So I decided to replay Pokemon Emerald recently, and it brought to light a major issue with the series that I had been subconsciously aware of for a while now: The games are full of garbage.
Not that they are garbage, mind you. I played and enjoyed Pearl recently, and might get Platinum later on. But there's just so much unnecessary crap thrown in these games that it pains me.
First and most obviously there's the garbage Pokemon. Honestly I don't need a new Ratatta-equivalent every generation; just give me the same thing, since I'm just going to ignore it anyway. I'm looking at you, Bidoof. I mean, Zubat's fulfilled his role as one of the most obnoxious bastards in gaming for four generations, without having to make a bunch of new identical Pokemon. Stop with the garbage Pokemon.
But my real beef is all this extra crap they throw in. Contests are garbage. PokeBlocks, Poffins, and whatever new thing they most assuredly will add in the next generation, are garbage. On that same token, berries are garbage. The Secret Hideout is garbage.
It's bad enough that crap like this even exists, but when I'm actually required to mess around with stuff like this, it becomes a real problem.
I want my Pokemon games to do two things, and do them damn well: I wanna catch Pokemon, and I wanna fight Pokemon.
I've been getting around to playing a bunch of old games recently,. And here's the problem that I've come up against: They often show their age, badly. Regardless of how good a game might of been when it came out, there are certain things that we have come to expect in modern games. This doesn't seem to be so big an issue with RPGs, as I don't think the genre has really advanced much anyway, but the other genres seem to suffer because of this.
Case in point: Goldeneye 64. I can't deny that it's one of the most pivotal games in the FPS genre, and when it came out people probably thought it was pretty fun. But, playing it today without the benefit of nostalgia-vision, it's pretty bad. The controls are just horrible. Console FPS's bug me to begin with, but Goldeneye manages to take horrible aiming controls to a whole new level. But people who grew up on this game don't seem to mind.
So, by what standard should we judge an old game? Should we try to abandon our preconceived notions of how a game in a genre should be played, based on our modern games? Or should we be objective about it, and realize that some of the things that were good "back in the day" aren't really acceptable anymore?
The problem as I see it with Massively Multiplayer Online Games, especially MMORPGs, is that they're just too damn Massively Multiplayer. In a smaller game with a handful of people, each person has the opportunity to be valuable, important, and unique. But in an MMORPG with tens of thousands of other people, you're a nothing. Nothing you can do will be unique or special, and no matter what class you are or role you fulfill, there will always be scores more who are doing the same thing, and probably do it better.
Furthermore, I don't really think that a player contributes to the feel of a gameworld as a real world. You won't find a player character going about the mundane tasks of everyday life in the gameworld; rather, everyone's out "heroing".
My proposal is this: Take the Massive out of the equation. I'm talking smaller game worlds, of maybe 100 or so players each, spread out among a game world maybe half the size of WoW. More NPCs, more fleshed-out worlds. Apply the same standards of world design that you would to a single-player RPG.
With fewer players in each game world, I think there's greater opportunity for personal achievement. I also believe that this will allow each player to worry less about being competitive, and create more realistic, believable gameworlds.
When we enter into a game in which we assume control of a "player character", the sort of "I" in a game, we have a sort of unspoken contract of assumptions with this character. We assume that, cutscenes excepting, we are in control of the character's actions. We assume that, for the most part, the character doesn't know anything vital that we, the player, aren't privy to. And perhaps most importantly, we assume that the character's motives are in line with our own.
It's rare enough for the player character to betray another in-game character, as it's not a typical "good-guy" thing to do. However, it's a completely different matter when you begin to talk about the character betraying the player himself. In many good games we have this sort of destruction of the barrier between player and character, and this is an effective storytelling device. I believe that a jarring reinforcing of this barrier can be used just as effectively.
For example, suppose that the character were to suddenly reveal himself to be evil, without any input on the matter from the player. Now we suddenly find that the character's motives have been hidden from the player up until this point, and the sudden jarring shift in motive can be an evocative tool, I think.
I can't think of many games that have violated the player-character contract as an intentional device. Karoshi comes to mind, as it deliberately plays the character's motives against the player's general expectations. Any thoughts on the idea, or other specific examples?
Title says it all. While the Wii's first-party titles are often lauded as being some of the only
games worth playing on it, they don't seem to really make great use of the Wiimote, though
Metroid gets it just about spot-on. But of all Nintendo games, Luigi's Mansion is the only
one I can think of that actually needs to be on the Wii. Yet I've heard nothing about
any development of it.
Just think about it, ignoring for the moment that the game's story doesn't really allow a
sequel. The controller lends itself perfectly to the game. You'd move around with the
Nunchuck, and do all sorts of fun stuff with the Wiimote. I loved Luigi's Mansion on the
Gamecube, but the idea of playing it with full Wii support is a completely different monster.
One of my major problems with the Wiimote in general, is that I think that a controller
should be as out of the way as possible. The idea is that, instead of thinking "I'm going to
move my controller to move my character," an effective game makes the player think "I'm
moving my character." If done right, and I think Nintendo could definitely do it right if they
tried, Luigi's Mansion would bring this immersion to a whole new level. That's no Wiimote in
your hand, it's a Poltergust, homes.
Jonathan Holmes recently talked about what Nintendo should do to reclaim the core
audience. I think this game could very well be a good step in that direction.