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    • CommentAuthorIsaacSher
    • CommentTimeNov 20th 2011
    I've been having a lot of videogame fun lately.

    City of Heroes is still going strong for me; it's free to play, but I find the monthly fee worth the benefits.

    Still working on "evil mode" inFamous 2.

    Got play in the stress test beta weekend of Star Wars: The Old Republic recently, and LOVED it. I think I may end up pre-ordering this game.

    However, I'm now at a point where I need to recruit some help in writing a review for my site,

    I was given some Steam Review Copy codes for a game from Paradox called Defenders of Ardania. It's a Tower Strategy game, where you are both setting up towers for your defense, and sending out swords/sorcery armies into the teeth of your opponent's tower array in order to kill his castle. I've been fiddling with the PVE campaign, but I'm looking for help to review the multiplayer content.

    If at all possible, I'm trying to find someone who has extensive Real Time Strategy experience -- because aside from Tower Defense games, that's a genre that I don't have much skill with. I can't even beat Starcraft 1's singleplayer campaign without cheat codes.

    So if you have some RTS skills, and would be able to devote an hour or two at some point to look over this game and hopefully try some multiplayer with me, let me know and I can send you the Steam download code.
  1.  (10320.122)
    DJ Stawes:

    Portal 1 didn't show you how to solve every puzzle and even had a couple different ways to solve some. Portal 2 is basically find the white walls.


    I agree with Stawes re: Portal 2. Portal 1 allowed and encouraged experimentation within the test chambers, with a huge scope for mistakes and physics fuckery. Portal 2 made sure almost every non-critical wall was un-portalable, meaning that all you had to do to solve each puzzle was find the white squares, identify which would shoot you where, and work backwards, regardless of which tool you were using at the time.

    Even if that tool was the gel that painted the walls white so you could shoot a portal at them? No, I still don't think PORTAL 2 stood out as more linear than its predecessor, just more tightly-designed, and with new features such as the gels, I definitely don't think it has less experimentation. I vividly remember playing around in some chambers.

    Indeed, some sequels become more linear than the original -- MODERN WARFARE 2, actually, is a good example -- but I don't think PORTAL 2 is. And speaking of MODERN WARFARE...

    James Cunningham:

    "... what? What rule is this? Usually a character that tries too hard to be the player is a silent, boring blank slate that ends up being preposterous instead of immersive. I'd much rather play a well-rounded character than a Gordon Freeman. Silent protagonists tend to blur into each other after I've played a hundred of them."

    Miscommunication there, sorry. What I was thinking of when I wrote that was the video from the last Modern Warfare showing the player just trailing along behind the companions as they shot everything in sight, leaving the player as a supporting role whose input was barely necessary. That shouldn't happen, ever.

    I don't see the problem with AI partners helping you out. Nor do I want to be an indispensable hero every minute of every game. The MODERN WARFARE series alternates between moments when your partners are in the spotlight, and moments when your character is -- and your character changes from level to level, so at times you'll be a grunt on a warzone, and in others you'll be the guy everyone trusts to see through a certain objective. This is true of all three games. Shit like HOMEFRONT and the new MEDAL OF HONOR, on the other hand, were indeed poorer for this, because the characters were not worth their screen time, and because despite the linearity, they couldn't get the pacing right.

    The best version of Earth Defense Force is still Global Defense Force, which is the PS2 version of EDF2. The best GTA is still San Andreas. Final Fantasy peaked with FFIII, on SNES. I keep hoping someone will do a new game worth playing based off the Star Control gameplay, and would love a proper remake of the 3DO version of Starfighter. Grim Fandango is still the best adventure game I've ever played, precisely because the story was so incredibly strong. Each of these games is old to some extent, and some are better for story and others for the actions they allow the player to perform. There is no winning formula in making these games come to mind as special gaming experiences. This is why I say that, while story isn't irrelevant, it isn't what gaming's about.

    Then I agree with you. I just think that games that try to have a story (which is most of them) should be criticized when they fail to have a good story, and not get a free pass because it's a game. For instance, SAINTS ROW: THE THIRD is miles below its predecessor in terms of narrative (and cleverness), and without that it becomes much less engrossing. And GTA: SAN ANDREAS, as you mention, continues to be perfectly playable today thanks to its stupendously insane narrative.

    (And speaking of games without stories, I made the horrendous mistake of buying MINECRAFT and oh God I can't tear myself away from it what dark magic is this)

    David Lejeune:

    I'd much rather play a well defined character like Garrett, or Adam Jensen, or Faith, or Isaac Clarke, or Sareth, then make a well defined character like Soap or Jackson or Price walk through a bunch of heavily scripted set pieces that would play out the same way whether or not they were there.

    In some cases, the reduction of player input during setpieces is total, but if the setpiece is worth it, I don't mind. Usually they'll try to add whatever interactivity they can, and when they can't, it's no different from a cutscene. And MODERN WARFARE is not an endless collection of setpieces one immediately after the other. Several sequences put you in a warzone full of A.I. controlled enemies, giving you freedom to use whatever strategy you see fit. The fluidity of the transition between said sequences and strict setpieces is one of the aspects of the MW series I enjoy -- a shining example of this being the plane mission in MW3, when the fall of the plane causes moments of weightlessness.

    FEAR also has a lot of variety within the fire fights. Of the numerous times I've played it, the fights always played out slightly, but noticeably, differently.

    MODERN WARFARE is no different in this regard. Enemy A.I. ensures a different battle every time. Of course, the setpieces are the same, but the little girl from FEAR doesn't haunt you differently from playthrough to playthrough, either.

    DJ Stawes:

    Also, generally when talking about something like Call of Duty causing a reduction in player agency, the subject is shooters. And while there are some very note-able exceptions, I don't think it's an unwarranted observation.

    It isn't, but I think that to consider it a harbinger of death in player agency is an exaggeration. Of course there were and there will be games influenced by the MW style, which was innovative and came at a time when war shooters were mostly set in World War II and required you to disable some fucking AA gun all the time. In a few years, perhaps sooner, the MW knock-offs will get just as stale as the MEDAL OF HONOR knock-offs did, and someone will innovate again while keeping the good things that the previous innovation led to.

    And the shooter genre is not actually being overtaken by MW style games (although the multiplayer most definitely is). DEUS EX: HUMAN REVOLUTION, RESISTANCE 3, CRYSIS 2, BORDERLANDS, BULLETSTORM, LEFT 4 DEAD, METRO 2033; there's quite some variety in gameplay design of shooters, and the amount of player agency will depend on the style of each.
  2.  (10320.123)
    IsaacSher: I'm still plugging away at SC2 multiplayer. I'm no strat-god but I might qualify as decently-grounded, and I'm sure I could find some hours somewhere. Steam ID is Klumaster, gmail id is klumaster too. I'm also generally a bit shite at tower defence games, so this could be interesting.
  3.  (10320.124)
    Perhaps in the AAA titles that do best in the charts, but that's much like movies in that the stuff that appeals to the widest audience isn't always the most interesting stuff.
    The key difference being that when Transformers 2 has a 200 million dollar opening weekend, it isn't also lauded with 10/10 reviews from every major media outlet. If video games want to grow up as an art form, the critics need to start properly taking those games that are most guilty of the worst excesses to task for them instead of lauding them for brilliant game design when there is in fact very little 'game' in the design.

    DEUS EX: HUMAN REVOLUTION, RESISTANCE 3, CRYSIS 2, BORDERLANDS, BULLETSTORM, LEFT 4 DEAD, METRO 2033; there's quite some variety in gameplay design of shooters, and the amount of player agency will depend on the style of each.
    And which of these made $450 million dollars in five days? Publishers will go where they think the money is, and right now they think the money is in the CoD on rails with occasional arena design. This is why you have Kaos Studios going from making Frontlines, where every level (save the first half of one) is a large open area with multiple objectives that the player can attack how they see fit, to Homefront, a CoD-style corridor piece, to being shut down.
  4.  (10320.125)
    And which of these made $450 million dollars in five days?

    Which CALL OF DUTY knock-off did?

    Publishers will go where they think the money is, and right now they think the money is in the CoD on rails with occasional arena design.

    Yet the games I mentioned were made during the CoD era. If I'm not mistaken, there's only one CoD-style game in shooters that really worked out as far as single-player goes, and that is CoD, because the design style of Infinity Ward is extremely hard to pull off in a way that is worth the loss in interactivy. Just look at Treyarch's trying-too-hard design in BLACK OPS. Games like HOMEFRONT, MEDAL OF HONOR and more recently BATTLEFIELD 3 were (deservingly) criticized for their corridor-like design, while MW 3 was lauded for it because their corridor design isn't lazy: the developers know how to use it in a way that preserves the pacing, ramps up intensity and makes the most of the visual narrative possibilities. It takes a lot of talent to make it work, and the only other developer who managed a similar mastery of the linear setpiece is Naughty Dog with the UNCHARTED series (although Ninja Theory is getting increasingly better at it).

    Meanwhile, GTA4 was one of the greatest launches in the history of entertainment, like MW2 was, but unlike MW2, franchises inspired by GTA, such as SAINTS ROW and MAFIA, gained a life of their own. Games that didn't need an open-world got one anyway, such as MAFIA 2 and L.A. NOIRE, and it was discardable, but there. Taking inspiration in GTA has turned out to be way more rewarding than taking inspiration in CoD, and open-world games in general are doing well, as evidenced by SKYRIM and the ASSASSIN'S CREED series. So I'd bet on publishers eyeing that more, or at least just as intently.

    EDITED TO ADD: Also, open-world games feel like a good investment because they're usually full of content. One can finish a CoD game in a single day, but an open-world game sounds like it's worth buying instead of renting -- and obviously, a lot of them aren't, but still.
  5.  (10320.126)
    Publishers have always gone where the money is, but thankfully that doesn't mean I have to. I can still buy Dodonpachi Resurrection (import, sadly), Rayman Origins, Minecraft (I know!), Serious Sam, Dark Souls, and on and on and on. Call of Duty's insane profit margin doesn't stop things I care about from being made, in the same way that World of Warcraft, Sims, Angry Birds, or any other game that sold a million that I didn't want to play didn't.

    I'm glad Saints Row managed to stop being GTA and become its own series, by the way. It's very close to exactly what I want GTA to be. It just needs a city with more personality, and maybe the epic scope of landscape that San Andreas had.
    • CommentTimeNov 20th 2011
    I love the first two GTA games, because they are arcade-y and fun and you can play them forever. I hate all the installments past that because they are not at all arcade-y and take themselves too seriously and control like mud (as does Red Dead Redemption, a double shame because I love westerns and zombies and the original [which, to be fair, as developed largely by Capcom]). I legitimately don't understand how anyone can have fun playing GTA when the driving, shooting and even just plain walking around are all so stiff and unresponsive. Saints Row overcomes these problems primarily because guns feel like guns, cars feel like cars and your person feels like a person. It also doesn't hurt at all that the game doesn't take anything it does seriously and embraces all the ridiculousness that comes with being an open-world game. If anything, Saints Row and GTA are perfect examples of how having a good story doesn't save a game if the gameplay is shit. And furthermore, giving the player a whole mess of stuff to do isn't going to amount to much if the foundation upon which it's built is wobbly as a Jenga board thirty moves in.
    • CommentAuthorRenThing
    • CommentTimeNov 20th 2011
    Skyrim question:

    So, who here discovered, to their dismay, the band of giants to the west of the first city you came to and then learned of the awesome physics bug involved with getting crushed to death by giants?

    Also, which minion are you guys taking? I had the elf archer from the first town for a while, then switched to the housecarl lady.

    Finally, somehow the blacksmith lady in the first town ended up dead. It wasn't me, but it's really irritating because I'd just said I'd deliver her sword to thejarl but with her dead he doesn't want it and I'm worried I've completely buggered a questline now.
      CommentAuthorAlan Tyson
    • CommentTimeNov 20th 2011
    This looks like a good place to leave this: Some smart kids talk about game narrative.
  6.  (10320.130)
    @IsaacSher - I've been an RTS player since the days of Dune 2, and have recently gotten back into them now that I'm off the Xbox and have a new laptop.

    I'm keen to help out - I tend to be online from around GMT 0730-1230, so if you haven't found anyone and that time suits let me know. Name on Steam is TailSwallower.
    • CommentTimeNov 20th 2011
    @Renthing: From the couple pieces I've read the awesome death-by-giant physics may not actually be a bug. It's a pretty damn fun way to die.

    I had the housecarl, Lydia for a while but aside from using her as a packmule for a bit I've started to leave her at home as she seems to get in my way in combat more often than not. Though the past couple group encounters I've had have really been tough, so I may reconsider making her sit at home.

    So far I've logged about 15 hours in the game and still haven't been able to make it up to High Hrothgar because every time I go to head up there I get waylaid by a random side-quest or goddamn maid that sent hired thugs after me. Loving every minute.
  7.  (10320.132)
    I use Lydia. I made her some nice armor and a two handed death stick, enchanted both. I mostly let her and my summoned atronachs take the brunt of damage while I ping with bows and magics. When they go down, I step up with mace and shield and lay waste. Having Lydia as meatshield makes things a heck of a lot easier. She is sort of a dumb broad though, prone to stepping on traps and getting in the way of spells, so sometimes I make her wait behind.
    • CommentAuthorFlabyo
    • CommentTimeNov 21st 2011
    @James - Call of Duty's insane profit margin doesn't stop things I care about from being made

    Sadly that is starting to happen. A lot of studios shut down this year due to poor sales.
    • CommentTimeNov 21st 2011
    For all the Skyrim players.

    • CommentAuthorRenThing
    • CommentTimeNov 21st 2011
    So, interesting thing I discovered: Housecarl Lydia really likes the two handed weapons unless you give her two magic staves. Then she uses them. Dual-wield style. oO
    • CommentAuthorRenThing
    • CommentTimeNov 21st 2011 edited
    • CommentAuthorFlabyo
    • CommentTimeNov 21st 2011
    • CommentTimeNov 21st 2011
    Well, I'm just installing AssCreed Brotherhood onto my XBox right now. We'll see how that goes. Also, I'm in the middle of "acquiring" Skyrim. I don't know how much of that I'll play. (Probably too much).

    Also, did you know you can get videogames from the library? I was very close to buying Batman: Arkham City today, but a quick poke at the local library website had me eschew playing $70 in favour of just placing a hold on it.
  8.  (10320.139)
    whaaaaaaaat vidya from the library?

    I got a swtor invite this morning for the upcoming weekend beta. Hope it's awesome.
    • CommentTimeNov 22nd 2011
    Had to give Skyrim back to the redbox.