Monday, November 03, 2008

Look and Learn game developers

I succumbed to picking up Fallout 3 on Saturday, the figurine edition; just too weak-willed I suppose ;-). I joked with the girl in Game that it was annoying that you couldn't get the collector's edition with the figurine and she agreed, but replied that it was "a Game exclusive" which suggests she didn't quite get what I meant.

Anyway after swearing at myself in Bioshock for accidentally over-writing the Auto-Save again I decided to call it a night, but before I packed up I'd just stick the new game in so it could do its install and I'd be ready to play it straight away the next day.

Disc went in, game loaded and warned me about turning off the console while the hard-drive light (that I can't see as it's at floor level) is flashing and I sat through the opening movie giving the background to the game world.

The screen then turned white with some red stains splashing and I found myself in a hospital looking at a doctor in mask and gown. This was the first stage of character creation - sex, name, and future appearance. I played with the latter until I was satisfied then found myself as a toddler learning to walk and manipulate objects and finally using a points system to enhance my natural attributes.

Then age 10 I'm at my birthday party and learn how to use my PIP-boy information screen and how to shoot; 16 and I take an aptitude test and can pick three skills to enhance.

At 19 I'm woken up to find my father has headed out of the enclave and the Overseer is after me; I too escape out into the wilderness and find myself wandering about outside.

Yeah I found myself a lot further into the game then installing it, in fact you'll notice that at no time was my game interrupted except for the five second loads between some areas I didn't even bother to mention. Does Fallout 3 stream everything from the disc? I flicked back to the menu and found it had deposited 5Gb worth of data onto my hard-drive without me noticing.

That's right the data installation took place at the same time as the introduction. Every other PS3 game I've got that installs data makes you sit there and watch it churn before you can do anything; this one didn't and I'm loving it already just for that one fact.


Anonymous said...

I am reminded of Battlezone (the 90's Activision one, not the old arcade one), which, while you waited for it to install, played you a radio news report giving the in-game background: the US and USSR fighting over the space race, hints of a new, secret space army, prominent space researchers going missing, and meteor showers. It was very atmospheric. It's a shame, really - they did these good things in the installer, the manual, and the in-game object descriptions, but the plot of the missions didn't make enough of this background.

On the other hand, I'm playing Metroid Prime: Hunters at the moment, and while most of the in-game plot is in text descriptions of objects you can 'scan', leaving the missions pretty straightforward, they make the game interface and controls integrate well in a smooth way: so, saving the game is just another one of your ship's controls; moving between maps is done by flying your ship there; etc. They even managed to make the tiny DS screen a part of the experience by drawing the HUD such that it feels like you're peering out of your spacesuit's face plate: its annoyingly small fov feels like a limitation within the game more than an irritation of the software. It's very slick.

FlipC said...

Ah the 90's were when I switched over to consoles on the grounds that when I bought a game I knew it would work.

A possibly apocryphal story (perhaps via p.o.t.) has it that the reason we don't have mini games during installation is that someone holds the patent for it. I suppose being able to play the game during installation is a way of getting around that :-). Hmm wasn't it one of the Halo games that allowed you to play it directly from the CD/DVD while it installed?

In respect to game GUIs they are getting better in terms of retaining immersion; although most still seem to insist that saving, loading and changing other options will always throw you to an option screen. Even Fallout3 doesn't implement those things via the PIP-Boy wrist mounted device. which seems an odd choice given its nature.

I think the rise of consoles had a part to play in that. With the lack of screen real-estate and triggers, you needed to cut out a lot of the menus and clutter; easy for the arcade beat-em-ups, but gamers started to demand more intellectually challenging games.

The progression is interesting to note if you look at the PC version of Deus Ex and compare it to the console version then then compare them to BioShock or The Darkness a definite smoothness can be perceived.