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Sunday, August 8, 2010

Long Delay Explanation and Customization

So yeah, I've been away for a looooong time (by my standards), and there is a good reason for it. I'll go into more depth tomorrow, but for now I'll simply say this. Video games are not the only games I play. I also play pen and paper roleplaying games, and in my home town (stalk me if you must) GenCon Indy just went down and I had some great fun with pre-Con gaming Wednesday night. Thursday took my time, as did Friday, and so tonight, since I'm not making the drive tomorrow, is the first night I've had completely free to blog. I've also started a side business selling trading cards (I don't play. There isn't enough time between sunrises), and I've tried to get my stock completely up on eBay, which, believe it or not, is very, very time consuming. All told I've had perhaps two or three hours to myself, and this usually comes at the end of five or six, so I put it on the back burner. With the Con over, for me at least, I'm ready to get back into things. Let's jump in, shall we?

Modern first person shooters nowadays are big on one thing: customization. Sure there are gametypes and map packs and different play styles, but customization, for me at least, drive a game's replayability. In BC2, for example, there are so many different ways to play every single class, and no one "right" way (though there is always a wrong way, but that's for another post). If you want to play an assault class, but aren't the guy who goes hog wild with the kills and low death numbers, sit back and provide cover for your friends, be sneaky and get behind the enemy, provide a safe place to spawn your mates in, then get out. Throw down ammo packs and keep everybody covered while they rush in to arm the objective. Their eyes are on one thing, and yours need to keep them safe. If you want to do the opposite, slap on lightweight and magnum, a shotgun and some C4 and you've got yourself a mobile death machine. Hell, I saw a guy with lightweight and body armor knifing only, because he could.

What I'm getting at, of course, is that games, especially FPS's, grow boring rather quickly once everyone discovers the routes to run, the weapons and perks/specs to use and the tactics the other team is likely to employ. It becomes a repetitive grind/yawn fest where everyone just goes through the motions until the timer goes "buzz." What makes any game fun for longer is the ability to change it up. Call of Duty is perhaps the best example of this, and I'll explain my reasoning for not going with my series, Battlefield. The Call of Duty engine is relatively static. The maps are not destructible, and only the rare car explosion and window smash break the steady flow of troops around the environment. Call the physics system simple, but with the massive weapon selection, even the most mundane game remains something to enjoy months, even years in the case of CoD4, after release. Players try out new things, from weapons to perk setups to map routes and even douchey tactics to get just a week more out of the game. Slap on an RPG only 360 spin match (Seen it. Hilarious) and you have something fresh to enjoy.

Going back to Battlefield, and why I stray from speaking about it in the same way as Call of Duty. Putting aside the fact that they run on different engines, cater to different players and use different play mechanics, there is one reason sometimes using the same kit until you don't grow bored of it ever is that the matches are always, always, different. Certainly the routes that troops take are probably the same, but the tactics employed are always in motion. In Call of Duty, it's essentially kill kill kill, take objective, kill kill kill. Forgive my presumption, as I don't actually play, but that's how I see it. In Battlefield, there is almost always a different way to approach a situation. Putting aside vehicles for a moment, the maps themselves are large and varied enough that a single objective has at least three ways to attack it at any one time. Combine this with the four different classes, their almost infinite variety of setups, and the constant motion of class balance, and you might play one game on one map and then the next game is completely different, simply by the virtue of a few new players and few new play styles. It doesn't take much.

I think Call of Duty suffers a little bit for this fact. Because there is no class system, as character skins are determined solely by weapon choice and not role played, there are only so many ways to go about doing something. Again, certainly there probably hundreds of ways, but not the thousands of Battlefield. Add to this a non-dynamic battlefield, smaller maps with sometimes no between-player support, and those hundreds of methods exhaust themselves fairly quickly. In the end, in Call of Duty, with a very specific set of weapons, attachments, perks and killstreak setups making the killing the most efficient in game play, eventually it becomes fairly standard, and you return to the grind described in the beginning of this post. I may be being a bit contradictory here with my belaboring the Call of Duty stuff, but my earlier comments only last for so long, as I've said. I think that, in the end, it comes down to a player and his desires from a game that determine his, and only his, replayability. What I've tried to say, in a very roundabout way, is that the overall replayability of a game measures itself not by a single player or small group of players, but only after a few months of play and discovery. If, in that time, a very small set of tactical choices become the norm, the game has a lesser replayability than another.

Whew. I guess I needed to get this out of me, huh?


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