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Friday, Apr 15, 2011
In moving from 2D to 3D, from an intuitive and streamlined interface to a confusing and cumbersome interface, the Broken Sword series encapsulates the problems facing adventure games today.

Looking at the state of adventure games today, there seem to be three identifiable types: those that adhere to the traditional 2D point-and-click interface (Syberia, Gray Matter), those that embrace movement on a 3D plane (Indigo Prophecy, Heavy Rain), and those that do both, allowing you free movement in a 3D world while keeping the 2D interface (most of Telltale’s games). It’s interesting to see how each deals with the problems of a 3D world. One group avoids it altogether, another embraces it, and another tries to find a happy medium. And make no mistake, a 3D world is very problematic for a point-and-click adventure.


Nowhere is this more evident than when a traditionally 2D series tries to make the leap to 3D. I recently played and finished Broken Sword 2: The Smoking Mirror and thought that it was an exceptionally intuitive and streamlined adventure game. When I started Broken Sword 3: The Sleeping Dragon, which made the leap to 3D, I was impressed by the new visuals but all the intuitiveness and streamlined design were gone. The series took a giant step back just as it took a giant step forward.


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Friday, Apr 8, 2011
Your Grey Warden was a force of change, but your Champion of Kirkwall is unable to change any major plot point. You are not special, which is the point.

This post contains major spoilers for the entirety of Dragon Age II. If you have even a slight interest in playing the game, do that before reading.


One of the chief complaints that I’ve heard about Dragon Age II is the relative lack of choice compared to the first game. In Dragon Age: Origins, you could change the fate of each little society that you visited: You could bring peace to the elves and werewolves or wipe out one side, you could save the mages or let them all die, and you could choose a king for the dwarves who would either modernize the people or steadfastly cling to tradition. (Your choices at Redcliffe aren’t as grand since the Arl sides with you no matter what happens.). In each instance, the choices that you made affected the world at large; your Grey Warden was a force of change that irrecoverably altered the lives of all he/she came into contact with.


Contrast that with the Champion of Kirkwall, who is unable to change any major plot point in the entire game:


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Friday, Apr 1, 2011
Maniac Mansion is not as unplayable as I first thought, and its instruction manual has a lot of interesting things in it, but the game still isn't fun to play.

On Monday the Moving Pixels podcast crew, myself included, talked about how old games compare to modern games. I mentioned my experience with the classic adventure game Maniac Mansion and said the game was practically unplayable by today’s standards despite the interface update provided by the fan-made deluxe edition. As a fan of adventure games, I was dismayed at my total dislike of this supposed classic, so when Chris Williams suggested that I missed a lot of information by not having the instruction manual, I resolved to track one down to see what I was missing. It was actually quite easy; there are a surprising number of websites dedicated to providing documentation for older games that have scanned the whole book and posted it online. After reading through the manual, I don’t think that it makes the game any more playable, but despite this, the more that I learn about the history of Maniac Mansion, the more impressive it becomes.


Tagged as: maniac mansion, myst
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Friday, Mar 25, 2011
Bulletstorm offers a surprisingly cynical critique of the typical heroic figure.

On the surface, Bulletstorm looks like your typical male power fantasy. Our avatar Grayson speaks with a low, gruff voice. He’s got big muscles, big guns, and a devil-may-care attitude. But beneath the surface, Bulletstorm is entirely different, offering a surprisingly cynical critique of this typical heroic figure.


Grayson is an impetuous screw up. Sometimes this trait can be turned into a charming quirk, as with Uncharted’s Nathan Drake who always acts before he thinks. But Drake’s mistakes never really blow up in his face, he always finds an escape or a solution, he always saves his friends, and no one holds his impulsiveness against him. Grayson comes off as a similar kind of character in the prologue. He and his squad break into an office and kill a man that they think is a terrorist. After a quick search of the victim’s computer they learn that he was a journalist and that all of their assassination jobs up to this point were orchestrated by a conniving General to get rid of annoying political opponents. When they call the General to confront him with this truth, he happily admits to it, and Grayson suddenly shouts, “I am going to kill you”, while shooting the hologram. A teammate grabs his gun and shouts back: “Hey man, what the fuck! That was a giant group decision you just made for us!” The scene is played for laughs. No one really seems to care that Grayson has just made them all outlaws, so the lack of serious consequences makes his impetuousness funny.


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Friday, Mar 18, 2011
3D is a feature best appreciated by an audience watching a game being played -- because the player isn't likely to notice the effect at all.

There was a lot of 3D stuff on display at PAX East this past weekend. Many 3D demos were present from publishers, developers, or video card manufacturers for fighting games, shooting games, or racing games. In particular, Mortal Kombat and Crysis 2 had a very big 3D presence.  Displays featured a demo of each game being played on a massive 3DTV with buckets of glasses available for curious attendees. After watching both games being played in 3D for a good long while (sadly I didn’t get a chance to play anything on the 3DS), I came to realize that 3D is a feature best appreciated by an audience watching a game being played, but the player isn’t likely to notice the effect at all.


To be perfectly clear, I’m a proponent of 3D stuff in whatever form it takes. I like the effect, it doesn’t hurt my eyes, and I don’t mind the glasses. But like any new piece of technology, there’s a learning curve that we have to endure as artists learn to use it.


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