Thursday, October 30, 2008

On The Rain-Slick Precipice of AWESOME.

When the announcement that Penny Arcade's RPG was going to be released for the PSN I knew my patience had paid off. And last Thursday, that saved time was rewarded. Not only did I buy the monumental first episode, but I finished it in two sittings. How's that for never finishing my games?! BOOYAH!

I rather like this particular iteration of episodic content. Getting an extension of an excellent game every couple of months provides a somewhat consistent, warm feeling to the recipient. This is how you do episodic games. Half Life 2 has it all ass backwards, which has been addressed several times (the best, I'd say, by Yahtzee) -- releasing a game that only extends the story by a few hours every year or so doesn't make any sense at all. It's like a long-distance relationship with a whore -- you hardly see her, and sure, there's sex when you do, but it just doesn't make you feel good when you pay for it.

I like analogies.

Episodic gaming is something that's desperately trying to find its place in the gaming community, and I think there's a right and a wrong way to do it. The wrong way would be Valve's way of doing it. They release an episode without having the next completed. That's just lazy. If a TV show recorded and released and episode each week, the show would feel rushed and production would be crappy. Shit, I think I just described soap operas. Hm, well, the point remains. So, to combat the high probability of crappiness, Valve "takes its time" between episodes in order to release quality instead of, well, quantity. But isn't the point of episodic games the quantity (coupled with established quality)? Instead of releasing just one long, solid game, you release several short, solid games in the same universe? I understand that Valve may really, really like its HL2 plot and so want to keep it rolling for as long as possible, but releasing episodes of games in the same time that whole other games could be made is more of a gimmick. They might as well just call their episodes what they should be called -- expansion packs.

Then again, expansion packs tend to have additional weapons, characters, and environments, and while HL2's episodes have new characters, it's mostly lacking with the other two. Whatever.

Penny Arcade has done more than just properly release content, though. Their genre is much more adaptive to episodic releases. RPG's generally take large amounts of time to finish, so with an episode of an RPG, you're probably going to get something like 6-8 hours of solid gameplay out of it. FPS's are quick and action packed. A run-through of full FPS games can take only 6 hours if you know what you're doing.

The game itself is brilliantly funny, which is it's biggest strength. As an RPG, it has that real-time-combat style that I've actually never played before (but I think was in Final Fantasy X or something -- I don't know, I hate the FF games), so the combat is surprisingly not-boring (like other RPG's can be). The game just made me want to finish it. The humor alone was a major factor there. I mean c'mon, one of the enemy types -- clowns -- bleed rainbow-colored blood when you hurt them. That's fucking great.

When episodic gaming is done correctly, it really is a great idea. You get the feeling of a new game with each addition, you don't have to devote a week of your life just to finishing a game, and the injection of pleasure arrives at fair and consistent intervals. Good shit.

I also got a new TV. A 42" LCD TV. It has 4 HDMI ports. 1080p. It's a Philips. I love my Playstation 3 right now. I also got Dead Space. And Fallout 3. And Wipeout HD. I think it's time to make a video gaming schedule, because I have quite a catalog to finish before X-mas. And goddamnit, I'm gonna finish them all.

Impressions/discussion of Dead Space and Fallout 3 next time (maybe tomorrow? probably not).

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