Tag Archives: Opinion

Going boldly, together

One of the best group-gaming experiences I’ve had with a computer game was a submarine game – and I regret not being able to recall its name. One night, two friends were visiting quite late, and one had his computer in the car. Over a considerable quantity of cheap vodka, we got to talking about the particular game and a mission that he could not beat, despite numerous attempts.

A half an hour later, we had set up the computer, and sat around in the dark room, with the mission running. One of my friends handled the keyboard and all of the controls – weapons, helm and the like. I watched the informational displays, calling out sonar contacts.

My other friend sat in an armchair (mostly with his eyes closed) and listened and gave orders. Over the next three hours, we beat the mission, handily, evading the best simulated sub-hunters of the Severnyy Flot. Breaking up the workload and working as a tightly coupled team won the day.

It was glorious. You might wonder what that even has to do with the image above. I’m getting to that.

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Don’t do what I say!

So, I decided to go back and spend a bit of time with Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Vegas 2, because I like me a bit of squad-based first-person tactical action, where my brains count for more than my reflexes.

And the weirdest things started happening. Things go alright for a while, then my avatar starts barking all sorts of conflicting orders at my squad-mates. I get them set up for a two-pronged attack on the bad-guys, and suddenly my avatar’s ordering them to hold, or go off from weapons-free, or to run around a corner, or to go have coffee.

And this keeps happening and gets worse and worse.

“Prepare for entry,” I order, indicating the door. Which is immediately followed by my avatar ordering “Regroup!”, “Halt!”, “Go over there!”, “Regroup!”

All the while punctuated by considerable swearing from yours-truly.

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A kick in the Arx

arx3

Arx Fatalis (Arkane Studios, 2002) is among my favourite games of the last decade. There are numerous favourable comparisons to make between it and Ultima Underworld (Blue Sky Productions, 1992), mostly because it was intended to be Ultima Underworld 3, but the developers could not obtain an appropriate license for the name.

The game takes place in (or rather under) a fantasy world whose Sun has failed. As the Sun dimmed and the world got colder, various species banded together to build vast, underground complexes, to be their new homes. The truce between races didn’t really last once everyone got settled in, however.

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Bioshock Infinite delayed to 2013 – won’t be shown until it’s done

Irrational Games has announced that they’re scrapping the 16 October release date for Bioshock Infinite, and instead is pushing back to 26 February, next year.

Why? “[W]e’ve come to realize that some specific tweaks and improvements will make Infinite into something even more extraordinary,” says Irrational’s Ken Levine. And it won’t be on display at any shows, or seen at all from here on until it is done.

Why? Well, that’s a good question – that might have a good answer.

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Elder Scrolls? Huge fan

As much as I can be said to be a fan of anything terribly much, I’m a huge fan of the Elder Scrolls series of games by Bethesda/Zenimax (even if some aspects of the gameplay have been on the decline for the last three of them).

Now, it’s no surprise that they’ve been working on an Elder Scrolls MMOG – that news has been trickling out of the company for years in fragments. As a huge fan, I just can’t see myself wanting to play the game.

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A satisfying ending

A number of games feature multiple endings to their narratives. Right off the top of my head, I’ll name four: All three of the Deus Ex games, and Mass Effect 3. These come particularly to mind for a singular gaming conceit: The magic pick-an-ending button.

Regardless of what you’ve done, how you’ve developed and defined your character’s personality, who has lived and died, who you’ve befriended or opposed, you’re presented with three choices right at the end. Press the button (so to speak) and get the ending.

In narrative terms, that’s a cop-out. That isn’t even phoning it in.

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Hatters gonna hat

I’m a social gamer. This doesn’t mean that I play what are commonly called “social games”, because generally, they aren’t actually social, and while they might be compelling to some – particularly to those whose experience with electronic entertainment is a bit limited – they’re not generally a lot of actual fun.

No, I’m a social gamer. I like to communicate about games. I like to talk about them. I like to write about them. I like to have enjoyable cooperative gaming experiences with my friends and family – in the same room, if at all possible. I also like to just play them.

That’s the sort of social gamer I am.

Now, here’s the sort of social gamer that I am not

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Play it now – Jagged Alliance: Back in Action

I had Meltdown slip up behind one of the guards, who was kneeling behind a short barricade of sandbags, watching for an external threat. The guard had no time to react when Meltdown shot her twice in the back of the head. I knew there was another guard nearby, and expecting that he might hear the shots, I had Meltdown drop to her belly and slither around the other side of the barricade where she would be out of sight.

As expected, he heard the shots, and dashed out just in time to spot Meltdown before she got behind cover, but not with enough time to aim and fire before she was out of sight.

I expected him to try to circle around, and prepared Meltdown for that, but he didn’t. Instead, he hunkered down partly covered by the trunk of a small tree, aimed his pistol and just waited. Meltdown had nowhere to go, and all he had to do was wait.

While this standoff continued, I instructed Fox to belly-crawl towards him, along the side of a building. There was a low, concrete barrier to the guard’s left, just slightly to his rear. Fox easily slipped into position.

I coordinated the two. Fox would pop up, and fire a shot at the guard, then drop again. As soon as she fired, Meltdown would move up into a crouch and empty her magazine at the guard, who would hopefully have turned towards the new threat, but be denied a target as Fox vanished from his sight.

It worked beautifully. Fox took a shot over the barrier, catching the guard by surprise, and then dropped as he turned towards her. Meltdown popped up at the first shot, aimed and fired three of her own shots, taking him down.

He didn’t stand a chance, and that was just the way I wanted it.

There were other guards, but they were far too far away to have heard the action. I instructed the girls to reload, and began planning their approach towards the next guard post, checking the lay of the terrain, cover and patrol routes.

I was just fifteen minutes into playing Jagged Alliance: Back In Action.

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Ubisoft is right, but for the wrong reasons

Citing 95% PC piracy rates, Ubisoft seems to be quitting the PC games market. The problem with games piracy statistics are manifold: Nobody actually knows what the piracy rates really are (though they seem to be likely to be on a par with console piracy rates – probably – since there’s certainly no shortage of console games piracy), and there are other factors involved like release-timing, product quality and pricing that all play their part.

Ubisoft’s PC versions of their games have become increasingly so slapdash and cack-handed that it isn’t really surprising that PC gamers simply don’t want to buy them. I don’t have to tell you that this does not make for a good business model for the PC games market, but someone should probably tell Ubisoft.

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