Games Can Do Better, and Should Aim for That

When are games going to improve? I mean no offense, and I don’t want to pick on any particular title or franchise, but that sentiment was inspired while watching TotalBiscuit’s video on Watch_Dogs. You can see it below, I only watched the first half.

It is a generally pretty game, though a bit hazy. But frankly, I look at it and see GTA with a cheat mod. You walk around in third person, you take cars on a whim, drive them, abandon them, get in third person gun fights – and as a twist you can command random items to explode, raise, lower, or change the traffic lights. GTA with a cheat mod. I know I am over simplifying, and I trust/hope the story has more to bring than that, but the game world acts as undeveloped as they did well over a decade ago.

Steal someone’s car? Other drivers keep on about their business. Drift into someone’s lane? Once again, not their problem. Drive through a city park? People within 10 yards will react, the rest casually wander. Driving down a side walk? People react only when you get near them. Obviously following someone? They only change behavior if it is part of a mission. Crash a boat into a river bank next to people? No big deal. Abandon said boat climbing up over railings? Still not a concern. Then break into someone’s car and drive off in it? No one cares.

Imagine an action or adventure movie. Spiderman 2 comes to mind, the train scene with Doctor Octopus. Now imagine if the inhabitants of that train remained idle in their seats, so long as Spiderman and Doctor Octopus weren’t within 10 yards of them. It would be bizarre. Aren’t those people actors? Act scared! The train is in danger! Your life is at risk! Yet in games, people are just roaming props until you get near them.

I appreciate that this is a hurdle, it is a challenge and a difficulty. But it is also the setting you have chosen. Watch_Dogs takes place in a city, a place renowned for the high population and of that population interacting. It is not simply skyscrapers.

I can pretend for a while, I can ignore the fourth wall and try to just play, but when so little progress has been made, when you still fail to simulate the basics of your setting, well, that is a principal failure. If you can’t manage it, make something different. See my post Indie Devs Seeking Asylum¬†about choosing themes and settings matching that which you can pull off. Make games for their strong suits, and stop treating human characters like mobile fire hydrants.