The Perfect Generic Game is Mad Max

The Perfect Generic Game is Mad Max

It was with a growing sense of dread I realized, as I played Mad Max, that video games have successfully crafted a new definition for 'generic.'

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I still think that, though it has started to become THE generic set-up for a game, a sandbox environment can still offer new opportunities for gameplay variance. I liked how DA:I used its game world; finally making the world of Thedas live up to the more epic scope that all the lore is always alluding too; and, while I'm not overly fond of the series, I did love Ass Creed 4 for its amazing sailing and exploration mechanics. The new Metal Gear is meant to use its game world well, though I haven't played it so can't judge myself.

I can see that its a slippery slope though. I was distinctly underwhelmed by Far Cry 4 and Ass Creed: Unity - they seemed to check every point that Yahtzee mentioned. Here's hoping developers start to cut back and focus on other game design styles to start milking to oblivion; maybe then sandbox's can stay interesting.

Sounds to me like sandboxes could actually be made LESS generic by taking out the RPG elements. That, coupled with the suggested removal of mission icons (maybe you could buy an overpriced map as an endgame perk) could give the player more free reign to do what they want and not what they're compelled to do.

Take KOTOR - I always played the goody two-shoes because I rated XP higher on my list of shit-what-I-need than the money I could inevitably squeeze out of people by being an evil prick.

Similarly, in Skyrim I always wound up taking any and every quest I could get my hands on, because even if it required tramping over a mountain just to chase some butterflies at least I got some XP at the end.

So take out the XP and people are only compelled to do the quests they want - or at least quests with better loot.
This ties into the next step of the process: devs suddenly need to make more quests that are either interesting or at least actively useful to the player, because without XP as a driving factor there's no sense in doing shitty quests just for the sake of it - except for completionist tight-arses like myself, but without all the icons and maps telling you what you're not doing there's far less push for that.

Sure the loot/cash system still has the potential to be mishandled and bugger things up, but unless you're really desperate then petty-reward quests aren't going to have much pull. And how fitting is it that players only feel inclined to do shitty quests when they're desperate?

Just my 2c.

Cake-poisoning, or Death!

CAPTCHA: Burger with fries. Ugh; how generically ironic!!

OK Ben, if you know you're supposed to collect scrap in dust storms, then maybe you shouldn't have made it sound like you had no idea what they were for in your video.

Also strongly disagree on Mad Max being "generic", I certainly didn't find Max to be a boring protagonist at all.

I liked Far Cry 4 but i've never liked a single Assassin's Creed game, it just seems like once you've played one game in that series, you've pretty much played them all. Also wasn't fond of Elder Scrolls, the characters and world just struck me as very bland and boring.

Just looking at Mad Max gameplay bores me to tears. It's like a Ubisoft attempt at making Just Cause set in a desert. It's got nothing unique going for it and all of the boring shit from other games is bundled in. I loathe chest looting as means to acquire currency. And then people ask why gamers love The Elder Scrolls despite all of the obvious flaws. Because they get exploration right.

Joshroom:
I still think that, though it has started to become THE generic set-up for a game, a sandbox environment can still offer new opportunities for gameplay variance. I liked how DA:I used its game world; finally making the world of Thedas live up to the more epic scope that all the lore is always alluding too

Really? Because it looked completely artificial to me. And being filled with fetch quests to the brim didn't help.

while I'm not overly fond of the series, I did love Ass Creed 4 for its amazing sailing and exploration mechanics.

AC IV was a breath of fresh air that Assassin's Creed sorely needed. And then Unity happened and took it all away again. And AC IV seemed alive only when you were on deserted islands. They look absolutely splendid. But big cities in AC games feel completely artificial because Ubisoft doesn't put any effort into the way NPC's behave. It's all very mechanical and shallow. And the better the graphics are the more you notice. That's why previous games could get away with it easier. And chest looting that usually makes no sense suddenly sense in Assassin's Creed IV because it was pirate themed, but even then there shouldn't have been that many chests to loot. Less chests with more meaningful rewards that unlock useful items would have been far better.

I hope all that changes in the future. As boring as Watch Dogs was, at least the city feels more alive than in most open worlds when you just walk around thanks to the variety of things that NPC's do around you.

But can Yahtzee, who hates driving sections usually, really appreciate car combat? Because it is kind of the point of the game and I don't quite remember him saying anything about it.

leaving the narrative to the player results in fan fiction: some of it is good, most of it is poorly construed nonsense thanks to either our own limitations, the limitations of what we are using or a combination of both. Open world is all gameplay nowadays, or they try to do a sandbox where every damn side mission goes off on a adventure relevant to the plot a la Witcher 3. There is supposed to be a good balance so I can get my game on without always getting my storytelling on.

Yahtzee Croshaw:
I mean, I, like many players, can't be trusted to spontaneously create the ideal experience for myself. If I only ate whatever I wanted to eat on some mad hedonistic whim, then I'd die of cake poisoning inside a week.

This, ironically enough, is why I wasn't swayed by your glowing recommendation of Just Cause 2. You and many others made it sound like the most fun you can have is just fucking around blowing stuff up and skyhooking airplanes and generally abusing the physics engine "just 'cause!" And that seemed to me to be something that would stop being amusing after the first time, like summoning Cthulhu in Scribblenauts, and I'd be left with this huge sandbox and nothing fun to do in it.

Saint's Row the Third came across more or less the same way.

Feel free to explain to me why I'm wrong.

I don't know about you, but I'm sick of the Batman combat system. It was fun the first couple times you saw it, passable the next 3 times, and now it's just obnoxious. It no longer feels cool, it's just a bore. Attack nearest person, watch for counters (roll instead if it's far enough in the game where the enemies have unlocked uncounterable attacks), spam autokill as soon as you get enough hits, repeat infinitely. Time to find something new, video game industry.

The thing about collectibles is they're good if they give you something, like XP or money, or they unlock stuff. In Assassin's Creed III, collecting pages of Poor Richard's Almanac unlocked plans to craft Ben Franklin's inventions, and collecting feathers unlocked a new outfit. In IV, maps showed the way to treasure that gave you way more money than standard chests, and messages in bottles expanded more of the overarching story. SO I say if done right, collectibles can enhance the core story.
And what Yahtzee said about some main story missions being tutorials for side-missions rang true for me. Assassin's Creed has been doing that since II, but not really in Unity, and I've seen it happen in Batman: Arkham Knight, like with some of the Most Wanted missions that target the Arkham Knight's militia.

Adam Jensen:

Joshroom:
I still think that, though it has started to become THE generic set-up for a game, a sandbox environment can still offer new opportunities for gameplay variance. I liked how DA:I used its game world; finally making the world of Thedas live up to the more epic scope that all the lore is always alluding too

Really? Because it looked completely artificial to me. And being filled with fetch quests to the brim didn't help.

I didn't find it artificial, so much as a bit confusing and poorly balanced (finding most dragons means either exploring every inch of the zone, even when you don't think you can explore there, while actually completing each side area left me massively overpowered about halfway through the game). If there was actually a time limit to stop Corypheus, it would have been engaging as I decided who my Inquisitor would help with time and resources available, and whether it was worth going dragon-hunting vs. tracking down a Red Templar nest. As it was, it just dragged on.

I agree that the fetch quests didn't help. I have a special hate for any game that has you go back to a special table or room so you can send your lieutenants out to do mundane tasks, especially when you can't queue them so you have to go back every 11 minutes to send them out to collect more rocks for you to eventually do the thing you want to do.

Digressing for a moment, what was with all the people in the comments trying to tell me what I was supposed to be do in dust storms? I KNOW it's an opportunity to collect scrap, guys.

But that's not what was said in the video. What was said was, "I never figured out what the fuck I was supposed to do in dust storms."

The audience was just trying to help, although it seems a bit quixotic as I doubt Yahtzee would pick up that game again once the video was done.

Here's a thought - do the tower, indicate the points of interest, but don't use icons to tell us what they are ahead of time. Just put a little twinkly light so we have to go over and get involved in it before we know what it is. That wouldn't clutter the screen with icons, and make us more likely to try something we normally wouldn't. If I found one race mission boring but other ones might be more fun, I'd never know, 'cos after the first I'd see a race mission icon and spit contemptfully upon the screen.

But would you not spit with even more contempt when you got to a point and found out that it was another race mission, which you already think are boring, instead of a fun adventure like the 'kill all the dudes and steal their stuff' side-mission that you liked previously, and which you need to do to get money to progress the story?

It seems like you'd be far more irritated spending 20 minutes running around trying to dig up the bits you enjoy rather than having a few extra icons on the minimap.

Agree with everything Yahtzee said. Those collectibles are a sympton that developers are unable to think outside the box and are instead subverting everything that an open world sandbox game should be.

Instead of capturing the essence of the experience: being able to go where you want to go, approach the story and the world from radically different angles and make your character's own story, they can't help but force you down paths of progression. Forcing you to complete X of Y challenge in order to unlock enough XP for abilities and whatever.

Games like MGSV, the TES series and even The Witcher 3 do it right, allowing you to discover the world at your own pace without gating and streamlining like a linear game would do. Instead weaving even the side stories into the experience or at least leaving them open to choice.

On the other hand, I can't stand titles like Arkham, Shadow of Mordor or Mad max anymore. They put such a ridiculous emphasis on side tasks that completely pull you out of the experience.
Geralt taking on witcher contracts makes sense, but the Batman taking time off to search for stupid collectibles and solving pointless riddles when on a mission to save Gotham? Please.

slo:
But can Yahtzee, who hates driving sections usually, really appreciate car combat? Because it is kind of the point of the game and I don't quite remember him saying anything about it.

Well he's very fond of Driver: San Francisco, for one.
I wouldn't put much stock in his driving commentary though, I've heard him harp on pretty sound driving mechanics before. There's always the chance that he's just bad at driving and doesn't know it. Then again he failed his driver's test 3 times over, so he would be the first person to suspect this.

I think Yahtzee should try out 'The Magic Circle' as one of its central themes is the struggle to make game narrative consistent with player behavior, which Yahtzee mentions as one of the great challenges of a sandbox game. That game actually ticks a lot of the boxes mentioned on how to make an open world game more than the generic base. Probably too late and too small for a proper review, but it might be good for his let's drown out series(though apparently that's on hiatus so who knows)

Seems less generic than Infinite to me.

Vehicular combat is a rarity.

Steve the Pocket:

Yahtzee Croshaw:
I mean, I, like many players, can't be trusted to spontaneously create the ideal experience for myself. If I only ate whatever I wanted to eat on some mad hedonistic whim, then I'd die of cake poisoning inside a week.

This, ironically enough, is why I wasn't swayed by your glowing recommendation of Just Cause 2. You and many others made it sound like the most fun you can have is just fucking around blowing stuff up and skyhooking airplanes and generally abusing the physics engine "just 'cause!" And that seemed to me to be something that would stop being amusing after the first time, like summoning Cthulhu in Scribblenauts, and I'd be left with this huge sandbox and nothing fun to do in it.

Saint's Row the Third came across more or less the same way.

Feel free to explain to me why I'm wrong.

Ok here we go.

The main reason why I think the comparison to summoning Cthulhu in "Scribblenauts" isn't a good one is that this is one silly joke that is more or less the same every time it's used whereas the grappling hook in Just Cause 2 is a tool with a huge capacity for experimenting. The grappling hook is a set up (like "there's an englishman, Irishman and Scotchman" but summoning Cthulhu is just a single punchline.

Also a lot of the funnier and more ridiculous scenarios in "Just Cause 2" (such as grappling two attacking fighter planes together) is actually quite challenging to pull off so it feels like a reward each time whereas summoning Cthulhu can only be a reward as the challenge is thinking of using it rather than being able to pull it off.

I usually don't play "Just Cause 2" for more than an hour and a half at a time but I keep going back to it every now and then when I just feel like tearing some shit up and it has never gotten old for me and there are several areas I've never visited (the map is ridiculously huge).

Yahtzee Croshaw:
If not dull then inconsistent, because Mad Max does nothing but try to immediately alienate himself to people but always ends up tugging his forelock and doing their chores regardless.

Just like in the movies!

My problem always ends up the same. Currency has a tipping point. In the beginning you don't have enough and then the tipping point hits and there's nothing to spend it on and you end up filthy rich with nothing to do. This exists in every genre. This is what I think needs fixing in generic go to things.

FoolKiller:
My problem always ends up the same. Currency has a tipping point. In the beginning you don't have enough and then the tipping point hits and there's nothing to spend it on and you end up filthy rich with nothing to do. This exists in every genre. This is what I think needs fixing in generic go to things.

Yep...sitting on 64,500 in Assassin's Creed Rogue, more Destiny currency than I can even be bothered to count, hundreds of thousands of Skyrim septims and fifteen thousand Novigrad crowns in The Witcher 3. Choosing the 'money' option in quest paths is generally pretty redundant because, just like how the universe is rolling along an atrophic path to inevitable nothingness, video-game characters slowly become millionaires. It's just inevitable. If Shay Cormac renovates like five buildings and salvages maybe one enemy vessel per voyage, he'll earn more money than the gross product of England by the time he's forty, and even if Geralt of Rivia accepts discounted payments or refuses payment entirely, once you've been to Skellige, you can afford literally anything the game has to offer several times over.

It's them bastard runestones.

We mentioned the dust storm thing because you, like several other critics, made NO indication that you knew it was for scrap. So uh, that's not really on us.

"I mean, I, like many players, can't be trusted to spontaneously create the ideal experience for myself."

But why not? I've been seeing so many players with this mentality, it's so weird. Dishonored, MGSV and other 'play your way' type of games getting dismissed because people didn't get that you are meant to make your own challenge and find the style that better satisfies you, and blaming the game for it.

Adam Jensen:
Just looking at Mad Max gameplay bores me to tears. It's like a Ubisoft attempt at making Just Cause set in a desert. It's got nothing unique going for it and all of the boring shit from other games is bundled in. I loathe chest looting as means to acquire currency. And then people ask why gamers love The Elder Scrolls despite all of the obvious flaws. Because they get exploration right.

I was actually pleasantly surprised by the exploration in Mad Max. Yeah, you do the same objectives over and over, but each of the locations (the big camps, scavenger hideouts, etc) has their own unique layout and look (at least, as unique a look as you can have when everything's made of rusted metal), rather than the copy-paste job a lot of these games seem to do.

To be honest- I have a lot more respect for a generic game that performs well than a game with shitty features they never bothered to test. Great stock seems to be placed by the industry in games that push the envelope and innovate, but without the games that flesh out and solidify already proven gameplay mechanics, they either become shadows of their initial depiction in future games, or vanish entirely.

I'm still waiting for Unreal Tournament's "you can't fall off a ledge if you're crouching" feature to become a gaming standard, for example.

I'm sure the tower thing started out with the best intentions. I often find myself jumping up and down or looking for higher ground so I can get a better view of the surroundings. Even when it's useless from a tactical standpoint because enemies will spawn behind me as soon as I turn my back. But having to climb specific, conveniently placed towers is just another chore.

ExileNZ:
Sounds to me like sandboxes could actually be made LESS generic by taking out the RPG elements.

Agreed. When I want to do a quest, as opposed to having to do it like I have to pay taxes or check my stove, I'm motivated by either empathy or curiosity. Of course it won't automatically make quests better. There's also the question of what you lose by ignoring them. State of Decay has all of the generic sandbox features and also the worst quests and pacing I've seen in a long time. "You let your neighbors die and now everyone hates you." It just throws everything at you and assumes you care what some random characters think about you.

1981:
I'm sure the tower thing started out with the best intentions. I often find myself jumping up and down or looking for higher ground so I can get a better view of the surroundings.

This! This happened to me in Skyrim a lot. I'd climb a mountain or to the highest peak of a tower just because it was there. Looking out over the vast landscape once I'd spent half an hour or more negotiating rocky crags and dangerous jumps was its own reward.

Imagine how unnecessarily long and tedious Skyrim would have been if you had to climb every hill/tower for more content.

Collectibles are only "fun" for me when there's not too many of them but there are written Clues and puzzles somewhere leading up to their locations. IOW: someone actually put effort into making a narrative around their hidey-holes

Yeah, thing about generic games after a certain point you just ignore them all and only play those that have something new or fresh going for them.
As for towers, in Assassin Creed they made sense within context of the game. The whole leap of faith thing and being in the Animus, hence you need to find crucial "part" of the memory, such as leap of faith location and that would trigger revelation of stuff that happened nearby. And that's why it worked there. Context.

Ruisu:
"I mean, I, like many players, can't be trusted to spontaneously create the ideal experience for myself."

But why not? I've been seeing so many players with this mentality, it's so weird. Dishonored, MGSV and other 'play your way' type of games getting dismissed because people didn't get that you are meant to make your own challenge and find the style that better satisfies you, and blaming the game for it.

Well, I feel like MGS5 works just fine. You can sneak around in a mission or you can ride in on a tank in the same mission. But some missions are restricted for no good reason.

inigo montoya.jpg

Alright... I think it's time we had a short but serious discussion about what a "Sandbox" game is. A sandbox game is one where player is given a more or less blank world and are then set free to do whatever they want in it. A key element of this is building things. The more closer to a true sandbox you get the less of a story there is as well, as players are expected to create their own story within the game.

So let's look at some actual sandbox games:

Dwarf Fortress - Definitely a sandbox.
The Sims - Laugh if you want, but the very much a sandbox game.
Star Wars Galaxies - Total sandbox, only blemished a couple of theme-park quests thrown in later.
Minecraft - The avatar of sandbox games in our current era.

Now let's look at non-sandbox games:
World of Warcraft - This is a themepark MMO. There is a main quest, side quests, and it's all about "leveling up."
Far Cry (Anything) - It's an open world, yes, but it's not a sandbox. It's still main quest, side quest, and leveling up.
Elder Scrolls (Anything) - See above.
Assassin's Creed (Anything) - Even more scripted & on-rails story driven. Not a sandbox in any way, sorry.
Mad Max - All of the above mechanics combined does not a sandbox game make.

You might notice something about that second list. It began with WoW and it's "themepark" style of gameplay. This means that despite being a MMO, every person who plays that game is going to have essentially the exact same experience playing it. They will go to the same dungeons to fight the same monsters ending with the same boss to get the same epic loot because every single person in the game is the exact same "chosen one" and must therefore be treated the same as every other "chosen one" out there.

When you look at games like Assassin's Creed, Far Cry and Mad Max you're looking at the exact same formula being applied to a single-player game. Climb a tower, do the annoying minigames, fight a mob, slay the boss, level up, repeat on the next map chunk until you reach the end of the game, then wait a year and buy the next one in the franchise and repeat the whole sordid process over again.

So to recap, to be a true sandbox:

#1) No stated goal or end. That is the most absolutely important factor. The player creates their own story.

#2) You need to build sand castles in your sandbox. Or anything, really. Houses, lairs. You need to be able to shape the game world in some permanent way. Emphasis on permanent.

#3) Randomness. Not having script means you have to improvise. Improvising means things can go flying off in weird directions. That is part of the fun.

A themepark game is:

#1) Loot and/or level driven. Kill small things to gain better weapon to kill bigger things to get bigger weapon, repeat to infinity.

#2) Has a main quest. You can ignore it, but the game has a scripted ending at some point.

#3) Your actions either do not change the world in any permanent way or, if change does happen, only happens in a very restricted, pre-scripted manner. Such as putting a flag at exactly one certain location to do one specific thing.

I'm only bringing this up because game marketers know that the word "sandbox" sells so they try to slap it on to everything that they can... even games that are obviously not sandbox games. This has gotten so bad that it's starting to corrupt the very meaning of the word in the minds of consumers.

 

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