There have been three iterations of Alan Wake, even though there’s only been one canonical game. There’s the original Alan Wake, the downloadable content, and the downloadable Alan Wake’s American Nightmare (which is probably canonical, but we can’t be sure until a sequel comes out and confirms it since there’s a frame story that could render everything moot). Over these three games, Alan Wake has evolved in an appropriate way, acknowledging his faults and growing as a character, but what’s more interesting is how the mechanics have evolved with him.
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Recently, a fan of the Uncharted games edited together cut scenes and bits of gameplay to create a feature length movie of each game. Personally, this is something that I’ve always wanted to see since just watching the cut scenes in order didn’t present a coherent story.
Watching the three movies, I was surprised by my reaction to the third one. I think that Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is the best game in the series with the best character arcs, the best writing, and the best plot. Yet, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception was the most enjoyable movie of the three. Strangely, I found it more enjoyable for the one thing that’s always better in games than in movies: its combat.
Fez is a easily the most personal puzzle game that I’ve ever played. It’s not personal because it “spoke to me” in any way, but because the biggest puzzle in Fez is figuring out what you know and what you don’t know. This is a puzzle game built around the idea that people’s minds all work differently.
The game, in my mind at least, is split into three layers:
The first layer is the perspective shifting puzzle. This is what you solve to progress in the game. In other words, basic exploration is built on this puzzle. You’ll find cube bits that make up full cubes that unlock doors to more hub worlds, and you can get through most of the game by focusing only on this first layer. However, the final cube bit is hidden behind a rather obtuse puzzle that is not apparent if you are only focusing on this first layer. In this way, Fez nudges you over the edge, down to the second layer of puzzles.
Demon’s Souls showed the world a great and innovative multiplayer feature that most of the industry has ignored: the ability to leave messages for other players. It’s a great feature because it creates a sense of community through user generated content, and that content is easy to make. It’s actually so easy to make that it’s more like content manipulation than content creation, but that’s part of the appeal. Everyone can participate. Despite this, the only game that I’ve played (or seen or heard of) since then to incorporate a similar kind of content manipulation is SSX, which then tweaks the feature so that it becomes something quite addictive.
In part, this is what makes the multiplayer in SSX so great. It’s a collection of lesser used multiplayer innovations pieced together in such a way that each one compeiments the other, while also avoiding the most persistent problems that plague multiplayer games.
Video games are complicated. They didn’t start that way, the rules of Pong should be obvious just by watching, but that simplicity can’t last. People demand more. Compare Doom to Battlefield 3: in one you can’t even look up, the other has more commands than there are buttons on a controller. This demand for increasing complexity is something that affects all entertainment (just compare Die Hard to Live Free or Die Hard), but it’s particularly troubling for games because keeping up with that demand can limit the audience. This is something other people have written about, and I’ve got no interest in repeating their points here. Instead, I’m interested in where a gaming genre goes once it’s reached that tipping point of complexity.