What is the act of play? When presented with a game, is play the participation of the so-called “player” within structures created for them, acting within the choreographed dance laid out before them? Is play the moments in between, where improvisation takes hold, and the unexpected occurs? Is play the times in which you stop clinging to control, to perceived notions of input and action, to simply be within whatever world it is you’ve chosen to delve?
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What defines the self? A name? A role? The tasks we are set to? What others perceive us to be? What we perceive ourselves to be? Or perhaps something more? This question has possibly plagued mankind more throughout the ages than any other, but it defines a key conflict in the world of OFF in which we emerge fully-formed, and find our existence immediately questioned. As we begin we find ourselves perceived as little more than a figment of the imagination of a humble cat.
Horror, a genre known for having as many pitfalls as there are fall-prone protagonists, and one that is notoriously hard to integrate into video games. While there are countless examples of Horror done poorly across all media, games present a slew of challenges very specific to the medium which are far too often not taken into account during development, leading to lackluster Horror title upon lackluster Horror title. This is apparent enough that some commentators have even come to eschew the title of Horror game, opting instead for Horror themed game.
Among the retro-throwbacks of the current indie renaissance, first-person shooters harkening to the golden era of id and Build engine titles are up there as one of the most commonly occurring iterations on a genre. They tend to be an easy format to recreate: hand the player an armory of guns then turn them loose on a labyrinth of gnarled hallways and rooms stuffed to the brim with enemies lying in wait. Varied enemy types are mix-and-matched in myriad hordes thrown at the protagonist, the interplay between their varying tactics forcing you to stay on your toes as you adapt to rapidly changing circumstances.
You have fun twists on the genre with games like STRAFE and Tower of Guns throwing rogue-lite procgen into the mix, or simply hardcore returns to form with something akin to DUSK. There’s bullet-hell injected MOTHERGUNSHIP, as well as arcade styled Devil Daggers. Of course, along with the overwhelming amount of solid titles fleshing out the FPS space, one can explore more experimental takes on ripping and tearing with things such as DRL, which reimagines DOOM as a pure rogue-like experience. Further down that path, there’s modding tool ZKVN which turns the engine into a host for visual novels.
Co-written with Yestin Harrison
In the past, it wasn’t unusual for projects to take 3-5 years, particularly in AAA or experimental IPs. Sometimes, the hype cycles were a strength, other times not so much. It’s not as though the development model that Infinity Ward popularized with Call of Duty hadn’t already been present in the industry. However, at the time, it was a strategy largely reserved for producing spinoffs and experimental gameplay.
Capcom were notorious for this, often sharing staff among multiple IPs. This is perhaps exemplified in the provenance of the original Devil May Cry, which began life as Resident Evil 4, but was deemed too incongruous with the Resident Evil series and eventually became the first installment in a series all its own. (The title actually known as Resident Evil 4, for reference, came several scrapped versions later.) DMC’s “air juggling” of enemies came from yet another title, being inspired by a bug in Onimusha: Warlords.
On the 25th of this month, Ross Scott of Freeman’s Mind and Ross’s Game Dungeon fame (both of which, by the way, warrant coverage of their own in the future) dropped a video essay, “Games as a service” is fraud. In the description, he writes:
WARNING: This is more boring than my usual videos.
Well, all right, it’s a dry topic touching on the technical, the philosophical, and the legal; but it’s important and warrants a conversation. I highly suggest giving the video a watch, even if it feels like preaching to the choir. That said, this article doesn’t require it. The springboard I’ll use for now is the following quote from 42:53:
Every once in a while, you’ll hear people ask if games are art. I don’t have an answer on that, but I think it’s pretty clear games are creative experiences often worthy of preservation, so I’ll say art just to keep it simple.
The 90s were an interesting time: tearaway pants, presidents rocking saxophones, the Atari Jaguar… It was a grab bag of culture, packed to the gills with foundational artistic forays that still ripple into today. Simply look at how Rob Schneider or Adam Sandler have permeated mainstream society and become cornerstones of our modern cultural tapestry. Alongside the many technological milestones of the time, gaming and otherwise, there was an entire new world of marketing, full of opportunity.
VR is a controversial topic. For some, it’s a technological panacea, a wave of the future. Others, sometimes justifiably, see it as a hubristic cash grab whose saving grace is the occasional hardware innovation beyond pure novelty. After being subjected to a seemingly endless ouroboros of PR and hype campaigns, no one can be faulted for growing cynical or weary in the face of bold promises.
There’s a lot to be said about the Fallout series, and almost all of it has long-since been said. However there’s one aspect of the series, particularly its first 2 entries, that has been playing on my mind.
War….war never changes.
Far from a cool slogan, this phrase, though oft-misunderstood, helps to frame a larger discussion of games from a critic and developer perspective.
Throughout the personal computer revolution, the landscape was awash with architectures. Z80. 68000. PowerPC. SPARC. MIPS. Everyone wanted a piece of the pie, and innovation looked radically different across the board. By the turn of the century, however, the market had collectively settled on Intel’s x86. At a stretch, one may buy an Intel machine distinguished by, one: having a picture of a fruit on it, and two: the ability to run an operating system with a picture of a fruit on it.
It was inevitable that game consoles would meet the same fate.