Sunday, September 10, 2006

Video game logic

I have a fairly unique perspective on video games. Specifically I'm horrible at playing them but very good at helping others play them. My hand eye coordination works great on direct interaction things such as general artistic endeavors, weaponry and such activities where you use something as an extension of yourself. It sucks on distance related things such as throwing, catching, and, most notably, video games. Remembering that I have to hit the little X button to make my character kick, or even figuring out how much left I have to push the arrow to make my character move across the screen just doesn't click. My brother, however, is and always have been fantastic at video games. He was also very persuasive and could usually talk me into not only helping him buy or beg for a system or game but also sit and watch him play. It was my job to read the manuals, watch the game, and figure out the 'tough' spots. My husband is very much the same and I have easily slipped into the same position of helper to his slightly more complicated games. I have spent literally hundreds upon hundreds of hours watching and advising on video games of all types from basic fighting games such as Soul Blade to very complex games such as Prince of Persia. They're the ones beating the games before their friends, setting scores in arcades, and killing the big bad; I'm the one answering the question "okay where do I go now?", "how do I get over there?", or "why can't I find the stupid thing!" Perhaps its because I'm not actually stressed out dealing with the bad guys but the answer is usually fairly apparent after a careful survey of the surroundings. I have found that while video game players today are quite obsessed with 'walkthroughs' no one seems to be paying much attention to the general rules of video games. My husband and I got through all of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time without a walkthrough. (When he went through Prince of Persia: The Warrior Within he purchased a walkthrough but he fell back on me when the walk through didn't give enough information.) Realizing there are general rules to video games can be far more helpful, not to mention a lot cheaper than buying all those game specific helps. So, without further adieu I present to you my top ten video game rules to remember.

Basic guide to video games

Rule 1) Follow the enemies.
Since the basic premise of nearly all video games is to beat the enemy the easiest way to find your way through a level is to follow the enemies. If confronted with multiple paths always chose the one with visible enemies, or, baring that, the one where you run into enemies the quickest. In general if you go more than one full screen, or more than a minute, without running into a trap or enemy you are going the wrong way! Turn around and go back.

Rule 2) Kill all enemies.
Enemies are in your way for a reason. In any game where fallen enemies give loot, treasure, or items make sure you kill all enemies before proceeding to the next screen. The one enemy you rush past might carry the key you need to unlock the door in the next level, or the item that will make or break your next boss fight. If you are revisiting areas simply to level up this rule is not as important the second time around.

Rule 3) Collect all items.
This goes with rule number 2. Chests, crates, boxes, etc are placed about for a reason. If you can't open it now, remember it and come back, you will need it eventually. Even if it's just monetary in nature take the time to smash and grab. Otherwise you might find that key item at the next shop is just out of your price range.

Rule 4) Items are there for a reason.
If you are fighting the big bad of the level and every time you turn around you keep picking up knives, use the knives! If you keep finding a plethora of fire based items than fire based items are likely the most effective against the present enemies. Ultimately games are made to be beaten and the material you will need are usually provided in a very timely manner.

Rule 5) Use items wisely.
This works with the same principle as rule number 3 and 4, if you're given it or able to collect it you're going to need it. Don't waste items unnecessarily. If one bomb will work don't use three just because you like the explosion. If two doors lead to the exact same place don't use two keys when just one will work. If the potion heals three hearts and you're only missing one, wait. If you don't you are likely to find that you are short something you'll need later. If you end a level with left over items likelihood is you'll need them in the next level.

Rule 6) Pay attention to your surroundings.
Everything is there for a reason. Visual clues are provided to lead you, usually to somewhere you definitely want to be. Changes in the look of stone walls, rock faces, even curtains or pictures should never been ignored. It takes work for the designers to change things and they aren't going to do it without a reason. Look for these minor changes in your surroundings for vital hints to solve puzzles, open new areas, and find hidden items. When in doubt take the time to give that discolored ice a few swings or try to climb up that suddenly ivy covered wall.

Rule 7) Save often.
Even the most experienced player can do something stupid. Even if you are going through a level you know you can beat if you come across a save spot and you've made any discernable progress since the last one, take a moment to use it. No one wants to lose an hour of game play because the controller came unplugged.

Rule 8) Try it again.
There's a spot, at least one, in every game when every other possible angle of entry or exit has been exploited and the only way to proceed is through that impossible jump, some ridiculous acrobatics, or some other such nonsense. You probably won't make it the first time. The difference between grabbing the ledge and making the jump or falling to your death could be a matter of your jumping off point being an inch to the left as opposed to the right. If you've been following rule 7 trying to three or four times shouldn't be a problem. On the other hand sometimes that impossible jump really is impossible and there is another way. If you've tried something four or five times and still can't make it go back and pay closer attention to rule number 1 and 6, the really easy exit is probably hidden behind the strangely colored brick.

Rule 9) Upgrades
If you are playing a game that allows for upgrades make every attempt to procure them as soon as possible. If you wait too long game play will get increasingly more difficult, which will make picking up the experience or items needed for said upgrade all the more difficult to obtain. Most games that require upgrades also allow for backtracking. If you find yourself in battles were every little bad guys seems destined to kill you, head back a few levels and spend some time leveling up before you try to proceed, but don't forget rule number 7 or your tireless hours of killing level one meanies might be wiped out due to a momentary distraction.

Rule 10) Try everything.
You can in fact get to the room, defeat the bad guy, gather that last crystal, etc, etc, etc. Games are not made with level that you can't pass, rooms you can't enter/exit, or bad guys that can't be beat. If you think you find yourself in such a situation it's either because you have ignored one of the previous rules or you are unlucky enough to have fallen into a glitch in the game. Glitches are rare, but certainly not unheard of. If you find yourself stuck in a glitch, reset the game to your last save spot. Most glitches can be avoided once you've found them.


Blogger Ace said...

Truly, you have been my saving grace on any number of games. Sometimes, turning my brain off so I can be mindlessly entertained without having to worry about such petty things as the rules of reality works against me; I get so immersed in the "impossibility" aspect of the fantasy worlds, I just quit thinking. And I know we talked about how most of these rules really apply to Gauntlet and Zelda games, but I love the fact that you took the time to give all of us gamers a swift kick in the pants. heh.

12:21 PM  
Blogger Meatpies said...

A HA!!! There is someone else out there watching their "hub" play games and saying, "Better pick up that health pack" or "The sniper's up there."

I have a unique job. I have to point out RED things. Doc is somewhat color blind, so most things in plain sight to a normally sighted person just blends into the background for Doc.

You are right with your rules!! We often say, "Oh, that's where I should be... look at all the folks shooting at me!"

Also, you're right... things are there for a reason. Like health packs. If there's a lot of health packs in an area, it means you're gonna need them!!

8:30 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

This is a great post, I never thought about it like that before!

3:53 PM  
Anonymous Nicholas Fogelson, MD said...

I like

2:01 PM  

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