I am helpless before The Witness (Thelka, 2016). I don’t mean it’s difficult, I mean I just can’t stop playing it. It presses my buttons hard. It’s a miracle I can tear myself away to write something about it.
Here are some key points about what The Witness is and why it’s good. I'll talk a little about structure, but won't spoil any of the puzzle solutions so you can read with impunity.
-- Zak McClendon, Lead Designer on Bioshock 2
The car smashes through the glass front of Easy Credit Autos and I brake to a halt. I hop out of the car, run to the back of the showroom and grab the package. Nothing happens. No one wants this package. No one even gets upset at the damage, which will be repaired without fuss while I am away.
I was a moth to the dull flame of the hidden packages of GTA III (Rockstar, 2001), pieces of virtual tat that simply add one to a meaningless counter. I continued to burn rubber for hour after hour until I had found every last package.
They’re just one example of the now ubiquitous collectible. Today I’d like to introduce the collective noun for the collectible: a fucking plague.
This is the final part of a three-part essay on The Talos Principle which includes commentary from writers Jonas Kyratzes and Tom Jubert. The first part and second parts were posted earlier this week.
“There was nothing here when I first arrived. Did you know that?”
After completing The Talos Principle, I immediately bought The Road to Gehenna. Whereas I played Talos over nine months, I was more aggressive in working through Gehenna, tearing through it in a matter of weeks... although I fear the word “tear” has overstated my skills. It would be more accurate to write I “oozed through it like syrup”.
Gehenna is incredible. It’s so good that I now tend to think of Talos as a prequel to Gehenna.
Spoilers for The Talos Principle and The Road to Gehenna follow.
This is the second part of a three-part essay on The Talos Principle which includes commentary from writers Jonas Kyratzes and Tom Jubert. The first part was posted yesterday.
“I see now that none of us are yet ready. The cycle exists so that we may improve ourselves. But the one who reaches the summit is not our superior, for they stand on our shoulders to reach it.”
-- The Shepherd v82.6.0174
When I first saw the QR texts, I sighed. Jesus, not another game with it’s-not-exposition-honest-guv graffiti on the wall! I initially paid little attention to them, reading them out of a completist need to do everything. But gradually I realised the walls held stories.
Spoilers for The Talos Principle follow.
This is the first part of a three-part essay on The Talos Principle which includes commentary from writers Jonas Kyratzes and Tom Jubert.
“In the beginning were the Words, and the Words made the world. I am the Words. The Words are everything. Where the Words end the world ends. You cannot go forward in an absence of space. Repeat.”
The most glorious moment in The Talos Principle (Croteam, 2014) is one that comes again and again. The moment occurs when a “sigil” is liberated from a devious puzzle, but the sigil itself is an empty token of advancement, the kind of dull trinket that games thrive on. No. The sigil has no power.
Turn around. Don’t speed on to the next challenge, just stop. Turn around and survey the glorious red and blue stitchwork you've sewn across the puzzle. Look at this ingenious thing you have made and be proud.
Spoilers for The Infinite Ocean and The Talos Principle follow.
The critically-lauded sequel to the critically-lauded Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor (Tiger Style, 2009) has not done very well. When Tale of Tales had their own very public failure a little while back I wasn't sure we should draw any larger conclusions aside from "making money in videogames is hard, The End." The failure of Tiger Style to capitalise on a six-year old success is being called out as the dead canary emerging from the coal mine that is the mobile game market. THE INDIEPOCALYPSE IS HERE, IT'S REAL AND IT'S NOT JUST GOING TO EAT YOUR LUNCH - BUT ALSO YOUR CHILDREN'S LUNCH.
I'm still not sure we should draw any larger conclusions aside-- wait, wait. Let's think about this.
Gregory Avery-Weir is the developer behind titles such as Looming and Ossuary and wrote the following essay about the role of Minecraft mods in defining what Minecraft is. I asked Avery-Weir if I could repost it here as I thought it was an interesting addendum to "The Minecraft Industrial Revolution."
I first played Minecraft in 2009 back when it was an Infiniminer clone being developed on the Tigsource forums. It was immediately clear to a bunch of people that it was something special but no one could have guessed what the game would become in just a few years. It may be the most popular game of all time. It’s definitely the most popular game among kids right now. Odd, then, that most of the Minecraft experience is about not playing Minecraft.
Perhaps you’re at home. Perhaps you’re on a train. The location doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you’re enjoying your current favourite rogueish-type-like. You think you’re on top of your game, got all the enemy moves figured out. Yeah, baby, you know what to do.
And then something goes horribly wrong.
You just click, click, click quickly through three moves in one go, as if you’re trying to beat the computer before it gets in a countermove.
And of course you don't get to be quicker than the computer because the game is turn-based. No, you get to die. You die, because you were stupid.
You’ve just experienced a brain phenomenon I call the roguerush. What the hell happened there?
Unless you’ve read mentions of it in the newsletter, I’ll wager you’ve never heard of Evy: Magic Spheres (HeroCraft, 2014). It was released last year and looked like just another brightly coloured casual game in a sea of brightly coloured casual games. You probably wouldn’t even click on the YouTube trailer because you’d be that sure about its content. It’s a marble popper! I already played Zuma (Oberon Media, 2003) and millions of Zuma clones! (Lest you get the wrong idea, Zuma itself was a clone of a 1998 Japanese arcade game called Puzz Loop.)
But Evy reviews are thin on the ground and now, even better, Russian developer HeroCraft seem to have completely given up on her.
This matters to me because Evy was one of my favourite games of 2014.
Dear Esther (The Chinese Room, 2012) is a bit long in the tooth but it gave birth to the popularity of the “walking simulator”. Look, gang, if you really wanted to be offensive about it, you should call these games dog walking simulators, where the player is the goddamned dog.
Ordinary people felt free to dance naked on the streets and proclaim, “Let’s kill the gameplay!” But the original Dear Esther is 7 years old and if we’re still pumping out games where people potter about triggering monologues and weeping at eye candy then it suggests this revolution merely spawned an army of imitators: “Comrade, I make also great revolutionary walking simulator!”
Careful, team, MASSIVE spoilers lurk below. If you want to duck out now, here’s the short version: I enjoyed secret-box-on-the-cheap Verde Station but had problems with it’s-not-gameplay-honest-guv Ethan Carter.