Monday, 7 September 2009

RPG Pet Peeve: Wear and Tear

How frustrating is it when you are having fun eating a meal with your favourite knife when all of a sudden it snaps and becomes unusable because you have cut meat with it too much. The answer is very, but due to it being the real world, it does not tend to happen that much unless you favour eating whole armadillos whilst still following polite eating conventions.

What really frustrates me is when this wear and tear mechanic makes it in to games and quite bluntly decides that anything that is used 50 times must break and require repair. Nobody likes it when what they are having fun with breaks through being physically used too much, and so why such an un-pleasurable misfortune would seep its way into virtual reality is beyond me.

Let’s face it, bad things that happen in real life are generally not that good in games. Okay, some kind of hell portal opening up in the middle of London might be fun in a game and not in real life, but something as mundane as useful equipment wearing out should be kept back in the grim place called reality.

In real life, I accept that a perfectly good sword would have to wear out eventually. Such frustrating things help to keep black smiths and sword salesmen in business. In the game world however, I really could not care if all sword repair workers have to go back to their starving families with no bread for the third day in a row, because it would mean that my never perishing weapon was still keeping me happy.

Fallout 3 really managed to crawl up my nose and kick the frustration centre of my brain when things would wear out. It means that whenever I play through now I always make sure that my repair skills have the lion’s share of the precious attribute points just so I can keep playing with my favourite guns. After a kick in my special place, not much could grind my gears more than for my gun to fall apart as I try to use it.

I will admit now that I am not a World of Warcraft fan, but I still gave it a bit of a play through. I could not work out why as I levelled up, I was taking more damage and dishing out a lot less pain. Then I suddenly noticed that every useful item also had a durability statistic amongst the lists of numbers bolted in to them. They were all at 0 durability and I did not have the money to repair them. I really can not see the point other than to cheese me off even more than is necessary. I could literally hear blizzard laughing at me (or it might have been the giggles of children outside, but for the purpose of my anger, I will assume it was corporate mockery).

Perhaps if equipment durability mechanics were a bit different the system could be made more fun. Maybe that if your item wears out you could find stuff laying about to give your worn out weapon a quirky botch job look to it. Sword no longer sharp enough? Ah look, a pile of rusty nails I can glue on to the blade, that’ll fix it. Axe handle snapped in half? Why don’t I use this spinal column that my fallen enemy no longer needs to make my flail blade a reality.

Maybe I would be happier with the system if it was more fun, but as it seems to stand in most instances durability in gaming seems to be a harsh punishment for using stuff as it is intended to be. I find it irritating enough when my pencil breaks, let alone when my power armour fails mid battle.

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