Suicide by player character   Leave a comment

Also: checkpoints? You’re a proper Charlie.

Thursday was mostly spent waiting for the new work printer-toy to be delivered. It was also spent needing to go to the post-office to get rid of that useless wireless thing. This meant I was gradually getting more and more worked up and annoyed about it. Usually delivered before twelve, grr.

Eventually it turned up, though. At about half past four. If Wilkinsons and the Post Office had closed at 5, as I expected, it would have been too late; but I’d checked, and they both closed at 6. Hah! Unmarked Delivery Vans Incorporated’s malicious attempt to stop me getting stuff done was foiled! And so I ran off to the town.

£1.30 postage I probably won’t see again. But you get proof of postage on second class packets, so that’s one inevitable pitfall avoided. Can’t claim I didn’t post it, can you?

Thursday is not-going-to-the-gym day, and the rest was needed and appreciated. Instead I made another big batch of Chilli con Carne, this time using some fajita sauce I had knocking around. It wasn’t as good as the last batch. Ah well.

Next on my list of games to play is Batman: Arkham Asylum, but that whole nuisance work thing meant I didn’t really feel up to starting something new, and wasn’t in the right mood to play it. Start it in a bad mood, and you’ll probably hate the game regardless. I’m a bit wary, because it’s an action game, and even worse it uses checkpoint saves (that will probably be deleted by Games for Windows Live). There is no excuse for checkpoint save systems, and almost any game that uses them can be written off as shit without even bothering to install it. But I remembered Dead Space – that was a linear action game with checkpoint saves, but still actually very good (and was channeling System Shock 2 harder than a priest at an under-16s nudist beach). And Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (except for the bit after you lose the time powers (ie. the things that made the checkpoints not awful); that was utterly inexcusable by itself and then made even worse by some sadistic twat of a developer being put in charge of the checkpoints). That’s two good games with checkpoint saves in the last decade, Batman: Automobile Association could bring the total to a whopping great three.

No, both games with the initialism GoW were rubbish.

But, developers? Seriously, no checkpoint saves. Ever. No exceptions. Serialising your objects is a pain, but it’s a solved problem, and proper saves have been a standard feature on PC for the best part of twenty years. Don’t take your laziness and stupidity out on the players. Even the least-endowed home console (ignoring the Wii, but then so do all the third-party developers) has 4GB of storage plus the ability to use USB sticks: that is no longer an excuse either. And to anyone that thinks checkpoints have any advantage over being able to save anywhere: you’re an idiot. All they do is waste players’ time by forcing them to re-do things they’ve already done (even if they did it perfectly!), and penalise them for stopping playing when they need or want to (and if you might not have long to play, and so don’t know that you’ll be able to make it to the next ludicrously-spaced save point, are you going to want to play at all?). This is not interesting. This is not promoting skillful play. This is you, being a cunt. So fucking stop it.

Anyway, instead (and instead of doing anything useful or worthwhile) I played Borderlands. I’d played a chunk of it about a year ago, and I’d been feeling like getting back to it. Now my desktop’s returned, I can. It’s a nice, easy, comfort-playing game.
A lot of people complain about the level-scaling (adjusting baddies’ difficulty to match your ability) in Oblivion. Now, if Oblivion is an argument against level-scaling (and it certainly had its flaws), Borderlands is an argument in its favour. The problem is, you’ll do a lot of running between missions and whatnot. And those gaps may well be filled with enemies that’re a much lower level than you. Why’s that bad? Borderlands is partly about killing baddies (and low-level baddies are very easy to kill), but it’s even more about getting XP to level up, and finding new and exciting guns (action games need something above and beyond incessant murder, or they get boring by the second level – like God of War). Not only will low-level opponents give you useless loot, but there’s a damage and XP modifier based on level difference: by the time that’s five levels, you get no experience, and the enemies are completely unable to hurt you. They still make your screen flash and wobble, though, so you need to waste ammo dispatching them. Like the endless waves of Kobolds and halberd-wielding dog things in Baldur’s Gate, they are a sloggy nuisance that the game would be better off without. How many have you killed? Isn’t that enough? Yes. Yes it is. But they just won’t stop coming.

I don’t know why they implemented the level-difference thing. At least that would mean the enemies were some sort of challenge, in big enough packs, and you got some reward for killing them. It doesn’t help that a Level 31 Bruiser who will kill you in a few seconds looks identical to a Level 25 Bruiser who can’t hurt you at all. If all the baddies scaled to your level, you’d always be getting worthwhile XP and loot, and you’d not be able to outpace the mission levels.

But when you do find some enemies at a similar level to you, it’s good fun. Pop the baddies, grab the guns!

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