Wednesday, September 28, 2016

newdarkcloud plays Hitman (2016) - Episode 5 - "F" For Fabulous

We... look.... FABULOUS!

The feedback loop for this game is one of its smartest systems, because it encourages exactly the kind of behavior gives the player the best possible "Hitman" experience.

Players start with a single entrance point, and a single location they can smuggle an item into, along with some starter equipment. This gives them enough to successfully complete the level the first time (they could even do Silent Assassin if they are attentive enough, but that's unlikely).

But then, once they've completed the level, they gain experience in that level for the challenges completed on the way (and since killing the target the first time is it's own challenge, this is guaranteed). They go up in their "Mastery Level" for the stage, and gain new weapons/items, new starting locations, and new places they can smuggle equipment in through.

Knowing that more bonuses await, they are encouraged to replay the level, and find more unique kills and opportunities to complete challenges. This process is made easier both because they already know the level layout from having played it previously and by having new items and starting points to work with.

Then they complete new opportunities, gain more bonuses, and the loop continues on. Since Hitman is a series that thrives on players who love to explore and discover, encouraging this behavior through it's challenge/reward system gives the player the best possible chance of enjoying the game.

It's genius, and it's so bizarre to think that the genesis of these challenges is Hitman: Absolution, of all the games.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Kingdom Hearts Primer Announcement + Hitman Schedule Shift

Ladies, gentleman, and all other persuasions, we at Interactive Friction are pleased to announce our new project. That's right, Sam and I are back at it!

Welcome.... to Kingdom Hearts.

A long while back, Sam and I were talking about how he didn't really understand the plot to Kingdom Hearts, while I did. So, in anticipation of Kingdom Hearts 3, we decided to do a series on the plot of the series, such as it stands.

We couldn't have anticipated what a colossal undertaking this would turn out to be. Ultimately, the recording of this series is ongoing and it will likely be the most ambitious Interactive Friction project to date.

The idea will be to release new episodes every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, starting next week. To accommodate this, the Hitman (2016) LP will transition to a Tuesday/Thursday schedule.

Get excited, guys. This is going to be quite the ride!

Monday, September 26, 2016

newdarkcloud plays Hitman (2016) - Episode 4 - Dressing As The Stars

Welcome to the Paris fashion show: Home to chic design and fabulous murder.

One of the things I am grateful to Absolution for is that it forced IO Interactive to seriously improve on the sneaking/stealth mechanics of Blood Money. Where we once had this terrible binary of "detected/not detected", there now exists a ton of states and transitions between those states.

Hitman didn't have any of the things you'd expect from stealth games, like detection notifiers, searching/suspicious states, distractions, etc until Absolution. For all of the things it did well, this was an area where even Blood Money faltered.

I disliked Absolution when it came out, and frankly I still dislike it. But in a weird way, this episodic Hitman game almost redeems Absolution in retrospect. Without the new engine, gameplay improvements, additional mid-mission challenges, and UI adjustments, we wouldn't have this game. We might have a different Hitman, but it's doubtful that they could make a game of this level without first having worked on many of these ideas in Absolution.

So in a weird way, thank you, Hitman: Absolution. You suck, but you also made a good game possible.

Friday, September 23, 2016

newdarkcloud plays Hitman (2016) - Episode 3 - Checkmate

Today, we finish the tutorial.

There's some dispute over whether or not this section can be treated as part of the tutorial. I lean on the side that it is part of the tutorial, because it makes sense if you treat like a further escalation on the Freeform Training.

At the start of the training, the game focuses purely on the mechanical aspects. It introduces the mechanics in ways that make sense and guides players through their first attempt.

Once that's complete, the player, armed with their knowledge of the first attempt, is given a set of basic tools and told to try the mission again on their terms. Further, they are allowed to reattempt the mission over and over until they are comfortable working on those terms.

This can thought of as another step in that chain. The player has been guided through the level, and then told to go through that same level Freeform-style, but with the knowledge they gained. Now that they have been indoctrinated in the mechanics and thought patterns, the game removes the guardrail of knowledge from previous runs. You know the mechanics. You know what to do. And now it is time to apply those skills in a new, unfamiliar scenario.

However, this is still a relatively small area compared to an actual episode's map, so it's not a full-fledged mission. It's Hitman in miniature, so the game designers still haven't thrown you to the wolves yet. By the time you're done with this mission, you should be more than ready to head to Paris for Episode 1...

...which we'll do in the next episode.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

newdarkcloud plays Hitman (2016) - Episode 2 - Simulated Drowning

Welcome to the smartest Hitman tutorial IO has ever made.

I really can't stress how smart a decision this was for the tutorial. While any tutorial can be used to introduce the basic mechanics, the mechanics themselves are only half of a Hitman game.

The other half of teaching someone how to play Hitman is teaching the mentality required to get the most out of the experience. This is something Blood Money failed to understand. It taught the mechanics, but not the mentality, which is why getting lost in the first mission is such a common experience.

But here, in this game, they were much smarter about it. They guide players through their very first mission in a somewhat scripted sequence to familiarize them with the mechanics and the map. Once they do that, they release the guardrails and give the player more freedom. They're not totally defenseless, because they game provides some basic tools and they are still armed with the knowledge from the scripted sequence. But the game escalates and expects them to be able to practically apply what they've learned.

Even better, once player's finish this "Freeform Training", the game encourages them to go through again and again until they feel comfortable acting and behaving like a Hitman should. Not only does this help ease new players in, but it also introduces the idea of replaying missions over and over again. Once we're out of the tutorial, this becomes very important.

But we'll get to that another day.