Tag Archives: gamesetwatch

Character Progression in F.E.A.R.

An enemy from F.E.A.R. seen through the scope of a sniper rifleI’ve resumed writing for GameSetWatch. My latest column just went live; it’s called Character Progression in F.E.A.R., and it’s about how increasing the player character’s options instead of increasing their strength can prevent a game from feeling flat.

F.E.A.R. was an odd game for me. The shooting part was fun and pretty and it was just the right amount of difficulty (or sometimes a bit too hard), but the rest of the game was… not very interesting. The horror elements rarely grabbed me, the story was almost pastiche, and the dramatic twists were clear to me after the first level. That’s not even bringing up one of the most offensive video game characters in recent memory. Hey, it’s a fat guy! And he’ll get bumbling clown music! And you’ll know that you’re about to meet him again when you see food wrappers scattered around. Seriously.

So while F.E.A.R. is technically advanced for its time and well-designed from a gameplay perspective, I was ready for it to be over about halfway through. And that’s never a situation you want a player to be in.

The Video Game Album

My latest column has gone up at GameSetWatch. It’s about a rare and intriguing animal: the Video Game Album. Occasionally, several games will be released as one package. In the article, I discuss Odin Sphere, Kirby Super Star, and The Orange Box.

One work I didn’t discuss in the column, because it seemed a bit incestuous, is my recent IF piece, The Bryant Collection. Continue reading

Interplay in Left 4 Dead

GameSetWatch just posted my latest article. It’s called “Interplay in Left 4 Dead,” and it’s about how the various kinds of enemies in that game interact to become stronger than the sum of their individual strengths.

L4D is such an astonishingly complex game. So much more can be said about it, and I expect to get at least one more post out about how the weapons all work together. This is a game that, like Portal, has clearly been fine-tuned and adjusted to a glossy finish. But while Portal was cut down and simplified to make it a smooth, well-crafted ride, L4D was cut down to a tangled knot of gameplay interactions, making it this chaotic, complicated, minute-to-learn-and-lifetime-to-master enigma of a game.

Personality in TF2

My latest article is up over at GameSetWatch. It’s called “Personality in Team Fortress 2,” and it’s about how the memorable characters in TF2 enhance the gameplay experience by reinforcing character roles.

The Orange Box wins in my book for best characters in a 2007 video game package. Alyx and Eli Vance, GlaDOS, and the TF2 cast together are an amazing accomplishment, especially when you realize the games were released on the same day by the same company.

Postmortem: “(I Fell in Love With) The Majesty of Colors”

In place of my usual column at GameSetWatch, I was requested to do a general postmortem of “The Majesty of Colors” this time. I’ll point you that way if only for the inclusion of my initial design sketch for the game. It was an interesting experience writing the piece; usually, this sort of evaluation involves more than one person, so it’s easier to pick out successes and failures. When everything is your fault, it’s tricky to pick out specifics.

Because of the forum of GSW, I left out a few points that I was tempted to include. Here are a few of them.

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Hope for the Future

Premier video game industry news site Gamasutra just released their top 5 indie games of the year. Number one is Daniel Benmergui’s wonderful “I Wish I Were the Moon,” which I’ve mentioned before. Number two is “Everybody Dies,” third-place winner in the 2008 Interactive Fiction Competition and a game I’ve yet to play. These two selections give me a great deal of hope for the future of interactive entertainment.

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The Goo Variations and Jill Off Harder

My latest column is up at GameSetWatch. It’s entitled “The Goo Variations” and it describes a game design pattern that I’ve dubbed “Variations on a Theme,” as demonstrated by the incredibly stellar World of Goo.

Additionally, Anna Anthropy released an expanded version of her cruel-in-a-nice-way Mighty Jill Off last week, and it’s now clear that she has a spike fetish. Highlights of the even harder Second Tower: when the level decays as if the cartridge has been loosened in the slot, the (Jesse-Venbrux-inspired?) segment where the player must die and trust the game to take care of her, and the absolutely adorable alternate ending cutscene.