While I’ve still got a major post (ie; involving lots of screenshots I’ve not finished yet) on a ton of indie games I got in packs in the Steam sales, this is a quick overview of the better games released in 2010 I’ve played; quick because I don’t need to bother with screenshots, huzzah! (I’ll also promise to myself to post more stuff here…). This was also posted on the WDG forums I frequent often, although expanded a bit with some late additions. Some of these games I should post about in more detail sometime.
Some good games; no real priority, certainly no stupid top 10 or rankings or numbers. Nothing stood out as “dammit beyond dying you must play this”. Wow, having revised this list it still has so many sequels…
Metro 2033 – Not finished the SP yet, for goodness knows what reason, it’s like the last level (expanded note: It was an annoying last level). Still utterly fun though up to that point. Kudos points for not being a sequel of any kind!
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 + Vietnam – I was late to the party, but loads of fun in multiplayer. The SP is passable and helps you to learn the weapons a bit. Vehicles, large maps and always team based gameplay with no silly perks appeals. One issue is the stupid levelling system, go go gimped new players…urg.
Dawn of War 2: Chaos Rising – Excellent expansion pack since I thoroughly enjoy the singleplayer; just so over the top action. Can be quite hard too which is great. Can redistribute your squads points after the first mission (thank goodness), so gets points redistributed to more powerful aspects for that 😉
Fallout: New Vegas – Everything Fallout 3 fell down on (factions interacting, banal main plot, out of character factions, some terrible weapon selections and the game being damn easy with insta-stimpacks, and also terrible companions) was improved and bettered. An interesting world with actual fascinating intrigue and a better enemy faction of your choice, and still retained all I liked about Fallout 3 – exploration and so forth. Improved massively with a radio mod for more tracks though.
Mass Effect 2 – Fast paced “epic” shooter-RPG-kinda-thing. The combat/RPG levelling was to me oversimplified and the combat, if not especially difficult, was certainly frustrating in places since it is basically only you killing things and you get limited ammo. Still apart from some blatant plot hiccups (bloody idiot Shadow Man being the most blatant and dumbfounding one) it had some more fascinating characters and places to visit, and I still love the voiceacting and sheer character of the games. Mining minigame can bugger off though, so much wasted time on that stupid thing. Extra points for being a sequential sequel – one where actions in the first game, some rather small, do have some kind of impact on the new game.
BioShock 2 – Dare I say a good sequel – enjoyable levels, nice upgrades this time (fear my drill and named sentry bots!), a more coherent plot throughout and some very inventive work put into some parts of the game and it certainly is much more fun to play. Bonus points for
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat – A great end to the first set of STALKER games (they’re making STALKER 2 now right?), being part of the military gives me the ample canon for a faction I otherwise was fascinated with but never got to talk to, the levels were well tuned and some more demanding decisions being made of me to actively do one thing or another, rather then general side missions (which more fully influenced the much more complete ending too). Was fun to decide what to do; and the AI was great this time (more times you played in a group, was good fun doing so). I don’t think I even needed a weight mod this time, but those are easy to find to stop the curses of inventory management.
Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth – A damn fun game. Not too challenging, but was rewarding and seeing you move around more actively was just more pleasing then static screens and more involvement in evidence use and “logic”. No courtroom drama is a real shame, but it still pulled something similar off, and was much better then the last Ace Attorney game (which suffered from a terrible main cast; this one actually has some good cast members, and I still love Gumshoe 🙂 ).
Assassin’s Creed II – Still playing, but damn it is so much better then the first game. Sadly no skippable cut-scenes still, but they’re not hours long either (still a shame if you exit and have to re-watch them again if you close the game). Extra assassination missions outside of the main plot and more combat moves/enemy types make it very fun; you really feel you have the power to kill anyone this time. Slightly more checkpoints, mission restart/cancel options and less “stop playing the fun part of the game for 10 minutes of walking around a single room” experience then the first helps too (the over the top plot is instead ingested with minigames in the past world).
Pokémon HeartGold – Yes, addictive handheld nostalgic (but still good) play-on-the-bus fun. Best game in the series is still the original Gold and Silver, and this remake captures most of that again (missing is the much better AI that was always on in the original, the room decorating and Espeon from Red 😉 also why can’t you flight from one side of the map to the other?). Now I am just waiting for Black and White… 😉
StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty – Singleplayer == good clean, if very predictable levels (mainly) although utterly unsatisfying plot-wise (with points docked for horrible NPC’s, backstory “we knew each other all along honest” cutscenes, some really really awful actors, and no mention of the UED at all with most of the original game having seemingly not happened). Multiplayer still makes me wince, and I dare not go back there unless I had severe help.
Mount and Blade: Warband – Multiplayer is a damn fun addition to the game actually – the c-rpg mod makes it a wee bit more persistent and less wacky then the normal one (which is still pretty fun but strange how gold is distributed in a kind of Counterstrike way). The revised map and actions in the game are okay too – much better then the original, more balanced, and you can become king/queen now – recommended if you’ve never played the game at all 😀
Just Dance 2 – As a party game, utterly great silly fun you don’t need to “play certain things to unlock the good stuff”; yes I love silly disco dancing 🙂
Mafia 2 – Still playing this one, about half way in. Some major clichés and parodies/homages/references don’t stifle the quick-witted dialogue and actually likable main character and close friend, mixing some humour into the drama which moves along through mostly short cutscenes (which are skipable, take that Assassins Creed!). Reasonably fun melee fighting on top of cover-based fighting makes for a patient combat system, but is kept interesting by each mission essentially being setpiece upon setpiece. Exploring the pretty dead city isn’t great except for buying flashy suits since the police, for how little the missions actually involve them so far, do take some effort to get away from in the old cars (they don’t, however, do much unless you are speeding or hit them or a pedestrian, which makes navigating easier). Gets double points for basically including, so far at least, 2 era’s and separate seasons. Sliding around in an icy 1940’s or the summer of the 1950’s. Fedora’s look good in both 😉
Got to play more of: Alpha Protocol (why haven’t I played this? just…kinda left the disk and never installed it!), Napoleon: Total War, Civilization 5 (this just does not appeal still for some reason; I think I love civ4 that much more, I did try again recently…) Just Cause 2 (although should be completely insanely over-the-top), Batman Arkham Asylum (I only brought it this year…not even booted it up), Professor Layton and the Unwound Future (still playing…is it all a dream again? or is this going to go mental and be actually real?) and others.
Still not brought Golden Sun: Dark Dawn or Super Scribblenauts yet though. I’ve also played a wee bit too much AI War, League of Legends (still a PITA to install dammit, but good with friends) and Team Fortress 2 from earlier years, heh.
Man, I really should play Alpha Protocol; at least then the list of “original 2010 mainstream games” I’ve played will double from 1 to 2 (admittedly there are more originals I haven’t or wouldn’t or can’t play here). I’ve resigned myself to knowing next year will be little different according to what’s going to be released; I should probably do some kind of list…wait, no, lists with no content are terrible, and there is already one here (spoiler: almost all are sequels).
GameCity 2010 was a while back; 27th to the 30th of October. This is a late report, with all the pedantry of trying to remember things from it that are worth reporting on!
Talks, Panels and Notes
Firstly, I have done some rather lengthy notes this year. This comes from doing them on my laptop at the time; so there are quite possibly errors and it isn’t a word for word account 🙂 In any case, I’ll link to the relevant ones as I go through what was fun and so forth. I didn’t get to everything though, and I can’t point to a “Calendar of events” on the GameCity website (which was at http://my.gamecity.org/events ) since it has now disappeared.
Before the Event
GameCity was generally well run and fun this year. There was no horrible Gatecrasher venues, there was most of the events up in advance of the week, although knowing about things more then a few weeks in advance is something they need to strive for 🙂 On one hand I was discussing this with someone and having less people coming keeps it more low-key and more a Nottingham feel, but I opposed this and say if I want friends to come I need to show it’s worth booking travel tickets, holiday time (they have jobs!) and hotels in advance. In any case I hadn’t the nerve to get anyone outside of Nottingham to come up, more the shame to me really – some would have enjoyed it 🙂
One oddity: you could “favourite” events which seemed to put you on a list for events. Stewards were weird, so I booked everything on the first day once I got almost turned away from something. I heard some people got turned away in spite of the rooms not nearly being full too…must try harder! either first come first serve, OR pay for tickets, not a bad mix of both. 🙁
The tent was good; I never bothered with the EA side, each to his own but exercise can’t be thrown at me like that (with the full set of crass marketing too. I suppose it’s all sponsorship money though). The other side was cramped but good enough – Crysis was well laid out at the side for instance, and the projector games generally were far enough at the back to not get in the way. The other odd thing was not enough chairs and tables, especially for Gambling Lambs! It meant a lot of standing around, and put me off staying there for very long, a shame really. However what went on there was fine even if I didn’t bother with Saturday’s Mario stuff, since I wanted more indie games dammit! 🙂
Oh, and on Gambling Lambs – it was great, got to play Dixit, which is a game where you have to describe a scene in a generic storytelling fashion but not be too accurate; it’s great to play a second time once you work out actually what to do. There were other games to be had too – and David Hayward put on a brilliant Laser Trap Scene Test at Lee Rosy’s, as in any good spy flick needing lots of smoke to see lasers to disarm the bomb! I did it successfully, and was very fun! 🙂
Shame there was no Kinect or Move playable demos. I have no clue what Microsoft and Sony are doing here (apart from Sony apparently hates GameCity) I just don’t know how you can get people to buy such interactive things without being able to try them. There was the Kinect talk, which was okay, but didn’t exactly let me try it 😉
To outline; it’s a deception and infiltration game, where you as a party guest have to mimic an NPC while performing certain tasks, while a sniper, a second player, tries to find out who you are and snipe them. As the base game mode, this is just brilliant fun in itself and I can see how it can be easily played online. Chris mentioned possible other modes, more players (multiple spies or snipers, working in teams even) and other changes; well worth looking out for. Gets the “Game of GameCity” award from me!
Jonathan Blow had a double act; a nice sum up of Braid’s design, and his new game The Witness which looks interesting, but I hope doesn’t have too many tutorials; it could get annoying. Still, he’s someone you could rely on to really polish and make a very strong game, which is what I’m looking forward to.
Comedy and Music
There was an evening of Comedy by OneLifeLeft; the jokes were soemtimes groan worthy from the presenters, but still damn enjoyable and fun (although Ste sure is one who does very harsh critical humour!); they should think more highly of themselves for doing it. The comedians were a fine lot; some geeky stuff, some game related material, and one comedian who I’ve seen before at the Fringe (a shame; since I’ve heard some of his stuff before obviously). Well worth attending, had me in fits 🙂 I’d give it 7 out of 10.
The music evening in the church was good pretty much because the composer James Hannigan did Red Alert 3’s main theme “Soviet March” – and it was done better live with the main part being sung by a woman then the theme in game! (I wish I could have recorded it!). The spy music from Evil Genius was good too – the rest, well, I’ll be frank and say that without them telling us what games they were from, which they didn’t, I had no clue if the tracks were Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, or any number of other different orchestral soundtracks he’s done – a shame really, since some were pretty fun to listen to. There was only the Pinewood Singers in attendance; not a full orchestra, which worked well given it was a church.
Retro Remakes, History and Parks
Finally, there was a good panel on retro remakes, the only thing that could have improved it was explaining what a remake was and giving some examples then and there. Coupled to the old stuff side is a panel I attended on game preservation, which sadly lacked the major major problem now occurring: DRM. The British Library might want to get a copy of every game made, but it’ll be useless if the consoles and platforms they run on break isn’t it? 🙁
Also an odd talk was done by Keita Takahashi who is designing a park for the nearby to me Woodthorpe Park; I’m looking forward to it, but I’ve no idea if any of the designs will actually be completed!
On the indie side was a good panel called “What’s the Point?“; a shame it was over lunch (like the preservation panel) since it was harder to take notes, but in essence it was good to hear the two sides to working, what indie is, about game jams and other things. I did get to play several indie games too – apart from Spy Party, there was Ben Bradly’s Substream, much improved from GameCityNights, and I talked to the creator of VVVVVV a bit too (and the musician too), who are both totally cool dudes. I aim to play more VVVVVV – now I’ve finished some other games 🙂
The last thing really to note was the Vision Statement by Iain Simons – good points to note, he wants to do more GameCity and game stuff, but wants nothing to do with Sonys kind of marketing. It was a rather nice thing to see him explain about it and name some names, and I fully agree about many other things he went into detail – always needing the newest stuff, interactive entertainment and “now being mainstream”.
I missed several things however – the music of Limbo, an indie game producer from somewhere, and the morning panels at breakfast – I felt rather ill so got up late every day sadly – it wasn’t too convenient to get there, but sounded interesting.
So overall it was a lot more fun then last year in most places, although it felt more empty with much less to do at times, mainly due to scheduling no doubt. I say bring on next year with agusto, like I said, hopefully with some forewarning about what is going on before the month it is on 🙂
Great opinion article by Chris Hecker’s about his comments taken out of context, poorly reported and generally the stupidity of the gaming press. I have dozens of articles I read about how bad it is, but it is nice to read one from someone affected by just how ridiculous it is.
I’ve put my notes up, sans photos. I should get photos and a post about the event in full up soon(ish)!
I want to bring up a good talk from Chris Hecker about achievements; Achievements Considered Harmful?.
Why? Apart from it being bloody interesting, it reminded me when it popped up from another blog – I had a discussion, ever so briefly, with a few guys at a GameCityNights event at the start of the month. All the common arguments came up from them – “can ignore them” and “new playstyles” (and of course “I enjoy them” – these were both men; seems research points to this kind of reward being less important to women). I am glad Chris went over these and I now know a reasonable way of explaining why they are invasive especially on design; he himself says he will try and do something as a test with the Xbox limitations.
You might realise I’m not a fan. To me they’re invasive, annoying, and change the gameplay in games to allow such actions to exist (for no other good reason). For instance I abhor all the Valve TF2 achievements – once I have the weapons I then ignore them, they’re intended to be a fun addition but instead turn into a complete barrier to progress. This is anecdotal, and I don’t care 😉 These kinds of rewards are rubbish to me in any case and don’t encourage anything from me. No gnomes are going into space for me.
I however agree; more research needed (with less bias, hehe), and his Q&A is well worth listening to where he clarifies a lot of the things involved in his talk. I mainly also don’t want to ever play a game where you’re paid to play, urg…it’d be more like the gaming (gambling) industry then anything else.
I was discussing hats with my mum, leading onto Bowler hats (on from Trilbies, Top Hats and my current wear, Fedoras). “Bankers hats” surely? Typical bizarre coincidence; this turns up in the Guardian, hehe.