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Wednesday, Feb 5, 2014
Point-and-click adventure games tend to be more intellectual affairs, and a minimalist version of one almost seems counter intuitive.

Genres in video games are generally defined by either the predominant action that the game is built around or on some other factor that defines the experience of play. Take shooters as an example. We call them that because the player spends most of their time shooting things. Originally these games all looked similar, usually top down or side views of a gunship or other shooting platform moving on a 2D plane, but as technology improved and allowed for more options, so did the specificity of the nomenclature surrounding the genre. Shooters can now be subdivided into first person, third person, side-scrolling, light gun, twin stick, and so forth. Now why in the first two do we specify perspective over some other aspect? Side scrolling is related to level design and the term “twin stick shooter” refers to a control variation.


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Tuesday, Jan 28, 2014
The denouement of Shadowrun Returns is a big advertisement for the game's creation tools and the creator content community that Harebrained Schemes seeks to foster

I finished Shadowrun Returns the other day, or at least the story campaign “Dead Man’s Switch”. It was a thoroughly enjoyable story, whose ending revealed its true purpose. When the final dungeon is tackled and the final boss defeated, you are brought to the surface. You are on the street surrounded by most of the supporting cast of your adventure. It’s in this short last scene that the campaign reveals itself for what it is.


It is a big advertisement for the game’s creation tools and the creator content community that Harebrained Schemes seeks to foster. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised and it’s not like the game outright tells you to check out the content tab on the main menu. In fact, instead of saying something along the lines of “if you liked that, you can find more here,” it instead hints at a larger world and greater adventures. The ending is a capstone on what was effectively a tour through the basics of the Shadowrun universe.


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Tuesday, Jan 21, 2014
Episodic television often includes small episodes about minor occurrences. Video games don't seem willing to do that.

The problem when you craft an idea around a very good, very watchable, very easily accessible television show via Netflix is that you tend to keep watching episodes of said show. This is what I did with The West Wing in the after glow of writing a post last week about the possibility of a Telltale-Games-style version of that show (“Considering the Direction of the Telltale Style Adventure Game”, PopMatters, 14 January 2014). After hitting publish, I found myself continuing to think on certain aspects of what a West Wing adventure game would look like if Telltale designed one. Then at some point I was informed that Telltale had in fact done a Law & Order game that I had never heard of before. They’ve also done four CSI games that were published by Ubisoft. I haven’t played any of them, but now I am curious to see whether Telltale did anything with them or created old school adventure games using those particular licenses.


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Tuesday, Jan 14, 2014
Telltale Games has very much set themselves up as a television network as much as a developer. So, why not take a few additional hints from TV?

Often after recording the Moving Pixels podcast, we stick around to chat about whatever crosses our minds until we realize we have somewhere else to be. After recording a recent podcast episode, I mentioned to fellow contributor Nick Dinicola that I bought the first season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead for a friend and that we were playing it though together. He makes all of the decisions, and I hold the controller inputting everything. Seeing it all play out again and knowing how the plot is going to play out made me realize that it is a more tightly constructed and thematically rich work than I previously thought.


Somewhere online is this great semi-tongue-in-cheek infographic of the life cycle of a television series. It shows each season in terms of its general vibe and its number of quality episodes. Basically, the show starts off weak as it finds its footing, peaks around season three or four, and then begins a slow decline as the show runs out of ideas and descends into navel-gazing and self-parody. Telltale has very much set themselves up as a television network as much as a developer. Their episodic adventure series are marketed as seasons and now they are gearing up to release multiple properties alongside the American broadcast schedule: spring and fall.


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Tuesday, Jan 7, 2014
Shadowrun Returns makes allowances for the video game medium, but it knows that it is a tabletop game at heart.

Over the holiday break, after getting a number of year end obligation out of the way and spending way too much money on Steam sale gifts, I started to get into my gaming backlog. One of the games that I finally got around to playing was Shadowrun Returns. I didn’t know much about the Shadowrun universe or the game itself. Last year when it was originally Kickstarted, I thought about donating but eventually decided to keep my investment to—at the time—two games. Ironic that it came out long before either of the others have seen the light of day.


I knew the basic set up and lore of the universe. In the cyberpunk future, some sort of magical calamity intrudes on the real world and mutates humans into elves, orcs, dwarfs etc. and introduces magic into the world alongside cybertech. That’s pretty much it. I knew nothing about the actual system of the tabletop role-playing system and only briefly tried out the Super Nintendo game on an emulator. All I knew about the game itself was its lukewarm reception at launch. And since I was mining for Steam Trading Cards for the Steam Sale, why not play it a little? Several hours later, I realized I should probably go to bed.


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