Last week at the Green Dragon Inn…

This is me doing some catching up. This was last week’s post

The comm-channel is buzzing with conflicting reports of an enemy advance that’s threatening the forward base where you’re stationed. Time is running short; you have to get out there and join the fray before all is lost. As soon as you’re able, you choose our vehicle and equipment. Somewhere beneath you, titanic machinery spools up. You head down there along the gantries, and as soon as you round the corner, you’re standing in the shadow of the ferro-steel beast you’ll ride into battle. It’s massive, with laser capacitors that glow with devastating potential embedded into its shoulder and one of its arms, while the barrel of cannon yawns at the other side, fit to devour a tank. The bay doors begin to open as you take a jet-assisted leap at the machine’s back, climbing on top of it to the seamless hatch on its cockpit while the bay doors begin to open.

As that multi-ton herald of death is uncaged, the computer, with subtle, nearly motherly pride, announces: “Assembly complete in hangar bay one.”

The heavy Battlemech rumbles to life as you open up the throttle, stepping deftly out of the bay and out of the base, quickening its stride from a walk to a long-striding run into the battlefield, headlong into nuclear doom.

This is Mechwarrior at its best.
Continue reading → Last week at the Green Dragon Inn…

Cryostasis at the Green Dragon Inn

There was a time when videogames were the exclusive purview of Japan and the United States. The industry was intrinsically linked to computer technology, and these were the nations that had it. That’s no longer true, of course. We talk about Chinese and Korean games every other day, and we can name at least five things that distinguish them from others made elsewhere. Well, I’d like to expand your horizons some ways to the West of them, to the Ukraine. There we’ll find Action Forms, a developer that released Cryostasis: Sleep of Reason, back in 2009.

Cryostasis is one of those games that, while you’re playing it, you’ll go through it like you would any shooter. Your most immediate concerns, such as trying to survive the relentless enemies, trying to stave off the biting cold, and puzzling your way through the Soviet ice breaker you’re exploring will keep you distracted. It’s only when you sit back as the credits roll that you’ll have time to ask yourself “What did I just play?” This is a shooter that is closer to Half-Life than it is to Call of Duty; the story is the focal point of the game, devoting most of its resources to fleshing out the world and the narrative, rather than the gunplay. Cryostasis, as a game, well executed. It’s simple but unforgiving, which seems to be a requirement for Eastern European games. As it turns out, nothing is easy when you’re aboard the North Wind nuclear icebreaker, even when you know exactly what must be done. There’s something particularly compelling about Cryostasis as a whole, but in order to get to the core of that, I’ll go into the game’s breeding and it’s cultural context.

Heady stuff, I know, but bear with me.
Continue reading → Cryostasis at the Green Dragon Inn

A Diablo game to be developed for consoles

This week’s Green Dragon Inn article

The recent revelation that Blizzard Entertainment is hiring console developers to work on a game that will be part of the Diablo franchise was surprising. Blizzard Entertainment has been adamantly focused on developing games exclusively for the PC, even after Vivendi, Blizzard’s parent company, was bought by/merged with industry-leader Activision. MTV’s videogame blog has the following quote from the merger announcement, back in 2007:

“We don’t have any plans on the console side,” Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime said. “Blizzard’s focus is on the PC side. If we were to release anything on the console side it would be managed on the Blizzard side of the business.”

People following the Activision-Blizzard merger wondered how Bobby Kotick’s leadership would affect World of Warcraft’s acclaimed developer, if at all. After some restructuring that occurred in March of this year (2010), it seemed like Activision would have a greater influence on how Blizzard does business, having remained largely independent until then. Bobby Kotick is a controversial figure, as you can see from this Ars Technica article. The litigation over Tim Schafer’s Brütal Legend and Infinity Ward’s revolt after releasing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 has made him the focus of criticism by others in the videogame industry, but Mr. Kotick has made several appeals to dispel that image. Any influence he might’ve had with Blizzard’s choices is speculative, but that doesn’t stop the posts and comments accusing him for any number of things, such as the changes recently implemented to the battle.net service. With this latest development regarding Diablo, fingers will certainly be pointed his way.

Continue reading → A Diablo game to be developed for consoles