Disregard Weapons, Acquire Tools

Disregard Weapons, Acquire Tools

Critical Intel explains into why more games should focus less on weapons and more on the things that can do some real damage.

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You can kill a man with a shovel, but you can't dig a hole with a rifle.

A knife can be a tool, and you can attach a knife on the front of a rifle, so why not a shovel? With the right socket your rifle could become a bonafide Swiss army knife!

I was playing Left4Dead2 the other day and my personal objective was to run the entire level and the only weapon I was allowed to use was the frying pan. It was a really dumb yet incredibly fun run, but it made me sad when I couldn't cook food for the team with it.

The surge of survival games is enjoyable because there's a big emphasis on surviving the apocalypse, not murdering it.

I think this inability to solve problems non-violently is holding gaming back as an art form. The Last of Us' story became really annoying for me as supposedly dramatic moments (meeting friends at the dam, Ellie running away etc) were interrupted by contrived action because Naughty Dog don't know how to do anything else. The final level bored me to the point of really struggling to care enough to finish the story, as it contrived a ridiculous scenario just so the game could end with a shootout when having the characters sit down and talk things over would have been far more dramatic.

The only game I've ever seen to make its level of violence make sense within the story was Spec Ops: The Line, but that only works when only one game does it. We really need to find ways to create challenge and drive stories without being in constant mortal peril (adventure games are promising in this regard, but they're rather limited).

Hmm. Wasnt this a quote from Burn Notice's first episode?

" Guns make you stupid. Power tools make you smart. "

or something like that...

Another compelling "Critical Intel". I actually enjoyed The Last of Us a lot but its mixture "thrilling action-game" and "intimate character-piece" was definitely awkward. I too hope that more games will try to find ways to engage players with gameplay that doesn't involve killing things.

Which actually reminds me of this Youtube-video that also tackles it, if from a different angle:


no warrior can stop the man with a shovel

Know what game I'm reminded of reading this?

State of Decay.

It both succeeds at some of this, and fails at other points.

First, the good. If you can see it, you can go there. Aside from canoeing out into a huge lake or climbing a 90-degree cliffside, if you see it, you can be there. If there's a building, there's an inside to that building. If there's a fence, you can climb the fence (unless there's barbed wire at the top), if there's natural terrain that is scalable without tools, you can scale it. The game has a major emphasis on scavenging, and it handles it better than most games.

Now here's the problem. There are no tools. You can find "resources" which you can find, and have somebody at the home base make consumables with them, and these resources are being used daily (like food to eat, building materials to maintain fortifications), but there are no tools in the game. Its a shame too, because the setting of the game, Trumbull Valley, is one of the best places you could possibly be to survive a zombie apocalypse. I decided to make this map up explaining it, because I'm probably going to end up using it again.

The red border shows the non-traversible mountains. Inside is where the valley resides. Inside the green-bordered area is ariable land. The pink-bordered land is including woodland. Purple are showing non-traversible ravines that essentially have 90-degree slopes, and blue blobs are highlighting bridges. Now, the valley isn't perfect, but its pretty damn close. The mountains isolate it from any threat, the southern city is easily defendable and the bridge can be altered/destroyed to only allow human access. The farmland is already growing crops. Once you deal with all the zombies inside the valley, no more will start suddenly appearing. It is extremely defensible, and you could easily house two hundred people just in the extremely-defensible southern city. There's farmland for crops, and lakes for freshwater. Since you won't be using the northern city, you can cannibalize the entire neighborhood for materials. Its a fantastic place to rebuild a small sort of society and survive a pandemic of such a scale and against the physical threats manifested from the disease (meaning zombies).

At least, it would be fantastic, if you could do any of that. You can't. The game gives you a very limited amount of resources, and starvation and death is inevitable. A survival game (and a pretty good one to boot) puts me in an enviroment that is fantastic for survival, and I can't utilize any of it of these combat blinders that every game seems to be wearing. This survival game inevitably won't let you survive, not because of any fault of the player, or the setting, but simply because the game didn't supports any aspects for it. Its a shame too, because State of Decay is definitely one of the best games that actually nails survival.

I suppose a game that actually exemplifies all the stuff I just described would be the Rebuild games. There's two flash games, Rebuild, and Rebuild 2, available for free, and pretty good. Then there's a new one that is an Early Access game on Steam, which I own, and even being merely in Early Access, it gives you greater ability to alter the environment that most other games out there, even those within the strategy genre.

But why can't you just talk to the monsters?

Excellent article.
It's something to ponder, and realize that level design and environment should go beyond just where you find new weapons or cover to hide/attack from.

Deus Ex, despite having elements of an FPS, is very much a game about tool usage. Even when the contexts were fairly confined. Even some weapons could be used as tools. With full skill in Rifles, a Sniper Rifle is very useful even in a no-murder run since it can take out camera, alarm panels, some doors, turrets and a few other environmental obstacles at a distance quickly and silently).

It would be a big improvement if we had less "Canned progress" and hand-holding in level/environment design and more dynamic options that reward the player for bringing tools instead of just more death.

But why can't you just talk to the monsters?

Well, you need to reach Oracle job level 3 to unlock the Mediator job, which has Monster Talk innately.
With that, you can hurl all manner of language at them; including the ability to bore them into submission, or possibly, even to death.

Most folks just don't get that far I'm afraid. It's not a popular job.

The basic premise of the article is that a tightly scripted story is actually not compatible with the true potential of video gaming? Yeah, I've been shouting that gaming has been apeing Hollywood when it should have been heading in the direction of Minecraft for a decade.

The funny thing about the game is that the "Tools" upgrade mechanic does have an icon depicting something similar to a wire cutter. It's not immersion breaking if you put it in the story's context- Joel is a violent thung, basically on the run. It's not impossible that he never ran across wire cutters in the game's timespan. It's not even that big of a deal, there aren't that many fences in the game.

Another compelling "Critical Intel". I actually enjoyed The Last of Us a lot but its mixture "thrilling action-game" and "intimate character-piece" was definitely awkward. I too hope that more games will try to find ways to engage players with gameplay that doesn't involve killing things.

Which actually reminds me of this Youtube-video that also tackles it, if from a different angle:

Well, violence was a major theme of the game, illustrated by the mechanics, so everything falls into place when you think about it. Also, I wouldn't say it was "thrilling" or adventurous more like intense and deadly. Isn't it great when action games try to mix up the basic mechanics? Like aiming, ammo usage and crafting?


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