Thoughts on computer games

On more than one occasion, I’ve found myself struggling to proceed past a certain point in a computer game. The situation arises where a particularly intricate puzzle or sequence of jumps exists, with no save point to break things up.

Take my present example: I’m playing Tomb Raider Anniversary at the moment, and I am currently at the Damocles room. From the save point, I have to drop off a ledge, run through a doorway, through a room (avoiding falling swords), jump onto a small broken pillar, across to a crevice in the wall, up to the next crevice, around a corner, up onto a ledge, then climb up and around a pole, jump off towards a tall pillar (where I hang by my fingertips briefly before climbing up), across to another pillar, then over to an alcove in the wall. I drop from this alcove, hanging from a ledge. I scooch to the end of this ledge, and jump across to a crevice in an adjacent wall. I jump up to a slightly higher crevice, scooch along to the end of this, and then jump towards a metal ring set in the wall. I fire off a grappling hook while in mid-air, which catches onto the ring. While hanging from the rope, I run along the face of the wall until I reach a particular spot where I can jump outwards from the wall, towards a pillar that is behind me. I catch onto this pillar, pull up, and then jump to the top of another pillar. And then another. And then another.

I don’t know what happens next, because that’s as far as I’ve got. Failing to position any of these jumps correctly means a long fall. If the fall kills me, then I have to reload from the save point. Even if it doesn’t, I’m all the way back to running through the room avoiding fallen swords.

Here’s another example – I bought GTA: Vice City Stories a while ago. I got as far as a rather long, multi-part mission. But at every attempt, I was getting killed at the third part of the mission. Having to reload and replay the first part of the mission was taking at least five minutes each time. But it’s not so much the time that is annoying, it’s the boredom factor – it’s having to repeatedly perform the same actions that you have already proven yourself capable of, to the point at which you start making mistakes because the game is pissing you off.

Some people play games for the challenge. Me, I play for entertainment. When starting a game, I want to be able to select a “plentiful checkpoints” mode. Or a “anti-boredom mode”, where the game senses when you’ve hit a metaphorical brick wall, and pops up a little message saying *Hey, would you like to just skip this bit? Would it help if I put a little bridge just here, so you don’t have to make all those dull jumps yet again? What about if I gave you the ability to fly for ten seconds?*

I know that different people expect different things from computer games, which is why these settings should be optional. But for me, they would greatly enhance my enjoyment, which is basically, as far as I’m concerned, the whole point.

8 replies on “Thoughts on computer games”


Lego StarWars, hopping across sinking stones set in Lava, always miss the last jump… 14 times in a row last night until I gave up.

Same with Jak & Daxter, same with.. ohh any platform game really.

Which is why I play Pro Evo more than anything. Pick it up, play, put it down. No blocking levels, no frustration (aside from dodgy AI). It’s also why I got a Wii… 10mins of bowling is a nice little time filler…. quickly becoming 30…

I’m the same. As soon as it gets too hard for me I reach for the internet and either find a walk through or find a cheat mode. I’m not in it to get frustrated and annoyed. I want to have fun.

That said, I never cheated on Lego Star Wars and only got annoyed at my son for buying silly things like moustaches when we should have been saving up for invincibility.

That sounds much like the money situation in our house actually 😉

I’m also a frequent walkthrough user. I’m not as bad as I used to be though. I remember playing the first two Tomb Raider games and actually consulting the walkthrough before I’d even attempted to figure it out on my own. That was excessive, and probably impaired my enjoyment of the games.

However, it seems that there’s not much I can do with this Tomb Raider game. A walkthrough is no good, because I already know what I’m trying to achieve, and there are no known cheats that would benefit me in this particular situation. I’ve either got to keep plugging away at it until I get lucky, or put the thing away for a few years (like I did with *Silent Hill 3*).

Maybe the big problem is just that you guys suck? 🙂

Seriously though, one suggestion: play games made by Nintendo. 99% of the time any parts of the game that proved problematical have been ironed out and made better (for better, read possible) by their play-testing team long before the games is in your hands.

Nintendo are also the experts at signposting things, but no so obviously that your enjoyment of the game is ruined by a big sign saying “go here next and do this”.

Pete: Ah, the seemingly insolvable … how annoying.

Matt: I know I suck at games 🙂

Actually, my son had a problem with a Harry Potter game on his Nintendo DS Lite that was very similar. You were supposed to talk to a boy and an arrow pointed towards the boy in question. However, once you reached the boy the arrow just swung around as you had gone past him. It seemed very random how we actually got round that bug by just going backwards and forwards until the software recognised we were in the right place.

Two player Lego Star Wars with my beloved became ten times more fun when we weren’t being punished for missing impossible jumps brought about by camera angles forced upon us because the game has to keep both players on screen at once.

Although for non-obvious Nintendoese I’d say that Zelda Twilight Princess didn’t exactly make it obvious where you were supposed to go in a number of areas, namely that mountain covered in sumo wrestling lava turds.

Mario Galaxy remain a doorway into untapped childish glee though that I don’t want to use up too quickly.

I’m with you as it happens. If I game is going to cockblock me (technical term – honest) then it needs to make it worth my while to do so. Shadow of the Colussus was one I particularly remember.

That being said, I think it’s more typical of console games because invariably they’re the ones with checkpoints and save locations unlike most PC games where you can save just before a tricky bit.

X-Wing Alliance did implement a feature that you could use once or possibly twice – it allowed you bypass a mission and go straight to the next one if you were having too much trouble with it.

*UPDATE: I managed to complete the Damocles sequence on about the fifth or sixth try this evening.*

**Matt:** I’m aware of Nintendo’s high reputation when it comes to playability, and if I were in the market for a new console, I think the Wii would be top of my list. But I’m not, so PS2 it stays.

**Paul:** I hate collision detection stuff like that. Tomb Raider has its fair share of such issues. You feel like that kind of thing should have been ironed out in testing.

**D:** Sumo wrestling lava turds eh? Sounds like another one of my dreams.

**Tom:** Funny, as a hardcore gamer I thought you’d be in the “Stop whining and enjoy teh challenge, pussy!” camp. Indeed, I’ve always liked gaming on the PC for two reasons – firstly, I love keyboard+mouse as a control system, and secondly, quicksave. But my graphics card is lame, so if I want to play anything less than 5 years old, it has to be on the PS2. For the most part, the checkpoints in Tomb Raider Anniversary have been quite intelligently placed – the Damocles room has been the only occasion when it’s been noticeably lacking. You can imagine my relief when I finally reached the next checkpoint!

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