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Worth Reading: 06/29/2012

Did you know Spelunky for Xbox Live Arcade is actually a remake? Start your weekend with games you've missed, stories you should read, and much more.

I'm three hours into Eternal Darkness. This will make sense to those who have played: green.

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

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

Patrick Klepek on Google+
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Posted by Mercer

Also RECEIVER IS AWSOOOOMMMEE   love that gun play, thanks for making me aware of that Patrick!

Posted by rramo010

That Dwarf Fortress article is a great read. I kinda want to give the game another go, even though I already deleted it off my pc because of pure frustration.

Posted by Hellfire2122

Eternal darkness? I assume I'll get stabbed for this, but I've never heard of the game.

Posted by Razputin

I can't wait for your Amnesia article, Patrick!

Posted by KDR_11k

Eurogamer had a really good interview with Edmund McMillen which explains his reasoning behind Binding of Isaac.

Posted by fox01313

Will definitely look at Spelunky on pc as it looks interesting & looking forward to some of the horror game related articles (or collection of thoughts) that Patrick has in mind.

@Hellfire2122: Eternal Darkness is one of the better horror games that came out with the Gamecube, will run on the Wii if you have that but sadly needing a HD remake on other consoles/pc.

Posted by BonzoPongo

Downloaded spelunky and ended up playing it all afternoon. Can not believe that is free, it looks good, has great music, amazing, brutal game.

Posted by SuperTyson

Patrick bringing the hot scoops action

Posted by Moncole
Posted by patrickklepek

@Dezztroy said:

You shouldn't skip the first Penumbra. While it does have some terrible combat, it's still a great horror experience and you'll be lost in the second game if you skip it.

Will do. :)

Posted by GonzoSnot

Spelunky is a wonderful game, and I implore everyone to play it.

It's pretty much a roguelike platformer, with wonderful shiny loot to collect, including gold, gems, and Raiders of the Lost Ark style idols. Tough, but excellent.

Edited by happymeowmeow

Patrick you weren't exaggerating about that Russ Pitts article, was an incredible read. Reminded me of the TV show Icons that G4 used to produce.

Article inspired me to wiki Ultima Underworld. Looking Glass wanted to make a third game but Origin rejected their pitches? ... Damn you, Origin execs in the mid 90's.

Posted by Hace

Just in case someone somewhere is making executive decisions based on how many "positive" or "negative" comments features on Giant Bomb get, I'd just like to add my positive one to these Worth Reading features. Just got some coffee and food's on the way so these articles are a great way of spending the afternoon!

Posted by Y2Ken

Gave that Flip'd a go - good fun although pretty tough right now, hopefully the concept will be developed into something a little more puzzle-y and less complex platformer. Halfway through Arkane article which I'm really enjoying. A great read.

Posted by line99

Spelunky is nice game you should TRY IT !

Posted by NoelVeiga

I've been wanting to say somethig about the Tomb Raider thing since it started and I think Patrick's line here has pushed me over the edge.

It's been massively overblown.

Really, though. Massively. It's not even the sequence, which includes levels of rapey-ness you can see in daytime soaps. It all comes from this one developer during E3 blurting out that you're supposed to get all defensive and protective of Lara because she's hurt, where presumably the female-written and equally beaten-up Nate Drake is an identifiable figure, not a victim.

But if you look at it without the statement... well, then there's no difference. At one point Drake ends up curled up in Elena's lap while she comforts him. He gets drugged, shot, stabbed, beaten up and almost dies of thirst. Having a guy get all grabby before Lara snaps and fights back is perfectly in character. Depending on how it plays in the actual game, it's even empowering. It's context, not content, that is causing the anger here.

And then the anger was taken by some and ran with to ridiculous extremes. The Escapist had a piece where an actual rape victim related her trauma. I was shocked by how exploitative that was. This woman went through PTSD and she was blurting it out anonimously on a gaming site based on this non-starter of a story. I can only imagine a number of war veterans were wondering where their interviews will go when the next Call of Duty comes out.

Ultimately, Patrick is right on the money. Crystal Dynamics are in the right on this one, and they could have pushed back and proved it.

But to be fair with them, they had to backtrack because... well, picture in your head this issue reaching the mainstream press and being flattened from the overload of thoughtful articles into a thirty second piece. There's no way it could have ended well for them. It's a shame that the lynch mob was formed before anybody questioned what the actual situation of the studio was, and it's a shame that nobody in the press had the balls to be the voice of reason and go "hey, guys, maybe there's a difference between this sequence and the actually harmful institutionalized sexism that is so pervasive in the industry, including the original Tomb Raider games".

Edited by NoelVeiga

@Mercer said:

@iAmJohn said:

@Juno500 said:

Watch out for the bathtub scene in Eternal Darkness Patrick.

Dude, fuuuuuuuck that scene.

that was the scene that made me promise myself to never let my sanity meter drop below 3/4 of the way lol

I know I'm in the minority here, but Eternal Darkness never did it for me. If anything, most of the "insanity" stuff broke immersion instead of creating it. After the first couple of times you just stop falling for it, and the goofier gags are a bit too humorous.

It's a shame, too, because storytelling-wise, the game was actually doing some other clever stuff. With the gimmicks and the bad combat getting in the way I never got to enjoy the plot as much as I could have.

Posted by rockslacasa

Go here for a version of Spelunky for mac:

Thanks to Mossmouth forum user Leon

Posted by Crysack

I'm beginning to wonder whether the 'industry' (so to speak) is becoming a little too obsessed with stamping out anything that could even be considered mildly sexist - not that I believe the new Tomb Raider can be considered as such at all. If nothing else, the whole twitter controversy this week over Felicia Day, the sheer number of people who descended on Ryan Perez after his ill-thought-out comments with accusations of misogyny as well as the speed with which Destructoid jettisoned any responsibility for Perez' comments indicate that some of these witch-hunts are going far further than they reasonably should.

Edited by D

Was EVO this weekend? I will have to check..... My bad next weekend.

Posted by dropabombonit

Don't know why I'm only reading this now but great picks again Tricky

Posted by VargasPrime

Patrick Klepek This is way late, but if you skip any Penumbra games, skip the third, NOT the first. The third game is more disconnected from the first two chapters, since the plan for the series to be an actual trilogy had been scrapped because of publisher problems, but then later they wound up releasing "Requiem" as an expansion. It has some story hooks that tie in nicely with the previous games, but it does away with a lot of the scariness that the first two games had. It focuses a lot more on puzzles and less on horror/story.

The only knock against the first chapter is that there was combat (or possible combat anyway). It's awkward and completely unnecessary, and you can play the game just fine running away from things or hiding.

At any rate, each game can be completed in around 5 hours or so, so it's really worth playing through all of them.

Posted by terabyter9000

I don't know what the hell I just read but interesting article.

Posted by Majkiboy

I put too many hours into Spelunky. And I am ready for some more!

Posted by eliahm1

pervert juno500

Edited by TPoppaPuff


Absolutely agreed. Eidos is absolutely right; it has become insanely overblown and is tarnishing the game and the studios reputation simply because gaming "journalists" are simply trying to get page counts rather than offer legitimate news or editorials. It's pathetic and made all the more horrible due to the overwhelming amount of hypocrisy given how often these same tactics are held against the "mainstream" media you see on TV.  
"My message to the developer and publisher would be to not tackle subjects you’re afraid to defend." Truth be told, they didn't ever want to defend the subject matter or tackle the subject matter at all. Nor did they ever want to even pretend like they were progressive in storytelling or subject matter in games. They're simply telling an origin story of a character and as already pointed out by the devs, we've seen 100% of the rape scene that 'transforms her into the hero we know today' (to paraphrase). But guess what? The three seconds of rapey-ness in that scene is not what transformed her; it was the far longer sequence where she struggles for her life and kills the dude. The damn-developers have said so themselves on repeat. I'm pretty sure you can see that video here on this very site. The rape-stravaganza is nothing, has zero impact on the story or character or the rest of the game.  
By the way, it's not even "rape" in that scene anyways; it's sexual assault. So yeah, Tomb Raider is 100% rape free, which unfortunately can't be said about the relationship between the view-count hungry media and Eidos. Even at E3, no less! Anything for a good story though, right? Truth be damned. So where was the media backlash against Epic for Gears of War 3 for not delving deeper into the psyche of Marcus after committing genocide on an entire race of beings? What? That wouldn't have created a large enough thread count or got enough views? Exactly.

Posted by JoeyRavn

Wait. The Internet is telling you to skip the first Penumbra? Fuck the Internet. The first two, Overture and Black Plague, are the best. The third one is OK, but a massive change in format. But, seriously, don't skip the first one.

Posted by monkfishbandana

Damn, I wish I could actually play a horror game for more than a few seconds before screaming like a baby and leaping for the reset button.

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