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The Heresy Thread

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Re: The Heresy Thread

by Angry Jedi » Sun Oct 12, 2014 9:41 am

Half-Life is a funny one. In terms of storytelling -- something which the original had praise heaped on for when it was first released -- I find the games to be fairly forgettable, aside from a few choice moments here and there. I still don't like silent protagonists, and I think Gordon Freeman is a wasted opportunity to do something interesting.

However, mechanically, the Half-Life games are some of my favourite shooters. The weapons are distinct and unique from one another; they each have a clear purpose; they all have a good feeling of "weight" about them. The gunplay is satisfying and the encounters are challenging without falling foul of the sort of things Halo and Call of Duty pull on a regular basis -- i.e. instakills unless you follow the very set path that is the "right" way to do things. (Halo doesn't do this all that often, admittedly, but when it does it's infuriating.)

@Grant: I really like the Quantic Dream games, myself, but can also see why some people might absolutely hate them. We did a whole podcast on Heavy Rain a while back where we talked about some of the things it got right and some that it got wrong; even further back into the Squad's history, we did Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy, too, and likewise found that to be flawed but interesting.

I think you have to come into those games with the right expectations to enjoy them, or play them in certain ways. I played through Beyond: Two Souls in a single (very long!) sitting with my friend Tim in two-player mode, with him controlling Aiden and me controlling Jodie, and the experience was fascinating, particularly as we agreed that when we were in control of our respective characters, the other was not allowed to interfere with any decisions they might want to make.
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Re: The Heresy Thread

by Alex Connolly » Sun Oct 12, 2014 11:27 am

Okay, as a mad racing fan, here's some freshly-baked heresy.

The Criterion Need For Speed games are some of the highly-praised snooze-fests available. Press-ganging one of the genre's shining lights into creating gorgeous but stodgy racing games, both Hot Pursuit and Most Wanted unfairly overshadow many other gems. Utterly boring track design cannot be camouflaged beneath beautiful scenery. And when the driving model is boiled down to such a comparatively joyless experience, it's maddening to see truly fun stuff fall fallow.
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Re: The Heresy Thread

by Teryn » Sun Oct 12, 2014 3:52 pm

Half-Life was interesting to me because it was really different from FPSs I'd experienced before. I played it in my late 20s and didn't get on it when it was new. That said, it came across to me as something that threw lots of unexpected things at you as an FPS, but also permitted you to gain enough skill from area to area that you could *usually* squeak by.

It really did seem like you were just a scientist who knew practically nothing about fighting (good real-life player analog), flung into the situation of having to try and survive a war-like sequence of unexpected events. In other words, it was nearly unfair, even on the "normal" settings. (Or maybe I'm better at slower paced FPSs and suck as fast-paced ones.)

On the other hand, from the opposite perspective, that means it was "training-through-dying" at times. Whether that's fair or not, whether that's interesting or fun or not, it's only *completely* unfair when you cannot survive at all, and I don't think that happened once in the entire game (though it did require a bit of planning and ammo conservation in a pinch). I enjoy FPSs that include a lot of options on how to tackle situations, like Deus Ex, but Half-Life was the polar opposite and it was pretty terrifying to have to endure waves of enemies, and rarely did you have any choice but to shoot your way through everything.

On a personal note, this thread is a lot of fun! Hearing about why everyone likes or dislikes the same game makes for an interesting kind of gamut of experience and preferences, rethinking whether or not something is a "good" part or a "bad" part of a game (or both!).
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Re: The Heresy Thread

by Grant Heaslip » Sun Oct 12, 2014 4:54 pm

Angry Jedi wrote:@Grant: I really like the Quantic Dream games, myself, but can also see why some people might absolutely hate them. We did a whole podcast on Heavy Rain a while back where we talked about some of the things it got right and some that it got wrong; even further back into the Squad's history, we did Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy, too, and likewise found that to be flawed but interesting.

I think you have to come into those games with the right expectations to enjoy them, or play them in certain ways. I played through Beyond: Two Souls in a single (very long!) sitting with my friend Tim in two-player mode, with him controlling Aiden and me controlling Jodie, and the experience was fascinating, particularly as we agreed that when we were in control of our respective characters, the other was not allowed to interfere with any decisions they might want to make.


Regarding expectations, I went into Fahrenheit based on some "you need to play this" goading from an old roommate. It turned out that he loved it on a "so bad it's good" level, and while we still joke about some of the dumbest moments in that game (
Spoiler: show
the matrix fight with dustmites, the part where every object in your apartment tries to kill you, the Aztec stuff, Carla's claustrophobia sequence, the holographic robots, the snowpocalypse, etc.
), I fundamentally think the incoherent storytelling, bad character motivations, and reliance on ridiculously-long QTE sequences with almost no connection to the on-screen action makes it a bad (maybe ambitious, maybe endearing, but still not good) game.

I played Heavy Rain a few weeks ago and wrote about it, so I'll avoid reiterating too much here. I did intend to give it a fair shake, but it started losing me pretty quickly as well, particularly since the early sequences lean heavily on the game's worst voice actors. I ended up just watching a playthrough of Beyond out of morbid curiosity, and while it looked to be better than Heavy Rain, I don't regret skipping it.

I can sort of respect why people like those games – there are games I enjoy despite some really glaring flaws – but reading critics compare Heavy Rain favourably to the best of cinema really strained my ability to empathize.
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Re: The Heresy Thread

by Angry Jedi » Sun Oct 12, 2014 10:03 pm

Oh, totally. Cage's work isn't up there with top-notch cinema at all. I do respect what he's doing, though. I've found all of Quantic Dream's games to be interesting and compelling, albeit all flawed in one way or another. One day he'll absolutely nail the formula, and I'd be delighted to play that game.

Regarding QTEs, I know not many people like them, but I've always felt that QD's games make some of the best use of them. There was a certain degree of disconnect between the inputs and what happened on screen in Fahrenheit, granted, but I did enjoy the physical sensation of wrestling with the controls, and I feel that was part of what Cage and co. were going for.

This aspect of physical sensation was taken to its extreme in Heavy Rain, where many of the most significant things you do are marked by you having to make a physical movement with the controller akin to slamming it forcefully down on something. The physicality of this really added something to the experience for me.

As with many things, though, I wouldn't expect everyone to like the same things. There is, I feel, plenty to discuss with regard to Quantic Dream's output, even if you didn't like them. That's probably a matter for another thread, though.
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Re: The Heresy Thread

by Beige » Wed Oct 15, 2014 7:30 pm

Half-life:
It was good for its time, but the best thing Valve can do now is let sleeping dogs lie. Half-Life's job is to be the technological cusp-pusher that gets everybody to adopt a new paradigm, whether it be "Shooter games can have a sense of story and cinematic presentation too" which is de facto now but was a revelation in the age of Quake. HL2 got everybody to understand how characters rendered in-engine with actual personalities could pay divedends, not to mention update of the Steam platform. If HL3 can't be a boundary pusher, it shouldn't exist for the sake of existing. Occulus? For me, Half-Life has always been significant for its meta-importance as the signifier of where technology and craft are headed in the next 5 years. Its actual story and characters and whatnot though, unremarkable in every way when viewed from our current lens. It is the Talkie of our times. People's minds were blown at seeing Dorothy step into Oz in full technicolor. This is Half-Life.

Pokemon:
I just... don't... get it. Squirtle, bulbasaur. Gym teachers. What. The franchise that never dies and never changes or innovates yet people are absolutely passionate about it. It's a grindfest, there are no characters or narrative to speak of - you farm and farm and farm. Combat is repetitive and to top it all off Nintendo deliberately bifrucates its pokedex as an ostensible "featre" to sell more copies, Skylander's Style.

There is a theory that states that everybody's musical tastes eventually solidify at whatever point in time that person was experiencing the most heightened emotions - be it High School or University or whatever. Memories of that time inevitably interweave with memories of the music, rekindling fond memories at recall and making you feel that nothing good has progressed in the land of music since your teens/twenties. For me, this is the only possible explanation for Pokemon's popularity. The scent of fresh lemon is the scent of your youth.

Left 4 Dead and its algorithmic spawn
Screw this entire genre. Valve found a way to take writers and other humans out of video games and replace them with random number generators. Joe Consumer lapped it up so hard that all development towards Uncharteds and Resident Evils diverged significantly into the world of "we replaced your directors and writers with alorythms let's see if they notice" never to return. Now even goddamn Mass Effect must have "player retention" in the form of skinner boxes inside it. All of the mechanics of shoveling food into your mouth with none of the nutrition. Since then we've seen Evolve, HALO 4, shootbro X, and whatever find a way to inject less and less human craft into the game making process, replacing it with procedural content. "But content is HARD" you say. "And EXPENSIVE". Well, make shorter games then.

While we're at it, screw zombies. I used to like zombies and zombie movies until middleware practically guaranteed that Two Arms Two Legs and a Head was manditory regardless of your alien race a la mode. You know how Demon's Souls had dozens of weird and wonderful creatures and how Dark Souls 2 is dozens and dozens of variations on Guy In Suit of Armor because mocap? Screw all yall middleware mahfuckaz. Watching "aliens" with "submachineguns" in X-Com the Bureau duck, roll and take Call of Duty Cover behind chest high walls just made me want the Ur-Quan or the Mycon to come down and murder everybody on earth with a death laser. XCOM my ass.

Borderlands Series:
See above. You managed to combine the two most obvious lizardbrain feedback loops in the human brain: Instant pew pew shoot gratification and slot machine gambling addiction inside a multiplayer skinnerbox. Am I supposed to be impressed or repulsed by the quality of your scientifically concocted crack? So fucking what. Beige hates, sells a bajillion copies, critical darling.

Monster Hunter
Scratch this, Monster Hunter is the best Skinner box. I loved to hate on this game in 2013 and now adore in 2014. Official redaction.

Fable and its ilk
Most overrated quote-unquote RPG series ever, yet inexplicably popular with Joe Gamestop. I don't know what's dumber: Microsoft still churning out Fable games or the consumer public still perpetuating the myth that Fable is a relevant brand.

Skyrim:
Beautiful face, gorgeous dinner date. Bought the ring, now I'm bored and straying but a few weeks into the marriage.

CODBLOPSetc:
Do I really need to go there?

Final Fantasy VII and everything after X-2: You forgot what makes Final Fantasy cool there bro.

More to come...
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Re: The Heresy Thread

by Grant Heaslip » Wed Oct 15, 2014 8:16 pm

Beige wrote:Pokemon:
I just... don't... get it. Squirtle, bulbasaur. Gym teachers. What. The franchise that never dies and never changes or innovates yet people are absolutely passionate about it. It's a grindfest, there are no characters or narrative to speak of - you farm and farm and farm. Combat is repetitive and to top it all off Nintendo deliberately bifrucates its pokedex as an ostensible "featre" to sell more copies, Skylander's Style.

There is a theory that states that everybody's musical tastes eventually solidify at whatever point in time that person was experiencing the most heightened emotions - be it High School or University or whatever. Memories of that time inevitably interweave with memories of the music, rekindling fond memories at recall and making you feel that nothing good has progressed in the land of music since your teens/twenties. For me, this is the only possible explanation for Pokemon's popularity. The scent of fresh lemon is the scent of your youth.


I don't know if I'd go quite that far, but I will say that I tried to play Pokemon X and just couldn't get into it. I was 8 years old when Red/Blue came out and have so many fond memories of it (and to a lesser extent Gold/Silver), but I just don't think I like playing Pokemon anymore. As you said, the combat system and world felt rote and uninteresting. X seemed like it had just dumped a bunch of unfun mechanics and systems onto a base design that really should have been overhauled a while ago, and the game was undermined by basic design issues like overly-long, unskippable battle animations and a choppy battle framerate.

I do get the appeal, especially for younger players, and I don't begrudge those who enjoy it, but I'm also somewhat puzzled when I see people breathlessly praising Pokemon games at this point.
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Re: The Heresy Thread

by Angry Jedi » Wed Oct 15, 2014 8:35 pm

I've tried several Pokemon games over the years -- specifically, Red, Gold and Y -- and none of them have ever held my interest. Y came close with its gorgeous cel-shaded characters and MMO-esque elements such as vanity customizations of your character, but the actual Pokemon collecting and grinding is still as tedious as it ever was to me, and this is coming from someone who actually quite likes grinding at times.

My issue with Pokemon is that there doesn't feel like there's any depth to the combat. I know that's a misconception, since the game is legendary for its metagame, but to a casual player it feels very rock-paper-scissors, and the limited number of abilities each Pokemon has -- not to mention the fact you can only have a few in your "party" at once -- has always felt very restrictive to me.

While we're on the subject of baffling Nintendo success stories, I feel I should bring up Animal Crossing here.

I played the 3DS Animal Crossing for a bit while everyone and his anthropomorphic dog was gushing over it, and I didn't really get it. I still don't get it. It's a game that is deliberately boring, and which deliberately has nothing in particular for you to do -- it just "is".

Now, the prevalence of Early Access survival sandbox sims on Steam would suggest I may be in a minority here, but I generally need to feel like my games have some sort of direction or goals to keep my interest. Animal Crossing has a couple of things that might qualify, but your rewards for completing them are so pitiful that you may as well just not have bothered.

Don't even get me started on the baffling multiplayer, in which you can invite friends over to wander confused around your town and steal your fruit, or the frustrating way in which certain parts of the game don't become available to you until a lengthy period of real time has passed.

At least it doesn't send you push notifications like some shitty, needy mobile game, so thank heavens for small mercies, I guess.
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Re: The Heresy Thread

by Beige » Thu Oct 16, 2014 3:21 pm

I think it's that those of us here probably play games very differently from your average consumer. I am still floored at the statistically low rate of "people who buy a game and play it through to the end". It's... what... 10%? In a context where games are things you buy, screw around with like a toy for a day or two and then.... I dunno. Return? Let slide? Animal Crossing makes sense. At least as much sense as Tamodochi Life does. That one I have pegged as "Japan has difficulty socializing directly, and socialization is easier when it has a weird kawaii face on your avatars and they're all anonymously dropping in and dropping out and doing very careful, very scripted types of activities with lots of cosmetic variance."

I've felt for a long time that I experience games differently than most people, with the above list being examples of this. Curiously,
I was thinking about this exact topic last night while I was watching Daniel Floyd over at Extra Credits and his head scratching piece about how consumers need to start Thinking Differently (which I read "Thinking deeply, or at least thinking more with direct contextual analysis") about video games.

I liked his analouge about Comics and Alan Moore, etc. And how a necessary elevation needs to occur in the consumer audience before you can do a project like Watchmen or the Dark Knight Returns and have people even begin to approach what you're trying to sell with some level of understanding. I don't know if we're getting closer or not with games -- his point about memory retention is very interesting and I don't have a ready answer for it - but I choose to remain hopeful.



The squad has been "going deep" since the beginning in exactly the way he's describing. I guess like the 1UP Show we're just (as ususal) many years ahead of the curve.
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Re: The Heresy Thread

by RedSwirl » Thu Oct 16, 2014 6:08 pm

I guess I'm just gonna respond to a lot of this crap because I don't really have any popular games I "hate" off the top of my head. I might come back with some that I'm just not stupidly hyped for later, but whatever.

Bethesda
120 hours of Fallout 3. 130 hours of Fallout New Vegas (Obsidian, okay). 64 hours of Skyrim and I'm only just getting "started" with that game. Yeah I'm kind of sucked into games of that "formula." Although my reason is probably that these kinds of games were just as new to me as they probably were to most console gamers at the start of the 360 era. That is, the RPG "Immersive Simulation" game that puts you in fully malleable environments that planned like real places, populated with NPCs that actually live out their individual lives.

Maybe you guys have been used to that since Ultima VII or Underworld, but coming from the perspective of someone who grew up on JRPGs, being able to rob basically anyone through various tactics that are simply byproducts of the systemic world is kind of like a new frontier. I am deep as fuck into Fallout 3 because it feels big and chock full of choices. To many people, Bethesda has gone farther than most ever have in terms of creating an actual world in 3D that fully, constantly, and logically reacts to the player's actions. Many people feel Bethesda is the only company really doing this with modern graphics, on consoles.

That said, I thoroughly realize the flatness of the art, storytelling, and many other aspects of Skyrim. Basically the only thing Skyrim really has going for it is its immersive world and the shitload of content in it. Everything else about it has been done in another RPG with more craft and love. For people who are used to these kinds of games, that makes Bethesda's recent output look positively mediocre. But Bethesda blew up because it started appealing to masses who had basically never seen a CRPG before. Same with Dragon Age. I'll admit Fallout 3 and Mass Effect are basically the first western RPGs I ever bothered with,and outside Ultima Underworld I have yet to get around to any of the classics. I've got a whole pile of them in my backlog whenever I find the time, but I'm still not really sure if I'll be able to find isometric camera angles as gripping for these kinds of games.

In the meantime my most anticipated game is probably Witcher 3, which I hope brings together some kind of "next level" for fully 3D CRPGs.

Pokemon
Pokemon is like being a football coach (or manager) but with colorful anime characters. That's the best way I can describe it. Some people just like building the best time they can.

Back in the day I think it was a big deal because when you think about it, Pokemon Red was more or less the first fully-formed role-playing game for a portable device. The Game Boy had a few small RPGs like Final Fantasy Adventure or whatever, but Pokemon Red was the first thing that felt like it had an actual wide world to explore and whatnot. Even after that, real RPGs didn't start to surface on handhelds until the GBA. I think this in itself established Pokemon as a major reason to buy Nintendo handhelds. And as Pete states, Pokemon's metagame can become a black hole. The reason it hasn't changed fundamentally from game to game is because it's kind of an eSport now.

And I actually like Pokemon X a lot. The main reason is because a ton of the game's features have been slightly sped up and streamlined, making the whole experience move along significantly faster. That's just me though.

Half-Life
I still have yet to play Half-Life 1. Half-Life 2 on the other hand is my favorite FPS, mainly because of its frankly excellent encounter design. I agree with Pete generally on this one. The story itself isn't all that interesting (but is in my opinion told well), but in my opinion the level design is rather excellent. We tire of so many shooters that constantly push you forward in one direction in order to tell their story or have you go through their "wow" moments, but Half-Life is one of like, three franchises that actually knows how to do it.

Call of Duty
And ironically, one of the other "good" ones I would count would be SOME of the Call of Duty games. Particularly Modern Warfare 1 and Modern Warfare 3. All I can really say is, the campaigns of those two games in particular have everything I think is necessary for a really good arcade experience. In my opinion their guns feel great, the games themselves run very smoothly, and their encounter design is quite good. I've replayed those two particular COD games many times. Modern Warfare 2 also has its moments but stumbles just as often.

The other COD games (post-COD2) are just cheap iterations on MW1 though. I'll agree there. I actually haven't touched the franchise since MW3.

The Skinner Box
I agree with Beige on how much "player retention" has fucked up AAA games, but I'm not sure Left 4 Dead is what started it. I think it was MW1, which came out around the same time, but that's just me. Either way, too many games these days just have massive amounts of what I call "feature bloat" to try to turn a five-hour experience into a 30-hour experience. Ubisoft is the goddamn worst.

Have any of you guys noticed how Ubisoft has been almost making the same fucking game repeatedly since Assassin's Creed II? Lemme list the features and see if you can tell me how many Ubisoft games they've appeared in since 2009:

Open world...
...that oddly has completely linear main missions.
Collect-a-thons and side missions represented as icons on the world map.
Bases that must be infiltrated and disabled to "liberate" sections of the world map.
Towers that must be climbed to map out the world.
XP you get for defeating enemies...
...that you then spend on skill points.
Loot...
...that you use to craft shit.

Actually, lemme go back on my statement from the start of this post. I think I actually did just come up with a really popular game I hate, for precisely the aforementioned reasons:

Tomb Raider (2013)
This game is the poster child for nearly the entire list I just made above. I knew they had to go in another direction for the franchise, but what Crystal Dynamics did was basically just throw in every last "player retention" feature that's popular in other games... and then pretty much rip out the actual titular feature of the game -- the raiding of tombs. The one thing I really liked about the previous Tomb Raider games was exploring temples and solving puzzles. That's like, a side thing in this game. And I don't know how the fuck people think this game has better encounter design than Uncharted 2.
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