November 2, 2009

DuncanR2N's Weekend Thoughts Vol. X: Things every game should do

Lately I've been thinking about ways that the game experience could be easily enhanced. Things that don't change the core gameplay at all, don't affect the storyline, done really do anything to the game itself, yet could improve the overall enjoyment of a game. Most of these things I've seen in one or two games, but for some reason, have yet to become mainstream, even though they are fantastic ideas.

Here they are in no particular order:

Re-mappable controls

For years, PC games have had customizable controls. You could map pretty much any button to anything you would want in the game. It has become the standard for PC games, but for consoles, devs haven't really caught on. Resistance was a game that really took this idea to heart. Every single function was re-mappable so you could customize the controls to function exactly how you wanted them to. This should be the standard. Giving us the ability to invert look doesn't quite cut it.

Detailed save file info

This may sound like a weird one, but I was browsing my save files in the XMB on the PS3 (PSP does this as well) and was looking at my inFamous, Batman, and MotorStorm files. On both the inFamous and Batman files, I had detailed info about my game. It told me not only the date of the save file, but how far I was in the game, some of my collection stats, what level/chapter I was on, and things like that. I looked at my MotorStorm save file and all it showed me was a date. If I'm doing cleanup, and I want to get rid of older save files, having more info on my save file is always better than nothing as it helps me to know which files to dump and which to keep. I'm a big fan of the XMB, and I really like the ability to view my save files there. You can view you save files in 360 interface as well, but it's a bit buried. The save file info on the 360 isn't as detailed as some on the PS platform , but even there, there are some save files that simple say 'Save game for XXX' and some that give you level/chapter info and time spent. More info is always better on the save file, and I can't imagine that it would be that hard to add that functionality to a game.

In-game stats tracking

With the addition of trophies/achievements to the PS3/360, many of us have gone nuts racking up all sorts kills/item pickups/completion stats or whatever it maybe in an effort to get the 100 headshot ding. Early games would keep track of these numbers under the hood, but wouldn't let the user have any idea how many more were required. Lately, a few games have gotten smart about this and it makes the experience much more worth it. Gears of War 2 proabably has the best implementation of stat tracking that I've seen yet. At any point in the game, you are able to pop up the menu and see exactly how many more Tickers you need to bash in order to get the 'Takes a Licking' achievement. For those of use that like to collect all the items/shards/orbs/flags, Gears of War 2 give you not only how many are left, but also tells you what chapter they are in so you don't waste time running around levels you've already played looking for items. inFamous should have added that to their dead-drop and shard stats so you didn't run around the entire city looking for that one last shard. A simple breakdown by district would have really been nice.

Everything you do has rewards

If a game throws stuff at me to do, there should be a reason for me doing it, and not just to get the almighty 'Ding'. The ding is nice, but I want a reward for doing it. There are a lot of games that add items to collect. Some games give you rewards when you collect the additional items, like finding feathers in God of War increases my magic meter or finding riddles in Batman helps me upgrade Batman's abilities as well as provide some fun additional Riddler dialog, as well as character trophies and character bios. Seeking out flags in Assassin's Creed was simply that, seeking out flags (yes I know that you could gain some 'sync' this way but playing through the course of the game would max your sync anyway). Basically, if I'm collecting stuff, give me a reason to do so. If you can tie it into the gameplay (like shards in inFamous or light orbs in Prince of Persia) all the better. Don't just toss in a bunch of crap to collect simply to set off my OCD.

Content beyond the game

Now for some games, this may not make sense. This point really applies to single-player focused games. And for those single-player games, providing a way to push yourself and really hone your skills on a game that you enjoy can really extend the life of a game. Games like Batman: Arkham Asylum, God of War, and Mirror's Edge all have additional challenges you can take on that highlight the core gameplay but provide a challenge beyond that of the core game. With Batman and Mirror's Edge, you get leaderboard results that allow for comparisons with the online community and (more importantly) those on your friend's list that have the game as well. Mirror's Edge even lets you pull down the ghost of your friends or others on the leaderboard so you can 'race' against them.

That's about it for now. What about you? Is there anything that you've seen a game do that you think, "Wow, everygame should do this." Let me know in the comments below.

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