Where Be Dem Posts?!?

The blog’s been a bit inactive for the past two weeks so I thought I’d at least post this short update. The Grant Morrison Batman run has not been abandoned. In fact, following my last post, I read R.I.P.’s very short prologue and was beginning the first part of my review when suddenly I was no longer reading the book or writing the review. Fret not for I shall return to it soon. But what have I been doing in the meantime? Well, besides unsuccessfully applying for jobs, I have been buying more books (obviously), but mostly playing video games. Quite a number of them actually. This should come as no surprise since I’ve suggested that I’d be talking about them at some point already seeing as they’re my other favourite hobby. Well, I’m not too far from doing so.

Possibly as a way to lead us back to Morrison’s run, but more likely running in tangent with it, expect to see reviews of the games I’ve been playing lately. Being two very different mediums, of course, these reviews will be a bit different than my comic reviews making up the bulk of this blog but, to be honest, I probably have more interesting things to say about video games than I do comics. Don’t get me wrong, I think I’ve done a fairly good job at noticing some of the finer points in many of the comics I’ve reviewed but games, for some reason, just click with me – I can differentiate between what makes a good and bad game, and can look at them from the perspective of the developers who made them.

That latter point will no doubt be a topic I’ll talk about at some point in the future. No, I’m not trying to sound like a smartass when I say that. There’s many posts I send to a group of friends over Facebook about games and it was they who first pointed out to me that I was noticing things about this game or that they didn’t when they played them, and I’ll maybe go through our posts to put some of them up here as examples. My father noticed this too and it was for these reasons that I studied Computer Games Development for two years at University. Alas, the course was utter shite for reasons I’ll get in to another time, but I can’t ignore the fact that my lower grades were for programming because fuck programming, yet I got straight A’s when it came to design.

My most fond memory was actually seeing that my design blog for a game two of my friends and I were designing was called something like the “perfect example” of what our lecturer was expecting. This would seem to be because my approach to the blog was very self critical, discussing what was good and bad about our game; the mistakes my team and I made; how my part of the work, which was the writing and art exclusively, with the actual game design being shared, was going; then finally ending the blog with an honest retrospective of how shite our team was. Indeed, we all got B’s for our presentation of the game and our design document, and both my team members either finished with that mark or a C. How I got an A was through my blog but, funnily enough, they would have pushed their marks to an A as well in the presentation and design document if they had actually listened to me about the things that both of those were missing.

Perhaps I’m entering into smartass territory now, but I honestly believe that I saved our project when I forced them to see that our original storyline made no sense, and knew what I was doing all along when it came to that and our agreed design approach, whereas they seemed to want our game to appeal to the masses in a really unoriginal way. For example, we agreed early on that there would be moral choices, but I suggested we make them very subtle, which meant that we would never communicate to the player that they’d made a good or evil choice because that shit is really, really dumb. Yet, I kid you not, when it came to putting our design document together, one of my team members thought, “Fuck it!”, and threw in a karma system as part of the HUD, which for some reason acted as a health bar as well as your character’s alignment. Game design fail right there.¬†That kind of thing is why I’ve been so hesitant to start building a game of my own. Both team members, you see, are actually close friends of mine and I’d have thought we’d design a great game together, yet what I really took away from the experience was that it isn’t friends you need to work with you on something like that, but people who understand what makes good game design or can at least share the designer’s vision without doing anything illogical. That’s perhaps yet another thing to talk about more in depth another day.

What I’m really trying to say is that you ¬†shouldn’t only expect to see straightforward reviews for the games I play but a lot of analytical posts for many of them too, some of which I hope will make for good reading. Trust me. Not because I studied any of this stuff – but simply because I just know what I’m talking about. A lot of subjects have never sat well with me, such as maths and programming, but the more creative ones – English, art and design, video games – are things I just seem to be attuned to. Hell, I might as well say right now that you might even expect to see some analysis of songs here and there because that’s a thing that’s on my mind quite often too.

Anyway, to draw this longer than expected post to an end, I thought I’d list what games I’ve finished lately and my general thoughts on them, as a sort of preview until such a time that I can get down to reviewing them. Note that I’m not sure of the exact order I played Dishonored and Max Payne 3 in. See you next time.

  • Dishonored – On Facebook I harped on at my friends about this one. An excellent game with only some minor flaws. Haven’t yet completed the DLC but that has actually remedied a few problems I had with the base game, most noticeably with its far more interesting protagonist who’s much easier to role play as. The best thing about this game, as I’ll talk about more when I come to writing about it proper, is its world. The city of Dunwall is probably the most original game world I’ve stepped in to for quite a while. Besides a review, I’ll be doing a post about part of this game’s excellent design which I should hope will provide some insight. Might even make a post about how women are portrayed in the game as that’s actually quite interesting and I don’t think, as I’ve noticed a few others suggest, misogynist at all.
  • Max Payne 3 – To be honest, I wasn’t very confident that I’d enjoy this one. When screenshots and trailers were first released my voice joined the chorus of people complaining that the noir look of the first two games was gone and Rockstar were about to screw things up (the developer of the first two games was Remedy Entertainment who have recently saw success with the Alan Wake games). Whether the latter is true is your own opinion but I’ve seen people insist that the former flew the coop. This isn’t the case at all. Don’t let the sunny streets of San Paulo in the screenshots fool you – this was as dark a game as any in the series, perhaps the most until the redemptive ending. Might make an extra post or two about this as well as it’s quite an interesting game.
  • S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl – Simply one of the best games ever. Fuck knows how many times I’ve played it overall. Oh, yes, there shall be plenty of posts about this one, and the subsequent games in the series as I finish them too, all right. Incidentally, I finished this with the Complete mod installed, so I may actually review that in a separate post of its own. It’s a great mod for the most part, especially when it comes to the gorgeous visuals, but it certainly has its flaws and I’ll probably be playing the game with a different mod or two installed in the future.
  • Metro 2033 – This is a game I’d also played before and, when I first did, I loved it. It’s a very immersive game for a number of reasons with some really cool features, and I remember actually freaking the fuck out when mutants attacked me, something the game shares with the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series (it’s no coincidence that some of the developers of that game worked on this too). However, on my recent playthrough, I realised something a little sad: it’s actually kind of boring. You probably won’t be seeing any additional posts for the game with that being the case, particularly as I ended up speeding my way through it because of said boredom, but I will treat it fairly as I do believe it’s a game worth playing at least once. So far, however, the sequel which I’m currently playing is a great improvement, albeit with its own flaws too.