Hope to see some of you at PAX East next week! As per usual, we’re mostly there to say hello, hello, hello, and hang out. We don't obsess over a bunch of games we’ll see through the year. Plus, with the Game Developers Conference kicking off as soon as PAX East closes out (we land on Sunday night, and GDC starts on Monday morning), we gotta conserve our energy.
I’m taking a new approach to my PAX coverage this year, and this should extend into GDC, as well. Being a writer for most of my career, I’m almost always looking for ways to flip what I’m seeing, hearing, or playing into a feature story. But...I’m not sure that makes much sense for the what the Giant Bomb audience reacts to and wants. Giant Bomb stuff gets the best response with good stories and good people, so while a supremely interesting panel may merit a writeup of some kind, it also requires an incredible amount of time and energy that may be better spent elsewhere. So here’s my idea.
Instead, I’m going to float around and talk to interesting people and try to have interesting conversations. Our new podcast tool makes it easy to dump audio files onto the site, so the plan’s to dump(truck) interviews onto the site not long after they physically happen. It’s not the fancy editing that Vinny and Drew do so well, but it also doesn’t require that, and it means you’ll get a sense of GDC on the fly. This won’t come at the exclusion of some other video coverage and our regular GDC-timed podcasts.
Sound good? I’m excited about. I’ve already booked Brad Muir, obviously.
Hey, You Should Play This
Maybe it’s just because I spend so much time with words, but that someone turned ideal typographical spacing into a game tickles me in exactly the right way. It reminds me of a seemingly ditched demo from the original Wii U unveiling, in which players competed to draw lines. It sounds really simple, right? Deliciously so. The game would ask you to draw four inches, and two people would try to...draw four inches. Have you ever tried to do that? It seems incredibly easy--just draw four inches! Turns out it’s really hard, and what our mind thinks of as four inches is so much harder to produce on the page. That’s a roundabout way of saying this game helped me better appreciate the work done by typographers.
And You Should Read This, Too
- "Why are QTE's so popular?" by Raph Koster
QTEs are such an oddity of modern game design. It’s understandable why QTEs exist. A developer has come up with a story for their game, and some part of that story cannot be communicated through the standard gameplay players spend most of their time with. Rather than having these moments play out devoid of any interactivity whatsoever, QTEs allow a small amount or player-driven involvement with the story beats. I’d make the argument that designers dreaming up stories that cannot be communicated through gameplay represent the larger problem, but Raph Koster articulates problems of a feature here to stay.
“In the case of AAA tentpole titles, narrative plus QTE therefore becomes the default gameplay mode. Often, we see highly varied stories where the protagonist can perform a huge array of actions, all condensed into the single mechanic. The story advances, the player feels powerful, and the systemic gameplay is tissue-thin. This then gets interrupted periodically with richer game interludes, such as combat sequences — still pretty simple, but rich enough to allow things like advancement and preparation and some degree of strategy, all of which are required to keep the player invested. So QTE’s are there to help big titles reach the mass market, and to do better storytelling. But there is one huge irony. Reaction time is not a mass market skill.”
Since I’m not usually assigned reviews here at Giant Bomb, I also don’t spend much time thinking about the review process--or even reading many reviews, to be honest. Every once and a while, though, one review really sticks out, and JC Fletcher’s take on Ridiculous Fishing is both inspired, intriguing, and thoughtful beyond examining the mechanics of a video game. Ridiculous Fishing has an interesting history, having been released in a simpler form as a Flash game, then copied by another developer as Ninja Fishing and released in the App Store far ahead of Ridiculous Fishing’s then-planned proper release. Fletcher doesn’t make Ninja Fishing a footnote in a review of Ridiculous Fishing, and instead presents Ninja Fishing’s own problems as reasons Ridiculous Fishing is a much better game. That doesn't make sense for every review, but Fletcher makes it work effectively.
“Vlambeer wouldn't want me to start my Ridiculous Fishing review by bringing up Ninja Fishing – and I kind of don't want to either – but Gamenauts' well-publicized clone actually works as an example of why Vlambeer's iOS update of its own browser game (which "inspired" Ninja Fishing) is so excellent, and so necessary. Playing Ninja Fishing and Ridiculous Fishing in quick succession illustrates what a difference it makes to care about your audience. The concept may be similar, but Ridiculous Fishing outclasses its would-be competitor in every way. It's just better.”
If You Click It, It Will Play
Kickstarter Has Promise, Hopefully Developers Don't Screw It Up
- If I'd had a few drinks, you'd be able to convince me Shovel Knight is actually an old school game.
- The subversive developer of Deep Sea is making something really peaceful and new with SoundSelf.
- It's not looking very good for Robert Bowling's The Adventures of Dash. Hard to see it turning around.
Tweets That Make You Go "Hmmmmmm"
I’d wager that 98% of all the really compelling creative decisions in videogames have derived from workarounds for technical limitations.— Jason Killingsworth (@jasonkill) March 11, 2013
Given All the Discussion About Woman in Games, This Quote is Interesting
"I will tell you this. In this movie [Iron Man 3] we play with the convention of the damsel in distress. We are bored by the damsel in distress. But, sometimes we need our hero to be desperate enough in fighting for something other than just his own life. So, there is fun to be had with "Is Pepper in danger or is Pepper the savior?" over the course of this movie."
-- Marvel Studios producer Kevin Feige about the next Iron Man movie.
Hexels is a Nifty Art Program Helping Artist Make Beautiful Stuff
Oh, And This Other Stuff
- A criticism of Cliff Bleszinski's defense of the rise of microtransactions.
- Here's one of the better interviews with designer Ken Levine as we lead up to BioShock Infinite.
- The New Statesman's deputy editor discusses covering games from a mainstream perspective.
- You don't have to agree with Anita Sarkeesian to enjoy the conversation that's come out of her work.
- Oh, hey, here's a bunch of prototypes for Dr. Mario.
- Some nifty fan art for the mesmerizing Year Walk.
- In honor of Aaron Swartz's death, Andrew Huang has released his book, Hacking the Xbox.
- Reflective thoughts on developer Mike Mika swapping Pauline for Mario in Donkey Kong.
- NPR takes a closer look at the growing independent gaming scene in Austin, Texas.
- An excellent summary of the life and games of designer Kenji Eno.
- One study isn't much, but this one says games can boost reading skills of children with dyslexia.
- Hideo Kojima explains why he enjoys misleading gamers. I wish more designers had fun with this.
- The Brainy Gamer is kicking off a series of likely excellent podcasts about the state of games.