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Tycho / on Wed, May 25 2005 at 4:30 am

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E32K5:  The Adjective That Should Not Be

I know that we have a well publicized, unwelcome affection for

href="http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/10/24">

permutations
of the word Witcher, but we saw their E3 presentation this year
and today’s sketch
simply leapt from the pen.  You’d never recognize Bioware’s
Aurora engine underneath all the work they’ve done on it - it
sparkles.  I always jump up and down and do that little clapping thing
when I see an RPG on the way for personal computers, and if they
deliver it over here with a polished translation I think I might very
well be able to settle into it.  There’s clearly a complete universe behind the game, even if its tendrils have yet to reach our shores.  There was only thing that really
bothered me, and I wrote as much on the comment card.  The real
comment card, I guess I should say.  Not the imaginary one we wrote
“witch” variants on.

As you gain skill with your weapons you’re able to chain longer combos, provided you can manage the peculiar timing.  Other games have used similar systems to great effect, this isn’t the point.  The point is that the animations enacted by the player and the responses of your enemies aren’t really synchronized to anything.  They saunter up and start wigging out, then you begin to wig in earnest, and then someone (hopefully for you, it’s the bipedal reptile) collapses.  I recognize that this is the way it works in virtually every existing case.  What I’m saying is that I have expectations about this generation of games that do not include combatants having spasms that don’t relate to the combat situation.

Notable examples to the contrary include the special melee circumstances you see in Dawn of War, where units interact with one another in physical, gruesome form.  The Matrix Online endeavors to avoid these super-generic interactions with its Interlock system, which absolutely serves this purpose even if the rest of the game might not be universally appreciated.  God of War really sort of ruined me on generic animations, as they took the time to hand-make a custom “fatality” for each enemy creature that cemented your grim interventions securely in the world.  Killzone again, the game itself didn’t turn my crank but those guys know how to make you feel party to a melee maneuver.  All I’m looking for is a few indications that my opponent and myself exist in concomitant universes - unique interactions between the weapon and enemies, the occasional customized finale. 

This was all one thing with Diablo 2’s tiny sprites.  With comparatively massive, three dimensional enemies and protagonists, the “seam” of the simulation starts to show with generalized sword flailing and injures immersion, especially when you see NPCs over there just kind of rubbing against one another.  I probably shouldn’t have said anything, and I wouldn’t have, but they gave me a piece of paper and specifically asked for it.  That’ll teach ‘em.

(As a brief aside, have you ever read Snow Crash?  You really should.  It posits a kind of proto-“Matrix” called the Metaverse, what we’d think of as a fairly advanced sort of Avatar Chat, but the etiquette there is such that you don’t physically touch other people because it breaks the immersion of it.  Or, at any rate, that’s what I remember it saying.  It seemed apropos.) 

This is my exact problem with Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, too.  Understand that we’re talking about a game whose prisons, homes, and forests might as well be real places, for all their visual fidelity.  It’s better than you hoped.  The stone wall in the first room was so beautiful I thought I would cry, screenshots of the game are absolutely worthless as a means of conveying it.  I liked Morrowind, as you might recall - I had a Tiger-Man in there I was quite fond of - but the combat is philosophically identical in Oblivion, which, you know, whatever.  I doubt it’s a problem for most people.  What I’d hoped was for the conflict in Oblivion to make the same kind of leap that Tamriel itself had - more elaborate means of dodging, special tactics, timed attacks, parries, ripostes, etcetera.  Richness.  It’s hardly going to make me leave it on the shelf, but I can see where the experience goes from here and I’d just like to go with it. 

(CW)TB out.

‘cause we pimpin’ all over the world


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