Stories in games can be good. They should be good. But this list isn’t about the whole – grand scale, interwoven plot threads or dramatic storytelling – this list just about the words that carry the tale.
It’s also worth mentioning this isn’t too definite a top 5 and might be more of a list of games with writing that I personally liked. With that bit of criticism nullification swiftly out of the way, let’s get on with the list!
5. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Uncharted 2 was praised for it’s funny, charming, Whedon-esque dialogue. Unfortunately, as is the nature of the polished “summer blockbuster” style, it doesn’t provoke much thought or emotional response. It does provide enjoyable exposition and likeable characters, however.
This exchange between Nathan Drake and a female companion is mainly what earned it a place on the list:
“So, on a scale on one to ten – how scared were you that I was gonna die?”
“You were at least an eight.”
“You were a total eight.”
“An eight? Those Guardian things were an eight.”
“Are you kidding me?”
“Yeah, those were terrifying.”
“Then what’s a ten?”
“…Clowns over my death?”
“I, I hate clowns.”
“I hate clowns.”
“Oh my word. You thought I was dead.”
“No, you thought I was gone.”
“Yes, you did.”
“No, I had you all along.”
“I saw you shed tears. You shed a bunch of ’em.”
“It was raining.”
“No it was not.”
“You were unconscious and it was raining.”
“It was totally sunny out and you were bawling.”
“It wasn’t sunny and you were unconscious.”
“Whatever, I kept your tears in a jar. I have proof.”
“…I’ll give you a five, how’s that?”
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“The members of his karataam were killed by Tal-Vashoth but their disposal leads only here, to Saarebas and you.”
Er…What? Look, you’re clearly speaking English, so why have you just randomly made up words there? I’ve been playing this game for 20 hours and I still don’t know what you’re talking about. Why not just say ‘group’, ‘rebels’ and ‘the mage’?
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“This game is just unfair! I’m not even sure you can get past this part.”
“What? That bit was easy! There’s no challenge in this game at all.”
Challenge is a tricky term to discuss in video games. We probably all recognise exchanges like the one above, which demonstrate the relative subjectivity of the matter. Balance and difficulty present a complex riddle for game designers.
One of the important factors involved is the “punishment” for failure. Usually the player character will die and be sent back to the last checkpoint. The player then has to replay up to where they were originally.
It’s tempting to say no one likes doing that, but that would be ignoring the fondness for ultra-difficult NES era games and the slightly-more-than-cult following of Demon’s Souls.
But most have probably seen the human reaction when someone watching a game being played loses interest as soon as the player dies and is reset to an earlier position, like you rewound a few minutes of a film they were watching.
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Video games present us with a wealth of futuristic and fantastical technology, some more practical than others. The potential for this tech in the real world could be limitless. Scientists and engineers: These are your future goals!
Things you may expect that didn’t make the list: The gravity gun from Half-Life 2, the Portal Gun from Portal, Metal Gear Solid‘s Stealth Camouflage and…The Portal Gun again.
These hand-held spheres can capture, contain and release Pokémon of any size or weight at the whim of the user. How do they work? Nobody knows!
Does it cryogenically freeze the Pokémon? Does it shrink them? Do they have a little apartment in there with a tiny couch and very-mini-fridge?
Do Pokéballs work on inorganic matter? That would explain how trainers can carry a bicycle in their backpacks.
Either way, think of the real world implications of the mysterious transport devices for zookeepers or for shifting furniture!
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Picture the barren wastelands of post-apocalyptia. The remains of mankind have pieced together a few settlements out of the rubble, but most of the irradiated landscape is lawless nothingness filled with scavengers fighting to survive.
There’s probably a fair few games that spring to mind, eh?
It looks like games aren’t leaving this kind of setting behind any time soon. But we’re yet to see a single game that’s really captured what I’d like to see out of this idea.
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To explain the motivation behind last week’s post – I recently bought a second-hand copy of Brothers In Arms: Road To Hill 30 from a charity shop.
My worries about running a six year old PC game on a modern machine were compounded when I saw the Ubisoft logo on the box. Previous experience tells us they are not good with this.
But to my surprise, there was no hard drive formatting or any death lasers. The game ran just fine. Unpatched, no less. So maybe I was a little unfair on Ubisoft for that one – but I just couldn’t let the image of copy protection taken to the maxtreme go.
Anyway, the purchase did remind me of the problem with the short-sighted nature of gaming lately. With things like EA’s multiplayer activation codes or the Cerberus Network codes for Mass Effect 2 – all designed to fight second hand trade-ins.
But if you think about people in countries that are a little less privileged and are away from the cutting edge of gaming that we reside on. Folks who might be finding an old sports game that will be the only thing for them to play on an ancient Xbox 360 they’re lucky enough to have.
Or years down the road, maybe Microsoft or Sony go the way of Sega and die out. Think of those that will be stumped by the in-game DLC advertisements in Dragon Age if Xbox Live is gone or totally different.
They could be playing these games on a relic of a console, through some kind of crazy backwards compatibility or even an emulator. Think of all the pre-order bonuses lost in time.
I’m all for stopping the kind of people that trade in games seemingly hours after their release. I understand trying to fight piracy or the questionable second-hand business of game shops. But there will be a shelf life on these games and a point at which companies will have made all the money they’re going to make off a title.
We ought to preserve the games of the present for the gamers of the future. Companies should consider what it will be like looking back on these games in fifteen years time.
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Ubisoft announced plans for their new DRM (Digital Rights Management) this week, ready for Assassin’s Creed 3.
“We realised there were flaws with our previous piracy protection measures.” Max Béland, creative director of Splinter Cell: Conviction, explained.
He referred to the 256 character CD keys, install limits, frequent online activation and their most recent DRM attempt that formatted the entire hard drives of suspected pirates.
Although not explicitly mentioned, this new change was likely prompted by the waves of complaints and lawsuits over the loss of irreplaceable family photos, important work data and ‘that novel you’ve been working on for years’.
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…Are starting to get a little overused, no? Even Obsidian has tried copying them in Alpha Protocol.
This way of handling conversation trees was perfect for the cinematic style of the Mass Effect series. They still do a great job of making the player feel like the hero, but the game does give the protagonist a voice, fewer options and a level of canonical personality.
Compared to traditional dialogue selection, it disassociates the player character from the actual player, which can hurt the level of immersion. Rather than putting you in the shoes of a space badass, it puts you in the very specific shoes of this particular space badass.
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There was a point when the immersive strangeness of this game dawned on me.
When a fatally wounded, dying woman rose up from the ground. To suddenly prance around, casually describing the eroticism of a nearby sculpture as if giving a guided tour of the art gallery. She mumbles the words due to her tongue having been bitten off. While coughing up blood and red seeds.
I remembered that I didn’t find this particularly odd at the time. Didn’t bat an eye. Why? Because I was playing Deadly Premonition.
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- How do you play PC games?
- Gaming confession: Downloadable games and content
- Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Intentionally up this week! These were drafted a long time ago and have now been condensed into the third entry in the Topical Multitude trilogy for your reading pleasure.
How do you play PC games?
How I played PC games.
I started this a long time ago. Grim Fandango on PC operated on the movement keys, and with Half-Life and onwards it just became a thing for me. Eventually I was changing the set up for every PC shooter I played.
Playing Portal for the first time and going on to play ArmA 2 and Fallout: New Vegas, I forced myself to use the standard WASD controls. Maybe I’ll get used to them one day.
What’s your keyboard layout for gaming?
Gaming confession: Downloadable games and content
I missed all of these.
Time to lose some credibility – I don’t buy game content online. I don’t get paid downloadable games or content. I only buy physical media.
I can’t be bothered with the hassle of the transaction and I don’t have the gigabytes to spare on my console hard drives. I certainly don’t want to deal with Steam, never mind XBL or PSN.
Which means I missed out on games like Braid and Flower. I will probably miss out on Journey and most importantly – won’t get to fill that final character slot or clash with the Shadow Broker in Mass Effect 2 .
What’s your take on the downloadable game front? Have you traded money for digital copies of gaming goodness? Had any good or bad experiences?
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
This should be required playing for every gamer.
I replayed Uncharted 2 again recently. It was even greater than I remembered. This is despite my being one of the few people that didn’t like the first Uncharted at all.
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