Latest Blog Posts

by Nick Dinicola

19 Aug 2016


One of the biggest innovations of the Souls games (including Demon’s Souls and Bloodborne) is their online component. Not the competitive online part that has us invading other players’ games, or even the cooperative part that has us summoning other players into our game to help with bosses and tough enemies. The real innovation is the passive interaction that we have with the unknown multitudes of players online—the notes we can leave for strangers, telling them about secrets, about treasure, about traps, or just tricking them into jumping off of a cliff with the promise of something great below. We could have all those interactions without seeing another player. We only ever saw their past—the bloodstains where they died, their messages, their ghosts—evidence of another life that made the world feel more friendly for the help and more harsh because of the obvious end of that other life.

DarkMaus is an indie game made by one guy, Daniel Wright. It’s a “Souls-like”, a game clearly inspired by Dark Souls that mimics the same pacing and difficulty and many of the same mechanics, but with a few important and truly clever tweaks to the formula.

by Nick Dinicola

12 Aug 2016


I wrote this about the difference between exploration and wandering some time ago:

Exploration is not an aimless activity. It’s a very goal-driven activity. We might not know what our goal is initially, we might not know what we’re looking for, but we know we’re looking for something. It’s the knowledge (or assumption) of that “something” that drives us to look closely at the world, to explore it. Without that “something” to tempt us, our movement ceases to be exploration and becomes wandering. The former has a purpose (we move with the intention of learning), but the latter has no purpose. That’s why Skyrim gives us a compass to point us in the direction of interesting discoveries. Bethesda understood that without some sort of goal in mind, players can only wander, and wandering is boring.

I think the distinction still holds true. There’s a fine line between exploration and wandering, between something fun and something frustrating. The Elder Scrolls and Fallout games have achieved immense popularity because they expertly straddle that line. Surprisingly, so too does Pokemon Go.

 

by Nick Dinicola

5 Aug 2016


The Way of the Pixelated Fist is a side-scrolling action platformer in the tradition of Prince of Persia, but it looks nothing like Prince of Persia, nothing like any game really. It instantly sets itself apart by how it frames its action. Most of the screen is black at any given moment, with only a thin slit of a window in which any gameplay takes place. It is counter intuitive framing, blocking out as much of the world as possible, but in practice, it serves as a clever way to emphasize movement and action as well as a workaround for its graphical limitations.

by Nick Dinicola

29 Jul 2016


Last week I wrote about the story content of Spirits of Xanadu. This week I want to write about its graphics, those terrible graphics that “look like a student project from the early 90s”. That description still holds true, but what’s impressive about this virtual world of simple geometric shapes is how much emotion and style it wrings out of such low fidelity graphics. It might not showcase much detail, but it know how to frame a scene, and in this case, composition is more important than detail.

There are two scenes in particular that I want to call out. Both can kind of be considered spoilers, but one can definitely be considered a spoiler, so I recommend that you play the game first before reading on. It’s only a few hours long and only $10.00 on Steam. With that said…

by Nick Dinicola

22 Jul 2016


Spirits of Xanadu has some terrible graphics. Let’s just get that out of the way first.

From the robots and guns made out of basic 3D shapes to the flat texture-less walls of the ship, the game looks like a student project from the early 90’s. It certainly lacks a lot of visual flair, but I’m telling you about it now because it still manages to do a lot with the very little it has.

//Mixed media
//Blogs

Virtual Reality and Storytelling: What Happens When Art and Technology Collide?

// Moving Pixels

"Virtual reality is changing the face of entertainment, and I can see a future when I will find myself inside VR listening to some psych-rock while meditating on an asteroid.

READ the article