Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
RPS Feature The Jupiter Ascending of videogames
RPS Feature And which are the best?
Expansion packs were once a core part of playing PC games, but they can often feel less essential in a world of constant updates and microtransactions. Original game Alec, expansions Adam and Graham, and brief DLC Alice gathered to discuss their favourite game expansions and why they still think the model works.
A few months ago I published up my impressions of an early build of The Flame in the Flood [official site], a sort of roguelike/white water rafting mash-up set in the backwaters of a drowned but contemporary America, and made by ex-Irrational, Harmonix, and Bungie devs. Which was jolly stupid of me, given the only other people who could play it at that point where those who’d backed its Kickstarter. Fortunately, it’s now on Steam Early Access, which means you can buy it, which means I positively demand that you read my earlier article on it first.
RPS Feature Break the chain
Ken Levine has moved onto other projects, and Irrational essentially no longer exists, but publishers 2K have declared that the BioShock series will continue nonetheless. Good, I’m glad: the games so far have had downs as well as ups to say the least, but they have, to a one, attempted to do things that other big-budget shooters do not. It’d be a terrible shame if that was lost and the floor ceded to yet more military-inspired prepostero-realism. I’m also fascinated to see what a BioShock game that wasn’t led by someone who has, for better or worse, become something of a figurehead for game stories and high concepts would look like. Would they become more free to explore their own worlds, less hampered by the need to meet expectations of Big Ideas and Ultimate Answers?
There are things I’d like the next game to try. There are things I desperately pray it doesn’t do. These are just a few of each. Would you kindly take a look? (Contains some spoilers for BioShock 1 & Infinite).
Sometime BioShock boss Ken Levine has opened the first tears to his new development dimension. He effectively closed his long-time studio Irrational last year in favour of working on smaller-scale projects, but still within the protective fortress of 2K. At the time he talked about making narrative-led games with more replayability, and while last night’s sudden flurry of updates is nothing like a reveal, he has a least given out a few big hints, together with a pledge for more open development than was the case on the spoiler-vulnerable BioShocks. What he’s got planned is a open worldish (“but not necessarily outdoors”) RPG, sci-fi, PC, probably first-person, chapter-like structure, brand new setting, add “ins” rather than add-ons, and a Passion System. Missus.
A game going gold isn’t particularly big news in this age of early access, unless you’re someone who worked on it, or you’re one of those not-at-all-fatiguing people who just have to start singing Spandau Ballet whenever a certain precious metal is mentioned, but I keep meaning to say something about Evolve. Here’s an excuse to: Evolve, the 4v1 team shooter from original Left 4 Dead creators Turtle Rock, is gold. I’m not exactly a frequent flier to multiplayer land, but brief dabbling with Evolve’s alpha late last year got me all excited.
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RPS Feature What's in the NPC box?
While at a procedural generation shindig for ProcJam, roguelike developer Darren Grey answered a question about games which have characters who interact with one another and not the player. A member of the audience suggested Din’s Curse and Depths of Peril.
“I don’t know how interesting that is – having things interacting with each other – especially if they’re out of your sight. What does it matter? A game should be player-centred in my opinion. I’m not interested in what goes on behind – simulate it. make it up, it doesn’t matter. As long as the player feels like they’re getting an interesting experience.”
OK, normally “human being accepts new job at large company” isn’t our sort of news, unless it’s a really big name. The creative lead on Star Wars: The Force Unleashed perhaps doesn’t make it onto any auteur lists (though he has worked on enough other Star Wars games to fill a few Sandcrawlers), but Haden Blackman fetching up at 2K is fascinating because… well, what’s going on at 2K? Where are the big games going to come from in a post-Irrational (as-was) world? Well, perhaps from Hangar 13, a new 2K internal studio whose stated intention is “delivering mature experiences loaded with meaningful choices.” Reading between the lines: 2K wants its next BioShock.
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RPS Feature The Irrational Need For Closure
The contemporary big-budget FPS has a few different strains: blood-n-guts military settings a la Call of Duty, open-world environments like Far Cry, and high-concept dystopias. Outside of open-world most of these styles were first codified in the 1990s, and FPS games then and now share an enormous amount: primarily a core mechanic of shooting many hundreds of enemies in the face over and over again, as well as crossover in areas like structure, goal-chaining, and narrative delivery. FPS games, in other words, have for a long time been constructed on resilient and proven principles. And many of them come from Looking Glass Studios.
Rarely do I effusively recommend a bundle made up entirely of games I already own, but it’s kinda hard to argue with every BioShock, Spec Ops: The Line, Mafia II, The Darkness II, and XCOM: Enemy Unknown, among others. The Humble 2K Bundle does come with a slight catch (a flat rate of $20 if you want a couple of the more recent games), but even then it’s a formidable deal. Unfortunately, this will technically count as purchasing The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, but don’t worry: I won’t tell anyone.