Monday, July 23, 2012

Vampire the Maquerade : Bloodlines

I bought this game in the Steam Sale recently after hearing good things about it. I've always loved Trokia's logo, it's so fitting!

Their games always had bugs and design was obviously prized higher than art or code but they were very good - perhaps that's a good trade-off - although perhaps not, as the company did go under (Makes me wonder who gets the money when it's sold on Steam). And that's not to knock their code they were doing advanced stuff and a sprawling RPG is hard to do, especially Trokia types where there are so many different variables - what have you done in the past, what stats do you have, what is your character background etc, etc all these affect the current plot line.

Bloodline's reminds me of Deus Ex a bit, the games have a similar grammar. Locked down 3d areas, skill specialization, computers to hack, doors to lock pick and feuding NPCs. I had to get the community patch to get the HUD textures to stop being a blurry mess and I still ran into a bug where a location was supposed to open up but didn't.

The really pain of having a bug in games like this is the you're not sure if you're just stuck or the game has broken. That means you either waste time to ultimately discover you have to restart or hack your way out of the bug or you check online and ending spoiling part of the game.

The writing is very good, the characters have distinct voices and interesting personalities which isn't the case in a lot of games. A lot of the interface has obviously been thrown together with little thought. Sometimes escape removes hud items, sometimes it takes you to the main menu. Where on a Windows OS you'd expect the OK button to be is the delete save game button! Also if you get trapped in the physics collision sound effects are continually fired off - this is a really easy bug to fix and it's hard to understand why it wasn't (even with deadline pressure, it's the kind of thing that would take a couple of minutes and could be done while thinking about how to tackle something more serious. This article goes someway to answering that I guess.)

One of my pet projects is a type of quest designer or adventure game designer where everything is spelt out as a dependency - basically a mini-version of Prolog with a nicer interface. Then the tree of possible options can just be brute-forced (or something more clever if I can think of it) and that will guarantee there can be no broken quests.

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