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LONG BLOG

The importance of freedom and options in videogames

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So I just purchased Medieval Engineers when it was on sale. I was a bit apprehensive to do so and rightfully so. When I picked up the game I wanted to build a Necropolis from Warcraft 3. In case you are wondering what a Necropolis is, here's a picture of one from Warcraft 3 Battle.net.

war3 2015-02-21 15-57-34-36
I said Warcraft 3 Battle.Net for a reason... This is why I avoid this place. Sadly this is the only image of a Necropolis I could find...

The necropolis is the large structure in the middle of the image. They are my favorite building simply due to their quirkiness. I mean they're a huge floating stronghold shaped like two trapezoidal prism's attached at their base and another smaller trapezoid on top with a large pillar. There is a skull in the middle of each trapezoid which are usually used as a sewerage system.

Now in case you're wondering, the necropolis is the main stronghold of the scourge. The most famous necropolis is Naxxramas which is a notorious raid in World Of Warcraft and was mentioned in Ashbringer. However there are many necropoli (can I call them that plural? I don't know but i'm gonna do it anyway) littered around the world of Azeroth and they are used to deploy undead troops.

So naturally being the Warcraft fan that I am, it was the first thing that came to mind when I wanted to start building in Medieval Engineers but sadly it was not to be. Unfortunately, the necropolis is a floating stronghold... however surprisingly enough I managed to make a floating structure by disabling structural integrity (i'll get to the reason why I dislike these things later). Sadly when I was trying to place a corner slope block, just like in Space Engineers I found out that I couldn't rotate it upside down. WHAT!?

2014-07-13_00001
The triforce of freedom in all it's glory.

The irony of this is that I could have easily built this structure in Space Engineers as it is common to have floating objects in space and as such they allow it but why do they even bother to restrict it here? it's not like it would be harmful to allow us to build upside down slopes, it would just allow for more options. And this brings me to the topic at hand.

Now what makes options so important? I'm not talking about settings and stuff like that. I'm talking about options in general. The answer is simple. Options are essentially the building blocks of videogames. They are what allows us to control what is going on in game. Without options, there is no game. As such every game has options whether it being the ability to move forward and backwards, that's called giving the player options so even walking simulators have options.

Restrictions on the other hand is a word that I cannot stand regardless of it's purpose. Restrictions designed to apply realism are what infuriate me the most. My philosophy is that a successful game is one that gives you more options than any other and is presented in a tasteful manner.

2015-11-12_00016
FREEDOM!
2015-11-12_00018
Oh shi-

I did say tasteful...

So why do you take away the option to turn your block upside down? I have no idea why this is so. Do KeenSWH insist that we all build the same structures as they do because as far as I can see, they want to limit our creativity to their own standards. They only want us to build castles and realistic structures. "We can't have people building floating strongholds, that's preposterous, we need to make sure that doesn't happen so we can keep the player on the right track" ~KeenSWH Employee.

2015-11-15_00041

Now on a related note, I also picked up the Stanley Parable on sale and the entire game revolves around options and how they make the character behave whilst mocking every little bit of it which is ironic considering the fact that the game is designed in a linear style to give the player an illusion that they're playing a linear game but taunting them by adding options that encourage deviance. I will say one thing. I like this game. As a walking simulator I feel that reviewing it is out of the question. You either like them or you don't but regardless I can at least bring it up in this article.

2015-11-15_00053

Now the Stanley Parable taught me a very important lesson in game design. If it works, let players use it. This goes for anything really. Allowing for freedom in videogames is important and although many games are remarkably linear (such as Grandia 2) those games merely lack the ability to allow for too much freedom and though Grandia 2 is criminally linear as I mentioned in my review, I doubt they could make it into an open world game simply because it wouldn't work (well it could but until Xenoblade Chronicles it wasn't attempted).

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JRPG's are linear by nature. They're trying to tell you a story and are streamlined in order to make it easier to follow and prevent the player from getting lost or accessing areas that would feel inconsistent with the game's design. Other games such as Gothic 3 aren't concerned for this "consistency" and just leave the player free to explore their world with few barriers. Of course this means that game game has way more bugs and glitches than a linear game because there are more options for the player and with options comes more holes to fill.

"Without options, there is no game"

Giving the player options is like planting a garden. Plants need to be tended to every so often, they need water and good soil to bloom. Essentially, the more you add to something, the more work is required to maintain the consistent quality of the game. This is why linear games exist simply because it's not worth adding more because it just means more work. I know this because my job involves gardening and adding more to the garden just adds more work for me to do, so I naturally decide not to do it even though it would make the garden look a bit nicer, is it really worth it if the plant ends up dead and looks awful?

2015-11-15_00055
Ahh what a beautiful forest...

So as a result, there are limitations in some games like JRPG's and this is acceptable. However making it impossible to rotate a block upside down in a game that uses the same engine and presumably the same coding language as a game that already allows you to build a block upside down is inexcusable and downright stupid in my opinion because you're limiting us for no reason.

2015-10-20_00006
Despite all the hype built up for it, the open world that was promised by the developers of Tales Of Zesteria was a blatant lie.

Now before I stop going on about this I want to bring up why the streamlined approach towards JRPG's appeals to me and why I personally prefer them over WRPG's. You see, the ability to go anywhere at any time doesn't appeal to me personally, it's nice that it's there but personally what I love about open world games is the ability to build my own structure of linearity by making my own imaginary barriers.

"Essentially, the more you add to something, the more work is required to maintain the consistent quality of the game"

This is why I love games such as Two Worlds 2 which some criticize as being too linear for having plot barriers. This didn't affect me a single bit however as I am used to it. I've played JRPG's for 16 years now and as such this is just normal to me.

When playing games like Gothic 3 which encourage exploration, I like to make my own imaginary barriers and my own path. I choose to explore each town and dungeon in a particular order to build a structured RPG experience for myself. As such, the freedom doesn't exactly bother me as I can merely form my own path. Games like Skyrim on the other hand annoy me because the game has you travelling to the other side of the world just to progress through the story which feels completely unnatural. they might as well not have a story at all.

2015-08-25_00080

As such, Open world games have their place. If done right, they can work in story-driven games but if done wrong it can be frustrating for the player who wants to explore at their own pace and aren't forced to travel beyond their own boundaries just to make progression. But in a way this is a restriction in itself, the restriction is a barrier that prevents you from making progress. This frustrates me a lot.

As a result, adding options can be dangerous at times and require a lot of thinking and decision making when designing a game. You have to ask yourself "what could possibly go wrong with this?" and try to work it out. Problem solving is the name of the game here and problem solving is the job of a game director because nothing is ever too much for a game, it is only as good as you allow it to be. Game directors are working on limited time and money so it's important for them to prioritize which options matter the most and not to offer any options which may ruin the game's overall presentation due to neglect.

2014-07-12_00022
I'll be taking this, thanks!

Every single feature in a game needs TLC for it to be appealing. Adding features is never a bad thing, so long as it doesn't affect the core presentation of the game. If it's just an unpolished add on that is separate from the game then it's fine. However if it's integrated into the game itself, it could cause problems with the game's overall presentation. This is probably why KeenSWH removed Ladders from Space Engineers because they didn't want to work on them. However they didn't need to remove the ladder aesthetic from the block, that was just stupid and unnecessary in my opinion and ruined a lot of the things I built which relied on ladders. Now they just look silly.

As such, if it's not game breaking, don't remove it. Never remove features from games unless they are seriously game breaking (like the DMR in Halo, fuck that weapon). Removing features accomplishes nothing and merely shows that you don't give enough of a shit to try and make it work. I hate KeenSWH for this and I hope other developers don't do that same thing.

So all in all to all you game developers out there, please give us as much freedom and as many options as it is possible without ruining the game. Never boycott features without a good reason.

2014-07-22_00001
Thankfully the mods allow us to bypass these barriers and have limitless freedom. Shame the devs can't do the same.

- Once you head down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny... and you get dental.


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About Terry 309one of us since 11:02 AM on 12.30.2013


"Exactly as I'd hoped. Humans... so weak and malleable. How you ever managed to oppose the legion I cannot fathom. You have merely delayed the inevitable" ~ Balnazzar

Read my reviews here:
https://www.destructoid.com/blogs/Terry+309/terry-309-s-review-archive-291590.phtml

Visit my Wordpress site here:
https://cynicalgamingblog.wordpress.com/

I will publish blogs on there earlier because it has a better editor (plus I don't have the Destructoid rules to worry about). I will still publish blogs on here though and I probably will post any top 10's exclusively on here, this site is merely a home for all of my blogs so that in case anything happens I can keep writing.

My Bio:

Just an outspoken fan of rpg's and gaming in general who likes to rant about first world gamer problems because there are so many.

My blogs mostly consist of reviews/rants of games of all generations, particularly rpg's. I try to blend my reviews with both facts and opinion so that people can see from my own experiences and decide for themselves. i will also tend to review older titles because i still believe that there are few people out there who haven't played these awesome titles and deserve to give them a chance.

Oh and as for some negative's you might point out, i can't spell for my life and my grammar is terrible. Plus i like to exaggerate my points a little to make things more fun, yet some people are dense enough to take them as fact.

Here is my response to those intelligent enough to point them out:


Heres my review rating system:

Masterpiece (Same as masterful but for overall score, will be based on opinion), of course it won't be perfect in every way but it will be close to perfect, no game is perfect.

Masterful - Perfect in every way (Formerly 9.5+) (definitely pick up the game if you are a fan of the genre)

Exceptional - Goes way beyond expectations (Formerly between 9.1 and 9.4) (definitely pick up the game if you are a fan of the genre)

Excellent - Does what it needs to and provides a first class experience (9.0) (definitely pick up the game if you are a fan of the genre)

Great - Does what it needs to, provides a high class experience (8.5-8.9) (recommended to all fans of the genre)

Good - Does what it needs to and provides a very enjoyable experience (was 8.0 - 8.5) (recommended to all fans of the genre)

Satisfactory - Does what it needs to, provides an experience which is just enough to satisfy the player (Formerly between 7.5 - 7.9) (Reccommended to read the review if unsure)

Decent - Does what it needs to, experience can very depending on the players tastes (Formerly 7.0-7.4) (Recommended to read the review if you plan on picking up the game to see if it's for you)

So-So (Now Mediocre) - Not for everyone, has some issues, may be worth a try if patient enough to cope with it's flaws (Formerly 6.5 - 6.9) (Reccommened to read the review if you're interested in the title)

Flawed - Alot of flaws, difficult to recommend, some may be able to pass them by but will require a lot of patience (Formerly 5.0 - 6.4) (Reccommened to read the review if you're interested in the title)

Awful - (Formerly 4.9 and below) (If you see this, don't pick the game up for this catagory)

Kill It With Fire - (Same as Awful but for overall score, based on opinion which in this case is usually right if you see the game, you know what to do, don't buy this and if you do, get some gasoline and a match)

Lifespan:

Too Long (Legend Of Dragoon lol)

Very Long (Formerly 9.5 - 9.9)

Long (Formerly 9.0 - 9.4)

Quite Long (Formerly 8.0 - 8.9)

Decent Length (Formerly 7.5 - 7.9)

Quite Short (Formerly 6.5 - 7.4)

Very Short (Formerly 6.0 - 6.4)

Too short (Formerly 5.9 or below)

Worth Replaying?

Yes

Maybe

No

My favorite games:

Valkyrie Profile 2

F-ZERO GX

Pokemon Gold and Silver

Painkiller

Warcraft 3's campaign

Grandia 2

Diablo

Mount And Blade: Warband