Phil Savage: Design meeting
I love listening to game designers talk about game design—to the point where I'm often having to reassure interview subjects that, “yes, I really do want you to talk endlessly at me about game design. No, really, it's fine. For God's sake stop apologising.” I'm fascinated by the choices that smart people make, and the impact those choices have on the things they create. That's why I love any situation where a developer is quizzed about their involvement in an old project. The added distance generally leads to a level of detachment that results in a more frank breakdown of the limitations and compromises. You can hear that in Steve Gaynor's brilliant Tone Control podcast, and see it in Double Fine's Devs Play series. Most recently, you can watch three of Deus Ex's creators replaying Deus Ex. I recommend you do, even if it will mean an inevitable urge to replay Deus Ex.
Andy Kelly: Sex appeal
Female character models have been half-launched in survival sandbox Rust. This is a game where your avatar is generated randomly based on the numbers in your Steam ID. It determines your skin colour, body shape, and penis size—and now it will, eventually, dictate your sex too.
This is a brilliant idea, and I love how salty it’s making people. Some players are visibly upset and complaining that the character that’s been generated for them is black. I can only imagine how bad they’ll react when they appear in the game as, GASP, a woman.
Rust is a silly, anarchic game whose tone is utterly incoherent, so this character randomisation doesn’t feel out of place. I love that you can’t choose, because when confronted with a character creator, people will naturally makes someone who looks like themselves. But that’s boring. You can be ANYONE in a virtual world, so why be boring old you?
Mainly, though, I’m just looking forward to the angry forum threads by people who have spawned as women. That alone is worth the inclusion of the feature. Make sure you grab the next issue of PC Gamer, in which the team compares the sizes of their randomly-generated Rust dongs.
Samuel Roberts: Miami horror
This week my brain has reacted by craving morbid media. For example, I’ve cycled between listening to an audiobook of Bugliosi’s Helter Skelter about the Manson Family killings, The Evil Within, The Shining, and Hotline Miami 2. The one I’ve been enjoying the most out of those is that which is the most cartoon-y and therefore the least like real life—Hotline Miami 2 is a flawed sequel with a fragmented story, but as someone who devoured the original many times over, I’m enjoying the challenge. I’m liking it a bit more than Chris did earlier this year, helped, I think, by only encountering a fraction of the bugs he did.
I’m also appreciating the new conditions of the levels—being forced to use specific weapons, some of which were far from suitable for the level at hand, is like playing a challenge mode more than a main story. But that level of difficulty, while a step up from the original, is oddly appealing to me. I think it’s because I always enjoyed Hotline Miami the most when I was on the border of ragequitting every single time, which happens regularly in every level here. Wrong Number is so maddening I spent 40 minutes trying to escape a prison full of armed guards, which is an appalling performance for a Hotline Miami level. It’s flawed, but I am still very glad I played it, particularly for the near-3 hours of extraordinary electro music found here—perhaps the best soundtrack for a game I’ve heard in years.
James Davenport: Alarming alliteration
Full disclosure: I gave ten bucks to the Neverending Nightmares Kickstarter. I also gave ten bucks to the Devastated Dreams Kickstarter. Why? The former was an honest exploration of developer Matt Gilgenbach’s depression and anxiety, expressed through stark, Edward Gorey-inspired art and simple mechanics. It was a relief to see such a gorgeous, personal game tackle horrifying issues through a genre I love. Some of the imagery in Neverending Nightmares still stands as some of the most genuinely shocking stuff I’ve seen in a game. Devastating Dreams, on Kickstarter now, is hoping to riff on a similar design—2D, exploration-based, art-driven—but posits the player as a young, pregnant Filipino woman. Gilgenbach is tapping into his wife Joanne’s experience growing up in the Philippines, embracing her culture’s folk tales as a backbone for their new project. Turns out, some of these Filipino folk monsters are super into chowing down on babies. Yikes. There’s a playable demo on the Kickstarter page, and it’s very early on, but it still managed to coerce a few jumps and curse words out of me.
Tom Marks: Soccar
I’ve had an absurd amount of fun playing Rocket League this week. Possibly too much fun.
Fundamentally, Rocket League doesn’t have too much going on. There isn’t a lot to do in the game besides dressing your car up in silly hats and playing the standard game mode—it’s an experience stripped of nearly all fat and excess. But the skillcap is so monumentally high that I could play for hours on end and still feel like I’d have to get better before I start showing up on highlight reels. Intense moments abound, even at low-level play, but I can feel myself getting a little better during every match. That feeling of constant improvement while also knowing I have more room to grow makes Rocket League an incredibly engrossing game.
Also, thank you to Skoo in our comments for the brilliance that is calling Rocket League “Soccar.”
Chris Livingston: Turn-Biased
I am not much for turn-based combat: either I stink at it and thus don't enjoy it, or I don't enjoy it and thus don't put much effort into it and thus stink at it. That's why I was pleasantly surprised by the short time I've spent with Legends of Eisenwald. The combat, as noted in Andy's review, is oddly restrictive. You characters can only choose to attack enemies near them, often leaving them no choice at all about who to fight. While you can make a character retreat, you can't peel them off, button-hook around the crowd, and attack someone else.
It's a really odd, rigid system, and I expect it will greatly annoy a lot of turn-based combat veterans, but I actually wound up liking it quite a bit. Rather than staring at the battlefield, confronted with dozens of different options, there's really only a few. Battles are straightforward and usually pretty quick. For someone like me who doesn't have a mind for strategy, and not a lot of interest in learning the intricacies of ten different character classes, I found it refreshing and got a grip on it almost immediately. Like I said, the relative simplicity will no doubt turn some people off, but I appreciated it, and I'm having a fine time with the game in general.