Welcome to my blog about, at least mostly, games. Here you can find reviews, impressions, pictures and things that I think are interesting enough to write about. If you want me to speak up on something, then write it to me. Want to discuss something in a post then write it in the comments. Hope it will be good reading for you.

måndag 4 maj 2015

Shovel knight thoughts - What makes a game good?

Shovel Knight in all its 8-bit glory
Long ago I did a comparison of games in the same genre, pitting games from the present to games from the past. Maybe that wasn't a fair comparison, more mathematical than anything else, and now after playing Shovel Knight I have a reason to get back to the question, was games better in the past?

Why? Well the fact is that I have pretty much spent all of the current year playing games from two generations ago, meaning Playstation 2 and before. And I've had a really good time actually. At the same time I've bought games like Infamous: Second Son and Dragon Age: Inquisition, and I tried them out and was kinda underwhelmed to be honest. After playing Shovel Knight I think I finally figured out why I'm having such a hard time with new games.

Don't forget to check the bodies for potions!
I think it's all the padding, and there are a lot of different ways of padding a game out., not all of them bad mind you, but just most of them. The fact that I have to sit through a long intro just to get to playing the game, and then the game takes an hour or two for me to learn all of the features and things to do. I remember a time when the big argument that console gamers had against PC gamers was that I could just start up the console and be playing the game in less than a minute, something Shovel Knight does very good (after the game have been installed on the PS4 of course, because all consoles seems to be just PC wannabes), you just start the game, two presses of the button, a VERY short intro and hardly any tutorials. You're in action quickly. Dragon Age does this too, ish, there is a intro sequence, character creation (which honestly was as fun as I had with the game, so fun that I did it twice) and then you get right into the action... of a one hour tutorial-course. Final Fantasy VII did it in a good way in contrast, a quick into sequence, and then right into the action, and with no explanation at all to how the game worked, you had to figure it out for yourself, and that might seem like a bad thing (and when I played it first at 11 years old, it took me a good while to get how you played so yeah) but there seems to be a trend in games where they seem to treat you like an infant, Or maybe the games have in gameplay become so complicated that one needs to be educated in the system, but my reaction to a new game is still to press all the buttons to figure out what they do, but newer games lock off the buttons until you've gone through the tutorial. I know FFVII had a couple of tutorials as well but then you were hooked, and it still let me do a lot of figuring out myself. I managed to play it through at 11 years old and I barely knew any English at that time, so I pretty much got through without the tutorials. Shovel Knight was fun because it did what old games did, just play, and it reminded me how annoying it can be when I'm forced to learn the game before playing it, and not just learn while playing.

The first page of pictures of The Last of Us, and none are from the gameplay
There is one game that I just want to love so much, because every time I play it, I have a lot of fun, but then I just can't bring myself to continue, The Last of Us. It is a very padded game, as in, the game itself is really kinda bland, and I just play to get through the story. I love the story, it's one of the best in any game, but it's just such generic gameplay that I get sick of it. I don't know why, I love Uncharted, and they are not that different, but I just can't bring myself to like The Last of Us. For me, a game has to foremost be a game. If you take out the story, take out the characters, take out the settings, and just have the gameplay and everything that comes with that, is your game still a fun game? I am a strong believe that a great story can make a good game great, or make a great game into a masterpiece, but a bad game will still be a bad game with a great story. It doesn't matter how much you decorate your pile of shit, it's still going to be a pile of shit. I feel that many games now a days are trying to be films, or TV-series, and forgetting that they are in fact games. The stories of games are actually best when they use the medium to tell it, like in Half-Life or Bioshock, where you never leave your point of view, using the game to tell a story, rather than make a film and then slap a game on it. We did that already during the 90's, it was called a movie tie-in and they sucked. 

Another thing that Dragon Age: Inquisition did, and the first game as well, was something very MMORPG-ish. This might just be my own preference, so if what I say now sounds appealing rather than appalling, just ignore this, but I have when games becomes so open that you can just wander into a place and realize way to late that the enemies here are way to high level for you. I get that games want to be free and sandbox and open world, like it's the world of the year, this and that has gone open world, but I need at least a little direction. Skyrim did this very well, the freedom to do whatever you wanted, but gave you direction to where you should go to do what you want. This was my problem with GTA IV as well, it felt like they just dropped me at a huge world and said "go nuts" so I had no sense of purpose, and ended up doing nothing at all.

Yaaaay, flying aroud like I am Batman!
I could go on with a lot of things I realize, like how there always seems to be commutes between one section of game and another, and how one can do they right, either short as in the mentioned Shovel Knight, or you can make them fun, as in Batman: Arkham City. But I think that what I said before pretty much sums it up, developers nowadays needs to remember that they are making games, and yes I know that games have evolved, they aren't as simple as they were before, and that's a good thing, sure, but when a game like Shovel Knight, that easily could have been done twenty years ago, is by far the most fun I've had with a game for a good while, then developers really need to start getting back to the roots of gaming, make it fun to play, not make the gameplay commutes between cut scenes. 

Final thoughts on Shovel Knight, it's not a perfect game, there are annoyances, places where the faithful depiction of a 8-bit game gets in the way of gameplay, like having the special attack mapped to "square" + "up" instead of the unused "O"-button, but all in all, I recommend this, play it and realize that maybe games were better in the past, at least in some respect.

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