Category Archives: Videogames

“videogames” “video games” “digital games” – whatever your term, this broad category means any discussion by me or others on games.

Choice of Games

They do fun browser-based diversions – text-based choice games, which have fun stat-changing decisions and chapters. You can be a roaring Dragon or take part in a Hornblower-esk Navy adventure.

I never really seriously read “Choose your own adventure” books – I did have some but always cheated just to check out how the books worked, which was much more fun. Drawing out maps, getting through the game, was the fun part.

These however are fun and entertaining in their own right – and quite intelligently done. You get several chapters, several vignettes (they explain how to write your own, the blog is great at explaining the choices behind their games (including on genders). Also; nice theme 😉 ), which all press you into deciding some major action or other. It’s done so well and gives you a lot of agency – as they explain in their “Why” section.

I’ve not replayed any however; mainly because I’ve been fully satisfied with my own mini-adventure, being a Dragon or a member of the Royal Navy! I expect the choices you do make can be, as in most games, variable between a small change in text and a entirely different branch (and perhaps early end to the story). The interestingly devised stats change outcomes, and it does a great job at making it book-like without taking away your own agency – the actions are widely different a lot of the time.

In any case; these are easier then text-based adventures to navigate, fun to leap into and enjoy, and also are well written. Give them a shot if you’ve got half an hour or so to spare 🙂

Nostalgia in Historical Game Articles

This is just a brief thing; I’m trying to gauge the point of this here article. I mainly skim or don’t read The Escapist anymore so I have no idea if this is basically the standard for the weekly content the site was originally built on, but well, I’m still trying to think of the point.

The point appears to be a nostalgic reminiscence with a few bits of historical information thrown in. It is a article which is fine if you want a very basic bit of knowledge about what Dragon’s Lair is but that is it. Sadly, when it comes to historical articles, I am usually disappointed. In this case it is easy to point out some reasons why. It doesn’t make it a terrible article, just one without much of a point.

Framing the Game Against Nothing

Going with any kind of press release is infuriating in history, since they are always overblown and bad. So the first bit of the article simply regurgitates horrible marketing, fair enough.

However we never get a frame against what other things were out at the time. Even some rudimentary research into the actual games, and not a vague reference, as in this case of “Conventional games of the era were sprite-based, representing movement through a series of bitmaps displayed in succession”.

Then, later we get comparisons to contemporary games as if they were inspired solely by Dragon’s Lair. It might well have influenced quick time event games in general from that point onwards, but a lot more came out after Dragon’s Lair (and plenty of games basically were QTE games before it); especially which were not animated and a lot more “typical” QTE games on consoles and PC’s. The genre itself entirely failed since they were all so really really bad. Almost all FMV games were QTE based. Sigh.

The fact these are not even mentioned is bemusing, apparently the entire QTE industry just died soon after Dragon’s Lair (even though it was soooooo good!). Very selective revisionist history!

Leaving out Important Information

For some bizarre reason when expounding the love for the game, it is glossed over just how much the game cost to play; “during a time when a quarter got you a bus ticket, two seats at a movie and a hamburg steak, if my grandpappy’s stories are to be believed” – wha? What? That’s your accuracy?

Then we go onto why the games failed; perhaps the fact laserdisc machines broke easily and were expensive to do games for (and they worked in very specific technologically-limiting ways). Doing hand animation must have exacerbated these costs massively; the amount you can make from one expensive, if novel, game is limited. Perhaps the money train had gone, and it was a fad, but where are the stats to back this up? Perhaps it was there were just actually too few of them and they were too short so even a die hard fan could only spend so much? Do home consoles not factor into their decline either? Sure you’ve got the American 1983 crash (which might well have helped Dragon’s Lair), and afterwards a larger and larger increase in power; meaning proper home ports were available of the once-50cent-per-play game.

The main company Cinematronics was also acquired in the 1980’s so isn’t a vast change in management also an issue? Is Bluth and Dyer leaving an issue or not? Who knows why they left…the author sure doesn’t, and doesn’t cite anything of course, it’s pretty much speculation.

Creators Relation to Other Games

What else did Bluth and Dyer do after Space Ace? Apparently nothing? I don’t get how you can centre so fanatically on them, especially Bluth, without a followup besides “He’s got his own animation company” and “he saw the future” (yet it wasn’t to be! sarcastic sad face here.). I mean, for goodness sakes, his artwork is also in the sequel (also unmentioned) called Dragon’s Lair II: Time Warp!

It’s a shame since we also don’t know what Dyer even did before this game, which at least we got for Bluth. Space can’t be an issue (see “Questions”), especially also since I’ve seen articles much longer on The Escapist.

Platform Adaptations

“To date, Dragon’s Lair has been released 59 separate times across over 30 platforms” – please, at least qualify it properly that until major amounts of space were available, the actual gameplay in most of the 59 titles was no where near the original thus are name-tie-ins only, almost akin to “Videogames of the Film” – being platfomers, adventure games and, haha, not even having quick time events in them as such! That’s just lazy.

It is also odd since no connection is made even here between the availability of the game in it’s original form more-or-less and the rise of FMV games at the same time. It’s even funny to see him mention BluRay and DVD releases too.

Questions!

Who doesn’t like questions? Do you not like unanswered questions? Do you think questions are a cheap cop-out for actually putting some worthwhile words on paper? Do we agree that I’m using too many sentences to make this point?

Well, perhaps not:

“are games defined by form, or by content? Do you turn to games for stories or beautiful graphics? Or are you content with the bare bones of gaming – the stuff Bluth would contemptuously describe in Digital Leisure’s interviews as “little sticks and dots”? What ultimately do we desire from our videogames – control, or the illusion of control? Put simply – how much game do you want in your game?”

Gee, thanks for naming all that stuff, but not actually bothering to do anything with it. Most are pretty rubbish polarising questions with no answer (“Do you turn to games for stories or beautiful graphics?” doesn’t have to be one or the other!), the others are rhetorical at best such as “how much game do you want in your game?”.

Finally…Nostalgia!

Even after this deluge of questions Brendan basically carries on the nostalgia – even after hinting it is a “mongrel movie rather than game proper” nothing is questioned as to why it even was made this way. Nostalgia rules over the fact that even if these were the best looking games at the time the amount of effort to make them was astronomical and economically unfeasible (after all; the market is there for new or long lasting things, not playing Dragon’s Lair repeatedly especially at the cost it was – it simply wasn’t really a full game).

Perspective is everything and the article basically has none. It tries to make it up as a precursor to Metal Gear Solid 4 or Heavy Rain, yet makes no actual attempt to describe why such techniques are still used since they plainly didn’t work for Dragon’s Lair even after saying how often it fell flat on its face! He actually comments a little more in the comments about how the game was basically a way to get a short film out to people in Bluth’s own words – this is an area that could have used better examination, and contrast it versus todays games (or even the later FMV titles).

It is, admittedly, at least showed how a “game” which so little input obviously wasn’t long lasting. It perhaps is a testimonial to how you can make short term profit over anything else by making something look so ridiculously pretty. Perhaps too it led to the long deluge of bad QTE based games, or inspired ones that use QTE’s to never use them like Dragon’s Lair. It is worth a better, fairer article then it got here, since it had some influence at least in the art department, something that isn’t actually raised at all how the traditional artwork still isn’t used today much. There are many other points I could bring out but these ones apply well to many other historical articles I’ve seen. I’ll be on the lookout…and really should write some of my own or research games more.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2

The Bad Guy(tm)...who I can't shoot since it's a cutscene
The Bad Guy(tm)...who I can't shoot since it's a cutscene

I’ve not played much of the Battlefield series, but it has a grand legacy of small-to-medium-scale tanks and troop battles. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 has a passable basically rail-shooter singleplayer, but gorgeous first-person-shooter squad-based multiplayer.

Still Haven’t Finished the Singleplayer…

The B Team, the guys you really don't want to call...
The B Team, the guys you really don't want to call...

Thankfully it definitely doesn’t take itself too seriously, since the singleplayer game I’ve still not had the sheer will to complete yet. It is both ridiculously easy and patience-testing boring – however becomes hard when you’re thrown into fighting large amounts of enemies since you simply can’t shoot them all. This comes from them being relatively easy to kill (they barely take cover or move), but you too are easy to kill (you can only crouch and a few good shots – or missles – can kill you).

Not having to prone and peek around corners is a bit refreshing but I do miss it from Call of Duty 4 and STALKER. Still, crouching and having simpler controls means it is fast paced until it gets more annoying with enemy troops spawning in huge numbers.

Curse you Inevitable Betrayal!
Curse you Inevitable Betrayal!

In any case, it’s passable if boring. The characters are sterotypical and macho as per usual, and the plot is random and doesn’t make much sense but at least it gives you a good feel for how the game plays.

Okay, actually I finished it…just…

Since I was taking my sweet time getting screenshots I went ahead and finished the singleplayer, which took a matter of an hour or so in any case. Not much to report apart from a few screenshots! I mean, some really silly things; “brilliant” writing and sequel fodder.

What Brilliant Writing
What Brilliant Writing

Ace Rimmer POV
Ace Rimmer POV

End shot from the singleplayer AKA "Sequel Fodder"
End shot from the singleplayer AKA "Sequel Fodder"

Multiplayer! But where is my kit…

Testing my Eyefinity setup with Very Ultra Widescreen
Testing my Eyefinity setup with Very Ultra Widescreen

Leaping into multiplayer is both a great and a sad thing from the outset. I did it only a few levels into the singleplayer and came off none-the-worse since I’m a competent FPS player. This is good since there are no tutorials and also everything apart from your first weapon and a grenade is an unlock!

This meant as a medic I couldn’t heal anyone, as an engineer I couldn’t fix vehicle damage, and as a soldier I couldn’t provide ammo. Luckily a sniper just needs to snipe, so his default kit is the fairest (apart from he gets his ability to place a motion sensitive item as an unlock, but at least that isn’t heavily needed for combat).

I’ve got major issues with this kind of treatment. I am competent enough to learn the maps and have fun while ultimately suffering a massive amount of deaths to mortars, guided missiles, super-explosive grenades, high powered shotguns…just to name a few. It takes a fair few hours to make the basic class unlocks, which is a real shame and I’m putting it down as by far the worst aspect of the multiplayer right now! 🙂

Multiplayer Joy!

Multiplayer shot
Multiplayer shot

The rest is a joy however; it is fast paced, seemingly balanced gameplay with a lot of tactical combat options available. Usefully all the classes weapons can actually kill things, meaning cover and covering fire is useful – I’m so glad the medic doesn’t get a pokey gun! Aiming is a proper skill to get heavy fire on someone since headshots kill faster, and like the singleplayer there is no prone or corner-looking meaning you do get a decent shot back at someone who shoots at you.

You can also join a squad with up to 3 others that allows you to spawn next to them when you die (which when you do not have basic equipment is a godsend). Your squad can be given basic orders (as in what objective to take first), but more importantly you can point out enemies to your entire team by pressing Q. How useful! No more mini-map scouring for red dots, and enemies (especially vehicles) can be pointed out so others can shoot them or know where they are in their view.

Multiplayer in a tank of some kind
Multiplayer in a tank of some kind

The maps are also very fun to play in. You can blow up a great amount of cover and buildings, which is fun and strategic, especially for attacking a well defended position. I enjoy the Rush mode, where an attacking team has a limited time to destroy around 6-8 points (by planting a bomb there or simply throwing all your firepower at it for ages), 2 at a time, making the maps a manageable size. It never seems impossible to defend or attack either, and it swaps the teams over so both sides can play as defence or attack (and you even stick in the same squads when maps change! although sometimes one side can really be much better and dominate of course).

Vehicles are also included in many maps. Most require at least a second gunner to make full use of the equipment (and most have 4 passenger slots for an entire squad), and are highly entertaining to just blow up stuff with. They’re not game unbalancing either, since certain classes have the materials to stealthily or loudly blow them up, and they also can’t kill everything but do help push forwards forces into what are otherwise kill zones, or at least distract those people trying to blow you up for others to get. Helicopters are something I’ve still not learnt how to use though – the lack of a tutorial for these complex beasts is a bit annoying!

Finally, there is no singleplayer deathmatch or other nonsense. The Battlefield series never had this of course, but it is worth pointing out that the game is balanced for multiple people on a team, so you never feel alone or outnumbered and always have friends to fall back on (or get revived by!). I’m also glad there isn’t anything like capture the flag – all the modes require some form of proper tactical offence and taking over areas, not just temporary in-and-out attacks.

Epic Fail - when you suicide!
Epic Fail - when you suicide!

So, if I didn’t have unlocks and things to “earn” I’d be enjoying it a ton more (I can’t ignore it though, I want these “specialisations” – I keep getting killed by people with them!), however the fast paced nature with a realistic slant makes it a joy to actually play. I’ve not heard any voicechat however, which is a shame – I need to play with some friends to really use the squad combat properly and work with my squad correctly.

IGDA Quality of Life SIG Committee Member

I’m not even in the games industry…why even try and be a committee member of the IGDA’s Quality of Life SIG? I think I can help is why!

It also might be a plus not being in the industry I’m only peripheral to at best, since I can’t really get fired for saying anything.

I’m also really happy if I can help get students more knowledgeable about the situation, and help facilitate the SIG to do great things. I’m going to be helping edit people’s own QoL stories, if anyone wants to contribute any, as well as help write or at least edit some of the white papers that the SIG will be doing. All this will hopefully grow the SIG so more rapid progress can be made, which is always awesome to see.