Friday, May 22, 2009

Friday afternoon tidbits

This weekend is Memorial Day, that somber holiday when Americans honor those who died in combat to guarantee our right to barbecue. And barbecue we will. Glory, glory hallelujah!

-Jim Rossignol contributed a guest post to BLDG BLOG, an architecture blog, called "Evil Lair: On the Architecture of the Enemy in Videogame Worlds." Rossignol is one of the best writers we have, and this is a penetrating, surprising, and funny look at the design of various enemy strongholds in games. Great stuff. I am a little surprised at how awful System Shock 2 is looking these days. Hard to believe that game once scared the crap out of me.

-Maximum PC's retrospective of 3D graphics cards is a wonderful nostalgia trip. It brought back fond memories of my first "3D accelerator." The Canopus Pure3D had the Voodoo1 chipset, but sported 50% more video RAM than was standard at the time -- a mammoth 6 megs of memory. I followed that up with a Voodoo2 that powered, estimating conservatively, about 300,000 hours of Quake 2 CTF. Then the Alienware system I got as a high school graduation gift was rocking the Nvidia Riva TNT2, and now I have some goddamn thing or another. I don't even know anymore.

-About halfway through this Game|Life article about whether gamers prefer violent games, I thought to myself, "Geez, this is really well written." Then I looked at the byline: Clive Thompson. Well, no wonder. Thompson's central point -- that people don't even notice a game's gore once they get immersed in the play mechanics -- rings true. I find it's true of graphics, too. I'll often gawk at new games upon booting them up, but before long I stop noticing the visuals at all, because I've gotten down to business. But that's also why I tend to appreciate games that make the effort to show me new and interesting things. They can shake me out of the stupor.

-Finally, with Punch-Out!! receiving positive notices all over the place (and rightly), I was reminded of the Perry Bible Fellowship's "Punch Bout" strip. The PBF was gone far too soon. Pure genius. If you've never read it before, I'd recommend clicking through them all.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

4 comments:

Gravey said...

"I'll often gawk at new games upon booting them up, but before long I stop noticing the visuals at all, because I've gotten down to business. But that's also why I tend to appreciate games that make the effort to show me new and interesting things. They can shake me out of the stupor."

Now that Broken Steel has got me in D.C. again, I was tromping across the wastes yesterday as the late-afternoon sun nicely bloomed an approaching crumbled overpass, and I suddenly thought, "Holy crap, I have gone from Dragon Warrior 1 to THIS." Nothing in particular shook me out of my stupor right then, it's a pretty common site in FO3--and I was consistently gawking at Far Cry 2 for 50 hours--but it was suddenly like I felt the effects of a Total Perspective Vortex, only the video game graphics history-specific version.

Watching the hands of Rock Band 2 avatars play their instruments also consistently amazes me, even though it's probably all just math.

Rich Clark said...

I'm still trying to figure out how the architecture in Rapture City reflects the supposed objectivism that forms the city's foundation. My understanding is that the objectivist prefer more pragmatic designs, that beauty is secondary (or redefined as that which works best). So why is Rapture City so darn beautiful?

The only theory I can come up with is that it basically serves as a shrine or temple to mankind.

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Jebus said...

Wow, that's one hell of a comment you got there, Ikjoijl.

I also tend to tune out graphics pretty quickly, but there are some games whose graphics are an integral part of the experience. Gears of War for instance, I think a large part of what I love so much about that game is what happens when a shotgun blast connects. It looks hilariously and like all good shotgun blasts is undeniably satisfying. :) If the person just went limp and fell over I might just get bored, but watching them explode hasn't gotten old through two games and countless hours of multiplayer and co-op. Sure there are excellent play mechanics backing it up, but the gory art style is still integral.

I also found myself stopping in the new Prince of Persia multiple times just to rotate the camera and look around, and if I had time in Mirror's Edge I'd let some of the environments sink in. I still remember pausing for a second and thinking, "wow" when the elevator doors opened to that green office building early in the game.