Wednesday, July 26, 2006

My earlier comment about having spent 33 hours (and counting) in the Oblivion world (excluding the previous save I lost), made me think about previous video games that have managed to harvest such hours of my time. Of course we must look to the RPG genre as this is where the sizeable hours are clocked up. Square Enix seem to specialise in huge, bloated and disfigured experiences. Final Fantasy VII hit all the right buttons for me, but since then many hours have been wasted on inferior attempts.

Online games are an exception, as Phantasy Star Online, Quake Arena, Halo 2 and so on, have a life of their own once broadband is installed. Offline games are a different matter. Most these days seem to clock in either below 10 hours or between 15-20 (depending on your ability). Even offline releases that offer multiple endings such as Silent Hill, Drakengard or Fahrenheit still fail to match up, and I've greatly enjoyed each of those.

Many in the industry seem to focus on play-time as an important aspect of any release. It is falsely used as a barometer of quality. While the aforementioned games failed to keep me entertained beyond a few weeks, the experience and entertainment more than made up for it. I would rather plan only a few hours worth of Fahrenheit (excluding those awful childhood flashback missions), than double the time in a repetitive, stagnant world such as Shadowman.

However many parents might not agree - and I can certainly appreciate their stance - as video games are an expensive form of entertainment for many. And it must be extremely frustrating after giving in to your child's demands, only to see that £30 purchase tossed aside a couple of days later. Arguably a drastic example, but the scenario is true for many. With the forthcoming hike in prices for the PS3, many are going to want more than just pretty graphics which can only be appreciated on a HDTV. Most of those I see in retail outlets (buying what they can afford) probably have only just joined the scart or widescreen generation.

Technically Oblivion is finished, as I won't gain anything else from the main story, as the remaining quests are immaterial in terms of the main showcase event. Yet they bring far more life and depth to the world in which you explore. I can honestly say that I cannot recall many releases where each moment can be spent doing something totally different to the previous one. No need to slog through hours of chores to undermine an evil organisation. Instead if I want to go painting, go vampire hunting or cliff jumping, then no one can stop me.

Against A Dark Background

I've started this tale, which comes from Iain M Banks, a local writer. Originally before writing the above I had planned to discuss Israel and the whole situation over there, which is dominating our screens and the lack of action from my government. However I do find it funny that even in the world of futuristic sci-fi, religion is still causing problems. Something's will never change.

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