No Jokes Aren’t Funny Anymore

By Kieron Gillen on October 25th, 2007 at 9:33 pm.

[I've been saving up rants about the Orange Box for a while now. Pretty much all of them feature the word "Paradigm", so be warned: sit down, pour a drink, prepare your rotten vegetables to throw. This one's probably the most essential one, so it's going first, just to make sure I remember to do it.]

CRY SOME MORE!

The Orange Box: Christ, it’s bloody funny, isn’t it?

Now, we, as PC Gamers, were kind of expecting bits of it to be funny. Team Fortress’ character shorts had prepared us a little for the tone of the game, and the graphic style was obviously a radical break from the Marines (Space, or otherwise) FPS monopoly. But when Portal was discussed, we tended to dwell upon it taking Narbacular Drop‘s reality warping puzzle-play and bringing it to the people – that is, we were interested due to its mechanics rather than anything else. And as for Episode 2… Half-life’s Half-life. If it’s funny, it’s in a random character moment as a break from the normal Orwell-does-a-disaster-movie tension. We were expecting them to be GOOD. But we weren’t expecting Team Fortress 2 to be as rampantly hilarious, Portal to be so funny that it’s driven us all a little bit mad and even relative-straight man Episode 2 to play up its wit to an unprecedented level.

While we’ve a few months to go, it’s increasingly looking like the Orange Box will be the definitive PC “thing” of 2007. Absolutely the heart of the mainstream zeitgeist in the way that Doom or World of Warcraft or Starcraft or the original Half-life were in their respective years. And it’s funny. The heart of PC Gaming is funny.

This hasn’t been true since 1991.

(Monkey Island 2, if you’re scratching your head. Day of the Tentacle was arguably better, but had lost the zeitgeist to Doom.)

This line of thought was provoked from when I was passing through the PC gamer office last month. They’d done their cover on the Orange Box, which looked like this.

And I just sighed and said something along the lines of “That’s a really fun cover. That’s lovely.” I stopped and thought a little, before continuing, “And it’s good to see someone smiling on the cover of the mag. When was the last time someone was smiling on the cover of PCG?”. The rhetorical question was easily answered by turning to one of the office walls, where the last eighty or so covers are stuck up, a history of where a succession of editors thought the deepest affections of the Gaming Massive lay on a month-by-month basis. The only smiling thing on the lot of them wasn’t even human – it was Black & White 2′s happy cow. Other than that, an endless parade of people looking very serious indeed. Serious people holding space-guns. Serious people holding Enfield rifles. Serious people holding swords +3. Serious people looking serious even though they’re wearing tin-foil G-strings. Serious people, as far as the eye can see.

And after all those frowns, Heavy Weapon guy feels like sunlight.

(For the record, I can remember two covers featuring smiling just before they started the wall – a Lara Croft cover which had her smiling ruefully in half-profile and a Curse of Monkey Island Cover. Both are around 100 issues old, of course.)

No slight is meant to PC Gamer. It just reports on what people are interested in and (as often) what interesting people are doing. Now, anti-PC people make an awful lot of painful, inaccurate jokes about all PC games being various colours of brown. Which is ridiculous. Many are also Grey. The point being, while there’s always been funny stuff in PC Gaming around the edges, or buried inside more sombre games (RPGs of all sorts have always leavened the stats with a little light comedy), in a teenager’s lifetime it’s never been so directly, so bold, so mainstream as it is with The Orange Box. And, since it’s terrain we’ve stayed away from for so long, it feels shockingly fresh. As good as – say – Enemy Territory is, it doesn’t feel like the Next Big Thing in the way Team Fortress 2 does (i.e. “Christ, people are going to rip this off”). It may even be the old-seriousness’ Day of the Tentacle to the new-unseriousness’ Doom of Orange Box.

(It’s also worth noting despite being comic, it still feels typically PC – dark, satirical, bloody, quasi-adult. When I showed the TF2 shorts to an ex-director now-comic-writer friend of mine, entirely smitten, he described them as, “What would happen if the Columbine kids were given a free rein at Pixar”.)

Why have Valve gone in this direction? I have no idea. It’s possible it could be idle whim or crafty populism. It could be because of the many strong design techniques which humour and a more cartoon approach allow – like in Team Fortress 2 things like the Spy’s mask conveying information efficiently in a way that any more realistic rendering wouldn’t, or how Portal – being an intrinsically alienating and mind-fucking concept – requires a lot of sugar to make people swallow, so GlaDOS and the turrets and that song ease people in. I prefer to think that everyone at Valve is having really awesome sex or realised exactly how rich they are, and started laughing and never stopped.

So – the heart of the zeitgeist is funny again.

What happens now?

It’s videogames. Rampant Plagarism.

Valve, being the most constantly successful independent PC developer in the world, by their actions and successes change the way other developers (and publishers – follow the money) act. That earlier “plagarism” is in jest, as this is both natural and fine. All forms of creation are a dialogue between creators, watching what others are doing – so realising what’s possible – and being inspired in kind. That said, Creators are only half the equation. The Orange Box has reintroduced the idea of pure joy for the audience, warping their expectations and preparing them for what may follow. People who once rolled their eyes at “cartoon graphics” or whatever, have – unless they’re terminally aesthetically hampered – had their horizons forcibly widened by a Scout Rush or seven.

Between these two factors, it’s entirely possible there could be a paradigm (I warned you!) shift towards games which don’t take themselves so seriously. At the least, Valve has opened up a space in PC games’ ecosphere and I eagerly await to see what brave new quick-witted mammals will rush to populate it. And, yes, like all movements, if it takes off it’ll eventually lead to over-saturation and a rictus of grins… but then the pendulum can swing back to the dour.

C’est la vie. For now, we should laugh and be glad we’re (still) alive.

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80 Comments »

  1. Kast says:

    It’s a brave new world.

  2. Thelps says:

    Mr Gillen proves yet again why he’s the daddy of PC games analysis.

    Needless fawning aside, I seriously hope games get their sense of humour back. Apart from a few notable exceptions (the clearly excellent Psychonauts, which I’m currently in the midst of replaying, being a prime example) I haven’t had a single game spring to mind when I’m trying to inspire a fellow ‘casual’ gamer to look into one of my current loves or another. Especially, and not to propagate a stereotype here, female players, who I find seem to engage all the more readily with a game that has a sense of humour, regardless of how bloody, gun-based and generally male oriented its design philosophy may be.

    Case in point is I find myself wishing Bioshock had worn its humour a little more on its sleeve, so I could have convinced a girl on my philosophy course to really give it a fair chance, since she had pretty deep experience with Randian philosophy and I’m sure would have adored the game, if only it hadn’t come across as so stereotypical in its opening moments (thinking along the lines of the splicer chasing you, and basic horror elements, rather than the wondrous bathysphere introduction to Rapture that’s solid gold in my books).

    Anyway, again, at risk of descending into generalities, I don’t believe the female gamer (in the most broad, sweeping way) necessarily looks for a different type of game, mechanic and design-wise. Just that they want a little more than the typical survive/destroy/conquer setting that the vast majority of games take in utter seriousness. Throw in a little TF2-style humour and you can make a game about any number of ‘male archetypes’ you want, they’ll still enjoy it. I like to think it’s cuz they demand more, and are more willing to engage with the other gender’s stereotypical territory than we are with theirs. But that really is a whole ‘nother debate.

  3. John Walker says:

    More kudos goes to Gamer for that cover, as the original artwork had HWG looking very serious. Art guru Dan did some nifty cut and pasting, and created a laughing HWG to give the happy image.

    I don’t think I share the optimism here. I remember after HL2 was released, people said the gravity gun would be copied by all, and that everyone would make inspired FPSs following. Sadly the only people who’ve done either are Valve.

    Clearly, with comedy being my number-one focus in games, I’d adore to see a resurgence for gaming as a comedy medium, but my hopes aren’t high. I might write a rant about why soon.

  4. Masked Dave says:

    So “Season Two” of Sam & Max might actually be funny?! :o

  5. essell says:

    Hehe, I don’t think I’ve ever seen three consecutive paragraphs that all generalise women and apologise for it at the same time. You’ve stereotyped everytime you’ve said the word “they” – and of the things you’ve said that may be true, they probably apply equally to people in general who don’t play games. Male or female.

    (Good post, Kieron.)

  6. Cargo Cult says:

    Perhaps not a woman, generalised or otherwise – but my father found Portal hilarious. Usually he can’t see any point of games. So, cue he and I quoting GLaDOS to my confused mother while eating at Pizza Express last week…

  7. Feet says:

    I’d never really noticed a lack of humour in PC gaming, but now that you mention it…

    Portal stood out for being laugh-out-loud funny first, and then for it’s trick (the Portal puzzles). Not the other way around. Hence it endeared itself to gamers.

    I wonder if a game like Max Payne had had more of a sense of humour to go with it’s trick (bullet time), it would be remembered more favourably.

    I enjoyed Psychonauts for it’s original ideas, but they never raised more than a smirk for me (alot of smirks but never more than that) and the game itself didn’t really stand out of 3rd person platform ad, or had no trick to speak of.

    So yeah. Sense of humour is important. Or something.

  8. Daniel Puzey says:

    Surely that should end “be glad we’re still alive”?

  9. Jachap says:

    Thelps, I completely agree with you about Bioshock. I could have done with a few lighter moments to juxtapose the darker elements of the plot. The only laugh I got was when I saved a little sister and mid-way through her, “Thank you kind sir” speech, she got belted in the face by a Splicer with a wrench.

  10. Masked Dave says:

    I agree with Mr. Walker (if my subtle attempt at sarcasm above didn’t convey that), I remember people saying when Deus Ex came out that they couldn’t wait for people to start ripping it off (I’m paraphrasing, but I’m pretty sure that was KG himself actually) and yet nobody ever really did. Not to any great extent anyway.

    Hell, even Deus Ex: IW didn’t do it (and I’m a supporter of that game, it was a solid shooter) which I guess says a lot.

    Valve are… well… they’re the Pixar of games, a comparison that could be drawn even without the TF2 graphics. They are simply awesome. But there’s a lot of CGI cartoon films out that just *don’t get it*, they don’t understand what it is that makes Toy Story or The Incredibles so brilliant, and we end up with Shark Tale and Over the Hedge. They’re trying to cash in on Pixar’s success but they think that CGI animation was the key, not the humour and characterisation. Pixar and Valve are possibly the best storytellers of their respective mediums (although obviously there are others: Irrational, The Coen Brothers, yadda yadda yadda) but whenever they are copied, if ever, it’s average at best.

    Sorry, this all got a bit rambly, and I’m guessing nobody’s actually bothering to read anymore (I generally don’t) but I just wanted to say that although I’m generally an unstoppable optimist, I just can’t see the end to the poe-faced seriousness of shooters.

    Halo 4 won’t have any jokes.

  11. Kieron Gillen says:

    Daniel: Shit. I knew I missed a trick there. I’m tempted to edit that in. In fact, I will. SHUSH!

    Re: Bioshock. I thought some of Sander’s stuff was agreeably… bizarre, to the point of comedy. The Dance sequence, etc… I was planning on using it as an example of a “serious” game with a funny section, but (er) forgot.

    Walker: The thing with HL2… well, there’s wasn’t much to rip-off. The Gravity Gun and… that’s it. And everyone was already using physics in games, so it was already on people’s minds. Half-life 2 was a logical continuation of the (paradigm shifting for the FPS) Half-life 1… which, of course, was ripped off a lot in terms of its techniques. Bar a vague idea of “Quality”, there’s very little to take from Half-life 2.

    (Similarly you can look at Halo’s influence on the FPS too, in terms of direct mechanic stuff – but that stuff been assimilated already, meaning I don’t expect to see many people ripping off Halo 3… because there’s not much to take bar “Quality”.)

    (If you want me to call on the shooter people will be taking from at the moment, I’d direct your eyes towards STALKER.)

    You have to have something new and fresh. It has to sell. These are the things which create change in the world, and the Orange Box has both.

    KG

  12. Kieron Gillen says:

    Masked Dave:EVERYONE ripped Deus Ex off. Any time anyone talks about multiple solutions to situations and (to a lesser degree) moral decisions and what not… they’re pretty much inspired by DX. DX’s ideas were well and truly disseminated. Yes, very few people made DX clones… but that’s not what I’m saying.

    KG

  13. John Walker says:

    It’s interesting to note that Erik Wolpaw, lead writer on Portal, co-wrote Pyschonauts. Which I found laugh-out-loud funny throughout (apart from when it was amazingly shocking and disturbing).

  14. Pesh says:

    Inspiring article.

    Although, I must say the website is looking awfully serious now that the fun colors have been sucked dry of their saturation.

  15. Masked Dave says:

    Well… Thief Deadly Shadows did it I guess… um… and RPGs, but they were already doing moral decisions, the execution has just gotten better.

    “Linear” became a bad word for a while I suppose.

    I just can’t think of many titles that really did as much as DX did or as well.

    Hell, I’m struggling to think of games with multiple endings. (I really thought Paper Mario 2 was going to, but was utterly disappointed to find what looked like the incredibly brave ‘siding with the bad guy option’ just lead to a Game Over, with the last save game a huge amount of dialogue away.)

  16. Masked Dave says:

    Sorry, that was worded badly. Thief did multiple approaches, not moral choices.

  17. Mario Granger says:

    First and foremost, what a great read.

    Here’s a question I have after reading the article. How much of the power of the Orange Box do you feel comes from its humor? That is to say, is its popularity due to its humor, or the gameplay that goes along with it?

    I mean, when you cut down to it, all 3 of these games have literally been done before (albeit to a much lesser extent in regards to Portal/Nabacular Drop). It seems that the humor provides a nature, subtle accessibility to the games, which is done moreso with the streamlining of the gameplay, especially with TF2.

    If that is the case, how would the plagarism of the Orange Box work? I don’t think it’s as simple as adding humor and wit. A title like Psychonauts, which has wit in spades, still was not much of a success due to its pretty traditional (and slightly inaccessible) hardcore gameplay.

    Would it be fair to say that we’ve entered into the age of more mainstream gaming, where the hardcore is relegated to the fringe? Perhaps the success of TF2 and the Wii is proving just that?

  18. Jachap says:

    Cohen, of course. Not exactly light comedy, though. Not to mention the fact that he gets involved only after a vast swathe of blood soaked, corpse-filled rooms.

    Of course, its a profoundly dark and, for want of a better word, mature game and perhaps some comedy bits would have been gatekeeper-in-Macbeth mood breaking, but I’m not suggesting that there should have been a plasmid that made Big Daddies flatulent just that – as an example – I was expecting more of the Diaries to be, well, less unremittingly bleak. It was a bit of a shame that none of them dated from before the civil war/little sister era of Rapture.

    Even the Circus of Value dispensers are sinister.

    Love the article, by the way.

  19. Masked Dave says:

    I always liked the gatekeeper in Macbeth.

  20. Chis says:

    A column about comedy in PC games and no mention of Sam & Max? Shame on you, Kieron!

    * Chis attacks KG for for 20 points (or 10 minutes) of Ginger Baker drum solos! * ;)

  21. Diogo Ribeiro says:

    Well, it can be argued that Deus Ex itself was basically a step up from the Thief and System Shock 2 schools of design, and not an always good one at that – but certainly a step in the right direction.

  22. Alec Meer says:

    “Bar a vague idea of “Quality”, there’s very little to take from Half-life 2.”

    I dunno. While it’s a far less adventurous game than most of its fans claim, it was the first shooter that really made something of ‘is this fun?’ playtesting and experience-shaping. While I consider HL1 the better game, there’s a lot more frustration and confusion in it (and I mean before Xen). And very, very few shooters afterwards realised that it was the rollercoaster element of Half-Life 2 that made people obssessed with it. Witness the Doom 3 addon, for instance, blatantly ripping off the gravity gun, but still being about trudging back and forward to press switches in the dark, because it just hadn’t picked up on how to be fun.

    It’s only very recently, and still very rarely, that this kind of design philosophy is trickling down to other games. Which is a matter of other devs lacking budget/time/manpower as much as anything else, admittedly, but also the fault of focusing tunnel vision on the feature set and not on the actual experience.

  23. Kieron Gillen says:

    I dunno – the Rollercoaster element was already in Half-life a bit, and was analysed and then ran with hyperbolically by Medal of Honour: Allied Assault and then later Call of Duty. The difference is, I know, that all of them separated them into multiple stages rather than a continuous environment, but I don’t think that’s fundamental to Half-life’s greatness.

    (In fact, the “Stopping in corridor for long load” when it came out was one of my least favourite things about the game. A coherent environment with big pauses in simply ISN’T a coherent environment)

    KG

  24. bluespacetiger says:

    Well, I’m neither intelligent or articulate enough to be able to provide any noteworthy comments here but I would like to say what brilliant article that was and equally interesting set of comments. Thanks guys.

  25. Andrew says:

    Especially when so many of the load points are rather obvious. You get to realise that when you turn a corner and there’s a corridor ahead with another turn, that there’s going to be a loading screen.

    Episode 2 learned from that a bit, though, and had those sorts of corridors without load points, putting them in places you didn’t expect instead. Which pleasantly surprised me, but is still a loading screen.

    As to the article, very perceptive and a great read. I don’t think I’d complain about future games copying the light-heartedness, really.

  26. Alec Meer says:

    Agreed to a point on that last; and as Minerva: Metastasis reveals there’s not even any need in the Source engine for level loads to happen that often.
    But at least the loading wait isn’t accompanied by a tedious cutscene, a sudden shift in location and losing all your weapons. You knew exactly what situation you’d be in as soon as the load was done.
    It’s not purely the rollercoaster sense I’m on about though; it’s about ensuring almost every bit of that rollercoaster’s track is fun and perpetually forward. There are enough sudden difficulty spikes (e.g. MOHAA’s awful sniper level) and chokepoints in MOH and COD to trip up the sense of momentum and enjoyment. My point is that the idea of ‘quality’ to be taken from HL2 isn’t a vague one. It’s just that it might be a very expensive and time-consuming one.
    Oh, and both MOH and COD used objective arrows, while HL2′s discreet visual signals and level layout tricks gave the illusion of having chosen to go in what was actually the only direction. In MOH/COD, it was abundantly and artificially obvious you had no choice. In HL1, there was a lot more getting lost and backtracking by mistake because those hidden cues weren’t there.

  27. Monkfish says:

    Even better than the grinning Heavy on the cover of that issue of PCG is the wonderful pic of Ross Atherton, atop his editorial, mimicking the Heavy’s expression. At least, I hope that’s what he’s doing. :D

    Anyway, the article was indeed inspiring. I’d love to see more games using humour in the same manner as TF2, Portal and No One Lives Forever (“You look like you could use a monkey”). Let the happy times roll…

  28. Beholder says:

    I think that we also shouldn’t neglect the perfectly timed release of the Steam Friends list and, to a lesser extent, the wider Steam Community (with its implementation of Achievements and Statistics pages). I have personally been finding plenty of causes to lament the fact that I simply don’t have as much time as I used to to devote to games (Supreme Commander is still criminally underplayed in comparison to the time I spent with TA), but the genius of being able to communicate with, and join the same game as a friend with a single click – and from inside an entirely different game – has radically changed how my friends and I arrange our game sessions.

    On several occasions I’ve been pottering about in Half-Life Source, only to find myself being cajoled into an impromptu round or three of TF2 by a friend, the beauty of which is that when we disband a few hours later we’re saying goodnight not just to one another but usually to at least 3 or 4 friends who had been lured away from obsessively playing the challenge maps on Portal.

    Yes TF2, Ep2 and Portal are works of brilliance that have renewed my enthusiasm for spending whole evenings with games, but that enthusiasm would have been harder to keep if it had not been very successfully managed and encouraged by the excellent and effortless Friends List.

    I should also thank all four of you gentlemen for your articles, you too deserve no small share of the blame for my recent gaming renaissance/fever…

  29. Kieron Gillen says:

    I was going to argue the point Alec, but realise I’m getting distracted from the point in hand.

    “Levels flowing nicely” isn’t exactly the sort of thing which leads to inspiring followers in the way of “environment as storytelling and scripted-in-game-sequences instead of cut-scenes” of Half-life 1, “Multiple endings, multiple solutions” of Deus Ex or “First person, big gun” of Doom do.

    KG

  30. drunkymonkey says:

    “But at least the loading wait isn’t accompanied by a tedious cutscene, a sudden shift in location and losing all your weapons. You knew exactly what situation you’d be in as soon as the load was done.”

    Mmm, I was going to make a post saying the same thing as that, but you beat me to it. The only part I can remember from Half Life wherein the action stopped being all one gasp was the bit where the soldiers captured you, and even then it was still in-game and through Gordon’s point of view. I think this was integral to the game – Gordon’s viewpoint never being compromised, and never being dropped somewhere completely different in a matter of minutes. It made the game far more personal.

    And I tended to get lost a lot in Half Life. Maybe it was because I was younger, but being stuck and wondering where to go was a common occurrence, whereas in Half Life 2 it was pretty much straight forward. I get the sense that Valve knew what they were doing more in Half Life 2 (which comes from more years of experience, I suppose), and Adam Foster’s interview a few weeks back was I think an example of this – the developers pointing out potential pitfalls seemingly on instinct.

    As far as humour goes, it’s always been important to me, and so it’s a shame it’s quite elusive as far as games are concerned. I see games are as much a narrative experience as they are a gameplay one, so I’ll lap up any of the funny happily.

    I just need The Orange Box first, damn it.

  31. Kid Amnesiac says:

    To be fair, the ending to Episode Two was one of the most depressing endings I have ever seen, in any type of medium. I half-expected the words “Depression Accomplished” to pop up before the credits rolled.

    Excellent analysis, by the way.

  32. unclebulgaria says:

    FFS people! Games can be fun(ny)! Good point, well made.

    Of course, genuinely funny laugh-out-loud games are, by all the evidence, very difficult to make.

  33. CrashT says:

    “(In fact, the “Stopping in corridor for long load” when it came out was one of my least favourite things about the game. A coherent environment with big pauses in simply ISN’T a coherent environment)”

    Didn’t DX do that plenty of times?

    For me the appeal of the Half Life games is that they never allow you to really get bored with anything. The moment you start to feel like you know how something works they give ask you to learn something new. Starting to understand how to use the hoverboat? Ok so here’s a gravity gun; here’s snipers; here’s a buggy; here’s Ant Lions; here’s Ant Lions on your side; here’s some team mates; here’s a super gravity gun.

    That’s why Episodes 1 and 2 feel a little flat, as a lot of what they are asking you to do are things you’ve already done before, which was a rare occurance for the previous Half Life titles.

    Compare that to something like Doom where you’re doing the same thing all the time just with increasinly larger enemies and increasingly bigger guns. The No One Lives Forever games fall somewhere in the middle with some nice changes of pace but a little too many weak stealth sections or generic gunplay. But they are funny, and element I greatly missed while playing Fear \ Condemned… Please Monolith bring back the funnies.

  34. Thelps says:

    Essell, I take your point about the stuff I said applying not only to women, but most people who don’t play games. However, the whole stereotyping thing is, for better or worse, a prime aspect of gender studies and feminism. It’s called dealing in archetypes and it’s considered (again, for better or for worse) a valid way of dealing with gender differences. We just all need to accept that the ‘rule’ only needs to be 51% to be used as a ‘rule’, and that said ‘rule’ is really just a guideline.

    The main thrust of my post is dealing with the whole girl-gamer issue which is pretty prevalent since no one can contest PC gaming is a male dominated area. I guess I was just musing as to ways that might appeal more to the classic female archetype. I feel I stereotyped men at least as much as women in that post, and did so consciously. There just isn’t any other way to talk about such a sweeping subject as gender.

    Just qualifying my raving lunacies, y’see.

  35. Bozzley says:

    I sincerely hope, if there’s a message to be taken from The Orange Box by developers / publishers, that they do take the “funny is good” message, and not the “FIVE GAMES! TWO YOU ALREADY GOT, THREE YOU DON’T! AND IT’S IN A BOX!”. Feel the quality, not the width. Or something.

  36. Monkfish says:

    Please Monolith bring back the funnies.

    As long as it doesn’t involve the return of Norton Mapes to provide “comedy moments” in Project Origin. :)

  37. Frans Coehoorn says:

    Talked to the producer of Condemned II at the Leipzig GC this year and sadly there will be no No One Lives Forever 3. Period. It just didn’t sell because nobody likes playing with sexy spy women who meet silly arabs selling monkey’s. Such a shame.

  38. CrashT says:

    Yeah I remember hearing about people actually returning NOLF because they didn’t want to play as a girl… *Shakes Head*

  39. The_B says:

    Looking at some of the upcoming games though – or at least one in particular – cartoon graphics I think were and are already seeing a surge in popularity. I’m not sure if that should be primarily attributed to TF2, but I suppose it’s possible.

    My main thought at the time turns to Spore. And indeed the Guitar Hero series, in broader terms (ie, not just limited to the PC platform).

  40. Monkfish says:

    Yeah I remember hearing about people actually returning NOLF because they didn’t want to play as a girl… *Shakes Head*

    And yet there’s loads of geezers merrily playing MMOs with female avatars. *Shakes Head More Vigorously*

  41. essell says:

    Re: the reason why the Orange Box is successful – we shouldn’t forget that the three new games in there are all pushing boundaries in several different directions at once – game design, level design, art direction, character animation, catering for a broader range of player types, etc – as well as the unusually good, intelligent and funny writing.

    It’s the combination of so many good things at once that makes it what it is.

  42. Chrispy Kiwi says:

    In agreeing with several posts, NOLF had some incredibly funny moments and did feature the vibrant colour scheme now seen in TF2 (though with a little less Elmer Fudge). Little upset not to see NOLF mentioned earlier!

    And there are some games that have promised hilarity but fallen flat on their face, and not even in the funny way (Evil Genius anybody?).

    Personally I couldn’t finish Doom 3 due to boredom, nor FEAR due to being over the whole scary ghost thing and I just can’t get excited bout Bioshock (shock horror to all). The HL series though is just do darned good as a complete experience, meaning that scared liffle girls (like me) will keep playing and hoping that Freeman gets the girl.

  43. Chis says:

    *Puts up hand* I still have NOLF 1 & 2, and enjoyed them primarily because the protagonist was a cool, sexy spy girl. A mere Bond clone would have been the easy way out. Good job, Monolith.

  44. Pod says:

    “Why have Valve gone in this direction? I have no idea. It’s possible it could be idle whim or crafty populism.”

    Listen to the audio commentary for TF2. Hydro, I think, explains (in about 3 minutes) why they chose the style they did.

  45. Cryect says:

    Yeah, I wish Monolith would go back to the fun of NOLF instead of Project Origin.

    And yes Evil Genius was humor just done bad.

    Also returning NOLF because the protagonist was female wth?

  46. oryly says:

    Concerning Bioshock and NOLF, I decided to play NOLF 2 right after finishing Bioshock because the Bioshock writing was disappointing. And, I noticed that the humor affects the way you play.

    I remember the “rail-shooter” portion of NOLF 2 was really hard during the first time I played it because I was laughing so hard that it was impossible to aim. We can see the same kind of reaction (which spills over into real life!) in the recent companion cube frenzy.

    FEAR (Monolith’s big hit), on the other hand, failed to engage me emotionally. The basic supernatural encounter goes like this:
    *whisper*
    *flickering lights*
    *flashback or harmless black stuff appears*
    then the clones come and shoot everything up

    Because most of the supernatural stuff can’t hurt you, you stop being scared of them. There goes the “fear”.

  47. malkav11 says:

    Which, I believe, is why Project Origin (or maybe it was Sierra’s FEAR 2) is scheduled to make the supernatural stuff hurt you.

  48. Thiefsie says:

    Funny is hard. Don’t expect bucketloads of funny games coming out any time soon. If we’re lucky we’ll have one, maybe 2 decent humoured games in the next 2 years.

    NOLF are some of my favourite games forever because of the humour, same with monkey island (and other lucasarts), same with dungeon keeper, probably the same with portal.

  49. F'yth says:

    for the Overlord!

  50. Dragon says:

    I think you’re very right, Mr G. I expect that we’ll shortly see a company produce an extremely playable MMO that features cartoonish graphics and is brim full of humour and pathos.

    Oh… wait.

    As I side note, I always remember DX as taking it ever so seriously with it’s conspiracy theories and very earnest protagonist. But I played it again recently and pissed myself laughing at the whole exchange between Gunther and Anna Navarre when he’s complaining that the soda machine has it in for him. Then he asks why JC feels the need to wear sunglasses at night.

    My personal impression is that, after the Orange Box, there will be a lot more games offering cake as an incentive.