Rampant Coyote wrote a nice blog post last week that took a look at level design. It caught my attention given the old school theme of my blog lately. The map on the left is from Doom, and the map on the right is from I don’t know what, but it made me think of a Bioware game, i.e. Mass Effect and Dragon Age. At no time playing these games did I get a feeling that I was exploring a dungeon like this. I wanted to. I really did. But the Mage’s Tower in DA I was essentially a spiral path, and the Deep Roads funnel you.
I mainly resonated with Gareth Fouche, creator of the Scars of War RPG in development, who notes a trend called passive engagement. This is what I’ve been saying about the similarity of Bioware’s newer RPG’s with Heavy Rain. You’re watching the sequence of someone else’s interactive story go by instead of achieving a sense of creating your own story, which seems like the whole point of a video game format.
In the comments Fouche goes on to say: “TV shows, films, and books have a rule: Show, don’t tell.
Interactive mediums should have something similar: Do, don’t show.”
That is a great way to put it Bhlaab. Don’t get me wrong, I like a few cutscenes occasionally, to set the mood, but in general I don’t want to feel like my role as the player avatar is being overshadowed by that guy in the cutscenes, the one who looks like me but pulls off cooler moves than I can and says things I wouldn’t.
It’s strange and almost crazy to be looking forward to Saint’s Row 3 (which I just added to my Coming Soon list today) more than Mass Effect 3, but I seem to have a better role-playing experience from the open world of Saint’s Row than the trendy heavily-scripted story-based RPGs.
And still more love in the image at the left for the classic games in the form of a poll on RPG Watch.
This is a really complicated topic, but one interpretation of this is that real fans don’t like smaller, dumbed-down games*. Yes, I know Oblivion was supposedly bigger, but it seemed smaller to me due to the insta-travel (no mark and recall) and generic random dungeons. What’s your interpretation?
*“For example, all rings are just called “ring” and have a different number of stars next to it. The higher the stars, the better the ring is. Once again, for someone who loves a pure RPG, this will not be a welcome change.”–Lesbian Gamers on DA2.