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The Language of Games – Part 7 – From Fast Travel to Lag

It’s been a week since my last one, apologies. I was away for a few days, and I’ve also been writing up a preview of Deadpool, which will be posted later this week at some point. Let’s get back to business though.

If you want to travel fast, you’re going to need a fast travel system. Generally, in an open world game with travel, if you have been to an important location then it will be marked on your map, allowing you to return there instantly (or at least, after a short load time). This is a handy feature which cuts a lot of boring walking out of the game. Some people enjoy the walking though, and are adamant that you need it to get the full game experience. These people might consider themselves to be hardcore gamers, while most people just refer to them as crazy.

If you are hardcore, then you will probably spend a lot of time playing video games in order to master them. A lot of these players consider themselves elite (or leet, or even 1337), and look down upon casual gamers with a degree of disdain. Casuals are the people who jump on a game for a short period of time, have a play around, and then jump off again. A lot of multiplayer games these days are said to “cater to the casuals” due to their low barrier to entry and short match times. Casual gamers are said to be the ones who buy the new copy of Call of Duty and Madden/ FIFA (depending on your region) every year and nothing else.

If you don’t get that reference, let me explain. These are examples of games which have yearly iterations, meaning that a new game is released every year under the same title with an extra number on the end. Most of the time, the game is built upon the same engine (the systems used to create the game), meaning that not a lot changes from year to year. In the sports games, you will receive a roster update and some slight gameplay tweaks, while in the shooters you will get a new ridiculous story line and some new multiplayer maps.

These games have short development cycles, and although they are generally well made and fairly well received, they lack originality. That’s not to say that games which take a huge amount of time to make are better though, look at Duke Nukem Forever, which took fifteen years to make, and the story of its development even has its own Wikipedia page. It is very much the Chinese Democracy of video games, and left fans and critics with an overwhelming feeling of “ugh…”. There does seem to be a sweet spot in between one year and fifteen years for your development cycle though, it’s just that many games fail to find it.

Games which take a bit longer to make often have a beta testing phase. This is where the developers open up the game to select people before it is released in order to get early feedback and make sure everything is working. Closed betas are only open to a few people, while open betas are generally available to anyone who signs up. Then there are the games which seem to be constantly in beta, without coming any closer to release. I’m looking at you Dota 2. This does seem to be a recent trend though, with games being in beta for extended periods of time. There’s no substitute for the amount of hours that people will be putting into your game after all. And of course anonymous people on the Internet won’t hesitate to tell you what’s wrong with your game. Watch out for trolls though.

One thing that will be tested during beta is whether the servers for a multiplayer game are up to scratch. An overloaded server will cause the bane of all gamers: lag. Lag is the amount of time between you performing an action, and that action actually being taken. For example: You have just lined up a headshot on an unsuspecting enemy. However, you have a bit of lag, and the time between you clicking the mouse and the trigger actually being pulled is too great, and the enemy moves out of the way. Lag is characterised by your ping or your latency. Measured in milliseconds, this is a precise representation of how much lag you have, obviously a lower ping is preferred.

How amusing, we started with fast travel, and ended with the slow travel of data across the Internet. That wasn’t my intention, but regardless, check back next time to see what accidental dichotomies I can come up with.

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One comment on “The Language of Games – Part 7 – From Fast Travel to Lag

  1. […] back next time for elaboration on this topic, and to see where we will go from […]

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