Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Should Have Been Good

I really wanted to like Tron 2.0.

I am a fan of the movie. I remember the lame-ass arcade game.

I even enjoyed some of the moments in the first few levels of the PC game. Buena Vista Games constructed an FPS with minor RPG elements with almost every game element tying into the theme of computers and software.

Think ReBoot. Man, that show rocked.

I had a good time on the first couple levels. The disc is a great weapon, basically same principles as the lightsabers in the Jedi Knight series.

The spreading corruption was cool. Upgradeable subroutines, spiffy. Reading random e-mail scattered through the system. All of it a blast.

Then I got to the lightcycles.

Arguably what should have been the greatest part of the game. I say that because it was the greatest part of the original movie - at least it was to a five year old boy. Motorcycles! That make a wall of light behind them! And you try to make the other ones crash into that wall! Brilliant!

And, at best, Tron 2.0 makes lightcycles bearable.

However . . .

When you begin the lightcycle tutorial . . . and you listen to the slow-ass tutorial narrator's stupid speeches with no way of moving the tutorial forward but to listen . . . and you finally sit through the damn thing and you're supposed to move to the circle to leave the arena but you hit your own wall accidentally because the camera and control system is shit . . . and then you get the option to quit or retry and the tutorial starts over again . . .

That sucked. And the matches are even worse, because of the lack of camera or lightcycle control. Not that you can't control the camera or lightcycle at all. Just that the control available is like navigating a drunk hippopotamus down a mile-long Slip N' Slide using only a retractable dog leash and a cattle prod.

So, anyway. I beat the lightcycle matches anyway. I just didn't have fun doing it.

Then the next set of levels . . . my god.

See, the Kernel (hah!) took all your weapons, so no cool disc and blaster and whatever else you might've acquired.

Instead you get the rod primitive, or the PRod (hah!). These are pointy Devil Sticks that shock foes. Which means, yes, that you must get right up in their faces and then waste a bunch of energy de-rezzing them.

And it's way too hard. I play on Easy, because I like the experience of going through a game more than I like replaying sections over and over. That's just how I like to play. I happen to believe that a game's Easy mode should be . . . Easy. Even too easy is fine, because you can still say it was easy.

Tron 2.0 on Easy is not.

I suppose I must disclose that I'm not spectacularly skilled at video games. I could reasonably beat Civilization on about the third difficulty level (and then maybe only 50% of the time) and got stomped at any difficulty above that. I don't think I could make it even half of the way through Far Cry (so I cheated in order to at least finish the game experience I paid for). Hell, I could never even beat the original Super Mario Bros. (though Mario 3 was one of the first games I ever beat).

That said, Tron 2.0 is just too hard. That stupid PRod sucks, even with a power upgrade installed. The bad guys spot you from across the level and then pelt you with their discs (which make you dead quick). The only thing that might've helped me, the Fuzzy Subroutine (masks footprints), needed an upgrade to be effective. I stupidly upgraded something else several levels back (the only time I could've upgraded, that I found).

Running was ineffective as well. Just more bad guys and those discs that fly across the level.

See, the disc is a great weapon for a player, because it's so damn powerful. But it's not so good when every major NPC has one.

Not to mention the alarm system, which you can almost never see, that not only spawns guards but shoots at you as well.

I suggest that designers make an Idiot mode. This would provide minimal challenge. It almost plays itself. Let me decide if that's fun or not. Then go ahead and make the other modes the same way they've always been. Simple, right?

If designers can make a Punishing mode where they unfairly inflate all the NPC stats and underpower yours, then they can make a Really Easy mode, too.

Or how about this: How about having an Enable Cheats menu. Don't make me unlock it. If I were actually able to get all 1500 golden goose necks, which would let me unlock Invulnerability, do you think I need to fucking unlock Invulnerability (Jak games, I'm looking in your direction)?

Just give me a cheat menu. Let me make the decision whether or not I think cheaters never win. You could even do something crappy to get across the message that "cheating is not cool, dudes, stay in school!".

Like make scoring different (if you have scoring). Or, I don't know, have some dude giving players the finger in-between levels while a voice calls them "grimy sneaking, two-faced snakes".

Stop trying to make some kind of crazy decision that the player should have to work for cheats because you're an artist and that is not how the game is played, man. I mean, if you don't feel like adding cheats in, that's fine. Don't worry about it, then.

I'm talking about games. Games. I know I play them for enjoyment. Maybe even fun (gasp!). Challenge can be fun, sure, so go ahead and provide challenge.

But sometimes I don't care for challenge, I just want to get through. Or sometimes challenges are grossly unbalanced (Kya: Dark Lineage - it was like being manic-depressive, super-exciting fun segments interspersed with soul-crushing, die-and-reload-fests).

Woah. How about this? How about selectors that let us vary the challenge. You have categories of challenges (Enemies, Jumps, Timing, that sort of thing) and sliders that move up and down, making the categories harder or easier respectively.

Sliding Enemies up would make them tougher, use more tactics, make you more vulnerable. Sliding Jumps up would reduce your jump distance/height, maybe how much control you have over your direction in mid-air. Sliding Timing up would randomize timing more, speed up certain puzzles, maybe reduce the control-reaction time.

Anyone want to proof that idea out? Or know of any games to take such an approach?

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