Hi Tap! I’m out at GDC 2014 this week, reporting from the expo and talking to the people who make the games. I hope to post some previews and news throughout the conference! This first writeup is just a trip report with some highlights from my first two/three days.
I thought Arkham Origins was good, even if it fell short of its predecessors. Tough acts to follow. In true internet form, of course, the narrative quickly became that Origins was hugely disappointing. Things are either a huge success or a monstrous failure these days, I suppose.
Of course, many – myself included – point at the decision to take Rocksteady off the series and instead develop Origins in-house at Warner Bros. Games Montreal. This seemed like the usual corporate tomfoolery that, at a certain point, we’ve all come to expect when a big publisher has a killer franchise on their hands, abandoning the studio that had forged a path and counting on name recognition to continue to move copies. This – coupled with the fact that Origins was a prequel – felt particularly egregious, considering the conclusion of Arkham City.
Rocksteady was mum for a while on what they were doing instead of a third Arkham game. It turns out that what they were doing was the fourth Arkham game.
Much has been said about Double Fine’s Broken Age. Maybe because it’s Tim Schafer’s first point-and-click adventure game since 1998’s Grim Fandango. Maybe because it’s a huge Kickstarter success story, earning well over $3 million by the end – one million of that in the first day – after only asking for $400,000. Maybe because of the near-catastrophic announcement last year that development on Broken Age was behind schedule and over budget, enough that hitting their original release goal would require cutting 75% of the game.
I’ve been really busy lately, so I’m going to step up to the plate and bunt.
If you like South Park, the TV show, you’ll like South Park: The Stick of Truth. If you don’t like South Park, the TV show, you won’t like South Park: The Stick of Truth.
Yesterday afternoon found me at my desk with the vague expression of a lobotomy patient or a recreational user of thorazine. If a passerby had said “whatcha thinking about?” I’d have said, “Nothin’,” which was better than the truth. I was really thinking about narwhals, and Kate Beckinsale. I rarely think of narwhals, since they don’t usually impinge on my day. Kate Beckinsale is a more frequent mental guest, though not one I typically associate with narwhals – or, indeed, with any marine life. Then, because I hate myself, this reverie was interrupted by The Other Voice: “No wonder that Thief article is four days late, you’re so busy there.” God damned Inner Guilt.
Being a couple days late on a game nobody expects much from isn’t a big deal, but yesterday had been a bad day – and I’ve been late on stuff a lot recently, and kinda kicking myself for not having as much time to write like I did, and the usual. Something about the day made an otherwise innocuous deadline push feel like a double helping of Ennui Cake topped by the Scrotum-Pulverizingly Judgmental Cherry of Self-Loathing. Fortunately, my mood was about to improve dramatically.
I love a good city builder, particularly classical or medieval-themed ones. From Caesar III to Tropico to Grand Ages: Rome to Hinterland to Pharaoh to others that escape me and must therefore not have been overly memorable, if you’ve made a game about putting together and running a city, chances are I’ll be in line to buy it. So when Rock, Paper, Shotgun shared what was – for me – the first gameplay video of Shining Rock Software’s Banished, the question was less whether than when.
Does it live up to my hopes? Read on to find out!
Historically, when a studio is successful, its leadership attempts to capitalize on that success while continuing the trend.
Old-skool thinking, proclaim a new and ballsy generation of game developers. Entirely red ocean. We are pioneers of a new strategy. These days, rather than attempting to build on a successful model, it’s trendy to kill the studio and fire everyone. It worked for GSC Game World, where Sergey Grigorovich shuttered the place and sacked about a hundred people rather than continue development on the promising, money-printing STALKER franchise. Evidently emboldened by this, Ken Levine at Irrational Games has decided to do basically the same thing – he is “winding” Irrational Games down, letting the vast majority of its staff go, and starting something new and smaller under the Take-Two banner.
One of the most interesting things about the IndieCade East conference is that it takes place in [a] museum. I’m always fascinated by how the placement of video games in museum spaces changes their meaning and context. The Museum of the Moving Image is open for regular business during the run of the festival, and festival organizers work hard to make sure that there is enough space that not only can dedicated festival-goers see the event, but the regular public in New York City can see some of it too. As a result it provides a unique opportunity to watch people play indie video games in a public space. I played a lot of games at the show, but watching other people play games was more interesting.
…a distillation of everything Naughty Dog has come to do so very right.
The Castle Doctrine is probably one of the most cynical and brutal games I’ve ever played. I bought it for a few reasons: the premise sounded fascinating, it’s by Jason Rohrer who was responsible for Passage, Sleep Is Death, Inside a Star-filled Sky and Gravitation (amongst others), and it was 50% off and due to go full price a few days later to coincide with the game’s release. According to Rohrer the game will never go on sale again so it was as good a time as any to check it out.
It’s a rough game to start though, and if you don’t know what the game is about then stick with me here, you’ll be perfect to illustrate this to.
There is a lonely house to the south of Hyrule Castle, perplexingly positioned atop a small hill for no apparent reason other than its fairly central location in the realm. The house has been there for at least two hundred years. It is not obviously part of Kakariko Village, to the west, nor is it, in any special way, associated with Hyrule Castle itself – although its occupants tend to end up there in times of need.
Kickstarter, Greenlight, Early Access, pre-alpha, alpha previews, closed betas, open betas, demos, full release! Post-release, DLC, expansions, mods, third-party utilities and patches, hell, even subscriptions, pay to play, free to play and voluntary donations… gaming evidently isn’t like any other medium. But we all knew that anyway, and that’s kind of why we love it.
I’ll tell you: twenty minutes is a very long time to know you’re going to die.
I played a bit of Alpha Centauri when it was new, and, more recently, I’ve played a fair amount of Civ V. But I’d hardly call myself a 4X-Expert. All said, I’ve probably spent more time with the last act of Spore than with any other space strategy sim. But since I’m one of the few Tap-Repeatedly writers who is generally positive about the possibilities of Steam Early Access, I thought I’d give a new indy strat sim a try this month. This is Horizon, a 4X Strategy Space Sim by Canadian based team L3O Interactive. I’m not very good at it yet, but I’m getting there.
I managed to dip into a version of Proteus a few years ago, at least I think it was a few years ago, I can’t quite remember– time seems to go so fast these days. It was an early build anyway, and I didn’t play it for long because I’m not a fan of playing betas or alphas when there are so many finished games out there already, all vying for my time and attention. My brief jolly through its crisp, bright sprite-encrusted landscapes however, was enough to put it firmly on my map. Even then it had a hypnotically calming air about it, and following Joel Goodwin’s adorable video of him and his little boy playing it together I only wanted to play it more.