Can you believe that Titanfall is on its sixth update already? The major addition is a new 8v8 match type called Pilot Skirmish that pits players directly against each other with no AI soldiers and no Titans.
The previous featured game mode, Marked For Death, has proved to be so popular that Respawn is keeping it as a permanent addition to the core game. There are also three new options for people with colorblindness. A number of minor improvements are included in the update as well, such as an auto-fill option for burn cards and a faster matchmaking system.
Head over to the Titanfall site for the full list of changes and bug fixes.
During gamescom 2014, a playable teaser for the upcoming psychological horror game Silent Hills was released on the PlayStation 4. The project is a collaboration between Hideo Kojima and Guillermo del Toro. I finally had a chance to play through the demo this week and, while P.T. certainly nails key horror genre elements, it has a number of baffling design choices.
P.T. seems to take cues from games like Outlast and Amnesia: The Dark Descent. The majority of the interactions players have with the environment is simply walking around. Essentially, the player character is a passive observer to the disturbing scenes and sounds of the environment. Players are able to move and look at different objects with the camera. A cursory examination of the different buttons reveal that none of them seem to perform any function, with the exception of a slight zoom of the camera by pressing the right analogue stick. This is important because it turns out the only way to progress in P.T. is by looking at specific objects. The problem is that P.T. occasionally changes the rules.
There is one occasion in P.T. when players are supposed to intuitively know that they need to press a specific button while looking at an object. Unfortunately, the game has already established that the buttons serve no function, which makes it all the more frustrating that this is one of only two times in P.T. where players are required to press a button. At one point the demo requires players to find several scraps of a ripped up photograph. This would be fine if it was clear that the player should be looking for scraps. For a while I assumed that I was just supposed to be looking at unique objects in the hallway, because I found two by zooming in on a teddy bear and a potted plant. It wasn’t until I looked up a guide online that it was clear that I was looking for small, hidden pieces of that picture. Persistent players will eventually reach one of the most perplexing requirements of the demo; a part which has been commonly referred to as the “final puzzle.” To proceed, players must have a headset or microphone plugged into the PS4 controller. There is no indication for this; presumably players were just supposed to figure this out on their own. With the headset/mic in hand, players have to hear or compel a baby to laugh three times by looking at various objects or moving in certain ways. There are a variety of strategies that people say work, but all of them are pretty dang obscure (there are over eleven methods of unlocking the end of P.T. in this IGN walkthrough).
Kojima is known for keeping his projects a surprise until just the right time, and has even admitted that he thought it would take the internet longer to figure out the secret to unlocking the ending of the demo. To me, this seems like confusing design for the sake of being mysterious. Perhaps that was entirely the point and I am being hard on P.T. because I don’t understand it. But I think that there are some decisions here that need to be called out.
In particular, the ending of P.T. is not a puzzle, nor is any part of P.T. for that matter. Inconsistent controls and obscure requirements for what happens to be plugged into the PS4 controller aren’t puzzles. Good puzzles are like a Rubik’s cube. Most people understand how a Rubik’s cube works and what the goal is almost from the instant they pick it up. It is intuitive. The puzzle is figuring out how to use the simple mechanics of the cube in order to solve it. But what if there was occasionally a hidden rule to Rubik’s cubes? What if it was decided that at a very specific point in solving one you had to make a turn of the cube using only one hand? What if in order to officially have solved the cube you had to do your best impression of Freddie Mercury? Now imagine that you eliminate the Rubik’s cube and replace it with wandering around a creepy hallway. There is no puzzle there, just a weirdo having a hand around and occasionally acting like a terrible Freddie Mercury impersonator. That’s what trying to play through P.T. is like. Just because something is difficult to figure out doesn’t make it a puzzle.
One of the reasons I am hounding this issue is because genuinely ruins the experience of being freaked out. Being trapped in a haunted hallway is terrifying. Being trapped in a haunted hallway where nothing happens for twenty minutes while you are trying to figure out how to get a door to open is just frustrating. In video games, frustration trumps horror. This comic by artist Bryce Corbett (warning: harsh language) perfectly sums up how many people have experienced the teaser for Silent Hills. The design creates unintended frustration, and that seems to me like a fundamental flaw.
It might seem like I am being a bit hard on P.T. Like I said earlier, the atmosphere is electrifyingly uncomfortable. The environment consists of a hallway, a cement chamber, and a bathroom. Using that limited scope, it deftly manages to be unnerving, demonic, and horrifying without relying overly much on jump scares. Baby wails, guttural muttering, static-laced radio broadcasts regarding murder, bugs crawling on moldering walls, and piles of trash on the floor all work together to make the area uncomfortable. There are little details like bars on the windows, an abundance of abstract paintings, a swinging ceiling light that give the affair a sense of surreal dread.
Despite my concerns, I am optimistic about a new Silent Hill game. I am hoping that most of the design decisions in the teaser reflect Kojima’s penchant for dramatic reveals and secrecy, not his vision of the full game. Honestly, I call out Kojima as being the largest name attached to the project with a history of game design. It could be that these decisions came from Guillermo del Toro. Who knows? Either way, the atmosphere of an exceedingly terrifying experience is already in place, there just needs to be a competent game behind the visuals and sound to back it all up with something that doesn’t rely on guesswork, luck, and strategy guides.
The second season of Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead is a harsh slog through death, violence, and zombies. Which makes it all the more incredible that Season Two manages to be masterfully, achingly human. I’ll be attempting to keep this review spoiler-free since the main draw of the Telltale adventure games has always been experiencing the story.
The Walking Dead Season Two places players in the shoes of Clementine, the young girl who was a staple character of the previous season. Soon after the second season begins, Clementine becomes separated from her friends and meets a new group of survivors. Players follow her trials and tribulations with the new group and the people they meet as they go through their ordeals.
At its core, The Walking Dead Season Two knows how to construct drama. That mastery immediately sets it apart from many other blockbuster video games that rely on set piece spectacle, graphical horsepower, and marketing. Those bigger titles forget that effective drama relies on the audience empathizing and understanding the motivations of the characters. In this area, The Walking Dead Season Two excels. We understand the motivations of the characters, usually within the first few minutes of being introduced to them. Each character, even the bit players, have their own wants and needs, their own motivations. When we see those needs and wants clash, we can genuinely empathize with the situation, even if that situation is full of zombies.
If any game makes a compelling case for more diverse video game casts, it is the second season of The Walking Dead. The most interesting characters of the second season are mostly women. There are several non-white characters. There is even a great moment involving a male character who is in a relationship with another man. All of this comes together to create a more interesting narrative. Seeing different views and ideologies collide is fascinating, especially when you can understand their viewpoints.
As the season progresses, the player comes to an understanding of the level of violence permissible in the world of The Walking Dead and that understanding elevates the drama. When characters that we care about are threatened by intense, graphic violence we don’t want that to happen on a very fundamental level. When I say that the violence is some of the most graphic I have seen in a video game, I am not being hyperbolic. In particular, one scene stands out. There is a segment that involves a character being beaten into an unrecognizable, bloody mess with a crowbar. It is nauseatingly awful to witness and that is precisely the point. The Walking Dead’s second season makes a statement about how easily we accept horrific acts in our video games and how those acts are almost always treated casually or loosely justified with statements like, “It was war,” or even more simply, “they were the bad guys.” The brilliance of The Walking Dead Season 2 is that instances of violence, even in the most extreme cases, are never cheap and there is always an underlying point to their existence.
I’m currently playing through Wolfenstein: The New Order, so it is hard for me not to compare how violence works in each title. Don’t get me wrong, Wolfenstein: The New Order is a great game, but it falls into a category that I like to call, “well executed dumb.” It is trying to take players on a violence fueled romp through the ranks of Nazi’s who have taken over the world. The core mechanics all revolve around killing. I’d argue that violence is the end goal of Wolfenstein. If you take away the violent interactions there is no game left. You are never meant to think about the Nazi soldiers you kill in Wolfenstein as human beings. You are meant to think of them as monsters. There is nothing wrong with violence for its own sake, sometimes it can be very cathartic. However, violence by itself is empty excitement. When you compare the violence of The Walking Dead Season Two with that of Wolfenstein, you find that The Walking Dead uses violence with a purpose. For Telltale, violence is the means to an end.
Let’s return to the crowbar scene that I mentioned earlier. What end does the incident serve? On a purely base level for the player it provides a certain amount of catharsis seeing an “evil” character get some form of retribution. On a character level it is a statement about what kind of a person Clementine is becoming. It is a pivotal moment where she, and by extension the player, is given multiple opportunities to leave and let the event go unwitnessed. Whether the player decides to stay or leave says something about what Clementine has learned in her time surviving the apocalypse. Then the scene drags on and on. It becomes grotesque. It is not pleasant to sit through, nor was it intended to be. Why does such an occurrence of violence feel so strange and unique in the gaming world? In fact, it is remarkable how often games create similar scenes or situations and treat them casually. How many soldiers have we mowed down in Call of Duty without giving it a second thought? How about Grand Theft Auto? In real life the acts we see performed in most video games would be utterly awful. In that way, despite its cel-shaded graphics and preposterous setting, The Walking Dead Season Two feels like one of the most honest depictions of violence that video games have to offer. It is enough that it makes one question; should violence be so easily digested?
Midway through episode two Clementine is asked what she thinks is the most important thing in the world. No matter what response the player chooses the answer, Telltale’s writers tell us, is family. Where growing up was the central idea of the first season, family is the theme of the second season. We see Clementine through the struggles of surviving alone and then through the struggles of surviving with the people with whom fate has stuck her, much like how we are all stuck with our own families. In fact, there are a lot of different topics that are brought up over the course of playing the Walking Dead Season Two. A lot of people die, causing many characters to question the meaning of life and whether living is worth the trouble. Some find it hard to go on, others soldier on because it is the only thing they know how to do. How important is friendship and family in the face of life or death? Do children belong in such a world? Are the zombies or the humans the real monsters? Often Telltale forces players to make split second decisions; choices made in the heat of the moment that perhaps reflect a truth about how the player views the world.
All of this serious talk might make it seem like The Walking Dead Season Two is doom and gloom all the way through, but that would be a misrepresentation. There is real joy and laughter nestled amongst the sadness and loss. I laughed out loud at several moments and smiled through others. A lot of the humor derives from Clementine being a young girl who is treated out of necessity as an adult. Most of the time she rises to the occasion admirably, but sometimes she can’t help but show how in many ways she is still a kid. Maybe those moments taken out of context weren’t hilarious, but any levity serves such a contrast against the dismal backdrop of the world that a good guffaw isn’t too far away when the comedy hits.
You’ve probably noticed by now that I haven’t said much about the gameplay. That’s because there isn’t much to say about it. It is the least interesting aspect of Telltale’s recent adventure games and The Walking Dead Season Two isn’t an exception. Between the decisions that players will make are action segments comprised of quick time events. They’re not interesting by themselves, but the context of what players view on the screen makes them bearable. Tapping the Q key is not an interesting way to interact with a game. Often, interactivity is limited even during the moments when players are allowed to search an environment. However, I am more than happy to put up with the annoyance of quick time events and limited interactivity if I can experience more narratives of the quality produced by Telltale Games.
The third season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead has been confirmed which leads me to wonder how the next season will work. The ending of the second season diverges wildly after a certain point of decision the player makes as Clementine, resulting in three different core endings, two of which have several different ways they can play out. This would make it very difficult to start the third season with Clementine remaining as the main character. Perhaps Telltale’s writers will perform some complicated word jiu-jitsu and make it work, but I think it is more likely that next season will have a different protagonist and Clementine will make an appearance as one of the side characters. Only time will tell for certain, though.
The Walking Dead Season Two is one of the best narrative-focused games to be released this year. The writing is excellent, the performances are compelling, and the emotions it evokes are potent. The lack of variety in the interactions with the game world is overshadowed by the powerful narrative. Anything that might distract from the core experience with the story has been stripped away, revealing a journey with characters that will break your heart, mend it, and then shatter it all over again.
The Walking Dead Season Two is available on PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3.
BioWare has announced that Dragon Age: Inquisition will launch with a standalone multiplayer mode that will allow players to team up and tackle dungeons together.
Multiplayer will consist of four player cooperative quests with plenty of difficult encounters, unique objectives, loot, crafting, and new characters. There will be twelve multiplayer characters available at launch, each with different roles to fill in combat.
“For Dragon Age: Inquisition, a special team of veteran developers from the Dragon Age and Mass Effect franchises created fun, fast-paced multiplayer gameplay that requires strategic teamwork on top of Inquisition’s party-based combat and extensive loot and crafting system,” said Aaryn Flynn, BioWare's general manager. BioWare wants to assuage any fears that the multiplayer might be negatively affect their single player experience, so to be absolutely clear: The story and single player will be unaffected by the presence of multiplayer.
Dragon Age fans will be able to get a sneak peak at the multiplayer at PAX Prime August 29-September 1 in Seattle, Washington.
GOG.com is taking another step toward delivering on the promise of a world without DRM. Today, they launched a flashy, new site that works better on mobile devices and tablets alongside a price matching option for people outside the United States and a section for movies.
While the store is sleek and easier to navigate, the most notable addition is clearly the addition of movies to GOG's offerings. So far, the twenty-one movies offered through the GOG store are all documentaries relating to video games or the video game industry. Right off the bat, two of them are being offered for free: The Art of Playing and TPB AFK: The Pirate Bay Away From Keyboard. The remaining documentaries are available for a limited time at $5.99. Good Old Games will eventually expand their lineup of movies out of the rather niche genre of video game documentaries into more mainstream films. In the meantime, many of these documentaries are rather obscure or ones that I have never heard of like Gamer Age or 100 Yen: The Japanese Arcade Experience.
Of more interest to people living outside the United States is the new price matching system GOG has introduced. Now the price of games abroad can be compared to the price of games in the United States and if the abroad price is higher, the difference will be refunded to your GOG wallet. Also, European customers will be able to purchase in their local currency, choosing between the euro, ruble, or British pounds.
Overall, I think this is pretty neat and worth checking out, if only for two free movies.
Zero Point Software had been working on Interstellar Marines for five years before deciding to release the game via Steam Greenlight last year. Since then, demand for the game has exceeded Zero Point's wildest expectations.
Since its release, Interstellar Marines has sold an undisclosed number that is greater than 100,000 and generated over $1.5 million in revenue for the studio. Hooray! That means the studio can continue to work on the title's upcoming co-op mode and finally deliver on some of the initial promise of their game pitch.
Currently there are only a handful of game modes available compared to what the final game will contain. However, come September 18, that will change. Zero Point will be updating Interstellar Marines with a single-player and co-op mode. The update will bring Marines much closer to Zero Point's original vision. “Co-op is one of the central pillars of the game, and is a big part in providing players with an outstanding tactical experience in as realistic a manner as possible,” said Kim Haar Jørgensen, creative director on Interstellar Marines.
The co-op mode will be on display at PAX Prime prior to the September 18 update. More info on the project can be found on the Interstellar Marines website. Those of you who are really intrigued can buy into Early Access via Steam.
As always, be careful when it comes to buying games before release. There is no guarantee that Early Access titles will be completed or deliver on their initial promises.
Out of the Shurima Desert steps a forgotten emperor bereft of his empire. From the swirling sands of the desert, he summons an army fit to do battle in the League of Legends.
While similar in appearance to both Nasus and Renekton, Azir's playstyle appears to be completely different. He is what Riot Games calls one of their "minion-mancers," able to summon Shurima sand warriors at will and use them to attack adversaries. However, his move set is different from the turret-deploying Heimerdinger. Azir's soldiers are linked with his auto-attack, meaning Azir must target what he wants attacked or else his fighters are as worthless as sand dunes.
Riot has taken care to make Azir unique and powerful, while retaining weaknesses learned from their other minion-controlling champions like Yorick, Elise, and Malzahar.
For a full rundown of Azir's abilities, strategies, and synergy with other champions, check out the League of Legends reveal page.
Though it was rumored that Google was in talks to purchase the video streaming service, it appears that Amazon swooped in and bought Twitch for a cool $970 million.
Twitch CEO Emmett Shear offered the following statement to the community about the acquisition:
As with most surprising turn of events, it remains to be seen if this acquisition will be a net positive, negative, or neutral for the people who use Twitch professionally and recreationally. The above statement sees to indicate that any changes will be for the better with increased financial backing and the retention of all Twitch jobs.
Here is hoping you Extra Life streamers out there have an even easier and successful time with the service this year!
I've given years of my life to writing about video games. When I was little and asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always responded "I want to be a game designer!" It turned out later that I was terrible at learning how to code, so I decided I'd write about them instead. When I say that I've wanted to work in this industry my entire life - that it has been my dream - please believe me. Now imagine how heart-crushing it is for me to say that I feel deeply disappointed and saddened to be a part of the video game industry after the events of this past week. I believe that Extra Life is one of the most positive video game communities out there and a real force for good in the video game industry, the wider video game community, and for people who have no relationship with video games whatsoever. That force for good is what I want to address right now, because I think that to remain silent on this issue would be a tacit acceptance of deplorable behavior.
Video game community, we have a problem.
The past seven days have been eye-opening for anyone who watches the game industry closely. I will not get into the nitty-gritty details of events because those aren't what I want to discuss. Essentially Zoe Quinn, the indie developer of Depression Quest, became the target of a campaign of hatred which began because of sordid accusations that she traded favors with Nathan Grayson, a writer at Kotaku, for favorable coverage; a claim that has since been refuted by Stephen Totilo, the Editor in Chief of Kotaku. However, simply because the accusations were made, harassment began to flow into Quinn's twitter feed and inbox. Video game "fans" sent her threats and insults. People who profess to love video games stole personal information and shared her home address and nude photos on the internet. There is more; the attack went on for days, but you begin to understand. In the face of all of that ugliness, Zoe Quinn stood her ground.
The more hopeful among you might think that this is where things end. You might assume that the mob of anger eventually accepted that a grown woman like Quinn could have a romantic relationship with someone in a field of work similar to her own. Unfortunately, you would be wrong. Someone professing to be one of the leaders of both Anonymous and 4Chan, essentially declared a cyber war on Zoe Quinn and anyone of her professional acquaintances who might support her. Quinn's sites were hijacked and riddled with viruses. The contact information from her Skype was used to infiltrate other developer's personal computers as well. Notably, Phil Fish, the outspoken creator of Fez, was hacked. All of his personal information, as well as the information of his development company, Polytron, was spread across the internet. His site was hacked to better spread viruses and his information. It was a straightforward attempt to ruin him personally, professionally, and financially for the crime of being friends with Zoe Quinn and speaking up on her behalf on Twitter.
In this situation, as in most others, I find myself asking why. Why are people attacking and attempting to destroy the developers who make the things that they claim to love so much?
After giving it a fair amount of thought, I believe the answer is that there is no one reason that motivates so many people to lash out. Each person who is participating in these attacks does so because they think that it is a statement against what they see as corrupt video game journalism or because they didn't like Depression Quest or because they felt that what Quinn did in her private life as morally wrong. Or - or - or - or - or, there is no end to the mental gymnastics that go on to justify each individual saying something horrible from the cover of internet anonymity. One of the strangest parts of this whole ordeal is that many people simply believed Quinn's initial accuser and then assumed that Quinn and her developer friends were creating a conspiracy of victimization via staged hackings.
But those rationalizations only apply to Zoe Quinn's situation. Why does it seem like the gaming community more than, say, the community of people who are passionate about film, seem to be prone to this sort of outrage? We've seen it aimed at David Vonderhaar, Anita Sarkeesian, Jennifer Hepler, Adam Orth, and Stephen Toulouse. We've seen the video game community assure that EA was known as 'The Worst Company In America' for two years in a row. People at BioWare received death threats over the ending of Mass Effect 3. Heck, these are only the incidents we know about from people in the industry who are willing to discuss the topic. Some people are fearful about revealing their identities to talk about the harassment they experience because it can always get worse. I could keep listing examples, but this is all nothing new. It has been going on for years.
It is painfully obvious that this kind of behavior, this mass of vitriolic virtual hate, should be completely unacceptable. Yet the reactions I see from commenters and forum posters on various sites seem to be ones of apathy or of finding enjoyment in the spectacle, as if these attacks have nothing to do with the people standing on the sidelines. Many point to a 'vocal minority' as some sort of mysterious and elusive culprit behind these attacks, as if that somehow makes hundreds of personal attacks each day better. Who greets that vocal minority with silence and allows that kind of ugliness to fester? Others claim that there is some sort of formula where Developer X says Y and earns response Z, which makes developers the ones at fault for bringing the harassment upon themselves. However looking at the examples in the previous paragraph, very few made what could be considered incendiary statements. For crying out loud, David Vonderhaar changed the stats on a digital gun and received hundreds of threats. Was it really his fault for doing his job balancing Call of Duty? The aggressors are at fault in almost every case and yet the wider gaming community has come to accept this sort of behavior as par for the course. We either sit silent or reach for the popcorn bucket.
Personally, I've reached my limit break for sitting silent and accepting a mob mentality ruling the game industry.
The real issue, the one that exists underneath all of the hateful things that are being said, is that we have forgotten the importance of respect. Look no farther than YouTube comments or most comments sections at all for that matter. We don't know how to talk with each other without slinging insults at each other. We have forgotten that it is okay to dislike someone or be angry or bitter without lashing out. It is the difference between a reaction and a response. We have become an internet culture that finds it acceptable to merely react like an animal, rather than respond like a human being. A reaction is immediate and emotional, while a response is considerate and rational. The instant we resort to name calling, insults, or belittling we have give into reaction and lost the argument by virtue of having nothing else of value to say.
This is not what Extra Life is about.
Everything about Extra Life is for the kids. As a result of that core focus, I believe that Extra Life has one of the most loving, caring, and genuinely respectful communities in the gaming space. I know that we already ask all of you to give what you can to support Extra Life, but I'd like to ask one more thing from all of you. Take the values that you share as a community and demonstrate them in whatever other online groups in which you take part. Maybe this isn't the best solution, maybe it seems a bit trite or saccharine, but I think it is better than saying nothing at all or fighting hatred with more hate.
The fifth and final installment of the second season of Telltale's zombie adventure is coming next week. Titled 'No Going Back,' a new, spoiler-filled trailer teases players with what to expect from the conclusion of season two.
The Walking Dead Season Two will come to a close on the following release dates:
August 26th Episode Five will be accessible on the PC and Mac via Steam and other digital distribution services, as well as on the PlayStation Store for PlayStation 3 and PS Vita owners.
August 27th will mark the finale's release on the Xbox LIVE Marketplace for Xbox 360 owners.
Additionally, the iOS version of Episode Five hits the App Store on August 28th.
More release dates for various other platforms will be announced in the future.
As for the trailer, it brings players up to speed on the key events of the series, as well as containing a scene created exclusively for the trailer.
Warning: The trailer below contains major spoilers for both seasons one and two of Telltale's Walking Dead series. Watch at your own risk.
To give you the best idea of what Galactic Civilizations III is like, imagine Sid Meier’s Civilization V set in space with the ability to design your own spaceships. If that sentence doesn't get you salivating at the possibilities, you might have to go rewatch Star Wars. Over the last few days I had the opportunity to spend some quality time with the latest build of Galactic Civilizations III and lead the human race into the future.
Making sure that humanity survives to dominate the stars isn’t the easiest task, especially in the current build available from developer Stardock Entertainment. While it is certainly playable and quite enjoyable, the limitations of its beta state become immediately apparent when beginning a new game. Though the final game will include eight playable races as well as the option to create a custom race, the current build is limited to four: the Terran Alliance, the Drangin Empire, the Altarian Resistance, and the Iridium Corporation. Each race has different strengths and weaknesses. For example, the Terrans are great at exploring during the early game, while the Altarians are adept researchers and quick to adopt new technology. The other major limitation to the beta is that the only victory condition available is conquest. The final retail build will include diplomatic, scientific, and influence victories alongside conquest.
Upon loading into a new game, everything seems fantastic. Fans of Galactic Civilizations I and II will feel right at home with the interface, while newcomers might feel a bit out of their depth and require a bit of a learning period before knowing the ins and outs of the numerous menus and orders. The first hour or so of gameplay feel refined and mostly finished and it is fun to expand to new worlds and see what you might find drifting among the debris in deep space. Survey craft can pick apart debris to find advantages for your race in the form of money or even operational ships. The first encounter with an AI civilization shows that Galactic Civilizations III is still very much incomplete. Not only is diplomatic victory impossible, but the diplomacy system hasn’t been implemented at all. This leads to every civilization attacking you on sight, which makes it difficult to fully explore the complex and interesting technology tree down any of the routes besides military.
While researching the secret to building larger and larger ships, players will be able to design new types of spacefaring war machines. The ship designer is quite entertaining. It offers players premade designs or allows them to build their ships from scratch. Once the base body has been finished and outfitted with a variety of extra pieces give some character to the design, players can outfit it with weapons, armor, shielding, engines, etc. The system is incredibly flexible and I can easily see some Galactic Civilizations III players putting hours into creating new and unique ships for their fleets.
The one thing that I will stress heavily from what I saw during my time leading the Terran armadas is how slowly the game moves. For me that’s great, I love slow, tactical experiences, but I understand that sort of experience isn’t something everyone enjoys readily. I spent nearly six hours with Galactic Civilization III and feel like I have barely scratched the surface of what the final version will be like. I have yet to see how science, influence, or diplomacy victories will work or explored how it could be feasible to research those parts of the tech tree. However, the time I spent in space is just enough to whet my appetite for the final product.
Galactic Civilizations III is currently in beta on PC. It has no official release date. People can gain entrance to the beta via Steam for $44.99. I would not recommend purchasing the beta unless you are a hardcore fan of the Galactic Civilizations series and willing to deal with technical bugs and unfinished game systems. For more information on how the Galactic Civilizations III is progressing, be sure to check out the Stardock YouTube Channel to see their weekly progress videos.
One of the first films that many people will think of when presented with the term “video game documentary” will be Indie Game: The Movie. While it touched on several specific aspects of game design and philosophy, the film was more about the personal journey of each developer. Us and the Game Industry isn’t about the journey; it is about what video games are and the different ways that the people who make them think about them. It presents the audience with a variety of ideas from numerous different perspectives within the industry. We are even given a unique look into the design philosophies behind individual team members from thatgamecompany. Nowhere else are you going to see such an in-depth look behind-the-scenes of indie game development.
Us and the Game Industry captures the passion of game development during a period between 2009 and 2012. It explores how indie developers approach the messages that they want their games to convey. It is a cry for more humanity in game development; for games that exist for a reason other than making money. At one point, Robin Hunicke describes the feeling of walking through E3 as an experienced veteran and realizing that many of them felt like the same game packaged under different art. The indie developers in the documentary are each attempting to make a game that is different in its core.
Chris Crawford, one of the earliest video game designers and the founder of GDC, denounces the focus on graphics for many recent games. The audience hears the idea behind the game Mutazione, an adventure game from the German indie developer Die Gute Fabrik described as a “swamp opera” that was conceived of by illustrator Nils Deneken. We are presented with a number of games from Jason Rohrer, the developer of underground indie titles like Passage and The Castle Doctrine. We glimpse the thoughts of Alexander Bruce as he develops Antichamber, one of the most mind-bending puzzle games of the last decade. Zach Gage shares his thoughts on casual game development and games designed to waste time. However, the audience spends the most time with the developers at thatgamecompany, hearing the different ideas that went into the creation of games like Flower and Journey. In fact, since the documentary was filmed during Journey’s development, we see the iteration of ideas in pre-alpha builds that eventually become the finished game. Austin Wintory appears to describe the challenges of making an adaptive soundtrack that responds to the actions that players perform while in-game.
“When you have something to say and you are using a medium and using lots of money and people’s time, their life, to say something… You want to make sure that what you are saying is something relevant and valuable.” – Jenova Chen
The resulting film doesn’t have a cohesive story or any single answer to what video games are now or could be in the future. However, it clearly demonstrates how broad the term “video game” has become and the vastness of the unexplored territory yet before those who make games. It also reveals the differing views of the developers as far as why they choose to make games and what value they see in video games.
Stephanie Beth and Clay Westervelt have made something special with their documentary. It is a thoughtful, unrushed, and thoroughly interesting look at the current state of game development. I have no doubt that in a decade and beyond it will become a valuable resource for video game archivists and historians to gain insight into how early games were made. If you are interested in game development, this is a great documentary from which to learn how the industry works.
Us and the Game Industry is available for download on the film’s official website as well as on Steam.