Worth learning to play

| Tuesday, March 22, 2011
This post isn't just about Stalker, so if you're sick of hearing about it, do a word search for "stalker" and then pretend the paragraphs are minesweeper to pick what to read. Fun for everyone!

While watching a documentary on the aftermath of Chernobyl I was surprised to learn that it is still being actively researched, though perhaps less than it should. Stupidly, I was also surprised to see that there are all sorts of paths around the plant to get near the reactor. I'd seen schematics of it, so I should have figured out that all the rooms around it, have doors. So of course after watching it, my first thought was "dear God, we're all totally fucked." Apparently the lid, or just about anything else, could suddenly fall in, releasing a huge cloud of radioactive dust. My theory is that Chernobyl is going to get jealous that Japan is getting so much attention and might, let's say, throw a tantrum. A giant radioactive tantrum.

Second thought: I want to go there too! However that would be expensive, unsafe, and time-consuming. So instead I booted up Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl again (the one that I said was awful) and decided that I'd push through the main story just for the chance to virtually visit a recreation of the plant, though obviously with a few more mutated and highly aggressive creatures, as well as religious fanatics, and something called a Brain Scorcher. Sounds fun.

So I pushed on and decided I'd figure this shit out and just get it done. Well next thing I knew I was starting a war with one of the militant groups in the area and I've greatly enjoyed the resulting violence and weapons I took from them. It's much more interesting when I have to kill at least three people just to get into the bar. Incidentally, this makes for really inconvenient travel when merely entering the otherwise safe trade hub means a brief shootout. The guys I started the fight with, Duty, are all pretty much wiped out, along with anyone else who followed their instructions to "eliminate the enemy." Makes the place a bit more lonely, but that's for another day.

The combat is still a bit odd, and the trading is still awkward, but I've managed to get used to it. I just have to be more careful. The actual gameplay and story is pretty decent past that. This is an example of a game that I'd call worth learning to play.

In contrast are shooters on the Wii. Now and then when my brother visits he brings up one of his games and I give it a shot. Pun not intended, but convenient. The latest one was CoD: Black Ops. The story was interesting and of course shooting is always pretty fun. But the controls. Ugh. I'm completely used to a keyboard and mouse. Point and click violence. I'm used to the desk moderating my movements, slowing them and providing friction, so I expect to use a certain amount of force to aim and steer. Using the mouse and keyboard has been taught to me ten times over, from FPSs, RPGs, and of course every single computer operation that I've ever done. Blogging? Mouse and keyboard, mostly keyboard, but some mouse work. I can pretty reliably and quickly move the mouse from the title field to the post field, and then down to the post options button, over to date and time, and so on. Bam bam bam.

It's worth learning how to use a computer. It's a somewhat universal, versatile skill. Gaming, work, long-distance communication, they all use this form of input.

But shooters on the Wii? No. So great, I can play a few more games, but at what cost? Time and frustration. I just get flat out frustrated trying to aim with the Wiimote. And move. None of the muscle memory is there. It's not even like sports which tend to use some minor variation of movements we have anyway: kicking, throwing, bouncing; these are pretty universal actions which are not restricted to a single game or even set of games.

Learn to play? Yea sure, oh wait, no. Why am I going to spend time to learn to play something that isn't any more fun than other, similar activities which don't have the learning curve?

Somewhere in the middle for me are the silly games, like Boomblox. The controls are much simpler and for the most part I'm in no rush, so I can take the time to gradually figure things out. The frustration factor isn't there. Except... oh except for that one stupid level where the sheep seem to commit suicide five seconds into the level and meanwhile the stupid remote isn't properly registering my obviously amazing throwing so the blocks aren't falling down right and... Okay so there's a little bit of frustration factor. I don't like losing and the Wii is a whole new way to lose.

More toward the worthwhile end are the plastic guitar games. Pretending to know how to play guitar, without needing to actually get a guitar and demonstrate that I don't know how to play, is pretty damn fun. Variable difficulty? Awesome! Though I have the backward problem that the lowest difficulty is harder than medium: it's so damn slow that I cannot get any sense of rhythm at all, so instead I'm stuck mashing when I think it's time, which it usually isn't. It helps that my brother has the Beatles game (are there more than one?) so I know the tune more or less, even if colored buttons aren't really playing it.

Speaking of worthwhile: World of Warcraft. Doesn't it suck when something goes wrong and your UI is entirely reset? Awful! Gotta remember all the bindings, UI placement, which addons are enabled on which character. Takes a whole lot of time. But at least in this case muscle memory helps. I want to cleanse myself... oh I keep mashing alt-1, that must be cleanse! I played for about five and a half years, made some new friends, and ended up here, with a small blog that manages to entertain more than just me. WoW was definitely worth the learn to play curve.

On the other hand: raiding. As nice as it is to get that kill after really fighting for it, the thrill has gradually worn off, to be replaced by frustration. The fight-specific dances mean that whatever I'd learned before is almost entirely wasted. The recent expansion throwing out all learned rotations and priorities didn't help. Learn to play? No thanks.

In closing: EVE, worth learning to play? Then again, I don't quite have the money to spare; I donated my monthly sub to public radio. Take that, Republicans!


Nils said...

Eve Online is 100% worth a try. You will learn a hell of a lot about MMORPGs. However, the game uses a terrible UI and learning it practically requires a group of people teaching you. Many such groups exist in the game.

The learning curve is quite accurate. ;)

Don't do this if you're not commited to it for a few weeks ;)

Mike ... said...

"However, the game uses a terrible UI..."

I subbed to EVE for a couple of three month periods over the past two years and couldn't agree more. In combat I always felt as if I was fighting the UI, not the enemy ships. Each time I've subscribed I never played out the full three months.

Caramael said...

Downsides of EVE from a new player perspective:
- horribly horrible GUI which is more horrible than the horriblest horribly designed GUI you can imagine
- nearly static progression; if you want, for example, to have fun in wormholes, you have to sit and wait for a bunch of weeks to "train" the minimal amount of appropriate skills to survive and at the same time try to accumulate a couple tens of millions of ISK to finance the required equipment
- contrary to what the fans will tell you, the economy is crap because of the large amount of bots, and ofcourse CCP selling ingame cash for real world cash, which completely ruins immersion and destroys genuine competition
- you WILL lose all the stuff you spent weeks getting your hands on and throw you computer out of the window because of it
- there are at least as many retards in EVE, as there are in WoW (relatively, ofcourse)
- solo play is not an option, unless you enjoy being bored to death

Nils said...

You forgot the upsides, Caramael.
On the downsides I mostly agree, though ;)

You might want to read some EVE Online Blogs first, Klepsacovic.

Numtini would be one of the first to read, in my opinion.

Caramael said...

@Nils, I couldn't think of any :P

Klepsacovic said...

I've tried EVE before, but it was a few years back and I haven't exactly kept up to date on... anything. The two experiences that stood out for me were the time I was afk autopiloting a few systems to meet my friends and got one-shotted, then podded, while the other was when I learned that I could go someplace safe, stick a mining laser on something with a big cargo hold, find a big asteroid, and then go to my classes. Neither felt like quite the sort of game I wanted to play.

Nils said...

Eve is at its best when you start playing with several good friends and decide on reaching some goal within a few months.

Or try to hire as a recruit for some of the big Null-sec corps. Good ones will explain to you the best way to skill up, probably give you some significant (for you anyway) amount of ISK and hope that you turn out a good addition to their ambitions.

You can be quite helpful in a frigate within about 10 days in EVE. But to do that you need to know how and put into the right combat situations.

Anyway. There is no way to fun in Eve alone - not as new player at least.

Eve can be incredibly fun - if you know how. It's not that easy to find out and I don't play Eve, either. I hate the UI; I get a headache from it.

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