Modern Game Features You Can and Can't Live Without (Article)

On that close-knit forum I talk about all the time, a thread appeared called 'Modern Game Features You Can't Live Without'. After posting in it, I decided to create a companion thread, entitled 'Modern Game Features You Can Live Without'. Surprisingly, it quickly killed off the first one, which wasn't my intention at all! Anyway, here's what I posted in both threads, separated by a rare dose of colour. Aren't you lucky.

Modern Game Features You Can't Live Without

- Saving. Whether it be a quick-save, an auto-save or just a limited amount of times you can save at all, saving mid-level has proven to be a lifesaver and something that's made playing games much more fun, especially when you're about to enter a tricky section.

- Graphics. This is an odd subject, because some of my favourite games are 2D platformers (Metroid), but for the most part, 3D graphics have come a long way and really help to immerse you in a game. To a point, anyway.

- Sound. Music has become a huge part of games these days, and it's easy to tell why. The right piece of music in the right place can really enhance the game. But it's not just the music - people speaking to you, weapons sparking off different surfaces, footsteps of the enemy... it all makes for a really impressive experience.

- Story-Telling. This has really come into its own in the last few years, around the time that Half-Life came out. It's all well and good having a basic plot, but once you're in the game, the world around you has a story to tell, and it's going to tell it. This is possibly the greatest advancement in the development of games we've had over the past 10 years.

- DVDs. More game for your buck.

- Sub-titles. I've found this to be an absolute lifesaver, especially if there's a lot going on audio-wise.

Modern Game Features You Can Live Without

- Death Animations. Call me old fashioned, but when people died, I liked it when they spun around in a pre-defined death spin. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing more satisfying then pinning someone to a wall with the crossbow in HL2, but when people die I expect a little more then to simply see them collapse in a heap on the floor. I liked to see them try, and fail, to get back up. Ragdoll physics has done a lot, but it still has a lot to answer for when it comes to killing the bad guys.

- Open-ended Gameplay. I blame Far Cry for this. When I'm playing an FPS, I like having one route to go. I like knowing 'I have to go there, there's only one way through, let's get cracking'. Having multiple choices scares and confuses me, and the plot will suffer because of it. One path, one plot, one point.

- Graphics. This is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, it's allowed incredibly immersive games like Half-Life 2. On the other, it means that everyone's always pushing the boundaries and making me upgrade my perfectly functional PC. Bastards. We've hit a good level of detail as it is, do we really need things to be even more photo-realistic? Really?

- Steam. Yes, thank you for forcing me to subscribe to your software and be online just so I can play your latest game*. Cheers for that.

- Episodic Gaming. Let's make sure every game developer out there hears this. Episodic gaming doesn't work with action titles**. It takes far too long to produce any kind of decent gameplay as it is without you trying to release stuff every six months or so. It's just not realistic. Are you listening Valve?

- Online Noobs. If I try to play online (rare as that may be), it's generally with someone I know, because otherwise you get stuck with irritating people who can't spell, 13-year old kids who won't stop whining, sore losers who always claim you cheated if you beat them and people who are just plain insulting.

- Old Games not working in Windows XP. I'm having this problem with Discworld II ATM - I've got it running in DosBox quite nicely, but unfortunately DW2 is a 2-disc game, so I'm gonna have trouble when it comes to that second disc. Bah!***

- Cease-and-Desists. This doesn't seem to happen a lot, but it's when big companies (I'm looking at you, Lucasarts)**** decide to shut down fan-games or mods by claiming illegal use of copyrighted characters. And it sucks.

- Pointless Sequels. If a game does well, it'll get a sequel. Whether it deserves one or not is irrelevant. For exmple, Red Faction sold faily well, despite it being woefully average, and got an equally 'meh' sequel, which we really could have done without.

- Girly Games. I'm all for games that appeal to both men and women - Nintendogs, Brain Training, etc, but when you make a game specifically for girls, it's going to feature a lot of pink, teenagers giggling and slang words. It will not feature any real gameplay at all, and therefore barely even qualifies as a game. If anything, they're an insult to the girls who actually DO play games.

- Cheats. This is, and I honestly believe this, what prevents a great deal of people from getting better at games. If things get too tough, it's not too hard to turn on God Mode, and it's surprising how many people will do that rather than actually adapting their strategy and improving their technique. I experienced it recently with this Half-Life mod, and if it weren't for the fact that I couldn't access the console, I would have God-modded my way through Xen. But I didn't. And I feel so much more accomplishment for having gotten through on my own.*****

- Big Head Mode. I mean, really. What. Is. The. Point.

- Console Colours. I want a black Wii, dammit. Why can't I buy one? Whatever happened to those multiple colours that Nintendo paraded around? Why do I have to spend an extra £20 for a coloured cover to replace the original one, probably breaking the warranty in the process? Bah!******

- Sports Licensing. It's not about better gameplay or fixing the problems with the previous iteration, it's about making it prettier, updating the stats and fleecing the sports fan out of their money again, only this time it's for 2008.*******

*And yes, I know that you only have to sign in the once, but that doesn't ignore the fact that you shouldn't have to sign in all, does it?
**It works brilliantly for adventure games though. Telltale games have really revolutionised the genre with their efforts, and they've produced some cracking games in the process. Very much looking forward to their take on the Monkey Island series!
***I did eventually get this working, and even posted a guide on how I did it on the Vogons forum. It uses DosBox, but don't worry - it does work, honest! If you're interested in seeing the guide for yourself, here it is.
****A more recent example of this is with Squeenix shutting down the fan hack, Chrono Trigger: Crimson Echoes. I still live in hope that the 98% complete version will be 'leaked'.
*****I later replayed that mod and found it much easier then I remember. Either my HL skills have improved or I really sucked during that first playthrough.

******As I mention, I got fed up of waiting for a black console and just ordered a black replacement cover, which has served me well ever since. It's only now, in June 2009, a mere two and a half years after the console first launched, that
it's finally being officially released in a different colour. But only in Japan. Screw everyone else.
*******And 2009, and 2010, and...

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