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:
- 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?
- 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. Continue reading
Limbo is one of those artsy 2D indie puzzle platformers that were all the rage a few years ago. Thanks to its striking black & white color scheme, it immediately caught my eye when I first saw screenshots. It went on to become one of the indie darlings of 2010, joining the company of such games as Braid, World of Goo and Super Meat Boy. It could be easy to dismiss it as a pretentious game, as trying too hard with its European art house film sensitivities. It’s fittingly sparse in exposition, as it is in color, visual spectacle or music. It is also a fucking joy to play. Continue reading
Have a read here and here. It’s about a ‘thought experiment’ of Ken Levine. He’s looking into breaking away from the fixed narratives in video games (including the BioShock series). He says
“I spend five years [working on a game] and 12 hours later the player is done with it, and that is heartbreaking. There are some fans who will replay it but you can’t expect that from the average gamer because it won’t be meaningfully different the second time, and that is an important challenge.”
I get that. It’s the crux of narrative driven games. They fundamentally are at odds with the core trait of video games being interactivity – the ability to change the outcome. How can you tell a story with meaning and message if at any moment the player has the power to drive off the rails you set for them? Continue reading
Scouring through twitter today I discovered this very honest and thought provoking post by Tevis Thompson on video game reviews, and in particular Bioshock Infinite. It’s quite a long read but if you’re at all interesting in video game reviewing it’s worthwhile pondering some of the things said in the post. Link is here: http://tevisthompson.com/on-videogame-reviews/
I’ve been already thinking about a more structured or standardized way to rate games for this blog. It’s going to come soon.
The Wolf Among Us is a new Telltale game, following the formula established with their very successful take on the Walking Dead franchise. Light on traditional puzzles but big on character development and atmosphere, here we have one of the freshest and original adventure games of the year. Continue reading
LucasArts game studio has closed on April 3, 2013, bringing to an end a 31 year old run in the games business. That’s really quite impressive even if you just look at the numbers. It makes me a little sad, because a big part of my youth was attached to things that start with the LucasArts guy displayed on a CRT monitor. If I’m honest, the LucasArts I loved and admired had died a long time ago, when the suits upstairs had decided that creative story-based video games wouldn’t make money and instead chose to exploit their Star Wars franchise to the max.
In a way, it’s hard to fault them for it. With the rise of 3D graphics at the end of the 90′s and the exciting new world of shoot-shoot-kill games with ever higher graphical fidelity, the (truly) golden era of adventure games had come to a sad end. I had only discovered this line of games in the early 2000′s, when I got heavily into PC gaming, but it was one of the big revelations and a time I fondly remember forever in my heart (:*)). Continue reading
Getting into Paradox grand strategy games
I’ve been enjoying games ever since watching in awe as my father was playing Wing Commander. I must have been 6 years old. Since then, I’d tried playing pretty much all genres games had to offer, both console and PC. But never had I played a grand strategy game until hearing of a little game called Victoria. The premise immediately intrigued me: take control of any nation that existed in the 18th century and lead it politically, militarily and economically. Everything was in there. You had to handle citizens within your country of differing ideology, you had to keep an eye on the price of copper, and be careful who you were declaring war on, since you might just start a chain reaction and begin a world war. Because other countries were their own entities playing the game, with their own goals, Victoria promised so much. Continue reading