The Future Plans Popular Grind Of Ark: Survival Evolved

Ark: Survival Evolved [official site] is currently the fifth most played game on Steam. It’s not the first early access survival game to reach such heights, but so far it’s one of the few to have maintained it. At this year’s Gamescom 2015 I spoke to co-creative director Jesse Rapczak about what he feels Ark is doing different, their release and expansion plans, how you foster a less sociopathic survival game playerbase, and why his game is so grindy.

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Into The Black Closet

As I send Alberta to detention and arm one of my subordinates with a baseball bat to ensure she’s maximally intimidating, a thought intrudes on the tightly focused stream of calculations and strategizing that defined my time with Black Closet [official site]: “Is this really what my ideal high school experience looks like?”

For the trans woman who plays games like this or Gone Home there’s a melancholic note of nostalgia behind every move: a longing for the childhood or the girlhood you never had, all the while recreating it in digital pantomime to weave a sense of memory for a never-happened history. I often think about what my life would have been like if I had been able to be out as a young woman in high school and been able to redirect all the energy I’d wasted battling dysphoria back into my schoolwork and planting the seeds of my career.

I might’ve been a young woman like Elsa Jackson, President of the Student Council at St. Claudine’s Academy for Girls.

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Fran Bow Is A Worthy Heir To Wonderland

Fran Bow [official site] made me smile more than any other game I’ve played this year.
That might come as a surprise if all you’ve seen of the game is a couple of screenshots feauring gore and dead kids. Fran Bow opens with a gory murder scene and then traps its young protagonist in a creepy institution for (criminally?) insane children. But that initial setting and the dark tone are just a small slice of a story that spans worlds and perfectly captures the beautiful, delightful nonsense of Alice’s Adventures, an inspiration that is imprinted on the game.

Extending Alice’s curiosity to pitch black MORBID curiosity leads to an intelligent, melancholy and eventually hopeful journey toward an acceptance and understanding of death.

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Have You Played… Betrayal At Krondor?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

There are games I played in my youth. And there are games I sat next to my dad and watched him play. I’ve never played a game of Civilisation or UFO: Enemy Unknown, but I watched my dad play them for hours. Also in that list comes Betrayal At Krondor [GOG].

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Kickstarting Simulations: The DOs And The DO NOTs

In readiness for Flare Path’s imminent swan dive into game development (After long negotiations with W.E. Johns Media we’ve finally secured the Worrals licence!) I’ve been examining crowdfunding options this week. Having studied dozens of Kickstarter and Indiegogo sim projects I believe I’ve now got a pretty good idea of what persuades punters to part with their pennies and what causes them to hurry past. In fact I’d go so far as to say I’m now perfectly equipped to cobble together an intelligence-insulting, dream-trampling Sim Developer’s Guide to Crowdfunding. Read the rest of this entry »

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ARK: Survival Evolved – Let’s Play, Part 5

Ark: Survival Evolved [official site] is the survival game du jour, and not without cause. While others have tried to create games that combine dinosaurs and the crafting, progression, and violent encounters typical of the genre, ARK’s early access release seems to come the closest to pulling it off. To explore it a little more, we asked Andro Dars to make a video playthrough to show what works and what doesn’t. Part three is below.

In part five: leading a dinosaur procession, exploring some giant player bases, and visiting a dinosaur motel.

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Photorealism Is Crucial To Games

Global illumination.
Volumetric clouds.
Sub-surface scattering.

These are words that make me hot.

But I know this feeling is forbidden. I should care about games, not the empty pursuit of photorealism. But oh my, it’s so exciting, and not empty. In fact, I think that right now photorealism is becoming crucial to games, and that we should celebrate it.

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Impressions: Mad Max

I’m trying to work out what I think of the early hours of Mad Max [official site] through a fog of flu and headaches, which is something I’d hoped might help enliven an interpretation of George Miller’s ultra-violent feverish post-apocalyptic peculiarity. Oddly, I’m increasingly convinced that my fever is the closest this massive open desert world will get to capturing that distinct tone of the films. But what about the rest? The driving, the punching, the quest for silence?

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The Importance Of Pink, Puppies & Kim Wilde In MGSV

Continuing a diary/review-in-progress of MGSV [official site], from the perspective of someone who hasn’t really played Metal Gear Solid before. There are no plot spoilers in this one.

Metal Gear Solid V is a videogame in which I travel around on a bright pink helicopter which blares Kim Wilde’s Kids In America from a loudspeaker. Then I go home to my bright pink oil rig in the Seychelles and roll around on the floor with a one-eyed puppy for a while, before delivering a savage and unprovoked beating to the men who work for me. They thank me for my cruelty, and demand I hit them harder.

11/10
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Have You Played… XCOM: Long War?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Oh no! XCOM 2: Be The Baddie has been delayed until next February. If you’re anything like me that wait is agony. There is no stronger recommendation I can give to get through it than XCOM 1 mod Long War.
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Wot I Think: Act Of Aggression

Act of Aggression [official site] is a formidable, traditional RTS, a callback to Eugen’s pre-Wargame work. In some quarters it has been heralded as the game to fill the Command & Conquer gap in the strategy world. Its three distinct factions, resource gathering and near-future military tech seem to fit the bill. We asked Rob Zacny to join the battle and report back with a full analysis. Here’s wot he thinks.

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Dote Night: First Impressions, First Heroes

Part of a miscellany of serious thoughts, animal gifs, and anecdotage from the realm of MOBAs/hero brawlers/lane-pushers/ARTS/tactical wizard-em-ups. One day Pip might even tell you the story of how she bumped into Na’Vi’s Dendi at a dessert buffet cart.

I spent the last few Dote Nights talking about tutorials in three MOBAs – what they did well and what they did poorly. I realise I didn’t make any suggestions of my own for where to start in terms of characters, though. This post is about which heroes I learned to play Dota 2 [official site] on:

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The Making Of Rocket League

“Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars was a moderate success but the phrases ‘niche genre’ and ‘cult classic’ don’t exactly whet the appetites of people wanting to make money,” Jared Cone tells me. The lead gameplay programmer has agreed to talk about the making of Rocket League [official site] – its physics, its multiplayer, its tremendous success – but the difficulties start before the coding began, with the 2008 release of predecessor SARBC and its middling reviews and sales.

“There wasn’t an inkling of interest coming from anybody. That’s why Rocket League, like its predecessor, is completely self-funded,” says Cone. “We would do work-for-hire jobs to pay the bills while working on Rocket League in our free time and between contracts. It was difficult and the game had a low probability of ever releasing, but in the end it was probably for the better because we got to make the game we wanted to without having to cater to outside interests.”

Psyonix were free to chase the fun. Seven years and five million Rocket League downloads later, it looks like they caught it.

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