We all possess gaming memories of some sort, but the question is, how much have our memories and nostalgia warped our perception of these games? Secondly what does the evolving nature of online games mean for this? Trust me this is one evolution you can’t stop by Pressing B.
So how has this all come about? Well one of my favourite games of the PS2 era was Ratchet and Clank, it was a great little action platformer with some unique weapons and environments. So understandably I was overjoyed to hear that a HD collection of the first 3 Ratchet and Clank games existed so I very quickly got myself a copy (This article will act as something of a review of this game)
As I started playing the first game, the illusions I’d built up for this game were completely shattered and it really started to annoy me. Don’t get me wrong it’s still a great series but it has some pretty major flaws. Its greatest problem is the check-pointing. Throughout the games you’ll find yourself running gauntlets full of enemies, you make it to the end, then accidently die and bam, and you’re right back to the start and without any more ammo. It just really sucks the fun out of the game and ends up artificially extending it. Furthermore Ratchet and Clank suffers from an issue similar to my problems with Ocarina of Time 3D: the saving. Instead of remembering your exact position in the level/planet the game will behave like you have just started the level, meaning large chunks of time are wasting getting back to whatever point you were at. Another gameplay issue, the camera, as well as attempting to automatically adjust, it can also be manually adjusted with the analogue sticks, the problem? It’s never quite right, it’s allows just a bit out. In some types of games this isn’t really an issue, but with platformers that isn’t the case, you need decent camera positioning to help time jumps etc. This is an issue is exacerbated in the Ratchet and Clank series, on a number of occasions you’ll have to walk on walls and the ceiling, at those points in particular it’s a real nightmare.
What struck me most replaying this game, is something my nostalgic memory of the game obviously didn’t include is how much of a Metroid-vania style game this is. Quick explanation, Metroid-vania, style games named after the Metroid and Castlevania series refer to games where you’ll often be in the following situation:
At the moment you can’t open this door, you go to the next level and find something that allows you to open said door, if you go back and open the door you’ll find an item of some sort, you might not need this item straight away to progress in the story but at some point in the you’ll will have to go back and get it.
Playing Ratchet and Clank I forever found myself having to go back to the same places just to open a single door to get something new which felt kind of repetitive. Worst of all the game never informs you if this item you’ve got will be needed at some point or if it’s just some random extra item. While I can certainly take a step back and see why some people like the Metroid-vania genre of game, I personally don’t, I prefer my games a touch more linear and structured so I know exactly what I need to do next time I want to play. Now credit to Insomniac games it appears they may have listened to people like me, when we reach Ratchet and Clank 3, affectionately called ‘Up Your Arsenal’, in which missions are clearly marked as part of the story or optional. Is this an improvement? Frankly no, it feels like they went too far the other way, abandoning the Metroid-vania aspects for a much more linear progression, shame really.
It appears I’m not alone when it comes to nostalgia giving you false impressions about a game, I got in touch with my friends over at the ‘One Track Gamers’ podcast (Details will come later) and they had much to say.
Cory fondly remembers playing Donkey Kong 64 and its “awesome gameplay” What about now? I’ll let him explain: “the controls are just garbage […] camera is bad” Oh dear he seems to suffering from a similar problem as me. He went on to rather perfectly explain reasons identical to the ones that made me want to write this, “the nostalgia doesn’t live up when you play it ever, just better off in your memories” Is Cory right, should we leave old games in the past and not ruin our memories? Well game publishers don’t seem to think so, re-releases of games are incredibly common these days and frankly getting a bit excessive. Recently announced was Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection for PS4, a HD re-release of the first 3 Uncharted games, and let’s be honest those games aren’t that old, the first one came out in 2007, I could understand re-releasing a game after a significant anniversary like Nintendo did with Pokémon Gold and Silver, but Uncharted? I don’t think so.
Although fellow One Track Gamer, Amanda highlights the other side of the nostalgia debate “I still appreciate it (an old game) with the flaws. This is certainly true and I somewhat subscribe to the theory, for example the first thing I bought in the PlayStation Store on my PS3 was the PS1 classic Crash Team Racing, yes by modern standards the graphics are terrible but that doesn’t bother me because I had so much fun with that game while I was growing up.
So perhaps the answer about how does nostalgia affect games is simple, it depends on the game. If it’s a game we love and treasure, we’ll continue to love it and overlook it flaws, while if it was a game we just liked we’ll probably find ourselves picking holes in it.
Now at the beginning of the article I mentioned the evolving nature of games, you might be thinking, games don’t really evolve, I buy a game in a shop play it, could come back to it in five years and it’ll be the same. Frankly you’re pretty much right, yes we have internet connected consoles these days, but those updates are usually bug fixes or bits of DLC, the fundamental basics of the game don’t change. But there’s one type of game where that’s not the case, they constantly evolve and change, yes, I’m talking about online games.
To help illustrate my point, I’ll be using Valve’s Team Fortress 2 as my example to show just how much a game can change.
17th September 2009, a momentous day, why? It was the day I bought Team Fortress 2, in the early days I loved that game, it’s art style, the range of classes and weapons led me to put over 300 hours into this game. One particular fond memory was a little server running a map called ‘Breakfloor Sawmill’ I couldn’t tell you how much time I sunk into that one server with a little group of friends, but sadly for reasons unknown that server is lost to the mists of time.
December 17th 2009: The evolution of TF2 with the introduction of in-game crafting. This was one of the major new features added into the game that I actually supported, yes it devalued some of the rarer items but for the most part it meant those dozens of Force-a-Nature’s in your backpack finally had a purpose. (This is a plight any TF2 player can sympathise with) However from here onwards, things go horribly, horribly wrong.
March 18th 2010/May 20th 2010/April 7th 2011: These 3 dates mark the ‘Community Contribution Updates’, players could now have weapons and items they’ve made be added into the game. Now I’m not saying involving the community of a game is bad, it really isn’t, it’s just this led to the game being flooded with items, thus the influence of the in-game economy starts to grow…
June 23rd 2011: TF2 goes Free to Play. This was one of the contributing factors for me abandoning the game, I really don’t agree with the F2P model. Yes I not going to lie gaming can be an expensive hobby, but Valve didn’t need to do this it had a huge fan-base of people who paid for the game. Why don’t I like F2P? Firstly it devalues the contribution of the players who previously bought the game, yes we got an game item (Woo-hoo) (!), really think something like an old, cheap Valve game i.e. original Counter Strike might have been better. Secondly, it creates two tiers of players, the paid and the F2Pers and let me tell you to this day there is still animosity between the two groups. It’s not beneficial it’s made the community divided into ‘us’ and ‘them’
September 6th 2011: In-game trading is introduced. Now once again in the early days this wasn’t really too much of an issue, if you wanted to trade items you could go to dedicated trade servers and do just that, perfect. But then the influence of trading started to spread beyond the confines of trade servers, you could be playing a nice game of Capture the Flag, you get a new item, you just kind of ignore it. You are then bombarded with trade requests from players asking if you up for a trade, ruining the game experience. This was a sad day for TF2 in my opinion, the day the game became less about having fun and more about the in-game economy.
There are probably better examples of the ‘evolution’ on online games, this just happens to be an example somewhat close to my heart.
I really hope you enjoyed the article, just want to say a big thank you to the ‘One Track Gamers Podcast’ for their contributions, they’re a great weekly gaming podcast, find them on iTunes, Podbean and many other places. Secondly if it all goes as planned, yours truly will be making a guest appearance on ‘One Track Gamers’ , where I’ll be discussing a few things I’ve got planned for the site in the coming weeks, you’ll have to listen to find out…