Taking in the Scenery

The author() of this article poses a challenging question, “Is experience enough for play?”. If we aren’t the spaces created for us as they were designed, are we really even playing the game? Now this doesn’t apply to all games, stopping the story to see what is on the far side of the map is actively discouraged in most narrative based/linear games, This article is specifically talking about open world games however.

Open world games allow us to craft our own experiences in many ways, choosing which aspects of quests and challenges to take on and allowing that kind of wandering. That’s part of play, but usually some forward motion is implied when we talk about play, some accomplishment. Are we accomplishing as we wander? What if we go no further than that?

As Alisha points out open world games are designed to allow us to create our own experience, generally more fully realising emergant gameplay than other, more linear games. She also ties it to an implied progression, that as we play we alwasy have a tacit understanding that we must move forward, to reach an end point. But what if? What if we don’t go any further than immersion? Is the sole point of picking up a new title, to reach the end, to beat it?

It can, and certainly is, well argued that this is indeed the case. However if we stop to think about the countless time and effort put into these landscapes and little minor details, don’t we have something of an obligation to try to see as much of it as possible, out of respect for the artists if nothing else. An equally viable arguement to think about is that if we are not full exploring every game, are we really ever finishing a game? So much of a game’s content is visual and we generally just run through it all looking for more enemies to kill, more story to unlock. We should all take things a little slower, and every once in a while, stop and just take in the beautiful handcrafted scenery.

At the end of the day, gameplay is going to be whatever the player decides it to be, be that completeing every sidequest, murdering every NPC in the game, or spending weeks just running around like a tourist, and every player is going to be right.

 

Written in response to the article available at:http://www.nymgamer.com/?p=12299

Skeletons in Fallout 4’s Closet

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It’s hard to disagree with the sentiments expressed in this article, as the author explains his feelings towards the various skeletons he he stumbles upon in the wasteland.

Last week I found a sole skeleton sat in a chair, a pistol nearby, bullets placed carefully on a table. Chems and beer were strewn about the place. I imagined the skeleton plucking up the courage to end it all, no doubt as an army of Ghouls tore at the door.

As you come across these game objects, visually different from any corpse you may create for yourself, you are enticed into wondering about the story behind them, what might have been happening here right as the bombs fell?

The author finds himself wondering if there is ‘boss’ of skeletons, in fact maybe even a leader of a team of skeleton artists dedicated to placing these scenes around the game world. I have to say, if this is a job that I can apply for point me in the right direction!

The signature skeletons from fallout are just one of a number of small additions that server to tell a far more compelling story than any of the quests available. While the quest line storytelling in Fallout 4 is mediocre at best, leaving much to be desired as far as a narrative, it is all these little easter eggs and hidden snippets of story that really make the post-war wastelands a joy to explore.

 

Written in response to the article available at http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2015-11-26-why-i-love-fallout-4-skeletons.

Fallout 4 Is Full of Bugs, And It Needs to Stop Now

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The article this is a response to is nothing more than the electronic equivalent of kissing Bethesda’s arse.

Whenever a new Bethesda game comes out, I hope and pray that it’s just as buggy and unpolished as its previous games.

Really? You want your game to be a buggy, optimized and lazy pile of slop? It’s hard to imagine that anyone could equate lazy game development to a better experience, but Zak Mcclendon seems to believe this is the case.

Thankfully, Fallout 4 is no exception, with reviewers and players calling out its creaky engine, poor companion AI, sub-par animation, and many other glitches and bugs. Some see this as a failure of Bethesda to get with the program and embrace modern-day AAA polish. I don’t. Each time a new release is as rough and buggy as those that came before, it shows Bethesda is focused on the right things.

Complete system halts requiring a hard reset, incredibly poor optimisation for the PC version, glitchy AI, textures that look like they came straight from Fallout 3, I could go on for days about how sub-par this release was for a AAA game.

Now, this isn’t to say that Fallout 4 isn’t an enjoyable game, with hundreds of hours of content in the same style we all know and love. I have already sunk more than 90 hours into the game within a week of release, the game play is fantastic, when it actually works.

While the rest of the AAA game industry has ballooned team sizes and budgets in a dogged pursuit of slickness and sales, Bethesda has remained small, lean, and, yes, sloppy. It may be impossible to make the games Bethesda makes while giving them a high level of polish, and trying to do so could destroy the studio.

The entirety of the rest of this article is dedicated to defending Bethesda, saying that of course it’s a sloppy game with such a small team, comparing it’s development team to juggernauts such as GTA:V and AC:IV. These games have arguably less content than Fallout 4, But when it really comes down to it, these two games are many many times larger in scope than Fallout 4, with almost every asset being created from scratch or at least updated with high quality textures and shaders. When almost every asset from Fallout 3 is being reused, most without so much as a cursory glance of course they don’t need a big team. And this just makes it even more insulting that Fallout 4 was released in such a sloppy state.

Now let’s compare Fallout 4 to CD Project Reds’ release The Witcher 3, a game that plays and looks infinitely better. The Witcher 3 was developed with a team almost identical in size for $15M, a fraction of the cost of development of TESV:Skyrim($90M), let alone Bethesda’s’ most recent release which is estimated to have cost in the range of $150M.

This is a massive problem. How is it that Bethesda seems to get away with releasing such sloppy content, and everyone just goes; oh, its Bethesda, it’s all good.

There is no excuse for releasing a game in such a sorry state no matter who the developer or publisher might be. This trend has been going on for far too long and it needs to stop now.

Written in response to the article available at http://www.wired.com/2015/11/fallout-4-bugs/?mbid=social_twitter

Games Don’t Need to Teach Us Anything to be Great

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This article opens with the author being told “It turns out computer games merely teach you how to play other computer games.”, and essentially asking herself, as a novelist if this is a bad thing. She goes on to conclude that it isn’t, but what really sticks out from this article in my mind is the comparison of games to other media, that games are the only media that don’t teach us anything.

Where does this warped idea come from? Turn on your TV, and try to tell me that what you see is trying, or even able, to teach you anything? When was the last time you read a novel to learn? These are forms of entertainment, so why are we trying to appraise them according to anything other than their entertainment value?

Now this is not to say that you can’t learn from entertainment, nor that we shouldn’t be able to, but to ascribe this sense of importance on things that are good for us is frankly, stupid. There are countless immeasurable ways in which we gain simply by enjoying something, it is not necessary for us to learn from something for it to be worthwhile. If this is not the case, why do we even have entertainment media in the first place?

The author put this far more eloquently than I can, so I’ll simply quote her here;

Games can be eerie, surreal, joyful, quirky, terrifying and hilarious. If you never engage with them, you’re missing out on part of the richness of contemporary culture. Of course, I can’t promise you that they’ll increase your resilience, raise your IQ or improve your hand-eye co-ordination.

Written in response to “Playing video games doesn’t make you a better person. But that’s not the point” by Naomi Alderson. (http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/nov/06/video-games-give-you-unique-experience)

A Deeper Understanding of the Industrial War-machine

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By allowing players to experience an economy based war-machine, they are given a deeper understanding of the self-fulfilling prophecy that modern warfare has become. In an endless cycle of aggression, development and funding, we can see that once on this road it becomes increasingly difficult to stay true to the ideals that led us to go to war in the first place.

The authors'(Scott Juster) experience with this game is extremely telling, as he describes a situation wherein he has overextended and overspent, and must take to mercenary side jobs just to fuel his war economy.

Then disaster struck. Through a combination of profligate spending, an unavoidable disaster back at Mother Base, and several hostile invasions, I began hemorrhaging money. Soon I was in the red: soldiers were deserting, getting sick, and staying injured longer. I couldn’t build new weapons without furthering my collapse, so I switched over to desperate damage control. I became even more mercenary, sending my squads across the globe to take any mission that would prop up my economy.

This situation is reminiscent of almost every military conflict this side of the Cold War, and isn’t actually much different to the way that Capitalism operates. In a constant struggle for income, expansion and redundancy, the overheads become larger and larger until all semblance to the original is lost.

The author comes to the realization that he has in fact become the very thing that the MGS series is critical of, an industrial war machine eerily similar to the way that our modern history has played out.

By the time that I reached the third (!) set of credits, I had unwittingly participated in a series of events that was disturbingly similar to how the history of modern war, industrialism, and colonialism played out in our world. As is the case in today’s society, MGS V is comprised of entities whose very existence is due to and perpetuated by militarization.

This certainly isn’t the first game that has commented on industrialization of the military, it certainly does it in a more succinct way, leaving the player with both pride at beating the game, and leaving a bad taste in the mouth at becoming exactly the thing that the game is critical of.

written in response to the article “Getting Trapped in ‘Metal Gear Solid V’s War Economy” written by Scott Juster. (http://www.popmatters.com/post/getting-trapped-in-metal-gear-solid-vs-war-economy/)