CFP: The Legacy of Radiohead's 'The Bends' 20 Years On [Deadlines: 4 Feb / 19 Feb]

 
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Text:AAA
Monday, Jan 5, 2015
It's a new year, but the Moving Pixels podcast revisits an indie darling that refashions a game out of the remains of a bygone era of gaming.

Using RPG Maker XP, To the Moon was fashioned out of the imagery and basic exploration mechanics of the sprite-based era of RPG games.


Less an RPG game, though, and perhaps more honestly a piece of interactive fiction with some light puzzle mechanics, what it does have in common with RPGs of that era is a commitment to telling a very human story despite its simple graphics and character sprites.


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Text:AAA
Friday, Dec 19, 2014
The Masterplan is about a heist gone right.

There have been a fair number of heist games released in the past year or so—from the neon-noir chaos of Monaco to the war-in-the-streets battlegrounds of Payday 2 to the grand spectacle of GTA V‘s bank jobs. Then there’s The Masterplan, an Early Access Game currently on Steam. Normally I’d say that it has a lot of competition, but it stands apart by offering a kind of heist those other games purposefully avoid. While all those other games revolve around the moment when a heist goes wrong, The Masterplan is all about a heist gone right.


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Text:AAA
Thursday, Dec 18, 2014
Amid the game’s palatial estates and ancient ruins, I found a story that hit much more close to home than I expected. With remarkable subtlety, the world of Dragon Age creates a personalized experience of race.

Warning: This post contains minor spoilers for Dragon Age: Inquisition.


My Inquisitor is a Dalish female with white hair. See, I try, whenever possible, to make game characters unlike myself. I want to roleplay in worlds with a different perspective than my own, and what better opportunity than in the blight-infected lands of Dragon Age: Inquisition? But even amid the game’s palatial estates and ancient ruins, I found a story that hit much more close to home than I expected. With remarkable subtlety, the world of Dragon Age creates a personalized experience of race.


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Text:AAA
Wednesday, Dec 17, 2014
by Marshall Sandoval
The power of procedurally generated content is being harnessed to make everything from realistic texture maps to entire universes. However, procedural generation is, by no means, a magic bullet.

Given the choice, most people would rather have their own unique adventure than play through the same story with the same twists as everyone else’s tale. Games like Spelunky and Minecraft push the boundaries of what is possible within the emergent systems of a video game. The power of procedurally generated content is being harnessed to make everything from realistic texture maps to entire universes. However, procedural generation is, by no means, a magic bullet. There are extreme challenges in developing and testing systems with nearly endless possible permutations.


The perks of a game with procedural generation are obvious to players, but designers would also prefer to write an algorithm that generates endless player possibility than they would create hundreds of levels by hand. This is often the case for small, indie developers with limited time and resources. Brad Johnson is the developer of tile based dungeon crawler, A Spire to the Gods. He says, “As a solo developer, choosing to make levels procedurally has been a life saver, a mood lifter, and a game enhancer. I don’t have to worry about how to come up with interesting level layouts. If I had a team of developers working on levels, I’d probably flesh out the level editor and make custom levels, but that’s only in an ideal situation with unlimited time and budget.”


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Tuesday, Dec 16, 2014
The first season of Telltale's The Walking Dead earned widespread critical praise, mainstream public appreciation, and a bevy of game of the year awards in 2012. Two years later, The Walking Dead Season Two has received a somewhat more muted reception.

The first season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead earned widespread critical praise, mainstream public appreciation, and a bevy of game of the year awards in 2012. Come two years later, the direct follow up, The Walking Dead Season Two, has received, shall we say, a somewhat more muted reception. Between the first and second seasons, there was a change in The Walking Dead. While there are many obvious changes one could point to—a new playable character, a greater focus on action, etc—the particular change I thought had the most impact was the loss of that certain je ne sais quoi that sunk the first season’s talons deep into our collective psyches. Every other obvious change to the series seemed to have some interesting possibilities to it, whereas the “feel” of the game was off in its second season.


There are quite a few possible explanations for this. The writing team behind the episodes changed significantly between the two seasons. There were three writers that worked on Season One, one of which wrote three of the episodes by himself. Season Two had a total of eight writers, who ended up working in pairs for over half the season. It could be that the narrative opportunities for the game shrank with by changing the protagonist into a young character that couldn’t have the social influence of her older predecessor. Maybe it was the shift in structure from the more episodic, single issue storytelling of the first season to episodes more clearly geared towards advancing a single narrative arc over the course of the season. However, I like to pin the fault on something much more basic. The episodes in Season Two were an hour shorter than their counterparts in Season One.


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