Nov 30 2006

What Linus Bruckman Sees When His Eyes Are Closed

Here it is: parallel-world genre puzzle gaming.

* Unique dual story gameplay
* Multiple Endings
* English and Japanese Language
* Loads of graphical effects
* A dynamic music system
* An exciting and bizarre story
* Another exciting and bizarre story
* A cool interactive manual
* Add your name to the online Hall of Completion
* Gods, aliens, samurai, and Charlton Heston

Via, GameSetWatch.

Nov 28 2006

Solve The Puzzle

Some worthwhile reading about the role of ‘human factor psychology’ in game design, over on The Escapist:

Tim Nichols shed some light on an engineering psychologist’s role in game development.

“Engineering psychologists are interested in the capabilities and limitations of users, and how best to design for those capabilities and limitations,” he begins. “Designers are always curious about how gamers interpret the game. Do they solve the puzzle the way they’re supposed to, do they get lost in the city, do they use the right weapon against the boss, do they notice the box of unlit torches in the dark cave (looking in your direction, Oblivion tutorial!)?”

Nov 28 2006

Foe Dance

Wired’s Chris Baker on ‘Raging Boll’:

The bell sounds, and Kyanka circles Boll, waving his fists with cartoony exaggeration. The stone-faced director, who has been training for this evening for four months, lets his foe dance around for 15 seconds and then raps him on the side of the head. Kyanka drops abruptly, like a joke cut off before the punch line.

Nov 28 2006


Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness. I’m not quite sure why it took me until the age of 28 to read it. Immediate thought: it’s often quite funny, seemingly unintentionally. Weirdly it mentions the Kentish coastal town of Deal, where I had to make sure I escaped from aged eighteen.

I’ve been telling you what we said– repeating the phrases we pronounced–but what’s the good? They were common everyday words–the familiar, vague sounds exchanged on every waking day of life. But what of that? They had behind them, to my mind, the terrific suggestiveness of words heard in dreams, of phrases spoken in nightmares. Soul! If anybody ever struggled with a soul, I am the man. And I wasn’t arguing with a lunatic either. Believe me or not, his intelligence was perfectly clear–concentrated, it is true, upon himself with horrible intensity, yet clear; and therein was my only chance–barring, of course, the killing him there and then, which wasn’t so good, on account of unavoidable noise. But his soul was mad.

Nov 28 2006

Strike Down Super High-Velocity Swooping Insects

Titanion is practically perfect.

Nov 28 2006

A Spoof Religion

Charlie Brooker’s page in the Guardian is one of the best things in a broadsheet newspaper, perhaps unsurprisingly.

Scientology is a spoof religion followed by several high-profile Hollywood stars, every single one of whom is doing it for a bet just to see how long they can fool Tom Cruise.

Advanced followers of Scientology believe an alien ruler called Xenu brought his people to Earth 75m years ago, gathered them round a volcano and obliterated them with a series of nuclear blasts; their displaced souls are responsible for many of mankind’s ills.

This is hilariously implausible and richly deserving of open derision, unlike, say, the belief that a man who got nailed to a couple of planks more than 2,000 years ago is your best friend and saviour.

When not being laughed at, Scientology is viewed with suspicion; many members of the public consider it a sinister cult hell-bent on gathering as much money, power, and influence as possible, unlike all other religious movements, every single one of which deserves forelock-tugging respect and unquestioning indulgence of its every crackpot whim.

I once made Charlie Brooker look down a blocked ventilation shaft.

Also, Brooker isn’t (just) joking. Scientology might be regarded with derision by the sane, but it serves well as an illustration of what religion actually is: poorly conceived (and often compelling) science fiction, usually written by men who weren’t getting enough to eat.

Nov 28 2006

Children Were Habitually Praised

New reports into the state of general education in Britain focus on the spoken word, according to the Guardian:

“In many other countries,” he says, “the spoken word has a much higher status.” The tradition of English classrooms is for the teacher to do most, and sometimes nearly all, of the talking. Pupils are asked questions that are framed to elicit “correct” answers; they are not encouraged to engage in a dialogue, still less to think aloud, reason and argue. “Progressive teaching” was hardly an improvement on this. (Plowden devoted just three out of 1,243 paragraphs to “speech”.) Teachers asked questions which, though ostensibly “open”, were unfocused and unchallenging. Children were habitually praised, rather than getting any kind of useful feedback. Talk of either kind, Alexander argues, hardly deserves being called dialogue, and it would seem pretty bizarre anywhere outside a school.

Contrast that with France or Russia, where children are expected, from an early age, to talk clearly, loudly and expressively. In Russia, particularly, the child talks to the class as much as to the teacher and it is quite common for children to go to the front and explain how they have worked through a problem. The manner of a child’s response – the clarity and the articulation – matter as much as, if not more than, the substance.

(Talking loudly and clearly is more important what you are saying? But okay, kids should probably be taught to be more confident and articulate.)

Nov 27 2006

Fundamental Aspect

I interviewed MIT’s Professor Henry Jenkins over on Gamasutra:

GS: Could violent video games be a good thing?

Yes, absolutely. Every artform, every storytelling tradition needs the ability to represent violence because aggression, trauma, and loss are a fundamental aspect of the human condition. The idea that game violence is in and of itself bad is an absurdity. At the end of the day, I might push further and say that there is no such thing as game violence – at least the way that it is understood in the popular press. Game violence is not one unified thing which we can label, count, and study in the laboratory. There are various representations of violence in specific games. The issue shouldn’t be how much violence is in the game but rather what the violence in a game means.

Nov 27 2006

Net Stuff

Does anyone understand the significance of this? (PDF link)

It’s basically a guy arguing that net gaming could die of we lose net neutrality… but I can’t see how he reaches his conclusion from the premises he’s starting out from. Furthermore, given the immense proportion of people who use broadband specifically for gaming wouldn’t the ISP who promised low-latency gaming simply clean up?

Nov 27 2006

“Bigger Boys Came”

Those people who froze to death/shot other people in order to get a PS3 should have just bought/stolen an X360 and a copy of Gears Of War.

Yeah, the cover/mantle/dash system can be a bit awkward. But: Macho Men!

It’s also pretty interesting to see a game that only really makes sense played co-operatively. Games journalists have been rattling along for years talking about how much sense co-operative gaming makes, but publishers said “there’s no demand for it” and developers moaned about how hard it was to do effectively. They might even have been right, but Gears Of War (and Halo before that) showed just how well it can work, how well it /must/ work.

In fact there are a couple of sequences in Gears Of Wars that seem to have been designed specifically for co-op play (the blind beserker creature) and then later botched into working for the single player campaign. It makes me wonder at what point Mr B and chums realised that co-op was going to be the main focus for their game.

In conclusion: macho men make videogames great.

In other news: I’ve moved house and have no web at the moment. It’s hideously painful to be torn from the information rich womb of Mother Internet, but it has allowed me to play an entire campaign of Medieval 2 without having to quit out to pointlessly (compulsively) check newsfeeds, email and forums.