Tuesday, 19 February 2008

New Games and the Quality of their Storylines

I'm a fairly avid gamer. Since I was a wee fellow, I've enjoyed PC games and console games. Over time, though, it's become less of an interest as the story lines and general plot development of games seems to be in a decline. The imagery, the music, the sound have all improved. The hardware requirements have likewise increased to match pace with the increased demand on processing power and available RAM. What gets me is that older games were more interesting. Less bling and more substance if you understand what I mean. Take the early Police Quest, King's Quest and Space Quest games. There was a lot of work involved in those games and I can remember being immersed in them for hours. Then there was the F117, F15, Test Drive and various other simulator games that worked so hard for realism. And let's not forget the excellent role play games like Pool of Radiance and the games following it.

Nowadays I've got an Xbox 360, Xbox, PS2, and PC to play game on and none of the current titles really grab my interest. I've finished playing Halo 3 recently and while it wasn't a bad game, it was far too short for my liking. I started with Halo on the original Xbox and loved it. The game was great. Halo 2 never seemed to run properly for my liking on the Xbox and I tired very quickly of the long load times. I'm not there to sit around waiting for the next bit to load, I've got more things I want to do. Likewise, Gran Turismo 4 is not as good as Gran Turismo 3 to my way of thinking. Sure it had a few better bits and stuff, but at the end of the day, I played GT3 for a lot longer than GT4.

Take for example the Need for Speed games. I've been playing those since the first one came out. I loved NFS High Stakes and its sequel NFS HS II. Gold. Loved the cars, loved bringing other cars in. When NFS Underground came out I liked the new driving challenges. NFS Underground 2 was a revelation. Cruising the city, driving wicked cars - all good. But there was a discordant note. It was becoming easier to do everything in the game. Once you had to have a clue about sliding the car into a high speed drift. Gradually it became so easy that retaining control of the car in the slides became more difficult. The most often response I got regarding this from people was so that kids could do it. I see - let's not force them to learn how to do it properly, let's instead dumb it down so the lowest common denominator can handle it. Seems to be the way of all things these days. Task too hard? Aww poor kid. We'll make it easy for you so you can do it with even less effort than your putting in now. Lets dumb down everything! Yay! Fortunately this seems to have changed for the better - NFS Carbon had some difficult driving required in it and it paid off if you had the time and skill to put moves together successfully.

One of the few games I've truly enjoyed in the last few years has been Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords. I've played this through four or five times already and the story is excellent. It's a decent trip to go on. I like to read novels and see the advancement of plot and KoTOR II provides that kind of entertainment. You have to think - consider your options, consider the outcomes and the writers and designers of this game have done a fantastic job with it all. I'm slightly biased though - I love the Star Wars universe and the Jedi. Of course, a game with choices that change many things at once, some subtle, some gross, is not a game with some stress. A good choice is worth some stress over and the rewards are in the results.

Thinking on it further, I guess that shorter games are more appealing for the attention deficit children of the current age. If it's more than 8 minutes without a break, they'll probably lose focus and need an ad break to let their minds recover from the exertion. Does this reflect back on real life? I think it does. The gaming industry seems to reflect the market quite well and so shorter, easier games are going to sell better than longer, more complicated games that have greater depth and require analytical skills and planning.

I really hope they bring out another KoTOR game!

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