Experienced Points: E3 Killjoy

By Shamus
on Jun 12, 2009
Filed under:
Column

Welcome back from E3, beleaguered press. Allow me to cure your unwarranted optimism with an adult-sized dose of jaded wisdom, and wash it down with a mouthful of cold, bitter cynicism. If problems persist after 24 hours, contact your physician.

I enjoyed writing this one. Perhaps this means I am a bad person.

I’m ok with that.

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201434 comments. Hurry up and add yours before it becomes passé.

From the Archives:

  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I mostly agree with you.But,remember that it wasnt the writers that killed fahrenheit,but the idiot that decided to ship it as a one game instead of three.As for thief 3,sure it was a lot blander than 1 and 2,but it had shalebridge cradle.That level alone makes the rest of the game worth playing.

    • Shamus says:

      Daemian Lucifer: I do not disagree. I would go so far as to say that the cradle is the greatest single level in a first-person game, ever…

      …if only they had been able to make it a single level!

      T3 was solid fun, it was just sad to see core design principles compromised for visual bling. We’ll see which way they’re going to go with this new one.

  2. Debaser says:

    “As bad as it was, I’d still take a chance if developer Quantic Dream came out with another game. That first act was something new and rewarding, and I’m eager for another dose of it.”

    Thats from your thoughtfully linked Indigo Prophecy review. What happened to make you so cynical about Quantic Dream?

    • Shamus says:

      Debaser: Oh, I’m going to GET heavy rain. It’s just that the game sounds SO MUCH like the original that it’s worrisome.

      Also note that the article has more than a dash of hyperbole.

  3. Trage says:

    I think you’re giving people too much credit with their creativity for naming conventions.

  4. Yar Kramer says:

    I got distracted watching the latest Zero Punctuation and Unskippable, sorry. And then, at the article’s promting, I got distracted reading the plot summary of Indigo Prophecy.

    I still mentally pronounce “Molyneux” as “Molly nukes.” And I chuckled at the last bit about everyone having Jedi powers. (Insert wrath over how Star Wars Galaxies went here.)

    That said, I think you already did a pretty good job killing the joy of E3 last time around …

  5. Noble Bear says:

    Re: StarWars TOR: Syndrom said it best”when EVEYONE is special, then NOBODY is”.

    Re: Heavy Rain: Hey! I LIKED Burgertime! You must now suffer the brunt of my unfiltered internet fanboy rage! GRRRRRR!!!

    Re: Thiaf: ROTFLMAO! I had to walk away from the monitor and come back, that had me busting up so hard.

    Re: Milo and Kate: I predict in that same 45 mins. the limits will have not only been found but they will be blogged about, parodied and remixed as a recommended vid on You Tube.

  6. Sheer_FALACY says:

    Heavy rain seems to be an example of doing things differently just because you can.

    For example, moving your character. They used vehicle controls – left, right, accelerate, basically. The left analog stick wasn’t good enough for them.

    And the rotating symbols around the head looks really cool, but I wonder about how practical it is. You can never see the one in back because you’re in the way, and you frequently can’t see the one in front because the camera zooms in too much, so if time is an issue at all it’d suck… and that’s at full SAN.

  7. Pickly says:

    On the jedi thing, hopefully they find some mechanics to avoid giving jedi powers to everyone, or have some other restriction on them.

    Though the jedi thing to me brings out how annoyed I get a lot of the time at other computer gamers. no matter what happens, a huge group of gamers will be pissed off (either “Jedi’s suck! they should be cool and powerful”, “Everyone’s playing Jedi, why can’t i find other classes to do…”, or “Why can’t I play a Jedi, this sucks”.) Computer gamers often seem like as big an obstacle to making fun games as anything else, whether complaing about really pointless stuff (like graphics), an amazing uncreativity and lack of interest in exploring a game (“Guild Wars isn’t a real MMO” with no mention of whether its fun.), and in multiplayer all the myraid things that have ot be adapted for that players can do to cause trouble.

  8. Pickly says:

    (Yes, I realize this is two posts, it is done this way as this one is goofier.)

    Related to the “players are often uncreative” above:

    If you start a thread, blog post, or some other internet post asking for or talking about new class suggestions for an MMO, you will get the following classes (unless they are already in the game): Bard, Barbarian, berserker, and martial arts monk. Runemaster is also quite common. I’m not sure why this is, perhaps these classes were popular and fun in Dungeons and Dragons or Everquest.

  9. Derek K. says:

    I’m playing a Trooper. Screw Jedi.

    The Troopers are the elite of the elite. Remember – troopers killed the Jedi when Order 66 was issued. Sticky grenades on your head beats force powers.

    Jedi are common in that age – at least as common as bounty hunters, smugglers, and elite commandos. So they’ll be balanced. Jedi will kill you at close range. Troopers will kill you far. BH will ambush. Smugglers will hide like cowardly monkeys.

    There will be a lot of Jedi. And they will be badass. We’ll just be badass too!

    Wasn’t half of Indigo Prophecy (or some portion at least) good?

  10. Vladius says:

    Why all the hate for SW: TOR?

    Sure there’ll be a million Jedi, but the other classes seem to be awesome enough that some of the more smart players will take a look at them.

    The trooper can throw sticky grenades onto people. They thrash around until, inevitably, they explode.
    The smuggler can kick people in the crotch and act like any self-respecting Harrison Ford person. They’re even giving the smuggler a cover system completely unique to the class.
    The bounty hunter is for people who like to kill Jedi more than play as them, which seems to be the direction some of us are leaning. Also, flamethrowers and jetpacks.

    There’s those things, and they’re also making it so that each individual class has its own campaign sort of thing, which, if they live up to expectations, will be at least a hundred hours each. They already proved that every line will be done with a voice-over, so things can only go up from here. (Right???)

    And, chances are, the Jedi are going to be more like the generic variety at earlier levels, by which point all the moronic kids might get bored and move on to bask in the godlike aura of whichever Halo cash-in comes next.

    At least it’ll be better than Star Wars: Galaxies. (There wasn’t even more than one galaxy! Even the title is screwed up!)

  11. pkt-zer0 says:

    I would think Thief 3’s small levels have more to do with the game being developed for consoles in general, which had about 4kBs of memory back then. Some PC devs complain about the same thing even now, with current-gen consoles, and it’s certainly a trend with recent multiplatform releases.

    In other words, “dumbed down for the console ‘tards”.

    Regarding that Milo and Kate …thing, the fact that they faked the video is a bad omen by itself.

  12. briatx says:

    I’m torn, Shamus. If I hadn’t clicked the link above, I would have missed the chance to read your excellent article. On the other hand, if I hadn’t clicked that link, I never would have stumbled on the Escapist gem “In Defense of Booth Babes” or the unsurprisingly moronic comments it attracted.

    Well, I suppose it was worth it. You should consider it a compliment that reading your article was worth enduring one more uptick in my blood pressure.

  13. karmuno says:

    As much as SW:TOR emphasizes story, I’m doubtful as to how that will affect the average Halotard. Sure, for those who are really into the Star Wars universe or games-are-art types the voice-overs and decision-making stuff will hopefully be great incentive for delving deeper into character, but no amount of relatable characters or moral ambiguity will stop your average MMORPGer from clicking “Skip” and killing what his quest log tells him to kill.

    Still, if my income rises above $n-1/month, where n is a ridiculously low number, by the time this drops, I’ll probably pick it up, if only for that one trailer with the epic battle in the Jedi temple.

  14. SatansBestBuddy says:

    This reminds me, I have yet to play any TellTale adventure games.

    Maybe I should get a demo…

  15. Julian says:

    Not only are they doing Tales of Monkey Islands, LucasArts is remaking the original in HD.
    Glory rains down upon the world.

  16. Jabor says:

    The idea I always had for “balancing” Jedi is to make them really really suck at low levels and be confined to one really small area away from anyone else until they’ve spent ages grinding up.

    That way everyone gets bored of them, and so the few people willing to invest thousands of hours to get through the tedious “Jedi Temple” introductory stage actually *deserve* the kickass powers they get.

  17. Joe Cool says:

    Re: Tales of Monkey Island, you are aware that this is an original, new, episodic game, right Shamus? The remake, Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition, is being made by LucasArts.

  18. Greg says:

    Re: Molyneux’s games all being cursed

    So just what did you think was wrong with Magic Carpet? The only problem I have with it is that it’s not playable on current machines.

  19. wererogue says:

    Backing up Joe Cool: the remake is being done by LucasArts, and Telltale are starting a series of Monkey Island episodes. So, you don’t need to wait for that announcement – that *was* the announcement.

    I’d say that the folks who made the original Monkey Island couldn’t possibly go wrong remaking exactly the same game, but… y’know. LucasArts.

  20. Daemian Lucifer says:

    @Pickly #8

    Someone will always complain because everyone wants a different thing,and you cant please all of them.YOu have to focus on certain people and fulfill their wishes,or everyone will be disapointed and no one would buy yiur product.

    As for everyone being a jedi,Shamus didnt you like city of heroes where everyone was a hero?

    • Shamus says:

      Daemian Lucifer: The point was that people think of Jedi as “rare, powerful, and mysterious”, but they can’t be any of those things in an MMO if they’re going to be a playable class.

      This doesn’t mean it won’t be fun, just that it’s not going to be as thrilling or as epic as you might think from looking at the movies. This disconnect between Qui-Gon Jinn[sp?] as rendered by Liam Neeson and “Obi-Wang Knobby” as played by Donny the high-school student is the sort of problem every MMO has to contend with, and I wanted to remind people of that while they were still dazzled by the glorious pre-rendered cutscenes.

      Think back to the awesome WoW trailer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PE7G8Rb8Uaw&feature=fvw and compare that to the experience of hanging around in the Barrens. That’s all I’m saying.

      Crap. I should have put that in the article.

  21. Bobby says:

    Wererogue:

    I’d say that the folks who made the original Monkey Island couldn’t possibly go wrong remaking exactly the same game, but… y’know. LucasArts

    You are forgetting none of the people who made the original Monkey Islands work at Lucasarts anymore. They work at Telltale, Double Fine and other such places. I don’t think there’s even one person from those times left there. Monkey Island is getting a revival mostly because the people who work at Lucasarts now played the original back when they were kids.

    Also yeah, Shamus, you’re mixing stuff up, Tales of MI is a new episodic saga by Telltale, the MI remake is made internally at Lucasarts.

    • Shamus says:

      Everyone is faulting me for not knowing that the episodic Monkey Island stuff has already been announced, and nobody is giving me credit for predicting it in the first place.

      It’s almost as if you people don’t believe I can predict the future. I find your lack of faith…

      Crap. How does that line go again?

  22. Pickly says:

    As for everyone being a jedi,Shamus didnt you like city of heroes where everyone was a hero?

    There’s a difference between a single character class that too many people will want to play over all other ones (which will likely lead to more boring or problematic gameplay), and a game where the only thing people can play are heros. Plus there might also be a player expectation problem, where lots of people want to have the option to play as a Jedi, but also will want them to be more powerful than everything else, which cannot be done in gameplay.

    Someone will always complain because everyone wants a different thing,and you cant please all of them.YOu have to focus on certain people and fulfill their wishes,or everyone will be disapointed and no one would buy yiur product.

    Normally this is where I’d assume complaints would come from, but for the “everyone wants a jedi” scenario, I would expect these different groups to overlap quite a bit, since these complaints would come from an expectation of being able to play an amazingly powerful, cool jedi. From the movies, an expectation would be built up that Jedi are pretty much all powerful, but they’d still need to be accessible to play, and the game would still need to be balanced and fun with some variety, and these three conditions would work against each other for satisfying the “I want jedi’ players.

  23. Vladius says:

    Since we’re all nerds, I think I can explain the classes in Magic: The Gathering terms.

    Jedi will be “Fragile Cannon” types. They do lots of damage and have really cool stuff, but can be taken out easily if you try hard enough. They might be like a 3/1 with first strike.

    Troopers are more sturdy. They might be like a 2/3.

    Bounty Hunters would be like a creature stacked with all kinds of abilities, including flying.

    Smuggler… I have no idea.

    Maybe it’s not a good analogy after all. The point is, they’ll find some way to balance the Jedi to not make them suck, while at the same time keeping them really fun. Besides, if you want to be a Jedi with gigantic powers, they’ve made games for that already and they’re not necessarily multiplayer or online.

  24. toasty says:

    “Why all the hate for SW: TOR?”

    Primarily for me because I don’t want an MMORPG I want a RPG. If I wanted an MMORPG I’d play EVE Online or WoW. I want KOTOR III not some lame MMO.

  25. toasty says:

    “Why all the hate for SW: TOR?”

    Because I don’t want a Star Wars MMORPG period. The idea, IMO, is lame. Like shamus said playing a million jedis is gonna get boring.

    If I want an MMORPG I’d take WoW because WoW is the most popular (its a lame reason. But the game is popular for a reason and the best part about MMORPGs is the community. Its why my brother plays Talisman Online (free Chinese MMO), the game may be a boring grind that does a very bad job of hiding this but he enjoys playing with his guild). If I didn’t feel like WoW I’d play EVE Online because well… EVE Online just sounds amazing.

  26. toasty says:

    … I double posted. DARNIT!

    Stupid Chrome freezing up and causing me to switch to firefox. ARGH!

    anyways, I’d delete one if I saw a delete button. I don’t so ignore the second post I guess.

  27. Awetugiw says:

    (Okay, sorry for the wall of text. I think I got carried away a bit.)

    It’s probably too much to hope that Molyneux actually makes a good game out of it, but if what he is making is adaptable enough, it might lead to really interesting games.

    The trick is just to take the interesting-but-unplayable tech demo Milo and Kate will probably be, and put it in a situation where its strengths can really shine, while it’s weaknesses remain somewhat hidden. While very good at showing what they can and cannot do, a “pure exploration” game will of course painfully expose every weakness. But let’s for a moment assume they actually made this work well enough to keep Milo believable for, say, 45 minutes. That would be more than enough to create some very special games.

    Example one.
    Okay, so we have an AI that can seem pretty real for a while, and attached to this something that lets the user manipulate onscreen objects with hand movements and the like. Sure, it is highly likely to be very imprecise, but we don’t need precision here.

    Now, basically make Myst n+1. The manipulation of onscreen objects with hand movements will work perfectly for pulling levers and the like. And Milo (let’s keep calling him Milo. The character used in such a game will probably be slightly different from what is shown in the demonstrations, but not more than slightly) can provide the one thing the Myst games always lacked: motivation.

    Compare the following: the player is shown an introduction movie of a man writing a letter (signing it Atrus), explaining some of the background (although you don’t really have much hope of understanding it all at this point if you haven’t played the previous games.) Then a cutscene starts. Apparently you were asked to come here, to visit “Releeshan”, a new home for the “D’ni”. However, before you and Atrus can leave, someone breaks in, steals a book marked Releeshan, sets fire to the house, and disappears. You follow the stranger, and try to get the book back.
    Now don’t get me wrong, this introduction from Myst III is a very good introduction. But throughout the game the motivation for the player is more likely to be that he wants to find out more about the world he is in than that he wants to help Atrus and the D’ni.

    Now, let’s try to see how this could be done with a Milo. The game starts when you arrive at the house where Milo lives. You meet his parents, who express their gratitude that you’re willing to take care of Milo for the weekend while they have to be somewhere else. They give some instructions, as parents would be almost certain to do, and leave. So far, it’s pretty much like the Myst III intro. “Apparently I’ve promised to take care of Milo for the weekend. Okay.” But now, we can use the fact that Milo can be convincingly human for about 45 minutes. You spend the first 20 minutes of the game just talking and/or playing with Milo and exploring the environment a bit. Apparently, Milo’s parents are some sort of archeologists, and Milo shows you some of the (strange, mechanical) things they found in the area close to the house. At the end of the (approximately) 20 minutes, Milo takes you to one of the sites where the mechanical things were found. There one of you accidentally activates a switch. It turns out you were standing on some sort of elevator, which now takes the two of you underground. You can’t seem to get the elevator to go up again, so you move out of the elevator, into a hallway. After a while, the hallway collapses, separating you from Milo. After solving one or two puzzles, you manage to find him again. At this point, Milo is very, very scared, and it shows. At this point, almost any one playing the game will be very motivated to get Milo out of there. The rest of the game, you will be solving puzzles to allow yourself and Milo to reach the surface again. The trick is that you do not want the player to be near Milo all the time, or you will run into the limits of how believable Milo is. Instead, Milo hurts his leg, and waits for you near the elevator, while you explore the different wings of the underground facility. After each wing you return to Milo for a while, but then move on to the next wing.

    The same idea works for a lot of games. If you can manage to get the player to interact with Milo long enough to care, but not long enough to run encounter the limits of how believable Milo is, you get a game where the player has a much stronger motivation to solve whatever the problem in the game is.

    Example two.
    A much more ambitious way of using a Milo would be to use not only the strengths, but also some of the weaknesses. At some point the illusion of Milo being a normal person will fail. But perhaps one can steer the way it will fail. One of the ways Milo will fail is probably that the player gets the idea that he and Milo are “on different wavelengths”, talking past eachother. And if properly used, this can become creepy.

    You know the idea from horror movies (and games) where the protagonist meets a child, who at first seems to be quite normal, but slowly becomes more and more creepy? It is quite possible that Milo can be made to fail in a creepy way.

    Another way to deal with Milo’s believability failing would be to simply have Milo “play an AI”. At first glance this might not seem very productive, but I think it might work. Milo will not be able to fool people into thinking he is human-like for long. But he might be able to fool people into thinking he is a more advanced AI than he really is for a long time.

    Even so, you will need to limit the amount of time the player has to notice the limits of what Milo can do, but these options to “fail gracefully” might give significantly more time.

    A final note.
    I mentioned before that I think Milo-based character in games would be a lot like Milo. I actually have some reasons to think this, which I will try to explain.

    The first reason is the asymmetric relationship between a person and an AI. If you want to make a realistic AI it is a lot easier to leave most of the initiative to the person interacting with the AI. This is a lot less noticable if the person imitated by the AI would be in an asymmetric relationship with the real person. An AI pretending to be a robot, a dog or a child will probably be much more believable than an equally good AI pretending to be an equal.

    The second reason is that having the AI play a child can sometimes give an excuse for not understanding things. A child (or once again, robot or dog, really) not knowing a certain word is more likely than an adult not knowing the word.

    The third reason is sympathy. People will generally feel more sympathy towards a child, and will therefore judge it less harshly. I’d be willing to bet this remains true if people know it’s an AI. (So people will judge an AI playing a child less harshly than an AI playing an adult.)

    All in all an AI pretending to be a child will probably just work best. Sure, you can have a Mila in stead of Milo, but that won’t change much. In both examples I gave you could replace Milo with a Mila without any real trouble.

  28. Anaphyis says:

    @SatansBestBuddy: One of the Sam&Max episodes is currently in the free section of Gametap. It’s not the best and you’ll miss all the in-jokes to earlier episodes but it’s good enough to get an impression I guess.

  29. Vladius says:

    You don’t even need to get it from Gametap. In fact, I recommend that you get it from somewhere else.

    It’s the one about Abraham Lincoln.

  30. Eric says:

    Sony’s motion controls is what I thought the wii was going to be. The milo project seems really cool, but not at all viable anytime soon.

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