Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Post #3 - So when's this whole 'criticism' business going to come in?

Okay intrepid readers, you've all been clamoring for something more like a genuine opinion/experience based critique of System Shock 2 (which i said I'd write something about). Well, the time has come, so I'm now attempting to organise my thoughts on the subject.

So, as I mentioned previously, I just recently finished System Shock 2 for the first time the other week, but my experience of the game is by no means complete. Why not? Because the game being somewhat of a FPS/RPG game, I still haven't explored the whole RPG aspect that much. This is because I have always played the game as a Techie. My hack / research / maintenance skills were just about maxed out by the end of the game. Why have I always played the schizophrenic Tech Class/Tree? Because it seemed to me to always have the most fun. Hacking. Researching. Repairing. Hacking - all of these were the best bits that SS2, it seems to me, has to offer.

What the heck am I talking about? Well, lets look at your options:

There are 3 main skill trees available in SS2 - Wepons, Tech, Psi. If you choose to specialize in weapons (which some degree of is neseccary to just survive in SS2) then you don't actually get any skills to MAINTAIN your weapons, and so they all fall apart. Additionally, there really aren't that many projectile weapons to start off with, so the Wep tree is, at least initially, an optional extra. (Note: All this writing is just my opinion, and as one of the guys at Rock Paper Shotgun made the brilliant observation that the main reason we write up our opinions on the internet is to have people pick it apart. I wholeheartedly encourage thoughtful, productive picking, so tell me I am wrong!)

Next, the Psi tree. If you've never played SS2 (and right here I might just take the opportunity to slap you in the face for not having done so.) the Psi tree is all about Psycho-kinetic powers, or something like that. So it's all about moving around bits and pieces, blowing things up with the power of your brain and making you fly (although I don't think that it actually does the last one I just mentioned). Sounds great! Well... in practice, it's fun and all but... you really can't regen Psi except for in one of 2 ways that I know of, through consuming Psi hypo's, which restore 30 (???) Psi, but are single use only and are in limited supply, or by consuming an alien organ which has to be researched first before it can be used.

So, here we see the main problem of the Psi tree as well - it requires lots of Psi hypos... but throughout the whole duration of the game I believe I only ever picked up in the order of about 30, certainly no more than 50. Okay, sure, you can occasionally find a replicator to buy some from, but that's usually quite expensive. I could fire up SS2 right now and find out how much they cost, but it's hot here, and I can't be stuffed - can you? No? Didn't think so, so shut it.

So, with weps rendered pointless, and the Psi tree fatally (in my view) flawed, what choice are we left with but the Tech tree. Ahhh, sweet sweet hack. Beautiful repair. Useful, Useful research. Notice how I haven't mentioned either of repair or modify in the Tech tree yet? That's because they TOO are pointlessly redundant. How so? Well, lets take a look at all the possible uses for the repair skill.

Repair can be used on broken objects, mostly weapons and replicators. If a replicator is broken, the worst that can happen is that I won't be able to buy more packets of chips! oh no! To be fair, some replicators do come in extreme handy, like for instance, the ones that sell Tox Hypos, near the end of the game. I swear, I spent about 1,000 nanites on JUST toxin hypos. I hate those damnable spiders! The other use for repair is in restoring a weapon that has broken (jammed) and is now unusable. Okay, this sounds like it would be pretty darn handy. Oh wait. My gun has just jammed while shooting a laser turret. Lets repair it now, shall we? No, i don't think so Mr Repair man, surely not while someone is shooting you? See the problem now? Instead, the more sensible option is to simply NOT LET IT break in the first place and spent your precious, precious Cybernetic Modules on Maintenance instead (a smart move).

The other skill in the tech tree, Modify is useful... but, only to a point. Why? Cause you can only modify a weapon TWICE and then, that's it! You just spent 20+ modules on upgrading that pistol to do more damage and have a 24 bullet clip instead of 12. Whoop-Dee-Freaking-Do. Unless you are dumping every weapon that ever jams on you, you'll only ever need to do this a couple of times. Q.E.D.; Modify also fails.

Well. Now I've said my piece, I can kinda see that all this stuff was really pretty obvious to anyone that's ever played the game for even 30 minutes, so I'm really wondering why I bothered to put the effort in. Well, at least now I'm motivated to go back and try playing the Psi tree to see if my assertions actually hold any water. I also want write up something about the weapon unbalance (certainly in the early game) which favors enormously energy weapons, but I'll save that for another day.

Also, I'm planning on adding a blogroll of people that I read regularly (read that as, every day) so I don't have to repost what they are all saying.

Until later, dear readers, that is all.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Post #2a: Formatting issues.

Please forgive the atrocious formatting in Post #2, copying text from other place + pasting into Blogger = Mess.

That's a universal law, apparently. It's like relativity or something, but only just recently discovered.

Post #2: Towards a more critical and engaging title

Hmm. Okay, so I just googled "Dr Gamelove" and, surprise surprise, it's hardly an original name. So, ideas anyone?

How to resolve this conundrum? How do you pit yourself, creatively, against the collective creative/random intelligence of the Internet Tubes? You resort to a crazy name generating algorithm, that's how! A selection of the first few names generated by GameSpy's The Naminator folows:

  • DarthEnergumen
  • LumpyFireman
  • EnlargedBlueBox
  • CrushingT-bag
  • ShortPorker
  • DemonicToilet (rofl!)
Of which, currently EnlargedBlueBox is my favorite... however, there is one last person we must consult first. BRIAN ENO! That's right - Brian Eno's oblique strategies never ceases to amaze with it's zany ideas for solutions to creative problems.

Consulting the deck of said strategies, the Ghost of Peter Schmidt channels this message to me:

"Don't be frightened of cliches."

If i believed in Ghosts, I might be feeling ever so slightly troubled right about now, however I do not, so with my sanity intact, I chalk it up to 'simply' another random fall of the dice. I however also do not believe in co-incidence, so there may be more to this message than initially appears.

Next the visage of Schmidt/Eno (This was first a typo that said Schmdit/Emo. That was too funny to ignore) says to me:

Left channel, right channel, centre channel"

This seems a suitably pretnetious title for a blog with the kind of tone that I am aiming for, so Stereo Left, Right, Centre, could be the impending name for this newborn blog. Fits with my musical influences / aims... what do you reckon?

Re-launch the pre-pubescent 'Dr Gamelove' blog as Stereo Left, Right, Centre? Not worth changing the URL, maybe just the header. Sounds like a keeper.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Post #1: Rationale and Discussion

Look out! It's another video game related blog! Yes, it's true - this blog is about gaming, but before you consign this new venture to the scrap heap, hear me out on WHY I have decided to contribute to the signal to noise ration of the internets [sic]. My desire for this blog is to see it fill what I see as a gap in the blog roll, if you will. A gap when it comes to discussion of the games. In particular, a gap in the discussion about the games that I play. That's right. Not the games YOU play, but the games that I play. Note the italicized capital I. That means it's me.

In the immortal words of The Might be Giants, "I'm not a real Doctor, but yes I am a real [not worm]." As a brief Bio, my name is Ben Abraham, I'm currently a 3rd year music student of the prestigious (Ha!) University of Western Sydney, Australia. I have a Myspace music profile for all the awesome mahup music I make and I'm still trying to position myself as a music producer/ live mashup artist, and I have just recently submitted my Honours proposal for next year, based around video games and interactive music.

So, without further ado, I'm officially going to start writing down and posting my thoughts on the games I play. I'm sure I'll make a list of them or something, but for the moment I'd rather leave you our sole single reader (Yes I'm pointing at you there on the couch with your laptop in your track pants), in suspense. Also partly because I have University assignments to do, and I can't be stuffed right now.

I'm not going to pretend that this Blog is going to be the next big thing or what have you, but I AM going to honestly and openly share my thoughts on the games I'm playing and gosh-darnit, if that ain't worhtwhile reading, then I don't know what is!

So anyway. First game I really want to talk about is one that I FINALLY finished today. Yes, my first ever finish of System Shock 2 after buying it who know's how many years ago in a Target, just because it was cheap and looked cool. I think it might have mentioned hackers on the box.

So yah. System Shock 2 took me (this the first time) just over 13 hours to finish. A Kotaku post recently got me thinking about game length, and System Shock 2, while being an awesome story full of twists and turns, seemed to kind of drag out a bit towards the end. Possibly this has to do with the fact that it seemed to ramp up in frustrating awkwardness towards the last 2 to 3 hours, but I digress. I wonder if there really is an ideal length for a game.

One game genre that doesn't really ever seem to have this same issue is the MMOG, and a great post on The Escapist website documented a WoW players 'final weeks' and the sense of finality he recieved from his arbitrarily imposed 'finishing date'. When I was playing SS2 this time around, I realised that as I got further and further past the point I had only ever reached before (somewhere around Deck 4, recreations) I kept expecting the game to end. I wonder if my expectation had set me up for the feeling of the game 'dragging on'. Something to think about, mayhaps?

Well, that about wraps up the first ever post of the tentatively named 'Dr Gamelove' , It was a bit of a random pick, but hey, beggars can't be choosers and as I am well aware, I'm not exactly blazing a new trail by contributing to the blogosphere. Next I think i'll post some links to the blogs that I read everyday.

Cia for now!

P.S. Feel free to comment if you can be stuffed, or not. If no one else reads this, at least I can use it as a resource for my thesis and reference what I've said myself(!!!). Brilliant, even if I do say so myself.