I’m becoming a broken record at this point, but that Amnesia: The Dark Descent follow-up is coming. I had a very real intention of writing it yesterday, and then a day full of Quick Looks happened. There’s merit to the argument about giving thoughts time to breathe, but I may jump back into the game (I haven’t touched the downloadable add-on, Justine) to remind myself of the terror.
The Penumbra games are also giving me a curious look from my hard drive (the Internet suggests skipping the first game, we'll see), but Eternal Darkness has my attention right now, and, yes, I’ve heard your demands to do something with my playthrough of it.
Jeff and the rest of the Internet have given me some pause about Spec Ops: The Line, a game I was totally ready to write off, but one that apparently does enough interesting things with its story to be worth checking out this weekend. I’d like to do nothing more than play Eternal Darkness on Saturday afternoon, but these types of games have to be played in the dark with headphones, no? Spec Ops: The Line seems like the perfect candidate for an interesting idea another developer will execute on later, which appears to be the curious relationship between I Am Alive and The Last of Us.
So much for it being a slow period for games. I'm buried! Turns out you just have to look around.
You Should Play This
- Spelunky by Mossmouth (Windows, Free / Xbox Live Arcade, 1200 Microsoft Points) at www.spelunkyworld.com
Prepare for an avalanche of discussion about Spelunky. We may have the summer’s critical favorite arriving on July 4 for Xbox Live Arcade. You can play Spelunky right now, though, if you head to the game’s website. Developer Mossmouth has been tweaking the Spelunky formula that previously addicted so many for years now, and the fruits of that labor will be available soon. If you’d like a hint of what’s to come, the latest case of a developer kicking you in the balls until you learn to look before you leap, make sure to download Spelunky. Best part? It doesn’t cost a thing!
Thomas Was Alone, which we featured in a Quick Look earlier today, is a great example of the interesting ideas that can spring forth from the design minimalism forced within a game jam. Once that developer realized it were onto a good thing, it fleshed it out. I’m hopeful Flip’d will have the same opportunity, as the basic ideas being explored have enormous potential. In the most basic terms, Flip’d is a first-person puzzle platformer where the player has control over swapping gravity. It’s more or less a first-person VVVVVV, which is easily one of my favorite modern platformers. VVVVVV was stupid hard in a great way, and Flip’d quickly heads in the very same direction.
And Maybe Read These
(That headline is made up, by the way--Pruett didn't write one.) Pruett is one of the most meticulous and dedicated critics of the horror genre. We spent the better part of an hour dissecting our love-and-hate relationship with the genre at a party earlier in the year, which gave me another idea that we’ll have to reivist in October. In his dissection of Silent Hill: Downpour, Pruett does a wonderful job of identifying the specific design reasons Downpour doesn’t work. It’s more than the combat being broken or a nonsense story. Pruett goes way, way, way deep, and ensures I'll never have to write my own thoughts about Downpour down, since Pruett took all the words out of my mouth.
This is Downpour's Big Idea: it is the first Silent Hill game to feature a large, open world for its town. Most other Silent Hill games have featured large outdoor areas, but they've never been really open; they've always been walled off at the edges so that the player is lead along a very specific path. The open world is a significant deviation from the series norm, and it is the core problem with the game's design.
We've reached the trunk of the design, the root of the game's decision tree. From here we can see other branches leading to other problems caused by the decision to employ an open world. Let's follow one down.
I believe that what the developers at Vatra wanted was to make the entire town of Silent Hill a large recursive unlocking space, where the player would criss-cross the map many times, collecting items and solving puzzles on the way, all while progressively widening the available space. Much like the Resident Evil mansion, you might need an item from one side of town to solve a puzzle on the other side of town. Only, the space is much, much larger than the compact Umbrella stronghold. Though you have a map, borders of the space must be traced manually because there are blockades and abysses in the way, not to mention back alleys and side-street shortcuts.
My favorite pieces of writing are the ones where I’m humbled as a reporter. Russ Pitts completely knocked it out of the park with this article for Polygon, in which he chronicles the path to this fall’s Dishonored. Too often, this part of the story is relegated to a paragraph or a quote, while Pitts spends thousands of words taking us from the origins of System Shock to modern day. This is the kind of story that makes me sit back, think, and know I need to step up my own game. It’s quite a tale, and makes me all the more anxious for Dishonored--it was absolutely my favorite at E3.
"I literally said it was a slap in the face to Ultima fans and RPG fans," Harvey said. "And I sent it to my boss. I don't know why I did it, but it was the kind of thing I did back then."
Where the list goes after that is anyone's guess, but it eventually comes to the attention of Richard Garriott himself. Also known as Lord British. Also known as the co-founder of Origin and the creator of Ultima. Garriott stops by Smith's work area, sits down on his desk, and asks him about the list.
"He was super gracious," Smith said. "He was like: 'This is very insightful and I regret that we didn't do these [things]. We disappointed people.'"
If You Click, It Will Play
Oh, And This Other Stuff
- Here's a New York Times piece on the creators of Dwarf Fortress mentioned earlier this week.
- Despite not being a SimCity fanatic, the logic behind the new game’s design is interesting.
- Nobody talks about PlayStation Minis, but here’s one story where it really paid off.
- This is extreme position about Diablo III’s auction house, but I also worry about its longterm impact.
- Want to read part of the reason I’m interested in playing Spec Ops: The Line?
- Find out what happens when an indie game makes love with heavy metal.
- Between meeting with Pixar and working with Tom Bissell, I’m way curious about Epic Games.
- While this analysis of Kickstarter’s policies on scams is hyperbolic, there’s reason to be wary.
- Yet another excellent Gamasutra piece, this one encapsulating much of the recent conversation about women.
- Speaking of, Eidos Interactive believes the Tomb Raider stuff was blown out of proportion. My message to the developer and publisher would be to not tackle subjects you’re afraid to defend.
- There are lessons games could learn about Apple’s strict approach to the past, present and future.
- Before the weekend arrives, how about this heartwarming tale of a family that made a game?