Half-Life - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (RPS)

best-pc-games-ever

There are more wonderful games being released on PC each month than ever before. In such a time of plenty, it’s important that you spend your time as wisely as possible. Thankfully, we’re here to help. What follows are our picks for the best PC games ever made. (more…)

80 Days - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Brendan Caldwell)

The crown Jules

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.>

80 Days [official site] is a great travel game. I don t mean it s a good game about a journey (although it is that). I mean it s excellent to play while on a journey of your own. On a plane, ferry, train, rickety bus. Observant folks might point out the absurdity of absorbing yourself in a tiny screen and its navy facsimile of wanderlust while the real world and its sights pass you by. Well played, observant people. But sometimes you look out the porthole and it s just 100% precipitation. What then? Read a book? Nah, go to Siberia on a steampunk blimp. (more…)

Kentucky Route Zero - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

I am dad, hear me whinge. Too many games, not enough spare time, for all my non-work hours are spent kissing grazed knees, explaining why you cannot eat the food in that cupboard>, constructing awful Lion King dioramas out of toilet roll tubes and being terrified that the next jump from the sofa to the armchair will go fatally wrong. I’m lucky in that my job to some extent involves playing games, so by and large if there’s something I really want to check out I can find a way to, but I appreciate that there are many long-time, older or otherwise time-starved readers for whom RPS is a daily tease of wondrous things they cannot play.

Now, clearly I cannot magically truncate The Witcher 3 into three hours for you, but what I can do is suggest a few games from across the length and breadth of recent PC gaming that can either be completed within a few hours or dipped into now and again without being unduly punished because you’ve lost your muscle-memory. … [visit site to read more]

80 Days - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Adam Smith)

With 80 Days and Sorcery, Inkle have made some of our favourite games of recent years, but Heaven’s Vault [official site] might just be their greatest achievement yet. It’s early days, of course, but a half hour play session at GDC has already convinced me that this science fiction adventure is a very exciting thing indeed. It’s a game about exploring the past, in the future, through archaeology and translation, and it has a remarkable sense of wonder.

… [visit site to read more]

80 Days - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alice O'Connor)

After travelling around the world in the fantastic 80 Days and to Fantasyland in Sorcery!, Inkle have announced their next game will go into space. Heaven’s Vault [official site] will see an archaeologist and her robot buddy travelling the mysterious rivers which connect moons, trying to uncover their secrets. Meet people! Chat! Solve puzzles! Translate languages! Travel an open world! Experience consequences! It sounds pret-ty great. I’ve a nagging suspicion that working with existing stories and worlds has kept Inkle from reaching the huge and fawning audience they deserve, so maybe this here all-new tale will do it. … [visit site to read more]

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Joe Donnelly)

Wowee, isn’t this a nice little surprise to help us shake off the Tuesday Wednesday blues? The latest Humble Bundle – Humble Narrative Bundle – has kicked off and, as always, the first tier is in familiar “pay what you want” format, with Steam keys costing a minimum of $1. Thing is, this particular collection’s premier platform features one-time RPS Game of the Month and FMV Game of 2015 Her Story, cyberpunk retro point-and-clicker Read Only Memories, and Nina Freeman’s lovely semi-autobiographical adventure Cibele. Based on those alone this is probably my favourite bundle yet, but there’s more.

… [visit site to read more]

PC Gamer

Every once in awhile a Humble Bundle comes along that's just too good to ignore. Today's launch of the Humble Narrative Bundle, featuring Her Story, Broken Age, 80 Days, and Shadowrun: Hong Kong, definitely feels like one of those times.

We begin, as always, at the pay what you want level (minimum $1 for Steam keys) for the Bafta award-winning Her Story, the cyberpunk adventure Read Only Memories, and Cibele, James' Personal Pick for 2015. Beating the average price, which is currently sitting at under $3.50, will add Broken Age, Inkle's outstanding adventure 80 Days, and the first two parts of Steve Jackson's Sorcery!, also by Inkle and also very good. Finally, for $10 or more, you'll get the Shadowrun: Hong Kong Extended Edition on top of everything else.

The bundle also includes a ten percent coupon for new Humble Monthly subscribers, and charitable donations will go to support Worldreader, a global nonprofit bringing digital books children and their families, empowering them to read, think, and grow in order to improve their lives and their world. Or you can opt to support an entirely different cause if that's your thing.

The Humble Narrative Bundle is live now and runs until June 14.

PC Gamer
An NPC cruelly flaunts his dangerous power to disagree with the player about sausages in 80 Days.

Tom Francis is a former PC Gamer writer and current game developer who offered to give us his thoughts on some of the GDC sessions he's attending this year. You can follow the development of Tom's next game, Heat Signature, at its official site.

80 Days is a globe-trotting game in which you play Phileas Fogg s valet, so maybe its not surprising that writer Meg Jayanth s GDC talk was about making protagonists less powerful. The title was 'Forget Protagonists: Writing NPCs with Agency for 80 Days and Beyond,' and she made a great case for two closely related points: that games give the player character too much agency, and other characters not enough.

Agency, here, means the power to change something if you wish. Jayanth is tired of game protagonists who storm through people s lives solving every problem they have. It frequently doesn t make sense, and it also robs those characters of their own agency: apparently they re all helpless to decide or accomplish anything until you show up and do it for them.

Jayanth uses 80 Days to illustrate the alternative: as Passepartout, you travel the world and get involved in people s stories, but he rarely makes a choice for them . If you meet people embroiled in a revolution, you can decide to support them or not, but you re not going to liberate them in your stopover on the way to Boston. You don t get to lead the revolution if you re not the one being oppressed, is how Jayanth puts it. You don t have to think long to come up with games that ignored that rule.

When a protagonist meets someone with a problem, she says, their relationship can be more like the ones we have with our real life friends. You probably remember a time when a friend was going through something… and they told you about it. You listened to them, you might have even offered them advice. They might have even done what you suggested, or they might not have. That doesn t really matter, you re still part of that story. Your relationship isn t based on the other person following your directives exactly… unless you have some incredibly unhealthy friendships.

She didn t cite it, but I kept thinking of that side quest in Mass Effect 1 where you can stop to resolve an argument between a bickering couple, Rebekah and Michael, about a parenting dilemma. It s been mocked as a ridiculous thing for a space commander to stop and resolve. But it s also ridiculous that a space commander can resolve it, that you even have that power. Why would they let you decide something so personal to them? BioWare even ridiculed themselves for it in Mass Effect 2: you run into Rebekah and Michael again, having a new argument. This time you can t help, but Michael mocks Rebekah: Maybe we should ask random people on the street what they think?

So reducing the player s agency—their power to decide things for others—gives NPCs room to have agency of their own. And that s especially important if they re romantic interests. As Jayanth puts it: How can we believe in a character s romantic desires if they don t have any other kinds of desires? Jayanth says Dragon Age 2 does it especially well—spoilers follow.

How can we believe in a character s romantic desires if they don t have any other kinds of desires?

Anders, one of your many companions and optional love interests, is lying to you. For much of the game, whether you re reluctant companions or madly in love, he s sneaking around behind your back. Instead of having an affair and cheating on you, he turns out to be plotting a terrorist atrocity.

And what I love about this, Jayanth continues, in a sentence that doesn t often follow the words terrorist atrocity , is that there s no way to stop him, or to convince him out of it, or even find out what the plan is, no matter how many times you shag.

If you re romancing him, the other characters give you, the protagonist, a hard time about the fact that your boyfriend s a secret terrorist. Which is fair enough.

Usually in games the protagonist s actions ripple out into the world, and the entire game is about seeing the consequences of your choices. But in this instance you re the one stuck with, and having to cope with, the consequences of an NPC s actions.

I loved the writing in 80 Days, and Jayanth s talk shed a lot of light on why. I would have said it was Passepartout s polite, sometimes meek demeanour. But that s part and parcel of the more important dynamic I hadn t noticed: that the other characters have strong wills, and things going on in their lives that are not just there for you to fix and feel good. It makes the world feel bigger and richer when you re not the most powerful person in it.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

A new game from Inkle, the studio behind the delectable choose-your-own-adventure 80 Days [official site] (and the soon-to-be-on-PC Sorcery! series), was always going to be a reason to celebrate, but news that they’re making their own world and characters from scratch this time is doubly so. 80 Days was at its best when it broke away from the well-known tale of Phileas Fogg in favour of alt-history noodling and charming, surprising characterisation.

They don’t have a name for the new game yet, but they have shared a few more details, including that “after four years of adapting books – interactive and otherwise – into great, interactive reading experiences, we’re looking to expand outwards a little.”

… [visit site to read more]

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (RPS)

What is the best writing in a 2015 game? The RPS Advent Calendar highlights our favourite games from throughout the year, and behind today’s door is…

80 Days!

… [visit site to read more]

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