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I Don't Want to, but I Have To...
By oblivion437
Posted on 10/20/14
Well, Gamergate has spilled over into the mainstream media and the coverage appears to be nearly uniformly dreadful. Take " What is Gamergate, and What Does It Say About Gender In Video Games? " by David Konnow as an example.  It appears that the writer has done little to no...

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Ridiculous notions: FAQ Secrets
Posted on Wednesday, May 20 2009 @ 05:18:42 Eastern

Another installment in the series of certain traditions of video games that should be reckognised as being utterly stupid, yet somehow is persisting even amongst the best of video games. Now, I once talked about how games with "100% complete" requirements for extra bonuses often serves no purpouse but to piss off the gamer. I got a good response to this, but one response slightly (and understandably) misunderstood what I meant, and brought up an example of a very similar, yet still different theme: FAQ Secrets.

Now, what is a "FAQ Secret"? Looks pretty obvious, but let me define it, just to be safe: A FAQ Secret is a secret within the game that you cannot find on your own, and have to resort to an internet FAQ (or a strategy guide) to discover. This, in my opinion is not a desirable state of affairs at all, because a game secret is actually something that is meant to be found. You're supposed to discover where all the heart pieces in a Zelda game are, but sometimes, you have to f.ex. do some great feats of archery to actually get it. I'm perfectly fine with difficult tasks like that, as long as I don't first have to spend five hours bombing every single surface of Hyrule to simply find the hole that leads to the archery contest (fictional example there, by the way).

The difference between this and having to discover 100% of the secrets for a bonus scene is that while a game may force you to find a gazillion coins to get full completeness, you don't necessarily need to apply a FAQ to discover them. For instance, I mentioned that the Normal Mode of Kingdom Hearts 2 required a stupid amount of minigame scores etc. for the extra bonus scene. But here's the thing, you don't have to look up on the net where to find any such minigame , because the game itself tells you roughly where they are (KH2 really has a wonderful system of keeping tracks of sidequests and minigames and treasure chests, an example to follow).

Whereas a FAQ secret is like having to find the Excalibur 2 in Final Fantasy IX. There truly is no way for any halfway normal gamer to discover this ingame, and it's also made twice as stupid by the fact that you're required to stress through the kind of game that one normally does the exact opposite of stressing through. It's almost the very definition of counterintuitive.

One question remains before putting up some examples, and that is of course to figure out where to draw the line. Not every gamer even wants to find all the secrets, they just want to finish the game; obviously we can't just put all the secrets right in front of them. Me, I personally would say that if more than 10% of those who makes a dedicated search won't discover the secret on their own, then it's a FAQ Secret, and thus ridiculous. Others might think that's a bit of a low number, but once again, game secrets are secrets that are (supposedly) meant to be found. They were incredibly tough to find 20 years ago because there usually wasn't that much game back then, but in this modern game world, that **** just won't fly.

Anyway, on to examples of really stupid secrets in otherwise really good games:

Final Fantasy XII - The Zodiac Spear
One of the greatest weapons there is in this game (and you can theoretically get it quite early, even), but the only way to get it is to -not- open a completely random assortment of the gazillion treasure jars. I never found anything ingame that as much as hinted about not opening any jars, much less gave me any clues whatsoever to which jars I should leave alone. And absolutely nobody who plays through the game for the first time will ever resist taking every piece of treasure they can spot. This one, I bet, was put in to sell more strategy guides, as I'm pretty certain even the first FAQs on the internet stole this from said strategy guides. Seriously, it's just that horrible a secret.

Oh, and their "rare monster" list is also a bit over-the-top, to say the least. The game can provide you with hints on most (all?) of them, but I got really tired of it long before I was halfway through.

Super Mario Sunshine - The Blue Coins
Both Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy were pretty much spotless in making proper game secrets - i.e. secrets meant to be discovered - so it's a mystery why we had these blue coins. You don't get a clue on how many blue coins there are in any stage (I even had to use a FAQ to discover it was 30), and it only gets downhill from there. The way some coins are only found under certain conditions, and the way they are so arbitrarily hidden... I'd be surprised if more than 1% of those doing a dedicated search found all those coins without resorting to the almighty internet.

Most Neversoft games (like Tony Hawk and Guitar Hero III) - cheat codes
Look, either you just put in the "cheats" ingame, or you just don't have them there at all. F.ex. to have all songs appear on Quick Play is something that should always just be there (for when you buy the game for party purposes) instead of having to be unlocked or having to use cheat codes that you can't possibly find ingame. To have a "no fail" cheat for quickplay is also an option you could just enable at wish, and instead making it so that you won't get any highscores when you do. Big fat "OUTDATED" on Neversoft.

Fortunately, some game series are showing improvements on this, and hopefully, the FAQ Secrets will diminish further on as years go by. Heck, even as early as Super Mario World, they were nice enough to give you a hint of which of the normal stages that had a secret exit (marked with red), and which didn't (yellow). Metroid Prime 3 gave you searching satelites, making you spend more of your time and brains on -how- to get it (some of those energy tanks took me some time figuring out what to do), not -where- to find it. Zelda: Wind Waker provided you with special maps of roughly where to find the heart pieces (and those maps were secrets in themselves, but not FAQ Secrets), and in Twilight Princess, you could get an image of the rough location of any heart piece not yet found, in case you have just one or two pieces left, and have already scoured Hyrule without success. And that is, I believe, the proper way of doing things.

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Yay for gift cards!
Posted on Saturday, November 22 2008 @ 11:36:31 Eastern

So, I won a gift card here on Game Revolution. Originally 25 dollars, Nick Tan went to the trouble to actually convert that into 16.65 British Pounds (which must have meant several more clicks on the computer than usual) so that I could get my card for amazon.co.uk instead, thus saving a tons on shipping costs, leaving more for the actual product. Hooray for Nick!

Naturally, with great spending power comes great irresponsibility. And I know that Nick, Duke, and everyone else at GR would be aghast, nay, positively disgusted if they were to learn that I had spent this gift card on anything but pure entertainment.

Since my next few months will be tied up in having fun messing up Arthas' plans, I figured that a new game would be out of the question, at least considering I prefer long games that I can lose days to. So, a DVD would be a good choice.

And in the spirit of utter chaos, total silliness, and complete lack of respect for normality that permeates the GR website, I feel that my choice of purchasing MUPPET SHOW SEASON 2 is the right one. In fact, Kermit and Duke do share a similar role, which is to maintain just enough order for the show (or website) to go on, while the rest of the respective staff contributes to the utter mayhem that makes it all so delightful.

It's time to play the music
It's time to light the lights...

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Ridicolous notions: Multiplayer unlockables
Posted on Monday, September 8 2008 @ 14:39:59 Eastern

OK, we're in for a big one today, as we are assaulting one of the most set-in-stone notions that lives and prospers in the video game world, yet is absolutely ridicolous when you actually take a look at it: Multiplayer unlockables.

Or, to be more specific, games that are primarily multiplayer, but where you need to play through the singleplayer game in order to unlock essential parts of the multiplayer game.

Example? Well how about almost every fighting game ever made? I mean, take Tekken, for example. Tekken is definitely a multiplayer game first and foremost. 99.9% of those buying a game in the Tekken series buy it with the intention of playing it with one or more friends. The characters are definitely an essential to multiplayer. They and their moves are in fact the entire game. Yet, for some reason, you are forced to play through the singleplayer game if you want all the characters, even if playing it alone is entirely uninteresting to you.

Not only is it entirely flawed from the very get-go, but it turns more ridicolous once you realise that the game is more or less stuck to your home, as well as constantly having to take up memory space as long as you plan to ever play it again. You can't just bring the game itself to a friend, you also need to bring a memory card... Or even the entire console. Unless all of your friends like to invest five-ten hours (or maybe even more...) each just to have access to what should have been there in the first place.

The only thing even close to explaining this phenomena is the mindset that the player should somehow have to "earn" the full rooster of characters or weapons. Say what? Since when is "earning" a new character through singleplayer gaming relevant in any way to multiplayer gaming? The only thing it does is taking away time you should instead spend to develop and earn - note the lack of quote marks - the actual multiplayer skill it takes to find out which characters you play best with in general, which characters are working as a counter as other characters, etc.

And in pretty much every multiplayer game ever made, the only way to become substantially better against human opponents is to play against human opponents. Sure, repeating motions on difficult tricks has its place, but that's what Practice Mode is for. The real issue is to figure out if trick X should be used at all, and if so, when.

Besides being irrelevant, it's also a misplaced elitist attitude to say that only the "grinding way" is the right way. If you like grinding things, sure, fine by me, it's a free country. But just because you spent all those hours going through every tedious mission in Soul Calibur 2's Weapon Mode, doesn't mean you should be able to look down on those who'd rather just have Sophia and all her weapons available from the start. Nor demand that they must do the same.

So, developers of future fighting games (I know, I know, not a single one of them are reading this blog.), hear my plea: Let the only multiplayer unlockables be superficial stuff, like skins, clothes, a wall of medals, a neat ending scene, a coupon for a popsicle, whatever you like. Just stop forcing people to play through the single-player game, and let instead the gamers decide if the single-player game is fun enough in itself to play through.

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Ridicolous notions: "100% complete"
Posted on Wednesday, July 23 2008 @ 19:52:33 Eastern

OK, so another tiny little series of articles. With this one, I will be focusing on notions in gaming that is, frankly, ridicolous, but that's not the only criteria, because if it was, I'd just put up a link to bad games. No, it has to be ridicolous,...   read more...

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The art of reviewing: Sequels
Posted on Tuesday, May 13 2008 @ 21:12:05 Eastern

Probably my final entry in this little series.

So anyway, before getting to the meat, let's make it clear that I'm not discussing the merits of sequels, but about how to write a review about them. Now, there are basically two arche-types o...   read more...

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The art of reviewing: Aural pleasure
Posted on Sunday, February 3 2008 @ 21:05:26 Eastern

Since nobody was interested in hearing about how I\'m invited to the opera and then later will appear on national radio, I suppose I\'ll just continue talking about the different aspects of my reviews. And of course, having recently talked about oper...   read more...

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I'm going to the opera!
Posted on Saturday, January 19 2008 @ 04:21:15 Eastern

Alright, clean those glasses of yours (assuming you're not wearing contact lenses), because this is something you should in fact read about. And it will be -very- relevant to video gaming.

It started some months back. I was listening to a ...   read more...

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The art of reviewing: Review themes
Posted on Friday, December 14 2007 @ 00:42:06 Eastern

The fourth entry in the longwinded egotrip blog series that is supposed to justify my longwinded egotrip reviews.

Anyway, in addition to relaying my opinion of a game, I am also often tempted to make a "theme" in order to spice i...   read more...

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The art of reviewing: Opinion
Posted on Monday, December 3 2007 @ 11:28:36 Eastern

So, the third installment of my silly little series. And this time, we're going to touch upon something that will get the gamer blood boiling: opinion.

This is probably one of the major sources of conflict between gamers, though frankly i...   read more...

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The art of reviewing: The graphics
Posted on Sunday, December 2 2007 @ 14:57:52 Eastern

Damn, I\'m really in a writing mood today, am I not?

Yeah, graphics. For better or worse, a game does need them, and your enjoyment of the game will be affected by it. But in order to make a good review of the graphics, I think it\'s impor...   read more...

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