November 2011

Terraria 1.1 to Arrive December 1st

New items, characters to be added to sandbox platformer


Terraria might be the best $10 I've spent on a game in recent memory. I've logged more hours on that one little platformer than I care to disclose. It's got the open-world addictiveness of Minecraft with, I daresay, even more charm and intrigue than the ever-popular building game. It takes a very simple concept and stretches it out to the playing time of a full scale RPG. And it all runs on my netbook.

The game has sold remarkably well on Steam, with over a million copies downloaded. Thanks to their success, the developers can keep building their pixelated universe. In a few days, Terraria will see its biggest update yet, with lots of new toys and features for us to play with. 

Avoiding the Uncanny Valley

How to keep the creepy out of game characters


Like many others within the gaming community, I entered (and have been spending a good deal of time in) Skyrim this month. Unlike the buzz surrounding some recent sequels, the latest Elder Scrolls game's hype was well-deserved. It's beautiful, huge, engaging, and easy to get lost inside for hours. It feels like a complete world--as a sandbox game should.

But I have to say, Bethesda's human characters have never felt, well, human. Since they started releasing rendered games, their characters have fallen into the "uncanny valley"--that weird place where a human-looking creation just barely misses the lifelike mark. The best example of the uncanny valley might be those Japanese robots with realistic moving human faces. Their proportions are all correct, but something about those dead eyes and stuttering movements just freaks everyone out. They're far more disturbing to look at than a more stylized face, like an anime character, even though the stylization departs from realistic human proportions. We're better at accepting visual metaphors for human features than hyper-realistic simulations. And even though every other aesthetic quality in Bethesda's games is nearly perfect, they can't seem to get out of the freaky place when it comes to their character design.

Table-top and Paper/Pencil Role-Playing Games Making A Comeback?

It certainly seems so as the new breed of hipster gets their nerd on!

It’s come to my attention that tabletop role-playing games are coming back in fashion, which made me scratch my head a little. Were paper-and-pencil (P&P) RPGs ever in fashion? Having grown up in a small rural town and having an undeniable nerdy streak in me (I ran a pre-pubescent knight school for my neighborhood’s kids…mostly trashcan-lid shields and wiffleball bat swords), I was naturally drawn to dice-rollers as an outlet for creativity and a fun way to spend time with friends that was a little more intellectually stimulating than throwing rocks at passing train cars. TOR’s Dungeons and Dragons, the “advanced” version, developed from a fun diversion in elementary school into an obsession by middle school. Later it became World of Darkness games by White Wolf, the perfect sexualized gothic-nightmare kind of narrative for a teenaged boy whose favorite movies are Dracula and The Crow.

Gearbox Co-founder Miffed at Duke Nukem Forever Reviews

Claims 'old-school' style was received unfairly


Apparently, there's a rule in the gaming criticism handbook that I somehow missed: if a game comes out, say, 15 years after it begins development, you're supposed to review it based on the standards of the era during which it was originally planned to come out. 

At least, that's the latest load of crap Gearbox co-founder Brian Martel has been spouting off to the media. He's a little unsettled by the unsavory reviews garnered by his company's latest output, the infamous vaporware Duke Nukem Forever. I've posted before on the absurdity of Forever's production time, so I don't need to reiterate the legend it became before finally seeing release. I'm more concerned with the absolute sense of entitlement reeking from Gearbox and Martel.

Focus On The Game, Not The DRM

How publishers can fight piracy by making better games, not restricting their customers.

Game publishers have been wracking their collective think tanks trying to dream up ways to prevent piracy of their games. One of the more popular new ways of doing that is DRM software that ships with the actual games, requiring players to be online while playing the game. DRM is annoying for gamers that legitimately purchase the game because if their connection drops unexpectedly they’ll lose all progress. Also, they can’t play unless their online and that usually requires signing up for a special account, usernames, passwords, larger digital footprint, etc. Ubisoft has been shipping all of their PC games with DRM since last year, frustrating their legitimate customers while hackers easily cracked the copyright code. They even left a message, “Next time focus on the game and not on the DRM.” reported on comments made by Gabe Newell, CEO of game publisher Valve, to a tech conference last week, who said, “The easiest way to stop piracy is not by putting antipiracy technology to work. It’s by giving those people a service that’s better than what they’re receiving from the pirates.” In other words, focus on the game service, and not the DRM. Newell says that gamers pirate out of convenience, not finance. If publishers make their games more inconvenient, like Ubisoft has with its PC DRM, they’re more likely to be pirated. Case in point, 90% of people playing Ubisoft’s games are playing cracked pirated copies.