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Rant & Rave: Poor Game Balancing & Virtual Reality

08/30/2015 04:00 am by Benjamin Robson in Rant and Rave

Rant & Rave time!

Hey, would you look at that! It’s time to talk about things that frustrate me in video gaming (again), with an added chunk of happiness at the end to balance everything out. It's Rant & Rave time! This week I’ll be talking about how much poor balancing in games upsets me and also about how Virtual Reality is the coolest thing to happen to gaming since Nintendo gave Super Smash Bros the green light. So without any further ado, let’s get stuck in.

Rant: Poor Game Balancing

Tactical Nuke?! Who thought that was fair...

I know for a fact that anyone that has played video games, even casually, has been a victim of lazy or poor balancing by game designers. Be it getting your day ruined by the Lightning Powerup in the original Super Mario Kart on the SNES or the frankly broken reward mechanics of many of the Call of Duty games, everyone has experienced balancing issues in some form.

Maybe I’m just a bit of a purist with my ideas on balancing, but I believe that any game that’s even vaguely competitive should be balanced around skill and good core game mechanics; every player should be on a completely level playing field and have no advantage over any other player. Unfortunately there are so many games that don’t work like this, and today I’m going to pick on Call of Duty (even though it’s an easy target).

For a game that calls itself competitive, it’s a joke. The whole “it pays to win” mechanic is ridiculous; the Kill Streak rewards are a fantastic example of how you make players everywhere rage hard and throw their keyboards around. For those that don’t know about the Kill Streak rewards, it basically gives a winning player the tools to win more. The winning player gets a nice toolkit to just stomp all over the less-skilled players. I may sound nuts, but if there’s a player that deserves to have a boost in stats or an army of attack dogs, it’s the player that’s getting owned.

A more modern and rather nasty trend is using poor balancing to get money out of gamers. I’d rather not individually name any Facebook-based farming village simulators directly, but some games like this are using poor balancing and exploiting human behavior to make fast cash. People love accomplishing small goals and getting rewarded for it, but when it’s easier to accomplish these small goals by paying money, it’s a little bit unfair. Some game developers would rather have their players PAY to make the game balanced, meaning that they have built a fundamentally flawed game intentionally, just to make money from exploiting human behavior. Not cool guys, not cool.

Rave: Virtual Reality

There’s no denying that the steady forwards march of technological advancement is cool. Sometimes we get really interesting things to play with, like a Back to the Future style hover board, and sometimes we get some really terrible things, like Furbys.

Fear not, however, because after years of trying to recreate our own Tron universe, virtual reality has finally made a step in the right direction with the latest developments in VR technology. Oculus Rift has been garnering attention and interest from techies all over the world, and rightly so. The have been demonstrating some impressive feats of VR with their technology, and it will be interesting to see where they take it next.

Take this application called Birdly, developed at the Zürich University of Art and Design. This lets users don the virtual reality goggles and take to the skies as a bird. Isn’t that cool? The developers have even included a fan to simulate wind and various scents to release for the users to smell various points of interest in the simulation, like rivers or trees. Check out the video to see it in action. I hope you guys are just as excited as me about this one.

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