Fast times


We’re start­ing to miss car­tridges. The cur­rent gen­er­a­tion of con­sole hard­ware may of­fer the sort of vi­su­als we’d have thought im­pos­si­ble 20 years ago, but they sure come at a cost. This month a disc ar­rived with a cov­er­ing let­ter ex­plain­ing that a minute-long hang on the splash screen was a known bug. In the con­text of this gen­er­a­tion’s load­ing times, we might never have no­ticed.

Thank­fully, games them­selves are get­ting bet­ter at de­liv­er­ing play­ers into the ac­tion in timely fash­ion. Mon­ster Hunter 4 Ul­ti­mate (p108) is the lat­est in a se­ries that once seemed to de­light in mak­ing you wait. Now, you’re part of a trav­el­ling car­a­van, mov­ing about the map to cut travel times, while new pets speed up the re­source-gath­er­ing grind. It can still take half an hour to send one of the big­ger mon­sters to the af­ter­life, and we wouldn’t have it any other way, but the thrill of putting a beast to the sword is undimmed by the prep time be­ing pared back.

Mean­while, Life Is Strange (p102) sees French de­vel­oper Dontnod take the rewind me­chanic it de­vised for Re­mem­ber

Me and ap­ply it to the adventure game. It’s a pow­er­ful sto­ry­telling con­cept, but presents a pac­ing prob­lem – one that’s deftly sidestepped by al­low­ing the player to blurt out new in­for­ma­tion ear­lier in a con­ver­sa­tion to save them sit­ting through the same ex­change all over again.

In the era of F2P, time, not money, is a player’s most valu­able com­mod­ity, and it’s heart­en­ing to see de­vel­op­ers of full-priced games hav­ing more re­spect for busy sched­ules. Where ap­pro­pri­ate, any­way. Elite: Danger­ous (p98) may have three dif­fer­ent travel speeds, but few jour­neys are quick – the the­mat­i­cally con­sis­tent cost of hav­ing a galaxy of 400 bil­lion stars to tool around in. Pro­gres­sion may be slow, but as a mea­sure of progress, it’s al­most with­out equal. You couldn’t fit that lot on a car­tridge, af­ter all.

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