YouTube has quickly gained popularity in the recent years. While there’s all sorts of different content on the site, a lot of it is about video games. In fact, that is the kind of content I watch on the Internet. Reviews, news, and other types of game videos are very popular, but nothing has gained such popularity as Let’s Plays. Say what you will about them, you can’t deny that they’re popular. I don’t really like to use the term Let’s Players for the channels I watch, because, recently, that has gained a sort of double meaning. The most popular of these content creators are people like PewDiePie, Markiplier, and JackSepticEye. I personally don’t like these channels because it feels like they are putting on a show and a separate persona. While that, to an extent, can be funny (Game Grumps is a great example), if it’s done too much the effect fades. Most of the channels that I watch feature multiple people, and thus feels more like a group experience. Super Beard Brothers, Game Grumps, and Best Friends Play are my three current favorites. When people ask me who these people are I call them comedians because that’s what I think they are. As I write this, with Game Grumps playing in the background, I realize how natural these personalities feel to me because they can riff off each other. In certain cases, it feels like a podcast, because they can just talk. It’s not always about the game. However, like in the case of Super Beard Bros., they play really hard games, as well as normal stuff. The charm is both in the personalities and in seeing someone get through the challenge. There’s often moments of silence as they try to get through a tough part. Usually, dead air is considered a bad thing, however it tends to build suspense before they either fail or succeed. It’s just fascinating to watch someone do something so well. Currently, Super Beard Brothers are playing Mario 64, and they get every star in multiple levels in one episode. They are just grinding through it. To me, with funny personalities and gaming skill you can make a really entertaining show.
I’ve really enjoyed writing on this blog and have gotten a lot of fun out of it so far. I will still continue to write a new article every week, but I am hoping to do one review every month. So far, the review for November will be The Order: 1886 unless something changes. The monthly review will go up on the last Friday of the month and take the spot of a regular article. For December the review will either be Pokémon Moon or Final Fantasy XV depending on which one I finish first.
The Punisher is my favorite comic book character. I don’t really classify him as a super-hero, but I don’t really like the term anti-hero. Anti-hero gives off the vibe that The Punisher is, at some level, a hero, and he’s not. The Punisher is a man. That’s all he is. He has no super power so he’s not a super-hero. He fights, not for the greater good, but for himself. The Punisher is completely self-oriented. He doesn’t kill criminals because it’s just; he kills them because he hates criminals. Good Punisher stories also have an interesting dynamic between Frank and the Law. The Punisher is a vigilante, but he’s not a Batman-like figure working with the police. The police have to take down The Punisher because he’s breaking the law. However, most of the average policemen don’t mind him because he does their work for you. I think all the cops of the Marvel Universe are lazy and never do their job, because they have a Punisher to do it for them. Punisher’s power is not supernatural or even tech based. He is a Vietnam veteran. The Punisher is a huge dude who can hold his own in a one on one fistfight. However, Punisher does seem to have some crazy strength. He seems unnaturally strong and capable. I guess that’s what ‘Nam does to you. While realistically, Frank isn’t just a normal guy; In a world of super-heroes, he seems to be a pretty normal guy. The Punisher has taken more bullets than a human could really take. He’s an normal action hero in a world full of super powered freaks. Also, The Punisher doesn’t have any far-fetched enemies. He fights the mob. He kills criminals. He’s got no reason to fight aliens. Aliens didn’t kill his family. Even in the one-off where his family was killed in the middle of a big super-hero fight he still is just focused on one thing: killing whatever killed his wife and kids. The Punisher just feels real in a world of the unreal.
Quicktime events. Love them or hate them, they’re there. Sometimes, games do them well. Sometimes, they don’t. Some people say they’re fun. Some say they’re not. I personally enjoy them if they are done correctly.
Recently, I’ve been playing The Order. The shooting is fine and so far it’s nothing special, but there’s nothing that sticks out as completely atrocious. However, the worst part of the game so far, is the quicktime events. (A quick disclaimer: I am on chapter 4 or 5 and have not seen the rest of the game yet). At a certain point, you have to fight a boss. The guy’s pretty big and he’s slapped your gun away in a cutscene. You think the game is going to give you a chance for some melee combat after this little movie. No. It shifts right from the cutscene intto a quicktime event. Now, this can be done well if you are expecting it and the event makes sense. The Order just throws you right into dodging the bosses attacks. What have you used to move the character the entire game? The left stick! What do you suddenly have to use to dodge with your character? The right stick! And it’s not like it gives you a huge prompt in the middle of the screen. The game gives you a tiny little right stick icon on whatever side of the screen you’re dodging towards. I could barely see the tiny R on the prompt and assumed that it was the stick I was using to control my character for the rest of the game. Suddenly, the boss grabs you and you have to mash buttons (and more on button mashing later) to get him loose. I don’t know why but sometimes it just doesn’t work. I pressed the button and nothing happened. I died multiple times from that. When a quicktime event comes out of no where and completely blindsides you, that’s when it feels cheap and unfair. Now, we need to talk about button mashing, game designers.
Button mashing, like all other quicktime events, can work. An enemy grabs you (say in Uncharted) and you have to mash a button to get him off of you. The problem comes when the whole sequence revolves around button mashing. Take Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker for example. At a certain point in the game you have to just mash the X button. That’s what the whole segment is. Of course, if you are playing co-op, the second player can do something really easy and prevent you from having to mash buttons. Now, I am a friendless loser and I have to resort to button mashing. I kept dying on this part over and over again. Eventually, I decided to look up how to get past that part, and there was no gimmick to it. It was pure button mashing. However, I did find out that if I put my finger inside my shirt and slid it back and forth across the button that would hit it much faster than my tiny human fingers could do. This is infuriating and not very fun, and it can ruin a game for some people. It just wasn’t fun, even though getting through that part felt so good because I was done with a tedious segment like that. Even the first Metal Gear game had something similar but it wasn’t required to progress, and in fact you got my preferred ending by failing at it. However, it just doesn’t feel good if it’s required.
Going back to The Order, there is a part where (SPOILER ALERT FOR THE BEGINNING OF THE GAME) you are attacked by three or four werewolves. You have to press the X button when they come towards you in order to dodge. However, you’re in very tight corridors and they seem to come out of nowhere. The prompt for the X button is sort of attached to the monsters, so if you don’t have your camera turned the right way, you won’t see the prompt. Plus, with the way they come out of nowhere it’s a huge pain to dodge like that. Then you have to run up to them and stab them in the heart. Well, while you are taking out a wounded werewolf another one shows up right on top of you and you barely have any time to dodge their attack. Not to mention, like before, where sometimes it just feels like the input doesn’t work. Quicktime event prompts need to be apparent to the player so they have time to react.
Quicktime events need to be fine-tuned. Don’t have them come out of nowhere. Don’t make the whole segment button mashing. Make sure the prompt is nice and apparent to the player. Those are my three biggest pet peeves when it comes to quicktime segments. Nothing makes me more mad then when a game does one of those things. This doesn’t make you want to blame it on the game. Games with good difficulty make sure that the player doesn’t feel like its the game’s fault, it’s the player’s. Make your quicktime events feel good and responsive and players won’t feel mad and like they got cheated.
During the 80s and 90s, one of the most popular genres for PCs were Adventure Games. With a focus on exploration, story, and problem and puzzle-solving these games created wonderful experiences that end up being pretty memorable. However, it seems that the golden-age adventure games aren’t really the heavy hitters they used to be.
In the early days of adventure games there were no visuals. As you can see, you interacted with the game by typing in commands. Zork was one of the 1st adventure games, and the first mainstream one. Zork spawned off of some MIT students experimenting and making games. After being released by the company Infocom for many of the home computers of the time, Zork became a classic.
In 1980, On-Line Systems (later famously known as Sierra) published a game called Mystery House. This was the first game developed by Ken and Roberta Williams, a power-house couple of adventure game creators who went on to make such games as, King’s Quest, Space Quest, and Police Quest for Sierra. Mystery House added basic visuals to help the player see what they were typing commands about. Sierra later became a heavy hitter in the adventure game world with their famous King’s Quest series. When the first King’s Quest game was released in 1983 it was revolutionary because of it’s well detailed graphics and animation for the time, and the fact that you controlled a character with the arrow keys. Eventually, games developed more ways for players to interact with the worlds within them.
In 1984, an adventure game called Enchanted Scepters was released for the Apple Macintosh. Like the adventure games before it, your environment was described with text and shown by a picture. The only difference that Scepters had was that you could interact with your surroundings by clicking on things. Enchanted Scepters revolutionized the adventure game genre. Pretty soon most adventure games were point-and-click, with King’s Quest switching over in 1990. In 1987, however, a game came out from a little company called LucasArts.
George Lucas, best known for directing the Star Wars films, created LucasFilm Games in 1982. After making some small games for Atari and early PCs they made their first game in 1987. Maniac Mansion was innovative because it was the big point-and-click adventure game that hit mainstream audiences. Maniac Mansion had a system where you select a “verb” and then would click on an object to do that “verb” on the said object. With this system, LucasFilm Games (more famously known as LucasArts would make so many classics. Eventually, however, adventure games became less and less mainstream and the genre died down in the late 90s.
In the late 90s the adventure game declined. With the rise of Doom, the FPS became the dominant genre on PC. In the mid-2000s, Japanese adventure games and visual novels (which may or may not be adventure games depending on your preference) gained popularity in America. However, today, when people think of adventure games they usually think of Telltale. Telltale began with The Walking Dead. Set in the world of the AMC TV show of the same name, Telltale focused more on story and characters than the puzzles of golden-age adventure games, and released them in episodic format. Telltale has become very popular in the recent years with many titles under their belts. However, even with the rise of adventure games yet again, nothing has come close to giving us the feeling of the classic LucasArts adventure games. However, two men have now embarked on a quest to fill that exact desire.
Thimbleweed Park is a game by Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick. These two men were the head directors of the original Maniac Mansion. They have set out to create a game that echoes back to the golden age of adventure games, and looks suspiciously similar to a game developed by the two almost 30 years ago. Hopefully, Thimbleweed Park can bring back the wonderful humor and puzzles that were ever-present in classic adventure games.