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    PQ | Features | Mailbag | Nov 26, 1999
   

PQ Mailbag
Week of: 11/26/99

That Say That Shaft's A Bad Mutha..

Shut yo mouth! Yesiree, the famous (or is that infamous) PQ Mailbag is back again, bringing you the opinions of our readers on important issues in the gaming community, and making fun of people whose writing is simply incoherent. Oh, and by the way, this week, no Hellchick playing goofball to my straight man, as she's gone somewhere for the "holiday" that you Yanks call "Thanksgiving". I'm Canadian dammit, Thanksgiving was a month ago! Oh well.. saddle up!

Hellchick: Ha! HA! You thought you'd escape, my evil nemesis Spykez0r! But I am BACK, and now I'll tell you my entire evil plan before I attempt to kill you in some insanely bizarre fashion. Oh, umm, sorry...

Complex0r! Divers0r!

This week featured an editorial that is essentially a rebuttal to an editorial a couple weeks ago. Requiem let us know how important complexity and diversity are in today's games. Am I allowed to have an opinion? What's that? No? Aww, dammit.

From: Josh Wentworth
Subject: Gaming Diversity Editorial

Preach it Brotha!!
We hear ya down here. I want as many cool and interesting features as can be packed into a game.
Prefereably as configurable as possible! More weapons, different armor types (Mmmm reflective armor would be cool), different power ups, better levels! Simple games are for llamas!

Kintanon

Hellchick: You know, I've seen llamas try and play games. Their hooves just don't work well with the keyboard.

From: essobie
Subject: Complexity

While Requiem definately has a strong hold on what the community really wants in gaming, I think he missed the point that Novus was TRYING to strive for... which was that the base foundation of a strickly multiplayer-like environment (a la Quake 3: Arena) should be as simple as possible.

This says nothing of the mod community's importance in adding the complexities and mental stretches at a LATER TIME, which I'm sure Novus knows, but was not trying to refute in his essay/editorial... he was merely pointing out what would make a good "out of the box" First Person Shooter that plans on taking over the community.

I think the current games aiming for this goal are Quake 3: Arena, and Unreal Tournament. More or less, it seems like Q3A is abiding by Novus' outlook, and Unreal Tournemant is not.

Which do you think will take over as the foundation for all FPS gaming in the next 2-3 years?

Essobie

Hellchick: Good point, Essobie. Unreal Tournament and Q3:A appeal to basically the same gaming crowd, but it's amazing to see the difference in opinions on the two games, and I think you raised the issue of why. But being the PQ Site Director requires me to call you a biotch for even mentioning UT. I think.

From: Ted Vessenes
Subject: Re: Complexity and Diversity

I think the author misses a fundamental point in their analysis of why complexity is good. His basic argument is that complex rules provide intricate, strategic gameplay. While this is true, he assumes that the more complicated a game is, the more strategic it must be and vice versa. This assumption is faulty. Remember that the goal of game design is an enjoyable game system (usually strategic), not complicated gameplay. Complicated gameplay is only one way of acheiving intricate, strategic gameplay.

The real problem is, "How can you increase the ratio of strategicness to game complexity?" Game designers don't need to strip out everything needless. They just need to focus less on gameplay elements themselves and more on their combined effect. So, yes, you can build a great strategic game with complicated rules. The real challenge is building a great strategic game with simple rules.

-Ted

From: Chris Gillott
Subject: Complicated Games Editorial

Re This quote from the editorial
Yes it can be argued that most sixyear-olds would become frustrated and eventually lose interest in a complex game such as Valve Software's Half-Life

I feel the need to tell you that my six year old nephew is currently playing my copy of half-life. Its on the easy setting, but he isn't using any of the cheats (cause I refused to enable them). He's gotten up to the bit where you have to burn up the 3 tenticle monster with the rocket engine. He's also played quake and quake2 extensively. Why am I telling you this? So that you wont be to taken totally by surprise in about 6 years time, when he starts owning all your arses in quake DM (which would be like quake 7 by then). Hell, he was even proficient at priming grenades and throwing them at the perfect angle in Quake2 when he was 5.

So, um about the article, who cares how complex games are, the new players will be the ones that grew up with a mouse in their hand, and they'll be ripping us all a new one in about a decade. Oh yeah, he likes pokemon. So in a decade, all the servers will be owned by pokemon loving 16 year olds, and all the older gamers, from the previous generation will have to hide out in hidden servers, hoping the pokemon generation doesn't come in a own them all.
Argggghhh, we are all doomed.

I think I will go and lie down now.

Actually, I've got some chips in the oven. Better make sure they arn't burning

[AC]Chris[LOI]

Hellchick: There's nothing worse than burning chips. Or Pokemon-loving 16 year olds owning the servers and forcing all us old coots into hiding, lest they attack us with Charmander, or something. The mere thought makes me nauseous, or at least queasy.

From: Bryan Elrod
Subject: (no subject)

In response to the recent article about the "complexity" of games and how it is needed to keep players interested, I totally agree. I am sick of all these people trying to advocate simpler games... I want games that are so freaking complex that it would take me years to master. Those are the type of games I look forward too, and those are the games even newbies gravitate to as well. Look at Half-Life, look at System Shock 2, look at Rainbow 6 even... No one is quitting those games because they are too complex, unless they are little kids :P in which case, they shouldn't even be playing those games anyway, due to the rating. If someone is having to much difficulty with an FPS, with the many that are out there, they can easily learn the ropes with a simpler one. The time of TEACHING people how to play FPS's is gone. Now we want to be challenged to bigger and more complex things. BRING ON THE HARDCORE GAMES.

-ColonBlow

(P.S. Planetquake rools)
(P.P.S. 1 4m 4 733t h4><0r)

Hellchick: You know, I read that first P.S. as "Planetquake drools" and I nearly fell out of my chair with laughter. Until I realized that it's true, and ColonBlow (what a charming name) was making fun of us. Hey! We're taking medication for it! Are you staring at my headgear? SLLURRRP.

From: Daniel M.Juliano
Subject: RE: The Importance of Complexity and Diversity in Today's Games

I agree with some of the points that Requiem made in his editorial, mainly that gamers want complex games and that games have been getting more complex over the years because of this fact. However, I think that he misinterpreted what Novus was saying in his editorial. I think Novus was saying that when game developers make the game (engine, coding, controls and levels) simplicity and ease of use are the key points to keep in mind. The game, at its most base level , should be very simple and fundamental, so that someone new to the game can more quickly figure out how to play and how the game universe works. Within the code of the game itself, it should also be easy to work with so that when MOD makers decide that a more complex style of gameplay is in order, they will not have too much difficulty in creating their MOD. People don't need their games fed to them in an easy to digest paste, but maybe not everyone out there wants to jump into a game and spend 3 hours learning all the controls and shortcuts. It might be too much to expect game developers to make a great game with a good balance of detail between single player and multiplayer, but its not too much to expect them to make games in a way that they can be modified without a huge amount of trouble. What a game developer does is take an innovative idea and crystallize it, make it into something tangible. They don't necessarily need to explore all the possibilities that are feasible with that one idea, because if they did, games would take five years to make and would take up 4 CD-ROMs worth of data. I think that the ideal situation would be a synthesis of the ideas from both Novus's and Requiem's editorials. In truth, there is no right answer as everyone has different opinions and things that they like, but maybe we can find an answer that would satisfy most of the people and leave room for everyone else to satisfy themselves. Just my two cents :-)

-Vigilante

From: Haribo Kid
Subject: (no subject)

I must say this is the best editorial (ie: the one I agree with most whole-heartedly) I have ever read on PQ.

Harry


Amen, Harry! While I have no opinion ( :) ), I must say that Requiem's editorial is one of the best written I have ever seen come out of the gaming community. That may not say much, considering a lot of you idiots out there write like badgers on crystal meth, but still.. Here's a special treat: a reader letter that eats like an editorial! Chow down.

Hellchick: I lived in Wyoming for 4 years, land of badgers AND crystal meth, and so I completely back Spyke up on that remark.

From: Kevin Gallant
Subject: Complexity and Simplicity: A place for both

By FingerSoup

This is a response to the past couple of editorials on game complexity by Novus and Requiem.

Requiem Argues that The more complex a game is, the better it is, whereas Novus believes that the simpler the game is the better it is. Both are correct in their own respects, but they are talking about complexity in two separate ways.

Complexity in the sense of level design, plot and gameplay are all well and good, so long as you can control it from a simple interface. Wolfenstien and Doom had the simplest of all controls. For all intents and purposes, they were a sort of 3D Pacman, in which you killed things. Then came Quake, which added "up and down" movement, and physically aiming your weapon. Yet the control still remained simple enough for one to switch over to. All because someone designed the engine to be easy to use.

Now switch to your favorite LucasArts "X-Wing/Tie Fighter" game. For all intents and purposes, a first person shooter in outer space. With the added complexity of speed, targeting, and radars, a person can get lost in all the keystrokes. A Quake fan who wanted to pilot a starfighter as a passing fancy will have lots of trouble learning their new found FPS. Sure it has more complex gameplay. More missions, strategy, and teamplay. The trouble is that the number of keys required to play the game remotely well, is so large, that one ends up forgetting half of the keys midway through. The complexity of the game is great. The problem is in the complexity of the controls.

This is where the clash of complexities comes in. How can you have a complex FPS, with simple controls? The approach Quake has made, is by making many functions automatic. Need to open a door? Run into it, and it'll open. Need to push a button? Run into it. Pick something up? Run into it. Imagine how complex a FPS would be if the designers assigned a different key for each of these functions. Granted some things make playing more realistic (like reloading in Kingpin), but for the most part, these are tedious tasks that the user doesn't (and shouldn't) have to deal with. Everyone wants to be able to pick up a game and play it as if they have been playing it for years. They just want new challenges in said game. Hence Mods such as CTF, AQ2, RA2, QPong, etc...

The simplification of Q3:A is to get people to learn how to play the game at it's basest level. You have to learn to walk before you can run. Having said that, Q3:A has also been designed with many complexities, that are easier to control. Jump pads for instance add a new level of depth to the game. Being able to get to that Megahealth in The Longest Yard, can be an art. Yet doing it only requires jumping, moving forward, and timing yourself just right. Simple controls, to do something fairly complex. There's no need to press thousands of buttons, as only the basest of contros required are provided. You can customize the keys easily, Choose your character easily, start a game easily, and manouver fairly easily. The only hard part is the actual scoring of points, as it should be.



Wowee. I think we've hit a new level of profoundness here on PQ. Am I still not allowed to express my own opinion? Darn. Oh, well, I'll do it anyways. I think complexity and simplicity each have their place. While I don't like FPS games like System Shock 2 (which I know wasn't a true FPS), where resources come into play, I realize they have their place. Simplicity has its place too, which id was, and is going for in Quake and Quake 3 Arena. A little mix of everything is okay. But the most important thing that everyone has to remember is that everyone wants something different. To each their own, okay? Good, or I'll have to break your thumbs.

Hellchick: Ooh! Ooh! Let me! Or at least let me snap an elbow or two. It's been so long.

A plethora of letters next, including much incoherence!


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