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9:44 AM on 05.23.2014

"Not my kind of game" or something about critical acclaim


I started noticing something about two or three years ago, when «clearly not for everyone» games started to get noticed along with many other independent games. Every time a game like Dear Esther, or some Tale of Tales’ project, or Gone Home, or any other game, which people also like to describe as «not a game» or even some silliness like «walking simulator» (that applies to QWOP much more than to Dear Esther), got released and had a lot of praise, thousands of voices everywhere shouted that the game is actually bad and shouldn’t exist in the first place. Now, games I’ve listed are a pretty easy target, which is exactly why I used them for the example, but what I wanted to discuss is a deeper problem. The fact, that lots of people seem to be drawn to playing any critically acclaimed game, expecting to love it.

«Well, if the game is critically acclaimed, it means it’s good, right?» Well, not nece— Let’s say yes, because it is true for the majority of cases. It means, that the game is good. Good at what it set out to do and what it did. Which doesn’t mean, it set out to do something you will like. Let’s take a different example, of an older and more settled genre — Starcraft 2. Metacritic shows, that at the moment, I’m writing this, Wings of Liberty (the first campaign of SC2) has the metascore of 93 and user score of 8.1. Will you love this critically acclaimed game? «If I like RTS games,» — you will probably answer. But you may not. Looking at some of the reactions for any game with high score and huge recognition you might find voices hating the game, because it’s not what they wanted it to be. And I’m wondering why this happens…

Easiest thing to do would be to just write it off as something, the industry, with «wide appeal» goals drove itself into. And it’s partially true, but it’s not the cause of the problem. Or, sorry, not the full cause of the problem. It’s something that feeds of the main problem, which is not a problem in the first place. Do you remember how when you were kids you wanted everything? Preferably cool and shiny and colorful and awesome looking. Later, you did learn what you like and what you don’t like, developed taste for different things. But even today, even if you’re not a kid anymore, if you would become interested in something new for you, something that has many different varieties and nuances and all the small things and differences, you won’t be able to just know things from the start, now would you? You wouldn’t know if you’d like banana flavored ice cream, unless you know what it might taste like by tasting similar ice cream and bananas, and even then you might not know how the mix of the two will work. And how different brands of ice cream might mix that flavour — maybe some will make it more sweet, maybe some will add a more creamy feeling to it. And with music — you never know if you’ll like, say, Falkenbach or Summoning, even if you know what Black metal is. And you probably won’t go into watching Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac expecting giant mechs and explosions, even if it has the similar reception as Pacific Rim.

And gaming, in its wide variety, is new for many people today. Gaming became almost as common thing, as other kinds art and entertainment. It’s everywhere and everyone is interested. And people want to try it, to learn what they like. And that’s where that other part of the problem comes into. While trying to «appeal for everyone», industry started to lose the nuances, the differences between genres. In trying to make every game «enjoyable for everyone» industry taught people, who are getting into games, that they can take any game with high enough score, and they will get it and love it. Long gone the notion, that RPGs are played for exciting stories and deep mechanics, the notion that FPS games are for those, who want almost non-stop action for those with quick reactions and good aim. And you know what? I’m all for variety, I’m all for blurring the lines, for creating more genres and subgenres. I’m all for making the start of the game easy to understand (while notnecessarily easy). And this happened and it’s cool. But what also happened is that nobody is given the chance to develop a «taste» in games. To learn, what you «get» and what you «don’t get». To fall in love with some niche. Tomb Raider, instead of being a 3D Prince of Persia, which lasts for 20 hours and focuses on exploration, jumping puzzles and inventory puzzles, is now a third person cover based shooter with RPG elements and multiplayer. Resident Evil, instead of being a survival horror (a name it invented), which can be completed in one and a half tense hours, and focusing on inventory management, exploration, light puzzles and managing resources, is a (guess what?) third person cover based shooter with RPG elements and multiplayer.

And we have a situation, where braver bigger developers and publishers are trying to still do something unlike the usual formula, smaller indie developers doing the same. And succeeding — Dark Souls is often called one of the best games ever, games like Gone Home, The Stanley Parable and Dear Esther get high praise. Because they resonate with some people. Not all the people, they’re not even aiming at doing that. No, just some people, who wanted that game. Yet, people, taught by the industry to love everything that gets praised, are playing those games just because of the score or general idea of what the game is and are unhappy. They disagree with the reviewers. «The reviewers lied. How can it be a good game, if I don’t like it? I was promised online coop in Dark Souls, why can’t I just connect with friends and talk over the voice chat? You can’t. So this game is bad. It has to be fixed. And reviewers are wrong!» Well, you get the idea.

It’s a silly thing, if you think about it. «Back in my days» (when kids didn’t get on my lawn), I missed lots of critically acclaimed games. Not because of money or platform issues, even though those were always true as well, but simply because I knew, that game is «not my kind of game» and no matter how amazing it is, I just won’t enjoy it. And I won’t like it. And it’s perfectly fine. Because, it’s not a game made for me (Drr drr). And niche games, games that can be enjoyed by select few, are also fine, as long as the players and developers are fine with it themselves, as long as it is something they set out to do. Also as long as they’re not called Daikatana and can be only enjoyed by John Romero, but that goes without saying. So, let’s all play and develop different games, develop taste and preferences and enjoy it, okay?   read


10:34 AM on 06.20.2013

Gamedesign through gamer’s eyes: Detached, indifferent


To get more people interested, games now use focus testing, insert hints into hints, show the way even in the most linear levels, set very short term objectives to the player. Yet, with all this, i feel, games not only fail to get more people interested, but make some people, who already love games, loose interest. I mean, sure, they do get easier to understand, more appealing to people, get more game elements and mechanics. Maybe they sell better (while still somehow failing with 3 million sales in the opening month). But i said interested. For a very long time I couldn't understand quite why this happens. But it seems, I've got it now. As always in my posts, I'm speaking from my experience and my knowledge, telling my own opinions, but usually I find some support beforehand or write about some topic, I've seen discussed before. This time, what I write might be true only to me and some of my friends and I might be completely wrong in my assumptions. But let's see, if whomever reads this can relate.

Once, we didn't have GPS or other kinds of clear directions in open world games. To play GTA III or Mafia: The City of Lost Haven properly you'd have to remember the roads, the layout of the city. Yet even with those two games there was a difference - I remember Liberty City of GTA III much better, than that of Lost Haven. Later i realised, that one of the biggest reasons for that was, that Mafia had a very useful and convenient map. It was a semi-translucent overlay map, not entirely unlike automaps in Doom and other older FPS games. And it was faster and easier to consult it and be on your way in Mafia, than using the in-game map of GTA III, instead of trying to remember the roads. Of course, the more linear structure of Mafia was also part of the reason, but the fact that i didn't need to remember the roads there, was reason enough for me to not care about that. And today, when GPS shows me the way to your objective, there's much less incentiveto find shortcuts, I just follow the line.

It's kind of a rule for shooter games lately to have more linear levels and set short term objectives to the player. The usual "follow, get there, open the door, take the RPG, shot the RPG, drop the RPG, go there" rollercoaster ride. And it's not a bad thing on its own - linear games can be entertaining and fun, while hints can help the game help the player keep the "exciting pace". But in both single-player and multiplayer, this amount of helpful information can lead to interesting results. We stop looking at the game. We look at indicators, at the mini-map, at the colors and visibility of names above the moving object on screen. We don't look at the game, don't think about things we do, once we realise how the game works (which takes a very small amount of time do to hint systems and simplified mechanics).

If you played different genre games for some time, you start noticing patterns, you start predicting things. If you see a big room or tons of weapons in a shooter, you know a boss or simply a big fight is coming. If you see carefully placed objects to take cover in the room in a third person shooter, you know there's going to be shooting there. If you find a savepoint in a classic jRPG, especially if it's been quite some time in a dungeon or some location, you know you should save, because the boss is coming up. If you're playing old school survival horror, you know you're safe in the room with a save point and if you enter a new room, monsters won't follow you there. You see those patterns and the most fun and memorable moments in gaming tend to happen, when the developers don't follow them, when they surprise you. When your predictions fail. Because we like pleasant surprises.

Most of the modern games combine the elements from the above 3 paragraphs. And when those elements are in the basis of the game or huge portions of the game, I simply zone out. Gameplay continues on autopilot, in a detached state, i become an indifferent observer of my own playing. Like going to the toilet at home, or going to your studies or your work for several years. It just happens. And I simply forget huge portions of gameplay, while my hands continue doing the familiar actions on a gamepad or kb+mouse, while I'm thinking about something else. Something interesting. Or nothing at all.

And you can blow up eiffel towers, can kill "my" wives and friends, can do all the crazy plot twists or through cool visuals and effects on screen. But I won't care. Because I won't be in your game at that moment, my eyes and hands will be playing it, but my mind will be someplace else. And i can see more and more reasons to agree with people who say, that while technically more and more people are becoming gamers, people who are truly excited for videogames are getting more of a rarity. Because, how can be excited about something some mindless and forgettable?   read


6:54 PM on 05.23.2013

Elrond same

An old rewrite of Nine Inch Nails' "Every Day Is Exactly the Same" lyrics I made about 3-4 years ago, while tired of overly samey games released back then. Just silly stuff, nothing special.

I believe i can see the future
Cause i repeat the same routine
I think i used to eat the cake
but then again — it might have been a dream
I think i used to have a choice
Now i never stray from path
I just follow button prompts
I really don’t want think i just play dumb

Uh huh

Every game is exactly the same
Every game is exactly the same
cover, regen health, quick time mini-game
Every game is exactly the same

I can feel as game holds my hand
In case i get lost again
Sometimes i think i’m happy this way
Sometimes, yet i still pretend
I don’t even care how the plot started
But i can tell you how they all end

Always

Every game is exactly the same
Every game is exactly the same
cover, regen health, quick time mini-game
Every game is exactly the same

I used to write numbers on pieces of paper
Now i always know where i can find
hints
I was well hidden in the shadows
Now everyone seems to have lost sight
I’m still a dreamer
Gritty reality bleeding through
I wish this could have been any other way
But i’m a gamer, i don’t know what else i can do

Every game is exactly the same
Every game is exactly the same
cover, regen health, quick time mini-game
Every game is exactly the same

Every game is exactly the same
Every game is exactly the same
cover, regen health, quick time mini-game
Every game is exactly the same   read


8:35 AM on 05.21.2013

Secret of digital distribution

Today i saw this interesting news post on Steam. It really confused me, because i knew those languages were previously available in both Skyrim and its DLCs. Turns out, they were. In locally sold retail copies of the game, which were completely different from the copies you could buy on Steam. In fact, if you'd buy one of those DLC on Steam previously, it seems, they would be incompatible with those specific localized versions of the main game. And this blows my mind.
We're in 2013. We have this wonderful thing called "digital distribution" which came a long way in gaming and other forms of entertainment in the last 4-5 years. From highly untrustworthy deals of early PC EA and console services, where it specifically stated, that you will not be able to redownload the game after a certain period of time, will not be able to get the game if you change your hardware, or couldn't get any service of this kind because you live in a certain part of the world, to super convenient services of today. Most prominently Steam, where you can get your game from any part of the world, you will most likely have regional pricing, since Steam allows developers and publishers to control pricing and restrictions for every single country in the world specifically. Developers and especially publishers with their huge departments dedicated to regional marketing and pricing and all the questions related to choosing best ways to make money in each part of the world, can do this quite easily with huge benefits for both themselves and the end users.
So why the fuck do we have a situation like the one described in the first paragraph? Why the fuck do we have situations like the one, which happened last year with the Russian version of Borderlands 2? Version, which is by the way still a completely separate Russian only game. Game build on Unreal 3 engine, one of the defining characteristics of which is the ability to support for a lot of different localizations at the same time, because of which main Borderlands 2 game supports English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish and Korean languages. How can you fuck it up?
This baffles my mind. Publishers have access to this huge super easy to use service, with which they can make money while keeping their customers happy. Why is that you are so keen on trying to turn the completely different in the way it works digital distribution into late 90s retail market? It won't work. And why would you? Because that's how it worked previously? Well, guess what, publishers, digital distribution allows you to make money even more easily, why would you cling to the worse way of making money anyway? And it's not a hard thing to understand. I'm saying this because for some weird reason most indie and mid-range developers have no problems whatsoever with making it work the way it should work and making money, while keeping customers happy.
Now, look, i can understand why you would keep the release date separate. It's stupid, very stupid, but fine - you need to keep your retail partners happy and in retail it's usually impossible to make a worldwide release on the same date. Or it least, it seems impossible yet it sometimes happens. But still - that's an important reason and while it still looks stupid in digital distribution age, it still makes sense. But all this "separate versions for different regions" in digital releases bs? Why? Now, i don't know about consoles in this regard, but on Steam it's easily possible to make the game have one id and be considered one and the same game for every region, while making it regionally restricted where needed due to the price difference. It checks IPs. You can circumvent that by using VPN, but it's usually not free slow and painful to use. So most people will not use that and get the proper version for their region for the price you set for them. And if you're afraid that they wont - well, most people aren't dumb to buy cheaper version and waste time with VPN, they will just download the cracked version for free and play the game anyway, while the publisher will get no money from this at all. So why bother with all these stupid hoops for the customer to jump through if he wants a proper version of the game in the first place?
It's really annoying to see huge publishers just completely missing the point of digital distribution and making stupid things, while hoping they will get away with that. I mean, that Resident Evil: Revelations pricing error i was angry about a month ago? Still not fixed. And yes, it was an error - same error, in fact, happened with Remember me at the same time, however that one was fixed few weeks later. RE: Revelations still isn't.
It's weird. We have several amazing services of digital distribution, which are truly the evolution of how you get and pay for your entertainment. Services, which allow publishers and developers make more money out of customers, while keeping them happy. Services which allow to truly cover the global market with ease. And yet all those Rockstars, and 2Ks, and Capcoms, and Zenimaxes are constantly screwing it up for both customers and themselves.   read


12:13 PM on 05.11.2013

Nintendon't land


I was born in the Ukrainian SSR in 1985. My first contact with video games was in about 87 or 88 with some weird light gun and joystick thing, which we would connect to the old soviet CRT TV and shoot white squares on the black background. I guess, it was some Atari clone, but i never knew the name. Then we had those fun games called "Electronika". Those were simple, but  fun and I was really glad that a few years later we would have portable Tetris games as well. I wondered if all the world knew about this game made by a soviet game designer. Then I'd have a PC, one of the soviet-made ones, called Poisk 1. Worked on tapes at first, but then we'd buy a floppy drive and copy the floppies, because you can't really buy soft and games, right? I knew you couldn't, so i never questioned it. But then we had a revolution called Dendy. An "add on" (for TV), as we called it, or "приставка" (pristavka) in Russian. That thing was so cool, it had yellow cartridges and a ton of awesome games. One of the best was, of course, Super Mario Bros. made by some company called Nintendo. Shame it never got a proper sequel, only weird ones, which were clearly unofficial. And then we had Mega Drive, then Playstation, then Playstation 2 - no need to choose, just a straight road of definite upgrades. There were some weird "consoles", as I learned they should be called much much later, i heard about or played, like 3DO. Doctor Hauzer was awesome, Way of the Warrior was fun and then there were those silly funny "on-rails" shooter games... Mario for me, and many people of my generation living in many post-soviet countries, was a thing from the childhood, quite quickly changed for more awesome things, mostly due to the lack of any sequels or follow ups. Well, except for that weird movie i kinda liked, but which had nothing to do with the game.

And then, in the early 00s the internet became accessible and I learned that most of the world lived a very different gaming life. Electronika games were clones of Nintendo Game & Watch. Dendy was a clone of a thing called Nintendo Entertainment System. Sega Mega Drive (known Genesis in US) actually had to compete with a thing called Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Playstation had (some) competition with Nintendo 64... Nintendo, Nintendo, Nintendo.... Final Fantasy, i first learned about from Playstation 1 era, was a Nintendo exclusive before, whaddaya know. There was a thing called Legend of Zelda and it was, apparently, pretty big, and my favorite Legacy of Kain series seemed to have been inspired by it mechanically. There was a weird game called Super Metroid which i later found out to be one of my favorite games ever. Same happened with Chrono Trigger. Oh, and Mario? You won't believe it, but it actually had sequels! Lots of them! And it's probably even bigger than Sonic! Oh and my favorite 3D platformer game Gex: Enter the Gecko? Totally copied it's formula from a game called Super Mario 64.

Those things, things a lot of western Europe, Japan and most of American continent lived with most of their lives, - they were new to me in the early-mid 00s. Nintendo never had, and still doesn't have, a real solid presence in post-soviet union countries. It was never a revered holy household name for gaming needs. All because of one simple reason - Nintendo never bothered to be a part of this market until a few years ago, when it was (and still is) way past its prime days. Most people didn't seem to care much about their wiggly offering, a lot still don't. DS fared a bit better. Because it could be easily hacked and pirated, since it's nigh impossible to find any games sold legally otherwise.

And you know, maybe some people from Russia might disagree with the history as i present it. Russia was always *the* videogame market of all the post-soviet territories, hell there even was an "Official Playstation Magazine Russia" back in the late 90s, when you wouldn't be able to get anything for PS1 legally in Ukraine. Besides, Nintendo entered Russian market a few years ago, you still won't be able to find any non-imported Nintendo stuff in Ukraine today. But the point is - when a lot of people from "the west" seem to be all excited for Nintendo presentations, announcements and other news, most of the gamer post-USSR don't give a crap. And it's a very strange feeling, to see the excitement like this and understand the history behind it, but not feel it yourself.
Ukraine is a PC and Sony gamer land. Those are two constants which were with most people since the independence. Nintendo never bothered to get us excited, so we never were. Microsoft still excludes us from the list of Xbox Live supported countries, so most never buy an Xbox or a GFWL PC game. Some pirate those. Quite a lot, I'd even say. And it's not a nice thing to do, especially since today you can order things from abroad via the internet quite easily. But, at the same time, would it surprise anyone to see people not supporting systems, which are not supported in the country they live in?

So if you live in "the West" and ever see a person on the internet or real life, who lives in any post-soviet country and says strange things about Nintendo (or Microsoft), says that Mario is a game for kids, that Nintendo or consoles in general just suck - maybe now you will understand the reason for that. And if not, i hope, that at least it was interesting to read about a very different environment for a gamer than that you probably live in.   read


4:49 PM on 04.18.2013

It seems Steam supports questionable pricing policies

Several years ago Steam did a very clever decision to support several distinct regions by allowing publishers and developers set specific pricing for those regions and also allowed them to set specific reginal restrictions which can limit languages available for the game, the ability to gift the game or simply the inability to play the game if your IP is detected as being from the "wrong" country. It was a nice step, the one that, it seems, eventually made the previous software piracy heaven CIS region and, mainly, Russia, the second biggest market for Steam. However, sometimes the tools given to publishers, either wittingly or unwittingly, used for some questionable practices. You may remember Borderlands 2 RU 2k fiasco from last year, but there are smaller problems from other publishers that seem to fall through cracks. Which brings me to the conversation I've had with Steam support over the last week. You can read it here.

To give some background to the differences in pricing - the regional pricing on Steam can be set to either entire regions or separate countries, this i know for sure from one developer i know personally. This, ideally, allows for every game developer and?or publisher to select the optimal price for any given region/country and get people interested in buying your game, which is good for everyone involved (if the game is any good, of course). For CIS region, which is the majority of the post-soviet territory, there's usually one pricing, in USD, while Russia gets an equialent of that USD pricing, with slight or major differences in any direction, but in their currency, which is rubles. Most indie or middle-tier developers tend to not overuse (or use at all) the regional restricions and just slightly adapt the pricing, while most AAA titles from big publishers go all the way with all the restrictions they have. And that, in itself, is not a bad thing when done right. However, there are several examples, which i outlined in my talk with Steam Support, where the pricing has been either intentionally or unintentionally selected in a very unfavorable (and legally questionable) way for CIS region. Examples i used included Resident Evil: Revelations pre-order, which costs full US/ROW 49,99$ price, yet is region restricted and has the same id (and regional settings) as Russian version, which costs about 20$. Dishonored, which tells outright on the steam store page, that if bought it will be playable only in CIS territories, yet costs full 60$. Star Trek pre-order, which has the same problem as the RE: Revalations. And, if you think Russian store doesn't get any wrongs, for a very long time Skyrim expansion Hearthfire was at about 20$, 5$ more than other expansions, while everywhere els its price was 5$.
With so many regional options, you'd expect mistakes, especially the ones that go in favor of publishers. What you expect as well, however, is an adequate reply to people pointing out those mistakes, which is - fixing these mistakes and refunding people, who were decieved to pay more for a cheap product in some way. What you don't expect is Steam support saying that there is no problem. You might also notice, that there was no fix as for Ms. Splosion page (addition that it contains GFWL on store page, which is a requirement), something i pointed out in the first question, as well. I honestly don't know how to even react to this, as i thought that Valve did care about their reputation.   read


10:03 AM on 04.15.2013

Two simple hints about Greenlight from a concerned gamer



I'm one of those people, who check all the games on Steam Greenlight when they can. There's always a chance to stumble upon some really cool game you might like or a project which you might not like and would probably not buy, but still support by saying "yes" just because it looks cool. And while the service itself is far from perfect, a fact acknowledged by Valve themselves, it makes it easier for a lot of independent developers to get on Steam, the service which tends to help the game sales immeasurably. So let's leave the imperfections of the service itself to Valve to fix, while I want to name two big things developers themselves should consider, while trying to Greenlight a game, from the viewpoint of a person who's making the votes.

Don't go there too early. I've seen numerous games on Greenlight which are in a very-very early stage of development or even the concept stage. There is a special section for Concepts on Greenlight now, but even with it you should always understand a simple thing - even on Kickstarter projects with big names attached to them failed, most likely due to them being in early concept stage. And Greenlight puts the question as "will you buy this game?" When there's no game to see, the most likely answer you get is "not interested". Sure, there is an "Ask me later" option, but with more than 1,200 and growing projects, do you think a lot of people are going to choose "Ask me later" over "Not interested"? When I see a game on Greenlight with a demo or at least a tech demo, or a game already released on other channels, I'm instantly more interested in a project and willing to check more of it. Especially, if it grabs my attention, which leads into the second point...

Promote your game well. Recently Jim Sterling wrote a nice piece on Indie games, which fail to understand the need in promoting themselves and a lot of similar things can be said about games on Greenlight (which are part of the discussion there anyway). I can understand why amazing La-Mulana had a difficult time with promotion, due to a language barrier and difference in how indie game development is now in Japan versus the other parts of the world - unsurprisingly even NIGORO's Naramura-san speech from recent GDC 2013 is hard to find being discussed on the English-speaking parts of the internet. Yet, it's strange to see a lot of potentially amazing games without language or other barriers fail to understand that almost instant Greenlight success of games like Black Mesa or The Stanley Parable HD was mainly due to how they were supported by both community-sites and "game journalism"-sites. Having a "Support us on Greenlight" banner on your site, a lot of people might not even know of, is not enough. Making a Greenlight page which screams "we love the game we're making and you might love it too!", talking to people, trying to get attention of blogs and sites, acting through social media - doing all kinds of PR, helps. Obviously, it works better when done right, and done wrong might even hurt the perception of the game. But it's a risk worth taking, if you truly want people to notice your game and get Greenlit.   read


7:01 AM on 03.26.2013

Use more lube and stop whining



Recently Resident Evil 6 got released on PC, and I, with my undying (or probably, currently, undead) love for the series since 1996, couldn't pass it, despite the mixed, at best, reactions to the game from most sites and people i trust opinions of, including dtoid's own Jim Sterling, who hated the game. I spent three days straight playing the game and managed to actually get quite a lot of enjoyment out of it, even though it may have been dangerously close to masochistic at times. Yet, I felt that the game's potential, it's great ideas, no matter how shitty implemented, and it's first ever since Zero and CVX true feel of Resident Evil in terms of the characters and the story, were good enough for the game to be enjoyed, at least by fans. For that, however, i felt that some smaller and much easier to fix things could be changed considerably improving the gameplay experience. So I've made a list and posted it on Steam game discussion and Capcom Unity forums in naive hope that Capcom, while providing the post-launch support, may sometimes visit those places and might read and consider some of the things I've suggested, or ignore it, but "at least I tried". Obviously, it got quite a lot of comments i like to call "use more lube and stop whining" or, even more often "i didn't read what you said, but use more lube and stop whining".

It has been talked about many times, yet it still amazes me every time someone postes constructive criticism to something, because he/she cares and loves the game, but it gets negative reactions from userbase, and in 90% only userbase, not the developers themselves. In fact, developers, escpecially small indie developers, seem to love this kind of feedback as they realise, that this can make their game better, which, in turn, makes it a win for everyone. I've had examples of it on my experience, in fact, with one really cool puzzle platformer game Vessel (which is on sale now on Steam, btw). I've posted a similar post, less refined and not as good argumented then the RE6 one, i might add, on Steam forms for the game, which, expectedly, first got the reaction from people who thought that tl;dr is a great argument for discussion, but then got attention of the developers, with whom i had a nice dialogue about things which could've been changed in the game to make it better, but without compromising anything, things that have been released later as a patch. As an added bonus, people replied in that thread, that the reaction from developers motivated them to buy the game during the sale, when they decided to check the forums about the game first. Win for everyone - we got a better game, developers got a good reputation and sold the game. (And, as i said, it is a fun game, so check it out).

I don't know why consumers tend to be so defensive about so many wrong things, while they are so eager to "defend" content producers from things those content producers actually benefit from and care about. Don't understand, why people can't understand that the point of argumented criticism is to make something better, something the one who makes the criticism actually cares about, that this kind of criticism comes out of love, not hate. And i really truly have no idea, why anyone who doesn't bother to read the post feels that it's his/her duty to tell the entire world in the comment section, that he/she didn't read the post.

P.S. tl;dr version - people make me sad.

P.P.S. Of course, there are always people who do read and do provide good arguments, it's sad, that they tend to be in the minority.   read


7:51 AM on 12.19.2012

Gamedesign through gamer’s eyes: Fuck Earth



(also on my blog)

How many times have we saved planets, worlds, universes and all of their inhabitants, or watched them die, when something goes wrong? You’d think, we will get so used to it, we shouldn’t even care and just go through motions with every storyline like that. Yet still there’s a game from time to time which has familiar character personalities and storylines but makes us care about them, live with them, believe in them and love them. A game which understands, that it needs to motivate the player to do all that. Which knows, that it’s not enough to just assume that the player will just start caring on his/her own.

One of the biggest recent examples of a game, which completely confuses these priorities, was Mass Effect 3. A game which managed to both understand how to make you care, and completely miss the point, as if it’s parts were created by different people (which may be the case, actually). This game starts with the meeting of some «important people» in Earth, Reapers attack (a strange AI race, which seemingly wants to destroy all living things in the universe or at least Milky Way galaxy), death of some kid and Shepard (who is the main character) going to save everyone and everything. Already I have questions and problems with this — developers assumed that the player will care about new locations and characters, with whom and which we don’t even get properly acquainted, and which appear for a really short while in the start of the last part of the trilogy. My first reaction to all that was: «Fuck Earth! Let’s gather our forces in some other system, while most Reapers are in the Solar System!»

Now, don’t get me wrong — i care about real world Earth, real world people, countries and all the other real world stuff. This is «my» world — i was born here, i live here, i know it and i care about it. But in the Mass Effect world? I don’t give a shit about your Earth — i wasn’t even there at any point before, there’s not a single character i care about there, who can’t relocate if the Earth or even the entire Solar System get’s destroyed. Hell, i even know that humanity itself is not going to suffer that great, because a lot of humans live away from Earth or Sol. Sure, the destruction of «homeland» is going to be a tragic thing, but it’s less important when you know that the entire galaxy is in danger. And, what’s even more interesting, it seems that developers understand that too as about 80% of the game is about characters and places the player will definitely care about. You can save the Citadel again, the true home for the player, who has saved it before, knows it’s the center of the entire galactic union, and helped it’s people many times before and most characters you care about are there. So the game is about all that for the most part… but then just forgets about it, says that the Earth is important, then just turns Citadel into a lifeless plot device, disregarding everyone on it, and completely missing the point. Oh and yeah — i somehow should care about the only kid shown in the entire trilogy, who has been shown for a few moments and acted like an idiot. No thanks.

Of course, ME3 is far from being the only example. Most recent «cinematic» action games love to show mass destruction of the world famous places, expecting that mere view of that destruction will impress you, but usually they just make you yawn. For example, Modern Warfare 3 decided to drop the Eiffel Tower in one mission, but despite the pretty good audio and visuals it’s hard to care about that happening — you don’t care about the character you control, about that virtual Eiffel Tower of that virtual world of Modern Warfare. And even if i would live in Paris i doubt that moment would make me care much more, because it’s just a visual thing that has no implications for the player. Even if, for example, captain Price was in the Tower at that moment you could expect player show any emotion at the situation — it wouldn’t be just a visual cool thing, but would be something that may influence the fate of one of the most known and loved characters in the game universe. Instead, most «cinematic» shooters just expect you to care about their virtual worlds, because they’re «just like the real one!»

Or the Dishonored starting point of the story? I criticized the emptiness of the player character a lot, but even with such empty vessel, the game could make you care much more about what’s going on with a stronger start. Show Corvo’s life with the empress and her daughter, show how important these characters are to each other, how they care about one another. After this introduction, be it a short one or even not placed at the very beginning of the story, and the murder of the empress and kidnapping of lady Emily would’ve become a personal insult for the player, the personal problem he/she would want to solve. But instead the game just tells you that Corvo cared about empress and he is very upset that she’s dead, it would be enough for the player to care. It’s no surprise that Emily is the character you care more about, because you have a small interaction with her at the start of the game, which establishes her character and her relationship with Corvo quite well in just few minutes. And she becomes a more important character than her mother in player’s eyes. And, while this was probably the intent anyway, it makes the opening murder to seem completely mundane and hard to care about. Which is not a good start for a revenge story.

Obviously, the points i make here only apply to those games, which try to emphasize the story and make it the key element to motivate the player to keep playing. Although, ironically, some games with close to no story and no emphasis on it whatsoever may make you care more than those, where the story is the key, if the player has enough active imagination. And, for example, Knuckles story in Sonic games might come off as a better revenge story, than Dishonored. Mostly because, Knuckles is a memorable character. And if you have a unmemorable character in a unmemorable world it’s hard to care. Even if the unmemorable world is Earth.

P.S. Jim Sterling had a good video on a similar topic, about the importance of happy moments in sad stories, because it’s hard to care about constantly grim and depressed characters and worlds.   read


6:40 AM on 10.10.2012

Dear Dan. Talking with Dan Pinchbeck. Part 4



(original photo here)

And original post on my blog here.

It’s time for the final part of the super long and exciting talk with Dan Pinchbeck. As promised, we talk about CryEngine, pros and cons of making two games at once, my dream design idea, «meaningless» assets in games, Dan gives advices on Surviva— grr…Survarium and then goes all out with his love and admiration for STALKER series. But we start with an awkward pause from the last part.

Klarden: *awkward pause* Riiiight… I had this question in my head there and forgot it -_-. Oh well, until I remember it, a rather random question instead. Why did you decide to go with CryEngine for Rapture? Was it your decision or somebody else’s on the team?

Dan Pinchbeck: No, it was a decision made by me before we employed anyone. I remember when FarCry first came out and I was playing with modding in CryEngine, I just felt that it was such a fantastic tool. So it always kinda marked as a probable engine, that if we were going to start from scratch and could choose any engine, then CryEngine would be the most likely choice. And the indie terms arrived so it seemed pretty easy to do. And I was at GDC last year and did a couple of presentations on it, and even though I’m not an artist or a coder, the way in which you can link programs up and speed you can iterate change in it, it’s just phenomenally powerful. And when you want to make an open world and decide on the engine… We looked at different engines and I knew that I wanted the visual quality to be at kinda Esther level. But there aren’t many engines out there where you can have that kind of fidelity in graphics and that kind of scale of open world. So we asked a lot of programmers using different engines, like Unity, UDK, Source… And they didn’t have the power to handle that kind of environment, all the things we wanted to do.

So we ended with the engine I wanted to work with, but it wasn’t because I just wanted to work in it, but because it was the only engine that could do it. And I’m really pleased. Crytek is very supportive, really helpful, it’s great working with them. But there are many engines for an open world. But I didn’t want it to look like it was something built with an open world engine. I wouldn’t want to build it in a Fallout engine, because it would’ve looked too much like Fallout.

So how is it… Well, Amnesia and Rapture are rather different games, and they run on different engines, so… How is it, working on two different games at once?

Oh, it’s a bit of a head trip :). So, there are two teams, which are completely separate, and I’m working on both games, Jess is writing music for both games, Samuel, the audio designer, is working on both games, programmer Maarten is doing coding for both games. Then, for Rapture we have Andrew, a great designer who is leading on the design, so I’m more of a creative director on that, and he’s actually doing the design, and then there’s a lead artist and an artist. And in Pigs I’m much more involved in the level design side, and then I’ve got another designer, who’s doing the scripting, and then we’ve got another lead artist and artist on that. So there are two separate build teams, and then the soft asset content management is shared across both games. There’s no way we could have the same art team working on both games. But the core of thechineseroom, that don’t have to be working on incredibly deep specifically technological level with the engines, can switch across both.

And I think it’s good for us. Although really really intense as it is a very hard work. It kind of stops you from getting too locked in to any of the games, you’re always being jolted back out of the game, which means that you have to get back to the game, and you’re kinda seeing it slightly differently. And there’s a rather good cross-fertilization of ideas. And you can look and go: no, we want to push it in this direction and not in this direction, because we’re doing it with this game. And I think for Rapture it’s… The good thing about doing Pigs is that between Esther and Rapture we get a game which is unequivocally a game. And we can make Pigs, cause I love the IP, and I like making a game. And then with Rapture people won’t go «oh, you just make Dear Esther-kind of stuff». We can say: no, we’re making completely different kinds of games. And we might make a much more traditional game after Rapture comes out and we chose to explore this, cause it’s an interesting thing.



So it’s good. The diversity is good… But it’s so fucking hard :). Particularly when you get to milestones, which arrive for both games at the same month…

You’re planning to release Amnesia before Rapture, right?

Yeah, the idea is that… Frictional is looking at Halloween. It’s the target date. So we will hopefully release Pigs on Halloween, if we can. And Rapture, at the moment, is going to be in 2013. But exactly when, we don’t know. We’re talking to some extra investors at the moment. Because we need more time on it.

Oh, I remembered the question. Did you try The Stanley Parable?

I actually have a new build of it… I spoke to Davey Wreden the other day and… He sent me the version of the latest build. They’re working on a new version. And I planned to play it yesterday, but then I realised I had no Portal 2 installed on PC, I had it on console. And I started downloading it and it said that the download will be ready in 14 hours… So it’s there, and I’m hoping to play it this weekend. I’ve seen bits of it and I’m really intrigued. I feel very guilty that I haven’t played it yet. It’s my weekend’s job :).

[b]Yeah, I love how he made it. You are a part of the story in a very interesting way. And while it doesn’t feel like it has an agenda, of criticising games or anything, it is a kind of a satire at the same time… And at the same time it’s also a very enjoyable game. Something that not a lot of developers can do right.

Right, so there was an idea I had I wanted to ask you about. Have you played oldschool jRPGs with all the pixel characters which often looked quite the same?[/b]

No, I could never get into them. I remember when I bought the first Playstation, I thought: I’ve got to buy Final Fantasy, I’ve gotta do this. So I bought it, got about an hour in it and just… I’m just no getting it. I can see how great it is, but it just doesn’t work for me.

So I was dreaming once and… You know how you can usually explain to yourself everything you have in the dream, while you’re dreaming. Like: yeah, I’m swimming with sharks in soup, that’s completely logical, I always do it on Sundays. And I wondered why not many games, if any, explored the concept of slightly but constantly changing, in a very subtle way, the game world and characters? So the players might not even notice it until it becomes too apparent. And to have s completely simple and mundane story at the same time, without any reality-bending or time and space manipulation stuff. So you come into the town and some NPC goes the usual: find me my ring. And you do some questing and monster slaying or whatever, return to the NPC and he’s a completely different character, but he goes like» yeah, thanks for finding my ring» as if he is the same character. And I wondered, if it is even possible to do this subtle thing right, especially without some text parser, so the player can actually write like «what the hell is going on», when he notices that something is wrong?

Hmm… Some elements of that are done in some games, yeah. Even in Esther, Rob’s put some things in it, where you have different objects in the environment. So you’re just going «did I just see that? Was that here a minute ago?» I really like this kind of concept. Oh, and Amnesia does this in some places. I think that it’s because of the model… Well, the model is: if you make and expensive game, and you make an asset, you want to get everything you can out of that asset, cause it costs too much. So the idea of chucking stuff away, that might not be noticed, becomes really really problematic.

And, again, it goes to things like what GSC did with STALKER. You can find the entire building complexes, and there’s nothing in them, no gameplay. And in traditional game design, it’s just ridiculous. It’s a laughable way of building levels, because you go: this asset costs money, what is its functional work in the game? But it’s a brilliant game because it has this extra stuff in it. And if you build something extra it kinda goes, that if you’re building something that we should make sure that enough players notice it. And for that we’re going to make it more obvious. And then suddenly the entire point of doing it in the first place is gone.

But I think people should do more things like that. Cause it unsettles you. Because the idea of feeling that something’s wrong, but not quite getting why you feel like that creates a really fantastic emotional state for the player. And if the player is in that state… It’s like why Amnesia is such a good game, cause you constantly don’t know what’s going on. So everything becomes significant. And you start scrutinizing the environment and going: «That was something! What does it mean? What does that mean? What’s this gonna do? What is that?» But no, they’re all static objects, yet you’re doing so much more work as a player. So I think that’s something to explore more in design, definitely.

And the fun thing with games like STALKER is that, it was so long in development and maybe one of those unused buildings was going to have a purpose, but it never happened. And other games, that had more planned, like Soul Reaver, and, probably, Silent Hill also have this stuff. Like in Silent Hill you have this huge town, and most of it is actually empty. There are some small easter eggs, like «REDRUM» written somewhere on the wall, but it’s mostly nothing. And, as a player, you’re always thinking that it does have some purpose. You’re going: well, maybe if I play it like 50 times, something will change on the level, something new will appear? And the player tries that. He plays the game more and every time explores those places. And nothing changes. But he still wants to find something.

You want to, yes, I think that’s the point. And it kinda rewards that investment. Cause if the environment is great, it’s atmospheric and everything else, it’s kind of its own reward. And i find those locations, even if they don’t have gameplay in them, rewarding to go in. Because you feel so sucked in the atmosphere, in the game world, that you’re just enjoying it.



Skyrim does this really well too. The best bits of Skyrim for me are outside quests and outside dungeons, where just being in the world is rewarding. It’s that idea in the game design, that if there’s a situation in the game it has to be exploited to the max, it has to stimulate the player constantly and you get only one type of emotional experience if you do that. But if you have the space, just time to stop and take in the world, being in the world… Red Dead Redemption does it brilliantly. My favourite moment in Red Dead Redemption is you sitting on horse, on a hill, watching the sun go down. And you’re so engaged in the game. And it’s why I far prefer Red Dead Redemption to Grand Theft Auto. Because you don’t get those moments of: I’m here, I feel like I’m here, I feel, like this is a real space.

Ok, so since we’re almost running out of time to talk… (We planned this a bit better than the last time — Klarden) You’re really excited about Surv— Survivar— Survarium… Ugh, the Vostok Games’ game.

Haha, yeah.

So what you, as a fan of STALKER, a fan of STALKER from another country, would like to see in that game?

I think, the thing which STALKER could never do was that you could never get those social hubs. Cause it was AI. And it wasn’t the fault of the STALKER design team or the engine, it’s just AI, it’s always going to be just AI. But I remember playing Call of Pripyat and thinking: but if these were players, and it wasn’t like the bandits are gonna get together and wipe out the stalkers, but you’re actually there with someone around, who’s going to say: «Hey, see that guy? He’s been trading a lot of artefacts. Let’s follow him, knock him off and shove him in a boiler and take what he’s got.» Those things will kinda emerge, and i think, if they pull it off, that’s where it’s got its real potential, where you have this human side of it. You know, like: «we’re probably gonna be dead tomorrow, so let’s just go and do this».

The issue they’re gonna have, I think, that if they overpopulate this kind of world it loses its power. So it’s how you manage enough social complexity in multiplayer, while having the space around. And not turning into faction wars, which, I think, was why Clear Skies is least liked. But I think, what they’ve clearly got as a team is a way of looking at the world, which is still really unique. So if they can get that sense, that vision in the world, provide they keep it sparse, so when you see another player, it’s like «oh, I’ve seen someone!» And it may stop being a bulletfest, because it may be the first time you see the player in two hours.

I haven’t still played it, but just installed it, this new mod called DayZ, which is kinda a zombie apocalypse game, but it looked a lot of, what I hoped Survivar— Survarium would do. That you don’t see other people too often, but when you see them there’s a really weird edge in «it’s a person, and actual person! But they might kill me.» And how you manage that. But if you shoot them, if there’s a lot of zombies around, or other dangerous stuff around, by shooting them, you’ve probably killed yourself. Because you need to team up and work together. And if they get that thing of forcing players to work together because the environment is so dangerous, then it can be a really interesting game.

And I really want them to make a great game. Cause I think they’re a really good studio, who got… From what information is publicly available here, that they’re completely screwed. But I think they deserve to make good games, cause they’ve made good games so far. So, I hope it’s not multiplayer in a kinda classic way, with deathmatch and everything and there’s not much of the factions going, and it’s not a highly populated space. But it’s difficult in terms of server costs. If you try and take a lot of players, you’ll have a limited number of players in each game. You need kinda Left 4 Dead kind of recourses. But imagine Left 4 Dead with only 10% of all the creatures in it. And each creature is 100% more dangerous. It would be a great experience. No ammo cache, you start with 6 bullets, you manage the bullets you’ve got left, there might or might not be some things that can kill you by just looking at you. And you’re absolutely relying on other people you have in the squad. That’s a really cool model for a game.

Yeah, and if it has stuff like Demon’s/Dark Souls thing of seeing other players, but maybe not interacting with them, or people who just get in your game world unexpectedly.

Oh and things like in Roadside Picnic, where you have all the things in the Zone and no one actually knows if they exist or not. People say that they’ve seen or heard about them, but you kinda know that half of it is bullshit. And if they have those social hubs, one of the things I would do is employing people to go into the space… So, you never actually hardcode the story, you just bring people in, who just say: hey, guys, I’ve just got back from this space and there’s a lot of cool stuff there. And it’s a complete lie. If you go in, rather than relying on Ai or a hardscript, set up this space, have random drops and spawns and everything else, some keyset environments, but then create the story by dropping in people into the game pretending to be just other players, and see the story build this way and develop the mythology, develop those kind of things, like items and other stuff. Has someone, who goes in and says: «There’s a new type of creature we’ve seen, and he’s based in that part of a city. And we’ve lost three people.» And no one’s seen it before, developers didn’t announce any new creatures, is it actually there or not? So players flood in and try to find it. And it doesn’t matter if they find it or not.



And it’s kind of world they were really good at making with STALKER. It felt like there was a lot of unknown stuff. And the thing like they did with the Heart of the Oasis — you hear the thing referenced a few times and you guess that you probably would end up being there at some point, but you don’t know for sure. Because there was stuff in the game, that wasn’t actually as told. One of the coolest things that you could do with STALKER games, is just take all the environments from all three games, batch them together into one big open world and just dump players in it. And that would probably be enough for most players, without any singleplayer campaign. Like that… oh, what’s his name… The Oblivion Lost mod… Kanyhalos! So, yeah, where you could cook artefacts in anomalies. So you finish the singleplayer campaign and you’re released back in the world and it get constantly respawned. So you can take an artefact and through it in the anomaly, then you have to sleep and… It was just a really cool and I got hours and hours out of that. Because it’s just a great world to spend time in. So that’s what they’re good at. That’s what they should focus at.

Yeah, and let the community to make stories for them.

Right, so I think, it’s time up?

Hmm, well, I still have about 10 minutes, if you wanted to ask about something else.

Well… Do you know how big STALKER was for Ukraine?

I can guess :). It was the first game of that scale.

[b]Yeah, we have this joke… I don’t know if it’s a translation or an original joke that «every novice game developer wants to create his own Fallout.» And STALKER was kinda like that. Like: «Wow, we’re going to have Ukrainian Fallout! That’s so amazing!» And GSC did some good stuff before, like, they did the Cossacks games, which were good and popular. And they did some stupid stuff, like there was an unauthorized StarCraft translation supposedly made by them which was completely broken and awful. But Cossacks were great, so people were really excited.

And… I was personally disappointed with STALKER, because I just had so much expectations for it. I still admire the stuff it did, but… I haven’t even played Call of Pripyat yet. I remember, i pre-ordered Clear Skies and I’ve installed it and start playing… And there are people walking on air, and game crashes constantly and… I’m just: «What the hell?! I paid money for it and the previous game, how could you do that?» So I wasn’t really that excited for Call of Pripyat. And the joke’s on me, as from what I’ve heard it’s the best game in the series.[/b]

Yeah, but I still prefer Shadow of Chernobyl. Cause it’s kinda like BioShock, it’s never going to be as BioShock 1, cause BioShock tells the best story there is to tell in that space. (I stay silent -_- — Klarden) But what I love about Call of Pripyat is that they didn’t bother to try and make it a big epic thing, it’s a really small story. A bunch of helicopters have crashed, you’ve gotta find them, you’ve gotta find the survivors and get out. And that’s it. And that’s what it does, it doesn’t build up to some world shattering thing, just «that’s it». And I really admire that. And this is all about the Zone and being in the Zone. You don’t want to destroy the Zone, you don’t want to make it different from what it is, the drama is that how you get from one side to the other in one piece. So yeah, it’s really good.

Clear skies are a bit… yeah. *we laugh* But you know, what I think? I think, the problem with Clear Skies is that the Shadow of Chernobyl was the hit in the west. And they went «we gotta make the game which is more western-friendly. We gotta try to make it a bit more like western shooters.» And the reason why Shadow of Chernobyl is so good in a similar way to why Metro is so good, is cause it doesn’t feel like an American studio made it. It feels like it comes from a different place, with a different worldview and it’s tapped into all of that stuff. And it saturates the game and gives it a really unique feel. And I like making my students play STALKER (yes, it’s an actual requirement for Dan’s students to play STALKER among the classic games, like Tetris — Klarden), cause most of them are console players. So, you know, if they’re playing shooters, they play Call of Duty. And, probably, a bit of Half-Life. And you put them in STALKER and they come back in a week and go: «It’s just so ridiculously difficult! I’m getting killed constantly!» And I’m like: «Yeah, you can’t play it like that. You will bleed to death. You’ll starve. You will run out of bread. You’ll kill for bread in this game.» And that’s deeply cool. It makes Fallout look like a comedy life of the Simpsons. And I love how bleak it is.

I also remember that when the Shadow of Chernobyl was developed, there wasn’t a very epic story in it. There was a Monolith. And you were going to get there eventually. Probably. Because, there was this concept, that the game could finish even if you don’t get there. Like, when they played with that A-Life AI thing, there was an idea, that AI stalkers could actually get to the end of the game before you do.

Haha, I love this idea.

Yeah, it’s sad they cut it out. I mean, I get why they did it. Because people would go: oh, I was playing it for 15 hours and the game finished without me being there.

But they still did that thing with the Monolith endings. Where if you don’t follow the subquest, you would reach the end of the game but then die horribly. And it’s so brilliant. No big budget western developer will ever have the balls to do something like that. Just going: «You know that little thing you picked up 14 hours ago? yeah, well, you probably should’ve followed that subquest. Sorry, try again!» And you couldn’t just replay the last level to get a better ending, you have to go back to halfway through the game. And I loved it. «We’re going to make no concessions to you.» I was really surprised, given that it was THQ that they got away with that. And kudos to THQ for either missing it or just letting them do it.

[youtube]<iframe width="640" height="360" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/b4mYK08o8Nc" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>[/youtube]

Oh and I remember when Half-Life 2 came out in 2004, and there’s this moment when you’re given your trusty crowbar and there’s a train yard, and some music plays… And we’re sitting in front of my PC with my friend and we just go: «Oh my god, this feels and sounds exactly like that STALKER trailer. Valve were influenced by STALKER!»

Oh, it wouldn’t surprise me :).

[b]Yeah, we were just… Mind blown. And that trailer for STALKER was amazing, by the way. I kinda like it more than the game itself, it was so amazing. And I really wanted the game to be something like that.
But yeah, it was really big. People started live action role-playing before it got released.[/b]

Oh, it started before? Cause I’ve seen some of the footage. And it’s just so crazy. Live action role-play over here is just, you know, a couple of people going to the pub wearing fur and carrying some foam maces and going: buy me some ale, barmen! And I’m like: no-no, hardcore live action role-playing is huddle down in sub-zero temperatures with replica or decommissioned AK-47s pretending you’re in the Zone in the middle of Ukraine- that’s live action role-playing.

People started writing fan fiction and doing stuff like that almost instantly after STALKER was announced. We had the amazing movie and Roadside Picnic, so people knew what it’s going to be pretty much about. And the game itself was probably influenced by this fan fiction, live action role-playing and other community-made things. We had those «diggers», or how you call them (according to wikipedia, they’re part of «urban exploration» — Klarden), in the subway tunnels or some abandoned shafts or whatever, role-playing, pretending to be stalkers. So it’s not that surprising that people here got a bit more disappointed with the games, because they were not what most people expected them to be. I guess, it was more of a surprise hit for anyone outside Ukraine or Russia, but here people just went: this is not what you’ve promised!

I’m amazed that they even finished the games. I played with 2004 build of the game and you just kinda go: «Pfft. Yeah, about 20 years more, and you’ll get the game done.» It was… slightly ambitious :).


And with that Dan had to go continue his hard work of managing two projects at once. Hopefully, we’re going to see some more info on Everybody’s Gone to Rapture and Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs very soon. And there is a probability, that there is new info available, when you’re reading this. And also hopefully, this is not the last time I had a chance to have a talk with Dan.[youtube]   read


8:17 AM on 09.28.2012

How Gearbox knows Jack (and forgets Duke)



(Also on my blog)

This may sound strange at first, but Handsome Jack from Borderlands 2 and Duke Nukem from his latest Forever game have much more in common, than it first seems. However, Jack has something, that Duke lacks - charisma. And i find it very strange, since Duke is supposed to be the hero.

Both Handsome Jack and Duke Nukem (in Forever) are "I'm rich, I'm famous, I'm vain, I'm glitz, I'm the story" Mister Hollywood kind of characters. Both are arrogant, quite antisocial, do very brutal and murderous things, make very inappropriate jokes, have very grim sense of humor, think of themselves very highly and consider themselves to be the main heroes in their stories. However, while it is actually true in Duke's case, Jack manages to steal the show, at least for the first half of the game, while Duke constantly struggles to be interesting to the player.

Throught the entire first half of Borderlands 2, Handsome Jack comes off as a mysterious Heath Ledger's Joker-type character - the one you can't help but want to see and hear more of, while being scared and disgusted of him at the same time and wanting to murder him when the chance presents itself. And even in the second half of the game, when Jack is given much more backstory and he becomes more of a disgustingly pathetic and cowardly person, you can't help but want to hear more of him. You love to hate him - the perfect formula for a treacherous and shifty villain.

Duke Nukem, however, is supposed to be the character you actually like in Forever. He is the hero, he is the person you control in the game. You have to laugh with him and, at times, at him. Yet, it's hard to do so. Now, part of that may come from the fact, that Duke Nukem Forever is just not a good game itself, and that may be a pretty important part. But even so, the character himself feels forced, not fun or funny. Even without going into "that infamous rape joke" discussion.

It's interesting to see this huge difference in seemingly similar characters. And while some people might rightfully argue, that Duke Nukem Forever was made by 3D Realms, and Gearbox just "finished" it, i can't help but feel, that a lot of Duke's characterization came from the people in Gearbox. I mean, it's not like it's the first time we see them doing some pretty creepy main characters - I still remember E3 2011 trailer of Brothers in Arms: Furious 4 where I actually felt sorry for the nazis being mercilessly and brutally slaughtered by a band of crazies, who were supposed to be main heroes. So, while i really wish to see more Duke in the future (and get those XBLA version features of Duke Nukem 3D on PC), I'd like to see more "Handsome Jacks" in videogames. Because he was cool, you know? Kay, bye.   read


3:20 PM on 07.29.2012

Hitman Emotion



(Also on my blog)

So, IO decided to do a huge spoiler on one story point of Hitman Absolution. Something, that i didn't get was the reasoning behind the thing that happens int hat spoiler - it was necessary "to bring emotion to a character like 47". Now, i still hope Absolution turns out to be a good game and everything, but... Why would 47 NEED emotion?

That may sound strange, especially from a huge fan of a good story in a game like me, but Hitman is fine without "emotion". hell, it's fine without a story, apart from the background one. 47 has a background we know, Agency has a background we know, there may be some "bad guys" or "conspiracies", who want 47 dead. With that out of the way, can i play the missions now?

Hitman series work fine with thought out gameplay-wise missions, each of them containing a mini-story of some sort to give it some background, to give us a reason to go on the mission and play it the way we want. An important part, but very small and forgettable, as it's only a tool to get us a bit more involved with the main course - gameplay. Contacts had no coherit story or noticable connection between missions and who cared - it played amazing, we loved it. Hell, the infamous Saints trailer for Absolution would be fine, if only it was not so retarded in it's setup, even by the already silly Hitman standards.

It surprises me how some indie games, like Super Meat Boy, give us what we want from it - gameplay, and don't give a damn about "emotions", while Hitman, loved for the very same reason, the gameplay, suddenly needs those "emotions brought to the character of 47". What emotion did you have while playing batman: Arkham Asylum? Probably the one called "I'm Batman!" You play as a bald guy with a barcode on his head who is supposed to be the ultimate killer in his fictional world and can decide who lives and who dies. You are, effectively, a superhero. Add great gameplay and what else do you need?   read





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