January 3, 2014

Open World Survival — With an Eldritch Edge

SKS Games are bringing “The Forest” to PC and the Oculus Rift with an alpha to be released later this year. Check out the latest trailer below.

Looks pretty extreme, right? Adding that element of horror to the popular open survival/exploration model is a great idea, and the production values that SKS are bringing to the table only enhance that.

According to the devs, the gameplay will focus more on stealth than the trailers seem to show, and the creatures deep within the cave systems might not even be killable, so stealth will be the go to in order to survive. This even applies to crafting, as the player will be able to use leaves and mud to fashion camouflage for both the player and the traps they surround themselves with.

the forest lightning

Optimization will be a high priority for the team once the alpha drops (on the ambiguous date of 2014). It seems that the developers are going the early access route and will be releasing a paid in alpha on Steam. It went through the Greenlight process late last year.

November 13, 2013

The Stanley Parable: A Game About Games

stanley parable

It is nearly impossible to explain what The Stanley Parable is about. It is a game about the nature of games, how a player interacts with the world, and what happens if the antagonist is the game itself.

At it’s core, The Stanley Parable is a first person exploration game. All of the interaction comes through choice. Choosing a door to walk through, choosing which button to press, or even choosing to do nothing at all. You play as Stanley, an office worker who may be asleep, crazy, bored, and everything in between.

To reveal anything about the gameplay experience is to ruin that experience for you. It is very much a narrative driven game, with the majority of the entertainment value coming from the narrator, given life by the incomparable Kevan Brighting, and his interactions with the player. If you are sensitive and can’t take constructive and not as constructive criticism, you may want to stay away. The narrator will hurt your feelings and make you feel worthless but, to be fair, you do the same to him multiple times.

In technical terms the game is fine, with serviceable graphics that never get in the way of the experience. The game is still based in Source, so the physics that come along with that engine work well (even with a dearth of interactive objects). The music is fantastic and hugely varied. It only shows up every so often but when it does the score will command your attention. The controls will be familiar to anyone who has played a first person game, save for the lack of one usual input variation that leads to a hilarious achievement.

I had issues starting up the game upon first install, but upon reinstallation the issues ceased. Besides that there were no bugs that I personally have noticed in my ten hours or so with the game.

Mind Control

What really stuck out to me was how The Stanley Parable reflects on the absurdity of game mechanics and storytelling. We do it all for a weird sense of self gratification, the accomplishment of the objective. Be it an actual scripted objective like every mission based game, or the “I’m going to steal a helicopter and try to jump out onto a bus” self generating objectives in an open world game, it’s all there to give the player a sense of accomplishment. The Stanley Parable deconstructs this to the point where one second the objective could be to press a button so that some booming voice will say “Eight!” over and over and the next the objective is to figure out what the game wants you to do. In the end, the game doesn’t want you to do anything. It’s a game. And The Stanley Parable knows that.

You can complete The Stanley Parable in about 15 minutes. Your first play through will probably take about half an hour. But there is so much to explore within the crazy world that Galactic Cafe thrusts you into that it could easily eat up much more. Not for twitch gamers or people who want to get to the top of the leaderboards, but if you value narrative then I implore you to check this one out. At least get the demo off of Steam. If anything, you’ll get a chuckle out of just how ridiculous it all is.

In its purest essence, The Stanley Parable is a commentary on routine, achievement, the government, video games, and life itself. I love getting lost in it’s world and losing myself within it. Everyone needs to play this.

February 1, 2013

Explorative Gaming: A Modern Christopher Columbus

About a year ago I did an article about adventure gaming and its decline in popularity in the gaming industry and how we at TGB would love to see them make a comeback.   There is another aspect of adventure gaming that we never talked about and that is exploration.

There are many varying degrees of exploration… it could be something as simple as seeing something you haven’t seen before to opening a locked chest, exploring an hidden room, traversing an abandoned castle or even exploring a cave.   To discover something that you’ve never seen before brings a level of excitement that is hard to explain.

Many games of varying degrees of exploration because you inherently see something that you haven’t seen or done something you haven’t prior but very few games ever really focus on it.  There are a few that come to mind such as Myst *and all its sequels*, Syberia, The Elder Scrolls series, and last but not least Minecraft which will be the showcase of this article.

I’ll admit that I’m a few years late to the Minecraft scene as I really hadn’t given it much thought because quite frankly I thought it looked kind of stupid.  I decided to pick it up one day on the Xbox 360 as there were several ads for it.

Minecraft is one of the simplest games I’ve ever played yet it just goes to show that a game doesn’t have to be full of explosions, screaming, swearing, and bullets to be captivating.  Minecraft isn’t just captivating its addictive… very addictive.  Yes it’s like building Legos without the hefty price and yes the graphics look like they came out of an early 90’s doom game but the game is still captivating, addicting and immersive.   In addition to being able to build whatever you want,  sculpt the landscape to your will and mining there is a very large landscape to discover and explore, there are mountains, tree’s, animals, plants and caves… some small and some that inspire awe, even in 8bit texture.

Half of Minecraft, at least in my experience, has been spent exploring different areas of the map, exploring caves, and traversing the landscapes.  Every game that you play is different because it is randomly generated so each experience will be new.  If you play the PC version you can even download texture packs to make it look even better.

I wonder what Christopher Columbus must have felt like when he first saw the Americas?  When he first set foot on the land was he awestruck.  Just exploring caves in Minecraft can make me take a step back.

At first I thought, perhaps it’s just me,  so then I asked one of my friends to try out the game with me and he refused on the same reservations that I had.  I finally got frustrated and bought the game for him and after about an hour he said “I can’t believe how fun this game is.  It shouldn’t be this fun. “  Which was the same thing I thought.

I know that when it comes to adventure & explorative gaming that I and now him as well are an minority.  But I would sure love to see games like Myst, Syberia and Minecraft make a comeback.   Thoughts?

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