Rise of the Tomb Writer

Rise of the Tomb Writer

The problem with Rise of the Tomb Raider isn't that the story is too familiar, it's that we spend way too much time with it.

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(The problem of how you engineer setbacks for the player without resorting to cutscene incompetence is a tough one, and also a subject for another day.)

But, please, come back to it. It drives me nuts. It may well be that the only thing worse is engineering setbacks through player incompetence by way of "there is only one way forward, and it involves doing something the player would never do if they had any alternative."

I'll admit I'm not a huge fan of mandatory setbacks in general, including such popular variants as "in this instance, the boss is undefeatable" and "whether you dawdle or sprint, the big bad gets there thirty seconds before you." But it does seem like there are less painful alternatives, including multi-part plans where the player isn't made personally responsible for the parts that fail.

I was hoping that Tomb Raider 2013 was just a little awkward and shy because of the cultural and financial weight it was bearing as the reboot of an iconic series. I figured that the critical and commercial success of it would give the team the confidence to focus on what worked and jettison what didn't.

I don't know; the brass still seemed pretty disappointed that TR didn't sprint right out of the gate. And it did seem to take the remastered versions before it really took off. Maybe they still think they're owed that early-release blockbuster status, and are still in pursuit of it.

The gameplay is tight, the visuals are wonderful, and all we need is for the filmmaker on the team to take a step back and let the player enjoy them.

I'm tempted to blame the "Square" part of the equation, parts of which have long seemed more interested in making movies than video games. But I admit that I don't have any hard evidence to lead to that conclusion.

Callate:

(The problem of how you engineer setbacks for the player without resorting to cutscene incompetence is a tough one, and also a subject for another day.)

But, please, come back to it. It drives me nuts. It may well be that the only thing worse is engineering setbacks through player incompetence by way of "there is only one way forward, and it involves doing something the player would never do if they had any alternative."

I'll admit I'm not a huge fan of mandatory setbacks in general, including such popular variants as "in this instance, the boss is undefeatable" and "whether you dawdle or sprint, the big bad gets there thirty seconds before you." But it does seem like there are less painful alternatives, including multi-part plans where the player isn't made personally responsible for the parts that fail.

No kidding. I once spent, no joke, five hours on a single boss fight in Skies of Arcadia: Legends because both sides kept healing faster than the other side could dole out damage. I couldn't figure out what I was missing, and I eventually googled a walkthrough. Only then did I discover that that particular boss was supposed to be a scripted defeat for my party.

Get rid of Rhianna Pratchett and get someone who's actually COMPETENT at storywriting. It'll do magic to the series.

I don't see anything of the problem that is described here: I got a problem with Rise of the Tomb Raider of a very different kind: it's taking itself way too serious.

You see: there was a time in which Lara Croft would be fighting a giant bird monster with human fists in a cave in Tibet. Or a giant freak with no legs. It made no sense at all and that's what made it so great. But to try to be serious and realistic in a videogame in my opinion only highlights how games are inherently unrealistic; unless you're that Finnish sniper from the Winter War nobody kills a hundred enemies in a gunfight, nobody is that good of an athlete, et cetera.

I liked Tomb Raider when it was about absurd comic bookie fun: this Camilla Luddington Lara depresses the hell out of me with her boring clothes, her constant being out of breath, her constant getting the snot beaten out of her, her hammy speeches about how her blundering around is deep and meaningful and all that, her screeching and I could go on for some time.

Maybe I could sum it up in once sentence: 'I hate gritty reboots of lighthearted classics.'

Vladimir Eremeyev:
Get rid of Rhianna Pratchett and get someone who's actually COMPETENT at storywriting. It'll do magic to the series.

Is there something about Pratchett's writing that is problematic? I haven't played the latest Tomb Raider, but I remember finding Overlord hilarious, and I think she wrote that.

I think people need to use the term "predictable" as an insult a bit less often. Ideally plot twists SHOULD be predictable, but only shortly before it actually happens. It's dwelling on stuff that the audience has already worked out that's the issue, not the mere presence of predictable elements. It's the "predictable" criticims that leads to M. Night Shyamalan's films. The "Sixth Sense" plot twist is probably the most obvious one he's done but it doesn't feel predictable because we're too engaged in enjoying the film to start dwelling on what's going to happen next.

I had an argument recently about "The Martian" (a film I loved) were it was being criticised as predictable because "you know he's going to get home safe". Really?! A prediction that "the hero succeeds in his task" coming true is ruining a film for you now?

arsenalabu:

Vladimir Eremeyev:
Get rid of Rhianna Pratchett and get someone who's actually COMPETENT at storywriting. It'll do magic to the series.

Is there something about Pratchett's writing that is problematic? I haven't played the latest Tomb Raider, but I remember finding Overlord hilarious, and I think she wrote that.

Yeah, but...half of what made Overlord amazing was that it was just the juxtaposition present in so much of it moreso than the writing. And I don't think you can compare TR'13 and Overlord, they're in different genres completely.

rgrekejin:

Callate:

(The problem of how you engineer setbacks for the player without resorting to cutscene incompetence is a tough one, and also a subject for another day.)

But, please, come back to it. It drives me nuts. It may well be that the only thing worse is engineering setbacks through player incompetence by way of "there is only one way forward, and it involves doing something the player would never do if they had any alternative."

I'll admit I'm not a huge fan of mandatory setbacks in general, including such popular variants as "in this instance, the boss is undefeatable" and "whether you dawdle or sprint, the big bad gets there thirty seconds before you." But it does seem like there are less painful alternatives, including multi-part plans where the player isn't made personally responsible for the parts that fail.

No kidding. I once spent, no joke, five hours on a single boss fight in Skies of Arcadia: Legends because both sides kept healing faster than the other side could dole out damage. I couldn't figure out what I was missing, and I eventually googled a walkthrough. Only then did I discover that that particular boss was supposed to be a scripted defeat for my party.

... what. No, really; what.

How does that even... Final Fantasy IX. Whenever you fight General Beatrix, you get your ass handed to you, but that's as part of the "cutscene" you get when you beat her mechanically. To litterally force you to throw a fight in order to advance the plot... what.

You know, Shadowrun: Dragonfall did this pretty well in the first fight of the game. Audran shows up, and starts hosing you down with a gatling gun (he doesn't hit very well, but it stings when he does). But the goal here isn't to beat him, it's to survive long enough to get the blast doors open and flee. But if you bring him down to low enough health, Audran retreats, and the game starts throwing more mooks at you until you're either dead, or out the door. Sure, it's a mandatory setback, but at least it makes sense.

Callate:

(The problem of how you engineer setbacks for the player without resorting to cutscene incompetence is a tough one, and also a subject for another day.)

But, please, come back to it. It drives me nuts. It may well be that the only thing worse is engineering setbacks through player incompetence by way of "there is only one way forward, and it involves doing something the player would never do if they had any alternative."

I'll second this. There's few things more annoying in a game than a story that feels the need to ham-fistedly take control of the player character away from the player in order to force that character to do something that the player would never willingly do themselves.

I'll add another voice to the 'engineered setbacks' chorus. Specifically, I want to hear Shamus' opinions on dead-end dialogue. I can't count the number of times over the years that I've been playing a game, I think I can see how to use the resources I have to solve the main problem, then I get into a conversation with the BBEG or my confidante and there's simply no dialogue for my options. Fallout 3 sticks out in my mind for the famous forced ending, where you either sacrifice yourself or kill the Wasteland, without the option to send in your radiation-proof companions (though I hear they fixed that in DLC).

I tried the first one, but just couldn't force myself to get far into it.

Not at all because the cutscenes wrested the camera out of the player's hands, but because the same thing happened each and every second throughout actual gameplay. This is a long standing bugbear of mine, with tons of games: "No, I don't need a closeup on Lara's behind; I want to look over there, where I tentatively mean for her to jump".
I'm assuming this is a concession to designing for play with game controller devices, which are not as "direct" as a mouse, leaving the director lending a bit of a guiding hand, and I suppose it works if you just accept it and go with the predetermined flow, but maybe when porting to PC, it might be a good idea to relinquish some of that control back to the player, so that one don't have to constantly fight the camera automation.

The heavy reliance on Dragon's Lair style "gameplay" didn't help either of course...

At least one could disable most of the ever irritating post effects, like simulated depth of field, and motion blur, and mud on the camera lens, and hack the field of view to an acceptable width... don't recall whether one could get rid of the €?$?! camera shake...

rgrekejin:

Callate:

(The problem of how you engineer setbacks for the player without resorting to cutscene incompetence is a tough one, and also a subject for another day.)

But, please, come back to it. It drives me nuts. It may well be that the only thing worse is engineering setbacks through player incompetence by way of "there is only one way forward, and it involves doing something the player would never do if they had any alternative."

I'll admit I'm not a huge fan of mandatory setbacks in general, including such popular variants as "in this instance, the boss is undefeatable" and "whether you dawdle or sprint, the big bad gets there thirty seconds before you." But it does seem like there are less painful alternatives, including multi-part plans where the player isn't made personally responsible for the parts that fail.

No kidding. I once spent, no joke, five hours on a single boss fight in Skies of Arcadia: Legends because both sides kept healing faster than the other side could dole out damage. I couldn't figure out what I was missing, and I eventually googled a walkthrough. Only then did I discover that that particular boss was supposed to be a scripted defeat for my party.

I've been trying to think about how that sort of thing can be done well. There would have to be some way of conveying that the battle is hopeless without it being too patronizing. I recall Dark Souls had the battle with the asylum demon which hardly left any clues that the battle was hopeless aside from the negligible damage you did to it. It worked for it and against it. People forgave the game for not clearly spelling out that you're supposed to run from it, because it's Dark Souls, but people also spent forever trying to fight it, because they just assumed the incredibly low damage inflicted on it was a part of the game's reputed difficulty.
I imagine in a game like Rise of the Tomb Raider, less subtlety would be a requirement since the game is aiming for mainstream appeal. Perhaps have an NPC declare that the battle is hopeless, but still let the player decide when to cut and run.
Also, I think those scenes would be less disappointing if the scripted defeat isn't entirely a defeat. Perhaps you could escape with an artifact that's crucial to victory so that there's still some hope. Also, the game should make the player work for that escape. If you can't fight for complete victory, the game should let you fight for an incomplete victory rather than just forcing you to sit down and accept defeat.

 

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