The Dord of Darien

Musings from the Mayor of the Internet

Update on Metroid Prime 3

Could this be the cause of the mysterious door latency?

March 14th, 2008 Posted by | Games | no comments

This scene should be in the next Phoenix Wright game

I’m not the world’s biggest fan of Penny Arcade, but I’ll gladly admit that some of the strips are fantastic. And today’s strip fits the bill. The last panel alone is downright hysterical.

The story behind it isn’t bad either.

March 13th, 2008 Posted by | Bullshit, Games | no comments

Why I didn’t like Kingdom Hearts 2 reason #6: Riku

Hey, I haven’t posted in this series in months. You probably thought I was out of reasons. No. Oh, no.

If you think back to the first Kingdom Hearts, you’ll remember Riku as the kinda-sorta-antagonist who looks like this. Sure, he’s all anime and shit, but so’s the whole game. He’s basically a good guy who makes a bad decision — he allows himself to be used by the darkness (going over to the dark side, basically) in order to get the power he believes he needs to save his friends and family. It’s a character we can honestly sort of sympathise with; he was wrong, but not just arbitrarily or malevolently so. He’s also young and confused, and we see him several times being misled by older, more evil characters. So by the end of the game we’re left with this impression that he’s really a good guy at heart, but he’s made mistakes and listened to people he shouldn’t have.

Riku in Kingdom Hearts 2 looks like this. You probably hate him already, yeah? Comb your hair and stand up straight, asshole. Just because you’re a year older now doesn’t mean we’ll let you get away with that. But it’s not just the way he looks — the entire Riku subplot exists basically to paper over the massive plot hole that opened up when the Heartless stopped being the bad guys (as discussed here). And not only is it stupid and mechanical, it’s also rather insulting from a metaphysical standpoint, since the main point it’s getting at is that, really, evil is just another good. People who are evil — people who choose darkness over light — are really in the end still doing the right thing, because at least they still have feelings. And that’s what really counts! It’s not about doing the right thing or sticking up for what’s right, it’s just about making sure you’re passionate about something. Because what’s truly evil is this other guy who’s all cold and rational and just thinks when he could be feeling.

I don’t think I really need to explain why that’s disgusting.

March 12th, 2008 Posted by | Games | no comments

Bullshit Boss

A boss in a video game that appears to be a normal encounter, but doesn’t operate according to the normal rules, and usually in a non-obvious way (e.g., the boss appears to be a normal man, but you can’t kill him just by shooting him — you need to find the one special method that works). q.v. Uncharted.

March 10th, 2008 Posted by | Video Game Glossary | no comments

The law of flashing sprites

If any object in a video game (other than the player) begins to flash, it is going to explode. The more rapid the flashes, the sooner it will blow up. If the player begins to flash, in contrast, this means he’s invincible.

This is not to be confused with the similar phenomenon of "sparkling," which denotes that a pickup is especially desirable or a mob is especially rare.

March 8th, 2008 Posted by | Video Game Glossary | one comment

Small Man Comics: Gygax

Small Man Comics

March 6th, 2008 Posted by | Games, Small Man Comics | no comments

Inevitable Ice

In any platformer, no matter the setting, the designers will find a way to introduce an ice level. It doesn’t matter if the game is about men made entirely of fire who live on the surface of a star and shoot lava at each other — somehow, somewhere, there will be ice they need to run and jump on. And this ice will not act like ice in the real world; there will be no chance of slipping and falling unless the characters move slowly. Instead, the ice will just cause the characters to gain tremendous amounts of inertia, such that any change in velocity will take a long time to accomplish.

It is also a rare occurrance that the ice will have any effect on the mobs at all; they will probably be able to move normally on it.

March 6th, 2008 Posted by | Video Game Glossary | one comment

The art of video games

In his review of the Silent Hill movie, Roger Ebert mentions having been on a panel debating whether or not video games could be art. This is a panel I’d have dearly loved to have been a part of. Longtime readers know exactly where I stand on the subject — I say that video games are without a doubt an art form, and that the best of them can reach a level of excellence comparable to that in any other medium.

To be sure, there exists no small number of low-rent video games that definitely are not works of art, have no ambition to be works of art, and exist only to generate revenue for their developers and producers. Does this hurt my case? Does the existence of such games somehow devalue the artistry of video games as a whole? Some people would probably say yes, but I’m not convinced. Quick — name an art form that doesn’t have people producing cynical cash-grabs.

I’d say, if anything, it’s more difficult to create a video game that truly qualifies as a work of art, for a variety of reasons. Not least of which is the constantly-changing creative environment; as platforms change and advance, so do the techniques required for the basic act of creation, and the trend has consistently been toward more time, more money, and more difficulty involved in just creating a product at all. I’m not thinking of any other art form that has such steeply-sloped barriers to entry — film isn’t off by much, but it’s possible (even moreso now in the digital age) for a gifted filmmaker to make an incredible film even on a low budget. The amateur unfunded game designer is held back by the simple fact that his game will not be technically even similar to the big releases — unlike in film, the "visual effects" are of tremendous importance to a video game, since there’s a distinct lack of ways to use real people and settings to create your imagery.

Not that I’m saying it’s impossible for an amateur game designer to make a truly fantastic game; it’s not. I’m quite an accomplished amateur designer myself, having made many games in many media throughout my life, so I think I do have some conception of the difficulties involved — note that the whole paragraph above deals solely with the technical considerations involved in creating the graphics, and doesn’t even touch on the sound, the narrative, the interface, or (lest we forget!) the gameplay. Creating a game that is worthy of being called a work of art is a daunting task.

There’s a certain purity of form to Super Mario Galaxy, for example; a sense of exhilaration to be found from playing the game that is independent from the basic sense of accomplishment for completing goals. The game isn’t just fun because you’re saving the Princess, it’s fun just to play for its own sake. It’s fun to look at, to listen to, to interact with. This game is definitely art, and it’s certainly not alone.

Clearly, not everyone would appreciate Super Mario Galaxy — I make no assumptions about what Roger Ebert would think of it. But universal acceptance is not a criterion art is beholden to; I know many people, for example, with very limited appreciation for painting, yet painting is unquestionably an art. I personally am bored and unengaged by dance, but don’t deny that it can be art. Now, I was not on that panel, I haven’t looked into it very much, I don’t know what was said, and I don’t know what conclusions were reached. But I can tell you one thing: I can conceive of no valid argument for claiming that video games are not art. Not one. Art is a cultural exercise undertaken for the purpose of creating beauty and excellence, and the fact that video games are created primarily by for-profit developers doesn’t render them incapable of art any more than it does film or music. Was Schindler’s List art? What about the Beatles’ Revolver? How about the Mona Lisa? All were created for profit, by people who knew they would be making money and in fact depended on that for their livelihood.

I am, as I say, a game designer myself (hey, I have as much claim to the title as some people I can think of), and I do regard what I do as art. It is a creative process, a long and difficult attempt to balance conflicting elements against each other, and an activity undertaken with the goal of creating beauty and excellence. If this isn’t art, then pray tell, why not?

March 6th, 2008 Posted by | Games | no comments

Gary Gygax dead; Kevin Siembieda still alive

So ol’ Gary finally wandered into the steam tunnels himself. I’m going to use this as an excuse to link to his interview with Gamespy from a few years ago, wherein Gary proves himself to be completely awesome even though the interviewer is obviously a pretty obnoxious little clown. But, I mean, it’s Gamespy. What do you expect?

Farewell, Gary. I imagine I’ll be failing a saving throw sooner or later myself. Then we’ll see if your weird "planes" theology was right.

March 4th, 2008 Posted by | Bullshit, Games | no comments