Gaming - A La Carte

Articles Nov 16, 2018

One of the things that I’ve tried to do, for almost the last 20 years, is have a gaming collection and be able to share it with friends. I want to catalog every major release within the basic start of gaming. Having every title to be able to be ready at my fingertips within a moments notice. Showing someone a modded xbox for the first time, with a very nice and intuitive UI and just asking them “what was one of your favorite games growing up?” then being able to immediately scroll to it, launch it, and hand them the controller, seeing their eyes light up and go “oh wow, I haven’t played this since I was a kid, this is incredible!!” It was something I really cherished while in the modding scene.

With the changes to the internet within the last decade or so, and people being able to playthrough and upload full videos online, most people opt to just watch someone else play the game instead of enjoying it themselves. There is something inherently different than watching a movie, as you aren’t meant to take part in it to enjoy it. By its very nature, you just sit back and watch. With games you can get a lot of the experience of seeing the animations, watching the story unfold via cutscenes, but taking away the involvement and  not controling the character directly, you loose a large part of what makes a game a game.

The internet can be such an amazing way to find a new game to play, almost like a Spotify, where carefully crafted algorithms push a constant feed of suggestions of games. Watching streamers can provide valuable input on what new games are worth your time and money as well. But what I like to use that for is to see if that game is something I want, get my informed opinion on the product and then start playing it.

Maybe it comes in the form of watching someone do a speed run of Super Mario World and then immediately trying to recreate that on my own. Or watching as everyone under the sun complains how hard and impossible the opening of Driver was, and being able to load it up and prove them completely wrong. Or maybe it's just seeing a game that I forgot existed and being inspired enough to pick it back up and finish it.

But what I really want to get as, is that games should be able to be selected and dissected in a way that you can immediately jump right into a specific part or level, either by loading up a previous game save or having the game drop you into a scenario the game has ready for you from the main menu. The pick up and play aspect is something that isn’t really talked about all that often and I see so many complain as why they stopped playing a game all together.

An SNES JRPG for example, where the game takes so long, and the story can be so convoluted, and the quest log is such a mess, you really can’t put it down and step away from it for more than a day or two without forgetting everything about it and what you are supposed to be doing, where you are, and where you are supposed to go. But something like the more modern Skyrim will at least point you in the right direction of your current objective, and within several minutes you are back into it. It’s nice to be able not to have to slog through an intro you’ve seen several times, or even in the case of a new game like Red Dead Redemption 2, where it can be a few hours before you really get the world to open up enough so you can be free to do what you want.

That is exactly why I like save states. It allows you to pick up right where you left off. This also can become an issue with games, as I know I’ve used it as a crutch, “save-scumming” my way through a particular level (Save-Scumming is where you continually abuse the save and load feature to not lose any progress and any mistake can be quickly erased without any consequence). But there is something to be said about being able to save yourself right where you are and then immediately jump right into it several weeks or even years later if need be, or even use it to combat some of the glaring unfairness of older badly designed games.

I think a majority of the games now could benefit from this type of mechanic. And having a front end that allows you to scroll through an almost never ending list of games, just allowing you to be able to pick a game at random, and load right into a selection of where you last left off or even put you into your favorite area of the game that you want to experience all over again, would be so beneficial for games. Sadly with how gigantic games are now a days, it requires so much load time up front and they aren’t easily hackable to take out so many of the menus. Even going back to Batman Arkham Asylum and booting up the game on a modern system still takes more time than it does booting up any save state in an emulator.

I would love the chance to load up a boss fight from Bayonetta on a whim, or immediately load up a point in Red Dead 2 without having to restart the whole several hour snow intro before ending up in Valentine. Almost like when I used to just play Alice In Wonderland just to be able to scrub through the video to get to the Mad Tea Party scene and then close it. Being able to do that with games can be a great way for people to remember specific parts or experience them again, without having to invest so much time and energy that most of us just don’t have anymore. I know if I tried to restart a game with a half hour long intro and tutorial level, I’d probably just lose interest before I even get to where the game really opens up. Maybe a New Game+ type of update, as I think having this option at the outset might be a big issue that would deter people from playing the full game, but some sort of option after you finish the game to go pick out a point in the story that you want to replay, or even show someone a neat area without having to make sure you have a backup save.

Red Dead 2 is kinda my go to example as its the game I just finished. but the concept can be applied pretty much across all games. I don’t like having a mess of saves in my game, A profile (like the Batman Arkham games) will at least contain all the save data and display the information nice and neatly right there in the profile, but if you wanted to save at a specific time and have that as a backup save, you are kinda outta luck. Wtih Red Dead 2, you have one profile with at least 20 save slots, however they lack the information of completion percentage, chapter number and things of that nature and will only show you the name of the last mission you were on. With Rockstar games in general, they do a horrible job of telling you the name of the mission until afterward, and even then you really have to hunt for the name of it. So in essence, the only information is basically pointless.

One game that I thought kinda did a neat way of doing “save states’ without specifically calling them that, was the Super Street Fighter Anniversary collection Capcom put out this year. Having the main menu show the several games that where available, and then going into each game would still keep you in the nice new clean 2018 menu, you’d pick your character and then once you are ready to fight, it loads an instance of whatever game you are playing with those characters. I think it is such an interesting and unique way of tackling that issue. I do hope someday that we can get these features implemented, and with the growing of the video game culture and the internet and the technology involved, I don’t see why this can be a reality at some point.

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