Electron Dance

Electron Dance Highlights

29Aug/146

Hypnosis in the Sand: Why Spec Ops Fails

spec-ops-hangings

When I read some fiction about a character, say he’s called Dave, who did something terrible, I don't feel guilty about it. It's not my story, right? It’s Dave’s. And Dave is a piece of shit.

But what if the book forced you to act out what Dave did, go through the motions like some puppet? Would you feel guilty then? Would you feel like it was all your fault? Perhaps I should ask an actor.

And this here is THE LINE you should not cross if you want to avoid spoilers for third-person shooter Spec Ops: The Line (Yager Development, 2012) and the epic Immortal Defense (RPG Creations, 2007). Okay, maybe Penumbra: Black Plague (Frictional Games, 2008) too.   

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21Aug/149

Read Out: Your Pants Look Like A Horse


This week, Link Drag is called Read Out. Who knows what it will be called next week.

  • Is Raph Koster responsible for getting a horse to eat your insides?
  • How much are indie dev customers really worth?
  • Oh, really, what could possibly go wrong with a story involving "F2P game" and "two-year-old"?
  • How has Ingress taken over Laura Michet's life? Can we get her back?
  • Why not choose your own adventure?
  • What's Actual Sunlight all about then?
  • Why does The Act of Killing stand out against other documentaries about mass murder?

Find the links below.

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Filed under: Link Drag 9 Comments
19Aug/1414

The Unwritten Life Story of an RTS Grunt

coh-parachute

Of all the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944, the landing at the sector codenamed “Omaha” was the most bloody. So much went wrong. The German coastal defences were completely intact as bad weather resulted in Allied bombers dropping their payload too far inland. Many landing craft couldn't make it all the way to the beach so the infantry had to wade through water first. Platoons were scattered across the beach, meaning chains of command were disrupted and chaos prevailed.

I doubt any of these soldiers, who were being mown down by German machine-gun emplacements, had hoped their desperate struggle would become the tutorial level for a videogame. But they were fortunate to have their sacrifice immortalised in the tutorial level of Company of Heroes (Relic Entertainment, 2006).

Technically, it's the first mission of the game, but it's still baby hour in the grand scheme of things. Players are effectively given an infinite supply of troops while they try to make progress up the beach. Initially, I cared about these little men disorganised and vulnerable, but I realised the only way to make progress in this crucible of death was to throw them all towards the shingle.

We might hope that the game forces players to contemplate the terrifying nature of war: that soldiers must die in pursuit of a goal which is larger than they; how a commander must remain detached to be able to send people to their deaths. But this level, as with every level of every real-time strategy game before it, taught me one thing: I was playing with pieces on a board, not people.    

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Filed under: Longform 14 Comments
14Aug/149

This Link Drag is a Content Parasite


I know, there was no post this week. Don't look so shocked. Here are some links instead. This week:

  • What's a good plan for indie marketing?
  • What are the seven questions you should ask every Kickstarter?
  • Why is it time to stop calling games 'indie'?
  • Should we tune down the hype for No Man's Sky?
  • What happened with Julian Assange's autobiography?
  • Who creates content?
  • If you had to file form W-8BEN-E for UK limited companies, would you just file it with the trash?

Please find your seven click escapes below.

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Filed under: Link Drag 9 Comments
7Aug/1410

This Link Drag is in the Sycamore Trees


This week:

  • How does Miasmata-a-like The Forest play?
  • How is it possible to play a game against your late father?
  • Why are governments interested in algorithmic regulation?
  • Why did Laura Michet stop writing on the internet (for a while)?
  • Can the NHS stop making mistakes by making mistakes?
  • How much fraud is there in crowdfunding?
  • If the big indie shakeout really is coming, how can you better your odds of survival?

Please find your seven click escapes below.

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Filed under: Link Drag 10 Comments
5Aug/144

Wot I Think: Quarries of Scred

qos-pelagic2

This week I've written a proper review of Quarries of Scred (Noble Kale, 2014) for Rock Paper Shotgun. Go have a read.

But I'm going to add a little bit more here, a Quarries anecdote from the weekend. Minor mechanical spoilers.   

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31Jul/1413

How to Stop Making Players Lazy

Quarries of Scred

For a few months now, I've been playing Quarries of Scred (Noble Kale, 2014) which causes me frequently to scream at the screen. Nowhere near as much as NaissanceE (Limasse Five, 2014) did, of course, but pretty much every time I die in the game it is because I am crushed to death by rocks. And it seems like it was my fault.

Quarries of Scred is a game that offers procedurally-generated challenge and if you die, just once, that's it for the level. No health, no extra lives. Just you versus the environment. Will you collect enough minerals to escape – or wind up dead after one wrong step?

When we talk about games that impose permadeath or similar aggravating conditions such as the sparse checkpointing of NaissanceE, we usually reference the power of consequences and how they make us feel. But have you heard of the “Peltzman effect”?

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Filed under: Longform 13 Comments
28Jul/142

Talent is Not a Scarce Resource

Game developer Erlend Grefsrud is working on Myriad, an abstract-themed shooter that I wrote about last year. But Grefsrud can also be painfully blunt when it comes to critique so I asked him what he thought of #warningsigns then hid under a blanket. Instead of a bullet point list of disagreements, he offered the following thoughtful response, published with his permission.

darkness-darkness-darkness

Back in 2010, I said we needed tools for the democratization of game development.

Those tools existed already, but many were in denial about it, including me. There were still questions about delivery channels (browser, mobile, console, PC?) since the whole indie thing was really born out of Flash games on Newgrounds and the more hardcore devs sharing stuff written in Allegro or whatever on TIGSource. One dominant model emerged: selling games.

The proof was in the pudding. By then, the first wave of successful indie games had already happened, with straggler Fez quasi-triumphantly emerging on the tail-end. This moment grew persistent thanks to Indie Game: The Movie and endless scribblings about how indies would change games forever.     

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25Jul/140

This Link Drag is a Hipster

Here Be Links

“Pricing: the key to not destroying everyone’s career” - Steven Bonner

If you’re young and a recent graduate, it’s pretty likely that you might still live at home and don’t really have a good grasp of what it takes to pay bills and probably don’t have too many regular outgoings that need to be met, so there’s a temptation to accept any offer of work without negotiating so you can get a foot in the door, build a client list, gain credibility and whatever else you think might push you to the top. This is probably ok for a while and most of us did it at some point, but sooner or later you will become frustrated when you can’t seem to raise your prices while your friends are out living it up, or worse, you’ll believe that this is what all illustrators should be getting paid and accept it.

“Emergent gameplay vs whatever the other kind is” - Andrew Plotkin

The work of solving these puzzles -- the play experience -- is of experimentation, discovery, and then synthesis of the results in a way which was not immediately obvious. That's creative thought. Dismissing this as "square key in square hole" is ignoring the point.

“Indie Advice: why you probably shouldn’t make a multiplayer game” - Dan Marshall

I don’t want to be completely negative, I just think as indies we need to be aware that the numbers TitanFall sells in order to be a constantly-playable online game eclipses anything we could possibly hope to achieve. It’s a case of being very very boringly realistic.

LONG “A Tale of Two Hipsters” - Dale Beran

The same thing is happening in Baltimore, where I currently live, and probably in many other cities all over the world. About ten or fifteen years ago, my generation moved into a crumbling warehouse district in another blighted area of Baltimore City. The DIY artist warehouse district is now labelled “The Arts & Entertainment District”, housing prices are on the rise and everywhere there are signs advertising “elegant urban living” and “artists luxury lofts” to people who are obviously not artists but rather middle class professionals.

“The Deleted Scenes of Outcast and Outcast 2...” - Joe Martin

For the team, Infogrames’ self-sabotage immediately impacted plans for the future. A previously announced Dreamcast version was cancelled and, while Infogrames’ claimed it was due to porting difficulties; the reality was that poor sales had crushed publisher confidence.

FAV LONG “Dude, Where's My Game - The Truth and Lies of Delays and Cancellations” - Odious Repeater

The Dead End (or DE for short) is one of the biggest issues plaguing game development to this day. For various bad reasons, it’s also one of the least understood and least discussed problems. One reason is that there are different types of Dead End that need to be avoided in different ways, by different members of the development staff.

“Pop Goes The Weasel” - Rob Fearon

It’s never really the end of a golden age. It’s just progress and as we progress, new people come along and get their chance to shine. It’s not harder, it’s not tougher. The market does not fill with videogames and we are not all doomed. It’s different. Because it has to be or we stagnate and if we stagnate, what’s the fucking point? You don’t get to keep the crown forever, no-one does. Move over, old man.

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23Jul/146

Why You’re Wrong About Jumping in NaissanceE

NaissanceE Big Drop

I like to imagine legions of “art game” enthusiasts queuing up outside the metaphorical Steam store to get their hands on the latest graphically-gorgeous “walking simulator”, NaissanceE (LimasseFive, 2014).

Once they’ve got a copy of the game, they sit in front of their PC, grinning with excitement as the game installs. It runs – there’s a flash of the Unreal logo – and then it's time for a quick tweak of the graphical settings. Maximum resolution, maximum effects: these people want to drown in its abstract beauty.

And then the game opens... with a cutscene? Dear Esther (The Chinese Room, 2012) wasn’t exactly an overflowing cup of player agency, so the enthusiasts deal with it.

But then the brutality begins. And the arrogance of NaissanceE is both startling and traumatising.    

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