Archive for 'Features'

Feature: Canaries of the Year

2011 was a strong year in gaming, full of some excellent titles. Given it’s the last day of the year, I figured it would be a good time to give out some awards! I’ve split it up into three sets of awards: minor awards, genre awards, and overall game of the year. As a rule, I generally don’t like multi-page posts, but in this case I’ll make an exception as to not immediately spoil the winners. I’ll also note that there were some notable titles I didn’t play this year, including Battlefield 3 and Skyward Sword. Where applicable, I’ll be sure to mention games which may have competed for the award had I played them. […]

Diablo III Beta: Skill System and Monk Impressions

I’ve gotten my hands on the beta for Diablo III! As promised, I’ll be posting a lot of updates about the beta over the next couple of weeks. The content available in the beta is reportedly the first third of Act I. It took me about 2.5 hours on my very first (methodical) playthrough. I recorded a video of my entire playthrough, so make sure you check it out here. In this post, I’ll talk a bit about the skill system in general, and then also my impressions about the monk. […]

Feature: Legitimizing Real Money Transactions

The Internet went ablaze yesterday when various sites reported that Diablo III, the highly-anticipated title from Blizzard Entertainment, would feature an auction house which allows players to sell items to other players for real money. At first, I was skeptical of a real money auction house; I have never been a fan of the idea of other players increasing their power by paying real money. But after thinking about it for a while, I now believe it will work out just fine. […]

Feature: The Music Which Defines Us

After playing through Bastion last week, which featured an excellent soundtrack, I started thinking about the game music that still sticks with me today. There are some games, great games, where you finish them but a few days later don’t remember much of the music. For me, BioShock was one of these games. On the other hand, there are other games where you can remember the music years later.

Sure, there’s the obvious themes that most gamers would immediately recognize, like the Zelda and Super Mario Brothers ones. But since they are so ubiquitous, they aren’t very fun to talk about. So I decided to make a list (in no particular order) of my personally memorable gaming music moments. For each song, I also include a link to it on YouTube if you want to check it out. […]

Feature: Reports of Strategy’s Death Are Greatly Exaggerated

When 2K Games announced that the forthcoming X-Com game would switch genres from a turn-based strategy to FPS, it was an obvious cash grab on the publisher’s part. It’s undeniable that the FPS genre has higher commercial ceiling than strategy, but at the same time it has a much higher financial risk. So 2K Games was hoping to roll the dice with the X-Com name and come up with a new FPS franchise.

Christoph Hartmann, president of 2K Games sees it differently. In an unbelievable interview published yesterday, Hartmann rationalizes that it’s not so much the money, but because turn-based strategy games are “not contemporary.” This is a pretty oblivious statement from the publisher of one of the most popular strategy series around, Civlization. But he manages to dig himself a deeper hole with a laughable music analogy: […]

Feature: See You in the Sequel

The idea of a cliffhanger is probably as old as storytelling itself. I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out our ancestors first used the device thousands of years ago. In more recent storytelling, the frame story of One Thousand and One Nights, featuring Scheherazade and her desire to survive each night, is a canonical example of the device. Since then, pretty much every narrative medium has incorporated the concept in one way or another. So it’s no surprise that the cliffhanger has found its way into video games.

What I find interesting is my reaction to a cliffhanger will be different depending on how the rest of the game was constructed. In some cases I’ll scream expletives at the game, and in others I’ll solemnly accept it. Because of this, I thought it’d be fun to look at my reaction to some of the cliffhangers over the years. I’d also be interested in hearing about which cliffhangers everyone else finds memorable.

It goes without saying that there are going to be spoilers in this article; but each section will clearly note which game(s) I’ll be talking about. […]

Feature: Auteur Theory and Games

Auteur theory is a well-known concept in film criticism which supposes that the director imposes his or her own creative vision on a film, and as such should ultimately be viewed as the author of the work. Since film is the closest art form to interactive entertainment, some have begun to use the term in the criticism of video games.

Even if auteur theory were to be accepted for film (where there is still much disagreement), I think it’s a misappropriation to identify the creative director of a video game as an auteur. The fact of the matter is that the creation of games is so hyper-collaborative that it does a great disservice to the rest of the team when so much credit is given to the director. While I’m willing to accept there may be some video game auteurs today, I feel that the majority of video game directors don’t fit the criteria. […]

Feature: Are Stories Always Needed?

Game developers today are infatuated with the idea of cinematic storytelling. Some games, like Mass Effect, pull it off masterfully. The entire game is built around the story, and as such it works out very well. But I question if it’s a necessity for every action game to also insert a cinematic story. When games like Guitar Hero have stories added to them, clearly it’s being taken too far. The fact of the matter is that most of the time action games fail miserably at delivering even a B-rate storyline. So why are these action game developers, who clearly don’t have the storytelling chops, so focused on adding a story to their game? Does every game need a story? […]

Feature: Surviving the Test of Time

It happens to everyone. You’re back at your parents’ for a weekend and need something to do. So naturally, you go through your old game collection and find something you haven’t played in years. You boot up your weapon of choice and – to your dismay – your beloved classic from the past is terrible. Was it your childhood sensibilities that betrayed you? Or are some great games simply marked with an expiration date? What separates these games you can’t bear to play again from ones you enjoy just as much the second, third, or fourth revisit? […]

Feature: Investigating Detective Games

With the recent release of L.A. Noire, detective games have been on my mind. So I decided to spend a few days trying to track down the “perfect” detective game. This mostly involved firing up games I’d played many years ago, but I also sampled some new ones along the way. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t find my perfect detective game, though I did discover a newfound disdain for pixel hunting. The journey did, however, give me insight on ways the genre can improve. […]