Tag Archives: video games

The Walking Dead video game

So, due to yesterday’s purchase of some Megamind/B.O.B the Blob DVD from the cheapy bin, I was able to grab a few moments of quiet this morning to check out the latest Game Informer magazine, despite it being Spring Break this week.

First of all, I wanted to address a few of the quotes from a feature called “Overheard at the GDC” (Game Developers Conference).

“At first glance, the logic [of targeting everyone] makes sense. Super mainstream games such as Fruit Ninja, Angry Birds, and Cut the Rope have each sold ten of millions of copies. Attempting to replicate that success is natural. But in reality, if you are making a game for everyone, you are actually making a game for no one. The hit-based mentality takes you away from making a game that has a soul or is fresh.” -Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery creator Nathan Vella

Well, I’m not even going to explain to you writers why I’m passing that on.

“Personally, I don’t think I can ever follow up Minecraft, and I don’t need to. I still want to make games, but it is a bit scary to think that maybe I’ve already made my magnum opus.” – Minecraft creator Markus “Notch” Persson

Hey, look, creators of awesome video games get subsequent book syndrome too.

“Lots of people want to make indie games, and they are usually waiting for permission to do it. All the information is right there. Just find some people and make a game.” -Doom co-creator John Romero

We talk a lot about putting out quality work, about studying and working on your craft, and not asking for money for your work until you actually have a product that’s worth charging money for. But, yeah, at some point you do have to stop waiting for permission and just take the leap. And besides, the best way to do that working on your craft thing is by, you know, doing the work. (Writing.) There’s a balance there, and I’m afraid I don’t know how you tell when you’re ready. I just know that if you ask everyone, there will always be someone around to dissuade you from moving forward.

I like the tone of that quote. Just go do it. Stop making a big, hand-wringing, forever-researching deal about it and just get it done. Then move on to the next one.

So those were some interesting thoughts from artists in another field.

Okay, so the highlight of this issue for me was the article on The Walking Dead from Telltale Games. This is supposedly set to begin in late April, as a monthly series for XBox, PS3, and PC, meaning it’s a digital download game, not a go buy the disc thing. It’s a single-player adventure that (I think I read in a different article) takes place at the beginning of the series while Grimes in in the coma. Your role is that of convict, Lee Everett, who escapes during the chaos of the beginning of the apocalypse. Along your journey, you’re supposed to hook up with a total of nine other characters for your party.

What interested me most about the article was it talked about player actions influencing the story. You know I’m into that. And this game seems to have a lot to do with group dynamics–you know, relationships. How you choose to treat the different people in your group and the actions you choose to take change the story you play through.

Anyway, I’m sure a bunch of you are saying, “they had me at ‘Walking Dead video game.'”

Anyone already have plans/pre-orders for this?

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Jane Austen video game??

Matches and MatrimonyI’m so there.

Mass Effect 2Amazon’s got a lot of video games on sale this week. Like Mass Effect 2 (from Bioware, makers of Dragon Age) for $4.99 and BUNCH of casual games for $1.99 each (click link, scroll down). That’s how I found the Jane Austen based Matches and Matrimony.

A while back, I posted about what games I was playing and how I had really Surviving High Schoolenjoyed the text adventure, Surviving High School that I had found in the DSi Shop. It was in that post that commenter, Lisey, recommended Bioware games to me and got me started down that path, but still I really like the simplicity and choose your own adventure/romance of a game like Surviving High School.

Matches and Matrimony was fun. It’s not very complicated or active and if that’s what you need, look elsewhere. It’s mainly a fan game with a lot of reading. While it starts out very much in Pride and Prejudice, the story–at least the one I played through, was a combination of Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Persuasion. There are three Bennet sisters, Jane, Lydianne–a combination of P&P’s Lydia, S&S’s Marianne, and Persuasion’s Louisa, and your character, whom you may name yourself or will be named Lizzy by default.

Game play consists partly of choosing skill-building activities for your character each week, Regency appropriate activities that build the Recency period desired characteristics of Wit, Willpower, Talent, Sensibility, Kindness, and Propriety. These, and your character’s energy level, affect what actions will be available during gameplay. The other part of the gameplay is the choices your character makes about actions to take and responses to other characters.

Matches and Matrimony Screenshot

There are 8 suitors, one named Wickeby, who seems to be a combination of Wickham and Willoughby, as well as Bingley, Darcy and others you meet along the way in the game. There are 9 possible endings. In a feat of spectacular matriomonial fail, I managed to unlock the “Miss Bennet” ending when I played and married no one.

I totally felt like this was worth $2, and maybe even the regular price of $7 if you’re a big Jane Austen fan and know all the books/movies practically by heart. It’s fun to see how the game marries the various storylines. Good luck dissuading Mr. Collins, though.

I would totally support a Buffy game of this nature, just sayin’.

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I have never been more a part of a story…

There are a handful of things I’m thinking and want to talk about today, surrounding the fact that I JUST finished Dragon Age Origins.

First of all, the important newsy news for those of you who witnessed the aftermath of my messy breakup with Alistair. I went back in time, way back to the earliest save I had, and played it again. I’m happy to report that this time I did better, I put Alistair on the throne and pretty much told him he’d be marrying me. And he fell in line, the way he’s supposed to, which is really so much more in character for him than the disaster that happened before.

I had a bad moment of deja vu there. The Landsmeet went so much better. No big battle and bloodshed in the hall, just the duel with Loghain, the other guy grabbing for power who was responsible for the death of the previous king. This time I was so badass that I hardly took any damage before Loghain yielded. That was cool.

Anyways, after the cut found me back in the same room as last time with Alistair bursting through the door. And I was like, oh no, not again! Cringing, waiting to get dumped again. But it was cool. He was like, so, we just got engaged? And he seemed pretty happy with that. So whew. That was awesome. See, real Alistair doesn’t mind me telling him how it’s going to be. Alistair likes that. I don’t know what that was about before.

“If I could turn back time

If I could find a way

I’d take back those words that hurt you

and you’d stay” —Cher

So I really loved playing it through again, not only because I understood the game better, was better at it, saw more of it, but because the going back in time part kind of blew my mind a bit. It was like that thing–okay, YOU probably don’t do this, but–where you go back in your head and do it all over again, with full knowledge of what you did wrong the first time, yet no one else has any idea that all of this has happened before.

As soon as I can figure it out, I’m totally plotting a book where this is a Talent. Our heroine, with some kind of ability to travel the timeline, must go back and do things differently. Of course, before traveling back, she will have been heinously dumped by her asshole boyfriend, whom she now despises. But when she goes back, he’s got no idea how things turned out between them. And he’s that guy again, that guy she fell in love with. He’s not the same guy who treated her so appallingly. Everything can be different this time.

Because it was really kind of fascinating to me to be playing this role, to still be pissed off at Alistair, and still charmed by him all over again. Reminding myself that this wasn’t the guy, and I can’t hold this guy responsible for what that guy said.

There’s a reason time-travel romance was a thing. It’s fascinating. Though we’ll just all agree, up front, that the Terminator will always rule.

Anyway, by now I shouldn’t have to actually tell you how epic this game is and that you should all play. And the last thing I want to mention today is an article in this month’s Game Informer magazine, an opinion column on “The Future of Media,” written by Brandon Sanderson. I wish I could find the article online to link you to it. I’ll give you the intro quote from the article:

“I remember how I felt when I first played Final Fantasy VII. I suspect my reaction was not unique–I came out of that game feeling, for the first time, like I’d played a movie.

“I think that’s the first inkling I had of what was to come, what is still coming. More and more, it seems that traditional lines between entertainment media–film, book, game, song–are blending together. I think that video games hold the future of what we might call the ‘uber-media’ form. The combination of all traditional arts into a single experience, mixed with the new art of the 20th century–the art of guided participation.”

Lest you brush off Sanderson as some gamer yahoo who couldn’t possibly know anything about books, if you follow the link above you’ll see that he was the author chosen to complete Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, amongst his other works.

He’s not talking about the end of the world as we know it, though. He states, “the book works as it is.” Yay for that. But it’s a really interesting view of the possibilities of telling stories to the gamer audience, both through games and beyond the games. Sanderson calls for these stories to expand on what’s in the game, rather than tell the same story over and over. He suggests, “We can release a super-package, where a fan can buy–in one download–a film, a parallel book that shows the story from another character’s viewpoint, a game that lets you play the prequel to the film, and the soundtrack.”

Sounds pretty interesting to me, especially having been totally wrapped up in my first “playing a movie” experience when I came across the article. If the subject of hybrid media and where it’s going is of interest, you might stop by a Gamestop and read it. Bring your glasses, the print in this thing is appallingly tiny.

Meanwhile, if you haven’t bought this game yet, you’re a huge slacker. What are you going to do for Thanksgiving, watch sports, the dog show? Come on.

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Zelda, Dragon Age, and the power of choice

So you know how lots of us are into the motivational prizes? Just get your work done and you’ll win the right to buy this thing you want or some free time to do that thing you’ve been wanting to do. I’m sort of meh on whether or not this kind of self-denial really works for me. After all, if I deny myself one thing, I can keep from doing it, but I’ll often just do something else instead, defeating the purpose.

I realize that, while I used the excuse of entertaining my girl who likes to watch video games and play vicariously, I kind of substituted playing Zelda Twilight Princess on the Wii while denying myself Sims Medieval. And as I said in a recent post, I’m interested in seeing how Link’s story turns out. I want to know more. But I don’t love the game.

In the comments to that post, Lisey suggested I check out Bioware’s offerings. And as I was not feelin’ the love for Sims Medieval, I did. So I went out and got Dragon Age: Origins.

Oh. My. God.

Thank GOODNESS this was after I had finished the draft because, dude, it became my full time job to save Ferelden from the coming Darkspawn. Like, seriously, I was in that game at least 40 hours in the first week I had it. I could hardly stop playing it and I could not stop thinking about it. After that full-time week of work as a Gray Warden, I went down to Florida (where I managed to play it some more even though Disney is exhausting). In the car on the ride down, when my brain should have been working on book 3 of the Talent Chronicles, all I could do was daydream game fic.

I haven’t even come close to finishing the game, but now that my world’s opened up to this new genre for which I obviously need a 12-step, I’m already shopping around for “more like this.” And I’m also trying to figure out what it is about this game that makes me love it so much. Of course nothing ever comes down to just one thing, but here’s one I’ve been thinking about. (And you might want to take into account that I’m not an experienced gamer, so I may get stuff wrong or express ideas in some non-standard way. The console I had before the Wii was Atari 2600.)

There’s only one way for Link to go about saving Hyrule. You go the way you need to go, you fulfill the tasks you need to do, you slay the boss that needs slaying, and you move through the game in a very linear fashion. You do something else, you’re no longer moving forward and it’s obvious you’re not moving forward.

My Hero in Dragon Age has a lot more choice. And the choices matter. At one point, early on in the game, we came to a town that was having a lot of problems and the Darkspawn (the vicious hoard of underground monsters that are coming above ground to take over) were getting closer. I had a certain direction, something that needed to get done, and not being familiar with the game, I moved through the town fairly quickly and on to complete my task. I never stopped in the tavern, so I never met an important character in the story. That decision changes my story. The town was overrun by the Darkspawn after that and is closed to me. I’ll probably never meet that character. Parts of the game will never open to me (unless I play it again) because of that decision.

Now on one level, hey, that kind of sucks. But on another, how much importance do I now feel in my decisions? What I choose to do matters in a way that’s different from other games, because certain choices by me can radically alter the story I’m experiencing. And that’s actually pretty cool.

So today is Monday, and on Mondays I talk about writing. Do I have a writing point to make? Well, other than to confess how much I really want to write Choose Your Own Adventure right now, I think the lesson I get from this is that choice matters. Or it should.

Know what’s hard sometimes? Allowing a character to make the wrong choice. And then punishing them. But that’s where some of the best story stuff comes from, allowing a character to dig themselves into an ever-deepening hole until she learns enough from her mistakes to start climbing out of it.

Imagine two different stories.  In one story, the character makes a series of decisions that work out rather well in getting that character from the beginning to the end. And there’s good characterization and enough going on that it makes for a nice read and we all follow along happily to The End.

In another story, the character struggles with two different alternatives. Chooses one and ends up going backward or dealing with harsh consequences. The next time that character comes to a crossroads, how much more invested might we be in that character’s next decision? How emotional will we get when she makes the same mistake again, getting even more off track? And how much more invested will we ultimately be in the story?

Something to think about, anyway.

Assuming what I just babbled made any sense at all.

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#ROW80 and Stories in Video Games

For the ROW80ers, well, look, here’s another post. Which is to say that I’m doing well with my blogging goal. ETA: Plus I just did my sponsorly duty, went back to Sunday’s linky, and visited and commented on my assigned peeps (except on one Blogger blog that just wouldn’t let me comment, as Blogger blogs are wont to do). Don’t know when I’ll get around to commenting on the Wednesday blogs. There sure are a lot of people participating this round. It’s exciting!

For those who showed up just for my random Wednesday musings…

Mostly I like casual games. I try to avoid it, but I can spend serious time on things like Bejeweled and Chuzzle. And I’ll have to admit that when I got my hands on Plants vs. Zombies, it totally owned me for at least a weekend.

The Sims franchise is a problem. Of course it all started with Sim City, each successive version allowing more control, more building instead of just trying to, I don’t know, win the game? And then…then…The Sims. Virtual dolls. With dollhouses and furniture and decorations! And a money cheat to make it all possible. Expansion after expansion, new toys to play with. Sims 2, Sims 3… There are things to achieve if you want, but if you just want to make a house with roommates Bingley and Darcy, and another house with roommates Jane and Elizabeth and just play out a neighborhood romance, that works too.

I’m terribly attracted to the games with trailers that promise a story. That seem to promise to put you into a story. Now that the book’s out of my hands for a bit, I’m playing Zelda Twilight Princess. I don’t feel like I’m in the story, but I’m interested in the story and I enjoy playing the game to a certain point. I suppose it’s the point at which it just gets so hard it’s not so much like playing anymore. I don’t so much mind playing a boss battle a number of times until I get it right. Honestly I’m just glad games don’t make you start all over from the beginning like they used to. But I like figuring it out, you know? Lots of things to puzzle out. Then it gets to a point where it seems like I can’t figure out anything.

And then I’m in Zork land. I feel like I standing in the dark, words across the abyss tell me that I’m standing next to a tree. And nothing I do seems to be getting me anywhere. Then I have to go online and find a walkthrough to get me past where I’m stuck. And eventually I’m doing that every scene and then it’s hard to see the point. I’ve lost that feeling of accomplishment I had at figuring it out myself.

Yet I’m still thinking about it and still going back to it because I want to know the rest of the story. And sometimes wishing I could just read the novelized version.

At some point during the winter, I found Surviving High School while browsing DSiWare, immediately wanted it, and knew it was the kind of thing that would suck me in. So I decided that it would have to be a prize for finishing Heroes ‘Til Curfew. Well, I was right about the sucking me in part.

I love this game. It’s basically a choose your own adventure book, set in high school. In the main story you’re the new boy at school whose name and appearance you get to choose. You get to decide if you’re going to go after the cheerleader or the goth girl, and go through a story that has a lot to do with joining the football team and keeping up your GPA enough to get your dad to buy you a new car. After you get through the main story, you unlock shorter episodes that feature other characters at the school.

This game pulled me into the story in a way that no other game has. And I suppose it’s somewhat ironic that it’s so much like reading a choose your own adventure book in a why don’t you turn off the screen for a while and go read a good book or something? way.

Anyway, just wish I could find more like that.

Games, anyone? What do you like?

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