As we approach ever closer to Christmas Day, with it only being 16 days away now, our Top 10’s have become more Christmas themed once more. This week, as chosen by you, our fantastic audience, has been probably our hardest list in a very long time to compile. We had to come up with a definition of Badly Decorated… But here’s what we think.
With it coming up to Christmas, we settled on Badly Decorated as one of our choices, but we didn’t really think what that meant. At Christmas, we cover our houses in tinsel, fairy lights and so much more, but it’s not exactly a flattering look. It’s just a “Christmas-sy” look. As such, to us, badly decorated means that for the time we see the place, it has to either have unfitting objects, bad decorations or an abundance of just poor design.
Got it? Sweet! On to this week’s list! (more…)
With a few noteworthy exceptions, most games tend to have a fairly homogeneous progression, usually going from lush green grasslands and becoming progressively more wild, desert, jungle, and usually ending with freezing cold, winter perhaps, snowy tundra, or soaring mountain range. Some examples:
Diablo 2 progresses from the temperate plains around the rogue encampment, straight into the desert of Lut Gholein, forests of Kurast, and finally hell itself. The expansion then takes the hero to the barbarous wastes of Harrogath, a land filled with massive, destructive beasts and hellspawn.
Borderlands is almost exclusively deserts and salt flats, being the more common terrain on Pandora. The finale however takes our Vault Hunter to a snow-capped mountain in the Eridium Highlands.
Bastions journey leads the Kid from the ruins of his old town through the drifting chunks of Jawson’s Bog, forests and jungles, ending in the ice blocks of Urzendra Gate, Zulten’s Hollow and the Tazal Terminals, dripping with icicles.
Castle Crashers, Titan Quest, the masterpiece edition of Myst, Grim Fandango when you think about it, Skyrim’s fairly snowy all over but the difference from Helgen to the Throat is a marked difference, Pokemon Gold/Silver ends on Mt. Silver, and I’m sure if you think on it you’ve already conjured a few examples yourself. Why do so many game designers take their story along this path?
There’s a literary device known as Pathetic Fallacy, you may be familiar with it. The sun shines on happy days, it rains when everything’s sad, it’s tragic, but some people still do it, and if it’s done well enough you’d never even notice it was happening. The same thing can also apply to the seasons, they follow a fairly natural progression with all the metaphors to go with them, spring is a time of rebirth and new beginnings; summer is filled with life, growth and joy; autumn is a period of decay, when everything is undone and falls into decline; finally winter is the season of darkness, and death.
The progression of a game follows a like-for-like path, and often the terrain and weather reflect it. A game usually begins with the birth of a hero, the call to action that takes the normal person into a story. The action builds, intrigue rises, suspense and activity grows, driving the hero to develop and achieve things he/she never thought themselves capable of. Finally the real conflict is ahead, seemingly insurmountable, friends fall behind, the world crumbles, the hero is faced with an impossible decision or heartbreaking revelation. They overcome at last to stand before the end, victory or defeat, life or death, pivoting on a single moment.
A less heroic analogy, a decline in weather follows the decline of Prince Arthas in Warcraft 3, from the young hero of springtime, and the madness he pursues takes him into winters death, which then follows him everywhere he goes.
Keep your eyes peeled for this particular quirk of media, and how weather can influence emotions as part of narrative, and particularly look at how it can change your perspective on an area. It may not be the very last segments of the game, occasionally they are the very beginning (Metal Gear Solid, Borderlands 2, Rise of the Tomb Raider), but they’re frequently pivotal, memorable, tough, or some mixture of all three. If you’ve ever felt daunted at the sight of snow then you’ve already fallen victim to pathetic fallacy.
Strangely enough I played the parody of Myst before I even knew the original existed, a series of postcards with brilliantly crass and surreal humour featuring John Goodman as King Mattress. I loved it, but finding Myst was a revelation I don’t think I was entirely prepared for.
The Myst series is what made Cyan Worlds what they are today, though they’ve had a few older titles that are broadly forgotten along with a smattering of mobile releases that have gone unnoticed. Myst, it’s various sequels, re-releases and spin-offs are amongst the best puzzle games ever created, due in no small part to their use of observation and deductive reasoning rather than any dependence on the Lock and Key method I spoke of last week. They created worlds by the dozen, each with their own rules and internal logic that you uncover through studying the works of others and experimenting yourself, then using that knowledge to resolve the puzzles in front of you.
The question is can Cyan recapture the magic with a new title? Obduction is a title I picked up a while back, sincerely looking forward to something fascinating, something new. And as soon as I got past the title the whole thing crashed. Ahh well, nice new computer, nice new game… (more…)
The Point and Click Adventure genre leans a little too heavily on one very simple puzzle which I’ll refer to here as the Lock & Key: finding Thing A and applying to Thing B in order to proceed.
To be clear, things A and B can be a wide variety of things, a ladder and a wall, a photograph and a person, an ostrich and a sandwich toaster, or an actual key that corresponds to an actual lock. We can all thing of a few dozen examples, if pressed we could probably come up with that many from the same title. Grim Fandango, Machinarium, the Discworld game series, to an extent one could argue The Room, all make heavy use of this basic set up. Why?
Well, ignoring for a moment the fact that it is very simple and easy to put together in game, from a game design perspective it’s no bad thing either. It’s an un-failable task, you can’t get it wrong, you can only keep trying. It’s an obstacle to be overcome, to face the next obstacle, and the next one, and the next one. Occasionally you’ll see something different, I’d just like to offer a few suggestions of how we can shake up the genre.
Ah, the weather outside is frightful and these fires are so delightful. There’s simply no place to go, so let’s make another Top 10 list for all of you wonderful people. Yes, we’re back once more and this week, it’s our Winter themed list on fireplaces. You chose this list, not us, so we’ve had to seriously think about what constituted a good fireplace from a bad fireplace. Be it the tiling and brickwork, or the fire itself, whatever the reason, it had to keep us warm.
Our idea was that we didn’t have to specifically limit to very specific fireplaces, as otherwise, this might get old real fast… Instead, we’ve thought long and hard and devised a list. We’ve checked it twice, now let’s see which of these fireplaces are naughty and nice. Put up your feet, keep comfy and warm, as we go through our Top 10 Fireplaces.
Trees! Trees by the dozen, by the hundred! You can’t see how many trees we have because there’s a forest in the way, it’s ten!
It’s ten trees, it’s a top ten of trees, and it’s alliterative. You may have already twigged there’ll be a couple more at the end in our honourable mentions, we’re not quite ready to branch from that formula yet. So let us take a leaf out of our own book and get logging our opinions, ranking our trees, being deciduous about it. I swear I had better tree puns than this around Christmas…
Oak-Kay, let’s get this kicked off.
Towers define a skyline, they change the cities that they occupy because they quite literally stand out. Because of that they also tend to help define games, they can be focal in stories, a more literal climax in climactic moments, or they could be simple but iconic background detail.
A tower is a symbol, a statement, and a genre of game in its’ own right. So join us as we take this opportunity to appreciate their place in gaming.
Two of history’s best games have had the HD treatment lately. I played one today, and it’s the second remastered game I’ve ever played. The next is on the list for “soon”.
I wasn’t sure what I’d make of HD game updates. You can improve resolution and textures as much as you like, but it won’t improve the quality of the models unless you’re prepared to do a full remake, and any issues with gameplay are likely to remain, so you’re still playing the same game but in nicer clothes, and you’ve paid money to do it. But my gods it’s pretty.
Heroes of Might & Magic 3
I mentioned this in my post about the Ninetees that Heroes of Might & Magic 3 was getting an HD makeover. It released last Thursday, and I wasted no time getting it installed and going, it was a piece of my childhood, and now it looks prettier than ever. The gameplay was always good, and I’ve played it over and over again and this week marks the start of another cycle of nostalgic glee.
Visually, the game is stunning. There are details that I had never noticed before that are suddenly sharp and crisp, for example, I always believed that the red slash on the heads of the imps was their eye. Now I know for a fact that it’s a long whispy eyebrow! Little things to keep me cheerful. The animation still has a low frame-rate, but the cleaner image seems to make it flow that little bit more. Most importantly the map-builder is back, and that can only stoke my passion for games design.
There are a few minor sound errors that will hopefully be ironed out within an update or two, and I suppose it’s sad that we no longer expect games to come out of the publishers perfect any more. Notably absent are the expansions, but they put a hell of a lot of work into the core game, and there’s an entire additional town and perhaps twice the number of creatures to re-create, so there’s time yet.
The Tim Schafer favourite finally re-released after years of speculation and featuring a fine and dandy new Double-Fine logo. Seventeen years later, the game still has a heaving fan base that were eager to see it return, and there have been many rumours and false starts over the years. The new version includes more realistic lighting features, and a wealth of control options so that players can choose between the classic and the improved methods of play.
Physical copies became few and far between, and the only copy I could find in a local shop was gone before I knew I needed it. Thank gods for digital distribution, were it not for my temporarily horrendous download speeds I’d be playing it right now.
realMyst: Masterpiece Edition
Another ninetees favourite, the legendary puzzle-solver got the remastery treatment last year. The puzzles and physical models remain the same, but the Masterpiece edition took the frame-by-frame navigation to more normal WASD (or analogue stick) movement, a simple addition along with the essential graphical upgrade. It lends that extra layer of depth and exploration options that the Myst’s multiple universes richly deserve, no matter that it doesn’t change the puzzles or the story.
Time, weather and ambient effects were added, as were other renewed visuals such as small animals, foliage to really bring the worlds to life.
What realMyst’s update suffers for is a poorly executed WASD controls. While most (if not all) first person games have a centralized cursor or crosshair that completely controls what direction you face, the only way to turn the camera in Myst is to push against the sides of the screen, and yet Exile – the series’ third instalment – handled the method flawlessly. It doesn’t completely ruin the game, but it does put a damper on enjoyment.
Considering the rate at which computer technology moves on, a lot of classic games tend to be tragically lost under the steamroller of inevitability and mangled in the combine harvester of progress, but many classics are so loved that dedicated and talented people slave to see them reinvigorated to be enjoyed by new generations.
As sculptures need repairs, paintings need cleaning and occasionally brightening, and films are redrawn frame by frame or completely remaking, so too games will occasionally need maintenance to keep them looking as fresh and new as the day they were first released. But standards in the industry have slipped as deadlines are getting harsher, but with updates and patching they can get away with completing games after release. Which in many ways is what a remastered version is: a more complete version than what went before.
What other games have you enjoyed for being remastered? What games would you like to see remastered? Join in the discussion down below!
Welcome to our next Top 10 post, where Joel and myself have gotten together to splice up a sweet little list for you all.
Today, we thought we’d think about the Top 10 Crazies in Gaming… Now, a crazy is someone who isn’t exactly all there. They might find some odd things amusing, or they might not think normally. They might like to inflict pain and suffering but most importantly: They’re crazy and you’ll know it.
So join us in our journey through the madness that is the Top 10 Crazies in Gaming!
The Top 10
10) Achenar – Myst
One of the imprisoned sons of Atrus from the Myst series. Sirrus and Achenar carved a trail of destruction through the worlds their father created; Sirrus out of greed and self obsession, but Achenar seems only to want to destroy. Through exploration of the Ages you encounter evidence of his lunacy, an obsession with torture, animal trapping, fixation on blood and death.
Achenar’s insanity is uncovered through exploration, and by talking to his giggling face through a portal to his prison-world. He is a dangerous madman, and kicks off our list at number ten.
9) Kefka Palazzo – Final Fantasy VI
If the picture above doesn’t symbolise just how insane Kefka is, his ever haunting laugh will certainly be testament to this jesters insanity.
Kefka cracks out with dark jokes, relishes in the pain and suffering of others and has absolutely no regard for human life. He lacks self-control and he hates everything in the world: Only enjoying death, pain and suffering.
What a psychopath!
8) Alice Liddell – American McGee’s Alice franchise
Being treated for insanity and catatonia, Alice was beginning to lose her grip on reality. Her only possession is a stuffed white rabbit, which happens to be the creature that calls her back into the Wonderland that she used to explore so long ago.
Unfortunately for her, this Wonderland has changed thanks to her mind. With the corrupt Queen of Hearts now in control, can Alice actually battle her sanity and the Queen of Hearts in an attempt to win back the Wonderland?
Possibly, but she’ll still be in Rutledge asylum afterwards.
7) Max – Sam & Max franchise
Max, the lovable little bunny to the right of the duo above us is a rather impulsive bunny. Although he is generally in control of his actions, he’s very impulsive and he’s not afraid to say and do whatever his mind tells him.
Ultimately, the better judgement always wins, however his lunacy also makes him a volatile poker player. Be warned, else you might get fleeced by the bunny with no true long-term plan.
6) Dr. N. Gin – Crash Bandicoot franchise
Dr. N. Gin replaced Dr. N. Brio in Crash Bandicoot 2. N. Gin noticeably has a large missile protruding from his skull. That can’t be comfortable and indeed it is the cause of several of his massive migraines.
Dr. N. Gin is a genius, but having made that live nuclear missile turn into a kind of life support machine… Um, you’d better believe you need to be insane to pull off something like that! Especially when your emotions sets that thing back off!
5) Harley Quinn – Arkham franchise (Arkham City)
Coming in at number five on our list is the Joker’s lunatic devotee! Why her and not the Joker? Because in spite of Heath Ledger’s famous “Dog chasing cars” speech, the Joker is possessed of a single minded focus. His girlfriend on the other hand is a scatter-brained, mallet-wielding anarchy machine, dangerous enough when following the directions of her precious Mr J, but without him she’s a freewheeling hate-monger.
Quinn is subject of her very own DLC in Batman Arkham City, where players can see the damage a woman scorned can do!
4) Pokey Minch – Mother franchise
From the start, Pokey is manipulative and yet he only gets his way through lying.
He lies his way to get to become the high priest of a cult (No, really…) He then lies his way to becoming a business consultant for a mayor (No… Really..!) Then he uses his accumulated wealth to buy himself a helicopter and basically dares you to follow him to what’s effectively the ultimate evil.
Throughout the game, he becomes more and more power mad, driven by his own greed and desire for power.
After all is said and done, he ends Earthbound (the 2nd game in the Mother franchise) by leaving you a message: “Come and get me, loser! Spankety spankety spankety!”” What a nut-job! He only gets worse in Mother 3, but that’s a whole different kettle of fish.
3) Krieg – Borderlands 2
The conductor of the poop train comes in at number three. Borderlands’ “Psycho” playable character charges through the world smashing skulls and salting wounds and setting himself on fire! No really, he sets himself on fire. He has a skill tree devoted to it. And suicide as a tactical decision. Just, grenades everywhere. You can voluntarily take friendly fire just so you can suicide bomb your enemies.
Kept in check by the sane voice in his head that stops him from killing the “good guys” Krieg is one long maniacal-laugh riot!
Don’t believe how crazy Krieg is? Check out the Borderlands 2 Wiki page, which has all of his quotes. We were laughing through his quotes!
2) Sheogorath – The Elder Scrolls franchise
The lavishly dressed Sheogorath is perhaps the epitome of a mad man. In fact, that makes sense as he is the Daedric Prince of Madness. With his trademack Wabbajack, an item that issues a random effect.
If that wasn’t bad enough, he literally lives in a place called the Shivering Isles, which is also known as “Asylum” to some people and even “the Madhouse”. People go mad there and Sheogorath dresses for the occasion to meet those who would enter his realm. He even had a whole expansion dedicated to his isles in Oblivion (and it was totally worth it!)
1) Pyro – Team Fortress 2
Happiness, loveliness, rainbows and puppies. That’s what goes through the mind of the psychopath Pyro from Valve’s Team Fortress 2. Whilst s/he is running around shooting people with what s/he believes is a pretty bubble launcher; the world around it burns.
Pyro is insane to the membrane, remember this as when you hear the sounds of fire and smell burning flesh, Pyro thinks it’s making the world a better place.
Sometimes, some crazies in gaming are worth mentioning, even though they didn’t quite make the cut to be truly considered the most insane… But hey, these guys are pretty insane in their own right, so why not kick back and rest assured that these guys aren’t real:
Trust me – It’s safer this way.
Ghetsis – Pokemon Black & White
Power is something that is best left out of some peoples hands and Ghetsis is one of these people. The true brain behind Team Plasma, he led N down a wrong path. N believed everything Team Plasma were doing was for the best interests in his friends, the Pokemon, but he was wrong. Ghetsis is one of these rare geniuses who you fear, simply for knowing he’s around.
From the smart advisor for N, to the insane mastermind behind one of the most evil turns in Pokemons history, Ghetsis is to be feared… And we love to hate him for it.
Crazy Dave – Plants vs Zombies
He wears a cooking pot on his head. He speaks in absolute gibberish and he is basically a prophet. That’s right, you heard it here folks: Crazy Dave, the man who drools, wears a cooking pot on his head and speaks in a gibberish language is a prophet. He believed the zombies were coming – and he was right! He also sold you those damn handy plants. Just… Where did he get them from in the first place?
And that’s the end of our Top 10 crazies in gaming. Please be sure to stay tuned for more Top 10 posts, of which Joel and I will be working on together again.
What did you think of our modest list? Do you have some more crazies in gaming that deserve a mention? Let us know and tell us how wrong we are in the comments below, as we’d love to see what you’d suggest deserved a spot on our Top 10 crazies in gaming list.