Let me preface this blog with a few items. First of all, this is my first legitimate blog post here and really anywhere. So I apologize in advance for errors or other random occurrences that go along with it.
Now it would be helpful if I gave you guys a little background. I'm 17. My first gaming console I ever owned was a Nintendo 64 that I got out of the blue in first grade.
My first console.
Then I got a Playstation 2 a few years later. I loved that system. I had around 20-25 games for it, and absolutely loved it. Now I have all the major systems and think I am able to represent a fairly non-biased view of gaming in general (I have a full list on my profile, if you're interested). So if it seems as if I am bashing Playstation, or am a fanboy to a different company, you're mistaken.
Obviously, it's the most wondrous time of the year: E3. It's the middle of E3, halfway through day 2. Nintendo has just had their press conference, and we've already seen Microsoft's, Ubisoft's, EA's and Sony's and I've noticed an upsetting trend with a lot of the more recent games. Especially with some of the most recent and upcoming iterations with Sony's key franchises; they all seem to have less and less gameplay.
Take a look at some of the biggest Sony franchises, starting with Uncharted.
You all know this guy, right?
I LOVED Uncharted 1 and 2. More so than I can say via the internet in the text of this blog. And Uncharted 2 I feel really hit a perfect balance between gameplay and story elements (Note: I use the term "story elements to refer to anything that's not
gameplay. For example, cutscenes, story, quicktime events, etc...). it had a great story - phenomenal, you might say - one of the best I have ever experienced in a game. And it did something all game should do. It used it's power as a game, not fighting against it. Most games now a days just try to replicate other media forms, like books in story heavy games (RPGs, fantasies, etc...), or TV shows in short, episodic mission based games (Left 4 Dead, Half Life (PARANTHENCEPTION: Valve seems to like this a lot.)), or as everyone knows, the ever popular summer blockbuster movie (Most FPS games, some racers, etc...). But gaming is different. Gaming is SPECIAL
. With a videogame you have other options not available to other media forms. It's what makes gaming great. And that is: You get player interaction. The player is there as part
of the game, not just an observer to it. They can make decisions for themselves and affect the outcome. The player is able to choose what they want to happen and make it happen. Look at games where you can have a different experience than someone else (Mass effect is a great example!). This is what we call GAMEPLAY
. It is the core to any gaming experience, and by far the most important element of gaming. It defines you as a player; it defines games as a medium. And back to Uncharted 2, it had great gameplay. It made me want to play the game, not only to see the story's ending and the character's problems be resolved, but also because I was having fun doing it. I wanted Nathan Drake to succeed and find Shambala and shoot Lazarevic in his stupid face. And I enjoyed doing it.
But more recently, games seem to be lacking in this. Not all games, mind you, but more than there should be. You don't have to look far to find an offender; look no further than Uncharted 3. The game was hyped massively after the commercial success and critical acclaim of the previous game, and people all over the world wanted to play it and see where Nathan Drake's next adventure would take the players. But this game was different. Don't get me wrong, it was still a good game, but it seemed to be missing something. The story was was still there and possibly even better than Uncharted 2. What it was missing was gameplay. The gunplay felt slower and less responsive, puzzles were very dumbed down, platforming overall wasn't as open-ended and satisfying as the last game was. The controls felt weird and a little wonky, and somehow a little indescribably off
After having such a good mix of story and gameplay last game, this game seemed to practically play itself. And by later levels, I realized I wasn't playing because it was so compelling and fun, I was playing for the story. I had become a hostage for the game, dragged along for the ride just to see the conclusion to the story and see the characters through their problems. And at that point, the game became no better than a movie. It was doing nothing more that I couldn't get from sitting in a theater and sitting back. It didn't use anything that make games games
And it's not just Uncharted. Look at the critically acclaimed God of War series.
Kratos is PISSED.
God of War one was released in 2005 out of nowhere. The game came out of left field to say the least. No one had ever played a game that was so brutal, so violent, and so fun
. And it was fun to play. The story was great too. You shared Kratos' rage. He was pissed, and so were you. You hated Ares and the other gods, and wanted them dead for their treachery. You felt his pain. You knew as a player it was brutal work, but wanted Kratos to get forgiveness for his crimes and be able to rest after all they had put him through. And it was fun.
You fought against difficult waves of enemies, struggling to do the impossible. After all, you were a mere mortal man
attempting to defy a God
. It was supposed to be hard. They through everything they had at you, and you struggled to keep up but you did. And it never managed to feel boring.
The same can't be said for God of War 3. It really hadn't changed much, but now the gameplay felt so repetitive. You fought some enemies (that really were far to resilient), and then did some platforming. The puzzles this time were very linear, and never had me stumped for more than a minute or two. The boss battles (and miniboss battles, for that matter) became condensed to mashing on some exposed body part, and then doing a quick time event to finish them off.
Yeah. So satisfying. NOT.
Why does that constitute gameplay? If you want it to be easy for a player, just do it for them. Show me it in a cutscene. If you want the player to be actively participating and involved in the game, make them play it. Look at the boss battles for a game like Zelda. Now that's a boss battle. It hearkens back to the purpose of a boss battle. It's like a test for the players. They're supposed to allow the player to demonstrate what they've learned from the level or dungeon or area or whatever. It has them show that they've grown as a player, and now know something better that they didn't have before. Not mash a few buttons and go to the next place. What does that show a player? How does that help them to grow and advance?
Quicktime events are a cancer upon gaming. One of the games recently unveiled which has generated a lot of hype is Quantic Dream's new IP, Beyond. Quantic Dream is a developer notorious for making mostly "interactive movie" type games, and this certainly shows true here. Like their previous game, Heavy Rain, it's a graphics and story intensive game. They talked more about Ellen Page being in the game and the methods of face capturing than the actual game. That doesn't make me want to play it. I don't understand the excitement behind Beyond. It looked ok... but there's no gameplay. Heavy Rain was little besides an interactive CGI movie. It was a pretty good looking
interactive CGI movie, but that's that. If they show some gameplay that looks fun, then cool. But some random video with Ellen Page (Where she sits in a chair and blinks, mind you) will not sell me a copy.
Still to this day many of the old-school games are held close to many player's hearts. The reason older games were and still are so revered is because they provide phenomenal gameplay, which is all that they had back then. You didn't have spectacular graphics when confined to 16 bits. You had what made your game fun, and gave people reasons to play it: The gameplay. That's all that should matter in games, and why most arguments regarding why one game is better as a result of it's better graphics are bullshit. If graphics can help to add to the immersion, then great, but that's a different story. Graphics don't make a great game. Even story doesn't make a great game. Gameplay does. Those other things can add to a game, but they don't make it.
Look at the original Donkey Kong arcade cabinet. You didn't know much of the story. You are a carpenter named Jumpman, who pissed off a gorilla, so in return the gorilla stole your girlfriend.
Yep. That's it.
That's the whole story. But people didn't dismiss it because it had average graphics, or because the story made sense. Actually they did the opposite. They loved this game. Because it was fun. It was fun to play, and still is today. Graphics get outdated. Especially now, games look dated almost immediately because of their graphics. But gameplay doesn't change. Someone can play a game 40 years from now and it'll still play the same. It'll still be fun.
Well, that's basically the end. I feel like I've been ranting and off topic for quite a bit, but you guys hopefully get my message. Games should be about gameplay. Work on making games more fun to play. People like to hate on Nintendo a lot because it has a few first party franchises that it pushes heavily and continues to release sequels to. But those games are great. They're fun. They play like they're supposed to and that's what matters. Maybe Nintendo is behind a generation technology wise, but they continue to lead sales because they make fun games that focus of the gameplay.
I hope I don't sound too much like a curmudgeon. I'm actually really excited for most of the games revealed, and will be picking up even some games I mentioned as offenders like God of War Ascension, despite their faults. Games should be fun. Games should be games. Work to the strengths of the media, and not to the strengths of other formats. Gaming is arguably the best and most popular art form today, and people should come to realize that.
PS. I didn't even hit all the points I wanted to because of the length of the post already. I could have mentioned point and click adventure games I hold so dearly, or so many other specific games and series. I really wanted to expand my thoughts with regards to Zelda. Oh well. Another day. Anyways, please PLEASE leave your thoughts in the comments below and let me know how I did!
Also, I'd love to write more in the future. I'll have plenty of time being jobless and on summer vacation from school. Maybe I'll try responding to some of the bloggers wanted posts. Maybe I'll do a review. Ok, I'm done now, I swear.
I lied. If you enjoyed this please give me a thumbs up.