Autopsy Part 1

By Shamus Posted Monday Jun 9, 2008

Filed under: Game Reviews 44 comments

I’m going to do the inverse of my normal review process: I’m going to talk at [excruciating] length about the problems and failures within the game, but I’ll have one post at the end where I talk about what works. This is not because the game is horrible. It’s not, really. I’ve certainly paid more for worse. I’m just focusing on this game because of the contrast between what this team has accomplished in the past and what they achieved this time around.

As much as I despise the lumbering engine of idiocy that is EA, I don’t think it’s fair to lay blame for this mess at their feet and walk away. I’d love for another chance to excoriate my favorite villains, but this game was in the oven for five years. EA came in and dumped a bunch of money into the thing, without which it never would have seen the light of day. Certainly pushing a game out before it’s ready is a crime EA has perpetrated without shame in the past, but I don’t think we can charge them with impatience this time around. Particularly since, eight months after release, the thing is still far short of “baked to perfection”.

But even if we want to charge EA with the crime of short-sighted premature launching, that doesn’t excuse most of the problems I see with the game. There are fundamental mistakes in the design of this thing that go beyond a simple lack of testing and debugging. I still think the folks at Flagship Studios are a talented bunch, but they made some mistakes here that teach us a bit about what things must be like inside the gruesome sausage factory we call the videogame industry.

What we have is a group of people with proven talent and an obvious love for the games they make who nevertheless fell far short of their potential. I’m going to have a longer-than-usual series of longer-than-usual posts where I try and sort this out. People say they like my in-depth analysis? We’ll just see about that. My blatherings on this game are likely to wear out the pixels on your monitor.


Of course bugs are a joy-killer, and Hellgate has more than its share. Even eight months after release the thing has visual glitches, crashes, stuttering slowdowns, clipping problems, dropped sound effects, missing visual effects, broken quests, hit detection issues, etc. Contrast this with Diablo II, where I don’t remember having a single bug, ever. I think in all my years spent playing it the thing might have crashed on me twice.

The worst bug is the simply unacceptable performance I’m getting out of the game. I’m well within the system requirements, I’ve got all the visual settings set to minimum, and I still get times when the game drops to a single frame a second. The way I have the visuals set, the game looks like something from 2002 or so. Now, I have no problem whatsoever with “dated” visuals – the game looks good to me even at these low settings, but I should not be having slowdown issues when it looks like this. (The particle engine is a very obvious culprit. Things slow down whenever there is a moderate amount of stuff flying around. Come to think of it, this could also be the fault of the physics engine. Either way, it sucks.)

An obvious area of annoying slowdown is with the tooltips that pop up for various items. There is a half-second pause before the tooltip appears. If you’re waving your mouse over your inventory comparing items this can be very bad. There is no reason for a hitch to be happening here. What on earth is it doing? In a game that focuses on collecting, buying, selling, trading, upgrading, modifying, and identifying new items, the part of the game where you look at items needs to work smoothly.

Reducing the resolution doesn’t mitigate these problems, which makes me suspect this has nothing to do with graphics hardware at all. It’s just not spending CPU cycles wisely.

Suggestion: Stop adding new stuff and fix these bugs.

First-Person Shooter

I love the idea of a first-person shooter where you can level up, but the FPS aspect of Hellgate doesn’t really behave like a modern FPS. There’s no weapon reloading, no ammo management, and there isn’t a lot of incentive to maintain lots of different weapons. Just grab the gun with the highest damage output and hold down the fire button until everyone stops moving. This “Serious Sam” approach to combat would be acceptable if the combat itself was interesting and the weapons were fun to use.

Enemy projectiles pass through foes and some scenery, so you can’t use cover or maneuver around enemies to your advantage. You’re never sure how your projectiles will behave when they strike something. Shoot at a table and it treats the table like a solid cube that blocks projectiles. Shoot the chair and it blows up. Shoot a different bit of furniture and your bullets go right through it.

Even when scenery does stop projectiles, it doesn’t break enemy line-of-sight, which means foes will sit on the other side of a wall, endlessly blasting away at the wall trying to hit you.

The controls are poorly implemented. If you use the numpad like I do, be warned that the game will not let you re-map the numpad enter key. If you accidentally press it, it brings up the chat line, which is a very dangerous thing to have happen in combat. (You stop moving and all your keypresses go into chat.) If you were online this weekend, you may have seen me. I was the guy typing “32846*/-+.0444” into chat whenever he got into a fight with a boss.

It will let you re-map the numpad slash, but it won’t actually let you use it, since that also brings up the chatline. It also doesn’t differentiate between the home / delete / pgup / pgdn keys on the keypad and those on the main keyboard, which means you can’t assign different functions to those different keys.

When using guns, there are no “splatters”, no scorch marks, no bullet holes or damage decals. The weapon sounds lack punch. These guns just aren’t very fun to shoot, and it doesn’t really feel like you’re hitting the enemy with something. Firing a gun doesn’t feel very different from just clicking on a monster in Diablo II.

And finally, the FPS system lacks proper damage feedback. If an off-screen enemy strikes you from behind in a modern FPS, there are a bunch of audio and visual clues to let you know you were hit, and where:

  1. The view will “kick”. (It will act like someone struck the camera, shaking it just a bit.)
  2. There will be a red flash on the edges of the screen to indicate you’re taking damage.
  3. There will be some sort of direction indicator to tell you which way you need to turn to face the enemy.
  4. The impact will make a sound.
  5. Often the shield or health bar will flash for a second or so after being hurt.

Hellgate doesn’t have any of these cues. Many times I noticed my health was mysteriously dropping. I’d turn around to see a zombie standing there, snarling and waving his arms. (Attacking me.) Their “attack” sound is the only cue you get, and it’s easily lost in the din. It’s also pretty much the same as their “dying” sound, and their “I see you” sound.

Suggestion: “First person” means a lot more than just placing a camera in the character’s head. FPS gameplay has evolved many conventions over the years, and designers ignore these conventions at their peril. Play some doom, fight a few zombies, and take note of all the numerous cues and tricks the game will use to sell the fiction that you’re really walking, running, jumping, and shooting.


One of the major complaints with the game is that “it all looks the same”. I think the major mistake they made was making the levels too random. I had the same problem with Fate.

In Diablo, you’d have several areas in a row that all shared the same basic scenery components. You’d have several levels of “plains”, then a couple hours of “monastery”, then a few of “desert”, and so on. About the time you got truly sick of one, you broke through into the next. This created a sense of accomplishment and travel.

But in Hellgate you see nearly all of the different areas within the first hour of play. The game is out of visual rewards at that point. You never feel like you’re going anywhere because the stuff you see at twenty hours into the game looks exactly like the stuff you saw in the first hour of the game. It’s the same few dungeon motifs, populated by increasingly higher-level versions of the same monsters you’ve been fighting.

Suggestion: It would have been better to have the areas around each station follow a particular theme. One would have the sewer levels, another would lead to the city streets, another the boiler room / basement stuff. This would drive players forward, because they’d be eager to see what the next area is.


From The Archives:

44 thoughts on “Hellgate:London:
Autopsy Part 1

  1. Cincinnatus says:

    I guess I’ll be the first to say, then, that I do thoroughly enjoy your in-depth analysis. Bring on the next chapter, Shamus, once you find the intestinal fortitude to muddle through another sitting.

  2. Hal says:

    Re: Scenery

    One game that did an interesting take on this was the dot Hack games. There, to replicate the “random generation” of levels, the game had hundreds of levels one could visit. Each level was individually designed, but the sheer number of them meant that they seemed randomly generated because you would be hard-pressed to go to the same one twice.

    Of course, the levels all followed the “same template, different color scheme” pattern, but it’s one possibility.

  3. mos says:

    Shamus, I’d be interested in hearing what you think of Guild Wars. I felt it was a definite improvement to Diablo II (better than the snooze-fest that was Dungeon Siege).

    –Not that I’m not interested in your Hellgate: London autopsy, but I’ve seen the game already and know it’s not for me.

  4. Shamus says:

    I’d had it in my head all this time that Guild Wars was a PvP focused MMO. I kept hearing about how good it was, but PvP never appealed to me so I never looked further.

  5. bargamer says:

    I’ve played both GW and HG:L, and so far, I’m still playing GW. Everything in this review is spot-on.

    mos: If you want to compare GW and HG:L, try out this review. It was posted way long time ago, but still bears re-reading, if just for comedic value: http://ahkong.net/hellgate-london-vs-guild-wars/

    Shamus: They had a recent update that has widened the involvement of PVP in your PVE experience: skill differentation. You don’t have to do PVP if you don’t want to, there’s plenty of other stuff to do. Think of it like the PVE/PVP dynamic in WoW, and you’ll have the general right idea.

  6. Luvian says:

    Guild Wars plays more like a single player game in which you can team up with friends if you want rather than like a typical MMORPG. For example you get ingame cutscenes etc. And there is a definite ending where you win the game. In essence Guild Wars act as if you were the only player.

    The original prophecy campaign is better at explaining the game and is a little longer, but I think I’d recommend the Nightfall campaign to new players now since it comes with hero support and the gameplay has been refined.

    Edit: But I still really like the Prophecy campaign.

  7. henebry says:

    Your comments about what makes for good scenery remind me of the original Bugdom, one of my great favorites from years past. The last two levels especially — the twilight lit by fireflies and the spooky interior of the anthill — are still with me. Not sure how many people in the PC world played that game; it was developed for the Mac and then ported over, I think. If I wanted to play it today, I’d have to dig out an old OS 9 Mac from storage, but I might just do it. That was a great game, one with atmosphere.

  8. daemon23 says:

    re the half-second pause while loading tooltip: I’ve read in passing that one of the biggest problems with H:L is that they didn’t scale image maps textures (HTML on the brain) correctly, and the code tends to push very large textures into memory without any sort of compression and caching. In the case of the tooltips, it very well be generating an enormous texture for the text box, pushing it to the video card, and letting it deal with scaling it down appropriately for your display.

  9. JKjoker says:

    i agree with Shamus, a lot of ppl have been saying “it was rushed” but the game has many problems that are flawed at the design level :

    a fps with enemies that only react to bullets when they die ? (is there any fun to that ? if you ask anyone what they remember from “the house of the dead” theyll say “you can shoot limbs off” thats where the fps fun is, in the 101 ways to humiliate your enemies)

    getting lots and lots of equipment you are unable to use (does anyone find that fun ?) and lets not forget the “wonderful” tetris inventory moments (make them smaller and allow me to rotate the damn items!)

    souless levels that repeat themselves all the freaking time ? (whats the point of random levels if they all feel the same ?) actually i thought diablo2 had a little of this problem, open areas all looked the same because they didnt have much to randomize unlike diablo1 that was all dungeon and always felt different (they also reused the art for only 4 levels), in hellgate they are all like “open areas” because the 3d and the camera forces them to make rooms bigger and they reused the art for like 30 levels

  10. Your system has to be better than mine and I’m not seeing the slow downs you are (though I’d pretty much agree that everything else is spot on). 2 gig memory, 3.2 gigherz Pentium 4 (a couple-three years old or older) radeon 9800 pro.

    However, you are spot on. At first the scenery changes are neat. But after you’ve used them all up, it gets boring. Sigh.

    I’d also agree on the environment. I never know if I’ve missed something or if it is one of the things that doesn’t explode/break.

    I’m enjoying your summary and analysis because it is matching exactly what seemed to be wrong with the game for me after I’d played it for more than the first 4-5 hours — and much of what seems to have gone wrong in the transition from DII.

  11. Poet says:

    If a few of my friends were here, they’d tell you that if you’re not using WASD in an fps, you’re doing it wrong.
    I, however, am not a giant douche. I would suggest, though, that other areas of the keypad are just as affective, and lack the nagging pressence of any form of enter key.

  12. Benjamin O says:

    Hello Stephen M (Ethesis). Don’t I know you from somewhere else?

    Anyway, I’ve only played the demo of H:L, but it wasn’t enough to make me want to purchase the full version. That’s a real problem. Good game, but not great.

  13. Awetugiw says:

    Actually, I do remember some annoying bugs in Diablo II. They fixed them pretty soon of course, but there were some.

    The one I remember best is that gaining hit points shortly after death (by a Blood Golem stealing hit points for you, for example) you could end up in a state between life and death.

    Diablo II didn’t have nearly as many bugs as many other games. But the reason it is usually remembered as very stable is because the bugs that were found were fixed quickly, and with the incredible amount of time the game has been living the amount of time it has had bugs is rather insignificant.

  14. Rubes says:

    Of course we love your in-depth analysis, Shamus. It’s your writing that keeps us coming back. You could write a five-page analysis of the different substances used to create RPG dice and their impact on rolling physics and it would be entertaining. Well, mostly.

    As for the game, it sure sounds like you’re describing something that could have been published in about 1998.

  15. Shamus says:

    Poet: Yeah. I’ve been using the keypad since 1994 or so, long before WASD was standard. Most FPS games (aside from ports) use the keypad properly.

    I’ve tried switching, but after all these years doing so is an uncomfortable handicap.

  16. Solka says:

    Awetugiw: exactly. I had this exact bug fallen on me more than once.. The frustration it did, since nothing could de-bug except leaving the game.

  17. Jeff says:

    Even eight months after release the thing has visual glitches, crashes, stuttering slowdowns, clipping problems, dropped sound effects, missing visual effects, broken quests, hit detection issues, etc.

    Hit detection is something I’ve run into only with slow RoF weapons, and they know about it. (Not that they’ve fixed it as of 1.3 afaik.) I’ve clipped maybe 3 times, falling through the ground and being popped back into the entrance area. The only other problem I’ve run into is my screen turning B&W after a hard hit and not turning back to color until I take a hard hit again…

    None of those have been game-breaking for me. There was a problem with me going through hellgates before (it’d lag and I’d run back ‘through’), but since the last patch I was playing with, they made it so you can’t go through a hellgate twice without a few seconds passing (I think to fix an exploit) which meant, for me, no lag going through anymore.

    I've got all the visual settings set to minimum, and I still get times when the game drops to a single frame a second.
    This is odd to me. I barely meet the minimum requirements (right AT it, in fact), with everything turned down, I was pleasently surprised at how smooth it all was. I only lag if there’s an engineer or summoner nearby with a swarm of pets.

    The particle effects kill our FPS, yeah. Sux.

    There is a half-second pause before the tooltip appears.
    This is made worse online by lag. Ugh.

    The weapon sounds lack punch.
    I sometimes use the Arclight Thermite rifle just because it sounds and looks right, heh.

    If you get hit, btw, it does flash red. If you get hit hard, your screen B&Ws.

    “it all looks the same”
    This is the worst of all your listed complaints in my opinion. The set pieces are lovely, just wish there were more of them.

  18. Shamus says:

    Jeff: That last complaint actually came more from other players. I wasn’t complaining about the NUMBER of them, but the fact that they are delivered randomly instead of becoming available as the plot advances.

    I’m saying that the same areas, delivered in a different way, would eliminate the “it all looks the same” gripes.

  19. Zukhramm says:

    I hardly have any idea of how Hellgate: London is, and I haven’t played any Diablo II either, still this will hopefully be interesting.

    As for Guild Wars, I think why it’s made out to be focused on PvP is because most people prefer the PvE of for example WoW, the PvP part of GW is easier to convince them is better.

  20. Lanthanide says:

    Compare the ‘random level generation’ to Diablo 1 or 2 and you will see that it comes up far short. Diablo 1 and 2 both used a system of set rooms, or types of rooms, and then joined them together in a variety of different ways and decorated them with different objects (barrels, pots, sarcophagi etc), and each area had different styles for the rooms and different ways in which they were joined.

    Compare this to HGL and you will quickly see that typically there are only 2 or 3 types of rooms and they are almost always joined together in the same way. The decorating objects are always in the same places too – this is particularly glaring in the underground sewer levels that have the trash piles in the corners of the rooms.

    For all their talk of ‘randomized levels’, they didn’t live anywhere near up to standard set by D1 or D2.

    Also someone else pointed this out, when you get hit by enemies you are supposed to get red flahes on the edge of the screen (never seemed terribly direction-specific though), and if you get hit badly enough the whole screen goes black and white (something I actually found very annoying). If you’re not seeing this at all, then you’ve got a bug.

    Also Diablo 2 did have a lot of bugs, the thing is that most people didn’t encounter them, or if they did, didn’t notice them. Generally they didn’t matter very much if they did occur, either. Have you ever played Diablo 1, btw, or just Diablo 2? I consider Diablo 1 to be a much better game than 2, so I think you should give it a go if you haven’t.

  21. Alex says:

    “I'm going to have a longer-than-usual series of longer-than-usual posts where I try and sort this out. People say they like my in-depth analysis? We'll just see about that. My blatherings on this game are likely to wear out the pixels on your monitor.”

    I wonder if I’m the only one who really -likes- incredibly long-winded, detailed analysis of video games. You know, very specific flaws listed, lengthy explanations to back up the author’s findings, etc. Even when it’s a game I have absolutely no interest in whatsoever(Hellgate London for example). For whatever reason, I can’t stay away from the really wordy stuff.

    Of course, this is from the guy who wrote his THESIS on why Halo 2 is a sack of moldy dog turds. Me and uber-articles have a history together, and this H:L Autopsy looks to whet that particular appetite. Plus I’ve got the free time to read epic articles(or rather, series’ of articles), so that might be it. If I had less time to go online, I might not see the really long articles in the same light. There is also something to be said for editing and whatnot, but I like it when someone is willing to whip out the King Kong of articles now and then.

    Even this Comment is long by Comment standards. -.-;

    Blather away, Shamus. I look forward to it. =D

  22. DarkLadyWolf says:

    Hey! You stopped! I want more!

    *ahems*I mean, thank you for sharing. Please sir, can I have some more?

  23. I love your in-depth analysis, Shamus. I share a lot of your criticisms and concerns regarding games. You are just a lot more eloquent about it than I am.

    I’m eager to read what you think about Hellgate: London’s attempts at story and humor. I find most of the NPC’s characterizations to be just WEIRD. A few induce a chuckle, but most just make be say, “Huh?”

    I love British humor (read: Monty Python), but I think Hellgate: London really needed to hire a better dialog writer.

  24. Freykin says:

    Most of the bugs in Diablo II were obscure things that most players wouldn’t notice. Thankfully, modders have dealt with most of them :) Modders are my heroes.

  25. ngthagg says:

    A lot of the characters (quest givers mostly) that you find are allusions. Tiberius was my favourite, once I figured it out.

    My favourite bug in D2 was the one where the Amazon’s guided arrow would pierce . . . because, being guided, it would immediately turn around and hit the monster again. During boss fights there would be a constant swarm of 3 or 4 arrows attacking for me. I was disappointed when they fixed that bug.

    I’m looking forward to a long winded explanation of where this game went wrong. There’s a lot of potential, which makes it even more frustrating. I REALLY wanted to love this game, but I didn’t. And so, like any spurned lover, I’m happy to gossip about the game behind it’s back.

  26. Miral says:

    Did you have NumLock on or off? I could be wrong about this, but I think that the keyboard might send the same scancodes for PgUp etc as the separate key if NumLock is off…

  27. Alvin Brinson says:

    Thanks – I was considering buying this one – now i realize that I was going to get fooled again. Won’t even pirate it.

  28. Cineris says:


    I don’t think the Guided Arrow thing was a bug. Amazons really don’t have any other single-target high-damage dealing skills. What else are you going to use, Immolation Arrow (when Fire Resistance is ubiquitous against bosses?) Magic Arrow, a level 1 skill?

    At some point that may have gone away, it’s been so long I can’t remember. I do know that some of the patches changed things so drastically that my old characters became obsolete and I stopped playing. It’s a damn shame, because some of the patches might have been fun — But after I’ve played for months to build up a character to a respectable level, I don’t want to have all my effort annihilated because of a patch. I remember one patch in particular (1.12 IIRC) changed things so drastically for my Amazon and Paladin that they were unplayable. Multi-shot became the new “it” skill for Amazons, replacing Strafe, and Paladins melee ability was nerfed into oblivion, making the only good Paladin builds reliant on their dumb spinning Hammer skill.

  29. AncientSpark says:

    A pretty spot on review. Be glad, however, that you didn’t play this back when it first launched like I did. Now THAT was full of horrendous bugs. Like the awful, awful bug that made your party members go invisible randomly and not load properly, thereby denying them XP, loot, and the ability to attack anything.

    Also, I’m not sure if you’ve already tried the sword-wielding classes, but they are actually a lot more fun to play in my opinion. Getting rid of the 1st person experience happened to take out a lot of frustration in getting randomly attacked by some zombie in the back.

  30. Steven B. says:

    Whoever said Diablo 1 was better has an amazing amount of tolerance for characters that can’t run. It’s maddening, you’re so slow in that game.

    And I haven’t played Hellgate, and you suggested the Diablo II approach, but there’s a problem with that too. In the endgame, you’ll be doing the exact same area over and over. Maybe they were trying to prevent that.

  31. Benjamin, good chance that you know me from somewhere else. I’ve been involved in a lot of things.

    http://www.facebook.com/people/Stephen_R_Marsh/514025522 or http://adrr.com/mylonas/ might lead you to something we have in common.

    What we have is a group of people with proven talent and an obvious love for the games they make who nevertheless fell far short of their potential

    That is the key line in the review so far.

    I think the problem is that they added stuff, but didn’t add it enough (e.g. breakable environment items, but left in ones that were not; introducing more terrain features, but not going forward to do that again so that it was merely getting the terrain too soon; the upgrade path for stuff — which is why you need to find a lot of stuff that doesn’t sell for suet in price, so you have the spare parts — but an upgrade path that ends up breaking everything eventually; a more detailed system for requisite costs of items, that ends up a straight jacket; the reputation system that leads no where, etc.).

    On the other hand, I hear that the subscription material seems to address a lot of the failures of the game, but once I’ve paid for a game, I don’t feel like subscribing just to have them fix it.

    It is just so close.

  32. ngthagg says:

    Whether or not the guided arrow thing was a bug, it disappeared in a patch (1.10?), somewhat nerfing my Amazon in the process.

  33. journeyman says:

    No. 21
    this is from the guy who wrote his THESIS on why Halo 2 is a sack of moldy dog turds.

    Dear Alex, have my babies.

  34. Mephane says:

    Yes yes yes yes yes! Give us more! ;)

    Seriously, many people here obviously love your in-depth reviews, analysis and rants. Your understanding of the different kinds of games is outstanding, every deceloper making FPSs, RPGs, RTS, 4X games, hell, even MMORPGs, should be forced to read all of your analysis posts before even writing a single line of code. :)

  35. ngthagg says:

    I had another thought on the scenery issues.

    One of later D2 patches made changes to Act V, so that instead of fighting the Act V monsters, you get to fight monsters from Acts I through IV (which I think were randomly chosen along with the layout of the map). I hated this change. What was the point of fighting your way through Acts I, II, III, and IV just for the chance to fight your way through them again?

    It’s too bad HGL did this to the whole game.

  36. Alexis says:

    @JKJoker: I understand HG:L has recently introduced a shared stash to help transferring those useless items to other toons.

    @Lanthanide: has Shamus played D2? bwahahahahaaaa! I’m sorry *wipes a tear from his eye*

    @Leslee: you know, it’s been nearly 40 years. We have created stuff since then. a LOT of stuff. Try Black Books.

    @Ethesis: the upgrade path had a lot of potential but breaking items down was a 3 click operation when it needed to be 1 click. I did work out that if I broke down everything Cabalist, and sold everything else, at least I got the right parts.

    Really it needs an autosell feature. I have a wow mod which autosells all grey items, and another which lets me junk items from a value-sorted list. HG:L could easily have “sell items I can’t wear” and “sell green or worse items” options.

    @Shamus: More please. Spot on so far, although the scenery is what mostly bothered me amongst the points you list. Bad AI doesn’t really bother me, the difficulty can be scaled in other ways.

    There are zombie summoners later on. There are also named mobs, just like in D2, which spawn with same-type allies. Named zombie summoners summon (a capped number of) zombie summoners. Now put that mess in a square sewer room with one door and a shape in the middle.

    I actually had a lot of fun clearing that room, but ofc I wouldn’t want to do it very often. I did really enjoy how the accumulating effect convention of D2 would sometimes create these freakishly difficult nameds; with the notable exception of lightning-enchanted >:(

    BTW, your analysis is getting articles on Gaming Today:

  37. Lanthanide says:

    Alexis – Urm, try reading that again. You’ve actually just highlighted my entire pet peeve – Shamus (and others) keep saying “Diablo”, when they really mean “Diablo 2”.

    Here is what I originally said, just for the record: “Have you ever played Diablo 1, btw, or just Diablo 2?”

  38. Daemian Lucifer says:

    This rant was still shorter than the indigo prophecy one.Im still waiting to see your best(worst?).

  39. Alexis says:

    @Lanthanide: I misread your comment as meaning “have you ever played diablo 1? experience of diablo 2 would be equally valid”. Cue reckless mirth.
    ‘only’ in this context would have been clearer to me than ‘just’.

    What’s the harm in referring to the franchise instead of a specific game? Most people will understand the latest installment by the general reference. It’s less exact, true, but then we should talk about the “Diablo 1 computer video game by Blizzard Entertainment 199x”.

  40. Alastair says:

    I agree with your points about Hellgate: London. I bought it when it came out because me and a friend were interested in a co-op game that we could play through together (and it was a lot more buggy at that point) and I had many of the same complaints as you did.

    I think I could have ignored the repetitive level design and occasional annoying bug if the story was more interesting and made me want to find out what happened. Unfortunately, the story never really captured my interest and I quit playing somewhere in Act 4. I’ve never really felt the need to go back to the game since.

    I also ended up never playing the game in 1st person because it never felt right. Even when firing guns and such I was always in 3rd person view.

    On another note, Shamus, you should really think about checking out Guild wars. I’ve been playing it for two years now, and I’ve never done the PvP side of it, nor have I run out of PvE content to see and do. It’s an excellent game that you can play solo, or with a friend or group of friends as you wish. The plots are long and interesting, and the world large and varied.

  41. Derek K says:

    “@Leslee: you know, it's been nearly 40 years. We have created stuff since then. a LOT of stuff. Try Black Books.”

    I was waiting for that post. ;)

    Re: Weapons – Posted this elsewhere too, but I think the weapons actually do have good variety. I’ll use the engi/mm, since I remember them the most:

    I can recall a machine-gun type (the 25mm, etc), mini-rocket launchers, large rocket launchers, fire field launchers, grenade launchers, sniper rifles and weird lash guns (maybe not MM?).

    I tended to have at least 4 guns I wanted to use – a sniper rifle for focused killing, a machine gun for general running around, triggering specials, a fire field (something that shoots out, hits the ground, and leaves an area to burn things) and something explosive, to clear out packs of enemies and break items. And I played very differently depending on which I used. For Templars, the choice of weapon type is pretty important too, it seemed. For cabalists, it was dumb – use a gun and half your skills, or a foci, and all of them. Hmmmm. Tough choice.

  42. Jeff says:

    I have to note that I enjoyed HGL because a friend convinced me to play, and 90% of the time we played together. Then his game install went wonky and he had to go back and forth with FSS to get his copy working again. Something funky about direct download copy, cd keys, a physical copy, etc. I think he paid, got the digital download but also ordered the CD, then something or other happened, his purchase was refunded and the DD turned off, but he still got the physical copy and his account is fine. So free game. In any case, when he stopped playing I kept at it for a while, but drifted away.

    So… playing with someone you know makes a big difference.

    Named zombie summoners summon (a capped number of) zombie summoners. Now put that mess in a square sewer room with one door and a shape in the middle.
    I so want to see this so I can lob grenades in there with my rifleman.

  43. JJ says:

    The view will “kick”. (It will act like someone struck the camera, shaking it just a bit.)
    There will be a red flash on the edges of the screen to indicate you're taking damage.
    There will be some sort of direction indicator to tell you which way you need to turn to face the enemy.
    The impact will make a sound.
    Often the shield or health bar will flash for a second or so after being hurt.

    Are you kidding me, all of those are implemented in the game, i have no idea what game you are playing but its definitely not hellgate

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