Monthly Archives: April 2011

My Experiences With Portal 2’s Co-Op

It was almost impossible for me not to get excited over the release of Portal 2. After all, it was the follow up to one of the most acclaimed games of the last decade. Portal itself wasn’t really even a full game– it was a short proof of concept from Valve that happened to take off.  The sequel couldn’t afford to be just a Portal clone, it was going to contain far more mechanics and even a Co-Op mode. The idea of going through all of these mind-bending puzzles with a buddy seemed like a refreshing idea to add to the series.

With all of this in mind, I was ready for Co-Op. I came home to my pre-loaded Steam copy of Portal 2. I summoned up a Steam friend, and we dove right into it. After doing a short test to get ourselves acquainted with the new protagonists, Atlas and P-Body, and the concept of both having portals, we were placed into “The Hub”. There are 5 sets of test chambers in total, all accessed via this “Hub” (a kind of virtual lobby, where a screen displays small stats and tidbits about your game on a large screen). Sometimes getting to each set of test chambers is like a micro puzzle, requiring you to place a few portals, but never anything remotely challenging. Here, you are free to go back and repeat any test that you have already completed, at your leisure. We then got started on the real tests.

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Analysis of Monday Night Combat’s “Uncle Tully’s Funland”

Uncle Tully’s Funland is a throwback to the rickety and possibly life threatening glory days of the amusement park a la Coney Island. Even though it is set in the future, it has an old world feel to it. I can easily see this arena as being a former play area for kids. There is a bouncy pit in the middle, smiling clowns plastered on the walls, and 2 small sand filled Rodeo areas. But time has taken its toll on Uncle Tully’s and has become quite run down. The Funland provides smiles to the blood thirsty spectators, and a temporary home to Chicky Cantor.

Grant and I have spent some time analyzing the map and formulating strategies for you, fellow readers, and what follows are our conclusions on how to best play on the map. By no means is this a definitive ‘guide’, especially given the map’s infancy, but these are the tactics that work best for us at current.

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The Bond of Gaming

Imagine a scenario where you are playing a game on its normal difficulty and you’re a quarter of the way through the game. You’ve been having a good time, especially for the last couple hours. Suddenly, your avatar’s speed is crippled to an agonizingly slow rate, with no explanation as to why. Every single motion that you try to make your character initiate seems as if it’s a monumental task when it’s something as simple as moving forward.

On October 16th, 2007 this type of nightmare mode was selected for my life. I was dead asleep after an exhausting day of classes. Out of nowhere, I heard my cell phone emit the tiniest “beep” – the indication that someone is trying to call when it’s charging. I glanced at the alarm clock and noticed that it was two in the morning. Wondering who could be calling, I flipped open the phone, groggily mumbling a greeting.

I was surprised to hear my father’s voice on the other end. He told me to “put my feet on the floor.” I wasn’t quite sure what was going on at this point; however, my legs swung over the edge of my mattress and my bare soles were pressed against the cool tile floor of my room. My father then proceeded to tell me what had happened, while my brain began to process the severity of the situation, wondering if this was some sort of demented joke. In the background, I heard a preternatural wailing and realized that it was my mother wracked with grief. All doubt left my mind: I had to accept that my brother, Derek, had died in a car accident.

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Review: Cargo

Describing Cargo, the newest game from games as art Russian luminaries Ice Pick Lodge (developers of the impenetrable Pathologic and the penetrable but intense The Void), is both simple and devilishly hard.

Let’s get the simple out of the way. Heard of, or played, Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts? It’s that. But Russian. Not in the traditional overwhelmingly bleak way, but in the same way Russian animation is. That’s Cargo. That’s it. That is its central idea.

They then combine this base with five games worth of storytelling hooks mashed into one world and in the process create the most fantastically creative game worlds imaginable. Hook after utterly bizarre hook slams into you and leaves you utterly, completely bewildered.

So, when I say that Cargo is completely undefinable and a game you should play, know that I’m being serious. This is not “a wolf in feudal Japan restoring nature” weird, or “anime weird”, or even Super Mario Bros. 2 weird. This is Russian weird. This is absolute, intense, mind fucking weirdness. It’s also a very good way to get into their two previous incomprehensible but utterly brilliant releases, so it has that going for it, too. As it is, it’s a game that defies general definitions of goodness. Is it a good game? I can’t say. Is it bad? Almost certainly not. Is it mediocre? That’s the most ludicrous title to pin on it.

It simply is, and is what you make of it.
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LA Noire Will Allow Players to Skip The Action

In an effort to court a wider audience with LA Noire, Rockstar will be implementing a type skip-the-action system. “You can skip those action elements and still experience the bulk of the narrative,” states Rob Nelson, LA Noire’s art director. This is only an option after a player fails a section a couple of times, though. Almost like Nintendo’s “Super Guide,” only this isn’t a game centered around action–and that is a crucial difference. MTV states that “80% of “LA Noire” is an absence of action.” The star here isn’t the shooting bits–it’s the narrative, the investigation itself. “The hour-long case demonstrated at the screening had maybe five minutes of typical action,” states the MTV Multiplayer blog. Thus, the choice to include this feature may tell us that this is just how much faith Rockstar is putting on the narrative of LA Noire.

This news has cemented my purchase. As someone who abhors most single player shooting games (“Single player is just me killing algorithms,” as someone on Twitter puts it) being able to skip the parts I don’t care about might mean I actually finish the game!

Amnesia: The Dark Descent Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Horror Genre Again

I’ve always been a massive wimp when it comes to horror movies, games, what have you. Still, I love them in a small, masochistic way. I’ve been a big Resident Evil fan since the originals on Playstation. As a 12 year old playing these games at night with the lights off, I have never forgetten those bloody dogs!. After Resident Evil 4 and 5, though, the games lost the ‘horror’ feel and became more action oriented–thus, my faith in a good horror game was lost. For me, a Horror game is about using your limited resources wisely, being alone in an unfamiliar territory with no form of help and no hand holding. Many horror games have lost sight of what that all truly means, opting, like Resident Evil 4, for more action-packed forms of combat. This typically means more resources, less darkness, fewer fear-inducing sections of games. In essence, with over-addition action into horror titles, they became Action games with a horror influence. Adding the ability of being able to fight back removes the fear you feel, the necessity of getting away, and instead replaces it with a small boost of adrenaline. This makes it less about survival and the “true” aspects of horror and more about seeing how many creatures you can kill. Eventually I lost my love for the genre and moved on to other waters that were calling my attention.

Recently though, a new horror game has taken the gaming world by storm. Amnesia: The Dark Descent makes us all feel insecure about being in the darkness once again thanks to developers Frictional Games. Although they’ve created previous games in the fantastic Penumbra series with similar mechanics, they hadn’t gotten much interest from the public until Steam sales and youtube reaction videos thrust the game into the public eye.

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Minecraft Announces Licenses for Mod Developers

Yesterday started as a normal day for Notch. Going about his usual routine he posted on his blog, The Word of Notch, the results of the latest meeting. Within a few minutes that update had turned into a veritable storm of PR issues and gamer complaints. It became a very busy day in the world of Minecraft. Notch had this to say about the meeting:

“After some internal discussion and general anxiety, we’ve arrived at a plan for supporting mods. It’s still a bit vague and the details might change after we’ve run it by our lawyers”

I keep focusing on the phrase “internal discussion and general anxiety”. Clearly this wasn’t a unanimous decision and caused some contention. Obviously not everyone was in support of what Notch was about to announce. And neither were the players.

“Let players sign up as “mod developers”. This will cost money, and will require you agreeing to a license deal (you only need one per mod team).

Mod developers can download the source code from our SVN repository. As soon as we commit a change, it will be available to all mod developers, unobfuscated and uncensored.”

These two drew the most fire. Countless angry tweets, messages, and e-mails went flying Notch’s way. Players vehemently opposed to having to pay to mod the game. Something they have been able to do for free. Now being Nickel and Dimed to continue working on their projects was unacceptable. Also this brought into question the status of many multiplayer servers. Not every mod developer is going to pay for that license. Does that mean that all unofficial mods will no longer work and cause servers and functionality that people liked to shut down?

The other cry that went out was how Notch appeared to be putting the work of completing coding the game onto the developers who would have to pay to do it for him. People who payed for the license would be given access to the unobfuscated source code. The following only added to that sentiment.

“You can’t sell your mods or make money off them unless you’ve got a separate license deal with us…. We retain the right to use your mod idea and implement it ourselves in Minecraft. This is to prevent the situation where we have to avoid adding a feature just because there’s a mod out there that does something similar. It’s also great for dealing with bug fixes provided by the community.”

This also upset small time developers who liked to tinker with the game since the licenses come with “…a unique certificate for signing their mods. … The cost of signing up makes sure only serious developers have access to this certificate” Notch didn’t state what the monetary threshold was that separates the serious developers for free from the no so serious developers for free.

However not all of this was bad, and I feel that many people missed the overall message.

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Valve swearing off single player?

Well this is the saddest thing I’ve heard all day. Apparently Gabe Newell, in Geoff Keighley’s Final Days of Portal 2 app, says that “Portal 2 will probably be Valve’s last game with an isolated single-player experience.”

Which would be unbelievably disappointing. It’s not like I just wrote an article lamenting how Valve hadn’t released a single player narrative experience for years or anything, and it’s not like we have an article forthcoming about Portal 2’s multiplayer’s lack of narrative or anything like that.

This is honestly depressing news. It’s like Michael Jordan quitting basketball to be a scrub at baseball. Why would one of the most prominent, talented developers of single player experiences go to developing multiplayer ones? Oh, right, because of piracy.

Really, it’s dreadful news. And it’s coming on the heels of news that Bioware wants to make Mass Effect into a shitty MMO. It’s like all the best developers of narrative in video games are going off and trying to make more multiplayer shooters, which I can’t be the only person in the world to have no interest in. It’s really awful when you think about it. There’s no upside here: I want Half Life 3, not Team Fortress 3 or Left 4 Dead 3 or Counterstrike 3. I want video games to do something new and unique, and not just become fast paced, interactive versions of chess.

No Time Left for You

I had a moment in my life recently where I realized I was different.

Younger me would have gone absolutely apeshit over Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes. Not only is it a game in one of my favorite franchises, not only does it have brilliant art direction, but it is a subtly tactical, brilliant puzzle game, the kind of thing I would have adored.

But older me is playing it, not younger me. And older me has come to a startling realization: so much of this game, games in general, is busywork, and I cannot enjoy that anymore.

I’m grinded out on grinding.
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New Skyrim Details Include The Possibility Of No Horses?

Oh November, it saddens me to think that you are still…..*looks at phone calendar* 6 months away! Oh well, it gives me time to get my computer ready for Skyrim! I love the entire Elder Scrolls series. Yes, even Oblivion: who cares it wasn’t like Morrowind?

Anyways, the guys over at IGN have got some exclusive low-downs on some of the newest features and ideas coming to Bethesda’s latest installment in the series. This includes the possibility of not having horses as a mode of transportation. (I’m guilty of purchasing Horse Armor….don’t laugh!)

Here’s a video of the interview with Todd Howard explaining the new leveling processes and their development :

Click on the picture for all of the juicy details over at IGN!