Ken Levine winds down Irrational to play narrative LEGOs plus a comment on cynical twitter reaction

Ken Levine announcement

So the big news today is that Ken Levine of BioShock and System Shock fame has decided to “wind down” the Irrational games studio. All but 15 members will be laid off. Bad news? Yes. It’s always bad when people lose their jobs, and surely this could have been handled better. Levine could maybe have handed leadership for Irrational to someone else and left himself, taking those 15 people with him. Surely there must have been someone with vision and ability to lead Irrational in his stead?

At least he’s promising to help those laid off to find employment as best he can. But this isn’t about that aspect of the announcement. (more…)

What’s the value of QTE’s?

God of War Quick Time Event

It’s been one of the most hated features of video games this last generation, yet there are no signs that they’ll go extinct in this new one. Quick time events, or QTE’s for short. Yesterday as I was playing episode 1 of the second season of The Walking Dead (it’s excellent so far, btw), I felt compelled to get into the subject more deeply. Why are QTE’s so unpopular, why are they still in our games, and what are the redeeming qualities? (more…)

Gone Home Review

Gone Home

One of the most consistent trends you see in modern games is the element of environment storytelling. It’s something that games are especially fit for, even if it’s not technically unique to games. I’ve seen it in System Shock 2, Bioshock, Fallout 3 and many other games and it’s usually a very economic and elegant way of creating atmosphere and immersion. It works especially well in first person games because you get a better and closer view of your surroundings. It’s a relatively recent way of story telling too, because there’s a certain level of visual fidelity needed to create an intricately designed space with objects and lighting etc. (more…)

Broken Age Impressions

Broken Age

So the moment has come. Tim Schafer (and his talented team) has finally – FINALLY – created and released a proper 2D point-and-click adventure again. If you ignore the 2D and point-and-click part, this is the first game of its ilk that he made since Grim Fandango, which is, as you might have seen, my favorite adventure game.¬† (more…)

Valkyria Chronicles 3 Fan Translation is out

Valkyria Chronicles 3

Valkyria Chronicles 3: Unrecorded Chronicles is a game released in Japan on¬†January 27, 2011. To the dismay and continued bewilderment of Western fans, an English translation was ruled out. Sega really has been treating fans of the first two games quite badly. They bring out the first game on PS3, then the second on PSP. I played and enjoyed the second one (I don’t own a PS3), but considering that it’s mostly been the fans of the first game who marketed the franchise by word of mouth, it’s shitty of Sega not to at least bring out an HD re-release on PSN of the second game for those who understandably don’t own the troubled handheld system. And after that, they didn’t even deem it worthy to release the third title in the West at all.

But never say never, because fans are resourceful and awesome. A group of fans took it upon themselves to take it into their own hands and translate the game by themselves. You can find their blog here: http://vc3translationproject.wordpress.com. (more…)

Why I love Red Orchestra 2

Red Orchestra 2

It is now ten years ago since I played Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. It was the first WW2 shooter I played, leaving a strong impression on my young gamer mind back then. There were three missions I remember to this day. The first is the beginning of the game. You are sitting in a truck somewhere with your comrades. Going to some place, anxiety in the air. Suddenly the truck stops. You listen to the muffled dialog between soldiers of an enemy outpost and your driver. Shots fired. Silence. More silence. Then: GO GO GO! You leave the truck with your squad and advance on a Nazi military base, war happening all around you. But not just any war – World War 2. (more…)

On the new Thief and inspired game development

Thief XP system

It has been reported that Eidos Montreal have decided to scrap the XP system they had in place for the new Thief game, due to “negative fan feedback”. Two questions immediately can be raised here:

  1. This late into the development cycle, they’re going to scrap something as elemental (you’d hope it to be) as an experience points based progression system?
  2. They’re letting their game design be influenced by fan pressure?

In this last generation of video games, we’ve been seeing XP systems creep into all kinds of games even if it really doesn’t add anything to the game, even muddying the core gameplay on many occasions. Companies thought that even if the game really doesn’t need it, adding unlockable skills to be purchased with XP would add “depth” to the game, or at least be perceived to be more involving. The problem is that in so many games, these skill unlocks are just window dressing and it wouldn’t be much different if the game would automatically give the player new abilities at predefined points. But no, with XP the player can be fooled to believe they’ve actually earned something, and actively unlocking the next skill in line is more satisfying. It’s directly tied to the illusion of progress when grinding towards the next level. We’re so conditioned to feel better making progress that the thought of non-linear, unpredictable rate of progress is discomforting to us. When we play a game where we constantly are reminded that we are indeed making progress on the level ladder, we feel reassured. A consistently filling bar gives us motivation to keep investing time with the promise of another juicy level-up awaiting like a carrot on a stick. (more…)