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The next Zelda should take a page from Metroid: OM's book
Editorial by 
March 02, 2010, 20:29
I'm sure you've read about how M:OM did away with floating missiles and power pellets (oops, wrong game) left behind by enemies that you have to pick up. This IMO is a good thing. It eliminates the need for farming and steamlines the game. Instead of standing next to a pit that spawns enemies to fill up your missiles, you just have to clear out a room of enemies (a challenge in itself) to catch a break and gain enough time to automatically fill them up. I guess in a way it's like the shield in Halo, except here you're not running for cover in order to recharge, instead you overcome the challenge each room represents before being able to enter the next one fresh.

Anyway, I think Zelda could stand to reevaluate why it does things the way it does. It seems to me there are a lot of vestigial conceits that are unnecessary in modern Zelda games, and the games would just be better if those conceits were done away with completely.

Having to pick up seeds or arrows, for instance. Honestly, did you ever run out of arrows in Twilight Princess? I don’t think I ever came close. I was, however, extremely disappointed every time I opened a chest that contained a bundle of them. Plus, if I were to come close to running out of them, having to break pots or cut grass to find more wouldn’t have been very fun. But my point is, if they’re so plentiful and you never run the risk of running out of them, why not make arrows flat out unlimited? Then the player wouldn’t have to deal with the disappointment of opening a chest full of them. AND sometimes I find the mere possibility that I might run out of them, as improbable as it is, prevents me from experimenting with them.

Because you see, even though I know I won’t run out of arrows, I will still avoid using the bow until I have to. So basically, all the arrow limit does is prevent me from using a fun item. Wouldn’t it be better if the game ENCOURAGED you to use the bow whenever you want instead, while taking care or not making it overpowered? I think so.

This rant is running a little long already, so I’ll briefly mention how the rupees in Twilight Princess seemed like a formality and nothing more. The game « rewarded » you with them all the time, but you have nothing to spend them on, so why have rupees at all? There were perhaps one or two meaningful items you could buy, but tell me what is more rewarding : finding some rupees and buying an item from a store, or going through a cleverly hidden, challenging cave and finding a cool item at the bottom?

Let’s do away with the obligatory collectathon while we’re at it. I don’t know why with the shift to 3D, Nintendo decided collecting 100 doodads to gain a bigger wallet was a fun thing to do. It’s not. Especially when the reward is so underwhelming and so completely useless at the point you finally get it. What happened to throwing a boomerang in a sacred pond and gaining a super boomerang in return? The latter felt like a cool discovery, the former feels only like tedious work.

The ideas above, IMO, can only be improvements. Implementing them wouldn’t change in any way what fundamentally makes a Zelda game, unlike some of the ideas I read like « Zelda should copy Oblivion’s overworld! ». They’d just be getting rid of conceits that have no place in modern Zelda games. If having to replenish your supply of arrows isn’t difficult enough to be meaningful, if collecting rupees is so easy and so pointless it isn’t meaningful, if killing 100 spiders or catching bugs is tedious and unrewarding, then get rid of those elements. Focus on making combat meaningful again. Focus on rewarding gamers for finding truly hidden secrets and completing actually challenging tasks.

Make Zelda better while preserving what it’s about.

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03/02/10, 20:29   Edited:  02/24/11, 23:06
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STALKER's weight/backpack system. Well, Oblivion and Fallout have done it as well but I think STALKER did it best...

Let the player decide how much they want to carry of whatever. That way you can have 20,000 arrows and 2 bombs if you want, provided it weighs enough.

Posted by 
 on: 03/02/10, 20:38
Hmm. I may be mistaken on how Other M is set up, but if it is simple regeneration, I dunno. Often you DON'T have to clear out a room when a game works like that, you just need to find a place to duck and take some cover. Also it tends to make bosses easier because as long as you can get some hits in here and there and dodge/hide enough to get your power back up, you are fine. Of course, this issue is present with power-ups as well, but many bosses severely limit the power-ups they give out.

I don't mind the idea as far as items and attacks and such though. I've always thought the major thing limiting RPGs was that you almost never use your spells and such on "normal" battles for fear of running out of MP. I'd rather see battle systems that allow you to use whatever whenever (maybe with short refill times), but then have real strategy behind the choices.

Posted by 
 on: 03/02/10, 20:39

It's not simple regeneration as far as I understand it. You have to tilt the controller or something, you can't move while doing it, and it takes time, you couldn't do it willy-nilly in the middle of enemies or during a boss fight.

So the challenge is preserved, and it eliminates the need to grind to replenish your energy and missiles. Sounds like a good idea to me, and I'd like Zelda to take the idea one step further and make the arrows, at the very least, unlimited. Perhaps the bombs as well, really encourage experimentation with them. As for the health, I wasn't really thinking about that, but hey, I think they could take a page from M:OM in that respect as well.

Good point about RPGs, I agree. Having limited magic points combined with the rarity of ether potions in games like Final Fantasy actively discourage the player from using spells. Surely there's a better way to do things. But there are a LOT of vestigial gameplay mechanics in RPGs that don't make sense anymore.

Posted by 
 on: 03/02/10, 20:46   Edited:  03/02/10, 20:51
I don't know if it's specific to Zelda, but I am all for streamlining the tedium right out of games and discouraging gamers' worst tendencies, like hoarding ammo and special items (which I am guilty of), unfun grinding, scouring the environment for ridiculous doodads, and Quickloading/Quicksaving themselves to a safer tomorrow (even biting on special, 'limited' editions and stupid, low-value DLC is tangentially related). Anything that isn't fun or innately satisfying should be made so or eliminated. Metagames only interest me if the game itself captures my interest. It seems that a lot of people (and developers) focus more on the metagame than a rock-solid core these days.

If I made a fast-paced shooter, I wouldn't feature ammo. Just differing firing rates and regeneration rates. Same thing for magic systems and the like. Consumables suck. We should leave them in the real world, where they belong. And inventory management is seldom an enjoyable task. In a game, I just want my bag of infinite holding.

That said, if a game is superbly balanced, then I don't mind some of these things. RPGs are mostly repetitive, tedious, and... just not engaging, from a pure gameplay point of view. But I have really been enjoying Shiren the Wanderer on DS, even though it features so many features that have bugged me in the past. It's just really well-balanced, and most everything has not only a use, but a necessity. I really enjoy how it punishes me for hoarding. Finishing games without even using a grenade or rocket launcher is not a good feeling. That's what was cool about Crackdown, too. You could always go to a recharge station, so you didn't feel you had to skimp on the explosive armaments. And GOD DAMN, were they fun to use.

As far as Zelda, specifically, I agree with the examples you mentioned, but they honestly didn't diminish the impact of the core game for me at all. I'd rather be rewarded with fun, engaging gameplay than a complex unlock system or a solid economy or even a real reason to open those 200 chests. Twilight Princess, specifically, has a fuckton of real, non-grindy, non-contrived content. I'm not going to ding it too badly for having slightly unattractive fringe on the periphery.

Posted by 
 on: 03/02/10, 21:02   Edited:  03/02/10, 21:14
Actually another idea I had in the past for RPGs was to make items stage dependent or to give them a shelf life or whatever. Basically, when you got an item you would HAVE TO use it soon, or never.

Posted by 
 on: 03/02/10, 21:06
Yeah, that's a decent solution, but even then, you might hoard them until the end of the level and spam them on the boss (or just before they expire or when your inventory fills up).

I like Shiren's solution better - You had better use those fucking items, or you will die, and then they won't be there anymore, you stupid hoarder. Even the best items in the game can be cursed or turned into a riceball, if you aren't careful. That seems annoying, but it's kind of thrillingly liberating.

Posted by 
 on: 03/02/10, 21:17   Edited:  03/02/10, 21:17
I've thought often about how to reward players for finding hidden chests and the like in Zelda. My problem in Twilight Princess wasn't so much that useless rupees were the reward, my problem was that I always has 999 rupees and because of that I wouldn't take the rupees out of the chest, the chests would stay on my map, and I didn't feel like I'd really accomplished everything. Maybe that's a little OCD, but that's the real reward in games like Zelda isn't it? Knowing you've found every little hidden treasure and done every little puzzle. The sense of accomplishment is the reward.

Spirit Tracks tried to address the rupees problem of Twilight Princess by having the treasure that you could use to upgrade your train. While I did like having the golden train to beat the game with, I ended up having to mess around with the DS' internal clock in order to do multiple post card raffles in a day, which was tedious. But that was just getting around the trading with a friend system that maybe some people actually enjoy. It's hard to please everyone, I guess.

The fact of the matter is, it's impossible to have as many "cool items" that you hope for as there are going to be chests and mini-dungeons and all that. The thing I can think of that comes closest is the trophies in Smash Bros. They reward you with a small dose of nostalgia. But I don't think that would really work in Zelda, so I think the best you can do is, like Anand said, enjoy what you did to get to the chest as the reward itself.

Posted by 
 on: 03/02/10, 21:26

Oh yeah, don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed Twilight Princess, I'm just saying it did have some useless baggage that I wouldn't mind seeing go away. The game would only have been better for it.


Oh, I agree the journey is the reward, but to me, if you've got more places to hide away secrets than you have meaningful secrets to give out, you're doing it wrong. It's like the blue coins in Sunshine. Perhaps they could dial back the number of secret areas but really make them expansive? Instead of a useless trinket or chest of rupees, perhaps reward the player with an Easter egg, or a weird NPC conversation?

Posted by 
 on: 03/02/10, 21:39
The problem with Zelda is that there is hardly ever a need to actually use anything but your Sword & Shield for everyday battles. I always feel like the Bow & Arrow is useless because it just, ultimately, slows down my progression to use it in day to day fights. With Metroid: Other M, it looks like you are faced with a lot of enemies at any given time and seeing as how Samus doesn't have an all power Shield that blocks everything just short of a Super Nova, you kind of need to use everything in your arsenal to get out of it alive (or at least quicker).

Posted by 
 on: 03/02/10, 21:39
Thinking about the original Zelda, rupees really were a reward. The reason is, you couldn't just break pots to get them. You actually had to fight monsters who, at least at the beginning, were actually a challenge. So when you found a secret room full of rupees it saved you the work of having to fight monsters. And rupees were fairly important for buying things like the blue ring, the candle and secrets from the old woman, and also for use as arrows.

I think a ton of the problems of current Zeldas is that everything is too easy. Rupees arent exciting because they're readily available in pots and bushes. A weapon that helps you fight isn't exciting because it's never a challenge anyway. Heart containers aren't as exciting because you don't need those hearts to survive. Unfortunately, even with the possibility of Super Guide, I don't see the difficulty being ratcheted up anytime soon, if ever.

Posted by 
 on: 03/02/10, 21:47
^ I agree with pretty much all of that last paragraph, Zelda took out the sense of being rewarded by making most of your rewards unneeded due to severely easy difficulty. In fact, for people who like challenge, the rewards almost become a negative because they make an easy game even easier. I HOPE super guide (or something similar) changes this though.

@anandxxx Well Persona 4 is set up so that if you don't use your "magic" on basic enemies (which get pretty tough), you will definitely die. You pretty much need to do it, since it is the only way to knock out enemies and exploit weaknesses. Plus it lets you warp back and refresh everything (either paying this guy or using up a day and sleeping on it) after every floor, including right before the boss, so you never feel like you need to horde MP against the basics (unless you are trying to do a multi-floor stretch without wasting money / days).

Just another reason I love that game.

Posted by 
 on: 03/02/10, 22:17   Edited:  03/02/10, 22:19
I agree that the ease of many Zelda elements has thrown off the gameplay balance. It has pretty much become a physical puzzle game. It's still good (and satisfying), but I'd love for it to become a combat/exploration/puzzle game again.

Come to think of it, though, has it ever really been? Maybe in LttP (and maybe Ocarina). Puzzles weren't a big part of Zelda 1 and 2.

Anyway, I'm beginning to think that I should just never pick up additional heart containers in a Zelda game. Let's see if I can control myself.

Super Guide has the potential to make the game more difficult, I think (a la NSMB Wii). However, that will probably just be limited to puzzles, not combat.

Yeah, all things being equal, I'd rather those things were better handled, but as long as the game delivers what I want, I'm not too bothered about that type of stuff.

There are many types of games, however, that are predicated on that system of loot and economy and repetition, and such, without much in the way of structured design or goals. That seems dangerous to me, like just eating whipped cream for dessert. I've felt the lure of those kinds of games, at times, but I tend to resist, because it seems like an unhealthy addiction. The same reason I don't watch reality shows or smoke cigarettes. Logically, I have no desire to get hooked on those types of things. Not that I'm judging other people. They can do whatever they want. But I don't think developers should specifically (and solely) appeal to the OCD parts of gamers' brains. It seems cynical, opportunistic, and a bit malevolent. "Oh, you can get the base game... but are you SURE you don't want the extra-super-special edition, which comes with an exclusive weapon (making for 1001 weapons, total)?"

Jargon said:
Maybe that's a little OCD, but that's the real reward in games like Zelda isn't it? Knowing you've found every little hidden treasure and done every little puzzle. The sense of accomplishment is the reward.
And here's the rub. It's dumb for me to presume what other people enjoy about a game, particularly Zelda. Zelda is like the ink blot of gaming. Everybody sees something different as their ideal Zelda. People who argue about Wind Waker vs. Twilight Princess aren't really arguing about the relative strengths of each facet of the gameplay. They're actually arguing about their priorities vs. someone else's. And that is a piss-poor basis for a debate.

Posted by 
 on: 03/02/10, 22:26   Edited:  03/02/10, 22:37

Are there other types of debates on that internet?

Posted by 
 on: 03/02/10, 22:46
Illogical/nonsensical things just bug me. Like when people have a 'casual'/'hardcore' debate without first establishing an accepted meaning for the two terms. WHY? They aren't even arguing about the same damned things!

Or the argument over whether or not something is art. What is the implication of the answer? It's totally meaningless!

I demand proper context, with the proper assumptions! People should respect the fine 'art' of debate.

Posted by 
 on: 03/02/10, 22:54   Edited:  03/02/10, 23:05
That's what I meant. People don't disagree much on the relative strengths and weakness of the two games. Just which strengths and weaknesses are important to them, personally. So where can the argument go, really? All you can do is state your preference and then leave. Or say someone else's preferences are stupid.

Come to think of it, maybe that does hold true for most of the debate on the internet.

Posted by 
 on: 03/02/10, 23:37   Edited:  03/02/10, 23:39
anandxxx said:
Or the argument over whether or not something is art. What is the implication of the answer? It's totally meaningless!

Well, I guess you have to have a decent idea if you should waste time shopping around your pile of garbage to museums.

It is interesting that in the midst of so many debates people forget to ask if it really MATTERS. Like the debate over whether homosexuality is natural or not. I haven't actually been able to grasp how, even if proven "unnatural", that should affect anything. Who says people have to act naturally?

Posted by 
 on: 03/02/10, 23:55
It doesn't matter to you, but it matters to the people who are using it to justify their bigotry.

Posted by 
 on: 03/03/10, 00:00
Even stepping outside personal opinions though, they are debating without building the correct structure for their debate. FIRST they would need to prove that humans have to act "naturally" or they are doing something wrong, THEN they could move on to whether homosexuality is natural or not, in order to conclude that homosexuality being unnatural leads to something being wrong with it.

But no one ever makes that argument. Actually, it'd be very tough to make that argument, because the same people who are are usually anti-homosexuality are very pro-monogamy (between a man and a woman), and monogamy is tough to prove as a natural occurrence. Then again the very same people tend to try to use the Bible as "proof" of human nature and there was Adam and Eve, both non-homosexual and monogamous. But wait, there was also Lillith, right? INTERESTING. And I think monogamy is mostly a New Testament thing. Didn't most of the Old Testament stories involve God-ok'ed polygamy? So it'd be tough to call monogamy natural. Then again, these people also sort of tend to view the Old Testament and New Testament as totally complimentary and would probably not have any problem saying God changed human nature overnight when Jesus was born.

PS. I like monogamy, but still...

PPS. I like Christians too, so don't get mad at me!

PPS. I also like homosexuals.

PPPS. I pretty much like every decent person. I mean, decent as in how they treat others, not as in EW TWO GUYS, THAT'S INDECENT!

Posted by 
 on: 03/03/10, 00:20   Edited:  03/03/10, 00:22
For a discussion, sure. But I think a lot of the participants believe that they are having a debate.

Those two games are so different that just knowing which one a person prefers can tell you a lot about their tastes, even if they don't volunteer any additional information.

Posted by 
 on: 03/03/10, 00:30
I love Wind Waker. I love everything about it, including the sailing.

I've never really minded collecting arrows and bombs and whatnot, but as has been mentioned in this thread already, I tend to hoard all of my items, generally only using the bow or bombs when required. I fear I'll run out, even though I can't remember the last time I did run out of them. I wouldn't necessarily be against an automatically replenishing supply, but I'd have to see how it works first. I'm not so sure about Metroid's system either -- it just sounds weird to me, but I'm willing to give it a shot.

As for getting rid of the collectathon, I agree completely. I don't want to collect gold skulltulas, butterfly pendants, knight's crests, or any other crap just so that I can get a bigger wallet to hold more money that I don't spend. Trading sequences are fun. Tossing items into sacred ponds is fun. Finding items in hidden caves is fun. Collecting stupid crap just for the sake of it is not.

And on the topic of money that I don't spend, make rupees mean something. Make them hard to find. You've got to wonder why there are so many rupees hidden in the grass -- did that many people really have that many holes in their pockets? Why do they keep hiding rupees in jars for hundreds of years, even though every time that legendary hero shows up, those jars end up broken and empty? Make me fight enemies for money, or explore for treasure or something. Rather than cut some grass, leave and return to the area and cut grass some more. I'd rather see rupees become harder to find and have some worthwhile things to spend them on, than have them be plentiful but the only thing to spend them on is translating maps from Tingle.

Posted by 
 on: 03/03/10, 02:02
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