I was watching the trailer for MAG just now and from what little I know about it Mag seems like it might just be too much. Huge environemnts, tons of players, even ranks (yeah, like I’m gonna follow orders in a game), it just seems kinda outta hand.
Games like Far Cry 2, GTA4 and Fallout 3 all have this scale issue as well. Don’t get me wrong they are all brilliant, but just a tad unwieldy. I look at games like RE5 and L4D and both these game allow you to hop in and get right on it without a ton of mucking about. They also seem to be broken up into manageabe chunks, with frequent places it’s handy to stop playing.
Obviously opinions will vary and I don’t intend this as a ‘this is better than that so lets all get pissy’ thread, but what do you guys all think of these games seemingly ever expanding and becoming more convoluted? Is it bigger is better? In principle I really like them and they are compelling worlds, but from a practical standpoint it just seems less daunting to hop into a more focused game for a bit.
Games used to be that big, though. Look at the old Might & Magic games, or the Ultimas. Games got a lot smaller when 3D became the “in” thing, but now that 3D tools are mature and hardware performance can handle it, some games are getting big again. I think there’s room for both types. There’s a lot to be said for hopping right in and getting on with it, but I’d be sad without the occasional game that is so massive and engrossing that it dominates your gaming time for a good long while.
I’m of the opinion that it’s not so much the size of the game, it’s what fills the space that matters. Games like Grand Theft Auto tend to do a fairly good job of filling the city with enough things to keep you occupied, even if they are monotonous. A game like Fallout 3, while excellent in many respects, for me seemed to lack something that made the wasteland really interesting. It may have been the difficulty of the game, but I got the impression pretty quick that aside from randomly generated monsters, the wasteland was more or less irrelevant. Quick travel helped a lot there.
I think the problem with a lot of open world, sandbox and generally ‘big’ games is that what you’re doing while not following the main plot line is mostly irrelevant. Sure it’s nice to explore, but you only need to explore the game world once before it’s all familiar and pointless. Randomly generated content alleviates this to some degree, but for a game like Fallout 3 it just doesn’t do enough. Replays of Fallout 3 for me are not that appealing for this reason - I’ve seen 90% of what I’m going to see already.
I must admit on a personal level I love the idea of big/sandbox/open games, especially in multiplayer. The idea of being able to roam a large area with a friend and do whatever you want is fascinating, but if all you can do in that area is pick up tin cans, shoot randomly placed mobsters or visit randomly generated terrain that does nothing more than exist, it’s hollow content. It’s a tricky genre of game to get right, for sure. It’s probably why these sort of games might be seen as unwieldy or unfocused - the designers tried to provide a non-linear path but ultimately ended up with a grey mush as filler.
Are games increasingly inheriting this problem? Maybe. There are lots of on-rails games emerging to match the more open world style games, and I think as long as the player is kept occupied and immersed, either design path is equally as good.
Convoluted is probably opinion more than actual fact, as people get put off (or equally turned on) by complexity in video games, especially in combination with established IPs. I love D&D games for example, but can’t stand the Final Fantasy stuff.
I don’t care how big and open a game world is, as long as there is something to guide me when I want to take care of some business and not wander around for hours. If you can do it in a way that fits into the game seamlessly, great. Maps work, but I hated constantly checking my map in Fallout 3 and Far Cry 2. I did like the breadcrumbs in Fable 2, but I’m not sure that’s the most elegant solution.
Oddly, when I felt overwhelmed by Fallout 3, it was Nuts & Bolts I jumped into. Still an open world/sandbox game, but very linear and guided.
BTW, I know almost nothing about MAG, but there are mechanics in place to keep action in certain areas, which I’ve heard some people complain about. Also, there are benefits for following orders.
There were plenty of huge games in the past. Does Fallout 3 really have much more content then Fallout 2? I guess you had to wander around the map more in the former until you get some waypoints set up. Regardless, I don’t see the problem since as you noted, there are tons of relatively straightforward action/adventure-type games. You can just ignore the meatier stuff without ever running out of things to play
Regarding MAG, I don’t know much about it but Battlefield 2 had large-scale combat and a commander/squad system which worked wonderfully, so I’m sure they can figure out a way to scale it up with 2 or 4 times the players
I’m not sure whether you mean you want games to be more linear vs sandbox, or if you think games simply go on too long and try to pack in too many levels or content.
The whole point of sandbox games is to let you roam and be immersed in the world at your own pace. I suppose it could be possible to limit the scope of the world and give you many more options within a more complex but smaller space, but then it would still be less obvious for the player trying to just jump in and play for 20 minutes to get a concentrated experience if he has to actually figure out how to spend his time, rather than the game forcing you to do it like in a linear game. Sounds like maybe you need to drop the genre if that’s the case, it’s not for you.
If you mean games are just too big in terms of time/effort needed to finish, well, the trend seems to be the opposite these days, most linear type games without wandering generally trend to be 6-10 hours. Unless you are talking about rpg’s, but then, most people would be pissed at anything shorter than 40 hours.
Again, you need to define what you mean. I had no problem at all tackling the games you mentioned 20 minutes at a time. There were days where I got really far into the story, and other days I would poke around a hut for 20 minutes. If you feel you need things to get moving, play some COD or Half-life or something.
I’m not sure I would call bigger sandbox games as more convoluted. They certainly define a broader scope of an experience to the gamer, though. I think the “smaller” linear games tend to focus on more specific gameplay types, if that’s what you mean.
I think this is what I may be driving at, as I really liked having the breadcrumb trail in Fable 2. It allowed for me to play the game as a rather linear experience, or if the mood suited me I could just wander about an check shit out. If you stopped playing, when you started up again there was this damn clear indication of where you were headed.
Contrast that with Fallout where I spend 45 minutes trying to pick my way through the rubble of DC without any idea if I’m even heading in the right direction. Perhaps that sense of being ‘lost’ in unfamiliar terrain is something Bethesda was trying to convey, but for me it is just kinda a hassle. I guess it’s not really a question of purely scale, but rather scale coupled with unweildy navigation. I like to explore, but when I want to just go finish up a few quests I find it tiresome to spend a ton of time searching around for the right path.
I don’t think “too big” or “too small” is ever the problem. Huge and tiny games can both be successful. The problem I have with big games is what sort of content they have. In Fallout 3, while the game was big, what they did with the area did not convey the wasteland feel that Fallout is known for. I personally wanted to see more desert areas, vast expanses to roam, but with lots of events and content. I know that seems a bit strange, but I think it would be fun to traverse the desert and find vaults/caves/camps/shanty towns… you know, like the originals? :(
Fallout 3 was just the right size for this day and age, I thought. It offered plenty of wide, open space explore, but it was still confined enough that you couldn’t really get lost. And there was always something to see on the other side of the hill.
If I look back at Bethesda’s past, Daggerfall offered an even vaster land mass to explore, but everything was the same. It was a vast, desolate expanse, filled with identical townships and labyrinthine, randomly-generated dungeons. I love the game, and have spent many dozens, if not hundreds, of hours with it over the years, but the game world is boring as hell.