March 29, 2010

Start Profiling: Open World Mechanical Systems

Since I put the tag “Start Profiling” on the last post, I guess that means I’m writing a series about DEADLY PREMONITION. I guess that’s okay. I can write a little more. I still haven’t beat it or anything, but here are some more of my early thoughts. If I ever do finish it, you can bet that I’ll have a review that’s mostly just plot analysis or something.

I mentioned in the last post that this game bit off more than it can chew in terms of systems. This is completely true. DEADLY PREMONITION is attempting to have a huge, open world with hunger and sleep mechanics.

On one hand, it completely fails. Getting around the world is a pain in the ass. I hear one of the side missions gets you a radio that lets you fast travel, but the game won’t let me pick flowers while it’s raining, so I’m still without that particular item for the time being. The world is really huge, and driving controls incredibly badly. Sure, it gives you a decent feeling that you’re seeing all of this country town, but it also is just a huge annoyance driving around. The annoyance is enhanced by how useless the map is. You can’t zoom the map out. It only shows you your immediate area, so you have to scroll around if you want to see more. This makes it nearly impossible to plot a path to your destination if it’s more than two blocks away. You are constantly opening your map, scrolling around to find the next turn, and closing your map. It’s stupid.
The hunger and sleep mechanics don’t seem to do much either. Basically, you have to sleep and eat, and you can buy many foodstuffs and coffee and such in the world to refill those meters. However, it’s never really something that needs to be rationed. You always have plenty of money, and you find tons of food naturally in the world. It’s never anything even vaguely like a problem to make sure you don’t starve to death or fall asleep outside.
The sleep part, especially, isn’t a problem, because you are constantly trying to sleep to move the clock forward. Lots of events only happen at certain time periods, and often the game will put you in a situation where you have to wait half the day to continue the story. Because the in-game clock moves glacially slow, you have to either sleep or take many smoke breaks (which is another mechanic that moves the clock forward, for whatever reason) in order to get on with it.

Still, though, when you really get into the story, you really sort of understand what they were trying to do. You can see all major suspects and characters on the map at all times. You can see them going about their daily lives. They drive to work. They go home at night, after stopping by the grocery store. You actually have to follow their patterns to finish certain side missions, and it does give the entire game world a much more realistic feel. It’s sort of like Majora’s Mask in that way. The world is moving, whether or not you’re acting on it. You can actually go back to previous days to complete side missions, too, so it’s like Majora’s Mask in that way as well. You can go, “Okay, I guess he’ll be here during this chapter at 14:00” and plan a route accordingly. This kind of open world interaction is honestly rarely done. Games like Oblivion or Fallout 3 do it, but they never move key NPCs because you need to be able to find them. As such, it doesn’t feel like much is actually changing, because the only people you actually interact with are always where you expect them. This game moves everyone, even key characters you may need to talk with. They’re all living their lives. It’s cool. And the fact that your character can be hungry, so you decide to go out to dinner with some NPCs and mooch a free meal? Well, hey, that’s cool realism too.

Of course, this sense of realism is coming from a game where I’m shooting Zombie Ghosts that only York can see like… all the fucking time. But it’s neat, if flawed.

Then again, that’s exactly what DEADLY PREMONITION is. Neat, if flawed.

[…] say that with some warnings. This really isn’t a good game mechanically. The open world stuff is tedious. The shooting is awful. It has some strangely-compelling voice […]

Pingback by The Blogtastic Blogfest That Is! » Blog Archive » Extra for Daily Reporter: A Deadly Premonition Story Discussion — March 31, 2010 @ 12:10 am

Leave a comment