Daily Elysium: The Love of an Angry Man

There are, we're told by many an afterschool special, several different kinds of love.  From the days of toga wearing acients who used different words to define different kinds of love, we've bandied about the concept of love with delicate trepidation.  There was Eros, which is the love one feels reading the Victoria Secret catalog.  Philos, which is the love one feels for a friend who gives up the last piece of pizza, and the last beer.  And Agape, which is the love one feels for someone who deals with our steaming heap loads of crap and doesn't push us down the stairs.  Surprisingly, there's no Greek word for the love one man develops for his electronic entertainment.

The thing about love, good and true love, is that it is not as unconditional as they say.  Or, rather, it comes tempered with a healthy understanding that the object of affection is every bit as flawed as he from whom the love grows - which, I assure you, is not a disturbing euphemism.  So, while I've made it pretty clear in the past that I love playing, writing about, reading about, and occasionally bitching about video games, there are a good number of things in games that just cheese me off. 

In no particular order, here are five (among many more) of gaming's worst habits.

1) Save Points - I thought I'd start with a controversial one.  Some people take a sense of pride from completing Knives In Your Face IV on ballbuster difficulty with only two saves, but please keep your masochism off my hard drive.  You want to limit the number of saves you have in a game, then I encourage you to set your own arbitrary house rules, and be sure and notice how many people give a damn about your accomplishment.  As for me, if I want to save after every third polygon then that's my prerogative.  Save points stem from a time in gaming where space was dramatically limited, but have become an arbitrary means by which to artificially extend gameplay.  While a few games have developed a save point system not eye-pokingly frustrating, by and large the practice has outlived its usefulness and now seems to be more a tool of creating in-game tension where developers failed to produce genuine tension in the first place.

2) Casual Gamers - Perhaps another controversial point, but I'm sick of developers aiming at the lowest common denominator.  In the MMORPG genre, in particular, I'm pretty firmly convinced that the 'casual gamer' has dragged innovation to a teeth grinding, locked seatbelt halt.  Everytime I hear MMORPG developers go on about making a game accessible to the casual gamer, I know that means that the developer is just going to rehash concepts from every game that's come before, dumb down the interface and rules system, and pepper the landscape with random spawns and uninspired missions.  If Everquest has taught us anything it's that the casual gamer is just as capable of carving out a niche in any game as everyone else.  Maybe it just takes a little longer.  Perhaps it's not casual gamers that actually chaffes my chaps, but the developing house that uses those gamers as an excuse to toss around cliches.

3) Would You Like to Pre-Reserve? - Um, no.  I'd like to stroll into your fine boutique, and simply purchase your wares without having to make some kind of appointment.  I'm pretty tired of shops that create an artificial dearth of product and then have the temerity to chide me, your friggin' customer, because I didn't have the foresight to get an IOU.  I'm not sure where stores stumbled on the basic concept of having inventory first then selling that inventory to customers in exchange for monetary remuneration, but they need to get their retail anagram straightened back out.  Here's the scoop, guys, I walk in to your store on the day a game comes out.  If you don't have it, then I buy it somewhere that does ... and I start shopping there instead.  Don't pretend like you're doing me a favor by not having the game I want, because I know the definition of the word 'favor'. You're not a bank or a charity, so when I walk in there with money, I want to walk out with more than a receipt and a well intentioned promise.

4) Cheating AI - I've played some very good, very complex games where the computer can defeat me casually and at will without resorting to cheat codes, so I'm pretty impatient with games that take the easy way out.  There's a reason I don't play online games against cheating opponents, so I have to wonder what neuron isn't firing in the minds of designers that implement cheating AI.  For instance, if I'm playing Madden, and by the rules of the game I'm devastating my opponent by thirty-five points, it means that I've played at a higher level than that opponent, and I pretty much deserve the pleasure of that victory.  I didn't see the refs whacking Jamal Lewis' legs with bamboo canes in the second half of Baltimore's shellacking of Cleveland last weekend, so let's just stick to the rules we agreed upon from the start, shall we?

5) Gamespy Matchmaking Systems - I thought of a few other pet peeves I might have put in my top 5.  Jumping puzzles is such a cliche that it's universally maligned, as are first person shooter crates.  I thought about the copycat syndrome best illustrated by the recent glut of poor tactical shooters in the Rainbow Six vein.  I even considered the hoary old console war angle, but these are all patently obvious.  But, Gamespy's anemic online matchmaking system which has already brought more than a few high profile games to an online standstill is the one thing that I see more often and understand less.  Neverwinter Nights, Command and Conquer: Generals, and even Rise of Nations are just a sampling of games initially hobbled out of the gate because of poor online implementation.  With failure after patch laden failure under their belt, I can't imagine why companies keep depending on Gamespy's matchmaking system?  I'm sure it probably has something to do with money, but I have so little of it that I probably wouldn't understand.

- Elysium


This article is like hearing a lecture on Renessiance literature and then having Asston Kutcher leap out of the podium going "Punk'd!".

I like it

I love #3. I always get into an argument like that with the local game retailer here when I go into the store the day the game comes out and all they have are preorders.

Some cheating AI I dont mind.  For instance since the computer cant keep up with my build times in Age of Kings, I dont mind moderate resource bonuses for the computer.  Notice I said moderate!  I think Halo may have borrowed a page from Unreal 1&2.  Periodically, the computer AI registers the split second you fire so that a monster can jump dive roll out of the way almost before the projectile leaves the barrel.

As for Gamespy matchmaking service, Ive never used it and consider games that have it to not have multiplayer ability.

Prereserve bullsh*t I dont put up with.  I wont go off on the clerk, because its just a game and working retail sucks big time.  I will walk away with a smile because the clerk thinks he's trying to make some cosmically important comment, when in reality, I will just get it somewhere else.

I think you need to add another to your list Elysium.  Its all those dev's and gamers that want to recreate a "true" Pen & Paper "experience" on the computer.

High on my list of pet peeves: Game that won't run witout modification unless you are running at 60 some odd hrz.

Your position on save points is well-reasoned, well-stated, and smells delicately of butternut squash. I have won many a game of Civilization, however, and of X-com, Half-life, and Baldur's Gate by saving all the effing time and thusly being prepared well in advance for any surprises the computer might hold. And it must be observed that a gamer's ability to never be ambushed, never fall into a well-laid trap, to always be three turns ahead of the opposition because they've actually BEEN three turns ahead, naturally robs from any game's ability to shock, frustrate, and deceive us. If I am able to save, I do. I am unable to prevent myself except by deliberately playing on "Hard-core" mode. Therefore, I actually wish that more games had optional save points.

Three more to pile on top of Elysium's:

Forgetting that games are supposed to be fun - realism is great, wonderful, desirable, and - hell - necessary in 99% of cases. It's just that realism must be tempered with fun. Who wants to pay money just to get their ass handed to them again, and again, and again...

The game industry's immaturity, Part The First - yeah, boobs are nice. I like boobs, just ask my wife. But the fascination shown toward them by developers and artists is nothing short of insane. Most common offence: man standing in full armour, next to woman wearing a chainmail bikini.

The game industry's immaturity, Part The Second - y'know, software engineering has come a long, long way since the early days of hacking out code and shipping it. The games industry's approach, however, has taken on precisely two aspects of quality engineering - patching and beta testing. Patches are now an accepted - even welcomed - part of releasing games. That's just wrong. Worse, beta testing is seen as the be-all and end-all of the test process. Released a beta? Testing's all done now! Those of you who take the time to find my profession will understand my hatred of such attitudes.

I think there's some disagreement betwixt your first and second points, Kindling. After all, would we bother to send Mario in against all those hammer-throwing, fire-breathing, turtle-backed dragons if the Mushroom Princess wasn't such a dish?

You know, I used to like preorders, back in the day when it was just the insanely obsessive gamers like myself who shopped at the store often enough that they would allow me to reserve a game ahead of time in a show of goodwill for their most loyal customers.  They'd have a guaranteed sale since they knew I'd be buying it anyway, and that if I couldn't find it there, I would buy it elsewhere rather than patiently waiting for their second shipment.

However, now the preorder system is a marketing tool, rather than an actual reward for the loyal customers.  When you sell out of your 5 non-preordered copies of a game while the pre-ordered ones for lazy customers languish under your cabinet for a week, you're just losing out on sales you would otherwise have.  I'd be interested in seeing how many preorders are actually forgotten about by customers who were talked into it months earlier.

So yeah, in philosophy and the way they used to be handled, preorders were great.  Now, it's just one more retail obstacle to deal with.  (Anyone remember the preorder madness that came with Zelda: Ocarina of Time?)

One great day in gaming for me was when I went into Funcoland to buy twisted metal.

"Did you preorder it?"


"Sorry, we don't have any."

Okay, I walked three doors down to Target and bought the game. In the very same strip mall.

I then returned to the game store and showed him my purchase.

"Do you see a problem here?" I asked him.
He babeled some nonsense. I walked out. I continued to shop there, but he never tried talking me into preording again.

A fair point. However, I see your Mario and raise you Edison Trent, who I took through sundry rogues and others of a piratical persuasion with no need of sexual gratification as a reward.

Except Junko was hot, natch.