I imagine that one day we will be able to utilize to a sort of gaming boutique (I say boutique because I’m sure some marketing droid will give it a similarly stupid name). This will be a place where gamers can request a custom game experience. Modular components such as the story, levels, combat systems and characters would be mixed in order to put together a unique enough design that people would pay enough to make it profitable. Customers could even customize the experience with their own story and special requests. Of course this could be sold via the internet just as easily as in a brick and mortar store, but for my purposes a store is what we’ll imagine.
Begin imaginary scene
Game Master: Welcome to Custom Games Unlimited. I’ll be making your custom game this afternoon. What kind of game would you like?
duxup: Yeah…. I’m in the mood for an RPG. You know lots of nights, kings and queens and whatever. Some evil sorcerers would be cool. I’d like a lot of side quests but none of them should be too long. Oh and a few dragons would be cool.
Game Master: Any thing else?
duxup: Yeah, other than the dragons, could you maybe *duxup whispers* leave the monsters on the side?
Game Master: What?
duxup: You know, on the side… Ok how about keeping the dragons but just leaving out monsters altogether.
*customers waiting in line behind duxup begin to whisper *
Game Master: Sir I don’t think we can do that.
duxup: But, but I don’t want to fight a bunch of stupid monsters.
*other customers in the store gasp*
Random Customer: You bastard! My dad is a monster animator!
*duxup turns to the other customers*
duxup: Well too bad! I’m tired of fighting stupid monsters! They’re not interesting to fight. I want to fight people! You know, something that might add to the story, have motivation, a little AI, maybe even surprise me from time to time!
Game Master: Sir I’m going to have to ask you to leave. We don’t allow that kind of talk in here.
duxup: Damn it!
End Imagination Scene
I am tired of monsters. As much fun as I’ve had with games like Oblivion, Far Cry, or any game that has monsters in it I just don’t want to fight them anymore. My problem with monsters is as follows:
Monsters Don’t Care
Ask yourself: Why do monsters attack people? The answer is, because they’re monsters. That’s all there is to it. Monsters have no motivation, no character, nothing to add to the game other than to act as the obligatory challenge to progress in the game.
I’d much rather face something I can relate to outside of how I feel after working a 70+ hour work week (something I’m doing as I type this). Give me a human, or even a humanoid alien who might have a motivation for attacking me. Give me something might have a story of its own. Give me something that might even add to the story of the game I’m playing.
Monsters come in a variety of forms but the vast majority of monsters that I’ve faced come in melee form. Now admit this is logical. Tradition seems to hold that unless a monster is somehow possessed or supernatural in nature then they don’t have the experience or intelligence to operate complex tools such as computers, guns, light sabers, or banana cream pies. At best you get a monster with a chainsaw now and then. Even that is sadly rare.
So while seems logical that most monsters offer only a melee based opposition that still sucks none the less. To make monsters the formidable their melee attacks tend to range from very strong to one shot kills. This boils nearly every monster encounter into a repetitive process of avoiding any contact with the monster while you pound away at it with ranged weapons or hit and run tactics. Over, and over, and over…
Now I’m sure some people could list me exceptions to the melee rule. Yes there are exceptions, but many either don’t count or suck. First of all vampires count as people, not monsters, they’re just people with a drinking problem who also tan easily. Secondly some monsters do have weapons such as in Doom 3. The catch there is that there’s no damn good reason for it. Oh yeah they’re from hell, where they apparently have a good supply of infinite-ammo-enabled-shoulder-mounted-rocket-launchers. The reason that doesn’t count is because that’s just stupid, and because they suffer from the second issue that I mentioned earlier well as a few of the other issues with monsters that I’m going to bring up.
Monsters look like Trash
When it comes to people developers seem to put a great amount of time into the details that make the people look realistic. Yet when it comes to monsters cloning seems to be the way to go. For some inexplicable reason every monster who is of the same type doesn’t just act like similar monsters, they look just like them too. Perhaps they’re born in litters of dozens at a time or something like that?
Cloning aside I can’t remember the last monster that actually interested me visually. Actually I just remembered, it was the mysterious tentacle creature that grabbed a random enemy solider in a trailer for Half Life 2. They left it out of the final game… Meanwhile we’re subjected to monsters that either are an obvious take on existing animals (ooh another gorilla like creature), or frequently look like the creatures drawn by “that creepy kid” that I sat next to in Jr. High.
If there is something I’m sure of it is that regardless of their status as monsters, most monsters can pass the first part of a DWI test. They can walk straightforward with exceptional precision provided that I’m standing at the other end of that line. In fact that’s mostly all they do as soon as they seem me. They walk, crawl, lurch or do the hokey pokey (I wish) over to my position where they can unleash the aforementioned +infinity damage melee attacks. There’s no strategy, no defensive moves, nor is there attempt to avoid #9 of the required 99 rockets it takes to take down some of these monsters. Most don’t even react (aside from repetitive shrieking) as I pump rockets into them.
Most of the time this has me asking one very important question . . . We’re a few years into the 21st century right? So why do so many monsters still move around like in the original Doom game more than ten years ago?
We have enemy soldiers with fairly impressive AI or at least quality scripted sequences in many games yet monsters are still left with what seems like rudimentary instructions:
10 SEE PLAYER
20 WALK TO PLAYER FLAILING ABOUT AND SUCH
Monsters Don’t Surprise Me
You mean all those strange sounds, cages, and talk of mysterious experiments resulted in some monsters? Oh my, what a shock! How on earth could I have predicted that? I totally missed all those painfully blunt clues that I found earlier in the game . . . and the screenshots on the box.
I suppose every game has to establish some context for monster encounters, and the typical “OMG monsters!” introduction might not be entirely tedious if it weren’t for the rest of the issues that I have with monsters. Yet even when developers go out of their way to introduce monsters in a surprising it usually boils down to using sudden noise and such to scare the player. Being an easy to startle person this is almost always effective on me. The only problem then is that those games that try to startle the player often over use it. Every suspiciously quiet few moments, unusual hallway and such boils down to myself groping blindly for the trigger for the next monster event and that becomes tedious quite quickly.
I freely admit that it is not monsters themselves that are the problem here, it how they are used in video games. Even the individual issues I mention aren’t a big deal. I’ve played games with some and even most of those problems and enjoyed them a great deal. Yet they’re beginning to wear on me to the point where I’m often looking at games wondering if or for how long I will have to dig thru the inane monster grind that many games provide.