I’m somewhat of a watch fanboy. I have ~9 watches, one more is on preorder, and about half of them are from “indie” microbrands that conduct their projects on crowdfunding platforms like kickstarter. They also are priced at levels that, I suspect, most people would find absurd.. the average cost-per-watch in my ‘collection’ would be, in rough estimates, around $300 (a lot of those I chose because they were widely considered to be ‘good deals’, given the specs/quality/design – and this range is, interestingly enough, commonly considered “affordable” as far as watches go.. But let’s not delve into discussions on privilege, consumerism and so forth). That pricing is very, very close to what modern smartwatches seem to cost, give or take a hundred or so (and I’m sure that Apple’s Watch will stretch that price upwards quite a bit…).
So it is easy enough to think that smartwatches are ‘encroaching’ on the regular watch market – and, hey, a lot of them sure are marketed with a focus on how much like ‘normal watches’ they are (“Fine watch craftsmanship“, “A watch for our times“, “A timeless smartwatch” etc.). I got myself a smartwatch (Asus ‘ZenWatch’), and I have experience with ‘normal’ watches, so why not see how much like a watch the smartwatch actually is?
Little Inferno is now obtainable on steam. You might want to keep that fact in mind (free tips brought to you by Tomorrow Corporation). It’s a short, charming game about burning things – all kinds of things, from toys and plushies and bricks to trophies and planets and chainsaws and squirrels. It’s made by the creators behind World Of Goo, and if anything’s certain, it’s that the artstyle, sense of humour and narrative methods have all carried over.
Little Inferno is a trifle of a game – it is very short, it is made as a mimicry of modern iOS games with their infinite unlock-by-money and wait-to-play mechanics. It has a list of catalogues containing stuff to burn, and you unlock said catalogues by burning stuff you have access to. You get money by burning stuff, and you spend slightly less money on buying more stuff to burn. While unlocking things, you get brief letters from your neighbour and the “Weather Man” telling you brief snippets about the world of Little Inferno. The meat of the game, however, is in the combinations of things that you burn – burning the right things together is a “combo” that gives you.. well, extra stuff so you can burn the next batch of things bettererer. “And that’s pretty much it.” – Jim Rossignol, of RockPaperShotgun. (more…)
Foreword: this will be divided into two sections: non-spoiler stuff and spoiler stuff. There will be a fair warning about the spoily writeup starting, so you can choose that as a place to stop reading if you are not down with spoilers and all. So, we’re kosher? Then let’s go.
Dishonored is certainly a heavy hitter for 2012. Journalists have praised this game as being a potential GOTY (game of the year) or at least a strong contender. It’s a completely new IP, full-scale AAA release, developed by Arkane (massive gaming industry cred), published by Bethesda (massive piles of money cred), and it’s a stealth game. And it’s awesome. Who would have guessed, eh? However, Dishonored is not without a few flaws. Because I am about to outline them, one by one, it may seem that Arkane’s production is bad. … It really isn’t. There will probably be a followup post about the stuff that Dishonored does exceptionally well (and there’s a fair number of those, methinks). But for now, let’s charge up our cyborg nits and set them to ‘pick’ mode!
We don’t really appreciate the raw length of time, I think. We immerse ourselves in elaborate worlds, galaxies, universes where, thanks to sciency-sounding magic technology, the worth of a year has been demoted to less than that of a second, where entities (for they often cannot be called human anymore), and the events they are intertwined in, take imaginary millennias, aeons, galactic cycles to unfold. Is it any wonder, that we, who love delving into the imagined worlds of SF-nal giants, lose track of just how weighty and loaded a single year is, in this meatspace we’re stuck in. A mere year – and yet, there’s so much raw entropy packed inside each one. As real human beings, we are still slaved to it, so much so that even ten years is an incredible amount of time, for us, to be doing any single thing.
Iain M. Banks has been doing that single thing – writing science fiction – for far more than that.
Yes, Dragon Age: Origins is a.. well, it’s not an old game per se, but it is definitely an artefact of an older generation of videogames – a generation ideologically detached from contemporary spectacle-fuelled AAA crumpets of rushed design, pervasive DLC, insane break-even margins and distrust of the player. Hah. To be fair, that’s not quite true, as DA:O has an insanely convoluted and overpopulated DLC model. But it is the feeling of the game I am referring to, the sense that this game is not about the spectacle or the instant gratification, but about the long-term payoff of an involved roleplaying campaign.
That said, the game does have a lot of glaring issues which become more and more obvious with each subsequent playthrough. A particularly troublesome section is the “Fade part of the Mage Circle questline”. That’s something that has widely been acknowledged as a severe misstep on the game’s designer’s part. It’s probably been discussed to death more than two years ago. Regardless, I’ve had the.. err.. ‘pleasure’.. of re-playing that bit again, after a really long hiatus on that particular subgenre of gaming, and after re-experiencing it, and setting my thoughts in order, I feel there’s still ample space for thorough ruminations on why exactly the Fade sections are so unlikable.
Which is a very convoluted way of saying that I played Dragon Age: Origins, and I want to talk about the Fade.
Oh God, the acronyms. Annnnyway:
Burnout: Paradise. Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit. These two games are placed in a rather interesting situation. They have both been developed by Criterion (which is a somewhat known name as far as racing game developers go), both published by EA – so there’s no real factor of publisher interference differences -, and both are swinging more towards the arcadey fun side of racing games, and not true hardcore ultra-realistic super-simulations. They have been released not long from each other – it would seem that Hot Pursuit was, in fact, developed right after Burnout: Paradise, so in terms of technical competence, graphics, audio quality and control mechanics, they are pretty close. What we have here is, in short, a perfect situation for two different-franchise (Need for Speed / Burnout) games to be nigh-identical. Well, I’ve just played them both quite a bit, so let’s see if they really are the same or not, eh?
Imagine a world where there are no humans. A world where the only sentience is encountered in semi-robotic hovercraft form, ranging wild across a planet split into environmental zones. A world where tribal mechanic society forms, where trade paths are established, where enemies are lost and gained. A world with its past veiled in secrecy. A world which exists not for the player, but for itself.
Imagine, a world of Artificial Intelligence Machines. It’s probably worse than you just imagined, but it is still my near-favourite game You Have Never Heard Of ™.