Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Games that fail

I'm a man of many years worth of experience in the big world of video games. There are some really amazing titles and series out there. The Legend of Zelda, Mario and Metal Gear Solid spring to mind. Unfortunately though, there are many out there which are the complete opposite of 'epic', and I can not understand how such things get released.

First of all, I will make it clear, I have no idea how much effort is put into making a video game. I am sure that there are many thousands of man hours put into every game that finds it to the shelves. I also understand that they are tested by the developers and also specialised game testers as well. If such time is spent developing them and testing them though, how do really duff games still make it through the net?

The chief inspiration for this rant comes from my latest acquisition for my Wii, Ninjabread man. It was a gift bought for my birthday, and to the person buying it, it sounded brilliant. Holding the box in my hand, I also thought that the idea of a gingerbread man donning a bandana and seeking revenge sounded like one of the best things to put in a game. The concept had so much potential! I can not think of another platform game where the central character is disgruntled confectionary, wielding throwing stars and a sword.

I really tried to like this game, I wanted to, but it was so repetitive and dull. Each mission requires you to scour a level high and low for these battery like things. With each one you collect, it opens a lock on a teleporter. When you find them all you can use the teleporter to get to the next area of battery collecting pain. Rinse and repeat the process four times and you have Ninjabread man! It is such a dull and unfulfilling experience. I hunted down ten battery things only to be rewarded with a treasure hunt to find another ten. This seemed like a chore, and at the point where games become anything like work is the point I stop caring for them.

On top of this was the control of the character. Swinging the Wiimote to activate sword attacks worked so well in Twilight Princess. Surely that would transfer to this game? It did not. For one thing, swinging your sword makes you stop dead in your tracks, quite irritating for attacking enemies on the move. Also, the sword swing motion is quite sensitive until you stand next to an enemy cake, at which point the Ninjabread man decides to try giving peace ago, and not attack the bad guy trying to kill him. In the end, the best way to kill enemies was to use the unlimited number of throwing stars, which turns it into more of a point and click adventure game, rather than the sweety slashing, candy commando simulation I was hoping for.

At the end of an hour, I decided that I had given the game ample time to try and prove itself to me. I was not impressed, and I would really like to know if the developers were happy with what they had unleashed on the shelves? Even if it is designed to be a children's game, in my experience, children have a lot less patience than I do, and so the amount of Wiimotes finding themselves embedded in television screens is likely to go up. It will be an interesting endurance race to see who can stay and complete the four levels of gameplay, and who will use the game disc as a coaster after ten minutes.

This grind of collecting things is often found in RPGs, but the grind there is rewarded in the long run. Here, the reward is to do it again! How did anyone testing this game whilst it was in development think it was fun? I really do wonder how things like this get released. Surely there is some kind of quality control? This game has been absolutely slammed by the critics, with websites such as IGN giving it 1.5 out of 10, earning it the rating of 'abysmal'.

Is it because games companies do not care about the quality of some of their games? Do they lose concentration, faith and interest in projects soon after they start? The concept is so amazing, it is a real shame to see it wasted on something like this, where it is clear the end product was not intensively scanned for any sign of fun.

3 comments:

Timothy said...

I can only imagine the anguish you would have felt if you personally forked out some hard earned for this title. ;)

As you say, I'm sure the underlying concepts were solid. It's all too often that a team of any description can lose their way - they may change the design of their game once they realise it isn't working, or they may lose sight of their original idea, or maybe they are constantly unhappy with the look and feel of the levels or the assets on-screen.

On the other hand, they are constrained by various factors such as money, time and a faceless publisher telling them how it should be done and that what they're doing won't sell games.

So the team may choose to release a substandard product to get at least something back for their work, rather than go beyond their stated release dates, spend more moolah, or stay stuck in development hell. I'm sure dev teams really, really do want to make fantastic games (don't we all) but for every Half Life, CoD and Crysis there are some titles that lose their way and head straight for the bargain bin.

Expensive and harsh lessons learned for all involved.


Cheers,
-t from the GCG forums
(stirlace.blogsome.com)

Anthony said...

Hehe, A very good point, I did say that I didn't know about the inner workings of a dev team.

This did get a little bit rantish that I do try and avoid, but the concept of ninjabread sounded to good to fail!

But yeah, there are quite a few examples of the little guys getting screwed by the big dogs out there. Hopefully this little hic cup will be an anomaly in a hopefully seemless game developmet career the team have ahead of them!

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