Monday, August 27, 2012

What surprises me most about Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, revisited

at 4:57 PM
The writing is actually not awful. I've more than once caught myself chuckling at the zingers thrown back and forth between these clompingly lovable bots. The Sanford and Son dynamic of Jazz and Cliffjumper is likely to be a hit with fans of all ages.
I remember this episode.
These days every game wants to be Star Fox 64; if that doesn't necessitate a landslide of AI buddies clogging up the shooting field, it at least means a persistent chirp in your ear to tell you what you're doing. Everything from Vanquish to Lords of Shadow to Skyward Sword includes some form of companion navigator, team dynamic, or externalized internal monologue. If you're playing a game, you're gonna have voices in your head. Deal.

More often than not, you'll barely notice these voice bytes thrown into the theatrical clattering of clinking clanking battle sounds and jangling or soaring soundtracks. That said, when you DO notice them, you NOTICE them. Like, in a bad way. An immersion-breaking way. A technologically limited way. A "hey, get out of the way!"

There are some fairly obvious reasons to employ the chit-chat device, but the risk doesn't necessarily seem worth it. Often it characterizes the player-character, as in the enthralling 2003 Sands of Time. As a matter of fact, let's just talk about Sands of Time, because I think it's gonna work for all of my examples. The Prince likes to talk about what he's doing. He occasionally without instigation goes into an anecdote or tirade. It gives us a feel for the character and the backstory, even though the world is lifeless. A reason to keep moving.

Later in the game you'll hang out with Farah. She provides relational dialogue, to make you further identify with the player-character and develop your relationship with the game world. This approach is often taken with female characters: Ashley with Leon (RE4), Zelda with Link (Wind Waker), and whoever that woman in Vanquish is who keeps telling me to do things. Because you're assumed to be a guy, and the easiest way to write dialogue that male teenagers will fantasize about is by adorning them with a dedicated female. Whatever. Gender issues are another day. And these days people throw around terms like "Bromance" which I think is meant to cover male-male relations of this sort.

Even later in the game, I think, because I haven't played this game in like five to ten years, is a part where Farah is gone again, and there are puzzles. And during the puzzles, you're going to repeat the same mistakes a lot and probably straggle a bit. So the prince (or Farah) chimes in with a suggestion to help you along, but it's vague and ineffectual. And you screw around with the puzzle a bit more. Then the prince (or Farah) chimes in with the SAME suggestion to help you along, this time equally as useless and an annoyance too. By the time you've finally made your way past the obstacle, you'll either have heard the same quip repeated a fucking thousand times, or wisely have muted your TV.

All I'm trying to say is, WHY do they play that same clip over and over and over again. Dozens of games do it! Sometimes it's a randomized draw from a pool of ten, but you still end up hearing the same ones again and again. It's not guidance, it's not character development, it's not backstory, it's just fucking incessant nauseating yammering, as if the television HAS to be making noises at you. So fuck you, stupid fucking developers. Stop doing this.

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