King's Landing really was impressive, but my heart belongs to this painstaking reconstruction of the Citadel Presidium, from the Mass Effect series. The eventual scale of it boggles the mind: the creator has a full gallery of clearly recognizable images and still, at the time, claims to be only 20% done. Now all it needs is blocky space pigeons and the effect will be complete.
Mass Effect Presidium [20% done] I need skilled builders ! [Planet Minecraft, via IGN]
Everyone loves a good quick-save. You know, a one-button press that lets you save your progress mid-level in case you screw up. So fast, so easy, so reassuring! You've frozen a moment in time, and with the touch of a button, you can return to that moment whenever you'd like.
In a lot of games, the quick-save changes everything: You're about to try a daring move, so you hit F5 in case you botch it and need to try again. But is the quick-save a help or a hindrance? Do we blithely quick-save without thinking, robbing our games of a lot of their fun? I'm of two minds about it.
In games like XCOM, which I've been playing recently, constantly saving throughout a mission greatly diminishes the sense of risk. It's one reason I'm looking forward to trying that game's "Ironman" mode, which constantly saves and makes it impossible to undo mistakes. With the stakes so much higher, everything will feel more exciting and risky.
When I initially played Far Cry 2, I played it on Xbox 360, which only allows you to save at safe houses. As a result, the missions felt fraught and dangerous, and I was forced to improvise when things went pear-shaped (as they so often do in that game). In the PC version of Far Cry 2, I have a quick-save option. Suddenly I can save the game, try something daring, and if it doesn't work out, simply reload. It's surprising how much less tense it makes things.
Of course, quick-saving is always optional; if I don't want to quick-save, I can just not use the function! I rarely quick-save in Far Cry 2, even though I have the option. Games with limited saves, like the Hitman games, seem to hit a good balance—you can only save four or five times in a level, so you have to choose your saves wisely. The higher the difficulty, the fewer saves you have.
So, on the one hand, quick-saving encourages experimentation, lets you perfect your play-style and saves you time. On the other, it significantly reduces tension and changes the flow of the game.
I'm still of two minds on it, so I thought I'd see what y'all thought. Do you quick-save? Are there games where you avoid it? Do you ever enact your own self-imposed "ironman mode" to see if you can survive while never saving? Let me know what you think.
San Francisco studio Kixeye is at the centre of some pretty serious allegations of institutional racism, after a person claiming to be an employee wrote a lengthy blog post [Update - since removed] outlining repeated acts of discrimination against he and other black colleagues.
Writing as Qu33riousity, the apparent employee - who says he is now pursuing legal action against the developer - lists several and repeated acts of racial discrimination and improper conduct on the part of Kixeye staff (which we must point out we can't confirm and are seeking the other side of the story on). Some of the lowlights:
The next week I come into work and find a message from Mike on Skype:
"I have to talk to you later, its not a really big deal but they brought it up to me."
We step into a conference room during lunch.
"Steve wanted me to let you know that we're dressing too thuggish in the office and we need to dress in a way that reflects the company better."
I take a very deep breath through my nose. I tell [Steve], rather I clarify for him that many things said by him and other people in the office has been racist, sexist, homophobic, transpho-
"Whoa whoa whoa, those comments you're hearing aren't racist; they're jokes!"
"The problem is that you're too sensitive. You need to check all that at the door before you come here to work."
"We don't even tolerate people brining up concerns of racism here."
I try to push back, pointing out the realities of the world, that there are policies and laws that maintain racial inequality so it's not feasible to check the impact of reality "at the door."
"No, you're too sensitive, that's the problem. I acknowledge that racism happens out there in the world at times, but racism doesn't happen in this office."
"Besides, there are transvestites on the team that I hired."
Oh my lord, so hiring "transvestites" somehow absolves you racist? Prior, I had noticed that indeed there were a few transwomen working in the office. All of them white, and all the while homophic and transphobic comments still riddle the office like bullet holes despite their presence.
Going back to the matter at hand, Steve then proceeds to do what white men always can't help but do: "educate."
"Let me tell you, it's ok to make jokes about slavery because that's over."
Yeah, receiving that felt like a bolt of energy striking the center of my head and slicing my body in two.
"Are you a slave? Is anyone you know a slave? No, so jokes are fine because that's in the past."
For reference, Kixeye is the company behind this infamous recruitment video, and has been actively and publicly seeking out not programmers, but "brogrammers", while at the same time saying things like the way the company needed to "weed out people that wouldn't fit in, that wouldn't fit in to our culture. … There are certain people that are going to respond negatively to that video, and frankly we wouldn't want 'em around anyway."
Also worth noting is that, while the allegations are specific and lengthy, the author isn't beyond a little stereotyping and generalising himself, repeatedly falling back on the line "Dumbwhite**********".
In response to the allegations, a Kixeye representative tells Kotaku "We take all claims of discrimination very seriously. Needless to say, we are thoroughly investigating what is fact and what is fiction and will take appropriate action."
Kotaku has reached out to Qu33riousity for further comment, and will update if we hear back.
UPDATE - The original post has since been removed by the user. Since it's gone, the image up top was taken from there, and is of what Qu33riousity claims to be the outfit he was wearing when called a "thug".
UPDATE 2 - Kixeye CEO Will Harbin has since told Kotaku:
Five hours ago, I was shocked to learn through a blog post of a former short-term contract employee about allegations of discriminatory behavior at KIXEYE. WE TAKE THIS VERY SERIOUSLY. After an initial investigation we've taken substantial corrective action and will continue to do so as appropriate. The actions described in the blog post do not represent the cultural standards at KIXEYE (as demonstrated by our diverse and talented team) and will NOT be tolerated.
UPDATE 3 - We have edited the image of the author above, after he cited concerns for his safety.
Racist Moments of 2012, Pt.1 ~The Workplace~ [Qu33riousity]
Both map modes, Money in the Denk and 3v3 Hardcore Face-Off, are available on all platforms. Have a peek at the video to see "Money in the Denk" at work.
One of the big differences between Torchlight II and Diablo III is that in Torchlight II, it's much more difficult to re-spec your character and choose new skills.
You can visit a vendor in town to undo your last three skill upgrades, but past that, you're probably stuck with the options you've got. Choose well!
However, there is a re-spec potion in the game that lets you totally overhaul your character, even at a high level. But that potion is rare, and so it's difficult to find.
Thankfully, there's this workaround, uploaded to YouTube by MaguzEx. It's a hack, really, not a mod—you'll have to download a file and drop it into your Torchlight II save game folder. After that, the potions will magically appear in your shared stash, and you can re-spec to your heart's content.
Not bad. Maybe it's time to find out how my Embermage would do if she was more into lightning.
Torchlight II Hack Allows You to Reset Skills Infinitely: Respec My Dodge Mastery [Technabob via Nibblehacker, YouTube video by MaguzEX]
Have you played Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors? If not, you really should. It's a wonderful visual novel-slash-point-and-click adventure with a tendency to make your brain explode, and I recommend that everyone take the time to experience it.
If you have played 999, you'll be delighted to know that there's a sequel—Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward—out for 3DS and Vita on October 23. You can try out the demo on Vita today.
Here's publisher Aksys describing Virtue's Last Reward:
Virtue's Last Reward is a visual novel-style game with puzzle elements that traps college student Sigma, a mysterious young woman named Phi, and seven other strangers in a game of life and death.
They are forced to take part in a game known as the Nonary Game: Ambidex Edition, which will place their lives on the line as they try to escape and discover the truth about why they're there in the first place.
As a visual novel, Virtue's Last Reward delves heavily into story, characterization, and reading in general. However, this is balanced by the escape rooms, which consist of point-and-click puzzles that Sigma and his fellow prisoners must solve to move the game along.
For those who happened to mosey on by to just get the first gleaming bits of information on the demo itself, it consists of a brief taste of the Novel sections of the game, which will introduce Sigma and the cast of characters, whom you'll hopefully fall in love with or hate with the fiery passion of a thousand burning suns.
The demo also contains an Escape section, where you'll play through one of the early escape rooms to get a feel for the interactive point-and-click puzzle gameplay the game has to offer.
If all this juicy info and series history hasn't sold you on picking up Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward, make sure to check out the demo when it goes live on PSN later today. Immerse yourself in the first English hands-on experience of Virtue's Last Reward, and allow the game to speak for itself.
The PC version of the game is truly fantastic, with great graphics, snappy load-times, a ton of tweakable options and a much-improved interface. But it doesn't allow for split-screen co-op—if you wanted to play with friends, you had to do it online. Well, until now.
Over in the official Gearbox forums, user Sycdan has posted this thorough step-by-step guide to playing the PC version in split-screen. It involves installing sandboxie, IndieVolume (which costs money but which you can try for two weeks for free), and running the game in windowed mode. You'll also need two controllers that your PC recognizes, naturally.
I haven't tried this, as I mostly live a sad and solitary video game life, but the whole thing looks viable, if a bit hacky. Given the way that Steam's big-picture mode has made PC gaming more of a living-room thing, it'd be great to see more and more PC games offering split-screen gaming right out of the box, just like their console brethren. Soon, I'm sure. Until then, where there's a will, there's a way.
Most crowdfunding projects for video games work one way: you front some cash and get a game that someone else makes. Sure, you get warm fuzzies from helping achieve their dream and you might get a shout-out in the credits but it doesn't get you closer to bringing your own game idea to life if that's something you want to do.
The Kickstarter campaign for What's In a Game is going to be different. Anyone who throws some money at the documentary series—which got teased a bit here—gets a spot on the beta for the Gameifesto social network. Gameifesto's aim is to link up skilled creators in need of other game-makers' help to get their own development projects off the ground. Not a bad deal if you're passionate about the creation of video games.
I'm used to Holmes being a potentially unpleasant character. From Doyle's original stories to the more modern interpretations of the character, one of the great detective's universal traits is that he can be, well, kind of an ass. In the better-told stories, though, he's a charming ass, using his rapier wit with precision. In fact, I tend to think of Sherlock Holmes as being a lot like Batman. He may be cranky, and moody, and kind of a pain, but he can use charisma and good grace when the occasion calls for it.
Also, like Batman, Sherlock Holmes doesn't really go around killing people. At least, he's not supposed to. Holmes himself, it seems, now disagrees.
The Testament of Sherlock Holmes is surprisingly difficult to describe, for a game that takes about ten hours (give or take a couple) to play. On the one hand, it's a classic point-and-click mystery game, full of puzzles that need solving just for their own sake. On another hand, it's an interactive take on one of fiction's most famous detectives, designed to let would-be sleuths participate. Sadly, though, what it mostly feels like is a mess, a pastiche of good ideas, bad ideas, good execution, and poor execution that never quite line up into a cohesive game.
The gist of The Testament of Sherlock Holmes is that three horribly creepy children find one of Watson's tales in their attic, and start reading it. This unnerving and unnecessary framing device sends us back to London in 1898, and finds Holmes—after a tutorial that, through misdirection, appears irrelevant for most of the game—smarming his way across the city, trying to solve a truly gruesome murder.
This particular Testament is, indeed, not for the young, squeamish, or faint of heart. Players must take their magnifying glass and tweezers to examine horribly tortured and mutilated bodies in all their painstaking, visceral detail, complete with a 19th century autopsy. If that doesn't sound pleasant, well, it isn't—and characters are more than happy to keep commenting on the various scents and odors a morgue with no refrigeration can provide. As compared to Holmes's moments playing medical examiner, all of the breaking and entering, trespassing, and grave-robbing the game asks the player to do seem downright peaceful.
The game succeeds in one crucial way, however, and that is in its atmosphere. This particular late-Victorian London gleams with details, from books and bricks in the homes of the well-to-do to the misery of an opium den full of penniless addicts. The poorer, meaner quarters of London at the turn of the last century seem to hold on to a fear and fog that make the grimness and desperation of its citizens more vivid. Wealthier homes and areas feel disconnected from the undercity in a useful and entirely plausible way. When the game eventually steps out of its heavily inhabited London, in later acts, is also when it begins to lose touch with its own premise.
Throughout the game, the player mainly inhabits Holmes, and that's a good role to have. Holmes is the one finding the clues, using the tools Watson provides (the deduction board is nice, once its function is finally clear), and making all of the leaps of logic that hold the story together. And yet with frustrating regularity, Testament will suddenly put the player into the position of Watson and force them to be Holmes's lackey. "Watson, go fetch this book," Holmes says from his desk, and suddenly the player is Watson, with only one task to accomplish: to fetch and retrieve the book. The player switches back to Holmes, to investigate the book, and then once again pops into Watson's perspective to go fetch another book.
At least Watson is a man. During one particularly trying segment, the player doesn't even get to be the good doctor, but instead has to be the dog, Toby. I never knew dogs—particularly old ones, who move at roughly the speed of cold molasses—could be so adept at stair puzzles. Sherlock thinks you are a Good Dog, but somehow that doesn't make the overly long section of the game any less condescending or more interesting.
There is an adage often heard in crime and medical dramas on TV, a variation of Occam's Razor advising simple solutions: "when you see hoofprints, think horses, not zebras." The player, like Dr. John Watson, may be inclined to think horses, and even have moments of pride for finding the metaphorical hoofprints. Holmes, however, will eventually inform everyone point-blank that the solution isn't just zebras, it's hell zebras from space. What do you mean, you couldn't tell from the absolute lack of clues or plausibility? It was simplicity itself!
That Holmes should find a magician's costume (and, eventually, its late inhabitant) in the later acts of the game brings home just how much Testament relies on misdirection, and how poor a tactic that is in a game with multiple, shifting vantage points. The player is all at once Holmes the brilliant, who understands everything and whose infallible leaps of logic carry the day, and also Watson, who spends most of his time confused and outraged, occasionally let out of his box to perform simple tasks.
As a game, as a mystery, and as a story, this particular Sherlock Holmes has absolutely no sense of flow or rhythm. The resulting shifts in both game logic and story logic continually throw the player off-kilter.
The ill-timed perspective swapping is one such example. When the player, as Holmes, is deeply engrossed in some forensic analysis at the work table, having to pause, take over the other character, then go search 221B Baker Street for some book, then bring it back, then open the inventory to make sure it's selected, then close the inventory, then click exactly the right space on the work table—well, by the time control comes back to Holmes, it's hard to care about what was in the book to begin with. Though a menu option exists to swap characters at will, the function is only enabled during a late point in the game, and disabled again as soon as the need to investigate two places at once has passed.
By the time the story comes to its major plot twist, Holmes and Watson simply stand around in their sitting room and talk through the whole thing, while some images pop up around them to highlight people and events. The solution, the ultimate mastermind tying together all of the threads of story that Holmes and Watson have been chasing, not only comes completely out of left field, but also takes place completely in Holmes's condescendingly brilliant mind, with no input from the player.
And that, ultimately, is where The Testament of Sherlock Holmes becomes so disappointing. Holmes, by necessity, is smarter than everyone. Not just all of the other characters in the game, but everyone—including the player. Forcing easy conclusions to go through dozens of deductive steps, and leaving the hard ones waiting in the wings, visible only to Holmes but not to the player, leaves a lingering, distasteful feeling. Sherlock Holmes is condescending not only to his assistant, his dog, and his neighbors, but also to the player.
It's one thing to steer a jerk around a game. It's another thing to steer around a jerk who implicitly makes the player "lesser" in his world. Though certain deductions are a delight to reach and satisfying to solve, ultimately as designed the game needs to hide its solutions and its inner workings from the player. The true mystery is not, "why did someone kill this man?" but rather, "Why doesn't the game trust me enough to let me solve the whole story on my own?"
Most of the critics agree: Resident Evil 6 is an overstuffed mess.
But what if there were more to it than that? Joseph Bernstein's enjoyable review at Kill Screen puts forth the (half-serious) idea that, given the protagonists' penchant for collecting and using crank(s), perhaps it's actually a game about drug addiction?
"The game is always asking: where is the crank?" Bernstein writes. "Can you use the crank in time? Can you avoid the monsters that are trying to keep you from using the crank?"
The game's operatic awfulness suddenly slides into focus. Of course the struggle of two junkheads to stay flooded with their junkie reality would be over-the-top, outrageous, nonsensical. The moment-to-moment gameplay often looks like this: rising tension as you look for the crank, fear that you will not be able to use the crank as you are assailed by zombies, then quiet relief and exploration after successful crank use.
The narrative that emerges from this reading is full of rich symbolism. One memorable set-piece involves trying to protect your partner from exploding Roombas. I imagined a pair of strung-out losers, terrified by the robot-vacuums they bought in a happier time while flush with dope money, terrified by the idea of cleaning up their lives.
Despite the fact that Bernstein has decided that the drug in question is heroin even though "crank" commonly refers to meth, the comparison is still pretty funny. Yes, this kind of review flies in the face of the more product-oriented reviews we usually see at other sites. And no, I don't believe that Bernstein is actually suggesting that the game was intended to be a drug-abuse parable.
But while it's something of a flight of fancy, the drug-addiction angle does say something valuable about the game: To Bernstein, Resident Evil 6 is a hectic mess of constant, nonsensical battles. Like drug addiction, the game is "a harrowing, endless, and unrewarding experience."
However you slice it, I'll probably be skipping Resident Evil 6. And hey, I'll also take a pass on that drug habit I've been contemplating trying out.