Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday afternoon tidbits

This weekend I'm firing up the third in a series of what Simon Ferrari so astutely referred to as "open-world nonsense": Prototype. It'll have to be something special to top Red Faction: Guerrilla in that category, but as long as it's better than inFamous I'll be happy. The excessive gore may help with that.

-A couple more burnout-related links to share. In comments to my post, CBZ posted a link to an essay by Steven Poole called "Working for the Man," which covered similar territory in a far more comprehensive and thoughtful manner. Poole points out the preponderance of games that feature some kind of virtual economy, wherein you need to earn credits/points/dollars in order to make your character more powerful. I'd also add that open-world games, which often spring new objectives on you mid-mission, are a lot like working for a scatterbrained boss. "Go do this. Wait, no, do this instead! Why haven't you finished the other thing I asked you to do?"

-Duncan Fyfe comes at a similar topic from the opposite perspective. He says it's hard to write about games that don't excite him, good or bad. This is burnout from the writer's perspective -- when you feel you have nothing interesting or worthwhile to share about a game. That's hard to overcome. You can't force it. Last fall I expended many more words on a game I didn't like, Mirror's Edge, than some games that I liked very much. (But more still on Fallout 3, which I loved.) With writing, as with playing, the feeling that you're doing it out of a sense of obligation and not passion is the surest sign that you need to try a different approach.

-For an example of what inspired writing looks like, check out Alice and Kev, the tale of a homeless family in The Sims 3. In spare prose, Robin Burkinshaw details the virtual lives of Alice and Kev, which seem to contain far more pathos and moments of quiet nobility than you'd find in games with more intrusive authorship. This is wonderful stuff. And the screenshots are just perfect.

-Michael Abbott and Nels Anderson had a brief, cross-blog conversation about DLC (part 1 at the Brainy Gamer, part 2 at Above49). Both raise good points, but it's important to remember that not all DLC is created equal. Expansions to otherwise complete games, like Fallout 3 or Rock Band, are not quite the same as paying to unlock content that's already on the disc. Personally, I don't think I'd pay for a maxed-out golfer in Tiger Woods, or guns in a first-person shooter, especially if I could earn them another way. But given that doing so is likely to put you at a disadvantage in multiplayer, it does seem a little devious.

-Ben Abraham revisits the enigma of Surfer Girl Reviews Star Wars. I'm not sure I ever read that blog more than once or twice, so the whole story was new to me. Ben is thorough in covering it all. The story of a pseudonymous blogger who gets fed up and sets fire to the place reminded me of Billmon. Some people say it's better to burn out than to fade away. I disagree.

-Shortly after I subscribed to the blog Fierce Punch last fall, Mike Rousseau stopped writing it. He's back now. Sometimes writing is in the blood. Good to have him back.

1 comment:

Simon Ferrari said...

Good God, Mitch: that one little comment has gotten me more traffic than any article I've actually written and gotten linked somewhere else! You're a popular man, I suppose. Thanks for the props; I made that comment as a pithy aside, but after you mentioned it I had to sit and think about how much I agreed with it. I decided that it actually did pretty much sum up my experience with the genre, which may be the most internally inconsistent bunch of games ever created.

That said, from what I've read about Red Faction: Guerrilla it sounds like they figured out how to make one of these things work best--namely by getting rid of all narrative conceit. Hope you enjoy Prototype more than you did Infamous... I preferred the former, but Trent Pollack didn't... and I respect his opinion more than my own :) Have a good weekend!