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by L.B. Jeffries

26 Apr 2010

The best thing about Halo 3: ODST is Firefight. While a lot of gamers wrote it off as a derivative of Gears of War 2’s Horde mode, it deserves credit for being a much more refined design. Team game design can be seen as a kind of miniature economy or scaled down MMO. The basic rules governing an MMO economy like exclusive resources and mutual goals are distilled and simplified into combinations that can be grasped on the fly. Instead of a Healer and Tank exchanging buffs and timing elaborate strategies, the exchange is much less complicated. A sniper covering you while you close in with a short range weapons is a resource being swapped. You keep the sniper from being overwhelmed, the sniper watches your back in exchange. The individual abilities of a class are now the weapons equipped. Firefight captures the essence of this exchange without forcing the player to participate in it if they choose not to. 

Firefight would make a really good XBLA download. It consists of eight levels taken from the ODST campaign re-designed into closed arenas. Two levels can also be played at night to mix things up. Enemy troops drop in at various points or doorways at timed intervals. Five waves of enemies per round, three rounds per set, and 200,000 points total to make par on a set. Waves consist of about three groups of five aliens, give or take, and can be anything from Grunts, Heavies, Brutes, or those God awful bug things. Levels are all varied in playstyle. ‘Crater’ is a big arena with two platforms looking down on it. Getting control of a gun turret on your side is the key to keeping the level under control and not getting overwhelmed. For those more interested in vehicles there is ‘Platoon’, which features a Warthog and has Brute troops drop in on Chopper bikes regularly. Other levels feature complex hallways and tunnels that you have to dart around while enemies close in. To keep things interesting you play as an Orbital Defense Shock Trooper, which means no regenerating health. You have a finite supply of ammo and health kits that restock at the end of each round.

by Nick Dinicola

23 Apr 2010

I play a lot of shooters, first person, third person, cover-based, or run-and-gun. I like the genre, and I like to think that I know on a basic level at the very least what makes a good shooter. I also don’t think there are many good shooters on the Wii. I believe that the best by far is Dead Space: Extraction, followed by Red Steel 2, and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. It’s telling that each of these games limit our movement to some degree. Dead Space: Extraction takes it away completely, while the other two let us lock on to enemies, so we don’t have to worry about turning around. Wii shooters have always struggled to find the proper balance between moving and shooting, and I think that this is one of the reasons they’ve always felt smaller in scope and ambition than shooters on other consoles. They want to be big, but they just can’t compete, and according to Michael Thomsen from IGN, they shouldn’t.

Thomsen wrote an article a couple weeks ago about, and he made two points that stuck with me. convincing me that he just might be on to something.

by Rick Dakan

22 Apr 2010

I wrote a couple of weeks back about my many disappointments with Heavy Rain‘s storytelling. I think that it’s a good game and an interesting story, but the many plot holes and inconsistencies distracted me so much that my enjoyment of the whole project suffered. Even so, as an interactive story, Heavy Rain does a lot of things right, and I love to see creators pushing the boundaries of how we can experience stories. This week I came across something from the entire other end of the spectrum, a project that’s all about the details and has only the flimsiest and most common of settings and plots. All of which is not only okay, but necessary for the experience.

Lost Zombies bills itself as a “community generated zombie documentary” and is not a game per se. Their main web site contains the fullest and most diverse presentation of the Lost Zombies material, but I came to it only after first coming across it as an app available on my iPad. Yeah, yeah, I bought an iPad, and the thing has scarcely left my hands since I got it. There are a ton of zombie related apps on the device, but the only other one that I purchased was the excellent Plants vs. Zombies (which I’ve now bought three different times for three different platforms). Lost Zombies piqued my interest because it was sold as an interactive story rather than just as a game, and while I’m tired of shooting the undead with anything that isn’t a plant, I’m still very excited about new kinds of fiction.

by G. Christopher Williams

21 Apr 2010

Hamlet, or the last game without MMORPG features, shaders and product placement is by no means an effort to directly adapt Shakespeare’s play.  Instead, the game is a point and click adventure set in a surreal landscape that might be Denmark.  But it probably doesn’t matter too much.

Indeed, the game begins when a nameless, bean-shaped time traveler accidentally injures the Prince of Denmark, and in order to set things aright, that same traveler finds himself playing the surrogate role of hero in Hamlet‘s ostensible tale.  I say ostensible because the plot here merely derives from its literary inspiration some loose semblance of the original’s plot.  Here our traveler must stop the evil Claudius from absconding with Hamlet’s girlfriend Ophelia.  You know, like the original Hamlet, sort of.

by L.B. Jeffries

20 Apr 2010

One of the most interesting shifts in MMO design compared to single player gaming is moving from an emotion centered design to something oriented around social spaces. Rather than focusing on making a game fair and fun for one person, you have to orient it around thousands. T.L. Taylor’s book Play Between Worlds is a careful study on the effects of design in Everquest over an extended period of time. Detailing her observations as a Gnome Necromancer, the book relies on academic research and interviews to paint a broad picture of how the design of the game interacts with the culture.

Taylor starts by pointing out that academics initially treated the relationship of real life and virtual worlds as a hard divide. There was your digital life, and then there was your real one. The approach emphasized the novelty of becoming an entirely new person independent of your old self. That proves to mostly not be true in the sense that the two spill into one another. Taylor writes, “What seems more to be the case is that people have a much messier relationship with their off- and online personas and social context . . . we have phenomena that are unique to both spheres and also occupy spaces of overlap” (18-19). Everquest and most other MMOs are a merger between the social aspects of forum culture and video game elements. Over time people get to know other players and develop relationships that go beyond mere in game rewards. She comments, “People create identities for themselves, have a variety of social networks, take on roles and obligations, build histories and communities. People live and through that living, play” (28).

//Mixed media

Indie Horror Month 2015: 'Dark Echo'

// Moving Pixels

"Dark Echo drops you into a pitch back maze and then renders your core tools of navigation into something quite life threatening.

READ the article