After reading about the Circ de whatever "event" MS threw at E3 for Natal/Kinetc, I went to youtube to try to track the video down. What I found instead is the first TV commercial for the Kinect.
On the one hand, I get the whole "it's an experience" vibe that they're trying for, but on the other hand I feel confused, annoyed, bewildered, and pissed off, just like the first few rounds of advertising for the PS3. The ad isn't fun, entertaining, or informative at all. FAIL.
Read enough about the MW2 airport attack video yet? Well tough, I'm going to put my 2 cents in. Since I first saw the video I've been trying to wrap my head around why Infinity Ward would go so far to who the horrors of a terrorist attack on civilians. This is something we see, hear, and read about constantly in the news, especially in regards to the Middle East. Terrorism is quickly joining the ranks of murder, fire, car accidents, and robberies on the nightly news. We all know one of them is going to come up before the first commercial break, and none are very shocking to hear about, unless it's in our own backyard, or it happens to somebody we know.
And that's when it hit me, I'm starting to become as desensitized to terrorism as I am to fires, and robberies, and murders, and for the same reason, because it doesn't involve or relate to me directly. When I read about a terrorist attack on the web, see it on the news, or hear about it on the radio, I only get a muted feeling of loss, remorse, and outrage. The pain and sadness get buffered by a wall created by the distance between me and the people being attacked. I started to see terrorist attacks as "another terrorist attack". I'd wager that a good portion of Americans, and also the world as a whole, are starting to feel the same way.
When I first read about the terrorist attack in MW2, saw the video clips, and found out that I as a player was going to be forced play through it, I was taken aback. IW made it feel as real and believable as possible. The way the scene played out left me shocked as I saw unarmed, helpless civilians getting shot down by men who showed no remorse for their actions. The fact that I had to either participate in the killing, or stand idle by and not fight against the terrorist left me wondering why anyone would include something like this in a game. Then it made me think how the victims of real life terrorism felt, how they went through the same horrific moments, praying that they would make it out alive, praying that it would just end and the bad guys would just go away.
Activision said the segment was included to "evoke the real life atrocities of terrorism", but I'm starting to think it might have been included for something a bit more than that. I'm starting to think IW may have put it in to remind an increasingly desensitized world how barbaric and horrifying terrorism is, and to possibly try to keep reports on terrorist attacks from falling into the same category as the rest of the nightly news fodder. Maybe IW is trying to make us a bit more sensitized to the violence that is constantly building around us.
Nothing breaks a great story and atmosphere in a game more than an obtuse, "thrown in because it needs to be in there" boss fight at the end of the game, except for an even worse "we need to stretch this game out" end of a level/chapter boss fight. You can dress them up differently, make them as epic and flashy as can be, but the bottom line is that the boss fight mechanic is old and tired.
Before I go any further, I'd like to make a clear definition of what makes a boss fight. In short, a "boss fight" is a battle with one or more non-playable characters that cannot be defeated through normal attacks, weapons, or special moves.
I'll take a recent Rev Rant for a great example, Batman Arkham Asylum. And I'm not going to just use the last boss fight (I won't give away too much), I'm going to use pretty much every boss fight in the game. And just for reference, I don't consider the Scarecrow "levels" as boss fights. Almost each and every fight consisted of "here's an arch nemesis of Batman that can't be defeated in a toe to toe fight, find another way to beat them." Yes, they did provide an extra challenge, but they recycled other game mechanics that are now archaic, especially the Bane and Killer Croc fights. Then there was the final boss fight, which made almost no sense both within the game's story, and the continuity of the Batman universe.
And that's the problem with most boss fights. They can kill a story, break any form of immersion, and only offer a different, albeit highly and often badly repeated, way to beat an opponent. The same challenge can be presented by an enemy with normal health and attacks, or by giving the player a challenge with a much higher difficulty level.
I'll use the Bane fight for an example. Instead of going one on one with the "Bat Breaker", why not switch the scenario to Batman keeping a raging Bane distracted while doctors and guards sneak out of the room? And again, instead of fighting him head on, lure Bane into a room with an electrified floor to knock him out. You can get the same level of challenge without having to shoehorn the scenario into a straight ahead fight.
You could also use the Metal Gear Solid series. One of my favorite bosses in the game, Sniper Wolf, could have been done completely differently, while still keeping the character and the challenge. In the first fight, after Meryl gets shot, the little wings on either end of the corridor could have been eliminated, leaving just you on one side of the corridor, Wolf on the other, and no place to hide in between. Just make Wolf a bit faster and more accurate, and you've got a great challenge that actually feels a bit more realistic. The same could've gone for the second fight. Revolver Ocelot, Psycho Mantis, and Vulcan Raven were all boss fights that could've been done a bit differently, with characters with normal amounts of health and ammo, and would not have had much of an affect on the overall story of the game. The same could be said time and time again for countless games.
Even the main boss fights have no real service to offer anymore. Throw out that nearly unkillable boss, and throw in an epic chase, a gauntlet of enemies, a massive puzzle, or just about anything else that could provide the same level of challenge as an enemy with a health bar on steroids, and you've just put a breath of fresh air into your game. Call of Duty 4 is an amazing example of a game, especially one limited by it's genre, that threw all kinds of challenges at you without resorting to boss fights. That alone added a bigger level of immersion.
It's time to throw away the crutch that boss fights represent, and start looking at newer and more inventive ways to both challenge the player and progress the game's story. There are plenty of ways to create meaningful and memorable challenges without resorting to throwing a bigger, harder to kill enemy in the player's way. Show me a game with no boss fights, and I'll show you a game that takes one change in game design and makes a huge difference.
Going back over Michael Pachter's track record of "predictions" and "analysis", two things come to mind.
A) How many times has he created a bias / bad rap towards an entity within the industry just by pulling stuff out of his ass
B) I can make predictions too, and be right. Hell, I'll do one right now. "Sometime in the near future, someone will try to shove a Wiimote up their rectum." You know there's some nutball freak out there who's going to try it.
One of the latest predictions he's pulled out of his crystal ball comes via GamePolitics, where Pachter predicts that BestBuy's new "Retail games at Used prices" plan will fail.
I donít think it will do well. The price match means that Best Buy either cuts their profit per game in half, or wipes it out altogether. I donít think that they can afford to sell $60 games for $50, and donít think that it will be effective in the long run. If it does well, then GameStop will cut used game prices to the point where Best Buy canít match without losing money.
So, BestBuy can't afford to lose $10 on the sale of a retail game, a game that's already been marked up to the point where they're going to make a decent profit in the first place. But wait, BestBuy sells more than games, right? Couldn't that $10 lost on the sale of the game be recouped by getting the customer to buy a CD as well? What if they're also tempted into buying a DVD, that's an extra $20 BestBuy wouldn't have gotten if they didn't lure that customer away from GameStop. But what if Gamestop slashes their average retail price for a game by $10, BestBuy's price would go down $10 as well, making a $60 game $40, and leaving an extra $20 in that customer's pocket to buy who knows what. A little increased foot traffic can easily lead to increased impluse buys.
Truely, this man is not the Nostradamus of gaming that he wants to be.
I'm very picky when it comes to PC gaming. Seeing as how my budget for games, period, is fairly small, when I buy a PC game I look for two things. The first is a game that I'm going to enjoy. Yes, there's flight sims and extremely intricate RTS'es that have you micromanaging your units down to the style and color of underwear that have gotten rave reviews, but I'd probably have more fun playing another Serious Sam or Worms 3D. The other piece of criteria for me is a solid mod community. A mod can take a great game and make it better, and it can also take the most serious of games and make it a riot to play. Mods can expand the replayability of a game tenfold.
I'll use Fallout 3 for an example. Without any DLC, the game leaves you with a level cap of 20, a finite ending (no playing after you "beat" the game), and a handful of little gripes that, although they don't take away from the game completely, are noticeable. Now, before I go any further, I want to say that from the very beginning I've loved Fallout 3, the plain, vanilla, unmodded, un DLC'ed Fallout 3. The game was flat out great as-is, BUT, after fully exploring the game, I felt some things were missing; little things that would have made the game more fun, or the world a bit more believable. Luckily, the Fallout 3 mod community is ripe with everything you could probably think of. Beyond the predictable nude and cheat mods, I've found a whole host of mods that have completely opened things up in the post-apocalyptic game world. I found mods that extend the level cap far beyond 20 on the un-DLC'ed game. I found a mod that let me start out as different character "classes" (bounty hunter, city guard, slave trader, bandit, ect). I found a mod that opens up the game after the "ending" to let you just fool around. I ended up turning my badass slave trader into a pink bikini wearing, motorcycle riding maniac with a gun that shot radioactive exploding flaming dogs. You just can't get that kinda content without mods. I've also seen mods take a game that I would otherwise have little interest in, like The Sims 2, and make it something I would like to play.
The bottom line is that you can use mods to mold a game to your play style and interests; you can take them and make any game uniquely yours, and if you're brave enough to try making some of your own, help to share your vision of the way a game should have been with the rest of the world. Unfortunately, while some developers have greeted modders with open arms, like Bethesda and Valve, others completely ignore the community and sometimes take a harsh stance towards it, like 20th Century Fox. This kind of closed mindedness can lead to stagnant game development and underwhelming and uninspiring games. We wouldn't have blockbuster games like Team Fortress 2 if ID had put the kibosh on the original Team Fortress mod. Would we have Counterstrike if Valve had locked out the modders from Half-Life? If more developers and publishers opened their products up to the mod community, we could have some absolutely amazing games that could inspire some excellent new concepts.