Showing posts with label adventure games. Show all posts
Showing posts with label adventure games. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

The Forgotten City (2021) revisited

I've written previously about murder in Skyrim, epic Skyrim fan game Enderal, and a very bushy Skyrim mod called The Forgotten City. Since then, the mod makers have remade it into a UE4 standalone time loop first person RPG called... The Forgotten City (2021)

From a game dev perspective, it's been fascinating to play. They had to rebuild Skyrim systems in Unreal... but what to cut and what to recreate? In this post, I compare and contrast the original and this modern remake from a dev / design perspective.

DISCLAIMER: I played the original mod and remembered much of it, so a total newcomer's experience would probably be different. Or maybe it wouldn't? Who knows.

SPOILER WARNING: this post spoils much of what happens in The Forgotten City (2021).

Friday, February 2, 2018

Video killed the video star: on "Un Pueblo De Nada" by Cardboard Computer

This post spoils Un Pueblo De Nada as well as a few parts of Kentucky Route Zero.

The newest Kentucky Route Zero interlude Un Pueblo De Nada is a "transmedia" narrative consisting of a 30 minute live action movie styled like a public access TV broadcast, a functioning real-life phone hotline to call, and a short tie-in narrative video game. I think it works as a transmedia narrative because it's so deeply concerned with this technology, especially the old deprecated media technologies like broken radios, rusty switchboards, forgotten overhead projectors, and dusty VHS cassette tapes.

A lot of transmedia narratives tend to focus on modern computing or the internet... but here, we're asked to imagine a vast archeaology of decaying technology. The iconic KRZ flat vector style evokes an era of older VGA games like Another World, the live action WEVP-TV broadcasts are styled as low resolution transfers from analog tapes, and I believe even the real functioning phone hotline seems to have extra static layered onto the voice recordings. Which is absurd, landlines used to be a vital communication technology... but to a filthy millennial like me, now it's just a salvaged material for making art. (As I dialed the phone number, I thought to myself, "how fun and quaint to dial a phone number on my phone!")

Friday, January 26, 2018

It's all about how you use it: on NSFWare, by Pierre Corbinais

This post is SFW-ish (somewhat Safe For Work, depending on your workplace)

Pierre Corbinais has a long history of making short poignant games about relationships and intimacy. (Before I had played this game, my personal favorite had been Tiny Soccer Manager Stories.) His choice of tool, Adventure Game Studio, is especially interesting -- this tool is very much not designed for Corbinais' abstract staging and gestural interfaces, but he makes it work anyway.

NSFWare, then, is a joyous and colorful collection of simple reflex-based games in an engine that is constantly trying to destabilize it. (When you press ESC, the quit menu confesses that it doesn't know whether the game is broken or not.) Corbinais' use of low-res neon pixel art is extremely effective here for several reasons: the bright nonrealistic color choices help soften the politics of porn, limited use of animation helps draw your attention to specific sex acts no matter how "small", and the chunkiness also helps mask how the engine wasn't designed for animated sequences like this at all.

Combined with the catchy minimalist beats and the retro-style rotoscoped animation handpainted in the Paint of Persia tool from diverse footage at Pornhub, this game makes a strong case for sex as craftsmanship: it's not how impressive or advanced your tool is, it's more about how you use it.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

On "The Loch" and anti-busybody small open world games

The Loch is a 2013 Scottish fishing RPG by Mitch Alexander. In it, you "fight" fish in turn-based JRPG battles symbolizing the experience of fishing. There's a variety of biomes to explore, each with different species of fish to catch, and it all takes place over a series of days with variable weather / variable NPC behaviors based on the weather.

It's pretty rough around the edges, partly due to short development time constraints (it was originally made for a 7 day Fishing Game jam) and partly due to the limitations of reskinning RPG Maker. There's very little tutorializing, and many core interactions don't feel very intuitive. No one really tells you you're supposed to go all the way south to advance to the next day and heal up, or that you have to equip X and then use skill Y to do Z... in this way, it departs a great deal from typical JRPG or RPGMaker game conventions.

But that departure from convention is also refreshing. Though "open world" carries connotations of large expensive 3D worlds, I'd like to expand the bounds of that genre and discuss The Loch as a "small open world" game. What marks an open world game is the repeated traversal of a space, and reflecting on how that space (or the player) changes over time. In this case, the world is a small Scottish lakeside village where everyone speaks in charming accents and encourages you to kick back and slow down.

Friday, February 8, 2013

On Limits and Demonstrations, and games as conceptual art.

This is a sort-of-review about Limits and Demonstrations, by Jake Elliott and Tamas Kemenczy. It gets just a little spoiler-y, but not in a way that'd seriously compromise your enjoyment.

Most people play chess with pieces and a board, but to many players that's not the actual game -- it's just a mnemonic aid, a thing that keeps track of chesspiece locations so you don't have to remember where your rook is. The people who live and breathe chess, however, can play chess just by reading chess notation in a book, which is to say that the game takes place entirely in their minds. This is more or less what happens when you lose a heated multiplayer match of Starcraft and agonize over what you could've should've didn't do, and wonder what alternate paths you might've taken. Likewise, I'd imagine the most skilled Starcraft players can play Starcraft entirely in their minds.

It's not just in games either: Beethoven was deaf but he could imagine the notes and harmonies so well that it didn't matter, and a Chinese concert pianist was jailed for 6 years but stayed skilled by "practicing in his head."

But I think game designers, designing games directly as a form of conceptual art, is still a relatively new thing.

Friday, January 25, 2013

More talk, more rock: on algorithmic game narratives, speculative narrative design futures, and "Shakespeare."

by Nexus

Last time, I wrote about procedural narrative in the context of "process intensity." Here, I expand more on designing the procedural / process part.

Back in an expertly-conducted 2011 Rock Paper Shotgun interview, Dan Pinchbeck argued that game development culture unnecessarily separates narrative from the rest of a video game:

"I just want story to be talked about as a gameplay element that sometimes isn’t there. It’s part of the set of tools that a game designer uses to create an experience – and it should be thought of along the same lines, as physics or AI or something more mechanical."

We have physics engines or texture libraries, so why don't we think of narrative as a modular "asset" or "engine" or "library" to be swapped around as well? Why can't narrative be more "mechanical." Where's all the narrative middleware? (Storybricks doesn't seem to be doing too well, unfortunately. I also don't agree with them, that proc narrative is mainly an AI problem...)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Tiny Soccer Manager Stories, by Pierre Corbinais

My very strong favorite of the TIGSource "Sports" compo is Pierre Corbinais' "Tiny Soccer Manager Stories." It's a 20 minute-ish puzzle game made in Adventure Game Studio that tasks you as a substitute junior high soccer coach, and your job is to balance the two teams to make sure everyone plays, even the kids who suck.

(INSTALLATION NOTE: To get this to run on my Win7x64 system, I had to change the settings to "Direct3D 9" windowed mode. Try that if it doesn't work for you.)
(HINT: If a particular puzzle gives you a lot of trouble, use the "Skip Puzzle" option in the menu. The game doesn't penalize you or limit you at all.)

I've whined before about how we should narrativize the sports genre, and I think TSMS does some really great things with game narrative using this roster mechanic -- it isn't the first sports mechanic that comes to mind, which just makes this all the more refreshing and novel. Here's why this game is awesome: (SPOILER ALERT)