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The gaming industry and aquaphobia - By Alyxx

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What's up, Farmers? Your favourite gamer girl Alyxx here with a little article on something that's been bothering me with the games industry lately.

 

Underwater sections have been a staple in gaming as far back as Super Mario Bros. on the NES. Super Mario's underwater levels are some of the most memorable in history. And some games were entire underwater sections, like the ones where you drop bombs on submarines or go swimming around collecting stuff while shooting sharks. Who can forget swimming in the vast oceans of Super Mario Bros. 3 with the frog suit and exploring the vast depths of the sea in Echo the Dolphin? Exploring the ocean depths in Donkey Kong Country, in Banjo Kazooie, in Super Mario 64. Diving under the sea to explore a wrecked ship in Tomb Raider 2 was one of the standout moments in the entire game where you suddenly have to fight sharks instead of goons. And carrying on into the 90's, underwater sections quickly became a big part of first person shooters as well, with games like Quake, Duke Nukem 3D, even Half-Life, SiN and finally Deus Ex having great mechanics built around underwater sections. We loved exploring the ocean, and often these places would have totally unique enemies and a totally unique atmosphere. So... what the fuck happened?

 

I am not sure when it started, or how, but somewhere around 2003 to 2009, developers started deciding to exclude underwater sections from their games, and first person shooters in particular. Games like Call of Duty feature some of them but there is almost no exploration at all in them and you're more or less restrained to a linear path. And looking back at Half-Life 2 and Doom 3, was there ANY memorable underwater sections? Sure Gordon took a dip a few times in Half-Life 2 but there were no particular hazards or memorable sections built around it. And I can't for the life of me remember ONCE going underwater in Doom 3 or Quake 4.

 

Looking at Deus Ex: Human Revolution from 2011, it is often hailed as a great game and a great prequel to Deus Ex. But it actually features a lot less than the original in terms of level design. Deus Ex had a lot of secrets hidden underwater, especially in the first level and you could easily find paths that relied on swimming to avoid security and such. You even had a special swimming skill. Not saying Deus Ex HR is a bad game but there was NOT ONCE where Adam Jensen took a dive. NOT ONCE IN THE ENTIRE GAME! Surely he might have waddled in some poop sewage water but that's it. And it's like the developers know you want to, they even near the end of the game crash Adam into the ocean and it COULD have been a great section where he swims to the surface, just a LITTLE TINY section. And the DLC takes place ON A FRIGGIN' BOAT!!!

 

And games like Fallout 3 are supposed to have this big world to explore but completely forgets to make diving underwater interesting. It's a chore, and all that happens is that you get irradiated anyway. And not just Fallout, Borderlands, Mass Effect, Portal, RAGE, games that are huge epic adventures and so beloved and popular, NONE OF THEM have underwater sections. Not once in Borderlands 1 or 2 for that matter do you ever go underwater. And Borderlands 2 teases you with these realistic water physics but there is no use of any underwater sections. Mass Effect spans 3 massive games, there's a ton to do, a ton of missions, but never ONCE do you actually swim anywhere. Portal shocked the world with groundbreaking gameplay but not once does Chell place portals underwater, which WOULD have been a lot more interesting. RAGE is guilty of it too, not giving you any chance to explore the watery depths.

 

Come to mind, the only FPS I can remember recently that gives you underwater sections is Black Mesa, but it's technically a remake of Half-Life so I am not sure it counts. But it just got me thinking of how much I love swimming and how much I miss it in other games. Duke Nukem Forever was a game everyone hated on when it came out, especially critics but they FAILED to notice how great the underwater sections felt. I loved the mechanic of breathing air bubbles to get more air and exploring this vast underwater world with unique designs and a totally unique boss. It added so much variety and flavour to the game and will always be stuck in my mind as my favourite moment in Duke Nukem history. Duke Nukem Forever dared to go where no other games went and apparently, in the gaming industry, that is a bad thing.

 

So developers, why this hatred of water? Why this reluctance to add underwater segments to your games anymore? Is it because people dislike them? Is it because they make the games harder to program? I really don't know, but I know that it's something that I miss in most games I play these days.

 

- Alyxx

Game developments at http://nukedprotons.blogspot.com

Check out my music at http://technomancer.bandcamp.com

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Well regarding Doom 3, it was set on Mars so large water sections 'may' not have fitted too well. :P

 

Also regarding Deus Ex: Human Revolution, I'm sure it's mentioned in some background information about the game that Adam fears the water because if he happened to fall in he would sink due to the heavy weight of his augmentations.

 

As for the number of games including more extensive water sections, you may be right, however two do immediately come to mind, Capsized and Hydrophobia: Prophecy, which are both on Steam (although I will admit I've not played either yet, despite owning them >-

Feel free to PM me about almost anything and I'll do my best to answer. :)

 

"Beware of what you ask for, for it may come to pass..."

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Mostly because coming up with good underwater mechanics/making waddling around in water enjoyable is quite difficult. Realistic FPS shooters would want to keep you away from water because you can't really fight anyone that way and you rely on melee only which most would want to avoid, though games with a touch of fantasy/adventure is a different thing.

Also your average call of doody player could care less for exploration and more for killing stuff.

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I for one generally dislike any kind of underwater sections in nearly any game (granted, the variety of games I've played is not big), as there are so many flaws you can do when designing underwater zones and the like. I think the games that really made me dislike it were GTA:SA (extremely slow swim speed), World of Warcraft (ever since I played the Vashj'ir underwater area I don't want to go underwater again) and to a slight extent Deus Ex (swimming felt really gimmicky and getting out of water could become annoying).

It's just the slow pacing, limitations and oftentimes weird design that made me want to stay away from water.

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"Sense? What fun is there in making sense?"

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Mostly because coming up with good underwater mechanics/making waddling around in water enjoyable is quite difficult. Realistic FPS shooters would want to keep you away from water because you can't really fight anyone that way and you rely on melee only which most would want to avoid,...

Yeah, in realistic scenarious, you can't really shoot anything under water (harpoon maybe?). In deeper water (e.g. sea) you also can't really see that far which would make exploring under water quite a pygalgia and the scenery quite boring. What adds to that is that movement under water without special equipment is rather slow.

 

... though games with a touch of fantasy/adventure is a different thing.

Also your average call of doody player could care less for exploration and more for killing stuff.

-

I for one generally dislike any kind of underwater sections in nearly any game (granted, the variety of games I've played is not big), as there are so many flaws you can do when designing underwater zones and the like. I think the games that really made me dislike it were GTA:SA (extremely slow swim speed), World of Warcraft (ever since I played the Vashj'ir underwater area I don't want to go underwater again) and to a slight extent Deus Ex (swimming felt really gimmicky and getting out of water could become annoying).

It's just the slow pacing, limitations and oftentimes weird design that made me want to stay away from water.

I too think that under water areas do not really fit into FPS games. Personally, I fount the under water sections in HL 1 quite annoying, especially since you run out of oxygen all the time and hat to return to the surface which makes exploring quite annoying.

On the other hand, I really liked the under water sections in the Indiana Jones (TM,$$) games I used to play on my brothers PS 1 and 2 some years ago. Under water sections are IMO a great conecept for puzzle games.

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Half-life 1 and 2 included pretty epic underwater segments. Especially the former.

Water is really fun in Counter Strike too, it adds a lot of atmosphere, I have to agree with Alyxx, the gaming industry needs to add more underwater segments, otherwise games feel to ordinary...

 

Not to mention, Duke Nukem 3D Water levels!!

 

Less Aquaphobia.... More Aquaphilia!

Edited by Guest (see edit history)

"When a son is born, the father will go up to the newborn baby, sword in hand; throwing it down, he says, "I shall not leave you with any property: You have only what you can provide with this weapon."

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Half-life 1 and 2 included pretty epic underwater segments. Especially the former.

Water is really fun in Counter Strike too, it adds a lot of atmosphere, I have to agree with Alyxx, the gaming industry needs to add more underwater segments, otherwise games feel to ordinary...

 

Not to mention, Duke Nukem 3D Water levels!!

 

Less Aquaphobia.... More Aquaphilia!

Duke Nukem 3D did water segments right imo.

Game developments at http://nukedprotons.blogspot.com

Check out my music at http://technomancer.bandcamp.com

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Not sure if masked love letter to Duke Nukem.

 

And even though you hate the game, I have to point out that Skyrim had some pretty cool underwater stuff.

 

Funnily enough I was forced to absolutely despise being underwater in Skyrim. Turns out I had some graphical problems underwater and I couldn't see pretty much anything while submerged.

YT Account [TF2 replays]: http://www.youtube.com/user/Hydracen?feature=mhee

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"Sense? What fun is there in making sense?"

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I would be fine with underwater sections if the visibility wasn't piss poor. I found underwater sections in the old days of alpha blending (Quake, Quake 2, Hexen 2, Red Faction...) an absolute nightmare. And most recently I found myself needing god mode in Black Mesa because I couldn't see shit in the dirty water in that game, and that is a problem when there are giant fishes around with an appetite for meat. It was only out of luck that I made 2 lucky hits with the crossbow.

 

The only old games that I remember off the top of my head as having good underwater visibility are Unreal and Half-Life. That's it.

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The small areas in Skyrim and Fallout: New Vegas that allow or require you to go underwater were pretty well done, but they also remind me a lot of the water behavior in Half-Life. The visuals, imo (I require glasses, so I can't speak for people with 20/20) were spot on for what I see underwater. The controls are too smooth for water movement, which I think is a good thing. That keeps underwater segments from being realistic, which is what AAA titles are going for these days. I personally like the weightlessness in these sections. Even though you can just console command something similar to that, I like it when these sections exist within the game for the player to experience.

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Just like how they make it "realistic" to have bloody screens and the inability to sprint far, Swimming=Oxygen meter, unless you have Jedi rebreathers.

Of course people automatically suppose that if you rig yourself up with an air tank and mask, they don't think "Oh I can for-reals breathe for 3 hours underwater", they think "I am wearing a motorcycle-sized dong on my ass".

 

What a game needs to do is have a decent submarine section, or part of the mission that actually involves scuba-diving. Heck it could be the intro and exit of a spy mission, like James Bond.

There are fighter pilot games where you can take out other pilots on the ground by shooting them with emergency signal flares that set their shirts on fire. Why don't we have misused Shark spearguns?

This is a nice metric server. No imperial dimensions, please.

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