Syndicate Gets Gimmicky

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Syndicate Gets Gimmicky

Yahtzee gets gruff about gimmicks in games.

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Yahtzee Croshaw:
Syndicate Gets Gimmicky

Yahtzee gets gruff about gimmicks in games.

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My problem with voice controls is the same as my problem with motion controls and 3D visuals: it works against immersion because it takes only the most shallow view of our senses.

Say what you will about our collective stupidity, our brains are pretty good at separating real sensory input from fake. (Information, however, is another matter entirely) So, if you're trying to trick someone with fake sensory input, just about the worst thing you can do is put real sensory input in the mix. It's why many CG characters can look fine on their own, but ridiculous next to real actors (Andy Serkis being the exception).

If I'm "participating" in a battle full of booming explosions and wooshing aircraft and howling monster-robot-aliens, in the echo-y ruins of of a fallen skyscraper, the surest way to yank me out of that environment is to force me to hear my own voice in the less-than-epic acoustics of my living room.

Wait, Mass Effect isn't better with Kinect?

EA LIED to us!

And here I am scratching my head wondering why Microsoft slapped a "Better with Kinect Sensor" on the front of ME3's boxart, even though they were fully aware it detracts from the game.

It's a quantity over quality thing, I think. Ah well.

Some might argue as they do with the motion control bullshit that using your voice to issue orders is more "fun" or more "involving" (snnnrrkk), but I find there's little that hurts immersion more than hearing my reedy half-asleep voice in the middle of a science-fiction laser battle.

THANK YOU.

I could never understand the people who said they preferred a silent protagonist because they liked to say the lines themselves. Destroys all semblance of immersion for me.

Why does this make me think of the "climb into a space turret and shoot bits of space stuff before they hit you" part of "Dead Space"?

Yahtzee Croshaw:
my exact words were "no", "no", "no", "no" and "no", in no particular order.

No way!

I see what you did there....

I don't have a Kinect, and I haven't played Mass Effect 3 (yet). But honestly, I like the idea of voice controls if they work seamlessly. For me, being able to command my teammates to switch weapons, take cover, advance, or retreat by actually saying the command out loud would increase immersion. Also, it would free up buttons on the controller. But only if it worked seamlessly. And, so far, it does not.

My voice is a deep rich masculine baritone that inspires men and woos women so I don't mind hearing it give commands. But if, while playing the game, I remind my roommate to cover the dish when he microwaves a burrito, and subsequently my teammates go scrambling behind cover, yeah that does kind of ruin it. Maybe if there was a "mute" button? Although, I guess there already is, isn't there? It's called "pause". Hm, maybe I wouldn't have a problem with it. But as I said, I don't have a Kinect so I probably won't find out any time soon.

As far as using using voice commands outside of combat, no. Navigating dialogue trees only requires a couple of buttons, and you have all the time in the world. What's the point? I mean, if someday we get to the point where we can actually just speak to the game and have it respond in kind, fantastic. But that day is a long way off.

I used to call the Assassin's Creed climbing system a "gimmick",but it's actually really well implemented mechanic,it kept the game from falling apart for me.Same with AC2,the story told in that game I found lacking,enjoyed the assassinations more,for what they're worth...
The shooting sections in Mass Effect 3 sometimes really did feel like obstacles between me and the dialog pies I wanted to taste,hell I even played on casual,just to make them shorter,because I play that game for the story,not the shooting.

Makes me wonder how much more enjoyable Syndicate would have been if you had no gun-just the hacking abilities (but better).

To me a "Gimmick" is a tangential feature that positions itself as an improvement in order to differentiate a product or experience, but ultimately adds nothing concrete or meaningful.

An example would be the Coors Light two stage cold activation sticker. Yes, it does what it advertises. It indicates that your beverage is cold. This is nothing that you couldn't discern through more mundane means such as TOUCHING THE CAN but there it is. It doesn't make the beer colder. It doesn't make Coors Light taste like anything but giraffe piss, but by God it gives you a generalized description of the object's temperature.

This is why I regard the Kinect as a whole as a gimmick. In 90% of the cases the use of the kinect does not improve a gameplay experience. That isn't to say you can't use it for things. But those things could all be achieved (more efficiently) via methods already available to us since the launch of the original Xbox.

I think that definition is pretty compatible with everything Yahtzee mentioned in the article. (Which I am in full agreement with.)

I like the voice controls in ME3 overall. I find it much more immersive/efficient to shout "Liara, singularity!" and have her do it rather than faff around with the radial menu. I would rather you could turn off specific uses in the menu so I could turn off the conversation and interaction commands. I just want the combat ones.

It is true that the game talks to itself though which is incredibly annoying. I learned early not to point Shepard at anything intractable while someones talking. There was an amusing incident in a mission when he said "they're THROWING everything they have at us!" and interpreted that as an instruction to throw a grenade at a wall.

If you need it its a mechanic, if you don't its a gimmick.

If you can't get through the game without the mechanic it retains its mechanic status. If the mechanic has more than one purpose, it retains its mechanic status. If you could take that single mechanic out of it's host game and make a decent game out of it alone, it's a core mechanic.

If a mechanic can't do any of these, it's downgraded to a gimmick. Also if the mechanic can, logically, be replaced another mechanic in the game (having to solve a puzzle to open a wooden door when using an Ax would have the same effect in the real world), it's downgraded to a gimmick.

Wait. How are the syndicate preching and painkillers demon morph that different. Both are just ways of causing death easier.

Also politely disagree on the boss fights. I though they were pretty nice and one of the few good things.

Slothboy:
To me a "Gimmick" is a tangential feature that positions itself as an improvement in order to differentiate a product or experience, but ultimately adds nothing concrete or meaningful.

An example would be the Coors Light two stage cold activation sticker. Yes, it does what it advertises. It indicates that your beverage is cold. This is nothing that you couldn't discern through more mundane means such as TOUCHING THE CAN but there it is. It doesn't make the beer colder. It doesn't make Coors Light taste like anything but giraffe piss, but by God it gives you a generalized description of the object's temperature.

*in carnival game voice* aaannnnND WE HAVE A WIN-AR!

I think this deffinition is perfect for discribing the Kinect sensor's use in ME3 perfectly. I dont have a Kinect, but I played ME3 just fine.

*Edit*

Ilikemilkshake:

MC K-Mac:
I don't have a Kinect, and I haven't played Mass Effect 3 (yet). But honestly, I like the idea of voice controls if they work seamlessly. For me, being able to command my teammates to switch weapons, take cover, advance, or retreat by actually saying the command out loud would increase immersion. Also, it would free up buttons on the controller. But only if it worked seamlessly. And, so far, it does not.

I think there was a Tom Clancy RTS that used voice commands a few years back. No idea how it played but in theory it's a good idea. One thing that people don't like about RTS games is the micromanagement, so if you can tell your units where to go then that actually could make playing more efficient.

But this is assuming the commands work 100% of the time as intended and they mostly don't unfortunately but i hope one day we get there.

The game you are thinking of is Tom Clancy's End War. Havent played it, but I heard the voice control wasnt that good. There was another game back for the PS2 called Lifeline. its "gimmick" was you controlled the main character with only voice commands. The problem with that, and with most voice command games, is the recognition of the voiced command. If you dont say it just right, the game wont register it right.

MC K-Mac:
I don't have a Kinect, and I haven't played Mass Effect 3 (yet). But honestly, I like the idea of voice controls if they work seamlessly. For me, being able to command my teammates to switch weapons, take cover, advance, or retreat by actually saying the command out loud would increase immersion. Also, it would free up buttons on the controller. But only if it worked seamlessly. And, so far, it does not.

I think there was a Tom Clancy RTS that used voice commands a few years back. No idea how it played but in theory it's a good idea. One thing that people don't like about RTS games is the micromanagement, so if you can tell your units where to go then that actually could make playing more efficient.

But this is assuming the commands work 100% of the time as intended and they mostly don't unfortunately but i hope one day we get there.

A gimmick in a game is a feature! that isn't well integrated/doesn't actually change the gameplay experience much.

So in Syndicate it's a gimmick because although you can collect a bunch of allies what you do most of the time is exactly like other shooters. Voice control sounds cool but doesn't fundamentally change how you play the game.

Rail sections can be a gimmick when they're a short pointless break from ordinary shooting but overall most of the gameplay experience is bogstandard shooting.

Rewind in modern racers isn't a gimmick because it changes a huge aspect of how you would play the game. Instead of restarting the race you just retry a corner

I would disagree that the Gravity Gun isn't a bloody gimmick.
I mean you go to a town full of zombies, and there are table saw blades and propane fuel tanks EVERYWHERE? In like every house almost? It's just as bad as the original FEAR expansions when some big bot starts chasing you and suddenly you enter a cafeteria where someone's left a bunch of rocket launchers everywhere.

So yes I would say HL2's gravity gun was a gimmick, a gimmick which wasn't really used for the final sequence because for no reason you got some suped-up gun that was more of an instagib rifle than its original design.

If it breaks immersion, it's a gimmick.

Compare this to the end of HL2E2 where you use a gravity gun. That's not a gimmicky section because there's a reason and a purpose behind actually using it.

Akalabeth:
I would disagree that the Gravity Gun isn't a bloody gimmick.
I mean you go to a town full of zombies, and there are table saw blades and propane fuel tanks EVERYWHERE? In like every house almost? It's just as bad as the original FEAR expansions when some big bot starts chasing you and suddenly you enter a cafeteria where someone's left a bunch of rocket launchers everywhere.

So yes I would say HL2's gravity gun was a gimmick, a gimmick which wasn't really used for the final sequence because for no reason you got some suped-up gun that was more of an instagib rifle than its original design.

If it breaks immersion, it's a gimmick.

Compare this to the end of HL2E2 where you use a gravity gun. That's not a gimmicky section because there's a reason and a purpose behind actually using it.

Then again, the game was full of physics puzzles and the gravity gun was the most effective way of interacting with it. The use in Ravenholm was forced, but not unlike all those games that has rocket launchers and health packs right before a boss battle. Call it "chekhov's gun of game design".

To me, a gimmick is something designers create to differentiate from other (very similar) games. One example could be the american setting in Homefront that PR keep pushing as something entirely different than most modern shooters, the 2vs2 mode in Street Fighter x Tekken or, yes, the demon form in Painkiller, which was only required in a boss battle (I beat the game never using it, other than there) and yet another effective way to kill things in a game with no shortage of effective ways to kill things.

Mass Effect's voice commands hardly qualify because its not differentiating Mass Effect 3 from other games (aside from Mass Effect 2)

OhJohnNo:

Some might argue as they do with the motion control bullshit that using your voice to issue orders is more "fun" or more "involving" (snnnrrkk), but I find there's little that hurts immersion more than hearing my reedy half-asleep voice in the middle of a science-fiction laser battle.

THANK YOU.

I could never understand the people who said they preferred a silent protagonist because they liked to say the lines themselves. Destroys all semblance of immersion for me.

I don't think that's totally fair. People that make that comment usually mean they make up the lines in their head, and (usually) don't actually vocalize it themselves.

Mahoshonen:

OhJohnNo:

Some might argue as they do with the motion control bullshit that using your voice to issue orders is more "fun" or more "involving" (snnnrrkk), but I find there's little that hurts immersion more than hearing my reedy half-asleep voice in the middle of a science-fiction laser battle.

THANK YOU.

I could never understand the people who said they preferred a silent protagonist because they liked to say the lines themselves. Destroys all semblance of immersion for me.

I don't think that's totally fair. People that make that comment usually mean they make up the lines in their head, and (usually) don't actually vocalize it themselves.

I do that too, sometimes - but I'm pretty sure I've seen a few people claim they like to actually vocalise. To each his own I guess.

Voice commands make everything more immersive: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZ04mfAY2BU

LIGHTNING BOLT!

Zen Toombs:
Wait, Mass Effect isn't better with Kinect?
EA LIED to us!

I'll bring the pitch forks ;)

So Kinect still isn't worth it, huh? Also, there are words that have more than on meaning (i.e. sitting, revolution, music, dog... Ummmm... fingering?) so a video game gimmick isn't an exception.

I can sympathise with the housemate incident. The exact same thing happend to me, but I was speaking swedish! Like, what the hell? Thatīs not even the same goddamn language, how on earth did that happen?

Regardless, Iīm intrested to hear your take on the ending and the resulting backlash.

TLDR? A gimmick is built on to a game, a core mechanic has a game built onto it, and tangential mechanics work together to make a game.

I think the best way we can describe a gimmick in a game is by looking at games with silly tangential mechanics that still do not seem out of place. Bethesda games have a recent tradition of adding in mechanics like this. Fallout 3's VATS system is not at all necessary to the main experience, and one could play the entire game without it. I think though, that players who tried this would agree this makes for an entirely different game. Similarly with Skyrim, the dragon shouts were a miniscule addition to the combat, just a readied powerful spell that used no magicka. but again, players who used shouts would say that the combat felt different from when they didn't. I pick these examples because of how similar their function is to the Breaching in Syndicate. These are all powers exclusive to the player and they elevate our hero above the simple AI controlled entities. But by looking at how the games explore these mechanics we can see just how one seems like a gimmick and one seems like a core mechanic. I'll drop a hint, it all has to do with theme.

Especially in western games, the developers have in mind a role they want a player to embody before some designer comes up with a gimmick. It's a universal design philosophy that designers pay attention to what a player is feeling when they sit down with the various mechanics of a game. What they are looking for when they create roles for the player is to build core mechanics around an emotional theme. Fallout's theme is about intelligence and opportunism in a world struggling to hold together, and the VATS system reinforces the payers feeling that only through strategy and experience are you better than the many opponents you face and defeat. Skyrim's theme is about the powers inherent in the undiscovered birthright, and the Dragon shouts (as you are continually reminded) are something only a very few privileged "old guard" and the dragonborn can use to defeat their enemies. When we get to Syndicate, we see that the theme is more about the senses and abilities of people being augmented to make them more powerful in a never-ending arms race, and breaching is a player's way of interacting with that tech.

What makes it feel like it is executed so badly then? Many games struggle to give enough context for their mechanics, but Syndicate has the backstory and explanations to back their fantasy tech up (tecnobabble included!). Many games' visual and audio cues fail to enforce the feelings a mechanic supposedly made for, but Syndicate's breaches are visibly and audibly satisfying, and feel just as powerful as they should be in this world. Many games fail to provide enough opportunity to use a mechanic, but breaching in Syndicate is ubiquitous and not restricted in its access. So it looks good, it sounds good, we see it often, and it makes sense. In a movie that would make it a necessary element of the theme, but in games, we have the angle of exploration and discovery pay attention to, and in Syndicate one could say it was underutilized.

This one actually goes back to the context we're given about these augments. Why, when everybody is willing to KILL for these augments, do they only do about 4 of 5 functions? These cannot be core mechanics if they are never explored to their fullest potential. The reason breaching never felt like a core mechanic is there was never enough variety of basic gameplay to teach us that we were an augmented supersoldier, and what that might be like. Oh, and the boss fights. Those were crap.

I guess the Kinect play in Mass Effect 3 is only fun when you are already having fun. I could be wrong but that is the impression I get.

I still refuse to buy one though, like Yahtzee said, it never does anything to enrich the game, not worth Ģ100+ in my opinion.

I propose the term 'coleslaw' for an extra effect that exists without interrupting gameplay.

When i go to a diner and order a burger, they always offer coleslaw and a pickle on a seperate, tiny bowl-plate (for the record, they offer this for other sandwiches, as well). A pickle i can understand as a standard burger topping, but a coleslaw? Useless and only liked by a small number of people who don't seem to understand they came her for a burger(other sandwich) and not any side dressings.

So, coleslaw is something people don't order, don't especially want, and don't usually eat, unless they recieve so much burger that they need something to act as a palate clenser.

Try this one: a gimmick is a feature that was put in to make the game sound/look better in promotional materials, but doesn't actually make the game better when you play it.

More shortly: A gimmick is something that was put in because it sounds good on the box.

A gimmick is anything thats massivly pimped in the trailer and in ads but doesn't really affect gameplay.

I would add the Skyrim kill cams are a gimmick. But I won't say the Fallout kill cams are because the bloody death sequences were a staple of the first 2 Fallout games.

Some nintendo haterz say everything in mario galaxy is a gimmick but if you actually play the game you see that each of the abilities that mario have provide puzzle solving opportunities that can't be replicated by other means.

Now that you mention it, charging through Syndicate with a small army of mind-controlled techno mind slaves sounds a hell of a lot better than what we actually ended up getting.

Heck, the boss fight thing. Easy way to add those hacking elements in. Have some goons come in to attack the player, only to have said player either kill off or hack into said goons. You could easily end up with a group of about four or five guys helping you fight the boss. That's loads more interesting than just popping out from behind a wall and shooting people. Or you could just hack the boss itself, and let him go nuts on his own cronies for a while until he eventually fights off your hacking attempts and comes at you all the more perturbed. All of that should have been possible within the mechanics they have set up.

Akalabeth:
I would disagree that the Gravity Gun isn't a bloody gimmick.
I mean you go to a town full of zombies, and there are table saw blades and propane fuel tanks EVERYWHERE? In like every house almost? It's just as bad as the original FEAR expansions when some big bot starts chasing you and suddenly you enter a cafeteria where someone's left a bunch of rocket launchers everywhere.

So yes I would say HL2's gravity gun was a gimmick, a gimmick which wasn't really used for the final sequence because for no reason you got some suped-up gun that was more of an instagib rifle than its original design.

I disagree because the grav gun did have it's uses

For example;

Blocking a turret with an object, saving a grenade
Turning timed grenades into grenade launchers
Grabbing items from safety
Clearing roller mines, etc.

Does anyone else have that issue with the Kinect voice commands? That would be a fascinating incident report, of choice being altered in a game due to the audio from the game. I could see someone having problems with that, or a dev trolling us for a moment where we think we have choice.

Wow, an entire piece written about gimmicks and not one mention of the Wii from Yahtzee...progress. Joking aside, the part where he mentioned a friend altering his conversation just by talking shows why using voice controls are a bad idea in general. The system has no real way of disserning who's voice it needs to listen to and just takes anything said that is audible as a player's command.

UnrealCanine:

Akalabeth:
I would disagree that the Gravity Gun isn't a bloody gimmick.
I mean you go to a town full of zombies, and there are table saw blades and propane fuel tanks EVERYWHERE? In like every house almost? It's just as bad as the original FEAR expansions when some big bot starts chasing you and suddenly you enter a cafeteria where someone's left a bunch of rocket launchers everywhere.

So yes I would say HL2's gravity gun was a gimmick, a gimmick which wasn't really used for the final sequence because for no reason you got some suped-up gun that was more of an instagib rifle than its original design.

I disagree because the grav gun did have it's uses

For example;

Blocking a turret with an object, saving a grenade
Turning timed grenades into grenade launchers
Grabbing items from safety
Clearing roller mines, etc.

Well, yes as I mentioned with Episode 2 they used it well sometimes, but not other times. I hadn't even remembered the roller mines before you mentioned them, what I most remember from the coastal drive was that it wasn't really a drive, it was a bunch of fetch quests two blocks apart. I'd rather it was just a long drive with only the occasional problem.

Overall the point is, that there are good and bad ways to implement game mechanics. Ravenholme or whatever it was called was one big immersion-breaking gimmick to me. Well, the whole game of Half Life 2 was one big disappointment to be honest for the most part. It was only when the Episodes came along that it got good, and then didn't finish of course.

But you're right they did occasionally implement the gravity gun in a non-invasive way.

Gimmick: most people already understand the definition as a blurry, but clear abstraction in their subconscious. People should just think for themselves without relying too much on words and exact definitions. These things cannot emulate thought.

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