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Gears of War 2
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Poo Bear
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Joined: 14 Oct 2002
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Location: Sheffield, UK



PostPosted: Thu Sep 02, 2010 3:13 pm    Post subject: Gears of War 2 Reply with quote



OK so the first game looked cool (if you like a lot of grey), played like a roller coaster, lots of thrills, but over quickly and no real depth. I enjoyed it anyway, disengage brain, shoot things, relax. That's OK sometimes Smile I don't think I'll play any more, nothing new to see hear really.

Wow, Gears2 is $10, that's nuts. I wonder what they'll do differently in the next game? I've got a tiny suspicion it will just be more of the same. Oh wll, ten bucks is nothing, here we go...

Am I on earth or somewhere else?
Why do I look like a giant ham with legs?
How can such great voice overs and dialog be wasted on such a nothing story?
What't this emulsion they rant about, isn't that a type of paint?
Why have they stuck the wonky driving sequence into this on-foot shooter again?
Why have they stuck annoying turret-gunning bits all over it again?
Why is everything grey?
Why don't these two factions just talk to each other?


Oh yes, it's definitely Gears of War Smile


Why have I finished both these games if I keep criticising them?

1. they are cheap and I'm skint Smile

2. they are short. Round of applause all round. Don't make me do the same levels again but backwards. Don't re-use the same baddies over and over, but a bit harder. Just give me what you've got in a nice digestible tasty package that's over at the right time (i.e. when you've run out of ideas and it's about to stop feeling fresh).

3. I'm a sucker for turning off my brain and zoning out to some addictive straight forward shooting with a dose of eye candy. The game designer part of my brain sites in the background with its arms folded tutting a lot. It's a bit like day time tv or the latest arnie movie, you don't want to like it, but you can't help it. Pavlov rings the bell and I start salivating Smile


Having finished it though, I must say it seems to have actually taken a step back from the first game. It's absolutely full of bugs. Both actual code bugs and harder to justify design bugs. Enemies get caught on nothing and dance around, the player gets caught on nothing, you have to refer to online guides to get past a number of obstacles that are just way too hard, sections where it isn't obvious what you are meant to do, waypoints frustratingly far apart for no good reason, instant death sections where you are relying on your waypoints with no clue as to what is about to kill you, etc. Come on, I don't mind the sequel being more of the same, but it should get more polish not less. Smells a bit like this was rushed out or the team were a bit tired.

Good, mindless fun and at the ridiculous price of $10.

High points. 1. Horde mode lets you pick a level and face off against ever harder waves of enemies. An excellent survival mode. 2. You get to ride around on a giant dinosaur creature that looks like a zombified Tyrannosaurus and lay waste to the enemies that have been giving you such a hard time. Excellent fun.
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colinvella



Joined: 15 Sep 2006
Posts: 82



PostPosted: Thu Sep 02, 2010 6:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Am I on earth or somewhere else?
Could be an alternative universe or a colony.

Why do I look like a giant ham with legs?
To appease the testosterone monster within

How can such great voice overs and dialog be wasted on such a nothing story?
Because Microsoft can!

What't this emulsion they rant about, isn't that a type of paint?
It's like petroleum, except that it glows, harmful to humans and makes baddies badder...

Why have they stuck the wonky driving sequence into this on-foot shooter again?
To add variety I guess, and it does succeed to an extent IMHO

Why have they stuck annoying turret-gunning bits all over it again?
See previous

Why is everything grey?
What hardcore shooter isn't? TBH, I think GOW2 is a little more colourful than GOW1.

Why don't these two factions just talk to each other?
Because dialogue and diplomacy not a good shooter make Smile

The story behind the single-player campaign is flaky to be honest, but I think it is a fun game - it's probably the first game to introduce a good cover system.

Also, the multi-player aspect is really fun, looking forward to the XP multiplier event startign tomorrow!
http://www.gamegrep.com/news/36159-gears_of_war_2_xp_multiplier_event/
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Poo Bear
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 8:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

OK, you're right the driving bit is actually better than in the first game. There is a section where you have to get across two frozen lakes in the tank, the grubs shell the lake breaking up the ice as you try to cross. Now I must have retried that bit 20 times Embarassed It's little bits of frustration like that that spoil the driving element, even though it's OK in the rest of the game.

Turrets can be a fun diversion when it's mowing down huge numbers of enemies fairly quickly before moving on. Again, there was a section that became incredibly frustrating. You have to protect a communications dish as reavers(?) make fly by attacks. I repeated that bit many times and was on the cusp of pulling my hair out Smile

The whole diving into cover and action-style rolling from one bit of cover into another is well done.
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colinvella



Joined: 15 Sep 2006
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 8:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The lake bit is not that bad.. you just need to drive very slowly and carefully. The whole think is for the most part scripted so learning from a previous mistake can help. I did it in my second try (playing casual).

As for the dish defence bit, I initially had trouble until I realised you have to concentrate your fire on the reavers that land on the ground below, and than the ones flying by.
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Poo Bear
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 8:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is the problem with game design, people pick up different things when playing. In the case of the lake, I'd been enjoying the tanks super-fast dash ability and in my mind I immediately thought 'lake is slowly being destroyed, I need to dash across before it's too late'. When dashing didn't work I wrongly assumed I just wasn't doing it skillfully enough and wasn't choosing the right route. Ten retries later, with frustration levels rising, I started searching for some other approach - which is when going slowly and carefully revealed itself as the right thing to do. Doh!

With the reavers I didn't even notice some had landed on the floor until many retries later - eek!

With an infinite budget this is what I'd have done:

1. get the game to log when people die, where they are in the game, how long between each death, when they turn it off, etc. That way I could tell if it's just me being an idiot (quite likely) or if its really a problem.

2. if it's a problem, then if they are playing on 'easy' or 'normal' try to give them hints. With the lake I'd watch for them failing to do it twice and then have your companion say 'take it slow, we need to carefully' or similar. With the reavers I'd do the same, let them have a go and watch for them failing, then get your mate to say 'watch for those reavers below'. If they keep failing then start doing unsubtle things like showing an on-screen pointer to the reaver or best path.

You could even go a step further - cheat. If you spot the player REALLY having trouble then tweak the game to help them out i.e. the reaver quietly starts doing 50% damage. The problem here is that if anyone notices then you will probably get a lot of grief on the web. If you read a game design book you'll see people play games for a variety of reasons i.e. relaxation, exploration, role play, collecting, psychological addiction, etc. A minority play for mastery of some challenge - they will be the ones most upset by any attempt to unfairly help them or 'dumb things down'. They also tend to be the most vocal Smile Tricky.
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Rup



Joined: 19 May 2003
Posts: 363
Location: London, UK



PostPosted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 10:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'd forgotten about the lake - yes, that was a pain to figure out. There were a few things like that, like when your buggy got dropped into a black area with large monsters and you had to basically kill them in the right order to stop them getting to you. I don't mind that so much if it's over quickly and you're straight back in for another go.

The one bit I remember looking up on the net was just after that when you were being chased by a bad guy on a flying beast. Turned out I wasn't doing anything wrong, I just wasn't doing it very well Smile

Poo Bear wrote:
1. get the game to log when people die, where they are in the game, how long between each death, when they turn it off, etc. That way I could tell if it's just me being an idiot (quite likely) or if its really a problem.

I think Valve actually do this for the Half Life 2 episodes.

Poo Bear wrote:
If you spot the player REALLY having trouble then tweak the game to help them out i.e. the reaver quietly starts doing 50% damage.

Sin Episodes did this one on survival mode, but it was up-front about it: you'd get a little graph at the end with how hard it had to make it for you and its opinion of how you did Smile
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colinvella



Joined: 15 Sep 2006
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 10:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree, actually a pre-emptive "Thread carefully" or "Take your time" without checking previous deaths would do the trick by explicitely setting a new pace for the player.

As for lowering the difficulty after a few tries, keep in mind the Achievement system. As a matter of fact, there are achievements for each of the four skill levels (and winning the game on a given level automatically awards the corresponding achievements for the easier levels).

Case in point, Prince of Persia has two hard-to-get achievements (falling less than 100 times and finishing under 12 hours). These require substantial effort from the player, but Ubisoft decided to also award them to any player who would sit through all the end game credits. I didn't know this of course (I happen to like watching all creds) and I've been getting a lot of flak since then from a friend who got those achievements the hard way Smile
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Poo Bear
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 1:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The achievements thing in Persia sounds very odd. I don't like games that hand out achievements just for playing the game or encourage odd behaviour. Limbo has good achievements, because the names that you can see up front give slight clues as to how to get them, but they are all quite odd. So you can play through the game and not get a single one, but you'll probably stumble into a couple and then be intrigued enough to look for the others. I like that style better, where achievements are these pleasantly surprising rare little rewards.

Gears2 gave me a lot of achievements for just playing and every time it did it I thought 'what is the point of that?'. I'd keep achievements for treasure hunt style mystery rewards.

I like it when a game has separate special modes that don't pollute the main game, like Gears' Horde mode. I think it's a mistake to encourage someone to replay the whole game and 'only kill with headshots' or 'don't use any health', etc. It's probably just me again, but putting things like that in the main game encourage behaviour that can soon become not fun, it plays on people's addictions so you could end with someone who feels compelled to play 10hours of head shot only and at the end are they really going to be satisfied? A special head shot only mode with, say, 10 levels each harder and taking ~10mins each, that sounds better.
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Chrisj



Joined: 28 Oct 2006
Posts: 95
Location: Oxford, UK



PostPosted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 10:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't mind if there's a separate 'congratulations on working out how to hit enemies' award, or indeed an award for watching the credits (I do it too, so I'm all in favour of that one). But giving the same award for two different things - one a skill challenge and the other just a question of waiting - is straightforward dumb and idiotic. How can anyone have thought that was a good idea?

As for special behaviour... in the extreme, it's bad, but done carefully it can be OK. Defence Grid, for example, has various achievements that you can get for completing a single level using only one tower type. But it's your choice which level (tutorial levels don't count, but any other will do), which actually adds a weird brain-teaser aspect to it: which levels are best suited to playing with only flamers, or cannon, or.... I think the important difference may be between 'can you play the whole game like this' and 'special challenge for one level'. The former means twisting everything around one gimmick, whereas the latter allows you to try something unusual for ten minutes and then go back to doing whatever works best for you.
(I've not played Limbo, but its achievements system sounds good to me:)
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Chrisj



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PostPosted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 10:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Actually, a thought on that: I was mildly interested to note that the Steam version of Torchlight has an achievement for finding the dungeon entrance, which is about the minimum interaction it's possible to have with the game. That achievement has been gained by... 85% (about 5/6ths) of players. Only 65% have played the first four levels (maybe an hour of game time in easy or normal mode if you're really cautious), and it drops to barely half reaching level eight (another hour). Proportion of people who've finished the main quest (you can carry on playing afterwards, killing steadily tougher monsters)? Eighteen per cent.

I'm always interested in comparing those numbers for different games (with Defence Grid, the other achievement-heavy game I've got on Steam, 71% finish the tutorial levels, and only about a third finish the game. Mr Robot has only 30% finishing the tutorial, and about 5% getting through to the end, which is a shame), but also amazed by how low they are generally. Am I really so unusual in buying games only when I know I like them and then playing them through to the finish?
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Poo Bear
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 06, 2010 7:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Chrisj wrote:
Am I really so unusual in buying games only when I know I like them and then playing them through to the finish?


No you are not unusual and this is what is really perplexing. A lot of the big indie hits on XBLiveArcade are actually quite short ~5 hours and many developers are saying this is about right and its better to cram all your gaming goodness into a small experience rather than water it down over a ~30 hour experience. Mainstream games press got used to the idea of valuing a game based on how long it takes, so journalists would remark how great FinalFantasy is because it takes ~60 hours to finish.

When achievements appeared they were an offshoot of 'gaming metrics' where developers would log exactly what players were doing instead of just video monitoring short play testing sessions. I think developers and play testers tend to be hard core and so everyone thought people were playing these 60hour games to the end. With the hard data of metrics (open beta tests with hundreds of players quietly uploading detailed stats to servers) they realised that almost nobody was playing a game to the end. Worse still, a lot of people were buying games and not even getting out of the tutorial, the presumption being people like the idea of a game and want to join in with the hype/buzz, but often find games too much of a time sync and don't stick with it.

The downside to metrics inspired achievements is some devs realised that achievements themselves could be manipulated into becoming an addictive tool. There are many stories about very poor games selling well on XBLA because their achievements were unusually easy to get or they had more than normal or of people torturing themselves to get every last achievement or groups of people putting together online guides so the could harvest achievements in the most efficient way possible.
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Blizgerg



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PostPosted: Mon Sep 06, 2010 2:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Poo Bear wrote:
The downside to metrics inspired achievements is some devs realised that achievements themselves could be manipulated into becoming an addictive tool. There are many stories about very poor games selling well on XBLA because their achievements were unusually easy to get or they had more than normal or of people torturing themselves to get every last achievement or groups of people putting together online guides so the could harvest achievements in the most efficient way possible.


Just goes to show that my management professor was right to say that how you measure people will influence how they perform.
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Rup



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PostPosted: Sat Sep 11, 2010 12:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Poo Bear wrote:
No you are not unusual and this is what is really perplexing.

I used to be like that but now I'm one of the people you're complaining about: I got too busy to play games but never stopped buying them. I've a huge backlog I'll probably never play. Digital downloads are probably most of that: it's now really easy to impulse-buy a steam bargain or a cheap indie if they sound interesting. You can now even buy XBLA games from your work PC :-/ (e.g. when you recommended Limbo a few weeks back)

Low numbers might also be bundles. I got Mr Robot on steam in an indie bundle but I'll probably never play it there - I played the direct-from-Moonpod version two or three times, and if I do play through again I'll go for the French version instead. I guess at the end of the day you get the money from us either way but I'm sure you'd rather people played and enjoyed your games.

I'm not really motivated by achievements either. I only bother going back for achievements to squeeze more life out of a game I really enjoyed.
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Poo Bear
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 13, 2010 8:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I do it myself - eek! I've got DragonAge, ResidentEvil5 and Dead Space all with just minutes of play time. I just don't have enough hours in the day Smile

I keep noticing my achievements on the X360 - its cleverly done, because I try to ignore them, but keep thinking 'blimey, there are lots of achievements on MassEffect2 that I haven't got...I wonder....' and then I have to stop myself and get on with whatever I was doing. So I can see the power.

That other behemoth Steam doesn't do it so well. I haven't noticed my achievements on there for a while. They don't seem as prominently placed.
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