Sandbox Gaming: Too much of something can be a bad thing

“We made a massive map full of interesting things and cool sites to see, how will we get our player to explore?”
“Make them collect 5 of something, over and over again”

This idea was once kept to the boundaries of your typical MMO. Go out see the world and kill x of every animal or being you can find until, eventually the killing for experience stop and the grind for gear began.

Unfortunately the more sandbox games get released the more of a cross over we begin to see.

Its been quite refreshing playing Uncharted 2 over the last month, a game thats driven by story content and the occasional killing spree in an ancient temple. I managed to sink about 8 to 10 hours into the game which for me is a good amount of time. The problem I find with open world games is you never know when to stop the fucking around collecting werewolf dicks and actually put sometime in the story.

Final Fantasy 15 has an interesting approach to the sandbox vs liner gameplay. They essentially split the game up into both categories. The first part of the game sees your driving around with your j-pop boyband – killing the odd monster, collecting the occasion special weapon and upgrading your car. From what I can see none of this seems to be getting your kingdom back its just helping you prepare for the final story.

However even Final Fantasy cannot escape the MMO trope and you soon find yourself killing monsters over and over again for loot and exp, and of course lets not forget collecting things. Earlier Final Fantasies like 7 and 9 had an open world feel to them but managed to avoid the unnecessary repetitive quest approach which seems to be plaguing new sandbox games. Even FF10 which was a much more linear game felt open enough to give you a sense of freedom.

I must admit i managed to spent at least 75 hours in Skyrim and again maybe about 50 hours in fallout 4. A game that in my opinion was incredibly weak. I also managed to spend the equivalent on Witcher 3, again a game i felt was weaker than it previous games simply because it was a sandbox game.

Too much of something can be a bad thing

In all these games i mainly focused on the main story quest and any secondary quest which i can find meaning in, like a little side story. In some cases i get bored of the game long before i even complete it. Too much of something can be a bad thing and this is probably my main issue with sandbox games.

After sinking 45 hours into Final Fantasy XV i managed to make it to chapter 13. At this point i was pretty bored with the game but having read that chapter 13 was just bad, i dragged myself through. Now i’m on the final 3 bosses and to be honest i really don’t give a fuck any more.

Uncharted left me wanting more, so once i completed 2 i moved on to 4 (i’ll go back to 3), however when i complete a sandbox game… well you can’t really, you just get fed up and do the last mission so you can say you sort of finished it.

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Games Inspiring Film – and why it’s a Terrible Idea

I’m not sure if any one of you have read in the news recently, but it seems someone has finally picked the most ridiculous premise for a game/film combination. That’s right people – Monopoly will now be made into a film!

monopoly_cover

Let that sink in for a moment. Somewhere, some idiot has played a game of Monopoly and thought “I can definitely make a film from this”. This is a board game where you buy property and put hotels on them to torture your fellow players and laugh in their faces as they go bankrupt. I suppose if you look at the figures you can see why they think this is a sure thing: Monopoly has been played by more than 1 billion people in 114 countries around the world and has been translated into 47 different languages since it’s release in 1903. It has been adapted to suit various franchises (Simpsons, Star Wars, Skylanders, Street Fighter – the list is ridiculous), it is used by McDonald’s regularly in their sweepstake promotion bringing continual publicity and in 1990 America aired a Monopoly television show on ABC (cited on Wikipedia). But any executive just needs to flick through the back catalogue of terrible game to film movies to see how this is going to end.

The concept of video games being turned into films is one that has been done many times over. A quick Google search shows up a full list of titles including the following:

  • Resident Evil (Rotten Tomatoes Score: 33%)
  • Max Payne (Rotten Tomatoes Score: 16%)
  • Tomb Raider (Rotten Tomatoes Score: 19%)
  • Super Mario Bros (Rotten Tomatoes Score: 16%)
  • Street Fighter (Rotten Tomatoes Score: 12%)
  • In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale (Rotten Tomatoes Score: 4%)
  • BloodRayne (Rotten Tomatoes Score: 4%)
  • Mortal Kombat (Rotten Tomatoes Score: 33%)
  • Dead or Alive (Rotten Tomatoes Score: 33%)
  • Prince of Persia (Rotten Tomatoes Score: 36%)
  • Final Fantasy (Spirit’s Within Rotten Tomatoes Score: 44%)
  • Silent Hill (Rotten Tomatoes Score: 29%)
  • Doom (Rotten Tomatoes Score: 19%)
  • Far Cry (Rotten Tomatoes Score: 12%)
  • Hitman (Rotten Tomatoes Score: 14%)

If you have seen any of these you will realise that there are few gems buried in that list. The average Rotten Tomatoes score for the list is 21.6%, and that is only with films like Final Fantasy and Resident Evil dragging it up kicking and screaming. So what causes this godawful trend?

One of the things to look at in a series of dreadful films in a genre is to see who directed them. A well-known director of video game movies is no other than Uwe Boll, one of the worst film directors in movie history. The worst films on my list (In the Name of the King and BloodRayne) were both his deformed retarded offspring, and he is one of the few recipients of the “Worst Career Achievement” award at the 29th Golden Raspberry Awards, awarded it for the monstrosity that is ItNotK. Thankfully not all companies will just blindly take his money to turn their beloved franchises into films – he was refused the opportunity to direct the World of Warcraft movie, and Blizzard said “We will not sell the movie rights, not to you…especially not to you. Because it’s such a big online game success, maybe a bad movie would destroy that ongoing income, what the company has with it.” (Blizzard laugh away Uwe Boll”. Movie Chronicles.com. 2008-04-21. Retrieved 2008-10-24.) I am a little cautious of writing too much about Uwe though, as I hear he does not handle criticism very well – reacting in a variety of fun ways from sending abusive emails to critics ( Chris Kohler (2007-08-14). “You Dumb F*ck: Uwe Boll Responds To Our Postal Review”. Wired. Retrieved 2007-08-15.) to literally punching them in the face for publicity ( Tiffany Crawford (2006-09-25). “Controversial German director beats up harshest critics in boxing ring”. Canadian Press. Retrieved 2006-09-26.)

Another director who has his name linked to some of these films is Paul W Anderson. Whilst his scores rate a little higher than Uwe’s (although let’s be honest, the bar is pretty damn low on that front), they aren’t exactly awe inspiring. Thankfully he has focused his efforts mainly around one franchise (Resident Evil), directing 4 out of the current 5 films, and being lined up to direct the final installment. This at least gives him the opportunity to listen the fans of the franchise, and add the little touches that truely bring out the best features in a game across to the big screen.

The one problem that I have noticed when looking up the biographies of these directors, is that none of them seem to have any kind of interest in the games they seem to be adapting, let alone the game culture that they’re stomping over. Whether they see it as an interesting story on its own, or just a nice big easy cheque I don’t know – but if we could have just one director who is a fan of the genre in his own right, then I think there is a chance to make something special. Take Joss Whedon for example. The man is a self-proclaimed geek – he loves all things sci-fi, comics, superheroes. And he has created some fantastic things (alright yes I’m a Browncoat, so sue me. Who doesn’t love Firefly?! Also Avengers…and Guardians of the Galaxy…but I digress). This man knows what the fans want because he is a fan! And the magic is there for all to see in it’s shiny glory.

But let’s be fair – it can’t be entirely at the fault of the director, you also need to pick the right game to begin with. Games like Street Fighter and DoA and Mortal Kombat? What kind of plot do they have? The point of any plot for them is to loosely explain why your character is doing a roundhouse kick to the face of your opponent. Doom? The player just needs to know where they are and if there are monsters. Sure these games are loved and remembered fondly, but did anyone stop and ask the fans why? It’s not going to be the plot is it? Now for gaming franchises like Final Fantasy I expect greater things, for one of the big selling points of any RPG is being able to see the story unfold over hours of walking round giant maps and random battles. Then again, these titles seem to be some of our highest scorers on the list. Although not added Final Fantasy: Advent Children also agrees with this theory, scoring 33% on Rotten Tomatoes.

A writer can only stretch a story so far before the holes become too big to ignore, but sometimes you get the feeling that any writers involved in these projects were rushed or didn’t care. I look to Super Mario Bros for my example – I can only imagine they were all drunk when they came up with their design for a Goomba

Seriously - WTF?!
Seriously – WTF?!

Overall, if you’re going to start off with a game that has a weak story at best, use a terrible script and have a godawful director, the output isn’t exactly going to be Oscar worthy. So I genuinely dread what this Monopoly film is going to be like. But on the plus side, at least they haven’t hired Uwe Boll…yet.

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FFXIV Heavensward expansion arrives…now

FFXIV’s second wind continues today with the release of its first major expansion Heavensward, giving denizens of Eorzea access to the city-state of Ishgard and all the dragon-related intrigue they can stomach. Those who were keen enough to pony up for the pre-order have had access to the expansion content since Friday, and first reports are overwhelmingly positive.

darkknight

In addition to a new location to traipse around, the expansion packs in what is technically known as a metric fuckton of additional content – a new level cap, a new race, flying mounts, new 3-tier Limit Breaks, new Primal challenges and a new raid dungeon which actually takes place within Alexander. Yeah.  SE peg the length of the content as hovering around the 50 hour mark, which is practically on par with the length of the base game.

alexander

Three new classes make their appearance here – Dark Knight (Tank), Machinist (DPS), and Astrologian (Healer). Given that these are full-on Jobs, starting levels for these characters are 30 instead of 1 – meaning it should be fairly simple to grind back up to 50 in a short space of time. There’s a good chance you’ll have to dedicate some time catching up on outstanding story quests –  the new expansion story content is not only gated by level (50 minimum) but also by story progression, so you’re not going to get a look in at the new content unless you’ve put the effort into completing the prior story missions.

Jobs

XIV’s return to glory over the last couple of years has been fairly remarkable, particularly given the state the first iteration of the game arrived in. This is partly a result of an engaged and communicative dev team but is helped massively by the range and consistency of the updated content periodically pumped into the game. If this expansion is indicative of the quality of future content, we should expect to be playing XIV for a long time to come – perhaps even hitting WoW-tier longevity.

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Final Fantasy VII Re-Make

Fresh off the E3 floor is the announcement that, my childhood time sink is back – Final Fantasy 7. Finally the cult of Square can stop killing the neighbourhood goats as their prays have been answered. Now all we need is Gabe to give us a new Half life and I can abandon my family and friends and go back to the sweet warmth of a glowing TV screen…

I look forward to force feeding Chocobo Carob Nuts, and throwing away any Chocobo children I deem unworthy of my gaze.

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