Thursday, 24 June 2010

The World needs more Death cats

I've haven't seen anything as gloriously chaotic as death cat for a long while.

Courtesy of Tom Francis of PC Gamer :
People make maps in Team Fortress 2 specifically for grinding achievements. Bleak, joyless rooms of endlessly spawning bots and resupply crates, where people don’t play the game, they game it. But in one of these, achievement_all_v4, the author’s added a surprise. A violent, horrific, hilarious surprise of biblical proportions

Regardless of the intent it been seized upon as a hugely entertaining way of dealing with a practice that much of the TF2 community disproves of. Why make a angry forum post when you can unleash a cat with laser beam eyes.

Just watching it makes me wonder if admin's & dev's couldn't use more interactive and visible ways of dealing with unintended player behaviour.

Dragon Age Awakening Mini Review

Mini Review of the expansion to Dragon Age Origins Sub 500 words, no nonsense /go!


-The old holy trinity of RPG (tank healer & DPS) is still present but the ability to respec a character makes a hugely positive change. In any RPG stories are important, Awakening gives you the ability to experience that story with the characters who's personality you like and who's background stories intrigue you, not just whoever makes a effective setup. This is a huge step in the right direction.

-The new skills & sub classes make far more play styles viable, and noticeably multi-target and controlling abilities which were before limited to certain classes are now more spread out.

-Exploring the companions stories has been made easier by some minor refinement to the gifts system, with more hints being given about the character's preferences.

-Crafting is improved by the addition of runecrafting but the ability to not create a party in the games safe 'camp' area and access crafting skills at the same point where the resources for them can be found is annoying.

-One negative issue is that some very important plot decisions are made very early with little information and are irreversible.

-Overall I would say the voice work and writing are actually stronger than the original, Sigrun is my favourite, witty, humane and believable.

-Noticeably none of the characters are as pivotal to the main plot as some in the original were and this is generally for the better. Awakening maintains feels more like being part of a rag tag band rather than a group of all star hero's.

-The pacing of the story isn't quite right, it builds and builds then climaxes suddenly without resolving much of what it set in motion.

- A issue I had with the original and which continues here is that the credits roll too fast. Origins gave us a chance to chat with the companions after the main quest finished and offered some closure but Awakening skips even that. After being immersed in such rich world I wanted to see in game how decisions had affected it but instead the credits rolled the moment the final boss hit the floor. This adds to the feeling Awakening should have been the 1st act to a longer story & who knows perhaps in time it could be.

-This is half a great story. You wont regret what it gives you ,but you may be frustrated by the amount.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Repeat after me : You are in a game

Games more than any other medium are constantly asking people to suspend their disbelief, constantly signaling to the player 'you are in a game'.

This is probably just part of the baggage which comes along with being a interactive medium. As long as games need to convey visually none visual information addressing the audience directly will always be a necessary part of it.
Some of the most prominent designers in this generation of games seem to have reacted by either trying to maintain immersion and keeping as minimal user interface (UI) as possible, or going to the other extreme and speaking directly to the audience and constantly knowingly making references to games and pop culture.

The Metal Gear series is often picked out as one of the games which most employs the most sophisticated post modern approach but sadly the fact I've never owned a Playstation which mean I can't really comment on that series, instead the example which pops to my mind most obviously is Blizzard's insanely successful Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) World of Warcraft (WoW).
WoW is overt about both its nature as a game and it's place in a wider cultural context.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Do we expect to much from DLC?

The Return to Ostagar downloadable content pack to EA's Fantasy RPG Dragon Age:Origins has been one of the most universally criticized and trashed bit of DLC since the the Oblivion horse armor raised its ugly head back in 2006.

My Play through of Dragon Age was interrupted by some major upheavals in my life at the start of the year, now returning to it a few months later I decided to give in to my completist tendencies and grab all its Downloadable content and expansion's including Return to Ostagar.

Most of the reviews Ive read have been pretty unequivocal about how they felt about it, but what really should i have expected from it? In EA's words:
A return to the battlefields of Ostagar, now thick with darkspawn encamped amidst the snow
An opportunity to reclaim the lost arms and armor of a king
A second chance to add Dog to your party

And after playing it that's pretty much what it delivers.

Nothing more. But also nothing less. I think the best thing i can say is rarely are press statements so literally true.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Firmly Behind The Zeitgeist

Finally got around to watching the final episode of lost, all things considered they did a commendable job of tying everything up.

Alot of people gave up on the 2nd series, I won't claim I had any foresight that those midpoint seasons were just a blip.
It was nothing more than simple habit which kept me watching, the show had become a weekly tradition with me & my then girlfriend. We didn't see each other that often and so little things which added some routine became rituals for us.
And although that relationship came to a end and many of the things we shared ultimately became tainted by the bitterness of our breakup i kept watching Lost not out of the habit which had defined my early exposure to it, but because it was just damn good.

All in all its a great example of what can happen if creators are allowed to make mistakes and then shown faith that they can learn from them.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Deep Stress: My Experience's with Neptunes Pride

Neptune's pride is a very strange game. A pure game. A exhausting game.
And one I certainly wouldn't describe as a fun game. But it is a game worth playing (at least once)

Developed by Iron Helmet games a company formed by former Irrational Games employees. NP's is a web based 4x strategy game.

To quote them:
"Neptune's Pride is multiplayer game of Strategy, Intrigue and Galactic Conquest!The game is a real-time game played over several weeks. You can log in at any time of the day to check the progress of your fleets, view the results of battles and issue new orders. Explore, Expand, Exploit, Exterminate!"
The game's rule set is very strict, cold hard numbers determine the outcome of combat with no tactical elements and nothing left to chance the game is purely strategic.

Quentin smith put it well in his excellent write up for GameSetWatch when he said:
"If I have 30 ships defending against your 45, I will lose the fight. If my empire of 20 star systems is invaded by your empire of 30 star systems, I will slowly but surely lose territory to you"

This very no nonsense combat system plus and a equally harsh and unforgiving diplomacy system provides a perfect catalyst for human drama. Both Rock Paper Shotgun and PC Gamer have produced engrossing play diary's of a UK games journo battle royal with the game. Just as no plan ever survives contact with the enemy the plaudits Neptune's Pride initially received has slowly waned as more people have got their hands on the games beta, and slowly that old cliched question 'but is it fun?' has reared its ugly head.

Well to cut a long story short, no its not. To give a longer and more relevant answer, it's not but the reason why it isn't fun is interesting in itself.