Itchy Thumbs

Completing games then reviewing them

Archive for March, 2007

Holy crap!

Posted by D on March 2, 2007

Like the veil being lifted from before my eyes I am struct with an epiphany, a desperate truism that should haunt us all. Computer games aren’t created by people who know how to make games. Why is it that such moments of clarity occur only after 2am? Was Einstein an insomniac? Picaso? Gaudi? Enough of this.

What about my reality shattering assertion? It’s true, have a look at a computer games company and ask yourself how many people there have any formal training or background in the theory of gaming. How many can actually define what a games is and why certain rule sets do or don’t work. If you look closely you’ll notice 99% of the employees are either cash herding suits or the kind of spotty nerd who, through computers, finds the validation he never achieved at school. Even the term “game design” has been largely co-opted to describe the process by which games are assembled (idea-implement-test-refactor) which is essentially a software development or business process.

And you might say “nonsense, look at all these classic games”. And the answer to that utterly facile statement is “Yes, look at the hundreds of thousands of utterly shitty games which come spewing forth day in day out”. It’s like some kind of object lesson in infinite monkey theorem.

The problem with the itterative design the games industry goes in for (other than them being utterly incapable of even doing that right) is that by not understanding how games work they are left floundering around in ideas space with no real conception of why something does or doesn’t work. Testing things that needn’t have been implemented. A further problem is that if you don’t understand why games that work do work and why games that don’t work don’t then you end up selecting options you already know work. Why else do we have to endure endless streams of indetikit crappy FPSes, racing games, beat ’em ups etc. etc. etc. etc.

More on this theme later.


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Prey for release

Posted by D on March 2, 2007

By brother fixed me with his beady eye.  A wild glint appeared. His hair flailed wildly about his head.  I stood transfixed. Lightening struck. Thunder sounded.  Somewhere deep within his dark, blackened soul a thought slowly stirred and then from deep within his bowels he issued forth this utterance:

“Now this is some fucked up shit”

And just like that, I was hooked. I was duly informed that Prey is the most fucked up, twisted, and disturbed FPS ever concieved by the mind of man. In this case, a mind so deviant, so blackened and so depraved that to look into it would be to stare into the very heart of madness itself.  Giger himself would run, squealing like a frightened little girl. Of course being the kind of sane and normal individual that I am, I’m more than delighted to check out some nasty, freaky shit. And I can confirm that what I experienced was nasty, freaky and shit but not quite in the way that I expected.

I have rarely played a game where the word lacklustre is so fitting. There is nothing even remotely inspiring about this game.  Run-of-the-mill monsters, hide in run-of-the-mill corridors while you shoot run-of-the-mill weaponry at them.  Unsuprisingly this gets rather tedious after a while.  Luckily they’ve had the foresight to add some boss battles.  Unfortunately they forgot to make them challenging or infact to make any of the game challenging.  It’s pretty boring when the optimal tactic to take out all of the trash mobs is just to run them down.

And then there’s the level design.  What was going on in who’s head?  Two words:  Lazy and arbitary.  You’re supposed to be on an alien space ship.  The sphincter doors and brushed metals corridors give that much away.  But there’s no rhyme of reason why corridors lead to other corridors, which lead to large open spaces, which in turn lead to corridors and in turn more open spaces.  There’s no sense that these are parts of a functioning space station.  None of it makes sense.  Why are there only locks on one side of some doors?  Why is a door opened using an arbitary panel on the roof of the room? What use is a portal on the underside of a box and why does it lead to a dead end corridor.  Who would design a room that has to be turned upside down in order to leave? These are suppoesd to highly advanced, space faring aliens they’re not morons.

The game attempts to tell a story, a story which is pretty mundane, cliched and trashy. This in itself is fairly excusable in a computer game, as much as the games industry appears to think otherwise gaming isn’t the best medium for relating complex narratives.  However, when the intro tells you all about the improtance of stories and narratives then you really ought to make good on your promises.

Overall Prey has plenty of scale but very little scope. Suffice to say my brother owes me one.


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