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.