing your homework. The film is badly dubbed from the original Italian into English but the story wasn't all that bad. I liked the premise of the story, the way it starts off with the Professor who goes to find out what happened to the documentary makers that have not been heard of since entering the Green Inferno (Amazon Rain Forest). The film wasn't that bad until the film makers started behaving worse than the cannibals trapping some natives in their huts and setting fire to them. I was cheering for the cannibals by the time they started hacking up the hapless documentary makers. Although I must have downloaded the Disney version as much of the really bad stuff was cut from the film - maybe not a bad thing. I'm not sure anyone really needs to see turtle being chopped up or a bloke having his Johnson removed with a machete. By then end of the film I realised that the plan to spend the next few weeks working my through the entire BBFC of video nasties was not going to be that productive and if I carried on I would end up slightly disturbed.

So what else to spend my time on? The PS3 sits there winking at me (through its layer of dust) - okay it's not going to set the gaming world on fire - when the history books are written I think the PS3 will be something that Sony will want to forget - it feels like the George W Bush of gaming - always looking uncomfortable in it's on skin, able to do lots of things badly but no one thing really well.. (Enough with the cheap pops at Sony - have to say Home is terrible though - moving on) I tried. I stick on Resistance - a PS3 launch title that's been on the shelf since it was given to me gratis my friend who tried (and failed) to convince me that this would be 'the best thing ever' online - how wrong. But the 1 player game was actually alright. Nothing special but enjoyable enough for the first few hours. But then boredom and reputation set in and I decided to put it back on the shelf.. Then I went back to Mario Galaxy - managed to get enough stars to complete the game... I thought to myself how good is this game? but why arent there more games like this on the Wii... but now Ive finish galaxy and watched several episodes of The Office.. I want some interactive entertainment... I can only play Peggle on the Mac. What about WOW - could this be the time to do the free 10 day trial thing?

 I go to the website and click on the link... the download starts... I click on the game and start register... I keep thinking I'll give up if it asks me for a credit card any excuse to turn back from the road to ruin. I want to try the game but Im also looking for any excuse to do something else. In the back of my mind Im think the game will be dull, plus Ill have to go through the newbie stage where I'm all finger and thumbs. Fortunately no credit card is required, I quickly go through the character creation screen, for some reason I pick a Priest. I'm already thinking this is a mistake; I should have been a character with a sword but what the hell... I give him a name, struggle to think of something that sounds like a fantasy character - I pick Esseker in the end. The name of a character in the film with Keifer Sutherland I watched at the weekend (Mirrors). I pick a server and server type - I go for PVE. I don't to be attacked all the time. And without further ado I'm in the world of Azeroth wondering how the game works and what I'm supposed to do.

The interface is all PC like (lots of icons) but seems easy enough to understand. I walk around and talk to people not sure whether they are real people or NCPs. The graphics look a bit basic but look they've make a coherent world. I start my first quest my heading towards a yellow question mark on the map, I speak with a chap in the Abbey I have to head north and kill some creatures. It sounds easy enough. Then I get lost. I'm used to Fable 2 with the breadcrumbs. I expect there should be an icon flashing on the map but there isn't. I walk around and find some woods... I discover a lake and then another village. Here I see lots of people jumping around and throwing fireballs at each other. I walk past trying not to get caught in the cross fire. I'm only level 1, I feel vulnerable - if someone sneezes on me I'm not sure I would survive. I see a man on a horse - he looks cool, like Venga from Dungeons and Dragons. I want to talk to someone, what I really want is someone to talk to me and tell me what to do - but nobody does.

I wander back to the Abbey (via the pub) and go back to the bloke that gave me the quest to kill 10 creatures, apparently they are causing trouble but when ever Ive seen them they have been going about their own business. I dont question the quest any further. Ive read what he says more clearly this time and have a better idea of where to go (head north from where the bloke that gave me the quest was standing). There they are... I start casting some spells and kill one of them... and then another and another. Before I know it I've massacred 10 of the critters and in doing so completed my first quest. I head back to the man in the Abbey and collect my reward which is some rather nice boots. I check the time its 30 minutes later than I thought and time for bed, but already I feel like I want to do another quest. There seems like a lot to explore and I enjoyed seeing my level go up from 1 to 3 but its time for bed. I logout. Im not hooked. Im not even sure the game is anything special, but I want to try it again and find out more about this strange new world.




Posted on Aug 15th 2008 at 07:13:29 AM by (Lord Roke)
Posted under Fanboy, Online, Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo

Howdy!

This is Lord Roke in my first, and maybe last blog ever.

Some of my friends that I work with that also share my passion for games, which is great as we always have something to talk about by the tea machine (when other conversations dry up), but also great in that we used to play a lot of online games together. I'm not going back years and years - just to 2005/6, around the time of the when the XBOX 360 was launched / before the arrival of PS3.

There were probably five / six guys at work that are good friends that all used to own 360s and all used to regularly get together online for a session of Rainbow Six Vegas or GRAW with side order of occasional PGR 3. These were my golden days of online gaming. We were all on the same console, playing the same games, and more importantly: having fun. It didn't matter who won or lost it was just such a good laugh, and the fact that there were enough of us for a good game of terrorist hunt or a decent race in PGR meant that I didn't have to play with loads of the usual n0bs / weirdos / people that are good games - that tend to ruin the average online multiplayer gaming session for me. Plus, we were all of similar ability so the games tended to be close - but mainly it was just great fun especially with the voice comms on the 360 and the excellent system of game invites.

Then the PS3 came out (which was released in March 2007 in UK). The first thing that happened was that the half of the group that were hardcore PS3 fans switched to PSN overnight, despite having active XBL subscriptions and despite the fact that there were very few decent games (never mind online games) on the PS3 at this time. They still popped up on live occasionally but it became a lot more difficult to get everyone together at the same time for a game of RSV.

The non-PS3 hardcore (like me) stuck with the XBL as it was so much easier to get a game set up and the comms actually worked. I did try War Hawk a couple of times but not being able to speak to people and the extra hassle of setting up a game soon put me off (plus the game looked like something from the PS2 era). The next thing that happened was views on both sides [of the argument] became more entrenched - the PS3 fans wouldnt admit that PSN was not as good as XBL and to prove it decided to sell their 360s or switch them off permanently. This meant the salad days of online gaming were over. And to be honest I've hardly played online since - I had some good games on COD4 and another good mate has since got a 360 so hooked up with him as well, but it's never been the same since.

What a shame that misguided brand loyalty should ruin such a good thing. I could understand it if they moved on to something bigger and better I would have been there with them but to play something inferior makes no sense to me.




Posted on Aug 15th 2008 at 05:00:00 AM by (Lord Roke)
Posted under Review, Oblivion

 Mini Review 1

Oblivion - this is one of those games that I really wanted to get into but failed miserably. I guess it goes to show that just because you love games - doesn't mean you love all games and all game types.

Oblivion is set in the olden days and is Western RPG. I say western RPG rather than Japanese RPG as I actually enjoy the occasional JRPG, mainly because they are quirky and remind me of some the RPGs I played on the master system / mega drive which I really enjoyed as a kid.. Anyway back to Oblivion.

Like I was saying it's a western RPG which means it takes its self seriously - there are no cutesy characters and there are no whacky gameplay mechanics . I'm not saying that this is a bad thing but it does make the game feel a bit staid and starchy like a having a conversation with young conservative in the late 70s.

Anyway, in this game you start of locked up in jail which is pretty cool - you managed to escape or you are let out - can't remember but the Emperor gets whacked pretty early on, from then on you are on a quest to find the new heir to the empire (a bloke called Martin - not the best name for a olden days bloke) and must travel the lands to complete this quest and close some gates. Before all this you get to create you character which is pretty cool - but in some ways I prefer to be given a character (like Link) and told - "this is who you are" and "this what you look like" but I can see how some people like this feature.



Anyway, there are loads of quests in the game - which you find out about by talking to the NPCs - you can talk to anyone in the game but the conversations tend to be very dull and everyone seems to talk like they have taken tampazipan i.e. very subdued and not that interesting. I prefer the punchy one liners from the JRPG like "we have lost our chickens" rather than going through 4 branches of a conversation tree to establish the same thing.

The problem with Oblivion is it gives you too much freedom, too early - it's great to have a choice but I ended up spending ages in the first city in case I was missing some (I wasn't) when I should have been given a few more exciting missions early on.

I also found the inventory system overly clunky - trying to manage the items in the inventory was difficult you also end up collecting so much tat (rats meat and old rusty swords etc) that it becomes difficult to see what's what after a short amount of time.

I think the main problem I have with this game is that it doesn't pull you in like it should do. There was one mission where you help some farmers protect a field from some raiders (goblins) which was cool - if there were more missions like this I might have stuck with it longer.. Alas it was not to be.

I even went back to this game and started again but still couldn't get into it.

Oh well - I hate having games on the shelf that I haven't completed - or given a good go - especially ones as highly rated as this but that's the way it is. I won't sell it - as it's worth nothing and I don't want to sell any more games. I also hope, like Shenmue 2, that I might go back one day and finish it - but somehow I doubt it!


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               
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