DIS­PATCHES CHRIST­MAS

EDGE - - KNOWLEDGE / THIS MONTH -

Want that old thing back

I re­cently read through your lat­est spe­cial edi­tion, The 100 Great­est Games. Even though I didn’t agree with your list (each to their own), I was in­trigued by one of the cri­te­ria you in­sisted on for a game to make your list – that the game still needed to be playable to­day.

Grow­ing up, my favourite game was Gold­enEye on the N64. I dread to think of the time I spent play­ing it in sin­gle­player and the fun we had play­ing mul­ti­player when­ever we could. But would I play it to­day and last more than five min­utes be­fore I re­alised I hated the con­troller, the nostal­gia wore off, and I found my­self reach­ing for the off but­ton?

So, think­ing hard about games I would still play to­day, Halo 3 came out on top of my list, be­cause even to­day the game­play, story, mu­sic and at­mos­phere are all still as en­joy­able as they were when it was first re­leased. I have only one is­sue with the game now, and as time goes by I sus­pect it will only get worse, and that is that graph­i­cally it doesn’t hold up to to­day’s stan­dards. When Halo 4 came out and sur­passed Halo 3’ s graph­ics, it didn’t make Halo 3 any worse. You ex­pect a se­quel to be bet­ter – it’s a nat­u­ral evo­lu­tion, and it al­most blinds us to the change. It wasn’t un­til The Mas­ter Chief Col­lec­tion was re­leased, and I played through the up­dated Halo and Halo 2, that I no­ticed that Halo 3’ s graph­ics sud­denly looked dated in com­par­i­son. John­son had sud­denly gone from be­ing a re­al­is­tic (and ill-tem­pered) char­ac­ter to a blocky, ro­botic fig­ure.

This is the is­sue with old games. If you’re try­ing to make a game look as good as the hard­ware al­lows, sooner or later it’s go­ing to be sur­passed, and even our fond­est mem­o­ries of that game can’t cover it up. And the longer you leave it, the more dated it be­comes.

It would be in­ter­est­ing to see which of the games on your list would still be there in five to ten years’ time. Games like Su­per Mario World or the The Wind Waker never tried to be the most re­al­is­tic-look­ing games, and fun­nily enough they’ve both aged con­sid­er­ably well be­cause of it. Does making a game look as re­al­is­tic as pos­si­ble shorten its life ex­pectancy in the history of games? Daniel Mor­ris

Clearly yes, though it’s more fram­er­ate than raw pixel count be­hind Gold­enEye’s rather grace­less age­ing process. Still, if we fol­low that logic, one day even Halo 5’ s prob­a­bly go­ing to look aw­ful too. So that’s some­thing to look for­ward to – as is your New Nin­tendo 3DS XL.

Mo’ money...

DLC started in the PC gam­ing world when pub­lish­ers thought of a cool new thing they wanted to share with the peo­ple who had pur­chased their games, as a way of say­ing thank you to the fan­base. At first it was free and very much tied into the mod com­mu­nity. But as the cost of cre­at­ing games in­creased (and let’s not shy away from the spi­ralling costs of game de­vel­op­ment), some bright sparks de­cided to start charg­ing for ‘more’. There were some mis­steps, to be sure, like the Obliv­ion horse ar­mour de­ba­cle.

Call Of Duty soon fol­lowed, and to be­gin with th­ese ex­tra mul­ti­player bun­dles felt in­no­va­tive and good value. How­ever, as the it­er­a­tions went on it seemed less in­no­va­tive and more like the new nor­mal.

Per­haps Des­tiny is the best ex­am­ple of how DLC has got­ten out of con­trol. It’s very hard to look at its first year as any­thing other than a year-long beta where I had the priv­i­lege to pay for the game and an an­nual pass – that’s more than £60 to pay for what turned out to be a rather empty game. It sim­ply wasn’t worth the money. While

“Pub­lish­ers need to get a good re­turn on their in­vest­ment, but is any game truly worth £90?”

The Taken King seems to have fixed all the prob­lems, of course Bungie want me to pay more money, but quite frankly I feel that they owe me The Taken King for putting my faith in them in year one rather than charge me for it, so I’m not play­ing it any more.

But they are by no means the worst per­pe­tra­tors. News has come out that Star

Wars: Bat­tle­front is to cost dou­ble the re­tail price if you want the ul­ti­mate DLC pass. How much of this is me pay­ing for stuff that’s al­ready on the disc? While I can ab­so­lutely ap­pre­ci­ate that pub­lish­ers need to get a good re­turn on their in­vest­ment, is any game truly worth £90? That’s less of a fun hobby and more the cost of com­mut­ing in Lon­don each month!

Jem Duducu

...Mo’ prob­lems

I love games. It all started play­ing

Com­man­der Keen when I was a kid on my dad’s PC, to Doom, and Metal Gear Solid blow­ing me away at 2am when I should have been sleep­ing but was fight­ing Psy­cho Man­tis in­stead. It’s a pas­sion I am try­ing to share with my son, with Minecraft,

Mario and the Lego games. I find them much bet­ter to un­wind with than films or a TV se­ries, and a con­sis­tent stream of (prob­a­bly) great games is com­ing soon – Fallout 4, Rise Of The Tomb Raider, Rain­bow Six Siege, The Wit­ness, Black Ops 3. How­ever, I’m find­ing my­self more and more frus­trated, and re­luc­tant to pay up for them. Last night I took a breather from The

Ta­los Prin­ci­ple to play The Witcher III – ‘The Last Wish’ quest – but it’s bugged, a prob­lem with a boat go­ing in the wrong di­rec­tion and get­ting stuck. I move on to do a main story mis­sion and it kills that en­tire side-quest. It’s not the end of the world, but yet an­other bug, and still frus­trat­ing.

I played through Halo 5, got to one of the last check­points, and my AI team just stopped, re­fus­ing to move. Frus­trat­ing.

Soma, which I loved and thought was bril­liant, kept crash­ing ini­tially. Frus­trat­ing.

As­sas­sin’s Creed Unity – which is­sue do I be­gin with? This year was the first since 2007 that I didn’t get a copy of the new­est it­er­a­tion of As­sas­sin’s Creed on release day.

I think I’m get­ting wor­ried that maybe that fire burn­ing in me for about 25 years is go­ing out. Or maybe I’m just get­ting more cau­tious, fed up of pay­ing for what some­times feels like an un­fin­ished prod­uct. Is it just me?

Andy War­den

Dead wrong

That’s it. I’m out. I have just found out, too late, that my Black Ops III pre­order is not go­ing to come with the bonuses I was promised, be­cause they were ex­clu­sive to a cer­tain re­tailer – the wrong re­tailer – but Ac­tivi­sion, the pub­lisher, some­how did not com­mu­ni­cate it prop­erly.

The bonus in ques­tion was a sin­gle mul­ti­player map, Nuke­town, that is weirdly pop­u­lar in Tre­yarch’s COD games. I hate it, per­son­ally, but many oth­ers dis­agree – to such an ex­tent that I was able to claw back half the cost of Black Ops II by sell­ing my Nuke­town code on eBay. But not this time, be­cause I or­dered from Ama­zon in­stead of Game. Never again.

To be fair, I said that last time, when I was faced with al­most the ex­act same thing with an­other Ac­tivi­sion pre­order, this time for some ex­tra weapons in Des­tiny: The

Taken King. I can ac­cept the pre­order bonuses and the sea­son passes, to a point. All I ask in re­turn is that pub­lish­ers ful­fil their min­i­mum obli­ga­tion: de­liv­er­ing the re­wards they are ac­tu­ally offering. Doesn’t seem that much to ask, does it?

An­drew Dyson

Here we have three dif­fer­ent parts of the same prob­lem, all es­pe­cially rel­e­vant at the busiest game-buy­ing sea­son of the year. We are be­ing asked for more money than ever, ear­lier than ever, and what we get in re­turn very of­ten doesn’t work as promised or, at worst, doesn’t even ex­ist. Merry Christ­mas!

Un­be­liev­able

What does di­a­logue mean in games? Surely what it means in ev­ery other medium: an ex­change of sen­tences, a con­ver­sa­tion, be­tween two or more peo­ple. But what does the di­a­logue ac­tu­ally mean both to the story and game­play? Even the most cru­cial story di­a­logue be­tween our char­ac­ter and other NPCs hap­pens au­to­mat­i­cally. We watch them speak, ut­ter the sen­tences, forming di­a­logues that set up scenes. But we’re not the ones ut­ter­ing the di­a­logue. Even in story-driven, your-choices-mat­ter games, di­a­logue is still au­to­matic, even if we choose what the char­ac­ter will say.

I am work­ing on a voice-con­trolled game that aims to test that. The player is one of the main pro­tag­o­nists of the story and they com­mu­ni­cate with the sec­ond pro­tag­o­nist, who is an NPC. In the game you are lo­cated in a con­trol room, in an un­der­ground fa­cil­ity, now un­der quar­an­tine lock­down af­ter an accident caused out­breaks of vi­o­lent be­hav­iour among most of the per­son­nel. Watch­ing the com­puter mon­i­tor, your ob­jec­tive is to help the NPC, a sci­en­tist, get to safety by guid­ing him with voice com­mands.

This is what I call the game­play di­a­logue, the dic­ta­tion of a small string of words that guide the NPC. But there is also what I call story di­a­logue, where the player ut­ters the sen­tence of the story’s script. They are hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion with the sci­en­tist. They don’t watch the di­a­logue un­fold; they are the ones un­fold­ing it.

How much can we em­body a char­ac­ter when we are lit­er­ally speak­ing their minds? How much can we care about an NPC if we are talk­ing to them? How can we tell a story via voice recog­ni­tion? This is what my game aims to find out.

Valentina Chrysos­to­mou

Now, see, what you’ve done here is place a pre­view of your own game in Edge by dis­guis­ing it as a let­ter. Which is pretty cun­ning. We’ll let you off this once.

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