Theoretical Perfect Video Game I Wish Existed (As Envisioned Exclusively By The AAA Development Cycle)

I’m most of the way through my playthrough of Tim Roger’s review of Bioshock Infinite and I’m reminded suddenly of the Perfect Video Game I Wish Existed (As Envisioned Exclusively By The AAA Development Cycle), just by his sort of offhand comment about the upgrade system.

If a year’s crop of AAA games were arranged in the fron yard of my apartment in such a way that I could trip over them, I probably wouldn’t be able to trip over more than two without tripping over one with some sort of mutually exclusive upgrade system. Let me talk about Dishonored’s upgrade system, because that game was pretty good and I actually played it.

So in Dishonored you can choose between things like “I can see through walls” or “I can summon rats to eat people” or “I can teleport further” and with whatever abilities you end up with, you can then solve whatever puzzles that games throws at you with those abilities. The idea is that I get to choose; maybe I prefer to teleport past guys, or maybe I want to cause confusion with all these rats, or whatever. Each one will work; I get to choose which tool for puzzle solving I like best then learn to use it effectively.

The game does this because it thinks player choice is the niftiest thing ever and wants you to have a lot of it. You solve puzzles how YOU want!

Except the thing is that all of these powers are really fun, and worse, the most fun thing about the game is that you could spend hours replaying the same mission over and over and solving the puzzle in as many different ways as you could possibly think of.

Did I say worse? I meant, this is the whole reason those games are cool. Except for the part in which those powers are mutually exclusive. It’s like, why? I never know what they’re going to do or how to use them until I get them, so it’s pretty much just a wild guess, and then once I have them, the other powers might as well not exist.

This is probably really cool to the developer—look at all the unique ways people played this level!—but I don’t care about what happened in other people’s games, really. I mean, if you had given us all the same tools, we would all be having the exact same amount of fun. Our fun would look a lot more like each other’s, but would that even matter? Most video games give all players the same experience and it doesn’t seem to really make them any less successful.

I guess what I’m saying is that what’s so fun about Dishonored and games like it is not playing it Once, but playing it Over and Over, yet the game doesn’t really assist me in doing this, trying new things and discovering the unique fun of each of their brilliantly designed game abilities. So much time and effort were put into that stuff for the seeming purpose of it being in someone else’s game and not your game, so that reviewers could say whoa, my game was totally different than that guy’s game.

Sorry, so I was talking about Brogue right:

The fun thing about roguelikes is that you can get through them in a couple hours and you start from level one and build your character each time. So it’s essentially like Dishonored, except instead in the time you get through Dishonored using one set of powers and never seeing the others, most likely ever, you’ve gone through over a dozen different builds in Brogue.

Okay, so Brogue doesn’t let you “choose” as much because what you get is random, but at least it lets you pretty quickly see all the ways you can build your character and they’re all pretty fun and great, and rather than seal off all the other interesting possibilities in some theoretical other person’s game for you to most likely never see and just hear about when you read the reviews, Brogue lets you do it.

What my Theoretical Perfect Video Game I Wish Existed (As Envisioned Exclusively By The AAA Development Cycle) would be then is basically a Dishonored I start random powers with and can play through in two hours. Replace “Dishonored” with Bioshock Infinite or any other FPS with an upgrade path.

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