Category Archives: Game Mechanics

What Doom Is Not

At the heart of the advocacy from id about Doom 4 is the repeated references to Doom’s DNA, to the validity of this addition to the franchise. Reviewers and YouTube personalities are keen to demonstrate a command of FPS proficiency, and thus latch on to this while citing various parts of Doom 4 as being just like the original. This is understandable as it does add weight to a positive review in the form of a pseudo endorsement. “This is awesome because it is a given that the original is awesome, and I vouch that this reminds me of it.” The problem is, they are speaking of Doom as a memory, which it doesn’t have to be.

Since its release in 1993, it has always been playable on mainstream devices (and less mainstream gaming platforms, like, pianos) thanks to the original executable, Doom95, and the source ports surrounding the 1999 release of the engine code. There is no need to appeal to childhood memories when it is just as accessible today as it was on release. But this does seem to be their foundation, and I am being generous here, as if it isn’t the fault of memory, then they have serious sensory issues to work out. The following is a short list of Doom 4 attributes that Doom does not share, yet so many reviews insist that it does. Continue reading

Doom 4 Campaign Stream Thoughts

Bethesda and Twitch recently streamed an hour of the Doom 4 campaign, switching between a few different areas and showing quite a bit. I’ve got a variety of impressions from what was shown there.

This is borderline a stream of consciousness, I don’t have much good to say, and without that I often struggle to find a writing rhythm. I try to explain a little, and why I don’t like it.

The levels appear to function very much in the same vein as Painkiller, in that you progress from arena to arena, though there is a tiny bit more fighting in the between spaces – though those are mostly hallways. I didn’t notice if you are confined to the arena during the fight, but progress appears to be tethered to killing everyone in the area. The arenas themselves appear interesting, usually with three different combat heights and about a 40-60% overlap in pathways, and some connecting intermediary heights using geometry like crates, but the combat itself doesn’t seem to make much use of the third dimension. Monsters pursue you, and seem to favor close range attacks, in such a way that all of the fighting happens on the same level as you. I did see a little vertical combat where Cacodemons were involved, but not much. From what id has chosen to show, the combat is functionally a 2d affair, where you are concerned with what can walk to you.

On the subject of combat, it isn’t slow, but fast isn’t likely to come up either. It is a very even tempo, and one that will keep most people from getting bored. Due to the level design, it doesn’t seem the combat ever pushes you back to a previous area, or forward into further danger. It is all very… I don’t want to say scripted, but, foreseeable. The only real variance seems to be the meta layer the player can engage with, which is that of weapon upgrades, suit upgrades, and which runes they are using. Now they didn’t go into depth as to the various ways to get weapon upgrades, but it seems they can be tied to level challenges, and kiosks, and concerns unlocking found weapon mods. Suit upgrades appear to be based on finding tokens of a sort on a type of guard in the UAC? And runes are unlocked by completing isolated challenges, triggered by finding rune stations, and upgraded by using them in certain ways.
Continue reading

Duke Nukem 3d and Higher Difficulties

For someone who loves classic first person shooters so much, I’ve never been a fan of Nightmare modes. Doom had enemies respawning, Quake had faster attack rates (and a faster Vore firepod), Blood had substantially healthier enemies, and Duke3d, like Doom, went with respawning enemies. I didn’t care for these because they tended to mess with the rhythm of the game. Quake doesn’t feel like Quake with monster attacks spamming, Doom can’t build its sly creepy mood if you’re forced to keep moving like it is a deathmatch session, and the robed cultists in Blood should not require four shotgun shells.
duke0000
I recently dropped by GalleyUK’s YouTube channel, home of some of the finest playthroughs of first person shooters, and saw he had somewhat recently re-recorded his playthrough of Duke3d, all secrets, all monsters, all four episodes. But this time he did it on Damn, I’m Good, the game’s equivalent to Nightmare. Damn, I’m Good respawns the monsters, but only if a solid corpse is there. And Duke has corpses which react to splash damage. Immediately the pipebombs and laser trip bombs gained value beyond toying about (and in Dukematch). Galley would toss a pipebomb amidst corpses and detonate, or lace the room with lasers before leaving.
duke0002
Explosions are somewhat obvious, but this also inflated the value of the Shrinker and Freezer, elevating them beyond gimmick – they didn’t leave solid corpses either. Killing an enemy in a doorway would result in the corpse getting squished, also preventing a respawn. But my favorite was the HoloDuke, a toy copied straight out of Total Recall, I never found a use for it. But Galley, without any explosives to his name and an abundance of corpses, left the hologram running in a thoroughfare as he continued his exploration of the level. He later returned, and all of the enemies had respawned, but instead of fanning out in search of Duke, they were preoccupied with the hologram. He kept them in check.

Where other games, excellent games which I love, lose something from their highest difficulty level, Duke Nukem 3d gained an additional layer, and turned the trinkets into tools. We need more games like that.

Doom … and Gloom

This is going to be a bit of a stream of consciousness following the Bethesda E3 stream. I might throw some pictures in if I feel like grabbing them, but I probably wont.

I have little hope for the new Doom at this point. I know that as someone with a testing background, I’m going to notice more flaws than the average person (your character isn’t even visible as a silhouette in the reflection of his Master Chief helmet), but showcasing the successor to one of the most PC gaming of games with a controller and a low FOV? Bad form.

I get why though, speed is perceived relatively, and slow gameplay looks faster when zoomed in, and on a controller. Yes I said slow. Now I realize that what we saw was likely tweaked for the sake of making a presentation, but that gameplay was… slow. It was faster than Doom 3, sure, but so is a screen saver. As I’ve detailed before, Quake has a rhythm, Doom has a flow. This game has neither. I applaud having more than two to four weapons equipped at a time, but the jolting pause of weapon switching during combat destroys any rhythm or flow. It feels like Zack Morris calling a time out, rather than selecting the most appropriate weapon to kill a demon.

The player movement speed doesn’t look particularly quick, it was certainly a more casual pace than how I played Advanced Warfare, and it doesn’t seem particularly necessary either. The combat was two dimensional, more so than in Doom/2. The player only had to look up during specific occasions, and during that time the only threats were on the level he was looking at. Combat was happening distinctively in arenas, or in small controlled groups with cool down spaces between. That isn’t particularly Doom, Doom is about level designs which pull you through combat, items, or curiosity, from one place to the next, forming a greater idea as to your environment and either building a sense of foreboding, or escalating the danger.

Hell was an arena with a few pillars and spawning enemies hopping down, Mars (not Phobos, yet again) was flat platforms connected around a skybox. Yes, the whole smelting environment looked cool. But it was a skybox effectively.

The chainsaw felt more like a canned animation trigger, rather than a weapon of variable usefulness depending on the opponent.

Items seem to mostly be dropped by monsters on death, emphasizing getting any kill over spatial awareness and resources. One low level enemy (killed by a single shotgun blast) dropped multiple rockets, which suggests that either the drops are random (ugh), or they fulfill what the game thinks is your present need (ugh ugh). Either way, the player relationship to the game world is altered by this quite a bit. It also looks bizarrely arcadey, more like something from Rez than from Doom.

The absence of reloading is nice, but coupled with everything else it just felt like a tick box for “old school” rather than an appreciation of what sort of gameplay it encourages.

The deathmatch looked like Halo, with gibs. SnapMap highlights how two dimensional the gameplay is (and I know people will say the original was two dimensional, but height variation and different sector height connections into earlier places was a major aspect).

I know this was a ramble, but, I had to vent. I shut the stream off once they finished with Doom. They don’t get it. They just don’t get it.

Quake and Doom’s Mechanics

So sock, level designer extraordinaire, had a tweet which triggered some interesting discussion:

I didn’t directly participate, as on this subject I find Twitter’s character limit to be too restrictive. Jehar and negke jumped in with thoughts, but I figured I would share mine here. At a glance Doom and Quake seem to be similar games. First person shooters made by largely the same team, and with the same key people of Romero, Carmack, and Petersen at the helm. But they have many fundamental differences, such that I find it hard to articulate it succinctly. As negke has dubbed me a master of verbosity, I shall do my best to live up to that. Continue reading

Whatever Happened to Diablo?

December 31st, 1996 is when Diablo was unleashed unto the world. It was great. Excellent even, one of my favorites. It catapulted Blizzard forward into the world like no other, and triggered Diablo 2 and 3 as well. The game world was moody, the writing was creepy, vague in all the right ways, and humorous at the right times. So where is it today? Well, it is scattered across eBay and Amazon used sellers and resellers.

Blizzard may have adopted digital sales, but not for Diablo. It isn’t even in the Diablo Battle Chest anymore. Now the chest is simply Diablo 2 plus the expansion and the strategy guide (which I would wager is woefully out of date with all of the balance changes and mild expansions like Pandemonium Events). Diablo has been left behind by Blizzard. You can’t even get it on GOG. Some of us still have our CDs, but for many, if not most, of those who play Diablo 2 or 3, the original is more a concept than an experience. I would love to see it for sale on Battle.net. Preferably with support for modern resolutions, and maybe, just maybe, a more streamlined store front interface (one of my few issues with the original Diablo). But this is only addressing the availability. We’ve got Diablo 2 and 3! Those are logically twice and thrice as good, right? Continue reading

Quake Live on Steam – Thoughts

So Quake Live is now on Steam. For whatever reason, some people insist on calling it Quake which is just silly. I won’t be doing that, but I will be abbreviating it to QL.

A lot of mechanic changes seem to be operating under the auspices of making the game more welcoming, an understandable goal for a Free To Play title. But friendly mechanics can only work if the user can appreciate them, and that involves a useful UI. I’m not a UI expert, but if I’m going for a quick game and choose Team, don’t put me in a full game. I didn’t click Play to Watch.

The real crux is in all of the fairly random game design changes. QL is a modified form of Q3A. Q3A was very friendly to new players. Weapons respawned quickly and set the ammo for that weapon to either a minimum, or current + 1, making camping weapons or timing them a low return effort. This solution unto itself had the potency of Weapon Stay without the visual incongruity. Pair this with the mentality that QL is “too hardcore” or something of the sort. This is inane. QL has a high skill ceiling, but five seconds with any gun and playing two rounds on a map is going to teach you the nuts and bolts. The only not quite observable mechanic is in the finer nuances of bunnyhopping. Rocket jumping and plasma climbing are things you can observe. Item timing is a case of noting the time when you see an item picked up, and noting it again when it reappears. The rest is the mental juggling you would want to do, on par with the precision you would want to practice to improve your aim. Continue reading

What Battlefield: Hardline Could Have Been

Recently there has been some hubbub over Battlefield: Hardline (henceforth referred to as Hardline), with various leaks taking place. At E3 today (this post will go up on Wednesday in theory) we saw a good bit more of it. EA had a big presentation about it, with the news that a closed beta was open now, and people could go register for it. I didn’t bother, partly because I don’t think I have the time to get properly into it, partly because I don’t feel like messing with Origin which I assume it will require, and partly because it just doesn’t look like much.

I joked in a YouTube comment that it was no wonder they closed off modding in Battlefield 3 or 4, if this was the level of content they were planning on supplying. However it does look like a mod, a sentiment shared by the folks at PC Gamer, as seen below:

It is also rather reinforced by this straight gameplay footage, also from PC Gamer:

Other than voice acting, there is one aspect that this doesn’t share with mods: creativity. Mods usually shake up an existing game, rather than simply decorating it. The game appears to be symmetrical, with military grade everything. Really, it looks like Battlefield playing dress up, along with a wooden stock shotgun, taser, and what essentially seems to be one-flag CTF, but the flag is broken into smaller pieces. So with that said, let me put on my armchair designer hat, and take you on a wondrous tour/bulleted improvised list of what I would do with this theme: Continue reading

Improve Call of Duty With This One Weird Trick

Call of Duty has quietly changed in a lot of ways since the release of the initial Modern Warfare. Namely, a lot of bad perks have been gutted, repurposed, or cut entirely. Stopping Power is largely gone, Juggernaut is now the much more interesting Ballistics Vest item, Martyrdom, Last Stand, Commando, and 3x Frag Grenades are gone. But one perk remains that holds the game back. Steady Aim.

An innocuous sounding perk, reduced hipfire spread, Steady Aim is a thorn in the side of Call of Duty’s primary gameplay loop. In Call of Duty the primary concerns of the player are shooting and not being shot. To liven up this dynamic, the game has the ability to aim down the sights of your weapon. Doing so greatly improves the accuracy of the weapon, at the cost of a slightly more narrow FOV, and reduced movement – sometimes drastically reduced. It always takes a moment to aim down sights, but the resulting accuracy is vastly superior to what you experience firing from the hip. Continue reading

A Re-View on the New-U in Borderlands 2

Handsome Jack is a despicable and dastardly individual. He makes a great villain, but he has one major failing. He never went after the New-U stations. You are his nemesis, the great thorn in his side, and the only real threat to his plans. But you just won’t stay dead. Every time they put the boot down and scrape you off the tread, you just pop back out at a New-U station for a fee, and keep on.

The thing is, the game identifies the New-U stations as being a Hyperion product, they talk about it quite a lot even, and Handsome Jack is in charge of Hyperion. The system which is keeping the player alive is on his network and in his control. Furthermore, why isn’t he on the network? Or his lieutenants? Why are the vault hunters from the original Borderlands on the network for that story, but not this one? (And why isn’t That One using a shield? You know the moment). Continue reading