Interview With A Gamer March 2011, Part Two: Daniel From Norway Loves The Train Scene From Uncharted 2, Doesn't Get The Sims, And Wanted To Play Online On The Commodore 64
In the first half of our interview, Daniel talked about voice acting, what makes a nerd, and what gaming life is like in Norway. In the final half, we move on to whether games should be like movies, linear vs. sandbox games, Zelda, the future of gaming, and much more. Read on, after the jump!
GayGamer: I wanted to ask you about Zelda, because I know you're new to it, and this year is its 25th anniversary, but there's another hot topic I want to get to before we move off from voice acting, and that's whether or not video games should try to emulate films. You mentioned two games that are, I think, both praised and criticized for trying to be like a movie: Uncharted and Heavy Rain.
Daniel: Well, I haven't played Heavy Rain, but I've played both Uncharteds. The first one I enjoyed, but the second one, well, some of the scenes were just mind-blowing...like the scene on the train. For me, it's one of those moments in gaming where you go "Oh, wow!" I don't want to spoil it for those who haven't played it, but they clearly went to a lot of effort to make that game feel like a movie, but not to take away the control the player has. There's a great deal of work that's been done to make it feel seamless when they move in to a cutscene. You barely notice it. Final Fantasy hasn't done that so much...it's quite obvious when the cutscene starts, though perhaps it was not as high on their priority list. But I like the direction that Uncharted is taking because it's like going to see an action movie, but you're in it and you have some control over what's going on. And you're genuinely shaken at some points in the game.
GG: I ask the question because on the one hand I hear complaints that film-like games are too linear, that they're not these sandbox-type games. But on the other hand, people seem to love them.
D: Yeah, I think when you start reading articles about the people who make the games, you'll hear that if you go the sandbox route you'll lose out on the story. So I think that's why the linear games stay popular. Some people like a good story. In less-linear games the story can be either hard to follow, or wishy-washy. I think it's going to be an eternal problem. If you look at it, Zelda was sort of a sandbox-type game before its time, even if it was a bit linear, because you don't have to do things in an exact order, and that's one of the things that made it so popular.
GG: Yeah, I remember reading an interview with a big developer who said if it weren't for the first Zelda there'd be no...you know, Grand Theft Auto. The idea that you can go anywhere on the map is from Zelda, and reading a lot of the stuff about the anniversary it's really been impressed on me that it was ahead of its time.
D: Oh yeah, it came out at a time when people were scrolling from left to right . "Where do I go now? I go right!" You don't have to ask the question. But I think there's room for both genres, because some people don't like to wander around and go "What do I do now?" Exploration games like Metroid, which can be a bit linear as well, do bring the player to that point. Especially if you're not too faithful and leave the game for a week...[laughs]
D: So I think there's room for linear games and sandbox games because there's more than one type of player out there.
GG: Absolutely, compare the success of a game like Heavy Rain or Uncharted to a game like World of Warcraft, where there is no real ending. They're both huge. Or look at the Sims, which has no plot.
D: Yeah, I never really understood the Sims, to be honest - and I play Sim City. But the Sims has never appealed to me at all and I don't know why. When Animal Crossing came out for the Wii it looked like a Wii version of the Sims, and it just didn't appeal to me at all.
GG: I understand. I'm so sick and tired of shooting Nazis in the head...I don't even know the last time I played an FPS. And this is even though I was very fond of the Metroid Prime games, which you could argue were FPS-y, but it felt different for me. It's not that the FPS games out now are bad. I'm just not that kind of player any more.
D: I think that many people have them to play online. And it's funny, because I remember playing the Commodore 64, before anyone was aware of the internet, and thinking how cool it would be if I could play against someone somewhere else. And it's funny that when I was a kid that was really appealing, but now that it's actually a possibility, I could count on one hand how many times I've played online. For me gaming is something I do to recharge and it doesn't really involve anyone else. And I don't really like the idea of making an appointment with my guild to do something online at a specific time. For me that's too much penetration of the game in to my real life; I like to turn it on or off when I want to. I don't want to ask anyone's permission to go to the loo.
GG: Do you and your husband play together?
D: Yeah, we do. Though mostly we watch each other play. But when New Super Mario Bros. Wii came we played together because it's really fun for two to play. Fun and frustrating.
GG: So if you're watching each other play, does that mean you have to compete for time on the systems?
D: It happens when he starts playing a game that he's really in to. Like when he played Resident Evil 4 he hogged the Wii for a while. But I'm the bigger gamer, I think, so it's not a problem.
GG: Parents often have favourite children...does either of you have a favourite system? Or do they get love as the games come along?
D: I think my husband really has a weak spot for the Wii. And so do I, but I like both [the Wii and the PS3]. It's stupid, but I really like that when you press the eject button on the Wii it just ejects the DVD. When you press the eject button on the PS3 it turns on the whole system. When I press the button I just want the disc. Though I bet someone will read this and write in to tell me how I'm doing it wrong. [laughs]
D: But the PS3 is...it's really powerful. So there are real wow moments that are linked to the hardware. But I keep going back to the Wii because of some of the games. It doesn't really get more fun than Super Mario Galaxy 2, does it? That's really the essence of gaming to me. And I'm sure some people would disagree and say if you're really a hardcore gamer you'd prefer...whatever. But to me it's about how much fun you have that makes a great game, and that's Mario. I'll keep coming back for that.
GG: I think that's part of Nintendo's continued success, that it has the rights to Mario and Zelda, and people will buy systems because of those games.
D: Yeah, and when you think about Mario, the plot is an afterthought, really. The focus is on how fun it's going to be to get there. They didn't put too much effort in to the plot, or even the main character, but you can see that all their energy went in to making it fun, and it worked.
GG: When I think of Mario, those games are about your mastery over the game. It's about getting all the stars, getting to the end of the level. How fast can you run through it? How high can you jump? And when you do it you get an immediate sense of accomplishment.
D: Yes, and what's nice is you get that sense of accomplishment whether you're seven or twenty-seven, because they have those different objectives. You can just get to the boss, or you can get everything there is, or you can see how fast you can do it. So you can set your own objectives and that's very satisfying. I see small children who love Mario the same way I do, even though they're still stuck in World 3. [laughs]
D: So, it's wonderful that it can be so many things to so many people. Not many games can say that, I think.
GG: Absolutely. I think there is a handful of genre-defining games out there, and we've already talked about a few of them. Final Fantasy...the RPG. Mario is "video games." And Zelda is the adventure game. And between those three, there's a big chunk of fanboy-dom right there.
Anyway, so that we don't keep you forever on the line here: Speaking of these big canonical games, I understand that you're fairly new to the Legend of Zelda even though you've been playing video games for some time now. So, I'm wondering which Zelda was your first?
D: Well, technically speaking the first one that I played was the first on the NES. I just played it a little at a friend's place. I really liked it, but I didn't get to play it enough for it to be super-memorable. But I remembered what Zelda was. I remember seeing Ocarina of Time when it came out, and it almost made me buy the system. But I was in university and I was a little scared, actually. I'm a little envious now that I'm on GayGamer and I see all those people who play in college all the time. And I was not like that. I was focusing on partying and going to school, and there was no time for gaming. So when Ocarina came out I didn't get it. But when the Wii came out, it was like the story that we've heard so many times: I saw it, I knew someone who had it, I tried it and I loved it.
So we got it. It was something as basic as Wii Sports that made me think it was cool. We decided one weekend to get it. We were in Montréal at the time, so we went to all the Future Shops and Best Buys to get it, because you couldn't get one anywhere. So we got to one Future Shop and they said "Yeah we just got six, you're really lucky." And even before that, when we decided we would get the system, I got Twilight Princess because the reviews were so good and it was the game for the Wii. So emotionally, it was the first one for me. And I really loved it, even though, again, it's a game which many fans have mixed perceptions. And, not having played many others, I loved it. And I think what's going to happen in a few years, when there's Zelda #15, or whatever, then people are going to go "Oh, this is not as good as Twilight Princess." That's just the way things go, I think.
GG: Oh I know. I remember when Twilight Princess came out and people said it wasn't as good as the Wind Waker, I thought I was going to crap my pants. When the Wind Waker came out people screamed bloody murder because it didn't look like what the Twilight Princess ended up looking like. And there was this humongous controversy. People were saying Nintendo didn't care about its fans any more.
D: Yeah, yeah, because Link looked like a child.
GG: Yeah, because of the art style of the game people were furious, rabid, foaming at the mouth. And then, a few years later they get exactly what they were looking for, in my opinion: This adult-looking Link game. And what happens? "Oh, it's not as good as the Wind Waker. The Wind Waker was so much better." Excuse me? So I think you're exactly right. I think in ten years' time people are going to say "The Twilight Princess was so much better."
D: Well, I loved it. The visuals were great, the music, and just the indescribable feel of getting into a dungeon and being a little creeped out... I really did like it. And after that the Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks, so then I thought I'd start playing the ones that are available on the Virtual Console. So now I'm playing A Link to the Past, and I don't find it more difficult than the others, but I find it really, really frustrating when you get killed by a boss and you have to start over from the beginning of the dungeon. You know you don't have to get all the keys or whatever, but to get to the boss you have to do all these other things and it gets a bit mind-numbing after the fourth time. Whereas, if you have to kill a boss on Phantom Hourglass or Twilight Princess, at least you don't start all over again if you die. You start just before the boss fight. So, that's something they probably discovered, how frustrating that is.
It was probably a bit of an awakening for me to play A Link to the Past because I remember now that's the way games were back then. I don't want to say they have become more easy, because some of them are still very hard, but there's a bigger focus on not frustrating the hell out of your player. [laughs]
D: But I do like it, and you can see that despite it being early, like 1992, it's still really fun and really satisfying.
GG: You were saying how games back in the day were very different; I think that A Link to the Past straddles that period when there wasn't enough memory to make a game very long, so they made it very hard to give the person a lengthy experience...but A Link to the Past has enough memory that you could make a long game that didn't have to be difficult. So I think it's a bit of a time capsule that way.
D: I never thought of it that way, but you're right. You have to give the player a run for his money.
GG: Well, I guarantee you that's not my idea. I read it somewhere years ago and totally forgot where I stole it from [laughs]
D: [laughs] Yeah, but it's a good idea.
So I took a little Link to the Past break, but I'm getting back in to it.
GG: So which boss are you stuck on?
D: Well, stuck isn't the right word, it's just that it was a Friday and I was trying to unwind by playing but it actually wound me up. [laughs]
D: But it's the fourth one in the Dark World, so I'm nearing the end I think. But I just wasn't getting close to killing the boss.
GG: So to wrap things up, I'm wondering where you'd like to see the gaming industry going in the next few years.
D: I'd like to see movement in the sandbox area, because I really like the idea of roaming freely. You know, when Assassin's Creed came out I was like "Wow!" Seeing Jerusalem the way it was back then was the best part of the game. Unfortunately the gameplay didn't feel entirely ready to be launched. You're supposed to be an assassin, but very often there's no way to sneak and kill, it's an all-out battle. But apparently it's been fixed now.
I'd like more games like that; it's very appealing to me to visit Rome in the 1500s. But more work on the gameplay and story would be good, because those are the sorts of games that I like. I know that's a tall order, but I'd like what pretty much everyone would like: Games that are lifelike and non-linear, but with a good story too. It's very appealing to explore something that you can't in real life, like a city from a thousand years ago - but at the same time the game has to be more than that. It's all the elements together that makes a great game.
And I'm very excited to see the next generation of consoles, but I don't know how many years we'll have to wait for that, now... But, will they be focusing on 3D, or will there be something more to it...?
GG: Well, you mentioned immersion, and I wonder what 's next. We've to the Wii and we've got Kinect, and you mentioned 3D, so I'm curious to see what console companies will do now.
D: Well, I think it's a no-brainer that 3D is going to be the next big thing, but is it just going to be that? I mean, before the Wii came out who would have seen motion control coming? And we saw what it did, propelling Nintendo despite the fact that they didn't have HD. So is the next big thing going to be unpredictable? 3D is totally predictable, and easy to implement because the games are already designed in 3D, you basically just have to add another camera. But is there something groundbreaking coming our way? It makes you wonder what it could be...
GG: When I think of 1993, when the Genesis and the SNES were the big thing, everyone thought virtual reality would be the next big thing, and we'd all have these headsets strapped on.
D: Yeah, and that never happened, did it? But, that's the thing...at that time it was Nintendo and Sega, but who would have thought in the future people would be playing Sonic on a Nintendo system?
GG: That was weeeiiird the first time I did that, yeah.
D: So the future is unpredictable. And now we have three big console makers, so is there enough room for all of them? Perhaps there are now because Nintendo has made so many new gamers, but it's going to be interesting to see how things are going to develop.
Our thanks again to Daniel for taking time out to speak with us. We hope our readers enjoyed the interview. Feel free to leave your comments below, and keep an eye out for the next Interview With A Gamer.