Archive for Videogames

DOOM over time




To continue on my last post about the time it takes to establish relationships in games (versus the time it takes to turn an enemy into a pile of giblets), they announced a new and extra-quishy version of DOOM in the works.

Now, I adore DOOM.  In fact, THIS is the game that got me back into pursuing game development as a career option.  When DOOM came out, I was sharing an apartment with a couple of High School friends (one of whom also went on to have a career in games) and the original, shareware version of this game became the entertainment of choice (at the time, however, I had an Amiga for 3d animation/rendering and so had to borrow my friend’s PC to play).

I’m not sure it could play it now.  In the intervening decades my tastes have changed a bit.  Part of this is the presence of my kids.  I found (post kiddos) that my personal tolerance for giblets has decreased quite a bit.  It was really bad when they were all 1-6yo, I couldn’t watch certain cop shows, I got all twitchy about certain movies, I couldn’t play certain games.  When the kids were new, my mind would simply project them into the middle of any dangerous situation, which made it very hard to enjoy a number of the harder-edged things that I once loved.

The point is, though, I have a long standing relationship with this game.  I’ll cheer when it comes out with a newer, bloodier version, perhaps not so much because it now has super-hyper-realistic splatter or an extra 3 miles on intestines in every level, but I’ll cheer because the franchise has some meaning for me.  Because I want to see it continue.  This new version of the game may no longer be what I am looking for in a shooter, but that doesn’t mean I feel we should stop making them.  I think there are a lot of people in the industry who feel the same way, they are cheering not so much because it’s now extra gory, or super-violent, they’re cheering because they have a relationship with the game that helped to reboot our industry and they want to see it live on.

Comics on Comics Podcast



Every once in a while I get invited to do something really cool, like guest on a podcast.  I have a fairly geeky nature and it’s taken me on a rather winding path through various interests throughout the course of my life.  Vito and I have crossed paths a few times, and since I was already in LA for E3 (the Electronics Entertainment Expo) he invited me to join James Thompson on his podcast to talk about a couple of comic book related topics.

This was a total blast!  The conversation was fun, the guests and hosts were all intelligent and on the ball, we probably could have kept going for another hour, but I think Periscope could only handle so much madness.

The Shortest Distance

Lets talk about shortcuts for a moment, shall we?  Emotional shortcuts, character arc shortcuts.  We want to hate them.  It’s pretty much universally understood that they are the lazy way to do things, and yet AND YET we persist in using them.  When you *really* think about them, they often take the form of stereotypes, and those can be an ugly thing in inconsiderate hands.

We know, as game creators, as designers and writers, that this is a cheap hack.  We drop in a set of conditions (bad*ss language, scar on the left cheek, military haircut, post-military drug addiction, murdered parents) with the purpose of triggering understanding on the part of the reader.  We are tapping in, for better or worse, to the decades of storytelling that has gone before so that we can sketch a character in a single paragraph, rather than taking the entire chapter.

Creating a fully rounded character takes time, it can take the course of an entire AAA videogame, or an entire novel to take that cutout and make it flesh.  But audiences, and critics, are impatient.  They all want to consume faster, they all want a fully rounded character presented up front and in a single paragraph so they can get on with things.  It often feels like what we are being pushed to create is simply a new version of the cardboard cutout, rather than being allowed to flesh out a character as they should be, over time.

to be continued…


Run, Barry RUN!

Augmentation is a funny thing.  In science fiction you tend to see integration, bionics, different and intimate ways of meshing machines with humanity.  Superhero fiction and Steampunk tends to be where you find the true gadgeteering.

Experimenting on live people tends to be frowned upon, so oftentimes you see these technologies developing not only in parallel, but there is a certain amount of reinventing the wheel.  The end result seen in these bionic boots mimics the result seen in the “kangaroo” boots that are already on the market. Is the engineering that creates this effect exactly the same?  Probably not, but the end result (that we as the potential user experiences) is very similar.

You see the same kind of thing happening in “bionics” (I’m defining this as “limb replacement” for the purposes of this blog).  There are a half-dozen solutions for getting a replacement hand to close on an object.  Some are simple, mechanical levers and dials operated by the off-hand, some are directly hardwired into the muscles, some use a conductive surface to “read” impulses under the skin, but they all have a very similar end result.


Three Gun Monte

This is a re-post from my Gamasutra Archive.  As Halo 5 approaches, I’m working my way back through Halo 4 and I’m very interested in seeing how the gameplay has evolved over the past few years.  The change from Bungie to 343 brought about some significant changes to the way the game played.  Not all “bad” but some things that took quite a bit of adapting to.




I’ve been playing Halo since the original demo at E3 many many years ago now.  Like so many of you, I’ve had the privilege of watching this IP evolve, go from being the Flagship title of the original XBox console to a product vast enough to change the way we think about entertainment (but that’s for another post).

My first thought, out of the box was (and you can find this on Twitter) “Holy sh*t, 343 brought their A Game…”  And I stand by that statement.  If this title were to stand alone, even without the decades of experimentation and innovation behind it, it would be worthy of the AAA rating.  I have my complaints, everyone does with a new game in a well loved IP, but one thing sticks out to me.

There used to be this Big Three in the level design.  Within the space of a single level there would be 1.  a place where you wanted to use grenades, 2.  a place where melee combat might be best and 3. a place where you wanted a hand-held weapon.  Might be in different places in different levels, but it was consistent enough that you had to *think* as you played through the game, because these changeups would happen inside the level.  You had to be able to assess where you were, what you had to hand and how best to use that.  You had to be quick on your toes, but it made you FEEL like the best of the best if you didn’t get your *ss handed to you.  If you started slogging too much, then you’d screwed something up, missed a cue, gone in for melee when what you’d really needed was the Battle Rifle or the Needler.

Halo 4, in contrast, almost feels like a “One Level, One Perfect Weapon” game.  When you come around the corner you can look at the layout, the architecture and you know, “okay, it’s all sniper shots from here on out”.  The combat change up *within* the encounter spaces seems to be gone.

And I guess this is what happens when you have a new set of minds working with an old and familiar franchise.  But I can’t help but wonder if this was a conscious design decision, if 343 decided to do away with that Big Three aspect of the original in favor of this One Level One Perfect Weapon approach, or if this simply reflects a difference in how they think a FPS ought to play.  OR, conversely (since I don’t know anyone over at Bungie or 343 to ask this of) was that Big Three a mistake?  Was it a random convergence of level design and gameplay and never intended to be the way things were supposed to be played.

I like to think, especially after hearing reports of the oodles of gameplay and focus testing that went on for the Halo franchise, to keep the “fun” factor vibrant, that there has been a conscious change here (hopefully something with an awesome payout as I near the end of the single-player game) and that there is a higher-concept at work that I’m just missing.  But I miss being able to make those assessments on the fly, being able to play smarter, not just with a bigger gun.