March 2010

30
Mar
2010

Conflicted

Posted by Cha

Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon is a new post-apocalyptic RPG for Wii. The impression I've gathered is that it's very different, is hauntingly beautiful, and that the story is very engaging. That is enough to make me prick up my ears, though there is also part of me wondering why I keep torturing myself with JRPGs recently.

I don't normally pay a lot of attention to game reviews. They rarely match up well with my tastes, and the ones claiming to be objective in particular make me laugh. Reviews are always subjective and individual. I prefer it when writers make use of their personal perspective rather than trying to hide it behind rigid journalistic style, and that's rarer than I'd like.

28
Mar
2010

Lessons from The Sims

Posted by Cha

As I mentioned previously, I haven't played a Sims game in many years. Things have apparently increased in complexity since I played the original game. The Sims 3 has spawned some interesting ideas, and I've been curious to see how different people describe their experiences with the game.

Alice and Kev is an experiment about homelessness in The Sims 3, courtesy of games design student Robin Burkinshaw. The blog follows the lives of the angry and meanspirited Kev and his insecure daughter Alice.

From the introduction:

I created two Sims, moved them in to a place made to look like an abandoned park, removed all of their remaining money, and then attempted to help them survive without taking any of the game's unrealistically easy cash routes.

26
Mar
2010

Some Problems

Posted by Cha

I'm not very happy with game retailers and companies right now. It's unfortunate that being a gamer often comes with its share of technical problems, and poor customer service or support.

I was vaguely considering purchasing Assassin's Creed 2 once the price drops. I found the first game was almost very good... the open world felt very different and had a lot of potential. I liked being able to run freely across rooftops, and once I stopped wishing for a new-generation version of Thief, and just accepted it wasn't really about being stealthy, I had some fun with it. But, like many people, the repetitive missions spoilt the experience for me. I gather the second game at least made some effort to listen to the criticisms, though, so I have some hopes for it.

24
Mar
2010

Relaxing Games

Posted by Cha

Most of the time, I want games to challenge me. That can involve many different things. A lot of my favourites have heavy action and/or themes, and can have be tensed up and on the edge of my seat. I also enjoy more mentally challenging games, including puzzle-solving, or mastering complicated game mechanics or item management.

I find these things enjoyable, but I wouldn't call them relaxing. I wonder sometimes if a game can be truly relaxing. I have a very broad definition of what I will call a game, but I think some interactivity is required. And as soon as there is interactivity there will be consequences for actions, even if that's on an extremely basic level.

If I want a really soothing experience I'm probably not usually going to look to gaming. But, games can still calm me somewhat. I'm sure this is a very individual thing -- one person's relaxing is another person's slow and boring, after all.

23
Mar
2010

Earth Hour 2010

Posted by Cha

This Saturday at 8:30PM is Earth Hour, so my lights, consoles and computers will be staying off. It's a very small sacrifice. When it comes to the scale of anthropogenic climate change I think this must have a rather small direct effect in the scheme of things. But it is also a valuable symbol, and I consider that important. It's unfortunate that raising awareness remains such an important part of this issue.

The power use involved in gaming is something I think about fairly often. The number of consoles and gadgets I use has increased over time. Recently I've started turning non-essential things off at the wall when I'm not using them, but I still wonder about the impact of spending so much time on electronic entertainment.

There are far worse things I could be doing -- I don't own a car, and it's extremely unusual for me to utilise air travel. But that doesn't mean my own habits are not worth thinking about.

19
Mar
2010

The MMO Blues (aka Final Fantasy XI)

Posted by Cha

I've been feeling very enthusiastic about gaming recently. I just started this blog, there are some exciting releases on the horizon, and I've been having some fun experiences.

Then Steam had Final Fantasy XI on sale for $US9.99, and in a moment of morbid curiosity I decided to give it a spin for the 30-day trial. If I wanted to sap away some of my gaming enthusiasm this was a really good way to go about it.

After several hours of patch downloads, and an unnecessarily convoluted sign up procedure, I finally managed to create a character and set foot in the game world of Vana'diel.

The first obvious thing about FFXI is that the keyboard setup is non-standard. It took several minutes to work out how to move around, interact, and access the menu to change the damn keyboard setup (it's under the '-' key, followed by an arrow sideways to access another menu). Not a very welcoming beginning.

18
Mar
2010

Links, March 2010

Posted by Cha

The guys from Game Taco Podcast were kind enough to give me a link on their blogroll. After two episodes I think they are really starting to click, and they have conducted some interesting interviews. I look forward to hearing their future discussions.

Coelacanth: Lessons from Doom is an interesting look at game design with less representational graphics, and how it may actually serve gameplay.

For any current World of Warcraft players, the Daedalus project is looking for survey participants. They are "trying to find out what our behaviors in WoW reveal about who we are in RL."

17
Mar
2010

Some Thoughts on Immersion

Posted by Cha

In the non-fiction comic book Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud talks about how a simply-drawn cartoon character may actually increase our emotional investment versus a more photorealistic character. The theory goes that an iconic representation is a partially blank slate, and we can more easily project ourselves onto them. Tintin is an example of a comic where you will find panels including both detailed background art, and a much simpler, more cartoony character, thus drawing us into the scene.

By this logic, in third-person gaming a cartoony avatar (say, a World of Warcraft character) may be easier to identify with than an avatar rendered in more detail (such as a Heavy Rain character).

16
Mar
2010

Heavy Rain Is Not a Party Game

Posted by Cha

I had some friends visiting the other evening who were interested in checking out Heavy Rain. I found it a slightly bizarre situation, with one person playing and another three watching. It's really not the usual way to play it. It was very easy to laugh at mistakes and diffuse the seriousness considerably. At the same time, I think they were surprised at how much tension the game managed to include, even while we were joking around.

I was a bit surprised, I admit. As someone who is rather easily drawn into game stories and emotions I have trouble gauging when something hits the level where it might actually work on other people, too. Judging by the comments I've seen online, Heavy Rain comes close enough to affect a fair number of people, but that still leaves a significant number of people who will find it clumsy and lacking in true maturity and immersion.

15
Mar
2010

Romance and Disability

Posted by Cha

A recent conversation with a friend about Mass Effect 2...

Me: I wish Joker were a romance option.
R: You'd break him.
Me: You can have romance without sex, you know.
R: Yes, but that would be mature. And it's only an M-rated game.

That should tecnically be MA15+ rather than M, but I decided not to misquote. Despite my issues with the maturity debate I was amused.

Joker has become one of my favourite game characters. I am coming from an able-bodied perspective, but to me he seems a great example of including disability in gaming. He doesn't feel token, and his problems seem to be just an element of the character rather than his reason for existing. He is a highly skilled pilot and valued crew member. Plus, he is voiced by Seth Green. I suspect that's been acting on me subconsciously for a while.

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