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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+
78 Comments
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Posted by patrickklepek
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

Staff
Edited by ChrisTobin

I've never played the original Spelunky.

Posted by phuzzybunny

Worth it!

Posted by Rirse

Eternal Darkness throwback quick look or endurance run?

Posted by aggrocrag

@Rirse: Ha yes. A Eternal Darkness endurance run would be rad.

Posted by Timing

Patrick Spelunky's 1200 points, not 800.

I'll probably still get it though.

Edited by umdesch4

Flip'd was kinda cool for a few minutes, but I'm damaged in that particular way that means I can't play games without an invert mouse setting. I keep trying to get past it, but after the first few years of Id games, there was no hope for me.

Edited by superscott597

Duder! I didn't realize Spelunky was on PC, and free, too! I thought it was just for XBLA. Just downloaded it. Thanks for the tip, Patrick!

Edit: Also, I'm with @Rirse about that endurance run. Would LOVE to see that. I think it fits perfectly for the kinds of games that have Endurance Runs currently on GB.

Posted by patrickklepek

@Timing said:

Patrick Spelunky's 1200 points, not 800.

I'll probably still get it though.

Woops, thanks!

Staff
Posted by Phatmac

@Rirse said:

Eternal Darkness throwback quick look or endurance run?

Too late for that since Tricky already started it.

Posted by csl316

Got about halfway through Eternal Darkness a few years back, and it eventually got rather interesting. Never got back to it.

Oh well!

Posted by pornstorestiffi

@ChrisTobin said:

I've never played the original Spelunky.

Its pretty damn great, but mother fucking hard.

Posted by DeathbyYeti

After spending 200 some odd hours in Spelunky I hope the Xbox version is just as good

Posted by Cyrus_Saren

That is an interesting metal song for a game. I was expecting a lot worse.

Posted by Truitt

I actually really enjoyed Penumbra: Overture. It's not perfect, but I think it's way better than the third part. The second was definitely the best, from what I remember.

Posted by Spoonman671
@patrickklepek: Did you play any of Demon's Souls?  Some of its levels do horror as well as, or better than, anything that's been out in years.  Specifically, the Tower of Latria can be downright dreadful.
Posted by spree4567

@patrickklepek I think you're missing the link on the Dwarf Fortress "Oh, And This Other Stuff"

Online
Posted by teh_destroyer

@Rirse said:

Eternal Darkness throwback quick look or endurance run?

I would be ok with either.

Posted by DS23

Ah good, the Gama piece is in the link pile. Would've pasted it in here if it wasn't.

Posted by Draxyle

The Silent Hill Downpour article was interesting. It put into words what I didn't quite comprehend about the game.

I watched a lets play of it, and every ten seconds I switched from thinking "this is really brilliant" to "this is really dumb" and back again ad nauseum. It's painful to watch, because it really looks like they really tried hard (with low resources I would guarantee). It's just too many cooks, too many ideas, not enough focus.

I put Eternal Darkness on my wishlist because of you, Patrick. I never thought I would get into horror games, but after Silent Hill 2 (just a couple years ago for the first time), I've been on a big kick for them. No other genre fits videogaming better than horror when done right.

Posted by Juno500

Watch out for the bathtub scene in Eternal Darkness Patrick.

Posted by DazzHardy

Holy Crap, Spelunky is ****ing great. Thanks Patrick.

Posted by Dagbiker

Speaking of, Eidos Interactive believes the Tomb Rader stuff was blown out of proportion. My message to the developer and publisher would be to not tackle subjects you’re afraid to defend.

He also said there is no place for these themes in video games. Making it sound like he believes they aren't dealing with this topic at all. But weather they want to or not they have started a conversation.

Posted by ch3burashka

@Dagbiker said:

Speaking of, Eidos Interactive believes the Tomb Rader stuff was blown out of proportion. My message to the developer and publisher would be to not tackle subjects you’re afraid to defend.

He also said there is no place for these themes in video games. Making it sound like he believes they aren't dealing with this topic at all. But weather they want to or not they have started a conversation.

*whether

I gave Flip'd a try, but much like QUBE and to a certain extent Quantum Conundrum, I find their approach to Portal much too dry. The inspiration is obvious, but Portal was much more than its puzzles, or even the sum of its parts. Isolating any of the parts leads to a very "uninspired" experience.

As for Spec Ops: The Line - in an age where there's a new AAA game coming out every other week (on average, at least) it's easy to dismiss an "A title" or even a B title. However, I think that gameplay has become standard enough that even if it's boring and reminiscent of hundreds of other games you've played, the story/narrative alone is worth the journey. Sure, it's a 10 hour commitment, but not every "AAA title" can give you the same experience. I, for one, was never willing to "write it off", knowing they were crafting a gritty narrative (which shouldn't be believed at their word, but the community seems to be in agreement that the narrative is definitely worth a go).

PS Going through Silent Hill 2 right now. At points, it's easy, but when the "scary shit" starts up, I get emotionally drained within a half-hour. I can't tolerate horror or terror much (not into horror movies, etc) but I have wanted to experience SH2 for myself for quite some time now, and have finally put it in. It seemed easy at first (just run past the creepy horrors) but once you get into tight spaces, and the fucking camera isn't on your side, then it gets tense real fast. Planning a Shattered Memories run someday as well - seems fascinating from all that I've heard.

Posted by Th3irdEye

Thanks for telling me about Flip'd. It was 20 minutes of awesome. And pretty challenging at the end there.

Posted by ch3burashka

I don't know much about Spelunky, and the idea always sounded boring to me (I always thought of it as being similar to Boulder Dash), but it did remind me of a great gem from my childhood, a blast from the past if you will.

Don't forget to update your Shockwave players!!!

http://www.ezone.com/games/spelunking/gamecode.htm

Pardon the double post.

Posted by fisk0
Posted by Mercer

@aggrocrag: and they can only refill sanity when it starts affecting their health lol

Posted by iAmJohn

@Juno500 said:

Watch out for the bathtub scene in Eternal Darkness Patrick.

Dude, fuuuuuuuck that scene.

Posted by Hells

Spelunky is one of the best Indie Games ever made!

Posted by Xeirus

The guy that wrote that Diablo 3 article is a dumbass.

Just like every other game, you are not forced to use the auction house, ever. Complaining about them taking a cut from your transactions is like bitching about using ebay, if it pisses you off don't use it..... the crying is rather pathetic.

Edited by thebigJ_A

DON'T skip the first Penumbra!!

WTF. Where on Earth did you get that tripe?? Aside from the fact that the second will have no context and make no sense, the first is great! It's the third you can skip, 'cause it's not really story related, or scary. More of a puzzle-based experiment.

Posted by BBAlpert

@thebigJ_A said:

DON'T skip the first Penumbra!!

WTF. Where one Earth did you get that tripe?? Aside from the fact that the second will have no context and make no sense, the first is great! It's the third you can skip. 'Cause it's not really story related, or scary. More of a puzzle-based experiment.

This. The first game: An atmospheric first person horror game. The second game: An atmospheric first person horror game. The third game: A collection of rudimentary physics puzzles and first person platforming.

Posted by yoshimitz707

@patrickklepek: You have a typo in your second paragraph. "the Internet suggets skipping the first game"

Posted by SaturdayNightSpecials

I think you confused the third game with the first. Anyone telling you to skip Overture is retarded.

Just know that the game has combat, but it's about as useful as your own fighting skills would be in real life. You want to use stealth, not pick fights.

Posted by ThreePi

Good to see he plans on doing something for Eternal Darkness. Fantastic game, but it is memorable for me as the first game that I ruined for myself before playing. It was 2002, I was 15 and that was an era when IGN and Gamespot were exploding in popularity and I couldn't get enough coverage of that game. Still enjoyed the hell out of it.

Posted by Gordo789

@Xeirus said:

The guy that wrote that Diablo 3 article is a dumbass.

Just like every other game, you are not forced to use the auction house, ever. Complaining about them taking a cut from your transactions is like bitching about using ebay, if it pisses you off don't use it..... the crying is rather pathetic.

Xeirus, you're right, nobody is forcing anybody to use the RMAH. However, even the existence of the gold auction house straight up ruins Diablo III, and it didn't really need to try very hard either (it's not a very good game!). Not using the gold auction house to buy better items in that game is like playing with a blind fold on or using your feet to work the mouse and keyboard. Nobody is FORCING you to play with your eyes open or with your hands, but you can and so you do.

Posted by Xeirus

@Gordo789: Dude, if you just DONT use the auction house it's basically diablo 2, the game is piss poor easy, you dont need it.

Saying you're forced to use it is bullshit and a copout and I have played the game plenty enough to know everyone is full of shit. They aren't forced to use it, but they can't stop themselves. Everyone wants something to complain about.

It's basically a single player game, an OPTIONAL part of it does not ruin your single player game, that's complete foolishness. I have used the auction house as little as you could possibly use it and I have made it to inferno by only playing with friends. I don't buy anyones pity party crap.

Posted by prestonhedges
Prepare for an avalanche of discussion about Spelunky.

YES.

Posted by Gordo789

@Xeirus: Hehe buddy, more power to you then. I agree, nobody is forcing anyone to do anything, but consider the auction house in the context of what diablo really is. The basic driving mechanic of diablo is to click on badguys and get loot right? So what happens when you make all of that loot completely goddamned meaningless by implementing this auction house? I can loot so many useless magic items and either vendor them for trash or use them to craft more trash. Alternatively, there is a vast sea of much better loot that exists outside of what the game is really all about. Why don't I just circumvent the game and get that loot instead? I suppose I could play this side game that you and many others are playing that involves not using any auction house (gold or RMAH), but why isn't that the game that they sold us?

Posted by Xeirus

@Gordo789: They sold you a diablo game, with plenty to do. I assume you're an adult and you choose to do what you want.

I don't avoid to auction house, because honestly I don't see a problem with it. I just don't care enough to spend my time or gold buy 1mill+ items. I play the rat race in real life, I think I can manage to play and get items on my own.

I have bought stuff from it, sure, but not near enough to think it's somehow ruined my overall experience. If the auction single-handedly ruined the game for you then I feel you have bigger issues with the game and that's a whole different conversation.

Posted by Gordo789

@Xeirus: fair enough. I do have a lot of issues with the game, you can read about them here http://recidivismo.blogspot.com/ if you like. I admit that it's fun, but I think they made a few huge missteps when making this game, many of them related to the auction houses but also some of them having to do with the skill selections. I have not played the game to level 60 yet with any class but honestly I don't want to, and something you said kind of encapsulates the reason why. You mentioned that if youre not using the auction house it's basically diablo II, well that's great because I loved Diablo II. Diablo II was, however, like 12 goddamned years ago and is also a game I already own! So you'd think that in all this time they could make a game that was much much better than diablo II if they were planning on charing money for it. Instead, they made a game that's basically diablo II if you don't use one of its core features.

Anyway, I think that what the author of that article was getting at was how shameful and directly opposed to the spirit of Diablo II (which was a GREAT game) the implementation of the auction house is. It's great that people can still enjoy diablo III in spite of that, but the reality is that the game suffers for many people because of it.

Lastly, I want to say that I really really wish they had included an offline mode in Diablo III, so that people could play hardcore mode (which offers a defined risk to using the auction house) without fear of dying to a bullshit internet connection either on their end or on the server end. I live in a rural area and have crappy internet, so this is not an option for me, which sucks. I don't see why Blizz should be exempt from scrutiny on this crap, it's bullshit.

All of that said, it's a perfectly well made if not kind of just alright game. I'm not passing any kind of judgement on people who enjoy it or anything. I enjoy it even. I think it's fun, but there are definitely some serious goddamned problems with the model they've set up. They could've made a better game but instead they chose not to so that they can implement their bullshit.

Posted by Dezztroy

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.

Posted by superfunhappygun
@patrickklepek I have to say though, Eternal Darkness peaks somewhere in the middle and by the end of it, it just isn't fun anymore. At least that was the case for me. The time periods are really cool but revisiting the same locations gets tiresome very quickly.
 
In regards to Penumbra, I agree that the first one isn't a whole lot of fun but it still does some neat things. The second one is easily the best but, as others have said, you'll get kind of lost in the mix if you don't play the first one first.
 
Thanks for the write-up! Will check Spelunky and some of the articles.
Posted by Mercer

@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

Posted by Portis

Sooooooooo pumped for Spelunky. Played a ton of the freeware version and I can't wait for this XBLA version. My body is ready!

Posted by Xeirus

@Gordo789: to each their own, I feel the complaints are understood, but at the same time just soo tired of hearing it. It's not going to change.

The only thing I completely agree with is the offline mode, hardcore is unplayable IMO without it, but at the same time I understand why they didn't include it.

Just have to accept the thing you cannot change and move on IMO.

Posted by Otzlowe

I'd agree with you on your comment about companies being willing to defend their stances, but sometimes I kind of feel like it's impossible for them to do so, even when it's defensible.

Anything they say in defense of a subject like rape in their video game is just going to be painted in a worse light. I don't really blame them for staying quiet, saying, "Wow, guys." and then moving on.

Posted by Cybexx

Used to play a bunch of Spelunky, the original is really great, some of the best procedural level generation I've ever seen.

I also like how Flip'd actually has the VVVVV sprite in it, sometimes wearing your inspirations on your sleeve is the best policy.

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