Archive for April, 2007

City of Heroes is mediocre

Friday, April 6th, 2007

There’s a new MMO sub-forum over on the Penny Arcade forums. One of the threads derailed into a discussion about City of Heroes and why it sucks or doesn’t suck or something. I wasn’t really sure. In any case, it prompted me to think about why City of Villains didn’t hold my interest for very long. (I have only played CoV, but from what I understand, it’s pretty much the same as CoH only with villains and different classes.)

I loaded the game up on my new computer and played for a few hours the last couple of nights. I don’t have much time, but here’s a quick run down of things that I remember from playing before, and what I rediscovered recently:

  • Character creation is still awesome.
  • Even though character creation is awesome, it is still not as customizable as I would like. (I can’t make a guy that wears a trench coat and has robotic arms for example)
  • There are entirely too many costume options that involve skulls, bones, and chains or barbed wire.
  • Performance is still terrible for the graphics quality.
  • The user interface is clunky. (This seems to be an issue with many MMO games)
  • Super jump is really fun.
  • I fight way too many snakes.
  • In fact, I fight way too many of the same thing over and over again in the same locations. (Didn’t I just clean out this warehouse? Should I even bother doing it again?)

And actually, this last part is probably my main issue with the game. The game feels incredibly repetitive. Most of the missions seemed to be slight variations on “Go to the warehouse and kill everything inside.”

You may ask how this is different from World of Warcraft or any other MMO. They have quests to go kill tons of stuff, and you end up killing stuff over and over.

I’m not quite sure what the difference is. City of Villains just feels different. Maybe it’s because WoW has larger and more immersive environments including instances instead of smaller, cramped instances. Maybe it’s because CoV’s instances are basically all random rooms and hallways. Maybe it’s the lack of loot that bothers me, or that there are no trade skills or much else to do besides kill guys. Perhaps it is simply because CoV isn’t as polished as other games. I will have to think about it some more.

Cut scenes

Friday, April 6th, 2007

There are two general guidelines for cut scenes that every game designer should abide by:

  1. Allow the player to skip every cut scene. (Exceptions could perhaps be made for the very first time a player views the cut scene.) Having to sit through a two minute cut scene every time you die to a boss is frustrating and easily avoidable.
  2. Save or check points do not belong immediately before a cut scene. When I load up a saved game, I want to start playing, not start watching a cut scene. If I am fighting a boss, I don’t want to watch the same cut scene over and over when I inevitably die.

I also have some other suggestions (“Hire translators who speak both Japanese and English,” or “Cut scenes should stay consistent with the game world.”) but following these two general rules would make cut scenes immensely better.

Additionally, there should be a way to go back and view cut scenes that have already been seen in the game. This is not really a gameplay issue though.

I want to play console games with my friends

Thursday, April 5th, 2007

I am a huge fan of cooperative game modes. I tend to enjoy working with people to achieve a goal more than working against them. Co-op games are great for when you have a friend over and want to play something. I also do not like 1v1 duels very much. (Local games of console FPS games often end up like this)

This overlaps into plain multiplayer games as well, but I always seem to have trouble finding games to play with people.

Here is an example one of a typical one-friend-over game session:
“So, what should we play?”
“Game A is pretty cool.”
“Yeah, but it’s only single player.”
“Oh yeah, well, how about Game B?”
“That only has online multiplayer. We can’t do split-screen.”
“Oh, that sucks. Oh, hey, you just got Game C, and that does split-screen, right?”
“Yeah, but it would have to be 1v1, since there are no bots.”
“What about Game D?”
“We just played that 10 minutes ago. Let’s play something else.”
“Well, if you want to play a single player game, I could just watch or something.”

Sometimes this problem is compounded if more people are added:
“Let’s play Game C! We have enough people now, right?”
“Well, the game only supports 2-player local split-screen, so we can’t.”

I loved playing through Halo and Lego Star Wars co-op, but those only have local co-op modes. I enjoyed playing Chrome Hounds online (when the bizarre connection issues actually let us see each other in the lobby, but that’s another thing entirely) but that only has online multiplayer.

Now, I’m fully aware that some issues are insurmountable. It’s pretty tough to make split-screen poker work, for example, and some games are designed as single-player only.

I am noticing that more and more games are supporting online or co-op play of some sort. Gears of War is awesome just because it has online and local co-op modes, and there are a number of 360 Live arcade games that have both as well. This is encouraging, and I hope to see more games that support both local and online co-op modes.

Additionally, my console gaming is almost exclusively on my 360 now. I also own a Gamecube, but my brother is borrowing it now. I have some excellent (and just decent) local multiplayer games for the Gamecube, but of course, its online game selection is slightly limited. PC Gaming has much more in the way of online multiplayer, but the nature of PCs makes it tough to have local multiplayer with one machine.