Oh, Bother – RPS Interviews Molyneux

John Walker of RockPaperShotgun fame/infamy, depending on who you ask interviewed Peter Molyneux of game industry fame/infamy, depending on who you ask. Likely you’ve heard about the interview by this point. It is a write up of a 75 minute phone conversation that has a whole lot of emotion, but not much useful information for the reader.

Allow me to distill for you the things to be learned from this very large column of text:

  • The reports about the team size of Godus being decreased in favor of other games is inaccurate, the people working on other projects have a skill set that is more suited to early and pre-development.
  • Actually that is about it.

I’m mildly thankful for that information, I’ve not followed Godus much. I did read the Eurogamer piece on the guy who won the God of Gods contest, as it seemed an interesting side story to the meta aspect of games, their developers, and how they interact with the world. But this wasn’t a particularly informative interview. It didn’t illuminate anything, other than perhaps providing yet another data set on how emotional inquiries can make people react emotionally, even if they are desiring to be calm. Continue reading

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Whatever Happened to Diablo?

December 31st, 1996 is when Diablo was unleashed unto the world. It was great. Excellent even, one of my favorites. It catapulted Blizzard forward into the world like no other, and triggered Diablo 2 and 3 as well. The game world was moody, the writing was creepy, vague in all the right ways, and humorous at the right times. So where is it today? Well, it is scattered across eBay and Amazon used sellers and resellers.

Blizzard may have adopted digital sales, but not for Diablo. It isn’t even in the Diablo Battle Chest anymore. Now the chest is simply Diablo 2 plus the expansion and the strategy guide (which I would wager is woefully out of date with all of the balance changes and mild expansions like Pandemonium Events). Diablo has been left behind by Blizzard. You can’t even get it on GOG. Some of us still have our CDs, but for many, if not most, of those who play Diablo 2 or 3, the original is more a concept than an experience. I would love to see it for sale on Battle.net. Preferably with support for modern resolutions, and maybe, just maybe, a more streamlined store front interface (one of my few issues with the original Diablo). But this is only addressing the availability. We’ve got Diablo 2 and 3! Those are logically twice and thrice as good, right? Continue reading

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Gaming is the Highest Art Form

If the reason for your game is to tell a story you have to tell, consider writing a novel. If the reason for your game is to depict a vision, consider making a film. If the reason for your game is to articulate a political point, consider a blog where you can define your terms.

None of these things preclude a game as a choice, and a great game may have all of them. But the operative aspect of a game is in mechanics which respond to user input. If you do not feel you are ready for that aspect, your great story will be mired in poor scenarios, your grand vision will be worn thin by repetitious experiences, and your political point will be nullified by the dominant strategy gamers naturally discover in playing.

You must first love gaming as an action, a venue, a notion, and a lens through which to view the world. If you love your story, vision, or point more, the game itself will suffer for it. The game will be streamlined to keep player choice inside of these non-game aspects.

Regardless of which suffers intrinsically, the player will have a lesser experience, and all will be undermined. Make solid mechanics and user input the cornerstone of your game, and build upon that cornerstone that which fits on it. This is part of the art form of gaming. It is not in impersonating other art forms, in impressing critics of other fields, or seeking legitimacy by being covered by non-gaming media venues.

Gaming is the highest art form, because it doesn’t tell us strictly about the times in which it was made, or the people who made it, or even how it makes us feel. It can tell us who we are, by allowing us to explore the scope of our moral agency in a controlled fashion. Gaming is the art form which is a moral expression of all who partake.

The ceiling has never been higher for art, let’s not hunch our backs to endear the leading art forms of previous times.

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Quake Map Jam 3 Post-Mortem

Note: This post was written before the pack was released, so I’m far more embarrassed as to the map’s quality now than I was when this was written.

I’ve been rather quiet for a number of reasons, but a big one was my participation in the Quake community map jam. This is the third like it, and it used a Zerstorer theme. Being so inexperienced in the ways of mapping, and a huge fan of the mod Zerstorer, this appealed to me as there is room for brutalist architecture in a Zerstorer theme.

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By brutalist architecture, I mean low skill. So I pounced on it. I am rather proud of the fact that despite its numerous problems, the small scale, the features cut, and having ~1/4th the detail level I would like, that I still completed it. It is a titled level which you can play from start to finish, with themes, traps, secrets, and little bits to it. So this is kind of a post-mortem, but since I mostly did things wrong, it functions more as a list of things I need to do next time. I probably won’t do another map jam because though the deadline kept me motivated, it also put some stress on my family life. Sure a Quake map was part of my “bucket list” (or backpack list for Quake), so we pushed through knowing the deadline, but in the future any mapping will be likely on my own timeline. I.e., over months, rather than weeks.

So all that being said, Continue reading

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Quake Live on Steam – Thoughts

So Quake Live is now on Steam. For whatever reason, some people insist on calling it Quake which is just silly. I won’t be doing that, but I will be abbreviating it to QL.

A lot of mechanic changes seem to be operating under the auspices of making the game more welcoming, an understandable goal for a Free To Play title. But friendly mechanics can only work if the user can appreciate them, and that involves a useful UI. I’m not a UI expert, but if I’m going for a quick game and choose Team, don’t put me in a full game. I didn’t click Play to Watch.

The real crux is in all of the fairly random game design changes. QL is a modified form of Q3A. Q3A was very friendly to new players. Weapons respawned quickly and set the ammo for that weapon to either a minimum, or current + 1, making camping weapons or timing them a low return effort. This solution unto itself had the potency of Weapon Stay without the visual incongruity. Pair this with the mentality that QL is “too hardcore” or something of the sort. This is inane. QL has a high skill ceiling, but five seconds with any gun and playing two rounds on a map is going to teach you the nuts and bolts. The only not quite observable mechanic is in the finer nuances of bunnyhopping. Rocket jumping and plasma climbing are things you can observe. Item timing is a case of noting the time when you see an item picked up, and noting it again when it reappears. The rest is the mental juggling you would want to do, on par with the precision you would want to practice to improve your aim. Continue reading

The Costs of Kickstarting Games in Expensive Cities

Recently Tim Schafer tweeted a little bit about the cost of his Kickstarted project which he raised over $3 million dollars for. Some were critical of the fact that this yielded only one episode of the game. Schafer gave a quick run down which you can read below:

There is nothing wrong with Tim’s math, and in fact it lines up with other industries that labor is typically the largest cost to an enterprise.

Kickstarting has its share of controversy, you are investing in something without an explicit return for that investment should it succeed. Yes, there are rewards and the product – but not equity for example. Still, it has its value and has certainly changed the scene. The question then becomes one of, when is it responsible as an independent developer to source from the public? Continue reading

I Am a Gamer

I told myself I wouldn’t write about this. My concern with this blog is video games. Mechanics, designs, trends, culture, as well as the errors in covering such. I try to keep my politics rather separate, and have recently taken steps to keep politics out of my life per a doctor’s advice. Politics came to my gaming, and I’ve been flabbergasted by much of what I have seen.

I’m not going to talk about individuals, or even the hot topics. I am going to address some mental patterns I have observed among us writing class. This was spurred by the sudden appearance of “gamers are dead” themed articles. I don’t care if they appeared as part of a concerted effort, because grassroots or not, the idea itself is a bizarre attitude to take and should be addressed.

I recently wrote an article titled “What Is a Gamer” which explored how the term can be empty, as it is so broad an umbrella that it encompasses almost too many things. Like a stadium with a roof that could be mistaken for the sky. I stand by that article, particularly regarding the scope of my own life, but at the same time I must acknowledge that no matter how broad an umbrella, it still casts a shadow. I am much more than a gamer, all gamers are, but I remain a gamer.

The idea of “gamers” being dead is laughable, but the volume at which it is being touted by those who hold the megaphones on the internet is alarming. How many times have we seen a declaration of PC gaming being dead in the past decade? That was hyperbolic and inaccurate, and was regarded as such by any serious thinkers when it was said. Now we get a proclamation for not just a platform, but a category of people by the editors and writers of the most prominent sites. Is it any less hyperbolic or inaccurate? No. It is inflammatory writing, and frankly diving so deep in to such strong and divisive language is unprofessional. I’m not talking ethics here, I’m talking simply knowing your craft. This is shock authoring with a veneer of critique to claim a transcendence over an audience you don’t like. Continue reading

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Not All Quakes Are Alike

Recently the gaming journalism scene appears to have gone into over drive to display their lack of professionalism. That is concerning unto itself, but I’m not going to post on those hot topics. I would rather prefer to focus on the simple things that they get wrong, things which do not provoke a sense of scandal, but when noticed call into question their position as those who bring us gaming news.

As I have brought up previously, often game journalists have the same comprehension level of games, ludology, and the technology as the average consumer which results in them being as qualified as any commenter on YouTube or reddit. This is more grave through the simplicity of it. You need to understand the difference between a franchise name, and a game title.

The new changes to Quake Live were announced recently. They were controversial, and logically a lot of people had a variety of emphatic responses. This was covered at Kotaku by Nathan Grayson, and by covered I mean there was some copy and paste, screenshots of comments, and filler. In the original article Nathan spoke of “classic Quake” and how Quake Live was based off of “Quake III Gold”. The problem is Quake Live is an adjusted and free version of Quake III Arena, and has no bearing on the original Quake other than franchise name. The article also incorrectly cites nostalgia when referring to an active and current community. Nostalgia does not apply to the present, nor the recent. This set me off a bit and I commented on this a fair bit on Twitter: Continue reading

Oh Buoy

I know it isn’t what I should be fixated on, but I can’t get past the simple fact that the buoys shown in the Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare multiplayer reveal trailer rotate and boy in exactly the same fashion. To the extent that I have to wonder if it is one rotating brush, that was copied… I guess it could be the exact same animation for a mesh… But it just really sticks out to me.

TOXIKK – Debut Trailer – First Impression

Obviously before you should read any first impressions, you should have your own, so watch it:

Alright now let’s take it from the top. The trailer is broken up with big splashy text, so we can respond to that.

It’s about time to take the arena FPS back to its roots

Awesome! I am very excited to hear about this. I am looking forward to more brutal combat in interesting spaces! Continue reading