I know people say Deadpool's "ZOMG CONFIRMED" cause his shadow's on the poster, but Marvel did the old switcheroo with the silhouettes in their "I Am An Avenger" promo, so I'm none too trusting of that info. That being said, I hope he's in it and this pic I doodled up at work just summarizes my thoughts on the matter.
Games have rules. That much is certain. A "game" can be broadly defined as an activity wherein one or more players manipulate key resources and abilities within a defined set of rules to achive a win state. We also know of games being fun. We also know that at certain times, breaking the rules of a game can be fun, any of us who grew up with a game genie can attest to this. But what happens to the enjoyment of a game when one changes the rules?
Months ago, whilst playing Modern Warfare 2 in a large party of friends, said friends grew bored of the standard gametypes and began playing, amongst themselves, a game variant known as Mike Meyers (named after the antagonist/protagonist of the Halloween film franchise and not the Austin Powers funnyman, though I admit, that may prove a fun derivative as well, but I digress). In Mike Meyers, one player is the epyonymous killer whilst the others played the victims and attempt to remain hidden without being able to retaliate. The Meyers player kills off one player at a time with knife kills until only three survivors remain. Once three survivors remain, they are then allowed to use their knives to slay the marauding madman. Last man standing wins. What was largeley of note about this scenario is that you will not find Mike Meyers Mode listed in any gametype, playlist or official FAQ. The rules of this gametype operate solely in the realm of the honor system. Mechanically there is nothing binding the players from simply pulling out one of the guns in their loadout and gunning down the Meyers player. That rule is enforced simply out of the player's own willingness to enjoy the game. In this instance, the game has become simply a toolset for the player's imagination. Beautifully rendered graphics and realistically modeled weaponry and personell no longer seem to matter as the new emphasis becomes on inhabiting a shared space with tracking abilities and the willingness to adhere to unenforceable rules. In some ways, it's the ultimate show of fair play.
Now, at the total other end of the spectrum, there can be amusement to be had in the non-adherence of enforced ruletypes as well. Just last week, one of my teammates had the brilliant idea of joining a Search and Destroy game in Modern Warfare 2 with the express intention of "trolling" the other players in the game. In an attempt to upset the other players (an offense for which he is fully aware can result in a negative reputation on Xbox Live) he spawned into the game weilding a Riot Shield as his primary weapon, proceeded to pick up the bomb and take it somewhere else entirley than the goal area and see how long he could hold it there before his teammates became upset with him. Somehow he found this comedy gold, I found it more than a little curious academically, so the next night, I joined him along with two friends in an attempt to group-troll this time. Same methods, but interestingly, the results began to vary. Upon seeing us crowded into a corner, riot sheilds held aloft and at the ready like some great mythological
multi-headed plexiglass tortoise, our teammates voiced some initial concern. Loudly. As the night wore on, however, something magical happened.
We started winning.
I'm not sure when it exactly happened, but at some point, our teammates with whom we had not communicated with (cleverly circumventing Xbox live chat by using skype) began also using Riot Shields. I assume it began with one or two naieve youngsters thinking that what we were doing was actual stategy. Eventually, the practice of hiding in the corner with the bomb evolved into the practice of hiding until the final minute of the match, whence our Spartan phalanx of warriors would swoop into a demolition point whilst a member in the rear would unsheath his RPG, clear a path and allow the man in front to plant the bomb, thus ensuring victory. So what exactly happened here? Having grown bored with gaming by the rules, my friend decided to attempt to greif the opposing players for his own enjoyment. When put into a group context though, the will of the group to accomplish something seemingly overrode the need of the individual to destroy the mechanics of the game. Is this behaviour to be lauded? Villified? Analysed? Perhaps all three.
What's to note here as a whole though is the myriad ways in which we play our games. Play by creating new rules or play by breaking them, there are many ways to wring enjoyment out of whatever your choice in digital entertainment. We should go forward with this in mind as we continue to enjoy our games and game creators must bear this in mind when creating their games. After all, you don't work a game, you play it.
About five years ago, my ex introduced me to the game known as Heroclix. Heroclix, if you didn't know, is a boardgame in which players form teams of superheroes and using a system of rules, battle it out. One of my favorite moments of the teaching game she played with me was having her stealthed Batman perched atop a semi, flinging batarangs at my lumbering Juggernaut who could not for the life of him find the Batman. According to the game rules, Juggernaut could not target a character who is stealthed and Batman could not harm Juggernaut once my dice rolls stated that he was in the clear. What followed was me and my ex laughing uproriously at the scene we had created.
*Plink* "Dammit" "Huh?"
However, that same weekend, she would take me to play with a group of folks at a comic store in Portland OR. Now these guys got together and gamed almost every weekend, but they weren't what you might consider competitive. Even so though, there was none of that story-building in their sessions that my ex and I had experienced during the course of our game, these fellows were far more concerned with building an optimal team within the limitations of the game rules and did not consider character personality paramount when playing their turns. Moments that I found hilarious, like the Hulk flinging Spiderman into battle only to have him crash through a glass window on his way there elicited not even a smile from the player, but an inquiry as to whether or not Spiderman's agility would allow him to move further.
I'm not saying either way to play is right, but it does beget analysis. How is it that the same game with the same rulesets can elicit two wholly separate methods of play, even when the goal is the same? Is it also possible to achive such a balance in computer and video gaming?
Games like the Sims and Spore and nefarious for being procedural with storytelling, this much is true. No set script is produced and the story elements are produced out of the player's
interpretations of mostly random game events. On the other end of the spectrum, take almost any story driven game, let's grab God of War for example, and see that the narratives of these games are driven by a focused and directive prose. The ability to create a story is taken away from the player but it allows them to still experience a crafted story while contributing in the form of progression of the main character's skill sets and perhaps a modicum of significant choices or branching pathways. Thus playing the game relies not on building upon the established narrative but on the manipulation of the games rules and resources to progress and reveal more of the narrative.
Have we seen any games that lay in between? Heavy Rain seemed to be unable to make up it's mind which it wanted to be. The overarcing story was a fine example of pre-disposed narrative, but the minor actions and everyday minutae seemed to want us to be so involved with them as to tell our own stories. I could, for example, brush my teeth agonisingly slowly, simply to express my character's world-weariness and lethargy. On the other hand, Half Life 2 surrounded the player with a focused narrative, but gave them an arm's length of sandbox and physics with which to experiment with. I could tell you a story about running out of bullets in Ravenholm and being forced to do brutal combat with the crowbar, but you probably never had that happen because you were too busy raining explosive barrels upon the zombies.
My point is simply this, these are two ends of a spectrum of game design. There is meeting place for them in the middle, and for me at least, that seems to be a sweet spot that engages me
emotionally with story and intellectually with gameplay mechanics. Other players may find one end or the other of this spectrum to be more palatable, but as a whole, the industry needs to take
notice of this dichotomy and start exploiting it accordingly, for the good of the player.
It's not very often that I get excited over XBLA releases, however my lust for this one was almost palpable. Perfect Dark, the N64 classic was released today for the Xbox 360 as a downloadable title and no sooner had I risen from slumber this morning than that bad girl was in my download queue. One race in Pure later and I was firing up code and ready to go!
Let's see, yes, yes, options, start, singleplayer, hmm....that's annoying...options...controls....
Yes folks....no left handed gameplay support.
That is to say no support for swapping the sticks. There were control method alternatives, sure, but they seemed more geared towards moving the buttons around ever so slightly in order to make the game play more like your favorite FPS ("Spartan" and "Duty Calls" indeed, Rare, you have earned a single guffaw).
Now don't get me wrong, I'm left handed but not militantly so (if such a thing is indeed possible) and I did play through all of Bioshock with nary a swappable stick option in sight. What does irritate me however is that lo those many years ago I spent at a friend's house playing Perfect Dark, I distinctly remember there being not one but at least two options for left handed controls...and this was on a SINGLE ANALOG STICK CONTROLLER.
I get that porting a game is no small task, especially when it requires redoing a good amount of the graphics, but one has to account for a significant portion of the populace simply not being able to play your game because of this decision. It's not as though it's a life choice we can simply overcome, our BRAINS, our very engines of emotion and function are wired differently and an option to make things simpler for us would have been appreciated, especially since it USED to be there!
I'm continually mystified by developers who leave out left handed options or customiseable controls on the whole, particularly when Microsoft themselves have taken the pains to hardwire support for it into the console itself (your profile options on your Xbox allow you to set action games to left handed swapped stick support) and I was incredibly thankful for the "bumper jumper" setting in Halo 3 which eliminated my one hurdle at becoming good at the game. You ever try pushing forward on the RIGHT stick while pressing A? Task and a half, lemme tell ya.
I'm also confused by developers who don't count on the hardware supporting such a feature. Attempting to play Lego Batman with my niece garnered some initial confusion upon loading up the game when I was only allowed to move Batman around with the D-Pad or Right Stick. Switching my Profile setting to right handed allowed me to play the game normally, but there was NO in game option to select my preference.
Perhaps preference is too lax a word? Mental routing? No. Orientation? No.
All I'm saying is, game developers, let us swap sticks if we want. S'all.
You guys here on Dtoid had such a wonderful response to the lineart I did for ol Eddie Riggs that I rushed home and finished the colours today ASAP!
Thanks for the generous outpouring of support guys. I'm usually bogged down with paid commissions, but if you guys truly enjoy my work this much, I might be tempted to do some D-toid exclusives for your enjoyment, all game related of course.
Not to pimp myself out too much but my art galleries can be found at:
Enjoy folks, if the blog edge is making it hard to see the image, you can visit one of the above sites. If anybody wants me to make a wallpaper of it, all you have to do is ask and I'll put it up on the blog.
Thanks everyone! Dtoid is the best community ever, yo!