Andy Kelly: Death to realism
I’ve been thinking about the Rise of the Tomb Raider video shown at the Xbox E3 conference, and how depressing it was. “Our goal is to make the most realistic characters in games,” says a developer, and you think, cool, they’re going to talk about writing and characterisation. The stuff that makes a character. But not: they were talking about the graphics.
They meant ‘realistic’ in a very literal sense. Yeah, Lara looks realistic, sort of, but that doesn’t make her a realistic character. Look at, say, any Studio Ghibli film. Do the characters look realistic? No. But are they characters? Yes! Or read any good book, which paint rich, believable characters with nothing but letters printed in ink.
Character comes from writing. Look at something like Crysis, for example. Incredibly realistic character models, but zero rounded characters. Totally forgettable. Rise of the Tomb Raider might be a good game (I liked the last one), but it’s a shame to see developers working so hard in the wrong direction. Realism has long been the games industry’s goal, but it leads nowhere. Stories need to get better, not the amount of visible pores on the hero’s face.
James Davenport: Bad shepherd
I have a really hard time getting into multiplayer games. There are a small stretches where I’ll attempt to dive deep into Counterstrike, Battlefield, Starcraft, or the MOBA of the Week, but nothing ever holds my attention for long, especially right when they come out. Which is why I’m bummed (and fascinated) to hear that The Flock, a super interesting asymmetrical multiplayer game, has an expiration date. The game injects horror into its first-person competition in a clever way. One player is a humanoid and everyone else is a nimble, monstrous being with the goal of killing the human. However, the human player can prolong their death using a (quickly dying) flashlight to stop monsters in their tracks. As a monster, if you move in the light, you’re dead. Neat idea, yeah?
It’s a wonderful idea, and exactly why I’m bummed it isn’t set to last. The developers have a point: these niche multiplayer games do tend to lose audiences over time and the idea of facilitating a “climactic finale” before turning the game off forever is novel, but prioritizing a high concept idea over convenience is somewhat baffling to me. I could understand, especially if this was posited as an experiment from the get-go, but now I’m far less interested in playing the game, simply because I’m not sure I’ll even have the time. Boo.
Chris Livingston: Survival of the Shittiest
I've finally begun playing ARK: Survival Evolved (my first diary entry is here). My first headache with the Early Access survival game, which has quickly become a hot seller, was that I simply couldn't get the damn thing to run. I'd start the game, pick a server, wait for five minutes, and then it would crash. What's more, this wasn't a quick crash to desktop, but a long, slow crash that would take minutes to complete, sometimes to the point where I'd have to manually restart my PC. I'd estimate I've probably lost about six hours just trying to get onto a server over the past several weeks.
I eventually found a workaround by accident: using the in-game server browser would cause a crash, and using the Steam server browser while in-game would cause a crash, but using the Steam server browser to select a server before launching the game—which would then auto-launch the game—would actually get me onto a server. I have no idea why, but at least I could finally play the game with other people.
This, of course, brings on its own series of headaches, because to this point, and I'm not exaggerating, every single person I've met in ARK has immediately punched me in the face. Once, this simply left me unconscious for a minute or two. Twice, after punching me, the other player simply killed me. And, several other times, I was eaten by the other players' pet dinosaurs while I lay there unconscious. This all happened with a minute or so of joining a server as a new character, wearing only underpants and not possessing a single item.
I know this is a part of multiplayer survival games—and I've done my share of unprompted killing of other players so I probably deserve it—but being eaten by another player's trained dinosaur before I've had time to even craft an axe, pick a berry, or take a shit seems a little more unbalanced than, say, DayZ, where you probably won't immediately run into a well-equipped player, and even if you do, he won't have a giant prehistoric monster following him around.
Phil Savage: Quest delayed
I've been catching up with my RPG backlog, which means I recently finished The Witcher 2—and only a few years after everybody else. This should be great news, as it means I now get to start The Witcher 3. Hurrah!
Except, not quite. Having seen the 1.07 patch change list, I've convinced myself that I won't start The Witcher 3 until it's been released. The Witcher 2 would have been intolerable without those storage chests, and knowing they—and other essential looking inventory tweaks—are on the way was enough to get me wait. In other words, patience is my low this week. Specifically my lack of it. Come on, CDPR! It's been a week now.
(Seriously, though. Take your time. No pressure.)
Samuel Roberts: Death to Deadpool
I think it’s good news that Deadpool returned to Steam earlier this week, even if the game itself is slightly weak (Nolan North is excellent as the titular character, but it’s a forgettable third-person action game with 7/10 jokes—a few 8s.) I am oddly annoyed that it’s returned to Steam at full price, though, retailing for $40/£30 despite being two years old and not that good—and people are buying it. It’s on the second page of Steam’s best sellers list, last time I checked today, and I can’t help feeling like people are only panic purchasing for fear of it being pulled from Steam again. I promise you, it’s not worth £30. It’ll be around until the movie releases next year, I’m almost certain of that—wait until it ends up in a Steam sale if you’re that big a fan. It’s what Deadpool would do.
Tom Marks: A hollow protest
That we reportedly won’t see a rereleased PC version of Batman: Arkham Knight for at least another six weeks is downright ridiculous. It’s good that they’re taking the time they need to actually fix the game, but it’s disrespectful that they didn’t give the port the time it deserved before its initial launch.
Not having any clue when Arkham Knight will be fixed is a low, but it isn’t what got me lowest this week. That honor goes to a common reaction I saw to the news, and it goes a little something like this: “I’m not going to buy Arkham Knight. I’ll be playing it, but they won’t get my money.” That’s the worst response you can have, because it doesn't accomplish what you think it does.
For a long time, big developers felt that the PC market wasn’t worth the effort, and a huge part of that attitude was because of game piracy. This attitude is finally starting to change as we see more and more PC sales, even on DRM-free platforms like GOG. Some developers are still making mistakes—as the Arkham Knight debacle clearly shows—but the attitude is generally shifting. Responding to instances like this by publically and proudly announcing that you are going to pirate the game is short-sighted, petty, irrational, and stupid. You are not hurting them more by stealing their game, you are hurting the PC community.
If Arkham Knight’s launch state and post-launch delay means you can no longer support WB and Rocksteady, then by all means don’t buy the game. But don’t pirate the game. It hurts the cause you claim to be fighting for. You think you are taking something from them, but you are only helping to perpetuate a cycle that leaves us with more botched ports.
And if you really, truly can’t resist and have to play it, pay the company for the product they made. I know a guy who makes the best falafel I’ve ever had. He’s an asshole, but that doesn’t mean I steal the falafel.