A decent story with implemented failure conditions that fails the player
WARNING: If you have yet to play FC3, there are some major spoilers in this section regarding the main campaign.
I have been discussing Far Cry 3 at some length with a friend of mine, who reads what I write, and much of our experience with Far Cry 3 has been similar, so, I know it is not just me. I have also read any number of similar complaints in comments sections of reviews, so I tend to accept that I am at least “near” right on the money.
My friend’s comments (in italics) will make up nearly the entirety of the rest of this article, so I am giving him credit here, thank you Robin Payne.
I read your part 2. Pretty clear now exactly what you were saying. I especially liked some comments and sort of mentally said, ‘AMEN’! at the end.
Story led players is another way of saying developer led gameplay, and that is the ‘crux’ of the issue with most games, IMO. I imagine developers lay out a story board which is basically all the cut scenes we see and somewhere in the series of scenes they say, “OK, the player is wedged into the story now, how do we force him/her to the next scene?” I have no problem with the way FC3 does this, as in every case (so far) the player is prompted to go someplace on the map and the cut-scene triggers and by the time it ends you usually know what to do. When the scene ends and you are unsure what to do, that is where I feel the developers have failed the players.
My first example of this failure was right at the beginning of the game, in the tutorial where you are told to follow your brother. I followed him until I reached a place where it looked to me that I would be seen if I didn’t wait for the pirates to stop looking my way. I failed because I stopped and let my brother go on. In real life my brother would have just waited for me, but the developers decided I needed to be punished for not doing what they wanted/needed me to do, so I failed.
Also, there is the frustrating scene where you are told to follow ‘the man in white’. I failed it immediately because I let him get too far ahead of me (which causes a game reload). How the hell am I supposed to know what the ‘magic’ distance is to avoid failure? Then I failed it again because I hid behind cover (in case he turned around) and like a bad dog getting it’s nose smacked, I learned by failure that I must keep the man in white in sight at all times (no looking away) even though in real life you can follow a person who you see only has one path he’s headed on with no options. It was a textbook example of developers hand holding (my chief complaint with FC3) the player like he/she is a stupid dog in training who’s collar must be yanked and yanked hard if the bad dog even thinks of straying off the ‘master’s’ chosen path.
My next experience with this was in the burning building where I failed over and over in order to learn what exact path and what exact actions the developers wanted/needed me to perform to avoid failure and having to repeat the damn scene over and over. It adds insult to injury when you have a game that doesn’t allow saves at any time to fail your mission even if you did everything right almost to completion. Having to start back at the beginning makes me want to throw my damn controller into the wall.
Last night I played and was following the campaign. Jason (main character) got a phone call asking to meet a guy at a spot on the map because a plane was taking off (my ride to the next map). He tells me to meet him there in five minutes because he’s leaving with or without me. It was a timed mission. The frustration begins because normally there are vehicles all over the place and this time none are to be found and it’s a good distance away so I had to ‘hoof’ it there. Fortunately I had used some points on a perk that lets you run endlessly without being tired, but had I not put my experience points into that I doubt I could have run all that way over hill and dale and still make it in time (FAIL!).
Once you get there, predictably all kinds of bad guys show up wave after wave. It was all so predictable and trope filled as to be nearly boring.
The more you play the campaign the more you’ll see you get smacked on the nose like a bad dog over and over and over. Button prompts pop up in a fight and if you hesitate you fail, do it all over. Don’t heal yourself fast enough you fail and do a mission all over again at the beginning. I had one mission where I had to place an explosive. OK, I did that. I hear pirates are headed our way so I place mines in the street to blow them up as they enter the town. Guess what? The developers didn’t want it to go down that way, they wanted the bad guys to make it to the explosive I set so when they cross my mines and blow up there instead of when they reach the dynamite I get a ‘FAILURE’ popup and have to do the mission all over again. WOW! Talk about railroading the player to do it all one way!
I might add here that I’m seeing what appears to be lag, and it’s caused me to die many times. It often occurs when there is a lot of action going on and I press the ‘Y’ button to heal and it doesn’t react at all—-nothing. I getting shot and I’m pressing the button and shouting at the screen “FNCKING HEAL!” and finally after holding the button down and seeing no reaction and trying it over and over I see the healing animation begin but then it’s too late and I die. WTH???? I’ve seen the same kind of lag happen every time I get into a big action fight. A ‘X’ button will not respond when I try to pick up a fallen weapon, and even the crouch (‘B’) button has to be pushed more than once to get it to react sometimes. I don’t think it’s my controller because it only has the problem when I’m in a big drawn out fight.
While I’m ranting, I’ll point out another complaint that is a sort of glitch. I find the jeeps with mounted turrets are deadly, and they are fairly rare so when I come upon one I do my best to take it from the pirates without damaging it. The glitch is that I’ve parked it outside of a town or structure and then when I’m finished exploring I go back to find the turret jeep is replaced with some other kind of vehicle. Oh, I guess car thief stole my turret jeep but was kind enough to leave me this little crap compact car, how nice! Another time I parked a big convoy truck outside a town and when I came back to it there was a jeep there instead. I guess someone needed a convoy truck huh? All vehicles are random and spawning and the only permanent thing is the dog-leash yanking.
I would be a lot more forgiving of the flaws in FC3 if it allowed me to save at any time so I didn’t have to start back at the beginning.
While scripted failure is quite common in nearly every game, and standard fare in an FPS, it is basically the developers’ way of trying to make a game into an interactive movie, which games are decidedly not. Whoever thought up that idea was dead wrong, as games are light years from that, and should be far more. Trying to make a game into an ‘interactive movie’ translates to stealing individual innate freedom from someone born with it, and in a game world begins to ring of a type of slavery. Movies and books can do this, because that is their linear format and medium, but video games demand that you interact and control, so the two ideas are intrinsically at odds from the moment you touch any device that offers any control whatsoever.
While typical FPS games feature scripted failure, in the case of FC3, the offenses are particularly egregious, going above and beyond what most would consider irritating. This of course is highlighted by the lofty claims of “freeform sandbox world!” in all of the advertisements, and in the end, if you are not an experienced FPS gamer (i.e. – accustomed to being deceived by the BS advertisements) you might be especially offended.
Imagine for a moment being immersed in a book or movie, Suddenly. you miss a word or are distracted for a mere second. The theatre manager (or someone) enters the room and proceeds to whack you with a small soft club until you get the point that what you did is “bad behavior!” All the while, the movie screen or book page is flashing “fail!!!” to remind you of your mistake, and you are forced immediately to return to an earlier portion or chapter of the book or movie.
Doesn’t that just sound like the most fun you have ever had?
For all of the high talk game developers spout regarding ‘immersion’, this is a basic outlay of what the so-called experience ultimately can amount to. As a player, you might very well get quite immersed in the story, but a ‘failure condition’ completely ruins the experience by forcing repeated sections to be redone over and over until “correct.” It is very jarring as a part of the play experience, and frankly, it BREAKS the story. And, I would argue here, you can’t have both if you really want a successfully communicated, deeply immersive story.
While there is a fine line between maintaining excitement and boredom (because too much guaranteed success is also boring) that line is often crossed too enthusiastically. My worst experience (besides “the man in white”) came when I was supposed to “ambush the convoy” by placing a bomb on a truck. A phone call comes (itself distracting) and suddenly everyone (buddy AI) is yelling to “get to the top of the water tower!” and the timer has ticked down too far to have that happen. But I wasn’t told I needed to be there until that condition arose. So: In other words: You MUST fail it at least once to succeed if you have never played it before. What’s next? Commercials that play every time we screw up?
IF the game story is going to remain the way it is, and be told like a book/movie, and really is the focus, then it is obviously linear, and needs to be told that way, in a smooth, flowing, unbroken manner. Otherwise, the experience is tantamount to being clubbed every time we reach for a piece of pie until we stop trying. Too much of that makes people quit, and let’s face it: The psychological tests were in many years ago regarding repeated failure. Outside of story-based games, (where story isn’t ‘king’), failure conditions are more acceptable, because generally, those games are not “quite” as immersive and the failure conditions are typically lighter and fewer.
Suffice to say: Books and movies do not abuse and punish the reader, watcher, or observer for ANY REASON. If they did, do you think they could still be sold? It is only gamers’ dogged determination to grasp any fun at all that keeps us going in the face of such horrible situations, and such terrible game play designs.
It certainly would be nice if someone who had any creativity at all would create a method to replace such old broken gaming tropes and scripts.