Not so long ago I wrote a blog about what I thought were the ten most overrated and overused things in gaming. I can be overly negative towards.. well, everything, so instead of continuing on with that today I’m going to be looking at ten things I do like in gaming. It’s not going to be underrated or underused things, so not a direct opposite of what I wrote before, more things I just enjoy and things (despite how much or little they’re used), I’d like to see more of. Again, agree, disagree, just don’t hurt me for my choices.Those who know me most likely know already what my number one will be, but as tradition dictates, we must start at the bottom and work our way up, so here goes, ten things an eternal pessimist actually likes.
10 - Lore
It doesn’t have to be deep, it doesn’t have to be original, it doesn’t even have to be good, if I’m honest; I just like a game I’m playing to have purpose and reason, and a somewhat established world. Random character standing over there in the corner of the room? I’d like him to have a background, even if it’s just that he’s in the room because it’s cold outside. I like things to have reason, but going even further it’s why I enjoy RPG’s, most all of them have extensive lore and I often find myself playing something like Morrowind or Skyrim, Dragon Age or The Old Republic, and reading in-game more than playing them. Feed me lore!
9 - Freedom
Now I know some games absolutely have to be restricted to suit their purpose and that’s fine, I wouldn’t dare admonish a game for being focused, and on the flip-side I get very easily bored of games like Grand Theft Auto where the idea is to do what you like. By freedom I mean freedom within your means; take for example, as a game I’ve been playing a lot recently, Skyrim. Not completely open as there are many invisible walls blocking your path outward, but within the designed map I can go where I like. See a mountain seemingly miles away? Screw your fast travel, me and my horse Allie are running over to it and climbing it to see if there’s anything there. In a more confined arrangement, a game like The Longest Journey - very static environments but I have the ability to click on almost anything that looks interesting and get an action/reaction/explanation with it, instead of just story-related items. A little freedom goes a long way and I like it.
8 - Levelling up
What’s that? I mentioned the exact same thing before and called it overused? That’s right, I did. I also like it when it’s used properly and within context. Call of Duty can go away with its weapons rewards, I don’t want to be given a new gun for killing a certain amount of people and gaining a rank. What I do want is a game like, for example, Final Fantasy, where I start off weak as hell and gain new ability and power over time as I beat enemies and grow as a character. I can’t recall my nameless soldier in Call of Duty getting new guns as he grew as a character, only that they gave me new guns for no reason other than to prolong my play-time, which didn’t work.
7 - Health packs
Yes! Give me health packs, lots of health packs! Take your regenerating health and shove it, well, you know where. Where’s the tension in a shooter when you have to run from a powerful enemy to hide behind a rock to regrow the arm you just lost and get rid of the jam on your screen? Nowhere, it sucks. Instead I’d want to run for my life with a sliver of health and think out a strategy to see if I could beat this powerful fellow with that sliver of health, if I can’t, I’m not good enough, I’ll reload to a previous save and start over, with a different strategy. I don’t want to hide, get full health for free and get back into the fight, but if I happened across those magic red-cross boxes it gives me a feeling of relief and hope that I can still win the fight. I want to sweat and panic as I hear the enemy following me and there’s every chance a bullet to the toe would be enough to kill me. I’m not claiming it’s more realistic to heal a bullet to the nose with a med-pack I ran over instead of it magically regenerating, but for me, it’s a hell of a lot more fun.
6 - Mods
I was going to put this higher on the list, but here will suffice. I love mods, all kinds, even if they are terrible and butcher my beloved lore in a game, like the lightsabers in Skyrim. However I love people having the ability to do these things (the most I could do was some light remodelling in Dragon Age), as it extends the game beyond mere expansions people are otherwise forced to buy if they want new content for a game. Taking Skyrim again, if there were no mods, the only new content since release would be Dawnguard, and the amount of time you can get from that will quickly disappear meaning you’re left with nothing new to do again; however I’ve been to the land of the Khajiit, Elsweyr, I’ve been in new dungeons, fought mythical beasts in the sea with the aid of my own ship’s cannons and fought a giant mudcrab with a top hat and a monocle, because I can.
5 - Episodes
Over the last year or so I’ve played a lot of games that were released in episodic form, something I really didn’t like beforehand thanks to Half Life and the never appearing Episode 3. It’s like a TV show you absolutely adore but it loses four viewers, the station thinks it’s a bomb and you never get a resolution because they cancel it. However when it’s done right it’s a very good thing. The Dream Machine, The Walking Dead and Tales of Monkey Island are my best examples, with each episode ending on a cliff hanger of sorts, leaving you wanting to go on to the next one immediately, and since you can’t, you’re left thinking of what’s going to happen when you continue. Actually releasing the next episode and letting you continue makes them work. Not releasing the next episode does not work. Valve, take note.
4 - Optional Content
This is a big one for me. I’ll mainly say I enjoy it in RPG’s and adventure games more than anything else, but if you have it in your game, you’re getting plus points from me. Hell, if you make the bonus content hidden and I have to work for it, you’ll get all of the points from me. Something like Final Fantasy X, the Dark Aeons are there for you to go back and kill (if you can), but it’s never a directive. They aren’t once mentioned before you find one by chance, and unless you’re already ridiculous powerful, it’ll add more game time grinding to actually take them on. The Dark Aeon’s and the other assorted hidden goodies, like weapons, extended my playthrough from around 100 hours of just exploring the linear gameworld to well over 200+. Broken Sword also has this, in a much lighter form, of course. Adding approximately five minutes more game time in Broken Sword 2, I gave a ghost an out-of-date chocolate bar, which let me go down a tunnel I couldn’t before, and met a character from one of Revolutions older games in all his pixely glory. I loved it.
3 - Occasional Stupidity
This might be an odd choice given I mentioned how big a lore-hound I am earlier, but I mean stupidity in a lore-friendly manner. My best example and one of my favourite moments in gaming comes from Morrowind. I’m wandering along quite happily exploring, when I hear a sudden scream. I thought someone was being attacked, I quickly turn around only to see someone fall out of the sky. Just falling out of the sky, utterly ridiculous to see. But on closer inspection it had a reason. Reading his journal revealed the falling man was a mage who had created a new spell to allow flight, turns out it didn’t last as long as he thought and he plummeted to his death. I then took the three remaining scrolls he had on him and proceeded to fly aimlessly around the world for as long as it would let me. Stupidity equals brilliance, in this case.
2 - Something From Nothing
Skyrim will once again be my example. Apologies. With Dawnguard’s recent PC release I’ve been on it a hell of a lot again recently, so it’s fresh in my mind. You’re wandering, exploring as you do, and you fight a really nasty undead.. thing. Once it’s finally been defeated you loot the remains, obviously. On him you find a really cool looking mask with some pretty decent stats, so on it goes. You’re now officially a bad ass. 20 some hours later and you’ve forgotten all about it, the mask is just a part of your appearance now. Then you happen across a ruin in the mountains. Turns out that mask you found 20 hours ago has a purpose, an entire quest attached to it, there are more masks. Quite a few more, and now you have to find them. Something from seemingly nothing. Excellent stuff, more things like this are needed in games.
1 - LOOT
Yes, it’s obvious. Everything should have loot. Everything. To this day I still regularly play Titan Quest to uncover a particular rare piece of loot. It’s kept me off new games for months at a time and has been a constant goal of mine, and I will get it one day. Not only does it give me something to work for, loot in general adds a massive amount of replayability to containing games; the constant need to go on to find new/better equipment and gear. It’s what drives a-RPG’s and to an extent, MMO’s, those two genres are pretty popular, right? Every game developer out there, listen, add loot to your game. I’ll love you forever.