GDC is over and Ben is recovering from a hangover [Oh god I have no sense of balance - Ed.] so I’m picking this up for one more week. This is my actual one-year anniversary for starting to write TWIVGB.
Since Dragon Age 2 is being released next week, we start this round up with the bloggers looking back in preparation for the new one. Kirk Hamilton and Denis Farr look back at Dragon Age: Origins and what the new direction the sequel is taking could mean for the franchise. Denis continues writing about Origins over at GayGamer looking at some under discussed characters, Hespith and Branka. And Kris Ligman in her Miss Anthropy column at PopMatters expresses her appreciation over the first game’s creation of real characters and women she actually liked to play.
Also at PopMatters this week, Aaron Poppleton asks, “What is scary in Horror Games?” and looks at three different examples to see what makes each type scary. G. Christopher Williams contends that Bulletstorm fails to be camp since it doesn’t go far enough in making fun of stupid games, being too close to the truth of it. Nick Dincola continues to talk about the latest Medal of Honor, this time looking at what made the multiplayer such a disaster.
Maggie Greene, this week, found out she has become a chapter in a PhD dissertation and decided, since she is still alive unlike most sources, to create a few more sources, detailing in broad strokes her history at Kotaku, to help out in the research.
Brenda Brathwaite on her personal design blog transcribes her GDC rant from the section called Social Game Developers Rant Back. Simon Ferrari on his blog Chungking Espresso writes an “informal, uninvited rant” called “How to Write a Book About Games.” Also riffing off a GDC talk, Michael the Brainygamer Abbot talks about “Rollercoaster bias” of David Cage when it comes to his own work. And finally Tadhg Kelly explains the implications of the two revelations, which happened within minutes of each other of different sides of the city, between Satoru Iwata and Steve Jobs.
Rob Zacny has been playing War in the East recently and writes about how strategy games have become too much about systems and so little of the personalities that caused many of the mistakes in the real war. Meanwhile, Jonathan McCalmont has a post at Futurismic: “Seeing like a State: Why Strategy Games Make Us Think and Behave Like Brutal Psychopaths.” The title says it all, but here’s a taste:
Stripped of the moral fig leaf of historical context, Syndicate asked us to assume to role of a corporate CEO who used cybernetically enhanced slaves to battle rival CEOs for control over a virtual environment that enslaved the entire human race. For the first time, players were asked to embody not mythical beings or historical princes but ruthlessly exploitative capitalist tyrants. The fact that playing a corporation was no different to playing a god or a warlord merely served to drive home the moral message: You are a complete bastard.
J.P. Grant writing for Gamers with Jobs talks about the stats that video games keep track of and their usefulness to the gamer.
The three big critics that work at the Escapist Magazine, Yahtzee, James Portnow and Moviebob come together in a written round table to talk about the current console gaming environment.
Ben Villarreal writes a literary video game critique by looking at the Victorian literature influence and thematic similarities to the modern survival horror genre. Love this piece:
This area of interest began while I was first playing Resident Evil 5 in 2009. As I played it, I was struck with the number of plot similarities between it and Sir H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines — one of my favorite novels. Haggard epitomizes one of the most popular late 19th century British literary genres — the adventure story for boys. Many of its characteristics are found in Resident Evil 5 (and even Resident Evil 4): travel to a distant land, horrific events, exotic women, and treasure of some kind, all found on the route to “manhood.”
Mark B. at KokuGamer writes a call to arms to video game critics to start fixing the over inflated system of review scoring, saying it’s unhelpful and deceptive to consumers and harmful to the industry as a whole.
The Boston Phoenix’s Maddy Myers’ article on the Dickwolves controversy has gone up. She explains it for people who have no idea what it is all about and while it is may seem slanted, it is deservedly so.
Laura Michet at Second Person Shooter talks about the cost of art and how public art is paid for. She then suggests, maybe a museum fund some a public art game for display.
Justin Keverne writes about a “Framework for Systemic Storytelling” and a list of things that create believable characters and more important character interaction through systemic means.
Radek Koncewicz from Significant Bits looking at 20 level design lessons from Super Mario Brothers 3. For contrast, Tevis Thompson explains how Sonic the Hedgehog‘s recent failure may be because the design was never good in the first place.
Eric Schwarz at his blog Critical Missive explains the difference between open-world games and sandbox games and how size isn’t what really matters between the two.
On the surface, what makes these games might seem obvious: the sheer scale of the world and options available to the player. After all, most games of this nature in the past have featured immense scale when compared to more linear games. But looking a little deeper, that can’t just be what it is. Although the size of the world is especially a consideration in an open-world game, to say that sheer size is what makes such a game is foolhardy. After all, FUEL had the largest 3D game world in history, yet its design utterly failed to capitalize on the scale the technology was able to provide, nor did it manage to motivate players to continue through the game after the initial “wow” factor. No, the differences between open-world games and sandbox games are much different, and are largely due to the fundamental differences in design approach.
Matthew Gallant, back to writing at his blog The Quixotic Engineer, explors one of the best Team Fortress 2 multiplayer maps, ‘Steel’, and the dynamic ebb and flow it offers.
Kill Screen’s Kyle Chayka looks at how the abstract nature of the first arcade games, most notably Pong, and their artistic similarities to the abstract artists of the 1920s and 30s.
Paul Sztajer at Fabula ex Machina explores the differences between real-world and on-screen fun using metrics of Uniqueness, Unpredictability, Physicality and Storytelling.
And to wrap up on a lighter note, “The Many Faces of Tim Schafer.” (I was ordered to include this one. [A picture is worth a thousand words! - Ed.])