Thursday, 13 March 2008

LESSON NUMBER 1: Why I hate Rubber band AI

Unfortunately for those amongst you who need their hand held and blanky nearby, this may be the best feature in videogames history. For those idiots, just remember that same bastard executive who has a glass swimming pool the size of your school and tiling made out of the ground bones of children invented rubber band AI to apparently "help you". Now remember he is a bastard, so this may not be a good thing.
Let me explain using an overwrought analogy. Imagine a child jumping to eat a toffee on a string. The string is lowered so that Cletidus Jones* can chomp to his hearts content. Now the string is quickly lowered, and Cletidus’s eyes are all wide and excited, and he starts to chew away like a pensioner breaking in the Polygrip, when all of a sudden the string is being pulled away from him as hard as he can. And Cletidus is trying to hang on with all his might, but bless him, his teeth are soft and his grip is shabby. So the toffee pops out (possibly dripping slobber). This pattern continues until Cletidus has put in enough hours to buy pogo boots. Then he devours the toffee, the string, and the arm of the cruel person who was taunting him with it. THAT is what rubber band AI is. It turns every game that claims to have skill into a grind, where you put in the hours to get a vehicle/board/thing so good all challenge evaporates, like George Clooney in the rain**. And every game you love does it to some extent. Why do they commit such a heinous crime? Simply so you don’t feel that ‘all is lost’ at any point in a game. To protect you from the harsh realities of a world gone mad. To convince you, just for a second, that a crack dealer wouldn’t kill you and your parents so he could sell all your teeth and toenails on Ebay. 37-0 down? Have some free goals! Crashed your car so hard the steering wheel and driver have now merged on a molecular level?*** Just hit select and respawn! So many shots behind on Tiger Woods that Tiger has actually installed a webcam to mock you and your parentage live from his ranch? Birdie time!
It’s insulting, because the whole point of a game is to win with skill. You know, that thing whereby you are simply better than the computer – that sexy, dashing opponent that by besting automatically makes you attractive to women (snigger). Most insulting of all, the skilled players will in contrast be continually prison humped by the computer for having the cheek to be good! I’m going to control my rage, and simply list some of my favourite offenders.Gran Turismo: Before you start calling this the "Real Driving Simulator", I want you to do something for me. Park up on the line, and give your opponents a 30-second head start. Now finish in second. This exercise will break your heart and spirit in a five-minute session because of how hard it is to do anything but finish in second. Finding out Gran was a crock of shit time trial disguised as a game was on a par with Aeris dying, the black guy from Green Mile dying and James Blunt living all rolled into one.

Madden NFL 0whatever: Every game ends close if you are a half decent player, and don’t use guaranteed plays that exploit poor AI. In fact, all of the AI in Madden stinks, because it is pre-emptive. Again, next time you play (all 8 of you Brits), run a passing play and throw a risky interception. Watch what happens in slow motion on the replay. Notice how the players move BEFORE the ball is thrown? It’s like playing a screenplay. It’s like playing The Waterboy. And any game that makes you feel like Adam Sandler should have been culled at birth.Project for you all – find your own examples of rubber banding. Scream. Snap the disc in two. Plunge the now jagged shards into your eye sockets. Cry tears of pain and eyeball fluid. Then get a copy of this charming blog in braille to continue the path to enlightenment.
*And yes, I do like to name and give backstories to my literary devices. He likes playing the Baseball, wants to be Barry Bonds from the Baseball, and once shattered a boy’s pelvis with an aluminum bat because he didn’t like the Baseball. Look, I didn’t say my literary devices had to be nice people.
** Scientifically proven. Do not doubt my research methods.
*** I’m loving the footnotes today! His new name is "SteeringDave WheelSmith". He collects old wooden ships in bottles, and is a total badass. He once wrestled a boar using only his feetpedals. He occasionally beats his wife, but only because he loves her. Anger issues are common for a man/steering wheel.


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