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      CommentAuthorIron Imp
    • CommentTimeFeb 19th 2012 edited
    I'm torn on the matter of Dear Esther. I bought it, played it to the end, enjoyed it, was happy the source engine is still being developed and was happy it saw commercial success, but...

    Having watched the trailer Paul posted, I take issue with some of the critical assertions regarding the scope of it's accomplishment and bold take on interactive storytelling:

    I'm not sure that's nessecarily a fault of the game, but rather artifacts of industry press that don't have proper language to describe such an unusual title. Here's the thing, though: the game is only a "game" in the loosest definition of recreation and it's interactivity is absolutely MINIMAL. You can move, look around and zoom your view - that's the total scope of your interaction with the environment. It's like a straight-jacketed hiking simulator with intermittent narrative delivered in cryptic voice overs.

    Now, it's beautiful and wonderfully rendered, great music and atmosphere and all feels carefully and deliberately constructed to showcase the fascinating set pieces you wander around, but here's two basic things I think could have been done to improve it and push it from something I respect to something I respect and also actively relished:

    - A use/interact function. There's tons of interesting stuff lying around. It would be cool to be able to flick a light switch, even if the power is dead. It would be nice to pick up an object and examine it. It would be neat to be able to push aside some foliage to reveal what it obstructs from vision. It would be cool to be able to rap on the side of a crate and hear a sound, or drop a piece of wood and hear it quitely plop on the beach. Also, it would be great if these use functions triggered...
    - Scripted events (more of). The title uses them, but incredibly sparingly - a bird flies out of the first building as you enter and there's one out of body sequence. There's a few more sprinkled visual ques spread around, but mostly they are static objects just acting as proximity based triggers for more voice over sections. I think the sense of interactivity and the core engagement of interactive story telling would be enhanced by having both voice overs but also small animations or scripted events triggered by the players interaction with an object or set piece. All the autonomous events the designer means for you to trigger by progressing could be addressed, but the player would feel more intrigued by complimenting that with their own independent discoveries, which would both serve the function of the story and further the core engagement of the desire to EXPLORE and INVESTIGATE this interesting setting.

    [one small hurdle around a use function is they're typically designated to a short range hit scan focused on the cross hairs in most first person perspective titles, which Dear Esther lacks. They could easily circumvent this though by making interactive objects have a small glowing outline or similar visual que on a much wider scan detection window, negating the need for cross hairs and also informing players what objects are interactive without relying on them just spamming the use key on everything, trial and error]

    Anyway, thanks for reading my musings on the topic and for what it's worth I think everyone who's interested in the development of games or the notion of games as art should definitely check out Dear Esther. For about 2 hours of game at $10 USD it's a bit steep by indie pricing standards, but I spend ten bucks on stupid stuff all the time, so why not? Give it a whirl.
  1.  (10421.2)
    Beat Okami. That game was really long, but quite awesome in the second half(the beginning was a tad slow, I found.)

    Played the Mass Effect 3 Demo. It's pretty good, the character models have been improved a lot over the two years (I was especially impressed with Wrex). I do hope that more of the second game characters are available as party members, seeing as they were far better than the characters of the first game(with the exception of Wrex, Garrus and Tali were party members in 2 so they don't count.) The new, Freddie Prinze Jr. voiced meatbag character falls into the line of boring male humans: Kaiden, Jacob and now Muscle McForearms. Sigh. Haven't touched the multiplayer yet, but that's more or less gravy on top of the regular game for me.

    Gonna get into Portal 2.
  2.  (10421.3)
    @Iron Imp
    Agreed, it would make the environment more immersive, although all those added elements of interaction would (I'd argue) undermine the the game to a certain extent, since (SPOILER ALERT)
    as far as I can tell you're not actually on the island or in the environment exactly. You're just seeing it as a representation of your state of mind after your car crash and before your death, when you know that Esther is already dead. Being able to pick things up and get distracted by the physicality of your environment would reinforce the idea that it really exists, and is significant to the plot as a place you're actually in about which you have to figure something out. The inability to interact feels to me like a deliberate part of the setup since it enforces a sense of distance from your environment, and shifts your focus onto paying attention to the narration and the appearance of the island itself as the only clues to the plot. Consider too that the straight-jacketed feeling you describe is actually deliberate, since as far as I can tell your character is really strapped in the wreckage of a crashed car (or perhaps comatose in a hospital bed), slowly dying.
    Obviously there are always a way to make a different set-up work with the plot, or change the plot to suit the setup, and I may be wrong in my interpretation. I suppose you can still argue that it's somehow a lazy game because it took less work to make it without interactive elements, or that it would have been more entertaining if it was a similar game with a different setup. As with any work of art though, the creators made it the way it is for a reason, and I think it should be appreciated fully on its own terms first.
    • CommentAuthorbadbear
    • CommentTimeFeb 21st 2012
    Yeah I can't bring myself to play the ME3 demo in case of spoilers. I'm encouraged by reports of the multiplayer though - has it got offline co-op? I'm assuming not...

    It's interesting that you bought up Dear Esther, I just read an article about it here:

    I might give it a go if you guys think it's worth it...
      CommentAuthorIron Imp
    • CommentTimeFeb 21st 2012 edited
    Good points, all. I certainly own that my thoughts on it were are what I brought to the game, as a player, rather than an actual problem in the game's design. I think the interactive nature of videogames makes the medium rather unique in that however much authorial intent goes into the design, it's "own terms" still take on an unavoidable collaboration with the player to complete the experience; books are books, music is music and films are films - all perceived and interpreted, but not also fundamentally DRIVEN by the audience.

    The brainygamer article linked above by badbear is interesting. I'd like to think I'm open minded and willing to experience new games on their terms, but as a long time gamer with a lot of first person titles in my memory and on my shelf, I go into something like this wanting to EFFECT the world, even without bullets.

    I suppose that's the essence of it though: that they're weren't really trying to make a "game", but rather interactive artwork with a very specific (if open to interpretation) narrative and by that qualification, they succeeded brilliantly. I don't feel the game lacking specific features I'd personally appreciate makes it at all lazy (all the disciplines and work to that go into making and shipping a game are enormous, even for small titles), but as an player/participant, the additional functions I mentioned would have helped me become more invested in their adventure/trip/story.
      CommentAuthorAlan Tyson
    • CommentTimeFeb 21st 2012 edited
    Starting a new game of Mass Effect, in preparation for the third one coming out soon. Made a Pacific Islander femShep, since for some reason you never seem to see Hawaiians or Samoans on spaceships.

    @InvincibleM: Yeah, that bothered me for a while, but then I decided that if any character in the series was going to be boring, it may as well be a strong, militaristic human male, considering what a bang-up job they did with the women and aliens, who almost always get the short end of the interesting stick in space opera. Even Ashley Williams was more rounded and interesting than most "trying so, so hard to be Vasquez" female space marines.
    • CommentTimeFeb 21st 2012

    Re Demo spoilers: There really isn't much in the way of spoilers. Cerberus hates you, the Reapers are on Earth, and there's a female Krogan for... some reason that isn't explained. This is all base assumptions going in to the game anyways from anyone who has watched any of the trailers. (Read: come on in, the water's fine).

    Re Multiplayer: There's no offline multiplayer in the demo. While I highly doubt there will be offline split-screen in the full release, I haven't been able find any info one way or the other.

    @Anchorbeard: Nice way of looking at it. In related news, there's an article I think you would like (via the Penny Arcade Report).
  3.  (10421.8)
    XBL as joedistort

    im mad stoked for this indie game EVILQUEST that i saw spotlighted earlier...but XBLM is all weird right now and i cant getit. oh hey, now i remember why i was so against digital distribution in general
  4.  (10421.9)
    So, Alan Wake came out on PC and recouped in 48 hours. They are understandably happy about it at Remedy:

    Here's some live action Ian Somniac to celebrate this :P

  5.  (10421.10)
    @Anchorbeard I agree completely, I've loved the other cast members(even the popular dislike options, Miranda and Ashley). I think it's just because they've already parceled out all of the good traits that there isn't really much left for the male character. Oh man, they should've made a compulsive obsessive who's a master detective. Yes I basically want Space Sherlock Holmes.

    And I suppose I can always relish in Zaheed for my kickass standard male. Oh Zaheed.

    In non masseffect news, I just played the first dozen or so levels of 'Splosion Man at a friend's. That game is really fun. I really enjoy the cooperative elements of working through puzzles. I feel like the new super mario bros team could've taken a lot of cues from them(Ie, I found the constantly sidetracking by your co-players aggrivating and pointless. It was more fun to play alone, which is kind of the opposite of what you'd expect out of a game with multiplayer elements.)

    Also beat FFXIII. While the ending scene was sublime, I'm not sure that I like the note it ends on. That could just because I'm contrasting it with Okami's end, which felt like a goddamn triumph. Also, the story of FFXIII is fairly...hard to comprehend. I like that it doesn't hold your hand, but at the same time, I shouldn't have to pour over the supplementary to get a good grip of what the eff I'm doing. Especially when you've got 40+ hours of game to work with.
    • CommentAuthorFlabyo
    • CommentTimeFeb 22nd 2012
    More Lollipop Chainsaw, you know, just because.
    • CommentTimeFeb 22nd 2012
    @Anchorbeard: Do Jango Fett's clones count as one, or many?
    • CommentTimeFeb 22nd 2012
    On a quest to find a used/new copy of the first Mass Effect, but with the third one coming out, I'm pretty sure everyone got the same idea and started purchasing the old ones in order to play the series through. PLENTY of Mass Effect 2 around. Maybe start off with that one? Dunno.

    Halfway finished Portal 2, which is still very fun. Haven't touched GoW2 in a while...haven't had MUCH of a chance to game since the family does regular takeovers of that space.
    • CommentAuthorFlabyo
    • CommentTimeFeb 22nd 2012
    @oldhat - you're not looking on PS3 are you? The first one never came out on that... Amazon will probably have it as cheap as you'll be able to find it on 360.
      CommentAuthorJay Kay
    • CommentTimeFeb 22nd 2012
    I was wondering about that--the commercials and all for that made me think that Mass Effect might be X-Box exclusive. Is that the case?
  6.  (10421.16)
    just the first one, i believe it was published my microsoft

    then EA bought bioware
    • CommentTimeFeb 22nd 2012
    I have an Xbox. Have so far called TEN places along with two chains. All sold out or discontinued.

    Before you say it, no, I can't buy it on XBL because I have no internet connected to it.

    Was going to say "the hell with it" and purchase the second one, but then got yelled at by people on twitter because the first one is so important. Grawr.
  7.  (10421.18)
  8.  (10421.19)

    Play it on PC? Get it off Steam?

    Be a digital scallywag and obtain it that way?
    • CommentTimeFeb 22nd 2012
    Wowsers! $30??