Archives for the month of: July, 2012

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Just a quick update post.

I’d hoped to get my review of Crusader Kings II up today.  Unfortunately, my macbook isn’t exactly playing nice with CKII, nor has it really ever.  So it’s with a heavy heart that I delay my review until the beginning of September when my gaming PC gets taken out of storage and I can really write the review I want to write.

The main reason I’m doing this is because I want to show off Crusader Kings II with a multi-part play-through. I feel the best way to review this game is to try and express the kind of drama that unfolds in CKII, as well as the kind of mindset that you enter when you really start to play it.

I feel like there’s a large number of people out there who’d love to play the game, it’s just that it’s hard to get them excited over a game that’s mostly played via choices from dropdown menus and popups. So what better way to do this than by showing them one of the awesome stories that they could be playing?

Hit the jump for a short preview of my upcoming CKII review (and play-through?  play-review?  play-view?)

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Another Flash Fiction challenge.  Once more, credit goes to Chuck Wendig’s blog for this one.  The challenge was to write a flash fiction story involving time travel.  My entry was a little odd, sort of a weird mix of Italo Calvino and the kind of hard-boiled show about time-travelling cops that might have aired in the 1980s.

Hit the jump to read my entry.

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Look at Banjo, the obsessed twinkle in his eye, the jinjo slung under his arm.  Pity him, for he is a slave to his own hunger.  The hunger...to collect.

I love Banjo-Kazooie.  It is, in my opinion, one of Rare’s finest games, a combination of clever writing and inspired world design.  It was a colorful world, one that I willingly explored, poring over ever nook and cranny in search of jiggies, jinjos, and magic eggs.  It was the perfect encapsulation of that dominant genre in the 90s gaming sphere: the collect-athon.

Which is why today you couldn’t pay me to play Banjo-Kazooie, or Mario64 for that matter, or any other of the countless world exploration games with the goal of collecting some arbitrary number of Macguffin-like objects, be they jiggies, stars, or glowing orbs.  What has led me to utter such an inciting statement, an attack on some of gaming’s most beloved?

Hit the jump to scoop my reasoning.

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Flash fiction challenges can be pretty useful to get over a hump in writing.  They can provide a nice break from  tough project while not demanding the same amount of time and resources as, say, a full fledged short story or short script.  This one goes out to Chuck Wendig, who posted the theme for this story: “The noticed android walks past a wondering chamber”.  The challenge was to craft a story around this sentence.

Hit the jump to read my entry

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Yachts for everyone

Where to begin with a game like Anno 2070?  The venerable city building/lite economic simulator series started a few years ago with Anno 1404, a game where you were tasked with building up your small renaissance settlement into a thriving metropolis of commerce.  Anno 2070 doesn’t stray too far from this premise, though the game opts to abandon the historical setting in favor of a speculative future where global warming has left much of the world under water.  Transport and coordination are more important than ever before, but does a clever new environment bring enough to the Anno formula to justify a purchase?

Hit the jump to find out.

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(First, a short preface.  This is not meant to be some sort of self-aggrandizing, self-reassuring text to allow me to get out of having to write.  The one thing I cannot stand is writing about writing, but not actually writing.  This is as much for me, to help organize my own thoughts, as it is for anyone who cares to read it.  I’m not condemning or overly praising any of the authors I mention.  It’s just me sounding off on things I’ve read and seen.  You might agree, you might disagree, either way, I hope it’s entertaining.)

Every story needs a hero.  Or a protagonist if you think the term ‘hero’ carries too many connotations with bravery and the slaying of monsters.  Either way, it’s storytelling 101 to have a strong, active main character with a compelling desire influencing their actions.  Frodo wants to dump that ring into Mt. Doom, Luke wants to become a Jedi, etc.

I’d like to talk about two books, and their respective protagonists.  As far as books go, they couldn’t be more different, one being a work of weird fiction, the other being a more conventional fantasy novel in a faux-medieval european setting.  Their respective protagonists are opposites in just about every way, and I feel they both illustrate important points in creating a memorable protagonist.

(Cautions: Spoilers ahead for The Scar and The Name of the Wind/The Wise Man’s Fear)

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(Starting off with a title based on a Robert Frost poem, eh?  Way to be a pretentious arse.)

Games are cool.  I believe they represent a natural evolution in storytelling and how people interact with stories, forcing them to reexamine their role as a passive observer and instead thinking of themselves as an active player in the story.

I also think that gaming’s surge in popularity over the last decade has been amazing and in particular I believe the developments of the past year makes this the most interesting time to be working in the games industry (for a variety of reasons, but that’s a topic for another post).

However, after this year’s E3, I started thinking about what the consumer is actually being given.  When games like Assassin’s Creed and Call of Duty sell hundreds of millions of copies across a series’ lifespan and consistently get 9 or 10s across the board from reviewers, it can be easy to get complacent.  We tend to brush aside AAA games with a kind of nostalgia, as if you could have nostalgia for a game released in 2008.  This series will be an attempt to re-envision various popular games, fleshing potentially interesting narrative and thematic elements.

Hit the jump to read on.

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