Welp, that's it for me and Ratchet.
Best game I've played all year...so far.
But did I finish it? Hell no. Not even close.
A quick check at gamefaqs tells me I have 9-10 more worlds to go to/return to before I reach the end.
But sorry, Ratchet, old pal. Your game is back in the blu-ray case and I doubt it will ever see the insides of my PS3 again...unless it's for research.
Again- I loved this game. LOVED IT! I could not stop playing it for a while there. Need to dive into Mario Galaxy next but I've played MGalaxy for about 2 hours and my initial impressions are really good, but I like Ratchet way more so far. So I'm not dogging this game at all.
But man, they did the two things that kill most games for me (assuming I even like the game enough to play for more than 30 minutes...and hell I liked/loved this one enough to play for like 3 nights!):
a- they overstayed their welcome. 9 more levels?!? Come on! I played for like 5-6 hours so far (stopped playing on the dino lava planet...which looks AMAZING, by the way!)...but yeah, so after 5-6 hours I feel like I've pretty much gotten the point of the game, done most of the mechanics, gotten the gist of the thing's spirit....and now I want to be done within the next 30 min to 2 hours. Maybe it's just me but I want to be able to finish a damn story based game in 1-4 sittings tops...where a sitting= 1-3 hours max, not 6-8 hours at a time. Once I realized how much more there was to play, it only took the slightest thing to get me to walk away. Turns out the slightest thing was a huge thing...and that is:
b- STOP MAKING IT OBVIOUS THAT GAMES ARE GETTING HARDER AS YOU PROGRESS!!! Ok, there are probably several schools of thought on this, but here's mine...and I think it should be the standard line of thought for all story based games (hey, it's my blog, so I can be a game design bully if I want to :) ....so here it is:
FROM START TO FINISH, with NO deviation from this, games need to be hard enough to be engaging but easy enough so they don't get frustrating. This to me equals PLAYER ENGAGEMENT. And the goal should be for the player to feel ENGAGED 100% of the time. NOT CHALLENGED! NEVER CHALLENGED! Who the fuck wants to feel challenged?!? I mean, who is that fun for?!?! Unless it's a hard core skill game and it's clear that is the goal for the title (like Ghosts N' Goblins or something) a game should engage you from start to finish...and that is it!
And Ratchet did this beautifully until I got to the space ship boss battle (with it's crazy 'aim with one stick and move the ship with the other' set up). But I could live with that hiccup. But then right after they toss me into a robotron level of 'we're going to milk 30 minutes out of play time while we keep you in this one area and throw more and more bad guys at you'...by this point I was getting kind of tied of the thing but really wanted to finish it....but THEN right after, I'm on the dino planet where the giant dino enemies- who are not even bosses- take alot of hit points to kill and do you alot of damage....and that for me, was the killer, the nail in the coffin. I had 4 sections in a row where instead of 'semi-coasting thru the adventure/semi focusing on the adventure in order to move forward', the game took me out of the fast lane, out of the zen-like trance that a great game creates and suddenly I was WORKING.
Well fuck it, I already got a job. I don't want to work to play your game. So I'm not going to. I'm done.
And yeah, I know some folks think the game was ultra easy. Difficulty is subjective and good work is being done in some games today to adjust difficulty for players on the fly. But for me, the game got too hard. NOTso hard that I could not finish it if I really tried. Sure I COULD finish it with 3-5 deaths of Ratchet for each challenging area...but again, I'm not here to take a fucking test...I'm here to play. And after dino planet, I was no longer playing. I was dying-learning-dying-learning a bit more-dying-learning a bit more....ugh, fucking shit!
Much as I loved this game...and again, it's a GOTY contender for me...I just can't keep struggling with the thing.
I mean...if I may....ahem:
I DON'T FUCKING WANT TO BE CHALLENGED BY MY FUCKING ENTERTAINMENT. HERE'S 60 FUCKING BUCKS...ENTERTAIN ME GOD DAMMIT!!! FROM THE SECOND I POWER UP THE CONSOLE TO THE SECOND I TURN IT OFF, ENTERTAIN THE FUCK OUT OF ME OR GO THE MOTHER FUCK AWAY!!!! AND YES I GET IT, HARD CORE FOLKS: TO YOU BEING CHALLENGED AND PUT THRU THE WRINGER AND EMERGING AS A BAD ASS GAMER IS FUN...GOOD ON YOU! BUT IT SURE AS SHIT AIN'T FUN FOR ME AND I DOUBT IT IS FUN FOR MOST.
Again, I get that games should get harder as they go. But they should do it in order to keep the player in the engaged sweet spot and to compensate and adjust for the player's increasing skill...to the player, the increase in difficulty should go unnoticed...to the player, the difficulty should be the SAME feeling as it is in the final level as it was in the first level. But somewhere along the line, designers forgot the REASON games were supposed to get harder. Hell, maybe it was never defined like I am defining it...maybe alot of designers are just doing the 'games get harder as they go' thing from the old arcade days (where they had to in order to kick you slacker ass off the machine) and never really thought about the theory behind it....and just applied it to today's games when they really should not be doing so.
And before someone comments that by 6-8 hours in, I should have learned the skills needed so that the dino planet would not have resulted in a shelf moment and that this is what the makers of Ratchet were hoping for, let me say this...and this comes from 14 years of experience watching people respond- good and bad- to the games I've worked on: gamers are not developers. They WILL NOT use ANY mechanic they do not need to use. They will take the path of least resistance to get from A TO B. So just because the developer OFFERS a way to dodge bullets skillfully, and just because a game allows the player to slow down time and reverse it when things get tough (for example), the player- unless he has HAD to use those skills alot earlier in the game- will probably not call upon them 6-8 hours in when the developer presents the player with a situation that will be hard- and take him out of the engagement zone- unless he DOES use those mechanics.
And I know, I know...I've done it to players as well. Hades in GOW was a pain in the ass...not by design, just by not getting around to focus testing that level. Twisted Metal:Black was so hard we probably cut our audience for that game by at least 50%. And that game is a perfect example of us- as developers- assuming players would use mechanics we had given them without even forcing the player to make those mechanics second nature (75% of Twisted :Black players didn't even KNOW there were d-pad combo moves that let you fire ice, rear fire, drop mines, and activate a shield)...but we tuned the game assuming everyone would know those mechanics were there and- as importantly- have them ingrained as much into their play styles as us, the game makers. So yeah, I've fucked it up before as well....hell of alot worse than the new Ratchet in fact.
And maybe it's because- as a designer- I've been guilty of these sins myself that I know it when I see it and I HATE IT when I see it. Cause a) it pisses me off as a player and b) it reminds me of my past failures as a designer.
Man...if Ratchet would have just ended 2 planets past the lava/dino planet...and it would have stayed at the same level of engagement from start to finish, it would have been one of my top 5 games of all time...as is, now it sits between my unopened copy of STRANGLEHOLD for PS3 and my Atari 2600 copy of Custard's Revenge, gathering dust.
And yeah I know this post is angry. I know I'm coming down crazy hard on a stellar game like Ratchet versus some lame ass B grade game....Sorry about that...but I am so disappointed because I loved the newest Ratchet SO MUCH! It looks so amazing and controls like butter and just feels SOOOOOO right. And I was having SOOOOO much damn fun. And dammit, they took that away from me. So I guess I am pissed now...sorry...sure I will feel better in daylight :)
Ok...off to bed!
Hope ya'll had a great holiday!