I was away for the meaty-middle section of this week, travelling west to my paternal grandmother's working farm. I had thought that being away for so long I was going to miss all the good posts for This Week In Videogame Blogging; I was sorely mistaken, however, so we've ended up with another lengthy round-up. First up, some good stuff from last week.
The Runner: the game diary cum creative dissection of Mirror’s Edge: had an episode last week. (There’s one this week, too). In the former, the author talks about how the environment becomes a character in itself, a point I have previously made about the landscape of Far Cry 2. They write;
The city itself is the only main character besides Faith. It sounds like game design for pseuds, but it's true. It's just you and the road.
Nels Anderson talked about the effect of save game attrition on his playing habits last week in 'We Need More Bookmarks' and this week he asks us to 'Say No to Fun' and prefer the term 'engagement' instead because:
Ultimately, this isn’t about us. We’re already on board. We get what we mean when we say “fun.” Speaking from “engaging” is about helping other potential advocates (or at least audiences) understand why we see so much potential in what we do. And at the end of the day, that’s what really matters.
Which is an argument that I've been advocating (if somewhat less proactively) since I ran into trouble discussing Call of Duty 4 in a tutorial at University. It doesn't really make a whole lot of sense to explain the section where the player is kidnapped and killed as 'fun'. It's certainly positively engaging, however.
The 'Should I buy Shadow Complex if I support gay rights and disagree with Orson Scott Card's homphobia' debate continues with this discussion-meets-rebuttal of some of the more 'It's just a game'-esque arguments, by Chuck Jordan.
Via the ever exquisite Kateri comes this excellent post on overcoming some of the everyday problems in amateur game design by Emily Short.
Rock Paper Shotgun's Alec Meer delves into the Microsoft 3.1 classic game Skifree and describes its endless scrolling downhill hijinks as “Skiing as Nihilism“. I can't be the only one person to have dreamt of the endless ski-run, surely? If Skifree didn't contain an abominable snowman it would be close to Skiing Utopia!
Eskil Steenberg's procedural MMO Love is nearly done! Hip-Hooray! In the announcing post he also talks about the difficulty in reaching this point because of the interrelated nature of procedural game development. And speaking of procedural generation, RPS's Jim Rossignol writes a post for BLDGBLOG about procedural cities, the possibility of putting a distinct architectural flavour on procedural cities (e.g. a Parisian style procedural city) and then the procedural destruction of said cities.
Michael Abbott of The Brainy Gamer wrote about the TCBAG (This Could Be A Game) Syndrome while I was away, prompting much admission of similar conditions by his readers. I can't say I actually suffer from it that often: instead I more commonly get TCBABP (This Could Be a Blog Post) Syndrome and feel guilty when I don't write anything about whatever inspired it.
All the way with LBJ this week, as he looked at Mass Effect and looked at how it separated its combat mechanics from its dialogue choices and ended up with a less judgemental game. Okay, so that's not word-for-word what Jeffries says, but that's how I read it's implications— a lot of games with so-called “morality systems” actually really annoy me because, as Nick Dinicola is quoted as saying in the essay;
The karma system is a narrative shortcut: Instead of writing consequences into the story, a player is given points and measures consequence by how full the “good” or “bad” meter is.
Putting aside the inherent problems with a universal overseer noticing your otherwise unobserved good or evil deeds and awarding you points, I think that depicting good and evil as a kind of continuum is an overly simplified outlook that bears no resemblance to the real world. Sorry, I'll stop ranting now.
Mitch Krpata of Insult Swordfighting turns a critical eye towards the parasitic nature of the publication Game Informer and concludes that 'Game Informer works for Gamestop, not you.' And we wonder why no games Journalism is about to win a Pulitzer any time soon.
Simon Ferarri writes about 'Proceduralizing Terror' for the Georgia Tech newsgame research blog.
Jesper Juul makes a really interesting observation/assertion in a blog post this week, saying;
I think the importance of the physical design of game consoles has been vastly underestimated. It seems that console designers, being fans of technology, have tended to assume that their console would naturally be the center- and conversation piece of whatever living room they were placed in. The original PlayStation 3 was probably the worst offender of all time: huge, and with a curved top, signaling that no matter, this had to be the shiny object on top of whatever stack of devices that the consumer might have.
This week Eve Online saw it’s biggest player run in-game bank freeze assets in an attempt to stave off a bank run, being 1.2 trillion ISK in debt! Cor blimey, it's as if the GFC were invading games as well!
Allow me to utter another 'Cor Blimey' as Create Digital Music goes in-depth with what it'll take to get your music onto the Rock Band Network. To sum up, Peter Kirn provides this conclusion:
Harmonix has long talked about wanting to create a “platform” for music, but I think it's really Rock Band Network that could get them there. Rock Band alone can't be the exclusive future of interactive music: that'd be boring. But if Harmonix pulls this off, it could be a real catalyst for transforming all recordings into an interactive experience: not just the established hit parade we've already seen. And that's utterly huge.
The duo of Carey and Lynsey at the blog Play Like A Girl have recorded a pod and cast it into the ether of these here Interwebs. I had meant to have had a listen before I writing up TWIVGB but I ran out of time, so I'll just have to say 'Go have a listen and then tell me what it's like'.
Also this week, Michael Clarkson talks about GTA IV and storytelling, adding that;
For me, this is the defining flaw of GTA IV – so many of the missions, cutscenes, and incidental moments actively undermine the propositions the game is trying to sell you on. …The characters act not from the internal motivations arising in a fully-imagined personality, but from the external motivation of the developers’ desire to move along to the next set-piece.
And lastly, Matthew Wasteland reveals his real name, and that it is Matthew Burns. According to his LinkedIn profile, he's previously worked as a producer at Treyach and most recently at Bungie. The reason he is now revealing his once-super-secret identity is that he is no longer with Bungie, having left to form his own game development studio 'Shadegrown Games'. Won't you join with me in wishing Mr Burns all the best with his new endeavour!