Phaedrus' Street Crew
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Everything posted by Urthman

  1. I'm amused when Jake is giving the dateline and he says "2012" as if he thinks that's my name. "It's August 3rd, Twenty Twelve!" "Stop calling me Twenty Twelve!" *** Famous asks: "I don't know if players want to have a character with lots of baggage. Maybe they want a blank slate like Gordon Freeman?" That's the last question I want to hear from a developer. I want to hear you say, "We've got an excellent idea for creating a game around this character who has lots of baggage, and we're going to polish it until it works so well that even players who don't like that kind of thing will be BLOWN AWAY (ign.com)." Actually, I don't want to hear you say that either because then the internet will just poop on you for sounding too cocky. But you should definitely be thinking that. Don't give me what I want. Give me something I didn't know I wanted until I played your game.
  2. I'm strictly a PC gamer and I've always had achievement notifications turned off in Steam, so I've never had the pleasure of seeing "Goodnight sweet prince!" pop up accompanied by the sound of an achievement fairy getting it's wings when one of my buddies die in Far Cry 2. But is it really not possible to turn notifications off when you're playing an Xbox? Or do you guys have them on because of some other social thing you need to stay in touch with?
  3. I love when you guys talk about gameplay mechanics undermining or reinforcing the story or the world. (Imagine a Max Payne game where you got glimpses of the world reacting realistically to a lone gunman killing hundreds of people and evading capture for days or weeks. "Sir! There's something happening on Mars!") GTA4 is a famous example: Nico in the cutscenes fretting about whether or not to kill someone right after the player has been driving on the sidewalk, mowing down dozens of pedestrians. And there's stuff like this Stolen Pixels comic where the player shoots dozens of goons but then in a cutscene just stands there while the boss talks for ten minutes about her evil plan and then escapse ("I was pointing my gun at her as hard as I could!") I thought it would be worth listing some games that do it well and what they do that works. Here's a few ideas: * X-Wing, Tie Fighter, Freespace -- these are games in which the "mission structure" of the game fits well with what a pilot would really be doing. Also it makes sense that the pilot is someone on the periphery of a narrative that he hears about during briefings or over the radio. Playing the game in the cockpit realistically limits the ways the player can interact with the world and with other characters so you're not always running into mimesis-breaking walls or characters or static scenery. * Psychonauts -- The cartoonishness of the characters and the exageratted silliness of the story help avoid a lot of the problems you get when attempting to do a serious story with photo-realistic characters. And yet (as Pixar also demonstrates) cartoonishness and humor don't have to preclude serious drama and emotions. Also the surreal "enter and explore someone's mind" conceit fits really well with the platforming around crazy environments fighting weird creatures and collecting bizarre stuff. * Games with diaries, audiologs, etc. This is getting a bit cliche, but breaking a story up into puzzle pieces for the player to find and assemble fits really well with almost any style of game (FPS, RPG, puzzle game, adventure game), especially if some of the pieces are things the player sees in the gameworld instead of only relying on chunks of text. David Shute's Small Worlds is one of the greatest examples of doing this without words. Bioshock uses this technique very well; I think the main problems with Bioshock's storytelling are the people talking directly to the protagonist and the events he's directly involved in. In fact the big issue with this technique is how you connect the player's actions to the history she's slowly uncovering. Maybe you don't need to? * Braid - Using gameplay mechanics as metaphors for elements of a story. I think this part of Braid's storytelling is well done. The written bits are not as good, but I wonder if anyone would have noticed the metaphors without them? Would the paintings have been enough? The last level with the girl is a triumph of fusing gameplay with storytelling that really doesn't require reading any text at all. * Half-Life (The First One) -- Where this succeeds and so many other shooters-with-scripted-events fail (even Half-Life 2 is not as good) is that Half-Life doesn't try to add a bunch of characters and plot and dialogue on top of the main storytelling device: Put the character in a convincing location with a good sense of place and then have a bunch of crazy events happen directly to and around him. Why are the aliens invading? What were the scientists experimenting with? Why did the send in the army? Who is the G-Man? What's going on elsewhere? None of that matters. and it's really unlikely Valve or anyone else could think of answers that are more satisfying than vague hints Half-Life provides. The story is just "Gordon Freemen is caught up in and tries to survive some crazy shit," and that was more than enough for a satisfying game. * Portal, System Shock 2 -- These games rely more on an interesting, well-written character / nemesis more than a narrative to give meaning and context to the player's actions. * Games with systems that generate interesting events (Far Cry 2, Minecraft, Spelunky). Even though we say that these games create these great, unique "stories" for us to tell about what we did and what happened to us, and I actually prefer these kinds of experiences to most actual video game stories, I think these belong in a different category from games with authored stories.
  4. Anyone Remember?

    Which episode was done in two parts with the second part beginning with a montage* of funny soundbytes ("Previously on Idle Thumbs...") from the first part? *A montage which got me lots of funny looks in the grocery store because I literally burst out laughing.
  5. Beyond Better & Evil!

    I loved the first 95% of BG&E, but the final plot twists were so completely dumb, so completely at odds with the rest of the game, I sort of rage-un-installed the game as soon as the credits rolled and have very little enthusiasm for a sequel. Before BG&E, I wouldn't have believed it was possible for a game I enjoyed that much to be ruined that thoroughly (for me) by a bad ending. On a contradictory note, am I the only one who looks at the artwork at the top of the idle Forums and wishes it was the concept art for a BG&E sequel?
  6. I just finished Sense of an Ending. It was definitely worth reading and something I never would have picked up without the book podcast to look forward to. So thanks for that, Thumbs.
  7. Idle Thumbs Progresscast #9

    In my heart, any server on which cortex builds a scale model of Vatican City counts as a MeFi server. I'm 'straight' on MetaFilter and happy to be a contact to any Idle Thumb.
  8. Idle Thumbs Progresscast #9

    Sorry, Chris, I was just joking, but that's probably not funny to you guys. I hope you haven't had anyone hassling you about that kind of thing.
  9. Idle Thumbs Progresscast #9

    Sean, hearing you're new to Minecraft, I wanted to recommend that you check out one of the really huge forum community servers, like some of the ones run by Reddit or MetaFilter or Penny Arcade. I love exploring the natural world of Minecraft. I love exploration games in general, especially games like Assassin's Creed that give you fantastic environments to discover. But no game experience has left me slack-jawed with amazement like wandering around the vast cities, castles, volcanoes, cathedrals, statues, life-size reproductions of the Link-to-the-Past map of Hyrule, towers, greenhouses, Menger sponges, caverns, aqueducts, that Minecraft players have built. Screenshots and videos are not the same. And unlike Assassin's Creed, you can look at these things and think, "I have an idea of what it would be like to build that. I could build that. Except I could never build that." One amazing server that you can easily download a copy of is the TwentyMine (run by Shamus Young's forum community). Grab a 900MB copy of one of their hourly backups. You could wander around for weeks and not see it all. Chris, there's a Minecraft adventure map that I think you would love. It's an exploration game that has all the stuff you love about games like Tomb Raider and Assassin's Creed -- cool caverns and amazing architecture to climb and jump around on, secrets to find, exploration puzzles, logic puzzles, traps, huge machines to activate, a music puzzle, a 3D maze, parkour challenges -- with none of the stuff you hate (no lame combat, no painful dialogue, an optional story that you can ignore but might amuse you). It doesn't require any mods; it uses a combination of simple, clever tricks ("I wish I'd thought of that!") and fantastically complicated redstone & piston contraptions ("How could anyone design that?"). It's called The Tourist: a Playable Adventure in Paris
  10. Idle Thumbs Progresscast #9

    Kickstarter funded and suddenly Famous has a sweet new computer. Hmmmm. Actually, this is completely legit if you bought it program the postcard-signing robot.
  11. I loved hearing about Jake getting lost in Minecraft (even if it did shatter his non-video-game-playing rep). Getting lost in Minecraft is one of my favorite video game things. I love the way it makes my brain feel when I'm trying to keep track of where I am in some huge system of caverns. One of my favorite Minecraft experiences ever was when I was lost deep in a cavern and had mined a handful of diamonds and got myself killed, dropping a whole bunch of other valuable stuff as well - diamond pick, gold watch, compass, armor, etc. I respawned at my start point, naked and empty-handed, a long way from where I'd been exploring. Stuff you drop disappears about five minutes after you drop it, so I had five minutes to rush back to that general area (including a dangerous shortcut through the Nether), hunt for the spot I'd entered the caverns, and try to retrace my steps to a place that was surrounded by the monsters that had killed me when I was wearing armor and carrying weapons. I grabbed a few supplies, crafted a quick sword, and made the trip. Somehow I was able to retrace my steps down deep into the caverns (trying to follow the most recent path of the branching trail of torches I'd been placing), find the place I'd died, dodge the monsters, scoop up all my stuff, and get out of there. Very seldom have I had such a feeling of triumph in a video game.
  12. New people: Read this, say hi.

    Hi Thumbs! I'm a Kickstarter supporter (and long-time listener) who has browsed the forums before. I'm signing up now as Step One in the arcane process of gaining access to The Phaedrus Bunker. Trine 2 Rocks!