Archive for May, 2009

Anger Management #4: Patches

Actually, as I write this the issue I really want to kick and scream about is that of flaky internet connections. Weekends are for lazing around, idly reading interesting articles and uploading Anger Management. They are not for staring at “This page is not available” screens. Regrettably, however, that’s not a perfect fit for this column. What is a good fit is a discussion on the horrors of an endemic patching culture amongst game developers.

Patching is an everyday activity for PC gamers, not only in the hope of improving the experience of playing the game, but out of necessity should they wish to engage in online play. Rare, if not non-existant, is the retail game which doesn’t receive patches post-release. And PC gamers are no longer alone – many 360 and PS3 games receive patches post-release, and should the player be connected to their respective online services, the machine will not let them play a game until it is completely up to date, patch-wise.

Things were not always this way.
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XBL Community Games Roundup 0.51 – the rest of the first 6 months

Apologies for the delay between this and the previous entry – life’s a bit hectic at the I:D household. Still, the show must go on!

This is a follow up to my last entry on the highlights of Microsoft’s Xbox Live community games portal, this time looking at less-essential, but notable titles. Some of these are interesting ideas, which don’t quite live up to their promises. Others are entertaining, but limited. And some simply looked interesting for one reason or another, but turned out not to be worth the bother. Again, there are no mentions here of the week 1 releases, as they saw considerable coverage already; or any of the other, older high-profile titles. (I have included more recent ones, however: hence Halfbrick Echoes and Clover). As I’m not in the habit of kicking puppies, any titles that simply weren’t any good, and haven’t been heavily marketed, I’ve refrained from commenting on.
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Anger Management #3: Steam

Welcome back to Anger Management, a weekly rant about whatever topic’s taking my fancy at the time. Sometimes it might be specific tropes and flaws, sometimes more general issues; other times it can be even more directed, focussing on individuals, companies or releases. Whatever the case, it’s completely partisan, unbalanced and entirely, wonderfully subjective. Try not to take too much offence.

And this week? This week I’m after the poster boy of digital distribution systems, Valve Corporation’s Steam.
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XBL Community Games Roundup 0.5 – the best of the first six months

It’s been half a year since Microsoft activated its peer-reviewed, amateur-friendly games portal on Xbox Live, and while there’s been a fair bit of discussion about its success (or lack thereof) in bringing an audience to startup developers, actual coverage of the games has been slight.

It’s understandable, really – the service sees tonnes of new games every week, and the quality:dross ratio isn’t fantastic. Moreover, most of the projects – being generally amateur works – don’t have anyone pushing them to the media, so they don’t get coverage that way. And many of the titles defy judgement – how do you review a ‘game’ whose sole aim is to make a controller vibrate (for a ‘massage’), or a music visualiser?

But still, it can be daunting for a gamer to log into Live, look at the community marketplace and try to decide what’s worth trying. This feature is here to help. In future you can expect a regular look at recent uploads, but for now I:D presents you with a roundup of some of the more notable, but unsung,* titles on offer, starting with two of the best.
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Dialects, accents, and superiority complexes

This is a direct response to Daniel Johnson’s article for GameSetWatch’s Lingua Franca column: Implications Of Dialect In Dragon Quest IV. I’d strongly recommend you read it before getting onto this, which serves mainly as a counter-point to some of his arguments. One major caveat here: I have not played Dragon Quest IV, nor am I likely ever to – it’s just not of a genre I have even the slightest interest in. My knowledge of the game’s script comes from screenshots and commentaries only. 

NB – throughout the article I describe the ‘voice’ of the NPC’s – all of the text in the game, to my knowledge, is unspoken; by voice, I refer to the way in which the text is written to give a distinct voice to the characters.
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Anger Management #2: Irreversible Actions

Welcome back to Anger Management. What inspired this week’s rant? Universe at War. Mainly known for managing to craft three impressively balanced-yet-asymmetrical sides to play as, then scuppering the hard work by having a lacklustre single-player campaign and forcing players to use Games For Windows – LIVE if they wanted a multiplayer game, Universe at War managed to annoy me for an altogether different reason.

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Retrospective: Blade Runner

It’s been a quiet week, with no new tat entering my life, so here instead is a retrospective look at one of the classic PC games of yore. Incidentally, it horrified me to realise that this game is now over eleven years old. Gosh.

Westwood Studios are almost synonymous with the real-time strategy genre – pretty much inventing it in 1992 with Dune II, then ensuring their dominance of the early genre through the wildly popular Command & Conquer series from 1995 onwards. But before the release of Command & Conquer, Westwood were as known for being fine crafters of adventures as they were as peddlers of cursor-controlled warfare: 1992 also saw them releasing first title in their of point & clickers, The Legend of Kyrandia, while 1993 saw the arrival of their flagship role-playing series Lands of Lore. While neither had the lasting success belonging to their tank-rush-em-ups, they were well-received, and are fondly remembered by many.

It was upon these foundations that Westwood set their intention to make a point and click adventure based on the cult movie classic Blade Runner, itself based on the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. And hell if it wasn’t something special.
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May 2009
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