Designing a game can’t be easy, but there are some things that are simply unforgivable.
Back when Tom Clancy worked with MicroProse on Red Storm Rising in the late ’80s he made a passing comment that once they were finished, they’d never need to create another submarine game again. Because, after all, it was all just bits and rules – get it right once, and it’ll be perfect forever. The developers laughed at his naïveté (behind closed doors, I assume – you don’t laugh at a guy with NSA-level connections to his face), but in hindsight, he was probably right: Red Storm Rising, despite all its graphical limitations, is still one of the best submarine games ever created.
In my ongoing (if somewhat sporadic) attempt to explore a new genre, I’ve come to the conclusion that MLB 09: The Show is arguably the closest thing to a “perfect” baseball game out there. Pitchers change their stance based on the ball they’re throwing, there’s about twelve different ways you can steal bases (right down to being able to slide left or right on your personal approach), and statistics really do mean something throughout the game. Unfortunately, none of that was worth much to me when I couldn’t even reliably hit a ball, much less understand what the hell the game was telling me when it threw up pages of statistics on team, player, and season performance with no reference or assistance. Continue reading →