It’s been far too long since the last “Durp!,” hasn’t it? Truth be told, I’ve been trying to ignore the stupid things developers have been saying just to save me the trouble of writing up about it. But as you can clearly see, this segment is back from the dead. As my luck would have it, two beautifully, absurdly, and nearly-impossible quotes were dropped on my groin at nearly the same time. So what could be SO bad that it ripped me off my lazy rump and into SUPER RANT MODE?
Oh ho ho, just take a look inside and see…
The first of these gems comes from Erich Waas, “Director, Product Development” of Sony’s San Diego Studio, on pitiful Mario Kart wannabe ModNation Racers: Road Trip for the PlayStation Vita. In his little Sony blog he talks about the “robust online features” within the game, while at the same time trying to sugarcoat the fact the game doesn’t have the one online mode it should…
“I know there are some of you that are disappointed that ModNation Racers: Road Trip doesn’t let you play head-to-head online other than ad-hoc. But we really wanted to evolve online functionality and take advantage of the PlayStation Vita’s unique feature set in new ways. If all we ever did as developers is rehash features that have been done in previous games, we’d still be entering passwords instead of using save files and you’d have to start the entire game over after you lost your three lives (extra 1-ups aside). While online head-to-head has been a mode used in many games in recent years, we focused on making a game that is crafted for how portable games are most often played—in quicker “pick up and play” sessions multiple times in a day. Your online interaction, competition and socialization will always be when it’s convenient for you. I hope that all of you are as interested to check-out the robust online features that ModNation Racers: Road Trip has as we are to see you enjoy them!”
Yes, Erich, because this is all about “evolving online functionality,” and not about your team being lazy or not having enough time to implement a bare-bones online mode. And last I heard, evolution was a process of making something BETTER, not of stripping out basic and expected functions. If a game like Mario Kart, made by NINTENDO, a company that has been continuously criticized for their lack of online initiative, has consistently provided online racing for its last three outings, WHY CAN’T YOURS?
Next, we have an ironic, and laughable tidbit from Neil Druckmann, creative director at Sony’s poster child, Naughty Dog. Coming off Uncharted 3, they are striking into a genre that no one has ever done before. ZOMBIES!
Really? Zombies? REALLY? But whatever, let’s put aside the fact that they chose the most generic and hackneyed theme ever and see what he says concerning their approach to storytelling…
“We’re trying to say something about human beings and how they exist. Not necessarily just in this setting, but in every setting. We try so hard at Naughty Dog to push things and then games come out that are fun and exciting and get visceral things right, but to read in reviews that they have an amazing story is disheartening to us because we work so hard at it. We really hope we can raise the bar.”
Yes, you really just read that. If just the sight of it broke your brain and you find yourself completely unable to comprehend the English language, allow me to decipher.
“We get really upset when other games turn out really good and reviews say they have good stories. Only Naughty Dog can make good stories!”
First, this line comes across ridiculously puerile (this coming from someone as childish as myself), and reeks of penis envy. Second, the part “because we work so hard at it” almost feels like an outright lie. Or maybe they ARE actually trying really hard, which makes it all the more hilarious.
Perhaps Naughty Dog does really consider Uncharted to have a good story, but in my world, storytelling is far, FAR more than just piecing together action scene choreography and some overly-dramatic lines. There are two terribly important aspects of a story that Naughty Dog (and, honestly, most other developers) have completely ignored: LOGIC and CONTINUITY.
First, LOGIC. Logic is the basis on which all we see or hear functions. This is particularly important in a new fictional universe that the creator expects to be taken seriously, as the viewer needs to learn the intricacies of the world presented. Take, for example, a sci-fi game where the main character, Sergeant Generic Space Marine, can jump 50 feet into the air. A question one could then ask is: “HOW can he jump 50 feet into the air?” Whether it be through super powers or anti-gravity boots or some other phenomena, the writer should be able to explain something that makes sense within the boundaries set by the universe. The more you explain to the viewer, the more they will suspend their disbelief of the world you have presented. Again, this is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT in a realistic setting by which we set our impressions and logic by reality’s standards. In Uncharted 3, Nathan Drake mows through hundreds of enemies. Where did these enemies come from? How can a single villain somehow acquire this many henchmen and have them placed in just the right places around the world? Deguello said it best when I was talking to him about this issue a while back. In Indiana Jones it makes sense that Indy has so many baddies to face since he has faced 1) Nazis, 2) Thuggee cultists, 3) Communist Russia. I wouldn’t be so hard on this concept of villains and their hoards of minions that plagues so many B action movies if THEY ACTUALLY EXPLAINED HOW AND WHY. And no, the main villain having lots of money doesn’t explain how so many mercenaries can coordinate so well together…
Next, CONTINUITY. Continuity takes all of the scenes and established logic and pieces them together in a fashion that flows and, in theory, explains any unanswered questions. If you do not explain a jump from one scene to the next or properly answer the viewer’s questions or concerns of the logic presented, then you have established what we like to call a “plothole.” Going back to our friend, Sergeant Generic Space Marine, he shouldn’t magically be able to jump 100 feet in the air halfway through the story or suddenly lose the ability to jump altogether if there’s no explanation to it. In Uncharted 3, Nathan Drake mows through said dozens upon hundreds of armored foes with explosive weaponry, yet two dudes in plain clothes with handguns get the drop on him. If you establish a character as some invincible force, you can’t just suddenly rip that away whenever the occasion calls for it. If it doesn’t work for your story (and why should it, this is a videogame) THEN MAYBE YOU SHOULDN’T WRITE YOUR STORY THIS WAY.
If you can’t even get the basics down for what makes a story a good (and complete) story, then you don’t have the right to imply that you do it better than the rest. If you’re going to go out of your way to focus on the story then you damn well better do it right and you damn well better make the game FUN, too, since that’s why we play videogames in the first place (or most of us, at least). If I just wanted to watch a B movie I’d just toss in a Schwarzenegger flick. At least those movies don’t try to pretend to be deeper than they actually are…
Anyway, I got a bit offtrack with that rant. Coming up next from me will be Durpthroughs of Fatal Frame IV and Saint’s Row: The Third (of which I will be co-oping with Infernal). Look forward to little girl shrieks and comic mischief!