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Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Value of Games

Ian Bogost is a sage amongst milder herbs. According to Bogost (and contrary to Splines' previous reports), we're all a little to blame for the failure of the original Manhunt 2, Carmageddon, Fahrenheit, and every other game deemed too 'adult' for retail acceptability. Bogost, who is the founder of Persuasive Games, conceives a need to critically assess the ramifications of the label 'Adults Only' (AO): the decisively fatalistic rating which the US' ESRB deemed appropriate for Manhunt 2 last June.

Reading this statement, I think that Bogost is outlining a failure of duty (and the existence of a duty!) on the behalf of those that produce, distribute, and enable the playing of games:

"A number of commenters… are calling for… an AO version for PC sold outside the traditional videogame retail channels… I suspect such a move is financially unimaginable in contemporary videogames […] But game devs and publishers are going to have to start making moves like this if they also want to continue making calls for the protection of games as speech. Who will take this argument seriously if game creators are so willing to compromise their intentions?"

To use a civil rights analogy (why not): I think that we as gamers should consider the example of Dr. King, who successfully displayed that a valid and effective strategy to bring an end to discrimination is to avoid an adversarial mentality and instead to persuade those who would discriminate (against games as a worthy medium) that we should be recognized as members of the community with a valuable contribution to make.

We can achieve the respect of doubters in a number of ways. We as gamers can take it as our duty to show our favorite games to our friends, relatives, and people who would really prefer we didn't. We can tell people why we love games, how the media tends to report only on the negative aspects of gaming, and that 'Adults Only' should not be demonized because a lot of gamers are just that: adults. We can praise the efforts of the many developers that strive to exceed expectations and to produce something truly exceptional. We can reject the studio that fails to defend its creation when it comes under criticism for being 'too extreme'. Games are a creative vision. Developers: for you to submit to outside interference is like poking yourself in the eye, suddenly that vision becomes blurry and indistinct.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Decades of Decadence, Decimated?

The United Kingdom plays venue to past glory and modern mediocrity. This statement could never resound with greater poignancy than with respect to the UK's history of games development. This sceptered isle once hosted a plethora of innovators and instigators: pioneers that led the world's first virtual revolution. Today, talented British developers leave their native shores in multiples of 56, heading for a warmer reception within cultures that view gaming as a valid contributor rather than incidental childs'-play.

Bearing our temperamentally transitional history in mind, I'm mindfully skeptical yet tinted with a pang of glee when a prominent Conservative MP announces an ambition towards, "Tax breaks for the games industry similar to those experienced by the film industry".

I'll write more on this issue should the ambition become a promise. Until then, I'll be remaining cautiously optimistic.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

No Tricks or Treats, Only Manhunt 2

Hi. Just a quickie to update you with news that Manhunt 2 has undergone an ordeal as Rockstar's psychotic staffers hurriedly applied the surgical blade to modify their game's body in time for a Halloween release date. No anesthetic was used due to the game already being knocked out by a severe blow to the freedoms of game developers when the BBFC refused to certify the game (in its original form) earlier this year.

In other noteworthy news, I have Bioshock, and it's good. Unfortunately I have to go to some stupid partnering of husband and wife in legal matrimony this weekend, guaranteeing the whole forty-eight hours to be a total wash-out. A few frustrating rotations of my clock's big daddy hand occurred before Securom replied to my e-mail and kindly allowed me to manually activate the game I'd paid for.

Although I would never advocate piracy, I think this form of mockery is objectively quite justified:

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Massive Damage

The ever clever Gamasutra today begins a new feature - Game Design Essentials: 20 Difficult Games - providing informed insight into the 'skill-test' philosophy of early video games (as opposed to the modern focus on narrative and thus the requirement that players reach the 'end' of the game). John Harris, the article's author, shoots my weak-spot:
"[D]ifficulty in a video game must be handled carefully. Nothing attracts the ire of those fickle game bloggers quite like them getting their asses handed to them by a game."
I'll concede this is fair criticism, especially regarding this rambling rejection of the English language. I'll contemplate Harris' sentiment and ideally become a better writer because of it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Frau Chancellor, Tear Down This Wall!

Tonight, as conference-goers settle into their hotel rooms in Leipzig, news filters through the binary-vine that Crytek's Avni Yerli cannot envision a future for his development team in Germany should the state enact proposed legislation against violent games. A tougher law is needed, according to the German government, because of the (disputed) risk that the playing of violent games may lead increased aggressiveness in a gamer's behaviour.

I have sympathy for the German people. I think the state is acting out of concern for the individuals under its charge, yet I fear it may have 'set up the bomb' on this one: somebody's going to get hurt before the round is over, no matter where the truth lies in the video games violence debate. If the legislation does not come to fruition, the government will disappoint the 59% of German people who feel that a ban on violent gaming is appropriate (see 'proposed legislation', above). Yet, if a ban is enacted, the economy is guaranteed to suffer. The existence of Crytek and the Leipzig conference within Germany provides onlookers with strong evidence that the German people value gaming in their lives and with their wallets.

I think that I've yet to reach the core of the issue: should the state halt their proposal at draft, this will happen because of coercion. The German people are in majority consensus that violent games are bad for society, so a decision to halt legislation would be a demonstration of the state putting economy above welfare in its priorities. My ideal solution would be for everyone involved to have a stein of bier and an academically-supported chit-chat which would (of course) result in all the skeptics agreeing that they were wrong and that Manhunt 2 and all its companions should become part of the school syllabus. Failing that, I'd simply like the German state to agree that, due to insufficient evidence either way, video games are not a risk to peoples' sanity and should therefore not be restricted any further. The ratings system is, after all, a restriction, and it should be tailored to meet the opinions and sensibilities of the people.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Monday, August 20, 2007

Olympus Yawns

Note: This post is written about God of War 1, I've yet to play its sequel. Apologies that this blog's material is often archaic. I have a lot of catching up to do with my playing of console games and learning how to write good.

I don't like God of War. Let's get this promptly out of the way: I'm not very good at it, I got up to the part with a wooden floor that, if you battle too long on top of it, drops you to the detriment of your continued existence, and then (after several replays with accompanying new plans) I quit.

As I played God of War, early as the first locked door on the assailed ship, I realised that GoW's developers had one simple rule for their players: 'Do it our way, or fail'. 'Don't bother thinking about bashing that wooden door down with your brutish oaks of arms, gamer', the developers would say to me, 'just follow our chore-list and you'll have lots of fun, we promise'. And so I carried out my tasks like a good demi-god. It wasn't long until Kratos was directed into another room of the house, this time hoovering in Athens, then dusting in the desert. I was already tired by the point I was ordered to polish that wooden floor within a strict time limit, my meager skills and withered frame were simply not up to the task. 'Yet you must persist', said the developers, 'There's a key in that room, and you can't progress until we let the red barriers down, and we won't do that until all the enemies are dead'. So I hurried and all the enemies died along with me when we fell madly into the dark room below.

'Oh, another job', confessed the developers as they speedily reassembled Kratos' corpse, 'We couldn't put you back together in that room because of, you know, the floorboards being the way they are and all, and we couldn't begin the procedure in the room before that either, you see, the enemy AI is as crooked as Atlas' back and, you know, it couldn't be helped but, sometimes they keep on spawning and jam into that room and - oh, I expect you noticed the evil-flavoured jam when you tried to get into the floorboard-trap area, is that why you're cut as well as smushed? So anyway, the job, well, we need you to run across this contraption of giant saw-blades and then along a conveyor-belt with crushing spiked blocks that move unpredictably and then climb a wall. You probably remember doing this before your death, right? Well, all we need you to do is keep repeating this perilous run until you've worked out how to kill all those enemies in a cruel rigid time limit. See you soon!'
'You've properly stitched me up this time', I thought.

My complaint isn't simply that GoW is linear, I think it's lacking even the most spartan smidgen of ambition. The enemies, for example (barring their AI, which is basic yet functional), are reminiscent of Robotron: the player knows exactly how they're going to behave based on their appearance, they're incapable of evoking surprise or projecting a sense of individual character, they're drones. The difference between Robotron and GoW (besides the volume of memory that their respective developers had to play with) being that Robotron placed the player in combat with entities that we'd expect to display drone-like behaviour (being that they were, in fact, drones), yet GoW's beasts, such as the Cyclops, should be inherently selfish and individualistic. When I see a young Minotaur throw its youth away as a slave to such uninspired development, I weep.

Another thing, developers, if you're going to develop such a limited set of rules and situations and call them a game, at least make them consistent. If I try to jump over a ledge to reach some goodies and find that I can't, I don't expect that I then will fall to my doom when I try it over some foreboding precipice. The opposite is true, if you prevent me from callously throwing myself off a cliff I might well assume I can't take an aerial root towards nearby goodies. That, and Kratos looks like he's found footing on an invisible Mario-block each time he performs the double-jump upon which so much of GoW's platforming depends.

GoW is definitely the worst game I've played since Armed Assault.

A Visceral Update

"Bookmark it, RSS to it, marry it. It’s a big, new, and exciting thing that will be updated every day with comment and thoughts on PC gaming news, games and esoterica."

I'll bet Kieron Gillen has already made a gag about cocking the gun, innu-ending any prospect of humour in this post before it's even begun. If you like gaming, click the link.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A Case of History Deleting

If you were to click this link right now, it probably wouldn't work. Why am I providing you with a dead link? Well, perusers of the internet have palpitated their quivering left-clicking fingers with such rapidity over the Wikipedia Scanner that the website has been, "Disabled until the onslaught of traffic wanes".

I'm telling you about this because, beside offering the amateur sleuth an opportunity to raise aloft the torch of transparency, Wikipedia Scanner's skilful deployment has led to a conglomeration of shamed corporate employees, including an Electronic Arts staffer who would prefer public ignorance about Trip Hawkins or EA Spouse.

I have nothing but contempt for these corporate representatives. Their actions are as despicable as they are futile. Wikipedia takes stock of earlier versions of each entry, placing the painless process of healing an ignoramus' incursion in contrast with the cruel and unusual punishments these poor human specimens will endure at the behest of their embarrassed employers.

Review: Colin McRae: DiRT

Format: PC
Developer: Codemasters
Publisher: Codemasters

Not since the original TOCA Touring Car on the PS1 had I played a racing game, or even felt compelled to do so. It was therefore with a lumbering weight of apprehension that I picked up my newly-purchased XBox 360 controller after double-clicking DiRT's desktop icon. I felt like a stranger in a sensuous new land, the foreign sound of a lady groaning in pleasure was to greet me like an aroused ambassador, and then, the most sumptuous menu screen ever. Gliding through the available play modes - Career, Championship and Rally World - I began to feel at home as I pondered on which option tempted me most. A defining characteristic of the rally is that drivers rarely undertake a challenge without a co-driver and pacenotes, this ethos extends to most aspects of DiRT. If the player finds themselves in a fix, the Y button on the 360 controller (or up-arrow on the keyboard) provokes a knowledgeable chap to chirp up, furnishing the player with usually useful information in specific regard to whatever currently holds the game's attention. Because of a decade of suspended knowledge, DiRT is to me a simulation game because what it lacks in missile launchers it makes up for in potential to tinker with technobits before the race. Codemasters have thoughtfully provided an explanation at the precipice of every pitfall, instructing newcomers on how to handle themselves when approaching such hazardous questions as, 'Should my rear toe-angle be negatively aligned for best performance?', simplifying the issue for genre-cretins.

Goatherds will kindly move aside

The developers of DiRT have done a darn-fine job. Before playing, I would have insisted that racing is a pure and emotionally-detached event, closer to a science of angles and traction than a whole-hearted adventure, now I know better. I know that the car in the above screenshot is a Mitsubishi Evo IX Lancer, what's more, it's my Lancer, and we've been through a lot together. In each of DiRT's modes, courses are unlocked and thus the player is materially rewarded for their accomplishments. Many games, notably MMOs, use a similar 'new stuff after strife' system because it achieves a heightened sense of ownership. I don't think it's sensible to use a system such as this in a game like DiRT because it typically shrouds the best bits. DiRT goes so far as to reveal the events' name, the type of course and car involved, yet demands that the player earn the privilege to play most of the game . Codemasters ascend a steep incline of success once the better content is unlocked. As I conquered the Career Mode's tiers I was able to choose from a worthy roster of motors, learning for myself the nuances of torque and track alike.

Codemasters developed a new engine before spraying DiRT onto our screens, and its performance to annoyance ratio is top-notch. It's clear that the publishing/development duo have acquired a brimming toolbox during McRae's many trials (DiRT being the seventh iteration of the series), the rally cars' handling, the fidelity of the scenery, the camera-angles available to the player in-game and the playback features present in the action-replay, they're all marvellous. What's absent from this list of pure-gold gameplay? Well, I say that the rally cars handle well because the buggies (that are much flaunted in DiRT's publicity) handle like soap in a bath: they're slippery and you'll ultimately face frustration. The in-race camera-angles are both functional and attractive, so it's a shameful revelation that Codemaster's positioning of most of their track-side cameras is dire, dire like the kind of Bugbear that would pulverise a lesser game into the damp gravel of obscurity.

DiRT lets you take trucks off-road. That's not 'arcade', that's American.

The majority of gaming PCs won't have the horsepower to handle this game at its most maximised detail levels. If you own a 360 and a PC that hasn't had its components churned-over in more than two years, I'd definitely recommend that you purchase the 360 version of DiRT. Aptly enough, only the beginning of each race has performed at a poor speed on my PC, with far smoother acceleration accompanying the majority of races. DiRT remains, under its embossed bonnet, a rally fanatic. As such, the contours of the road will supplant other cars as the abundant challenge for the player's speeding chassis.

DiRT's audio is its disability, its crutch rather than a well-oiled clutch. Once I'd recovered from the startling onset of the stupendously sub-woofed title music, I found DiRT to be wiped clean of any music of merit. There's little audible mettle to the motors, either. The game is proudly loud, but rarely does the audio suit the atmosphere or does the terrain's visual virtuosity risk succumbing to the enunciation of the engine.

In conclusion, DiRT is a game that's well worthy of your time, even if you're not keen on the genre. I'd highly recommend that you purchase an apt controller with rumble and anaglog-stick capabilities, without which you simply won't experience this game as the developers intended. DiRT has left a persistent smudge upon my psyche.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Brining Shock

In a manoeuvre that should be regarded as suspiciously similar to poaching other, better sourced blogs' material, rather than actively engaging in research or any other behaviour with a semblance of professionalism, Splines has a story to report which will flood your chambers with passion, angry passion. Prepare yourself for an imminent jealous rage.

Some normal people have Bioshock early, they have it now, and they got it from Toys R Us. These people simply sauntered in and asked for Irrational Games' unreleased sunken treasure, and they got it. This makes me mad because I want to count myself amongst this gallant few. Sadly, there's no Toys 'R' Us in Lancaster, and I suspect their management may already be wise to the breach in their company's starboard stocks. I'm bitter and twisted, like the salt-water that naive checkout staff have poured into an arm still writhing from a gaping drill-bit wound.

Thanks to Kotaku for this story. Your blog is infinitesimally better than my own, but sadly lacking in grotesque similes. Also, they'll be a review of Bioshock on Splines as soon as my pre-order arrives (must...fight....swelling tide of fury). Also also, I promised a review of DiRT about a week ago and I've yet to deliver, if all goes well then it will be done and dusted by late today or early tomorrow, I can't tell for sure because I've yet to start writing it!

Edit: I don't mean when I say,
"they'll be a review of Bioshock on Splines as soon as my pre-order arrives", that I'll begin writing immediately after viewing the case. There will be a certain length of time between Bioshock's arrival and my preparedness to assemble thoughts on the matter (and then I'll play the game - tee hee).

Monday, August 13, 2007


Thanks to Game Politics I've discovered Erik Bethke and the impressive premise of an online avatar's bill of rights. Erik is CEO of GoPets and developer of a game that goes by the same name. The theoretical possibility of an avatar's judiciously protected properties was hailed by Ralph Koster a chronological chasm of seven years ago, yet the materialisation of habeus corpus remains as removed from existence as a habitual corpse. This despotic state of affairs seems placed to topple as Erik has both the mind and the platform of GoPets by which to virtuously campaign and effect both expectations and reality.

Erik's proposal of action could likely lead to a re-evaluation of reality for other online content producers/hosters such as Blizzard, YouTube, and even bloggers such as myself. We'll need to enquire of ourselves: 'To what extent is this venue a public space? At what point is intervention justfied and do I, as an administrator, possess greater privilege over my visitors?'. The establishment of a tribunal - in which a public panel contemplates evidence and passes judgement - has been put forth by Erik; this system has an inherent advantage in its existence within an MMO, being that a presumedly impartial power (the game's administrator) has access to reliable logging data (such as that of both party's conversations) that can be utilised to ascertain truth when presented to a judicial organisation. Even still, is this kind of logging to be permitted in a surveillance-sensitive society? These are the kind of questions that should (and I'm confident, will) be asked before Erik's formative deadline regarding GoPets' EULA.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Ubisoft Baby Bottoms

Hmm... an odd one, this. The question that begs to be asked being: do girls truly relish the prospect of looking after a baby, or is this assumption a result of the demands placed on young women by our society? I can't answer this question, although my experience of life has taught me that truth (a tricky prospect in itself) lies in a compromise between polar notions. Ubisoft's Imagine Babies could be the latest artefact in a lengthy succession of technologies which aim to socially engineer people with the aim to morph them into cooperative and cohesive tools of the state, it could be simple fun.

A definite positive aspect of this creation is that it represents Ubisoft's perception of 'the girl' as a marketable demographic, and the DS as a medium for introducing to the under-represented sex a form of entertainment that they've neglected for the past few decades.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Sumotori Dreams: Drunk Guy Simulator

Review: Shadow of the Colossus

Format: PS2
Developer: SCEI Production Team 1

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment International

Urgh, 'SCEI Production Team 1', such a jarring juxtaposition of clinical corporate regimen against the wide-eyed realisation that this team has not been doped or bonded by their employers, but left free to create something truly majestic. In harmony with Cory Barlog's observation (he's the director of God of War I and II), this game drapes a silken subtlety over the themes it elegantly addresses. SotC aptly avoids the temptations of Hollywood-style, testosterone and napalm-fuelled plot progression - eerily - as though this game were developed is an alternate Proto-Hollywood hegemonic yet digitally capable universe. Wonderment at Japan's cultural isolationism aside, SotC features giant freakin' monsters: the colossi. As the protagonist, Wander, you'll be responsible for the felling of the gargantuan inhabitants of this strikingly radiant game-world. So, how can SotC be subtle? The big chap on the game's box wouldn't do so well at a game of hide and seek in and around your grandparents' living room, would he now? Well, it's in the methods used to tell SotC's story, in the way that Wander and Agro (his horse) develop a character and motivation despite the minimum of dialogue (actually, Agro hardly talks at all), but rather through the player's identification and empathy with a duo clearly suffering through adversity. My understanding of SotC was borne through being compelled to supplant my own worldly experience in lieu of any definite knowledge of Wander's world, and, in doing so, to accept the symbiosis of my own personality with that of the protagonist. The colossi are strong characters in the most obvious of ways, however, playing SotC you'll marvel at the many nuances and intricacies that amaze precisely because they don't take up the entire screen with a toenail or attempt to model your avatar on a pancake.

The colossi sport Reactions lenses.

Now that I'm forced to unceremoniously disassemble SotC's gameplay, it's clear that there are three distinct segments, to be named, 'The Briefing', 'The Hunt' and 'The Battle'. The Battle is inverted in upon The Briefing, meaning that once you've killed the Big Bad, you'll find yourself (almost) instantly back in The Temple of Briefing (I'm so glad Sony didn't call it that).

Briefings live up to their name because your boss issues instructions whilst standing before you in his underwear. Although I just lied to you, my reviews are to be trusted. What actually happens is a heavenly light shines down from the roof of the temple, accompanied by succinct orders, furnishing the player with ambiguous and perfectly unhelpful clues about the next colossus. The Briefing is the weakest section of the game and mercifully brief. My ire is raised because I'm no fan of the voice acting, the fictitious in-game language's semiotics, or the content or font present in the subtitled translation. After every fourth colossus is toppled, the player is granted a cutscene of such marvellous quality it almost, almost, dispels the lacklustre quality of The Briefing.

Moving on: The Hunt. In the above picture you'll see Wander holding his sword aloft, beaming radiant sunlight against the matted chest of a hideous beast. This sword-and-sunlight dynamic forms a crucial element of SotC. Holding the controller's circle button whilst manipulating the left analog stick allows the player to harness and reflect any light source towards a target. This technique has two major applications: the cone of light will focus and become more intense when pointed in the direction of the next colossus on Wander's death-list, the second application regards battles, I'll cover that in a moment. I like SotC's reflective navigation because, as well as being beautiful (along with the rest of the game), the mechanic remains embedded in the world - it's feasible - I find this preferential to a jarring radar-display, HUD-based or otherwise 'artificial' mechanic. I call this segment 'The Hunt' because of the distance you'll travel before encountering your mark. The environment is diverse in setting and rendered in a remarkable style that I find reminiscent of high-exposure photography. Distance travelled in SotC should be measured in pleasure.

The battles are mostly great. From the walkthrough I consulted (I have no shame!), I've garnered that people's opinions vary widely as to which colossi are rubbish and those that are the most difficult to beat. For example, I read that people had a lot of trouble dealing with the sand-worm, but I found that if you allowed Agro to take charge of whatever direction he cared to carry you, killing the beast was simple. Aptly demonstrated by Blockhead, computer games have a talent for exposing our strengths and humiliating inadequacies. I fell off the last boss so much I had to quit the game before my head exploded. To describe how a colossus is reduced to an inert hill or small mountain, it's best that I attempt to tackle a summary of how SotC's platforming is handled. The use of L1, to grab, is paramount. It's possible for Wander to grab and then shimmy (or pull himself up, or jump away from) almost any ledge, mossed or hairy (yes, hairy) surface in the game. Hair comes into the equation via the follicles of our big-hearted chums (they're not big-hearted because they love you, sorry), who are often covered in the stuff, allowing you to grasp the intricacies of stabbing your sword deep into the places they'd rather you didn't. Oh, yes! The sword, I said I'd mention the sword's light once more: it's very helpful to shine a beam, caressing the colossus with the glow, because the points at which the rays focus will aid you in identifying the important parts of your adversary's body, this equates to the parts you should stab or fire an arrow at. Alternately, if you clamber close enough to one of these points when your sword is unsheathed then the magic of exploitation will cause a symbol on the colossus to glow. Fighting a colossus is a lot better than I've made it appear. You won't be thinking about ledges or even hair during the battle, you'll be screaming 'Dios mio!' (this article is pending localisation).

Wander represents the proverbial David to the colossi's Goliath, as such, his life often dangles on the line depending on the dangling ability of the player. Health rarely presents a problem until the later colossi, but stamina is an ever-present hazard. Handily, gauges accurately plot the decline of both attributes, allowing the player to remedy Wander's imminent cessation of wandering. I particularly enjoy the moments when Wander runs out of stamina and regains just enough during his fall to manage a desperate grasp onto an obscure invert of the colossus - I've actually discovered weak points using this, ahem, 'method'.

"Hi, I came for the gymkhana"

I adore the audio. The orchestral accompaniment serves as a suitable incense to the chambers of sacred sites and long-forgotten halls of worship that comprise much of SotC. The game makes use of a central musical score which is then modulated according to the moment's theme and place, perhaps a knowing tip of the hat to the player's discovery of the unknown amidst the familiar: the unforeseen swell of a viola set against the rebellious nature of a game that goes beyond expectations, a world without restraint, an orchestra loosed into this setting lacking a conductor.

I want to believe that SotC exists as a grand design which, like the ancient monuments of its world, stand in defiance of reason or regulation. This can't be true, SotC has been developed, as all PS2 games, through a series of staff meetings, bosses, underlings, compromises and amendments. Yet, what I love most about this game is that not a hint of sacrifice taints the purity of vision that radiates to the depths of this holy font of gaming.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

A-Life of Drink

Having just learned that Stalker's 'A-Life' system (the AI routine whereby NPCs would act with intelligent, situationally-concious autonomy within the Zone, behaving like this without the need for a player to trigger their actions or to even be present during their performance) was not simplified, as I'd assumed, but rather deactivated until the player had completed the main objectives in an area ... well, I'm not exactly sure what to think. I desperately wanted to be impressed by Stalker, yet I was dismayed after years of hype by GDC's seeming deviation from their ambitious mantra, so much so that I need a drink. Now I discover that the Ukrainian developer's unstable AI script lies dormant in the sarcophagus of a mutated oddity in the vast vault of gaming. I'm intoxicated with joy because the script was unleashed upon the public, yet I won't forget my troubles for long: GDC's bartenders have poured me a weak substitute for the shot of pure meths I'd hoped to ingest. As I stumble back to my hovel, half-unconscious, I dream to myself of how good it would have been for GDC to include a sandbox 'Zone Experience Mode' whereby I could discover for myself just how competently the A-Life system is able to screw up the plot. I trip over and a dog urinates on my shoe. I think to myself, 'nice programming'.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Under Pressure

As the weather becomes a whole lot less soggy, I'm reminded of an archaic term that the indigenous peoples of England would use when referring to this time of year. As late as AD2006, the racially diverse natives of the realm would celebrate the coming of fair weather as the 'some-uur'. They would cast away their ceremonial garb - the cagoule - instead, parading with a red chest and peeling nose to the local shrine of Bir-Gaadon. Every year, a drought was expected by those who work and play in the field of gaming; presumedly because the marketing executives - whose job it was to maximise sales of computer games - were all overcome with the duties of looking after their kids during the school holidays: when younglings had a lot of free time and very little to do. The drought signalled low yields in the seasonal harvest. The year's Big Brother game would herald a lull in quality that would persist until proper gaming weather (that's sleet and gales) resumed around October, or sometimes mid-June.

Summer need not be a drought. There's a rollicking repertoire of rich gaming heritage, fertile furrows in which your interest and talent may take root. I've only recently come into ownership of a PS2. It's wonderful to approach my local games store and to look upon the shelves with the wisdom that is conferred upon oneself through being a long-time gamer. I know exactly which games I'd like to buy and I can weigh my opinions against those held by the community. I can be assured that my purchases won't disappoint, and, what's more, the select plucking and purchase of great games from an older format is the embodiment of choosing gameplay over graphics. A flashy game will likely cause tremors when it explodes into the public's attention, but only a truly classic game will emit ripples of pleasure with permanence. So I encourage you: try something new this Summer, buy something old!

This is all not to say that there's nothing new worth playing right now, in fact, this is one of the best Summers of gaming in living memory. With only a minor whiff of favouritism, I'll gladly declare my viewpoint of PC gaming to be on the precipice of the Gobi desert, staving off the arid expanse with the rejuvenating aquatic Bioshock (released later this month) and relocating vast quantities of sand with Colin McRae DiRT (Splines review very soon - promise); I can't think of anything equally olympian on the consoles besides the PS2's God of War 2 - so there's another reason to go out and buy yourself a seven year old artefact of awesome.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Determinance's Reward

Paul from Mode 7 will be presiding over this year's GDC. Representing the contribution that indie games can make to 'big development', he'll be engaged in discussion alongside a panel of fellow games creators. Paul remarks:

"This is obviously a big deal for us [...] hopefully people will appreciate my ideas on paying attention to the community which builds up around a game: something to which mainstream devs should be taking a more “indie” approach."

Good luck dude!