Man, heard some painfully awkward "interviews" on the radio this week, while driving to one of our harvesters. Not about Joe Frazier puffing his last smoke, Conrad Murray doing magic with medicines, or Papandreou souvlaki. No, it was about how gamers slept in front of the stores, waiting for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. It's mindboggling when 55 year old people, technically left behind in the Nintendo Entertain System 8 bit era, start asking. "So this video-computer-game is about shooting other puppets with the mouse?". Even more facepalming might be the reactions from hyper enthusiast 16 year old CoD "veterans" explaining what a first-person-shooter is, using modern English generation-X words the interviewer never heard about. Online avatar? Deathmatch? Lagging problems? Shader graphics? 100 frags? LOL?!
Maybe what strikes me most is that this is about CoD in specific. C'mon man, it's just a game. A polished, good looking, action packed one. But really nothing new. When fans told the interviewer about how freak'n realistic this new game is, I frowned my butt crack and had to check my ears. Wha-wha-what?! CoD, Realistic? That's like saying "Cowboy tobacco" and "Whale sperm cells" in one sentence; it has nothing to do with each other. Oh, of course this game *looks* realistic, the visuals are excellent. But isn't this also that game where you kill more (dumb) men you can count, and re-spawn 10 meters back within 5 seconds if you got "fragged"? Imagine that would happen in a Afghanistan...
Yes, I fired a couple of real guns in my life, read the real "Band of Brothers" biography book, watched Ross Kemp almost shitting his pants for Taliban gunfire, seen the Seals on Natgeo, and more important, played Hidden & Dangerous 1 and 2. And let me tell you: you certainly can't kill a helicopter with a tomahawk (axe, the rocket might actually work):
Youtube Modern Warfare helicopter fun
Not only CoD is guilty. Battlefield 3 is inbound dudes. So I watched some in-game footage where a boy and girl had some coop-fun. 5 minutes later, the duo had killed an entire army, caught about 40 bullets without dying, blew up a few tanks that didn't pay attention to them running around with dangerous Javelins, and popped one after another enemy as if aiming a gun is childsplay. And don't get me started on the online features. In theory, you can play a realistic, tactical game. In practice, everyone is running into each other like a Braveheart battle. Cause you don't care about your virtual gamelife anyway. Hence, you re-spawn 5 seconds later after you crashed your helicopter after a tomahawk incident. Realism, my ass.
Those milky Lighting-only testshots always kick-ass. Maybe we should't use (diffuse) textures in this game. Saves a lot of work. The hell with realism.
So, maybe ARMA II is what this old whiner needs. Urr... Much harder, check. Lots of factors to count in, check. Big open maps, check. Realistic weapon ballistics, check. Teamwork needed, check. No stupid re-spawn/regain system, thank God check. Fun... Oh, that's because a real war isn't fun either of course. Truly a realistic game indeed.
Why are the realistic, more serious games so painful? Navigating a soldier is more complicated than doing an emergency belly slide with a Boeing 767 in Warsaw. You need 2 keyboards and 4 big handles mounted on your chair just to move the legs. Why are the graphics mediocre? Why is the A.I. even more dull than in most other action games? Why does such games always contain bugs like getting hit by bullets that went through a mountain, or falling through the floor? You can say a lot about CoD or Battlefield, but at least their mechanics are smooth and slick.
Isn't there a good tradeoff? Well yes there is. Or was, I should say. The last title in this series was released in 2002 I believe. We’re talking about Hidden & Dangerous. Damn I wish they made a new part. That game was stiff and didn't had the brightest opponents either. But at least you were afraid of tanks instead of running into them, throwing grenades. Killing guards, disabling MG42's, sniping patroulles or destroying armored vehicles really felt like an accomplishment. A little more recent example of a well balanced game (in my opinion) is Far Cry. Looked good, plenty action, but also using your brains was rewarding in this title.
Obviously, taste differs and personally I prefer a game somewhere in the middle. It needs to be challenging, realistic, but neither a true simulator. Admit it, killing a helicopter with an axe is pretty cool, and a good laugh is also worth a penny. I think my main beef with these games, is that they are too easy; you simply can’t die anymore! CoD, Crysis, and many others have that auto-regain system and otherwise auto-saves every 20 yards. Or how about Bioshock? You didn't even had to redo stuff after getting killed in that game, the dead remained dead, and you kept all your weapons / ammo. Beautiful game, but not a challenge if you ask me. But challenge does not have to equal realism through.
What is realism anyway, asides from good graphics/sound/physics? Would CoD be more fun if you had to stop and take a crap every six (game)hours? Would Battlefield be better if you need to refuel your Jeep before you blow yourself up 2 minutes later? Would Silent Hill be more fun if the player stumbles over random obstacles while running away from a monster? Would Mario be a good game if that (fat) plumber just jumps 60 centimeters high like you and me? Is a boxing-game good if both boxers hang tired in each other arms every 20 seconds? Could Doom be spiced by only carrying 2 weapons and limited ammunition? Would the Sims be cooler if those bastards sleep 8 real-life hours? Would Tower22 be more immersive if the handyman would smoke and drink beer in the bench every day after work?
Games need to be fun in the first place right? If physical rules have to be thrown overboard, then so be it. If it requires 60 dumb soldiers to shoot per minute to keep the player excited, then so be it. Although I wouldn't call my games "realistic" in those cases, it's perfectly fine to do the impossible. Why else would we need games or movies for? You don't say Superman is lame just because he can fly. In fact, implementing realistic features only works out if it actually adds fun to the game. Though in my opinion, modern games removed too much elements just to make games easier and thus accessible for everyone (=$$$), you play a game to escape from reality. Not to eat bread and tying your shoelaces on the TV again.
Ok, the reason for these white shots was testing a simplified ambient method. I'm still fooling around with a realtime G.I. method, but since my laptop doesn't have that much graphical horsepower, I tried a simple method for lower end cards (and distant area's). Each vertex here has 3 pre-calculated ambient-occlusion values: Sky-occlusion, Ground-occlusion and Environment-occlusion. Depending on these 3 factors and 3 colors, the ambient will be calculated. Since we do this per vertex, it's wise to subdivide your geometry a bit (forgot that here).
How realistic will T22 be then? In the first place, T22 needs to be scary. And easy games just aren't scary. So don't expect you can kill a monster with 5 headshots in a row. That's why I never really understood the negative comments on the camera-angles, limited ammo, and stiff controls in (old) Resident Evils. What do you expect? Rushing through the mansion like Duke Nukem? Oh wait, they actually listened to the fans, and changed these points in RE4 / 5. Quality fun games, but scary? No.
Other than in many other genres, human shortcomings such as a limited stamina, fear or not being able to do Chuck Norris roundhouse kicks, are valid (realistic) limitations. Just as long as the game doesn't start feeling unfair. You need to escape or defend yourself, but certainly not in a too easy way! Testing and tweaking the rules should become an important development phase later on. The goal is to create some "Holy shit barely survived that!" moments.
As you may have read, you won't be confronting monsters all the time though. How to fill the gaps then? Another oddity of horror games (and movies) is that it doesn't have to be a funride. When looking purely at gameplay, Silent Hill is pretty boring actually. You don't play it cause it feels so good. You play it cause you want to find the clues, and cause you like to test your heartbeat. I don't want to make excuses though, so we'll try to add some "fun" by doing focusing more on exploration and puzzle braincrackers. As for realistic elements, a day-night cycle, sleeping and maybe even eating are floating in the idea clouds indeed. But it needs to be integrated in such a way that it feels necessary, not an annoying repeat, and enhances the way how puzzles or confrontations can be solved. If it doesn't, the feature should be scrapped.
But yeah, Tower22 is probably not the type of game everyone will enjoy ;) Maybe the comments on CoD are just out of jealousy ;) Asides from bums, I don't expect people to sleep in front of the stores when(if) T22 finally comes out. It doesn't matter though: we'll make what whatever we please, not what sells. And isn't that the essence of making innovative, good stuff?