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"Sn1pe and Hax0r"

I went to GameWorkz the other day, that mammoth arcade chain supposedly owned by Steven Spielberg or something. It specializes in expensive, more interactive arcade games -- stuff like multi-monitor 3D racing and flying games where you actually sit in a cockpit that moves around as you fly. That sort of stuff. Basically, they're a bunch of games that cost too much to make and aren't all that FUN to play anyway. You end up spending a whole dollar or two just to be shaken around and be treated to half-rate graphics that don't match what you can get on a computer these days. Heck, if I wanted to spend a dollar to get shaken around a bit so I could have some fun, I'd just go cruising the downtown Dallas streets at night for a hooker. :p

But one game DID catch my attention...

I forget the name, but it was a game in which you're a sniper and there's a huge plastic sniping gun that you use to aim and shoot at evil evil EVIL criminals. What was funny was that there was a "No Players Under 18" warning sign on the game. When I saw it, there WAS a little kid playing it, but he was promptly pushed away by one of the employees. As soon as they left, ANOTHER kid jumped up and started playing until he was taken away too. Ahh, yes, hah hah, the impetuousness of youth...

I was inspired by the game not because it was pretty good, but because it actually had a concept that I wanted to SEE in a game. The arcade game itself was pretty lame -- aiming the scope and gun was pretty difficult and inaccurate, and you just end up shooting guys crouching behind walls or crates or whatever, just like all the other shooting games in the arcades these days.

Oh, and have I said how much arcades suck these days? I used to love going to them and playing Indiana Jones: The Temple of Doom and Millipede and Galaga and that 4-player off-road truck racing game and that VERY old Konami formula-one racing game and, and, and...whee, so much fun, so many quarters (that's 25 cents per play, not $2!!) wasted... But then Street Fighter 2 and Operation Wolf and their ilk came along and the clones were born. Now EVERY new game fits the mold. Not to mention arcade graphics completely suck compared to a nice gaming rig with a TNT2 card in it.

But anyway... Yeah, you shoot at terrorists and guys holding women hostage (so you have to shoot carefully) -- that sort of thing. Personally, I thought all that was stupid because the cool thing about being a sniper is not really the accurate shooting, but rather the surprise and unknown element. In the arcade game, the enemy KNEW where you were and would actually fire back. Blah.

The whole sniping concept was DEFINITELY what I want to see in a computer game though. I was genuinely excited to see the idea put into motion. Sniping is just cool, but it's never quite been implemented right, particularly for multiplayer. In multiplayer, you don't really have a good way to hide (Tribes, Quake2, Hidden and Dangerous, Rainbow 6, etc.) so you get discovered pretty easily. Ruins the whole fun of sniping, doesn't it? You have a slow refire rate and you get blown away immediately. Whee.

So here's what I want to see. I want to see a WHOLE game devoted to sniping. Not random sniping missions thrown into a game. You're some maverick or whatever scoring contracts to kill people, or to wreak havoc as a Vietnamese sniper near an American camp or something. What's important is that the designers of the game understand patience. Part of the fun of sniping is waiting in ambush for your unsuspecting foe. I myself would love to do things like this: pick up intel on your target's physical location, choose weaponry (in case your sniping job fails and you have to defend yourself), train and improve your aim, scope out a location like a complex of office buildings (think JFK assassination) and then block your room off and then sit down and lay in wait for the kill, after much preparation and intel gathering. No, I'm not acting out some sick fantasy to be the next Lee Harvey Oswald or Charles Whitman. If it makes you feel better, the enemy can be really mean murderous Nazis or something.

I would really dig just finding a lookout point and waiting there for a good long time (not five hours, like a real sniper might, but maybe like 10 minutes...) to strike. Plus, I'd be able to hide myself with camo gear and paint and hide behind tree leaves or a dark window or something. Ever see Assassins? Or how about that Sniper movie Tom Berenger was in? I remember one Tour of Duty TV show episode where they were pinned down in camp because there was some sniper up in the trees picking off people. These are some of my influences. It's no fun if the enemy knows you're there, and if you have to kill him before he kills you. Might as well be a full-blown firefight like other games have, in that case.

Game developers just do not understand (or think their audience will) patient waiting in games. It's always rush-rush gotta get there fast gotta blow it all up before the clock runs out. Which is good in many cases if the developers know how to get your adrenaline pumping. But some games would be MUCH better if you didn't have a timelimit, if you could just explore as much as you wanted (I contend that Trespasser would have been a great game if you could just pan and zoom around the island invisibly and watch the dinosaurs interact and feed and breed), if you weren't always in a rush to reach a goal. I'd love to research my target, figure out his usual routines, drop him hints about his upcoming murder, mess with his mind, set myself up for the kill. Sniping is NOT about the killshot so much as the preparation leading up to it.

The games out right now are all just the same. Rainbow 6 went a long way, but still it wasn't good enough. You were always being pressed to continue (no timelimit, but you didn't really have anything to do except find more baddies to shoot) and the preparation before the mission was somewhat useless because setting waypoints for your team members wouldn't work because the AI was so bad. Plus, the enemy always knew you were coming. Most all games are like that. You'd think all Middle Eastern terrorists were born with eagle eyes and bat sonar. :p

One game that did NOT fit the mold was Thief: The Dark Project. It actually valued stealth and patience and not rushing. (I hear Tenchu and Metal Gear Solid did as well, to some degree -- from what I saw of MGS, it was more like timing your moves right, something which even the Mario Brothers games always had, so...) You play Garrett, a thief who is sent on various tasks. The more successful missions involve finding a way into a castle, looting it, evading the guards, and grabbing a valuable treasure, then escaping without anyone knowing. In the process, you slink around in the shadows, mislead guards by throwing objects one way and going the other way, use water arrows to extinguish torches, that sort of thing. You don't just shoot them in the elbow and they die, like most games.

I guess the best recent game which incorporates more strategic, elusive, secretive gameplay is Hidden and Dangerous. I really love that game. And I haven't even played very much of it! Not only does it look gorgeous (try 1280x1024 on a TNT2 Ultra, 19" monitor!), but it's much more of a realistic challenge than a similar predecessor, Rainbow 6, ever was. Hidden and Dangerous requires good troop placement and setting up cover for your front line to press forward. Snipers can still be seen easily, but they do possess high-powered rifles to pick off enemies before they're even in range. Get this game! The WWII ambience has been constructed masterfully, not to mention the developers appreciate good theme music.

I just think it would be cool if there were a 100% true-blue sniping game. That's all. The idea must not be marketable, or else no one thought of it really. I guess it wouldn't be all that appealing to a casual game player to have to sit around and wait while playing a computer game. Especially if he can't admire the 3D view as he lets time pass... Now watch someone steal this idea and use it to make millions. :) Fuck you if you do! I got a timestamp on this baby! :)

Another game I'd like to see is a true cracking game. Not that hacking shit you see in System Shock 2, where you just have to link three graphical hotzones together to "hack" the system. What is that?! That's not hacking.

I want full text prompt monochrome glory. Again, you pick up bits of intel through other crackers who have been silently scanning a network and collaborating on their discoveries, via IRC or e-mail or real life or whatever. You figure out the target's OS, weaknesses, possible points of attack. You set decoys and smokescreens and crack your way in, through the Ice.

Perhaps at more difficult stages, the systems you break into have active security agents who look for active signs of intrusion. Then you have to fight them. And not with flashy GUIs, but with your regular hacking knowhow and mad skillz. Hell, throw in a cool techno soundtrack to do your research, work, and hackjob to and you're set. Falsify and obscure your login through multiple shells and hacked accounts. Cover your tracks by deleting trace files. That sort of thing. A true hack. One that stays true to how it actually is. Once again, time is whatever you want it to be. You go in before you're prepared and you'll lose. This game would have to be smart. None of your casual gamers would be able to play.

Of course, it is unlikely you'll see these games, because of the number of people they'd exclude from enjoying it. But oh well. That's what I want. I want games that aren't dumbed down so everyone can play them. I want games which are actually challenging, patient, and rewarding to play. I want games in which missions take a lot of patience and time. The kind of work ethic Thief made you employ. You know I spent ages in each mission, slowly working my way past guards? And it actually didn't get boring. I felt great reward after completing the mission. Gamers need more of that.

Obviously, I want to develop games when I get older... Can you tell? Problem is, the games I want would sell 5 copies. And that's if I make my family pay. Oh well. Perhaps in the future, when I can indulge in such flights of fancy...

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