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.
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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.
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.
A good menu can set the tone for the rest of the game to come, or when done poorly, it can be a nuisance that players try to skip as fast as possible every time that they boot up a game. Since the last time I wrote about some innovative menus, three more games have come out that I feel deserve special mention for how handle this normally bland part of a game.
Medal of Honor was supposed to be EA’s big salvo against Call of Duty, an attempt at bringing down Activision’s juggernaut of a shooter at least a little bit. While I think the single player portion of EA’s game is far better, the multiplayer is surprisingly derivative for such a high profile game. It tries to marry elements from Battlefield: Bad Company and Call of Duty, making what probably sounded like the perfect shooter on paper. But Medal of Honor only borrows the surface trappings of these elements and none of the depth, resulting in a multiplayer mode that feels as if it was made by people who don’t understand why its peers are so popular.