Delayed Responsibility

I Shouldn't Be Gaming Right Now… But I Am!

Archive for June, 2009

I’d Give Real Money if He’d Shut Up

Posted by deckard47 on June 30, 2009

Good for you if you know who says that. I don’t normally do this, but I’d like to write a post (a small one) using an amusing idea cribbed from John Walker’s RPS post (of course, I “normally” say mean things about other people and their work and then hide behind the Internet, so it’s not like this is a step down). In the style of “I would play”:

I’d pay $150 dollars for Irrational Games to become Irrational Games again, and make all of those Freedom Force sequels they’ll never make (this is a good time to link to an interview at IGN [IGN, I know, sorry!] with a lot of the people behind Freedom Force and its sequel).

I’d pay pay $100 for all PC games released in 200-fucking-9 to have full widescreen support. Come on, PC game companies, let me hold your hand as we walk into this frightening new world.

I’d pay $60 for the worlds inhabited by Solid Snake, Master Chief, and Marcus Fenix to be sucked into a black hole. They aren’t compelling worlds! No, they are not!

I’d pay $10-15 dollars to play a game where Indiana Jones, Lara Croft, and Nathan Drake hang out and realize that they’re all splitters now, and should just admit that they recycle each others’ ideas with impunity. Then they accidentally unleash an ancient (fill in old-timey, possibly “exotic” culture) curse, and have to romance attractive people to save the day, possibly while engaging in witty, sexy banter.

I’d pay $50 dollars for somebody to release  a co-op game that isn’t dumb and offensive, so my brother will play it. Come on, it can’t be that hard, just make HoMM VI if you can’t think of anything.

Come to think of it, I’d pay quite a lot for HoMM VI. Get on it.

I’d pay $700 if people would stop pretending games, movie, and books can really be compared so broadly and unthinkingly.

I’d pay $70 if someone would admit that the Wheel of Time game was actually quite good, and get the team that made it together to make another game.

I’d pay all of the money I will ever make, for ever, to play games with interesting, inoffensively chracterized and sexualized people, who have a complete understanding of human speach and emotion, and never force me to choose between 10 stupid doctors and my stupid “love interest.”

I’d take that last sum of money and quadruple it, if someone would make a game out of the Alanna books.It would make a dream (that I never knew I had) come true. Of course, I’ve no idea how you’d do it well. No clue. To make things better, here’s the original cover (not those shitty new ones) from the copy I bought when I was like 7 or something. Yeah, I just went there.

Awesome!

Awesome!

I guess I’m done now. That went off course a bit. Sorry. Not really.

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Impressions: Welcome To The Descent…

Posted by deckard47 on June 28, 2009

Err, I mean welcome to Butcher Bay. I’m playing through the 2004 original (with all of the fancy graphics, obviously), and it’s really a lot of fun.  Right now, I’m coming to see that the game’s shooting is not at home, from a user-friendly perspective. I guess it felt good back then (but did it really?). Despite the fact that shooting feels strange, the rest of the game is almost perfect. I like the fish-eye view, I know it’s not seksy anymore, but it makes me feel weird and skulky (Riddick-y, I suppose). I love the melee combat, the graphics are pretty sweet, and the game was made by people who are probably adults, people who like to watch other people speak in complete sentences onscreen. It’s like the Riddick movie should have been (I’m 5 years late here, I know), except in this movie, Vin Diesel is allowed to kill people in ways he could never kill people on a movie screen.

Unsurprisingly, The Vin delivers in the way you’d hope he would. I will never, ever mess with Vin Diesel. Sure, he might be a nice guy, but he could also kill me with his finger, or maybe with a look. The rest of the characters are all pretty good (although why do the black guys either have gaps between their front teeth or a lot of gold teeth…?), despite liking the word “fuck” a bit too much. I was rolling along pretty smoothly (thank you, easy setting), thanks to some turned-down graphical settings. I know, I know, we just built this computer, and now it can’t handle a recent game at maximum settings? Let me rephrase that: a remade 2004 game with boosted graphics at max settings? Yeah, it burns pretty bad. Still, it looks amazing, and the first-person fighting engine alone could keep me playing for hours. In fact, I would be playing right now if it weren’t for the fact that as part of his escape, Riddick jumps down into “The Pit,” a deep, dark hole where the guards throw prisoners they really don’t like. As soon as Riddick gets up and dusts himself off, I got a sneaking suspicion (the same one I should have got when the star of Pitch Black decides he’s going down into “The Pit”). Yes, there are scary white/albino monsters down there, apparently on loan from The Descent. Exactly what I don’t need at 11pm on a Saturday night when no one else is home. Sigh. I can always play it tomorrow, right?

This reminds me. Owen recently posted his thoughts on Red Faction: Guerrilla, a review of RF:G, and how involved and deep the stories and settings of games are. He discussed the setting and story of Guerrilla, arguing that it didn’t need to be Marx, because it was mostly there as a pretext for really fun, varied destructive gameplay. Playing Riddick, I got the exact same feeling. The space prison setting for the game (and the Riddick character’s own badass-ness) perfectly set up most of the gameplay mechanics that many games have to struggle to explain. I mean, instead of killing a bunch of gruff bald guys because the only people who want to kill your super-spy are gruff bald guys, you’re killing them because you’re in prison! The hand-to-hand combat, item  and money collection, skulking, and even the annoying pit monsters all fit perfectly into the prison setting (and into the Riddick universe setting). Of course, it helps that the combat is strangely compelling (I’m very good at the mid-attack neck stab by now), but what matters in the end is Riddick‘s setting and story, and their almost transparent, incredibly fluid relationship with the gameplay devices on display.

I’ve no idea whether or not this kind of synergy holds up for the rest of the game (although it’s not that long, so they’d have a hard time messing it up), but I really hope that it does. It’s hard to come up with anothe game whose setting so perfectly excuses and spurs on its gameplay. It’s nice to play a game that is obsessed with making my experience one of uninterrupted (except when the monsters made me stop playing), unobtrusively contrived fun. I hope that the second game is the same, despite all of the disparaging things said about it. I mean, it has Michelle Forbes as a tough, murderous space pirate captain. How does that not make it awesome right off the bat?

Hopefully I’ll have more reports from Butcher Bay tomorrow. For now, let me leave you by saying that the people who made the “electric socket” puzzles in Ghostbusters Wii are villains. Not regular villains, but the most unpleasant, Snidely Whiplash-esque villains you ever did meet. Why?! Why do you hate me so much? All I want to do is play your game, but you want me to stand in that stupid generator room and attempt to plug two square batteries into some electrical socket. Of course, instead of plugging in (and this is after hours spent in that room), the batteries just bang against the sockets in a hilarious, Wiimote-enabled mockery of sex. I hate you.

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Reality in gaming (a short version)

Posted by flagg49 on June 27, 2009

This is a quick, irritated response that may grow in the future. It’s about how realistic games need to be. Not in the sense of verisimilitude–mimesis, seeming like life, whatever–but a much more limited question. How much work do games need to do in telling us a backstory that sounds believable? Another way of putting the question: how much do game stories have to be realistic and interesting on their own terms, and how much can they punt and tacitly admit to being excuses for gameplay and other content?

It’s commonly accepted that game stories have to be at least a little believable. Maybe the most usual complaint in game reviewing is a version of the “this story is a genre cliche” objection. We’ve all seen, at this late date, enough lone heroes fighting a barely-described corporation or government. God save us from labs where scientists have gone too far and created some kind of monster that only an fps hero with a shotgun can kill. Or protagonists who have lost their memories. Or crime bosses who want us to prove our worth by stealing something. Etcetera.

These show up in games all the time because they’re ready to hand. You don’t have to work to explain them to your player, and very often they fit a gameplay mechanic well. How to justify the presence of a berserk-seeming opponent in an fps? Or any of the variety of fetch-quests whose rhythmic appearance is the basic pulse of almost every rpg today? Story cliches are familiar solutions that have worked to justify popular gameplay styles.

You can object to them because they’re uncreative. And you can most often justify them, if you’re a designer, or just someone who happened to like the game anyway, by saying that creativity in justification doesn’t really matter. Games ask to be evaluated in terms of the innovation or proficiency of their gameplay. See Tom’s post below re Crackdown.

All this was stirred up by this Red Faction review, which got my goat and got me thinking. Read the rest of this entry »

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Interviews/Hype: Ruffian Games Does it Right

Posted by deckard47 on June 25, 2009

From a recent interview on Edge about Crackdown 2:

Not everyone connected with the freeform nature of the original. Will the sequel feature more visible characters and interactions?

BT One thing we’re not getting caught up in is dialogue-driven cutscenes. It’s not what we do and we’ve no business going towards that kind of thing. If we got dragged into the fight that’s going on between other games in this genre, I think that’d be a bad move. We’ll definitely have variation with the objectives and push forward with the freeform structure; we don’t just want ‘find-the-boss, kill-the-boss’. We made the first game and we know what was lacking. We’ve listened a lot to the community and the reviews. Obviously, we can’t take every comment on board, but we’re doing our best to address the biggest issues.

Now ,it’s not like I loved how transparent the last game was in its gaminess, but I was definitely glad I didn’t have to listen to my agent talk to a “sexy” companion who helped him, or a “trusted friend.” We know where that kind of thing leads, don’t we?

Then there’s this reassuring tidbit:

JC One thing we’re pretty proud of is that people don’t look at it for the technology; they look at it for the game. It’s very easy to get lost in technical achievement. We have to make technical leaps to benefit the gameplay, but we only think in terms of the player.

Assuming these guys are on the level, this is a strangely practical, sensible approach to game design. Now, if they can just make the people you fight a bit less problematic, make the strongholds less insta-death at high levels, and make the game just a bit longer (I loved it, but it was over too soon), I’ll be happy. Oh, and they better bring back the Voice of the Agency.

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Age of Pirates 2: City of Abandoned Ships

Posted by deckard47 on June 24, 2009

The best title for a game ever? I think so. Apparently it awaits me at the apartment, but I thought I would relate to you Owen’s increasingly excited emails re the game and its arrival. He starts like this: “Age of Pirates 2:  City of Abandoned Ships (the coolest title ever for a video game).” Indeed. Then, “This looks so sweet.  Still installing, but the manual is old school.  And it has a map.  With blood on it.” That does sound sweet. But wait. There is more: “It’s still installing.  And I have to go to lunch.  But, hell.  The manual is like 100 pages.  It has a section called “your ship and her shape.”  You can hire all kinds of different officers.  You can have captives.  You can set everyone’s pay.  It has separate “health” and “life” stats.” Well, I can’t argue with that, because (as you may not know?) one of the things that keeps me up at night is how manuals today are absolutely shitty. They’re tiny and stupid and add nothing to the game. The Red Faction manual makes me want to cry, it’s so bare-bones. Even big RPGs can’t be bothered to have thick manuals anymore. Need I remind of you of the absolutely fantastic Baldur’s Gate II manual, practically a D&D Sourecbook in its own right? Back to our reporter, in the field: “There’s a “nations relations matrix” where you can see the relation of one nation to any other at any time.” Well, that last bit isn’t as exciting, but it still sounds cool.

Luckily for me, I get off work at 3:30 today, so I’ll be getting some extra pirates time, if he isn’t hogging the computer. I fully expect our awesome rig to handle this game easily. I’m happy to bring you this blurb from the game’s site:

New P.I.R.A.T.E.S. roleplaying system, with the following characteristics, Power, Impression, Reaction, Authority, Talent, Endurance, Success.

I fully expect this game to be fiddly and awesome and obtuse, and I’m going to enjoy every minute of that confusion, and tell you about how great it is, and how you can take your 6 page “manuals” and go straight to hell. Check out these screens (at the official site), which promise (thankfully) deep-sea diving, wracked ships (even better than wrecked ships), swashbuckling (and by that, I mean vendor-terrorizing), moonlight cannonfire, and picturesque coves. These screens don’t look great, but I’m sure it’ll look real smooth on my monitor. Expect impressions soon (especially now that I’ve lost steam in Guerrilla, with 1 or 2 missions to go), along with more complaining about How things used to be. And my Ship and her Shape, I suppose? Until then.

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The Beginning of the End

Posted by deckard47 on June 23, 2009

Yeah, that’s me, twittering over there on the right. Twitting. Blech. I just broke my brother’s brain, I think. He’ll never read this blog a gain. So far, it’s not very exciting. That will change. It’ll change, and then my twit-feed will be the most exciting place on the internet. I’m thinking it will become exciting if I hire Alexander Siddig and Rene Auberjonois to hang out on my twitt feed and Twitt in character. I bet they’d do it!

As I (strangely) eagerly await Age of Pirates II in the mail, I hurtle toward Red Faction‘s conclusion. Owen is ahead of me though, damn him. That’s what happens when you have a “job” being and academic like he does. As it is, I need to wrap that shit up, because there is actual work to be done, as opposed to my non-sanctioned Red Faction tomfoolery. Oh, and my second article on narrative and plotting in games will be up soon at GSW, I hope. Let’s hope the whole thing doesn’t collapse in on itself before part 3 gets written.

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Back to Our Regular Broadcasting

Posted by deckard47 on June 22, 2009

Red Faction remains atop the pile, fighting off the racist, homophobic Punch-Out, the increasingly unplayable inFAMOUS (more on this development later), and the shambling Cthulu. Ghostbusters has taken up a bit of time, but so far, I haven’t felt the need to play it beyond what my own contractual obligation dictates. Neither version (PC or Wii, yes, for you, I explore all possibilities) comes across as anything more than an interesting (presentation-wise) take on a movie that is near and dear to my heart, but whose gameplay is severely lacking. Strangely, some lines of dialogue have been cut from the Wii version (on closer inspection, they appear to have been parts of big-budget next-gen cutscenes, that the Wii couldn’t handle). This seems unwise to me. I mean, just throw the jokes and dialogue in right afterward, use some recycled footage of the Stay Puft man or something. Right now, there are jokes without beginings and jokes without punchlines… And the graphics on the PC do matter, it looks quite amazing, before you realize that it’s not a lot of fun. Sure, I’m trundling along with my unpleasant avatar (cartoony and believable in the Wii version, glassy-eyed, smarmy, replicant-y in the PC version), but I’m not excited by anything. It helps that Winston got stuck inside a room I had to be in (a laundromat), and wouldn’t open the door. I spent 5 minutes trying to jump into the room (over the half-a-foot window sill), before reloading the game (which takes a billion damn hours) to find the doors open. Bravo. Time will tell with both versions, I suppose.

Oh, and the acting is pretty good, although Bill Murray murmurs half of his lines, which is alright, because Egon, Wintson and Ray are much funnier so far. It feels just right, from sound effects to voice work to cutscenes. Too bad they forgot the game part.

I just picked up the jetpack in Red Faction single player. It’s not a total game changer, but it makes ludicrous exploration, strangely gravity-free chases, and surprise rocket attacks much more fun. It also makes me feel like I’m 7 years old, having just acquired some amazing new toy. I’m looking forward to finding all of the dongles and radio tags after I finish the campaign, and to playing a lot more of the multiplayer. It might be too early to say (Bioware is lurking on the horizon, with a questionable product), but is this the best game I’ll play this year? It’s better than anything I’ve played in a long time, since Prince of Persia even, if not better than that.

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Back in the Red, Soon!

Posted by deckard47 on June 21, 2009

I apologize for disapperaring, life has been complicated of late. The reason I didn’t post yesterday or the day before is because I’ve been playing Red Faction: Guerrilla. It is absolutely amazing. It is surprising, incredibly fun, beautiful, and it has me completely obsessed. I almost stayed up all night last night playing. I may do the same thing again tonight. I’m also strangely captivated by Owen’s (secret, long-abiding) love for the new Punch-Out. I played using the new controls, and was not displeased.

On the less excited front, Ghostbusters Wii is starting out a little shakily. I’m picking up the PC version to test things out, but I’m worried that this kind of hardly-a-game/mostly-fan-service production absolutely needs top-notch production values to make me ignore that it isn’t a great game at all. We shall see. There are other games, desperately trying to rest my hands away from Guerrilla‘s sweet delights. It’s not happening. More later, promise.

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Absolutely Shameless Me-Talk

Posted by deckard47 on June 12, 2009

The new Diamond in the Rough (that name seemed silly then, and it seems silly now, but what are you going to do) column is up at GameSetWatch. I really liked this one, it grew out a conversation Owen and I had about some articles we were both reading, and the games we were playing (and wish we were playing!). Here’s a bit of it, it’s all about plot, narrative, and games:

There’s a future for “emergent narratives” not just in story spaces and their ilk, but in further developments in narrative proper. Thus, I want to claim that “narrative” is and always will be distinct from the kind of storytelling that we will see in story spaces, and that the future that both narratives and story spaces have in gaming will allow exciting, “emergent” narrative forms in both categories, not just the more freeform, less scripted world of story spaces. I also think that there are crucial aspects of storytelling that can only be accomplished with the aid of narrative, and can’t with largely user-generated content from story spaces. But to make this claim, we need to more fully explore what’s meant by “emerging narrative” and “story space,” and get a better sense of what narrative really is, and how it differs from the first two.

I know. So exciting. As I said, this came out of thinking and talking about Steve Gaynor’s articles, some Clint Hocking discussions, Doug Church’s presentation, and other arguments happening here and there. Owen (at Bonaroo, the lucky asshole) tells me the new Edge has three articles about similar stuff, so I guess all around I’m in good company? Hope you all find it interesting (really, I hope you do, because there’s at least one more piece that’s going to follow this one).

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No! Where are You Going Wrex?

Posted by deckard47 on June 12, 2009

These two bits just in from Casey Hudson, awesome-fantastic Mass Effect 2 guy (all via Kotaku):

All the squad members that you pick up are completely new characters. Some of them from races that have never been in your squad before.

It’s going to be larger squad, a lot more varied and very, very different kinds of characters. Everyone that you can take with you is a different character from before.

Which sounds bad. It makes me sad. I worked so hard not to kill Wrex and Ashley (and conversely, I worked even harder to kill Kaiden). But wait:

In some cases, it is possible that squad members from ME1 could end up in your ME2 squad. Again, we’re trying to approach this with respect for the characters. Nobody is being clumsily shoehorned in or casually written out. All surviving squad members are at least present as NPCs with important story roles.

Interesting. I guess I understand. If they used all of the old characters, then the would either have to do it Harry Potter style (every single characters is reintroduced, along with their strengths and weaknesses, at blinding speed), or they would have to have a “last time on Mass Effect” thing and have it be loooonng. This is going to be weird. But it should work out. I’m actually excited that they can create a whole new cast of characters, using the already established world. It should save a few of them from being the “giant  narrative mouth of exhibition.” That’s right Bioware, I’m waiting to judge you on stuff I’ve only heard of, let alone seen. Watch yourself.

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Also, if you’re interested, here is a long, cool interview with Gabe Newel at G4 about lots of Valve stuff. I suggest you read it this instant.

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Oh, and here is a totally awesome post by Ron Gilbert where he travels slowly through The Secret of Monkey Island, explaining a bunch of cool behind-the-scenes stuff as he goes. If you know most of the game front and back, you really should read it, it’s funny and it will make you want to play the game again.

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Impressions/Rant: Infamous is Worse than you Thought!

Posted by deckard47 on June 11, 2009

Before we dive back into Cole’s unpleasant world, I’ll direct you to the sidebar. As you can see over there, I’ve reviewed some more games for Gametopius and Popmatters. Since the dark overlords at GSW haven’t seen fit to release my latest brilliant piece of writing from its cage, you’ll have to wait a bit longer for that one. But trust me, it’s going to be like nothing you’ve ever seen. Since the last one.

Now, back to Infamous‘ sad, sad face. It’s an ugly face to begin with (I have regular nightmares about Trish and Sasha), but there’s something that no one has mentioned (if you mentioned this, send me an angry email with the link, and I’ll make amends). In Infamous, the first enemies you fight are “pimps and drug dealers” in the games’ words. This isn’t exactly new. Like Crackdown before it, Infamous realizes that it’s easiest to make your enemies uncool by societal standards. For Crackdown, that meant ethnic profiling (Bangers are headed your way, Agent!), but in Infamous that means socio-economic profiling.

After the bomb, Infamous has no problem hypothesizing that the “dregs” of society, those easiest to paint in an unpleasant, deviant light, would become the hilariously named “Reapers.” This wasn’t surprising to me. What did surprise me was when I reached the second Island, “The Warrens.” This is the poor section of town, as everybody keeps saying. Lots of people remind Cole (or he tells us, while he’s chewing on some broken glass to help his sore throat) of what a scary, dirty, dangerous place The Warrens were. When you arrive, it becomes apparent that you have a new enemy to deal with. The “Dustmen.” What could they be, you wonder? Men and women who appreciate the awesome qualities of dust? Do they like dust storms? No, it turns out they’re homeless people, who have taken to wearing trashbags and terrorizing the populace, in the same way the Reapers did. No I’m not fucking making that up Your enemies are those scary, crazy homeless people, who are even tougher and meaner than the pimps and drug dealers.

It doesn’t exactly get better from there. Since the “Dustmen” are your new enemies, you get a lot of missions centered around them. All of the NPCs call these enemies “Transients” (a painful, awkward theft of language), and you are thus often informed that “Transients” have stolen food, medical supplies, or kidnapped people. Again, I’m not making this shit up. In one situation, upon finding an audio recording left by an FBI agent investigating the game’s evil super-villain crew, the agent talks about how bad and dangerous life is in The Warrens, and how no one helps people here. But then he talks about how the response to this situation should be to destroy the entire Warrens  section of the city.

Did the people writing this realize that they were not only creating stupid, sexist caricatures of humans in Sasha, but that they were also reiterating an old, really frightening line of thought regarding people in the lowest socio-economic brackets—that these people were so lowly and messed up that the only way to “save” them is to destroy their homes and livelihoods? I guess not. I can’t wait for island number three! I wonder what the bad guys there will be? Prostitutes? Also, It’s amusing to note how, if you change the coloring and method of combat, this is Crackdown. I’m actually really surprised that the enemies weren’t obvious ethnic caricatures. It would have been almost a complete ripoff then, aside from the method of transportation. Bravo, Sucker Punch.

P.S. Michelle Forbes is in the new season of True Blood. I know, exciting! She’s gotten rid of her mole (as fans of In Treatment will know), but she’s just as badass as ever, if not more. Did you know she turned down the rpart of Kira Nerys (or the part that morphed in Nana Visitor’s Kira Nerys)? She would have rocked the hell out of DS9! I think they should just remake Voyager and have her be Janeway. That would be so sweet!

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Another Look at E3: Closure

Posted by deckard47 on June 11, 2009

[In an attempt to curtail my own slip-shodded methods, I’m going to be writing about some games that I didn’t mention in my initial post/during-E3 scribbles, and this is the first of them. Enjoy]

Closure is the evolution of a flash game (also called Closure) developed by Tyler Glaiel (lead designer) and Jon Schubbe (lead artist). The original game is a clever kind of platforming puzzle game. It’s clever in that it plays with light, space, and what “exists” in the game world. If you wanted to, you could compare it to other clever, not-what-you-expect platformers like Braid or Fez, but it’s much better to look at Closure with as few preconceptions as possible.

In the original Flash game (available here), you played as a person (drawn in black and white, like the rest of the world), who navigated a sparse world, using movable, sometimes unpredictable light sources to reach a door placed somewhere in each level. The trick in Closure (the main one, that is) is that if light isn’t shining on something in the world, that thing doesn’t exist. This translates into a lot of tricky timed and environmental puzzles, whereby you have to figure out what you should shine light on in order to get to where you want to go.

The game looks pretty, in an extremely stark way (black and white are all you see), and the puzzles never reach that “time to quit” phase. It is admittedly not (from the 25 minutes I spent playing it last night) concerned with connecting its action with any kind of story, but it doesn’t really need it right now. It’s fun, and it definitely hasn’t gotten old yet (I’ll play it more when I get home), so it’s better than other recent games in that department.

The new Closure, as shown in the video below, adds a lot of new mechanics and a whole new look to the game. From directional spotlights to pressure plates to physics puzzles, the gameplay in the new Closure looks like it’ll be more complicated and more varied. Just as interesting is the new art direction the game will be taking. Instead of  a black/white palette, Schubbe and Glaiel have decided to go with grayscale + small amounts of color in their game. I think that the original game had a certain elegance to its environments, but that the new colors (and other little additions, like what appear to be fireflies clustering around lights) add a sense of  strangeness (as opposed to Closure‘s almost morose darkness) and foggy intrigue to the levels. Here’s a video of what they’re thinking the game will look like:

It looks pretty cool, even in this early stage. Of course, you can listen to me say “ooh, check out this indie game that’s so awesome,” or you could go check out the original game. As a person who likes this kind of platformer (but is, unfortunately, affected adversely by certain pretensions and tropes present in the other popular offerings like Braid), I enjoyed seeing it at E3, and I enjoyed playing the original version. It’s good to play a game like this after sitting through the hideous opulence of a title like Infamous, I think. I’m sure we’ll see more of Closure soon, and I’ll make sure I post something about it when the game comes out. You can also check out their development blog, which has more videos and some interesting stuff about developing the game.

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Interesting Things

Posted by deckard47 on June 10, 2009

Sorry to do another of these posts, but since I don’t have Randy Pinkwood at my disposal, these will have to do for now.

Here’s a ton (5 minutes worth) of zombie fighting from Left 4 Dead 2. Why is everyone so angry about this game again? I think it looks sweet, and when I contemplate those many other sweet 60 dollar deals I could be finding, I think I’ll stick with Valve, thank you. I mean, isn’t anybody else excited to see where they take their background, as-you-play characterization and dialogue? I am! Are we only able to conceive of new games as new missions, graphics, and weapons? I’m excited to see what changes, large and small, they make. I’m not sure how else to put this: they’ve never made a game I didn’t love (except Half Life. Please don’t hurt me).  I think I’ll allow them to try and work with their formula, try some new stuff, and deliver a better, different product.

Speaking of games that didn’t change much between sequels (unless you count that horribly unimportant story), Max Payne 3 is being slowly teased. I’m not sure how to put this, but the new info on Max Payne made me want to laugh a bit. I guess he’s even more depressed and stuff now? He’s gained some wait and lost a lot of hair? He’s living in South America (oooooh, so depressing! How does he carry on?) too. Take an (amused) look: Read the rest of this entry »

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Back… But Not in the Saddle

Posted by deckard47 on June 10, 2009

And I’ve never even listened to that song.

As you have probably guessed, I’m willing to cut the people at Bioware a lot of slack. I played through those almost unplayable portions of Mass Effect, I pretended to enjoy the campaign from NWN when everyone else talked about how “good” it was, and I put up with the sillier parts of KotoR. I’ve made a heroic effort to see the good in all of the Dragon Age stuff they’ve been putting out. I don’t have to do this for Mass Effect 2, because everything they’ve put out for that game looks amazing. Sure, they may have not “coded in” the inverted controls (that’s what the EA rep told me, hilariously), but I had fun even as my inverted mind fought their inexplicably non-inverted demo. That game is badass, already. It’s not being released for another year and it loks better than Dragon Age.

I’d done a pretty good job of blocking out the bad parts of Dragon Age, including their juvenile “relationships.” Then I read this bit over at RPS, and it al came back to me. How puriently excited we were supposed to be about the hawt companions we could totally have sex with. How some people watching laughed derisively, some made weird, (apparently) masculine sounds of approbation, and some people like me made Lucky Jim faces and gave our peers sidelong looks. It was not a pleasant situation. He sums it up pretty damn perfectly:

Our hero – one of the Grey Wardens, the group to which players will belong in an effort to fight back against the Blight, and the evil Arch Demon bringing it about – has a present for a lady, Morrigan. It’s a magical book that she has been looking for. She’s going to be very pleased to receive it. Once it’s dragged from our inventory to hers, she responds with some of the most excruciatingly dreadful flirtation I’ve ever seen. The acting is very weak, my face screwed up as I wrote the word “AWFUL” on my pad in the dark. She’s dressed as you might imagine a girl would appear on the cover of a 1980s D&D book, wearing what appear to be a couple of straps of material, most of her breasts hanging out. We can respond to her elephantine attempts at flirting by suggesting we’re open to her ideas. Once we’ve ambiguously agreed to her advances a couple of times, it cuts to a glimpse of an awkward sex scene

I was there (at a different presentation, for me, not everyone laughed), and I still blocked out how BAD it was. And I totally didn’t recognize that the hundreds-of-years-old Witch was played by Kate Mulgrew. I lose points.

Still, the parts I played, the art I saw, the music I heard (not attached to the hideous presentation) were all cool. That’s not the right word. The felt right, proper, even. It felt like someone had sensed my silent, crotchety disaproval of these new RPGs and their three person party system, their lack of my beloved attributes, or perhaps the blasphemous minigames that took place in space and medieval China. Don’t even get me started on this fast travel you all love so much, or your damn lockpicking minigames.

I love all of the RPGs I play (including those that I just made not-so-subtle fun of), more than I should, I expect. But it’s been a while since a game really telegraphed its understanding of my desire for a specific kind of fiddly, archaic role playing. This is what the title screen (and title music), character creation, origin story cutscene, combat, and early dialogue did for me. I know this sounds weird, but I can’t say if the combat will really hold up in the end. I honestly think that the console solution for Dragon Age is inelegant, out of place, and unpleasant to watch or play. If you want to give me lots of abilities, 4 PCs, and tactical situations, don’t make me zoom into the character’s ass and switch control every time I want to carry out a carefully planned attack. It’s the least pleasant way I can think of playing an RPG. It works in Mass Effect because I play one guy. If you made me switch to Ashley every 5 seconds (and believe me, I would, her AI is bad enough), I’d stop playing your game.

Which is all to say that I (much like RPS’ John Walker) really want to like this game, and that I’ve only seen 10 minutes out of an 80 hour campaign. I will believe in this game until they drive it into the ground with Marilyn Manson and a prepubescent understanding of women (and men), sexuality, and human interaction. They’re not at that point yet (it’s pretty standard stuff, when compared to a lot of games. Better, even. That’s so sad, that I could write that and mean it), but they’re shuffling closer every day.

That’s it, no more writing about the tiny bits I played at E3. I’ll wait to pour my heart out again for the tiny bits I get to play at Comic-Con NY!

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Drake and his Fortune

Posted by flagg49 on June 8, 2009

So, here I am at last, the Other Blogger, of close genetic relation to the main one.  I’ve been working on a few other pieces, but I’m a desultory worker at best, and this is the first one to get done.  Which means that there are several other self-introduction paras floating around my hard drive, but I’m relieved to be able to scrap them all and just begin.  And this article makes a good beginning, because it introduces one of the most salient facts about me as a gamer, something I share with Tom:  I like stories in games.

That’s a statement that needs unpacking.

I like games that have narratives.  It doesn’t really matter what kind—extremely modular RPG-y, openworldy, fairly conventionally plotted, whatever.  I don’t even really know how to define what I like, except that it’s stories, and it helps me say what kind of gamer I’m not.

I don’t like bad writing or stories written apparently by five-year-olds, which, as I think Tom has had a lot of occasion to observe, is what you get in many, many games, from small titles where story’s supposed to be peripheral anyways, to supposedly AAA titles that get praised for their stories all the time (Infamous, GTAIV).  I also am not of that avant-gardey school of bloggers and developers who thinks that stories are old fashioned and that the future of interactive entertainment is post-narrative (Johnathan Blow, Tale of Tales, although I really want to play The Path and will hopefully write about it?).

That’s vague, I know, so I’ll try to flesh it out a little more by discussing a game I just now finished, at Tom’s behest, Uncharted:  Drake’s Fortune, which I deeply enjoyed. I liked it both because it tells a better story than most games, and because it was so—to use a word that seems invariably to come up in the reviews—“polished.”  I think the two are related, and I’ll be trying to say why. Read the rest of this entry »

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