Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Surviving the Horror

I frequently complain that some developers seem to be stuck in a rut when it comes to game design relating to save and death mechanics. It seems that many choose to punish the player with the punitive measure of "time loss". This was supported by this Digital Unrest post and seems to be the underlying reason behind changes discussed in an interview with Alyssa Finley from the Bioshock 2 team. I believe that there are better methods out there for dealing with these mechanics - not just in theory, but ones that already exist in practice.

The core problem that I want to point out, is that such a punitive measure as "time loss" is pointless. Survival Horror games (the example cited by Digital Unrest) are tightly scripted and events happen in a very specific way in order to increase tension and ratchet up the "shock factor". The idea that the best way to implement the death mechanic in these games is to force the player to replay a segment is at it's core, stupid. The player once they have experienced a segment for the first time, on being forced to immediately replay it following their death and a load, now knows exactly when and where the enemies will come from, knows when certain audio cues are going to kick in or when scripted events will occur and because of these things there is no tension anymore. That repeated section of the game becomes nothing more than an exercise in memory retention and the feelings and reactions engendered by the initial play-through are lost. Should the player be forced to go through this process repeatedly it also becomes a serious test of patience.

The point that
Digital Unrest seem to be trying to make is that the player has no connection to or investment in the game other than their time, and thus to create any suspense or feeling of loss the threat and implementation of a punitive time penalty must exist. I find this idea repugnant in it's inherent laziness. If a developer is incapable of making you care about what happens in a game on a level greater than your time investment, then that game should be seen as the massive failure that it is. I've previously addressed why death in video games is an outdated concept and shown where some developers have moved beyond this is new and interesting ways. But I'm going to go in a slightly different direction in addressing the concept of a "penalty" for dying.

If death in a game is not going to be a permanent event, such as in the "hardcore" modes of Diablo or in all manner of Roguelikes - then it should not exist. This is not to say that your character should be invulnerable, merely that the implementation of the incapacitation and events leading to your characters untimely exit should be better controlled. Look at Monkey Island 2 back in the day, with the method of delivery of the story being used to explain why Guybrush never actually died. More recently we can look at Far Cry 2, which has in my opinion the best implemented death mechanic in gaming - where your "death" is part of the gameplay experience serves to increase NPC interaction and advance the certain sideplots. Most games (and by most I mean all but a tiny handful) assume that the character never dies during the course of the narrative. Thus, we have the "LOADING LAST SAVE" screens which you encounter to let you know: "Oops, you fucked up but it's OK, because none of that really happened. So we'll just all collectively ignore it, pretend it never happened and move on." If death was such an important event in these games, why isn't it acknowledged as such? I'd argue that death is not an important event in games as it's never addressed in anything more than a cursory "YOU DIED - GAME OVER" screen.

So if death doesn't serve a narrative or gameplay purpose, then I have to ask the obvious question - what makes death in games such a "good" idea in these people's minds? It seems to be that they feel that death is a necessary punishment, that a game where they aren't forced to waste their time in replaying segments is somehow less challenging. That the best thing to do is to take away the player's time. I feel very strongly that it's a stupid argument because, as previously stated, these games are so linear that the setback exists only as time loss and that there is no real threat to the player, nor any real engagement in the game by the player during the repeat of the segment up until the point where they were killed. From a narrative perspective it makes no sense as the story of the game continues to assume that the player never actually died. Look at movies - when was the last time that a movie had it's lead character die midway through an action sequence, then fade to black, fade back in - and we're back at the start of said action sequence and the character has to go through it all again.

This has all come to a head in the latest interview from the Bioshock 2 dev team. Alyssa Finley talks about the VitaChambers and addresses the perceived problem of them making the first game too easy. It may just be a matter of opinion, but the VitaChambers were well implemented in my opinion, they offered a way to allow gameplay to continue without resorting to a more traditional death mechanic. I ask then, just how will not having VitaChambers make this a better game? The fact that when someone is killed that they will have to go back to their last save doesn't make it better. It makes it an exercise is wasted time. Yes, you could "game" the VitaChambers if you wanted - but this is within the concept of the game. In fact, I'm fairly certain that such an obvious exploit didn't escape the attention of the original development team and perhaps allowing players to utilise such a mechanic to advance past a section where the otherwise might have failed was their intent. Finally, let's not forget either that both System Shock's also offered the "regen chamber" mechanic as part of their gameplay and neither of those ever suffered accusations of being "soft".

The idea that the only way to punish a player in a game is through the loss of time invested is outdated, stupid and counterproductive. Nothing will get people to stop playing faster than the feeling that they are wasting their time on a game. The key is for developers to find a way to integrate "death" into their games narrative and find new mechanics to nullify the thirty year old brain-bug of the "GAME OVER" screen, not to have to waste their time pandering to a vocal group of whiners who think that the industry should stay stuck in the same conceptual rut that it's been in for three decades.

It seems that this whole "issue" is just another in a long line of beat-ups and whining by people who feel that they are too hardcore for all these traitorous "casual" games of today. You're welcome to play a game of Diablo 2 on the Hardcore setting at Nightmare difficulty or bang your head against Armed Assault, where if you are really lucky you can die in a cutscene where you don't even have control of your character. These are just two of a multitude of "hardcore" options you can play if you really want to show off your e-peen, but the rest of us are happy to play games for enjoyment.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Madworld ramblings...

Since Madworld came out there's been distinctly little talk about it in any circles that happen to overlap with my own Venn Diagram of experience. In fact the sole piece of reporting that I've really seen on it post-release relates to how "poorly" it's sold thus far.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I saw no advertising for this game. Not online, in print, on TV or in the cinema. It seemed that they were solely relying on the buzz created by the art and the fact that it was a "mature game on the Wii".

Oooh, yes. How positively shocking. A mature video game. It doesn't seem particularly mature to me. In fact it seems positively juvenile - but I suppose that's half the fun of it. I really consider it a sad state of affairs if "gallons of blood explode geyser-like out of a stump from a chainsawed limb" is considered to be the defining factor in what is "mature" and what is not.

Another bit of buzz in the lead up to the release of this game was that was being developed by some new American/Western development house created by SEGA. Part of a new wave of games designed to break the trends of old. But for the most part I feel like I'm playing a game so firmly rooted in the tropes of the 16bit era that I have to remind myself that this is 2009.

The story dialogue in this game is presented in the classic Japanese unskippable-floating-text-box-with-character-portrait-cutscene style. Don't tell me that you budget was so tight or room on the DVD so sparse that you couldn't get some voices in there for these scenes. They are few and far between and the fact that I never hear the voice of anyone actually in the world puts me off. And the fact that the story has to be delivered in such a way is even more disappointing.

Then we have the fact that this game still has lives. Yes. Lives. As in you die, you use a life and get to continue. Last I checked my Wii doesn't have a slot for me to pump coins into so this is an automatic devaluation in my mind.

Levels aren't particularly long, but for me anything more than 10 minutes without a save is annoying. And this game doesn't have saves. If you don't finish all the sections of a level before quitting then you don't have your progress saved. You get to go back to the very start. Personally, I think that if you have to have a load event to move into a new area, then the very least you can do is have a goddamn checkpoint there to allow the player to restart from there.

The gameplay isn't particularly deep, instead relying on player creativity and the visuals to keep interest going. And combining this kind of uninteresting combat with the quite frankly awful control scheme that this game has just results in frustration. The way the controls are in this game seems to be tailored to make them as unfriendly and unresponsive as possible. All too often you will end up facing the wrong way and attacking the air or having one of many, many, many context sensitive actions fail because you couldn't keep the camera aimed at exactly the right spot.

In combination, all these factors make me feel like I'm playing a B-grade brawler on the Megadrive. In fact, I'd be tempted to label Madworld as "The Wii's Altered Beast" if it wasn't for the fact that the game has style on it's side.

A few games have been accused of putting style over substance and only rarely has this accusation been more accurately levelled or the crime been more egregious. And I can take a lighter approach to sentencing here as Madworld revels in it's style - through the gritty black and white lense they're able to get away with a lot more. This ultra-violence is at the heart of the game's commentary, the focus is put on why ultra-violence is an accepted spectacle and supported. But this "social commentary" seems a bit off-the-mark, especially given how actively the game tries to alienate you.

Really, Madworld should be so much better than it is. All it would have taken is someone to take a stand and go: "It's not 1992. We have the technology. We can do so much more than Streets of Rage now." But it seems at every turn the easy decisions were made - to fall back on cheap, stale and boring design which ultimately saddles this game with so many issues as to make it unenjoyable. Combine this with some ridiculous technical issues - like how the game plays at some weird resolution giving you a top, bottom and sides letterbox effect cutting your viewable screen area significantly, and the continuing inability for Wii controllers to reliably pick up what's being input in gestural commands and the game enters the realm of painfully disagreeable. And for a game that should have been the perfect stress-reliever, this outcome is just criminal.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Eminently stoppable Force Unleashed meets immovable opinion.

I've been playing The Force Unleashed - and though I'm only about an hour in I feel that I can already unload some baggage on this one way train to wreck-town. Being a massive Star Wars nerd I could bitch and whine about how this game is inconsistent with the existing canon, or that it just recycles the same environments from every game, novel and film without a hint of originality or thought. But those would be easy swipes - and cheap ones too. Playing as Vader's apprentice is a cool concept and it is the recognisable environments that create an immediate impact and association, which separates this from "generic space game X".

No, the problems I have are with the game mechanics and even the design. None of these make it a bad game, as it is still fun, playable and thus far, it works - but they do prevent it from being anything more than average.

I'll start with the obvious - I have a Lightsaber. Why the hell do my enemies have health bars? When it takes me a combo or two to drop an enemy we know that there is a problem. Because it's a Lightsaber. I should wade into that crowd of rebels and emerge on the other side amongst a light shower of cauterised limbs. Now, like most Star Wars games which have come before it is choosing not to play the dismemberment game, which I find disappointing given it is one of the few settings where you can have a limb cut off and there be no blood to scare the censors, because it's a goddamn Lightsaber. The concession was undoubtedly made for ratings - and as much as I hate that, I can understand it. But it still doesn't solve the health bar problem.

Why have a health bar at all? I can't see many people becoming so deeply invested in this that they are worrying about force power micromanagement and going: "Oh, he only has a 1/5 of his health left, not 1/4 - so I shouldn't use my Sith Slash on him and instead do a Sith Slam to ensure maximum efficiency." The health bar shouldn't even be there, it's distracting and serves no real purpose. I couldn't give a crap what their current health is - they're still standing up and thus I'm still going to liberally apply Lightsaber until they fall over.

I would have preferred to be mowing down greater quantities of less "healthy" enemies - have the game focus on you feeling like the Force-throwing Lightsaber-swinging bad-boy that you are meant to be. Instead, I'm stuck being the only character in the Star Wars universe for whom Stormtroopers are actually a threat. I just cannot get over how incongruous and immersion-busting it is to unload a flurry of Lightsaber death upon some Rebel Scum (TM), only to have them kick you in the chest and knock you down, because they've still got half their health left. It's stupid and I don't want to have to talk about it, but here we are. Thankfully with the terrible "lock on"-system and lack of decent camera controls, you'll rarely see a health bar for the person you're actually trying to hit with your Lightsaber so the whole point is really quite moot.

It just strikes me that the lack of dismemberment in any form and the use of a healthbar has really undercut what could have been a remarkable chance to show off the Euphoria physics/AI stuff. Lets look at GTA IV, where an injured person reacts to their injury or physics interaction and then attempts self-preservation in the environment accordingly. Compare this to Force Unleashed, where Euphoria for enemies is little more than a hopped-up rag doll system and the closest your enemies come to reacting is occassionally grabbing something when you Force Grip them.

And this brings us to the core gimmick of the game: Force Grip. One upon a time when you were stuck in a game, you looked around for the airvent to shoot in order to crawl into it. In this game, you look around for something with a great big glowing aura (or better yet - great big yellow arrows) which you need to Force Grip. And it's here that the game bogs down, as the first time that you drag a yellow arrow across a door it's a case of "heh, that's pretty cool", but the second time you go: "Really? Again? So soon?" Then, by the tenth occurence in the first level of a puzzle relies on "use the Gravity Gun (sorry "Force Grip) to pull the power cord out of the shield generator" you'd be forgiven for thinking that it's 2004 and you're playing Half Life 2. You know, back when this crap was still somewhat new and different.

This tedium is what I fear will stop me from going too far with this game, no matter how much I love Star Wars. Every aspect of this game feels focus tested, like it is was developed to be as safe an investment as possible. And I'm under no illusions that this is how things work and that this is definitely the new LucasArts way. It's just that this board-room-generated-checklist approach has never been as painfully obvious. I'd like to hope that the occassional flashes of inspired design that are in the game haven't been totally wiped out by this lowest-common-denominator approach to development and that I might find something to love. But other things about the game make me question just how well made it actually is.

With the ability to Install to HDD now available on 360, I haven't played a game of disc in quite a while - and being able to hear my 5.1 sound system over the console is a lovely change. And in several games I've noticed a real performance increase in terms of both load times and framerates. Well, if the load times for Force Unleashed when installed are anything to go by, then I am ecstatic that I have it installed and am not just running from the disc.

How can it take the same amount of time to load an options screen in the pause menu as it does to load a level? In a game that relies on upgrades and character advancement, this is not just ridiculous, but passes into the realm of totally goddamn unacceptable. Every time I go to a menu or select and option from a menu it actually has to bring up an honest-to-goodness load screen. And not a quick flash of one, but a nice long load screen. Enough time for you to consciously think: "Man, this is taking a while, has it locked up? I'll check to see if any Friends are online. Oh, only three - and none playing anything I want to. Ah well, back to the game. What? STILL? Come on! How can it take thi- Wait, there we go. Hurrah, now I can adjust the brightness."

And this isn't just while playing the game, this is from the main menu too! It's like someone there thought that Mass Effect's elevators were the greatest innovation in game design since CGA colour and the world needed more of that crap. When a game takes as long to load an options menu as it takes GTA IV to load a city, you know that there is a problem. And I might forgive it if the menus were works of art or somehow remarkable. But they aren't. They're drab and derivative, there is no conceivable reason that they should take so long to load.

I feel like I shouldn't play this game, like I shouldn't waste me time on another pandering grab at my fan-whore money. Maybe I should just go and get Conan or Hellboy or Viking to get my brawler fix. Or go back to Madworld, actually no. Lets not go back to Madworld right now. I'll leave that for next rant.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Eidos Purchase - a hyperbolic perspective.

What follows is my visionary and cautionary tale of what will come to pass as Square Enix takes over the reins on some of gaming's most beloved franchises.

Hitman 5: Penultimate Zeigeist of Kings
We join Number 47 in his latest adventures, his trademark black suit now features many chains, buckles and pouches. Jesper Kyd is replaced by Nobuo Uematsu on soundtrack duties. The opening cutscene is 12 hours long and features at least 8 hours of longing staring by 47 at love interest. His first mission is given: "Assassinate John Smith, local drug lord", you attempt it but fail miserably as you get defeated time and time again by the first guard you encounter. You try and try and try again, each time being doomed to a half hour cutscene showing your pitiful demise to swelling orchestral chords. A hint box pops up: "If you are having trouble, try levelling up before the fight." You spend the next 12 hours hunting rats for XP. Then, once you have enough levels to face off against the boss safely, you try once more and as soon as you come face to face with the boss the game goes to a cutscene and you die of sleep deprivation before it is over. And that's just the first level.

Deus Ex 3: Crystalline Dreams of Oepdipal Schadenfraude in the Sky
JC Denton returns in this thrilling turn based RPG. Progress through more than 2000 hours of content, of which only 2 are actually relevant! Watch as JC Denton's hair becomes blonder, taller and more outrageous in style with each level gained! Thrill to canned combat animations featuring a sword 5 times taller than Sears Tower! Remain disengaged and impassive for hours on end as you watch cutscenes! Go and make a cup of tea - they're still going! Walk the dog too - this might be a while, he's still crying about that girl, you know, the one who got ganked by that guy who was totally evil, but JC Denton was obilivious to. Actually, you should probably get some sleep now, we lost enough people with the first boss cutscene in Hitman. It's OK, by the time you wake up and get back from work tomorrow, he'll almost be done crying. Sure there's nano-tech and the ability to restore her to perfect health using technology, but don't question the writers - she's dead. She was stabbed in the middle of the hospital ER by the badguy and she's dead. Now stop poking holes in our plot and watch more cutscenes because you're asking too many questions.

Thief X-12.2[b]s9 (paragraph 4)
Garrett travels through time to help popular Disney characters defeat the evil ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. Innovative and revolutionary new controls for the series mean that you can only move in one axis at any given time! This changes the entire dynamic of the genre as the controls suddenly become another layer of depth which you need to conquer in order to become the new spirit of Christmas.

Tomb Raider: Underworld
Lara Croft battles her way through yet another adventure, coming face to face with her arch-nemesis - herself. The pseudo-mysticism kicks up a notch as she battles her doppelganger for . . . Wait a minute, that was the last Tomb Raider game.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A time for skill

It's one of the things that inevitably comes up every time I talk about playing games:I have a lack of time in which to play them. But I still try and play as often as I can and as great a variety of games as I can. Which naturally leads to my time being spread a little thinly amongst them all. Directly related to this is my hate for unnecessary padding and the usual grind and dissatisfaction it incurs.

These issues are perfectly addressed by many games, which offer skills based gaming. That is, a gameplay experience which rewards skill rather than time. It's one of the reasons I've been enjoying Skate 2 so much. Right from the very start you have available to you every trick and the ability to do it, your skater will never level up, or unlock new abilities. It is purely up to you as a player to make it work.

This means that when I fail a challenge I know that it is on me. I failed because I couldn't find the right line, or fucked up in some way. Not because I haven't levelled up my skater enough and need to go and play for another few hours to get the points to unlock a new level of skills or get a better board. That way, when I do finally nail a trick, kill a spot or win a competition, there is a real sense of achievement to it. I know that I got that outcome because of my skills or because I figured out where a better line was. Sure, there is some time aspect to it - as time goes on I've learnt more and more little tricks to get better and better at the game. The fact remains though, that the game is not artificially limiting me because I haven't spent enough time with it yet.

Where I've encountered the most issues to do with this split between games that reward time vs skill is in unlockable stuff - why do I have to play through story mode in a fighting game 20 goddamn times to fully unlock the main roster of characters when I've already bought the game? Why do I have to put 20 hours into Call of Duty 4 or World at War to unlock all the weapons and perks. Certainly I have no problem with having bonus characters and special items as unlockables in fighting games. In the CoD games - having some unlockables is fine but can we please speed up the advancement curve or give me a better selection to begin with?

I've recently gotten back into Team Fortress 2 (a by-product of finally having a gaming PC again) and it has become very apparent to me that I am far behind the curve there. Previously, I had been able to drop in occasionally and enjoy the game - but now, because I'm not playing every night and whoring achievements every time a new release is made, I'm feeling left behind. I don't have a lot of the alternate weapons and items which most players seem to be using and that certainly seem to be just plain better than the basic stuff. What was a skills based game has now been tainted for me by the inclusion of such unlockable items.

If I am already behind the curve on a game where time spent is not the core mechanic, as I am in Team Fortress 2, then I am already naturally disadvantaged as I am not familiar with many class and map related tactics. To increase the gap between casual players like myself and the dedicated players by then adding unlockable items seems more like punishment for not playing often, rather than an incentive to keep playing. This isn't World of Warcraft where at a glance I can see that the player over there is way above me in levels and likely to be able to eliminate me with a single strike and is pimped to the max with items. Frequently the first you know of an alternate item being used in play is when you get killed and it shows you the special stats on what killed you.

Perhaps my problem here isn't so much that there are unlockables - but that the requirements to unlock them are so high. It is patently ridiculous to expect a casual player (or even anyone who doesn't fall into the hopelessly addicted category) to obtain some of those achievements which are critical to unlocking items. I can see myself slowly inching towards these unlocks, but the fact is that I know I will never actually get there. I might get the first tier for one or two classes, but that's it.

I will credit EA's intentions, but not their implementation of the "Time is Money" DLC for Skate 2. I didn't purchase it, because Skate 2 isn't the kind of game where unlocks are critical to my enjoyment. But if Valve offered me the chance to pay $5 in Steam to unlock all the new items - then I would do so without a moments hesitation as it would drastically improve my game experience.

There are certain games and genres in which I avoid in their entirety due to the central gameplay mechanic being "Spend time playing to advance". Hence, JRPGs and MMORPGs are off the table for me. Sure, every game requires a commitment of time, but for me at least, being the cranky gamer-with-a-job that I am, any game that rewards time played over skill or thinking is not worth my time to start with.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Wallrunning out of Death's reach.

I was going to do a big breakdown on the details of the average gamer, but in December we got a huge statistics and research dump on this anyway and now the whole project feels a bit passe/pointless. I might still drop in a column showing the notes and stats that I had collected though.

But for this column I wanted to quickly compare and contrast two games with a similar design but different motivations. These are Mirror's Edge from Dice by way of EA and Prince of Persia from Ubisoft. Both of these games have a focus on running, jumping, sliding and acrobatically puzzling your way through an environment with a very distinctive art style. Both have received their fair share of positive and negative reactions. And to be honest, I'm not sure which I've enjoyed more than the other.

A disclaimer first - I'm playing both on PC, using the 360 gamepad for Prince of Persia and mouse and keyboard for Mirror's Edge. I had tried the Mirror's Edge demo on the 360 and just felt a bit let down by the controls. The game seems to require amazingly tight control - especially when jumping for pipes, ladders and the like and I just could not get it happening on the 360 controller so I decided to wait for PC so I could use the mouse and keyboard.

I've heard on a lot of podcasts and read on a lot of sites that Prince of Persia has very forgiving controls - I must be some kind of freakishly untalented player then, because I just am yet to get the hang of them - perhaps I'm yet to learn the rhythm of the game as I am very early on still.

Again, contrary to the touted opinions, the control's of Mirror's Edge have been wonderful - very tight and intuitive and it is probably my many years of playing FPS games with arbitrary platforming sequences on PC which has made me much, much better at such a thing than those gamers who have never had such an experience. There have been the occasional irritation (such as trying to time an up-wall-run to sideways leap to grab), but for the majority of the game the movement and controls mesh perfectly.

The main point I wanted to reach on this however is the accusation that Prince of Persia is too easy. Which I first want to point out is a stupid opinion to hold. These people say that the removal of death means that there is no challenge. Death hasn't been a challenge in games since quick-saving was introduced and before that - when limited lives went out the window. In fact, thus far in both Mirror's Edge and Prince of Persia I'm yet to be hindered by death. In both, when you fuck up, you die. Prince of Persia then quickloads you back to the last checkpoint with a graphic of Elika grabbing your hand. Mirror's Edge quickloads you back to the last checkpoint courtesy of a loadscreen.

There is no fundamental difference here aside from the fact that some people must think that having a load screen means that there is in fact a penalty for death. Actually - I've only seen the Elika animation a few times and already the music and animation is getting old. I think that's a going to be a bigger punishment in the long run than a white loadscreen.

Using the logic implied in the "not being able to die makes it easy" argument I can make any game as easy or as hard as I want now because the death mechanic has been negated by saving. I could go through a game saving only every 2 hours and thus have a big punishment for dying, in the form of being forced to replay a significant chunk of the game again. Does that make a game better? No. Does that make a game fun? No. Does that actually make the game longer? No. This is one of the reasons why I hate Ninja Gaiden.

People need to understand that the inherent nature of the death mechanics in gaming has been undercut by saving. If I wanted to I could play through the whole of HL2 and both episodes and never "die", because I can quicksave and quickload at will. It's a puerile argument to say that just because you can't die means a game is simple. If you want to stick with that argument then Planescape Torment would like to say: "Hello and fuck you buddy."

And even if it is "easy", does that make it bad? No. No it doesn't. Not every game needs to be ruthlessly hard and with a decade between checkpoints - no matter how emotionally repressed, dateless and with hours and hours to waste you might be - you should be able to recognise this as simply bad game design. Sure artificial inflation of gameplay length is probably my greatest pet peeve, but even looking at this objectively you are kidding yourself if you think that such inflation actually makes a game better.

Personally I'd like to see more games pick up on the negation of the traditional death mechanic that Prince of Persia has introduced. Sure, the setting of Prince of Persia makes it a perfect contender for the implementation of such a device, but there's no reason it couldn't be adapted to other settings or genres with a bit of work. Just look at what Far Cry 2 with it's death mechanic - it removed the traditional punishment for death and introduced a "rescue" mechanic which I've already found useful for expanding my contacts and knowledge.

If within the next few years we can see the elimination of my need to compulsively quicksave and quickload (thanks Halflife) and replace the traditional punishment of "You Died. Game Over. . . . Press space to load your last save." (how FUCK is that "Game Over" then? Stupid fucking 1980s gameplay hangover!) then myself and my HDD will be happier for it as I won't have to worry about accumulating literally thousands of quicksave files over the course of games.