All my friends play video games,
and one of them joined me to talk about Kentucky Route Zero.
I’ve already written a post about Cardboard Computer’s debut of their new game, but this one calls for conversation. Today’s episode introduces the game and its unique design, artistic influences, ability to tell a story and connections to theatre & film. Kentucky Route Zero may be a haunting single-player experience, but it’s ripe for sharing.
My sole guest on this episode is Hilary Bovay, a talented artist & photographer based out of Rhode Island. She’s got a keen eye for visual storytelling, and her love for the original Crash Bandicoot is all you’ll ever need to know about her taste in video games.
One of the conversations my generation seems most ready to have is what they’d do in the event of a zombie apocalypse:
Whose house doubles as a good fort?
Which local store would have the best stockpile?
Whose car gets away the fastest?
What kind of weapons could we make from what’s sitting in the garage?
Who would you band with, and where would you all rendezvous?
It’s a fun game to play, partly because there are no right or wrong answers, but mostly because you get to learn something new about the people around you. The Walking Dead runs with these sorts of questions while putting the safety of others in the mix, making each subsequent one more complicated than the last. It tells an excellent story about people you could relate to, and not just for being a game.
For the past few weeks, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword had me doing things that no other video game has. It had me standing for 90% of a 45+ hour adventure because it was more compelling than sitting down. It taught me how to read my enemies’ behaviors, and to reconsider the meaningfulness of my sword (which, in terms of combat and puzzle-solving effectiveness, doesn’t change in a significant way throughout the majority of the game) more often than every other classic Zelda tools also at my disposal. By the end, it had me convinced that I was a significantly better swordsman than when I first gripped the blade referenced in its subtitle.
Every new idea requires a good explanation, but many of Skyward Sword‘s best ones got away without needing any. Without hand-holding exposition nor repetitive tutorials, this newest entry into the series draws attention to how its design sensibilities were subtle enough to have more than one user in mind. Though by contrast, they also draw attention to every moment that thought otherwise, leaning on tradition and variety when it least needed to. As I watched the first Zelda in half a decade struggling to soar to the top of most critics’ 2011 Game of the Year lists, deep down I think I knew why.
Since my Learning to Play column at GameCareerGuide got going, two more installments have been published under it.
#2: Dinner Tables, “considers the design of a game project…and uses Valve’s Team Fortress 2 and more as inspiration.”, can be found here.
Most recently, #3: The Mixing Board goes between two large scale game projects from my time at CIA, comparing the team-dynamics between them to illustrate the up’s and down’s of collaboration. Read all about it!
I’m still mulling over what the fourth issue will discuss. Going back through the archives of my experiences in art school, which only ended a year ago, gets tougher with time. Your mind gets foggier, and aggressively dusting off the hardest lessons learned isn’t the most enjoyable thing to do for an entire article. I’ll get around to it as the spring moves on, unless Cleveland keeps the rain away for longer than a day.
Blizzard Entertainment has taken a page out of Dr. Gregory House’s book with Cataclysm, their latest addition to the golden-goose that is World of Warcraft. They had to cause one disaster in order to solve another: half-a-decade-old designs were frozen in place, but still making up a majority of the persistent game-world. They found an icebreaker no greater than the return of Deathwing, a key antagonist from Warcraft-past who happens to be an ancient dragon consisting of shattered rock, molten lava, and rage.
In an age of gaming that’s made a powerful ally out of the internet and fiber optics, you’d think that broken design could be avoided altogether, in theory. When endless tweaks and revisions are part of the business model (free, expanded, and improved content), game developers don’t necessarily have to rely on a sequel to deem any change worthy. Apparently, this one did. Continue reading →
If you know me personally, you’re probably somewhat aware of the latest hurdle I’ve had to overcome in gaming. To my own surprise, it didn’t fall under the creative end of the medium. Instead, it was S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky (S:CS), the single most demanding game experience I’ve ever had. The one I came closest to giving up on over a dozen times.
At a point, the game peaked to an emotional train-wreck for me. Half-way across the Zone (what the affected area of the Chernobyl disaster, the theatre of S:CS, is referred to as in-game) and I was stripped of my arsenal. Notorious game-breaking bugs began to surface, enemy AI grew too accurate, and friendly AI fell too inaccurate. With few means for controlling my own fate, I learned to travel one save at a time for every step taken, tip-toeing around eggshells I couldn’t even see.
Seemingly out of nowhere, I was victorious: I beat Clear Sky. I was slightly baffled at coming upon such certainty in a game underscored by ambiguity. All that certainty was then swiftly washed away by the most concentrated dose of ambiguity S:CS had to offer with its ending. “Am I actually done?”, I thought. Was that it for me and Clear Sky? Are my adventures (nightmares) in the Zone stories worth telling, as opposed to crafting them?
Yes, to all of the above. So what was there to put up with, and why did I put up with it for so long?
Over the past several months, I’ve had the fortunate opportunity to work with Christian Nutt (Features Director at both Gamasutra and GameCareerGuide) over the course of the year to begin writing a featured column at GameCareerGuide: Learning to Play.
Learning to Play focuses around the psyche of becoming a game designer, and each installment will feature one main topic under this umbrella. Due to length, audience, and venue, I won’t re-post the entire article here, but I am more than happy to redirect you towards it – just follow this link.
“In the first installment of new GCG column Learning to Play, Cleveland Institute of Art student Andrew Kuhar ruminates on the disappearance of regular gameplay time from his schedule.”