For the past week and half I have been spending quite a bit of time playing Need for Speed: Most Wanted. I don’t normally buy too many games during the school year because I try to avoid unnecessary distractions as best I can, but being a huge fan of racing games as well as of Criterion (the developer behind the game) I felt the need to pick this one up. It had been a very long time since I had played a really fun arcade racer so I needed to get my fill of high octane action once again. Thankfully, Criterion did not disappoint.
Back when I first bought my PS3, one of the first games I played and one that really sold me on the value and capability of the system was Burnout: Paradise. It was one of the most enjoyable experiences ever as far as racing games go. All the high-speed action and thrills came together to form one hell of a fun game. The online component was revolutionary and the crashes were brutally realistic. All in all, it was just an extremely well-designed racer. So when I heard that Criterion was coming out with another Burnout: Paradise style game in the Need for Speed universe, I couldn’t help but be excited.
As one may expect, Most Wanted in many ways is very similar to Burnout. It consists of an open-world environment in which the player has the freedom to drive wrecklessly around town, smashing into everything and everyone. Billboards and gates make an appearance once again, as well as the in-game menu which can be brought up at any time while driving to do various things like changing cars and starting races. The game in almost all aspects of design is virtually identical to that of Burnout, the only differences worth mentioning in my opinion would be the addition of police chases, real licensed vehicles, and the Autolog feature, which tracks a wide variety of activities and events you complete throughout the game and compares them to others. Doing things like jumping through billboards will also record your jump distance which will be placed on a leaderboard to be compared with your friends. It is a very welcome new feature and can spark a lot of competition among peers. Another impressive aspect of the game would have to be the graphical improvement over Burnout Paradise. The game simply looks gorgeous and never fails to impress on that front. All I can say is someone over at Criterion really loves shaders.
That’s not to say that the game doesn’t have rough areas as well. For one thing you can no longer just pull up to any intersection, spin your wheels and start a race. Instead, each car in the game has 5 races to complete, some of which are even repeated across multiple cars. Winning these races unlocks various upgrades for the car at hand. While this system technically works fine, I still prefer the method in Burnout. It made the world feel less restrictive and gave the player that much more freedom. Also, the game only has 41 cars. With most racing games nowadays usually launching with closer to 100 cars, if not more, I can’t help but feel like this number is just too low. It’s hindered even further by there only being 5 races per car. It can also get fairly monotonous unlocking the same upgrades time and time again for all the cars.
With all that said, the game is still highly enjoyable and wildly entertaining. Weaving through traffic at 220 MPH in a Bugatti Veyron is absolutely thrilling to say the least. What’s better than being able to drive some of mankinds most impressive automobiles at mega speeds, crash head on into a brick wall, and then drive away like nothing happened?
Tell me right now babeh… babeh…
Sorry, I still have the song stuck in my head. I’m not sure why but I think it might have something to do with the fact that I had to listen to it for about 6 hours while working on our Prototype 2 assignment. We had split up the various aspects of the development cycle. So it was my responsibility to add all the notes in the correct time intervals. This of course meant sitting through and listening to every last second of the song in order to sync everything up. It was quite the grind.
The assignment asked us to create a game out of a YouTube video that went viral just a few months ago. I am speaking of the one that showcased a group of people dancing to the song from Bruno Mars, called Marry You, in which a man proposes to his girlfriend at the end. As far as proposals go, I must say it was quite epic. But essentially we had to use this video as a basis for our games. We built ours using Unity and we decided to go with a Dance Dance Revolution style of gameplay in which the player must react to the notes displayed on screen. We also had to make it look happy and cheerful with rainbows and hearts and all that fun stuff. When a heart appears, you click it, and when an arrow appears, the player has to click and drag in the direction the arrow is facing. It`s very simple, but fun at the same time. When using a mouse, the game is actually quite tricky, but on a touch screen phone it gets significantly easier since you can just tap.
Welcome to Happyland, where everyone gets married and has a happy ever after…
Overall I am very happy with the game we made. It may not looking too appealing, but that`s only because we were following the requirements. I`m sure if we had the freedom we would have had dragons flying around and fire falling from the sky and people on the ground getting stomped on and blood everywhere. Oh well, maybe next time…
This week we discussed rewards and reward systems in games and as such I thought I would use this topic to talk about trophies/achievements and their impact on games and on myself.
I for one am actually quite the trophy hunter when it comes to playing games on PS3. There’s something about hearing that little “ding” sound and seeing the “You have earned a trophy” message pop up in the corner that is just so incredibly satisfying from a gamer’s point of view. Seeing the game acknowledge your accomplishments is something everyone takes pride in. To some people, earning that platinum trophy is like winning a championship in a major sport. The road to earning that coveted title consumes them, and they will continue to push on, even if they no longer get an enjoyment whatsoever out of actually playing the game. The reason I know this is because it happened to me… once.
Aaahh the platinum trophy… The crowning jewel of all trophy hunters. So purtty…
A few years ago while playing X-Men Origins: Wolverine, I ended up beating the game and realizing that I had collected almost every trophy in one playthrough. However, one of the ones I was missing involved collecting all the dog tags (in this case dog tags were the collectibles) in the game. This of course meant I would have to play through the entire game over again. At the time I thought it was a good idea because I had actually enjoyed the game quite a bit, and seeing that I only needed a few more trophies to earn that platinum was just killing me, so I decided to give it a go. While playing through a second time, I required the help of online videos to show me where all the dog tags were. Having to do this alone would have probably warded off any sane human being, but I, being the crazy nut that I was, kept playing the game and watching the videos as I progressed. I was about halfway through when the boredom really started to kick in. Playing through the game a second time when I had just beaten it was beginning to take its toll on me. I knew at that point I was no longer playing for the enjoyment, instead I was playing to fulfill my own ego. I also knew that I didn’t want to stop there because I was already halfway through and wanted that trophy so badly. So I pushed through and made it to the end. When that “ding” sounded and I received the platinum trophy, the first thing I said was: “Thank God.” I was so relieved to have finally been done playing the game… again.
That whole experience really changed the way I felt about achievements as a whole. Here we have an example of a game that I actually really enjoyed my first time playing, and yet was completely ruined because of a reward system that really serves no purpose other than as a bragging right. It made me realize that achievements can actually sully the experience of playing a game when handled by the wrong person. It also made me question whether or not achievements are basically nothing more than a cheap design tactic to extend the life of a game. There are probably many people out there that would go to great lengths as I did just to earn an achievement. Not because the game itself is intriguing and fun to play, but because the achievements are designed in such a way that it requires you to put in more work than you otherwise would have had to, therefore extending the playing time.
A fun game. I would recommend it. Just stick to one playthrough though.
Everything aside, I have learned my lesson. I still very much enjoy collecting trophies, but I have learned to control myself when it comes to earning some of the more time consuming ones. Never again will I put myself though that again, and I would do my best to try and make sure others don’t either.
Over the years, when it comes to linear level design, a lot has changed. To me it seems that not long ago even linear games had a sense of freedom and exploration. It may have been very limited, but it was still present. Today however, it seems most games just go for the fully scripted, hold the players hand through the story sort of deal. They mostly consist of set-piece moment after set-piece moment which are often entirely out of the player’s control. While it is impressive to see what developers are capable of doing these days through the use of these set-pieces, I can’t help but feel like too much control is being taken away from the player in a lot of games today.
Nowhere is this more prevalent than in First-person shooters. It’s hard for me to think of examples that don’t follow this method when it comes to these kinds of games. I suppose the only ones I can think of off the top of my head would be Borderlands and Deus Ex. Both of these being more open-world, sandbox-type games. The majority of FPS games however, are very linear and extremely event driven. Take Call of Duty or Battlefield 3 for example, both of these games are essentially as linear as you can get. There is no exploration or branching of paths that I can think of in either of them. It’s basically just one set-piece after another. The player is required to follow exactly where the game is telling them to go. And if you decide to ignore the commands and try wandering off the trail, you’ll get annoying messages from your companions telling you to hurry up and follow them. These are the most extreme examples I can think of, and I have to admit I usually don’t enjoy when games decide to follow this procedure.
Everyone probably remembers this scene from the trailer of Battlefield 3. Believe me, it wasn’t anywhere near as exciting as they made it seem.
That being said though, there do exist other games which are also highly linear but are very enjoyable experiences. A couple of examples would be Uncharted and Metal Gear Solid 4. Uncharted is able to remain enjoyable through expert pacing and immersive storytelling, and Metal Gear Solid does it by giving the player a lot of freedom when it comes to handling objectives and level traversal. In Metal Gear Solid, you will often be presented with situations in which there could potentially be 5-10 different ways of progressing, and as the player you will have to decide which method works the best for you. These types of games, although still very linear in terms of story progression, offer huge amounts of replayability due to the fact that they can be played so many different ways. It would seem that this sort of style would work the best but unfortunately that’s not what we’re seeing out of most linear games these days.
Be quiet or they’ll hear you!
If I could change one things about linear driven game experiences, it would be to have less “uncontrollable” set-piece moments, and more exploration and problem-solving situations for the player. In my opinion it’s always better to do something at your own discretion rather than be forced to do it.