Ah The Elder Scrolls, it feels like I can’t go more than a couple of hours without booting up one of the franchise. I’m forever playing The Elder Scrolls Online, last year I 100% completed Skyrim and I’ve gone through Oblivion, Morrowind and even Arena. Yes, The Elder Scrolls is a franchise that I can’t pull myself away from. So occasionally, I turn to my mobile for a spot to get away from Bethesda and their affiliated partners, such as ZeniMax Online Studios. Let’s go to Google Play and install a new action game. Blades? That sounds fun… Oh no, it’s another title in the huge world of The Elder Scrolls and now it’s on mobile.
Last week, I went into a couple of articles talking about how next year, I’ll be getting back into game development. I’m currently in the midst of NaNoWriMo, but yet I’ve found myself some time to start practicing my Unity skills once again. It’s been a very long time since the last time I used Unity and Blender, however I hear from a lot of people that they don’t have the skills to make video games. I always challenge people on that; we’re in an era where we have the resources at our fingertips. So today, for anyone who says they’re unable to start in game development, I’m going to share a few channels I’ve been watching, as well as a few quick tips to get started in game development (and how you can apply this logic elsewhere).
I’m sure this can’t just be me. The games design industry is getting ever better at metacommentary and self reflection, we’ve developed a pretty wide array of habits and design fallbacks that we’re aware of our own foibles and the like, and it’s not like we don’t have parodies of games on YouTube, gods there must be thousands of skit comedy groups producing jokes that only make sense to gamers. We talk our own language, we have our own jokes, and we have a community and culture that is ripe for parody.
What we don’t invest in, are parody games.
Weirdly I have fond memories of a Myst parody that I found long before I found the original game. It was crude, barely a game, more of an interactive comic strip of sorts, but if featured John Goodman as King Mattress, a mockery of Atrus, who appears as a floating head in a pool, much as he did in the original game funnily enough. The Parroty Interactive rendition paints the island of Myst as a lousy tourist attraction that has fallen on hard times, is falling apart, and is being taken over by a big corporation with radical ideas on how to run a theme park. Everything is viewed through postcards, so that the writing on the back of each snapshot becomes a mockery of the reading that forms the backbone of Myst’s puzzle solving.
Fun fact, one of the biggest producers of parody games is PETA, an organisation that has become a mockery of its own purpose, who produce games about animal cruelty. There we go, that’s something you now know. And they’re not the only people to produce pokemon parodies either but… well we’ve got a month left but we’re going to keep things above board, let’s not delve too deep into pokemon parodies.
We have the likes of Braid which is a non-comedic lens shone on classic gaming tropes, we have the likes of Knight of Pen and Paper, which is a great game filled with jokes for tabletop role-players, same as Bard’s Tale, and Goat Simulator which is a madman’s idea of a simulator game, but I think we lack direct parodies. We don’t want for material, but we seem to turn all of that material into sketch comedy rather than full titles, and to be fair, that is one hell of an investment in time, money, and resources for an extra-long joke, but it’s not like we’re lacking a sense of humour about ourselves.
I genuinely think that a proper parody is required, something that points a mocking finger at a specific title like Skyrim that’s been a titan of gaming history for the last eight years, or Final Fantasy which seems shockingly lacking in parodies given how it has dominated the last decade or two. Small-time producers used to flood the likes of Newgrounds with Flash games that were mocking takes on the big titles of the day, but it’s been many a year since that was common practice.
Perhaps I’m longing for a time long gone, or perhaps parody lends a formality to the art form, and that without analytical pystakes (see, ’cause…. ahh, you get it) games can’t take themselves seriously enough. It’s a logical paradox, but if we can’t laugh at ourselves can we analyse ourselves enough to grow, and to take another step forward. We need to break a few old habits. If we don’t, we’ll never break them, and we’ll be making variations on the same game for years.
I’ve never had a huge understanding of League of Legends, but it’s a lot of fun to watch. I remember being at a gamer pub in London (Meltdown), where they hosted what I presume would have been the World Championship at the time. It was all new to me, so I didn’t pay it too much mind, except for the fact that people were genuinely fascinated by it… And I found there were lots of quirks that made it a lot of fun to watch. Naturally, this has led to me trying a number of games, but… I’m a big scaredy cat and like my safety.
Fighting crime, trying to save the world, they’re now on android, The Powerpuff Girls: Monkey Mania! Would you believe it if I said that this is a decent game? Probably, because the people who made this game also brought us Knightmare Tower and Burrito Bison. A well crafted, beautifully presented game in the city of Townsville? It sounds like a match made in heaven… So here’s a bit of information for those who’ve seen it around but haven’t taken the dive into the world of sugar, spice and everything nice.
It seems like picking on Blizzard right now is the geek-culture bloggers equivalent of kicking a dead horse, but that horse knows what it did, and while an apology has been issued for the political controversy, it comes across has a rather hollow token, to say nothing about the mass-blocking of comments on YouTube videos from the event.
We are not here to stir the political pot, that’s not what we’re here for. I am here to pick on Blizzard for something a little less volatile, the games that were announced this year.
What? I said a little less…
Blizzard do one thing exceptionally well, and have done since the 90’s: epic cinematics. They fall firmly into the “pros” column on pre-rendered cinematic cut-scenes and trailers and whether you are for or against them, there is nothing negative to say about Blizzards cinematics in their own right. As if to prove a point, oh wow that Diablo 4 trailer was pretty. There were times when the graphics quality bordered photorealism a little too closely, and there seems to have been a positive tone shift, which I will get to shortly.
Pretty pictures aside, we also got a good look at some in-game footage, and the level of detail is delicious, especially given the genre. Moreover, Diablo 4 is darker visually, and it sounds like they’re going dark in narrative, like it should always have been. My biggest issue with 3 was all the pretty colours, in defiance of the legacy left by 1 and 2, and it easily meant that Grim Dawn made a better successor to the throne. A more “medieval” version of hell has been suggested, and the little glimpses we’ve seen suggest hints of Hieronymus Bosche, and the brightest coloured things on screen – the blood red demon “fallen” – are stringy and drawn out horrors.
But of course it wouldn’t be Blizzard without compulsory online multiplayer elements, and sure you don’t have to engage with the other players, but so help me I don’t even want them around, and I don’t like the idea that they might try and engage with me. You’ll pardon me if I remain far more interested in Crate’s ARPG than the usurper to D2.
Oh, and can I get a citation on the claim “Best in class visceral and fluid combat” please? What I’m seeing is that there is a way to play the druid, a way to play the sorceress, so on so forth, with not a great deal of variety, only an optimised route to power. I’m going to hope that this has more to do with the demo than the finalised game, but I’m going to profoundly suspect that I am wrong.
Oh… good? Whatever happened to the days when Blizzard would wait over a decade between sequels? No, I’m not going to complain about this one.
As you may have already guessed, I don’t really do online or multiplayer, so I’ll keep my critique here short. Another of Blizzard’s fortes is great character development, we’ve seen it across the Warcraft legacy, and Overwatch really shows what they’re capable of. There’s a great Extra Credits video on the idle animations of Overwatch and how they communicate a great deal about the character you’re playing. I will watch Overwatch content because the stories are pretty cool, and I like that they’ve introduced some singleplayer content.
I hope that the new game will be more than just shooting while wiggling from side to side.
More World of Warcraft
Among the early announcements, onesies! Do you hear the sound of scraping? That’s the bottom of the barrel.
The former stranglehold Warcraft held on the market is broken, and I feel like now would have been the time to go completely revolutionary, bring back Warcraft as an RTS, I’d even take a World of Starcraft, just to see something that isn’t yet more WoW. There was a lot of talk about the Overwatch sequel being massively supportive, rewarding, and compatible with players of the original game, would a Warcraft 2 be so outlandish?
The game has been updated, modernised, more and more content has been brought to the game, and the original game has been repackaged and redelivered to us in brighter and shinier colours, which I cannot and will not disparage because I bought and played the re-releases of Skyrim, Myst, and Heroes 3 among others. And after fifteen years of World of Warcraft, it has now exceeded the lifespan of the strategy game that preceded it.
Board gamers can look forward to a Smallworld of Warcraft that looks like it’s close to a release date, and it looks like that’s as close as we’re getting to a Warcraft “original” style game.
Am I going to rag on Bethesda next week for only having Elderscrolls, Fallout, and Dishonoured? Well to be fair they also have Doom and Wolfenstein and whatever Deathloop is but it looks inte- y’know what? Bad example. And to be completely fair, I should also point out that Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, and Starcraft exist.
I suppose I look to Blizzard as an example of a bubble that looks set to burst, and recent events make that bubble look especially fragile. The popularity of their fairly narrow range of intellectual properties is undeniable, and one must pay respect to any company that can keep players enthralled and enjoying a game for fifteen years, and then still go on to produce another market-dominating title in Overwatch.
And yet I’m watching the opening ceremonies from this year’s Blizzcon, and there’s an astonishingly similar feeling to watching the advert for a “new” apple product. It doesn’t sound like they’re changing much, it doesn’t sound like they’re innovating in any way, and yet there’s a host of fans who’ll still pour their money into the new thing and keep the bubble floating for another year.
For how much I love to discuss video games, it’s weird that I’ve not gone into greater detail about this. Halloween is really such a geeky celebration these days, as we love a good chance to get in our favourite cosplays, or to watch horror films (which, in its own right, is a huge niche that sorta sits neatly with us geeks). In truth, geeks and horror go hand in hand and today, I’d like to show how video games like to collaborate in their own way to the celebration of the spookiest season.
Controversial perhaps, Niantic have been selling tickets for Pokémon Go’s latest event. Until this point, events in Pokémon Go have been fairly straightforward and open. You can either get a EX Raid Pass, which allows you to go for a much rarer Pokémon. The first was Mewtwo, where EX Raids were the only way to get the hard hitting Psychic legendary. There have also been Pokémon Go Fests, which is where inspiration for these paid events come from. Here are the facts of the event.
Ah it’s the Halloween season, which means that we’re going to get the popcorn on. Let’s turn on a movie and… Oh no. Oh dear, oh my. These horror villains are so scary! No, not because they’re shocking, murderous and altogether evil beings. No, they’re so scary because even the most psychopathic of villains succumb to the most terrible of horror tropes, which is what we’re investigating in today’s Top 10!
Most years, James Rolfe, also known as the Angry Video Game Nerd, puts out at least one Halloween Special and each time, they’re some of his most adventurous videos. They’re always amongst his most memorable, so I thought today I’d pay homage to The AVGN by sharing three of his Halloween Specials and talking briefly about them. I’m gonna take you back to the past (and present) – To watch some Video Game Reviews. Though as a forewarning, the Nerd’s content is Not Safe For Work! Okay, warned now? Let’s do this and drink plenty of beers and watch amusing videos.