All About dygel
27Sep 06I finally finished Gladius last night at 86 hours played. I haven't been so severely let down by a game in a long time. I had trouble getting to sleep for a while because it annoyed me so much.
(Please note this entry is spoiler-free.)
First of all, the ending was terrible. My dispute is not with how it ended, per se, but rather that the character development that persists through the body of the game does not suit ending given. It's as if the ending was written by someone other than the guy who wrote the character development scenes. The end events immediately preceeding the ending were thrown together as if those two people were made to meet for lunch a month before the game went gold. On top of that, the ending was done such that it seemed like they were seeding for a sequel, but... I have no idea how you can gracefully come off that seed into a sequel without heaping more bad writing onto the pile.
I'm a writer, and if you really want to raise my ire the best way to do it is to be behind some really bad writing.
Secondly, I can't play the game anymore. Once you complete the game, you're locked out from playing single player any more. Your save file loads up the credits, which then exits to the main menu. Sure, I can play multiplayer if I want (which is something I have never done in that game). But I can't go level up and try to pick off those last few battles that I didn't finish or look for a lot of those side quests I didn't find on my first look around.
I stand by my review where I gave Gladius a 9.0, but if I were to revise it now, I'd dock it maybe 0.4 to 0.6 points for a lot of the nickel-and-dime irritants one doesn't discover until this deep in the game.
26Sep 06Here's an idea, let me know if you're with me.
A lot of the news we follow in the day to day here at Gamespot has to do with the new, the fresh, and the up-and-coming. Overwhelmingly, those categories have come to largely exclude the once mighty genre of graphic adventure titles. (Notable exception being the upcoming episodic releases of Sam & Max by Telltale Games to Gametap.)
Graphic adventures, titled so to avoid ambiguity with the increasingly popular band of action-adventures, have long been a staple of the gamer's diet. If you're old enough, you can even reminisce about the day when "adventure" was inseparable with "text".
The fact is, long before twitch gaming grew to the monster industry it's become, there have been gamers everywhere whose idea of a romping good time was largely about puzzle-solving and non-linear, outside-the-box brainstorming. I was among these.
I'm thinking about an Adventure Gaming Appreciation month. A month where everyone who's interested will, as a community, dust off their old adventure games and pop em in. From my own end, I keep a notebook on hand to jot down thoughts, revelations, and solutions as I move forward through the game.
What I'm proposing is a grass-roots cultural festival to show the industry we still love these games. If you're a Gamespot user, add them to your Now Playing lists to increase their rank for that month. Post about them in your journal. Get excited once more about this genre that is rapidly losing market share.
When should we do this? Well, haven't decided yet. October and November are busy months for the new stuff, and December is the Christmas season -- not likely to get much attention in there. I'm thinking January or February, and I'd like to know what you think. I'm going to bounce this idea off a few people and probably, before too long, set up a web site to promote the idea as a recurring event.
So let me know what you think! At this stage, I can use all the input I can get.
17Sep 06I added Gladius back onto my Now Playing list. If you're not familiar, this is a Romanesque-era turn-based strategy game from Lucasarts for the PS2. It's at least a year or so old now, but I've been playing it off-and-on now since just after it came out. Figured I'd finally finish it.
I've already reviewed it, and I stand by what I said in that review. Bottom line: if you're into that genre, Gladius is worth your time. So far it's been worth about 60 hours of mine, and I haven't even finished it. Hell, I just realized I hadn't done any optional quests until the fourth of four regions...
I'm on the soapbox today to stress the important of QA in the business of game publishing. I'm not a Star Wars fan in the slightest, so bearing that in mind, I say with all confidence that I generally find Lucasarts products to be of top quality. There's a couple little things about Gladius that bug me, though, and this is where Quality Assurance and testing enters the picture.
The first bug that annoys me is an AI problem. Consider the class of the Channeler. This is a class that uses a very quick move called Steal Affinity to power most of their moves. Other classes attack (or get attacked) and build up an elemental affinity. This is generally unleashed as limit-break-style attacks, but Arcane classes like the Channeler use it instead for their more average attacks. So if you're a Channeler, you'd case Steal Affinity on a target and that would end that character's turn. Since that move is so fast, that character should get to act again very soon, if not right away.
The problem comes when you have two or more AI-controlled Channelers on the field. What'll happen is that one will cast Steal Affinity on a player that had built up some affinity. Simliar classes tend to have a similar initiative (turn speed) value, so usually the next Channeler then gets to go and will cast Steal Affinity on the first Channeler. When the first Channeler's turn comes up again, what does she do? She casts Steal Affinity on the second Channeler.
This doesn't repeat in an endless loop or anything, it's just artificial stupidity. They'll do this even if they're on the same team as one another and there are other players on the field with affinity built up. The individual Channeler AI is set to seek out the character with the most affinity and cast Steal Affinity on them, even when it's absolutely ridiculous.
This kind of fight happens a fair amount. Channelers were introduced in the second of four regions and you face a fair number. So this happens more than you might think.
Moving on to bug number 2: the reaction camera. Gladius is loosely based on gladatorial combat, which even a history ignoramus should recognize to be a spectator sport. Teams receive combat bonuses as the crowd's reaction to them reaches certain levels on the gauge. When those levels are reached, the camera will often focus on members of the crowd applauding for a moment.
Problem is, in many arenas, the angle on these reaction shots is either focusing on no one at all or is too dark to actually see any detail at all.
Now, the question to ask yourself is how little bugs like this find their way into games that are otherwise fabulous? Or, to more accurately rephrase the question, how don't bugs - which anyone could notice - like this get out of these games?
The answer is through lapses in Quality Assurance and testing. The way the business works, QA is one of the last things on the checklist before a game is released. A nearly completed game is given to testers to play through and find all manner of bugs. But having that game so close to being completed, the corporate offices for many publishers often end up pushing the developers to hurry it up. QA is what gets overlooked in these instances.
Look at who the most successful developers in the business are right now: they're companies who make QA - a phase which is nothing short of arduous for other companies - a priority. Blizzard is a company known for massive beta tests before their products actually hit shelves. Do they find bugs after release? Sure, but they're fixed in good order. Valve is another company with real QA/testing muscle -- Half Life wasn't anything new, but it was so well executed with no such flaws and drawbacks to drag it down.
Success in the gaming industry isn't necessarily about innovation or about bigger and better. A lot of developers and even console manufacturers are forgetting that point right about now. It's about execution. An idea can be totally off the wall and ridiculous, but if you execute it well, it can be a fantastic game. Look at Miyamoto's resume if you're not convinced yet.
When you're developing for consoles, QA can mean a great deal. As of right now, you can't really go back and patch something you put out for a console. Maybe that'll change in the future, but for now, remember developers, test your stuff. In the end, gamers will suffer through the moderate delays and still thank you for your efforts.
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