Thursday, August 18, 2005

Give Me Your License

Here's what I would do
if I received the rights to produce a videogame based on the Matrix license:

I'd make it turn-based and tactical.

The game made by Shiny, Enter the Matrix, was (and this is not meant to insult anybody involved) a horrendous, steaming pile of shit. My favorite element was the console-hacking, even though I needed to use the walkthrough to do anything with it (how about in-game hints? how about actually merging your gameplay?).

The Matrix MMORPG seems to be in a precarious position. They've drastically reduced their number of servers because there just aren't enough people playing. I admit that I haven't played it. I'm curious as to how, exactly, the Interlock system works. The theory behind it makes it sound pretty awesome. The reviews I've read say it's okay, but not fantastic.

But anyway . . . Enter the Matrix failed to capture something core to the movie - beautifully-choreographed fight scenes. Yes, they tried very hard to get the fighting done right, but doing that in real-time just won't cut it. Not even with a spiffy slo-mo effect. I would have been happy if, instead of a game, they had just released a nice little (easy-to-use) fight-choreography program. Like dominoes, set up some actors, give them some directions and start 'em up.

Maybe somebody could mod the upcoming Molyneux game The Movies for such a thing.

Not sure what kind of rules to impose on that system. Someone might know of a good and interesting and workable way to have simultaneous turns without it being all hinky. You could put points in attacks and reactions. Attacks would be chosen, reactions automatic. The body could be divided into different zones (head, elbows, hands, shins, knees, etc.) with various abilities associated - attacks, blocks, dodges, feints (more?).

I'm just kinda jonesing for another X-COM.


ArC said...

No disrespect intended, but are you sure you're the target market for ETM?

What I find in fighting games (Virtua Fighter) and hack and slash (Ninja Gaiden, Devil May Cry, ETM) is that the _interactivity_ of of a good real time fighting system makes up for not having as precisely choreographed fight sequences as one gets in the top action movies.

Johnny Pi said...

Oh, I can't say I was necessarily the intended market. But, well, I was a pretty big Matrix fan at the time - which WAS the market - and was hoping that the game would capture the feel - tapping data nodes, calling for new training, packing out all sorts of flashy weapons, badass clothes.

My point with ETM is that I don't feel their implementation of an action game worked well with the source material. There were other issues with the game that made me feel it was so terrible - the fighting was obnoxiously repetitive, there was little in the levels to distinguish one area from another, the fighting was repetitive - heh - and there were driving sequences with sticky controls.

Those hack and slash games you mention (and, for example, something like Max Payne) don't get the same critical attention from me because there's no real source material (well, Ninja Gaiden, which I felt DID maintain the core elements of the original). And I'm not pushing for any strict interpretation of licensed products, but I do feel that a license should extend the original material, which means that capturing a little of what makes that original material compelling - otherwise, why license (unless it's just an obnoxious cash-in). Star Wars: Republic Commando did this well, I thought - they spun off with their own story but kept the feel of Star Wars (which, I know, is fuzzily defined - part of the reason licensed material does so well).

And speaking of Star Wars, the Jedi Knight series has, I think, been very good at capturing the feel of those cinematic lightsaber battles - they almost feel choreographed sometimes. But ETM lacked that for me.

I guess what it comes down to is that I agree with your statement "the interactivity of a good real time fighting system makes up for not having as precisely choreographed fight sequences as one gets in the top action movies." I just didn't feel ETM had a good real time fighting system.

Just for information, last action game I really liked was Otogi: Myth of Demons. Make of that what you will.

ArC said...

Have you seen the Crouching Tiger game? It's the first other game that comes to mind as far as "a game based on a movie which had fight sequences choreographed by Yuen Woo-Ping".

Strictly as far as the fighting went, ETM was better than CTHD. ETM was not a particularly deep system -- I suspect it was because they were aiming at a casual market rather than the fighting game nerds -- but the variety of animations was actually quite good. I still remember this one attack I pulled off exactly once ever...

For me, the problems with ETM -- as far as fighting goes -- came down to (1) lack of polish. Running from Smith was _horrible_ because he would grab and throw you over and over.

(2) imprecise control. But this is as much due to lack of polish as it is due to a complex and ambitious 'context-sensitive' action scheme.

(3) Limitations of the license. The good guys were simply far more powerful than human security guards; fights with them just too short to be entertaining. On the other hand, the good guys (Ghost and Niobe, anyways) were constrained by the license to be far weaker than Agents, so you couldn't fight them in a satisfactory manner anyways.

To my mind, that's why the Chateau sequences in ETM are the only honestly fun part: the 'werewolves' are the right level to provide a fun fight experience.

Now, the platforming (jumping/climbing) was also horrible, and I agree that the driving was awful.

But honestly, I thought the fighting was the only decent thing in ETM.

Johnny Pi said...

I haven't seen the Crouching Tiger game. Man, I wouldn't even want to TRY to do something like that with a game - well, not with current technology. Maybe when procedural animation's been polished up.

I briefly played that Jet Li game, Rise to Honor, and while the control scheme was interesting it just didn't time out correctly for me. Some cool ideas, though.

I think you hit on a few key elements of why ETM failed. And I never said the fighting was completely bad, just that I think it was bad where the license was concerned. If they had maybe used the Matrix only as inspiration and released a game with that fighting system but not hobbled by the other points you made (the need to strictly interpret the license rather than take liberties with it, et. al.) I might have a different take.

And I must admit, those takedowns ARE impressive (lots of the moves are) the first five or six times, especially those moments when they DID seem choreographed. BAM!

Thirty times later . . . well, not so Shiny (awful pun alert).