Monday, September 12, 2011

Monday Musings - 12th Sept, 2011

I write to take my mind off things this week, so let us muse... and muse hard!

Kirby's Epic Yarn (Wii)

We're up to the ice world (cause you know, every platformer has to have an ice world). The previous water world had some brutal stuff in and i'm happy to skate on thin ice rather than swim around (even though Dolphin Kirby is kickass).

One thing i find amusing is the similarity to New Super Mario Bros Wii when it comes to less experienced players. You ask them to enter safe mode, or they do so of their own volition. In Mario, it was telling them "to bubble", in Kirby it's telling them "to angel". Perhaps it was a more imperative design choice in Mario because you can actually die in that game, and in many ways, having extra players makes the game more difficult. In Kirby, it's relegated to not wanting to deal with a jump that your partner has made, or if an enemy's been hitting you too many times.

Fallout: New Vegas (Steam)

I'm level 28 now. Home stretch! I think i might be running out of quests to do, so i've started trying to find all the other companions. I told Cass and Rex to go wait in the Lucky 38 (i want to keep all my old companions handy after all) and i recruited E-DE and Arcade Cannon. I completed Arcade's quest chain and was pleasantly surprised. After playing Fallout 2, the Enclave are not a group of people a player looks on favourably, and to be finding old members in New Vegas, well it was interesting to say the least. I do have them on my side now when i finally hit the dam (along with the Great Khans and Boomers). I also left their power armour alone. While the stats are great, my character looked too silly in 3rd person mode. Yes, in this game it's been all about image and i will keep my desperado cowboy hat and reinforced leather armour thank you very much.

I've since recruited Boone and with his help took out Caesar. That was satisfying. The problem though is that to acquire his quest, i have to do more damage to the legion, and looking at the Fallout wiki (which is a fantastic resource by the way), i've sadly done everything i can do before i picked him up. I might quest with him a little more to see if slaughtering a few more of the Legion assassin squads that hunt me down will do the trick.

That's the same issue i'm having with E-DE. To acquire the message logs, i have to waste days of in game time and then talk to the right person who will trigger message playback with a keyword. Seeing that E-DE is in Primm and Boone is in Novac, i guess the game wanted me to pick these two up early so coming to them so late may be part of the reason i'm having difficulties with their quest chains.

Oh yeah, earlier in the week there was a mission where i had to help a prostitute from Gomorrah and this guy running from the Omertas get together and leave. I couldn't find either in the game. It turns out (again thanks to the Fallout wiki) that they can glitch out and not show up, but entering some code into the console, i was able to get both to appear in front of me, and i completed the quest without incident. Still, that was a new experience for me...

...and you know how last week i was complaining about deathclaws? Anti-material rifle. In the legs. Not a problem no more.

Rock of Ages (Steam)

I had not heard of this game before Friday. I saw the review at Game Trailers and decided to take a look. The review sold me on a tower defence / marble madness style game with humorous monty python-esque animated cut-scenes.

I am sad to say that the gameplay wore thin for me after 3 levels and i didn't find the cut-scenes as entertaining as the review made them out to be. Ah well, it was only $10 so you never feel bad about taking a risk on what might be a fun gaming experience when the price barrier is so low (see: the iphone market). I still would recommend people to checkout a review or watch a video of the gameplay. It might be up your alley.

Final Thoughts

Is death in video games an outdated concept?

Playing Kirby has got me thinking about this. Well not just Kirby but a few games i've enjoyed over the past few years. In Braid, one could always rewind the clock so technically there was no death in that game, and Flower had no lose conditions at all. Recently playing Super Mario Galaxy 2, the idea of lives kind of frustrated me. Especially since they were so easy to acquire, why not just do any with them altogether? I'm muddling my thoughts here though since Mario is a game you can die, and my reasons for being frustrated at the lives system is that so many games with death these days make use of a generous checkpoint system.

Limbo is the first game that comes to mind there. To be honest, i can't be down on death in Limbo because the trial and error of that game is part of its core. Also, it has a very generous checkpoint system. It most likely is to do with the rise in popularity of the console market over the last decade but i notice a lot of FPS games have taken on a rather generous checkpoint system as well (playing Battlefield Bad Company 2 earlier in the year, i don't think i ever quick saved. Back in the 90s my finger was always heading up to F5).

I am constantly quick-saving in Fallout: New Vegas though. Part of me says that's not necessary because of the auto saves upon loading each new area (which are a god-send with the frequent game crashes), but perhaps it's just my attachment to my character and the world. In Flower the avatar i'm controlling is quite abstract. In games like Braid and Super Mario Galaxy 2, i don't really care about Tim or Mario and am there for the excellent gameplay. I guess you could argue that we don't care about Tim because we can't lose him, and with Mario there's another life around the corner... but there's something more here. I think a death in a Mario game is affecting the same spot of frustration and anger that is present when i lose gems in Kirby. It's not an attachment to the character or a feeling of shame of having that character die, but that the failure was on my lack of skill as a player.

But where does reloading a death in New Vegas come into the equation? What about a death in World of Warcraft? Perhaps my initial question was the wrong one. The more i type and work out this issue, it seems that death in games is yet another mechanic. I think my problem with it (especially after playing games with it removed) is that psychological idea of rewarding success but not punishing failure... as no reward for failure can have the same effect. In this way you're not making a player feel bad for failing, but frustrated for not succeeding, and it might drive them to want to succeed more.

Still it feels like i'm still clawing at the edges of an answer, so close and yet so far to resolution. If anyone has any thoughts on the issue of death in gaming, please leave comments. I'd love to hear some alternate viewpoints.

Till next week, happy gaming all!


  1. Hey Dave,
    Only got started on New Vegas, but to me it feels more like Fallout 1 and 2...enough that I'm in the graveyard at the start of the game and am nervous about digging up graves because I think it will give me a 'graverobber' trait like Fallout 2 did! I like Fallout 3 but from what I've seen so far I like New Vegas a whole lot more.

    Jim V

  2. Hey Jim,

    Well it might help that Obsidian has a lot of the people who worked on the original Fallout games, but yeah, there's just something about the atmosphere (and then the faction system later on) that clicked with me, where Fallout 3 kinda petered out.