Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Perfect Video Game

For the last two days, I've been searching for the "perfect video game". I've even told myself I'd go all out if I have to, similar to upgrading my desktop computer just so I could play Bioshock back in September.

And the result? No game. None. At all.

Is it me, or is the state of video games just not what it used to be? Granted, I'm a tough audience for most games -- I get bored after about 2 or 3 hours. I've tried my best to attempt all sorts of games, just to keep up with the market: Crysis, Frontlines: Fuel of War, Unreal Tournament 3, World of Warcraft, Tabula Rasa, and Dungeons and Dragons: Stormreach, to name a few PC titles. On the DS? Tony Hawk's Proving Ground, Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, and Professor Layton and the Curious Village (herein referred to as Prof Layton).

The only game I really enjoyed and was impressed with is Prof Layton. The artistic quality is awesome, and it appeals to the casual gamer inside me: you can solve a puzzle or two and then get back to work. And lately, I've spent a lot of time thinking about uses for the Nintendo DS -- it has a great user interface (two screens, stylus) and am wondering how I can take advantage of it, as I have ways to run homebrew (yes, I have Linux running!). Anyway, Prof Layton is a great game for anyone with a DS... So if you have one, stop reading and get it. Then get back to this.

Okay... So Prof Layton is good, but I'm still upset with the general state of video games. Sadly, the most exciting feature of a PS3 for me is its ability to be used for mathematical computing. Similarly, the only PC titles I'm looking forward to are Spore and Fallout 3, both of which I probably won't even play very much. Thinking about this, I've created a list of features I want in a video game. I've thought long and hard about getting back into video game programming -- this is how I got into programming back in elementary school, and I think if I had time, it would be a fun side project.

So, the perfect game...

Multiplayer, or at least social. Bioshock was single player and I loved it, but ideally, I should be able to experience the game with others, or share my experience. I'm thinking of Noctis, a space flight simulator, where people share their photos of new worlds in online forums. Noctis is particularly awesome because it allows one to discover new worlds, similar to how Spore will allow you to create new creatures.

Responsive and customizable. Again, the great thing about Noctis and Spore is that you can create something new. You can create a reputation for yourself, discover new things, and maybe even learn about humanity. I sometimes think of the World of Warcraft plague or genetically engineered Norns in Creatures as perfect examples of where a "video game" becomes a window into humanity. We need more games like this, and I'll only play a game if its storyline (at least!) or game play help me understand myself, or those around me.

Casual. The game needs to support the fact that I have a job, a social life, that I travel, and sometimes hate computers. I don't want to be punished for having a life. This is why Prof Layton rocks -- solve a puzzle and be on your merry way, both in game or in life! Admittedly, it's hard to do this with massively multiplayer online games.

Intellectually stimulating. And not. Sometimes I want to think and solve puzzles. Sometimes I want to just click my mouse button and watch things explode.

Artistic. I don't mean visually appealing, though that would be great, since I have 512 MB of visual RAM I never use... However, if the game looks like crap and has a wonderful story line, I'd be perfectly happy as well. Both would be great, but I know this is hard to pull off, and better not try if you're going to do a half-assed job anyway.

So there it is... A wish list for a game, from a guy who actually put in months of his life playing Fallout, Command and Conquer, Starcraft, and Ultima Online before putting more months of his life into creating his own games... Now he wants back in the community, and all he can find is a big cliche.

If anyone has anything to add, or games to recommend, please do so!

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