Short Game Shorts

I keep trying to write collections of short snippets about games, but they keep running long. So tonight, self-discipline will take over and I’ll keep it short. Really.

Game Demos Make You Think the Game Sucks

Over at Gamers with Jobs they are quoting a study that indicates that games with demos sell worse than games without. It seems to me this should surprise no one. Here are some games that I decided not to buy based on the strength of their demos:

1. PREY. 2. The EA NCAA game. 3. F.E.A.R. Actually I think I rented this, but I only played a demo-sized piece of it before I threw it away. 4. Dozens of games on XBLA. 5. Uncharted. 6. Blue Dragon. 7. The Darkness.

Here is a list of games I bought on the strength of the demo that I might not have bought otherwise:

1. Bioshock.

That’s it. It’s clear why game demos have this effect. The truth is that you can tell if you are going to want to play a game in about 10-20 minutes of gameplay. If the 10-20 minute demo sucks, it is nearly impossible to convince yourself to then go out and buy the game. To make things worse, it’s really hard to boil down the good parts of a game into a single short demo. What you usually get is a part of and opening level just as it appears in the final game, out of context. So it sucks. So you don’t buy the game. Game over.

MLB 08: The Show

Tarted up for the PS3, this game still plays great even as they have worked to make it look _a lot _ better. As I mentioned before, I like the pseudo-RPG mode that they put in this game called “Road to the Show” where you create a player and move him from AA to AAA to the majors over a period of several seasons.

Sony has refined this mode in this iteration to try and make it more directed and more interesting. Unfortunately, the result is broken in a subtle way. The refinement is to add “advancement goals” to the regular goals that you get points for. These advancement goals tell you which of your attributes you should be trying to increase during a given time period. This is a strange mechanic, since you’d think they’d let me distribute my points however I want. But here’s the thing that’s really broken. If you fail to advance in the right areas, you get negative feedback, so your level of play goes down, so you get fewer training points, so you can’t advance in the right areas, and you get negative feedback. The result is that it is easy to build a character that simply cannot advance. Relief pitchers are hard because they don’t play enough innings to collect a lot of training, for example. Starting pitchers are really the only class that works well, because you play most of a game and generate a ton of training points to avoid the feedback loop.

So, letter to Sony: get rid of the advancement goals. They are broken and being trapped in the minor leagues is no fun.

Mass Effect

I finally found this used at a pretty good price. The game mostly follows the standard Bioware formula. There is a lot of dialog. There is a lot of good voice work. A lot of it is well written. Some of it is really stupid. The combat is hit or miss. I feel like I’d rather be playing Halo. The character build system is neither too fussy or too simple. People complained about the inventory screens a lot. I don’t really see the problem, although the UI for weapons upgrades is retarded.

I can see myself playing this just to see how the plot turns out. However, the game does break a couple of important game design rules that should never be broken:

1. If I have to run long distances on foot, you have to give me some kind of jump or roll move to keep me amused.

2. Under no circumstances should there ever be NPCs dancing in the game.

God Of War/PSP

I just got this today to take on a trip to CA next week. The game looks to be God of War shrunk down to pocket size. Everything is pretty and smooth. All the moves are the same. I expect there to be an offensive human sacrifice puzzle somewhere. It’s a bit astounding that you can achieve this level of technical excellence in a hand-held game.

I’ll bring Disgaea too though.