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Just Let Me Play! 633

Posted by Zonk
from the it's-not-that-hard dept.
Gamers with Jobs complains today about the thick layers of 'work' many games put between you and the fun nowadays. Instead of having 'secret areas' or 'unlockable modes,' he argues we should just be able to play the game we purchased. From the article: "I play games to escape. To go somewhere else. But our industry has so ingrained this concept of 'earning' our fun that the best is somehow always saved for last. Like modern day Puritans, we've convinced ourselves that we are not worthy of that for which we've already paid. Sinners in the hands of an angry god, we don't deserve our fun until we pay in blood."
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Just Let Me Play!

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  • But wait (Score:5, Insightful)

    by iknowcss (937215) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @05:12PM (#15483487) Homepage
    Wouldn't the fact that you don't have it all make you crave that next level or secret area all the more? Then you would spend more and more time playing and playing, working to get that last bit of pleasure. Much more enjoyable that a game that's real cool that gets old a couple of days later. I think the work makes games worth more because then you really want to play it.
    • Re:But wait (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SoCalChris (573049) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @05:18PM (#15483534) Journal
      The problem is that once you get older, and start having more of a full life, you just don't have the time to play a game for several hours, trying to unlock certain things.

      I've had several racing games that won't allow me to drive certain cars until I do something that requires more free time than I have. Every time I've played a game like that, I usually end up shelving it after a few days, because I just don't have the time to put into unlocking anything, and playing the game with just the basic level cars gets boring real fast.

      When it comes down to spending time with the kids, working, spending time with the wife, and playing games, the playing games is always going to come in last.

      At least give us the option of allowing things to be unlocked without having to spend hours doing it...
      • Re:But wait (Score:5, Informative)

        by MBraynard (653724) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @05:56PM (#15483810) Journal
        Hi,

        Really, sounds like you should check out gamefaq or something before you get the game to see if the unlock coads are listed. Problem SO-ZIZLED!

        • Re:But wait (Score:3, Informative)

          by Reaperducer (871695)
          Unless it's not a popular game, so it's not listed.

          Or unless it's a game where the unlock codes are dynamically generated based on your hardware serial number.

          Or unless it's a game that you bought overseas a year before it comes out in the United States, so it's not there.

          Or unless you're good at a game and you're farther along than anyone who's bothered to post codes on insert-web-site-here.

          Or unless the web site posts codes for a version of the game on a console other than yours and they're not interchang
      • Re:But wait (Score:5, Interesting)

        by swerk (675797) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @07:36PM (#15484317) Journal
        I'll agree wholeheartedly with that. Now that I have something resembling a life, I can't pour too much time into games, at least not ones my wife doesn't find interesting. :^)

        But the article whines about not getting to see everything a game has to offer, which is a little bit different. Yes, the racing game that refuses to give you the cool cars until you finish first in every cup is artificially making itself "longer", to the detriment of those of us who can't pour that much time into it. But should I be able to tap in some code buttons and immediately be able to jump into all the hidden, secret levels of a platformer? Or for that matter, should I be able to say, "ok, I've played this adventure game for 5 minutes, give me everything and stick me at the final boss battle"?

        Ironically, the article rips on the notion of games being measured in hours, which is absolutely valid. Pac-man has great gameplay but it's nonsensical to talk about how "long" it is. But it's by that same measure that the author would like to be able to "have access to everything". With a book, you can skip to the last chapter if you really want to, but that's neither the way the author would want you to read it nor the best way to experience it. In a video game, the magic is not in the linear literary work but in the "live", interactive experience. The progression of a game itself is not the storyline it may or may not contain, but that by the time you finish it (if it even has an ending), you're interacting on a relatively deep level. The play itself is the progress, not which map you get to see or what car you drive. And that kind of progress doesn't have a proper analog if we talk about flipping to the last chapter of a book. It's an experience, which really doesn't map well to "let me have it all right now".

        I've played through each of the Metal Gear Solid games a few times. The story is always the same (with some minor branches depending on the player's actions), but it's a different experience every time. At first, I was just awful at playing the game, was lucky to walk ten yards without getting caught, was just terrible at battles, and used the "Very Easy" which let me get quite a bit out of the game anyway. Now I play through on "Hard" with the option that if I'm spotted, it's game over. Totally different gaming experience. I know all the bosses, I've seen all the maps (except maybe some very tricky secret spots, which I think is great, no game should have to disclose everything) but the game goes on because I can play it differently now. It's a more complex game by miles and miles than Donkey Kong and its four repeating levels, but growing into the gameplay works exactly the same way.

        Maybe the problem is that so many games don't provide good compromises like that. Every game probably should have some manner of easy mode that lets you experience basically everything the game has to offer, if only on a shallow level. Once the player is more familiar with a game and its mechanics, that's when the real game progress is happening, but we've been trained to think of games in terms of "hours" and "endings", so maybe more developers need to throw us a bone. Ikaruga (great game) could really use an infinite-lives mode to let sucky players get to the end, because getting to the end isn't the point, learning to chain kills and navigate swarms of obstacles artfully is the point. It in fact has such an infinite-lives mode, but you have to play the game for X number of hours before you have access to it. The requirement is actually not totally unfair if I remember right, but it's definitely higher than it should be. For those of us who want to reach the end, let us. If that's what it takes to hook us on the gameplay and get us really into it, it will be worth any compromises a cheap-way-through makes to a game.
      • by raygundan (16760)
        Unlockable content is just in the way of me having fun. Burnout 3 drove me nuts because of this-- I just wanted to get online for a half-hour once a week and race a friend or two. But to gain access to other courses and cars, I had to slog through a neverending series of single-player races I wasn't interested in. I gave up after a few weeks.

        It may make some sense in an adventure or RPG game that you can't see the last level without playing the rest of the game-- but at the very least, no multiplayer gam
    • You beat me to the punch. It is the careful metering out of stimulus/reward that makes games addictive. But there are many kinds of players, some want that, others want to play in an open ended sandbox mode, others just want to win as quickly as possible.
    • Re:But wait (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Analogy Man (601298) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @07:02PM (#15484172)
      Kawasaki did some interesting marketing research. A motorcycle is not typically something someone needs RIGHT NOW. They found that on average people are much more enthusiastic about their purchase if they have to wait. I am not sure if they do it anymore, but even if they had the bike you wanted in inventory you would have to wait 2-3 days while they got it all set up for you. The "compensating male" would spend the next 3 days talking up his new bike and couldn't wait to get on it.

      Maybe video games are the same way. I'll stick with Solitaire (spare the stroke jokes please).

  • I personally love games that force you to work to unlock stuff. This adds replay value to the game, which makes me feel like I am getting my moneys worth. I mean what if you buy a new game for $50, and everything is right there on the table immediately, and you go through it all in 10 hours. I would certainly feel ripped off! However, that same game, if it requires me to meet certain requirements in order to unlock extra stuff, I'm going to keep playing, and get 20 or 30 hours of playtime out of it, if n
    • by Jason1729 (561790) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @05:17PM (#15483525)
      How about when you go back to the old game 5 years later and have lost all your save data for it? Still want to have to put in 500 hours to unlock your favorite part again?

      Why should you be forced to play the same boring content over and over just to get to the content you do want?
    • I enjoy unlocking stuff, providing the unlocking process is fun. Problably one of the games which I find is really good at this is the WWE Smackdown series (especially Smackdown vs. Raw 2006). You want to unlock Jimmy Hart as a manager? Just win 10 matches as a created guy. You want to unlock the Wrestlemania 21 arena, beat all the Easy challenges (which are, with the exception of eliminating 10 guys from the Royal Rumble, pretty easy), and it lets you carry out the challenges with a second player as well,
    • by AuMatar (183847) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @05:20PM (#15483541)
      If a games replay value is based on making me do pointles shit to unlock special modes/levels/characters, I'm being ripped off. I'd rather the game honestly report it only has 10 hours of playtime, and have the devs work on the next game. I don't find going back through the levbels to collect all the coins, or visit every corner of the map fun. I find it mind numbing and tedious. And then I get annoyed that there's content I paid for that I can't access, not because my skill is too low but because the devs are making me do meaningless shit to reach it. I refuse to ever buy any game which features unlockables. They're a scourge on the industry and need to be destroyed.
    • That is exactly right. Take Mortal Kombat, those games are fun but I'd lose interest eventually if it wasn't for the massive amount of unlockable content and hidden areas. I love getting a mortal kombat game and knowing that what I can play now is just the tip of the iceburg.
    • by Temsi (452609) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @05:31PM (#15483637) Journal
      I disagree.
      I buy a car game because they have screenshots and demos of a supercharged Camaro that sounds great and runs great. When I come home, I start the game, only to find out I have to spend the next 3 evenings working my way up, driving POS cars like a Ford Fiesta or a Honda, before I can touch the cars that made me want to get the game in the first place. By that time, the game has already gotten monotonous and in some cases outright boring.
      I get car games to drive cool cars. I've had enough experience with POS cars in real life, thank you. I don't need to do it when I want to "escape".
      Let me play the game with what sold me on the idea in the first place. Don't hold it over my head. Don't use it as a carrot to get me to stay playing something I don't really like that much, just to get to the part I want.
      The good thing about car games, is that they have a much longer lifespan than games that have storylines. For example, I'm still playing an old PC game called 1nsane, but Indigo Prophecy I only played once and I have no desire to play it again. So the cheap game with lots of playability has gotten hundreds if not thousands of hours of playtime from me, while the story driven game that probably cost 100 times as much, only managed 20 or so hours of play... because it was linear.
      I'll take a non-linear game over a linear one any day and twice on Sunday - because a non-linear actually CAN be played twice.
  • by Flimzy (657419) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @05:12PM (#15483491)
    My biggest problem is that my boss makes me play too many games before I get to accomplish any real work. I'm trying to earn an honest day's pay for an honest day's work... But all I get to do is waste time playing games!
  • by ScentCone (795499) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @05:14PM (#15483498)
    In a moment of weakness, I nearly caught myself enjoying the author's point right away, in the first couple of paragraphs. But I was raised to put that off and read the whole thing first. It builds character. Delayed gratification, people!
  • Bad attitude (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Umbral Blot (737704)
    Instead of obsessing about how unlockable features prevents you from having you your fun try thinking of them as spreading the fun over a longer period of time. If a game gave you everything at the start once you got bored with the game that would be it. However with unlockable content you still have new things to do even after you have begun to exhaust the possibilities of the game play provided at the beginning. So instead of buying a game that gives you 30 hours of fun you have bought a game that give
    • Re:Bad attitude (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Abcd1234 (188840) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @05:16PM (#15483524) Homepage
      Or, put another way: our games are so crappy that they have no replay value, so instead, we'll add "unlockable content", so that you're forced through various hoops in order to get at additional material, thus artificially extending the life of the game. Great. Or not.
      • It's better than nothing, so I'll take what I can get.
      • Re:Bad attitude (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Babbster (107076)
        Your underlying assumption, though, is that the "hoops" you're jumping through aren't fun. If a game isn't fun until you unlock a bunch of stuff then it's a bad game. It's not a bad game because of the unlockables; it's a bad game because the gameplay isn't fun. For example, I haven't finished unlocking everything in Burnout Revenge. If I wasn't enjoying myself and somehow knew that later in the game there was awesome stuff going on, then that would piss me off. Since I am, though, it doesn't bother me
    • Re:Bad attitude (Score:3, Informative)

      by MarcoAtWork (28889)
      you are contradicting yourself

      If a game gave you everything at the start once you got bored with the game that would be it.

      as opposed to a game with unlockables where I have to subject myself to doing things I don't like (and being bored) to access more of the content I already paid for? Hello? This is a game, it's supposed to be entertainment, I already have a day job, and the last thing I want is having to be made to "work" when all I want is sit on the couch and relax for a bit with some mindless enterta
    • Re:Bad attitude (Score:3, Informative)

      by forkazoo (138186)

      Instead of obsessing about how unlockable features prevents you from having you your fun try thinking of them as spreading the fun over a longer period of time.

      No. Respectfully, I won't think of it that way. Often times, I only really like 1 or 2 game modes. For example, in a game like Time Splitters, I tend to go for Capture the Flag with a bunch of bots in Arcade mode. As far as I'm concerned, I shouldn't have to play through X hours of story mode, and Y hours of challenge mode before I can play my C

  • IAWTP (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ankarbass (882629) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @05:14PM (#15483500)
    I would play more games if they had a "on screen megahints and never never die" mode for crappy gamers such as myself. Hardcore gamers could leave it turned off if they wanted the "fun" of finding that crap by themselves. I just want to shoot stuff.

    *burp*
    • Google "cheat codes for [insert game name here]", and you will get all that you seek, Grasshopper. Walkthroughs abound. Also, many games have various difficulty settings. Start at the "I am only an egg" setting.

  • quick turn on your favorite game from 2006 and your favorite game from 1996 and your favorite game from 1986. how long does it take to get from power on to running around the first level and not being in a "tutorial" or cutscene. the giant and very profitable hardcore gaming fanbase is killing gaming for everyone else. for all the attention the growth of the gaming industry has gotten, the games themselves had more mass-market appeal 10 and 20 years ago.
  • This is why I play with the cheats on. I work hard for a living and I play to relax, the last thing I want is a game where I have to concentrate for hours and worry about tiny details and collecting millions of keys. In simple terms

    1) If its a shoot-em-up I want heavy artillery
    2) If its a military game I want to get to the fighting bits quickly
    3) If its a strategy game I want to be able to decide that I want to skip a bit

    Does this "ruin" the fun for me? Hell no, because I play games to relax not to demon
  • by XenoRyet (824514) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @05:18PM (#15483529)
    It's a fairly straightforward idea that a payoff with no work is not as compelling as a payoff that you've worked for. Anyone who's ever used a cheat code should know that.

    If you don't have to "work" for the fun, the fun won't be as good.

    • Which is true and there's a lot of fun to be had working through it. The point though is for a lot of gamers, there are only an hour or so a day that the games can actually be played. If you have to play 10 hours to get something "good" then its simply not worth it.

      I think at least in part that that's why the EA sports line does so well. Put it in and you can play. If you want your own franchise, and cheats, and all that stuff you can get it, too, or you can just start playing.

    • No its not. The amount of enjoyment I get from something isn't directly proportional to the amount of work I put into it. If anything, I find its inversely proportional- the more work I put into something, the less enjoyment I get out of it. If something takes a lot of effort to achieve, I find myself looking at the effort I took and realising there's so many better things I could have done with my time. Take WoW- I found more enjoyment hitting level 10 than 60. It was low effort, so it was still fun
    • If you don't have to "work" for the fun, the fun won't be as good.
      I don't play games to "work", I play them to relax.
    • That sounds as if you're assuming that there's a constant amount of work required before games get fun, and further assuming that said value is the same for all people in all circumstances. I don't think that is the case, as amount of debate on this thread should demonstrate.

      I think the relationship is more complicated than that. Not only do people achieve maximum fun levels for different amounts of work, but there are other factors that skew the curve. TFA seems to be suggesting that the amount of tim

    • He has some points.

      1. No genre is more crap-flooded and treadmilly than MMPORPG's. Those are real work. Nobody who plays these will argue that they don't need more fun stuff to do and less work.

      2. We need more 10 hour games. The last RPG I had time to beat was Xenogears, and that lasted about 70 hours. It was a great game (until they ran out of money), but it needed to be a lot shorter to fit in a real lifestyle. If an industry guy like me can't find time to play games through to the end, who will?

      3. M
    • It's not the work, it's the challenge.

      Rephrasing what you said:
      A payoff with no challenge is not as compelling as a payoff that you've beaten a challenge for it.

      What the author of the article is pointing is the tendency in many modern games to force the player to do work to get access to a great deal of the game's content.

      The thing for casual gamers is, they have enough work already in real life and they don't have the available free time to go out farm kabots (or whatever) for several hours to get to the n
  • my thoughts exactly! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MyDixieWrecked (548719) * on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @05:18PM (#15483530) Homepage Journal
    That's why I'm such a big fan of Nintendo. They seem to follow that philosophy. They make games that you can just pick up and play. and play you do.

    Although, I was a little disappointed when I just beat the New Super Mario Brothers for my DS. It took me 3 days of playing on the subways and trains and the only thing I really unlocked in the end was luigi.

    I was kinda hoping to unlock something really spectacular. The minigames were the same as Mario64DS, and when I found a hut where there was something I could buy for a whopping 20 star coins, I was hoping it would be some new gamestyle or perhaps SMB1 in its entirety, but instead it was just new wallpapers for the touchscreen.

    although I haven't managed to get to 3 of the worlds, so I"m working on that. perhaps I'll take a look at gameFAQs... no. scratch that. I wanna figure it out myself. it's more fun that way.
  • Catch 22 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Wind_Walker (83965) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @05:19PM (#15483538) Homepage Journal
    Too many "unlockables" and it's work. No "unlockables" and it's 30 minutes of gameplay. There's a balance. I've recently bought Guitar Hero and Battlefield 2, and it's a nice contrast.

    Guitar Hero does it pretty well, but they still make you play through the Career mode to open the basic playlist. So if I want to show a friend how cool Guitar Hero is and the full song list, I have to bring my memory card as well - otherwise he gets the first 5 songs and that's it. But the gameplay is fantastic and highly addictive.

    Battlefield 2 is good with unlockables. All classes are available at the start and you can gradually unlock more weapons for those classes, which are generally minor upgrades over the stock weapons. The gameplay suffers from the same problems as other online-only games - namely cheaters and the "Internet Fuckwad" theory.

    There's definately a balance, so hopefully there's not a new wave of games with no unlockables - they're fun and add a good deal of playtime to otherwise straightforward games.

    • Re:Catch 22 (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Opportunist (166417)
      Guitar Hero is EXACTLY the best example of a game that doesn't need to resort to such cheap tactics and does it regardless. Maybe out of habit. It DOES have a great replay value. It's fun. It would already be lots of fun if you had all the songs and could just see your "progress" by how you finally can do Ace of Spades on Extreme where you failed at Smoke on the Water at Easy.

      Why such cheap carrot dangling when it's definitly NOT necessary?
      • Re:Catch 22 (Score:5, Informative)

        by cgenman (325138) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @06:19PM (#15483931) Homepage
        I assure you, nothing in there is out of habit.

        The few games we've made in the past that simply gave the player everything from the start were reprimanded by critics and players alike for having no replay value. And it was a fair criticism: you're done before you start. There was no sense of progression or purpose to them. The progression can be light and the purpose can be hollow, but you still need a purpose for the player's activities in the game.

        Even if the gameplay is the most fun you can imagine, you still have the feeling that there is nothing pulling you along. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. The tunnel may be worth traversing for itself, but you still have to put a light at the end.

        The fact that people want these things shows that they're great motivators. And motivation is what you need to help make the player the best darned guitar player they can be, both in life and in games. Without motivation, the experience falls falt. Striking that balance between keeping stuff away and rewarding the player is delicate... it can't be too frequent or things feel like they have no value, but it can't be too sparse or else you really are simply milking the player for game time. And milking the player simply for game time is something we studiously avoid, and will continue to avoid in the future.

        Also, you don't want to overload the player with too many options too soon, or they won't know what to do. Even having too deep a songlist too early will confuse. Maybe it won't befuddle the seasoned rocker / gamer, but it does befuddle a lot of people at playtests.

        BTW, if you're stuck at a party without a memory card, try Yellow, Orange, Blue, Blue, Orange, Yellow, Yellow.
      • Re:Catch 22 (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Jerf (17166) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @08:31PM (#15484506) Journal
        I also wish DDR had this option.

        Once I managed to toast my DDR save somehow, and wham-bang, most of my favorite songs are suddenly unavailable. Losing my grades I can deal with; those are pretty easily replaced. Losing the unlocked songs was a major PITA. (And in DDRMAX2, which is the game that I lost, the only, sole, and singular way to unlock the songs is to play through 300 stages, IIRC, a matter of weeks at any sane speed, even with my wife helping.)

        Meanwhile, in DDRExtreme 2, which I've played a lot, I still don't even know how many songs there are that I paid for and can't play. My wife and I are "well above average" amoung "everybody who has ever played DDR", which is to say we can routinely get through Standard mode songs now, but by DDR standards we're still beginners. The unlockable technique is to play through various challenges, and we've pretty much gotten to the point where we can't progress any further, and I know there are more songs in there. It annoys me when I think about it.

        (Besides, at 6'4", I've come to realize that I am rapidly approaching the point where it simply doesn't matter how much better my brain or my muscles get; I'm not certain I'm ever going to be physically capable of doing Heavy for most songs. I've just got too much leg to move around to do it as quickly as smaller people.)

        The sibling post from cgenman points to the solution, I think; go ahead with your unlockable scheme, but provide unlocking codes for those of us who just want our songs, damn it, or lost our save file (which happens!). This probably applies more to Guitar Hero and DDR-type games than most.
    • Elite and Revs (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jd (1658) <imipak@nOSPam.yahoo.com> on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @06:36PM (#15484037) Homepage Journal
      Two fairly early, but very potent and very powerful games. Revs has nothing that was unlockable, but the sheer challenge of it made the game good for a few months. Elite had two "secret missions", but those really didn't contribute much to the gameplay. The amazing difficulty of reaching that tech 1 anarchy when smuggling goods, or of being slammed by Thargons before being able to afford the military beam lasers... That game was good for a year or more, in that incarnation. There were two sequels, and an Open Source clone. (Several other open source clones were written, but vanished for one reason or another.)

      To me, questions raised by these two games are not really answered by the modern practice of having almost everything secret in ways that cannot be logically figured out or logically encountered. Most of the time, people will get bored with looking for illogical stuff. If the game needs it, the player will lose interest. If the game doesn't need it, the player won't bother. Either that, or they wait for the information to be published on the Internet. Regardless, the secrets aren't adding anything and actually detract from things.

      To me, logical sequencing and obviously in-character progressions are fine - even if they are secret. The secret nature isn't the important bit, though. They fit in that universe, they belong there, they make sense there, and they add to the feel of being there. It doesn't disrupt the flow - you aren't constantly switching between "playing" and "hitting things at random". I don't see any problem with such features and would expect them in many types of game. If these are a problem for the original article author, then we're definitely differing on what makes a game a game.

      Another example from Way Back When - Level 9's text-based adventure games. These usually had one or more segments that were "massive", at least for the user. What they involved was a set of rooms that were re-used repeatedly, producing the illusion of a near-infinite space. They used some combination of colours and/or numbers to represent where in this virtual space you were. Once you realized that the space itself was a puzzle, it became fun to figure out how the system worked and, from that, infer where any secret exits would logically be. This fit with the dynamics of the game, so it just flowed naturally.

      If I'm emphasising flow, it's because I believe this to be the characteristic of not only a good game, but also of a good strategy in a good game. To me, the number of secrets, the level of thought required, etc, are side issues. They alter the flavour of the game, but that's not what makes it good. Unlocking the logic of the game should be the chief puzzle, and once that has been conquered, the rest should largely follow.

      The old ladders-style games had a very simple logic. Once you understood the timings, you didn't automatically master the game. That took practice, and each progressive level required greater precision. When this was done well, it kept the game interesting, because understanding was not the same as solving. It wasn't just ladders games that did this. The nastiest game in history has to be Firebird's Firetrack. It was a scrolling shoot-em-up that was FAST. After a game, you'd have to sit for several minutes until the walls stopped moving, and that was just the first level. Subsequent ones were faster and deadlier. Thinking wasn't an option and reflexes were too slow. If it actually had anything more to it than this, it could easily have thrashed anything else out at the time.

      This is not to say that all older games were good. There was plenty of **** out there. Far TOO much. It's also not to say that no new games have this quality to them, but the percentage is far too low. There's no real complexity or challenge to many of them. Such games are difficult because they're obscure and not because of a titanic struggle for supremecy between coders and gamers.

      I believe it would be easy enough to test t

      • Re:Elite and Revs (Score:3, Interesting)

        by orac2 (88688)
        Yes, the original Elite rocked, although the post Ian-Bell sequels were disappointing (interestingly enough for the exact same reason Quake wasn't as much fun as Doom II. The later game had prettier graphics, but failed to deliver the bursts of frenetic action that could be found in the orginal. Finishing up a massive dogfight in Elite, with no missiles, no shields, no energy bomb left, and a hull a budgie's fart away from failure, while you crusie through the debris field of your last opponent, rotating sm
  • The one feature I liked about SiN: Emergence when I went back to replay the game on the hardest difficulty setting was a feature to skip all cutscenes. Instead of being bored to death to get from the intro beginning into the game action, I was dropped right into the action. That was cool. Although the hardest difficulty makes it more easier to be killed by my own stupidity than by the AI. Anyone else noticed this SiNful behavior?
  • I belong to a guild that is linked in my post. They play World of Warcraft and I do not. I used to in the beta and early into release. Now however the only way to compete is to do these 40 person raids, which take hours and hours where one person can screw the entire raid up. The loot from each successful raid is bickered over. Every guild has their own system of loot distribution but there is no completely equitable solution. There isn't even an equitable way to determine who gets into a raid. Peopl

  • When the bell rings do you salivate?

    How many sites and magazines are there, all gushing at the wonders of the next treadmill you will:

    • Pay intial cost for (buy)
    • Possibly subscribe to (rent)
    • Never see one cent of return on (unless you sell something you acquired on eBay)
    • Spend large swathes of your life on, which you will never have back
    • Piss and moan to any authority (or even just vent on a blog somewhere) about how something is just not fair

    All for what? Seriously, I thought gamblers were obsesse

  • I beat my controller against the wall for a few weeks in f-zero GX trying to unlock the "extra" AX cup (the one you have to beat every other cup on master for) and trying to pass the 3rd mission in story mode (the one after the boulders, which took me ages to pass as well) and ended just giving up and shelving the game, I mean, cmon, I want to have some fun and be able to see all of the content I paid for (esp. the AX cup).

    If you're going to make the game that impossible at least put in some cheats to unloc
  • by mattwarden (699984) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @05:22PM (#15483556) Homepage

    Everyone's entitled to their opinion, but I think this is rubbish. Work is a four-letter word (especially around here), but the truth is that people don't enjoy things they don't have to work at. Entertainment is no exception. Even movies... anyone who truly enjoys movies would hate a movie that didn't require at least a little bit of thought. I personally don't enjoy a movie unless I have to see it a couple times in order to catch everything (you know, like Enough and Break Up).

    Take the work out of games, and all you have is 10 minutes of running from start to finish. How's that supposed to stroke anyone's ego?

  • WTF (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Turn-X Alphonse (789240) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @05:22PM (#15483560) Journal
    Is the author like 12?

    I WANT EVERYTHING AND I WANT IT NOW! GIMME GIMME GIMME!!

    Unlockables are ment to give you an extra way to enjoy the game. Something fun to extend it after you've already finished the main game. If you want everything handed to you on the plate right at the start of the game then you're not the type of person these features are aimed at.

    Unlockables are aimed at people who want to get a perfect rank in every level, who wants to finish the game only using the basic weapon and who wants to try playing HL2 through with just a crowbar and a rocket launcher. If you're not this crowd then you have to accept that some parts of the games might not be to your taste.
    • Re:WTF (Score:4, Interesting)

      by cliffski (65094) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @05:58PM (#15483822) Homepage
      no, the clues in the title. Hes a gamer WITH A JOB. He wants to enjoy the wole game without dedicating his life to it. It's a fair point. Nobody minds there being an uber-difficult level for the hardcore, but people like to think they can get the full enjoyment from a game without it having to take over their life first. With this in mind, difficulty levels are preferable to unlockables.
      • Re:WTF (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Indras (515472) *

        no, the clues in the title. Hes a gamer WITH A JOB. He wants to enjoy the wole game without dedicating his life to it. It's a fair point. Nobody minds there being an uber-difficult level for the hardcore, but people like to think they can get the full enjoyment from a game without it having to take over their life first. With this in mind, difficulty levels are preferable to unlockables.

        I am a gamer, with a job. I work 40-50 hours a week. I have a pregnant wife. She's rather demanding (and will proudl

    • Re:WTF (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rblum (211213)
      If you're not this crowd then you have to accept that some parts of the games might not be to your taste.


      That would be fine - if I didn't have to pay for it, either. I'm a gamer WITH A JOB too, and I don't have time for that crap either. So why exactly should I have to pay for content that's only for people who still live in Mom's basement and don't have any social life?

    • Re:WTF (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nathanh (1214)

      Is the author like 12? I WANT EVERYTHING AND I WANT IT NOW! GIMME GIMME GIMME!!

      No, it sounds more like he's 30. When you're 12 you can afford to piss away 100 hours a week on a video game to unlock all the specials, because when you're 12 you have parents to cook and clean and provide a roof over your head. When you're 30 you suddenly need to care for your own kids and that means you spend 100 hours a week working. If you're lucky you have 2-3 hours per week to play video games.

      The game writers ar

  • Let's face it, a lot of games suck. I buy the game. I play it for an hour or two. I see the pretty. I hear the boom. I go "cool" at the twist or the plot or the theme that made me want to buy it in the first place. Then back it goes into the GameSpot "used" bin.

    Maybe its more about the author's attitude toward gaming in general than the fact that there is something wrong with "unlocking" new content. If the game is good enough, then the unlockables are just bonuses that boost the game to an even higher sta

  • We NEED levels! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by adamofgreyskull (640712) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @05:25PM (#15483580)
    I remember back when I were a wee nipper. I'd say, "Just one more level mum!" and she'd begrudgingly say..."Ohh, okay...". He cites GTA. How do you think she would have reacted had I said, "Awww...can't I just whack one more skank mum!?" or "Can't I just waste 10 more cacodemons??".

    "Level" is a nice, conservative, bland word, it evokes no emotion. As soon as you start having to explain your progression through a game in terms of what you're actually doing...well then the ESRB win don't they, and your dirty little secret is out.
  • Heh. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ZorbaTHut (126196) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @05:25PM (#15483588) Homepage
    This demonstrates brilliantly that most people don't actually know what they want.

    Games could include everything from step 1. But then there's no sense of accomplishment. There's no sense of "oh man, I'm about to unlock/progress/complete". It's just a bunch of puzzles that you can ignore if you like. I've seen games released like this. They're not fun. Nobody plays them.

    Even the games he mentioned - Battlefield 2 and GTA - have a sense of progression. In Battlefield 2 you can get better at the game and better at defeating people - since it's competitive, this drive is a lot stronger than in singleplayer games. Not only that, but the game *does* let you unlock "new weapons" if you play enough. In GTA, completing missions occasionally unlocks new cars and abilities. In the latest GTA there's even "skill levels" that you gain through repeating actions!

    If he wants everything to be accessible, he should look for cheat codes or trainers. They exist for practically every game out there. But he'll be bored.
  • by smclean (521851)
    Is this really so new? 'Super Mario Brothers' didn't have a skip-all-levels-and-go-straight-to-bowser option. 'Pitfall' didn't have a .... OK, nevermind 'Pitfall'. But seriously, games are all about challenges. If you want to cheat, that's what they make cheat codes for.
  • The article is comparing video games to the knowns of a paper book for crying out loud. Umm..... different medium folks. Stick to books if that is more comfy, or maybe hit a hybrid mode with e-paper ... best (or worst) of both worlds depending on your comfort level.
  • by pandrijeczko (588093) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @05:29PM (#15483615)
    Remember, as a kid, you used to go to the park with your mates for a game of football (soccer to you Yanks). The two best footballers in the group would be the team "captains" and the rest of you would stand in line as the two captains picked their players, one-by-one and alternately, from the lines of kids. Invariably, being slightly rotund and crap at football, I was one of the last kids to be picked, usually after the 4-stone one-legged kid with asthma. However, being crap at football, my true mates sometimes let me take a penalty, just so I could go home and boast to my parents how I'd scored a goal. And sometimes, if I missed the goal from the penalty, my mates would say "Never mind, have another go", put the ball back on the penalty spot and move one of the jumpers to make the goal a bit wider so there was no chance of me *not* scoring. (Of course, by this stage we were 15-0 down so my single goal had no effect on the overall game result).

    Step forward a quarter of a century and I still play computer games but being middle-aged, my reflexes are much slower. My 14 year old nephew can sit in front of his Playstation for hours, trying and re-trying one tiny part of a particular game until he succeeds at it. But me, on my Gamecube, within 5 minutes I've lost patience re-trying a specific bit and have a need to empty my shrivelled bladder or polish my walking stick.

    Therefore, rather than a full "cheat" of invulnerability or "every weapon with maximum clips", I've often thought how nice it would be just to have an option of switching in a "jumpers for goal-posts" mode. You start the game by inputting your age and then, at certain points, the game is able to "nudge" you through a difficult bit because it's seen you've had 59 goes at it and that your grip is tightening on the controller as you lose patience (and possibly bladder control).

    For example, in Metroid Prime:

    "Player 1, you have now had 324 attempts at rolling Samus Aran into a ball & trying to jump through that little hole that's 4 foot off the ground... here's a miraculous gust of wind that coincidentally lifts you off the ground and carries you gracefully through the hole. Now please save the game and re-dress those bunions on your feet."

    • by Lord Ender (156273) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @06:43PM (#15484076) Homepage
      "But me, on my Gamecube, within 5 minutes I've lost patience re-trying a specific bit and have a need to empty my shrivelled bladder or polish my walking stick."

      Polish your walking stick? What kind of games do you play? I hope you don't let your nephew play games like that. He's too young.
    • by RubberChainsaw (669667) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @06:52PM (#15484128)
      You are not alone in this. What you are describing is called Auto-Dynamic Difficulty (ADD). Although I suggest searching for "dynamic difficulty", since ADD is likely to get lots of irrelevant results.

      Lots of game developers have worked with the feature of dynamic difficulty. Max Payne (released 2001) was the first game that prominently featured dynamic difficulty. Max Payne had enemies that would adjust their aim to be better or worse, depending on your health and hit ratio. If you were able to get through a section of a level without taking many hits, or using many health-kits, you would find less health kits at the next check point, and the enemies would be scoring more powerful blows. The end result was that the game played very smoothly. Both myself (an avid gamer) and my father (a horrible gamer) were able to play through the default setting of Max Payne and say that we enjoyed it.

      Racing games have had dynamic difficulty for quite a long time. Ever wonder how enemy cars were always able to catch up to you when you were in first place, but no matter how horrible you played, you could always catch up to them for a great photo finish? Thats the dynamic difficulty in action.

      Now, there are some very bad examples of dynamic difficulty, too. In the game Crimson Skies, the player is given the option to skip a scenario entirely after failing it a certain amount of times. Thats probably a nice addition, but its not a very good way of adjusting the difficulty. The player knows that he is unable to leap a hurdle, and the game just lets him skip the hurdle entirely. The player is missing content by skipping the level. Some people may find that eases the frustration of being unable to beat a level, but its a horrible way of making the game "easier". The goal of a game is to enjoy the gameplay, not rush to the end. Skipping levels does help a player get closer to the end, but the missed gameplay can never be made up.

      Unfortunately few large developers take ADD implementations to heart. SiN episodes (recently reviewed on /.) features dynamic difficulty in the same fashion that Max Payne did. Oblivion tried a dynamic difficulty feature and failed horribly. The game actually became much more difficult the more you played it. That is a game where I wish I could turn the feature off. Many mods were created to adjust and try to eliminate Oblivion's dynamic difficulty.

      The only examples of well-implemented dynamic difficulty that I know of are limited to first person shooters and role playing games. I don't know of any platformer, strategy or action game that provides dynamic difficulty.

    • by cgenman (325138)
      I've always liked how some games let you recharge your mana / up your level / etc between tries. If you fail at something after a few tries, you can charge up a usage of a supermeteo and just obliterate whatever stands in your way.

      These negative feedback systems are absolutely key to getting a game balanced for a diverse skill group. Final Fantasy Legends III on the game boy would let you return to life with 1/2 of the levels you had earned since the last save point, so that you were set back a little but
  • by kisrael (134664) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @05:31PM (#15483629) Homepage
    Here's a way of thinking about the question:
    If a game takes more time, does that decrease the "dollar per hour" ratio, so it's a good thing?

    Or does it raise the cost, because cost is a function of money AND time?

    I'm in the latter camp. I buy a game mostly to use a new bit of interaction. Having additional time that isn't matched by additional novel interaction just cranks the cost up. Novel interaction can be control modes, missions, weapons, enemies, but it has to be something, and it has to be diverse enough that it feels novel, not "this mission the guard is around the SECOND corner"

    And I have more free cash than free time in general. People the other way 'round, like students or the unemployed, probably have an opposite opinion.
  • Fine line (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dark Paladin (116525) <jhummel@NosPam.johnhummel.net> on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @05:32PM (#15483639) Homepage
    I can understand his frustration - there have been games that I've never completed just because of the time and energy commitment to them.

    On the other hand, no challenge is usually no fun (see the complaints about "Kingdom Hearts 2" being too easy).

    So it's the balance that's the issue. Probably the best game that gets that "right" was "Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time". Challenging, but never felt impossible, plenty of side quests (mask trading, finding all of the golden spider-things, racing, etc) - but I never felt like I *had* to do the side quests to win - they were a truly added bonus.

    Too often, though, these "side quests" becomes necessary to beat the game it seems. I don't want to spend hours level grinding - I want to *play*, so if you have "extras" that I can work for - fine. Just don't *make* me do them if I don't want to.

    Kind of like watching "The Matrix". If I do my homework about mythology and the Bible, I'll get more out of it - but I shouldn't need a seminary degree just to enjoy the movie.
  • Handholding (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HunterZ (20035) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @05:47PM (#15483750) Journal
    A related aspect of modern games frustrates me even more: hand-holding. It seems like the vast majority of new games (especially console games) force you to play through a less-than-fully-interactive tutorial section of the game before letting you get to the meat of it. To make things worse, immersion is often broken when in-game characters tell you to "press the square button" to do something.

    The best games are those which throw you into the midst of things and let you figure out how to play (if the game is too complex to be learned in this fashion - especially if it's a console game - then the control scheme is probably overly-complex). Usually this means that the beginning areas of the game are a bit more forgiving (think of the early levels of the original Starcraft/Warcraft, Fallout, or Doom games). Killing rats for the first 30 minutes is fine, but having to read/listen to a whole bunch of instructions on how to play, followed by being allowed only a single action before again being given instruction is annoying. I've found it particularly hard to immerse myself in Japanese tactical RPGs for this reason - the only ones I have ever enjoyed are Shining Force 1 and 2 on the Sega Genesis.
  • by GhaleonStrife (916215) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @05:54PM (#15483788)
    There's also these "Anniversary collections" (Think Sonic Mega Collection, which will be my example for this) I paid for all 12 of the games contained on that disc, and I can only play 6 of them from the start, when I bought the disc to play one of the "locked" games that I haven't been able to play in ages. Turns out, to unlock it, I have to beat at least 3 of the unlocked games, all of which I'm horrible at. I just wasted $35-60, since I'll never be able to get what I was looking for or paid for. What makes it worse is that on the case, they advertise the full amount of games, even though you can only play less than half without unlocking them. It's a disappointment for me as a gamer to see this kind of crap pulled on us.
  • by monopole (44023) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @06:23PM (#15483957)
    The game actually forces you to play volleyball before you can get skimpier outfits!
  • by lokedhs (672255) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @07:41PM (#15484335)
    When playing through one of those mindless FPS games where you start with a small hand gun and end up with massive rocket launchers, I was thinking that current games has it all backwards.

    Compare to the movies where the hero usually has all the good stuff in the beginning and then ends up in more and more difficult situations, usually with less and less weapons.

    How about creating a game where you get all the weapons in the end, but extra ammo is so rare that have less and less weapons as you progress through the game. This would add another dimension to the game since you will have to conserve your ammo.

    It would also help out with some other problems that these games suffer from:

    In most games today, the player gets better and better at playing the game throughout the game since he's getting more practice. He's also gettin gbetter and better weapons which means that the game designers have to come up with ridiculously powerful enemies at the end of the game. Often that is no enough but they also have to add ridiculous numbers of these enemies. As someone who would prefer a little realism in his games, this is something I really don't like.

    Now, imagine if instead the difficulty only went up slightly but your means of defeating these ememies were reduced more and more as you rpogressed through the game. Not only would you be able to play with all the cool weapons right from the start, but you would also have more challenging game play.

    I hope there are some games designers that would pick up on this idea, since I feel that it solves not only the problem of locked weapons, but also makes the games more realistic and prevents the need to add too powerful enemies.

    • Ever played Resident Evil? Ammo starvation sucks, I don't want to have to knife 40 zombies in the head just so I might have enough bullets to kill the incredibly jumpy boss.

      Some movies are like that, some are the other way around. In any event, ammo starvation sucks. This is a hilarious read on games [pointlesswasteoftime.com] see number 13.
    • It sounds like the upcoming Red Steel for the Wii has something like that, although the focus isn't on resource deprivation from the sounds of it so much as attaining greater elegance over time.

      I expect this will bother a lot of people, that the perceived power level of the weapons will go down over time, but as the kind of person who had a hard time running anything other than a sniper through the Fallouts, I'm looking forward to it. Doing a lot with a little is more fun than spraying things down.

      That said
  • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @08:26PM (#15484480)
    You have to earn your expertise in various disciplines, but the enemies level with you, so you can attack any quest you like at the very start of the game. I closed my first Oblivion gate at level 3. I don't have to wander around and fight my way to level 99 to get into the really intyeresting areas. And the nonlinearity of everything outside the main quest is perfect for sitting dows and doing a quick quest when time permits. And you can save anywhere instead of having to play 20 minutes past where you intended to get to that frickin save point.
  • Wrong angle (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lord Bitman (95493) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @08:29PM (#15484495) Homepage
    The problem isnt needing to "work" for /extra/ content. The problem is needing to work for Content.
    I dont mind needing to defeat a bunch of badies to unlock the roundhouse kick. (At that point it's the game's way of saying "Okay, you've proven that needing to use a non-epic move would just be tedious. Here's a way to rush through the tedious parts to get at what's more fun for your skill level")
    The problem is needing to unlock all the minor powers and abilities and areas the game is unplayable without.

    At least San Andreas, rather than just saying "You can't go there", just shoots at you if you try. :)
  • by DrugCheese (266151) on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @01:20AM (#15485438)
    but we're gonna start you out with this spork. Don't worry, in an ironic twist you won't be running into anything you and your spork can't handle.

  • Extortion (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dolmen.fr (583400) on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @04:33AM (#15485864) Homepage
    The major problem is not that you have to work to unlock games. This is not new : I remember many games in the 90's where you already had this.

    The major difference is that YOU NOW HAVE TO PAY TO UNLOCK the game you already bought if you want to bypass the system. Previously, there always was cheat codes that you could find on the Internet or in game magazines. Now, you have to call a costly support phone number to get unlocking codes !!!

    Examples of such extortions: Colin McRae 04 (the game, not the man), TOCA...
  • Level balance (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ledow (319597) on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @06:28AM (#15486153) Homepage
    Level balancing is certainly an issue here. Things like Driver, which required you to complete a (quite difficult) intro course before you were allowed anywhere near the missions - you know what, I just want to play the game. I'll learn the controls in my own time as and when I need to.

    I know at least three children (not mine) that played the game and gave up before they even got to the first mission - they ended up just playing the free play mode all the time. I could complete 90% of the missions without having to even look at the manual, learn the controls or anything else - the other 10% I would learn how to get past when I needed to - don't make me have to perfect every maneouvure before I can play Mission 1 - Get from A to B.

    "Unlocking" isn't a bad thing, unless it's done badly. To follow with the same example, once you'd completed that Driver training course, the next 5 or so missions were trivial to complete. The rest provided minor challenges to help you improve. However, the last mission was utterly impossible and totally out of proportion to the rest of the game. I gave up on the last mission after 50 or 60 attempts without even coming close, yet had walked the rest of the game.

    Stuff that's "unlocked" by convoluted means (i.e. completing the training course on Driver, finding a secret area, etc.) should NEVER be required to complete the game. You should be able to play front-to-back without having to find a single secret - Doom, Quake, Mario Bros., all the classics follow this pattern. A secret should be just that - something there for someone's who's looking that's not going to hinder someone who's not. Bonus points, extra lives, new worlds are rewards for finding a secret - they will make it easier or more fun to play and replay the game but should NEVER be required to get to the end.

    Games designers are not in it to "kill" the player at every opportunity, it's too easy. Players also get bored if they are doing simple, repetitive tasks over and over again. Provide challenge but alway show a glimpse that it's do-able. You can make that jump if you had used THAT platform, you can see the key on the other side but how do you get there, if you'd found that secret power-up that hard bit wouldn't be quite so hard.

    Balance is the HARDEST thing in any game to get right. Examples of some that "got it wrong" would include:

    Driver

    Black & White (let's make a big fuss about having a creature and how to use him and then take him away from the player almost immediately).

    Serious Sam (point, shoot, wait for things to die)

    Incoming (See Serious Sam)
  • Two Reasons... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rAiNsT0rm (877553) on Wednesday June 07, 2006 @10:29AM (#15487579) Homepage
    Negative reinforcement and artificialy extending gameplay.

    Negative reinforcement has been proven time and time again to attract and hold humans, slot machines are the prime example here. And everyone can easily see the artificial expansion of gameplay time.

    The thing is that almost all of the best games of all time do not employ these tactics, or if they do they are ansilary. In Katamari Damacy you have the same game in the beginning as at the end, just different scale. In God of War you are slicing enemies from the first second and the first boss battle is just as badass as the last. The entire game is rewarding, regardless of your level in the game and it doesn't need to be extendedby limiting power to the player and slowly allowing the player to gain more powerful weapons to fight more powerful enemies which just results in the same gameplay throughout the entire game.

    There is nothing more annoying than to fight the entire game with a pickle fork only to get the flaming onyx sword of awesomeness at the very end of the game so that you get to use it for 12 seconds and then the game is over.

    This is where the Wii should be able to finally end a lot of this horse shit. When developers don't have to pad their games to 20 hours of gameplay to make them "worth" $40-60, and instead make the entire game fun at maybe 5-10 hours for $10-25. I know what I would pick.

As in certain cults it is possible to kill a process if you know its true name. -- Ken Thompson and Dennis M. Ritchie

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