We're... we're not doing a SOTN dialogue, this isn't 4chan.
Oh, right, so, what the hell are you doing here?
My name is [Dark Lord Mooshi-Mooshi], I've been a gamer since before I could walk, and I will probably die clutching a Gameboy (and maybe the gun that kills me). I've been gaming long enough to generally know which way the wind blows, and sometimes when that wind blows past the typical crap-storm of hype & marketing that is typical gaming journalism, it stinks. So I came here, to Destructoid, a site that takes being not-so-serious quite-seriously, to share with you my twisted views.
What can we expect from you?
Blogs, reviews, forum posting, and perhaps something more in the future (or so I hope).
Right, room for one last question - got a motto?
"Has hat, will travel" - well that's more like a resume - I suppose "don't eat the yellow snow" would be more of a motto.
Leave the Numbers to the Math Teachers
Math makes games possible, and those math-heavy Finance, Engineering, Computer Science and IT degrees can land you lucrative jobs - but there are some places where our "numerical wizardry" need to butt out. When it comes time to sit down and play games with friends, math should be left in the classroom and the textbooks.
The goal of TruSkill ranking is simple - better matchmaking through closer matches. The math behind the TruSkill ranking system is designed to "hone in" on your, well, "True Skill level" - after a few dozen matches, it should find a number that lets the computer pit you against players of similar ability. In theory it works great - in practice, too many game designers have tied achievements, ranks, and badges to TruSkill, and given incentives for boosting, cheating, and general poor sportsmanship.
There's nothing wrong with TruSkill being used in the background to help match players of similar skill. I'm all for it - after all, there's no satisfaction in just steam-rolling the competition, or getting blown away. However, the ranking systems in games should be based on play-time, good sportsmanship (such as remaining in the match to the bitter end), and personal improvement. While rewarding a solid performance is okay - players shouldn't feel like they're "getting nowhere". Because the TruSkill rating is designed to only improve slowly, that's exactly what players of games like Gears of War have found.
Luckily, game designers are listening - and learning. Halo 3's "playlist rank", Call of Duty's "level up" system, Halo Wars "score accumulation", and Gears of War 2's new revised ranking system all give players incentive to do well within the matches, stick it out to the bitter end (with exp penalties or "finishing the game" bonuses), and work with their teams. It's a step in the right direction. After all, it's the player who puts in 1000 matches with their friends who deserves a shiny medal, not the guy who boosts his TruSkill rating.
Review scores are another item in gaming that started with a good "in theory" notion. Place games along a numbered scale so that players can compare them and know which games to buy. In practice, this "math system" has become a nightmare, one that even aggregating sites like MetaCritic can't solve. The problem with numerical reviews is simple - they're too one dimensional. With a written or video review, players can hear the strengths and weakness of a game, and find out what's right for them. Is the game only five hours long? That might be a big "not buying it" for some players, but for others it might be a non-issue. Is the game too violent? Again, a personal judgement that can't be summed up with just a simple number.
When reviewers point out the faults, and perks, of a game, they're simply "reviewing" - they're doing their job, and providing helpful insights into a title. When a reviewer takes those comments and generates a review score, however, their opinions are now all melded together into something that's only useful to people who share that reviewer's exact perspective on gaming.
Newer sites, such a GiantBomb, have gotten away from the "100 point review" (or 1 ~ 10 scale ) of the olden days. New commenters, such as Zero Punctuation and AVGN have ditched the scale entirely in favor of providing some simple entertainment and insight. Even GameSpot went from decimal reviewing to a " point five" scale. Still, any math can be "bad math", and arguments over the numerical value take away from what the reviewer has to actually say. Hopefully, in gaming's future, we can see more focus on the content, and less discussion of one-dimensional numbers.
Gamers in the UK and AU are most apt to agree with this one, but it's about time we saw an end to staggered releases. While this generation has seen a huge improvement in getting games out everywhere at the same time, we're still left waiting far too long on titles like Final Fantasy XIII, game systems like the DSi, and content updates. Let's face it, there's no unsolvable reason that a game can't come out everywhere at the same time.
If a game is going to be released in multiple languages anyway, why not have the translators working with the writers during game development? It would improve the translations, and ensure that gamers worldwide were enjoying the same meaningful experience. If a game has to be region-coded anyway, or adjustments made on certain content (for example - removing skeletons for the Chinese market, nuclear weapons for Japan,or covering breasts in America ) then why not do it on the design table?
When something gets changed in a game, due to the cultural norms of the market it is being released in, it would be best for the designers to be there to put in something equivalent (yet appropriate ) so that the scene is not lost. Fallout 3 in Japan does not feature the option to nuke Megaton - arguably the largest moral decision in the first half of the game - but could it have featured another moral choice? Replace the nuke with, say, a deadly virus, and you have acceptable content, yet still leave the moral decision.
Ultimately, designers should realize they're making "global games" at this point. Our dated notion of releasing in one area first, then translating months later for different regions, needs to go. I play with gamers around the world - on LIVE, on STEAM, on PSN, on DS / Wii - I want to know that my friends across the Atlantic and Pacific are lined up for the newest release on the same day I am.
Is a world where TruSkill takes a backseat to friendly competition, review scores are replaced with intelligent discussion, and everyone can pick up the latest game on the same day possible? Maybe - but the nice thing is, we don't have to get there overnight. Even small improvements in release times, the reviews process, and matchmaking can bring us greater enjoyment.