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A Gamers' Manifesto
May 23, 2005 11:34 AM   Subscribe

A Gamers' Manifesto
posted by Tlogmer (40 comments total)

 
Some of the graphics in this article are NSFW.
posted by matildaben at 11:39 AM on May 23, 2005


I'm not a big gamer (it's too addictive, I find), but he had some good points.
posted by fungible at 11:55 AM on May 23, 2005


Oops. Yeah, there are two marginally NSFW graphics about a third of the way down.
posted by Tlogmer at 12:02 PM on May 23, 2005


I mostly agree with this guy, and his point about the new graphics-accelerating processors in next-gen consoles that won't help with non-graphics (AI) processing is especially insightful.

But then this:

There is not one single reason in the known universe for even one more game where the save point is ten motherfucking minutes away from the boss, forcing me to fight my way down the same hallway each of the 62 attempts it takes me to beat the guy (I'm looking at you, Metroid Prime).

Don't be a wuss, back in my day we would get right to the end of Karateka and forget to rush to the damsel in distress we spent weeks and weeks trying to rescue and _she'd_ kill us. That's how a man learns to get better, not by saving after every successful kill.
posted by Space Coyote at 12:07 PM on May 23, 2005


This guy makes many excellent points. But he contradicts himself a couple of times. He wants realism and immersion in his gaming experience (jumping, spies that act like spies, etc), but he also wants unlimited ammo and the biggest, best cars straight off the bat.

If your character is contracted by the government or something to kill zombies, it does make sense if you get the biggest, best guns first. But the "story" to racing games is you start out a little fish, then work your way up so you can afford the toys the big fish play with--though I guess racing games are generally about the racing, so with that focus the point is still good.

But unlimited ammo? That's lazy gaming. It's not a cheap way of adding difficulty, it reflects the real-life difficulty of fighting off zombies or infiltrating compounds or whatnot. Adds to the immersion, methinks.
posted by schroedinger at 12:23 PM on May 23, 2005


As I get older and more jaded, games continue to become more inane and anemic.
posted by prostyle at 12:25 PM on May 23, 2005


That's how a man learns to get better, not by saving after every successful kill.

Definitely agreed (except for the "man" thing).

It has to do with the fact that both the XBox 360 and the PS3's Cell CPU use "in-order" processing, which, to greatly simplify, means they've intentionally crippled the ability to make clever A.I. and dynamic, unpredictable, wide-open games in favor of beautiful water reflections and explosion debris that flies through the air prettily.

Two teraflops!

The nipples comment was funny. I thought we'd have seen nipples on mainstream fashion/movie magazine covers a few years ago, but no luck so far.

As for AO game titles, I think the dam is about to burst.

Think of it this way. When you're bored at work, what do you play? Solitaire.

Is this guy living in the '90s? I play N. What about you?

A lot of his complaints are about the marketing and business in general, e.g. unrealistic screenshots and patent law.

Btw, what are jumping puzzles? Does he just mean tricky jumping passages? What's wrong with that? Even in an FPS, you can look up and down.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:30 PM on May 23, 2005


offtopic: their WoW piece made me laugh out loud.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:33 PM on May 23, 2005


Btw, what are jumping puzzles?

The most annoying part of FPS games, which require you to take a break from gleefully blowing the crap out of your enemies to make meticulously-timed jumps across platforms, like you've suddenly turned into Mario or something.

Personally, my biggest pet peeve is that the AI in strategy games hasn't advanced significantly in the past 10 or so years. More annoyingly, playing "harder" settings on these games doesn't change anything about the AI, it just lets the computer "cheat" to produce things quicker than you do.
posted by mkultra at 12:37 PM on May 23, 2005


That article made me laugh out loud a few times, thanks.
posted by catachresoid at 12:39 PM on May 23, 2005


Bang on.
I hope some developers see this and see the hit count and say, oh, a hundred thousand people agree? WHOOPS

MrGrimm, I would play N if it didn't take up my entire processor for some reason.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 12:41 PM on May 23, 2005


I read that article and I was all like 'yeah, really.'
posted by Mach5 at 12:47 PM on May 23, 2005


There is so much good stuff in that manifesto that I've gone ahead and started pointing people to it from other places. Yeah, there are some contradictions - complaining about how they're all focusing on graphics and physics and stuff, then mentioning how that not only should they be able to shoot the coffee can, but also the magazine on the desk - but overall it raises a LOT of good points that I have long agreed with.

And he talks about arbitrary scripted points and hurting immersion and all that (like the wooden door you can't destroy but have to find the key for) - I think my biggest annoying example of this is back in the final mission in Wing Commander 3. Your wingmen all go belly up in combat, and if you keep them from dying, enemies kept coming and coming UNTIL your wingmen get taken out. I spent some hours playing until I figured out that crap - and decided it wasn't worth actually finishing that last mission.
posted by evilangela at 1:02 PM on May 23, 2005


This is the best article on that site. NSFW only because you might laugh too loudly.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:04 PM on May 23, 2005


Wow, I actually agree with everything this person has to say about gaming, apart from the quicksaving thing - stop-start PC-style over-caution isn't fun at all. On the other hand, save points directly before bosses or unusually tricky bits reduce needless repetition, which is always, always a good thing. Devil May Cry 3, I'm looking squarely and angrily in your direction. Everything else: um... yep. Spot on.

As I get older and more jaded, games continue to become more inane and anemic.

That's funny, prostyle - as I get older and more jaded, I find I'm more capable of picking and choosing the good games from amongst the crap.
posted by terpsichoria at 1:04 PM on May 23, 2005


It has to do with the fact that both the XBox 360 and the PS3's Cell CPU use "in-order" processing, which, to greatly simplify, means they've intentionally crippled the ability to make clever A.I. and dynamic, unpredictable, wide-open games in favor of beautiful water reflections and explosion debris that flies through the air prettily.

If by "greatly simplify" he means, "make up nonsensical shit out of thin air."
posted by delmoi at 1:08 PM on May 23, 2005


On the other hand, save points directly before bosses or unusually tricky bits reduce needless repetition, which is always, always a good thing.

The flip side of this is that you can wind up getting to the boss with barely any health, which will screw you on autosave. I had this happen to me on a game a few years back, and wound up never finishing it.
posted by mkultra at 1:10 PM on May 23, 2005


God what a whiner.
posted by delmoi at 1:14 PM on May 23, 2005


Good link. I find myself playing games less and less, and many of the things that the authors mention are the things that (added up) contribute to that.
posted by OmieWise at 1:30 PM on May 23, 2005


I may not agree 100%, but I'll give him the vote for being funny.
posted by jsavimbi at 1:43 PM on May 23, 2005


My Grand Unified Theory of gaming explains pretty much every action or adventure video game to date: the design of games is based almost solely on how closely or how far a game hews to the following D&D cliches:

1. weapon, shield, and article effects can be ranked hierarchically -- the operational goal of every sublevel below finishing the game is to acquire these weapons, shields, effects
2. there is a clear hierarchy of progressively tougher enemies, with each instance of a class being carbon copies of each other (ie no variation within a class)
3. the player stands in for a single entity. Either one individual, a party, or a "side" in an RTS.
4. The single entity should be constrained by a resource of some kind (health, vespene gas, skill point allocation, or combinations of these)

I would say every action game deemed "original" can be seen to have distanced itself consciously along one or two of these axes.

Most games are relying on breaking out of #2 by putting in multiplayer features. However, if Doom III had had unique zombies (randomly generated facial and body shapes, each with random weapons), it could have been a pretty interesting game! As it was..it was the most cliched piece of crap ever.

I have yet to see #3 broken or even bent. In essence, all games still comes with a wrinkled Character Sheet that gets filled out.

Anyways, game designers need to stop unconsciously imitating or rejecting D&D. I know it's a stereotype but by starting every design on this unconscious template, they are alienating women, intelligent people with a sense of drama, and rejecting other ways of giving players the sense of fun and wish fulfillment they all crave.
posted by growli at 1:44 PM on May 23, 2005


The 'crate' card was more effectively played by the late, lamented, frozen-in-stasis Old Man Murray in 2000.
posted by felix at 2:01 PM on May 23, 2005


this whiner needs to meet Leroy Jenkins. that guy just gets the job done. or dies trying. whatever. (IANA online gamer)
posted by killy willy at 2:17 PM on May 23, 2005


We'll try to be calm and avoid the violent hyperbole that spoils so many gaming websites, but are you telling me that Congress can hold hearings about steroids in baseball, but they can't do anything about jumping puzzles in first-person games? YOU CAN'T SEE YOUR MOTHERFUCKING FEET. IT DOESN'T WORK.

I understand this occurring in games like Turok 3. That's why they're called bad games. But Half-Life 2? Are you serious? BOW YOUR HEAD IN SHAME.

Chances that it will get bet-

-THEY SHOULD HAVE NEVER DONE IT IN THE FIRST PLACE. EVER. WHOSE IDEA WAS THIS? I DEMAND TO KNOW. WAS IT TUROK? WAS TUROK THE FIRST? THE VERY FIRST FUCKING PERSON TO EVER PUT A JUMPING PUZZLE IN A FIRST-FUCKING PERSON GAME SHOULD HAVE BEEN FIRED, TIED DOWN AND HAD HIS EARS FILLED WITH PISS.


Yes! Hallelujah! AMEN!
posted by flippant at 2:31 PM on May 23, 2005


Isn't the world full of unemployed actors willing to do voice work in exchange for food or, you know, Heroin? "Do it with feeling this time, Cody, and I'll make the spiders in your brain go away!"

Ha!
posted by thatwhichfalls at 2:40 PM on May 23, 2005


First off, consumers get the games they deserve. Psychonauts is a fun, creative, original game with great voice acting and most people would rather buy Revenge of the Sith. For shame.

#3. Don't bullshit me about your graphics

Like Killzone 2? Can I sue Sony if I buy a PS3 and the graphics don't look like that?

#4. Nipples?

God of War had quite a few nipples, M rated though.

#7. Loading...

He right, it's not a hardware issue it's a programming issue, like San Andreas had way quicker loading than Half-Life 2. Though Unreal Engine 3 that a lot of games will be using is suppossed to be able to load parts on the fly.
posted by bobo123 at 2:58 PM on May 23, 2005


bravo!
posted by nola at 3:00 PM on May 23, 2005


bobo123: Like Killzone 2? Can I sue Sony if I buy a PS3 and the graphics don't look like that?

Great example. There is no way that was in game footage.
posted by Bort at 4:33 PM on May 23, 2005


So, Sony's gonna charge $465 for the PS3 and Killzone WON'T look like that?
posted by jonson at 5:04 PM on May 23, 2005


God that was spot on..Thanks. PS good thing we still have cool crates in doom 3 and now 4! |:}
posted by uni verse at 5:11 PM on May 23, 2005


Chances of that happening...
Excellent. I like to think that some day the businesses of the world will wake up and realize they're part of a greater whole, that the energy devoted to cannabalistic infighting means ultimate doom for all. The leaders of the great religions of the world will realize that all of us, Muslim, Christian, Jew, all want the same for humanity. Women will realize it's the pale, studious type they want instead of the quarterback of the football team, and everywhere we walk, bunnies will dance a path for us. Dance, little guys! Dance!


perfect.
posted by schyler523 at 5:56 PM on May 23, 2005


growli:
However, if Doom III had had unique zombies (randomly generated facial and body shapes, each with random weapons), it could have been a pretty interesting game!

Nah -- not even that would have made it interesting :) I'm not sure about the usefulness of grading multiplayer on the same axis as differing zombie textures.

I have yet to see #3 broken or even bent. In essence, all games still comes with a wrinkled Character Sheet that gets filled out.

Games like Tetris have been breaking #3 for a long time.
posted by fleacircus at 7:49 PM on May 23, 2005


This is the best article on that site. NSFW only because you might laugh too loudly.

Holy crap, you're right, I nearly woke up the girlfriend. I had to stop and get something to dry my face, went back for more, got to the "Next -- Part 2" link and bailed. Too much. TOO MUCH!

Aaaaanyway, yeah video games are a pointless waste of time. An entire wave of youth (the Playstation Generation) is swallowed by this shite. But hey, they rocked the vote last November!

The first and last console I ever bought was an Atari 2600 -- and I liked it!

You remember that scene in Friends (I know, I know, I hate it too) where somebody says to Chandler "she got him the greatest gift one can get" and he says "she got him a Playstation?" Well, I laughed out loud at that joke one night, and my consarn girlfriend took that as code for "boyfriend would like a Playstation" so she bought me one for Christmas (after they dropped to about $100). Uuuuuuuh .... thanks! I grinned and played it for a couple days and then quietly put it away.

I got no time for games ... I got muckracking journals and MeFi hissy fits to catch up on.

I am not exaggerating when I say that I spent most of 1991 playing Tetris. Break the cycle.
posted by intermod at 9:13 PM on May 23, 2005


I'm only about a third of the way down the page so far, and it's both quite true and quite funny, but as far as I can tell this guy's thesis is "shitty console games play like shitty console games." Duh. We knew that already.

Most console titles suck -- you just can't fit very much interesting gameplay into such a tiny memory footprint while still holding all the geometry and texture data needed to fill a rendering pipeline. Shit, my now ancient GeForce 2 card has more memory than an entire PS2, and I know RAID controllers with more than that. For fuck's sake, my cell phone has more memory than a PS2 (though obviously nothing even close to enough CPU comparatively).
posted by majick at 9:57 PM on May 23, 2005


As a gamer and game developer, I can say that a lot of the issues raised here are things we're all frustrated with. Nobody wants to ship a game with unrealistic enemy behavior or arbitrary and frustrating environmental limitations, but a combination of technology and deadlines make these things happen. The next hardware generation will likely ease the technological restrictions while increasing expectations for content. In other words, some of these problems will improve, some will get worse.

But I'd like to focus on his comments about new genres. A lot of what this guy is looking for is out there, but it just isn't mass-market enough to get the marketing dollars it would need to get a new audience's attention. For example:

Why isn't a there a spy game where we actually get to be a real spy rather than a hallway-roving kill machine? You know, where we actually have to talk to contacts and extract information and tap phones and piece together clues, a game full of exotic locales and deception and backstabbing and subplots? A game where a gun is used as often as a real spy would use it (that is, almost never)?

This is the exception to that mass-market point I made earlier - it sounds like marketing copy for Ubi Soft's Splinter Cell to me. Admittedly, the game is limited by technology... environments are perhaps not as expansive as he might like, and the stories are not particularly character-driven. On the other hand, smaller environments means more excitement and less wandering around, and the more game allow you to converse with artificial people, the more artificial those people seem. Yes, you can shoot plenty of people if you like. But you absolutely do not have to, provided you use stealth to avoid or incapacitate them. It's possible to get through the game leaving environments untouched save for a few unconscious guards and broken lightbulbs. And I'd argue that allowing the players to choose their strategy is far better than forcing them towards either fighting or avoiding conflict.

Where's the game where we're a castaway on a deserted island and the object of the game is to find food and clean water and build a shelter, a game where we can play for one month or six months, because whether or not we get rescued is randomized? Where every time we restart we get a different island with different wildlife and vegetation and water sources?

Again, technology limits some of the possibilities here with respect to randomization of rescue conditions and island locations. But the castaway game concept is intriguingly explored in Konami's Lost in Blue.

Where's the game where we play a salty Southern lawyer who has to piece together evidence to exonerate a black man falsely accused of murder, breaking down witnesses and spotting inconsistencies in testimony?

OK, so the lawyer is Japanese, not Southern... but this game concept is explored in Capcom's Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney.

Where's the game where we get to play as Dr. House and diagnose mysterious illnesses while crushing the patient's spirit with cruel insults?

It's light on diagnosis and insults, but if you want to try your hand at performing surgery, check out Atlus's Trauma Center: Under the Knife.

Where's the game where we're a pre-op transsexual where the object of the game is to gather enough money to complete the operation?

OK, I've got nothing for this one.

The fault, dear manifesto writer, lies not in the games, but in the media and marketing. All the game's I've listed are console games with real development budgets and marketing budgets, and yet they're under the radar of many people who might like to play them. If that's true, than what chance does an independent PC project have to get noticed by an audience beyond current gamers? This is why, time after time, someone goes out on a limb and makes a great, innovative game and is rewarded with little attention and poor sales. It's a vicious cycle of unique games that are too out of the mainstream to command significant publicity, set against potential audiences that never become aware of games they might like and thus never buy them. I fear that Psychonauts, mentioned above, is only the latest example of this.

Sure, there are other problems - cost of entry for potential players, distribution channels, etc. But none of those can be solved if no one's buying, and no one will buy a product they know nothing about. Thus, change must come through the marketing and media coverage of these small, innovative titles. If they succeed, bigger budgets can go towards unique games and more significant changes can occur in the overall market structure.

It's no coincidence that three of the titles I noted above are for Nintendo's portable DS sytem. Nintendo is really trying to differentiate themselves from the mainstream of modern gaming, and they're starting to succeed in getting existing gamers to take notice of their innovations. It remains to be seen whether or not they can also find ways to reach an audience who, though uninterested in most video games, might like to try their hand at surgery or being a lawyer. It seems like they will take a similar approach with their next console system, though they've not yet released any concrete details on exactly how they're going to set their system apart from the others and reach new audiences. I'm definitely excited to see what they've got planned.
posted by Fourmyle at 10:28 PM on May 23, 2005


David Wong : "Why isn't a there a spy game where we actually get to be a real spy rather than a hallway-roving kill machine? You know, where we actually have to talk to contacts and extract information and tap phones and piece together clues, a game full of exotic locales and deception and backstabbing and subplots? A game where a gun is used as often as a real spy would use it (that is, almost never)?"

Fourmyle : "This is the exception to that mass-market point I made earlier - it sounds like marketing copy for Ubi Soft's Splinter Cell to me."

...Whuh?

Nothing personal, but what he's describing is a reaction against games like Splinter Cell. In Splinter Cell, you aren't a spy, you're a hallway-roving kill machine (or, as you point out, a hallway roving knock-out machine). He wants a game where you forge an invitation to go to the ball in the embassy, then sneak off during a waltz to take a microfilm picture of some plans, then talk to various people, trying to determine who your contact is, perhaps coding a message to get back to your agency, and walking out the front door, while secretly being reported on by the ambassador's secretary, who is a double agent. You know, classic spy stuff. Non kill-machine stuff.

But you're spot-on about Phoenix Wright. It's exactly what I thought of when I read it.

Of course, he's spot on when he says there's no way games like that are going to be made for the PS3 or 360. Not enough graphic dazzle.
posted by Bugbread at 7:17 AM on May 24, 2005


bugbread - try Hitman 2 where you must break into the East German embassy, subtly poison the evil general and steal some secret documents all whilst evading detection. The joy of it was you could choose to do the mission however you wished - either walk in with guns blazing or scope the place out, sneak in disguised as a guest or waiter etc.

I have a place in my heart for the Hitman games simply because there are so many awesome ways to complete the missions (especially killing the chubby playboy in the jacuzzi in the 2nd game and then messing with his rubber ducky).

The fact is that great games don't sell - the console market rely on the "ENTERTAIN ME NOW" concept (I like a quick blast on GTA : SA after work to relax me) whereas the PC market is supposedly more cerebral. Plenty of novel games exist - the problem is that nobody buys them.

Oh, and Nintendo sucks. ;P
posted by longbaugh at 11:23 AM on May 24, 2005


Hitman 2 was the one I thought was closest to what Wong was saying, especially if you use disguises. If you think of Splinter Cell as being 0% spy, and Wong's ideal as 100% spy, Hitman is probably 50% spy. If it involved less stealth, more trickery, and some conniving, smoothtalking, wiretapping, and the like, it would probably hit exactly what Wong was getting at.

And, man, I loves me some Hitman.
posted by Bugbread at 2:24 PM on May 24, 2005


Ok, fair enough. I was reading his comments more as a response to games like Goldeneye, where all the cool things about the James Bond character are translated into walking around with a gun and shooting. (Not that Goldeneye wasn't fun... but it wasn't Bond.)

Still, though, as far as his list of suggestions goes:
talk to contacts and extract information and tap phones and piece together clues, a game full of exotic locales and deception and backstabbing and subplots? A game where a gun is used as often as a real spy would use it (that is, almost never)?
Splinter Cell hits all of those except for piecing together clues, and in ways that keep the player immersed in the world and away from the boundaries of the simulation.

The Hitman series is impressive, but it's limiting in the fact that the possibilities are all along pre-designed paths. It's like an adventure game in that manner. If your plan for getting in to the embassy is in tune with what the game's designers have provided, then it feels totally immersive. If the available approaches seem counter-intuitive or far off base from what you were thinking, you'll get frustrated with the seemingly silly and limited options.

Basing a game on talking to characters and attempting to deceive or interrogate them pushes you right up against the boundaries of the simulation. Human interaction is something we all know well, and thus is one of the hardest things to realistically simulate. Of course, visually simulating humans gets easier with each hardware advance (at least in terms of feasibility, not art creation time.) I think the problems with simulating human interaction, though, lie more with our understanding of cognitive science than with our computational power.

All this is a long winded way of saying that I prefer game environments that play to their strengths and avoid reminding players that they're playing a game - which is a major point of the article. That's why I think Splinter Cell is a reasonable approximation of Wong's suggestions given current technology and knowledge.
posted by Fourmyle at 5:28 PM on May 24, 2005


That "NBA Live 2003" review link was HILARIOUS. Thanks Optimus Chyme!
posted by jcruelty at 2:09 PM on May 25, 2005


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