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James Rutherford

Web, design, Newcastle, games and fun!

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Tag: games

Portal is one of my all-time favourite games.

It’s available from the Steam distribution system, and is frequently on offer (recently available for free), or bundled inside the Orange Box deal.

It would be difficult to say exactly why Portal is amazing without spoiling it; suffice to say that it’s a short game (approx 4-6 hours play), incredibly clever, with a great sense of humour and a huge twist halfway through. If you’ve not yet sampled it- avoid any reviews before you do so.

It also features a number of extras, one of which is a ‘director’s commentary’ mode. If you activate this, speech bubbles are scattered around the levels – which, when clicked, explain design decisions.

These demonstrate the attention directed towards user testing and how this shaped the look, structure and progression through the game.

There are very obvious lessons to be learnt for game developers, but they’re also acutely relevant to any field that involves user interaction.

To paraphrase them:

  • Your users won’t necessarily see, mentally connect or react the way you would expect them to.
  • Simplify, deconstruct and semaphore the appropriate interactive elements.

Super Mario:

Ping Pong:

Anyone know what this amazing gameshow is called?

I’ve long had close connections with the games industry, though it’s around eight years since I was full-time employed within it- and it’s always been very volatile.

Historically, this has been for a few major reasons:

  • Developers are always chasing technology, pitching their code ahead for an upcoming platform, or to sit happily alongside an as-yet-unseen generation of software.
  • The games industry has grown big very rapidly- large budgets mean risk, and (certainly from ~1990-2005) those in charge have had to adjust from their beginnings as a lonely coder in a back bedroom to large studio boss.
  • The output isn’t particularly stable. Most games don’t make money and publishers spread this gamble across titles, hoping to have picked one that goes supernova.
  • Publishers and developers have a complicated, usually antagonistic relationship with each other.

Alongside this, there have been shifts in distribution. From self-duplication to industrial scale- and now to digital. This latest shift also brings questions about how to market, since retail is declining and word-of-mouth via internet channels is a large and complicated animal to harness.

It’s genuinely depressing to see large cutbacks at good studios, particularly ones who are creating games for games players rather than pandering to risk expectations. It’s also deflating to see a studio in trouble because of unlucky planning decisions.

Good luck to those who will be ‘formerly Denki’, and to the studio itself. I hope you can rebuild.

To announce the news clearly and openly on a corporate blog is admirable- I’ve heard too many times of staff being led blindfolded to the guillotine. More info from Denki’s blog post.

The following clip, taken from daytime TV has riled videogamers:

Well done Tim Ingham for:

  • remaining calm, erudite and articulate in the face of brick-wall stupidity.
  • swiftly realising that he was there to be placed in stocks, rather than for rational discussion.
  • being the only one to realise that research doesn’t equal fact- especially when it’s badly recounted research.
  • attempting to steer the session onto the more significant issue which should have led the exchange.

It’s a superb example of TV pandering to its audience under the guise of informed discussion. Shame on you.

Here’s a sweep of my favourite games – I’ll expand this list as time goes on…

‘Must buy’ games:

  • Peggle
  • Flight Control
  • Plants vs. Zombies
  • Space Invaders – Infinity Gene
  • Toki Tori
  • MustEatBirds
  • Word Warp
  • Stoneloops of Jurassica

Also worth a look:

  • Field Runners
  • Skybound
  • Airport Mania
  • Sentinel
  • Clack
  • Wolfenstein RPG
  • geoDefense
  • Mr. AahH

This is brilliant. A cryptic quiz- you need to figure out the game names amongst the pixel town. Has a heavy 80s arcade game bias, which suits me to the ground!

Arcade Aid

I had to give up and start cheating at 44/56. I don’t feel so bad about that, there were only a few more that I recognised.

“Just say what you see!”

You think you play games on your own terms for a bit of controlled entertainment?

Well, perhaps.

The following article breaks down some very clear addictive behaviours, using well-established, accepted psychological experimental backing.

Is this a problem? Depends what sort of personality you have. I can certainly recognise parts of my own addictive behaviour here:

“5 Creepy Ways Video Games Are Trying to Get You Addicted”

Thoughts?

I grabbed this for PC a few months ago in a Steam sale and played it through.

Just noticed that it’s only £1.79 for iPhone. I’m having that too!

BRAIINZZ!!

UPDATE: Looks like a really good translation- identical, as far as I can see. So far (level 2-5), there’s a little slowdown on my iPhone 2G, and the game suffers a bit unless you have transparent hands, but overall- neat!