Archive for the ‘Braid’ Tag

Humble Bundle #3   Leave a comment

Ever since the first Humble Bundle came out, I’ve been a big fan. First of all, I’m always pleased to see increased availability of games on Linux (hopefully so I can abandon Windows entirely at some future date) as well as the high revenues from Linux relative to the desktop share. Secondly, it’s always good to see this market model working and generating income for charity to boot. The third Humble Bundle has raised over $13 million USD and has a few days left with the added incentive of the second Humble Bundle pack thrown in as a bonus if you donate more than the average (which is a slim $5.20 at time of writing). As I already had the first five games of the Bundle, I donated and gave the bundle to my girlfriend. This is technically the fourth Bundle done as there was also a special Frozenbyte bundle that came with several of their games (Trine included).

The first original games are Crayon Physics Deluxe, Cogs, VVVVVV, Hammerfight and And Yet it Moves. All of these are solid reasons to get the pack, but Steel Storm was added as a sixth later.

More than that, donate higher than the average and you get spare copies of the second bundle (Braid, Cortex Command, Machinarium, Osmos and Revenge of the Titans) to boot. The cost of all eleven of these games would be a lot higher than ten times the average at time of writing and some of it goes to charity too.

What’s more, you can customise the share of the donation between developers, Wolfire (who pay hosting and promotions) and the two charities (Child’s Play and the EFF). You gain access to DRM-free copies for Windows, MacOS X and Linux as well as keys to redeem them on Steam or Desura.

There is simply no reason not to indulge in this great deal. Get the Humble Bundle #3 today here.

What Magicka needs   Leave a comment

Despite receiving lukewarm reviews, Magicka sold very well and there are certainly a lot of good reasons to get it, I certainly don’t regret playing it, but it fails because of things that would be so easy to solve. There’s DLC already available and an expansion coming out in the form of Magicka: Vietnam. However, the game still sports so many bugs that makes going through an entire chapter only for the game to bug out at the boss battle (for me, that averages once a day) or having everyone bar the host get stuck in cutscene mode a nuisance, and while we are here: what is it about the beds in the inn at chapter five that makes it impossible for wizards to sleep on them properly?

These are just examples, there are more, but the game is no where near as bad as it used to be. If it was in its current state upon release, I imagine the reviews would have remained lukewarm and the mention of bugs would have still been there, but at least the game is playable. The Arrowhead team, however, had best tread carefully with this new expansion as they need to keep squashing bugs as well as adding content and that new content must not add new bugs itself.

There’s the deal breaker and what really determines whether or not Magicka will really be worthwhile in terms of continued investment for players. I think it’s already missed the opportunity to become a real gem of indie gaming in the same way Darwinia, Braid or World of Goo have, but I will admit possibility of error here. I just imagine it will take its place amongst games like And Yet It Moves, as a great B-list member of the indie games menagerie.

Still, despite all its problems, Magicka shines brightly through the murky problems and that is where it differs from Dungeons (reviewed in the last entry). Dungeons’s problems are such that the game feels like it’s made by programmers who aren’t the most committed of gamers. Magicka feels like the reverse and so the charm really is there behind the lacklustre coding. I’m normally the first to want to string up games companies that release buggy software, but something here makes me think Arrowhead deserve a second chance.

But they do need to work on a few improvements and here is my short list of things I think they really should do.

1) Check points

A lot of people were bemoaning the lack of a sufficient number of these and while I did find it irritating to get past a particularly tricky part only to die shortly afterwards and have to go through it all again, I found those moments fairly rare. What I did find especially irritating was that if your game crashes, you have to finish or you click restart thinking it will take you back to the start of the boss fight then you are propelled straight back to the beginning of the chapter. Many games, like Braid or NightSky, have the ability to select levels within chapters and there’s no reason why selecting a chapter in Magicka shouldn’t send you straight to a checkpoint selection screen.

The problem is that games obviously provide a level of frustration and irritation. These are often vital parts of the enjoyment of the game as long as they remain in the background of the overall experience most of the time. I was fighting the boss at the end of the Murky Swamp level, I’ve reached a point where I can see that I’ll win too and then an explosion sends us both flying. Before we land, the screen blanks then I see my desktop. If I could load up the game and resume my battle from the boss then I would have kept playing, but the thought of all the effort I had to put in getting through the swamps being for nothing just left me with the frustration and that just leads to a sense of burnout. I tend to turn to other games after those moments happen and I doubt I’m the only one who does that.

2) Single player games and difficulty

I learnt very quickly that Magicka was a multiplayer game. The game feels a lot emptier when playing it by oneself and what detracts from that experience is the frustration of being swamped and cornered by a vast array of opponents that would be a lot easier for multiple wizards, but just chew you down and don’t really give you much opportunity to counter them. This is actually a bit annoying in multiplayer, but it’s something the players can potentially use to their advantage.

One possible solution is AI-controlled wizards a la Left 4 Dead. The AI of enemy magic-users leads me to believe that this would require quite an overhaul of the AI, so maybe the solution is just allowing a difficulty slider in the options. If it can be dynamically adjusted in-game then all the better.

3) More bugfixes

I understand that they must be busy creating more content for Magicka but I don’t really think that Vietnam should be released with a lot of these bugs still remaining in the core game. Personally, I would be more likely to buy Vietnam a month later with all the bugs that really hinder the game squashed.

Of course, I can’t really blame developers for this rush to get out content. It seems that a model favouring earlier release dates and increased DLC and content does sell a game more successfully that one of methodical QA. Given this, I can’t really expect that all the bugs will be gone by Vietnam’s release, but what is ultimately important is whether or not Vietnam brings more bugs into the mix or the game remains a relatively stable, playable experience with it.

This week in gaming   Leave a comment

The quick cap news

* PCGA continues to oppose naysayers with news that the PC market has grown 20% to $16.2bn in 2010 with no decline in any region.

* Gaijin Games founder Chris Osbourne has left the company behind the Bit.Trip games to found a new indie games company, Tracer. Fortunately, he chose a company name that doesn’t use the word for foreigners in the language of a deeply xenophobic culture.

* No surprises in that Australia has banned the latest Mortal Kombat game. I do wonder where this slack, laid-back stereotype of them came about because all I ever see is near-fascistic levels of censorship and state interference.

* Ubisoft has pleaded with the fans of the first game to “keep the faith” for Beyond Good and Evil 2.

* THQ Australia has announced job cuts. Fourteen members of staff were let go after THQ axed two projects and re-evaluated its kids license business.

* Harmonix pleased that Dance Central has managed to outsell Rock Band 3. This comes after a glut of problems for the musical game genre.

* Minecraft developer Mojang have announced a smaller-scale project, Scrolls. So all those fans annoyed at so little has been done with the Minecraft Beta can now get hating all over again.

* Tim Schafer’s Double Fine Productions has announced a new game, Trenched. The setting seems a fairly standard mech affair so far so it’ll be interesting to see what Schafer does to make the setting his own.

* Blizzard celebrate their twentieth anniversary yesterday and sent fans a thank you message for all the support over the years.

* Stardock’s Brad Wardell explains why Elemental failed and how they are making it up to fans. Personally, I think a little more polish could make Elemental a good game and Stardock have been great designers in the past, bringing us classics.

Main news

MMO fans get a lot of good news this week, first of all there is the fact that Bungie confirmed its new MMO game at GDC. Sphira: Warrior’s Dawn, a promising-looking browser-based MMO, will be coming up in 2011 and is already looking good. Frogster Interactive, who brought Runes of Magic to European audiences, also announced an ambitious new fantasy MMO for 2012 being developed. On the other hand, Panasonic cancelled their recent attempt to get into the gaming market and so we won’t be seeing an MMO-based handheld any time soon. Also, here’s a link to the documentary Gamers, which is available on Hulu and concentrates of the history of MMOs.

Social games were the targets of criticism in GDC 2011. Reports came back of the debates and both sides of the argument and the responses from both sides got a little heated and possibly even irrational. I was particularly impressed by Brenda Braithwaite’s rant and find those, like Jonathan Blow of Braid fame, who rally against the so-called manipulative nature of social games similar to those on the political right who talk as if the working class cannot really be trusted with their own resources. Still, social games must be doing something right as developer Kabam announced 150 new this week.

A good weekend to all. See you next week.

This week in gaming   Leave a comment

The quick cap news

* Richard Garriott returns with his latest offering Portalarium and talks about the costs and distribution model of social games. On the other side, Braid designer, Jonathen Blow, criticised social games for the way they treat consumers.

* Civilization IV became the first game to win a Grammy award for the song Baba Yetu. It took the “Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s)” in the 53rd annual award (incidentally, both it and the sequel, Civilization V are in the Steam deals as of the time of writing).

* Dragon Age II has gone gold, with a demo coming out in the next few days (the 22nd, to be exact). The completion of this demo unlocks a special dwarven weapon for use in the full version of this game upon release.

* Microsoft have been teasing people about a potential new Halo game, in a demonstration of the Kinect, they briefly displayed an image showing “Halo 5” for a second or so. What happened to Halo 4, anyway?

* Magicka, the new indie hit with its innovative magic system, has hit 200K in sales. Certainly, with a lot of the bugs patched, it is a much more solid, enjoyable game and with only a few more minor tweaks, proper online play is viable. DLC is forthcoming.

* Activision Blizzard has been in the news a lot recently, with Blizzard announcing that its upcoming Starcraft II expansion, Heart of the Swarm, will likely not see a 2011 release.

* On the same front and despite its recent redundancies and the closing of a studio, rumours abound that Activision are interested in acquiring Take-Two Interactive. The rumour comes from British gaming magazine MCV and, for those not in the know about European media, the tendency to be as vague as possible about your sources here leads me to take this rumour with a pinch of salt.

* The open beta of the F2P MMO APB: Reloaded has attracted over 100k sign-ups. With a beta program set to begin on the 28th of this month, there is hope to revive what was one of the biggest flops in video gaming history.

* In other F2P news, Champions Online’s switch to a F2P model seems to have propped up Atari’s failing boxed retail sales and there is more news on Paradox Interactive’s Salem popping up, confirming perma-death.

* Finally, it seems Bungie are working on a new MMO FPS, possibly titled Destiny. Rumours abound about this ambitious project, which will be Bungie’s first post-Halo offering.

Main news

The big story today is that Crysis 2 and Killzone 3 have both been leaked onto the internet by pirates. The PS3 Killzone 3 leak comes after the Sony’s failed attempts to subpoena Google and Twitter in relation to PS3 hacks. In a joint statement, EA and Crytek lamented the leak of Crysis 2 and encouraged players to buy the game.

What this has lead to is two rather undesirable groups emerging: on the one hand we have the pirates themselves who use all sorts of justifications for their illegal activity and on the other PC gamers who run to levels of self-depreciation that would make Opus Dei members pause. What is needed, in my opinion, is a middle ground between these ultimately unhelpful extremes.

As an example of a better middle ground, l would present the reactions of people like Ice-Pick Lodge in response to the piracy of The Void and that of Gratuitous Space Battles creator Cliff Harris. They spoke with and tried to understand why pirates pirated games, Ice Pick even made a torrent of bonus content available. They were not sympathetic to pirates, as Cliff Harris wrote in his summary of events, but they tried to tackle the problem without useless recourse to DRM or talking about pirates while using the noun “fuck” or the adjective “fucking” every five seconds. As to The Void and GSB, I encourage everyone to look at and buy those excellent games.

Our second story is about the fate of Mirror’s Edge 2. EA rejected the pitch given by Swedish developer DICE after what was acknowledged to be less than expected sales of the first game. Despite excellent reviews, the game only entered UK charts at 20. While people at DICE have moved on to Battlefield 3, EA commented to 1UP claiming that the game was still in the background, refusing to confirm the game’s cancellation, and that it was “an important franchise” to EA. Further news on the future of the game as it comes. I personally find it telling that EA thinks of it as “IP” and a franchise rather than as a game, but that is inevitable given they are a large publisher who think in terms of what sells or does not rather than the innovation, beauty and grace of a game.

That’s all for the second week in gaming. Have a good weekend.