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Are Games Becoming Over-Produced? |

I finished Resistance 2 single player (on hard): There is tons of amazing tech here (particularly the mo-cap animation), the environments are loaded with gorgeous visual variety, and the weapons and action mechanics are tight. But, one big negative really stuck out: it felt too scripted and and forced.

They completely removed the health bar and the ammo/weapon management. There are no maze elements to navigating the levels and the game purposefully doesn’t let you back-track so that players don’t get lost and frustrated. They loaded the game with tons of auto-checkpoints that neatly separate the action into distinct battles so there is almost never any forced replay. They also loaded the game with variety (the visuals, enemies, weapons, and combat change quite a bit throughout the game) to eliminate complaints of repetition.

All of these changes were made very purposefully and probably came from extensive user feedback studies and focus group testing. The problem is that all of these changes really dumbed down the experience. I felt more like I was passively moving through a scripted semi-interactive tech demo than actually playing a game.

Resistance 2 was still a lot of fun, the giant fire fights didn’t have this overly scripted feel to them (they’re still linear, but they felt very interactive), and this game isn’t the only one with this problem. Call of Duty 4 (single player), for example, was worse. It felt every bit as blatantly scripted and forced and linear, but lacked many of the cool highlights of Resistance 2. (BTW, I feel more comfortable criticizing Insomniac’s games, because I’ve been such a big fan, where CoD4, I didn’t want to rain on everyone else’s parade.)

Also, Uncharted, Bioshock, Ratchet & Clank, Dead Space, God of War, Manhunt (only mentioning PS2/PS3 titles): these are some of my favorite games from the past few years, but they all fall into this category: heavily scripted, produced, and completely linear experiences. Even as the developers are getting better and better of making this style of game, and as much as I love the mentioned games, and admire the work that went into them, I feel like the general structure and formula is really wearing thin.

So what else should games do? From the little I’ve played of Far Cry 2, that’s a good example of what I don’t want: the same linear game play with a repetitive quest/hub/navigation system thrown on top of it. Games need to develop new hooks: something that makes them fun and addicting beyond merely shooting/dodging and clearing gorgeous levels.

So what do you think? Are you fine with bigger and better versions of games like Uncharted and God Of War or are you getting a little tired of that formula (or a little of both)? Do you think this type of game has passed it’s peak?

  • Trieloth

    “”I felt more like I was passively moving through a scripted semi-interactive tech demo than actually playing a game”
    Isnt this the story mode? People get lost easily now a days, especially when mother isnt there to holding there hand. Open ended levels will not work. Iam so confused at what people want from this game or any other game. Cant people just be satisfied with whats there anymore? Game On! …and Good Luck with that.

  • Darrin

    You are right that people complain when they get lost, they complain when they die and have to repeat sections, and they complain when they have to watch their ammo/health bars. But when you fix those things, some of the core game dies with that. Now, it’s like the whole game is on auto pilot; you just kind of push forward and shoot until the game ends.

    Also, you are right that an open-ended version of R2 wouldn’t necessarily work (think Far Cry 2, which isn’t very fun, IMO).

    What do I want? First, I’m very happy with what’s on the market: I *love* LBP which was both innovative and instantly satisfying. R2 co-op and PixelJunk Eden are two other games that deliver both innovation and satisfying game play. I want to see more stuff like that and less polished and over-produced versions of the standard generic 3D action game.

  • As long as I enjoy a game, I don’t really care.

    As far as I’m concerned, all games are scripted – even so-called ‘sandbox’ games like GTA and Mercenaries. Yes, you can go off and do various things whenever you please, but you still need to achieve certain goals to make the game progress.

    Whether you’re railroaded straight from A to B, or take longer to get there with the illusion of freedom taking you via X, Y and Z, it’s all the same… and as long as it’s fun, it’s fine with me!

  • darrin

    I can go back and play classics like Space Invaders or Doom or Tetris and they don’t have that on-rails, overly produced R2/CoD4 feel to them. Clearly, they’re linear repetitive games, very crude by today’s standard, and they don’t allow any kind of personal freedom, but I can recognize a fully interactive reflex game in those titles.

    Bottom line is that the market is just too concentrated with a very similar style of action game. Most of the big AAA titles of recent years
    fit into this category.

  • Dr_Phibes666

    I can see what you’re saying about R2 (love the game though), but sometimes more open ended games do give you the feeling you’re just playing with a bunch of toys the dev has given you rather than dragging you along in an on going story. Sort of like sex vs playing with yourself? I digress, despite it sometimes feeling forced, i do like being directed in games alot of the times especially when its done with the effect and excitement of a hollywood blockbuster such as R2

  • Darrin, if you have played it, where does Fallout 3 fit into your story? I ordered it not too long ago and expect it to arrive soon. But didn’t fallout3 have like 500 possible endings?

    It should give you a main story with multiple outcomes…

  • All games are scripted. But I’ll recognize the fact that some games, like Resistance 2, are more scripted than others, like say Pacman.

    But since I prefer storydriven games I don’t mind games being scripted. I’ve just played through the first chapter of the single player part of Resistance 2 yesterday and really enjoyed it. But I did notice, that the only times I died during the game was when I accidentally fell into pools of water. I suppose that’ll change the more I play because the game will probably become harder.

    But I think up until now Resistance 2 has been very good.

    So to conclude: I prefer scripted games over sandbox games, and I prefer singleplayer or co-op over online games.

  • darrin

    I totally agree that “open world” isn’t the best answer, and I still loved R2 single-player, and can’t wait for Uncharted 2 and GoW3, but there are too many action adventure games and there is growing fatigue for that type of game.

    I bought Fallout 3, but haven’t had a chance to play yet. However, it looks like a variant on the action adventure genre. I still can’t wait to play it. I hope it’s as good as I remember Fallout 1 + 2 being.

  • I really have to agree with your point but my problem with it is, It makes the game too easy. With the way it’s scripted you just keep on pushing until you’re through a level. There’s no consequence for defeat. What’s really missing in these games is dying. Back in the good old days you paid a quarter each time to play a game and those three little asteroid ships meant something. You put up good cash to play with a purpose. Now with unlimited lives you can burn through a game. Maybe it would make the game more challenging if instead of unlimited continues you got 10 lives for the entire game. You lose them that’s your game. Reload and start over. It would change the way you play. No more rushing in headfirst into situations, safe in the knowledge that you would restart at the beginning of the level. This would up the psychological pressure on the gamer and I think make the game better, more tense.
    Imagine Final Fantasy 13. At the beginning you are given 3 Phoenix Downs (resurrections) and that’s it. No buying them from the shop, No crafting them. You die three times and it’s game over. How would that change your approach to going into battle? It certainly would ratchet up the intensity.

  • It would probably also mean, that no one, or very few, would play the game.

    The view on games has changed a lot since the eighties where almost all games were like that except perhaps the for the text-adventure games.

    If games were made like that nowadays where you had only ten lives, the reviewers would hate them and so would the gamers. Because games still are entertainment, they are supposed to be fun. And most of us still like our gaming to be fun and not something to be played over and over again until it becomes tedious work.

    Because I know for a fact, that I would die a lot in the game. And I can’t be bothered to replay a game from scratch over and over again because I don’t move fast enough or blink or just don’t make the goal on time. And yeah, imagine Final Fantasy 13 with only three lives. A series that are well known for it’s playing time of up to at least a 100 hours. A game with over the top tough bosses and a game where damage is calculated more or less random.

    Now imagine no one wanting to play Final Fantasy 13, because the entertainment value has been broken, shot and thrown out the window.

    I actually like my games just the way they are. And as I get older and my reflexes get worse, I’d even more like my games to be as they are now.


  • mpz

    I think there’s enough games out there that you can choose the ones you like too …

    I hate getting lost, it’s just an annoying waste of time, as is having to repeat too much of those scripted sequences because you die or need to replay so you get to the same point with enough gear. I’ve given up plenty of games because of that one – if i barely scrape through some annoying/overly difficult part, I hardly want to replay it again. But I have little patience for annoyances any more, i’m not a kid with no money and lots of time, and an overly competitive drive (not saying you are).

    And if the game is story driven, how can you tell a story properly if you can’t control pacing and sequence at all?

  • mpz. I agree on the getting lost. The breadcrumb idea in Fable II sounds like a good answer.
    And Glitch I can see you point of view. The point I was trying to make is that modern video games have taken the “Fear of Death” out of the playing equation. And thereby reducing the stakes in the “Risk Equation” It may make the games easier but it has the effect of smoothing out the highs and lows of the game experience.

  • Darrin, I would have to disagree. Resistance 2 single player is not fun at all. I feel like it’s a “D+” experience. Barely playable.

    Mcloki, I agree about death in video games. Save anywhere and frequent checkpoints make it so that death carries real impact. The problem is, players have become accustom to this, play less conservatively, and quit playing if they have to replay a long section. I also had the very same idea about “lives” in a FPS. Like, you start off with 3, and get one more for every checkpoint cleared.

    Far Cry 2’s problem is that even though you have an open world, they still wanted to make it a shooter. So, everyone wants to kill you. Not really helpful in a game that wants you to explore. They are in fact punishing you for doing what they want you to do.

  • Darrin

    The “fear of death” has definitely been reduced. Having more severe consequences was just too frustrating. More games are adding bonus challenges for people who want that: that’s probably the best way to go. Let anyone beat the game, but give the serious fans additional challenges.

    Gabe, a lot of people don’t like R2 single player… Can’t please everyone I guess.

  • Steve

    Myself, I don’t mind a scripted feel to a game. For FPS games, you can have a lot of fun blowing things up while you’re on your way from point A to point B. I do prefer having at least a couple of alternate routes, though, and if some of the alternates aren’t just to the left or the right, but above or below, that’s even better. So make the levels open, make the opponents smarter (there’s lots of room to improve NPC AI – I’d love to see an enemy that actually outsmarted me, rather than just outshielding and outgunning me) and don’t leave the storyline behind while putting all that effort into the production values!

    Oh, and of course, if we’re talking about general problems with the latest games, I have to mention that a lot of them don’t seem to have thought about co-op mode very much – and those are the ones that say they support it. Co-op, please! Videogame consoles are built for more than one player – if it was just one, you could use your PC!