Sunday, February 2, 2020

Game Day

Yes, there's a game today.

But lately, I've been thinking about other games; I barely watched any professional sports in 2019 (though: go Leicester! go Jamie Vardy!)

Meanwhile, perhaps because GDC is just around the corner, a round-up of other types of gaming:

  • The Digital Antiquarian: Master of Orion
    So, Civilization is the more idealistic, more educational, perhaps even the nobler of the two games. And yet it often plays a little awkwardly — which awkwardness we forgive because of its aspirational qualities. Master of Orion‘s fictional context is a much thinner veneer to stretch over its mechanics, while words like “idealistic” simply don’t exist in its vocabulary. And yet, being without any high-flown themes to fall back on, it makes sure that its mechanics are absolutely tight. These dichotomies can create a dilemma for a critic like yours truly. If you asked me which game presents a better argument for gaming writ large as a potentially uplifting, ennobling pursuit, I know which of the two I’d have to point to. But then, when I’m just looking for a fun, challenging, intriguing game to play… well, let’s just say that I’ve played a lot more Master of Orion than Civilization over the last quarter-century. Indeed, Master of Orion can easily be read as the work of a designer who looked at Civilization and was unimpressed with its touchy-feely side, then set out to make a game that fixed all the other failings which that side obscured.
  • How Tabletop RPGs Are Being Reclaimed From Bigots and Jerks
    “Sometimes a game will touch on something that may affect your players, because it (or something like it) happened to your players IRL [in real life],” she said. “Rape is probably the most obvious example of this, but gaslighting, torture, and animal death are others. And playing with those can be hard!”

    The content warnings aren’t there to stop people from playing tabletop games that touch on those themes, they’re meant to give people a framework for including them responsibly. The process is similar to how a well-run BDSM community treats consent. There’s lots of communication and before, after, and during sessions and checklists that help players and partners find create a list of their dos, don’ts, and maybes. A BDSM scenster’s checklist helps consenting adults understand limits before they start fucking. An RPG players checklist does much the same.

    According to Evil Hat, setting boundaries early leads to better games. “There’s no way to know every player’s past and there’s no reason anyone should be obligated to disclose their entire personal history before a game gets underway," the company told me. "So instead, a content warning and the use of Safety Tools (like the X card, Script Change, or Lines & Veils) creates an atmosphere of trust and respect. You’re setting the boundaries: ‘Hey, we’re all here to have fun—but if the game suddenly crosses a line and stops being fun, let’s pause or redirect that so we can get back on track and make sure it’s enjoyable for the whole table.’”

  • Kentucky Route Zero on the Switch is a beautiful, sometimes infuriating dream
    For seven long years now, players living in the more text- and PC-focused rays of the gaming sphere have been periodically receiving strange, often-bewildering transmissions, occasional invitations to walk along America’s rough and mysterious subconscious roads. Released in fits and drips for the better part of a decade, Cardboard Computer’s magical realism road trip odyssey Kentucky Route Zero has been “coming out” since its first act dropped in 2013, beguiling players with its sleepy, quasi-somnambulistic approach to topics ranging from the obsessions of mid-century American playwrights, to the intricacies of computer game design, to the mounting and soul-eroding effects of looming medical debt. And now, amazingly, that process is over: Kentucky Route Zero is now out, fully and finally, and with a home console version containing all five of its acts (and various ancillary materials to boot).
  • Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order beat EA expectations by selling 8m copies
    "Respawn delivered an expertly crafted high-quality experience with outstanding gameplay that thrilled players, made many of the game of the year lists and sold beyond our projections for the quarter," EA exec Andrew Wilson added.
  • Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order Ninth Sister fight - tips on how to beat this dangerous boss
    The Ninth Sister is one of the key antagonists in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, and after an unfortunate encounter in the first mission, we all know that we’re going to have to come up against her later on in the campaign. This boss fight is trickier than any you’ll have come across so far, and requires careful footwork and a good understanding of this powerful foe.
  • The Pedestrian Is A Good Platformer, But Great Puzzle Game
    there are key setpieces throughout The Pedestrian where you’re asked not to run blissfully across a single sign, but to stop and arrange a while bunch 0f them together in a particular order so you can then run through them unimpeded. This involves a lot of drawing in the air with your finger, hard thinking then some trial and error, before finally completing a puzzle, running free like the wind for a few seconds then running headfirst into the next puzzle.

    This gets a little frustrating, because the world behind The Pedestrian is a lovely one! It’s downright whimsical, with backgrounds bustling with life and cheery music that whisks you through each environment like a feelgood 90s sitcom. The game spends so long torturing you in the foreground that I wish we could have spent some more time with the background instead.

    But I get it, the signs are the game here, and the puzzles that drive them are fantastic. Things get hard surprisingly early on, but they never feel impossible because everything you need to do is clearly labelled and designed, to the point where even at my darkest most frustrating points I still felt like I was at least on the right track, and just hadn’t fully explored all my options yet.

  • 'A Plague Tale' Audio Design: Not Only Squeaks
    Creating an impactful soundscape for a game is a real challenge. How about an Audio that will not only serve the story but bring it up to the next level. With all the constraints linked to a small development team with a small budget taken into account, A Plague Tale: Innocence's Audio Director discusses his approach to Sound Design in order to offer a memorable and immersive experience.

    How to strengthen a scene? How to support gameplay? How to help a player to focus or to understand a level? Overall, how to give a game that thing that makes it special?

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