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Late to the party as usual, and completely missed commenting on last weeks episode. Of course, the usual kudos for both recent episodes. Last week's Deja Vu episode actually inspired me to spend my Sunday playing three different graphic adventures, and they were fun! It's been a long time since I've played an "adventure" game, and I think my view of them has changed quite a bit over the years. I used to resist playing adventure games, considering them an exercise in ego-deflating frustration, but I've mellowed out on them a bit. I used to be too proud to resort to "hints," but now it doesn't bother me as much.
Yeah, in my opinion the best adventure games don't make you resort to hints. Most seasoned adventure gamers don't need hints to solve puzzles. They need hints to find the bloody puzzles, or at least to figure out what to do next to make the game advance to the next plot point. That is just piss poor design, I'm sorry. I don't expect a game to hold my hand, but I should at least have a pretty clear idea of what I'm supposed to be doing and whether I am ready to solve puzzle X or whether there's an exit or object I need that I just can't see because it's tiny and I have no idea I should be scouring the area.
There's absolutely no excuse for it because the way has been shown (by Ron Gilbert and Her Interactive among many others). It's easy enough to include a task list or journal of some sort, working it into the storyline. It's also nice if the characters' heads move towards objects or exits, or if you can hold down a key to get a highlight around the objects or exits. I also appreciate it if the character will say something like, "I don't have what I need yet" or some such to let me know -- okay, Matt, forget about that puzzle for now, you'll come back to it later. I can't tell you how many hours I've wasted trying to solve some puzzle, only to find out after consulting hints that I didn't have a necessary piece of information or that something else had to be done first. The "casual adventure game" has nailed this problem six ways to one--and I love it. No more frustration or drudgery; just going from puzzle to puzzle and having a blast, with the added bonus of a good story and fun characters. Needless to say, I'm a big fan of this genre and have collected bunches of games.
It's also necessary to have some reminder system or at least a "nudge" system in place; some way you can figure out what to do next if you're stuck. In some of the Nancy Drew games, you can call your friends, who will often give you hints in a wonderfully indirect way. Then you're like, "Oh!!" and can rush off to do the next thing. That's a lot more fun in my opinion than having to go online for hints. Once I have to do that, my interest in the game drops by 50% and if it happens again, I typically forget about playing the game seriously and just walkthrough it whenever I get stumped, because it's obviously just poor design. No point in getting more frustrated.
I would never resort to hints just to solve a clearly defined puzzle, though. That's just lame.
Anyway, about this episode.... this "Planescape" game seems completely up my alley, setting-wise. The graphics look very appealing, and the strong points you described in the game sound very intriguing. I don't mind heavy dialog if the dialog keeps the story moving and keeps me interested in the outcome. Bland, pointless dialog and side-plots seems to have killed my interest in many a game, particularly RPG's.
Apparently, it was designed (or co-designed) by one of the big Planescape guys who had worked on the tabletop campaign. At any rate, if you really read the text and so on, this FEELS like a real role-playing game with a kickass dungeon master.
Another "selling point" of many games, particularly RPG's, is the "100+ hours of gameplay" feature. This actually tends to scare me away from a game, because it's very rare that I can stay invested in a game for that long, especially since it will probably take me double the amount of time to complete the game compared to the experienced CRPG'er. CRPG's are a genre that MUST have a great story for me to maintain intest to the conclusion.
I don't care so much about the 100+ hours as long as that time is spent doing worthwhile things and not just "farming" or "grinding." I think you should be able to complete a main quest in under 48 hours, perhaps even 24. The extra can be spent exploring optional areas, developing extra skills, just doing fun stuff. This is a win-win situation.
I blogged not to long ago here about my first MMORPG, "Perfect World." My initial reaction was quite favorable, as evidenced by my blog about it. However, after performing a neverending series of "fetch it" quests, I became bored and gave up after achieving a level 11 character. "Go kill five giant beetles," "go collect 10 plants," "go kill 20 walking venus fly traps," and etc. etc. No story to keep my interest.
Welcome to MMORPGs.
WoW is literally one quest after another like that--fetch this, kill X of this, escort Y to Z, gather X of Z, on and on. Ultimately, it's little more than just updating cells in some giant database somewhere. As far as the quests or creatures, "Only the names have changed." Indeed, you might kill 20 turtles in one area, then go somewhere else where it's the SAME DAMN TURTLES but now they're reddish instead of greenish and have bigger stats--and now you have to kill 40 of them. Groan, somebody gag me with a vorpal sword already. The MMORPG is about three things: lather, rinse, repeat. Oddly enough, you never can get rid of that stinking cloud stench.
I kid you not, many of my friends into the game talk about doing their "chores." These are "daily quests" where they literally do the same damn quest over, and over, and over, everyday to "grind rep" or gold so they can get an item that's only marginally better than the one they have. Where's Matt--oh, that dude used his dust of disappearance!
I've *had it* with online gaming. Nothing but a bunch of idiots, kids, lifers, and griefers. You'd have more fun in a laundromat with a roll of quarters and a detergent dispenser than playing that crap.
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