Sundays are for cursing international football for ruining your normal, relaxing weekend entertainment. They are also for roly-polying across computers screen in fits of indecision. Play a game? Which game? Perhaps you should read.
- Keza MacDonald writes for Vice, asking why drugs are always so lame in videogames. This starts good and gets better.
- It’s not uncommon for writers to play a lot of a particular game and, between squinting at the tiny heads on the robots/zombies/aliens/monsters they’re shooting, think ‘Gosh, this reminds me a lot of life.’ This piece on Destiny and human progress by Nathan Ditum has good words and is a good read, though:
- See also: Ditum’s review of Halo: The Master Chief Collection. I played nowt but the original, but this is a good read.
- I am enjoying this comic with a miserabilist take on Pokémon. What If The Game Was Real is the joke that keeps on giving.
- Prepare To Die, a poetry chapbook about Dark Souls, by Jess Jenkins.
- I never read Digitiser, but I have read a lot about Digitiser which is surely just as good. Here’s Paul ‘Mr. Biffo’ Rose poking at a new Digitiser Blog.
- I want to read about King of Dragon Pass every day, so here’s HG101’s detailed (but dry) explanation of its wonderful systems.
- Some guy named Nathan Grayson wrote at Kotaku this past week about the efforts Double Fine are going to in order to make Grim Fandango’s re-release. A good example of the problems with failing to archive old game materials.
- Journalists yelled about how great Valkyria Chronicles was when it was originally released, but no one noticed and it didn’t sell. Now they’re having their revenge, writing retros, reviewing the PC re-release, and watching as it finds its audience at last. Here’s Paul Dean at Eurogamer, in a piece from 2012.
- I am enjoying this YouTube channel: ClassicsOfGame. An example.
- Sam White writes at Kotaku about how different Skyrim is three years after release, owing to its many mods. ‘When Console Gamers Discover TES Nexus’, I’d have called it:
- Every new experience is the hardest, learningest for Peter Molyneux. On the difficulty of making mobile games and the unforeseen problems with Godus:
- This is an interesting post-mortem: Super Win the Game is a retro platformer that only sold 900 copies in its first month. Why is that? The article eventually finds its way towards the answers, I think, but the lesson for readers is simply, “selling games is hard.”
This tone was set by 1988’s Narc, a game in which you are a steroid-pumped super-soldier who is literally called Max Force and mows down wave after wave of shuffling barefoot junkies. This game was said to have a “strong anti-drugs message”, because drugs are terribly bad. But ultra-violence? No problem!
Of course the reason that early homo sapiens couldn’t become astronauts is that everything we are and have achieved is built on the achievements of others. The defining mechanism of human development, of civilization, is language, and being able to store and pass on our accumulated knowledge through stories. Cox’s beautiful phrase is that writing “freed the acquisition of knowledge from the limits of human memory”, although a recent reddit showerthought post puts it almost as well: “School is meant to bring new humans up to speed on humanity’s progress so far.” It’s a staggering, obvious-once-you-grasp it concept. tl;dr: Not starting from scratch every day is what makes us possible.
The first thing I thought when I heard this was: “What if dogs could do this?”
All this is worth mentioning for two reasons: partly to justify the amount of time I’ve spent over the last week looking at walls, but also to give context to the fact that the Master Chief Collection is, above all, an act of curation. There’s something exhibit-like and deeply impressive about seeing Halos one through four lined up in the same menu system – not separated into discrete applications, but linked through a tidy and sophisticated interface that brings everything together and, as far as possible, standardises the Chief’s adventure.
As I stood there reeling from this cranial hammer blow by the Mallet of Enlightenment, I looked down at my feet and saw what I can only describe as a carrot, bobbing in the horrible brown water like a dead fish. And just like Jesus turned a fish into a load of bread, or whatever, I turned this fish/carrot into a big pile of hope/cash. Splashing around like a wailing lunatic, my fists hammering inexplicably at the sides of my head, I followed the carrot as it was carried along by the “carront” (current). Eventually, it came to rest at the foot of a filthy old ladder, which was all rusted and that. To the average layman this was just a regular ladder, but to me it represented the difference between a life of hope, and a life of staying in a sewer, gnawing away at a dripping fatberg as my only source of supper.
Many events also deal with more mundane parts of Gloranthan life. The clan must often deal with petty crime, drunken fights, marital infidelity, unhappy citizens and natural disasters. Those ‘everyday’ events add a bit of realism to the game’s otherwise magical world.
There’s also a lot of humor and personality in many of the events or possible solutions to them. An example of the former might be a mysterious curse that causes children of your clan to grow beards, while the latter can arise during the haunted house event when – by using a character with good knowledge of laws and customs – player might be able to take legal action against the ghost and succeed. Little touches like that provided needed comic relief for a generally grim game.
“A lot of it is the mental state you’re in when you’re making a game,” he said, explaining why many studios neglect to keep every last shred of a game’s creation. “You give it your everything, and you’re completely exhausted. On the last day you wrap it up, send off the final build, and then you’re like, ‘Ugh, I never want to see that again.’ So it’s hard to be like, ‘OK, now we need to talk about archiving.’ You try to get the team to take care of that, and it’s like being at a family gathering where you want everybody to take a group photo. You’re like, ‘Everybody get together!’ and they’re like, ‘Shut up, we’re having fun.’ But you’re like, ‘You’ll thank me in 30 years if you just get together and let me take this picture.’”
I have a theory: each Valkyria Chronicles disc holds some special, secret power within it, and that power is the ability to make any PS3, no matter how old, battered or weary, immediately look its very best. It’s like pouring an elixir into your disc drive. Valkyria Chronicles is a very special game and when we look back on the history of this console, when we write our retrospectives and compose our memoirs, we will cite it as one of the finest titles to grace the platform. This is not something I predict. This is something I know.
It was a long process, sure, and it’s no criticism that Skyrim eventually ran out of stuff to wow me with, but rediscovering the game on PC over eighteen months later was one of the most enlightening and engrossing experiences I’ve ever had with games. Adding mods makes retreading covered ground fun, interesting and exciting again. It’s the closest you can get to having your mind wiped so you can experience the wonder of discovery like you did when you first popped the disc in on launch day.
Molyneux said the issue of monetisation and content consumption was one that 22Cans was still experimenting with. He added that ultimately however, he learned monetisation needs to be loved like any other feature in a game, and that developers have to get it right.
“And that has to be perceived as a fair system,” he said. “If it’s unfair, those harsh monetisation techniques won’t work.
So, if not the price, what else might have hurt my sales? I can think of at least five off the top of my head. Early October was a notably busy season for games, and launching a no-name indie game alongside the likes of Shadow of Mordor and Alien: Isolation certainly did me no favors. The indie platformer genre feels more than a little passé at this point, and it’s entirely possible many potential customers overlooked it simply by virtue of its genre. On top of this, the game lacks an easil identifiable gameplay hook; its strengths lie in its aesthetic design and solid game feel, and maybe that’s not enough. I also can’t ignore that Super Win the Game is a silly name at best and an objectively bad one at worst, and that may have hurt it. Lastly, for all of these reasons and probably more besides, the game received little to no attention from the press, meaning it launched with low awareness.
Music this week is The Andronechron Incident, the electronic soundtrack to a sci-fi film never released outside Italy.