Archive for May, 2012|Monthly archive page

On Putting Your Best Foot Forward

In Video Games on May 10, 2012 at 9:38 pm

I struggle to imagine a scenario where it does not benefit you to make the strongest first impression possible. Betas struggle with this, because for all their effort to proclaim that their work in progress is a work in progress, most gamers readily associate betas with finished products, likening them to demos or even free, yet temporary, access to the full game.

Some developers scoot around this in interesting ways. Arenanet has been very tight and controlling about it’s betas for Guild Wars 2 — control that has fallen apart somewhat after offering beta access as a pre-buy feature. Battlefield 3 devs were fairly adamant in explaining that even the build of the beta received by the public was outdated by a month or so, necessary to release a stable build and to focus testing in a specific area.

Demos, on the other hand, have no excuse for when they fail to be indicative of the real game, as we now see in the recent demo for Spec Ops: The Line. Read the rest of this entry »

Game Theory

In The Gaming Community, Video Games on May 9, 2012 at 4:11 pm

Oh, Internet. If there’s one thing you do well, it’s in presenting a complex, multifaceted issue as a binary yes or no question. Religion? Explainable in a forum post. Philosophy and morality? D&D solved that decades ago with their 3×3 alignment grid. Feminism? I’m sure there’s an aphorism regarding domestic household labor that’s appropriate.

To whether games are art, we’ve seen a great deal of discussion. “Yes!” sayeth those that have been touched by a game’s narrative or those holding high aspirations for the medium. “No!” shouts people that desperately skip plot segments and Roger Ebert. What do I say?

Probably something along the lines of “Do you have the complimentary handout that accompanies this lecture.” or, “Are you sitting down, this may take a while.” Read the rest of this entry »

The Gaming Network

In The Gaming Community, Video Games on May 7, 2012 at 4:36 pm

Being born in the early ’80s grants kind of a weird curve for my relationship with technology. Most obviously, it means that I grew up during the rebirth of post-crash video games, having been gifted a Nintendo at a very young age. It also allowed me to grow right alongside computing technology; I recall pounding out early essays on my dad’s brand-new Windows 3.x machine (and prior to that, swapping floppies out on a 386). By the time high school finished, I was a wiz at an early version of Photoshop, having taken the helm in teaching my web design class how best to use the program.

College granted both the formative years of my web presence, when I would make a number of forums my “home” online. To this, I owe a number of solid friendships that remain with me to this day. As it was also my first foray into the distant Big City of Chicago, a city I now call home, I got to take the family cell phone, which evolved into having my own phone as part of the family plan.

So it might be said that I peaked a little early to have really gotten on board with social networking. But even I can recognize that games — “traditional” “mainstream” or “hardcore” video games — are way behind the curve. Read the rest of this entry »

When Does Vista Matter?

In Video Games on May 4, 2012 at 7:44 pm

Telvanni Concept Art

I was going to come at this with purple prose, pontificating on how the times have changed. How games used to never take place in an environment we’d call familiar or recognizable. How even Doom‘s Mars-based military bases were only broadly and abstractly recognizable as such and quickly devolved into gamey hellscapes. How the first World War II military shooter took place in a castigated castle, rather than a blasted battlefield. How the inception of the RTS genre was not amidst tanks and planes, but Ornithopters, thumpers and sandworms. But I realized, I could say all of these things, with one simple sentence.

Back in 1997, when Duke Nukem 3D came out, it was considered significant and unusual that most of its levels were in an ostensibly modern setting. Read the rest of this entry »

Mass Effect: What to Expect When You’re Dissecting

In The Gaming Community, Video Games on May 3, 2012 at 7:03 pm

The best way to understand Mass Effect is to understand something of hyperdimensional physics. In the third dimension, we perceive the entirety of an infinite array of second dimensional information; this creates 3D space. From a 4D perspective, time becomes a traversable axis while perception exceeds and recedes into the past and future. In a theoretical 5D space, different timelines themselves come into play, the entirety of their 4D axis laid out for direct observation.

If this begins to reach into the areas that Man Is Not Meant To Know, you’ve begun to see the problem with an intense dissection and comparison Mass Effect‘s plot that the choices that end up sculpting the story. We knew that all that was presented was the illusion of freedom in what is actually a very well-defined plot, but Bioware approached the possibility — that we all wanted to believe — that the illusion was real, shortly before shattering that illusion with its ending. Read the rest of this entry »

Good Bad Games: The Paradox of Horror Gaming

In The Gaming Community, Video Games on May 2, 2012 at 7:26 pm

Horror games have it hard, tasked with producing something worthy amidst a sea of seemingly contradictory values: to create for general consumption that plays upon the very personal nature of fear; to define an unknowable experience; to merge player agency with protagonist hindrance; and to make a good game that will treat its players poorly throughout, expecting to be thanked for the pleasure.

It is, then, of no surprise that the software in this generation’s hardware have seen the decline of this tricky genre and its difficult to please fans. Read the rest of this entry »

Unforeseen Consequences: Reaping What’s Sown in Mass Effect

In Video Games on May 1, 2012 at 5:05 pm

Warning: Severe spoilers for Mass Effect 2 & 3

I’d read the opinion that Bioware has trouble with “longterm stories.” I did not then nor do I currently agree with that sentiment. Bioware in fact excels at long term stories, ones that last through multiple games and expansions, and not to put too fine a point on this, but they’re really the only studio doing this kind of thing. When was the last time you imported a savegame outside of Mass Effect? Or had a game series of closely aligned installments, each building upon the plot of the last? What games exist where decisions truly matter, to say little of the game actually acknowledging your own deeds?

No, where Mass Effect fails is in really letting you know what decisions it thinks matters, especially where this doesn’t match up with your own expectations for what’s important.

Read the rest of this entry »