Wednesday, December 15, 2010

December Odds, Ends, and Rock Band 3.

A few mixed things for the month ...

Hear Me Talk About ME!

There is a nice interview of me up in Inside Mac Games. I got to say a lot of things about the game industry, Macs, DRM, and our upcoming game, Avadon: The Black Fortress. I haven't gotten lots of e-mails yet about how wrong and dumb I am, so the interview was probably a failure. But you might find it interesting.

Die, Bunny! Die!

One thing I forgot to mention about Red Dead: Redemption. I spent a lot of time hunting animals, for money, for cheevos, and to break the monotony of long horsey rides.

At one point, I shot a rabbit but only grazed it. It started flailing around on the ground in tormented agony.

Animating characters is difficult, time-consuming, and expensive. And yet, someone at Rockstar took the time to animate a crippled bunny. This is the sort of excessive, terrifying craftsmanship that keeps me coming back to their games.

Pity that you don't have a radio, ala Grand Theft Auto. It wouldn't be historically accurate, but I would have loved to borrow 99 Luftballoons from Grand Theft Auto: Vice City to keep my energy levels up during long rides across Mexico.

Last Thoughts About Red Dead: Redemption

I finished Red Dead: Redemption, and I enjoyed that game as much as any I've played in a long time. The last time I wrote about it, I heard from some people who were infuriated by the awkwardness going through doors. I suppose the doors could be better, but you really spend very little of the game in places that even have doors.

(Minor spoilers ahead.)

One thing I really loved about the game: The storyline in the last ten missions or so. You see, in most games, after you kill the Head Bad Guy, that's it. You're done. Cutscene, credits, and out. But in this game, after the bad guy is gone, you then have a bunch of missions at your home. You meet your family, try to relate to your son, and work to rebuild your farm.

These missions are quiet, simple, and really quite affecting. It helps a lot that the relationships between John Marston and his wife and son are very nicely done. I really felt for them as characters and it made the last chunk of the game much more engaging. Which might make it a little bit relevant to that whole, tedious "Are games art?" argument that keeps resurfacing, no matter how much we might wish it'd stop.

Rock Band 3 Reviewish Thing

I've never hidden my huge love of Rock Band, and I've written about the series on several occasions. However, I can't work up the energy to write a Rock Band 3 review. It's got a lot of awesome songs, fantastic interface improvements, some nicely done Pro Modes that only 1% of the players will care about, and a keyboard.

But music games are a fad that is slowly choking on its own blood. Don't believe me? Look at it this way. When your development house releases its classic for the ages, and, a couple of weeks later, your owner puts you up for sale, well, not so good.

And, while the keyboard is a nice little bit of variety, it's just more of the same simple "Hit the green button. Now hit the yellow button." gameplay that most people have gotten totally tired of by now. It won't save the genre, and, considering that my half-assed efforts easily put me high up on the leaderboards, not many people are playing.

But hey, I'm a dead-ender. You'll have to pry my fakey drumsticks from my cold dead fingers. And I just dropped twenty bucks for the new Billy Joel pack. I will keep enjoying this niche genre for a while longer. But it will never again be anything but a niche genre.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Red Dead: Redemption and My Failures As a Parent

Before I take a weekend-long break from writing Avadon to spend a weekend with the family in my favorite place in the world, I wanted to talk about my latest gaming obsession.

Red Dead: Redemption

Since I'm an enormous fan of Rockstar's violent, objectionable sandbox games, and the only person you will ever meet who actually played Grand Theft Auto IV all the way to the end, I'm surprised it took me so long to get around to playing this. It's Grand Theft Auto, but in the old west. So instead of stealing cars, you steal stagecoaches! Instead of killing hundreds of Mexicans in fake L.A., you kill them in real Mexico!

What was more surprising, though in retrospect it should not have been, was how instantly attached my eight year old daughter became to the game the moment she caught an unlucky glimpse of me playing it. Of course, it makes perfect sense. This is a game where you own a horse, ride your horse, take your horse out into the brush, find wild horses, capture and tame wild horses, and make one of those horses your new horse.

So she wanted to play it. A lot. But it's a Rockstar game, with all of the obscenity, gruesome violence, and graphic sexuality that entails. (Along with an unusually high frequency of rape, which I don't consider an improvement.)

So I let her play the game, but only in sandbox mode. She got stuck early on in the missions, and I haven't helped her. Thus, the things she are exposed to while questing for horses are only damaging, not totally traumatizing.

Of course, when I walked into the living room yesterday, I saw her chasing down a pack of bandits and shooting them all in the back in an admirably businesslike fashion. Also, she is trying to hunt down every animal in the game. She'll say, "Daddy! I shot a snake! And an armadillo!" And she'll bounce up and down like the happiest little girl in the world.

So I either suck at parenting or am really fantastic at it.

Two Key Differences Between Red Dead: Redemption and Grand Theft Auto

In Grand Theft Auto, when I left my car to go on some dangerous mission and returned to it later with like eighty guys chasing me and a need to get away very quickly, I never found that my car was missing because it wandered off to eat a particularly tasty clump of grass a half a mile away.

In Grand Theft Auto, when I was peacefully driving somewhere, my car was never suddenly killed by a cougar, who then ate me.

I mean, sure, sometimes gang members would shoot at me, but this was never really a problem. Gangbangers with AK-47s are a walk in the park compared to cougars. Cougars are serious business.

Oh, and Some Shameless Self-Promotion

In October, we had our 15th anniversary sale, celebrating an alarmingly long time being in the business of writing Indie role-playing games. The sale was a huge success, one of the best sales we've ever had. As a result, and as a thank you to everyone who has been nice enough to keep us in business all these years, we are resuming the most popular part of the sale: the big discount on CD bundles. For the entire month of December, all of our Game Collections on CD are 25% off.