2020 Redux

2020 Redux
Kill Your Darlings

Gearoid Reidy | 11 Jul 2006 12:02
2020 Redux - RSS 2.0

Take the over-world map. A relic of another age, the over-world map was originally designed to simulate the long journey across a supposedly big world, at a time when resources couldn't match the developers' imaginations. Now the over-world map just sucks you out of the game, changing the dimensions and making a huge world seem small. While you might appear to be going from Random Home Village to Giant Metropolis City, in the gamer's mind, you haven't really gone anywhere at all.

If you're going to have a game that involves the player traveling across
some massive world, you have to allow the player to make that journey himself, not shuttle him needlessly and instantly from one town to the next. Surely the point of having a dozen different towns full of shops and speaking characters is to make him feel that this is a real place filled with real people? Creating the illusion of another world is like making a house of cards; adding these elements is like trying to do it in a giant wind tunnel.

The more RPGs concentrate on artful cut-scenes and voiceovers, the more these non-immersive elements stand out like battle-sore thumbs. Full disclosure: I have admittedly never fought a party of saber-wielding trolls, but I have difficulty believing they would stand around waiting for me to decide whether I should attack with fire magic, or if ice works better on trolls. The best way we have to show character development in the single most story-oriented game genre is a list of numbers that increase based on the amount of monsters killed. And every life or death situation can be solved simply by making sure to pack some herbs before you head out.

The RPG is in serious danger of becoming nothing more than a parody of itself - like the cowboy movie, so afraid to deviate from the rule book that it formulaically burns itself out of mainstream existence. If the RPG is to continue, it must look to the future instead of feeding off the decaying glories of the past.

Save me! Power and responsibility
With the advent of Tivo and the internet unshackling television from scheduling, gaming is now the only media form that demands you play by its own time rules - stopping and saving when it wants you to.

Yet here's the problem: I'm not 11 anymore. I just don't have the time to play through the same section of a game more than once just because I missed some hidden save point or didn't have enough typewriter ribbons.

When you get to a ripe old age living in a multitasking society, it becomes a daunting task to sit down and play a game like Metroid Prime, which you know will require at least two straight hours of playtime to make any progress. And if, after an hour and 59 minutes of play you suddenly die without saving, well, that's just tough. Like a strict parent, the game just tells us to do it again, and do it properly this time.

Save systems have to go. Let's get one thing clear, games: I pay for you. You are my playthings. When I say enough, enough. At the very least, every console should function like a DS - where just closing the lid puts the machine into temporary standby. But the save point itself is a cheap trick to extend lifespan that's been used for too long. Surely by now we can find a better alternative to keeping up playing games than the save point, the health-pack and the 1-up.

Halo's respawn was an admirable solution. But even as it cured one problem, Halo exacerbated another: the lack of suspense and responsibility.

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