He-said-she-said is a tough game, especially when you’re the one who’s stuck in the middle trying to figure out what’s really going on. Right now, Precursor Games’ Chief Creative Officer Denis Dyack and Kotaku are the “He” and the “She,” and what they’ve each said is that the other side is full of crap. Each side has a valid argument; neither side, it would seem, has much proof. A Kickstarter campaign may hang in the balance. Like most anything associated with Silicon Knights, this story is a long time in the making. This particular tale began about seven months ago.
On October 26th Kotaku ran an article titled What Went Wrong With Silicon Knights’ X-men: Destiny (note the non-existence of a question mark at the end of that headline – they aren’t asking, they’re telling). The article, written by Andrew McMillen, calls into question the leadership skills, business practices, and character of Silicon Knights’ management staff – specifically naming the studio’s founder, Denis Dyack. Among other things, anonymous sources interviewed for the article alleged that Silicon Knights diverted resources which had been ostensibly promised to Activision for the development of X-Men: Destiny in order to subsidize the production of a demo for their own IP — a follow-up to the critically acclaimed 2002 Gamecube release Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem. When Kotaku asked to speak to Silicon Knights before the article was published, the developer declined.
On May 19th, six days after the Kickstarter campaign for Denis Dyack’s new game went live, and at the behest of Precursor Games’ CEO Paul Caporicci, Dyack finally spoke out.
I always feel a mild panic when I present identification papers at the airport. The skeptical look from the tired employee, the line of people impatiently waiting behind me, the questions they inevitably ask about my birth date all blend together in a miasma of claustrophobia and pressure that’s only assuaged with the loud thud of an approval stamp on a passport. It’s a cold, mechanical process; it’s also a fascinating game mechanic.
Papers, Please, a game designed by Lucas Pope, puts the player in the seat of a border bureaucrat, someone with a dull job, a dismal home life, and a surprising amount of power. As the border guardian of the fictional Arstotzka, you will scrutinize details and documents of a vast number of immigrants and migrant workers seeking entry to the Communist nation for whatever reason, be it work, transit, or terrorism. But they’re entry all comes down to you: a person with a digital stamp.
Microsoft’s got a new toy, the Xbox One. I was pretty confident in that whole “Xbox Infinity” idea, but whatever, Microsoft. I give you gold and this is how you repay me? With a console that will be awkward to talk about orally. “Hey, which ‘next gen’ systems is Watch Dogs coming out for?” “PC, PS4, and One.” Ugh. Fine.
Read on for a lovely summation of Microsoft’s Xbox One reveal and be sure to leave plenty of snark in the comments. Lord knows there’s enough material.
The largest (although not necessarily the most interesting) gaming trade show of the year, E3, is only a few weeks away. The be-all and end-all of announcement locations. Nevertheless, Nintendo Direct rolls ever onward, and this Friday’s video presentation was again filled with magic from the Japanese giant. I didn’t expect much, personally; some new details about already existing games, and maybe some new eShop games. Instead, Nintendo announced a surprising partnership to go with a few games andsome information that pretty much sold me on the Wii U.
Sonic games have had a partial resurgence of late. The daytime levels of Sonic Unleashed were the first sign that Sonic Team finally figured out how to make a fun 3D Sonic game again. Sonic Colors took that foundation and added power ups. Sonic Generations then completely refined things while adding a better sense of speed and great level design. This is why the announcement of Sonic: Lost World for the Wii U has me all hot and bothered. Of course, all we have to go on is a piece of gorgeous concept art — shown below — but I’m happy to assume that it will be some form of 3D Sonic game and that Tails will have a bigger impact on the gameplay. The lack of Tails in recent Sonic games has been something of a concern, since he is a very agile, technical character to play as when done correctly.
I don’t like horror games. Most other folks don’t like them either, I suspect. There is no enjoyment for me in creeping slowly along the corridors of a forgotten castle with nothing but a dying lantern; no joy in the slow shuffle through the fog of a town that seeks to reflect all my darkest secrets and fears back at me. Being hunted by a faceless man in a forest is not fun.
But I still play them, because not everything is about fun. This breed of game, at its best, is about mental challenge. Pushing yourself to overcome. Horror is discomfiting, invasive and dangerous; it is everything you hate coming to get you in the dark. This is, perhaps, what separates a truly horrific video game from those that simply pitch their tent in horrible places. When I play Dead Space or Resident Evil there is horror all around me, but I’m there to enjoy myself. I’ve been given the tools not just to survive, but to dominate the terror. Conversely, I actively avoid playing Amnesia because it’s in control. I need to work simply to exist in its world. For this reason an element of survival is always present in true horror, even if the only thing fighting to survive is the player’s state of mind.
Acid Wizard Studio seem to agree with my perspective, as they’ve created their own piece of survival horror in Darkwood. The game — which is looking for funds on Indigogo this month — has players wake up in a mysterious forest filled with all manner of unknown unspeakables and tasks them with surviving long enough to discover what might be going on. All of this from a seemingly innocuous top-down perspective.
On the 28th April 2013, yours truly paid for an apple tree on mobile game, The Simpsons: Tapped Out. As soon as this transaction was concluded, a feeling of regret emerged similar to that moment when you realise buying several batches of Lynx: Africa doesn’t actually produce some strange pheromone, whereby you’re inundated with bikini-clad beauties. In fact, were I not in a Starbucks at that moment, I may have indeed stood up and exclaimed with much gusto something like “bloody hell” or “balls”. You see, against my quite cynical nature I had embraced the idea of downloading a free game, only to be duped quite unceremoniously by the snake-like antics of these companies using “freemium” models, trapping their consumers into the mindset of paying to progress.
It’s akin to being given free cocaine or heroin with the promise that it’s not harmful or debilitating, then once you’re hooked being offered up an even more delicious and delectable grade of the drug for a minor fee. This, of course, builds and builds, progressing to a situation one can only describe as addiction. It’s a horrific business model, one that guarantees financial viability for the companies and assures financial instability for the consumer.
[Part One is here, if you're not keeping up]
You finally make it back to camp, outrunning whatever foul creature was causing that awful racket. Sitting down near your tent, you become increasingly aware of the unpleasant odour emanating from your backpack. The datapad you rescued from a pile of monster faeces is nestled between your survival kit and some other “important” junk.
Safe again, with food cooking slowly over the fire, you decide to turn the device on once more. The last entry you read was not a hopeful one; in fact, it was decidedly bleak, and knowing where the datapad ended up, you don’t hold out much hope for the author’s ability to turn his situation around.
Browsing the tubes of the internet in the wee hours of the morning, I came across something rather intriguing: Tangiers. Described by developer Andalusian as a surrealist stealth game, my interest was immediately piqued. The trailer — which you can find below — is quietly disturbing and alien, and it has done far more to sell me on the title than hours of exposition.
The likes of surrealist painter Man Ray, industrial music founders Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire, and novelists William Burroughs and J. G. Ballard are noted as inspirations for the game; it explores the abstract realm of 20th Century avant-garde art. It’s bizarre and experimental, and I’m extremely eager to dive in when it launches next year.
“He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
With audacious style and almost impossible fluidity, Geralt of Rivia, Witcher and monster slayer took out his silver sword, looked straight into the eyes of the wolf and stroke it down in one fell swoop. He scavenged the corpse, skinned the beast and walked on, leaving the pink, sinewy body behind.
I’ve experienced many games recently that have brought about the tendency to examine what constitutes the monster in a game. Video gaming, as a medium, usually presents its characters in an effective black and white cloak; you are the hero, he, she, or it is the villain. You are normally tasked with fighting on the side of men, helping the good triumph over the evil by slaughtering tens upon tens, hundreds upon hundreds, even thousands upon thousands of enemies in the ever increasingly glorious quest to kill relentlessly.
Now, admittedly, the process is understandable in certain scenarios. Halo’s John-117, for example, isn’t going to back away from destroying weaker enemies because he has to consider the psychological ramifications (although it would be nice for him to consider that which he shoots), but other games, particularly those involving RPG and open world elements, provide situations where you hack, slash and stab your way through slimy, smelly, misunderstood creatures simply to please some fat cat back in the local town who wants the meat of a creature to provide the nobles with local delicacies. The Witcher is an excellent case in point. An incredibly deep, well-thought out, occasionally politically inclined RPG that features a main character who’s function in society is to kill miscreants. He scythes through these abominations without remorse, manufacturing coin through their demise and yet he’s not the one we consider a monster.
Remember when EA leaped into bed with Nintendo with the vigour and enthusiasm of a person who hasn’t bumped uglies in several months? “An unprecedented partnership” was what was promised by former CEO, now full time warlock, John Riccitiello back at E3 2011 in regards to the Wii U. He gushed about the sweet, tender magic the two companies would be making between the bed sheets, and everybody was suitably excited by the prospect of all the sports and ports they’d be adding the platform.
Fast forward to launch, and EA delivered a reasonably strong starting line up for the console, all ports, but it’s the most action the Wii U has ever seen. There was Mass Effect 3, Madden, and Fifa to name a few, and though they were all months behind the launches of those titles on other platforms, at least they gave early adopters something to throw money at.
EA is a fickle lover, however, and after it shot its load last year, it’s decided that it’s had enough of the Wii U. Speaking with notorious gamer food critics, Kotaku, Jeff Brown revealed the company’s plans for the Wii U. “We have no games in development for the Wii U currently.”