How to Play: Get a Life

Perusing the various dredges of my highly legal (cough) DS ROMs, I noticed a certain red herring in the wonderous collection of legality: Call of Duty[1] After noticing that I had nothing else in particular to write about, I set to work playing it again. As you may know, the developers of CoD spent a large amount of development on making the weapons and scenary as realistic and historically accurate as possible. It tries to make a game out of the great historical battles of the whole world. Now, if I was a satirist, I’d argue it doesn’t do a good job of this[2], but that is beside the point. The point is, they spent so much time making these historical battles and weapons, and then made an unrealistic game. Sorry Infinity Ward, but its not realistic to die and then go back and retry that last 5 metre march that you just messed up.

I’m not saying that Infinity Ward made a bad design decision there. I don’t like this notion. You might have noticed this, since I have just spent the last 20 minutes writing this post, and you’re now seeing the wonderous results. I must say my high level of expertise in the area of being shot by Nazis, I have noticed that being shot continually has a habit of causing one of the less fatal versions of death. Now, before the angry CoD players rise up in protest, and comment, telling me what an amazing game it is and how I’m not understanding the point, CoD is not the only game that does this. Every game does it but I think it fair to have these modes. Not everyone gets wound up about very small things and then are moved to write blog posts about them. I just get wound up by people saying ‘Oh wow, playing [insert game name here]  is like fighting through [insert war here]’. Is it? Is it really? A typical game involves you shooting people with near infinite amounts of ammo, and then if you die, you just respawn and then do it all again[3]. So I’ve written almost 2 paragraphs, had a small rant and I still haven’t told you how to play. So, how to play these games, and get around this small design idiocy. Ever heard of Ironman mode?

Sorry, I couldnt resist...

Sorry, I couldn't resist...

Ironman mode is a player forced way of playing. You slide all the difficulty sliders to full and  play through. If you die, thats it. I don’t like this an awful lot, but thats because I suck at video games, but I do like the second part. If I die in a game thats realistic, I believe that I should be killed off the whole game. If I’m in a squad, let me take over someone else in that squad by all means (Thats down to the designer though), but that character should be dead and gone[4]. So, I say we enforce that rule every time we play. I enjoy playing these games (ish) but to make these games realistic, if you die. Restart. If you were a masocist, I’d even suggest a restart when some shot hit you. I know that most shots will kill you without a medic to help you immediately.

Seen this? Restart then

Seen this? Restart then

I’ve already gone through the many reasons why this is a good idea. But lets be honest. Its horrible to play a game without saving and then finding you have to restart when you have a crash. On many occasions I’ve thrown my DS across the room when the battery died and I haven’t saved. A similar occurance occured when playing Deus Ex on the Playstation (I haven’t got it on PC. Yet). The controller got thrown at my brother on several occasions because he made some comment about the death I had just experienced. But I still believe this is a better way to play. You appreciate the nuances of how to survive if you have to survive to prevent yourself playing the first 10 minutes over and over again. So go on, play with one life. Make your life more interesting. Hell, it gives one hell of a replay value, and a perfect reason to brag.

As an aside, I just thought I’d mention something. If anyone finds these sorts of How To a perfect solution to any gaming problem that they have, I’d be very interested to know how it goes. Particularly the first one (The delayed idea).

[1]Red herring? CoD? Fish? Oh never mind. Get back to reading
[2]What? I wasn’t a big fan of running through a series of alleyways continually, with no chance to make my own way, being shot at by someone who I can’t actually see, and then have to do the whole thing again. The only reason I didn’t turn it off was because I feel I have to finish every game I start. Unless its a crock of shit, in which case I don’t. Get back to reading
[3]I only have one exception to this, which is Battlefield. I agree with a ticket system, and I continually run out of ammo and have to grab any gun. I think that the Battlefield idea of you just being a literal grunt soldier is correct, and is a more realistic version of World War 2. Get back to reading
[4]Off the top of my head, the only game that I know of that enforced this was Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, on the Game Boy Advance. If you lost a character in the judgless wastelands, and didn’t recover them, then that character was gone forever. Even the moogle partner who was the clan leader and the person who looks after you. Never lost my own character during those fights, but I imagine a game over would be called. Get back to reading

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    • Hermit
    • October 8th, 2009

    I don’t mind a Death is Permenant option, it’s certainly an interesting way to add new challenge to a game, and works incredibly well in Strategy games (See Blood Bowl, which allows players to level up their players, but also lose said players permenatly, putting some serious stuff on the line in an online match). Likewise your FFTA example. These deaths are annoying but not game breaking – you hire some new blood and train them up, a little wiser for the experience.

    But the big problem with such modes is that to make them in any way fun you need to avoid forcing players to repeat the game over for making a silly error.

    As an obvious example, the old Sierra adventure games. Some of these required you to complete a puzzle at the start of the game, such as adjusting your gun sights to be accurate in Police Quest. If you didn’t, you were forced into a game over scenario some way into the game (Since you shoot and miss). Forcing a replay of the entire game up to that point.

    Where this sort of mechanic works is in roguelikes for a very simple reason: Procedurally Generated Content. It doesn’t matter if you fail, because your next adventure is going to be different. To quote Tom Francis’ Devil’s Advocate on the subject: “because level 1 is completely different when you restart, restarting is as fun as getting to level 2”
    (Linkage: http://www.computerandvideogames.com/article.php?id=223258 ).

    Spend a few moments pondering unfair deaths to grenades, snipers, hidden trip mines, glitches, friendly fire, and F’ing dogs (MASH A OR DIE!). Now imagine having to start over each time. Sometimes, we have to sacrifice a little realism for fun. It’s why Half-Life is a game about saving humanity from aliens, instead of a Physics lab simulation game (Use computer to activate the Electromagnet! Use your clipboard to record your results! Outstanding Conclusion Bonus 5000pts!)

    Heavy Rain might be worth a look though. An adventure game of sorts on the PS3, you play as four characters through different parts of the same story, and each character can die at any time should you mess up – their death will then carry through and impact the other character’s paths.

    • I have to agree. I hated CoD for its unfairness on hard. On Easy I aced it without thinking. On Medium it took me two weeks. On Hard I spent over two months on it. The deaths were just immensely cruel and unforgiving. I did ask for it, but I was like WTF!? The issue I had was mainly that these games go on about realism, but then let you back into the game. The realistic version is death. Forever. Hence why this isn’t an idea to take first time through a game. Make your life more interesting: Live once.

      I like the sound of that Heavy Rain. Only problem is that I am PS3less. I will see what I can find about it.

  1. October 12th, 2009

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