Monday, 17 January 2011

Dead end checkpoints and denial of passage

Dead ends are hardly fun in real life, so when you encounter them in one of the wonderful escapist paradises (or hellish desolate wastelands) we all love to trudge through in the gaming world, it definitely isn’t the most fun you can have with jiggling pixels on a screen. I’m not just being a bit of an awkard sod and saying that mazes should be simple straight paths to follow, or that puzzles shouldn’t have combinations that don’t work, but rather the gameplay should always offer you the chance to get out of the mess you make.

The thing that has sparked this blog off is the Hacker Evolution Collection. It’s a hacking sim that puts you in the hands of a hacker, with the only game screen looking like something out of the film Swordfish. It definitely looks like the Hollywood equivalent of hacking, but then again a recreation of the Windows desktop might be quite disheartening to stare at on a night off.

Anyway, the chief problem in this game is that you need to keep your trace level below 100% to prevent a game over. Your trace jumps up whenever you crack, decrypt or do anything else that sounds like a hacking word towards a server. To lower your trace by 10% you need to spend $500 – money that can only be earned by hacking into something and transferring it. Money is semi-rare to come across in the game, and there is toe stubbingly finite amount of the stuff.

Just to add to the head pounding fun, your trace percentage and cash amount is carried between levels. Therefore there is a harsh limit as to how many times you can lower your trace. Because of this I have now found myself in a situation where I can only lose and have no money to lower my trace level.

Due to the lack of a mid-level save function or a way to skip back to previous levels, I must now start again. The typed out phrase to indicate the action of my *sigh* doesn’t even come close to covering it. A more accurate portrayal of my precise emotional reaction at the time was “BLARGGLEraghARGH *evacuates bowls in frustration* *sigh*” and then some more rage.

Forced restarts due to frustrating save conditions are hardly a new thing in games though. There have been too many times to count that the autosave has triggered a split second before that grenade under my feet has detonated or just after I have fallen down the cliff of instant death. Unfortunately it’s one of those things that we must shrug off when it happens occasionally and accept that it will always be there.

Still, it doesn’t mean that I can’t turn my frustration into prose and whine at the internet and two or three of its users. It's still poor game design.

1 comment:

Luke said...

Oh dear.

This reminded me of a previous post you made about having to restart a level in Halo Reach. The thing is though, I once found that a checkpoint dropped me nanoseconds away from staring a Hunter and four or five Engineers in the face, with little health and no decent weapons. I would die quite literally within two seconds. However, after trying this checkpoint about four times in a row, the game automatically threw me back to the checkpoint before (I purposefully recreated the situation, and found that the same thing happened again).

If only you'd repeatedly commited suicide (within the context of the game)...