Thursday, September 18, 2008

On S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky.

Ways to make Eric happy:
1. Make a game with brilliant art direction and is breathtakingly beautiful even at low detail.
2. Improve combat balance, making all weapons fit into a 'niche' rather than a 'ladder' of progressively better guns.
3. Give the player lots to do right out of the gate, like participating in a ground war between two rival factions, and reward the player if they act decisively, striking the enemy hard and fast and clearing the way for the good guys.
4. Show the player that they're accomplishing something by showing faction strength.

Ways to make Eric unhappy:
1. Insert an unavoidable crash bug three levels and five real hours into the game.
2. Provide a patch to fix a bunch of stuff immediately after release.
3. ...that invalidates your save games, wasting five hours.

So far, it's a bit more 'gamey' than the original, but Clear Sky is a lot more polished, with less pointless walking between actions, more clearly defined objectives, and cool touches like the equipment upgrade system. (Branching tech trees to tweak a weapon to the player's specs is always good.) But that crash bug (right at the beginning of The Garbage) is just inexcusable. Merely walking into a new area should not kill a game. Period. Which is why I'm withholding "play this now" from the tag list until I confirm that particular gremlin has been banished.

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