Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Call of Duty 8: Modern Warfare 3 Innovates and Alienates

  Wow. I'd like to say these first posts are awesome. They're the exact kinds of expressions I was hoping for; creative and insightful exercises in critical thinking (with maybe a touch of "We told you so.") Now, without tooting my own horn too loudly, I do most of the post editing, but I want to assure contributors and readers (however few) that the edits are strictly grammatical. I never tamper with ideas, which I hope explains the stream of consciousness writing without taking anything away from the authenticity.

  Anyway, on to the real topic. A recent article from IGN.com makes the outrageous claim that the latest Call of Duty iteration is the success of five specific innovations. Call me a hater, but this is just a godawful phony baloney statement. Ironically, these same five ideas are perfect descriptions of where the modern shooter has gone wrong. Each of these topics should have their own post here, so I'll try to be brief. "Here we look at some of the greatest innovations that were introduced or streamlined by the Call of Duty series..."

  • RPG-elements in an FPS:
  The use of experience points to unlock features, weapons, and levels should not be considered an innovation simply for the fact that it's been done so many times before. I don't think it's been done quite as extensively as the Call of Duty series, but a system of addiction added into a game and calling it an innovation is over the top.

  These unlockable elements used to be granted through accomplishing something in the game, rather than being ground out through kills and killstreaks. Beating a certain level, or finding a secret area would grant you a new aspect of the game. Gaining these rewards for kills and objectives which you have to do anyway doesn't carry the same weight. It makes for a hollow experience and holds the best parts just over the player's head, just to get them to sit down and play a few more games whether they like to or not.

  • Customization: 
    This doesn't even compute. Do they think having a wide variety of weapons and accessories is novel? Apparently. This customization system erodes aspects of teamplay as "there's no longer any need to choose from the static set of pre-made soldier classes". In games of yore, those premade classes were good at what they did and didn't require improvement or modification. They were a tool employed by the skills of the player. Allowing players to change that alters the balance of the game through the developers' lack of foresight or care. They can't possibly see how players might use these modifications in the future. They might have a designed a cookie-cutter system, where everyone only uses the modifications that have been proven effective, with no deviation. 
  The existence of a customization system seems only fitting for a game that places so much emphasis on 'leveling up' and gaining new equipment. It dovetails nicely with the addictive component of RPG-elements. There's always that new thing to get, just up ahead. I only need 10,000 more points. One more hour, mom, please?

  Why not give all players access to these unlocks except for a rare few ones that have to be found in the singleplayer, or achieved by some other means? Because that might require more work by the designers and time is money. It would also destroy the experience point system, and the next 'innovation'.

  • RPG-elements in an FPS 2:
    Yes, indeed. Once I've reached max level in a video game, I like to turn it off and start over whether I'm finished or not just so I can tell my friends how cool I am. This delightful Call of Duty innovation comes in the form of resetting your unlocks and stats back to basics, allowing you to play through the whole experience some more. The handy icon lets other people know that you're a super cool guy who's up to the challenge of kicking himself in the nutbag.
    I don't know why this is an innovation. It's certainly not one that I care to have any part of. It's another system of fooling the player into having fun, without worrying whether or not the game itself is worthy of it.

  • Killstreaks:
  Here's a good one. The game rewards players who make many kills in a row by use of special-use items which allow them to kill even more people. Sure, that's innovative. But rewarding a player for multiple kills isn't. A little game called Unreal Tournament came out in 1999, you should look it up. Of all the things that game is memorable for, the kill streak announcer is the best.

  The problem with these, again, is that it ruins balance and continues the erosion of teamplay mechanics. There's no incentive to help your team if you're too busy trying for that Chopper Gunner killstreak. Rewarding players who are already doing well is somewhat of a problem, too, but for different reasons. A good Quake II player would almost certainly know where the Quad Damage spawns and be able to access it readily. However, a shitty player would also have a chance to grasp it and perhaps level the field for a few seconds. Not so in the increasingly innovative and daring Call of Duty.

  • Social Network Integration:
  Don't make me say it.
  God. Dammit. 

  Facebook is horrible. Social networking (inside the internet) is horrible. It's not personable, it's not real, and most of all, it doesn't fucking matter. It's the internet, and nothing matters on the internet.
  That being said, social network integration in a video game is probably the worst step you could take in any direction. According to IGN, this new feature for the upcoming Call of Duty title will have online stat tracking for multiple games, video guides, dynamic match analysis, clan features, and real life prizes! Hory shet. Let me get my wallet because something this good can't be free!

  And it isn't. For full access to these features, which use social networking, on the internet, in addition to other fees, rates, and terms, including but not limited to XBox Live, you must pay nine dollars and ninety-nine cents, American. Keep in mind that you can get all this information, for free, online already. Stat tracking has been around forever. Youtube has your videos. You can watch the pros play online, too. You can make a clan website. You can go to the store and buy something nice for yourself for nine ninety-nine rather than hope you get a real life prize from this deal.
It's basically the monetization of information. What they've 'innovated' is a new delivery method. This crap costs them literally pennies a day. Yet if everyone who buys Call of Duty 8 also pays this fee, they stand to make buckets of your money. And that's just not right. Not for this game, not for any game. Unfortunately, "it could really revolutionize the way developers approach the multiplayer experiences in their games" in a bad way.

  The list is far from complete, but if they'd asked me why old generation gamers don't appreciate these new 'streamlined' and 'socially integrated' 'innovations', I would've told 'em.

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