All right, listen up. This is the Ominous Voice. Yeah, you thought I was gone for good, didn’t you? You think just because “Gamera Obscura” ended and GameCola transformed into a haven for artsy fartsy jackdonkeys and Nancy Drew enthusiasts that they were going to keep me from telling you how it is? No freakin’ way. Anyway, because GameCola’s trying to stand out from the crowd with its slightly different direction that nobody is actually noticing yet, I knew we couldn’t just keep on blabbing about the digital bile that never left Japan. I gotta be unique, y’know? And I’m not about to get buried under a pile of trite “Q&AmeColas,” neither. So I’m startin’ up my own column now. I dumped Jeff Day’s body into a dumpster and headed back to the GameCola writing compound to go on a solo mission. Nah, he ain’t dead; he’s just…resting comfortably with the seagulls in a local landfill right now.
So here’s the deal: This new column’s called “That’s So Cliché.” Awful title, I get it. Shut up. But I’m gonna tell it like it is. I’m gonna tell you everything that’s wrong with videogames. Yeah, I know, you love your videogames like there’s nothin’ better in the world. (You really need to check out women; they’re just as fun, although they got way too many incorrect buttons to push.) I know you guys melt over all that Skyrim, Mass Effect, and Warcraft crap. But I got news for you: Videogames have too many stupid things goin’ on inside’a them. They may be fantasy, but even fantasy needs to have SOME sense of order. Otherwise, you have anarchy. And anarchy is a path that creates chaos and THQ games.
Today, I’m gonna talk about a weird phenomenon that makes absolutely no sense. I’m talkin’ about life meters. We need life meters to show us when we’re gonna kick the bucket, and that’s fine. Makes the experience more tolerable if we know exactly when to chug an elf potion and instantly be rejuvenated. Not sure how that works, but I think Bayer could take a lesson from the”medieval geniuses” who concocted that blend. Aspirin takes a freakin’ hour to get my pain-in-the-ass headaches to do anything productive. Life meters are also kinda useful in gauging if we can take the punishment of a new stack of enemies or if we ought to haul our weak nerd butts the hell outta that stupid cavern and maybe practice some more before we start lookin’ fer that Scepter of Silicone Snakes again. But that’s not why I’m annoyed. Actually, seems I don’t need a reason to be annoyed, but I got one.
(Yup. These two done did the deed.)
What doesn’t make sense, ‘specially in RPGs, is that as you level up, you gain more hit points. How in the freakin’ hell does that happen? I can’t think’a one situation in life where you suddenly can take a crapload more damage. Yeah, I know, we got people who work out and exercise and puff up in the chest and get so muscly that you can’t tell their gender anymore, but doing that doesn’t mean that you can handle any more bullets if a crazy rabbit gangster decides he’s gonna fill you full’a lead. I don’t give a rat’s hiney how many stupid slimy creatures I’ve squashed; if I get punched in the head or toasted with a Fire spell, I’m goin’ down to the ground all the same. Not many people can take more beatings to the forehead just because they successfully lopped the heads off of more werewolves and junk.
Stranger still, in many games, when you level up, not only do you get an increase in hit points, but your life meter is completely restored! How in the hell does this happen? I can’t imagine being in the middle of a brawl with a huge dragon, teetering over the precipice of death with only a few drops of blood keeping me conscious, when suddenly my last Water spell fells the great beast and I…feel…great! My life force is restored and then some. Doesn’t happen. Shouldn’t happen. Makes things seem a bit more implausible, ‘specially when you get back to town and say that you defeated an extremely vicious dragon, but you look like you just got back from a day spa. Plenty of games do this. Super Mario RPG. Knights of the Old Republic. World of Warcraft. Rune Factory. Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest. (I tried to forget that last one, but dammit, that graveyard duck has totally Dolan’d its way into my brain.)
I think programmers stick this nonsense in here because players are secretly all chicken-hearted sissies. You can use these anomalies of nature to your advantage. Feeling like the enemy is beating the crap out of you? Go bust some weaker heads and improve your life meter. (That’s called bullying, by the way, and we shouldn’t approve, unless they stole your ham sandwich. Then it’s go time.) Too lazy to use up your precious Big Healing Potion of Ur’ga’aa’ar? Just level up right before a big boss brawl and you’re set. Plus it saves you on inn fare. But sometimes, challenge is a good thing. Videogame challenges have helped to make me the gritty pissed-off burgermeister I am today. So give us just a bigger kick in the butt, developers. I won’t argue against keeping the hit point increases at each level. We’d probably die without them, which basically equates to “these characters would never possibly win in the situation presented by the game.” But we don’t need to be mollycoddled by instant health refills every time we kill the umpteenth Satanic spawn of Joan Rivers or whatever. Just let us hobble our way back to the town of Riversnooze and resemble a true hero: one that can make it home alive after taking a beating from three imps simultaneously.
Mark Freedman called. He wants his “What the Crap?” column back.
(Sorry. That’s so cliché.)
I hope that Jeff Day character does make the occasional cameo here, interrupting the Ominous Voice for a change–that could be fun.
What the crap? Well, I totally missed this phenomenon in my RPG rant. http://gamecola.net/2006/02/what-the-crap-role-playing-games/
This article does make some great points. I was playing through MGS1 again recently. I held off using a ration as I and the boss were getting low on health. I gambled and won and got my health restored…. but only partially! Curses!
Of course, you can really gimp that game just by dying and continuing the same area at full strength. Sure, it counts against your ending score, but I feel this kinda breaks the system.
Sorry, but there’s a new sheriff in town!
I guess the deal with the higher hit points is making it seem like the character has been training hard enough to not be hurt as much. It makes sense, but it isn’t very realistic, but then again, it is RPGs.
Perhaps a way to intigrate it is to base it off of how much damage you take. Think about it, you’d improve at being able to take hits the more time you got hit, rather than just beating up some bad guys that are half your power. You could also do this with other stats, your magic gets more powerful as you use more spells, your speed increases after battling enemies that are faster than you ect.
I liked the approach in Chrono Cross. While your allies got major stat boosts when you beat a boss, you would get small rewards for pecking away at “random” encounters. I put quotes around “random” becuase they really weren’t randomized, but I was trying to say “non-boss battles”. I guess I could have just said that.
Anyways, in those encounters, you’d get occasionally a Strength + 1 or HP + 1. Every little bit helps, and it did show a small progression.
Don’t they drain Mega Man’s health when he kills a boss? What the crap?
I do like how modern games, specifically shooters, have gone away from the complex HUDs with bars and meters and such and replaced the health bar with a red ring of death (talking about on the screen, not the 360 hardware problem). It can also be coupled with a heavy heart beat sound, too.
And with games with real immersive worlds that you want to sync in to, you can make the HUD partially or fully transparent to make things more realistic. It’s the little things, eh?
And now, time for another captcha code. hold on to your butts…
I like the column. You should try Etrian Odysee for the DS. That’s what you are looking for, i guess…