2012 has been an amazing year for games. I had meant to put together a post extolling the virtues of the top candidates for game of the year, but the list kept getting longer and longer, with more and more games that would have been obvious choices for a top-five list in any other year. The task was clearly beyond me. So, I enlisted the talents of Michael Abbott, Brandon Bales, Mattie Brice, Kate Cox, Denis Farr, Brad Gallaway, Brendan Keogh, Justin Keverne, Cameron Kunzelman, Kris Ligman, Eric Swain, and Dan Weissenberger. With my superteam thus assembled, let's look at some of the year's super games.
One thing that the video game industry needs to be more proactive in is the education of the general public with regards to video game schools or game design programs. When people think of gaming schools, they might think of the ones that get the most coverage like a DigiPen Institute of Technology or Art Institute of Vancouver. However, not everyone gets to attend these shining examples. Some aspiring Shigeru Miyamoto's and Ken Levine's might wind up wasting four years and tens of thousands of dollars at a less than reputable institution. That's where Extra Credits comes in to give some advice for anyone thinking about attending a school to actually become a game creator.
Before reviewing the new puzzle-platformer Pid, I had an opportunity to talk with Jakob Tuchten, Might and Delight's art director. If you're curious about hearing more on the next game from the studio that released the excellent Bionic Commando: Rearmed, this is the place to be.
We're still playing catch-up on the latest videos from our friends at Extra Credits, but thanks to their fondness for two-parters we'll be caught up in no time. This two-part presentation is about the often maligned and often underappreciated Spec Ops: The Line. It's an interesting listen given how much the Extra Credits crew seems to have really bought in to what Yager was selling.
The guys at Extra Credits discuss mechanics as a metaphor or "mechanics with meaning" and for a visual aid, they use an interesting game or non-game called Loneliness. A description wouldn't really do the game justice, but it is well worth your time to try it for yourself considering the game is free.
One of the more interesting things brought up in this two-part series though is the lack of trust game creators show the player. Modern game creators simply do not trust the player to fail, experiment or uncover any meaning (assuming the creators intend for there to be any) while playing. After playing Loneliness you might understand why. It is a pretty gutsy thing to attempt in a free game, imagine how it would be received should you require payment for a similar experience.
World War Z and The Walking Dead take a similar conceptual approach to the zombie apocalypse, but have fundamentally different views on human society. The basically optimistic World War Z suggests that social problems are a surface malady that the zombie apocalypse would strip away, letting the moral strength of mankind ultimately show through triumphantly. The Walking Dead, on the other hand, sees social order and altruism as artifice, a contortion of natural human behavior that falls apart once the zombies consume the social mass that held it in place.
Like many people who played Telltale's episodic game, The Walking Dead, I had read and enjoyed many of the comics beforehand. I appreciated that they took the subject seriously. I don't mean that in the sense of a John Romero film, where the zombies themselves are rather silly but serve to illustrate serious social questions. Rather, like World War Z, The Walking Dead decides on a set of rules about zombies and a premise about people, and unflinchingly follows those principles into the abyss.
Here's the full interview with Greg Rice, producer at the great indie studio, Double Fine Productions! If you're not already aware, Double Fine is the home of gaming legends Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert. Their past console successes include Psychonauts and Brutal Legend. Their more recent games include the downloadable wonders Costume Quest, Iron Brigade, Happy Action Theater, and Stacking!
....Oh yeah, and they raised millions on Kickstarter in mere days to fund their upcoming adventure game; and don't you know that Greg had a huge part in this!?
The guys at Extra Credits look into incorporating imbalance in a game. Ironically, imbalance is just the thing that when worked into character classes, weapons, tools and gameplay rules can wind up giving both the wet-behind-the-ears newbie and grizzled veteran new strategies as each plays and progresses through a game.
In the wake of the success of Obsidian's Project Eternity Kickstarter, supporters are eagerly watching the stretch goals to see what promised goodies will be put into the game. Meanwhile, I am hoping to see one thing left out: voice acting. Done correctly, voice acting can significantly improve a Japanese RPG. However, recording voices for characters diminishes a Western RPG, regardless of the reading's quality. For this reason, I feel that Western RPGs should avoid having voiced dialogue.
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