Obsolete tech, Bad Games and the hostile design of Prey

A footnote about the woes of CRT gaming

Prior to writing this article I had to suffer through the process of finding a VGA converter that would have enough bandwidth to let me enjoy 1600x1200@85hz IIYAMA Vision Master Pro456 CRT gaming experience. Earlier this spring I borrowed my brothers GTX1050 to replace my GT740 that, to be fair overstayed its' welcome (FUCK crypto). First off, unlike DELOCKs and other expensive crap redditors tell you to buy the manufacturers of cheap converters you'd find in bargain bins and aliexpress don't exactly communicate how much bandwidth those devices account for. Fortunately, I had a couple of those at home at my disposal (however despite that I still had to spend a few days doing 15km worth of legwork to (unsuccessfully) try and find one that I was assuming would have higher bandwidth. lol, lmao) but I ran into a couple of issues with them. First of all, the colors appeared FUCKED running in anything higher than 1024x768@85hz which made me assume that it just couldn't display them at all but was remedied by switching from RGB colorspace in NVIDIA control panel (which also took me an embarassingly long stretch of time to figure out and not before I went through running the monitor at unorthodox frequency clocks). Having solved this problem I ran into the issue of games not recognizing my custom resolutions SPECIFICALLY on the adapters I was using for the CRT. After about a week of troubleshooting the drivers, messing with the configs and bruteforcing values in regedit I gave up and installed a 3rd party resolution tool which worked like a charm. Cool, now I can play past gen games with very very insignificantly slightly fucked color contrast. This is something I wont bother fixing, these things are far from perfect after all.

Ratcatcher (2004) (the executable is titled Ruthunter[sic])

"this game has more terrorists than actual rats" -my friend chepyl

gameplay: bad
visuals: very bad
sound: bad but has surprisingly good music
story: almost none

I remember seeing a twitter post that said that everyone needs to play a very bad game at least once to have a frame of reference so I chose to go with one that, to my knowledge, nobody else has talked about before.

There's, surprisingly, a lot going on here. First off, it's a russian shovelware FPS built on Genesis3D engine (known for... uh... yeah, that). The story is conveniently conveyed through a paragraph of text behind an option in the main menu to not distract you from all the ball-busting action with pansy-ass "cutscenes" or "dialogue". There's a terrorist organisation in St Pete whose goal is to mutate an N amount of people into monsters and your goal as the Ratcatcher to kick their asses.

First thing you'll notice is that the game is using A LOT of stolen and reskinned assets, the ones I know for sure are the TFC shotgun and the HL1 pistol animations, not sure about the rest but I've definitely seen them before. I'd like to give it some credit though, while the levels are mostly lackluster there are actually the beginnings of a palatable FPS game and the novelty of setpieces failed to wear off throughout its' 20 level runtime.

there defenitely was an attept to make a video game set in st p

Playing it sucks a lot. Here's a pragraph of me describing the most prominent issues I ran into while playing the game. The levels are plagued with workarounds and questionable design choices. The game fails to indicate where the exits are, the triggers are inconsequential, overwhelming amount of enemies or barren levels and almost no health or ammo pickups. For example, one of the later levels spawns you next to an enemy in a tight corridor that will beat the shit out of you if you're not quick enough to move aside and can only be killed with specific weapons, a mechanic that never appears anywhere in the game. You progress can be halted if you run out of ammo. Even the sole melee weapon in the game requires ammo. I managed to run out of all ammo by the level 17 but I managed to figure out that by hugging a breakable object strafing you can climb it and sequence break. Another issue with the weapons is the mismatch between their damage values and enemy health. A weapon that you’ll be using throughout most of the game, - the shotgun (which fires a single blue projectile for some reason) – has a fatal flaw where reloading it causes your ammo to be reset to 0. Enemy variety is honestly the least of my concern since despite having models with a wide range of the positions on the spectrum of “Stolen” the only difference between them seems to be the use of hitscan or projectile attacks and how fast they can make you do a somersault as you’re dying.

Most of this game was completed along with my friend, who’s as of writing this, is making a video about it which goes way more in depth and is a lot more funnier than this article. There’s also a 2006 russian FPS game with a similar name.
Prey Non-Review
I don't know if I should review Prey (2017). It's a good game that I didn't enjoy as I found its' design choices hostile towards the way I play games. I went into Prey expecting to play an immersive sim and while it tricked me into thinking it is one the illusion soon dissolved.

It was fun to solve combat puzzles using turrets and environmental hazards as it was fun to parkour my way around locked doors and such, but both of those factors kind of went out the window once the game started giving you way too many resources. Soon after finding my first shotgun and a pistol I was able to quickly dispose of most common enemies with a few well placed meatshots and after finding enough neuromods I could hack my way into most locked doors. Lack of scracity is very much detrimental to the whole game - I never seemed to run out of ammo; health and armor pickups were fairly common to the point where I recycled them into raw material; the amount of tools at my disposal was seemingly disproportionate to their variety as I never ended up using some of the grenade types the game provided me with. Lack of resource scracity kept the stakes impossibly low even on the hardest difficulty and trivialized all combat to the point where it wasn't enjoyable and was rather an annoying setback that is stalling your progress to the next waypoint.

I really would love to draw comparison to System Shock 2 as they are somewhat mechanically similar but Skyrim would be a fairer comparison. In SS2 (also played on the hardest difficulty) I often find myself sneaking around tankier enemies as any encounter has the potential to set me back by several hypos and precious ammo and while the later game is quite lenient with cybermodules the upgrades merely increasure your odds of not taking a hit and you're still forced to specialize in certain disciplines fit for your playstyle. Both Prey and Skyrim on the other hand sap out all fun out of combat. Skyrim's dragons are never a threat on most difficulty settings, it's just that after about 15 you don't want to engage with them because its about a minute or two of the fight you've had 15 times over that doesnt even reward with anything remotely useful. Both Prey quests and Skyrim dungeons follow vaguely similar formulas: you effortlessly massacre baddies/press buttons and the game rewards you with more loot that you dont need and exposition/lore breadcrumbs. IMO this formula is cheap and thoughtless. There are ways to make players care about the world in your game and there are ways of forcing players of making meaningful combat decisions without turning the core gameplay into a chore. It is possible to make powertrip games without forcing players to create a handicap for themselves to enjoy the core game. DOOM 2016 gives a serious edge to the players who are willing to explore and find secrets and even after you make your doomguy unstoppable with all the upgrades and weapons the combat is still fairly challenging and requires you to use most tools at your disposal in encounters.

I wanted to like prey but by the second act i didn't really know if i actually was invested in teh story and gameplay or it simply hooked me up by drip feeding me instant gratification "number go up" serotonin.

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