Sunday, January 24, 2010

Liberty within the Code, Rules beyond

The code of a video games does not contain the rules. The code is only a tool which is associated to the abstract understanding of the rules that stand outside of it.
Functions given life via code are controlled allowances and automated consequences waiting for specific stimuli. Whereas to know if this means each new block adds a piece of liberty to the virtual construct is another debate, and has probably more to do with the mind willingly shaping itself "down" to those new constraints, and likely exploiting an adaptive offshoot of a survivalist's multiple atavistic tricks, for the individual can only attain transcendence if the constricted milieu is presently assumed as sufficient, and the same individual can only satisfy himself via the limited liberty if there is a sense of accomplishment.

Plug me those amps and listen to that

What say we hear some stuff from Medi and the Medicine Show?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Bayonetta sucks? Dunno, but it feels watery

There is a major problem with this game, as far as I’m concerned.
Despite the fact that there’s lot to say about all the problems presented there, it has little to do with the whole sexualisation topic, nor with that grotesque Goth mutant grown in the mind-vats of lubricious otakus who spoon-feed their fetish with the yearly hormonal production of a hundred ovaries, nor with how the textures may be enchanting or not, nor with how the truly miserable musac alternates between J-poop and that pseudo classic/epic monotonic torment, or the overall insipid cosplay-friendly character and monster design.

It is a game that pretends being a beat'em up, but from all I can see, fails on its most crucial task; the necessity to enrapture the player with the sense of power delivered through what is most basic in such a game: the elementary action moves.
And all I can think of about those basic moves is best summed up by those few words:

Impotent, washy

You may ask what I mean by an elementary move.
Let’s say that it is a basic attack which doesn’t really require too many efforts from the player to execute; it's the bread and butter of a brawler’s combat system. In a pyramidal pattern, it would represent the solid base. In general, it will comprise kicks and punches, slashes and dashes when blades are involved, shots with ranged weapons (and therefore gunshots with firearms) and magic projectiles with simple sorcery spells, the fireball and lightning bolt being the most obvious examples when it comes to burning something extra crispy.

Now please pay attention: There is no need to play Bayonetta to see what’s wrong on that side of things. No need to launch any demo.
All you need to do is what any consumer of this frantic society should do: load HD videos and observe.
There are many "Bayonetta gameplay" videos all over the place. As usual, try on Youtube.

Let's get clear here. This game is not horrible. Although I consider it messy at times, especially when Bayonetta engages her foes, it looks like it's properly polished (those places probably corresponding to the peaceful build-ups between each encounter), counting the environments, and relies on a curious and very opinionated art. The profusion of grace, flowers and delicacy departs from the raw and feral feeling of the major contenders of this popular genre. It's also its undoing, as it pushes this gamble too far, losing track of what the backbone of the game should convey and achieve visually.

Regardless of her four pistols, Bayonetta's ballets don't deliver. There's simply no pleasure to be had with that kind of tepid and indistinguishable overcooked omelet of pixels, glam and glow seen from a distance, all of which eternally begs to be redeemed by the use of special powers, including the gory super summons. However, this is the most expected Japanese spin on the genre, and this makes the game feel like a Final Fantasy of the PS1 and PS2 era, with all their boring successive cuts and bangs you were wading through until you could unleash the fury of the mightiest magical creatures.

Well sorry lads, but when I play a brawler that features a main character blessed with exceptional powers (God of War, Ninja Gaiden), I still don’t feel let down by the basic action moves, as they support the game just as much as the rarer options available to the player to expire large bosses and legions of enemies. And don’t get me started on the time bullet crap, which has been overdone in so many games, but somehow should represent an achievement and a new cornerstone in one of the most used video game genres now?
How convenient! All it does is allow you to smash the buttons like a "voltaged" up monkey. Is there any fun in a game where you have to smash the button a million times, thanks to time dilation, slashing on and on and on the same big creature while floating in mid air? Well, I don't think so, and I could easily picture this becoming old very fast.

In Bayonetta, this is part of pointless junk, which in essence shall be understood and reduced to mere sugar coating, but which still comes in such an overabundance of saccharine that it actually proves repelling. Bayonetta’s guns look like silly plastic toys, and whatever they’re supposed to be shooting has more to do with glowing lollipops than .45 bullets. All of which is even more ruined by gunfire effects that look pitiful from start to finish. It goes without saying that the character model’s frenetic recoil animation looks just as absurd as the guns. Considering the rate of fire we’re dealing with --and I’m sorry for pointing out the obvious here-- why not cut the looping, retarded spasmodic kicked arm animation by putting her out of misery and allowing the lady some automatic rifles? You know, those practical things that generally do “ratatatata!” and spit many bullets a minute.

I don't care if the character is a guy, a chick, a worm in a suit, a semi-digested soul-draining vampire or an octopus with a pink ribbon that shoots stars from its mouth or elsewhere, or if the game is supposed to be totally over-the-top in the most assumed way, if all of them fail on the same point. A beat'em up is not just about how the player feels, but how other people would enjoy watching what's going on on the screen: the self-piecing up supercharged action movie that should be enthralling to all those who stand around you. It's a theater, you're on stage, and you have to deliver. No amount of buttocks and boobs squeezed in tight attires can digress from that reality check.

Although I’m against real violence and not so fond of firearms, it seems I’m capable of grasping basic concepts that elude others. See, when you intend to base at the very least 50% of your game on firearms and gallons of blood, then at least try to get all that stuff right.
If you don’t understand what I’m getting at, let me help you get an idea of how violent and raw gunfights should look like:

Heat, DMC3, Robocop (turn volume up), Predator (you may want to turn the volume down), Public Enemies, The Crow, Dark Angel. You could probably pick examples from a Tarentino, Kitano or Woo, but you caught my drift here. I mean, even the firearms in this one feel more real.

As for the blade, since it’s practically impossible to really distinguish anything, all you must satiate your appetite with is a trail of fiery red something when Bayonetta dices her enemies. Needless to say, this old timer special effect is the same cheap filler we got served with in Japanese action games for more than a decade now. Been there done that would be a considerable understatement.
Let’s not forget the acrobatics, which are just plain silly. I don’t know, but... are they supposed to look cool or something? Is Platinum expecting seasoned gamers to exult like 8 years old kids?

There is nothing gratifying, nothing about that stuff that might be worth looking at, and even if there was, the camera's too far away to really enjoy what the character is doing. Bayonetta literally dissolves into the maelstrom of sprites and particles, failing to stick out in order to remain the focus of this so called entertaining extravaganza.
Logically, the mandatory and forced cutscenes come to the game’s rescue, bringing Bayonetta back under the spotlights, after straying too far from their ecstatic reach for most of the combat sequences; cutscenes which, of course, were put into the game just because the game had to have some. A confession right from the maker’s mouth.

Hear all the screams and cheers of squealing crowds of fans devoured by the hype, for they are not enough to fill the void left by Bayonetta's visually unrewarding display of haphazard action moves. Why should I even want to play a game that feels so piss poor in that department?
Bayonetta banks too much on the style front. With video games, style plays a large role in your experience, it comes along the visual information that makes it from the screen to your brain, and if the art and said style remain unconvincing, there's no point even trying that game just because a legion of magazines and their convoy of perfect scores say we should play this game no matter what.

There’s also something I can’t decide calling sad or amusing: I get that tingling sensation that this brawler shines during the loading screens. Pheh.

More to come... (I’m sure that would surely make for a very bad innuendo in that game. -_-)

EDIT: I found an apt analogy that would illustrate my point here. I like strength, violence, and what should look like genuine violence when I'm asking for it. For example, take shmups. I'm sort of from the old school on that. I hate manic shooters which are about dodging a gazillion pink and blue bobbles. I also hate such shooters where the main avatar is not something that looks like a machine of destruction, but is a little girl flying on a stick, or a pink pig or things of this caliber. When my space defense fighter fires its cannons, I don't want to see weak looking and almost muted silly blobs coming out of the muzzles. I want to see and feel the death of it, the violence, the power of the projectiles. In a word, male or female, I still want to feel the manly power.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Happy new year (yeah well...)

What do you mean I'm two weeks late?
Ok, who gives?

Anyway, the project I'm part of is calmly and surely shaping up.

@ Marcus
Considering that your typical chan of communication is down since ~one week now, and knowing where what you're stuck in right there, you'll probably read this before getting anything else back online. So...
Regarding the small piece of code we talked about earlier on, it should be good enough for a few procedural tests, but just to be sure, try to see if Joanna's new DTS materials work with the latest sample you got. They're ought to be closer to the final aspect of the design. Nowhere near megatextures, I can give you that he he, but the bump worked absolutely fine. It does actually look ace with the couple effects we added saturday! :)
I also hope it had not been freezing too much up there.