RE:BIND

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Standardized key bindings are something typically taken for granted as a universal constant since the release of DOOM in 1993, but historically this wasn’t always the case even as late as 2003.

The exhaustively extensive keymaps found in the simulator manuals of yore had a tendency to spill over into everything, particularly for games like Bethesda’s Daggerfall or System Shock 2, frequently upsetting the immediate gamefeel for those expecting a more intuitive control scheme. The lack of consistency through the decade was significant enough that titles such as Thief offered presets following the patterns of adjacent games.

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(author’s note: This analysis is predominantly rooted in my experiences when the community regularly active.)

Jogging towards the objective with your team, you instinctively break off to cover the flank when, suddenly, the artificial sun goes down and rain starts to pour. High-voltage flashbulbs go off simulating lightning, their flashes providing sporadic glimpses of the battlefield as your adrenaline spikes.

Illumination from your helmet display starts to get in the way of your night vision in the near-total darkness; you decide to lift up your water-streaked visor for a better view. You’re taking up position near the objective, knee deep in a patch of swamp water infested with stinging nettles. Only the sound of droplets hitting carbon fiber is audible while you scan the dim horizon.

Soon after you hear distant gunfire, your team begins to engage the enemy, kicking off a dangerous game of search-and-destroy in the shadows.

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Funny, I thought I saw a dog with vampire teeth running around here somewhere.

Cyborg Seppuku is a delightful game vignette in the vein of old LucasArts adventure point-n-click titles by Malte Burup’s Outerzone Studio. A quick introduction sequence sets up the premise: you’re in the shoes of a man out to find his wife by ejecting his implanted augments through various clever puzzles. The game offers roughly half an hour of cyber-sleuthing set to a Vangelis style soundtrack without resorting to many combine-the-trout-with-the-monkey-wrench shenanigans. Now, speaking of suspicious red herring adjacent maritime life…

Cyberpunk is a complicated genre for me, it’s an effective literary approach that, when wielded gracefully, cuts through reflexive denial of criticism via an offset critique of contemporary trends we passively accept every day. When over-used, it begins to shift further towards a meaningless neon pastiche, a self-indulgent crying out for the present that never was instead of a call to build a better future.

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I’ve heard of redstone in minecraft, but this is ridiculous.

I like RUST and I think it’s one of the most innovative and exciting multiplayer survival games out there. Simple game design gives way to a relatively robust desert isle experience, this combined with the intersection of systems helps lend RUST its compelling campfire story qualities. If you haven’t played it in years it really is a vastly different game now and worth another go, but the game still has.. problems, a lot of them.

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What most 90s shooters actually looked like (Blood II: The Chosen)

Deformed polygons, wiggly texture maps! Blurry mipmapping, chunky geometry! Why yes, it’s RETRO 90s GRAPHICS.

How come we find these crunchy, glitchy outdated artistic modes so endearing? I’m no ontologist, and as much as I would love to write out a treatise on hauntology to explain this fascination, instead we’ll focus on how we got stuck in this creative mobius strip and how to get out of it.

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With our web developer in a game jam, our friday article’s image is only.. tangentially related.

In the current era of design trends we often forget how compelling gameplay, in the same vein as a story, relies on the framework built by context, the cumulative effect of our efforts throughout a campaign, or a cleverly addictive loop of mechanics.

It’s the idea that being skilled at the gameplay isn’t enough, a player must interlace their quick-witted maneuvers with an overall vision for masterful execution of the gameplay: The Metagame

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Part interactive fiction, part audio drama, part exploratory game. In the Pause between the Ringing is a fascinating journey into the ontological impact of colonial occupation and resource exploitation through the lens of magical realism. Not only exploring what it means to be seized by hostile corporate overlords, but the ensuing effect upon a language, a culture, and the places that form in its wake.

Commissioned by the Victoria And Albert Museum’s Design/Play/Disrupt program, Pause is a bleak reminder of the not-too-distant past, when the English and Dutch crowns extended their tendrils across every continent and encircled the world. At the core of these imperialistic ambitions was economic innovation and exploitation of natural resources without any regard for the local populace.

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Drip-drip

Rainstorm EP is a cozy little collaborative piece by Jake Grizzly Pierce and Jakey Mumfie. Its soft pixel rain soothes the spirit with tunes you find buried inside various objects. It’s a game that asks you take a small moment out of your day, put work down, and interact with something that doesn’t overly demand your attention.

It’s a gentle massage for the eyes and ears that relieves some stress and helps to center the player. Tiny pieces of world-building comments help build its atmosphere both during and after discovering tape collection hotspots. Muddled visuals give way to short, varied audio vignettes crafted with love, leaving a feeling that this is less a game, and more of an artistic jam session.

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One more job shouldn’t have mattered. I’d killed nobles before. You could float a whaling ship on the high-born blood I’ve spilled. Another nobles steps in to replace the last one. All equally corrupt. Why should an Empress be different? 
But she was. 
I watched her bodyguard’s face as they took him away. Dead eyes. I knew I’d pay for this one, and maybe I deserved to. A storm was coming that would shake apart everything I’d built.

– Daud, Knife Of Dunwall’s opening narration

At the time of Dishonored’s release there was a consensus among many who’d finished it that the story was missing something, and Corvo’s nature as a silent protagonist certainly didn’t help to reduce this impression.

It wasn’t until I had spent time with the well-received Knife Of Dunwall DLC that the game felt anywhere near close to the vision promised by the original release of Dishonored. I didn’t exactly think that DLC would change much beyond adding a few extra hours to the game, padding out the world a little, and tweaking some mechanics, but I was very wrong.

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Talk about a brand.

Thief, Thief! What a great set of games that so many of us are familiar with. But I’m not here to talk about the immersive gameplay, the thoughtful stealth mechanics or the incredible level design of any of the entries.

No, I’m here to discuss something often neglected at the hands of critical analysis. The narrative. I largely regard Thief as a franchise to have one of the most thematically satisfying arcs in any game trilogy I have ever played. Everyone loves Garrett, the titular Master Thief, but few talk about the game’s amazing cast of villains and antagonistic factions.

The City in Thief is a living, breathing environment that is both timeless yet clearly present. An anachronistic city-state bubble in a medieval flavored era, it presents an atmosphere not too far off from the tech-fantasy realm portrayed in The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind.

The hand of The Builder is in the smallest nail, the tiniest gear, if they be worked well. The hand of The Builder is in the tallest tower, the grandest bridge, if they be worked well.

– Hammerite Scripture

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