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How to Make Neverdead Better

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw | 13 Mar 2012 12:00
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So Neverdead was nevergood. In fact it was pretty much all bad. Bad, bad, bad. Its favorite TV show is Breaking Bad. Its favorite Creedence song is Bad Moon Rising. And I'm sure I don't even need to tell you what its favorite Michael Jackson album is. It's Invincible. Because, like Neverdead, Invincible is pretty bad.

But the reason why it fires my interest is that Neverdead is the good kind of bad. Not the bad kind of bad that's tired, mediocre and dull (for as we should all know by now, being boring is the absolute worst possible criticism a piece of supposed entertainment can receive). It's the kind of bad that attempts to implement a few bold new ideas but can't quite get a handle on them and crashes humiliatingly into the mud. In doing that it now earns a place alongside such games as Alone In The Dark and Dark Void.

Neverdead is like a shark swimming circles around a halfway good idea, occasionally drawing close enough to nudge at the shins and maybe have a little nibble but never managing to sink its teeth in properly. It wouldn't even have taken much to make it good. Okay, it would have taken a fair bit, but the right attitude's in place already. Let me defy once again the accusation of never being constructive in criticism and think of how things could be saved.

1. Understand the relationship between camera placement and gameplay style.

Here is a short list of games generally considered good, or at least competently put together. Resident Evil 4. Gears of War. Half-Life 2. These games are shooters, based around picking off the enemy from mid-to-long range, and so the camera remains close to the player character, if not right inside their bonce, so that both the camera and the character can easily see down the gunsights.

Here is another short list of games generally considered good. Devil May Cry. Ninja Gaiden. God of War. These games are hacky-slashers, and generally the camera keeps its distance, hovering above the player character. Enemies are more likely to come into extreme close range and often swarm in from every angle, so the camera placement emphasises giving the player a complete awareness of the nearby environment. It would be frustrating otherwise.

You can sort of see where I'm getting at here, but if you insist on having both short and long range combat, you have to understand how the camera's position affects the two different gameplay styles. If Neverdead could only have had one camera position it should have gone for the higher-up hacky-slash kind, because I hardly see how it can be my fault that my head's been bitten off by a demon dog who was telegraphing his attack from a blind spot two feet behind me.

2. Play up the limb loss thing.

I like the detachable limbs idea, I really do. But in Neverdead, every time a limb or my head got separated in combat, I would react with frustration and a resigned sense of despair that I would now have to dawdle around pulling myself together for a few seconds, and it completely breaks the flow. Adding a greater sense of effectiveness to the dismembered state would help avoid interrupting the fight, and would expand the tactics available in combat.

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