Combat in Gaming

Saturday, March 7th, 2009

Still being buisy as all fuck, I just came off of a huge work week, so I’ll take this moment to collect some thoughts as my mind is running in all sorts of directions.

These are the general thoughts I have when speaking to colleagues about game design as well as me myself pondering solemly about the state of games itself as a media.

Why are action games known for having a bad camera? The common and easy complaint that most people make is that there are many moments where you end up not being able to see your character, enemy or where you’re going. Ninja Gaiden is the premiere example of this. Most people dismiss the game initially because of the complaint about it’s camera. Despite it’s ultra repsonsive and deep combat system. There are many people who absolutely refuse to experience it because of that initial barrier.

The problem though isn’t the camera as much as it is the user. The truth is there will never be combat game with a good camera unless you take camera control away from the player. So often at work whenever someone makes that complaint, I tell them that Ninja Gaiden has the BEST camera. Not because it actually has a good camera, but that it has a combat system reliable enough that I never have to use it. The problem with the game itself is the point of entry into that system in which you’re capable enough to navigate enemies and environment that you don’t ever have to worry about the camera. When I’m playing Ninja Gaiden and said enemy/boss character goes off screen, it’s not even issue because I’ve past that point as a player where the combat system feels as natural to me as any capable FPS player is where their two thumbsticks.

So I’ve come to discover that that very barrier of entry is a cultural thing. Most western gamers at this point know how to navigate a FPS. The barrier of entry for me when I first played a FPS was how to not running around while only looking at the ground or ceiling. Learning the movement system is just as important as learning how to not shoot at the sky in Halo.

Saying you want an action game to have a good camera is inately flawed. It’s the same as me saying that I won’t play a FPS because it’ll never have a good looking spin kick. (No Mirror’s Edge doesn’t count, I like to see the cool stuf I’m doing thank you.)

When HALO came to console it solidified what the control scheme for FPS here on out and spawned a million Halo copies thereafter. The same has yet to happen for action games. Ninja Gaiden could be the one if it weren’t for it’s intentional barriers making the game less accessible. Generally it’s the game’s difficulty, as well as just the general Stigma that surrounds the game (I can just feel people scoffing whenever I mention this game) because of the game’s creator or the way the game is “dressed.”

Someone who worked on the Spiderman Web of Shadows Team played Ninja Gaiden and knew there was potential there if placed in the right context. Unfortunately the rest of the game wrapped around the combat was pure garbage. But the parts I played I could tell there were really good intentions there.

Watch when May comes and Wolverine Origins comes out (i’ve been watching this game closely.) People will feel like action games have finally come to point. The Lunge feature which has been mentioned several times can be comparable to Ninja Gaiden’s Wind Run. A tracking Jump that pre-emtively sets the player up to DO COOL SHIT. The only difference is that Ninja Gaiden Hardly mentions it.

And there’s your accesiblility right there folks. Ninja Gaiden comes from an era of fighters where it’s up to the user to figure out what’s useful or not and how to use it. How many players who play Ninja Gaiden actually know about the Wind Run or the Landing Charge? Watch any speed run or Master Ninja Playthrough and you’ll notice the interchange of things like the Jump to Roll and how important it is to place you’re standard movement as well as your tracking movement. Whereas Wolverine is already discussing the mechanics of the game and how it’ll impress you.

I’m looking forward to Wolverine Origins in that it may do what Gears of War did to Kill Switch, and all with a single feature. But at least it’ll put action games back on the map, something that should’ve happened 6 years ago if not for people thinking that God Of War was the prime example of what an action game should be. (We all know how great these God Of War clones are.)

But also because I honestly feel like my involvement in games is proportional to how prominent action and combat is in the future of games themselves. Two years now there’s been little to play due to the nature of how games are evolving. (You’ve heard my complaints already about FPS’s)

Even last year GTAIV game of the year… yea I’ll take that. But in the list of reason’s why, it’s said GTAIV set out to do many things, and did them all well. Not true, the combat was horrible.

Here’s to hoping that’ll be different this year. I’m personally effecting this change as we speak. 10 Years ago I said to myself why aren’t there more people making movies? The tools are out there, yet there aren’t any single animators making short films. 6 Years ago I said action games are going to be great. Looks like I’ll have to step up and make them myself. I just can’t tell you what I’m making… yet

Personally to me Game of the Year 2008? Tekken 6… IN THE ARCADE!!!! DUN DUN DUNNNN!!!!!!!!!!

3 comments so far

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  1. Hey there I’m just finding this place and I couldn’t agree with you more. Besides the wolverine Orgins game that has come and gone. The new batman arkam asylum is a good example of good combat.

  2. I was wondering whether or not wolverine origins did what you thought it might, I personally didn’t hear much about it, though I only heard about ninja gaiden all those years ago by pretty much pure accident, I am an FPS gamer as are my friends, so it could be that wolverine origins simply missed my group.

  3. Lol, little late for me to comment on this, but something I just wanna say is that the best camera ever, in my opinion was Gex 2: Enter the Gecko. (probably a game nobody here has ever heard of XD )

    But the reason I say that is because right at the bottom of the pause menu, you can set the camera to manual, semi and auto. Computer can control it, computer can help you control it or you control it, yourself. The game was entertaining for a while for a platformer, but I was just so happy that someone had finally put camera options like that into a game.

    I did love Ninja Gaiden for the short time I played it. Mind you, the boss fights inspired a rage in me like no other, but I still loved it. I never really had a problem with the camera, though. It was moreso learning the timing of doing stuff. Not being a very avid action gamer, it was a bit of an adjustment for me to get timing like that down. I did love the fact that what few boss fights I was in were actually 1-on-1 fights.

    I hated in Shinobi (can’t remember the name of this particular one, but it was on ps2) how when you go to fight a boss, they constantly send swarms of annoying minions at you. I want a boss fight to be me and the boss; not me, the boss and a continuous swarm of annoying little bastards that ruin the feel a boss fight should have. I quit that game after fighting the blind guy in the hall full of water and a ton of little robots that shouldn’t have been there. Would’ve LOVED to have that fight just be you and the boss. I loved the way that boss was set up and the way he fought, and it would’ve been a blast to have to find ways of penetrating his nearly perfect defence, but noooooo…laser wielding robots have to ruin the fun… >.>

    Anyway, enough of that rant. XD I probably won’t bother with X-Men Origins, as it’s a movie game and I avoid those like the plague. I’ll check out some reviews on it, see how it turned out and might give it a shot, but I’m feeling pretty skeptical.