Video Games Hate The Small Stuff
Modern video games have made it clear that player customization is the thing that can make or break a game. RPGs now have hundreds of quests and options to choose from, all the top fighters have a create your own character mode and even FPS games have special gun camo. And the evolutionary path is pretty clear. We started with very simple games and slowly got more and more options to make the game our own.
But take a closer look. You’ll end up seeing that video games are all about the macro. Take this year’s biggest game, Skyrim. In Skyrim you can run anywhere you want, kill pretty much anyone, double cross everybody, and even read books. You as the player affect the world around you greatly. But aside from what your character looks like, how much of the details do you affect? You have the choice between a glass sword and an iron sword but do you have any control over what a glass sword is? Can you make it look different?
The point I’m making here is this. In real life if you went to a store and said “I want a steel sword,” the guy would ask you about more details. Do you want a serrated blade? How big do you want it to be? What sort of handle? So why is it in a time where we strive for realism in video games, we still don’t have a micro focus?
Our characters have tons of stats that are affected by tons of things. Strength, Intellect, Speech, etc. So if my character gets stronger and stronger why does a two handed sword always have to be two handed? If my intellect increases why can’t I start making my own spells? In Skyrim, you even become the leader of the Mage College and you still have to rely on spell tomes for new spells.
Lots of games have some sort of recipe you can follow to craft items but whether it’s something simple or more complicated, it still has to be made that way. I can’t say “That steel sword is nice but I’d prefer it to have a serrated side.” But not just weapons. Armor can work thousands of different ways. We should get to pick our breastplate and what’s under the plates (ie leather or chainmail). Each choice would affect speed, mobility, and several other attributes. That expands player control and longevity of the game.
Let’s take the focus off of RPGs. Take fighters. The latest Soul Calibur has an insane character creator. You can make it look thousands of different ways. Then it can fight…exactly like another character in the game. This is a fighter but you don’t get to decide how to fight. Skaters have had create-a-trick for years but I still can’t make my own combos?
Any game where we could design how our items look and how our characters use them would be gold. We couldn’t have done it years ago. It’s hard to make 3 pixels look very different. Video games have come a long way since then. It’s time we affected more than just aesthetics.