Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Plague, Inc.

It's eleven o'clock at night and I'm sitting in the living room with the TV off, waiting for the last million people in the world to die so that I can go to bed.

It's pretty obvious that Plague Inc. has kind of got a hold on me. But I still haven't cracked the fungal infection.

The trick, I've found, is to focus on transmission and infectiousness early on; too many noticeable or fatal symptoms and you'll be spotted, racing to defend your disease against the developing cure.

But leave the deadly symptoms too late and you could end up watching your infected billions cured at the last second, with a pathetically low mortality rate overtaken by a late surge in medical research.

That's what has beaten my fungual plague so far. And it's only the third stage; there are still four more disease types to unlock.

But eventually I'll find the magic combination of infection vectors, symptoms and release location to destroy the human population of the planet, and I will sit waiting out the clock again, and I'll feel this strange combination of guilt and triumph watching as the digital billions succumb to my beautiful, perfect sickness.

And then, I'll start over with the parasite.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Beer battered Fish

The problem, for me, with Phil Fish's huffy departure from the games industry is that he's too divisive a figure.

If it had been a more reasonable, likeable person who'd been hounded out of the thing they love by an aggressive, demanding gaming media (and public), then I'd have a lot more sympathy.

For anyone unfamiliar with the events, here's the story. Game Informer, upon hearing a rumour that Microsoft were going to make it easier for independent developers to publish on the Xbox One, reached out to Phil Fish and Jonathan Blow, two self-styled Indie Developers, for comment. They're viewed by many as the "leaders" of the indie dev scene, and haven't gone out of their way to disabuse anyone of that notion.

Both Fish and Blow declined to comment; Fish made some remarks on Twitter about how bothersome he found it that he was approached for comment any time there's an indie games story.

On the Invisible Walls vodcast for GameTrailers, a games critic called Marcus Beer called Fish and Blow out as "hipsters", accusing them of using the games media and their indie darling cred when it suited them, but whining about having to deal with the press when it didn't suit their own self-promotion.

His presentation left something to be desired - it was overtly hostile and dismissive of Blow and Fish's creative talents, and didn't address the fact that they're not PR people but creatives - but the core of Beer's comments were pretty simple and difficult to argue with: a developer's relationship with the press is a two-way street.

The media needs developers for stories to tell, and the developers need the media to tell their stories.

But what I don't like is that this is only how the games press acts when it has power over the developer. While Phil Fish needs the games media to help him spread the word about his new game, the press has more than enough to cover with triple-A publishers and even other indies; they're not reliant on news from Polyton to fill column inches.

But despite the way Activision and EA treat the games media and their consumers, you'd rarely see a contributor to GameTrailers calling for a media-wide blackout on big-budget games just because the developer refused to comment on a rumour.

There's an element of this whole story that feels like a power trip, where the media's in a position to harm a developer when they don't get their way, when the boot's been on the other foot dealing with multinational publishers.

I feel like this could be an important thing to have happened. That Phil Fish has abandoned making games is a big deal, but such a divisive figure has people retreating to party lines; the coverage I've seen is split between "Fish was persecuted unfairly" and "Fish is an asshole", with very little in the middle.

But for all the praise of Phil Fish as a genius, we're now only ever going to have one piece of work to judge him on and that's not enough for me to make that call. Yeah, Fez is a great game, but it took him five years to make and he pissed off everybody he came into contact with during that half-decade, in one way or another.

The games industry has lost an auteur with a distinctive and divisive voice, but I'm having a hard time seeing if that's all good or all bad.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Shape of Arcadia

I must have completed Skies of Arcadia a dozen times, and abandoned playthroughs another dozen, but something struck me on my most recent journey back from Yafutoma that I haven't been able to dislodge from my mind for the last couple of days.

Just what the hell shape is this planet?

Warning: this is really self-indulgent.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Third PlayStation Problems

Here's the problem with PS+ as an alternative to buying games: I have too much f--king stuff to play.

I'm still stupid early in Saint's Row 3, have just about gotten to grips with XCOM again, and just about finished the tutorial in Kingdoms of Amalur; meanwhile I've not even gotten around to downloading Battlefield 3 (I only remembered that it's there after seeing it on the store homepage) and didn't give Demon's Souls a proper shake because I knew I'd have more fun with other stuff I've yet to finish. Not to mention my rapid abandonment of Hitman, Arkham City and Vanquish (although I'd finished the latter two on 360 previously). And then there's the arcadey stuff like Joe Danger and LBP Karting that I've still not gotten around to.

And now, in August, they're giving me another sandbox game in Mafia II (I platinumed Sleeping Dogs and am having enough fun with Saint's Row to see it through at least to the end of the story), Spec Ops: The Line (which I'm partway through on PC but will probably restart on PS3 anyway), and Need For Speed: Most Wanted, which I was quite intrigued by, pre-release.

I've only actually managed to finish Catherine and Okami so far, both of which I'd already beaten on other platforms.

I should definitely get a bigger hard drive. Having to delete stuff to make room for other games has really killed my ability to drop-in to stuff that I might otherwise have stuck with.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Broken Age split

This has been doing the rounds on Twitter this morning, and I'm kind of disappointed by the response to the news that Double Fine aren't able to make a whole videogame for $3m.

The full statement, from Double Fine's CEO Tim Schafer, can be read all over the internet (I happen to have a tab open to Destructoid's story, so have that), but the TL;DR version is that they got too ambitious and rather than compromise, they're going to make some cuts to the first half of the game to get something ready for public consumption.

They'll then release that first part of the game, in January, on Steam's "Early Access" program - which lets them sell the (unfinished) game to the public. The remainder of the game will then be released at no additional cost to Early Access buyers (and Kickstarter backers).

There's almost a sense that some people feel Double Fine should have been able to make the whole game using only the money raised through Kickstarter. But then what? Are they not supposed to sell it? Was there some unspoken agreement that, with the whole thing paid for by Kickstarter, the game would then be released for nothing?

It's kind of fascinating to me to see the reaction, though. One of the great things about the Double Fine Adventure project is the transparency; for the first time, consumers are getting to see how the gaming sausage is being made. But rather than learning from seeing that process, they're getting angry that the reality doesn't match up to their utopian ideal.

Even though Double Fine are getting to make the game they want to, on their own terms, it was never going to be a smooth ride. Publishers might be difficult taskmasters to work with, but I'm surprised at how not surprised I am that working directly for your audience is even less stable.