Last week I talked about using polish to turn a good game into a great one, but I deliberately avoided giving examples. That post was already 3,000 words long and there were too many disparate topics to cover that there wasn’t room to enumerate, explain, and quantify what I was talking about. So let’s do that now.
The point of the exercise is to come up with games that felt like they could be vastly improved by just a modest investment of additional work at the end of the project. Let’s imagine we’re aiming for stuff that can be fixed in ~6 weeks or less. Six weeks might sound like a long time, but in terms of AAA game development it’s not all that much. 18 months (78 weeks) is a pretty common development cycle, which means six more weeks is less than a 10% increaseWhich is probably a lot less than a 10% increase in budget, if we assume the team is reduced in size once you enter the polish stage.. Obviously this isn’t always possible. Sometimes the money just isn’t there, and sometimes you need to hit that ship date for Christmas. But if we find ourselves in a position where we can make a huge improvement to the game for only a 5% or 10% increase in budget, then that’s a move we want to make.
This short window limits what we can and can’t do. Obviously you can’t do major story re-writes or add detailed voiced characters. We can’t call famous voice actors back and have them re-do all their lines. Even if scheduling isn’t a problem, that’s not the sort of thing you can do cheaply. You probably can’t make sweeping changes to cutscenes, although maybe you can tweak things like props, timing, camera angles, and musical cues. Bonus points if we can improve the game by simply removing stuff that doesn’t work and still ship a complete experience.
We also can’t do major re-designs to the gameworld. No, we can’t completely change the layout of the Doom Fortress at the end of the game. But maybe we can remove the stupid hedge maze everyone hates. We can’t add all new guns to the game, but we can tweak what we’ve got. We can’t add a whole new village, but we could change an existing village so the player doesn’t constantly get caught on little bits of scenery as they walk around. We can’t redo all the sound effects, but maybe we can add or change a few.
So those are the ground rules. Here’s my list of games that could have been far better with just a little more effort.
You can’t fix a lot of the big problems with Rage this late in development. John Goodman’s character is our big introduction to the world and he’s monumentally flat and boring. The story gives us no motivation to oppose the “bad guys”, there’s nothing to entice the player to care about the “good guys”, and all of the characters are dull exposition dispensers.
But there’s still a lot we can do. The dialog is so verbose you can cut a bunch of it without hurting anything. If we can’t make the story good, we can at least make it concise.
We can probably tweak the weapons a bit to give them more punch. A few of them feel so lifeless that they aren’t worth using. Even if all we do is make the sounds boom a little harder and the foes ragdoll a little more, we might be able to give combat a little more kick.
But most importantly – and we should probably start with this one – we need to fix this ending. No, I’m not talking about the story ending. That’s a lost cause this close to release. I mean the ending fight, which involves gunning down more of the same freaks the player has been killing since the introduction. There was a great big zombie kaiju fight right in the middle of the game, and the finale is a mook shooting gallery? In an iD Software game? How did this happen? This is madness!
We need a new monster of similar stature for the finale. If we don’t have time to build a whole new monster, then we need to copy this one and give the second one a twist. If we can’t do that, then we need to swap the mook fight and zombie kaiju around so the big monster is at the end.
We can’t fix the most obvious problem with this game, which is that the tone is all over the place. Marketing made it look like this was Last of Us. Whoever made the opening cutscene thought the game was Saints Row. The in-game cutscenes and quests vacillate wildly between stilted David Cage style melodrama and joke-y nonsense. The gameplay is going for something over-the-top like Borderlands, and the visuals are aiming for photorealism and failing badly. Did we ever know what kind of game we were making?
While we can’t give the game a proper coherent identity, we can fix a lot of the really egregious failings.
We can get a massive gain in visual quality by disabling that stupid specular shader that makes it look like the entire world is glazed in sunscreen.
Right now the leveling system is self-defeating. Zombies always auto-level to match the player. Which means if you’ve lucked out and acquired a rare weapon, the worst possible thing you can do is level up, since it will make your awesome weapon less useful. We can just make various zones in the game locked to stay within a certain range. That’s a lame brute-force solution, but it’s easy and it’s much better than shipping the game with the existing system.
Also, players collect cash by looting containers, and then they go to a workbench and repair their weapons using handfuls of money. Who thought of this, and why didn’t we fire them on the spot? We could make this 100% less stupid by simply replacing the “cash” icon with spare parts, duct tape, screws, or whatever. It’s a five-minute fix. Stop this madness.
There are also a bunch of dumb interface problems we should hammer out. We need to give the player a way to disable the nagging multiplayer join invitations that appear during gameplay. Let’s get rid of the giant distracting message warning that you’re leaving the game world when you’re near the edge of the map, even if there are fences around that make leaving impossible. We can make our character models look less terrible by not ZOOMING IN ON THEIR DEAD-EYED FACES when the player begins a conversation. Finally, let’s re-write these cringe-inducing character bios and replace them with something that just describes the character from a gameplay standpoint.
The cars in this game are buggy as hell and their driving physics are terrible. It feels like a driving game from the 90’s. If we can’t fix this, let’s just remove the driving gameplay. The world isn’t that big and driving isn’t that useful anyway.
Oh, and then we should fix all these bugs. Those are pretty bad.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
I have no idea why we outsourced our boss battles to another developer. I guess hindsight is 20/20, but this other firm doesn’t seem to understand anything about our game. It’s too late to give these characters the re-write they deserve, but as a band-aid we can add some sneaky / hacking type thing to allow players to skip these fights. If we can’t fix thist before release, then maybe someday we can fix it in a Director’s Cut or something.
Even if the player decides to fight naked muscle man Namir, this fight would be ten times better if Namir would shut his stupid mouth during the fight. These combat taunts make no sense, repeat endlessly, and add nothing to the character.
Can we get a few extra dialog animations for the secondary NPCs? That one where they make chopping motions in the air in front of them is really janky, and it gets used a lot.
It’s too late to really fix the colors in this game, but can we at least dial back on the MAXIMUM ORANGE filter?
And finally, is there anything we can do about this ending in just a couple if weeks? I know it’s too late for a re-write and new dialog, but can we have the player choose an ending by using an object (blowing up a transmitter, turning on a generator, opening up a flood valve, etc) rather than choosing between three buttons positioned side-by-side in the same closet? I realize this means making a little more game space, but it would really make the ending choice less blunt and videogame-y.
First we should fix the combat. Er, maybe we should fix the fussy base-building interface instead. No, the Preston Garvey dialog. Or the broken quests. The wonky weapon balance. The nonsensical skill restrictions. The strange difficulty spikes. The pointlessly immortal NPCs who aren’t even relevant to the main plot. The ponderous intro. The glitchy scenery. The terrible AI. The level scaling that prevents you from ever encountering late-game foes and gear until you’ve leveled up enough, no matter where you go. The bad lighting. The dialog glitches. The bad hitboxes. The complete inability to make meaningfully mix-maxed specialist characters. The lack of an option to spare Kellogg. The fact that the entire story falls apart if you blast Father as soon as you meet him, even though that’s a really interesting and understandable choice. The…
Oh wow. You know what? Never mind. We’ll never put a dent in this list. Just ship it. Let the modders fix everything. We’ll sell ten million copies no matter what.
What Did I Miss?
This was a fun exercise. Try for yourself. What game do you think could be greatly improved in a short time for not too much additional cost? What games could have been far better if they’d been given just a little more time to gel?
 Which is probably a lot less than a 10% increase in budget, if we assume the team is reduced in size once you enter the polish stage.
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226 thoughts on “This Dumb Industry: "Could Have Been Great" Games”
“I want to stress test my servers and see how they deal with another 4-page 800-comments post.”
Alpha Protocol comes to mind.
With better balancing (including, by the way, the boss fights not unlike DX:HR) and more graphical polish, this game could have been punching in Mass Effect’s weight class.
How Alpha Protocol ended up is an absolute shame. Even with its many, many flaws, it’s still easily in my top 10 games of all time. The story is by far the most reactive of any RPG I’ve ever played (and in a fully voiced game, no less; Bethesda could stand to learn a thing or two from it), and the characters and writing remain top notch all the way through.
The problem was all that amazing writing had the misfortune of being shackled to gameplay that’s reminiscent of one of those $10 off-brand shooters you used to see in stores. You know, the ones that were haphazardly piled in giant bargain bins and only bought as gifts by non-gaming relatives. The combat’s awkward and lacks polish, the gunplay felt awful, the skill tree was completely unbalanced, and the hacking minigames were amongst the worst in the genre. Only a few character builds were actually fun to play, mostly the ones that avoided ranged combat entirely.
The final nail in the coffin was the publisher, Sega, writing AP off as a loss and refusing to pay for a patch (a common occurrence for Obsidian). Many of the game’s issues were easily fixable with a bit more development time, damn it!
Amen! Makes you wonder how KOTOR 2 would’ve turned out.
This. I still think that Alpha Protocol is pretty great as it is, as long as you focus on particular skills, such as handguns, sneaking and hand-to-hand. Most of the other weapon skills are just too poorly implemented.
Well I did exactly that in the combat was still pretty rubbish. The best you can say is that once you level up enough you can get ridiculously powerful abilities that eventually amount to a “win combat” button. I.e. eventually you can more-or-less skip combat, which makes it less awful.
Dunno, the pistol mark and shoot skill reminded me of Red Dead Redemption a bit. Sure, it’s a bit of a win button, but it is stylish and cool, and works well enough. The melee combat is simplistic, but meaty and occasionally satisfying. I mean, the original Mass Effect’s combat was also quite floaty, so I’m grading on a curve here. Not saying Alpha Protocol doesn’t need a lot of work, I just think you can have quite a lot of fun with what’s already there.
Thats the first thing that came to my mind as well.I love the game,but the balance was terrible.
Kinda crazy to think, since it’s one of my favorite games ever, right up there… yet there it could have been so much more.
Metal Gear Solid V could have worked on finishing Chapter 3,
,or at least having a Hardcore option for ALL of the main missions, instead of just having a couple of oddly-placed repeat missions for Chapter 2.
I.e New Game Plus.
Oh, don’t get me started on MGS V. I always thought that they could have saved a lot of time and effort and money if they cut some of the weapons and weapon customisation, which is basically useless – there are too much almost identical assasult rifles and stocks and barrels with negligible stat differences. Also remove the goddamn real-time R&D delays. The reused “extreme” misions just have to go and become an optional challenge for every completed mission.
Also, with all due respect to Kiefer Sutherland, who did a really cool job as Snake, hire David Hayter, who just IS Snake. Also, that way you could probably afford to have him actually TALK from time to time, and have enough money left over to finish Chapter 3.
Also also, you can safely remove the open world bit. There is just no reason to explore the open world in between missions. As it is, the main missions use parts of the open world with limited mission areas – just use those for the optional side-challenges as well. And cut the freaking helicopter rides. And either make Mother Base smaller, or less empty.
All in all, my point is that Kojima really wasted a lot of his budget on extraneous fluff, and the fact that we don’t have a decent Chapter 3 is mostly on him. But hey, you can put a rifle stock on your grenade launcher and paint it purple.
I agree that keeping Hayter would be preferable, but Sutherland did have quite a few lines. It’s just that the vast majority of them are in the (completely optional) cassette tapes.
The constant CODEC calls in earlier MGS games were extremely divisive, but even they were better than placing most of the story content in a submenu most players never even looked at.
Nah, even the cassette tapes are mostly people talking at him, and a lot of those don’t feature Snake at all. And “Peace Walker” also used the optional cassette recordings instead of intrusive codec calls, and I agree that it’s mostly a better option. But the overall lack of dialogue for Big Boss is ridiculous. Kojima claims it was an artistic choice, something something player immersion, but I think it was Sutherland’s expensiveness and disinterest first and foremost.
Fair enough. I remember Snake speaking a lot in them, but I might have just paid more attention to his lines since he’s more interesting than Kaz (ugh) or Ocelot (ugh). I also bailed out fairly early (mid 20’s, around the time FOBs were introduced) when it felt like all of the new gameplay elements being introduced were more chore than play. I wouldn’t be surprised if most of his dialogue is early on.
And if that’s the justification Kojima gave for Snake’s changes, I want to know how he explained turning Ocelot, probably the second most popular character in the franchise, into… whatever the hell Blandy McExposition was supposed to be.
There are technically Story-related reasons for the odd dialogue of Ocelot (I.e Troy Baker) and Snake (Kiefer Sutherland), and admittedly they aren’t very well explained (SPOILER) reasons…
The first one is that the ‘Big boss’ of MGSV is a doppelganger (or, more poetically, we are ALL Big Boss), and the second is that Ocelot is a total sadist, and used self-hypnosis to make himself sane, useful and pragmatic through the events of MGSV, and to believe that the MGSV ‘Venom Snake’ was ‘The real Big Boss’, and being boring, and Troy Baker… The ULTIMATE SLEEPER AGENT! … who puts the player to sleep ðŸ˜†.
Ocelot had sort of ‘1984’d’ himself … 2+2 = 5 etc…
Or: “Cats do like to play as Snakes”.
If only I could convince myself that I had never played MGSV, to replay it for the first time… that would be… OUTER HEAVEN!
I suppose I can’t complain too much about that since
Ocelot did something very similar in MGS4. It still feels like a colossal wasted opportunity to show how the Ocelot of MGS3 turned into the backstabbing mastermind of 1, 2 and 4.
Ocelot’s back story doesn’t really lend itself to a betrayer, more a person who just doesn’t know what he believes in, and becomes a product of a pastiche of different world ideologies and styles. Ocelot IS East AND West, which isn’t always pretty ðŸ˜†.
‘Russian Cowboy’ should have been the first clue lol…
If you get to THE VERY END of MGSV, then there is a *After Credits voiceover/stinger* conversation between Miller & Ocelot, and if you know the main twists from Metal Gear *Solid* 1 (PS1) then it is just gravy…
Nothing new is revealed, but the WAY in which it is delivered manages to effectively bridge the series, with the words… “Fine by me”. *Chills*
Although, everybody knows that the TRUE IDEOLOGY of the Metal Gear Universe is represented by.. SENATOR ARMSTRONG, from MGS: Rising… ðŸ˜‚
I don’t mind the change to Kiefer’s voice, because (Non-spoiler), they are trying to make the character of Big Boss sound somewhere between David Hayter and… Richard Doyle (I.e Old Man Big Boss)…
Also, Kiefer’s ‘Venom Snake’ character is NOT Big Boss, he is not a clone, nor is he related in any way – Venom is some chump ‘second best soldier’, who was ‘Transformed’ into Big Boss, so John (aka ‘real’ Big Boss) could end up on the fortunate side of a Transported Man trick (see, The Prestige) and escape without too much grief.
It could be argued that Venom Snake doesn’t even hear himself sound like Kiefer, even when the audience does, because that’s his ‘old voice’, which he doesn’t even remember – Venom sounds like Big Boss, which is how ever Venom thinks Big Boss sounds… so even though the two characters sound identical, this is only from the perspective of the audience… Venom doesn’t care.
It is a bit like the video game equivalent of hearing new guards with the same generic voice, and WE are able to suspend disbelief and presume that they are different goons, instead of the same person.
To Venom, John doesn’t sound like Big Boss, because only Big Boss can sound like Big Boss, and John ‘Bandage face’ cannot be John or Big Boss, because Venom is Big Boss, so Venom sounds like Big Boss, and Bandage man sounds like a nice friendly helpful great guy I really like his voice but don’t know why must help bandage man maybe he’s that second best soldier guy… I AM BIG BOSS!
2+2 is 5.
Personally, MGS5 was a great game. It was a shitty metal gear game, but the game itself had great ideas.
“You got Far-Cry in my metal gear!”
“You got metal gear in my far cry!”
The problem is that this game was just impossible to mix up. we’d have all been way better off if they had instead made the two games they WANTED to make… separately. Seriously, who decided the next MGS was open world? Or who decided to make this open world game a metal gear game? Someone, somewhere, chose to mix them and should be fired. Out of a cannon. Into the sun.
As for fixing the game, well…. I actually think the choice to change the voice actor was… ok. I didn’t actually notice the voice change, and only vaguely recall a bit of hubbub about it afterwards. If you want, there is a perfectly good way to explain it as…. it being because of the twist in the end.
The Phantom Pain couldn’t have been improved. Just cancelled and redone.
Well, we could cut the option to play as Corvo from “Dishonored 2”, for starters. Rebalance some of the powers, give “blink” and “bend time” to Emily and just admit that Titanfall 2 did the time-travel gimmick better and cut that obnoxious level, or at least rework it in a way that allows the player to use other powers.
See, sometimes you don’t really need to add anything.
Eh. I liked the “grappling hook” power, and I thought the time travel level was okay.
I think the game could do with a better main story on the first levels (at the beginning I didn’t really understand how what I was doing would help me re-take the throne, while at the later levels you start gathering political allies and actually form a plan to take out Delilah); most of it wouldn’t be feasible as a last-month fix.
Although it would have been nice for the devs to take the time to code different routines for the AIs in this levels, to avoid situations like NPCs panicking when they see a body (other than the 200 bodies of loyalists killed before their eyes). Maybe add custom lines, so the guys who see their empress on the run trying to talk to them don’t go “Can’t you see I’m busy?”.
Grappling hook was ok, especially when you move on to grabbing dudes, but for me it didn’t replace Blink or Bend Time. And I thought that Domino was overpowered, basically a “win” button.
But yeah, my main concern is that they added the unnecessary option to play as Corvo while they should have doubled down on the “all grown up Emily struggles to retake her throne and save daddy” storyline. Which, as you correctly said, is not a last-minute fix, but a reevaluation of the core concept.
I have a better idea. We should focus on performance so that it actually runs decently on modern PCs! We’ll do it with Prey*, so there’s no reason we can’t do it with Dishonored 2.
*Yes, I’m prescient/a time traveler.
That time travel gimmick level was a weird decision, and I’ve been baffled that the game didn’t get called out on it in the few reviews i read.
I don’t think it’s bad. It’s a clever gimmick and I enjoyed my second time through it. But it forces you to go powerless, which may be understandable to make the gimmick work, but is at odds with the game, feels forced even when you know it will happen, and an outright travesty the first time around. By that point, you’ve built your character already around a specific approach, it’s very unpleasant to have everything yanked away.
Which brings me to my other issue, which is that my character was pretty much done growing by that point already. I had only story to look forward to, not new gameplay. Building your powers felt shallow despite the added options. After a while, spamming the same power all the time is the easiest but most boring route. Now, nothing forces me to play that way, but finding a way to incentivize variety would be a nice addition.
I’m going to say Knights of the Old Republic 2, which is famously unfinished. Despite that, I think that the game could actually have been improved by making some judicious cuts.
(1) Cut G0T0 from the party. There are already two droids in the party and neither of them is essential to begin with. G0T0 can’t fight as well as HK-47 or do repairs as well as T3-M4. His special “control other droids” ability is also useless, since the only area actually in the game with dangerous droid enemies is Goto’s ship, which the player must clear before G0T0 joins the party.
(2) Cut lightsaber stances. The bonuses and maluses that the stances confer are so small as to be largely irrelevant by the time the game finally allows the player to acquire a lightsaber.
(3) Cut item crafting. Now, to be fair, I like item crafting. I like it a lot. I spend a lot of time doing it whenever I play KoTOR 2. But it’s buggy as all get out and my party should really be off saving the universe rather than obsessively using the workbench.
(4) Cut the drone sequence on Malachor V. Just make it a cutscene or something. If the player hasn’t already killed all or most of the storm beasts then the sequence is basically impossible. If the player has already killed most of the storm beasts then the sequence is really, really boring.
Sigh. I could go on, but I probably shouldn’t. So there you are.
Now I don’t remember KOTOR 2 all that well, but I thought that the lightsaber styles could actually synergise pretty effectively with other lightsaber stats and by the end of the game amount to quite substantial bonuses. All I remember is that I was very overpowered by the end and that lightsaber style played a part in that. Although I might be wrong.
I guess that’s possible. I’ve never really tried to min-max with the lightsaber stances. It’s just that whenever I try a style other than the default it doesn’t seem to make combat any easier or harder for me. I play on the hardest difficulty level where you’d think that the impact would be most noticeable, too. No, I think the player character’s stats, feats, and equipment all matter far more than his lightsaber stance.
Yeah, lightsaber styles provide bonuses that are typically trivial compared to what you can get with equipment or feats or Force powers by half-way through the game. You will absolutely be overpowered by the end of the game, but lightsaber styles won’t be a big part of that. They can be mildly useful early game when you haven’t maxed stuff out yet, but the problem is you learn them throughout the game so they’re typically useless by the time you actually do learn them.
“Oh, this stance gives me +4* to blaster bolt reflection? Too bad I’m dual-wielding lightsabers that give me +18*. Each.” (Granted blaster bolt reflection is pretty much the easiest stat to increase on lightsabers, but pretty much any bonus or penalty from a stance can be matched or exceeded on a lightsaber with the right parts. The only stance with an effect that can’t be matched by upgrades is the [sigh] Guardian-unique one that gives you +1 attack per round.)
While cutting stances would probably make more sense from a 6-weeks polish standpoint, I kinda wish they were more important””right now you can easily attack a group of blaster-wielding troopers with the stance meant for dueling other lightsaber users and explicitly noted as being bad against blaster bolts, and the âˆ’5* to blaster bolt reflect will cause you no real trouble at all due to it being compensated for by equipment etc. I’m not saying you should need to think hard about your stance before every single battle””I like having the first stance you learn be an all-around-decent option that you could just leave on if you don’t want to bother””but it’d be cool if the bonuses and penalties were just a bit bigger so you would no longer think nothing of charging a group enemies with a stance that’s explicitly said to be bad against fighting that group. Also, it’d be good if you either knew them all from the beginning of the game, or learned them a whole lot faster (like, before the end of Telos) than you do so you could actually use them for most of the game instead of learning the last one right before the end game.
*I don’t remember the exact numbers I’m using here, this is just for illustration.
While you’re at it, could you just cut item crafting from every game ever*? Thanks.
I can’t think of a game I’ve played where it’s added anything other than pointless busywork. and it usually unbalances the economy too.
*Unless its a survival game, in which go for it, I won’t notice
Oh, oh, but the opposite is true for the Witcher 3. Remove Geralt’s ability to use every sword and remove looting of clothes and weapons altogether – it’s out of character and breaks the economy to hell. Geralt might go through a dead guy pockets (although reluctantly), but he wouldn’t be rolling into town with a cart full of dead men’s clothes, weapons and still warm boots.
Have Geralt only use crafted swords, same with armor. Even now, there is a ton of Treasure hunt items – you can remove everything else and not feel much of a difference. I mean, no fantasy character changes swords after every fight, and the Witcher is a character-driven game. By the way, The first Witcher game only allowed a few weapons to be used with witcher fencing styles, which makes sense – witcher blades are custom made from special metals, razor sharp and uncharacteristically light.
Well I agree from a thematic perspective. But it still a faff to do crafting, even in Witcher 3 (and that’s after they improved it from the previous game).
Also I’ve been playing for probably 15 hours and have probably only use 2 or 3 of each type of sword (steel/silver) so I’m not changing weapons improbably often.
I think crafting is manageable it it’s a) thematically apropriate, and b) is only required occasionally and gives substantial improvements. So that every crafted sword is a major improvement over the previous one and is overall a big deal, as it would be in a novel or a film. There has to be a real sense of accomplishment after crafting something new and interesting.
That’s why I think that good crafting systems should exist in tandem with severely limited looting, where you won’t be finding complete weapons all the time.
I completely agree. I good crafting/upgrade system of that sort makes the game feel more rewarding. If the mats are clearly defined and found in known locations, it can make visiting places and doing things you might not normally do feel really engaging. You have a reason for doing the things you’re doing and an end goal in mind.
The problem with a lot crafting systems in games (including Witcher 3) is they want you to us a dozen each of a handful of random items that drop unpredictably from random monsters or appear in random containers spread all over the game world. There’s usually no clear path to collecting those mats so it feels more like a waiting game. “Oh, I don’t have the mat yet. *shrug* Maybe later then.”
True. Although the Witcher 3 did allow you to buy a lot of the crafting materials at stores. Plus, you actually could get a lot of them from breaking down junk which didn’t occur to me for the longest time. Now, in, say, Fallout 4, I remember searching for materials to be that much more annoying.
I’m not a big fan of crafting, but I’m okay with it in MMOs or open-world games. You know, where farting around collecting stuff and killing time is at least half the point and you’re mostly free to ignore it if you want. But it really plays havoc with my suspension of disbelief in your typical “hurry up the world’s at stake” story-driven RPG or action game.
I loved crafting in The Last of Us. Specifically, how you have to do it in real time and they keep your usable supplies small enough throughout the game that you legitimately might have to dive into cover during a tough battle and quickly throw a bandage or molotov cocktail together to save your life.
While he is superfluous from a combat point of view, G0T0 is actually one of the more interesting companions in KOTOR2. It’s just too bad that most people won’t discover this, because in order to get further into a companion storyline you have to bring them along on missions, and most people don’t bring G0T0.
Poor old Fatso… he really was dreadful in combat.
Why would I bring him? He’s a jerk. He’s not even a charismatic jerk like HK-47 or Kreia. He’s a pompous jerk. He never says anything interesting or amusing in cutscenes, so why would I expect him to do that while he’s in the party?
Oh, I mostly agree. The player is not given much reason to bring G0T0 along. It’s just that, given that his story is quite interesting, the appropriate fix would, in my opinion, be to make him more fun and useful to bring along.
G0-T0 is probably addressable by mods. My preferred fix would be removing him as a party member altogether and scripting in higher/more influence gains during convo on the ship to unlock his story. Alternatively you could set him as a puppet (like Bao-Dur’s drone) which would essentially make him a “free” party member, but I’m not sure if he’d still get interactions/interjections like a normal party member in that case.
That’s one “feature” that they could have removed to improve the game. Walling companion conversations behind an approval system that is far too stingy effectively removed that content from the game.
I really want to add “Do something about the ending,” but that seems outside the bounds of the discussion here.
I think probably the easiest fix would be the broken quest structure. We’re probably not completing the quests that were broken, but we could use the polish time to remove the remaining quest bits that make no sense (such as the HK-47 factory). There are also parts in the story where the player just sort of teleports on to the next scene with no explanation, which could really use something to transition you.
After long years of reflection, I have come to the conclusion that the ending is basically unsalvageable, even with infinite time and money . . . but that’s probably a matter of taste. I re-played the game with the cut content mod–the one that people keep saying “fixes” the ending and represents “the game as it was meant to be played”–and I thought it only made things longer, not better. It certainly didn’t solve any of my problems with the game’s themes or story. But, yeah, finishing the game would have been hard. That’s why I suggested what I hope are some relatively easy cuts instead.
Yeah TSLRCM doesn’t really solve TSL’s ultimate problem, which is basically the entire main plot from revisiting the (somehow magically rebuilt) Dantooine Enclave onwards. I’ve read multiple different interviews with Chris Avellone over the years where he outlined his intentions for the plot, but even after numerous playthroughs of TSL I still scratch my head at how I’m meant to get any of that from the mashed together end sequence. There are things mods can’t fix, and this is one example.
Do you happen to have link(s) to those interviews with Chris Avellone that you mentioned?
Not as such. It’s all bits and pieces stretching back a decade. You can probably siphon something useful out of this one though: http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2013-07-31-fear-is-the-path-to-the-dark-side
Thank you for the link. It’s such a shame that Obsidian wasn’t given more time to work on the game.
I’m unclear on the timeline presented in the article. Did obsidian plan out a trilogy before or after they played kotor 1? Because i’ve got to say, that would not have been a coherent trilogy. No 1 set nothing up, and no 2 was an entirely different tone, message and theme.
Kotor 2 was good, but it wasn’t really kotor ‘2’.
I would think it was after the initial re-write of TSL’s main plot – i.e., after they had actually played the first game. I’m pretty sure it says in that linked interview that very little of the original draft survived.
Despite Bioware not really intentionally providing much setup for sequels, Avellone’s idea of the Mandalorians being a precursor invasion instigated by the True Sith and Revan trying to conquer the Republic in order to stave off the real long term threat is actually a pretty good retcon. The only things about it that always annoyed me was the term “Jedi Civil War” and the final battle against the Mandalorians at Malachor V being constantly referenced without any real description of what happened. I think it would have been much better to start the game off at that point and use that as the tutorial section before flashing forward to the events of TSL.
I loved KOTOR 2, but I never understood Darth Nihilus. I get that he’s feeding on the life of force sensitive people and he’s super powerful, but even though he’s one of the game’s main antagonists, he’s just…there. He didn’t really feel like a character.
He’s supposed to be the mirror of the player. Both became wounds in the Force due to exposure to the mass-shadow generator detonation at Malachor V. But whereas the Exile turned away from war, conflict, and cut themselves off from contact with others, Nihilus embraced what he had become, feeding on others until he eventually became little more than a walking blackhole. He is thin on characterisation because he literally has no character. He is eternal hunger wrapped in a black robe.
This was one of the things I appreciated about the Sith Lords Restoration Mod -it made this a bit more clear. It also explains the Jedi Council’s position a bit better -they recognize that the Exile and Darth Nihlus are the same thing, the only difference is in what they do with their “wound in the force.” It also explains Kreia’s attachment to the Exile and her ultimate goal -in seeing what the Exile has done for the party, and what Nihlus has done to the universe, she wants to make the Force itself entirely like the Exile. For an evil playthrough, she despairs and wants the Force to destroy the universe and get it over with, but for a good playthrough she thinks that ending the Force’s ability to directly intervene in the universe would make it a better place -just like the Exile’s companions became better by the Exile’s not feeding on them (but if the player is too good, she thinks the Exile is weakening the companions by preventing their growth).
Alas, this is only really clear if you play through the game twice -once each. And even then, not really.
This one might be a candidate for polish, though, just because so much of it is already actually in the game -just cut from the final release.
I have played KoTOR 2 many times, and I think you are being rather generous. For one thing, I’ve seen my character exclaim to Atris “But Kreia wants to destroy the Force!” in a Light Side playthrough. (It’s typical of KoTOR 2 that my character had no way of knowing this or reason to believe it at the time that he said it.) While Kreia does seem to like a Light Side player a little more, she seems to have the same Force-destroying master plan either way. But I have so many issues with Kreia and with game’s treatment of the Force that I may not have been able to pick up on the subtleties over the sound of my own grinding teeth during the endgame.
Ah, that makes a lot of sense. I played the game for the first time (with the Restored Content Mod) last year, I really need to start another playthrough to see all the things I missed on the first go around.
I would suggest that cutting out about 75% of the words, all of that padding at the beginning (along with the padding in the middle), and Kreia’s entire character would pretty much fix KOTOR2.
George Lucas’ “Faster, more intense” maxim was never more sorely missed.
You want to cut out the game?
Kreia is a large part of why the game is so enjoyable, in my opinion. The entire game feels like a deconstruction of Star Wars tropes, with Kreia the one leading the charge.
Honestly I don’t really think Star Wars tropes stand up to deconstruction in any meaningful way. So there’s shades of grey between the dark and light side? So what? All of the characters in the original trilogy are in some way morally ambiguous already.
My problems with Kreia are:
1) Kreia doesn’t really do anything apart from passive-aggressive sniping. She doesn’t actually have anything interesting to say, least of all her tiresome “lessons” about how trying to do the right thing can go wrong as long as the circumstances are sufficiently contrived.
2) She’s a reaction to the perceived light side/dark side simplicity of the Jedi, but that stuff is only really in Star Wars because the terrible authors behind the expanded universe can’t handle nuance (all Bothans are spies etc.). Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda and Vader are all far more complex as characters in the original trilogy than just light/dark.
3) Her constant assertions that things are more complex than the player character can understand give the impression of depth without ever actually becoming interesting. She’s basically just being an edgelord. Meanwhile, Kreia’s real motivations are tiresomely selfish.
4) The game wouldn’t let me push her straight out of an airlock, which was the only logical course of action for player characters of any alignment.
Thats because,as depicted in the original trilogy,light vs dark was order vs chaos,calm vs anger.It had nothing to do with good and evil.But,because the protagonist was also good as well as (trying to be) orderly,the two ideas somehow merged,and in every material since light side suddenly became the good side,and dark side the evil side.And you cant really deconstruct order vs chaos by comparing good and evil.
I don’t see how you can view the Empire as being the chaotic ones.
Empire is not dark side,emperor is.And thats precisely the problem I was talking about:Equating two different alignments just because they are on the same side of the fight.
Even that doesn’t hold. Obiwan and Yoda are the one’s who lie and decieve, who play it by ear. The emperor is the one with the long term master plan, trying to bring order to the galaxy.
You could make a case that it’s about selfishness vs compassion, but then you’re going back towards evil and good.
They dont lie,from a certain point of view.
Joking aside,the larger conflict does not matter to their personal philosophies.Both obi wan and yoda are about being calm,keeping your emotions in check.It may not be external order,but order of ones mind,ones emotions.The emperor is all about letting your anger flow,dominating with sheer strength and raw unconstrained power*.It may not be external chaos,but chaos of ones mind,ones emotions.
And heres the most interesting thing about the originals:How the leaders of the empire and rebellion behave is not a 1:1 reflection of how the empire and the rebellion behave.This means that despite being considered as a simplistic black and white(and it mostly is),the original trilogy is the most nuanced of all the star wars material.Its the closest one to reality,where the head of an organization can have a personality thats almost a direct opposite of the organization as a larger entity.
*UNLIMITED POWAH may be the only thing the prequels did right.Well,ignoring the goofy look of that scene.
When did the Emperor act out of emotion in the original trilogy? The only moment I can think of is when Vader picked him up to throw him down the shaft. Even while electrocuting Luke, he was calm and collected otherwise. He didn’t dominate everything with strength, but through manipulation of their emotions, while he kept his hidden. Only when Luke refused him did he whip out the ol’ lightning hands.
He wanted Luke to give in to his emotions, but only because that would have made him easier to control. He didn’t actually want to act that way himself.
Vader had the temper issues, even Luke at times, the Emperor did not.
“All Bothans are spies”? Granted it’s been a few years since I’ve read any EU novels, but the first two Bothans that come to mind from those books were 1) a senator and 2) an X-Wing pilot.
If memory serves, the senator owes a lot of his political influence to all that great spying the Bothans do, and the X-wing pilot’s whole character arc revolves around how she’s refusing to be a spy.
…Actually, wasn’t she *introduced* as a spy on Coruscant?
4) If I remember correctly she and the player character had a force link that caused them to share damage, pain, et cetera. Pushing her out of an airlock would probably have been suicide.
So, the game won’t let you suicide! I suppose that is a reduction of player agency, but not really in a meaningful way. If you want a game over so badly you can just power off your computer.
I think in the immediately post-prequels years a lot of people were positively itching for a Star Wars deconstruction. So far, so good. But a lot of the praise I hear for KoTOR 2 is a long the lines of “it’s so much more complex than KoTOR” along with the implication that it is also “more complex” than the movies themselves. I don’t think that’s true. The moral choices in KoTOR 2 aren’t any more complex than those in KoTOR. Generally speaking, the game gives you the opportunity to help a person, ignore a person, exploit a person, or kill a person for no good reason. That’s the same exact set of choices you’ll find in KoTOR. And for all that the game–or perhaps just Kreia, although that’s very nearly the same thing–seems to sneer at Light vs Dark and suggest that the universe is more complicated than that, it never says how the universe is more complicated than that. Nor does Kreia have anything in the way of a compelling alternate world view to offer. So I don’t think that KoTOR 2 really deconstructs Star Wars tropes, unless pointing at a trope and strongly implying that it is stupid counts as deconstruction. Heck, maybe it does. I was not a literature major.
I think there are two reasons that KoTOR works as well as it does. First, the dialogue and vocal performances are very good. I hate Kreia. I hate her intensely. But her voice actress is absolutely phenomenal. The hate didn’t set in until I’d played through the game several times and really got to thinking about it. The second reason that KoTOR 2 works as well as it does is that it is unfinished. Whatever problems you may have with the game, you can tell yourself “Obsidian would have fixed that if they’d had more time.”
Some are a little more complicated. You have the Czerka choices on Telos where the good guys are clearly idealists with no plan and the bad guys are ruthlessly efficient, where in KOTOR 1 the bad guys are always the inefficient ones (especially Czerka). The Serroco are a bunch of bad guys, but your fight with them is about making room for other people to move in. You never have a G0-T0 in KOTOR 1 with his attitude of “Stabilize things, I don’t care how”.
Beyond the moral choices, the setting is a lot darker, where most of the societies feel like they’re clutching at straws. The big threats don’t have armies, they’re just death and nihilism in the wake of a crippling war. The primary moral choice is killing or bringing back the last few Jedi, and it feels like you’re putting bandaids on an amputee (or ripping bandaids off an amputee because you’re a dick).
I just can’t agree with a lot of this. Czerka aren’t efficient. They’re comedically corrupt and can’t even control their own mercenary army. The Ithorians are a bunch of hapless pacifists, it’s true, but the bits of Telos they’ve restored are pretty nice. The Sith do have an army, or who were all those mooks I killed?
I’ll admit, though, that the nature of the threat to the Republic has changed. It’s now in danger of disintegration rather than conquest. And Obsidian does establish the mood pretty well.
The Sith in this case are several divided factions. Some are Darth Sion’s, (no reason to think he has more men than are with him at any given time), some are Kreia’s, (…probably?) some are holdouts from Malak’s army, and some are Nihilis’ (who is presented as being a world-ending threat by himself). Apart from the droids (…I forget what their deal was) and Malachor V (which is just a bad idea through and through), they’re not built up as being an army; any fight could be the one that wipes this faction out.
I think this is big factor not just for KOTOR 2 but for a lot of games. It sometimes seems to me like the more broken/incomplete a game was at release the easier it is to slip on the rose tinted glasses and remember playing a game that mostly existed in your head.
Czerka is completely incompetent on Telos too. People in the game talk about how they’re the only viable option for restoring Telos, but it’s pretty clear they’re cutting too many corners and the restoration project will simply fail outright if you leave it up to them.
But is that a good thing in a sequel to a trope embracing, quintessentially star wars hit game? A lot of people expected kotor 2 to be more kotor. Instead of ‘star wars yay’ they got ‘star wars…boo?’.
In that way, being unfinished really hurt the game, getting as far as ‘star wars as you know it is not…’ before leaving confused kotor 1 fans hanging.
I think removing any sequel content and references to the first game and calling it star wars: the sith lords (no kotor) would have been better, letting the game stand as its own thing (though i suspect with less market appeal).
The whole reason the short-term development fiasco happened in the first place was because LucasArts wanted a sequel out the following Christmas. It wouldn’t have existed as another game. Whatever form it took, it was always going to be a direct sequel.
Personally I loved Kreia. She represents:
a) One of the only times I can recall a game presenting a mother-figure (we have father-figures galore but don’t seem to have many mother-figures – although I’m sure there will be some in games I haven’t played)
b) An excellent example of a mentor relationship. Bioware loves trying to do mentor relationships (Jolie Bindo, Wynne etc) but they tend not to actually do a lot of mentoring. With Kreia she actually trains you (if you let her), and that feels super-appropriate in a Star Wars game.
c) A character with a strong opposing point of view to clash with in conversation – where that point of view isn’t simple “I should be in charge” or “all mages are evil”. You can argue that the game (or the character) kind of cheats by having Kreia sometimes oppose whatever choices you make, but that isn’t unrealistic – there are real people who will disagree for the sake of it, and Kreia genuinely does have a reason for doing this (trying to sharpen the Exile). You don’t have to agree with Kreia’s viewpoint to like her as a character.
But you have to leave that one early Kreia conversation with the seven options that get progressively more insulting. (“I’m not taking orders from a delusional old hag!”)
That particular minor act of rebellion does rather lose its teeth when the Exile ends up spending pretty much the entire rest of the game taking orders from said delusional hag anyway….
The beginning of the game is my favorite part.
Uh, Shamus, would it be possible to save more than 12 comments at a time in your comments RSS feed? I understand that you do not want this blog to become a forum with individual comment/commenter tracking and a user control panel for unread posts (for obvious reasons). But if you wanted to give us non-24h-on-internet nerds a chance of finding every new comment if we are away from the computer for a few hours, 12 just does not cut it.
I will probably get hell for this, but I actually like the art style in DX HR, including the orange filter.
Me too. It made the game distinctive from other games and reminded me of Gattaca which I believe uses a similar colour filter.
Your hell is on its way, please allow 3-5 business days for delivery. Enjoy!
Come on, cut me some slack. I know that “catch hell” is the more popular expression, but the Internet tells me that “get hell” is also appropriate, if slightly obscure. But yeah, I bungled it up a bit, I admit:))
Oh, I know. I wasn’t mocking you for the use of the less common phrase. More playing on the phrase itself. Sorry if it came out wrong – I was just having a bit of fun, not intended to be insulting at all.
Nah, it was a good joke, that’s just me being self-conscious about my English))
Let me tell you that I also like the orange filter and the highlights in human revolution,because it fits the theme.So,yeah,hell is the right place for you.
Another DX:HR suggestion: ditch (almost all) the cutscenes.
They were (mostly) railroad-tastic, and in a really bad way.
It’s probably not a 6-week last-minute job, but in a game series famous for it’s freedom of choice, having the game take control away, make your character do something really stupid, then hand back control – basically saying ‘now get out of this situation I fucked up for you!’ – was a terrible choice.
Cutscenes are long & expensive to make, right?
Couldn’t you have programmed in a less dumb way to introduce the bosses/situations, using the in-game engine?
Like over the radio: “Adam look out! Someone’s hacking our signal, they know where you are! That guy’s locked all the doors, you’ll have to kill him to escape.”
Not great, but much better than what we got: (cutscene of Adam blundering into a room and getting jumped by the boss character).
I agree. Most of the cutscenes were superfluous and a couple had really frustrating cases of railroaded stupidity. It would probably be a better, and cheaper, game without them.
…but yes, it’s not a change for the last few weeks. By that point the cutscenes are definitely finished, and they’re not gonna ditch them when they were almost certainly a huge expense. Hell, they might not have even been a developer choice to begin with. This game is published by Square Enix after all, I wouldn’t be surprised if a push for them came from above. So unfortunately, I don’t see them dropping them in the polish phase.
Though yeah, really wish some of them were. “Men always underestimate women”, MAN that was stupid.
I think it’s probably more a problem to do with running on a console – developers like to have videos to play, so that they can clear memory and do some loading in the background, such as before a boss fight when you’ll need some new assets available. Alternative approaches to operating on a slow storage medium include the doors opening in Resident Evil, and the elevators in Mass Effect, neither of which are really an improvement.
The elevators most definitely were an improvement.People just like to dump on them because its funny.But compare them to what was made for the sequels and youll see how good that idea actually was.Their placement couldve been made better,sure,but they are way better than standard loading screen.
Far Cry 2 is the classic example here. One single issue – all enemies respawn whenever you load a new area – is everyone’s biggest criticism of the game. Even lead designer Clint Hocking admits as much. He just didn’t think people would notice it enough to justify the fix.
I ragequit(ted?) because of that and never returned. Actuall I did return one, and ragequit again.
Oh, this is the winning comment for me! :D
The Black Mesa devs seem to be indicating that it’s an abnormally long fix. Evidently Xen was just so bad that it makes attempts to replace it take longer than they should.
Holy crap, are they still working on that game? That’s some impressive dedication and/or regrettable feature-creep.
(personally, I thought the Xen levels were mostly fine once you get in the alien facility; so I guess a last-minute fix for Half Life would be cutting the parts before that)
You could vastly improve Dragon Age 2 by removing most of the combat. It had a lot going for it that was ruined by its insistence I fight between one and two groups of enemies going through non-day areas that always came in waves of three even if that meant they spawned from the sky. Drastically reducing the number of encounters and enemies in side quests, main quests, and walk abouts would have made that game great. I find it funny that a game that had so many issues with its combat mechanics felt the need to grab the player and force their nose in it. Strangely enough though not as bad Dragon Age 2 you could improve Dragon Age: Origins in similar manner especially in the draggy parts of the game like the deeps or the fade. I haven’t played inquisition yet but I’m guessing from what I heard same advice would apply.
Also I would have named it Dragon Age: Kirkwall to better telegraph what type of story players are getting.
Strangely enough I feel like you could improve most strategy RPGs by removing combat. Dragon Age Origins, Pillars of Eternity, Tyranny – all would be improved by removing some of the ‘trash mob’ combats. They’d be shorter games, but they’d still be long enough, and we wouldn’t have to wade through same-y fights all the time. In an action game doing the same fight multiple times can still be fun. In a strategy game once you’ve done a fight once, its really not much fun to repeat it.
Alternatively, you can improve them by introducing the script system from Dragon Age Origins. That way you can at least hack through basic mobs on auto-pilot and remove the hassle of applying the same buffs at the start of every encounter. And still feel the satisfaction of building good scripts, pretty much like the Gambit system in Final Fantasy XII. I never really understood why the AI instrustions in latter DA games and Obsidian tytles were so limited, when they could have just lifted the system from DA:O. This really bothered me in Tyranny, where in the latter half of the game the combat was easy enough to be boring, but hard enough to require constant tedious micro-management.
Or just ditch the frickin “real time with pause” bullshit in favor of a decent turn-based system. Any turn based system would have better flow than real time with pause.
Well I’d prefer they did what you said AND removed the trash mobs. Agree about Tyranny – I thought one of the most sensible things they did with Pillars of Eternity was making pre-combat buffing impossible. When I’d heard they’d put it back for Tyranny I groaned… it may be realistic, but it is SOOO boring.
IMO Dragon Age Origins (and FFXII) combat systems were great–not perfect, but so much better than other attempts at the same thing. I was SO disappointed with the subsequent DA games after Origins.
“Hey! We won game of the year and became an overnight phenomenon! What should we do next?”
“I know! Destroy everything fun about the series. Abandon the original and super cool warden angle for some generic mage vs non-mage bs, and copy the exact same map in every dungeon!”
Least, that’s how I imagine the conversation went.
I think that I have read developer posts on PoE II that they are planning on doing basically that. They plan to add scripts that you can write for your dudes, and they plan to reduce trash mob fights and focus on big confrontations.
I felt that way about Final Fantasy 13-3, at least. Solve crimes and fix people’s problems while time-looping like in Majora’s Mask and being sure to look fabulous while doing it? Sounds great! Spend eighty percent of your time fighting trash mobs in between zones? Oh. Never mind.
While repetetive combat and trash mobs is a recurring problem in this kind of RPG, Dragon Age 2’s combat was a special case.
You’re almost finished with that group of bandits? Another wave literally leaps out of solid walls to attack you. Hoping to FINALLY be done with those giant spiders? LOL more just fell from the sky, kiss another 5 mins goodbye.
In another RPG, go into a room with 10 baddies, fight those 10 baddies, end of fight.
In DA:2, see 10 baddies, and you knew you’d have to wade through at least 30.
For (say) DA:O, the fights felt like a waste of time – but for DA:2, you felt like your time was actively being wasted.
It took a massive hammer to any considerations of strategy (next wave just spawned in on top of your mages, party positioning can suck it LOL) or immersion.
Several times I got attacked in a crowded marketplace, and the merchants just stood around runing through ‘look at my wares’ animations while fireballs fell on their heads. And bandits leapt out of the walls above them.
It was less ‘epic fantasy combat’ and more ‘tiresome whack-a-mole’.
I never played anything past Origins. I really liked the story aspect of the game, but the combats were a slog, which made the inventory management also a slog.
Those problems were reasonably well addressed in the second game. Combat was a lot more dynamic in 2, though there was indeed an excessive amount of it.
Also, I personally think the writing was better in 2 than Origins, which was a little too “generic Bioware fantasy.” DA2 is a real departure from their usual fare, being essentially 3 focused stories that take place in a single location and following a single protagonist over the course of 10 years, instead of a grand epic where the protagonist saves the world from destruction. Structurally, I think it’s the best of their modern games, it just wasn’t given enough time in development to realize its potential properly. 6 weeks wouldn’t be anywhere near enough to fix the problems DA2 had – it’d need probably 6-12 more months (it was developed in barely over a year). It’s a real shame, because I think they learned some of the wrong lessons from the reception it got – Inquisition doubles down on some of DA2’s flaws, overcorrects on others, and “fixes” things that actually weren’t broken.
DA2 need had about three basic maps that they reused for every single scene. I don’t know how long it takes to make more maps, but they needed quite a few, and I doubt that they could finish enough in 6 weeks. It would have made a HUGE difference to the game though.
The only other big problem was the “raining men” issue that you mentioned before. It was a lazy way to balance combat. They addressed that in DA:I by removing healing spells. I actually think that was a good modification, although I dislike most of the other changes DAI made.
I did think that the story in DA2 was a bold move.
Yeah, I agree. I think they needed to do more to show the passage of time in the city of Kirkwall – it doesn’t change NEARLY enough between acts, especially considering it’s the only major location in the game. It needed to feel dynamic and alive, like a real city, instead of largely static like it did.
I think the earlier point made about the sheer volume of fights in these sorts of games was a good one, too. The whole DA series has this problem – there are specific locations where lots of fights (or a few really big ones) make sense – the Deep Roads, actual war zones – but otherwise there really shouldn’t be routine body counts in the dozens every time a new area loads. Especially not inside a nominally orderly city – even one with brewing unrest. If threats to life and limb were that omnipresent in the world, all semblance of order and civilization should have collapsed long since, and everyone that couldn’t defend themselves from eldritch horrors would already be dead.
Which is a long way of saying that the band-aid fix of removing healing potions from DAI was addressing the wrong side of the problem. I don’t necessarily think that combat should be rare in these games – most of the abilities are centered on fighting, and that’s a major pillar of the core gameplay loop – but maybe a bit less routine.
Da2 could be hugely improved by adjusting the minimap to respect the “current layout” of map #2 instead of the full template, imho. It’s one thing to reuse assets, another to rub our faces in it.
If they had done that, I honestly probably wouldn’t have noticed the reused map that much. I mean, caves don’t typically look that distinctive anyway.
This will always depress me. DA2 has some really neat ideas, a few half-baked ideas that could have been good with some more work, and some of the best character writing BioWare has ever done. It deserved another year of development just like you said. But it was rushed, the reception was negative, and now most of those innovations are unfairly maligned. And we’re back to all their games being “You are The Special who must Save The World from Evil Thing.” Booorrring.
I agree with this in the main, with following revision:
I like the idea of calling it “Dragon Age: Kirkwall” or some similar name -but in polishing it up, they need to make clear much earlier on that this is the story of Kirkwall -not Hawke. Heck, just having a line early on where the player says “Call me Hawke…” or otherwise telegraphs loudly that “You are playing Ishmael, not Ahab!” would go a long way to making the game more intelligible.
Over time, the game has grown on me. I don’t think that it needed new maps -the maps it had just need to be used more intelligently. Simply make a point that “the whole game takes place in a single city, and you can go anywhere you want at any time.” The problem comes from pretending that you weren’t going to the same cave system for every quest. I’m perfectly happy to learn that the Sundermount is fairly frequently taken over by bandits.
There is so much that I like about DA2. The central conflict is imho more interesting than the darkspawn invasion of the first game (though the execution is so very flawed). I like that the story focuses on personal angles rather than the usual “your motivation is saving the world” fare. You’re finally a mage in cutscenes (if you’re playing one) and you have mage dialogue options (I’m looking at you, ME biotic Shepards)! Placing the game in one city over years was a great idea, it let us follow the stories of NPCs (both companions and not) and locations, see events unfold. I don’t mind reusing assets if it makes sense and in this case revisiting the city locations was a feature not an issue (some of the other locations less so). I’d actually love to play more games using a similar premise of a central location changing over a longer period of time.
For full disclosure I’m also like one of the ten people on the planet who liked Anders’ arc. I understand the frustration of many players with it but I think it’s probably one of the most interesting bits of insight on spirits in the whole series.
I liked Ander’s arc, but I thought that it ended rather clumsily. They either needed to give us some way to stop him once we guessed what he was up to OR a more convincing reason that we couldn’t.
Also, picking a final boss battle and sticking to it would have done the game a lot of good. It’s inane that no matter what choices you make that you must fight Orsino-turned-monstrosity followed by Knight Commander Meredith, the Red Lyrium Bitch. It feels forced whether you side with the Templar OR the mages. Given that the fallout from the mage rebellion wouldn’t be impacted substantially, there was really no reason for it, either.
An interesting twist might have been to have Orsino and Meredith fight each other, while Hawke and crew rush to save nearby civilians from blood magic and red lyrium.
After the fight Hawke could put down the winner.
That actually is an interesting twist. Your choices leading up to it maybe determine the field of battle and who you enter beside, but they’ve both been corrupted by one thing or another, and past saving. It’d do a better job of driving the point I think the writers were trying to convey with that plot – the limits of one person’s power over larger events. The climaxes of Act I and II are all about Hawke’s rise to power – how his/her actions reshape the world – but Act III is really all about larger events overwhelming individuals.
Making both Orsino and Meredith basically beyond you for most of the battle while they duke it out would be an interesting twist on the traditional “boss battle” – a thing which Bioware has never done especially well anyway (they tend to be either bad or derivative).
Considering how entertaining Bioware’s combat normally is, you could say this about most of their games. But at that point it’s just snide instead of helpful, because the real solution is to make better combat.
I agree with you in the sense that most fights start out pretty good… then they spawn in two more waves for funsies. Just have one really good placement of enemies!
I know this is gunna seem oddly specific but
Dark Souls 1 but specifically the PC release. Simple fact is, this game was heavily restricted by the console specs and the port was not only completely unable to use the extra power of PC but forcefully locked itself to 30 FPS despite it not breaking anything in the game as well as numerous other bedbugs. And to drive this point home, a modder quickly built a mod (despite it being a game that did not support mods) that removed the frame limiter and trickled in all the other issues after that. It’s not perfect but he didn’t have access to the games source, if they had another 6 weeks to work on the pc version it would have been as well rounded as the other Dark souls pc releases
Locked to 720p as well, wasn’t it? Also, Durante is a goddamn superstar. So glad to see he was picked up by XSEED for the Steam release of Cold Steel, damn that game runs flawlessly thanks to him (and he REALLY went above and beyond, adding stuff like ultra-wide support, HBAO+, shadow map resolutions, draw distances including DISABLING THEM so everything always draws at any distance, etc). Wish all PC ports got this treatment :/
I mean, if you’re gonna fix anything about Dark Souls 1, I think Izalith takes priority. The area is boring and the boss is excruciating. The whole area reeks of rushed development.
I’d say Izalith as well. I believe they’ve gone on record as saying it was rushed, and boy does it show. Just hours of big empty spaces, dull enemies, recycled boss fights, janky boss fights, MAXIMUM LAVA BLOOM, and I’m pretty sure you could even see a big gap of nothing beneath the level geometry right before the last boss. Not even hidden or anything, just a clearly visible void. It’s a shame, considering there’s a lot they could’ve done with “the birthplace of all demons”.
I would love for them to do a little bit for Izalith. New Londo is also a very meager area, and it would have been nice if they’d had the time to put Undead King Jar-Eel into it. Unless he was cut for quality or something. Dude has a finished moveset and model.
Izalith is awful, but the Great Hollow deserves mention as well. Granted, it’s an entirely optional secret area so a difficulty spike should be expected, but the problem is that most of the difficulty is solely due to bad level design.
It’s a massive vertical level with narrow, twisting pathways littered with invisible walls (which will cause you to slide to your death if you brush up against them), the complex geometry screws with your camera controls, and it’s very difficult to tell the difference between places you can safely drop down and ones where falling will instantly kill you.
A little more time spent testing and polishing the area would have made it much more bearable – as is, falling while exploring it is responsible for about a third of the deaths in my current playthrough.
oh my gods someone else! Yes! The game might be great but ho ly fuck the PC port is complete and utter trash and everyone who defends it bcs muh darksouls 1. Couldn’t agree more, the shoddy port pretty much killed 1 for me while I love 2 and 3.
Harbinger sends his regards.
This hurts all of us.
Hand of Fate would have been well improved by a difficulty adjustment and not starting levels with curses that give you more curses.
They could have improved the combat a lot, by making you (more?) able to fumble combos by getting the timing wrong. (Dodges/rolls should also be fumble-able.) Right now, you can basically just mash the buttons, since the timing window on the button presses is so forgiving. Instead of feeling like a cool fighter who’s beating up barbarians and monsters, I feel like I’m just throwing my guy into the vague direction of the fight.
Mass Effect Andromeda, of course.
Remove the unskippable cutscenes (they did this later), fix some of the animations at the start of the game, remove the most embarrasing dialogues and voilà , shitstorm avoided. First impressions count for a lot and the game does get better later so these small changes would have made a big difference.
While there are a few simple fixes that could avoid the shitstorm, I’m highly skeptical that six weeks of work could have made the game ‘great’. I’ve not played it myself, but from what I understand, its problems are a lot more fundamental.
They shouldn’t have tried releasing another ME game in the first place (much less a new trilogy), it was a poor attempt to piggyback on the hype of the first series long after any hype was dead and mostly resentment was left. Admittedly I haven’t played the game myself either and have only seen partial LPs but if you replaced the established alien races (and let’s be honest, most of the ideas weren’t that original, if at all) you could have fairly easily pushed Andromeda out as an original setting.
I get that there’s name recognition, which usually boosts sales. And that EA apparently just isn’t interested in funding a game that isn’t a sequel or has potential for them. And other, committee-, focus group- and profit-driven reasons.
But the team producing Andromeda did see the fallout from ME3’s ending, right? The masssive expectations? The resentment? Why did they not consider another option?
It’s not like semi-sequels are unheard of (Goldeneye-Perfect Dark, System Shock 2-Bioshock).
Phrases like ‘spiritual sucessor’ or ‘made by the same team who brought you…’ might have served them really well.
Better than dragging all the baggage attached to the Mass Effect name.
They are but it has fun enough gameplay that a more polished first hour or so would get enough players hooked to see it through, at which point it would be famous like fallout 3.
Add six more active power slots.
The Long Dark, but specifically, it’s single-player story-mode. One thing to fix would be to cut the number of wolves in half, and tweak their AI to be more consistently scared of fire. Right now, there’s about 3-4 in the first village you wander into, and they only react to fire about 50% of the time. Given that there’s no difficulty slider (unlike the sandbox mode), the difficulty of the wolves is off the charts. Second, rip out the checklist MMO-style quest system, and replace it with paper-looking journal entries that do exactly the same thing. The interface is doing disservice to the game here, by grabbing the camera to shove these into your face with a fade-to-black, and also by having the whole UI of the game (and especially the checkbox list of quests) look like a sci-fi affair.
I might go back to this game on the weekend, but these problems (plus the wooden acting in the cutscenes) is seriously making me regret waiting for this game’s single-player mode.
I gave up on the story mode, it’s just not fun. I made it to Milton and I’ve never seen so many wolves around a town (or on the way there).
Yeah, that’s where I’m stuck right now – just made it to the church on the outskirts of Milton (I’d forgotten the name). I scared off one wolf with my flare, then went to loot a car, and got ambushed by a wolf that was not scared, despite my flare. The semi-random behaviour of the wolves works well in sandbox mode, because it’s trying to simulate a world where you might just encounter that one desperate wolf who’s hungry enough to ignore your flare. Unfortunately, this is completely at odds with the story mode, where there’s scripted events / story beats that the player is supposed to be experiencing. It just doesn’t make for a good story, if the person experiencing it has to repeat sections over, and over, and over…
Just in case this is asking for hints, some of the things that worked for me:
First off, circle around wolves while keeping your distance. (This one is kind of obvious.)
Throwing flares or torches at wolves doesn’t really work anymore, just keep holding them and keep backing off while looking at the wolf.
Don’t expect to get away with carrying guts or meat around wolves. Assuming they don’t straight up charge you though, decoys work as well as they always have.
If all else fails, start a fire at your feet, since wolves are always afraid of campfires. It works even during the firestarting process.
You can fight about two wolves off no problem even with just the metal shard, assuming you have full condition to start with. Just make sure you always have some bandages and painkillers (or rose hip tea) on you at all times.
All that being said, wolves are indeed a bit silly in story mode. At least that problem goes away about fifteen minutes after you reach Milton, thanks to the amazing power of rabbit pelts. The cliche characters gatekeeping the story for incredibly arbitrary reasons…
Can you actually drop decoys in story mode, though? I didn’t see the option in the radial menu, unlike in survival.
Also, why rabbit pelts?
It’s bound to a key (3 by default). And rabbit pelts are worth +50 trust with you-know-who, which translates to super-fast unlocking of the distress pistol trust milestone.
Funny thing about the flare gun, actually: the very first time I used it, I shot a wolf in the head and it instantly dropped dead, along with my jaw. Haven’t been able to reproduce that since, but I did at one point embed a flare in a wolf’s back.
Thanks, I keep forgetting those shortcuts (except 4).
As for the distress pistol, nice to know. I’d heard that a bear on fire was a sight to behold, and seeing that wolf, I guess that’s a good indicator of how that’d look.
Mass Effect 3 is one case where I’d use the 6 weeks to only remove things instead of adding anything.
Delete absolutely everything between the death of the adjective person and the activation of the Instant Win Button. Never have the noun show up at all. Delete 2 of the ending choices, leaving only the one where the player accomplishes the goal of the game by destroying the Reapers completely without destroying the method of galactic travel or stranding anybody, so no inferred dark age for the galaxy
Lack of a choice in the ending might upset some players, but it’s a far far better alternative than what we got to start with.
Mass effect 3 wouldve been fixed easily by doing just one thing:firing this guy.
Or, even better, trigger the ending based on actions taken during the game. Were you hostile to the Geth and sided with the Quarians? Destroy ending. Did you constantly reconcile the two? Synthesis. Did you side more with the Illusive Man on the Reapers? Control. Sure, you might have to go back and look over the past parts of the game to make triggers that make sense, but at least this way you’d avoid the biggest problem with the ending, which is that all of the choices that you made in the game don’t seem to matter here.
Both the Destroy and Synthesis endings should never have been seen. The Destroy ending implies that TIM was right all along. The Synthesis ending is probably the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen. I know Mass Effect isn’t proper hard sci-fi, but generally tries.
Totally agree. You can do literally nothing except cut content from the existing ending and end up with something much better than the current ending.
Having said that, I never saw the original ending, so that is kind of cheating since I guess the original ending would still have massive holes in it.
Eh, keep a choice, but make it a choice between what Anderson wants and what Illusive Man wants. If you do this, you maybe kill all the Reapers. If you do that, you can MAYBE control them. Both characters are… pretty sure their method will work… (but not completely!) and then have the player decide from there.
In Freelancer you had to Level Up between story-missions to make them available. Leveling up was build around task like kill X of Y in system Z, over and over.
By making this optional and with better quests the game could have been greatly improved.
Same goes for the first NfS Most Wanted. You have to do these ever lasting Cop Chases to increase the Wanted Level to increase in the Black List Rank. Tiring. Carbon had improved this, by making the cop chases mostly optional.
Also: No Rubber Band AI!!! If you can’t program a good driver AI, licence one EA.
The fix to Freelancer was to play it in LAN mode – especially since most modern basic computers can run an instance of the server and an instance of the game at the same time!
I know that’s a cop-out but it’s totally the best way to play the game.
For Deus Ex: Human Revolution: your auto-recharging batteries should recharge beyond the first battery.
Agreed. Agreed just, so much.
Make it a purchasable upgrade, if you have to. Just…something that stops me being the candybar-scoffing monster.
Or at the very least: abilities which use one bar of energy start with the one that recharges.
There are legitimate reasons to have a resource-limited energy system in a game that only partly recharges (see blinking in Dishonored), but making every little knockout, takedown, or jump cost you permanently unless you’re already out of energy is just a bad idea all around.
If memory serves, in the Director’s Cut two batteries recharged by default. And by then they’ve also fixed the boss battles and lots of other stuff.
Yes. Every time my energy got fully-recharged (by a story development or somesuch) it made me actively avoid using fun abilities until I felt I really had to. Yuck.
Far Cry 3 – Add Quick Save and Quick Load
Final Fantasy XIII-III – remove this time mechanic and pretend XIII-II never happend.
Final Fantasy XII – Cut Van and everything around this character.
Divinity II – Balancing. With a 2-hand-sword you are a magnitude weaker than with 2 one-hand-swords.
Mass Effect Andromeda – Add Quarians, Volus, Elcor and Hanar.
DA Inquisition – Cut a lot of this empty space.
The time mechanic in Lightning Returns is not a problem, considering you can stop the timer. The problem is the game trying to hurry you along with codec calls every in-game hour, or Hope remind you too often to do something.
Removing that fake urgency and half the codec calls would help immensely.
Far Cry 3 had quick save/load, sort of. They didn’t function during missions, and weren’t shown in the controls menu for some bizarre reason.
Nier – Add an autosave (I know solving the various crash problems is hard, but an autosave mechanic would make them /dramatically/ less infuriating…)
Civ VI is a good candidate for getting a lot out of a little, I think. Just for example, there are a number of screens where the primary interaction is in a sidebar on the left side. The confirm buttons are usually at the top or bottom — maybe would could consolidate that so they’re always in the same place? Then sometimes (notably player-initiated diplomacy) there’s no “end this madness” button on the left. Once you look around for a bit you’ll find a typical “X” window-close button at the top right. This (and a handful of similar interface screens) are among the only times you have an interaction at the top right, and whether this is “typical window positioning” or not, it’s a long ways from where you were interacting previously and it leaves you with a “huh?” moment that pulls you out of the game.
There’s also no way to get a concise list of your holdings in any particular order. This is the ONLY game of this type I have ever played where you can’t sort a list of cities/units/blah by production/strength/blah. How is this even possible? They have a “reports” page that gives you an expanded list of cities, and it is formatted like a spreadsheet, and it’s got little column headers at the top… but clicking on them does nothing. Just adding a sort feature to the reports page would be a huge improvement. Adding back in specific reports as in every previous iteration of the game would be even better, and neither of those things seem very hard. We can let the producer decide if the one-day fix or the one-week fix should happen, but one of them should.
There are deeper problems with the game also… we probably can’t fix the way diplomacy works, or the fact that the effort to decouple culture mechanics from territory mechanics following Civ IV have left the culture mechanic more-or-less a sham, or the fact that barbarians are a meaningless tax mechanic. But the interface design in Civ VI suffers badly from “let’s make something pretty that just the bare minimum and never look at it again”, and that leads to a number of frustrating moments.
Rage. I kinda enjoyed this game, but I don’t remember the ending at all. Which I rather think proves your point.
Wolfenstein New Order: This mechanic we invented, of quicktime events without the prompt, where you suddenly have to hit three buttons you never otherwise use to powerslide or die? How about we remove that from the game entirely?
QTEs should be removed from every game that contains them. And every game would win in the process.
Well: Indigo Prophecy, Heavy Rain an Beyond Two Souls not so much, cause that would remove nearly the entire game from the game.
There are a few (very few) games that justify qtes.Like press x to not die.
I thought the QTE in Tomb Raider: Legends and Anniversary were okay. They weren’t especially memorable, but they certainly weren’t awful enough that the game would have been better off without them.
You can’t remove QTE’s from Heavy Rain, Until Dawn, Beyond Two Souls, every TT game, etc.
You SHOULDN’T remove them from Resident Evil 4 and certain other games that use them in a very deliberate way and not just as a “me too” mechanic. I’d be okay with removing them from the two Tomb Raider reboot games.
When did that happen in New Order? I remember the powerslide being introduced in a tutorial, but I don’t remember it being used in a QTE.
You mean the first “robot dog chases you and you need to slide under a pipe” sequence? I hated this one, but not because of the slide, because I couldn’t figure out how to melt the chain immediately afterwards, and I only had about 3 seconds every time to try something before the dog ate me.
Or they could have made the sliding mechanic more integral to the gameplay. There was a perk that you could get from killing enemies while sliding (I forget what it was now). If they had made you take noticeably less damage or deal noticeably more damage while sliding (or both!), that would have done a lot.
Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines
I did not play it at release, but I hear it was a buggy mess. That’s what all the reviewers said at the time (and its why I gave it a miss). Some german dude (wesp5) spent the past 15 years creating user made patches for it, and now it is (IMHO) one of the best games ever made.
Imagine if Troika had spent another 2 months on it… They might not have gone out of business.
Yep. I was scrolling down the comments looking for this game. There are two different mods, which fix a lot of stuff, but they tend to make quite a few changes.
But having a load of extra time by the original devs of just general bug fixing would have gone a long way.
I had started playing it for a second time and managed to get over half way through, and to me the biggest thing they could have dropped was most of the combat sequences. The best parts of that game were when you had limited combat and where you were driven by your stats and by the plot to figure things out, and use your disciplines and stealth to get through. Those parts were great — the haunted mansion and Grout’s, for example — but the story missions that focused on combat were more meh.
The combat in the game isn’t really all that good, I’ll give you that. There are two early fights that are fairly difficult unless you have a combat oriented build (art gallery and the cathayan) but other than that you can prevail in *most* fights without investing all of your skill points into combat.
The exception is the Hollywood sewers, which go on and on and on without very many opportunities to refill your blood and have to fight really annoying enemies (the monsters created by the Tzimisce lord). If I had to guess then I would bet that this is where your play through ended. My first play through ended there as well because I ran out of bullets and blood (ranged build). I muscled through the second time with a melee build and lots of blood packs.
On my third play through I installed Wesp5’s patch which gives a short cut through the sewers. I highly recommend it if you want to give the game a try again. It cuts about an hour of frustrating fights and annoying pointless mazes.
Actually, it occurs to me that cutting the Hollywood sewers fits very nicely into Shamus’ six week polish frame, and would make the game much better.
>Not talkin’ bout the real issues
>Arcannum, Arcanum forever
Go back in time, hire Drog Black Tooth, don’t go out of business, make another, greater Arcanum Game.
Failing that, spend your six weeks on bug fixes and polish.
Arcanum was awesome, but so was Bloodlines once it was actually finished by moders.
I’d like to live in a world that has well made sequels to both games.
In any case, I *think* that Arcanum was reasonably well polished when released (though I am not certain because I did not play it until 10 years later).
If the topic were “which Troika game do you think is the best video game of all time” then I’d go with Arcanum, but Bloodlines is close. ToEE is sadly not in the running.
Alas, Arcanum was (and somehow still is) buggy as all hell.
Get ready to save often, you never know when your last saveg game is going to rot away.
I never had any trouble with bugs in Arcanum. I do usually have trouble getting it to run whenever I install it, but I think that is due to comparability issues with newer versions of windows.
I am going with a fan favorite.
Skyrim: Crafting skills and some noncombat skills like speech don’t count towards stronger enemies. Have them separate from the main leveling system. Crafting and whatnot really helps in combat, but often not by that amazingly until higher levels. Pickpocket has few uses in combat but is extremely easy to level up, making it likely many players are going to make things hard for themselves as a result of just playing the game in a pretty sensible way. Lockpicking is useful in many towns and a player just exploring and looting the cities can level up lockpicking a decent amount just playing the game in a pretty sensible way. Bethesda seemed to have expected all players to take a much more balanced split between dungeons and faffing about in cities. A player systematically going about the main cities in the game, stealing and pickpocketing items, exploring houses, using found crafting ingredients to make items, etc. can make the game much harder for themselves in a very unintuitive way. The legendary skill system added in a patch makes this worse because it is very easy to get pickpocket up several times just naturally looting low weight items of decent value. The first time I got to the Honeybrew meadery Thieves Guild quests, the human mercenary enemies were extremely strong compared to me and killing them extremely difficult despite not having been cheesing the game at that point.
Pickpocket: probably just combine it with sneak and drastically reduce the amount of XP the pickpocket of low weight but high value items gives you. As it is, this skill is not very useful with a few exceptions and with the caveat that the high level perks to be able to pickpocket equipped items are hilarious and awesome. Allow pickpocket to get high enough to be successful all the time. Bethesda generally worked to make things less abstract in Skyrim, but pickpocket never having less than a failure chance of 10% went against that. If it is too late to make a pickpocket minigame to go along with the lockpicking minigame, maybe make it more of a binary thing where you either can or can’t pickpocket an item. Quickly reloading if you don’t succeed at pickpocket means there isn’t really any risk, and the game encourages that by guaranteeing players always have a 10% chance or more of failing the pickpocket attempt and getting caught.
Add a vendor in Whiterun that buys stolen items without the need to join the Thieves Guild and will point the player to the Thieves Guild after a certain amount of stolen items sold.
Allow for looping around perks. If you complete the light armor branch of the smithing tree, you can’t loop around to daedric armor despite both branches being connected to each other by the dragon armor perk.
Fix this bug that they tried to fix and failed to fix:
That bug managed to turn a pretty mediocre power with a nice leveling boost into a really great power.
You’ve read Shamus’ take on Skyrim’s Thieves Guild, right? Fixing that mess would have taken a hell of a lot more than 6 weeks.
But – having a fence in every city, who (after buying stolen goods from you a set number of times) says ‘Hey, you seem competent, you should talk to my friends over in Riften’
or something would have been infinitely better than the original opening to the questline.
The “fence in every city” would also have fixed the radiant quest issue with the guild. In order to truly “in charge,” you have to do a big series of radiant quests for the guild, with a certain number of each type in every city before you get a big quest related to the city.
The problem is, all of those quests come out randomly; you can’t decide to do a specific type in a specific city. Worse, all of the quests are given out in Riften, so you might find yourself slogging back and forth between all the furthest parts of the map. The Nine help you if you’re playing a game without fast travel.
I thought of one that hasn’t been mentioned yet: Lost Magic on the Nintendo DS.
The game has two unique gameplay elements. The first was drawing combinations of symbols to cast hundreds of different spells. The second was catching and commanding monsters RTS-style. Fun ideas, if mediocre execution. The story was negligible and it had extremely basic AI, but I don’t think either of those are fixable with mere polish. There are two things that might be: Optimization and balancing.
I don’t know how easy it would be to optimize Lost Magic, but even marginal improvement would be good because it had some of the worst slowdown of any console game I’ve ever played. We’re talking literally running at 1/4th speed for extended periods of time, and this happened frequently. Entire levels would be slightly slowed down simply because there were a large amount of enemies.
As for balancing: It can be an annoyingly tough game to begin with, but there’s a specific point it falls apart. Late in the game, Lost Magic presented you with a choice. The big bad is holding your friend hostage, and is demanding the all-powerful mcguffin wand in exchange. Given the world-threatening stakes you could make an argument for either action, but one of the choices (I forget which but I think keeping the wand) locks you into to the SUPER EVIL PATH.
You’re brainwashed by the big bad and set out to kill all your mentors. This is mechanically identical to the good ending where you have to prove yourself to get their ultimate spells, but with one key difference. In the evil path, you have to fight all these difficult bosses…in a row. You have breaks to save your game but can’t go anywhere else to grind or do the optional side quests present in the good path. If you’re not massively over-leveled before the path split it’s basically impossible, and coupled with the horrible lag made me put down the game for years. Just a few quick fixes could’ve made it so much less awful.
Hellgate london, would have been so much better if they used third persona s default, and if they made the controls for using shield and dual swords consistent with the other weapons.
secondary action for two handed weapons would be good too.
Oh geeze, that’s a game I’d totally forgotten about…
I was so excited for that game before it was actually released.
I think every game could benefit from this just so I don’t have to download that Day 1 patch for hours.
They pushed Street Fighter V out early in order to hit their tournament date. Six weeks isn’t enough time to do very much, but every little bit helps. Balance that Survival mode. Fix the Fight Money system before it’s an issue. You evidently can’t make an arcade mode in time, you still haven’t. But make some kind of ladder to replace it that just pits you towards regular enemies and a strong Bison.
Um, speaking as a person who’s fighting game collection is tragically behind the times, is what you described somehow not the definition of arcade mode any more? I mean, that’s exactly what you do in every Street Fighter game that I’ve ever played in an arcade, with the possible exception of Street Fighter III where you fight Gil rather than Bison.
They tend to do stuff like minigames and individual character stories and endings in there too. I’d guess that’s what been holding them up rather than just lining up 8 fights in a row.
Myst 4 is an interesting inversion of this. The game has great polish. The way it uses 3D effects in its pre-rendered 360 degree backgrounds to make the world feel more alive. The way you can “tap” nearly any surface in the game with the cursor and they’ll all make different sounds. If you tap a hot kettle, the cursor will act as if you burned yourself. If you tap a water surface, it makes ripples. The depth-of-field effects, the lighting, the sound design; I could go on.
The game just has tons of these small touches that make it transcend the limitations of its node-based, still image nature. The level of polish is unbelievable.
Too bad the plot is full of holes, the acting ranges from okay to cringe-worthy, and some of the puzzles are too obtuse. This is one case where I wish the game had less polish, and more time spent on getting the basics right.
Not a game, but how about a television series: Firefly!
American TV shows (ESPECIALLY ones of the episodic variety) usually don’t “find themselves” until S2 or 3. For a less than single season show, Firefly getting as close as it did was amazing. Whatever small issues were left to fix, would have been hammered away.
What would you propose be fixed? The TV show was great, despite being cut off early. Having the one story in the movie wasn’t as good as a proper second season, but it was still a good swan song. Plus, there’s so many shows that run far too long, so I’d rather have the slightly-too-short version of Firefly/Serenity we got, instead of running for many seasons, where only seasons 1-2 are any good. :)
The only change I’d ask for is for it to be broadcast in a fixed timeslot in its original order, starting with “Serenity” and ending with “Objects in Space”.
Oh, and another season or 2 would be nice. Obviously.
The first doesn’t need 6 weeks of polish, just a little bit of vision from Fox. The second can’t be done in 6 weeks.
I think you missed the point of the assignment here. It’s not “what things do you like”. It’s “what things that you like would be way better with a bit more time to polish up flaws in them.” What flaws are you suggesting should be removed from Firefly? Fox’s scheduling does not count, that has nothing to do with the show and everything to do with moronic, out of touch executives.
Years ago, I got Pirates: The Legend of Black Kat. It was a PS2 game. It had several things I found intriguing; The name (my own being Cat), the female protagonist, and it was a pirate game. (My memory says there weren’t very many pirate games back then, 2002. Pirates of the Caribbean, which relaunched the love of pirates, was a year or so out.)
The game play was decent, even kind of fun. It wasn’t the most complex, but I’m more a button masher than a skilled fighter. But what killed it was the bad guys. They were all exactly the same, but with different colored outfits. Very old side-scroller style, which didn’t work in a non-side scroller. “Oh, now I’m fighting the blue pirate….ooh, I must have leveled, because now he’s wearing red.” No change in fighting style, defense. Maybe more HP, I dunno. But I got tired of it being Exactly The Same Thing Every Time.
Now, I’ll accept some grind…but it has to still be fun or feel like “okay, a little grind, but then I’ll be HERE…” Nope. Just grind. I gave up.
Tachyon: The Fringe would’ve been much improved if it had a free-flight mode, so players could explore the systems to look for collectibles and deliver them to the correct recipients without having to make sure they keep a mission on reserve so they can drop cargo off.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
Really great Platinum game, except for a bunch of horrible issues: Non-skippable in-game cut-scenes, also known as “walk slowly while talking segments”. Just turn those into a real cutscene that can be skipped. Secondly, remove all forced stealth sections, and the “you’re hurt and shambling along” section too, and replace with fighting more mooks. If possible add a few corridors with more mooks, because that is what the game is good at.
Dark Souls 2
Fix some of the level transitions that make no sense (such as an elevator that goes up from the highest floor of a tower, and ends up at the bottom of a lava lake). Remove a bunch of swarming enemies. Change it so that Heide Knights can’t rotate on a dime. You can spend another 12 months on this game though, so many problems.
Any game locked to 30 fps
Fix the damn engine to run at 60+.
I don’t feel like you’re even slightly respecting the spirit of the assignment here. “What can you fix in 6 weeks” is not “double the frame speed.” That’s ridiculous. And mostly impossible if we’re talking console games. They didn’t choose 30 out of spite, it was because that was what was possible with what they wanted to do with the graphics.
You might as well have said “redo the entire game to fit with my preferences instead of your own.”
Resident Evil 5 – Make going with an AI partner an option. Seriously, there are only a couple parts of the game that require the use of your partner, but you know what? Almost every other Resident Evil game before this one managed without them. You can remove those and save the player a lot of annoyance.
Hell, you can just pull a Resident Evil 2 and simply have both characters meet every once in a while for story bits. I mean, there’s no fixing the story, but still…
You’re talking a fundamental redesign there. Doubling the inventory size of a solo character, removing all the NUMEROUS triggers for co-op activities (there aren’t just a few… there’s a few per every single level in the game), rebalancing enemies for there to be no “rescue” character available, etc etc.
One game I’m going to toss out here is Murdered: Soul Suspect. Great base idea (not enough major games about playing as supernatural entities like ghosts, werewolves or vampires), but a BIG part of the problem starts with the legendarily stupid opening cutscene and character design. The game’s set in the modern day, but our main character’s both a fedora wearing throw-back AND someone with more skin WITH tattoos than WITHOUT. Both of those imply VERY different things, and the game barely seems interested in discussing the dichotomy behind that on a character level, and that’s before we get into the stilted, boring gameplay OR the plodding, ham-handed narrative.
That is easier said than done, Shamus.
Adding few more weeks/months is really not that easy for many reasons. “Not enough money” (for funding the extra weeks of development) surprisingly isn’t a major factor when it comes to publisher driven development. The major factor is marketing. The other money. Once you get this behemoth into movement, and once it starts it has to be rolling for next 6-10 months until release, you have no cheap way of delaying the release. You have to get trailers in production, plan for pre-certification, plan for certification (which several weeks), plan for age ratings, plan for expos that precede release (E3, Gamescom), you have to buy Steam highlight banner, you have to create thousands of physical marketing items, you have to book a shelf-space in major physical stores for the release window… and many more thing.
All the while you have to find a window where you don’t cannibalize on other products of your own (Titanfall 2 says Hi), don’t go against very anticipated releases (any game released at the time of Zelda and Horizon this year) and where your competitors don’t release anything similar (and anticipated).
Now the scenario: It’s March, the dev claims to be able to pack the project up by mid-August. Most of the time they overshoot by 10-20% of their estimates. That is not bad, as this biz goes. They can get lucky and have it earlier, or they can run stuff as usual and actually finish in early September. Or they could run into some unforseen trouble and struggle with early November (which is late for manufacturing and delivering physical copies before Holiday). And then this – you’ve found 2 good week-long windows in mid-Septemper and mid-November, you know very well January release is a guaranteed flop, late February is possible, but good games originally meant for Holiday release get released in that time, often announced at the (relative) last minute, so it would also be inadvisable to go out in February as well. What’s the next window? March? That’s a fucking year from now! I thought we were talking about finishing the game 5 months from now!
What do you do in this situation? Do you greenlight the marketing machinery? For which pre-Holiday window do you aim for? Obvious answers are yes and mid-November.
The reality is, as I mentioned, that if the developer gets lucky and they finish the game in July or early August, they just bought themselves the few extra weeks which can make the game that significant bit better. They finish in early September with month worth of extra polish, and you have 1.5 cozy month to make and ship physical copies. If they deliver on time, good. Expect a handful of bugs and balance issues and a day-1 patch at best. Everything as planned.
And if they miss their delivery late? You are fucking screwed. The earlier you get the negative projections, the better. You have to start cancelling and replanning all the run-up-to-release marketing stuff (which is costly) and you have to prepare yourself for funding not the extra 6-8 weeks it took the dev to actually finish the game (and miss the release window) but to keep funding development (150 people let’s say) for extra 7 months with 0 revenue. And these are early warning costs. If you get your warnings too late, you’ll have no option but to release a buggy mess, revenue will be significantly lower, and your reputation will suffer. (AssCreed Unity says Hi)
This is why it’s hard to find some extra weeks or months for polishing stuff. The last 6 month until release is such a rigid mess that once you jump in, you have to keep rollin’ or it costs you tens of millions. Only companies with massive guaranteed income can afford to do that. Blizzard, Valve… and that’s about it?
“We can't call famous voice actors back and have them re-do all their lines.”
Actually that had happened a few times. Rare, but it does.
A larger problem though is the certification process for the consoles (especially Sony’s).
Which means that the polish gets pushed into the day 1 patch instead which is just bonkers.
A lot of people will say that you can’t polish a turd. This is not true. You can polish a turd, it will still be a turd though.
“The fact that the entire story falls apart if you blast Father as soon as you meet him, ”
I actually loved that. You can “brake the world”.
I saw a couple youtubers do that “This is for taking my son *blam blam*” then later “Omg, that WAS my son?!”
I loved that you CAN do it. Yes, that’s a great realization. But you can’t continue from that point in a sensible way. You can’t save your fake robo-son, taking him home, none the wiser. You can’t blast your way through the Institute. You can’t dig around in their computers and get the answers you need. The doors are all locked because the story can’t adapt to this decision.
I’m NOT saying they should have made Father immortal. I’m saying they should have let the player continue to explore the Institute.
So, does the game literally just break if you kill Father?
Are you left staring at plot-locked doors that will never open until you reload an old save?
You can leave the facility, and the game will acknowledge that you’ve made an enemy of the Institute, but that’s it. Your character can’t react to what happened, nor can they describe it anyone else. You’ll never be able to find out that you killed your son by accident. It’s pretty clear that they never seriously considered this as an outcome.
Joeseph Anderson has a great demonstration of it here:
(In case the timestamp tag doesn’t work, it starts at the 41:46 point in the video.)
Huh,I didnt know you could use # in the link.I thought only & worked for timestamps.
*sigh*I really wish that we could move away from youtube,but all the damn conveniences,big and small,theyve made make that next to impossible.
…wow. How did they not see that problem coming?
There’s even that synth version of Shaun in a cell nearby. Does the player know that that version is synthetic when you enter the room?
Are there any hints at all to the truth before this moment?
‘Cos if not, that’s almost beyond bad writing; it’s like deliberately trolling the player, just without ever bothering to laugh at them to let them know they’ve been trolled.
I’m speculating they HAD planned to let the player shoot Father; since he lacks the plotarmor flag.
They just did not have the time to add all the stuff for That path (aka cut content).
Why they did’t enable that flag I have no idea, it should be quick to do.
My best guess is that one person had the idea,but they never convinced the rest of the team to do something about it.
Huh, no Steven Universe comments? I’m surprised.
I didn’t know SU had anything they needed 6 more weeks of polish to fix, but then I jumped off midway through season 2.
To me there is one simple change to the entire Mass Effect series that would have made it more enjoyable. The choice selection. Let’s face it, once you get over the fancy circle shape it’s just the same thing computer RPGs have had for a long time, a list of choices. Simply change that to be presented as a list of numbered choices or at least an option for it. The circle selector was reliable enough most of the time but it would occasionally glitch for no reason and show like your pointed at the middle of a choice’s area when really your actual invisible cursor was between the edge of two choice and the act of pressing a mouse button nudged it that tiny bit. Sure the series had a lot of other problems but this one stands out as the most annoying.
Minecraft Story Mode. Even though the game is kind of all over the place story wise and has some truly cringe worthy moments that could easily have been cut without any value lost. The single worst thing is once again a game focusing on illusion of choice has made choices overly difficult. You have until the current speaking character finishes to make your choice, you can’t listen to the whole thing and make a fully informed choice but instead are forced to make impulsive choices by a timer. I was thankful when I played Season 2 to find they did away with that for the bulk of the choices. It makes sense when it’s during fast paced action but not even half of that game’s choices are during fast paced action.
Kotor2: ADD A DANG ENDING. And anything else you can find that’s just randomly missing because they didn’t have time to finish it.
Dead Island is a really interesting situation: It’s basically the Fallout/Elder Scrolls of the zombie game space and Techland are essentally equivalent to Bethesda in their release history.
The only difference is that Techland seem to keep learning from their previous decisions whereas Bethesda seem to have gotten themselves into a bit of a rut. You see, even though Dead Island was a bit of a buggy mess, it was also really fun (I never played it multiplayer which was said to be even more fun but I really enjoyed the single player) and offered two control schemes which allowed people to control how they tackled the physical combat in the game.
Dead Island: Riptide brought in some refinements to that game and was, essentially, what Dead Island could have been at release if they had the prior experience. Sure, they still have the problem you list where you use money to fix items but, at the end of the day, it’s just a resource that you collect and use. Most of the other bugs were fixed and, like in Borderlands 2, the tone of the game was more even.
Their next move was to release Dying Light (having lost the rights to the franchise name). This game pretty much is Dead Island 1.5 (or maybe 2 once you get to The Following) with most of the mechanics still the same (IIRC you still use money to repair items). The two things that really improved with this version are that the traversal mechanics were vastly improved (parkour really adds a lot of depth to the game world and then the buggy is quite fun to drive, even if the open world isn’t quite big enough to make it good enough, IMO) and the cutscenes and general writing/dialogue were so much improved over the previous two games.
What’s funny, though, is that, apart from releasing with fewer bugs, I don’t think they really fixed any other critiques listed here – the zombies still level with the player (IIRC) but not as badly as in DI (I think it’s more like Skyrim compared to Oblivion) but they improved the experience for players through a better levelling system, traversal system and by having a better general writing quality.
I’m looking forward to whatever they release next in the series! Maybe next game they’ll have an improved repair management system. :)
I’m still not over Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest. Tthat could have been a great game with just few minor tweaks…
In the Witcher 3, damage scales up sharply over the course of the game. It should not do that.
Not only does it make no sense on a story level, it effectively locks you out of any quest you didn’t do exactly when the game was expecting you to: the combat becomes mind-numbingly boring and the rewards become trivial.
Six weeks is not a *lot* of time to rebalance your game in, but just flattening out the damage curve shouldn’t be too much to ask.
Since this would just be a matter of adjusting the numbers used to represent everything, it should be fairly cheap as these things go.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning – Open-ish world third person games with strong plot, good writing and lots of content tend to sell fairly well (see Bethesda, Ubisoft, Bioware, Rockstar, Volition, Avalanche, Rocksteady, and every MMO). Putting another 6 weeks into this one might have kept 38 Studios out of bankruptcy.
Programmers: Unlock the camera. The artists spent a lot of time on making epic vistas and big play areas and the player can’t see any of it because the camera is locked high over your shoulder. It turned a big world into a small world.
Writers: Yes, I know you paid a lot of money to R.A. Salvatore, but someone needed to put him on a leash. #1- If names aren’t pronounceable, they aren’t memorable. #2- The reading level of a video game should be elementary school, not high school. Six weeks is plenty of time to put the game in front of more testers and see what they get confused about.
Marketers: You already missed Christmas, but this year that’s a good thing. The farther you get from Skyrim’s release, the better. Can you hold out until May?
“Strong plot, good writing”. Have you played a different game? The plot and writing are clearly above Skyrim’s level, but still firmly a plot and writing that only work “scene-to-scene” as opposed to “as one whole story”. Sure, the main story drives you forward, the characters say some important stuff and so on. As said, it’s nowhere near Bethesda’s Maelstrom of Plot Destruction (+5), but I didn’t see a lot of merit in it either. I found Skyrim’s writing borderline insulting, though, so I may just have high/wrong standards.
Final Fantasy 8 Junction System.
Recently downloaded the remastered version not remembering why it’s the one FF game I couldn’t remember. Then remembered why :/
The game has a great (albeit typical max-cheese factor) story. That Junction system just ruins it though. Who imagines a system that encourages players to sit around hitting draw hundreds of times instead of fighting the baddies is fun? It’s such a weird idea.
I wish they’d do a reboot with just a classic leveling system. I can’t imagine that would be terribly difficult.
FYI. It can be a lot more fun to just designate rolls for players and stay true to it, and ignore all the cross-spell-summon-junction stuff.
Still, I find it very hard to get through and prob won’t finish it… again.
(If only I’d remembered sooner I could have saved 20 bucks ><)
The original Portal would have been perfect if Valve didn’t later add radios into the game world. It was perfect because the chambers were quiet. It wouldn’t even have cost anything.
As a result, the perfect video game was ruined and now feels like Christmas shopping in a mall. This is made worse by Portal being the best video game of all time. I don’t care one whit about the games listed above but Portal was perfect and was ruined retroactively.
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