We have probably all heard the complaint that a game felt like a movie instead of a video game. Echoing this sentiment, a handful of successful developers (Will Wright, for example) has criticized traditional linear story telling in games. Randy Smith, in an interview in “Game Creation and Careers,” describes the difference between embedded narrative and emergent narrative. In the first Thief game, for example, Looking Glass wrote an overarching plot that was presented to the player by cut scenes. This immutable narrative is the embedded part of the story. The emergent narrative is the low level plot, the specifics of what happens throughout each individual mission. By presenting the player with game mechanics that allow him to overcome challenges in multiple ways, Smith argues he is allowing the player to, on some level, write his own story. → Read the rest
The Game Boy Micro is stupid and anyone who denies it is a biased fanboy (as opposed to the more objective fanboy) or a Nintendo employee. The first problem a consumer will notice is the systems price. A hundred bucks for something you probably already have a different version of?
The next obvious problem is the tiny screen. I already have trouble playing action games on my GBA-SP because the screen isn’t very big. The tiny screen is a part of the overall tiny system. This is the major selling point but it’s also one of the best reasons not to buy one. The GBA-SP already hurts my hands. If the SP is designed for Japanese fingers then the Micro is design for Japanese ants’ fingers.
Then there is the competition. → Read the rest
Perhaps no game or series has ever affected me the way the two Shenmue games have. Because Yu Suzuki was the lead designer, the first game received a good amount of hype leading up to its release, but I was initially unable to play it since I didn’t own a Dreamcast. A short while after the release Jason and I got together, and while we were trying to figure out what to play, he mentioned that he had started Shenmue, but had not gotten very far and was not yet sure if he liked it or not. Fortunately, we chose to restart the game, and barely looked back. Barely only because at first there was a brief period where we were a little unsure what we had gotten ourselves into. → Read the rest
For the last few months, Game Developer magazine has included ads for the University of Advancing Technology among its otherwise respectable pages. The UAT is an accredited school that offers degrees in game design and other audio/visual fields. The University of Advancing Technology also has the worst advertising I’ve seen in a long time. Their ads appear to be directly aimed towards stupid people, which is a problem because they are advertising courses in game development and we don’t want any more stupid developers making games.
The first example of their atrocious campaign says this –
“Without guys like me, you’d still be playing Pong.”
The quote is attributed to some undergraduate but is probably made up (which actually makes it a lie since it has quotes around it.) This isn’t why it sucks, though. → Read the rest
You know why the videogames of yesteryear are better than the games today: Simplicity. I find myself taking frequent breaks from the overly done games of today to play a game on my old Sega Genesis. After all, why watch hours of passive cut scenes in Resident Evil or Onimusha when I can jump on turtle shells, fall into never ending pits of death or practice killing vampires in the luscious 2D side scrollers I loved as a child? Games made more sense then than the games of today. They were simple. Shoot bubbles at enemies, pop them. Eat the crystals or Cakes that drop and keep going until your rescue your woman. → Read the rest
This column looks at design flaws in popular games. Nearly all of the examples of poor design are from games that are either good or great, so don’t assume we are picking on these games solely because they suck and it’s fun to make fun of crap. Perhaps it is the games’ quality that makes identifying one specific design flaw so easy. The flaws are also not unique the only these games; hopefully each specific game we examine will hold a flaw that is common in many other games, some sort of universal design flaw. This will ultimately make the column much more valuable than if it were just a place to piss on a game for a specific and unique quirk.
That being said, welcome to the first installment of this potentially never ending series. → Read the rest
The shooter, it is said, is a dying genre. Debatabley the first video game created, Spacewar, was a one on one shooter, so it is also a proud and essential genre. News of its demise has not fallen upon hardcore gamers’ ears lightly. The shooter is an odd genre in some respects. Many critics of current games complain that games are too long, too involved, and too complex. To reach a bigger audience, games should be shorter and simpler. The shooter tends to be both shallow and quickly completed, yet it is not embraced by the general populace. Is this because they are far too hard for the average person or because companies refuse to publish and advertise this type of game? → Read the rest
Dear Electronic Arts,
On June 28th, Frank Gibeau told Next Generation, “It’s really hard to think of new ideas.” Perhaps it’s only because I’m a genius, but I come up with new ideas all the time. I have enclosed two new game concepts for your consideration. A resume is not included because these designs speak for themselves.
Library Simulator – Build the library of your dreams. Decide the layout, build improvements, and take down unused wings. Hire staff to keep peace, shelve books, and keep the patrons quiet. Choose amongst dozens of librarians, each with their own special talents and interests. Develop the collection to best suit your demographic, or attempt to move the library in a new direction and capture more demographics. By preventing your library from dipping into the red and keeping your patrons happy you can keep it open indefinitely, which is good because you’ll want to see all of the new technologies that will eventually become available to your library, assuming you fund the research. → Read the rest
Grand Theft Auto 3 has come under a lot of heat because of the Hot Coffee mod, which allows the player to have polygonal sex with his video game girlfriend. GameStop, crusader for freedom Jack Thompson, and Hillary Clinton are among those who have lined up against Rock Star for making such an immoral product. Murdering prostitutes is questionable behavior, but having sexual intercourse is just ethically wrong so I, too, decided to share my discontent… but in the most positive way possible, by thanking those retailers who pulled the game from their shelf. Enjoy.
Since there are about 600 trillion websites already dedicated to reviewing video games, we knew we had to come up with a good angle. First, we thought we’d go with the “we have no angle” angle. Seinfeld did it so why can’t we? Seinfeld also had extremely talented writers, we do not. So then we thought “if we are just true to ourselves and the games, our humanity will shine through.” But the idea that the writers on bigger, richer sites are writing something that’s false to themselves or creating a personality to sell the site is sort of offensive. → Read the rest