Monthly Archives: March 2012

Movie: The Hunger Games

Today I wanted to talk about a movie instead of video games, so take this as your cue to leave if you don’t care.

The Hunger Games is a phenomenon that I was unaware of until last week. Suddenly every person I know started talking about going to the midnight showing, or re-reading all the books, and asking me if I wanted to go see it. I usually need a bit of background before I go see a movie, I’m not too keen on wasting ~$10 and 2 hours on seeing something that I don’t care about. My friends gave me a quick synopsis, and I resisted the urge to denounce it immediately as a Battle Royale/Running Man ripoff. Really, most of what I gathered is that Hunger Games is to today’s youth as Harry Potter was to mine. Also, there are spoilers past this. Read the rest of this entry

At least this blog is free

So today I find myself lacking employment. I should still be able to update normally, but right now I’m job hunting. I’m sure everyone can understand that feeling, and I won’t dwell on it. We talk about games here, so let me direct you to a free game that I enjoy from time to time, Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup!

It’s a fun amalgamation of roguelike elements with a few new twists of its own. I could spend many posts talking about it, but for now I’ll just leave it here. It’s easy to learn but hard to master.

The Elements of a Good Game: Characters – Part 2 – Further Characterization

Ugh, I can already tell that this title system is going to get horrible. I’m really sorry for the ridiculously long name, I just felt like I had more to say on the subject of characterization and wanted to get past the basics that I talked about last week. I’ll preface this by saying that most of this advice is pretty subjective, and there really aren’t any hard and fast rules for fictional characters. All I want to convey are general ideas that I’ve gathered from my experience and education.

When I look at characters that I consider to be fully-formed and well-made, I see that they feel like a real person. If you can ever look at someone in a video game (or any work of fiction) and say “yes, they seem like an actual living being that I could meet”, then something about them is clearly working right. At the very least, they need to make sense as a conceit of the setting, even if the setting is too alien to seem like a real place. Read the rest of this entry

Where I’m coming from

I enjoyed writing up Wednesday’s post and thinking objectively about the subject of characters in game design. I still have a lot to say on that topic, and on the other aspects of storycraft, so I thought it would only be fair to share some games that I felt satisfied all the necessary requirements to make a really good game, and then some. Before I continue talking about characters, story, gameplay, and art design, you need to know where I’m coming from. Everyone does lists of Top 5, and while 5 is a very arbitrary number, I think it works for me too. If you want, I can always add a 6th later, and we can pretend that it’s a Pokemon team.

I want to preface this by noting how few old games are in the list. This is likely because of my continuous efforts to try to find and enjoy things that are new. I rarely go back and play old games now, but I did play a lot of the good ones when I was a child, so I don’t believe I am too biased. Anyways, let’s jump into this entirely self-serving list. If you don’t want to listen to me gush about a few really good games, you can skip today. I won’t be offended. Also, I never mail scorpions to people. Read the rest of this entry

The Elements of a Good Game: Characters – Part 1

I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about what makes various games popular, what makes various games good, and how these two things interact and are related. I have come to the conclusion that I don’t care about what makes a game popular, but I am interested in quality works of creativity. I hate to try to fence quality into neat little categories, but I do tend to think about it in four very broad terms. When it comes right down to it, I think games can be held up and viewed as a competent work only when they satisfy all four of these basic elements. Characters, Story, Gameplay, and Art Design can each prop a game up, but only with them together can a good game be made. You won’t ever see me giving a game scores based on any of these elements, but I like to look at each one and say how the game did, pointing out what was good and what could be improved.

Today, I just want to talk about one of these: Characters. Characters are one of the first things we will care about when put into a game, and often the success of the whole experience will live or die based on the likability of the main cast, and ESPECIALLY the player character or characters. When we’re given control of a character in order to experience a story, it is important that we can relate to them. That doesn’t mean that they have to look or sound like us, or even have much in common with us. What it means is that we need to understand their motivations, their beliefs and goals, and how they respond to situations. Their actions need to make sense to us most of the time, and we should be able to see why they do what they do. Read the rest of this entry

Sick Day

Today I’m a bit under the weather, and not the even the good kind where you stay home and play video games all day (I miss you, years of formal education!). I didn’t want to leave radio silence, so I’ll just say that I’m planning special posts for Wednesday and Friday, to make up for this horrible catastrophe.

Until then, I recommend this free dungeon-crawly platformer game: Spelunky!

It’s simple and fun and makes for quick, short games. It’s an amazing time-waster.

Recent History – Counter-Strike

I chose Counter-Strike for today’s post for several reasons, but the most important one is that it is simple. It is not a very complex game, and I posit that finding a more bare-bones online FPS is nigh impossible. I also chose it because I have a lot of experience with it, and because I think it makes a nice contrast to TF2 as a whole. Comparing it to TF2 is like comparing an apple to a masterfully prepared turkey: both are good, but one is significantly more complicated. I didn’t choose Halo, or Battlefield, or Call of Duty, or any of those others for this reason, because while they may be less complex than TF2, they are still more complex than Counter Strike.

Counter-Strike has been around for over a decade, and even though ostensibly I am talking about Counter-Strike source, almost every aspect of CS gameplay is constant throughout every iteration, the graphics are really the biggest changes. Read the rest of this entry

A Look Back – Team Fortress Classic

Team Fortress Classic is the direct predecessor to TF2, released in 1999. It was, in fact, made by the same people, and in many ways does inform the setting and gameplay of TF2. However, and I do not say this lightly about a game, TFC was terrible. I don’t mean that it was terrible in a way that relates to the actual game’s intent, though, or any facts about the thought process that went in to making the game. No, it was a competent team-based game, one of the first FPS games to have different classes, and had graphics that were on-par with the time, if that matters to you. TFC was terrible because of what it did to competitive gaming, and it will continue to be a terrible memory for all of history, until humanity purges all traces of it from its collective knowledge. TFC represents an aspect of online play that I despise.

I’ve gotten ahead of myself, though. Let’s start over. Forget that stuff for now. Read the rest of this entry

This week – Team Fortress 2

Team Fortress 2 is a teamwork-focused first-person shooter that came out in 2007 as part of The Orange Box, and is technically a sequel to Team Fortress, a pre-2000 mod of Quake. Team Fortress 2 was heavily reviewed (along with the rest of the contents of the Box) when it came out, but here, 4.5 years later, the game is still fun, but somewhat different. I want to talk about what TF2 has done with multiplayer shooters, consistently-updated games, and Steam in general. Also, as of last year, TF2 is free for download, so go ahead and try it to see what you think, I highly recommend it.

I may have tipped my hand just now, but I’ll go ahead and say it: I love Team Fortress 2. Every once in a while I need to get online and shoot people, but TF2 is so much more than that, it has style AND substance, and that’s why I’m talking about it. Read the rest of this entry

Recent History – Overlord 2

Overlord 2 was released in 2009, a mere 2 years after the first Overlord, and it is the most recent (and likely last, due to poor sales) game in the series. This one takes place in much more varied environments than the last, and the player gets to explore snowy glaciers, steamy jungles, open plains, and even a thick swamp. You are once again playing the part of the Overlord, but not the same Overlord as the last game. Instead, you’re his son, and your lands are sort of at war with a huge Romanesque Empire.

I have mixed feelings about Overlord 2, but as always I will try to give a fair recollection of things that are interesting and new, and things that are the same, and what’s good or bad. The main problem, though, is that the writing for the game is not nearly as strong as the first one, and in fact feels kind of forced. Don’t get me wrong, the overall plot is actually probably better in some parts, and it has a twist that I definitely didn’t see coming, but there’s something missing. I’m not sure what happened, but while the game is still silly and mostly enjoyable, there’s not as much absurd high-fantasy humor as the original, and it all ends of feeling a bit too serious for a game with literal hippy rainbow elves. Read the rest of this entry