When Good Tech Goes Wrong

by Steve Bowler on January 14, 2008 · 1 comment

in combat,critique,nitpicking

I was playing some Crysis tonight, thoroughly enjoying myself, and I happened across the tank mission, giving me my first taste of what piloting a tank would feel like in the Crysis engine. At first I was really excited to play it; they’d really nailed the infantry side of the game engine, what with the suit powers and using stealth effectively and all.

But the tanks? A serious disappointment. They were obviously nothing more than armored pickup trucks with a turret attached to them, as far as the code was concerned. They didn’t do anything that an actual tank could do. Hell, sometimes, they couldn’t even drive in reverse uphill, and I won’t even get into the “friendly” AI driving worse than a NY cabbie. Still worse, the optics on them were non-existent. I.E. they had none. A current day Abrams tank can accurately hit a target two miles away. Crysis takes place, what, ten years in the future and I can’t get a set of optics on the thing even half as good as a sniper rifle? Hell, I’ll even take the assault scope optics here. Just give me some optics. But none? Completely inexcusable. On foot I’ve got my choice of two different scopes and a pair of smart binoculars with a laser/shotgun microphone. Am I to believe there was no room for a pair of binoculars on this tank?

I shouldn’t have to live in a world where someone with a laser guided RPG on foot is more accurate than my tank at a quarter mile range. I am attempting to hit a tank a few hundred yards away using little more than the rough equivalent of iron sights for a tank.

I see this happen more and more in good infantry FPSs that want to mix it up a bit by giving players vehicles, but you can’t provide your player solid infantry fiction and military spec weapons and then put them in an arcade tank that can’t even hit a double decker bus three blocks away. I don’t know if this is more of a case of

A). The designer didn’t know what tanks are capable of (I know one of the designers, and I don’t think this is the case),
B). The engine couldn’t support those optics (certainly not the case here),
C). The engine couldn’t support the optics’ draw distance with moving vehicles (again, probably not the case as you can still move fast on foot albeit in bursts with a cool-down after them. Additionally, in multiplayer someone can drive a jeep and someone else can ride shotgun and scope in),
D). The tank + optics would have imbalanced multiplayer.
E). The decision was made for a “mass market” appeal (again, unlikely as the game itself is nearly as far away from mass market as you can get for an FPS).

I have a feeling if it was a conscious choice of omission, it was “D.” I know that would have been my decision if it broke multiplayer. What weirds me out is that the game already supports high speed vehicles, and it already supports optics. Not putting the two together just seems like a bit of an oversight. And hell, with all of the foliage and cover this game provides (not to mention the personal cloaking device), even with optics, I can see people making their way around enemy tanks.

At any rate, there’s been a few other instances where improperly designed or balanced “high tech” has ruined a game before by either being too good or not good enough. A few other instances:

Desert Combat (Battlefield 1942 Mod). Changing all of the vehicles to “modern era” but keeping the original maps meant that choke points designed around WWII era vehicles that had a hard time doing 35 mph now meant radically small maps for the vehicles at hand. The situation remedied itself with new Desert Combat only maps being made with larger/longer choke point distances.

Battlefield 2’s Helicopter TV Missile. It was nerfed quickly a couple of patches later, but someone could hop in the gunner position on a helicopter parked on the aircraft carrier deck, and guide the missile they fired all the way into the enemy base. While fairly accurate in the world of missile technology, it completely broke the game, as you could remove the commander’s assets (one hit kill with the missile) with impunity.

Dodgy Tank Suspension in Battlefield 2. Tanks that take damage while driving cross country? This was a bug, certainly, and fixed almost immediately, but what the hey?

Hover Tanks that Didn’t Actually Hover in Battlefield 2142. Okay, so what if this is turning into a Battlefield post. The hover tanks in 2142 didn’t actually hover. The code basically gave them shopping cart wheels and allowed the player to “slide” it across the ground forwards and sideways but didn’t show the “wheels” that kept it above the ground. How do we know this? It didn’t hover over water. It followed the same ground plane all of the other vehicles did over water, which is the one that defines the bottom of the lake/river.

The Aforementioned Bastard Helicopters in CoD4. All I ask is that if you’re going to model a modern day military helicopter, you make sure that it works like a military helicopter should, and can’t fire its gun in all directions at all times, is all. It’s really a simple request.

I’m sure there’s countless more out there I’m unaware of or just forgetting. Got any that are stuck in your craw?

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