Thursday, August 18, 2016

Best Video Game Mechanic

            I have not been posting nearly enough this year and I want to steer back from that.  To that end I have found a 30-day blog challenge and will be writing out entries, hopefully I can get all thirty days without any breaks, and if I manage to do that (since August has 31 days) I will think of an additional entry to write about.  I have done a 30-day challenge before, it for movies, but that was a while back, feel free to read those too if you like.

            Today is day 18 and the topic is “Best Game Mechanic”.
            I actually have three, one I kind of already talked about, the second was copied into every game in its genre for 10 years and became a cancer leading to the stagnation of a whole genre, and the third… Well, I am guessing that people will eventual get sick of tuning into this blog series and reading about how much I love FALLOUT.
            The first best mechanic is Portals from the game “Portal” and “Portal 2”.  The ability to link two points of the map as a means of moving between them instead of relying on the jump mechanic or the manipulation of the environment to create ramps is the most innovative thing ever, and allows for entirely new ways of constructing environments and puzzles which changes people’s thinking in a new way.  It is the fifth dimension of gaming.  Along with my favorite video game antagonist I cannot recommend these games enough, go play them.
Now you are thinking with portals.
            The second mechanic is Regenerating Health introduced in “Halo: Combat Evolved” (maybe it was introduced in another game before, but I don’t know of it, and it was popularized in “Halo”, if you want to correct me, please leave a comment).  The importance of this concept cannot be overstated.  It is a reset button on the player’s ability to survive that gets hit… Every. Single. Encounter.  You never have to worry about the placement of health and armor and you don’t have to worry about a save point leaving a player in a position that they can’t win because they have no life left.  Every encounter can be balanced with the knowledge that the player has their maximum hit points at the start, and when they leave the room, they will have them again.  This is one of those great things that was overdone, so now people don’t realize how useful a tool it can be.
I think I have said this before, but Halo works as a series because it is a mash up of styles.  A little Larry Niven, a little Robert Heinlein, and a little bit of James Cameron.  It blends very well.
            The Third is V.A.T.S. and I say that by coupling that assertion with this: “Fallout 3” would have been borderline unplayable without it.  VATS, or “Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System” is the ability to pause the game, pick which enemy you want to shoot, what area of their body you want to shoot (it tells you how likely you are to hit and how much damage a hit will deal), and then allowing the game to play out your picks.  Fallout 3 is a first person shooter that is hard as hell to aim with (there is no aim assist, the left trigger does not give you iron sights, and the enemies are both fast and move erratically… unless they are just barreling down on you and tanking round after round of ammunition).  The ability to just let the game sort itself out was a helpful tool that allowed for the coolest micro-cut scenes of the players’ designs, modeling every bloody chunk of skull and brain that a lucky shot would free from an enemy’s obliterated head.
"Too many people have opinions on things they know nothing about.
And the more ignorant they are, the more opinions they have" -Thomas Hildern
            VATS was improved in “Fallout 4”, instead of pausing the game things just go into slow motion, allowing you to see whether your shots will go off and land before an enemy could make it to cover, and forcing you to make quicker decisions because the situation is evolving, just slower.  Fallout 4 also has smoother gunplay in general, and drugs your character can take that give you a slow motion effect outside of VATS, making the game even more flexible and interesting (in that aspect).

            What is your favorite game mechanic?  The classic mushroom power up?  In which a token provides a new ability that is lost when damage is taken.  Or maybe how all of Mega-Man’s special powers had its own meter?  Necessitating each to be rationed.  Maybe this topic is kind of esoteric, and game design is not really a thing people like to focus on.  If you would like to learn more about game design and mechanics I would like to recommend the youtube channel “Extra Credits” which is made by a game designer, an animator, and numerous artists.


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