Link Storm

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I haven’t done one of these for a while! Here’s some interesting gaming, game design and other random crap that I find interesting related links!

Games We Play

This video is a tad annoying in its approach (I don’t know why I just find it annoying) but it is some interesting food for thought about how we can make a game out of pretty much anything. Even the most mundane tasks or huge amounts of bordom can drive people to create a game to help pass the time.

Broken Sword: The Serpent’s Curse Kickstarter

What’s this? A new Broken Sword game that looks like it will be really good? And it has Charles Cecil on board too? Am I dreaming? I will be backing this if I can scramble the money together for a pledge before the deadline.

Voting Open For The Golden Joystick Awards 2012

A surprising amount of top quality games have made the cut this year but it is your votes that will stop Call of Duty from sweeping the boards! Any guesses as to how many awards Skyrim will win on the night?

The Making Of: Final Fantasy VII – Edge

One of the many look backs at Final Fantasy VII that have popped up since the PC Port Re-release came out a week or so ago. It goes into some detail about the production of the game and the advancements it made at the time but then like all look backs at FFVII it ends up focusing heavily on the characters and story.

So, Tell Me About Yourself, Video Game – Kotaku

A piece championing the underused story telling device of having a narrator (both first and third person) in video games. I find it can go a long way to helping create a connection between the player and the game. Making the experience a lot more personal.

The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim: Hearthfire – Official Trailer

The second piece of Skyrim DLC is all about building a home and leaving your mark on the world of the game with it and your family. Basically it takes all the family and home mechanics from the Fable games and gives them a nice in-depth Elder Scrolls twist. YAY for rewarding time sinks!

The Video Game As Game Changer – Gail Simone

Comic book writer Gale Simone muses on the story and narrative structure of games and in particular their tendency to have protracted or indefinite second acts which make up the meat of the player’s experience with the game. She also points out that this is pretty much the opposite of what is happening in the rest of fictional media such as TV and Film where the second act is becoming shorter and shorter.

SPEC OPS: THE LINE!!!!

You may not be aware that I recently played through Spec Ops: The Line and fell in love with its dark, disturbing, mind bending and gut wrenching story and gameplay. So while I am still currently obsessed with it here are some interesting links about it:

Extra Credits – Spec Ops: The Line Part 1 & Part 2

The Extra Credits team take a brilliant two part look at the game. With the first part glossing over things and drawing your attention to key themes, concepts and moments while enticing you to try the game out with the minimum of spoilers. The second part goes into detail about everything basically and is spoiler central as it explores how every facet of the game works together to create the whole experience.

Spec Ops multiplayer is “tacked-on bullshit” – Edge

Interestingly this piece has been making the rounds about the game’s lead designer, Cory Davis speaking out about the game’s multiplayer and how the publisher 2K forced it into the game. Made by a separate team the multiplayer is a big departure from the main game and is one of the reasons why many reviewers scored the game at 7 or 8’s out of 10. Hopefully other publishers will take this onboard and stop trying to shoehorn multiplayer into every game they publish.

Spec Ops: The Line – Zero Punctuation

Yahtzee gives a rare mostly positive review for the game highlighting the story and character/player connection.

No Good Deed – Narrative Design in Spec Ops: The Line – Gamasutra

Finally, Gamasutra provides an in-depth look at the narrative design for Spec Ops which is well worth reading. A great behind the scenes look and good example how ideas can grow and change over time.

Weekly Link Storm

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The links are going to be a bit thin on the ground this week and next. Also incase you didn’t notice this week’s Link Storm is late! This is all because I’m travelling up and down the UK yet again.

Here’s your reading and entertainment for the past week:

A typical day at Toro’s home

After wonder just who/what the hell Toro Inoue was when he was announced as one of the latest additions to the upcoming PlayStation All-Starts Battle Royale. I did a bit of digging and came across this hypnotic gameplay footage of one of the free downloadable games featuring him on the Japanese PlayStation Network. It left me wondering two things: 

  1. Is Toro in PS All-Stars to push him as a mascot for Sony around the world or to just entice Japanese gamers?
  2. Why have Sony never released these free Toro games in the US and EU? It feels like a missed opportunity.

Is Paul McCartney Writing Music for Halo’s Original Studio?

Apart from showing Kotaku’s headline naming process for the click baiting that it is (they should have just put: Is Paul McCartney Writing Music for Bungie’s next game? or something like that). It is an interesting prospect. With Paul McCartney involved just what exactly are Bungie working on?

Sony acquires Gaikai for $380m

Perhaps one of the biggest news stories of last week. It had everyone dreaming of cloud next gen PlayStations and Sony paving the way for the future. The move by Sony to buy Gaikai is a smart one as it is a nice way to add to the current and next iteration of the PSN if they use it for that and in theory it future proofs a lot of their output as a media producer. This can be used for more than just games all those Sony movies, tv shows, music, etc. can benefit from Gaikai’s technology.

Interview: Anita Sarkeesian, games, and Tropes vs. Women

Another week and another part of the ongoing Tropes Vs Women in Video Games craziness. This interesting interview with Sarkeesian lays out a lot of the basics on what she will be covering in the upcoming series of videos.

EU court rejects EULAs, says digital games can be resold

While this will have little to no impact in the short term the longterm effects of this ruling will be interesting to see play out. As publishers try and worm their way out of and around the right to resell your digital products. Also how they will try to hide it from the average US gamers once the systems have been implemented over here in the EU.

Free university lectures

Tumblr blog Live Long And Proper posted this wonderful link to a database of free university lectures across a very broad range of subjects. I’m always on the lookout for new things to learn so this is a godsend. I’m planning on loosing many hours going through a lot of what is on offer.

Higgs boson-like particle discovery claimed at LHC

I am not going to pretend to fully understand the ramifications of finding the Higgs boson. I understand the basics and that is enough for me. It is a very big deal though and you should be excited for the scientist types in your life. They’re currently partying like it is 1999.

The Hero’s Journey (Part 1)

The Extra Credits guys are taking a look at the hero’s journey in this multi-part series on it. It is used extensively in a large number of games to varying degrees of success. It is a powerful tool to use as a starting point for a game, so watch, learn and then look into it on your own. It is one of those rabbit hole type deals that just keeps turning up stuff.

Codecademy

I came across Codecademy as a throwaway link in a LifeHacker post. Hot damn is this a good way to learn the basics of programming! I’m planning on sitting down and working my way through some of it in the next few weeks.

Halo 4 E3 2012 Multiplayer Wrap Up

I’m getting more and more excited for Halo 4 with each new video and tease 343 release. It is shaping up to be a solid game that takes the Halo franchise forwards while still keeping very true to the core idea and principles of the Bungie games. 

Extra Credits – Harassment

Link: Extra Credits – Harassment

This week’s Extra Credits covers the topic of harassment online in gaming and in particular on services such as Xbox Live. A few ideas are thrown into the melting pot that is the argument about people behaving in the worst way online. They are good ideas but they are nothing more than a stop gap to the issue really. 

To truly stop online harassment and bullying via gaming there needs to be a seismic shit in what both the companies and gamers involved in it do to combat it. The only way to truly stop it is to educate those gamers who are taking part in spreading needless hate. You can have the auto-muting systems talked about in the Extra Credits video but that doesn’t really stop people from just repeatedly setting up new and separate accounts to carry on doing what they are doing.

I’ve experienced a fair amount of abuse thrown my way online over the years. I’m not a particularly skilled gamer, I would call myself average, yet every now and then I will have a good few rounds in a game. Suddenly I am bombarded with messages about how I am a faggot just because I had a good game. Even when I play at my worst I will receive the odd message every now and then. It doesn’t stop there, I even had someone repeatedly send me abusive messages, including voice messages, over the course of a week or so. The reason? I haven’t a clue. The person was purposely trying to taint and ruin my Xbox Live experience because that is what they do to entertain themselves.

When I have talked about it with people in the past most just wave it away as being part of the online gaming experience because you cannot really do anything about it. People will be dicks. But there is a big difference in tea bagging someone’s corpse and sending them a steady stream of hateful, racists, homophobic, sexist and abusive hate messages. One is very much part of the gaming culture at this point that it is has become a joke the other is bullying. Plain and simple bullying.

Extra Credits – Games You Might Not Have Tried #3

Link: Extra Credits – Games You Might Not Have Tried #3

A good game recommendations video from Extra Credits team this week. Whenever they do videos like this I have probably heard of two or three of the games listed and the rest are usually a good cross-section of different ideas and twists on established genres and trends.

I’m certainly going to be giving the following a try:

  • Rock of Ages
  • The Dark Meadow
  • Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale
  • King Arthur II (maybe will have to look into it a bit more)
  • Dear Esther (mainly because this is yet another in the long list of recommendations for the game)

They’re just the ones that take my fancy from the games talked about in the video. It is always good to try something different I say and smaller titles like these are usually the best way to do it. I would say that everyone who watches the video has the money to try out at least one or two of the games listed. So go ahead and try something out of your comfort zone!

Extra Credits – TransGaming

Link: Extra Credits – TransGaming

Apart from repeatedly calling CCP’s upcoming PS3 game Dust 514, Dust 541 while showing lots of images of the game’s logo! This week’s Extra Credits is required viewing. Seriously go watch it now!

This is because it touches upon what could be one of the next big trends in gaming, trans-gaming. Which is something I have always thought and imagined could be a cool thing at some point but now that it is really starting to happen it has really got me excited. Like really excited. It is the sheer amount of possibility behind the idea that is amazing. Like your partner playing Bejweled to repair your armour in an RPG example from the video. It is so simple but mind-blowingly cool.

My fiancé has been happy playing the crap out of Angry Birds Space but what if her 3 staring of a level contributed to my Galactic Readiness Rating in Mass Effect 3? Kim has no interest in Mass Effect as a franchise, it sadly doesn’t appeal to her tastes, but if playing Angry Birds, a game she loves could aid my saving of the galaxy then she would be all for it. We would be working for a higher goal together via two separate paths. This doesn’t have to be a one way street either. What if in my hastily put together example, that my gathering of resources with Mass Effect 3’s scanning planets gameplay gave Kim more birds to use in Angry Birds Space? I would scan every planet possible if it could help Kim in her quest to kill some green pigs!

Mass Effect 3 already has some very basic trans-gaming elements to it with the two iOS apps; Datapad and Infiltrator, and the multiplayer component to a certain extent. Each gives you things to use in aiding your single player experience and stuff like the messages from in game characters in the Datapad App keeps you engaged with Mass Effect 3 while you are far away from you console or PC. All that needs to be done is to take these initiative further and make them on a grander scale.

A lot of it is all pie in the sky stuff at the moment but I am looking at Dust 541 514 with great interest to see how well integrated and impacting the PS3 FPS will be for the MMO side of things and vice versa. EVE is a game I have only really touched the surface of with the odd thirty days here and there but Dust 514 could see me playing it a lot more or at least make me feel like I am having an impact on what the players of EVE can do.

I love it when Extra Credits covers topics like this, it really gets the creative juices flowing!

Extra Credits – Mass Effect 3 DLC

Link: Extra Credits – Mass Effect 3 DLC

Another week another episode of Extra Credits. This week sees a welcome return to the done in one format of the show as it tackles the issue of Day One DLC and in particular the Day One DLC attached to Mass Effect 3.

While I have already expressed my opinion on the arguments for and against, the Extra Credits team comes up with some more valid arguments for it in particular the diminishing number of players who will actually buy it, shown by this handy graph:

This argument is made along with the; it keeps the team working and gives you more content points that are equally as valid in my opinion. Mostly they highlight the positives of the practise and very much come to the conclusion that it is becoming a necessary evil. They do however show the worrying side of DLC which is the attachment of it to merchandise.

It is very much a grey area at the moment and something I have actually had to look into recently for the Franchise Development Doc for one of my projects. Currently this merchandise DLC is almost throwaway content like the Collector Rifle that comes with Mass Effect 3 Razor products but it is becoming more and more popular. It urges consumers to buy both the game and the merchandise for the game. It is something I caught myself doing with the Mass Effect 3 merchandise. While the DLC is very minor part of me on a very small level equates it to improving my Mass Effect 3 experience. It is a reward for buying the T-Shirt, bag, controller, etc. and that is the worrying thing. Because as Extra Credits points out this could easily turn from small inconsequential bonuses to the equivalent of the From Ashes day one DLC. So if you think paying an extra £7 for day one DLC is expensive imagine having to pay £60 to buy a bag that comes with that DLC instead. 

It is unlikely to happen but it is still a worrying thought.

Extra Credits – Western & Japanese RPGs (Part 3)

Link: Extra Credits – Western & Japanese RPGs (Part 3)

NOTE: I accidentally posted this to my other blog so if you see another version of this floating around do not panic! It is just me posting things incorrectly!

I haven’t linked to Extra Credits for the past few weeks because they have been doing a three part series on Western and Japanese RPGs and I wanted to see how it ended before passing judgement.

The first two parts of the series (Part one here and part 2 here) deal mainly with defining what RPGs are and why Western RPGs and JRPGs are actually two different genres. They are worth checking out because they raise the question of why we define game genres the way we do, after their main mechanics rather than overall content. It is good food for thought when you take into account the spread of game mechanics into different genres that has been happening over the past few years. RPG mechanics in particular are present in most AAA games that sell in their millions.

Part 3 is where the traditional Extra Credits style commentary comes into play. It further defines the gap between Western and Japanese RPGs and shows why the western games are experiencing their current success while JRPGs just….well…..suck for the majority. There are several points about JRPGs that hit home for me because back in the days of the PSOne and PS2 I loved JRPGs. There were loads of them around and plenty of them were really good games! I can honestly say I haven’t truly enjoyed a JRPG since Final Fantasy X. I’ve played a few in the past few years but they have been a tad boring for my tastes and poorly put together. 

If you look at Final Fantasy which is arguably the poster franchise for the genre that everyone points to and says, “That there is the JRPG in a nutshell.” Final Fantasy XIII was a really bad game. The combat may have been interesting but the design and pacing was very poor. Just one long corridor with a different slap of paint every now and then. It just boiled down to the point made by Extra Credits, Square spent to much on making it look pretty and as a result sort of forgot to make a good game with it. 

JRPGs played a huge part in my gaming life and made me want to see the big, epic stories they delivered in other types of games. Now that other types of games are doing that regularly and arguably, better than JRPGs. They have sort of fallen by the wayside for me and many others. The video ends with a discussion on what SquareEnix could do with making next instead of more Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest games. Kingdom Hearts 3 was mentioned. I loved the first two games and four to five years ago even the slightest whisperings of KH3 would make me excited. These days? I am not interested in the slightest. This is because I look at the endless portable Kingdom Hearts games Square have come out with over the past few years and I realise that I was left behind by that franchise a long time ago as it spiralled down into itself. That makes me unbelievably sad.

Extra Credits – So You Want To Be a Developer (Part 2)

Link: Extra Credits – So You Want To Be a Developer (Part 2)

This week’s Extra Credits continues their look at the key skills that developers need. It’s interesting stuff and there is a huge section on teamwork and communicating with the various types of people who work on a game. That anybody, working in or considering any job in the games industry should watch. A lot of it is common sense but it still needs to be said every now and then.

Extra Credits – So You Want To Be a Developer (Part 1)

Link: Extra Credits – So You Want To Be a Developer (Part 1)

An interesting episode of Extra Credits this week as they explore the world of programming and developers. It was interesting for me because I have a very basic understanding of programming and I’m known to dabble in it from time to time. So it’s not required viewing if you’re a designer but worth a watch to broaden your horizons and all that.