Tag Archives: Assassins Creed

Open World Games – Could be better…

A few days ago, discussing WoFF with some work colleagues, it became apparent that I had very little faith in modern, so-called “western” RPGs. I’d just written a review about World of Final Fantasy which attacked the nature of open-world gaming in a light-hearted manner but it dawned on me that I meant every word.

It is difficult to argue with the success of some open world franchises, the GTA series is considered legendary. Whilst it may not be to my taste to play, I do believe that GTA4 and GTA5 are perhaps the most complicated and thoroughly well constructed pieces of software to date. The attention to detail is staggering. Someone has to carefully create and correlate hundreds of hours “background noise” such as the entertaining radio channels, the artwork in the posters to the vocal reactions of the NPCs in the street. Not a single line of code here, but this detail is what makes the game immersive. Additionally, its funny, challenging and does “sandbox” the right way – bored of the campaign? Do what you want! It’s OK, go for it! We won’t punish you for your deviance, we may even reward you!

Conversely, open world implemented poorly is downright dull. Perhaps controversially, consider Assassins Creed: Syndicate. I’ve played the first 30 hours or so of this. It started off great, I was being instructed on how to play the game. A contrived scenario was delivered to me to ensure I understood the nuances of what is quite a complex playing mechanic. I was impressed when the end of this scenario opened up the entirety of London as the setting for the rest of the game. At this point the game just went – “There’s our big thing, impressive huh? Right go to that dot on the map” And sadly, it’s all a bit downhill from there. The constrained stealthy missions are fun – I particularly enjoyed infiltrating the hospital to meet Florence Nightingale, but the bulk of the rest of the game is go to the dot. Kill the red dots. Go to the next dot. Cut Scene you wont understand. Go to the next dot. Kill the red dots. Chase the red dot… and so forth. ACs downfall is that its open world is very pretty and expansive, but really lacking any depth. It all looks a bit similar, the characters are “historical celebrities” and so feel unoriginal, the combat is sluggish/too hard/too simple, and sadly you’re left simply filling progress bars whilst being bewildered by a fragmented narrative. And shamefully (tut tut tut) you can pay to fill those progress bars quicker. Naughty given it’s a full price AAA title.

Batman: Arkham City, Arkham Knight, and Arkham Origins are equally large games, but they are bursting with detail. Sure these games too are about filling progress bars, but you don’t realize you’re doing it, and you are generally rewarded for doing so with abilities that allow you to progress, encouraging back tracking and littered with great plot and characters. These games too are about going to the dot on the map and doing something, but they generally engage you. The “predator modes” are polarizing, but present the player with the opportunity to do things their way, set their own goals. Can I kill them all silently? Can I kill them all quickly? Can I kill them using those new moves I unlocked? What will unlock next? Unlocking I suppose is a form of progress bar filling too, but it has much more substance. The “unlock” event is described by some significant change in your status.  A change which has to be planned and crafted, therefore it must be deeper than merely “you now do more damage”, or your “wibble” count is now 100. A design team has envisaged a reward that forms part of the continuing gameplay experience.

Going back to Assassin’s Creed, growing the characters really makes no difference. Even if my number is lower than the target enemy’s, sneaking and silent killing is all it takes. Granted, this is more challenging is crowded areas, but once you find the rhythm, the mission is easy. I don’t like the way they rub numbers in your face either. Everything is percentage this, and level that. I don’t need the game to tell me how far through I am with it. That reminds me its a game, a fleeting experience that will end. You rarely see this is non-open world games. Did Uncharted (any of them) tell you a percentage completed? No it didn’t. In fact Uncharted brilliantly marries together area transitions and modality switches, in such a way as to be invisible to the player. This is because a talented design team has poured much effort into crafting an enjoyable experience.

I think the lesson here is don’t let the player design the game for you. Sadly, this is a sign of things to come. Open world games are great for the production of DLC and the promotion of casual play, which consists of nothing more than a few unrelated mission scripts and a handful of assets. It’s a way the developers can print money. This goes hand-in-hand with creating a game that’s so large and shallow, that you can’t possibly complete it 100% without paying additional fees or dying of boredom. Along with a “we can patch it later, it’s just a script” attitude, open world games are really risking becoming the genre everybody loves to hate. Stop buying this crap. It’s your fault.

 

Jx9

Video Blogging & 2016 Game Awards

Happy New Year?

Well regardless of how you feel about the new year, and the festive season in general, I hate it. To me it’s a gigantic “end of term” report card. It’s a time to reflect on what you’ve done since the previous new year, and invariably bring forth a seasonal depression when you realize that actually, you’ve not done very much.

I’ve had a particularly dull year – enhanced by the fact that 2016 was pretty crappy all round. The media have really jumped on the doom and gloom bandwagon with celebrity deaths, unexpected election results, refugee crises, mass migration, cold war re-ignition and appalling devastation and terror in the name of religion. 🙁

Well, I can’t fix any of that, but I have decided to contribute some of my measly knowledge to society in a more visual and all round proactive way. As well as increasing the frequency of the written stuff, I’ve already started to record some video.

My plan is simple, I have no particular focus for the videos, but they will be about code, and electronics, and technology, and recording my efforts to learn, and perhaps even teach, tech engineering from first principles. As always, if anyone finds this useful, its a bonus.

Right, on with the ceremony!

The OneLoneCoder Blog Video Game Awards 2016

Welcome to the inaugural OneLoneCoder Blog Video Game Awards! Here we award Javid’s to the best games I played during 2016. Note, that this may not necessarily be the year the game was released. Let’s introduce your incredibly enthusiastic host – Javidx9!!!

thejavidaward_lores

“Here, Have a Javid…”

Now without further ado, let’s get onto the awards! <insert generic fanfare>

Best Major Game

Also known as “AAA” titles, this category is for the big boys, millions of pounds spent on a media budget alone, and usually a very large file size!

Nominations

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Naughty Dog

Final Fantasy XV
Square Enix

Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate
Ubisoft Quebec

Dirt Rally
Codemasters

And the Winner is…

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End.

“What a superb game. Not only is it engrossing to play, but it oozes game engine polish at every opportunity. The fact that the playing modality radically changes whilst you play and you don’t even notice is a testament to the sheer master-craft of its designers. Only a game where people not playing can thoroughly enjoy watching it being played is truly worthy of a Javid. Well Done!” – Jx9

Best Minor Game

These games come from the lesser known developers or even “indy” developers. They will never gain huge acceptance, some people will think they’re just plain weird, but what do they know. Often the best games are the ones where they spent money on the game, and not on it’s marketing.

Nominations

Windlands
Psytec Games Ltd

The Witness
Thekla

Goat Simulator
Coffee Stain Studios

Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture
The Chinese Room

Elite Dangerous
Frontier Developments

And the Winner is…

The Witness

“It is rare that a game today connects with me on so many levels. The Witness is a game hampered by its trailer and social networking as it can’t give away the secrets that lie within. The intelligent design of this intellectual and ‘explorational’ behemoth is without comparison, and I am certain the developers sacrificed years of their lives fine tuning what I can only describe as not just the best game of 2016, but perhaps, just maybe, the greatest and deepest game I have ever played.” – Jx9

Special Mention Of The Year

This award goes to a game that may not be up for being the best or the worst, but there was something about it that just makes you think “yeah… it’s alright that”. This year’s special mention goes to Windlands.

“Perhaps it’s a gimmick, or a fleeting novelty, but the sensation of flying still puts a grin on my face every time I boot it up. Take a good run up, look sideways and jump. And DON’T LET GO!” – Jx9

Second Place Turd Of The Year

Automatically, according to the Javid Academy Rules, Destiny wins the First Place winner of this award, therefore to make this category more relevant, we select the runner up.

And the Winner is…

I Am Setsuna

“Oh. This was disappointing. You see, it’s not a bad game, just not a very interesting one. Indeed, it does channel a little nostalgia for the ‘good old days’ of console role playing games, but playing it I can’t help asking for a little more, well, colour, depth, strategy, story, exploration, music, humour…, you know, like how they used to be!” – Jx9

 

So that’s all for 2016. Join me in the new year. I’m trying to get better at this!

Jx9