Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Replayability values

One of the reasons I started this blog was because I felt that no one was representing my view of things in the gaming world. I'd read all kinds of comments and opinions on gaming sites and forums , but I practically never felt that I agreed with any of them. This was even worse when it came to game reviews. I felt that game journalists often put too much focus on things which were not as important, and generally that people were missing the truly great things about PC gaming and gaming in general.
I felt that starting my own blog where I could be free to express my opinions and not be afraid of a flame war was the best choice.

Why am I mentioning this now? Because I've again stumbled across an avalanche of opinions which I find so misguided that it's impossible for me to ignore them.
What I'm referring to is people's complaints regarding Portal 2's lack of replayability options. You see, if a game doesn't have randomly generated levels or a competitive multiplayer mode it's not replayable enough, and therefore not as worth our money.

Now I know that games are a unique medium, but in this case I don't see why this is any different than a book or DVD. When you buy a DVD or a book, that's what you get - there is no re-read or re-watch value. You buy it to own it and be able to watch or read it as often as you like. Why are games different in this respect? Why does a game have to include things especially made to make us replay it? It's ridiculous.

The problem with this opinion of putting so much emphasis on replayability is that designers end up giving this more focus when they ought to be using their resources on improving the core game experience. Thus we get games such as the new Aliens vs. Predator, which had a mediocre plot in single player and even worse multiplayer. If they'd canned the multiplayer and put the extra time on crafting a worthy single player experience I'd probably give the game another go.

And that's my real point here - multiplayer games have never drawn me back as much as well-crafted single player games. I'm not saying that games don't need multiplayer - but not for the sake of this replayability nonsense. As a result of this hokum, Valve have recently stated that Portal 2 would probably be their last game which had an isolated single player experience. Hopefully, this doesn't mean they will never make single player games again, but that they'll always include some multiplayer element. In the worst case this could mean we'll start getting less than stellar games from Valve, as too much of their focus will be divided, or in the not-quite-as-bad case it will take them longer to release games. Either way, this stupid insistence on replayability in its most shallow form has brought us to this state.

I don't really believe that the masters of the medium, such as Valve, will be hurt by this. They know how to make good games and know what part of the community they should listen to. What worries me are the up and coming developers. People whose first game could be one great idea put together beautifully, or a bunch of good ideas strung together poorly just in fear of failing to please the ravenous crowds. A bad first game could also become their last.

It's a shame many people with short attention spans just don't get this. I have no problem replaying games because I appreciate them. I don't need crappy gimmicks such as a tack-on multiplayer or randomly generated (but virtually identical) levels. I've replayed The Longest Journey, Max Payne an the Monkey Island series, for example, more often than any game which offered "replayability value!" I've replayed Portal 2 about three times since its release. Why? Because these games are good. They're genuinely great experiences and that's their replayability value right there.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Et 2, Portal?

Right. Let me make this clear.
Portal Two is the best video game ever made.

Obviously some won't agree with me. Some who like strategy better, or some who enjoy games which let them make their own adventure. Sure, they don't have to enjoy the game. But in terms of storytelling and style, this just doesn't get better. I'm officially convinced now that Valve are the masters of storytelling in games. They're the ones we'll look back at years from now when these virtual narratives are as valued as film and novels.

Valve aren't there yet. I think a lot can be done in terms of how stories are told through video games, but they have definitely gone further than anyone else. No one tells a story the same way they do. They embrace the strengths of the medium, and use them to tell the story rather than rely on methods used by film or texts. They understand this medium is different. Portal 2 is an absolutely brilliant piece of work.

I'll write more of my thoughts about this game later. I just wanted to put it out there. This is the best story ever told on our monitors.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Video Killed the Blog Star

Well, it's finally happened. I've decided to stop making (or trying to make) video logs for this site. It was a hard decision for me to make because I really wanted to have a go at this - making interesting and fresh video journals of games. The idea still appeals to me.

But the reality is that I don't have the hardware or software to make videos in a quality I'm satisfied with. What happens is I spend a lot of time recording both myself and the games and by the time I get close to finishing I'm not satisfied with how it looks or sounds so I end up deleting the whole thing. That's what happened with my Bioshock review way back and this has happened now with the log about Resident Evil 5.

However, I've not given up on the idea of thinking about these games and gaming in a broader fashion. Instead of a video journal I will just upload larger articles on the blog from time to time discussing basically the same things I planned for the video, with some screen grabs to illustrate my points.

And, even though I'm giving up on video for the time being, I have something else in mind which will hopefully provide some variation to the site. I'm going to upload something like a podcast in which a friend and I will be discussing various issues connected to gaming. That way there is no burden of video editing and we still talk of intriguing gaming-related topics.

So despite having to give up on a good idea, there are still exciting things to come. Stay tuned!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Crysis 2 DeCrysified

What do you say when you neutralize a crisis, anyway?

In any case, I've just finished Crysis 2 and I'm happy to say I really enjoyed it. I like it more than the first game, actually, despite the fact that this outing was not a PC exclusive.

I'll post more thoughts on the game later on, but just wanted to mention in a nutshell that it has a really intriguing story - rare nowadays for FPSs - and even though it is nowhere near problem-free it's an immensely enjoyable experience.
More on this later!