Thursday, May 28, 2009

Mirror’s Edge, A Test Of Faith

Ok, I may catch a lot of flak for this, but I beat Mirror’s Edge last night, and have to say…  I think this was one of the most over-rated games I’ve ever played.  After all the hype from the demo, which for the most part was only bolstered by the retail release, I was expecting to have some fun with it.  I bought a copy, along with a few other games, before moving to Edmonton with the hopes of it getting me through the first few lonely months. 

3 chapters in and I couldn’t stand it, and put the game down.  Months later I’ve decided to come back to it, partially to give it another fair shake, partially to try to get my money’s worth, and partially for the achievement points…  I was still not impressed.  It had one or two cool parts, and I definitely have to tip my hat to the developers for trying something new.  And I think that may be what all the hype is about, the fact that it’s something new.  Some are classifying it as a new genre, First-Person Platformer.

I’ll agree with all that.  In today’s economy and with the cost to a studio to develop a game, it was very brave of DICE and EA to take a risk on an idea like this, and that has to be applauded.  So in that regard, I’m happy it was successful because it shows studios the consumers are still looking for new ideas, but when I bought it I was expecting to have some fun.  And I did not.

When I first started my job at Bioware working for QA, my cousin told me one of the downsides to the job was what he called “The Matrix Effect”.  Once you’ve seen behind the smoke and mirrors, and know how to spot bugs and design shortcomings, you can’t turn that off.  Gaming as a hobby becomes a challenge, since gaming is also a job.  And Mirror’s Edge really brought that statement home.  The trial and error approach of finding the right way to go, but never being able to truly rule a path out due to the possibility it was just collision detection preventing you from taking what was meant to be the right path after all, the die die die die checkpoint, die die die die game design…  Well it felt a lot like troubleshooting.  And I get enough of that at work.

When I play a game I have no problems with it being challenging, but it should still be fun.  And many games accomplish that.  Bionic Commando was great fun, not the perfect game by any means, but it was fun, even though it was quite challenging.  Every time I died, it only encouraged me to get back in there and try again, try harder.  Mirror’s Edge I just found discouraging.  It grated at my soul…

So when Mirror’s Edge 2 comes out, which you can be sure it will after the success of the first, let’s hope DICE doesn’t take the success of the first to mean they shouldn’t fix what isn’t broken.  That’s not an approach you can take when you’re building something new, because you can’t break what has yet to work.

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