29 April, 2012

All Quiet

written by Blain Newport on Sunday, 29 April, 2012

I have played some games but nothing of consequence. And E3 is coming up pretty soon, so the gaming news scene is also very quiet. Publishers want to save up their big announcements for when the most eyes turn towards the gaming business. That's a double edged sword as everyone else is doing the same, but people like to delude themselves into thinking that their clever marketing plan win out over everyone else's clever marketing plans.

I will start my videos for They Hunger (a mod for Half-Life) soonish, probably next Monday. I keep putting it off because I'm not really fond of They Hunger and I have no idea how playing something I don't particularly enjoy will be entertaining. Other people get frustrated, which can be fun to watch. But I just get sad. :(

But I will start They Hunger because that's the only way to finish it, and I am eager to get started with Phantom Dust. That LP could be a giant mass of fail, but the mechanisms I'm building to support it are strange and possibly wonderful, and I want to see how it turns out.

It's good to want things.

23 April, 2012

D3 Beta and Phantom Dust

written by Blain Newport on Monday, 23 April, 2012

Diablo 3 had it's open beta last weekend.

Yep. You still hit guys until candy comes out.

Blizzard's done a great job of making me feel powerful. In Titan Quest, it takes a few hours before you can do enough damage to really throw skeletons and beast men around. In Diablo 3, almost every hit results in a pain animation and nearby bodies and debris flying about. The amount of physics involved means the frame rate sometimes takes a nosedive on my older hardware, but that's to be expected.

For the most part, the Battle.net integration worked fine. But every now and then I'd get snapped back because my input didn't make it to the server. Once I even manged to click on two enemies, wait a second, then watch them both take the hits and fall over. As long as I'm playing on normal difficulty, that's probably fine. But Diablo 3 has a hardcore mode where if your character dies it's erased on the server. I'd hate put days of play into a character then die due to an internet hiccup.

I tried all five classes and my favorite was the Barbarian (pictured above). The monk was cool but so powerful that I could just hold down the left mouse button and tear up everything on the screen most of the time. The other three classes were various flavors of pew pew and effective enough. But hitting things is just so much more satisfying. :)

I also played through an OXbox game called Phantom Dust again, in anticipation of doing a fairly ambitious Let's Play. Phantom Dust is a third person action game, but the player's abilities are dealt out like cards. I'm working on putting together a web application that will let viewers build decks for me to use.

I'm thinking I may run the LP on the Something Awful forums. They're probably the biggest LP community on the net, and I'm guessing maybe one in a hundred viewers will be into it enough to actually make decks. And since the game has roughly 100 missions, I'll need a lot of decks.

15 April, 2012

Keepalive: Meh.

written by Blain Newport on Sunday, 15 April, 2012

My semi-hiatus continues. I even stopped logging on to Star Trek Online to keep my duty officers busy. At some point it just becomes Progress Quest, watching pretend numbers get bigger for no reason.

What I have been doing is spending some time with Devil May Cry 3 and 4, doing some comparisons. It's impossible to be fair in these types of judgements. Do I still like DMC 1 the best because of nostalgia? Do I like DMC 3 less than 4 because I have the original super hard edition?

For those who care, here's where my current feelings lie. I'll see the rest of you next week.

DMC 1 is still the best. Critical kills make you feel large and in charge. The atmosphere is the best in the series. And I may never get tired of fighting Nelo Angelo.

DMC 2 is not worth talking about.

DMC 3 is a victim of its own ambition. It adds a lot, but everything comes with a drawback.

DMC 4 has the horsepower to pull off more of what DMC 3 was trying to do, but falls down with less intense combat, a new, annoying protagonist, and a huge amount of backtracking.

08 April, 2012

Devil May Cry: A Medium Reading

written by Blain Newport on Sunday, 8 April, 2012


I've never been big fan of "close readings". If you have something important to say, just say it. Communication is hard enough without hiding a message behind symbols. But that may be because I was forced to do close readings of works I had no love for in school.

As melodramatic and poorly translated as it is, I do love Devil May Cry. And while I was playing it for my latest video series, I started noticing elements of structure and symbolism that I hadn't seen before.

I'm not claiming these elements give the game artistic merit, or somehow "make up" for the shoddy bits. But there was thought and planning and work that I'd never noticed before. That work deserves to be recognized.

I believe Devil May Cry is a game about balance. There is a demon world and a human world. Dante, who is himself half demon, is not seeking to destroy the demon world. He's just trying to maintain the balance. The main villain in the game is Mundus, mostly represented as a three eyed statue with angel wings. I suspect that the three eyes and angelic affectations represent Mundus' pride. He believes he can transcend balance and rule all.

I don't think it's a coincidence that the game's history puts Mundus' birth within a year of Christ's. I'm not saying DMC is intended to be particularly Christian or anti-Christian. But it does seem to reference it, almost mirror it, in its construction. In Christian belief, an angel rebelled against God and corrupted humanity. In Devil May Cry, a demon rebelled against Mundus and saved the human world.

But Devil May Cry has no heaven or ultimate victory. It seems to believe in eternal, cyclical coexistence and conflict. It's a very natural belief system for a fighting game's world. :)

The idea of coexistence even extends to Dante not killing his major opponents. Trish sacrifices herself. Phantom gets carried away and falls through a window. Griffon is killed by Mundus. Vergil overloads on his own power. Even Mundus himself, the target of Dante's vendetta, is only forced back into the Underworld, with Dante asking Mundus to pass on his regards to his son in another thousand years. The only major opponent Dante destroys is Nightmare, which appears to be a magical construct and displays no sentience.

I could go on, but I'll wrap up by saying that pairings are also a very important motif in DMC. Male and female, parent and child, siblings, and possibly even race relations (as represented by Dante's twin pistols Ebony and Ivory) are referenced. There are mirrors, reflections, and representations (paintings) that can physically be traversed. In Devil May Cry connectedness is the driving force.