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by Nick Dinicola

24 Feb 2012

Survival-horror games often cast players in the role of a protector—of a sort. It’s an added responsibility that adds tension to the experience. How can we protect another when we can barely protect ourselves? Silent Hill 2 tasked us with protecting Maria, then toyed with us as it forced us to fail over and over again. Silent Hill 4: The Room tasked us with escorting our battered neighbor through past levels. Resident Evil 2 showed us Claire protecting Shelly, and while that was more story than mechanics, it still cast the playable character as a protector and that status fueled much of Claire’s motivation.

AMY takes this trope further, casting both parties, woman and child, Lana and Amy, as both protector and victim. The resulting co-dependence forms the backbone of the game and makes AMY one of the most interesting horror games to come out in a long time.

by Nick Dinicola

17 Feb 2012

I’ve always hated the online pass. I’ve always thought that it was inherently anti-consumer, a greedy nickel and diming of gamers, justified by the self-righteous call to “help the developer.” I’ve always hated it, except when I liked it.

I’ve always liked EA’s “Project Ten Dollar.” I’ve always thought that it was clever to reward people that bought a game new with a coupon with some free downloadable content. It’s positive reinforcement, a “you’ll catch more flies with honey” type of marketing. I’ve always liked it, except when I hated it.

by Nick Dinicola

10 Feb 2012

This post contains spoilers for the main quest of Skyrim in the very first paragraph.

After playing Skyrim for 90 hours, I saw something that changed my view of the world (the virtual world, that is). I saw one dragon bring another dragon back to life. The latter began as bones, but skin formed and stretched over its wings and skull until it looked alive, reversing the death animation that I’d seen a dozen times before. Then they started talking to each other, then to me. Since when did dragons talk? According to what Skyrim lore I know, the shouts that I had learned that can kill people and beasts are based on words from the dragon’s language; their conversations are battles. But here were two flying lizards, right in front of me, speaking in English and not killing each other. It blew my mind.

by Nick Dinicola

3 Feb 2012

The “Death From Above” level in Modern Warfare was a great, unique level, putting you in an AC-130 raining explosives down upon your enemies. Since then it’s been mimicked with varying results, and Modern Warfare 2 wisely avoided retreading this familiar ground. So it’s interesting that it makes a return in Modern Warfare 3 in the level “Iron Lady,” and it’s impressive that it’s not a repeat of what’s come before. Infinity Ward has changed how the sequence plays in subtle ways that reflect how the series has evolved.

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?

//Mixed media

Robert DeLong Upgraded for 'In the Cards' (Rough Trade Photos + Tour Dates)

// Notes from the Road

"Robert DeLong ups his musical game with his new album In the Cards and his live show gets a boost too.

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