Path of Exile and Star Citizen both get more interesting

Path of Exile has announced a new expansion, The Awakening.  On top of a new Act, bosses, items, and all that good content, there’s also a big addition to the legendary Passive Skill Tree: radial passive boosts.  I love this idea, because it turns the physical layout of the skill tree into a puzzle that players can play with.  Basically, certain gems you can earn will have a circle of influence in the skill tree that affects compatible nodes.  If the gem is related to Intelligence modifiers, it will give a boost of some kind to all of the Intelligence-related nodes around it.  I don’t know how you place them (I haven’t researched all of it yet, but I’d guess that skill nodes have colorized sockets now too?) but this alone means that GGG is moving the game in an even crazier, rewarding direction.

Star Citizen has written about their First Person Shooter system, which I find highly interesting.  Like Dark Souls, it will involve a stamina-management system, forcing players to play cautiously and “spend” their stamina on worthwhile action.  Three different “stances” will emphasize different aspects of combat and interaction, and I suggest you read more about how breathing control factors into fighting in space!

Follow me @GreenlightRview and let’s talk games!

Sick of the game media talking about everything except games?  Wish there was a better way to find out about new indie games without visiting dumps like Kotaku and RockPaperShotgun?  Me too, and that’s why I created @GreenlightRview on Twitter!

greenlight-review

Follow me and you’ll see concise but thoughtful critiques on as many Steam Greenlight projects as I can find.  Already I’ve seen some hilariously bad projects, and some amazingly good ones — like, stuff that I’m actually going to fund on Kickstarter.

Greenlight is one of the biggest forces for change in the history of games, but it needs intelligent people to pay attention and weigh in on the process.  We all know that it’s not perfect, and we know that even Valve is working on replacing it, but in the meantime there are thousands of games waiting to be seen and judged, with hopeful teams whose dreams of game development depend on you and me.  @GreenlightRview is a way for you to share my enthusiasm for upcoming indie projects, discuss game design with me, and help the cream rise to the top.

If you ever felt like there was a lack of game discussion and reviews on this site, you’ll definitely want to follow me there, because I’m going to have the same standards as I would if I was publishing it on this site, with the same wit and sharpness.

Thank you, and I look forward to discussing countless new games with you all!

[Check out @GreenlightRview]

The last “kingmaker” is the gaming press

One of the key parties in the #GamerGate affairs is a group called TheFineYoungCapitalists, which is trying to help female game designers get their games made, even though it was sabotaged by neofeminists; the creator’s private information leaked and the website DDOS’d.  Cool, right?  But he’s been making some comments since then on his blog, and now he’s given an interesting view about the state of affairs in the gaming industry regarding “kingmaking”…

The last KingMakers left are the journalists, with such a giant market they have the ability to push eyeballs to your product. To use their audience to make your game a success or a failure. What #GamerGate is about, is the general public becoming aware of the backroom deals of the last kingmakers in the indie video game market. And showing how a small group of friends have a remarkable amount of pull over what get’s made and where it is discussed. Gaming journalism has responded by attempting to discredit the public. Which is an interesting strategy to say the least but has successfully avoided discussing the real issues.

He says that lack of quality control — and lack of visibility for good startup developers — has always been a problem in the gaming industry, causing the infamous Atari crash back in the old days, and the current problem with Steam being flooded with too much questionable content to keep track of or sort.  Somebody needs to filter all those games, and those who filter the games have a lot of leverage that they can abuse.

Just think about it: what would you be willing to do to get your unknown little project on the front page of Kotaku or RockPaperShotgun?

If you want to cheer up TFYC and read more, you may as well follow them on Tumblr and give money to their pro-female developer and tragically sabotaged charity project!  It sounds like things are getting bleak over there.  I’m kind of shocked, how are they not funded by now, with all of #GamerGate going on?

Spec Ops and why I reviewed something I didn’t finish

I got an email from a polite reader about how I wasn’t qualified to review a game without finishing the entire thing. Specifically, my Spec Ops: The Line review.  I didn’t even play long enough to experience the “twist”, and yet I gave it a harsh judgment.  Is that unfair?

Below is my reply, without the original email I was sent.  I think this is a fair question, and I know that plenty of readers would agree that you need to experience the full game in order to appreciate it, so it might be worth sharing my defense.


I got started writing my opinions in a community with some of the biggest assholes and trolls out there, so don’t worry about offending me, I’m way beyond that. I’m glad to defend what I write.

I reviewed Spec Ops: The Line because I had enough spent money and time in order to experience the core gameplay features, difficulty, pacing, and “game design”, and I reached a conclusion. It’s not like I pretended that I finished the story.  But by your logic nobody should be able to review World of Warcraft until they personally reach the “level cap”, do everything there is to do in the “end-game”, and see the credits.  At some point, you make a judgment about quality along the way.  If a game can’t hook me within the first six hours, it’s shitty no matter what it holds in store.

Even if the story twist is mindblowing to some people, I’m perfectly justified in evaluating how much that story twist is worth. To me, it’s worth almost nothing.  I don’t respect games designed badly, and a cheap gimmick at the end doesn’t do anything for me.  “Pulling out the rug” only works if you’re invested in the mindless killing to begin with, which intelligent people wouldn’t be.  Therefore, it’s a game that only stupid people can enjoy.

Knowing how the game ends, I still saw these problems:

  • No compulsion to move forward and experience more (bad design)
  • No investment in the characters or scenario (bad writing/concepts)
  • No interest in the Call of Duty formula or fanbase (irrelevant twist)

I understood everything I needed to understand to evaluate what mattered to me. I did research on the remaining parts, and was equally unimpressed.


 

To me it’s a lot like those who say I shouldn’t review a game unless I’m able to master its gameplay systems.  Only expert who can get a high score should be able to say whether Metal Gear Rising is a good game, because “understanding” the game is a prerequisite for “judging” a game, right?  And I don’t understand a game unless I master it!

One of the main pillars of my reviewing process is that I don’t allow publishers, developers, or the community around a game to control the discourse around it.  I don’t have to judge a game by its own standards, or anyone else’s.  My own standard is what matters to me, and my review is the explanation of why I feel the way I do.  It’s idiotic to pretend that there’s any “objective” or unbiased point of view, so it would be pretentious to act like I’m giving a “fair” score by some universal score card.

Thoughts on P.T.

Before I discuss P.T. — the “playable teaser” for the upcoming “Silent Hills” game Kojima and Guillermo Del Toro are making — just know that Forbes says that “P.T. is one of the cleverest marketing gimmicks in the history of video games.”  Of course I agree.

Judging  by the footage I’ve seen of the game, it looks extremely tense and creepy.  And, obviously, accomplished its mission of confusing/terrifying many unsuspecting players.

But I’ve repeatedly criticized games that sacrifice interactivity for the sake of graphics and mood, and specifically complained about “scary” games that restrict you to a flashlight and throw jump scares at you.  It’s lazy game design.  But I’m not ready to criticize P.T. just yet.

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Kojima used my idea to promote “Silent Hills”

You’re welcome Kojima, I’m glad you pay attention!

The idea of releasing a demo/preview/promotional game which contains a big surprise reveal trailer after you beat it, is literally the exact strategy I suggested in my Ground Zeroes commentary back in March of this year:

A better strategy (and perhaps one KONAMI would never have indulged) might have been to keep The Phantom Pain a complete surprise until after you beat Ground Zeroes, at which point it unlocks a trailer that you can watch.

Judging by the delightful surprise that has spread across the internet, I feel pretty damn validated in my argument!  Because I also said this:

Forget the “Moby Dick Studios” bluff and the “Joakim Mogren” nonsense, and just let Metal Gear Solid V be an awesome surprise at the end of the seemingly straightforward extra epilogue mission to Peace Walker, designed for consoles and to show off the Fox Engine.  Hell, sell the thing for $10 so people can be blown away by how generous and appreciative Kojima Productions is.  Goodwill goes a long way.  Make sure every gamer worth his salt feels obligated to check out this amazing little game, with its amazing surprise ending, and its amazing new gameplay direction.  Get people on board, cast a wide net, and make your money with love from the community, not gouging those who try to support you most.

Could this “P.T.” game be any more similar to what I suggested?  If they had hyped up “Silent Hills” for a year ahead of time, and then released this “important story chapter” at retail for $20 with all sorts of little “extras” to drag out the playtime (like they did with Ground Zeroes,) nobody would be delighted about the game, because we’d be obsessing over crap like whether it’s a good value.  Instead, they took my advice and released an understated and generous little demonstration of what they can do, and included the big surprise trailer at the end.  “Brilliant”, as the British Twitch girl said.

If only they had done this with Ground Zeroes, people would be much less confused, much more intrigued by it, much more appreciative of their marketing, and nobody would be complaining about it being a “2 hour game”, or costing too much!  Bah…