Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bad Games

Lately I've been playing only bad games. (except DIRT for the PS3, which was well worth the $11 I payed for it at EB games) By bad I mean really BAD, especially on the RPG front. Today I want to talk about 2 games specifically because I think they're bad for opposite reasons, Vampire Wars and (all) the RPG games my best friend runs.

To those of you who aren't familiar with Facebook and it's plethora of "apps" which simultaneously ammuse and irritate the majority of it's users, Vampire Wars is a facebook App Game where you "play" (very loose term there) a Vampire. By play I mean that you create a unique vampire character by giving it a name, and then dressing it up in the very tiny handful of clothing options they give you. Then you get a handful of actions to do with this vampire you've just created. You can do "missions" which is basically click on a link and get a reward in exchange for spending a pool of various stat-points that automatically replenish over time. There's no risk in the missions, and nothing fancy or entertaining about them, simply click the link, get the feedback/reward. The missions even have these imagination-inspiring names that make you wish you could actually have your vampire do them a little, like "Defeat a rival vampire." or "Infiltrate the Spider Queen's lair" but after the first 15 seconds you stop looking at their token attempt to dress up which is essentially a slot-machine mechanic without any chance or potential for meaningful reward.

The other main action is "combat" which is more link clicking, but this involves some chance. The factors to win are how many people you've sucked into playing this stupid game with you, and how many little graphically illustrated "abilities" you've managed to accumulate through gameplay. The more of both the better. You fight other players to steal some of their stuff and get bragging rights that's represented by a numerical value.

That's basically all there is to Vampire Wars, they have a revenue generating mechanic that lets you buy a certain kind of rare currency to purchase some of the cooler stuff, but it doesn't change the core gameplay which is so sparse and pointless that I'd laugh if I hadn't been playing this stupid game for 2 weeks now.

The thing is, Vampire wars does one thing for me that keeps me logging on a couple times a day, it inspires my imagination. The game makes me remember the old LARPing days of Vampire the Masquerade when me and my fellow players were trying to plan and execute our schemes to hurt other vampires, influence and feed on mortals and protect our sleeping havens. We had to describe and role-play our actions before our arbitrating GM who would sometimes oppose our attempts and thus we went away unsuccessful as often as not. But it was fun. Vampire Wars reminds me of those fun escapades where we'd screw around and try to pull off things without getting our precious characters killed.

On the other end of the spectrum are the RPG games my friend tries to run, which I've all but sworn off of, despite the fact that he's my best friend, and I really really want to play more games right now. His games are steeped in complexity but for all his efforts they don't inspire anything in me but frustration. Where Vampire Wars is simply an advancement of an avatar that's conceptually so flimsy to barely even be there, his games are entirely concept with hardly any mechanical structure to gain purchase to. His games are all story, but the story is meant to be made by the players, but he doesn't like to give the players the means or inspiration to strive for anything, because those would be things that we could exploit, and exploiting things is the death of all RPG's it seems. I'm sure he'd say that I'm way off base, but I've spent the last 5 years trying to understand his games and that's the best I've figured.

I wish I could combine the strengths of both of these bad games and get to play a good game, but my magic lamp and genie is taking it's time arriving. Maybe I'll figure something out in the interim.


  1. I'm lost in the wilderness too but about to buy a PS3 (probably today). Might even manage to get some multiplayer happening with any luck.

    Hoping the new system turns up some nice gaming options but it sounds like the ultimate game is still to be developed. I watched my daughter play some role players with a DM. If it hadn't been all kids I would have liked to try it. Something open ended would be nice.

  2. @Peter I know for my PS3 I enjoyed Assassin's creed because I like exploring and parkour. The second iteration of it looks even better. Fallout 3 with the expansions is really cool too. I liked ghostbusters and Arkham Asylum is supposed to be really really awesome.

    For atmosphere Bio Shock rules and is quite creepy, and for good sandbox fun Infamous and that other one look good too. I'm also stoked about Gran Torismo Prologue because I've been working on driving physics for Hardkore.