Archive for category: Entertainment

Don’t spoil it for me

15 Mar
March 15, 2012

Mass Effect 3 endings : apparently there is some brouha there. So much so that a charity drive, aimed at petitioning Bioware and EA to change the ending, has raised $30k in 24 hours.

I’m not going to put much stock in that as a judgement of the ending quality though, Bioware fanboys and girls would riot in the streets if the curvature of Tali’s ass wasn’t exactly as they imagined it in their over 10 000 page-long Tali-adoration forum threads.

Anyway, seeing as I haven’t finished ME3, I’d like to ask one thing of you folks : don’t ruin it for me, please.

If I’m going to rage (and I have been raging, OH YES), then I want my rage to be pure, unsullied by foreknowledge. So that I may shape that anger into a terrible Spear of Judgement, to cast into the very Eye of Balor himself!

Seriously now, don’t spoil my fun. 😛

Science proves it!

14 Mar
March 14, 2012

What we all knew : old games were harder. 😉

Sexy Futuristic Sexy Times

28 Feb
February 28, 2012

Mass Effect 3 is out in a week, are we all excited? I’m excited. Not being sarcastic there actually. Despite my general cynicism, I enjoyed the second one quite a bit.

But that aside, I want to posit a theory on how the story is going to end.

Now, I think we can all guess the most obvious way for ME3 to end. Since we know a living Prothean is a DLC companion in this one, it’s a good bet that there will be some interaction with Prothean facilities in the story. Now, given that a single Reaper smacked around half the Citadel forces by itself and there are a bunch of the things attacking Earth, it’s hard to imagine the lesser races taking them all on without some help.

So putting 1 and 1 together, it seems fairly likely that the standard storyline will involve conveniently finding an ancient Prothean weapon of some sort and using it on the Reapers. No doubt the Protheans developed it once they found themselves under attack but didn’t quite manage to use it before their civilization was wiped out. Bad luck, that. Luckily, Shepard will pick up where they left off, probably flying a suicide mission to plant the McGuffin in Reaper Prime, Independance Day style.

(Note, this is not a spoiler. I’m just speculating here, dunno if it will end like that.)

So that’s the obvious ending. But I think Bioware is going to surprise us here. I think they’re going to throw in an alternate ending. Hear me out.

So this is the new look for Ashley Williams, right :

And here she is from the previous games :

It’s a subtle difference, but if you look veeeeeery carefully, you can see it.

Spot it? She’s looking just a little bit more…saucy.

And then there is EDI. You know, the ship’s AI. It seems she is getting a physical body in ME3. Here’s the concept art for that :

I think we can all agree that she will be a fantastic addition to any mission team. Morale boosting.

Let me just cut to the chase here. What is it that I think Bioware is adding to ME3 to surprise and delight their fans?

Romanceable Reaper Companion

Just picture it. Millenia drifting in the dark void of space can leave a sentient being feeling…lonely. Initially just a prisoner of war in the Normandy’s hold, neither Shepard nor the (conveniently human-sized and female-shaped) Reaper can deny the instant, primal connection they feel. As time passes they begin to understand each other’s backgrounds better, realizing that they aren’t that different after all, human and alien robot death-squid. Eventually, though the war pulls at their loyalties, they surrender to their feelings for one other…

…Seduce Reaper? – Yes / No / Flippant Remark.

Then, after Shepard teaches the Reapers the true meaning of Love, they agree to stop murdering everyone in the galaxy and live in peace with the biological races. With the help of their advanced technology the rebuilding of Earth moves quickly and a millenia of peace and prosperity is ushered in. Hooray!

I for one embrace this sexy vision of the sexy, sexy future.

Bloody kids

18 Feb
February 18, 2012

“Guys, I’m 18 and let me tell you, this thing I enjoyed is the most meaningful, important thing anyone has ever enjoyed.”

Are you kidding me?

Best part :

Mass Effect has a simple message: human beings are delusional about their importance in the grand scheme of things

That’s right. The game where you, the human protagonist, run around single-handedly saving the galaxy while the blithely ignorant alien races ignore the threat even when it appears above their heads, reaping destruction, that’s what this game is about.

(Reaping, geddit? I made a pun. I’m so funny.)

I’m reminded of this “Condescending Wonka” meme.

The “Why?”

15 Feb
February 15, 2012

Wil Wheaton posted something on his blog that rather resonated with me. I’ll wait here for you to go off and read it then, shall I?

Begin the readening!

You back yet? Cool, let’s continue.

It’s this :

From designing my character and developing his backstory, to building a world and populating it with allies and adversaries, the games I’ve played have lived on in my imagination long after I’ve gotten up from the table and put the dice back in their bag

This is one of the wonderful aspects of gaming, that I think gets overlooked: when we play games, we’re using our imaginations to bring cardboard and plastic to life. If we’re lucky, that spark can start a fire that burns long after the game has been put away.

That blog post captures the essence of what motivates me as a gamer and a game developer, why I have chosen to gamble a lot of money and time on trying to make a living making indie games instead of say buying a house or going on overseas holidays.

These moments, when a fictional world and its characters takes hold of your mind and the real world seems to fade into the background, where you keep thinking about it long after you’ve gotten up and walked away, these are what I live for. I spent my childhood wandering through the worlds others created, now that I’m an adult I burn to create my own. This is what is at the heart of all my interests. I paint so that I can paint dragons, I write so that I can create characters and the worlds they live in, and I program so I can model behavior and interaction.

This is my “why?”, my purpose. What I get up for in the morning.

I want to find Higaara.

I want to war with my siblings for my father’s divine throne.

I want to fear the dawning of the Metal Age.

And I want to travel into the East. Always, into the East.

Putting the Humanity before the Fantasy

13 Feb
February 13, 2012

Some backstory, I finished the 3rd book in the Song of Ice and Fire series last week. I’ve been taking my time with the books, pacing myself, I don’t want to read all of them and then have to wait years for GRRM to finish the last two. Such a marvelous series, I’m in total awe of Martin’s skill as a writer. And I got to thinking about what made it special, why it has become my favourite fantasy series and what I feel it does better than all the rest of the fantasy I’ve read.

One of these things that the series does best is putting the humanity before the fantasy. Most fantasy novels you read, and I’ve read many, it’s the other way round. The humanity is there to showcase the fantasy, usually by serving as a mundane contrast to the fantastical. Humans are kinda boring, but look over there! Elves! And Dwarves! And now someone is teleporting and shooting lightning from their hands! And that guy’s sword is on fire!

The issue isn’t whether you have fantastical elements in your story or not, Martin has those in SOIF, with the Dragons and the Others and so on. The issue is which is “the star” and which “the stage”. Martin breathes an incredible amount of richness into his characters through their personality and actions, their struggles and development. Where he does add in fantasy elements, it’s with a light touch, never stealing the limelight from the characters he’s created. The fantasy is the spice to the meal, not the meal itself.

And the struggles those characters face are so very satisfying because of how human they are. The primary conflict is not really against terrifying fantasy creatures (the Others), it’s between human personalities, humans with all their ambitions and flaws. No Ancient Evil Awakening has ever been as interesting as the relationship between Tyrion and his family.

Compare and contrast this with, say, the Dresden Files. I enjoy the series as light entertainment, but here the fantasy is clearly the focus. Dresden’s character doesn’t develop much, conflict and challenge comes in the form of new magical beasties introduced each book, whether that be fairies, werewolves or vampires. And of course, since the fantastical becomes mundane with familiarity, the power curve of these enemies needs to ramp up each book, a problem similar to what comic books face.

A show like “The Walking Dead” only needs the one fantasy enemy, zombies, to create a rich tapestry of drama. And not many types of zombies, as has now become popular. Just the one, the classic shambler. Because, like SOIF, the fantasy is a backdrop to showcase the human drama, the relationships between flawed people under pressure.

Whether you’re writing for a novel or a game, and no matter how in love you are with the fantasy world you’re creating, don’t forget the most important element : your characters and their personalities. Give them the depth and development they deserve.

Adventure games are dead. Long live adventure games!

10 Feb
February 10, 2012

You’ve probably heard this story already, unless you live in some strange eastern European country where the internet packets are delivered to your wood cabin by goat-mail. But in case you hadn’t :

Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert put up a Kickstarter project for a new Double Fine Adventure game. The type big publishers won’t fund anymore. Because the genre is ‘dead’. So DF decided to appeal directly to the fans. Their goal was a modest (for a video game budget) $400 000. This would buy a small adventure game produced over 6-8 months + a ‘behind the scenes’ documentary of the process.

Less than 24 hours later, the amount pledged stands at over $1 million. And it’s still going. I wouldn’t be surprised if it reaches $2 million. And, an important thing to note here, the game achieved its basic level of funding goal just through the bottom pledge tiers of $15/$30. Tiers which grant the pledger a free copy of the game/documentary and some little extras. For these fans, the burden is no extra than it would be paying for the game or the collector’s edition once it went on sale.

This is an amazing, game changing thing, in my opinion. Not because it will destroy traditional publishing, no. But because I see this as one of the ways to revitalizing the middle tier of game development. A gap has formed in the game development tiers. Big publishers have looked to fund only games with a massive return on investment, the Call of Duty’s of the world. They don’t see it as worth their time to make smaller games with modest returns. And that is understandable, their goals are not that of an artist, to make a comfortable living creating the art they love. Their goals are to maximize profits for shareholders. As much as we gamers might dislike that mindset, it’s a rational stance to take.

And on the other side you have the growing indie movement. Their problem is the reverse, passion and talent and willingness to take risks, but little funding. So you have this growing gap in the middle, between the massive AAA titles with their hundred+ person teams, and the tiny indies with their 1-10 man teams. The 20-50 person studio has been dying out, and with them the types of games that were profitable for that size developer but which can’t support the bigger fish.

This move hints at a way of bridging that gap. If you can earn your customers’ trust (and that’s what this DF thing has been, a vote of love and trust from fans to Schafer,Gilbert and Double Fine), you can go to them directly to help you bring to market the type of game that is too expensive to fund out of your own pockets, but too small to interest big publishers.

Interesting to read this quote from Gabe Newell 2 years ago. He’s not the only one who thought of it, of course, but it’s cool to see the idea start to become a reality.

Now let’s round up the Looking Glass folks and get them making proper sequels to System Shock 2 and Thief. And Black Isle! 😀

Mind Games

26 Oct
October 26, 2011

Well now. This is interesting, isn’t it? A new indie bundle deal has arrived on the scene, and it brings with it a cunning sales trick.

Now, you all know that I’m on the side of my indie bros. Being an indie is tough, you’re the scrappy underdog fighting for every bit of attention you can get, every sale you make is meaningful and appreciated. But this…this is kinda like gamification. It’s a little…evil.

Not very evil, don’t get me wrong. Just a tad evil. It’s a Jedi with a few more Dark Side points than Light Side. It’s taking advantage of a simple psychological trick to increase sales. The price starts low, but every sale they make (potentially) increases that price, and visibly so. Which adds the mental goad of feeling that you should get it now, if you want it, before the price increases. So people all rush to get it, but that just accelerates the upward pressure on the price.

But there’s more! The site offers an opportunity for heroism. If you give more than the standard, you can bring the price down for everyone else, and get your name up on the front page to boot! Champion! Which is not a bad thing, really, it just feels like they’re ‘gaming’ your charitable streak a bit, doesn’t it?

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a rather clever tactic, and possibly the natural progression of the Humble Bundle’s ticking countdown timer. And as an indie you need to find new and novel ways to stand out and draw attention amid the triple-A PR campaigns. But my worry is that people will start to feel manipulated, just a little. Maybe I’m over-thinking it, I’ve been wrong before. Maybe the extremely generous price for a bundle of high quality games is more than compensation for a little bit of psychological tomfoolery. I initially thought people would burn out on frequent Steam sales, but from all accounts they are a smashing success. My own 25-game backlog of titles I bought on sale attests to that.

But still. I worry. In these days, when publishers are carving strips from their games to sell to you as premium DLC, or as deterrent against buying 2nd-hand, might gamers grow tired of people attempting to push their buttons in one way or the other?