Wednesday, August 07, 2013

What Is Your Perfect Game?

I had this piece written for about two weeks now, but other stories kept popping up and I felt that describing my perfect game would be a good filler for an off-days on the news reel. Whelp. Lost that chance! So we’ll just go with the crowd and stick it here. Today. Enjoy!

For all that gaming fans and reviewers discuss the “Citizen Kane of Video Games” none of us feel that we have achieved that moment yet. I hope we don’t because, well I don’t like Citizen Kane and I fell it’s a stupid analogy. It’s a movie that is great technically, but not well crafted from a story/character perspective. This led me to think about what I felt would be the perfect game. But what is perfect to me may not be perfect to someone else. For example, I see Princess Mononoke, ChinaTown, and Blade Runner (Director’s Cut, of course) to be some of the best movies cinema has offered and have yet to be challenged. And I know a number of people that will argue with me tooth and nail that I am wrong. So really, this game that is perfect is just for me. I doubt few others will be willing to agree with me, and that’s okay. The concept is to help promote creative thinking. Maybe you’ll come up with the next big hit just daydreaming about your perfect game.

I can admit that a lot of the qualities that I look in a game are going to be similar to other reviewers, but I also look for that extra special ‘something’ that sets the game apart from everything else. I like feeling that a game was made unique to me, even if it’s a mass market product. And I want a game that caused me to smile, laugh, get angry, frustrated, and nearly cry. On to the game itself:

It took me 20 hours, but I did it.
A golden bird at every stable. Who wants chicken wings?
I am a completionist.

One thing that annoys the crap out of my friends is that when they are off trying to get the next bad guys, I’m sitting here, in the corner, working on this fetch quest. I have to complete everything in a game. No exceptions. I feel that the best way to be truly immersed in an environment is to experience everything that game has to offer, which means doing every damn quest possible. You should see me in Final Fantasy VII. I needed to get every Materia. I wouldn’t rest until I had a stable full of golden Chocobo’s. I HAD to defeat all of the Weapons, achieve all of the Limit Breaks, before I considered going after the final boss. Or Mass Effect. God I hated those quests. But I did it. I searched every damn planet to pick up all items, maxed out my team, obtained every weapon, every upgrade, every armor.

And it pisses me off to no end when they make a challenge so obscene and ridiculous. “Walk 5 billion miles for a trophy!” No. I really don’t want to do that. I still do, but it’s arbitrary. My character is going to do a lot of walking for the other quests, so if I happen to get it, then great. What I want is a game where quests are reasonable, plentiful, and worth the reward. I don’t want stupid Xbox Achievements or PSN trophies. What good do they do me? They’re an arbitrary stat without a purpose. Give me more in-game rewards, and I’ll be sure to play for years. But reasonable ones. I’m not walking 5 billion miles for your amusement.

Loot Master

And here is what I mean by this: when I play Borderlands 2 with my boy, he and his friends will typically run ahead and find the next group to fight. I’ll typically sit back and pick up all of the loot. Why? Because that’s what you do. I have such an RPG mindset in my brain that I know you are suppose to look in every corner, open every chest, scour every box because you might find that one rare item. And then you get to gloat that you found it before anyone else. Not to mention MONEY! I mean seriously guys…I sold these 10 weapons and made bank while you all are trying to get by on a weapon that’s 8 levels below your skill.

I also like obscene loot. Like getting a light saber attachment to your weapon or having a weapon mod that talks to you every time you use it. “Enemy down, Meatbag.” “Did your gun just call you a Meatbag?” “Yeah…got a problem with it?” I love how ludicrous the items can be in games like Saints Row. You can use a giant dildo as a weapon. It is not only beyond the realm of insanity, but hilarious.

I dare you to make me cry.

I have never cried at a game, but I will admit to tear-ing up. Those are the games that transcend traditional narrative into something more powerful then we could ever imagine. I want a story to challenge my emotional state. To contest what it means to be angry, to be afraid, and to be happy. There is a quote from GameTrailers on a series about the Final Fantasy games regarding stories in gaming. “Steven Spieldberg once said, you can never cry at a video game. Clearly he’s never played a Final Fantasy game.”

To me, no story will ever beat a Final Fantasy story. You can complain all you like about the current direction of the series, but I have never once felt moved to cry like I had with Final Fantasy IV. When Tellah was killed off, I dropped the game and left because I knew I was going to have an emotional breakdown. I didn’t pick the game up for a week when I felt that it was safe to do so. For as much as I love movies, I have never once felt compelled to stop watching because it hit that nerve to make me want to cry. Not like a game.

The perfect story is one that requires me to have an emotional investment. Not just in the characters, but in the realm they live in. I need to care about their homes, their families, and their livelihood. This is where games like Mass Effect and BioShock work so wonderfully well. They ask the gamer to be a part of the journey by absorbing them into the universes. And why so many of them got pissed off when ME3 ended as abruptly as it did without a conclusion for the other characters (hell I’m still pissy that I don’t know what happened to Garrus, Tali, Javik, Liara…well sh*t anyone on my team. Only the ME2 companions got their say in how they lived post the beam of doom).

I want a game that gives me an emotional investment. And yes, anger is an emotion. If you can give me the story of a Final Fantasy, Metal Gear Solid, and then throw in Ninja Gaiden difficulty, we’re golden.

Customize, customize, customize!

Another Final Fantasy example, but get over it. It’s a fantastic example. In Final Fantasy XI you get a Mog House that you can decorate. Anyone who has played with me can tell you that I was redecorating it at least once a month; rearranging and assorting items to fit my mood. I spent way too much time doing that.

Everyone wanted to be a dancing Wookie. EVERYONE!
But I’ll do this with a lot of games. I won’t swap armor in Elder Scrolls until I have a full set that matches, or in World of Warcraft, or in any RPG you can name. I LOVE the Star Wards Galaxies character creation system. It is by far one of my favorites for any MMO and non-The Sims game out there because it allowed for so much variety that you could guarantee that no two characters looked the same. And it was awesome. Star Wars worlds were also so immersive. I loved the originality of each realm. Galaxies, before the Sony patch of doom, did so many things right in terms of gameplay, character creation, and a unique leveling system. And no class/character restrictions. Want to be a Wookie Entertainer? Okay! Go forth and dance your furry butt off.

Speaking of the Sims, I modded the crap out of Sims 2. Legally. The game came with a pattern creation program to allow you to import whatever mods you like. I made hundreds of floor, wallpaper, and clothing patterns, thousands of new shirt syles, and who knows how many different odd-colored cats and dogs I had running around the neighborhood. Some looked like they were infected by Slimer from Ghostbusters. But I love being able to go crazy on customization without it overwhelming my gaming experience. It needs to be just enough to leave me wanting more without destroying the story. APB (All Points Bulletin) for example had a ridiculously robust customization system that even allowed you to import your own images for shirt designs but the story was virtually non-existant.

Based on the above, my ideal game would be a Final Fantasy, BioShock story with Mass Effect characters, with a Star Wars Galaxy interface, Sims customization, and the difficulty level of Ninja Gaiden. Add in Claptrap and I’m okay with this weird ass concoction.

I have issues.


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