Speaking of Skyrim, after I read Alec’s post I did some browsing around Flickr to see if I could find some fun fan art to attach to his post. I didn’t really find much, but I did really like these shots of the Skyrim world turned into tiny planets, created by Luca Biada. It’s amazing how much character and detail go into the worlds of video games these days. Are there people out there who are considered to be the best landscape designers in video games? What a rad title that would be.
I see the major cities marked in detail on my map. The road looks far, the journey treacherous, and dragons are prowling the skies, looking for me. They’ve done it before and it wasn’t pretty. It is my twentieth day in Skyrim and I am too afraid to leave the first city in the game. So I sit at home and cook.
Skyrim is a massive game. It sold 3.4 million copies in two days and has been met with universal acclaim. It has also made people consider the use of catheters, fake mono, burning their vacation time, re-arranging their weddings or dropping off the face of the planet. The beauty of the Elder Scrolls series has always been the dawning in your psyche of the games parameters. Initially the game looks very restrictive – follow the quests, don’t kill people in town unless you want to go to jail. But in Skyrim, the “rules” of the game slowly break before your eyes. It’s not about what you can do, but what you can’t.
I spend the rest of the day reading books in my new house and playing with alchemy lab. I end up learning several new potion recipes and sell them at a high price in order to buy a new couch for my living room. I debate whether I should figure out how to marry Lydia, my shieldbearing companion in crime. I think I need a drink (that’s too much thinking for me) and I wander over to the The Bannered Mare. A strange man challenges me to a drinking competition. No drink is off limits to me so I take this guy up on the offer. I match him until I pass out.
And I awaken in a Temple on the opposite side of the continent. Clothes are everywhere and the place is a mess. I guess all it took was a few drinks to leave town. What did I do last night?
For many video game enthusiasts, the BioShock series is a grouping of games handcrafted by the gods of video games for us mortals to play when they allow us to. The series has two games so far–BioShock and BioShock 2–with a new one which will be released next year: BioShock Infinite.
Details on the new game were kept under wraps for some time, but are now out in the open: the new game does not take place underwater as the first two but in the air, in Columbia, during the year 1912. You play Brooker DeWitt, a former government agent, who is searching to find a woman named Elizabeth, who he feels is at the center of a civil war. Unfortunately for them both, she is being pursued by a former captive/robotic monster called Songbird. Sounds a little confusing, yes, which I am sure is the point until you actually play it.
The video above is a fifteen minute gameplay demo that debuted at this year’s E3, where it swept the conference’s awards. The video takes place in the middle of the game where Brooker and Elizabeth are perusing this air city, occasionally stalked by Songbird and others, but also using tears, items that alter space and time. As you can see in one of the photos, there is a “Revenge Of The Jedi” marquee which is when Elizabeth opens a tear to the early eighties (yes, that is Tears for Fears you hear in the clip).
As you can tell, this new entry in the series is a total departure and looks nothing like the other entries in the series. Watching the above clip it seems very, very confusing how to play this game as it looks like a movie. If you still want more on the game, the Bioshock Infinite site has much more fun videos and IGN released the first ten minutes of the game last year, furthering that this game is just a movie you click buttons through.
Storytelling has always been a fascination of mine. It seems to permeate almost every article I write. The storyteller is dependent on diction and dialog to make the tale come to life for the listener and reader. Legends and tall tales from oral histories eventually were written into tomes, venerated for their information and their sacredness. Commercial publishing came next, then the movies, television, and now the multiple forms of interactive media. After years of innovation and tempered expectations, we have outgrown paper.
In many ways, the past forty years of the digital era mirror the evolution of storytelling: it’s all about user interfaces. So to some extent, the Stanley Parable is best experienced without any introduction. Except, maybe, the trailer above. Don’t watch the second video unless you want to experience the game with a blank slate. The second video is just one of the seven possible outcomes. The game can be downloaded for both mac and PC in the above link for free. It’s worth the download just for the existential sky dive the game will put in your mind. This is a video game without a weapon. Your biggest enemy is the narrator. Victory is impossible. The decisions are simple. You can do whatever you want… or can you?
Created in Los Angeles by 22 year old Davey Wreden, the game attacks traditional conceptions of storytelling. For example, a novel may have thousands of choices that characters make. But in most cases, the story comes down to one decision to turn the tale. The Stanley Parable grants several choices but tons of decisions. It touches on that gap between free will and determinism. Or, possibly more confusing, examines what in life is predestined against that which exists in the temporal indefiniteness of right now. There is a beginning and an end for sure… but what happens in the middle?
It’s sad, I know. All stories must come to an end. But you can get something out of this one.
We’ve featured a few video games this week (Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet and One Chance), so I thought I’d throw my own recent gaming experience into the fray. Last week I played a game called From Dust, which is a game unlike any other I’ve ever played. You play as The Breath, a god-like force that attempts to help primordial man survive in a harsh world. Over time, the game gives you the ability to mold and shape the world, like moving huge swirling masses of sand or water, eventually giving you abilities to absorb lava or create earth from nothing. While you do this you must protect the people from natural disaster like tsunami, fire and volcanos.
What I loved about this game was the simplistic controls, you really use like two buttons for the whole thing, but the seriously complex game mechanics that are constantly working against you. For example, you may need to reach an idol to gain a new power, except the idol is mostly underwater, and tsunamis come every 4 minutes, and your materials are limited so you have to time your approach just right. Ultimately I beat the game in about a week, but it was some of the most fun I’ve had playing a game in a long time. It’s also immensely beautiful, as you can see from the screenshots and production art that was created. Oh yeah, remember I mentioned game mechanics, and how they work against you? Here’s what I mean:
An essential aspect of From Dust is the environment simulation, which underlies the player’s interactions with the world. Developers intended that the world appear as a ‘living thing’, a dynamic and spontaneous entity, irrespective of the player’s actions upon it. Chahi emphasised the difficulty of balancing this technical simulation with individual enjoyment, commenting that sometimes ‘it would take days to find the right value for gameplay that’s also aesthetically pleasing’. Montpellier accommodated this dynamism through a system of rules, which govern the elements of the simulation: flowing water and moving soil result in the emergence of rivers. Lakes at the base of a volcano accumulate sediment, which increases their viscosity, and similar rules govern volcanic eruptions, lava flow, and the spread of vegetation. With each rule, the layers accumulate to the point at which the developers are able to create an entire landscape.
If you’ve got X-Box Live you have to download this game from the Marketplace and give it a try. I’m hoping they expand the game and create some more content and levels for it. I’d absolutely drop another $10 or $20 to play more of this game, it’s absolutely worth it. You can also read about the development of the game over on the Wikipedia page.