December is here and so is another challenge from Ambermist of Tastes Like Battlechicken. Sadly, it is also probably the last monthly one she will be ensuing due to other commitments. If anyone else picks it up I will do try to rise up to the challenge too. In any case, here is my thanks to Ambermist for these. They have been fun and a good exercise for the good ol’ brain cells.
Anyhoo, this month the challenge are a few questions but all about the same theme: Our favorite things on games. I will just copy the questions she gave about it for organization’s sake and because it makes it easier to write it in a more coherent way.
What are your favorite things about gaming in general, or about your favorite game specifically?
I guess my favorite things about gaming in general would be, in no specific order, exploration and story.
Despite my love for exploring places in game I don’t think I am the typical explorer type. At least not the way I think the typical explorer type is. In my definition they are the type to throw caution to the wind and just go some place because it is there. If there is danger in the way they will just deal with it somehow. I also imagine they are the type to pay a lot of attention to details, to the point of being able to paint a place they’ve seem while blindfolded.
Myself, I would define as more of a cowardly looter type of explorer. What I mean by that is that I like to explore but only after I feel confident enough that the risks to do so are manageable. I don’t mind a few deaths or defeats in the process but I also don’t like to do something if I believe the odds are near impossible or if it would cause too much hurdle. As for the looter, I guess my main motivation to explore, at least dungeons and such, is more to see what kind of cool stuff is in there. I won’t leave any corner or creak unturned until I am sure I got all the cool loot in a place. I guess that was ingrained on me by my early years of JRPG where it was common to go inside someone’s house, break all their vases and search their drawers for any kind of loot!
Some times I act more like a typical explorer though. My best memories of Morrowind (one of my favorite games of all time too!) were about stumbling into some cave entrance, abandoned temple or something similar. Then just entering to see what was inside. A lot of times I had to make a speedy retreat. But there were some cool times where I found some quest, some notes telling the story of what happened there or just some interesting decoration where I would imagine what the place was used for.
Because of that habit one of my favorite Morrowind mods was one that was conceptually simple, yet cleverly implemented, a chalk mod. That mod allowed you to put symbols or even write a message (in a kind of clunky way given the limitations) on walls or floor. With that mod I would mark places I had already explored, places I couldn’t bother to enter at the time but should come back later or even make signs inside dungeons so I wouldn’t get lost. Simple in concept, yet useful and very immersive!
As for story… I am pretty happy either with linear or multi-branching, full of decision-making stories. In both cases what is important to me is that the story and the gameplay don’t be at odds. For instance, if I know I am close to a boss fight, making my way carefully to a good position to start the fight in then a cutscene happens where my character for some stupid reason goes out in the open to have a chat with the boss and stays there after the scene is over then I will be very annoyed. It also annoys me when the character says something in some cutscene, like “Killing is bad!” then does something that completely contradicts it during gameplay, e.g. he says “killing is bad” yet murders every goon in the way without blinking.
Though none of that annoys me as much as given a false choice. That is the kind of no matter if you choose A or B, the only difference will be, at best, some different lines of dialogue. And the game doesn’t even do much of an effort to hide that.
When story works though, it can be one of the most wonderful game experiences ever. My latest one in that area was “The Walking Dead” by Telltale Games. Not only they do make a good job of making you care about the characters you meet they also made the decisions feel hard and to have heavy consequences. It is the kind where you think “Well, if I chose X back then would character Y be still alive?”. Of course, not all the decisions are life-or-death ones like that but they all feel meaningful.
What keeps you coming back?
I guess it is the same thing that keeps making me reading books. Each game is a new world, a new experience. I also just dislike not seeing the end of story or leaving things unfinished. This last one can be a bit more fuzzy. Sometimes what I felt unfinished can be not getting a character to max level in a MMORPG other times it might bee to see a different ending of a game. Then there are a few games where I just like to play because the gameplay itself is fun. Terraria being the latest example of playing just for the gameplay.
What makes you smile?
I think I already answered that one in a indirect way through the other answers. I will just add another point. I really like a game where the rules are just as simple, elegant and full of interesting choices. This is a very hard thing to achieve. From the top of my mind the only games achieved this recently was Civilization V and XCom. Not surprisingly they are both from the same company, Firaxis. Guild Wars 2 gets very close too, which is amazing considering the complexities of MMORPGs. I just don’t say it achieves it completely because there are a few things that confuse me. Although I admit I have yet to really make an effort to deal with that.
I guess Terraria could count too, in terms of interesting choices.
When the bee stings and you’re feeling bad, what is about gaming that makes you smile?
There are a lot of times where I feel weak and unable to change things. In games at least I can feel like I can make a difference. Even if it is just to save a virtual world that will disappear as soon as I turn the computer off, and the emotions the characters display are just scripts read by professional voice actors, it still feels nice.
It also feels nice when I can help someone in a MMORPG. Even if it is just to give some hint, share some information or be there for a dungeon run. I rarely do those things though when I am in a bad mood since when I am like that it is best for me to be alone least I whine every 3 words or end up snapping at someone for no reason. But remembering the good times help to cope with those feelings.
Bonus Challenge: Tell me something awesome that happened to you this year!
That was to see my friends get back together to play Guild Wars 2. I met almost all of them in Everquest 2 but over time they all scattered to other games and it was hard to find one that we all enjoyed. Although recently they have been scattering from Guild Wars 2 (including myself!) for a reason or another, at least with its buy-to-play model, I can always
twist their arms ask kindly to do a dungeon run or something like that for old times sake. Something that would be more complicated in subscription-only games or even some so-called “free to play” games.
Well, that was it for this challenge! I hope everybody have a wonderful christmas and an even better new year!
P.S.: I know that I am not the most prolific blog writer out there but in case anyone has been wondering about my silence lately…. it is just that I haven’t been in the most sociable moods for a while. Hence, haven’t been feeling much like writing or even playing MMORPGs. My mood is a little better now but not by much. So things might be quiet on here for a little while longer. Hopefully not for too long now.