Archive for the ‘Notch’ Tag

Minecraft’s released, and here are five games you might want to look at first.   Leave a comment

I’ve had a bit of a disappearance due to work and, well, gaming. However, in recent news was the long announced (and inevitably delayed) release of Minecraft which brought a lot of things that irritate me to the forefront.

Its user score hit amber on Metacritic a short while ago. I don’t think it’s a mediocre game, far from it, but I can understand the reaction of many of the gamers who are reacting against the squealing Notch fanboys and the strong bias of professional critics who rally behind the idea that the game is the best thing since sliced bread. I thought the older user score of 7.5 was a little more realistic, but it’s continued to drop.

Here I wanted to put forward five games out around about the same time that, I would argue, are a better investment than Minecraft. Of course, it’s all mostly subjective (assuming you’re not a dyed-in-the-wool games are art type) and there aren’t many games that do what Minecraft do the same way or as well as it, but none the less:

#1) The Binding of Isaac

The Binding of Isaac has a classic, rogue-like element mixed up with older console adventure games. You won’t get anywhere near the amount of play hours out of it as Minecraft, but it’s a great example of indie weirdness. It has a vague allusion of Judaic mythology as the player controls Isaac who must escape the basement from which his warped mother wishes to sacrifice him, encountering monsters and deformed siblings on his way to freedom.

#2) Saints Row: The Third

In many ways, Saints Row picked up where GTA 2 left off. By the time GTA 4 was hitting shelves, the series had gone a tad insane in many ways. The first two games were anarchic and did not take themselves seriously in the least. GTA 3 started a trend of trying to add a gritty side to the games and by the time GTA 4 was on screens everywhere, it was hard to see coherence between the bleak existence of the central protagonist and the zany slapstick carried over from the earlier games. Saints Row became, in many ways, the true inheritor of the pure slapstick of the first two GTA games.

#3) Orcs Must Die!

An interesting new take on the old tower defence model. Your basic job is defend a series of towers from hordes of orcs and their cohorts. The production values are good for an indie and the game has good humour running throughout that does not feel forced. As with games like Sanctum, the game boasts a large amount of DLC and the ability to get involved with the suppression of invading forces as opposed to merely leaving it up to the defences you build.

#4) The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Most people will know why this game is considered great already, but I’ll re-iterate here. State of the art graphics and sound with more varied terrain than Oblivion, randomised dungeons and countless quests, a more skill-focused character design with perks each level. Based off a new internally-designed engine and a new character generation system, the game opens up a lot more possibility for customisation than removed with its radically changed character design. The game world feels more real, more dynamic than Oblivion and the continued improvements in these areas point to even better in the future.

#5) Bastion

I have to admit, I was rather late on the bandwagon for this one. There’s very little to say against this game though, a paragon of action adventures, it combines elements of gritty fantasy with frontiersman Wild West and post-apocalyptic searching. The aim of the game is to rebuild the city that has fallen under a terrible blight (known as the Calamity) and cracked into several floating islands by finding and reclaiming the cores, bringing them to the sanctity of the bastion where the townsfolk were meant to gather. The game features gameplay and stylistic choices influenced by JRPGs, of which I’m not normally a fan, but its execution is slick and well-crafted.

I’m not saying Minecraft is a bad game. I just feel there’s a lot of hype around it and that the rating of 7.5 I first saw was a lot more realistic to the end product than the near uniform bleating of the praising critics. After his bad air with Bethesda and the nastiness with Yogscast at MineCon, maybe the mediocre user reception will make Notch a little more humble, because he needs to be brought down a peg or two.

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RIFT, Mario and Minecraft: a strange combination.   Leave a comment

So recently I’ve between making an effort to actually mop up some of those games I’ve not yet completed and I decided to try getting through the entire collection of Super Mario Bros. All-Stars on the SNES. I did a bit of a push on Overlord too as that kind of fell out too, though I did enjoy the game.

But I’ve kind of broken a taboo I once held because I saw Rift (they capitalise the entire word, though I’m not sure why) on special offer in a Steam daily deal and snatched it up (a month’s free subs, it would definitely be worth the £6 I dropped to get that, I could always cancel my sub before month’s end) and I concluded that it’s actually worth keeping that sub there for a few months longer as I’ll be getting 4 months for less than the full price of the game anyway. After that, I’ll see where I go.

The thing that really pulled me in was the fact that the world seems very open and large for an MMO that has been around around 8 months. I bought it in the sale celebrating the 1.5 update and sizeable updates are being added every two or three months with more minor updates in-between. The options seem more varied than the standard MMO fair with my level 19 character already far ahead of the mainstream quests that are the staple levelling up mechanic in most MMOs I’ve seen so far. This is because of a lot of random elements such as random group dungeon crawls and rift invasions allow a lot of traditionally end game content a chance to shine through to newer players. I doubt I’ll end up playing for the game until the day I die, but I could see myself keeping up a sub for a long while to come.

My housemate and I also paid some cash to get our Minecraft server running ready for the 1.8 update and lo and behold, 1.9 is already on the horizon. I actually quite like these new updates as they appear to be adding new stuff at a good solid rate. My big problem with 1.8 was the Endermen. They are not really scary or all that threatening and have ended up a minor annoyance at best, damaging my woodlands fortress with the occasional missing block or leaving a tree floating in midair.

The Endermen need to be improved a lot. First their AI doesn’t often work properly and this leaves them ignoring me as I stare at them and they move and place blocks in a random fashion. If there were ancient Endermen ruins that they sought to rebuild of Endermen settlements and their placement had more rhythm and reason, that would be excellent. They just feel an arbitrary new addition to the game.

But having criticised Minecraft for its slow updates, I don’t want to be too harsh now that Notch actually seems to be getting on with it. It just should have happened earlier and the updates could be a lot better. Still, we’ll all see next month when Minecraft leaves beta what sort of state it is in and what the future holds. Until then, things are looking a lot more improved.

The new villagers in 1.9 are the real big change as I see it. What they really need is a host of interactions and more ordered AI that makes them feel like real people and not just a couple of re-skinned pigs. Given how easy it is to create something like the 1.9 villagers, I wonder why Notch didn’t add them in before. Now all he needs is a slight modification to their AI and a buy/sell interface with currency and the basics are down, I don’t see why it is so hard.

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.