Friday, April 23, 2010

My Perfect Game

I've recently expressed by medium of tweet my interest in Monster Hunter Tri. My interest was born out of the perception of an open environment that acted as a sort of living ecosystem and sandbox elements that would allow me to explore, soak in the scenery, and basically do whatever to my hunter's content.

Since then, I've watched some videos and read a review or two, and I've gotten the feeling that while it's probably a good game, it's most likely not the gameplay experience I was hoping for.

This got me thinking. There have been several times in my life when I've thought "this is it! This is the game I've been waiting for!" only to, of course, be disappointed. Fable, Oblivion, Saints Row 2... They're all fun (except for maybe Oblivion), but none have lived up to my expectations.

So what would be the perfect game for me? (Keep in mind the "for me" part; I'm not claiming this is an objective view of a good game)

1 - Environment

I want a huge open world that rarely, if ever, interrupted by loading screens. The draw distance should compensate for technical limitations in a way that doesn't break immersion (I'm looking at you, Oblivion). There should be small towns and cities of varying scale and a huge wilderness to explore. When I don't feel like sight seeing, there should be fast travel methods that do their job without breaking immersion.

While I am aware that the environment can't go on forever and there have to be cut-off points, I'd prefer those come in the form of something along the edges that one simply cannot pass. It might be a bit forced at times, but simply not being able to move beyond an invisible wall is annoying, and if I can see a place my character should logically be able to get to, I want to be able to go there.

Do not stop me from walking off cliffs, either. No invisible wall should be between my character and purposefully or accidentally falling off of that cliff. It's one of the most immersion-breaking things an environment can do in a video game.

Given my personal tastes, I would prefer a fantasy setting with magic and a wilderness that is mostly alive and well cared for as opposed to high tech and/or post-apocalyptic.

Closest I've experienced to right: World Of Warcraft. I would prefer this be provided in a single player experience, but my favorite thing about that game was simple exploring its world. In fact, it does everything I've listed above. It doesn't do everything I'm going to list, but on this subject, I have yet to see a game do better.

2 - Player Abilities

LET ME JUMP. I grew up on side scrollers and not being able to jump makes me feel like I have a weight around my neck keeping me down.

Melee and ranged attacks should be available, as should super cool special abilities (ideally fueled by magic). There should be genuine reasons to choose one weapon type or spell over another. I should be able to unequip all of my weapons and bare-knuckle box if I so choose.

Among the magic abilities, I want spells that transform opponents. Turn them into animals, weaker enemies, allies, change their genders, whatever. This is a subset of magic that should be available and I give World Of Warcraft props for its sheep spell.

I don't want to have to pick a class, or a species, or anything else that amounts to "you can do this but not that." I want access to everything I'm willing to earn and to be able to learn every ability should I be willing to invest the time. In short, I don't want to be pigeon-holed right from the start.

Now here's the big one. The player ability I rarely see but breaks immersion every time it's absent. Simply put, I want to be able to grab stuff.

No, seriously. Being able to "touch" things is the most basic way a person can interact with objects in real life, and it being absent from games breaks immersion for me. If it's in the game, I want my character to be able to grab it and subsequently try to pick it up. Rocks, chairs, people, vehicles, horses, anything. My character might not be able to pick up whatever they're grabbing, but not letting them try is yet another thing that breaks immersion. Let my character try and fail to pick up that horse. Yes, they'll make an ass out of themselves, but the ability to try and fail at something like that makes it all the more real to me.

And while I'm grabbing things? Let me throw enemies at other enemies. That's always awesome.

Closest I've experienced to right: Overall, I'd say the 3D Zelda games. They fail in a lot of ways, but less so than other games. Oblivion might let you grab stuff, but I found it lacking overall in what you could do with said stuff once grabbed

3 - Bad Guys

One of the things that made me excited about Monster Hunter was the concept of an ecosystem. I like the idea of exploring a sandbox wilderness and witnessing a hunter-prey scenario playing out that I can either interrupt, sit back and watch, or simply ignore.

It would also introduce emergent gameplay strategies, such as shaking off a predator you're not prepared to deal with by leading it towards easier prey that distracts it. Not entirely ethical, but just that being possible would be incredibly cool.

Enemies should behave logically relative to each other. A bear and a boar should not be teaming up to try and kill me, and a humanoid bad guy should not be buddies with a wild bear (unless he's a druid or something). I would welcome a scenario where I'm fighting some random humanoid enemy when suddenly a big monster predator shows up and my foe and I become more concerned with taking it down than each other, or my foe simply runs away leaving me to either do likewise or fight the monster on my own.

Given that I can grab people in my perfect game, I should also be able to grab my foe, throw him at the monster, and run away. Unethical again, but cool simply by virtue of being possible.

I don't want every enemy encounter to feel like an epic challenge. There should be plenty of bad guys who are easily defeated so long as there aren't too many of them. Boss fights, on the other hand, should be epic, and I would like a way to re-fight them at will even if it is just an out-of-main-game menu option.

Closest I've experienced to right: You know, I'm not sure. There are plenty of games that fit parts of the criteria while failing at others. I can't actually think of a game that does the "not all the enemies are on the same side" bit (except maybe Monster Hunter, which I haven't played yet so I'm not certain). A lot of games probably fit the difficulty and boss fight criteria. I haven't kept up on Playstation games and therefore haven't played the God Of War games, but I'm betting they fit the latter half of my criteria.

4 - Character Customization

I don't want armor to determine what my character looks like. I also don't want class or stat-specific races to determine that. I want to customize to my heart's content as a male or female character, make them look human or non-human, and be able to change it up later and save multiple looks that can be variations of the same (such as with different clothes) or completely different.

Closest I've experienced to right: Champions Online, hands down. The only thing it lacks in this regard is the ability to switch genders between looks, which would be odd but this is my perfect game and that therefore needs to be an option, darn it.


I'm wrapping this up because I've just realized I could probably go on forever with this and I've already written more than I thought I would, but it basically boils down to is this:

An immersive sandbox fantasy game with a convincing ecosystem, lots of freedom to customize, fun gameplay and the ability to "touch" and interact with objects via a grabbing mechanism.

What would your perfect game be like?


  1. Dude, I seriously recommend City of Heroes to tackle issue 4. It might be a teensy bit less customizable than Champions Online, but with the Super Science! item kit you get the ability to change between the three body types.

  2. Asheron's Call has one of the best open worlds that I have ever seen.

  3. Oblivion is actually very close to my perfect game. The draw distance on my brother's X-Box 360 version was miles better than my PC version, but I'm operating on a Mac-Parallels PC and can't work out how to utilise my Nvidia 8800 with that.

    I concede most of your points and the arbitrary man-eatingness of Oblivion's fauna was a little jarring (I'm surprised the deer didn't try to eat you) but I love the style of the game. The species choice was fun, I always like playing against type; Combat-heavy Breton, Personality-dependent Orc and such-like.

  4. That description is very close to the roguelikes. Once time in Nethack I killed a bunch of goblins with the corpse of a hobbit, it was as stupid as funny.

  5. Eve online is great in that much space, doesn't really matter what race you choose.

    If only I could reearn that billion isk I lost in a bad investment i would be happy as a clam

    Eve is a great game I'm a bit stuck atm due to an internal political crisis in the alliance I'm in.


  7. The downside to EVE: Politics all over the damn place.

  8. I'd say Morrowind is probably the closest thing to your ideal game you're likely to find.

  9. Monster Hunter Tri does have a sort of predator/prey hierarchy. It's more obvious with one of the enemies which can imitate the calls of other creatures and uses it to summon 'help'; if it's stupid enough it summons the in-game equivalent of a giant velociraptor... which is more likely to attack it and not you. As seen here:

    Also, yay for Champs Online.

  10. Well, for the changing sexes between looks-issue, you could try out Playstation(R) Home. It is an online 3D community only for PS3, sadly, since you don't play Playstation. There you can have 9 different looks, i think, and you can have both sexes.

    I don't like WoW very much, mostly cecause it's overpriced, so i prefer RoM instead (

    As my perfect game; about the same as you. But beware! Sometime in the future, most likely after i get a Bachelor/Master in game design, I WILL make our favourite game.

    Aaaand... Now I'm rambling, so kthxbai.

  11. Commenting on the Playstation Home comment, Second Life (for PC, Mac, and Linux) is so much beyond it in terms of what you can make yourself look like it isn't funny. The problem, though, as it relates to Dan, is that it isn't a game - it is a 3D virtual world. People have made games in Second Life, but it's designed for social interactions. And there have been a few controversial changes in Second Life policies as of late regarding third-party clients and such. But the whole 3D virtual world idea is slowly taking off, and who knows what will happen in the future.

    Just to give ideas on what is possible - My own personal avatar is a 6 inch tall anthrofeline (with a lot of twisting of the 'laws' of Second Life), and I have seen giant dragons, robots, elves, anthros of all types, quadrupeds of all types, video game and cartoon characters, transformers... the list goes on and on.

  12. I love your definition of a perfect game. Seriously. But a question, you say you don't want to have to pick from limited options in character customization. Does this mean you want being able to switch between them as innate, a function of shapeshifting magic/abilities(but unavailable if you don't take those), or that you would prefer the choice cut out entirely? I'm fairly confident it's not the latter, but still.

  13. My perfect game would be Greed Island, from the manga Hunter x Hunter. I don't mean exactly like in the manga, obviously, because there you went IN the game and you could die in it, but the idea of the game, was great.

  14. One more thing... there are a lot of different mods out there for Oblivion to completely change the experience, at least if you own the PC version. I use to completely redo the experience, and highly recommend it.

  15. I have Oblivion for 360, but thanks for the thought. I should perhaps try it again on Easy, but I fear it will still bore me. A game like that, I don't care much about challenge, but I would like greater enemy frequency.

    I'm probably better off playing more Saints Row 2. I love that game and I haven't even played any of the missions past the initial mandatory ones. I mean, it has a menu option for cheat codes. They encourage my madness and motorcycles that can magically turn over trucks!

  16. I dunno, Maybe TES: V will meet your expectations (Heres to hoping it meets mine =D). And I know it's not "fantasy" But have you considered Fallout 3? It has a few of the same short comings that Oblivion did (No bludgeoning people... with other people). But the draw distance is much greater. Also the enemies seem to be less... man eaty... Not to mention they have random encounters where you can find groups of enemy A trying to eat an enemy B (or group). The size is a little smaller than Oblivion; however having to take the metro system makes up for that.

  17. For #3, Quake sometimes has monsters of different species fighting each other. And Eternal Darkness actually has you counting on monsters of different deity alignments to fight each other.

    Haven't given much thought to an ideal game. I value ones that let you save anytime, anywhere, but don't make it so you have to start from the beginning if you've painted yourself into a corner. Games with talking NPCs should let them all say things worth hearing, and preferably not just one line repeated each time. I don't always miss jumping (not much point in Diablo, for instance), but let there be no Insurmountable Waist-High Fences. Since I didn't respond well to timed tests in school, I'd rather not face them in games unless speed is the only way to make the task a challenge. And if a task is not optional, please allow more than one way to complete it.

  18. I think you might be interested in Fallout 3. Very customizable faces and what not, and literally everything that a person is wearing you get to equip after you loot it, including eye glasses.

    The world is vast and lets you pretty much wander where you will, and you can jump. You can also loot pretty much everything you see.

    Not very fantastical, and the game has some drawbacks that have made it difficult for me to sit and play for hours on end given my penchant for growing angry at the game. Still, it might have some elements you're looking for.

  19. Final Fantasy Crystal Bearers for the Wii has some of the stuff you're talking about. You can grab a ton of stuff with your character's telekinesis. The world is huge and you can walk right off of cliffs (though you automatically pull yourself up with your abilities). The enemies all interact with each other believably (the wolves will chase the skeletons for their bones). Overall it's a really fun game. There's not much in character customization though, and there are very few characters for you to converse with, and you can't jump freely.

  20. My ideal game is one in which the player character's abilities are designed with a mind toward interacting with his environment- unlike MMOs and most RPGs, I don't want the players abilities to be defined by invisible numbers that determine how much of an invisible health bar I have. Rather, I want combat and interaction to be primarily based on context and a more tool-based arsenal. In many ways, I'm thinking in terms of, say, Zelda, but with a hugely expanded list of skills and items that can be used in hundreds of ways to interact with each other. I want to see a game with a fairly simple engine, but with a huge amount of tools and content to play around with.

  21. Meh, talking about Oblivion... I simply love enchanting! With a steel bow with a +100 ice enchantment, you could one-hit anything.
    Also, I like the Giant Mud Crab. 'Tis cool.