193: The Lonely Crowd

The Lonely Crowd

Remember the days when walkthroughs didn't exist? When you only got two games a year, and you needed them to be good despite all evidence to the contrary? When you traded strategies with your friends, not some random strangers thousands of miles away? Those days are gone - and Rob Zacny isn't sure whether to mourn them or celebrate.

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It's always annoying to play with people who are not at the same level as you. Whether they are taking the game way more seriously than you or are taking it less seriously. In a single player game where you are playing against the design and mechanics you could say the same thing.

If the designer made the game for someone who does "theorycraft" and you are someone who's skin starts to itch when you hear the word even though you don't know what it means then you may not enjoy it. Same thing if you enjoy challenge and the designer is telling the world how proud he is that an infant could beat his game just by pressing one button.

I actually appreciated the FEAR2 level design analysis. I thought when playing the demo that there was something I didn't like about the level design so having someone give and explanation is appreciated.

Edit: The water temple in Zelda OoT was designed to be hard for a kid to beat by themselves. They wanted kids to talk about it at school (or buy the guide book if you are cynical). Some people might never want to see anything like that level again but I think that It's a shame that these days many see that sort of thing as wasting their time. If they can't solve it in a minute they just google it.

More Fun To Compute:
Edit: The water temple in Zelda OoT was designed to be hard for a kid to beat by themselves. They wanted kids to talk about it at school (or buy the guide book if you are cynical). Some people might never want to see anything like that level again but I think that It's a shame that these days many see that sort of thing as wasting their time. If they can't solve it in a minute they just google it.

Man, the memories. It must have taken me a good week to get through that temple back in the days. Even today, I try to get through my games without ever going to Gamefaqs. The only times I go is when I'm done with the game and try to get everything at 100%. (Zelda, Banjo-Kazooie, etc...)

I have fond memories of playing various Mario games, and spending a lot of time on them. Super Mario World occupied me for years. I found almost all the secrets by myself. It was great. That's not going to happen again. I get too frustrated if I get stuck, and will check online pretty quickly if I hit a snag.

This "theorycraft" stuff, I'm going to have to say, this pretty much why I'm a solo gamer. I played WoW for a year, and even got into a guild, but when everyone was too concerned about what armour they had and how it worked with this and that, I left because I don't care about that kind of thing, and was bringing the team down. I soloed that game for a while, but that wasn't much fun. I rarely play online anymore. Even an old favourite like TFC is way too serious for me now. I mean, I'm not dissing these guys, but it's not for me.

The best bet, as far as me as a gamer is something like Half Life 2. The game is an experience. It's not too difficult, and you don't need to look up walkthroughs.

Someone once told me that Max Payne had this feature where if you kept dying after loading the same saved game so many times, the AI would get a little easier so you wouldn't get stuck in a rut. I thought that was a great idea too.

Because no one really likes to look up walkthroughs, but everyone does.

Nice article. There's always a sense that the first casualty is innocence and certain people that tell you that weapons are OP and you should be going that way do help to spoil these things, but in the same breath, these are the people that go on to create wonderful mods.

And the whole idea of Beta testing came from their creation. Better they lock onto Diablo 2 than "how to rob a bank".

I play Eve Online and that game is full of stat fiends like your friend Zach. I'll bet there are guys like him in every online game - because that knowledge makes them uber 1337.

On topic though, I dabble in level design and I enjoy making my own stuff, but that doesn't diminish my enjoyment of other peoples levels.

Yes, it does feel like a meticulously arranged playground, but for me that's the point - FPS's are fun, not dangerous :)

Nice. You put into words what I've been thinking for a few years.
About the "meticulously arranged playground" comment, I agree for the most part. However don't you think you have to look at that aspect per-game? Call of Duty is a good example of a game that guides you very closely through the level. The early Battlefield 1942 games were the opposite site of the spectrum... no guidance.

Interesting... I have noticed this as well. Growing up I had only one game for about five years; Sonic 2 on the SEGA Genesis. But then the computer came and spoiled it all. I understand that critical gamers that over analyze every aspect of a game to the point beyond fanaticism. These type of gamers keep developers honest, constantly judging them and forcing them to fix their game. However This is not always a good thing, take the World of Warcraft. The "theory smiths" have exposed flaws in the system and ,for a lack to a better word, bitch about it till it is fix. Then they bitch about the fix. WoW is slowly turning into a glamorized spreed sheet. These type of player exposed the flaws with the developers numbers and the resulting detritus is what people are addicted to. I disagree with you sir, ignorance is bliss.

I had tons of game guides, always checked the hints and cheats section of my gaming magazines, etc so I always had a level of spoiling involved with all my games (and even then couldn't deal with the first pushable block in Link's Awakening because I didn't know the game logic that sometimes solid blocks are pushable to open a door and the guide consider that part trivial and didn't describe it). There's generally a term for those who always try to find the best ways to break the game: Munchkin. I can understand munchkinning though, at least in games that aren't supposed to actually be about role playing. In singleplayer your goal is to overcome the problems the game throws at you and the better prepared you are and the more you know about the mechanics the better you can do it. In multiplayer it's kill or be killed, no holding back. There are no rules unless there is a very serious bug in the game (and then the rule is "get that patched!"). Nothing irritates me more than people trying to set up rules in MP games (especially vague ones like "no rush" that could mean anything, I've been accused of violating it by fast expanding, massively making units and then steamrolling a base that didn't even have defenses, much less units), the game was designed to work out the way it does, additional rules break it.

I even hate it when I'm faced with mechanics I don't understand and forced to make a choice. Rolling a character before I even know what the game is like, for example. Or worse, when I have to avoid being seen by guards with no idea how far they can see.

Also there was the time where I was faced with translation errors in Metroid Prime and couldn't find two of the artifacts...

More Fun To Compute:
The water temple in Zelda OoT was designed to be hard for a kid to beat by themselves. They wanted kids to talk about it at school (or buy the guide book if you are cynical).

Personally I hate that kind of crap. If you need to have had prior warning about something in a game, that's bad game design! If you don't have the guide and haven't talked to anyone who's got that far then you're ****ed!

Wanted kids to talk about it in school sounds like a good idea, in theory, but it's a real **** move if you ask me. And maybe I am cynical but I definitly wouldn't be surprised if it was (at least partially) to get kids to buy the guide. To quote the AVGN, "You wanna beat the game? Well you gotta buy our magazine you little ****s!"


Personally I hate that kind of crap. If you need to have had prior warning about something in a game, that's bad game design!

It's standardised game design that's agreed to not be offensive to the majority of consumers. Not the same thing as bad game design.

I read that Gaynor article on level design and agree entirely: it changes the way you play an FPS; how you see the fights unfold and play out. Very cool. I had a similar experience a few years back after reading a bunch of narratology theory, where all I could pay attention to in a game was a system of narrative discourse (even Gears of War!).

I kinda agree with this from a WOW perspective, it seems so many people just go for the 'cookie cutter' 'best' talent spec possible , which turns WOW into 'attack of the clones', which must make Blizzard wonder why they bothered with 10 classes, 10 races, 3 talent trees per race and 70 points to spend in them, along with thousands of pieces of armour and weapons, then layering enchants, inscriptions, and other such additions, if people are just going to copy the 'best' layout.

Personally I don't mind being 5% less powerful than the next guy, if I prefer my playstyle and look and feel.

I think there's way too many people analysing tables and charts and statistics when they could be playing a game instead.

I liked this piece. It's interesting how the relationship has changed from producers of games to the players and back.

I like gamefaqs, and there are games I'd find intolerable without them. However, this has a lot to do with how my brain works to deal with puzzles/problems and trying to learn the 'logic' of a game. There are things that seem like they ought to work and don't, and if the design of the game is good, there are usually enough clues for me to figure it out-but not always.

Players have become more bound together too, because we can share our experiences.

I was talking to a friend and he reminded me of this article since he hasn't been tarnished by the internet. I try to refrain from changing that.

I think you forget how important magazines were back in the day. ZZap!64 was full of walkthroughs, cheats, chats with developers. We used to buy it and share our copies around. Same for a lot of the D&D magazines like White Dwarf.

Man, I used to be a HUGE nerd!

Anyway, I just think the communities were smaller before the web, and the web has allowed greater access to a wider community, not that it's responsible for this type of thing being available.

I've always hated post-release patches for exactly the same reason. It just means we get a ton of half-assed games. When will the world learn that we would rather they took their time and perfected a game, than release it buggy and early, then just make it better gradually. I'll tell you who, nobody. But it's not going to change, not until we make a Facebook group! Come on, let's go!

It's so much fun trying the 'stupid' build a lot of the time. Until you reach a certain point where the problems really become jarring. Try building a spear based Amazon (not throwing spear/javalin, but the two handed poking instruments) in Diablo 2 for example. It's like they intentionally botched up and made it completely unviable. Even with all its updates Blizzard hasn't fixed this glaring hole in the Amazon's skills.

Ah well.

ps. (very slight niggle)
You don't 'roll' characters in Diablo, you simply create them. Roll is a misnomer that became a popular turn of phrase somewhere along WoW's release almost a decade after D2's. Personally I hate the term, just about the only video games you actually roll a character in (ie. stats are generated randomly based on virtual dice rolls) are the DnD games in Baldur's Gate's engine.

Very interesting, fun read. I especially enjoyed the link to the FPS encounter article.

I don't have much of a comment except that there is one thing that can keep players from thinking too much about how well-planned a level is: atmosphere. You mentioned Call of Duty, and it was in Modern Warfare that so often I wasn't paying attention to level design because I was so engaged in staying alive and experiencing the game world. It really drew me in. Then again, it was my first CoD game, so maybe that's why.

I honestly don't know what to say other than you're completely right, but it's also the knowledge of what makes a game good that reaaaally makes me spew hatred, for example, my friend Kevin continually plays Kingdom Hearts and Sonic games, and I can't help but feel sorry for him, then realize he's much more happy then me... this usually leads to me feeling an odd sense of jealousy and contempt.

it's easy to forget that the first videogames were meant to be experienced in relative isolation.

The first videogames were things like pong, lunar lander, space invaders, asteroids, donkey kong, etc. that were played in video arcades, that during the early 80's were pretty lively, and I often went there with friends and met other people while there. I also had to walk, skateboard, or ride my bike there so I got a little sun and exercise as well. Computer replacements became popular because we saved our quarters but things have never been the same.

Those were the days.

I'll also just quickly add that it only became necessary to look up solutions on the internet when selling "strategy guides" became routine practice. The Internet proved the solution to this scam.

waaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiit ure still waiting for Diablo 2 to come out?? (sorry couldn't ignore it)

Anyway Good piece.

I loved this.

It's so, so unfortunately true.

However, I am like your friend Zach, to a point.
I certainly look at things the same way, but there's no reason to make other people do that, and I have as much fun as the next guy winning a Starcraft match from a well-thought out unit combo and counter as much as making 10 barracks and flying them into the enemy base to mass marines there...

It was funny when looking at the examples you gave because I'm like "well, yeah, that's true...but it doesn't make it not fun to use firebats sometimes..."

I do see some very stupid gimmicky bosses too, especially in things like Final Fantasy where knowing a certain trick makes bosses much easier (cast float and the minotaurs can't hit you, use a phoenix down on the enemy zombie to kill it instantly)...

I miss the days where gamefaqs and ign walkthroughs weren't there, and I remember my friend with his Zelda strategy guide like "YOU GOTTA DO HALF THE SPIRIT TEMPLE AND THEN DO THE SHADOW TEMPLE IT MAKES IT EASIER!" when I never bothered...

Some people found these little secrets making the game interesting and awesome, when I usually liked to develop logical strategies...Granted, it makes me boil down a party of adventurers into numbers instead of adventurers, but...It feels good knowing that your tank is absorbing damage right, you have melee dps, you have ranged dps, you have support spells, you have damage spells...etc.

When I should see them as an interesting character with a backstory and such...I don't. It makes me feel like I'm unappreciative of the game, but I do love most of them anyway, and I don't like how others just "love a character" because of something he did in a cutscene...But it doesn't mean I'm supposed to tell them they can't like it because of that.

A musician could listen to a song and tell you everything wrong with it, the simple melody, the ambiguous lyrics, the stolen guitar line, the uninspired verse-chorus-verse lineup...She could tell you everything you should hate the song for, but you might still like it just because...You like how it sounds.

And I like a lot of games that kind of sucked that I bought because the cover looked cool, because, well, that's all I had to go by.

I think you tapped into something here.

Read and study Joseph Campbell and Literary criticism and the greatest literature becomes a game of recognizing story patterns, pointing out archetypes, and wondering how they will execute one of the two or three endings available to their particular story structure (Harry Potter = Odysseus = Neo). My wife always asks me if reading books or watching movies is even fun for me anymore because I always know what, why, and how they are doing.

Yes, I am. I still enjoy them on a basic level, but the more you study the more of the rafters you see, and for most people, the more interesting it becomes.

I think the fact that now we live in a tiny e-world, the ideals have to shift. No longer will the focus on gaming (or Literature, or History, or whatever) be on studying out and finding the facts. The facts are available in that little device you keep in your pocket next to the mentos. The focus is shifting to interpretation and analysis of this info.

Of course it's good to just "play" sometimes as a previous article mentioned.


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