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Saturday, January 15, 2005

William Lisle Bowles

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Non Geek News: Sodium over eBay?

OK, videos of blowing something up is kinda geeky. But is anyone else worried that you can buy enough raw material over eBay to blow up a house? Guess I'm just paranoid.

Action UT is all out of bandages

I won't rant much about this here, as I already am getting embroiled here and here.

Action UT has ceased development and will probably not be passing the series on to anyone else. Action was one of the first big mods to ever be in existence. They were around before people bothered describing things a Total Conversions or whatnot. They were around before Valve realized that if they bought out Counter-Strike, they wouldn't need to develop a new title for a while.

My, how things have changed. Have they changed for the better? Well, lemme ask you this. When is the last time you wished a mod came in a box? DSL has made that relatively obsolete. When is the last time you played a mod and said, "I'd pay $30 for this." A lot of gamers quibble about paying $40 for a commercial title. But most importantly:

When is the last time you played a mod and said - wow, I've never played anything quite like this before. I hope more games in the future are made like this.

Probably been a while.

Doh, that was a short rant. I think I need some ibuprofen.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Overthinking Half-Life 2 [spoilers]

During my morning crawl, I came across this via UnrealOps. It's more or less a literary deconstruction of Half-Life 2.

It also reminds me how easy it is to write bullshit academia. I mean, take this:

As Freeman, we have to enter a casket and move onwards and upwards to confront and challenge those who've managed to decide what happens directly below. Yet through such change of environment, it becomes evident that the cold sterilised factory portion of the building, which harshly sits on the surface of City 17, is also cut off from the clean, pristine look of the upper floors. There almost appears then to be a clear fragmentation too within the Combine partnership and where the hierarchy and foot soldiers fit in with each other.

Funny, I thought that part of the game was merely a poorly contrived game mechanic to force a relatively non-existent plot forward. Here is our man Freeman, mysteriously dropped into a mysterious city, finding himself in the Citadel of HorseHead Evil or somewhat, having eluded capture a dozen different ways ... and he willingly places himself into constraints and gets delivered via crane not once ... but twice.

C'mon people, I like Half-Life 2 as much as the next guy ... but let's be honest. The story was seriously lacking. Gordon, having just spared Black Mesa and swept away by the bizarre G-Man is dumped ... into the future? A future where the aliens of Black Mesa have taken over the world in a time about equivalent to Freeman's escape from his lab and the administrator of this lab, now responsible for countless deaths and the inevitable downfall of mankind ... is somehow charged with running the whole place? The whole Earth that is?

Putting aside for now that much of this is told through a single bulletin board in the game, since none of the main characters seem to bother with actually explaining to Freeman what's going on, this smacks heavily of trying far too hard to make two completely divergent story lines appear connected. There is nothing particularly logical or realistic about that premise, it just makes it seem more like a sequel since they can rehash characters.

Half-Life 2 had some interesting mechanics. As Penny Arcade pointed out, it's unabashedly first-person, even when third person might serve better, which works to a good effect. It's got some of the best design in video game history. It does not, however, have a story meriting thinking like "As such, if her first and second betrayals are so close, both from decisive calculation to heated indecision, what does that say about the lack of instinct over our fundamental grasping of it?".

The article does, at the end, make some interesting points about game design in general - basically exploration versus expedition, but it takes way too long to get there. Let me make it simpler for you. Valve does good level design.