Time to end the week on a "high note".
Recently, something interesting came up during my usual Facebook rounds, and also got messaged to me directly from a friend. This article from Hot Hardware talked about how recently during extensive testing by Nintendo, it was found that 90% of the people tested could not beat the first level of Super Mario Brothers, let alone the entire game.
The source that the article was referring to did turn out to be satirical, offering such gems as, "Some of them wanted a mandatory tutorial while others wanted more ways to kill things besides jumping on them. ... then they wanted Mario to start with more weapons like a sword or a gun." Here's the thing though, even though the satire is clearly there, a lot of people wouldn't find such situations hard to believe. Certainly there's a great deal of exaggeration, but these days it's really not too often that you're dropped into a game without having your hand held.
I've talked at great length in the past regarding difficulty in games, and have come to some conclusions. Obviously, as games have become more complex, there has been less of a need to rely solely on difficulty as the driving factor behind longevity. Where as a game like Super Mario Bros, or Double Dragon, or Battletoads was difficult (or in the case of the latter, absolutely fucking sadistic), it was to be expected, even lauded, since to conquer it implied a certain level of mastery. And let's face facts: people weren't going through these games for their graphics or their riveting plots.
It still should be said that there are challenging games out there. Look at Dark Souls (which I now own, hurrah Steam Sales and poor, poor impulse control ... still need a controller for it though, I like a challenge, I'm not a masochist) look at Devil May Cry, look at Hotline Miami and many others. There is a market out there for such a thing. However, I think more and more games are moving away from presenting a challenge in lieu of presenting an experience, and I'm not entirely sure that's a good thing.
That brings me, even only meanderingly so, to the topic of the title: Ryse: Son of Rome. There have already been accusations that the game basically plays itself. With the justification of “We don’t want the player to feel frustrated,” being flimsy at best. The analogy that comes to mind is the soccer game where no team is allowed to score more than one goal and everyone gets a participation trophy for showing up. Is it fun? Maybe to some, on some level. But it is without challenge, without accomplishment, without soul.
The worrying thing, to me at least, is that things like that satirical article above become the worst kind of self fulfilling prophecies. If players are exposed to more and more games that do not deliver any sort of challenge, then will they not come to expect such to be the norm? I certainly know better, as do most of the people I associate with. We merely chuckle, or shake our heads and sigh, but I'm not convinced that this is something that we should dismiss so easily.
The design director of Ryse has said that, "The idea is that anyone can play it and they can mash the buttons and
fight, but if you get the right timing you're able to actually master
it. Master the reaction you get out of the AI. You worked on the AI, you
get them to this executable state and you execute them."
Tell me, does the idea of mind gaming a computer really sound that fun? That rewarding? Not to me it doesn't, especially when in this case mind gaming means "pushing X the best!" rather than doing anything actually meaningful.
To me Ryse is a very pretty ... thing. I'm not sure it can be called a game, and even if it can I'm not sure that it deserves the title. And yet, here we are, with it being marketed as such, and indeed, as one of the ones that people should be looking forward to playing during this next generation.
I understand that as we move forward that conventions of the past are bound to be left behind. I'm not crying over the loss of punishing, at times absurdly unfair and often arbitrary rule sets that made old games a lot harder to beat than they should have been. At the same time though as we move into the future, are we catching a glimpse of what the norm will ultimately become when we look at Ryse? I damn sure hope not, but something fills me with an unspeakable dread. So many times I often find myself correct about things that I desperately wish to be proven wrong in. I'm really, really hoping this isn't going to be another one of those cases.
Oh, yeah, on a completely unrelated note, updates for the next few weeks may be sporadic at best. I may not even be updating during certain weeks. Rest assured that it's nothing bad. It's just a busy point in my life at the moment due to various reasons. Please bear with me on this one. Thanks!