Common gamer wisdom says that in order to achieve maturity, realism, and thematic complexity in video games, developers have to add cutting-edge technology: vivid graphics, plausibly animated characters, advanced systems of artificial intelligence. So the notion that a sophisticated story experience is best attained not by marching forward technologically but through restraint and good design is somewhat radical.
Yet that’s exactly what the four-person Fullbright Company set out to prove with Gone Home, a new PC release that’s being widely lauded as one of the best storytelling games in some time. It does a few remarkable, even brave things, thematically—like exploring the relationship of two teenage girls in love, and focusing only on a troubled family. But what makes Gone Home a special achievement among games, though, is all the things it doesn’t do. Many developers have longed to incorporate literary storytelling elements into video games for a while now—but they often stick to the formulas of commercial action thrillers anyway. Gone Home represents a necessary shift in focus, and it does so in a no-frills way that other video-game developers would be wise to take note of.
Read more. [Image: Fullbright Company]
Here’s what happened. Some human being kept playing the same game for a decade and then posted screenshots to Reddit along with a narrative explanation of where the gameworld stands. Lycerius, the user, begins his history of the future:Read more.
The world is a hellish nightmare of suffering and devastation.
There are 3 remaining super nations in the year 3991 A.D, each competing for the scant resources left on the planet after dozens of nuclear wars have rendered vast swaths of the world uninhabitable wastelands.
Did you finish reading the article? It’s a fascinating look at Jonathan Blow, a game maker whose work is anything but juvenile.
How can there be real economies in virtual games? When players satisfy certain requirements such as solving a puzzle, completing an in-game task, or defeating an opponent, an in-game item with variable properties is sometimes generated. Most such properties make the player character more powerful. For example, allowing the player to do more damage to opponents, survive longer in combat, or slightly nudge the odds in favor of finding better items.
The number of possible properties is enormous, and the magnitude of each property also varies, having an enormous impact on an item’s sell value. An item making a character twice as powerful sells for orders of magnitude more than one making a character 1.99 times as powerful. A single percent’s difference can equate to hundreds of dollars. Thus, an item that possesses both the right combination of properties and in sufficient quantity is exceedingly rare, and commands a price reflecting this rarity. At its most extreme, big-ticket items can fetch prices in the thousands of dollars. Most items, however, do not reach this degree of rarity and instead are sold for small sums or not sold at all.
But all these black markets don’t make the gaming companies any richer. That’s why Blizzard Entertainment is looking for a way to get in on the action. With next month’s PayPal-integrated launch of Diablo III, gamers can sell their digital possessions — such as a weapon or pair of boots for your avatar — in the game’s own online auction house. The first few listings per month on the auction house will be free. After that, high-volume traders will pay a fixed fee to sell their digital wares. As a result, those who stand to make the most money will also pay the highest cumulative transaction fees.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
Jonathan Blow is both the video game industry’s most cynical critic and its most ambitious game developer. As he finishes his indescribable game-opus, a trip inside the head of a videogame auteur.| The Atlantic | May 2012
The Most Dangerous Gamer:In a multibillion-dollar industry addicted to laser guns and carnivorous aliens, can true art finally flourish?
Like many wealthy people, Jonathan Blow vividly remembers the moment he became rich. At the time, in late 2008, he was $40,000 in debt and living in a modest San Francisco apartment, having just spent more than three years meticulously refining his video game, Braid—an innovative time-warping platformer (think Super Mario Bros. meets Borges), whose $200,000 development Blow funded himself. Although Braid had been released, to lavish praise from the video-game press, on Microsoft’s Xbox Live Arcade service that August, Blow didn’t see a cent from the game until one autumn day when he sat down at a café in the city’s Mission district. “I opened up my Web browser and Holy fuck, I’m rich now,” he recalled. “There were a lot of zeros in my bank account.” […]
Blow has decided to use his money—nearly all of it—to finance what may be the most intellectually ambitious video game in history, one that he hopes will radically expand the limitations of his chosen field. Although video games long ago blossomed into full commercial maturity (the adrenaline-soaked military shooter Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, for example, racked up $400 million in sales during its first 24 hours in stores last fall), the form remains an artistic backwater, plagued by cartoonish murderfests and endless revenue-friendly sequels. Blow intends to shake up this juvenile hegemony with The Witness, a single-player exploration-puzzle game set on a mysterious abandoned island. In a medium still awaiting its quantum intellectual leap, Blow aims to make The Witness a groundbreaking piece of interactive art—a sort of Citizen Kane of video games.
It’s a characteristically audacious plan for a man who has earned a reputation not just as the video-game industry’s most cerebral developer, but also as its most incisive and polarizing internal critic. To Blow, being labeled the most intellectual man in video games is a little like being called the most chaste woman in a brothel: not exactly something to crow about to Mom and Dad. “I think the mainstream game industry is a fucked-up den of mediocrity,” he told me. “There are some smart people wallowing in there, but the environment discourages creativity and strength and rigor, so what you get is mostly atrophy.”
Braid is so, so great. Do yourself a favor and try it.
In the May issue of The Atlantic: How Facebook may be making us lonely, a profile of iconoclast video-game designer Jonathan Blow, a frugal economist searches for the perfect lunch, the genius of Kanye West, the filthy moralism of Louis CK, and more.