Blog: 2010

Inception: a game changer

Next we'll dream you up some facial hair, okay darling?
Next we'll dream you up some facial hair, okay darling?
Inception. A great movie by a great many standards. It gleans elements from a wide variety of genres and skillfully combines them into something that carries enough weight to become more than the sum of its parts. Its far-reaching appeal has naturally led to an enormous outpouring of articles and discussion, not in the least geared towards theories about what it all means. A subset of such articles focuses on the relation between Inception and videogames. It should therefore come as no surprise that Christopher Nolan himself has announced an intention to craft a game based on/in the Inception universe, and this post looks at the way in which it lends itself exceptionally well as a blueprint for a (certain type of) adaptation.

Short Script: Call of Duty: Black Ops

Call of Duty: Black Ops has now set the record for the largest entertainment launch in history. Selling 5.6 million copies within 24 hours of being released and pulling in $360 million, it's clear that this is a defining product. It's a shame, because it's a game that wants to be a movie so much that it hurts. More so than the previous games, Black Ops completely hobbles the player's agency and interactivity to the point where his presence is rendered moot (not mute, given that the game now features talking protagonists and not simply a developer painfully breathing into a microphone). It's perfectly pointed out in this video, which shows that the game robs even the player's main mode of communication with the world (i.e. a gun) of all meaning.

Short Script: Mafia 2

So yeah, Mafia 2. As an avid fan of the original game, I was very much looking forward to its sequel. It's received some very mixed reactions, with both story and gameplay alternatively praised and criticised. My overall impressions are accurately reflected in this review, which bottomlines to a striking juxtaposition of Mafia 2's story and the mechanical setting used to tell it in. It's not that the two aren't meaningfully connected, it's that the former doesn't measure up to the strengths of the latter. What the original game lacked in technical prowess, it more than made up for with a compelling story centred firmly around its well-rounded protagonist, Tommy Angelo. Mafia 2 does a 180° and lets down its solid gameplay mechanics and visual presentation with a story that meanders along without any significant cadence or ambition. And as is specifically stated to his face at the end, it's all Vito Scaletta's fault.

Eurogamer Expo 2010

E3's lesser known cousin, E2.
E3's lesser known cousin, E2.
I am currently located in Belgium, which has a relatively small game development community (focused more on games for portable phones and social networking sites). Besides my efforts to expand my experience locally (like this), I've recently been travelling abroad to places that play a larger role in the game industry. One such excursion led me to both attend and volunteer at this year's Eurogamer Expo in London. It was a marvellous experience and a definite recommendation for anyone trying to break into the business, whichever aspect thereof is one's focus.

Script: BioShock 2

It took a while, but the BioShock 2 Short Script is finally up. I thoroughly enjoyed the game, and while its story wasn't quite as engaging as that of its predecessor, its gameplay mechanics felt a lot more solid and worked out (the story does get points for not forcing a big reveal on itself just because BioShock had one). This once again underlines the importance of putting gameplay before story. BioShock 2 has been called "a most unnecessary sequel", but I think 2K Marin did an admirable job. Had it been the original game, the enthusiasm of 2007 would have been no lesser.

Story and gameplay

Who needs character development when there are EXPLOSIONS!
Who needs character development when there are EXPLOSIONS!
There’s a great deal of articles floating around which deal with the gap between story and gameplay and the efforts made to bridge it. Having assimilated quite a few of them, I’d like to see if I can't synthesise a common denominator to build on. The main point of contention which returns pretty much everywhere is the diametrical opposition of what story and gameplay want to do. The authors of this article mention that “a game writer looks for brief moments -- cutscene or otherwise -- when she can take control of the game so that she can create throughlines, pacing, conflicts, character development, plot twists and thematic meaning, while a game designer looks for ways to give control -- not to the writer, but to the player”. Henry Jenkins confirms that opposition in this publication, which opens with a selection of quotes illustrating the different approaches to games: “Ludologists want to see the focus shift onto the mechanics of game play, while the Narratologists are interested in studying games alongside other storytelling media”.

Short Script: Splinter Cell: Conviction

The BioShock 2 Short Script has taken a bit of a backseat, since I simply couldn't resist writing one for Splinter Cell: Conviction while playing it. There was more than enough for me to work with, to say the least. Most of my frustrations with the game stemmed from the nature of the PC version, which is prone to uneven performance and framerate issues. A quick Google search reveals a plethora of users suffering similar problems. At times I found it to be a genuine chore to play through the game, and while I finish all games I purchase on principle alone, I dare say it was the accompanying Short Script that helped to propel me to the end. It's a shame, because the game does get a lot of things right.

Short Script: Mass Effect 2

In this post, I've already touched upon the differences in gameplay between Mass Effect 1 and 2. After having completed Mass Effect 2 a second time (without importing a character this time), I can safely say that I don't have to go back on my words. Its Short Script is now available, and it manages to eclipse its predecessor's in length, but only just. It helps if you've read the Mass Effect script first.

Short Script: Mass Effect

As I mentioned in this post, I recently played both Mass Effect and its sequel back-to-back. Having now finished both games, I present the Short Script of the first entry in the series, which is currently the longest one on the blog by a wide margin. This is a testament to the amount of content in the game, especially when considering all the things I cut or didn't put in. Casually talking to Wrex about saving his species after destroying the cure to the genophage on Virmire, some flying turrets looking like three sticks glued together, Matriarch Benezia's overacted melancholy... all aspects that were initially included but ultimately removed for pacing reasons.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

After 18 seasons, David Caruso just had retractable sunglasses grafted onto his face.
After 18 seasons, David Caruso just had retractable sunglasses grafted onto his face.
Some new information regarding the third entry in the Deus Ex series has recently surfaced. Eschewing the standard tradition of naming sequels, the game is now called Deus Ex: Human Revolution. I don't have to tell you how much I love the first game, so my interest is more than piqued. With regards to Deus Ex: Invisible War, many fans of the original would like to pretend that it doesn't exist. The Deus Ex: HR developers jokingly do the same, as mentioned in this article: "Going back to the original was very, very important. We all started playing [Deus Ex] thoroughly, and then somebody voluntarily played the second one, just to make sure".

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