Dec 31, 2012
Face Off pits two gladiators against each other as they tackle gaming's most perplexing conundrums. This New Year's Eve edition is a chronological throw-down: which decade gave PC gaming the most? Podcast Producer Erik Belsaas says it was the '90s—the origin of modern PC gaming. Executive Editor Evan Lahti insists it was the '00s, with its speedy internet, better PCs, and shinier graphics engines.
Evan: The 1990s had the CD-ROM and the McRib sandwich. The ‘00s had Windows XP and two terrible Star Wars movies. I think the latter birthed better games: the Battlefield series, Crysis, Company of Heroes, BioShock, Dragon Age: Origins, Guild Wars, The Sims, Rome: Total War, Star Wars: KOTOR, and the best Civilization games happened then. What've you got, Erik?
Erik: Lucasarts, id, Ion Storm, Interplay, Blizzard: the iconic names that created franchises that we still discuss today. “RTS,” “FPS,” and “MMO” had no meaning before the pioneers of the '90s came along with some-thing other than sequels and rehashes: Baldur's Gate, Wolfenstein 3D, Duke Nukem 3D, MechWarrior, Unreal Tournament and every LucasArts adventure game from Sam & Max to Grim Fandango.
Evan: This is going to devolve into who can name-drop more game titles, isn't it?
Erik: Pretty much.
Evan: Cool. In that case, let’s put the best we've got on the page. What are the top three games from your decade? Mine: WoW, Counter-Strike, and Half-Life 2.
Erik: Just three? How about X-COM, Fallout, and The Secret of Monkey Island. Timeless classics that we still play today.
Evan: Is that the best that the decade that gave us the Spice Girls has got, grandpa? The innovations of the '00s will last far longer. Half-Life 2 wasn't just the basis for the way modern action games tell stories, it’s the technological foundation for the most ambitious mods we have today and the preferred canvas for machinima creators. World of Warcraft’s meteoric rise brought PC gaming into popular culture, ruined innumerable marriages, and earned its own South Park episode. Top that.
Erik:Your great games are all parts of established franchises that began in the '90s. For that matter, the original Counter-Strike mod came out in 1999, before Valve turned it into a retail product! Take away the names that began in the '90s, the '00s would've created very little of their own.
Evan: Megabyte for megabyte, I’d rather replay Half-Life 2 than its predecessor. Likewise for Diablo II, Warcraft III, Fallout 3 and other major franchises that began in the '90s but matured in the '00s. I really think that the tech of the '00s (better operating systems, fast internet, faster PCs) produced better gaming experiences. EVE Online couldn't exist in the '90s. Team Fortress 2's dozens of free content updates couldn't have streamed down our wimpy modems—the same goes for 25-man WoW raids or a heavily modded playthrough of Oblivion or Morrowind.
Erik: You've got a short memory. EverQuest allowed 72-man raids. And before Oblivion and Morrowind came Daggerfall, which was amazing and heavily modded. Doom, the father of modding, came out in '93.
Evan: I’ll play your game, Belsaas. Here's my ace: Deus Ex, our most favorite game ever, happened in 2000.
Erik: Deus Ex is a good game...but how about StarCraft? Has any other game absolutely defined its genre or rallied an entire nation behind it like a sport?
Evan: I was worried you’d play the Korea card. What can I counter that with? The 100-million-selling main-stream success of The Sims? The booming popularity of independent gaming? ...Peggle?
Erik: Peggle? Well I’ve got...you know...uh...Carmen Sandiego. Fine. Peggle wins.
Dec 28, 2012
A little under two weeks ago, Irrational Games asked you to vote on a design for the alternate side of BioShock Infinite's reversible cover. Today, Irrational revealed the results, and this is the image that came out on top, with 38 percent of the vote.
It couldn't possibly be more different from the game's standard box art, though that's certainly not a bad thing.
Irrational have just posted a video showing the first few minutes of Bioshock Infinite. That's the first minutes of actual campaign footage, not the minutes directly after loading up the game. That trailer would be a parade of splash screens followed by someone meticulously combing through all the option menus to make sure everything was set up properly. No, this has... well, spoilers, obviously. See the trailer below.
Is this the start of a promotional campaign that will systematically run through the entire game in five minute chunks? Unlikely. And yes, in case you're wondering - the reason I'm not talking about what's in the video is because I made it as far as the opening quote before deciding to just wait for the game to come out. Was it good?
Dec 19, 2012
You can now watch the first few minutes of March 2013's BioShock Infinite online or read about the game's first four hours in a preview we published a couple of weeks ago. But BioShock beginnings are not the kinds of things BioShock fans have precedent to fret over.
BioShock endings? That's another story.
Ken Levine and his team at Irrational have long been open and frank about the awkwardness of the first BioShock's ending. Remember that boss battle? Not the game's finest moment. You'd hope that kind of thing won't happen in Irrational's Infinite.
I recently asked one of the game's writers, Drew Holmes, about the new game's ending. He wasn't going to spoil it, of course, but he said this: "It's certainly going to be something that is going to be new and unique and that people will be talking about." He added, "This is an ending that I am proud of."
This alone is encouraging, because it makes it sound like the ending of BioShock Infinite won't be conventional, which the end of BioShock 1 was—more conventional than just about anything else in the game, in fact. And it makes it seem like it's not an afterthought.
Ultimately, players will judge how good an ending it is. "Our feeling about the ending is sort of irrelevant," Holmes said. "It's up to the players to decide. I think it's definitely not an ending that people are going to be expecting."
UPDATE: Ken Levine speaks a little more about the new game's ending at 9:30 of this interview. No spoilers there, either.
If you don't want to know how to get to Columbia, then watch no part of this video, which Irrational Games released just this morning. It's the opening to BioShock Infinite, a mostly cinematic sequence that is plainly an homage to the opening of the original BioShock, which we've included below if you want to refresh your memory.
I didn't catch any "Would you kindly" or obvious ties other than the destination through which Booker travels to Columbia. Its entrance evokes the original lighthouse of BioShock but certainly not as secular in tone.
For those who don't mind seeing how the game begins—there is essentially zero action here—have a look, I'm sure we'll uncover more similarities and callbacks to BioShock as this is deconstructed further.
Dec 14, 2012
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - email@example.com (Alec Meer)
Earlier this week, I played around four hours of BioShock: Infinite, which is due for release next March. While this was at a publisher-held event (disclaimer – I ate some free salt and vinegar flavoured Hula Hoops and a small bowl of Moroccan tagine. Alas, I hate aubergine) and I was part of a gaggle of journalists, I was not guided or observed during my playthrough, so I approached it at my own leisure and pack-rat pace. >
It has given me much to think upon, a few examples of which I shall share with you below. I will avoid all spoilers as regards to the events of the plot, but please be advised that I do talk in detail about the setting, its population and its backstory as presented by these initial hours of the game. (more…)
The BioShock games have always had a weightier tone to them than just shooting things in the face. The first game was lightly basted in an Ayn Rand marinade, while the upcoming BioShock Infinite deals with some tricky issues like racism.
The developers are to be applauded for this, but at the same time, it leaves them open to attack from those lacking in the brain cell department. Like the cheery white supremacists at racist forum Stormfront, where someone summed the game up as "The Jew Ken Levine is making a white-person-killing simulator."
Infinite director Levine speaks at length on the issue in an interview on PC Gamer, which you should definitely read. But that bonkers comment got me wondering, what else did the self-styled fascists have to say about the game?
Here are some of the "highlights", from a thread titled "Upcoming video game "BioShock Infinite" with common, reoccuring, Hollywood theme: ‘kill racist whitey'". A warning: some of this is pretty nasty stuff.
A ‘racist,' ‘violent,' ‘backward' world...? Oy vey indeed. The previous "BioShock" games also had very strange, borderline-deranged (if not psychotic) themes with anti-White undertones. I remember in one of the previous parts, one had to kill little White girls as the player for ‘power-ups.' The makers, "Irrational Games," have at least one "Cohen" amongst their staff
I wish somebody would make a game about an ethnically pure jewish utopia whose inherent aggresion and hatred of all non-jews causes the inevitable extinction of all human beings, jews included. That would be more in line with reality.
That really sucks that they made they theme of the game to destroy what is left of America. Instead it should have been killing an all-powerful federal government and racial non-white groups that bring nothing but violence and want ot end America and turn it into Africa or Mexico. And they worked so hard on that game, such a disappointment with the story line being 100% anti American and anti White.
So you go around blasting white patriots. I get it. They aren't human, there is a "force" at work, the vox populi movement is not much better. The whole city is an evil death weapon. They promote eugenics, they hate foreigners, they love Washington, their utopia is a dystopia, due to... whatever. Essentially your still running around blasting white patriots.
I wonder how many sci-fi twists I would have to make, before I could create a game about some white midwestern townsfolk shooting hordes of samoli immigrants.
The anti nationalist sentiment is more than slightly obvious really. It looks like a jew trying to piddle on old small america.
Not surprised, the owner of Irrational Games (the company who made this) is Ken Levine, a Jew. He and his like minded clique come up with these ideas, then get their white programmers and 3D designers to make it beautiful and marketable. It is thanks to the white piss-ons that the game looks as beautiful, and has the fun playability that it does, it is thanks to Levine and the higherups that it has the propaganda that it does crowbarred into it. 99% of the people who actually make the games are white, all the designers, programmers, artist etc. But 99% of the company owners with the actual power are Jewish, such as Levine, Robert Kotick of Activision (the guys who make Grand Theft Auto) etc. Sadly the game industry is getting more and more taken over by the chosen. Anytime any small developer has any success, one of the big Jewish owned mega companies buys them out. Since games are distributed and advertised through much of the same pipelines as Hollywood movies, Jews have a temendous advantage in the industry, since as everyone knows they already control Hollywood. This means competition can be choked out, and their own games bolstered to success. Really makes me sick to watch it happen.
The next time you think a YouTube comments section is missing the point, remember, this is the internet. There's always someone worse.
Today Ken Levine, the creator of BioShock, announced that BioShock Infinite will have a reversible box art. But that's not all.
You can actually vote on which you want to be featured on the opposite side of your box.
Maybe the official box art isn't marketed for you, but the reverse side could be. Personally, the three up top are my favorites, with the right-most being what I'd vote for.
As of this writing, the number one voted design is a solo Elizabeth, which to me seems too simple compared to the many other gorgeous ones. Let's go fix that!
And the other two options:
Dec 10, 2012
Last Friday morning, my words on this site told you that BioShock Infinite, the long-in-the-works first-person shooter from one of the most respected game development studios in the world, was coming along very well.
On Friday evening, if you were watching Spike's Video Game Awards, your eyes might have told you otherwise.
What can you believe?
An old friend has long said that we see games with our hands. That's pretty much the problem at the root of last week's divergent reactions. Words from reporters and critics are nice, but they can't replace the feel of a game. Graphics and sounds convey a lot. But if you could get an accurate feel for a game just by watching it, you probably wouldn't mind if I dropped by your house, sat down on your couch and played the new game you just bought for you. You wouldn't have fun just watching me play?
Your hands couldn't get to BioShock Infinite last week, and therefore you're left with my words and your eyes, two inherently imperfect tools for the job of you discerning in advance if a new game is any good.
Let's get specific.
I played BioShock Infinite for more than four hours on Thursday afternoon, under the supervision of people from the game's publisher and development studio. I played from the start. (In case you're wondering, there will be no spoilers in this piece.). I essentially liveblogged my experience, but didn't publish the liveblog until Friday morning, since that's when the coverage embargo set by the publisher lifted. That's when it was ok for me to write about it.
From my not-quite-liveblog you can discern that the game is very much like the first BioShock. It is set in a fascinating, exotic place that is fun to explore. It puts the player in a lot of firefights. It gives the player an unusually diverse set of tools and tactics to use directly and indirectly against enemies. It's very much a character game and gently tugs at the player to care about who the people in the game are—including the one you're controlling.
I'd come into the event leery. I'd enjoyed Irrational Games' first BioShock. I liked BioShock 2 which most of the people at Irrational weren't involved in. I'd marveled at BioShock Infinite's live E3 2011 gameplay demo. I then lamented the game's delays and grew concerned regarding departures from Irrational, word of cut features and an overall sense that what some might call business-as-usual in the complicated craft of creating games was, in this case, a flock of red flags warning that Infinite was in trouble.
The day last summer when we ran our report about the troubles facing the game, Irrational's chief game creator and the mastermind behind BioShock, Ken Levine, told me that I'd soon be able to play the game and judge it for myself. And so I did. From the start. For more than four hours. And I'll be damned if that wasn't four of the best hours of gaming I've gotten in this year.
On Thursday night, I wrote:
I wasn't going to lose sleep tonight if BioShock Infinite was a stinker. But I'm nevertheless happy that it showed so well.
It plays more like the old game than I'd expected.
It looks nothing like the old one, as I'd hoped.
Both of those are very good things. Be hopeful. They might nail this one yet.
Then you saw the trailer Friday night.
- Kotaku reader safjx: What's with all the 20 FPS trailers recently? It's like they're running this stuff on 6 year old hardware!
- Kotaku reader Nicholas Payne: "I was really disappointed with this trailer. It had the same vibe as the new cover art for me, which was gritty explosive action shooter #492. That's not what BioShock is, which is why I love BioShock."
- Kotaku reader Shakespeare: Very poor showing. Awful framerate, the same gameplay, 2nd-class animation. And how many freakin' times do they have to design Elizabeth!?
- Kotaku reader Jester Bomb: Iron sights, the "X" hit indicator, the frantic first person story telling, yeah I think us Bioshock 1 fans still have the right to be worried.
- NeoGAF reader g35twinturbo: "...I like how one of the AI went dumb, and was literally standing there while he was attacking it. Right before the big mech dude."
That last one is presumably in reference to the moment at 2:08 of this video.
I've seen comments from people who were excited by the trailer. I've read reports from people who liked it. But I saw a lot of negativity out there, certainly more than you'd expect a VGA-closing demo presented by Ken Levine himself to have generated.
So much for my words. Your eyes got many of you worried.
Watching the trailer, I can see why. It's got a ton of action. It makes the game seem like a shooter that has more combat than character moments. It feels more Crysis or even Call of Duty, and I think it's fair to assume that this was intentional. Ken Levine knows that his critically-acclaimed series isn't commonly known by the average fratboy Call of Duty gamer. He now also knows it won't have multiplayer, which is what often hooks many of the shooter fans out there. This kind of trailer is one way to grab their attention.
But what of the enemy who soaks up bullets? And the framerate? And the iron sights? The enemies were plenty tough and aggressive when I fought them. The game ran fine on the PS3 hardware I used during my session with the game. The iron sights? I forgot I had them most of the time but appreciated them when I needed to snipe.
Just about anything in the trailer can be explained away by those of us who played the game, though that isn't to say the game we played was perfect. I didn't like that enemies sweated hit points, Borderlands-style, when you shoot them. That's a new option, but as I learned later, it can be turned off. Once, when I went the "wrong way" in a transitional level that was supposed to connect one major area of the game to another, I got the framerate to chug. And for all I know, the game nosedives in quality after its first stellar 4 1/2 hours. Hey, it could happen.
There are many ways for me or you to be dead wrong about an upcoming game.
We recently declined to send one of our reporters to an EA preview event. We didn't have the time to get someone out there, but I was also worried. Dead Space 3 would be there. I'd seen Dead Space 3 a few times since May and I kept seeing it in just five or 10-minute chunks. In those instances, I'd seen the game with my hands. I'd played it. But I'd played it briefly. Too briefly, I think, to accurately size it up.
That's the other wrinkle here: brevity is the enemy of appreciating a game. Most games need more than 30 seconds or even five minutes to reveal to you how good or bad they are. Before that, you can be tricked.
On Friday morning, my headline read: "I've Played 4 1/2 Hours of BioShock Infinite. I'm No Longer Worried About This Game." That much time with a game in my own hands, playing it from the start, makes me feel confident. But I understand why your eyes can make you doubt. I understand that even my impressions might not discover something horribly flawed later in the game.
In early 2010, I attended a speech by one of the great game designers of all time, Will Wright. He introduced an idea I'd never considered before, that we compare real games to the idealized versions in our heads, and that we do this before we ever play the real version of the game. This is how I wrote it up:
Wright brought in an example from the lives of video gamers. This one involves a gamer going into a store intending to get a game. Maybe they've heard of the game. Maybe they've read about it. Maybe they know just what the back of the box they're holding in the store tells you. But as soon as they're thinking about it and considering it, the potential gamers are... playing the game. "They are already playing this low-res version in their imagination of what the game is going to be like."
If they then buy the game, and play the higher-res version that shows up on their computer or TV screen—and if it's not as good as the one they played in their head—that's a problem.
If the game they play is prettier or better version of what they played in their head, that's great.
In a way, we've all already played BioShock Infinite , mostly in our heads. What we're waiting for next is a chance to play it in our hands, all the way through, to know how the BioShock Infinite we imagined compares to the one that we'll be able to buy and play on March 26. It's a miracle that any game can stand up to our hopes of what it can be.
This is how it is with any game: there's the version we imagine, the one we see, and the one we touch. For now, for BioShock Infinite, I'm trusting my hands.