About a month ago I decided to finally play Max Payne 3, incidentally our "Best Drinking in a Dirty T-Shirt" GOTY. The game prompted me to make a social account with Rockstar, so I did.
This came up when I was picking an avatar for the account—I knew Red Dead was a franchise, but damn! That sure is looking into the future.
The litter was calling me, like granulated pieces of my broken past.
But pooping on the floor was all I had left. They'd taken everything else from me, that night my world came crashing down. A knife in the dark, a cold table. My manhood, gone, along with the rest of the garbage.
Her scent is what brought me back. That hint of sex, and cheap perfume, that told me she was out to get laid, and wouldn't be back to feed me until morning.
Cat Payne [DesertRat22225]
Many games try to create thriving urban environments for players to occupy, and there's nothing that says "thriving" and "urban" like a packed, sweaty dance club. Unfortunately, until very recently, games have been very, very bad at rendering realistic dance clubs.
This scene from Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines (a game which I love, I should say) best exemplifies the sort of awkward, embarrassing antics you'd see in early video game dance clubs. There just wasn't enough processing power to make the club as hazy, loud, or crowded-feeling as it needs to be to be convincing. I love dancing at The Asylum, but mostly because it's so endearingly goofy.
There's nothing sadder than an empty dance floor, though, as evidenced by this video from Star Wars: The Old Republic. It's like being at an unpopular kid's Bar Mitzvah.
I remember playing Mass Effect 2, when I first arrived at the Afterlife bar, I was incredibly impressed with how alive it felt. (Now, when I visit, I'm more aware of how empty it is.) Still, it's a pretty good scene, if only in how it builds up to the entrance to the club.
I liked the vibe of The Hive in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. The audio may not have been quite right, but it conveyed an icy, cool energy that worked with the game. Don't know how I feel about the random chicks gyrating around the place, but hey, no video game club is perfect.
Rockstar have long understood how dance clubs feel, once again demonstrating their preternatural ability to be ahead of the curve on this sort of thing. Even with its now-primitive graphics, Vice City's Malibu Club is a pretty convincing club:
It paves the way, of course, for the much more convincing clubs in Grand Theft Auto IV and its expansion chapters:
The dance club scene in Max Payne 3 may represent the pinnacle of video games' representations of dance clubs so far:
Nice. The thrumming bass, the way that dialogue instantly gets cut out and muffled, the fact that you can't understand what the hell anyone is saying. There are some shortcuts—see through the smoke and mirrors of the lens filters and fog machines and you can tell that the dancefloor animations are somewhat repetitive and limited—but all the same, this club feels more authentic than any before it.
A huge part of creating a convincing digital dance club is the music and more specifically, the way the music sounds. It can't just be the regular background music that plays during the game—music in a club is thrumming, physical, oppressive. You can't hear anything over it, and as a result everyone is shouting. On top of the pounding bass, there's a high-frequency scream of reverberating voices. It's not an easy thing to get right, making it all the more remarkable when a game does.
I turn it over to you—what are some of your favorite video game clubs? Any classics that are worth mentioning?
That quote is one of the most famous opening lines in all of literature. Sure, its popularity is owed largely to being the first sentence in Herman Melville's classic novel Moby Dick. But that introduction is also memorable because you're learning about an important character from the very second you start reading.
Earlier this year, Max Payne 3 did the same trick, letting players know about Max's nihilistic wit and gallows humor before they ever fired a bullet or did a slo-mo dodge. If you never played a Max Payne game before, you still knew for the most part what kind of game you were getting in terms of mechanics. But the journey was about who you were playing as, which wasn't neccessarily something you could learn about just from shooting dudes.
I was reading an issue of Mark Waid's excellent run of Marvel Comics' Daredevil when I stopped to think about how great first-person narration is as a storytelling tool. One that games should use more of.
Look, let's acknowledge that games unfurl their experiences in different ways than books or other media. Games can deliver story through interaction rather than scripting. But, the ones that want to tell tales have a great under-used tool in voiceover narration. Most video games struggle with telling you about their characters. They stop the thing you've shown up to do—solve tricky puzzles, shoot lots of alien invaders, explore vast landscapes—to roll out a cutscene where you finally get to see emotions play out on the front of a character's face. That's usually where you get to hear about what's motivating a hero or a party member. And these moments usually bring the play of a game to a dead stop. No wonder people skip through them.
That's why the narration of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time or Bastion (which, granted, isn't first-person) works so wonderfully. You can still be bounding around a crumbling castle or hacking away at a random enemy while getting fed information about the protagonist and the world. Even Metroid: Other M—controversial as its version of Samus Aran was for some people—let you into that character's head in a way by virtue of narration that previous games hadn't. In fact, I've found that narration heightens the action with a personality-driven filter. I cared more about getting Max past a wave of enemies than, say, Master Chief because I'd had his voice and his pain ringing through my head before the shots rang out.
First-person narration gets used a lot in detective fiction and its very existence imparts a subliminal knowledge that the lead character makes it through okay. You're hearing the tale told after the smoke clears. Where that might rob some of the tension from the proceedings in a book or movie, you're the one that has to navigate to resolution in a video game. That character's voice becomes a catalyst for closure.
So, more narration, please. After all, if I'm going to spend 10, 20, 100 hours with a character, I better feel like I know him or her.