Archive for 2007

About Monique Surviving the Horror
September 9th, 2007 by Monique
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When the apocalypse comes and the undead rise from their graves, I’ll be prepared–will you?

You might be, if you’ve played the right video games.

Doom It all began with the original Doom. I’m sure everyone’s played a version of this game. In 1993, id Software decided that zombies on Mars sounded like a great plot idea and thus Doom was born. The basic story of the game is that you’re an ex-Marine on the moons of Mars when the gates of Hell open and undead come out. Your entire squadron is dead, and you have to fight your way to freedom. The premise is so simple that the main character doesn’t even have a name. Despite its simplicity, or perhaps because of its simplicity, the original Doom was a break-through game and grew into a successful series. What Doom taught me at the tender age of eight or nine was that I was helpless in the wake of the living dead as well as prone to screaming.

What Doom taught video game designers, however, was much more important. The game was revolutionary. It started with a character whose only equipment was a pistol, isolated him in a foreign environment, and included dark design with narrow corridors. This disorienting experience gave a sense of panic. Adding to that, everything was real time and enemies came from all over. You had no time to think and pause if you wanted to live. The camera also made it impossible to see what was behind you, generating unease and vulnerability from the player. Using these techniques, Doom taught video game designers the concept of immersion. Without immersion, there is no fear. You do not fear Bowser when he captures Princess Peach, unless you’re a complete pussy. Similarly, you don’t really get too scared when playing Final Fantasy VIII even if you’re fighting a boss. This is because you are watching the story, not experiencing it. You are actively withdrawn.

A lot of this withdrawal has to do with ambiance. Another is pacing. House of the Dead House of the Dead and its sequel took what Doom offered and raised it a notch a few years later. The game was predominately distributed in arcades and actually had the player shoot with a gun-shaped controller. The screen was also bigger, and graphics had undeniably improved in the three year gap from Doom’s release to HotD. Along with the graphics, the plot developed more, offering a bit more of an attachment to the hero and his plight of escaping the hordes of undead. Of course, it was nothing complicated; a scientist goes mad, and releases his creations upon the unsuspecting world. Still, it was a little more close to home than, say, zombies on Mars.

The biggest thing HotD did to zombies was the pace change. The player was swarmed by zombies from all sides and often forced to choose which path to take in a split second. House of the Living Dead was the first game to implement the branching path scenario; to make actions have real consequences other than life or death, consequences that change the overall path and ultimate conclusion of the game. For example, if you saved a man in the opening of a game from the zombies, you would end up taking an entire different path with different encounters than if you let him die. This is a lot more realistic than an entirely linear path with predetermined outcomes such as Doom was.

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About Monique The End is Nigh
September 8th, 2007 by Monique
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When you think of a MMORPG, you immediately think of knights. You think of goblins. You think of dark, dank dungeons. You think of a beautiful woman in need of some rescuing. Of course, there’s always been a few exceptions to the standard fantasy rule–some have even been pretty awesome. There’s been MMORPGs set in space like Anarchy Online and Eve Online. There’s even been complete pieces of shit masquerading as reality MMORPGs like Second Life or The Sims Online. But the most successful MMORPG of our time revolves around the conflict between Orcs and Humans. It’s medieval fantasy. It’s World of Warcraft.

Of course, everything’s eventual and nothing lasts forever. Everything must come to an end. You can see the future, if you look hard enough at the past. Someday World of Warcraft will lose the majority of its subscribers like Everquest did. Someday Azeroth will be over. And even if Illidan himself argues you are not prepared, he’s wrong. You can prepare yourself for the end of WoW.

You can also just look at the upcoming online games and decide for yourself if any of them have the force to displace WoW or if they’re going to be duds. There are a lot of games coming up for either Q4 of 2007 or Q1 of 2008. Some of them even look a little interesting. Here’s four titles I think stand out above the crowd:

  • Tabula RasaTabula Rasa looks good in theory. Fuck, even their marketing looks good; to promote the game’s upcoming release, they held a party this week in an anti-gravity chamber. How cool is that? Richard Garriott, the creator of the game, writes this about TR:

    “In creating Tabula Rasa, I was determined to break away from our roots in medieval fantasy and develop a solid science fiction universe.”

    This statement is exciting, any gamer could tell you that. If TR actually breaks the mold like it promises, online gamers could find themselves in for a shock; they could find themselves discovering a new side of an old genre. However, let’s also remember that while it promises to be different, promises were meant to be broken. TR’s NDA was lifted a few days ago and the initial feedback is pretty negative. So far this sci-fi MMORPG doesn’t seem to be any different or any more innovative than anything else on the market. It’s supposedly on the boring–”mind numbingly tedious,” I believe one beta tester said–side as well. As for my personal stance, let’s just say I like my PvP with a little more PvP and a side of even more PvP; Tabula Rasa, for its part, has no PvP. And after suffering through Final Fantasy XI many years ago, I can tell you that no PvP system is generally a bad choice in game design. Tabula Rasa: October 2007

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    About Monique Water Levels Suck
    September 5th, 2007 by Monique
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    Water levels suck.

    There, I’ve said it. It was on your mind, anyway, and it has been for several years. You were thinking it when you threw the controller at the television in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time back in 1998 and you’re thinking it now. While in the past decade, gaming has arguably been redefined and many old facets rewritten with the new, at least one thing remains true: water levels suck. Whenever a gamer sees water, they immediately cringe.

    Friday the 13th My first encounter with a form of water level was rather primitive. It came from an awful game, a real gem known as Friday the 13th. The year was probably 1992, a few years after the game’s port to the NES in late 1989, and I had recently become a proud owner of my first console. I was enjoying gaming until this piece of shit nearly destroyed my young video gaming career. The basic premise of the game was that the infamous Jason Voohres is killing people at the camp and you have to stop him. It’s an awful game, and I won’t discuss that any further–we’ll leave the reviews to the pros, like Angry Video Game Nerd–but I will tell you that the camp where all the people were being massacred?

    Well, it just so happens that it’s on a lake.

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