Tuesday, May 21, 2013
As virtual fantasy worlds go, Blizzard Entertainment’s Diablo 3 is particularly foreboding. In this multiplayer online game played by millions, witch doctors, demon hunters, and other character types duke it out in a war between angels and demons in a dark world called Sanctuary. The world is reminiscent of Judeo-Christian notions of hell: fire and brimstone, with the added fantasy elements of supernatural combat waged with magic and divine weaponry. And within a fairly straightforward gaming framework, virtual “gold” is used as currency for purchasing weapons and repairing battle damage. Over time, virtual gold can be used to purchase ever-more resources for confronting ever-more dangerous foes.
But in the last few months, various outposts in that world — Silver City and New Tristram, to name two — have borne more in common with real world places like Harare, Zimbabwe in 2007 or Berlin in 1923 than with Dante’s Inferno. A culmination of a series of unanticipated circumstances — and, finally, a most unfortunate programming bug — has over the last few weeks produced a new and unforeseen dimension of hellishness within Diablo 3: hyperinflation.
Friday, January 18, 2013
Until recently, popular storytelling was an essentially top-down art: Novelists told readers how characters thought and felt, playwrights determined what they said, and movie directors subjected captive viewers to their own individual visions. The story you saw was the story someone else imagined, and audience interaction was limited to throwing tomatoes at the stage, or scribbling in the margins of a book. Even popular sports were basically passive: Fans might follow along in great detail, but the plays and their outcomes were determined by the actions of an elite few on the field.
But for the last 40 years, video games have begun to change all that. Games were built around interactivity: Players got what they wanted, not what someone else gave them. And as the technological firepower that makes video games possible has grown cheaper and more abundant, those games have increasingly focused on complex choice architectures designed to let players make their own stories. Game designers still build the playing fields, and some are more constrictive than others. But the arc of game design has bent toward expanding player choice. You are at the center of the experience, and you make it your own. The star of the show isn’t some writer or actor or player on the screen. The star is you.
It’s probably too much to argue that video games offer players freedom from the iron grip of the author—after all, games still have designers, and the old stories weren’t exactly forced upon their readers. But the rise of video games as a popular art form is surely a sign of the way that the broad universalized stories of yesterday have fractured into an array of niche narratives, each designed to serve an individualized interest.
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
The March 1997 issue of Next Generation magazine:
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Interest in the retro gaming scene has really expanded in the last few years, thanks in no small part to the proliferation of capable mobile devices such as the iPhone and iPad and the App Store behind them. As such, retro-minded iOS gamers have a wide range of games to choose from, such as retro-inspired new releases, retro remakes, as well as the actual games of olde brough forth through faithful emulation. It is in the last arena that, early this year, Rantmedia Games decided to toss its hat, sharing word of their upcoming Vectrex Regeneration, a one-stop-shop for fans of the much vaunted, early ’80s Vectrex console.
We have been following Rantmedia’s progress closely since then, and are pleased to have finally had an opportunity to put their Vectrex emulation / game library through its paces. Vectrex Regeneration [Free], a universal app for the iPad (2 and up) and iPhone (4 and up), is now live in the App Store, and here’s the low-down.
First, some needed history. Released in late 1982 by General Consumer Electric (GCE), the Vectrex is a highly unique game system. Unlike every other console of the time, the Vectrex features an integrated CRT display — but not of the standard, horizontal-scan variety. The Vectrex utilizes a vector monitor, which is similar to an oscilloscope and draws its graphics on the screen in a fashion similar to the display process of a laser light show. It’s the only console from gaming’s past defined by a complete lack of jaggies.
The Vectrex features a wired controller with an analog stick (one of the first ever brought to market) and accepts games on ROM cartridges, though a single, Asteroids-like game called MineStorm is built into the system. Each game title came with a pack-in plastic screen overlay to add cabinet bling and simulate color on the built-in monochrome display. There was even a light pen and an optional 3D imaging peripheral available for the system, the first ever offered for a console.
Friday, November 30, 2012
The January 1992 issue of VideoGames & Computer Entertainment: