A few months ago, I wrote about the popular mod turned indie game, Dear Esther, which I believed took many good steps toward reviving the interactive story experience as a genre, but was somewhat disjointed or perhaps misguided in its methods. Dear Esther was a game with several great elements. It had a good story premise. It had beautiful visuals with a very loosely defined aesthetic to go with the ambiguous plot line. It had good mechanics, though I don’t think the game took full advantage of them. Today, I want to talk about To the Moon which in my opinion is pretty close to what an interactive story should be. (more…)
Archive for the ‘Exemplary Games’ Category
Tags: Bioware, Electronic Arts, Guild, Massively multiplayer online game, MMORPG, star wars, Star Wars: The Old Republic, SWTOR
I’ve been encouraged lately by the thought that even though the world of game design has, on the whole, proven stubbornly resistant to learning from its mistake (mainly due to a collective memory that makes an ADHD ant appear to be a fount of oracular wisdom) some improvement is nevertheless possible. I’ve been quite impressed with the Bioware’s preparations to try and ensure that the launch of the massively hyped Star Wars: The Old Republic will not be an unmitigated disaster.
Tags: Cliffs of Dover, computer games, flight simulation, game design, game development, IL2: Sturmovik, simulation, Ubisoft
There are many mysteries in life to which we will never, ever find a satisfactory answer: why Wall Street continues to make money hand over fist in the middle of a recession, how baseball replaced watching paint dry as the US national past-time, why anyone takes Michele Bachman seriously.
One of those unsolvable mysteries is categorically not why the genre of online flight simulation remains a nerdy niche unheard-of, unheralded, and unvisited by the overwhelming majority of gamers. The reason is because flight simmers, especially the hardcore variety, really like the fact that their preferred gaming genre is deeply unpopular. In fact, they want it to be even less popular than it is and to that end willingly applaud flight simulation developers who insist on giving them shitty, unplayable dreck instead of actual functioning simulation games.
Tags: Arenanet, Fantasy, Guild Wars 2, Massively Multiplayer, MMO, MMORPG
If you watch a lot of old movies, particularly those that have a vaudeville-inspired dance number you will have seen this move. A guy or gal is dancing and they are swinging their arms in huge arcs forward and back, with an enthusiastic smile on their face, and their feet are similarly moving forward and back but they are actually dancing on the spot, sometimes even moving backward.
The video is, naturally, thrilling, sexy, sophisticated and full of all the visual splendiferousness that you would expect from any trailer for an MMO. Every MMO now promises to change the way we play MMOs; you don’t get invited to the party without making such a claim. What most gamers especially don’t seem to remember is that for the most part that claim has proved to be complete and utter bullshit, steaming layers of it simply covering the fact that the developers came up with a different and better-looking grind mechanic. The video, therefore, makes some bold claims about how this won’t be your grandmother’s MMO, that traditional MMOs have lost their way, that they don’t make you feel like a hero, and that Guild Wars 2 is going to remedy all that. In particular, the video puts a lot of emphasis on the game’s dynamic events system and the much hyped capacity of the game to change in response to player actions. This isn’t substantially different to anything that ArenaNet has been saying for months, but the claims are now accompanied by art which seems to be making its own kind of visual claim for the kind of world-shaking changes that the fevered digits of the player base would be able to perpetrate on other players.
Tags: Arenanet, Bioware, EVE, Final Fantasy XIV, Guild Wars 2, NCSoft, Pirates of the Burning Sea, Star Wars: Galaxies, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Tabula Rasa, The Old Republic
In a recent developer blog, Colin Johanson, Lead Content Designer for Guild Wars 2 asserts that their new dynamic content system will fundamentally change the MMORPG genre:
MMOs have become extremely popular, but the genre has done little to evolve over the past decade. Generally MMO players explore an unchanging, persistent game world, leveling up by performing quests which do not change the world in any way once completed. It’s time for the genre to take the next step, and explore the idea of a truly dynamic, living, breathing persistent world where the player’s actions really make a difference, and everything that occurs in the game world has cause and effect.
I’ve really been enjoying the Guild Wars 2 developer blogs. I like the use of the cartoon strips to poke fun at some of the hoary practices of traditional MMOs (in the blog providing an overview of the combat system, for example, players are all set to pitch into a bar fight but then are reduced to standing around trying to calculate their relative damage and attack stats; I wept bitter tears of recognition). The GW2 developers’ analysis of the problems with current MMOs is considered and, for the most part, accurate. The design they are proposing in response sounds great; everything about it (with the unfortunate exception of it being set in a fantasy realm, but I could possibly suck it up and deal with that) sounds like exactly the kind of game that I would love to play.
However, I don’t have a lot of faith that this kind of game will prove sufficiently popular to last very long.
Tags: Empire: Total War, R.U.S.E., real-time strategy games, simulation games, Starcraft, strategy games, Take Command: Second Manassas
It’s going to be a big year for real-time strategy fans with several eagerly anticipated games slated to come out this year.
There is, of course, Blizzard’s long “in progress” Starcraft II which still seems to be on track for a mid-year release. It is Blizzard so it will probably be a very good game. It is Blizzard, so it probably won’t be terribly innovative (and early reports have not been encouraging in that regard) because that is Blizzard’s MO: nothing particularly new, but do the tried and true better than anyone else. There are more than enough Blizzard fanbois to ensure that this will be a huge hit, although expectations are so insanely high for this game that there is no way it can possibly deliver everything to everyone.
Ubisoft is releasing Eugen’s R.U.S.E. in the first quarter. Whether or not its deception-based game mechanics will “refresh” the strategy genre remains to be seen but it is an intriguing idea with a lot of potential. It is a considerable advance over the traditional (and usually poorly and unimaginatively implemented) “fog of war” approach. The term “fog of war” is usually misapplied, actually, when it comes to strategy games. In combat situations it refers to the wide variety of factors that sow the seeds of confusion in the minds of commanders: limited knowledge about the enemy, about the terrain, about the disposition of your own units, previously unrevealed problems with your own communications infrastructure or the capabilities of weapons and units, and so on. In gaming terms, it is simply “here is a part of the battlefield that we won’t let you see” and more by good luck than good management this approach usually manages to accomplish the first two limitations described above, but little else. R.U.S.E. takes this one step further in that some of what you see will in fact not turn out to be what you think you see (a column of light tanks rolls toward your position and is suddenly revealed to be a squadron of King Tigers , that sort of thing). While many RTS games (the Command and Conquer series, for example) have employed units with stealth and/or deception capabilities, this falls well short of R.U.S.E.‘s vision of deception as a core gameplay mechanic on the virtual battlefield. Again, some suspiciously high expectations for this one, but again, that may just reflect your average gamer’s inability to keep the potential of any game in meaningful perspective once they catch the scent.
Napoleon: Total War has just been released. It has been promoted as the game that Empire: Total War should have been upon its release, with an improved battlefield AI, some long overdue campaign options (armies suffer attrition when marching through extreme cold and heat) and better eye candy. I have it, haven’t played it yet, reserving judgment.
These, then, are the heavy hitters of the RTS gaming world. However, the anticipation surrounding the release of all these titles will ensure that other titles, potentially just as innovative if not more so, will go unnoticed, simply because they come from smaller studios that don’t have the means to blanket the Internet and the gaming press with publicity.