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Hello there, best keep your distance, for I am ill. Not just ‘bit of a sniffle/put a bigger pullover on, you great ninny’ ill, but ‘noxious substances violently erupting from everywhere’ ill. My daughter started going to nursery about three months ago, and has been bringing back a delightful cocktail of viruses and bacteria ever since – it’s been a relentless assault on my immune system, and while I’m oddly proud of how long it stood against this microbial siege, it has now collapsed in gruesome style.
It’s OK, I don’t want your pity. Unless it’s a special magical form of pity that renders me instantly able to eat again. I want to talk about games.
Gone Home developers Fullbright have shed a little more light on their so-far cryptic follow-up, Tacoma. The space station-set exploration title is due for release in 2016, but gave away little in its announcement trailer. In a forthcoming interview with RPS, Fullbright’s Steve Gaynor revealed that “you can tell from the teaser that it s in micro-gravity; stuff is floating around. And some of the implications that has for the relationship that the player can have to the space that you re exploring, that you couldn t have in a terrestrial setting, is really exciting to us.” … [visit site to read more]
Well, he eventually rebooted and remade war of wizards Spectrum classic Chaos Reborn, which I’ve had a lot of fun with over the last few days, and which took to Steam Early Access yesterday. You can read more about that here. But what happened to the co-creator of X-COM, Laser Squad, Magic and Mayhem, Rebelstar and more over the last ten years or so? While so many long-standing developers have seen their stars rise and rise, Julian Gollop seemed to fall out of sight. In this concluding part of my big interview with him, we talk about where he’s been, why he turned to Kickstarter for his comeback, how he was doing Early Access long before it ever existed, his thoughts on latter-day X-COMlikes such as Xenonauts, Invisible Inc and Mordheim, and the pressing question of whether we’ll ever see a new X-COM or Laser Squad=style game with him at the helm.> … [visit site to read more]
X-COM creator Julian Gollop did have plans for his own new version of the legendary strategy game, but abandoned them in the wake of 2K’s well-received XCOM. “I seriously considered that before Firaxis announced their XCOM,” he told RPS in an interview published today, “but of course once they announced it I thought, well it d be a hopeless cause because it s just not going to get the same traction.”
“I may have been completely wrong in thinking this by the way,” he added. When I suggested that he’d probably have succeeded nonetheless, he added that “I probably could have. I don’t know.” The Laser Squad and Chaos developer, who yesterday released wizard-battling strategy remake/sequel Chaos Reborn on Steam Early Access, hasn’t entirely ruled out an X-comeback of his own, however. “Well, we ll see. Got to finish Chaos first.”
I think it’s on all of us reading this to let him know below that that a new Gollop-made XCOMlike is far, far from a hopeless cause, eh? Also below: the game Julian Gollop almost made instead of Chaos Reborn.
After some time out of sight, X-COM creator Julian Gollop returned earlier this year, with a successful Kickstarter for a remake of/spiritual sequel to his beloved Spectrum strategy game, Chaos. (That being the one where wizards battle each other to death, with the help of various summoned beasties). An early, multiplayer-only version of Chaos Reborn takes to Steam Early Access today, so ahead of that I had a chat with the Laser Squad dev about how it all happened, what’s changed, how much of a purist he is about his old work, his thoughts on Kickstarter and what’s planned for the forthcoming singleplayer mode. … [visit site to read more]
In Now Playing PC Gamer writers talk about the game currently dominating their spare time. Today, Sam confronts Spec Ops' most controversial moment.
This article contains story spoilers for Spec Ops: The Line.
Spec Ops: The Line is clearly a smart game written by smart people. While as an adaptation of Heart of Darkness it s never as successfully weird or iconic as Apocalypse Now (despite making similar creative decisions), it s daring and ambitious in the way it portrays US military intervention in the midst of escalating chaos. I ve thought about the story a lot since I completed it recently. But what I interpret as its central conceit—that the player is the one making the decision to push forward and cause every conflict, and is thus the villain of the story—isn t really supported by the game itself. This is especially highlighted by the notorious white phosphorus scene halfway through, where protagonist Captain Walker and his two squadmates accidentally wipe out civilians with a real life weapon that burns flesh to the bone.
Spec Ops wants to make a BioShocklike message about human behaviour and choice, but in this key moment, there is no choice to be made. I m at the top of a building looking down into an enclosed bowl where an army of enemies is about to be ambushed by one of the worst weapons on this planet. I man the artillery, which triggers a bird s-eye targeting camera, and bring fire down upon scores of enemy troops. I figure out where the civilians are cowering, in a trench near the back of the field of conflict, and aim around them—but it doesn t matter. The radius of the white phosphorus impact automatically extends to scorch the group of innocents, and while this is a story beat that s technically interactive, it needs to happen no matter what. I tried not to hit them, but I was always going to.
The cutscene that follows shows the full extent of the carnage: charred corpses everywhere and the distressing image of a dead mother hugging her child, both burnt alive. If Call of Duty did this, there d be uproar. It s to the credit of Yager, the developer, that the context justifies the horror in this case.
But the fact remains that I didn t kill those civilians—Yager forced that outcome. While the aftermath still makes me uncomfortable, the fact that I was aiming around the civilians absolves me of guilt as a player—and I m not sure that was the intent. There s a strong narrative emphasis on the escalating madness in Dubai being of Walker s making, but lacking choice, I start to grow apart from that character.
The only choice I get to make comes in the aftermath, as I slowly tread through the blackened corpses and stick a bullet in anyone unfortunate enough to have survived. That s power put back into my hands as a player—I choose to kill those civilians to make up for Walker s poor choice with the white phosphorus. But again: that was his decision, not mine. It was Spec Ops most important narrative moment and they took it out of my hands. The impact is extraordinary, but had they genuinely hoodwinked me into killing civilians, it could ve lived with me forever.
And unlike BioShock, where the entire game is built to support a killer twist for the ages, in Spec Ops it becomes increasingly obvious that these are not my choices. Consequently, inspiring an equal reaction is impossible—Captain Walker is not me. I am grateful that Yager tried to do something so different with a military shooter, exploring an angle that makes every modern FPS seem gaudy to me in the way they present war, even with that clash between player and character in mind. I only hold this story to a higher standard than I usually would because I feel the developers have earned it.
The contemporary big-budget FPS has a few different strains: blood-n-guts military settings a la Call of Duty, open-world environments like Far Cry, and high-concept dystopias. Outside of open-world most of these styles were first codified in the 1990s, and FPS games then and now share an enormous amount: primarily a core mechanic of shooting many hundreds of enemies in the face over and over again, as well as crossover in areas like structure, goal-chaining, and narrative delivery. FPS games, in other words, have for a long time been constructed on resilient and proven principles. And many of them come from Looking Glass Studios.