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Shapeless

Rage in Edge Magazine

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Lutz said:
Also, since it's apparently super-cool to badmouth a game no one has played yet

Well, while not as rude as Graf, that was rude too, as some sound points were brought up along the thread :p

Regenerating health isn't being critiqued because of realism but because of its effect on game mechanics, console predominance is impacting games in a way that's degrading their potential on the PC, and games are getting less practical to make due their demanding resources.

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gemini09 said:

What about Super Mario? Those games are linear, and everybody will say they are the essence of gaming.



Here's where the exploration factor comes in. In this type of games there's nothing to explore (and no desire to) so it doesn't matter. The goals and gameplay of a platform game is completely different than something taking place in a 3D world.

Still, when it comes to platform games I always enjoyed the ones most with a heavy puzzle element where you actually had to think to progress.

But in the end, if I bought a new, supposedly revolutionary 3D shooter and ended up with a prettified 3D Super Mario I'd still be pissed. That's just not worth my money.

Maybe it's not the linearity as such that's the major problem but the feeling to be the protagonist in a bad movie, playing a bit until you reach the next checkpoint, followed by a cutscene, followed by the next small strictly laid out piece of 'playing'. To me Q4 was the epitome of this uninspired type of game design and the bad taste it has left behind still isn't gone.

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I'm rather disinterested in Rage as I am not a fan of racing, or desert wasteland environments. The addition of regenerating health does not bode well, as in my personal playing experience, regenerating health rarely aids the gameplay as a whole - it provides assistance to starting players when they are damaged, but it also makes situations far more binary ("Is this situation lethal in a shorter timespan than it would take me to traverse? If it isn't, then I don't need to play it safe, as I can recover without a loss of resources.") Having a gameplay experience where each decision is ultimately binary (and the second option is generally a reload of a save game) does make the entire experience as a whole fairly linear. In Doom, or Quake, or Blood, or any older fps, you evaluate battles based upon a gradient of potential damage, and how it will impact your inventory (ammo, health throughout the level), and thus there is a risk taking via the investment of that inventory. You can make a gutsy move, and hope things play out in your favor (in the elements you cannot impact directly, a battle can go very differently if a chaingunner gets nicked by an Imp fireball) and if they do, splendid - if they don't, you have to reasses your inventory, and thus your investment prospects for future maneuvers.

Regenerating health removes the investment and dividends prospect. It is noteworthy that the original Call of Duty does not have regenerating health, but it was added in response to play tests. What did the playtests show? People using up healthpacks when they weren't fully benefitting from them (95% health, grabbing a healthpack), thus reducing their inventory, and combined with overwriting their own saves, they often painted themselves into a corner - a save game with 10% health, and having to brave a clearing with 2 mounted machineguns and a bunch of rifle wielding soldiers. The problem here was a combination of messaging to the player the significance of rationing resources, the potential automation of rationing them (make most health rely on medic NPCs who will only dispense if you can make use of at least 75% of the item), the mappers pacing, and the save system itself. Instead of rectifying those issues, the developers chose to replace the health system entirely with regenerating health, which did resolve a player being at 10% health in this situation, now they could be at 100%, but you also saw an escalation in sheer numbers on the part of the level designer, as they had to do something to make the player feel more threatened, which resulted in those binary situations.

Thats what I am not looking forward to in Rage: those binary situations.

For the record I've not played Q4, it hasn't interested me, I heard enough non-positive things from individuals whos taste I generally regard well, and that was enough to keep me from investing my time and money into it.

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myk said:

Heh, are we supposed to feel humble or something because we aren't "mainstream" or "state-of-the-art"? Do you get into games to "feel normal"? Billions of people don't care about video games at all, too. Most probably the majority of the world.

Not at all, though the Internet's choke-full with individuals who wear their quirkiness and peculiar tastes as a badge of honour, as if it had any relevance. If the enjoyment you draw from obscure, critically acclaimed games can be equaled in "plebeian" individuals with far more mediocre games...then who is at a disadvantage?

I doubt anyone disagrees, but at the end of the day, they consider the opinions of many different people dispersed among various types, communities or whatever, trying to produce a product that will attract many. There's no archetypal gamer to aim a product at. Not that we comment with that in mind, necessarily. It's just a side-product of our community activity.

I think they mostly code to themselves... there's always a necessity to garner an audience, of course, but it's too damn hard to create things you don't enjoy when you're as rich as id is.

I think I get it now... You might have thought my post (which you quoted) was a reply to what you said two posts above. Actually, I was just telling bardcat to get used to seeing people commenting on game design and intricacies in this place, instead of people mindlessly taking everything in a game for granted.

Yep, my mistake.

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Zaldron said:
Not at all, though the Internet's choke-full with individuals who wear their quirkiness and peculiar tastes as a badge of honour, as if it had any relevance.

It may well be relevant to them in some way. A group needs ways to organize itself, defend its preferences or transmit its main values.

If the enjoyment you draw from obscure, critically acclaimed games can be equaled in "plebeian" individuals with far more mediocre games...then who is at a disadvantage?

I find it hard to see how the enjoyment of different people is comparable or why anyone needs to be at any advantage.

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scar3crow said:

It is noteworthy that the original Call of Duty does not have regenerating health, but it was added in response to play tests. What did the playtests show? People using up healthpacks when they weren't fully benefitting from them (95% health, grabbing a healthpack), thus reducing their inventory, and combined with overwriting their own saves, they often painted themselves into a corner - a save game with 10% health, and having to brave a clearing with 2 mounted machineguns and a bunch of rifle wielding soldiers.

The obvious gameplay adjustment to make it easier for such clueless spendthrifts would have been to make healthpacks keep unused points. You have a healthpack with 25 points, your health is at 95, you use the healthpack -- you're back at 100, and now you have a healthpack with 20 points.

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The obvious gameplay adjustment to make it easier for such clueless spendthrifts would have been to make healthpacks keep unused points. You have a healthpack with 25 points, your health is at 95, you use the healthpack -- you're back at 100, and now you have a healthpack with 20 points.

Exactly, but Infinity Ward has made a business cycle out of developing a new "feature" to band aid an existing poor design decision. The DarkPlaces mod for Quake does a similar thing with ammo, in terms of leaving the unused. Regenerating health was born, for them, out of simultaneous mild mistakes on health pickups, save behavior, and level design. They replaced one of these, which has had compounding results in the other systems, and the game series as a whole.

The presence of regenerating health in a game does worry me, just because to me, it is not only a bad mechanic, but an omen of its rippling throughout the other systems.

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myk said:

I find it hard to see how the enjoyment of different people is comparable or why anyone needs to be at any advantage.

It's just a bittersweet sidenote, we would be so lucky to deeply enjoy games more than once every two, three years (at least in my case).

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scar3crow said:

The presence of regenerating health in a game does worry me, just because to me, it is not only a bad mechanic, but an omen of its rippling throughout the other systems.


I do find this "binary" comparison you make quite compelling, and while this is sometimes the intended behavior (instagib being a very popular Unreal Tournament mutator for example), I agree that the "assessing inventory" and attrition mechanics of singleplayer have been lost.

It's worth noting that AD&D is entirely focused on depleting resources - the dungeon master (story teller / rule keeper) throws monsters at players to deplete their resources, making the game more interesting - the goal is not necessarily to defeat the players but to make them think carefully about their actions as the story progresses.

One game that did a good job of depletion of inventory (and met some criticism for it) is Hexen 2, where health vials are carried and you choose carefully when to drink them to avoid wasting any, this in addition to the limited ammunition (blue and green mana) that you may opt not to use in a particular situation to conserve it for a more important use, gave the game a very strict inventory depletion mechanic.

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Want an open ended game where you don't have regenerating health? Try out Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising. Lotta people say this game sucks, but if you like realism, and are not expecting a Call of Duty clone, Go for it. I happen to like it.

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