And Speaking of Inspiration

As I’ve noted elsewhere, I’m an idea man, but I work way better when I’m riffing off of the flawed ideas of others than when I’m trying to invent my own stuff out of whole cloth.

I haven’t finished Dead Rising yet; the whole mall full of zombies and ways to kill them thing sounded awesome, but those bastards at Capcom decided to put in that crazy time limit for saving all the survivors and getting all the story events to appear. If you just run around killing zombies with all the cool shit in the mall, you won’t lose the game, but you won’t really “win” either, at least as I measure it.

Ok, yes, I’m a little bit crazy about collecting everything and getting the best ending and all that and shut up I’m perfectly normal I just like getting the most out of my games.

I imagine that this is the designers’ stab at having you feel some tension and excitement, as defending yourself is actually pretty easy once you’re leveled up. If your zombie-killing capacity is nearly unlimited, the only way that Capcom can could inject some kind of scarcity to limit you is to give you a scarcity of time instead of, say, weapons. But this means that you don’t get to run around the mall stocking up on chainsaws and fireaxes and shredding crowds of undead; instead you just have to grab those things when you happen upon them while you’re sprinting like a camera-laden Jesse Owens to try and kill your way to the next survivor before he cowers himself to death. I appreciate that taking out the shitty time limit and the shitty escort mechanic and the shitty save system would kinda leave us with Dynasty Warriors with lots of weapon pickups. To be honest, I don’t really see the problem with that, though. As it is, I got to a part of the game where I can’t really quite save everyone that I want to, but I’m far enough from both the beginning and the end that I can’t decide whether to plow through and try another playthrough later to get everyone, or just start over and try to be faster about my gimpy-mallrat rescuing.

So yeah, Dead Rising has a nasty case of 3rd disc syndrome for me. But I did get far enough that I’d had a number of infuriating events while trying to get survivors back from the mall environs to the safe room where you stock them up. The real revelation for me in this situation was that you could not only heal your survivors up and keep them alive by handing them your food items, you can also give them weapons and they will defend themselves. They even handle their weapons a bit differently: some rescuees are cowards who will drop melee weapons and cower if zombies get close, so you have to give them guns, while others will go berserk and charge into mobs of zombies if you give them strong melee weapons and have to be armed with guns and stuck in the back of the group to keep them from hoo-rah’ing themselves into zombie chow. Some are old or injured and can’t move without help, costing you the ability to help fight when the group is moving. A precious, precious few are actually competent at killing zombies.

Combined with the ability to order the group to stand in one place – say, backs to a wall – while you run around being awesome and saving the next addition to your little crew, this really changed the vibe of the escort part of the game for me. It stopped being a matter of herding retarded sheep through the mall while simultaneously chopping scores of zombies and NOT chainsawing any of my human charges, which is a bit like juggling 2 eggs and a KitchenAid; instead I was leading a small and very rag-tag army of average jerks with scavenged weapons toward an objective, tactically engaging and avoiding mobs of zombies on the way. Frankly, it was a bit of a bummer dropping these folks off at the safe room, although I felt a little more vested in saving them having spent more time with the mindless little drones.

I’d really like to see this mechanic at work again. The sensation of starting out alone and building up a force out of the people and equipment that can be scavenged could be really compelling in other games. I’m particularly not thinking about traditional style RPGs, where a predetermined character roster is filled out on a schedule set by the designer. I’d kind of prefer to be playing some sort of survival scenario – off the top of my head: post-war, post natural disaster, mid-riot, high school – where there is a supply of friendly NPCs around of various capabilities to recruit from and equip. Honestly, I get so hard at the thought of heading out into post-nuclear Los Angeles to find other survivors, bring them back to my town, and put them to work manning defenses and building a village with whatever skills they bring to the table. Or, just starting out alone and on the run and taking enough people along with me until we can get to a point where the group’s numbers and experience are enough to turn the tables and begin taking territory back again.


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