Are you feeling hung over from some bad gaming purchases in 2009? Let me share some thoughts on how to apply principles and resolutions to fill your 2010 full of smart gaming choices!
Every New Years, many people make resolutions of things they will do that year to make themselves better people. I do this each year, typically with a single thing I want to work on in my personal life (and typically either better health or communications!). With the very busy Fall release season coming to a close, it is a good time to reflect on the decisions made and assess how well we stuck to our principles during the year. Looking at my own purchases this year I realized that there were changes I wanted to make in my gaming life.
We’ll start with empirically derived principles I plan to apply in the coming year, and a bit of explanation for each. Then I will list my Gaming Resolutions at the end.
The Deus Ex Invisible War Principle – If there is a demo available on a game you are interested, play it! The thought behind this one is that I was very much anticipating Deus Ex Invisible War, and when the demo came out and was supposed to be levels from the game; I decided to skip it and wait for the game. Why? Well, I had done that with Star Wars Jedi Academy and was perfectly satisfied with the result. I had bought Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic on day of release and absolutely loved it. I had bought both expansions for Neverwinter Nights on day of release and was very satisfied. So I thought I was safe. Had I played the demo I would have saved $50 (minor) and avoided one of the worst gaming disappointments of my life (major).
Corollary to The Deus Ex Invisible War Principle, also known as the Restricted Area Principle – If you play the demo, and don’t really like it, don’t spend $40 to prove yourself right! After all, isn’t a large reason behind playing the demo to find out what the game is like and determine whether or not you’ll like it? At least wait a while, read some reviews, determine if the full game is just like the demo – if it is, consider your lesson learned. On occasion you will read ‘the demo does not represent the game well’ – in which case you are back in a quandary. My advice then would be to see if the game violates another principle before buying.
The I of the Dragon Principle – If there is a demo available for a game you have no interest in … DON’T PLAY IT!!! There are demos posted on sites almost daily. Many of them I am not interested in playing, so I don’t. But it seems I end up grabbing everything that has FPS (first person shooter) or RPG (role playing game) as a genre description. This game never had me interested me during development, neither the screenshots nor videos were intriguing to me, yet I still downloaded the demo and wasted some of my valuable time playing it … just to convince myself I really didn’t want to buy it. I suppose I could comfort myself in the fact that I didn’t buy the game, but that isn’t good enough.
The Dungeon Lords Principle – Time is valuable – too valuable to continue spending considerable amounts of it on two different sets of discussion forums daily, pondering the possibilities of a game that has been multiply delayed, seen little released information, and whose future seems bleaker with each passing day. They finally released a demo – but even that was done ineptly and with poor communication. That is one of the great things about demos – they can provide an insight into how a game works that screenshots and trailers never will. The demo had loads of problems, which brings us back to the Restricted Area Principle. I discussed my ‘learnings’ from Dungeon Lords in an earlier article at.
The Second Restricted Area Principle – There are enough good RPG’s out there you haven’t played and/or exhausted that you don’t need to spend $40 for a short, mediocre, Diablo clone. This one covers those situations where, whether or not there is a demo, you are mildly interested in the game but have heard it isn’t very good.
The Kult: Heretic Kingdoms exception to the Restricted Area Principle – If for some reason you fail to listen to the two reasons for not buying a game, you might actually like it! My Restricted Area Corollary was once the Kult: Heretic Kingdoms Corollary. I had played the demo, didn’t like it much, but bought it anyway. After playing for a short while, I decided I didn’t like the game and put it away for more than a month. Then I picked it up again and persevered through the early ‘you are fragile’ stage to the point where I could survive a battle and discovered that the game was actually loads of fun. I played it and replayed again to get even more of the depth from the character system.
The Forgotten Realms Demon Stone Principle – If everything in the universe seems to be trying to tell you not to buy a game – LISTEN! I love the Dungeons & Dragons universe, and think that R. A. Salvatore is a wonderful fantasy author and like his work. But Demon Stone was already out on consoles, and I knew that it was a simple 3rd person action game like Lord of the Rings Return of the King. After release, the warnings continued – the game was not available, and when it was, I had forgotten my wallet in my briefcase at work, and finally it was only DVD, which I didn’t have on my gaming laptop at the time … everything just seemed to want to keep me from buying it. But somehow I managed to buy it … and wish I hadn’t.
The Second Forgotten Realms Demon Stone Principle – If you read a preview that tells you that the game will be very much like a game you don’t like – believe the preview, and stay away from the game. I read the reviews, and more than the plot limitations was the direct comparison to the LotR: Return of the King game – which I didn’t like.
The Call of Duty Principle – A game that is a good deal for $50 is a GREAT deal for $25 two months later! I didn’t buy Call of Duty when it was released – I was too busy with Jedi Academy and Neverwinter Nights. I heard some good things, then did some searching on eBay and grabbed a new and sealed copy for $25.
The Medal of Honor Pacific Assault Axiom to the Call of Duty Principle – … sometimes it *still* isn’t that great of a deal … I thought the demo wasn’t very good, but knew much had been done, as it was advertised as a ?beta demo’. I figured I’d be smart like I was with Call of Duty, and persevere with eBay to get a cheap copy. That worked, and the game was getting reasonable early reviews (~80%), but I have no idea what game those reviewers were playing. The one I played had serious issues with load times, weapons and vehicles, unnecessarily stretched out jungle sequences, poor scripting and ghost spawning, and should have been rated lower. It was OK, and I would have been satisfied with it at $15 ? 20, but even $25 felt like too much.
Corollary to The Call of Duty Principle, also known as the Arcanum Principle – If you get three games for $11 on eBay and one is *GREAT*, it doesn’t matter if the other two are mediocre (Lionheart) and a suckfest (Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor). It still floors me that I got all three of those games for $11. Arcanum is one of my favorite games, and I had a blast with about the first 20 hours of Lionheart. I have paid much more money for games that are not nearly as good as Lionheart. The lesson I learned is to scour ‘bundles’ being sold on eBay for bargains as well ? another great bundle got me No One Lives Forever 2 for the Mac for $20 when it was still selling for $50 ? I just happen to get extra copies of No One Lives Forever 1, Diablo, Star Trek Voyager Elite Force and a few others at the same time.
The Star Wars BattleFront Principle – Don’t spend $50 to prove you don’t like a game-type (in this case, MultiPlayer) in a genre you *do* like (in this case, FPS). Especially if you can prove it with games you already own.
The BattleFront II confirmation of the Star Wars Battlefront Principle – Buying a somewhat better sequel to a game you didn’t like in a genre you don’t like isn’t likely to produce a good experience. I didn’t buy the PC version this time … I got the PSP version. And while this game has a lot more to offer than the original, and the handheld platform is better for offline play, it still feels like a poorly spent $50.
The Age of Empires Principle – If you haven’t ever liked a genre, and play a demo of a game in that genre and *still* don’t like it … take the hint.
World of Warcraft Corollary to The Age of Empires Principle – If you come across a ‘trial offer’ for an excellent game in a genre you haven’t ever liked, take advantage of the free trial to remind yourself you don’t like even the best game in the genre ? you can save yourself $50 plus $15 a month.
The Star Wars: Flight of the Falcon Principle – Remember that the very best Star Wars GameBoy Advance / DS / PSP games are mediocre, and most are pretty lousy, so do *not* ‘day of release’ purchase anything Star Wars for a handheld system … wait for reviews.
The Star Wars Trilogy Apprentice of the Force confirmation of The Star Wars: Flight of the Falcon Principle – I spent nearly $150 on September 21st 2004 – I got the Star Wars Trilogy DVD’s, BattleFront for the PC and Apprentice of the Force for the GameBoy Advance. I love the DVD’s, consider a Battlefront a painful reminder that I like single-player, story based FPS games, and consider Apprentice of the Force as a reminder that Star Wars handheld games are mediocre at best. This one isn’t terrible like Flight of the Falcon, but I’ve not touched it since finishing ? and it hasn’t ever held my kids’ interest.
The Star Wars Episode III exception to The Star Wars: Flight of the Falcon Principle – I knew someday they would make a Star Wars handheld game worth playing. I got this one on the day of release, and it has been one of the games I’ve played the most over the last several months. The mix of side-scrolling GBA-style action and GameCube-style space battles is very satisfying.
The Coded Arms / PSP Games Principle – If you can rent a game for $7 that you are not sure will be worth the $40 – 50 purchase price, either rent it or at least wait for some reviews to let you know if you will like the game.
The SOCOM Confirmation of the Coded Arms Games Principle – SOCOM is the type of game I don’t like too much – small single player but mostly multiplayer (see Star Wars Battlefront Principle). So I rented it. Halfway through I was thinking I should have bought the game, but by the time the rental was over, I had played all of the offline modes at least once and had put enough online hours in that I felt done. So I returned it with no regrets.
The XIII for Mac Principle – If you don’t like a game enough to replay it on one platform, don’t buy it for another platform!
The Jedi Knight II Replaying Principle – There’s never a bad time to replay a game you love and miss … and it doesn’t cost anything!
The Jedi Knight II / Gothic 2 ‘Comfort Gaming’ Principle – I have found a few games that actually relax and sooth me, and put me in a very good frame of mind. While the games themselves may not be relaxing, that is the state of mind they induce. I call these “Comfort Games” When there is bad stuff going on around you, don’t reach for the tub of Ben & Jerry’s, reach for your game system of choice and pull out that -old favorite’! Comfort Gaming is good for the soul!
Resolutions about buying and playing games:
* Keep a tight ‘must have’ list ? and update it based on new information.
* Focus more on finishing games you already have.
* Prioritize your wishlist and move stuff off the list or to the bottom that aren’t ‘must have’.
* When in doubt, replay something you already have.
* Spend more time gathering information on games you want than on those getting hyped.
* Buy no game that is not an absolute ?must have’ unless you have either played and been satisfied with the demo or read reviews that convince you you’ll enjoy the game.
I feel satisfied that if I follow the resolutions listed above and apply the principles I can avoid wasting money and get plenty of satisfying game time. Of course, many of those core principals can be applied to just about any other area in life.
What about you? What rules do you have for your gaming life – or your gadget life or life in general? What things do you hope to change this year? Discuss it in the comments!