Posts Tagged ‘Games’
Trilby: Art of Theft and Knytt Stories are two games I’ve been playing extensively lately. Both share an exceptional game experience. Trilby: Art of Theft reminds the player of those good old games from the 90’s – addictive and challenging. Knytt Stories takes the player to a dreamworld that reminded me of listening to Death Cab for Cutie, but then in a gaming package.
What makes Trilby such a great game to play then? It aren’t really Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw’s graphics that blow you away, they’re straight from the 90’s. But the game’s architecture is very well done, everything seems logical and flows over into the next. The purchasing of abilities to make you a better crook (better safecracker, lockpicker) or new moves (roll, hide in shadows) all seem very intiutive and more importantly: I haven’t seen this kind of gameplay in any game, ever. Not convinced? Check out the Trilby: Art of Theft Walkthrough / Rankthrough, which includes video to check out the gameplay, here.
Yes, finally the message has been returned to the medium after the tsunami of bad first person shooters and 3D action adventures in the last years. Repetition of a genre, however, is not something that is “evil” per se. Exceptional narrative in gaming has developed over the past years, with some of my top games being Max Payne, Deus EX and recently Assasins’ Creed. However these games do not, in my opinion, excell in an exceptional game experience. Much like Hollywood productions they share a good story, but are essentially the same format.
Knytt Stories is something totally different. French arthouse movie Amelie is to Hollywood productions as is Knytt Stories to big budget gaming. Under the influence of mood strengthening music, this game has you travelling the beautiful lands of protagonist Knytt, a “small guy with long hair”, and providing you with an experience that is different from so many similar experiences. And yes, it is free! And yes! You can create your own levels! After playing Knytt on my laptop in the train, I found myself thinking about what level I would create with Knytt Stories. It feeds personal creative process outside of virtual space. But even without this, the works of Knytt creator Nifflas are so original and really fuel the imagination, and not just in the sense of narrative… Check out the gameplay in this Knytt Stories Walkthrough of the The Machine level at YouTube.
As I was playing Zelda: A Link to the Past today on my SNES emulator, something struck me: I had an in-game deja-vu. A feeling as if I had been there before. My mind quickly tried to scan all the options and I found out that I have really vivid memories of various computer games. These experiences are basically stories I could tell to my friends and family at a party. As cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner mentioned in his interesting essay Life as Narrative: all our experiences are in some way structured as narratives, and we remember and learn from these narratives in the future.
What would be an interesting idea is to gather stories from people who have been playing games. How do people tell about games? Often when we hear stories -or when I hear myself talking to others about in game events- I almost feel alienated from the world around me. The surreal words echoing in my head and making me realize the sometimes bizarre situations as I’m telling the story. Let me give it a try here about an experience I had in playing Zelda. This is not a walkthrough or anything like that. It’s just what I’ve been doing this morning from the top of my head.
‘Some old guy I finally found told me to get a pendant in a region east from the big lake. I came across many green and blue soldiers, especially the guys with the arrows were pretty difficult to defeat. I had a lot of trouble finding the entrance, but after roaming around Kakariko village and the mountains in the south, I found out by accident that I had to go through a very narrow, almost hidden, path. Then I came to a desert with some creepy crawlers, appearing and disappearing. I almost died there, but luckily I found a fairy that healed my just in time. After that I went to the desert castle to find the first of the three amulets.’
Etcetera. I could probably go on for hours and the memories are quite clear and vivid. I clearly remember some gameworlds like my own neighbourhood: Gothic I & II, Zelda, Splinter Cell, Chrono Trigger, Diablo, Baldur’s Gate and of course Morrowind. Because what got my thoughts started on this topic is a forum thread on stories from Morrowind. Although I don’t know any of these people, I know what experiences they are talking about. Their goals were the same but their memories are so different. What would a psychogeographic approach to computergames look like? Just pointlessly wandering around in Morrowind, not to reach any goals but to create stories of wandering around.
I know there are already quite some theories on game experiences, but what really caught my attention and interest were the stories told about games as if they are a part of the gamers’ daily life. So, what did you do today in the virtual?
For the Masters of Media blog at the University of Amsterdam fellow student Roman did a Podcast on Henry Jenkins‘ new book Fans, Bloggers and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture and he called me up to talk about it. Got to love those vintage phonelines and the aesthetics of Podcasts!
You can check it out in this blogpost, or you can download the ‘Discussing Jenkins’ Podcast directly from here. And since we’re talking about bloggers here, check out what other blogs say about it here, here and here. The first link includes an interesting interview with Jenkins.
I’ve tried a lot of the games available for the U3 USB stick, but none of them really seemed to give me the relaxation I needed after a lot of hard work at the campus computers of the University of Amsterdam. And since I’m kind of addicted to my ZSNES Super Nintendo Emulator, I decided to use Package Factory to make a U3 install for it.
It’s very simple. Step one: Download ZSNES Windows version. Step two: drag the zsnes.exe into the Package Factory window. Step three: Choose install from your harddrive from the U3 launchpad. Get yourself a couple of roms and put them on the U3 drive -of course only from SNES games you have in your possession- and you’re set to go! I’ve heard that other emulators (for example GBA) also work.
Also a short update on my personal experience with the Smart Drive. I’ve been using it intensively on campus and besides a sometimes long startup period, it has been very ideal for me. Now I don’t have to use that annoying Internet Explorer anymore, I have Firefox always ready with my personal plugins (del.icio.us, wordpress.com) which is a big advantage. Besides that I use it a lot for syndicating content with my home computer.
Any points of critique? Some, because I think development of the applications is still a bit slow. What I would like to see is more use of programs like Package Factory so people can create their own (freeware) programs from existing ones and post them on the web. This would stimulate the community around the medium.
By the way, It’s good to see prices are going down for the U3 sticks with a higher capacity, because more capacity might mean larger applications and I’m anxious to see what that can bring us.
Recently I’ve come across a video posted by the guys at Digital Urban, which is a must-check-out blog. It let’s us take a look in the Kaufmann house by Frank Lloyd Wright using the Halflife 2 engine. I don’t want to talk too much about this, just take a look. The first one is the real one, the second one made with the Halflife 2 engine.
Earlier I talked about about the free downloadable game Penumbra which I discovered through Gamershell.com, but since then I’ve come across some more pages with good overviews of the free/freeware gaming market. And I don’t mean those crappy Java Tetris clones, but games which are worth a try because of their original approach and effort. Here’s a short list, I’ll keep this updated and if you have any additions just post ’em in the comments.
About: Good thing about this page is the fact that they keep reviews of the games posted. So if a game is really bad, you don’t have to download it first and go through the annoyance of installing and uninstalling. Which is a big plus for this GameHippo over the other websites.
About: The website I check first if I’m looking for a freeware game. Every big release by an indie is on there, a must-bookmark. Hands down.
Home of the Underdogs
About: Although not packed with new releases in freewareland, Home of the Underdogs provides the best of abandonware games. Games from the beginning of videogaming (text adventures), the first 3D shooters, and everything in between. Older games can give you a whole new perspective on gaming in ways of convention, narrative. Retrogaming is cool!
About: Nice website with some good games. Skip through the more than 50 pages of free games and there should be something you like.
About: Added by recommendation, and I must say I enjoyed this website very much. It’s got interviews (check out the interview with the guys from Penumbra), podcasts, messagebaords and two good gameslists. One for online games and one for freeware games, with a total of (as I write this) around 1400 games you can definitely find something here.
About: A website dedicated to posting high quality freeware games. Or as the about section mentions: “The number of freeware games increases every day and often you can’t cope with the huge amount of titles you find when you are googling.” That does sound very familiar when you’re looking for freeware games on the web. Runtime also offers reviews on freeware games, and for gamecreators of freeware games an application form.
About: Not the best, but definitely worth a check if some of the other websites don’t have anything new. I saw a game called Babylon V: I’ve Found Her and tried it, it’s a tough but beautiful game. Definitely worth a try.
About: Well, who doesn’t know Wikipedia? And some people are working on a freeware games list, so why not check it out? It’s good, but still a bit small. So if you have a freeware game that should be added to Wikipedia, don’t be a stranger.
Although there are a lot of doubts about the marketing strategy Sony has chosen for their Playstation 3, the people at Stanford University are going to use the new Playstation 3 in their search “to understand protein folding, misfolding and related diseases.” They call it the Cure@PS3 project.
This is actually an addition to their Folding@Home project, which connects loads of PCs from around the world to create the calculation capacity required for the project. You can download the Folding@Home client and make your PC also process the calculations, much like the SETI@home project.
But now this technology will also be available on the Playstation 3. The Cure@PS3 project works like this: “[…]We are looking forward to another major advance in capabilities. This advance utilizes the new Cell processor in Sony’s Playstation 3 (PS3) to achieve performance previously only possible on supercomputers. With this new technology (as well as new advances with GPUs), we will likely be able to attain performance on the 100 gigaflop scale per computer.”
Read more about this interesting and original use of the next gen consoles on Folding@Home at the Stanford university website. For a small preview check out this picture from Wikipedia or the videopreview at the Stanford website.