christmas in october; rb3 and f3 impressions

28 10 2010

While mostly what goes into this blog is writin’ project stuff, it also counts as my personal blog. So. Personal blog entry ahoy.

I’m a gamer. I make games, I play games. I’m not very GOOD at games, due to a variety of issues (physical disability and poor reflexes, lack of ability to focus on a micromanagement level, etc) but I still love the concept of gaming and enjoy my time spent on it.

So, every year, around the end of October is my personal Christmas. It’s when all the new releases come out so mommy and daddy can snatch ’em up for their little kids. Being an adult with an actual income, I’ve long since discarded the need to wait for Giftmas; I can buy my own games when I want. My Giftmas is October.

…that said I did move two items off my personal grab list (Scribblenauts and Fallout NV) so my family would have SOMETHING to get me for the holidays. And that way, maybe Fallout NV will actually be playable by the time I get it…

This year: Rock Band 3 and Fable 3.

ROCK BAND 3

I’ve been waiting for RB3 for months now. My anticipation for this game is the stuff of legend. I lapped up every information leak from every retail store leak, learning as much as possible about the game. No surprises, of the pleasant or disappointing variety. I went in ready to rock knowing full well all the positives and all the shortcomings.

The end result is a mixed bag. I’m primarily a vocalist, who had an interest in keys since my hands are really not suited to working the guitar. I primarily play solo, because while I can get some friends in on an online session, most online play with random d-bags is not particularly productive. So, I was looking for a game that’d make the most of my expansive music library, while giving me fun instrument experiences. End results: Mixed.

On the upside, the new “tour” mode is terrific. 6-12 songs long, short blasts of gameplay. Each step along the way, you have a choice of three different setlists to play, with a perfect balance of random and structured — you pick a genre or decade, it picks the songs you play based on that plus your personal tastes. No more getting some crap song in the mix. One gloriously fun play session, start to finish.

On the downside(s)…

Sucky #1. I can’t play the keys. I’ve made a few efforts and each time met with failure. I’m not talking the 22-key “Pro Keys”, I mean even the 5-key simulated “Keys”. My fingers just do NOT mesh with this physically, as I can’t put one-finger-per-key across five keys. My brain can’t react fast enough to rapid note changes, either. Still, this is more my problem (bad crip fingers! bad!) than the game’s problem.

Sucky #2. When I go back to Vocals… I have a lot of trouble keeping combos going. I don’t know if it’s my hardware, the new vocals engine, or just my skills fading. The game doesn’t really penalize you for dropping down to Hard instead of Expert, but… I dunno. Feels like giving up if I do that.

Sucky #3. This one’s DEFINITELY the game’s problem. The online quickplay is crap warmed over. Instead of round-robin song picks per person, everybody dogpiles simultaneously into a setlist AND can remove other people’s choices. All it takes is one 12 year old jackass to fill it with nu-metal and hit PLAY. (This being xbox live… you are statistically more likely to play against a jackass than a reasonable human being.)

Sucky #4. Finally for icing on the nastycake… even my custom characters took a hit, as the entire standard ensemble for my main character is locked behind Pro Drums instrument goals I can’t complete due to lack of skill and not having bought additional cymbals. Why lock RB2 clothes behind instrument goals? Why not make new RB3 content, and lock THAT up?

Don’t get me wrong, overall it’s definitely a step up from RB2. I wouldn’t go back to that game; this is the better way to play. But I guess I was hoping for a smoother experience than I’m getting. The frustration and annoyance, the speed bumps and steps backward are really grating when all I wanna do is Rawk.

FABLE 3

Played Fable 2? Okay, you’re good to go. It’s very, very similar; they’ve streamlined some things, made others more unlock-based, but otherwise it’s a familiar game. If you liked that (I loved it) it’s gonna work for you. If not, move on.

Fable’s not really a very HARD game, at the core. It’s an action RPG with a casual bent to it, focused more on serving up fun little nuggets of combat interspersed with character customization and minigames, tugged along by a story with amusing acting and writing and not much depth. It has just enough meat of various flavors to make a tasty dish, without being particularly perfect at any one thing.

I understand once you finish overthrowing the Evil King, then things take a downhill turn as they go more sim-management and less fighty-quest. I haven’t gotten that far yet. But what I’ve done so far is fun and works nicely.

Not much more to say about it. I’m enjoying it more than RB3, but I think that’s because it has less barriers to work around, less times when they drop the ball, etc. It’s designed to hit the sweet spot of fun-per-minute-spent rather than kick your ass.

Honestly, if I was going to make a story driven RPG (which I have, back in my Neverwinter Nights days) this is the kind of game I’d make. Something that’s powered by characters, not numbers. Driven by simple action, not statistics. A game that just PLAYS rather than demands you untangle the web of its mechanics in order to get anywhere and then punishes you endlessly for doing it wrong. (…which is also why my Neverwinter Nights days are over, note. D&D kept getting in the way of what I wanted to accomplish.)

There’s a time and a place for everything, and for hardcore micromanagement, it’s “1986 on the Nintendo.” Alternatively, “1993 on the PC.” I’ve heard a lot of ‘core’ gamers bemoaning how casuals are ruining it for everybody, that games aren’t challenging anymore, blah blah. Fine; you want that, go play I Wanna Be The Guy. There’s plenty of room for everybody beyond that limited scope of what a game experience “should” be like.</flamebait>

THE TAKE HOME LESSON IS…

Hire a five year old to point out the obvious design flaws in your plan. Fix them. Give the player an experience where your herp-derp mistakes AND your attitude towards skill walls don’t get in the way of their fun.

Okay, back to gaming. I’ve got a hell of a lot going on in my life aside from gaming right now, and I intend to do my Sunday anachronauts posting. See you then.

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27 responses

28 10 2010
tozetre

re: NWN. Tsk, Twoof, you seem to have forgotten the purpose of THAC0, which is to confuse the piss out of noobs and keep them away from Our Game. You can’t sacrifice simplistic elements like playability and storytelling for deeply important things like a bogglingly complex game engine, or you’ll end up with a populist approach that includes everyone and- OHSHIT
“Feels like giving up” Dude, you paid money to have the game entertain you…

I had this really fantastic metaphor about blow jobs and biting down and Pain Is Manly, but it ended up going kind of GTAIV/Bobbit on me. But I’m sure you can see my point.

okay so maybe “fantastic” wasn’t the best adjective for that metaphor. Let’s go with “vivid.”

29 10 2010
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

“Feels like giving up” Dude, you paid money to have the game entertain you…
I know. Same justification I use to play DJ Hero on Easy; it’s fun for me on that level instead of frustrating. But I guess the difference is… I CAN play at Expert, here. It’s just that I don’t do extremely well. I do very well, but I fall short of what’s expected of an Expert level vocalist. Do I step back to Hard, knowing that? Dunno.
Your metaphors alarm me and I do not wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

29 10 2010
cmdr_zoom

May I suggest turning it down a notch until you get Back In Your Groove, at least?

29 10 2010
tozetre

No kidding. I don’t want to subscribe to my newsletter. :P
Yeah, I think I get what you mean about challenge. Again, I’d use fun as my metric. Finish on Hard and then go back to the start and play Expert? That’s how I got from Medium to Hard on guitar.

29 10 2010
tozetre

But… it goes to 11.

29 10 2010
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

I tried playing on Hard last night, and had a lot of fun. I missed maybe one phrase in 12+ songs, but I was able to actually SING them instead of being laser-beam-focused on hitting the exact pitch with the exact timing I needed.
I’m figuring once I clear the tour modes (which have rewards for five-starring and combo streaking) I can go back to expert, and if I miss phrases, What-Ever. I just don’t like the stress of knowing if I blow it, I gotta start a 12 song setlist all over again to get the reward at the end.

7 07 2011
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7 07 2011
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7 07 2011
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