Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Blog Banter #5: To hell with Myth Drannor!

Welcome, welcome to the 5th installment of Blog Banter, the monthly blogging extravaganza headed by bs angel! Blog Banter involves our cozy community of enthusiastic gaming bloggers, a common topic, and a week to post articles pertaining to said topic. The results are quite entertaining and can range from deep insight to ROFLMAO. Any questions about Blog Banter should be directed here. Check out other Blog Banter articles at the bottom of this post!

I missed the last Banter, so when bs angel sent out the email for this month's Banter, I immediately set aside some time for it. There was no way I was going to miss two in a row!

The topic of this month's banter is how flawed games prevented us from completing them. Interesting. Easy choice.

I say so because, if there is one game that I think of when I hear the word flaw, one game which I tried again and again to "get into" and complete, that would be: Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor. It's one major flaw: the interface. Funny in a way, since the topic of our latest Drone Bay podcast was the EVE Online overview and how one could customize it to his or her liking.

Pool of Radiance was my first PC game. The first I bought myself, the first that I had anticipated, the first I had counted the days before its launch. I even bought a new graphic card for it, because my PC at the time, an IBM PC300, wasn't up to par. I remember loading it and launching the game the first time. The excitement, the trepidation! And then... the disappointment.


At first I thought it was me. Somehow I just didn't "get" the menu interface Stormfront had created. When I would approach a monster character and engaged it in combat, I would clumsily fumble trying to cast the right spell, or use the right weapon. Only to realize that I had selected somehow the wrong one. This kept happening over and over. For sure, as time went on, I would become more comfortable with the interface. Unfortunately, this was not the case.

Now, I'm not saying that the game wasn't enjoyable; the setting was great, the story was captivating, the graphics (back then) looked great, and eh, this was D&D! But for me, from the moment I started the game, the interface was a flaw I just couldn't get past. No matter how much time I'd spent trying to familiarize myself with it, it just didn't get through my thick skull. So I quit and moved on.

My next game was a gift from a friend at work. And what a game it was! Diablo II! Now there was a game with a simple, effective, easy to pick-up interface. That's what all developers should strive for. The interface of a game is something that they just can't get wrong. If they get it right no one notices, but if they get it wrong, they whole game is tainted by it. I don't mind a complex interface, or else I would go nuts playing EVE! But I, for one, am a follower of the "easy to learn, difficult to master" mantra. And that applies beautifully to a game's interface.

So how about you? What game(s) have you played and couldn't complete because of a perceived flaw you just couldn't get past?

Check out these other Blog Banter articles! Silvercublogger, Unfettered Blather, Triage Effect, Gamer Unit, Delayed Responsibility, Man Bytes Blog, Zath!, Draining Souls.net, Game Couch, 8-Bit Brigade, thoughts and rants, Hawty McBloggy.

10 comments:

Manasi said...

I could care less for the D&D online UI. The UI in WoW I like but only because i customize the heck out of it...except when they patched the game....EQ had a fairly good UI as did EQ2 to a smaller degree. EvE's UI does need some refinement for sure but overall I like the changes implemented recently.

Adrenis said...

Wow, I don't think I've ever played a game that had such a poor interface that I just couldn't function like that. It's interesting how the "little" things like that can make or break a game.

Jason O said...

Back when I did more front-end development I used to hate the coding but I loved designing user interfaces.

There are some easy design patterns to follow but usually the best is "Could I explain this to my grandmother". Not that my grandmother is a stupid woman, but her lack of exposure to computers meant that if she could get it rather quickly than so could anyone else.

I don't think my Grandmother would ever play a game, but the question is still "Can someone who DIDN'T work on this game understand the interface?" Interface is important, and developers keep forgetting that.

What I've found though, is that no matter how good my code underneath is, if user's don't like the interface they're not going to like the product. I think this is even more true for games.

Silvercube said...

The only interface I could not stand was Final Fantasy Tactics on the playstation... too many menus to sort through!

Nice post : )

bs angel said...

What a very basic, core mistake. I have only played a few games like that, but if you try your hand at something for an extended length of time and the controls simply don't feel right, there is not much you can do besides shelve the game. I play all my games with inverted settings and I'll never forget the time I loaded up a game and spent a long time searching in the settings only to finally figure out they didn't have the option to invert the x and y axis. Really? Things like that make games completely unplayable.

Thomas said...

I've always wanted to pick up Pool od Radiance, despite it's reputation. Maybe not so much now? I've only encountered this problem once, and that was with X-3: The Return. That game was absolutely opaque.

Triage Effect said...

I have to be able to handle the game the way I want to if I want to play it right. Just like bs angel, I must play inverted, and I also play with captions always on. If there isn't something as simple as captions, I just can't play it.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't upgrading your computer for a crappy game suck?

Anyway, this reminded me of Mistmare, a game which sounded cool, but I had no clue what I was doing. I believe you should be able to dive into a game without studying the manual, but the people behind Mistmare disagreed.

--Terry, GameCouch.com

swiftvoyager said...

Not so much due to the UI, but this is certainly a game I could never finish because it was flawed: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outpost_(computer_game)

As to flawed interfaces preventing a great game from being perfect, how about the end-game in Civ 2? Remeber how the micro-management of all the cities became totally unmanageable on a large map once you got towards the end? I remember taking an entire evening just to get through one turn due to the lack of decent auto-manage and build ques.

CrazyKinux said...

It's funny how such a simple yet important part of the game could be overlooked by the developers. I guess it's like engineers designing a GUI. It would work, but it would, and usually is ugly!