It seems like everyone has a different story about how the Deathclaw encounter went wrong because the game designer expected the player to read their mind (or the script?) and know what they were supposed to do to make the scene work. Everyone has it turn kind of shitty and underwhelming in a different way. I imagine it worked best on people like me, who watched the E3 demo and knew what they were “supposed” to do. It’s an awful, contrived, muddled scene that somehow manages to be both hand-hold-y and vague.
I think Rutskarn is right, in that the next most obvious thing to shave off the experience to make it more “mainstream” is to get rid of carry weights. I’ve heard a lot of players express an interest in exactly this. They assume their goal is to pick an area clean. But you can’t carry everything at once. So you fill yourself to capacity, fast-travel to your base, store all the items, fast-travel back, and repeat. If you’re playing this way then clearly the fast-travel is just a bunch of useless loading screens and busywork.
But getting rid of carry weights would lead to a slippery slope of “streamlining”:
Player: I hate making ten trips to clean out a dungeon. They should get rid of carry weights.
Developer: Okay, carry weights are gone.
Player: But I still have to click on each and every single stupid piece of clutter, which really breaks the flow of the game. The hitboxes on items are wonky and sometimes you have to move around, hunting for the right angle to grab some knickknack. Clicking on clutter isn’t challenging or interesting. There’s no reason not to take everything, so why are you making me look at every stupid piece of garbage to pick it up? (This is especially tedious using a controller.)
Developer: Okay, we’ve added a “Loot All” button that will grab everything within arm’s reach.
Player: After just a few minutes of running around an spamming Loot All, I end up with all this useless trash. I have to scroll through a list of three hundred trash guns I’m carrying around, just to find the one interesting gun I picked up a second ago. Sorting through this inventory takes forever. There needs to be a “Sell All Trash” button on shops that just lets you unload all trash items.
Developer: Okay, we added a “Sell All” button to the shop interface, which will sell everything that isn’t equipped or part of the hotbar or tagged as favorite.
Player: Shopkeepers never have enough money for me to use the new “Sell All Trash” button. Since there’s no limit to how much stuff I can carry, it doesn’t make sense to have a limit to how much they can buy. It just forces me to fast-travel to many different shops. That’s just a bunch of dumb hiking and loading screens. No fun.
Developer: Shopkeepers now have infinite money.
Player: The economy is this game is a mess. I can vacuum up all the loot in an area, teleport to the nearest shop, and sell the whole thing in one go. But why bother? The shops never have anything I want or need. I just accumulate endless piles of useless money.
Developer: Okay, we’ve lowered the payout values for selling trash loot, and shopkeepers have more cool stuff and rare items you can save up for.
Player: If you want to get your hands on the best equipment you’ll need to spend hours running around, swiping everything that isn’t nailed down. Why is every shopkeeper in the game trying to rip me off? Why do people use pack animals in this world when you can apparently carry several warehouses worth of goods in your pocket? And why should I even bother building a base and storing stuff in it, since it’s more convenient to carry everything will you at all times?
Developer: Okay, we got rid of clutter. Fallout now works like other games. The stuff on shelves is just scenery.
Player: Ugh. There’s nothing to do but shoot stuff. It’s so monotonous.
Part of the problem is that the “Player” in the above exchange isn’t a single person, but instead represents many different people who are all pulling the game in a different direction. Some people like the treasure-hunt vibe of item collection, which other people see it as busywork. Some people enjoy the loot lottery chest at the end of a zone, while other people see sorting and selling that stuff as a chore, like taking out the garbage. Some people hate having to memorize what they need and what they don’t, and would rather the game put a clear line between “trash” and “valuables”, instead of the current gradient.
Some people really would like the game better if it was a shooter with a fixed inventory of guns, while for other people that would pretty much defeat the purpose of playing the game in the first place.
The game is actually asking a lot of you. It expects you to figure out what you need, pick and choose what sorts of things you’re willing to loot, keep track of which resources are scarce (adhesive, aluminium) and which are plentiful (steel and wood) and manage your gathering accordingly. I actually enjoy that stuff, but it does stand out as odd when the rest of the game seems to go out of its way to avoid asking you to think too hard.
The Disappointment Engine
No Man's Sky is a game seemingly engineered to create a cycle of anticipation and disappointment.
What is this silly word, why did some people get so irritated by it, and why did it fall out of use?
Zenimax vs. Facebook
This series explores the troubled history of VR and the strange lawsuit between Zenimax publishing and Facebook.
Are Lootboxes Gambling?
Obviously they are. Right? Actually, is this another one of those sneaky hard-to-define things?
WAY back in 2005, I wrote about a D&D campaign I was running. The campaign is still there, in the bottom-most strata of the archives.