Following Bup’s post up with the game I wish existed, I decided that it would be a better use of my column space to expound on this, say, than to gripe about the lameness of the new Tier 10 warrior armor sets coming in the next WoW patch. Seriously, Blizzard, I am tired of “horns” being the defining motif of the warrior class. I want jagged, razor-sharp blades. Stat.
The game I have been longing for is an update to the basic theme of a single game from my childhood: Seiken Densetsu II, better known to all us gaikokojin as Secret of Mana.
I recall endless hours with my close familial relations spent huddled around our SNES Multitap, banging our pixellated, 16-bit heads against the nefarious evils of the World of Mana in an attempt to restore a tree-goddess and save her from the evil Empire.
The story possessed little depth compared to modern games, as was to be expected for nearly two-decade old technology. The graphics were cartoony, the music haunting and beautiful, and the experience of cooperative play exhilarating.
In many ways, some modern PVE-based MMOs satisfy this basic need. The thrill of attacking a dungeon and boss together, for example, makes up the entirety of the PVE endgame of World of Warcraft. The downside to this is that it often requires difficulty in balancing schedules, time conflicts, class balance, and any other of a number of potential complications of social, emergent gaming. It is something that cannot be replicated by “couch co-op” or the single-player, party-based experience.
What I would like to see then is a real-time, action-based combat game for consoles that relies on a small, three or four-person party system and provides for same or split-screen cooperative play. It would need a deep and engaging story-line, the option for single-person play or even online cooperative play of the same saved game, in case people could not meet to play that day.
Another thing that I really want in a game that I find missing in many single-player games is for equipment changes to be immediate and visible on my character. For instance, in Final Fantasy XII, the characters all wore the same basic costume despite changes in armor. If I put on full plate, I want to see full plate armor, dammit! The ability to win through a dungeon to equip a new piece of armor and have it proudly displayed on your character, in addition to the improved statistics, is very important to that reptilian sector of my brain that governs the feeling of accomplishment.
What it would not need is more telling, I think, about my philosophy toward game design. I detest artificial extensions of the time it takes to play games: “side” quests that are really required to beat the game (hello, Final Fantasy VII‘s chocobo racing minigames!), necessary level grinds in order to gear up and progress to the next area of the game (every other Japanese RPG created), the reliance of a random-number generator for the best gear (modern MMOs, Diablo), or pointless “crafting” systems meant to give depth to an otherwise engaging game (Rogue Odyssey, why? WHY? A FROG THAT TRANSMUTES WEAPONS?).
In short, I want an interactive novel that unfolds on screen, peppered with things that will challenge me physically and strategically. I want progression to be defined by my fellow players’ ability to work together as a team and play skillfully, not because we spent thirty hours a week killing boars. I want to laugh and cry as the story unfolds on screen. I want to cheer the heroes and boo the villains, and I want to feel like I have accomplished something when the ending cutscene comes to a close. And I want to experience it with my friends sitting around me.
Several games over the past year have made me hope this might be possible… Fable II and Too Human both promised something like it, but fell short. I have Dragon Age on pre-order, and Bioware has typically been good about delivering reasonable facsimiles of my dream.
Any places out there hiring a lawyer-cum-visionary game designer?