This article was originally written for "The Other Castle". For more blogs, videos and comics go to www.theothercastle.net
I can count the number of open world games I have actually finished on one hand. No, I take that back! I can count the number of open world games I have finished using my balls! Three!
This number troubles me, it troubles my wallet and it troubles the little guy inside me who acts like a kid on christmas whenever Rockstar announces a new Grand Theft Auto. There is a huge problem with that last sentence - I have never finished a GTA game. I have a couple of friends who would follow that company off the edge of a cliff. Personally, I would probably stop and the edge, look down, and if everyone is all right, I'll jump. We would probably end up just fine, I just want to play it safe.
I have always thought my problem with open world games goes hand in hand with an old saying: "When presented with everything, I tend to do nothing". To be honest, I have no idea who said it. Not even sure if thats the actual quote. But it always stuck with me, and I have used it as an excuse to never finish open world games even since.
I love driving around in a living, thriving city, watching the pedestrians flee while my car mounts the nearest sidewalk. I love opening fire in a park just to see how many cops i can attract. Unfortunately, this joy is short lived and gets boring fast.
But something happened in my relationship with open world games. It did not strike down as lightning, it came in waves. The first wave came in the form of a little game called "Saints Row 2". No, I am NOT going to start debating about the seriousness of GTA4 versus the wierdness that is Saints Row 2. What struck me was something else.
If you have never played Saints Row 2, I'll break it down for you. You break out of jail, your gang that used to rule the city is split up and it's your mission to reclaim what is yours. That is all you need to know. You do this my doing missions involving spraying poop, blowing shit up, killing, and pimp-slapping bitches. More or less anyway.
What caught my eye in this game was actually the world map. When bringing up the map of the city, you can clearly see what areas your gang had reclaimed and in what areas other gangs still ruled. Your area was coloured purple, other areas were coloured in another gans colour. Simple and organized.
The game let me see a visual represantation of my progress, not just with numers and charts - percentages doesn't tell me anything. Oh, I have finished 46% of all the missions in the game? How many purple square meters is that?
As previously stated, it came in waves. I just I liked the idea of a visual aspect of progress, Saints Row 2 as a game did not appeal to me as much. The missions were boring and running around just fucking shit up got boring fast. I never finished Saints Row 2.
Just like real waves, the next one was not far away. Red Faction: Guerilla took you to Mars and let you fight an evil corporation - Guerilla Style! Finally, blowing everything up was rewarded. Want to blow up and enemy base? Fuck yes! Want to blow up and enemy bridge? God Yes! Wanna blow up and enemy tank? I... guess, look, can I do something other than blowing shit up? Sure, but then you have to do main story missions. Fine. *cutscene*.
Guerilla was fun and all, but the things you could do while not on a mission did not stretch much further than "fuck shit up". Another game that did this but cranked it up to eleven was Just Cause 2. The problem with that game was exactly the same, you got rewarded for fucking shit up, but the ways in which you could do this always involved running, shooting and throwing grenades. I never finished Red Faction Guerilla or Just Cause 2.
The third, and most recent wave hit me in the face like something hitting me in the face. The game? The Saboteur. I know a lot of people did not like this game, and I know it is not the best open world game ever - just hear me out.
The story is not that important in this context, let's just say that it was entertaining enough. All you need to know is that Paris is under Nazi control and you have to take it back. One dead nazi at a time.
The first thing Saboteur did right was using the map system previously mentioned in this article. But not only was this system on the world map, it was also in the game. Wherever the nazi occupation was still strong and the people still scared, your environments were presented in black and white. Places where the resistance grew stronger, the environmets were bathing in beautiful colours and bare breasts. Well, the breasts are actually in black and white too, I just really wanted to mention that this game contains more than a handull of tah-tah's.
ANYWAY. The great thing about this game was the environments. Beautiful and cluttered with things to see it screamed out "EXPLORE ME, EXPLORE ME!". But if there is one thing I hate more than nazis, it's more nazis. While taking a relaxing stroll by a country road just outside Paris, a Nazi fueling station stood as a reminder of the hostile takover of the motherland. I Couldn't just let it be, reminding us that we are anything else but free.
I got as close as I could without being seen and snapped the neck of an unsuspecting guard. Disguised as a nazi guard I could now enter the closed off station, sneak in Behind the fuel tank and plant a bomb. Noone knew it was me, I was long gone before the bomb went off. "1/14 Fueling Stations Sabotaged".
Noone told me to do it. Noone told me how to do it. I just did. I later found out that you could buy maps that told you the locations of these so-called "freeplay targets". These targets ranged from blowing up guard towers and killing nazi generals to pulling off jumps with a car or motorcycle, and everything in between. Sometimes all you had to do was finding and artifact or a care-package that was not really ment for you. I spent more than five hours in a row not accepting a single mission. But I still made progress. I whiped the countryside clean of nazi scum.
There are games out there I spend less than five hours playing in total. The reason I am writing this, and not playing The Saboteur is simple. I don't feel like taking orders. To progress through the game you still have to jump through the hoops the story tells you to jump through. I just want to fuck things up. But to make real progress, to make everything colorful I have to do the missions the game decides I can do. Don't get me wrong, the missions in Saboteur are actually really fun and varied, but I had more fun climbing buildings and infiltrating nazi bases alone than with a storyteller looking over my shoulder.
I feel I might struggle to make a point, but what the hell, I'll give it a shot.
Videogame creators should dare to skip the story in open world games. Just have a wide goal. "Take back Paris" could be one. How? That's up to you! Feel like running in guns blazing and kick hitler in the teeth - DO IT! Want to infiltrate bases, gather intel and get out before noone knew you were even there? GO FOR IT! Noone should tell you which nazi to kill how and in which order. That is up to you.
What is the story in Just Cause 2? No one gives a shit, because you could grapple yourself on to a fucking jetplane. Now put a nazi general with a bullseye painted on his forhead in that plane and you've got a game.
What open world games HAVE I finished? Bully and Red dead redemption. A normal human being only have two balls. If you have more than that, you should go see a doctor.
*WARNING! THIS POST CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS FOR PORTAL 2. DO NOT READ UNLESS YOU HAVE FINISHED PORTAL 2. COME TO THINK ABOUT IT... WHY ARE YOU ON THE INTERNET WHEN YOU HAVE YET TO FINISH PORTAL 2. GO ON, GET OUT OF HERE!*
I haven’t slept in two days. Most people would call this a big problem, I call it a huge opportunity. You see, when I close my eyes I don’t see what you see. I don’t see darkness with a hint of some lighter patterns dancing across the inside of my eyelids. I see vast desert lands with dragons soaring through the sand like dolphins, I see cows piloting spaceships to planets only inhabited by potato salad. The last one was more of a guess. Since I never fall asleep I never get to accompany Sgt. McMoo to the planet Potatora or wherever his Platypus-shaped spaceship is headed.
During this state of mind, there was one thing that stuck with me, one idea that suddenly popped up in my mind. The idea made it even harder for me to fall asleep and get on the Banana-shaped spaceship to planet Platopussia, I had to explore this new trail, see where it ended.
Dear reader, friend, enemy, time traveler or space-cow… I have a confession to make. You are not the first one I am telling this. I’m sorry; I should have come to you first. But on the train home from a stand-up comedy show here in Stockholm, I looked at my co-op robot friend and popped the question.
“- Did Chell really survive Portal 2?”
That night we were two sleepless souls…
Let me explain, but be patient – first we must go back to the beginning. Well the end, really. The end of the first Portal game, that is.
After finally defeating GlaDOS, the homicidal AI with the sexiest voice ever, you end up and the surface. Not in a happy “let’s get this party started” kind of way, more in a “face down in concrete” kind of way. Why is this so important? Well, let me ask you this: how many perfectly grown fields are there? The answer might surprise you… hold on to your hats… none.
Let’s step into our Tardis (Time And Relative Dimentions In Space) for a moment, let us travel into the future. How many years? That’s kind of the problem. No one knows. Valve has not told us when Portal 2 takes place. Let’s state a fact about yours truly – I am no biologist. This being said, Aperture laboratories is mighty overgrown in Portal 2 which makes me think there been more than a couple of years, more like couple of hundred years, probably more.
I know what you’re thinking, after such a long time couldn’t the surface look a bit different. You are of course correct, my imaginary friend. The surface could look different, someone could have made a field where the lab used to be. Look at the ending of Portal 2 again. It’s on YouTube, relax, you’re not doing anything illegal.
That is a mighty big field, and no trees in sight. It is established during Portal 2 that the lab is huge, but the forest from the original Portal should at least appear as a small dot on the screen, or even bigger since it has probably grown since the events of the first game. All you see is an endless field. Kind of reminds you of the end of a certain movie starring a certain Russel Crowe, playing a certain gladiator, rising up to a certain emperor… wait… I just said the title of the movie. Gladiator, it’s Gladiator.
Speaking of space gladiators, at the end of Portal 2, a big hole is created in the celling, but nothing resembling crops falls down to the floor. According to the laws of physics, there should definitely fall some crops or dirt in your pretty face – it’s science, and we all know how much Valve likes science.
“But if the laboratory is so big, couldn’t Whetleys lair be somewhere where there is no cornfield?” Yes, it could be, but let me answer that question with a question – why would GlaDOS move your body? Her old lair got destroyed and as soon as she was rebooted, she started testing. Even IF she managed to build a lair during the tests, what’s easier – moving your body across the entire lab, or just rebuild the lair (since it only took her like five minutes last time).
My point is that Chell probably wakes up pretty close to where Whetley had his lab – so why isn’t there ANY crops falling down from the celing? I am confusing you, sorry about that. I should probably state what I think happened.
When you woke up after defeating Whetley it is the first time GlaDOS has Chell trapped and unarmed. Why not kill her? Letting her go is a big mistake since she knows where the lab is and that there is a homicidal robot down there. Just because they spent some quality time together you think Chell will just forgive GlaDOS for trying to kill her hundreds of times? Chell will come back with a nuclear weapon and shove it so far up GlaDOS mainframe not even Tetris will run.
So what does GlaDOS do? She gives Chell a false sense of security by fooling her she’s just going to let her greatest nemesis go. The elevator doors close and the elevator starts moving, but just a few floors – then it stops. The doors open and you are greeted by four working turrets. BAM! Chell be dead.
No one knows what happens when you die. But we can imagine. I imagine that you might ascend, preferably accompanied by a beautiful song sung by a fat lady. I see all my friends, all my enemies, they sing too. I ascend faster and faster. Small pieces of my life flashes by, places I’ve been, people I’ve seen.
The ascension stops. You’re at your destination, the doors open. BAM! Field.
Not convinced yet? Then answer me this – why aren’t Aperture’s incinerators working in the original Portal? Oh, wait – they are! That’s where you throw down GlaDOS cores in the final battle. But if they are working, why is the companion cube not incinerated? It is quite burned, but it’s not called the “quite burner”, it’s called “the incinerator”.
It’s dead. And so are you. Welcome to heaven. We got fields. Hope you brought your 3DS.
Let me present to you the first episode of a new webseries from the guys at The Other Castle. The idea of the series is that I pick a videogame, crank the difficulty up as far as I can and then see how long time I can survive.
THIS BLOG WAS ORIGINALLY POSTED ON THE OTHER CASTLE. FOR MORE BLOGS, REVIEWS, VIDEOS AND RANDOM NERDINESS, GO TO THEOTHERCASTLE.BLOG.COM
It's not a secret that I am a huge fanboy of the Dreamcast, Segas classic console released in 1998. It's almost as great a secret that I am a huge fan of the adventure game genre. Later, when the epic adventure game Shenmue was released on the Dreamcast back in 1999 (not EXACTLY an adventure game but close) I got a bulge in my pants that still has not been satisfied. The reason for my not yet stilled erection? The series was never concluded.
Sega promised us an epic saga spanning over four games, featuring the teenager Ryo Hazuki's search for vengance and cuncluding in the man Ryo Hazuki finding a purpuse in life making sandals out of old rice cakes. Ending sounds wierd? Maybe thats because we never got to see the ending. Sega Delivered Shenmue in 1999, Shenmue 2 in 2001, a trailer for the cancelled Shenmue 3 and a trailer for the doomed Shenmue online. Sega teased us by making Ryo a playable character in the recent Sonic and Sega All-Star Racing and very recently announcing the Japan-only mobile game Shenmue City. But no Shenmue 3.
Next year it is ten years since Shenmue 2 was released and the Dreamcast was discontinued. It is time to bring Shenmue back for real, and I know how. Here is a step by step guide for how Sega can bring back Shenmue and make a profit.
STEP 1 - RE-RELEASE
The excuse Sega has given us why the series has not had a new chapter in almost ten years is the lack of interest in the series. This is of course understandable since the Dreamcast did not sell too well, especially not in the United States. The series does have a huge cult following though, but these are not the people Sega wants to get excitet for a sequel - they have had their boners (and vag... ers?) for over ten years. What sega wants to do is to reach the people who have heard of the series but never played it, most likely because they never owned a Dreamcast.
Reaching these people is very simple and you have probably already guessed what step one is - release Shenmue one and two on XBLA and PSN. The important thing is to make it a bundle, you get both games for one price. This might seem like a bad idea, but Sega needs to get gamers excited over the Shenmue saga as a complete entity, not the individual games. If you can only buy one game, there is a risk of not completing it and therefore losing interst in the saga. If you get both games there is still the same risk of you not finishing the first game, but since you payed for both games you might use youtube or other websites to see how the game ends so you can try the second game - no one want's to pay for a game then not play it. The second game is much more fluent and easily played since a lot of flaws from the first game were fixed so there is a stronger chance of you finishing the second game. After spending two games with Ryo there is a big chance that have gotten emotionally attached to the characters and the story - now you want to see how it ends and will most likely buy Shenmue 3 when released.
STEP 2 - PRICING Sega has already made all the money they will make from Shenmue one and two- they must accept this fact before re-releasing the games on XBLA and PSA. The reason for this is simply that the re-release of the games are not for making money from the old games, it is for investing into the new games. Therefore the XBLA and PSN bundles with Shenmue one and two has to be very cheap. In fact, they should not count on making a single dime from the re-releases - calculate pricetag Sega must have to pay the salaries, marketing, fees, rent etc. My guess would be a pricetag of MAXIMUM 15-20 bucks. I KNOW how much it hurts, Sega. I KNOW how much you love making money, asking $60 for horrible Sonic games that takes 4 hours to complete - but if you want to get Shenmue running again you have to SUCK IT UP.
STEP 3 - TEASE
This is where you get the hype going. First of all, Sega should use the re-releases! Put some teasers in there, and by teasers I do not mean trailers, a teaser could be a character saying something out of place, a picture in a phone booth that was not there in the original game. This might not seem like much but it is more than enough to get the fanboys going. When asked about Shenmue 3, Sega should do like Simon Peter - deny. Over and over, deny everything! The more references the fanboys find, the more they should deny. "No, that is a picture from the new Yakuza", "The employee responsible for that line has been dealt with".
Finally, use PAX (Penny Arcade Expo). Do not use E3 since it is a journalists only expo and it might not get the fans as excited reading the news on the internet. Why not Tokyo Game Show? That is a second alternative, but since I believe Sega needs to get the western audience excited for this release to work it think PAX would be a wiser choice.
Take notes from Gearbox - after PAX 2010 there is not a gamer out there who is not excited for Duke Nukem Forever. Keep it secret until the last minute, but "accidently" release someone leaving a hotel wearing a Shenmue 3 shirt minutes before the show starts. The internet will take care of the rest.
STEP 4 - RELEASE
If Sega has done everything right, releasing the game should be the easiest step. The important thing here is that Sega releases collectors editions, they should not be afraid to release more than one kind. I see this as a kind of fan-service but also a great way to promote your game. Even if gamers do not by the most expensive version they get more convinced that the game is of high quality when they see that Sega has put a lot of money and work into not only the game, but also marketing. Taking notes from Call of Duty is not a bad thing here. Shenmue 3 should have a normal $60 version for the people who hasn't waited for ten years. A a more expensive version with a nicer box, a lot of extra features and a soundtrack for people who might have waited ten years but might also just REALLY have enjoyed the re-releases. Finally, an ultimate version complete with replicas of the phoenix and dragon mirrors, extra content, posters, shirts, and all the riches in the world for the people cueing outside their local game store even though the game isn't releasing for another two weeks.
And if you see a guy in the front of the line who coloured his blonde hair brown, spiked it, put a band aid on his left chin and spent his last money on a pair of light blue jeans, a brown leather jacket with a white t-shirt underneath... don't be afraid to give him a free copy - cause that's me.