Friday, 22 July 2011

What do you mean I can't load my game?

Apologies for the slight lack of blog posts lately, but real life has been selfishly trying to wrestle my time away from video games to deal with allegedly more important things. Having said that, I have managed to come across something that I believe is whinge-worthy enough to deserve its own post.

I know I’ve moaned a fair bit in the past about stupid games that decide to buck the trend and not include an auto-save function, forcing you to make the effort to record your progress manually. That’s frustrating, yes, but it’s not really game breaking. It just makes you feel stupid if you have a momentary brain fart and forget to press a button. My latest issue is far more severe.

On my travels through Europe in turn-based strategy title STORM: Frontline Nation, I’ve found that it is a good idea to save every turn or two because most countries seem to declare war on you randomly, like they have some kind of anti-diplomacy Tourette’s. Whilst still getting to grips with the game I started to poke the cluster of enemies on my boarder just to see the scale of attack to expect. Needless to say, every soldier I sent to investigate was unnecessarily sent to his death.

Armed with the knowledge of hindsight, I attempt to resurrect my forces by reloading the game. Here’s the really stupid thing; the pause menu has no “Load Game” option or equivalent. I had to quit to the main menu to load the game again, enduring the long load times that I assume wouldn’t be necessary if I was just rewinding a move or two on the game’s map. This seems like too much of a glaringly obvious mistake to be a simple oversight.

If its absence is to stop people like me cheating death, then why is there a save system at all? What’s the point in saving a game if I need to quit it to get back to the position I want? It makes experimentation with the game mechanics very frustrating and long winded, not the kind of thing I want to encounter while trying to learn.

Another game I reviewed earlier in the year also had the same problem. Zombie RTS Trapped Dead had a checkpoint save system, but again, no way to access it from the game’s pause menu. I can’t think of a reasonable explanation as to why there isn’t the option there. It’s bloody maddening to say the least.

Anyway, rant over. Please look forward to some proper content coming soon.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

DLC rant number 183

It’s no secret that I am not a fan of the industry’s newest money vacuum, downloadable content. The three letters it is usually abbreviated to just make me cringe whenever I see them crop up, increasingly so when you hear them mentioned before the game they shall be bolted to is even released. I can’t help but feel incredibly cheated when you know they are making content that they don’t intend to put in the game unless you pay even more of a premium.

I remember when DLC was simply a few new maps that were the bright sparks of wonder nestled in amongst the latest patch notes. Now they are by and large the same thing, only they get applied in their own separate update which costs £10 if you want the pleasure.

The only time I will ever purchase a Call of Duty map pack is if there’s a new map based around large effigy of Bobby Kotick that players are encouraged to throw tomahawks at until money falls out of it, like a big corporate piƱata. Well, I say that, but I would only buy such a map pack if I also buy the edition of Call of Duty it is tied to, which by the series’ current standards I probably won’t be doing.

Mass Effect 2 recently convinced me to spend the best part of 2100 Microsoft monies on its various DLC offerings and I have mixed feeling about it. While I did enjoy the new missions, I’m not sure that I enjoyed £15 worth of content. For arguments sake, let’s say that the base game originally cost £35. My vanilla playthrough took me about 24 hours to beat. For £15 I’d at least want a pound to hour ratio similar to that of the original game. I reckon it took about five hours to get through Kasumi, Overlord and Shadow Broker.

While they were fun to play through I can’t help but feel the price is a little unfair for the length of the content. I kick myself for missing the Bioware half price DLC sale that I swear they had a little while ago. Having said this, I still think that the Mass Effect 2 DLC I got was a million times better than the content I’ve seen in FPS map packs. It really bugs me how many people are happy to fritter their money away like they were feeding it to ducks in the park, just for the sake of two or three new maps. These things used to be free!

In my opinion it has lead to a very lazy market to bleed money from games that have already been released. New maps are hardly creative stretch on anyone’s imagination; at least Mass Effect 2’s aftermarket extras had some decent narrative and mission variety to them.

I can’t help but feel the position that game devs take on DLC is completely wrong. Seeing as the industry is obsessed with sequels at the moment, how about using DLC to drive excitement towards the next game? Release a free or at least reasonably priced extra chapter for the previous game in the series that leads up to the events of the next game. That way you get a nice publicity package that encourages players to go back to their old games and get enthusiastic about the next chapter in the series.

Dead Rising Case Zero touched on this idea and is widely regarded as an industry success. Okay, it wasn’t free, but the 420 or so points it asked for seemed like a very reasonable deal for what it was; a lengthy game demo with some exclusive content that leads directly into the next game.

I’m tired of DLCs just being fairly insignificant updates to server map rotations or the odd new costume. Give us some real content for the money please. If you need any ideas of what to include, just look at what expansion packs used to be.