Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Fable III errors (360)

Fable III is one of those rare games that I enjoyed despite a plethora of bugs and oversights. Lionhead has created a bug report page. Here's a list of the problems I encountered, not all of which are bugs, in hope that a patch might improve the game.


Jasper quit talking to me halfway through the game. Thankfully, he exists more for comic relief than to progress the story. It's not an audio problem. There was no animation suggesting that Jasper was trying to speak to me. He simply stopped commenting in the sanctuary and did not say anything at the story's end (as I saw in a friend's game) either. In the sanctuary, I can press "A" to ask him to explain the room I'm in, and he will simply stare at me. If I walk up to him, he turns toward me. He just won't talk anymore. I've created a second character to see if this bug repeats.

A couple times in combat, the option offered to me as Up on my D-pad was not my Slow Time potions but transportation to the Road to Rule. Twice, my combat was interrupted as I was transported there.

The stats page was broken, last I checked. It showed "0" weapon upgrades (I had a fully upgraded hammer), only 8 quests completed (less than half of what I had done) and only 9 potions used (again, less than half of the real number).

Graphical lag (as common in solo play as in co-op) is frequent and terrible. It happens at day and at night, in multiple zones. It happens while walking/running around, and apparently not (that I remember) during combat or in the sanctuary... but I might be wrong about that.

In playing in another's game in co-op, my character doesn't animate while moving half the time. He's fine in combat, but stands still and glides while walking or running.


The "back" button is not used at all. Why not use every resource? Personally, I would like it to provide a shortcut to the quest list.

The quest list does not keep my place when I use "B" to back out of a quest description. I have to scroll down past the story quests again to view the relationship quests I was looking at. A minor annoyance.

There is no "Repair All" option for rented homes. This is a major annoyance when the player owns many properties. What could take just a couple button presses is turned into a boring five-minute chore.

There is no "Buy All" option at stores. So buying 10 health potions or 10 sacks of grain at a time requires twenty button presses instead of two.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

FPS by degrees

I won't name names, but I've recently played a few shooters with some friends and in every game outperformed them by leaps and bounds. In fact, in Modern Warfare 2, my friends simply couldn't perform well enough to enjoy the game. While I was sniping this player and stabbing that one, my friends were dying and dying some more. At the end of a five-minute match, they had racked up only a few kills each, whereas I had twenty or thirty.

My point is not that I'm that good. At times, other players mop the floor with me, and I'm not playing in the elite matches.

No, my point is that a wide variety of gamers enjoy shooters, but their shorter histories with shooters, lesser skill and different playstyles are rarely acknowledged in gameplay design.

I'm not asking for flag football here. But how about some more games that don't pretend everyone wants to be a pro? Some people just want to blow stuff up and shoot each other in the face.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

used market helps the industry

I'm sure there are more than a few reasons the used games market is good, but there's one in particular I want to point out. The used market encourages quality.

The games you're least likely to find used are the games of highest and longest-lasting quality. If a game is fun, polished, dynamic and offers lasting value through replayability or the sheer scope of experience, then most buyers will hold onto their copies.

The games most often found used are the ones that are mediocre, short, redundant, buggy, etc.

I like the industry's trend toward DLC and exclusive content for new copies. But I hope used game sales stick around for decades to come, because that market encourages developers to aim higher than they might otherwise have to.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

on the horizon 9-7-10

Here's a brief explanation of why I'm looking forward to particular games.

Halo: Reach

This video shows why. The most common failure of competitive multiplayer modes is a failure to separate people of different skill levels and, just as importantly, different goals. Some people play for the end results... stats, rankings, challenge completion, etc. Others, like me, play more for the experience itself... the grenade toss into a sniper perch, the point-blank shotgun blast that throws the enemy back, getting killed by your own sticky grenade as the enemy runs toward you. Players like me are less concerned with optimal loadouts and strategies because we prioritize fresh and compelling experiences over winning.

Halo: Reach seems to address this through a refined matchmaking system that goes beyond soft separation and actually divides people into tiers. The fanatics and achievement junkies can have their tier and the "casual" players can have theirs. And, again -- just as importantly, the matchmaking system also asks preferences on Chattiness, Motivation, Teamwork and Tone.

Customization is the other reason I'm interested.

Fable 3

I've recently been surprised at how replayable Fable 2 is. The humor, the joyful art style, the skill options and the moral options are all fun many months after my first (and second) playthrough.

Fable 3 seems to have made co-op actually enjoyable by enabling the use of player-developed characters and making the two players' cameras independent. But it's the single-player mode I'm mostly interested in. The weapons that morph depending on how you use them could be great. And I'm anxious to dive into the latter half of the game, which focuses on making decisions as ruler of Albion. Much will depend on whether the moral options are not so limited as to force us into decisions we don't agree with.

Call of Duty: Black Ops

Black Ops is offering more customization, which is good. For the most part, I'm interested in this Call of Duty for the same reasons I liked the last ones, despite the mediocre matchmaking and inexcusable frequency of connection troubles. I love earning new guns and upgrades, and doing so keeps gameplay fresh by encouraging me to change my loadout often.

I was surprised to learn there will be a bot mode. I haven't heard anything about being able to invite another player to join the fight against bots, but it's a start. I'm still dumbfounded by the industry's failure to repeat Perfect Dark 64's brilliant bot mode. In the interview I saw, Treyarch's spokeman explained it as practice for people before they fight other players (it has a separate ranking system). I wonder sometimes if shooter developers think all shooter fans are achievement junkies like themselves. A bot mode doesn't have to be practice. Sometimes, even the most skilled players want a more relaxing game. And some players prefer more casual play all the time.

Whatever the reasons, was Perfect Dark 64's bot mode not as popular as I think it was? Is popularity not why it was freshened up for re-release on Xbox Live? How many people downloaded Monday Night Combat recently? There are obviously a lot of gamers who like playing against bots, so why not meet the demand and make a profit?

On my sidebar, you'll see a list of other games I'm hopeful for. Most won't be out until next year. I recommend taking a close look at Brink.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

miscellany 8/17/10

It's been too long since my last post. Rather than my usual philosophy, how about a simple rundown on some games I've played over the past month?

Currently, I'm creeping through a borrowed copy of Rainbow Six: Vegas 2. I've only played the single-player campaign mode so far. It's a good tactical shooter, with more emphasis on action than strategy on the medium difficulty setting. I haven't played a Rainbow Six since the first game, which required thorough planning before starting a mission. V

egas 2
lets me jump right into the action. The level design is mostly linear, but there's a lot of freedom in weapon selection/customization and directing the AI companions (I often send them out as decoys, like the heartless commander that I am). When limited health means I have to replay a checkpoint several times, enemy actions are generally predictable, so I'm encouraged to try different strategies.

I downloaded Deathspank weeks ago, but didn't get far into it. I plan on playing more, but never feel in the mood. The heart of the game is its humor. The dialog is by turns hilarious and stupid, and sometimes both. But it's the item descriptions that I love most. The hack-and-slash gameplay is simple but well done. There's a good amount of choice in outfitting my character and use of weapons. One reason I decided to buy it is that it seems like the sort of game one of my non-gamer relatives could enjoy.

I traded in Dragon Age: Origins after at least 20 hours of play. I came down a little harsh on Mass Effect years ago because I had expectations going in (expectations created by Bioware's marketing, mainly concerning exploration) that were not met. Since then, I've played through Mass Effect 1 and 2 more than a few times. They're good games. But I went into Dragon Age after having ignored it for many months and remembering little other than that it's more focused on story than on action.

Well, that last part's an understatement. The two words that best describe my experiences with Dragon Age (as a male dwarf warrior untouchable and a female elf mage) are bland and tedious. The dialog drones on with a slew of uninteresting choices without even foreshadowing of lasting effect. Aside from the race backgrounds, the story strikes me as run-of-the-mill fantasy. The graphics are ugly and dated. As fervently and widely as the game has been praised, I have no doubt that the story improves further in and that I am simply not the sort of gamer Dragon Age was designed for. Even so, I'm extremely skeptical of the extraordinarily high marks it has been given. I'm looking forward to Mass Effect 3, but not Dragon Age 2.

Then there's Crackdown 2. It's difficult for me to come to a definite conclusion on that one, but I'll venture to say it's slightly better than the first Crackdown. It's better in some ways and worse in others. I really miss the gang variety. That alone makes gameplay a bit redundant after a while. But additions like agility orbs and gliding are great, as is plowing through mutants with a vehicle at night. I haven't tried much co-op yet.

What really makes the sequel stand out is multiplayer. Crackdown 2 has fragfests like you simply can't experience anywhere else. Once, I glided completely across a map to land on and crush an unsuspecting player, then shot the player who had been running toward him for a kill. It's blissful chaos. Half the time, a player is chasing another while being chased himself, then yet another player enters the fray from the side or above.

I recently traded in five games to pick up four others, so I'll make another post like this soon. Honestly, I have more games right now that I can fully explore -- always a good thing!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

healing grenades

As you might expect, I'm reading and watching a lot on E3 news. I might offer some impressions later. For now, I've got two words for you:

healing grenades!

Dynamics are the name of the game, so why not make healing a bit more interesting? Imagine a grenade or vial of healing potion that you must smash against the ground. Throw it down at your feet and it heals you. Throw it by some allies and all in the area of effect are healed. But throw it too close to an enemy... and your enemy is healed.

This creates opportunities for many memorable moments. If your fellow player or AI companion is toe-to-toe with an enemy and hurting, you can try to aim your throw behind your ally so it heals him and not the enemy as well. If the fighters turn at just the wrong moment, you might heal the wrong person, or both of them, or neither. There might even be a possibility that the grenade can be batted while in the air... flying across the battlefield to land who knows where.

Even more, healing grenades might react differently to different objects. They might burn particular enemies. They might explode when they touch a particular metal, hurting friends or foes alike. If two healing grenades hit one spot simultaneously, the healing effect might be exponentially increased.

The basic idea is that, like the sticky grenade in Halo, there are countless possibilities that make each counter feel fresh and potentially surprising. Healing grenades might not fit a particular game, but all games should include at least one dynamic like this.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

digital dictionary

How many word games exist today? Hundreds. Why do they all use different dictionaries?

Is it really too much to ask that all developers use a common word bank?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

cheap trust

One reason I'm looking forward to another Deus Ex sequel is the possibility of trust gameplay that's actually meaningful.

Too often, players are put in situations where the protagonist is asked to trust a character while being all but certain that character is indeed trustworthy. There's no real question that the character is trustworthy. There's not even a possibility that circumstances might remove power from the character to keep his/her promises. The character just says "trust me" and player automatically answers "sure".

It's nice to be surprised by betrayal sometimes. Players have to feel like they're really taking a chance in order for those decisions to trust to seem important.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

leave it open

I just finished Mass Effect 2. Excellent. Bioware fixed problems, introduced some cool new dynamics, and cranked everything up a notch. A very memorable game, and one I'm anxious to play again with different choices.

But (an observation, rather than a complaint) I again ran into situations in which the "right answer" I hoped to choose was not among the dialog options. And, this time around, that situation came right at the end... at the most important decision my character makes in the game.

It wasn't the choice of action that disappointed me, but the reason behind it. Sometimes it's good to leave characters' motivations unstated so that the audience can inject his or her own. This is a game, afterall, so the player should have as much control as possible over the protagonist's implied thoughts.

If you're curious how I was disappointed at the end of Mass Effect 2, the explanation is below.


Shepard has the options of destroying the Collector space-station or keeping it for research. Research could provide valuable insights into Reaper technology and play a pivotal role in defeating them. But that research could also be used by the Illusive Man, apparently devoted to protecting and advancing the human species, to gain power for Cerberus alone and either act as dictator over everyone or aid only humans so that other species becomes subordinates.

I chose to destroy the station. And all my crew, whose loyalties I had earned, agreed with me. They all recited the above reasoning back to me... that the Illusive Man lacked the wisdom to wield such power generously or that other species would suffer, and so on.

But that's not why I chose to destroy the station. Whatever the dangers of giving the Illusive Man that much power, I agreed that researching Reaper tech could prove vital. I thought saving the station was worth the risk; better to ensure survival and fight for justice later. But I chose to destroy it because I thought the danger of the Reapers still holding sway with their indoctrination ability, despite the Illusive Man's proposed radiation sweep, was too much to risk.

In other words, I would have given Cerberus the power if I was certain its researchers would be beyond the Reapers' mind control. Unfortunately (but understandably), I wasn't given the option of that motivation for Shepard.

Oh well. I actually think the dialog options, on a whole, were much improved in the sequel.

I'd say Mass Effect 2 is one of the best games on the 360 now.

It will be interesting to see next time through if I can earn my crew's loyalties and complete every mission using the neutral dialog choices, as opposed to paragon or renegade choices. I'm a pretty even-keeled person, but it is fun to shoot a criminal in the foot now and then. :)

It will also be interesting fighting without the soldier's ability to slow time. That plus the Viper sniper rifle plus cryo ammo was a lot of fun.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

unlimited achievements

I'm not far into Mass Effect 2, but I'm very impressed so far. One thing Bioware did right was adding an in-game achievement system in addition to Xbox Live Achievements.

Console game developers shouldn't limit themselves to XBL Achievements, Avatar Awards and PSN Trophies. Design as many as you can, because gamers love them.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Red Dead surprise

As I was playing Red Dead Redemption today, I happened across a woman crying beside a dead man. By his limp hand was a revolver. The game only gives players a short amount of time to respond to strangers in need. It seemed I had missed my opportunity to help this man fight off bandits. He had failed to defend himself and died.

I stood for a few seconds watching the woman cry, and I turned away. Then I heard a gunshot. I spun back around, thinking it was a trick (like previous ploys NPCs had used on me) -- the woman must have killed the man and then pretended to be grieving so I would let down my guard. But no, the woman was dead. She had indeed been grieving, and now she had committed suicide with her fallen husband's revolver.

Kudos to Rockstar for creating a very memorable game-story experience.

Monday, May 17, 2010

3-D fails

I've seen two films with the new 3-D technology now: Avatar and Clash of the Titans (the 1981 version's better). And I, along with many others I've spoken to, am not thrilled by the 3-D. Though I appreciate the fresh experiences it provides, I much prefer traditional HD.

The problem is clarity. It seems the new 3-D tech creates tunnel vision, blurring all but the small part of the movie screen one is focused on. One might argue that this mimics natural vision, but the effect is not noticed with natural vision. It's simply a crisper picture and more pleasant experience for many, if not most viewers, without 3-D.

So, while I was cautiously excited about the new tech before it was demonstrated, I'm now hoping gaming will avoid the fad.

But there is an alternative to explore. Why not eliminate TV screens altogether and project visuals directly to the glasses?

It would make less sense for movies than for games, since movies rely on tighter control of what the audience is seeing at any given moment. But for games, think of all you could do with that extra joystick on the controller if looking in a 3-D environment was controlled by the player turning and tilting his head. And might it feel more immersive? A vestibular system in the glasses' rims could detect tilt.

I'm not impressed by the latest 3-D tech, but there are still plenty of viewing options to explore.

P.S. Yes, I plan on blogging again, though probably not with the same frequency as before.