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ChristRogue avatar 10:22 PM on 08.09.2009
The Case Against Time Trials.



I usually don't really hate anything. I find it a waste of both time and energy and will usually turn to a much more passive aggressive “shrug off” if something gets under my skin. There is a bane to my existence however. One thing in particular that brings my blood to a volcanic boil, causes me to tear my garments, gnash my teeth and howl out in the night to a dead god for subjecting me to its tyranny. And, unfortunately, it is something I find all too often in, otherwise, good games.

They are time trial missions. And more particular, time trial missions done poorly. They are an abomination.


Now I can't put all of the blame on game developers. I have to admit that I'm inherently biased. The fact is that I'm terrible when it comes to a deadline. Someone once said “I love deadlines. I love the wooshing sound they make as they speed past.” I don't know who said that but it obviously took him twice as long to get it said as a normal person. Being the same way, time trial missions hit that one special button in me that 1) guarantees that I will fail the mission, 2) make me angry that I failed the mission and have to restart, 3) make me turn off the game and play Lumines.

So already me and Mr. Time Trials are off to a bad start here. But here is where things get hairy on the developer side. Yes. The very existence of the time trial is annoying but what is an even bigger sin is the way games handle the failure of a time trial and this is really where my main gripe lays.

Why does the failure of a time trial automatically make me have to restart the mission? Why don't developers make me live with the consequences of failing the time trial? Make the failure have a negative effect so that I have to live with the consequences. Make the consequence severe so I WANT to redo the mission and make the entire thing a deeper gaming experience?

For example I recently played the Il Sturmovik demo on the XBOX 360 (why Maddox Games are releasing an arcadey version of their Sturmovik series on systems that do not currently support flying joysticks is beyond me). But anyway. I strap myself into the demo and begin playing. The mission tasks me with shooting down HE-111 bombers before they can bomb the city of Dover, and to cut off some Stuka Dive Bombers before they can sink ships that are stationed in my harbor. Now being known for high end simulation games it struck me as odd that the bombing of the city of Dover is equivalent to THE WORLD ENDING because, you guessed it, it was a time trial mission and I did not succeed causing the game to end and me having to restart. Maybe deep in the city of Dover is the secret EARTH CRYSTAL and its destruction marks the end of the universe as we know it. Or maybe, just maybe, this is really bad and lazy game design.

Ill go with the latter.



Why not allow Dover to be destroyed and then have me live with those consequences? Give me fewer wing-men in later missions since we lost the airmen that were stationed there. Or maybe I have less ammo because supply lines running through Dover have now been cut and it is taking longer for equipment to reach my base of operations. Anything to deepen the game play rather than just make it inexplicably end. Hell, if I lose enough cities, and take enough negative impacts the game would end anyway since I couldn't even get fuel for my plane. I mean that's how war works!

I hear Prototype has a lot of time trial missions. I will never play Prototype.



Resident Evil is another game that incorporates time trials but often times they do it correctly by incorporating a life ending consequence into the failure of the time trial. This I can deal with, its not only incorporated into the story but sometimes you're treated to a fancy cutscene of you coming to an unduly end. You can't lose! Of course if they do commit the grievous sin I'll I would have no problem bitch-smacking Clair right across her face.

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