The Sunday Papers
Sundays are for finalising tax details and preparing for Gamescom. Fun stuff. Best varnish the day with a spot of the week's best games writing. And hey! Do you have a personal blog upon which you write about games? Email me. I can only highlight what I know about.
- Where MOBA tournaments are doing more and more to make themselves accessible to new audiences - with rookie streams and careful commentary - fighting game tournament EVO remains a mystery. If you can't decipher its matches in real-time, Patrick Miller might be able to help you after the fact by breaking down the top 8 lessons from the tournament. It's heavy in detail both in terms of the game's mechanics and the scene's current state.
- Our own Rich Stanton has written a book, A Brief History Of Videogames, which is out now. IGN published an extract this past week, and it's focused on the Metal Gear series.
- At Unwinnable, Rowan Kaiser writes about the most difficult fight in Mass Effect 3. I like articles which pick apart a particular action set piece, level or combat arena.
- At Gamasutra, Rob Lockhart looks at game names from a dataset including nearly 150,000 games. What are the most common title words, subtitles, in general, per year or per platform? The most generic PC game title would be War World Online: Wars Star Dark Game - Space Battle Simulator.
- Jason Schreier wrote a big piece at Kotaku about what it's like to work in QA, testing games for a living.
- The Shut Up & Sit Down site went down for a day this past week, meaning they took instead to a Google Doc in order to write the news while people watched and chatted. The moment has passed, but the Google Doc remains.
- This video on how Microsoft capture video for HoloLens is interesting.
- Couldn't get this song out my head all week.
Ultra Combos are high-damaging moves that can only be used once the player has filled their Ultra Meter at least halfway -- and you can only fill that meter by taking damage. This effectively functions as a comeback mechanic of sorts: once you've taken about 45% of your health bar in damage, you can spend that Ultra Meter to perform your Ultra Combo, and if it hits, get yourself back in the game (though, if it hits, you now have a pissed-off opponent that probably has taken enough damage to get access to her own Ultra Combo).
Hideo Kojima’s debut as a lead designer begins with special-ops soldier Solid Snake swimming to a dock entrance at a military base: over a decade later, so would Metal Gear Solid. The game looked like a top-down 2D shooter, but the way you played had been a pet idea of Kojima for several years – a military game about avoiding confrontation. Though the game can’t quite maintain this focus for its entire duration (the second half is more traditional gunplay) this mixture of systems created the stealth genre.
The problem with that ideal form is that it makes the player boringly comfortable. The recharging shields of most games in cover shooters mean that hiding to recharge, picking off enemies and repeating as necessary is generally the best, safest strategy, unless (or until) the player is pushed out of that comfort zone. Gears of War does this with the powerful, seductively gruesome melee attacks, which Mass Effect copies to some extent (especially in ME3). Yet at its best, Mass Effect uses level design to encourage players to “pivot,” staying in roughly the same place, but shifting focus to an entirely new space and set of enemies.
In my humble opinion, it really sucks that 'war' shows up second, after 'game.' There's nothing wrong with war as a theme for any particular game, but our industry's singular focus on war and violence becomes pretty tiresome, as this chart exemplifies. Which word would I prefer in second place? 'Magic,' of course!
“I think working on a project like that is made a lot better by the small moments where something truly stupid happens,” the tester said. “Talking pigs randomly standing up like a person and walking away, randomly being shot out of the sky in a plane by an ambient pedestrian whose physics had fired him into space. Trevor pulling his trousers down then never animating to pull them back up and spending the rest of the entire game with his trousers around his ankles. Franklin’s dog used to instantly die if he touched water... he’d just fall into a pool and sink to the bottom like a rock as soon as his paws got wet.”
“I think about a year ago, I came out of a house after dealing with a particularly troublesome criminal, who we knew had done something, realistically, but we couldn’t pin it on him. And I ended up having a sort of verbal joust with him – did you ever play Monkey Island? You know where you have to use those phrases, you have to match the riposte to an insult. It sort of became a little like that.
“So I was thinking, if I was going to make a cop game… [Tone] is a massive thing. You can be heavy-handed, you can be jocular, you can be neutral. How you are with them affects the overall result. But could you transfer that into a game, or would it end up being a sort of glorified Monkey Island rip-off? ‘I am rubber and you are glue’, and all that sort of business.”
Music this week is Stan Getz and The Oscar Peterson Trio.