"Gears of War has Zero Innovation"

Without multiplayer, GoW is an 8, maybe. The campaign is just too short. 6 hours on the first playthrough, if you're good at these sorts of games. Honestly, even taking into account Legion's perspective, that's just unacceptable. There seems to be this trendy idea among some developers that it's better to have a short good game than a long one that overstays its welcome. You know what's even better? A long good game. Look at Resident Evil 4.

Morrolan wrote:

There seems to be this trendy idea among some developers that it's better to have a short good game than a long one that overstays its welcome. You know what's even better? A long good game. Look at Resident Evil 4.

Doubleplustrue, especially in games like GoW or Halo that rely on the "thirty seconds of fun gameplay repeated" design philosophy. If the developers have done their job right and really nailed those thirty seconds then I'll play a hundred hour campaign. I've probably put a hundred hours into Halo's campaigns, and would put in another hundred if I hadn't already memorized every enemy location.

... or Oblivion.

I do get the point. Personally, I prefer the content to be episodic -- not necesarily drawn out, but in digestible chunks of a few hours each. I REALLY hate games that are 30+ hours long where you feel like "god I just have to finish to find out what the frack is going on, but I'm tired of the game."

rabbit wrote:

... or Oblivion.

I do get the point. Personally, I prefer the content to be episodic -- not necesarily drawn out, but in digestible chunks of a few hours each. I REALLY hate games that are 30+ hours long where you feel like "god I just have to finish to find out what the frack is going on, but I'm tired of the game."

I think what you're not pleased with is the pacing, the prototypical RPG syndrome. Otherwise I suggest you just stop playing games whenever you feel like it. There's no penalty for not getting to the end, and I promise the stories are never ever ever worth it.

EDIT: I have to agree with the preference for episodic, though. I want my games in one to one and a half hour chunks, with as many of those chunks as can fit on a disc, please. Halo 2's and GoW's streaming, levelless structure may improve pacing a bit, but hinders one's ability to sit down and ask, "Which level will I play right now?" The new seamless level trend makes picking an entry point weird, like you're starting a movie half way through.

Yeah, I do stop playing when I want to, it's the lack of closure... Like oblivion for instance. Love it. Probably put 80 hours in (i'd just have to look) and I feel like it won't end -- there won't be a point where I can say "OK, so, that's chapter 1"

In GoW, it's "act" structure works pretty well. The checkpoints are logical, not just texture load based, and the acts are distinct and meaningful -- different foci, tasks, feel, skills. I haven't played singleplayer through yet, but I can already tell I'd be a sucker for 800 point ad on content.

Morrolan wrote:

Without multiplayer, GoW is an 8, maybe. The campaign is just too short. 6 hours on the first playthrough, if you're good at these sorts of games. Honestly, even taking into account Legion's perspective, that's just unacceptable. There seems to be this trendy idea among some developers that it's better to have a short good game than a long one that overstays its welcome. You know what's even better? A long good game. Look at Resident Evil 4.

I can't think of a shooter that hasn't expended its bag of tricks once it hits the 8-hour mark. Even a great FPS like HL2 only had 8 or so hours worth of great content, and the rest was basically filler. If Gears hits 6-8 hours on the first time through with a consistent level of intensity and general awesomeness, I will certainly feel like I've got my money's worth, even without the co-op.

Of course, I beat Max Payne 2 four times, so maybe there's just something wrong with me.

I had a few friends over today and we played in co-op on hardcore. It was awesome and then we've reached the first boss fight. At this point awesome just doesn't cut it.

This guy can kiss my french canadian ass. This game deserves all the praise it gets.

I have to agree with Podunk. 6 to 8 hours and having the game be enough fun to repeat those 6 to 8 hours two or three times is just about perfect for me.

I'm already halfway through my second shot on GoW

You're saying you'd rather play the same 6 hours three times, than 18 unique ones? :\ Gears of War couldn't have been an 18 hour game, but 10, even 12, would have been very doable. I guess if you're going to charge an extra 10 dollars for your game, you should probably not go ahead and reduce the length. Game devs love to talk about dollars-per-hour value in gaming. Well, I paid 75 dollars Canadian, after tax. I got a 6 hour campaign. The equals about 12 bucks an hour. I pay roughly 5.50 per hour for a movie at the theatre.

I guess what made the length (or lack thereof ;)) so painful here, beyond just the price of the game, was how incredibly rushed the story seemed. The first half proceeds at a nice, logical pace. Then, all of a sudden, everything happens at once. To the point where I really had no God damn idea what was going on, a couple of times. Bomb? Train? "It came from the land of left field!"

I honestly believe Gears of War should have been a 10-12 hour game, but he potential for a sequel caused them to rip out some of the content that could be used to quickly hammer together a GoW2. The missing chunks are just too decisive. I mean, CliffyB was all excited about Marcus returning home being a big emotional moment, but I don't even know WHAT THE HELL that was all about. If it had been intended to be that way, I don't think he would have mentioned it at all.

If the game hadn't felt so unbelievably disjointed and rushed, the length might not have been such a problem. But the fact is that this is a 12 hour story, told in 6.

I guess I was just too busy chainsawing things in half to notice that the characters actually said anything.

But I didn't ignore it quite so much that I missed the funny parts. It actually did get me to laugh a couple of times.

*edit*

You changed your post.

Yes I would prefer to have an 6 hour game that I like enough to replay rather than an 18 hour game. The simple fact of the matter is that it is extremely rare for me to finish a singleplayer game that takes longer than 10 hours or so. If I could even remember all the games I tried for the Xbox and never finished despite thinking they were great fun... I'd probably have a list for that one system over fifty games long. And I bet I could count the games with singleplayer campaigns that I beat on just my fingers.

kill.switch was one of my absolute favorite games on the Xbox. I beat it in just under 6 hours. I probably played through it 5 or 6 times in the time that I owned it.

On the other hand there's games like Mercenaries. It's an absolutely excellent game. Maybe one of the best available on all the last gen systems. I stopped playing it right after I finished off the first set of cards, which took maybe 10 to 12 hours. I owned it till the day I traded in all my Xbox games and never touched it again after that first week, even in all that time.

The 'hours' measurement of a game's worth is starting to bug me since these hours are created so unequally. Prey was 6-8 hours of the same boring halls, the same unsuprising portal appearances and a few interesting moments popped in. I will never be interested in playing that game again.

I wish 'bang for your buck' could be quantified. If I spent $60 on Prey I would have been sorely disappointed. 6-8 hours spent on a fairly dull game that I only finished due to the obligation I felt. I've only spent 5 hours or so on Gears. Played the first 2 hours twice and played some online and it was 5 hours of great fun.

FFX and Oblivion could be argued to be the same relative 'length' but 20+ hours of watching Meg Ryan try to get the girl just isnt as fun as Oblivion's hacking and slashing and sexy vistas and brutal Dark Brotherhood missions. Bang for the buck man.

There are two sets of comments here I do not get, as a gamer. One, I do not get that a game has to be innovative to be good. Not alot of innovation on the shelf as I see it, but plenty of worthwhile ways of frittering some hours away.

Next, I don't get brevity. I would rather have 5 hours of sublime gaming, than 40+ hours of padding.

Then again, what do I know. I am hooked on WoW, which is neither innovative, nor brief.

I think you're missing an important point from the original panel.

It's a great observation that a game such as GoW doesn't need to be innovative in order to be successful. It's "sufficient" for it to be highly polished, have high production values, and be just plain old fun.

Which is an interesting rebuttal to the "innovation is king" dogmatists. Sure, innovation has its place, but higher innovation != better gameplay.

mateo wrote:

Next, I don't get brevity. I would rather have 5 hours of sublime gaming, than 40+ hours of padding.

Well, sure, when you put it like that. But remove the "of padding" and try that question again. And games don't have to be 40 hours. Just more than 6. You're saying that if Gears were a 12 hour game, maintaining its level of quality throughout, you'd like that LESS than the game, as it is now? You all seem to have bought into the line that only short games can maintain a high standard of quality, and not be chocked with filler. That's simply not true.

Look, the 10 dollar price hike on 360 games is to offset development costs, but it's supposed to be because "next gen" offers something more. Not better graphics, that's what I paid 400 dollars for the console for; I'm not also paying 10 dollars more on every game for that same reason. That 10 dollars is supposed to be there because "next gen" is supposed to be great, and better in every way. And what did I get for my 75 dollars? A very fun six hour game. Unacceptable. If you don't have XBox Live, Gears of War is simply not worth buying. Epic doesn't deserve your money for it. It's a renter, because it IS very fun, and you should be showing off its pretties to all your friends. But it's a SIX hour game. Whether you describe the quality as sublime, scrumptious or delerious, that just not worth 75 dollars. At all.

Now, if you DO have XBL, I'd say it's a no-brainer buy, of course.

Morrolan wrote:
mateo wrote:

Next, I don't get brevity. I would rather have 5 hours of sublime gaming, than 40+ hours of padding.

Well, sure, when you put it like that. But remove the "of padding" and try that question again. And games don't have to be 40 hours. Just more than 6. You're saying that if Gears were a 12 hour game, maintaining its level of quality throughout, you'd like that LESS than the game, as it is now? You all seem to have bought into the line that only short games can maintain a high standard of quality, and not be chocked with filler. That's simply not true.

Look, the 10 dollar price hike on 360 games is to offset development costs, but it's supposed to be because "next gen" offers something more. Not better graphics, that's what I paid 400 dollars for the console for; I'm not also paying 10 dollars more on every game for that same reason. That 10 dollars is supposed to be there because "next gen" is supposed to be great, and better in every way. And what did I get for my 75 dollars? A very fun six hour game. Unacceptable. If you don't have XBox Live, Gears of War is simply not worth buying. Epic doesn't deserve your money for it. It's a renter, because it IS very fun, and you should be showing off its pretties to all your friends. But it's a SIX hour game. Whether you describe the quality as sublime, scrumptious or delerious, that just not worth 75 dollars. At all.

Now, if you DO have XBL, I'd say it's a no-brainer buy, of course. :)

I don't have an Xbox360, so whether I would buy a Gears is neither here nor there, but you do make a good point: you are supposed to get something for your money.

To me, $60 for 6 solid hours, no cruft, no filler, OMG I need to play it again type gameplay...well that's worth it to me.

And you are right, 12 hours of no filler gameplay would have been better, but how many game companies can actually do that these days?

I mean, I enjoyed 90% of Halo, but Bungie dropped the ball on several levels. Valve stooped to a couple of jumping puzzles late in HL2 that were crap, then followed it up with a short update that had as much meat on it's bones as Pirates of the Carribean II (not very much).

What I am getting at is that while shorter != better, longer games tend to allow designers to fall asleep at the design wheel instead of maintaining the quality of the other levels in the game.

Now, as for that $10 extra per game....that's what they think they can get away with-saying it offsets development costs is, in a word, hooey.

Every single game company is clamoring for a piece of the console pie-PC gaming sure isn't where the money is (unless you are EA, THQ, or Blizzard).

Sony and Microsoft can push game development costs back on the developers, so unless they are trying to recover some of the console development costs, it's a tax on the console owner.

About 2 years ago, there were some minor news stories that said that developers couldn't make enough at the $40 level, then the $50 level...costs have gone up, true, but there are fewer and fewer platforms to develop for, fewer and fewer independent game companies that can complain about not having economies of scale. Combine that with very little actual innovative game design or game development being pursued outside of vanity projects like Spore, and costs should be going down, but developers and publishers keep saying they can't do it for that price due, not because games are more expensive to produce (games have always been expensive to produce as a percentage of company revenue), but due to enormous levels of debt and poor management.

With the next gen titles, they can take advantage of the game consumer, and they are doing it. I think some of the hatred of Sony around the PS3 is showing that gamers aren't as dumb as corporations think, but people will still be fighting over that last PS3 on the shelf this Christmas.

Morrolan wrote:

All the stuff he's been saying.

I agree completely. At the very last minute, Epic decided to tarnish their masterpiece to "leave questions unanswered" and basically make the game more vague than it should have been.

I don't even know what Marcus' family is like. Or was. Did he have a wife, kids, etc? He just has a big house, never even talked about it. I mean, beings half the game was snappy, well written and acted chatter in between gunfights, you would think they would've, y'know, told us what that was all about.

Basically - EA sucks a bag of c*cks and should shut up and make a good game before even talking about innovation. And Epic gets to suck one for their scalpel put to GoW.

Good conversation here, everyone.

Wait, you mean, there's someone out there with an Xbox that DOESN'T have Xbox Live?

Wow.

I'm only 20 percent smarmy dick when I say this but: it never even OCCURED to me that someone would by a game like GoW with no intention owhatsoever of playing multiplayer. I've burned off at least 12 hours of my life to GoW already, only about one or two in single player (and I keep doing the same sections coop). I guess I would agree that if my entire experience with this game, front to back, was 6 hours, I'd be annoyed. Of course, it would REALLY only cost me about 20 because I could flip it on ebay for 40, but hey, who's counting.

On the subject of pacing, game length, and game developer intentions, David Sirlin wrote an article on this subject about a month ago. The article itself is good, but the discussion that takes place in the comments solidifies the points even more.

Morrolan wrote:

Game devs love to talk about dollars-per-hour value in gaming.

I think you're getting game devs confused with internet crybabies.

Morrolan wrote:

[You all seem to have bought into the line that only short games can maintain a high standard of quality, and not be chocked with filler. That's simply not true.

In theory, you're right, it's not true. But can you name a modern AAA FPS-style scripted single-player shooter that was longer than 8 hours (which most people seem to be saying Gears on 'hardcore' will take you) that had no filler content, and was consistently excellent and riveting the whole way through? I can't, and I play just about every shooter to come down the pipeline.

All of the best single player shooters of the past few years--and there's no point in looking at older shooters, because the brevity of modern games has partly to do with the demands of creating "next-gen" AAA content--have either been short or had stretches of egregious filler, and that includes both Halo games, Half Life 2, Far Cry, FEAR, CoD2, Max Payne 2, etc. The longest of the bunch there is Half Life 2, which had sections of filler and also, not coincidentally, spent a good five plus years in development.

In theory you can have a long game, chock full of quality content, but it's really yet to be achieved in this genre in a modern game because a) FPS fans expect new titles to have gorgeous envelope-pushing graphics b) those graphics require lots and lots of man-hours to achieve. The longer a developer takes developing content like that, the more the engine ages and the less sexy their game looks in comparison to competing games rolling out. Gameplay is king, but in this genre the production values are equally important to selling games, and not every developer is sitting on a grillion dollar war chest like Valve: these guys need to sell games. Also, Gears is supposed to be the holiday killer app for 360, so there was additional time pressure on Epic from that deadline.

Given all those considerations, I think Gears is a monster. They've raised the bar for visuals, the single player campaign--although arguably brief--has ridiculous replay value, and the multiplayer is masterfully done. That's worth my $60. If you don't have Live, okay, I can see how the game would have less value, but that's not Epic's fault.

Podunk.. man..

Get out of my mind. Really. Just get out.

Morrolan wrote:

Well, sure, when you put it like that. But remove the "of padding" and try that question again. And games don't have to be 40 hours. Just more than 6. You're saying that if Gears were a 12 hour game, maintaining its level of quality throughout, you'd like that LESS than the game, as it is now?

I suppose it could come down to which you would rather have: 6 hours of GoW now, or 12 hours with an extra year(+) of development?

That's why they invented downloadable content, Chum.

First, GoW was well worth my $60. I really planned on waiting to pick it up, but the early reviews were so good, I just succumbed to it. No regrets what so ever.

I am hoping, though, that they release some improvements in the multiplayer. A lobby like we have in Halo 2 would be a HUGE improvement. I'd also like to see some better game variations. For GoW to have the same legs as Halo 2 online, they really need these improvements. I have my doubts about how readily people will still be online in February if we are still trying to figure out how to get our friends in the game, and are still playing what is basically a small scrimmage over and over. A great scrimmage to be sure, but pretty basic. People are really using this time to figure out how to use these game mechanics, but in time, some new games would be great.

Obviously some patches to fix the connection issues and voice communixcation should come, but I would hope they tweak the online component a bit. Hopefully that will not be an expansion pack.

An idle thought:
It's interesting to contemplate what procedural content could do to the production values <-> manhours equation summarized so aptly by Podunk. I don't think we'll see an end to scripted sequences any time soon, but imagine a world where a level designer can plonk down a believable forest or a delerict building with the same effort creating a brick would currently take.

Thin_J wrote:

Podunk.. man..

Get out of my mind. Really. Just get out.

Dude, I hear you. I even had the same experience with Mercenaries, except I haven't traded it in yet.

rabbit wrote:

Wait, you mean, there's someone out there with an Xbox that DOESN'T have Xbox Live?

Wow.

I'm only 20 percent smarmy dick when I say this but: it never even OCCURED to me that someone would by a game like GoW with no intention owhatsoever of playing multiplayer. I've burned off at least 12 hours of my life to GoW already, only about one or two in single player (and I keep doing the same sections coop). I guess I would agree that if my entire experience with this game, front to back, was 6 hours, I'd be annoyed. Of course, it would REALLY only cost me about 20 because I could flip it on ebay for 40, but hey, who's counting.

I really don't care about multiplayer. I used to compete in FPS tourneys to the point of almost total burnout on the genre. So I'm one of those people that bought it mostly for the single player campaign and the co-op is just icing on the cake. I am very happy with my purchase, I figure that I will probably play the single player through a few times at least, probably more with co-op. Definately worth the $70 I paid for the CE.

NemesisZero wrote:

An idle thought:
It's interesting to contemplate what procedural content could do to the production values <-> manhours equation summarized so aptly by Podunk. I don't think we'll see an end to scripted sequences any time soon, but imagine a world where a level designer can plonk down a believable forest or a delerict building with the same effort creating a brick would currently take.

Procedural content is super-difficult. Now designers can't manipulate the content directly to get the feel they want, they have to manipulate the algorithms that generate the content and try to get the feel they want.

The extra level of indirection makes it hard, unless 1. the system is transparently easy to use, or 2. the users have very clear understanding of how the generation algorithms work. In practice, systems that are being continuously developed satisfy neither requirement.

which is part of why programmer/artists or 'technical artists' are worth their weight in gold dubloons.