Monday, July 14, 2008

Wrapping up the Xbox

Halo Wars
  • video1
  • Many are hoping for Halo Wars to prove that a console controller can work for an RTS game.
  • The main issue I have with Halo Wars is tied to the source that created such hopeful people in the first place. Halo Wars, though designed for the 360 from the ground up, still looks like a PC RTS. The reason why so many other developers have struggled to adapt the PC controls to a console controller is because they're still trying to play a PC game on a console.
  • If Halo Wars is really designed for the Xbox360, then the developers would have created their own unique brand of RTS gameplay that would only make perfect sense using a console controller. I can't tell whether they did or not at this point.
  • Pikmin did it. Pikmin 2 did it again. Both of the excellent games feature the best console RTS controls around. Is it a surprise that the gameplay in Pikmin1&2 is some of the most unique gameplay in grand scheme of RTSs?
  • I will be watching Halo Wars in the future for its overall gameplay style and its controller scheme.
Fable 2
  • video1
  • The graphics are nice, but the combat looks really weird.
  • In the heat of battle the graphical clutter increases and the frame rate drops.
  • From what I know about the approach that's being taken with Fable 2's combat, it seems like the idea of simple (one button)/fun combat was taken too far. From what I can gather, it looks like after the combat was simplified, the developers sped up the combat while reducing the dynamic interactions between the elements in order to keep things "fun." This is very dangerous because it's far to easy to sacrifice weight, timing, commitment, and dynamics in the process.
  • The result is a game that is designed to feature cool combat on the base level instead of creating situations for the cool combat to emerge.
Too Human
  • video1
  • Looking better animation wise.
  • I don't have a 360, otherwise, I'd simply play the demo instead of watching videos.
Fallout3
  • video1
  • Looks a lot likeBioShock... especially with the menus.
  • The turn based combat looks a little too much like an RPG, which means it's bad.
  • Lock picking reminds me of BioShock's hacking.
  • The gameplay looks silly. Even the simple interactions within the action combat seem very unpolished and even laughable. On some levels, it seems like Fallout3 isn't taking itself seriously.
  • An open world means nothing if there's no "game" to experience it with.

Mirror's Edge
  • video 1
  • walkthrough video
  • I'm afraid that Mirror's Edge will be like Price of Persia: The Sands of Time's platforming mixed with Assassin's Creed's free running. In other words, I'm afraid that Mirror's Edge will be all looks and no play.
  • POP's platforming is so strict, linear, and unforgiving that the game heavily used the rewind time power to cover up the substantial trial and error platforming. I've heard from 1up Yours that Mirror's Edge is very similar and that you'll be falling to your death a lot. When this happens the game resets you to the point before you died. Sound familiar?
  • Assassin's Creed's free running looks amazing. Unfortunately, Altier practically does all the work for the player. Such a high level of automation takes away a lot of the play from the player and the game.
  • How deep can Mirror's Edges puzzles be when the Runner's Eye turns important areas red?
  • How tight can the platforming be in first person? Hopefully we won't have to relive Turok on the N64 again.
  • So far the game is in first-person, features bullet time, and has the "yellow brick road" that paints the way to success. This game is going to have a tough time overcoming these design hurdles. Nonetheless, I'm rooting for this one.

Geometry Wars 2
  • Information
  • video 1
  • I own Geometry Wars: Galaxies for the Wii. After writing my article on clutter, I've been slowly realizing how limited the design of Geometry Wars is. Even in the Wii version's 40+ levels and with the addition of personality bots, , there is very little variation to the gameplay.
  • So now we come to Geometry Wars 2 for the Xbox360. And it's 4 players.
  • It was hard enough to see through the clutter of firework like special effects with just one person playing. Good luck with this game. Strictly from a design perspective, this game will probably be a mess.
  • Also, there's no word of online play. Because of the nature of Geometry Wars, there is a 90% chance that there will not be any co-op online play unless they want to slow the game way down.

It's been a busy day, and it's only going to get busier tomorrow. See you then.

6 comments:

Bryan said...

Fallout is grounded in RPGs with an X-Com like tactics system. I think it focused as much on survival and managing supplies as it did actual combat.

I don't think there was much interplay because moving took a lot of action points.

On the other hand, I was extremely careful when moving around so that I didn't get surprised. Would this type of gameplay compare better to the looking for treasure gameplay in an RPG than to typical FPS play?


Turning it into a shooter would

KirbyKid said...

@ Bryan

I'm not familiar with the Fallout series, so I won't be able to answer your questions very well.

What I can say is that RPGs have a very difficult time creating interplay. There are some notable exceptions of course.

One of my favorite RPG battle systems is from Grandia (for the Dreamcast). This game was ported to the PS2 as well.

With this system, players could time their attacks to interrupt enemy attacks even when the enemies are in the middle of their attack animations. The battles were spatial and provided an environment for all the multiple battle characters to interact in this interesting way.

Bryan said...

I agree about the lack of interplay.

I think the earlier Fallout games focused more on carefully managing risk / reward to make combat fun.

Compare this to X-Com and Roguelikes, which are long favorites of western gamers despite very little interplay. The closest Japanese comparison would be Disgaea + sequels. I'm not sure how much risk / reward they had though, and are also on my list to play. Disgaea focused on combo attacks and unit counters for combat.

Compared to an FPS, these games tend to have more risk, forcing you to run from battles or die more often.


As for the Grandia reference, I agree about the excellent battle system, though I haven't played it. Its next on my list after I finish Xenosaga 1, which has an interesting battle mechanic along with a ton of clutter.

Bryan said...

To clarify my Risk / Reward term, I'm talking about a concept in certain games where you are given an overall set of risk. For this discussion I'm reducing the discussion exclusively to ranged tactics games (meaning Disgaea is disqualified)

The risk involves a set of enemies of unknown type / status with unknown locations. The terrain shape might be unknown too.

The reward involves completing an objective, usually defeating the enemies.

The gameplay of Risk / Reward for ranged tactics games involves trying to make partial progress towards the reward for an acceptable amount of risk. This means the player starts by scouting out the level.

Any movement carries some risk because that unit may come in range of the enemy, giving the enemy the opportunity to fire first while your character takes time to get into firing position and aim. Your character is also easier to hit when out of firing position.

The player mitigates the risk by having other characters ready to provide covering fire against possible ambush locations. Some games also include proximity grenades, traps, special weapons, and so on.

While having very less interplay than you are asking for, it can become very fun if you have appropriate tools for mitigating the risk and have to use them effectively.

KirbyKid said...

@ Bryan

First of all, it's not a matter of being fun. I won't discuss matters of fun because it's completely subjective and personal.

Secondly, RTSs are nothing without interplay. In StarCraft's case, the interplay exists between individual units, group battles, and the struggle over land and resources.

Because the primary function of an RTS is issuing commands, countering commands like building and attacking with specific units is where the interplay exists.

Risk/reward exists in all games. RTSs are just like any other genre of game.

Bryan said...

These tactics usually aren't RTS's. The only one remotely comparable to an RTS was X-Com Apocalypse, but it had a pause button which received a lot of use. This means that the focus on unit counters is changed to a lower level focus on positions. Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter would be a better comparison, forcing more attention on covering fire with its extremely deadly damage model, but they're still pretty different.

These games use a similar mechanic to Go in that your team attempts to take and hold territory on the map. Even if they aren't capturing territory explicitly, its usually a part of reducing your opponent's options.

Similarly to Go, teams rely on influence from neighboring teammates to conquer territory.

Also similarly to Go, teams have weaknesses in their defense based on position, terrain (other stones), and movement (newly placed stone), rather than unit type. Units will usually carry different weapons, but its usually nowhere near as significant as an Starcraft.

My point is that the focus is on location and position rather than on different unit types.

The analogy with Go does break down, replacing mathematical complexity with hidden information, more unit differentiation, and special abilities.

This breaks down in melee combat because you have more time to prepare your response. Meanwhile, special abilities and unit counters matter more.