Spyro on Game Design

Bah, if your hero is a flying purple dragon, there should be no “So deep you fall and die” traps in the game.

And if your hero is a melee fighter, it’s poor form to put someone with a freeze-mortar attack in level 1 guarding a narrow, un-railed bridge which gives you no side-to-side space to dodge…

…When said enemies usually run in packs of 2-3, and have to be beaten to death three cunt gargling times, and are immune to damage while twitching on the floor on their backs to the point of introducing clipping bugs to shield them from your razor-toothed affections…

…It’s in even worse form for the unstoppable superweapon to only count as one beatdown of three, or to ignore helpless, prone enemies when the weapon consists of 360° homing fireballs the size of a Volkswagen Beetle…

…Which don’t even go far enough to take out the fire-support bastard lurking on the ledge you need to jump to…

(Oh, don’t forget that your basic melee attack winds up over about .2 dangerously vulnerable seconds, and is fairly frequently hit-cancelled.  And even bullet-time isn’t reliably fast enough to stop hitcancels.)

Also, it’s in poor form to put big pieces of terrain that look like platforms in a disappearing-platform jumping puzzle.

Because jumping puzzles are only ever more fun while taking fire.

With net-rays.

And ice bombs.

That have splash damage.

And sometimes inexplicably airburst.

Over spikes.



From WoW to meh.

Filed under: Rants — Tags: , , , , — halbyrd @ 03:51


I’ve been playing World of Warcraft since around patch 2.2, or August 2007 for those keeping score at home.  That makes it just a month shy of two years.  I’m not going to be sticking around for the anniversary, though.

It’s nothing to do with the usual complaints–that it’s a time sink, that much of the combat is repetitive, et cetera.  Grind is a central part of what makes a MMORPG what it is, and I have no particular problem with that.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but most of life is about doing the same things again and again.  WoW at least has the decency to reward me for my perserverance.

No, my problem with WoW centers around player skill.  People have held that in this game, life really begins when you hit the level cap.  From this perspective, the process of going from lv. 1 chicken chaser to lv. 60 70 80 badass is, in essence, an extended and extremely forgiving tutorial.  You have time to mess about, learn the mechanics, and see some interesting scenery along the way.  This is fine and good–in fact, I think more games outside of the MMO scene could stand to take a lesson or two from this model.

Once you’ve climbed that mountain, though, what’s there to greet you?  If life begins at 80, what does this life entail?  The answer, in WoW’s case is: not much.  You can go the hardcore PvP route, ganking noobs for fun, sharpening your skills in battlegrounds, and competing “for realz” in the arenas.  This tends to fall flat, for the simple reason that WoW was not designed around this kind of competitive play.  PvP has been shoehorned in after the fact to appease the griefer contingent, but it’s ultimately a distraction from WoW’s true focus: Raiding.

Before Arenas, before Tournament realms, before moneyhat-driven dreams of eSports fame, and even before Battlegrounds, WoW was all about Raiding.  Getting a bunch of people together, finding some godsforsaken castle or cavern, and running from one end of it to the other, with nothing but the entire population of Murder City between you and glory.  With potent magic, huge phallic swords, and ridiculously proportioned shoulderpads, it’s all designed to feed our inner Viking.

Scratch the surface a bit, though, and you begin to see why the Viking lifestyle doesn’t hold up long-term.  Coordination SNAFUs turn your engine of destruction into a tangled scrap-heap faster than you can yell “LEEEEEROY JENKINNNNNS!”.  Underperforming damage-dealers turn even routine pulls into a molasses-filed quagmire.  Inattentive healers let the raid crumble around them while they admire the scenery.  Clueless tanks soldier on, bashing away ineffectually at the boss while his minions tear through the squishies behind like a chainsaw through butter.

To a certain extent, this is expected.  Dungeon running is about teamwork, right?  Yes, but there comes a point at which it all becomes too much.  Sometimes, the game just throws too much at you at once, too hard and too fast for any but the most Borg-like raids to cope with.  Nowhere was this more apparent than in the Sunwell Plateau. This was WoW at its most brutal.  Wiping on the first trash pull was commonplace, even after everybody knew what they were doing. The vast majority of raiders never made it to Kalecgos, never mind all the way to Kil’jaeden. Guilds that made it through everything the game had thrown at them to date shattered on this dungeon.

Was it because of poor teamwork?  Insufficient preparation?  Simple inattentiveness?

No. It was because the game mechanics themselves made it all but impossible to proceed.  The tension between PvE and PvP game mechanics has been a problem in WoW ever since battlegrounds got added in 1.4.  It wasn’t until the addition of Arena combat in 2.0 that this became a real problem, however.  From that point onwards, the game designers have been pulled in two conflicting directions: the desire to avoid overpowered talents/abilities/gear for PvP balance, and the desire to boost threat/damage/healing for PvE viability.

This resulted in player classes that simply couldn’t participate in Sunwell raids, because they were carrying the PvP millstone around their necks in a dungeon that consisted of Olympic-level sprints.  Your best raid healers are Druids?  Too bad, only Shamen are allowed, because Chain Heal is required to keep up with the punishing damage auras and area-effect spells.  Want to bring some Mages or elemental-spec Shamen for damage-dealing?  Too bad, you won’t finish the DPS race alive unless you stack Shadow Priests and Warlocks, due to ridiculously short enrage timers.  Want to bring a Paladin who isn’t a tank?  Too bad, you’re SOL for damage-dealing and healing.

Blizzard has wisely backed off on this for normal raid progression in the latest expansion, but the damage has been done.  The game now has a permanent case of Dissociative Identity Disorder.  Raids routinely fall apart because half the class/spec formulations don’t function properly in their intended roles, and the people who can fill the roles properly frequently contract a nasty case of Real Life Problems.

The practical upshot of this is that you can routinely find yourself failing and having  to start over because the game itself is getting in the way of playing it.  I ran into this problem about 3 months after I first started playing, when I first started doing end-game raiding, and it has never gone away.  I’ve stuck around for quite a while hoping it would, because Blizzard has put together an extremely compelling world in this game. Compelling or no, though, this game is fundamentally broken, and Blizzard has no real intention of fixing it.

One common definition of insanity is repeating the same actions, in the same kind of circumstances, expecting different results.  I think it’s time I stopped paying Blizzard my presubscription fees for crazy pills.

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