Latest Blog Posts

by Nick Dinicola

27 Jan 2012


Video game controls are complicated. Not just using them, but creating them. Whether or not something controls well can be extremely subjective, but even if a developer creates a universally praised control scheme that everyone else latches onto as a template (I’m looking at you Call of Duty), that doesn’t mean that it’s an ideal control scheme. There is no ideal control scheme, even within a single genre (i.e. Halo to counter Call of Duty).

Amy, a recently released downloadable horror game, has taken a ton of flack for its broken controls. The curious thing is, however, they’re not broken. Not at all. Amy’s controls, being so deliberately derived from classic survival-horror games, aren’t so much broken as they are antiquated. However, old doesn’t mean bad. The mere fact that these antiquated controls are effective at evoking suspense is proof that they’re not broken. Rather, they’re just not player friendly. But isn’t that the point of horror?

by Nick Dinicola

20 Jan 2012


Minimaps can be helpful, but for some games (or most games, for me personally) they can be too helpful. Since a mini-map usually gives you more information about your surrounding than the surroundings themselves, I usually find myself navigating a world using the mini-map exclusively. This first became apparent as I played through Final Fantasy X, the first Final Fantasy game to have 3D environments. I’m sure they looked incredible, other people seemed to think so, but I never really noticed because I spent most of the time staring at the mini-map when I ran around each level. The word could be confusing, paths split into multiple parts and all of them looked the same. Whereas, the mini-map was a simple top-down view that stripped away all of that beautiful, confusing graphical detail.

by Nick Dinicola

13 Jan 2012


Thid discussion contains spoilers for Battlefield 3.

It’s good for a war game to be cynical; in fact it’s necessary. How else can you mow down hundreds of people with a machine gun and blow up global landmarks with glee? Cynicism and pessimism are—and always will be—inherent to war games (at least, as long as they continue to follow their current template), so it’s in such a game’s best interest to just go with that flow, embrace a cynical view of the world, war, and soldiers. Otherwise, you might end up like Battlefield 3.

EA’s and DICE’s latest offering wants to be cynical, it wants to tell a modern military story with an anti-hero fighting impossible odds, but it also wants to be a tale of heroism. It wants the good guys to win in the end without resorting to their own kind of terrorism, like the protagonists (not heroes) of the Modern Warfare trilogy. But by failing to take a stand either way, the story of Battlefield 3 stumbles in every important scene and becomes so inconsistent in tone that it’s more jarring than the shaky first-person camera that provides the player’s perspective.

by Nick Dinicola

6 Jan 2012


I like collectibles, but I understand why most people do not. When used poorly, they can intrude on a game in frustrating ways, encouraging behavior that contradicts the gameplay, ruining the game’s pace, or just getting in the way in general.

There are some excellent collectibles: the audio logs in Bioshock flesh out the fascinating history of Rapture, the manuscript pages in Alan Wake serve as exposition and foreshadowing, the badges in L.A. Noire demand a kind of meta-detective work that perfectly supplements the game proper. But in my opinion, the best collectible that I’ve ever had to collect has to be the Riddler Trophies in Batman: Arkham City.

by Nick Dinicola

16 Dec 2011


Earning “levels” and “unlockables” has become a standard carrot-on-a-stick for multiplayer games, and perhaps that’s why they’re not as enticing as they once were. Not only are they common, but they’re no longer a proper indicator of personal skill. When I enter a match and see that I’m the highest level person in the room, rather than feel powerful, I wonder how many people here have already reached the maximum level and started over. In racing terms, how many of my opponents have already lapped me? Even if we take levels as an indicator of playtime, not skill, they’re still confusing because I don’t know who has reset their stats and who hasn’t. These standard systems of progression have become clichéd and that’s why the multiplayer in Assassin’s Creed: Revelations is so refreshing. It presents those same systems of progression in a new light.

//Mixed media
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Ubisoft Understands the Art of the Climb

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