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Battlefield & Call of Duty are underestimated

Battlefield & Call of Duty are underestimated
« on: March 07, 2014, 08:45:20 am »

Since our next game will be use first person navigation in a blatant attempt to pander to the tastes of the audience for more artistic games, I've been doing some research into first person shooters (I did not renew my New Year's resolution to not kill virtual creatures).

And I have made a surprising discovery: Battlefield and Call of Duty are really good! And inspiring.

Battlefield and Call of Duty have a bad reputation among the connoisseurs of games who will always sing the praises of the likes of Bioshock, Dishonored or Deus Ex. But I found (and have always found) the latter to be stale and rigid and stuck in design concepts from the Wolfenstein and Doom era. And their attempts at storytelling not only clash with the gunplay but are also delivered in a non-subtle hyperconventional way. On top of that, these games are punishingly difficult even in easy mode. They have the same game-as-test mechanics as the old arcade games. For no other reason than to require that the player prove how "skilled" they are -completely ruining all entertainment and immersion in the process.

I used to assume that Battlefield and Call of Duty were like this, only worse. And the military setting of these games has always repulsed me. But now that I have forced myself to play them, my eyes have opened.

Battlefield and Call of Duty have removed all game elements that don't support the entertainment they want to deliver. In that sense, I'd even argue that they follow principles very similar to the notgames idea. They are far more mature as interactive entertainment than they are given credit for in game criticism (such as it exists). Playing such a game is a wild ride through believable environments. And they both cleverly don't put you in the hero's position. You just play one of the hangers-on and your mates do a lot of the work that otherwise feels so awkward in first person (opening doors, creating ad hoc bridges, generally instructing you). You play different people even. There is also a constant stream of voice acting going on (with none of the usual listening in on conversations by puppets who will never move from their position). The experience just keep going. And the few times you actually die, it doesn't feel like you lost a game, it feels like you got a bullet in your head because you had not been careful enough in a dangerous, chaotic environment.

There is a lot for us to learn here!

It has really opened my eyes as to the taste of the audience of games that I am in touch with. They now seem like nerds of the verge of autism to me. All they want is the same old game over and over again with some added flourishes to make it feel relevant or deep. They're not looking for immersion or entertainment or even beauty. They just want their fix: their nerdy "interaction with systems". Now I finally understand why these people don't seem to get art.

Of course, Call of Duty and Battlefield take the easy road by using the chaotic setting of war and the convenient mechanic of shooting. But this stuff is difficult enough as it is and I don't blame them. It is, however, time to move on, though. Or we risk getting stuck there. That's where we come in.

I am also encouraged by the commercial success of Battlefield and Call of Duty, in my instinct about abandoning game conventions to reach a wider audience. We just need to get beyond the narrow subject matter.
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Re: Battlefield & Call of Duty are underestimated
« Reply #1 on: March 21, 2014, 05:14:27 am »

This is good to know, and I am glad to hear that you have experienced this. I am many years behind in my game-playing - I will be curious to try these once I get back into playing games again! Wink
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Re: Battlefield & Call of Duty are underestimated
« Reply #2 on: May 05, 2014, 08:57:55 pm »

I haven't spent a lot of time with the Battlefield games, and almost none with Call of Duty, so I apologize if I'm misrepresenting them here.

It's interesting that many of the same people who play Battlefield probably wouldn't want to spend their time playing something like The Unfinished Sawn, or even Amnesia: The Dark Descent. I think the success of Call of Duty-type games is the amusement park-type pace and the "on rails"-ness of them. Objective-oriented, and not at all driven by exploration.
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Re: Battlefield & Call of Duty are underestimated
« Reply #3 on: May 06, 2014, 04:15:42 pm »

I think the success of Call of Duty-type games is the amusement park-type pace and the "on rails"-ness of them. Objective-oriented, and not at all driven by exploration.

I don't think that's a problem, though. I much prefer on-rails-type, objective-oriented notgames (like To The Moon or 30 Flights of Loving) to exploration-driven games. I think they have equal artistic potential, depending on what the player wants out of an experience.

But maybe you weren't saying that as a criticism and I'm just being contrary; if so, my apologies!
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"Wonder had gone away, and he had forgotten that all life is only a set of pictures in the brain, among which there is no difference betwixt those born of real things and those born of inward dreamings, and no cause to value the one above the other."
--H.P. Lovecraft

Call me Dale Smiley
Re: Battlefield & Call of Duty are underestimated
« Reply #4 on: May 06, 2014, 08:44:44 pm »

Oh no, sorry. Not at all a criticism. I was meaning to expand on Michael's comment:

Battlefield and Call of Duty have removed all game elements that don't support the entertainment they want to deliver.

If there is any criticism embedded in my comment, it's that an on-rails framework lends itself to particular content, like Call of Duty games: a chaotic environment, and that feeling that you just "along for the ride" and not actually present and doing. There's nothing wrong with that, but sometimes I get bored by how non-interactive (or pseudo-interactive) on rails-ish games seem to be—the triggered voiceovers, the triggered explosions. To paraphrase Michael: it's not about immersion, it's about learning a system and mastering your interaction with it.

Exploration driven games can be just as boring, especially when you need to find an item, person, etc. to trigger an event or unlock a new area, and you just can't do it, and you explore and re-explore to no end, discovering only the system behind the game, and being stuck in it.


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