Detroit: Become Human Developer, Quantic Dream Loses Court Battle Against Former Employee Court Favours Former Employee

Detroit: Become Human- Intense Interactive Thriller

Quantic Dream, the developers of several PlayStation exclusive titles such as Heavy Rain and more recently, Detroit: Become Human, has lost a court case against an ex-employee of the studio.

Read moreDetroit: Become Human Developer, Quantic Dream Loses Court Battle Against Former Employee Court Favours Former Employee

In-game Survey Gives Glimpse at Acceptance to Robot Filled Future A voluntary survey found inside Detroit: Become Human sheds some light on how game Reviewers and YouTubers think

In-game Survey Gives Glimpse at Acceptance to Robot Filled Future

Indigo Prophecy Remastered For PC & iOS

Indigo Prophecy Remastered For PC & iOS

In a move that’s a little bit baffling. David Cage’s second big game, known as Fahrenheit in Europe and Indigo Prophecy in North America, is getting an HD remaster called Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy Remastered. The catch is that this updated version of the game is only coming to PC, Linux, Mac and iOS platforms, so if you’ve got a desktop computer or Apple phone/tablet, you’re good to go on this. Someone decided that console peasants really are peasants so they can all go eat cake instead.

Among the updates to the game like the expected rise in resolution are controller and touch-interface support, as well as the “uncensored” version of the game for North American players. The original version, sporting those PS2-era graphics, had an at-the-time controversial sex scene, of which certain segments were removed for the more delicate sensibilities of North Americans. Now, however, those same players can also enjoy the sensuous ministrations of blocky, polygonal figures to get the same not-hot-and-bothered experience their European peers “enjoyed” all those years ago, so that’s a big win for freedom of speech advocates. Maybe.

The game sells for about $10 in this part of the world, so if you’re one of those people that was always curious about this game, now’s your chance to play it on your computing device of choice, with an Android version in the works. At this time there are no plans for PS4/Xbox One version.

Down with Bad Quick Time Events

Down with Bad Quick Time Events

Indulge me, please. I have a complaint. Yeah, it will probably seem like a pretty minor one in the grand scheme of things, but, all the same, it’s a source of regular frustration. Basically, what I’m working up to writing here is that I’m sick of videogames, good and bad alike, being ruined by the most easily avoidable problem of all: poorly designed quick time events. Quick time events (or QTEs for brevity’s sake) are often awful. They’re a decent design idea that felt truly novel at one point, but are used to good effect pretty much only within specific genres now. QTEs don’t have to be terrible (more on this in a bit), but their inclusion in many titles comes off as lazy or just plain poorly thought-out. When not properly integrated within gameplay mechanics they’re capable of destroying either entire sections of a game or the experience as a whole.

Down With Bad Quicktime Events
God of War

I started thinking about this topic after giving up on a videogame because of an incredibly frustrating QTE. Grasshopper Manufacture’s Killer is Dead is a third-person action game that certainly isn’t without non-QTE related narrative and design faults, but it was one sequence in particular that made me give up on a title I may otherwise have continued with. While fighting a boss about two hours into Dead’s campaign, the battle was interrupted with a QTE that required the frantic mashing a single button to complete. The timing of the sequence was so demanding that even the best controller-ruining tricks (rubbing a pen cap over the button, hammering at it with an index finger, etc.) couldn’t help me past it. I tried to look up some tips, found that a number of other players have had the same problem, and gave it a few more shots to no avail. I could blaze through the actual battle itself without difficulty. I could even get through the first of two QTEs after a while, but despite coming just short of turning my fingertip into a bloody ruin, couldn’t manage to pass the second sequence.
[pullquote align=”right” class=”blue”]”I’m sick of videogames, good and bad alike, being ruined by the most easily avoidable problem of all: poorly designed quick time events.”[/pullquote]
This has only happened to me once before, in Resident Evil 6, and served as the straw breaking the camel’s back on what was, all things considered, a pretty crummy game. But, even when they’ve featured in games that are really good otherwise—like Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, which features a notable sequence where the player keeps Snake from electrocuting to death through button mashing—a badly designed QTE can make me consider giving up on playing through something entirely.

Back when videogames like Shenmue and Resident Evil 4 were first coming out, QTEs seemed like a pretty good way to introduce light gameplay elements into scenes that would have otherwise been completely non-interactive. It was a smart idea then, but as the best developers took note of what worked about QTEs, simple, annoying ones designed around hammering a single button went away. Games like Indigo Prophecy and The Walking Dead re-contextualized the quick time event into a primary gameplay mechanic, using timed button presses to keep players engaged in story-heavy experiences. God of War and The Last of Us used QTEs to add a sense of physical urgency (and violence) to Kratos’ battles and Joel and Ellie’s desperate fights. These games changed the way that quick time events were used. Rather than simply tasking the player with hitting a button quickly—or as hard as possible for a sustained period of time—they worked to increase the connection the player has with her or his character.

Resident Evil 6
Resident Evil 6

When QTEs aren’t used properly, though, they can ruin a game. It seems astonishing that there are still developers who haven’t noticed when this mechanic works well and when it doesn’t. There’s a place in games for tough challenges that require quick reflexes and manual dexterity, but creating artificial difficulty through button mashing segments doesn’t fall into this category. Sure, games can ask us to beat up our controllers with frantic combat and tense action scenes, but gating progression behind unforgiving, overly simplistic quick time events is just plain bad design.

Should We Care About Romance Games?

Should We Care About Romance Games?

I saw a rather interesting lecture on romance in games and the potential of romance-themed games at the Montreal International Game Summit, by Schell Games’ Heidi Macdonald. In it, she discussed the possibilities of “empathic games”, or games driven by emotional, character-based conflicts rather than violence or plot. She praised the Dragon Age series as an example of engaging romance, as well as actual romance-themed games like Silicon Sisters’ Everlove (whose CEO expressed the importance of ’empathetic games’.  She cited the proliferation of online dating, and the converging age demographics of romance-novel readers and players as reasons why this is a bold, new frontier of gaming.

Full disclosure: I’m male, and not an expert on real-life romance. As with any editorial, you can take what I say with a grain of salt, and you definitely should. However, I write these because I think there’s an important discussion regarding the place of romance in games, and the place of actual romance games in the game industry and why it’s viable.

MacDonald gave many examples of games that have romance in them, often as a core mechanic. Japan has an entire genre of ‘otome’ games, or romance-themed games where the story is based around developing relationships with the characters (often multiple). She believes this market can take root in the west, and that western companies can make games like this and find a strong market. She qualified with ‘among’ women.

romanceinsert1
Everlove

Personally, I saw more men than women in the audience, so the games might not be exclusively appealing to female players.

Many games have romantic subplots, and even romance-based game mechanics are not new at all, and can add fun portions to the gameplay. That said, romance is rarely the primary focus of the plot of games, except in a few exceptions that appeal to relatively niche audiences. Everlove is primarily geared towards casual, female players, and operates similarly to a ‘dating sim’ or visual novel. When we think of games that are entirely about romance (without having some other element to them, such as character action or building a farm), we tend to think about pornographic games. Since adult-themed content isn’t actually inherent to romance, and such games use narrative and mechanics entirely for the sake of that content, they’re not particularly relevant to the discussion of why romance is such a thing. Not every romance game has porn in it, either, so it’s clearly not required.

My earliest exposure to a details romance-based subplot was probably Azure Dreams, an original PlaysSation game by Konami where your character entered a giant monster-filled tower, using the treasure he finds to build the small town at his base. There are seven women in the game you can pursue relationships with, often by learning about their histories and personalities and helping them out with their dreams (helping a dancer become a huge success, or teaching the snobby rich girl not to judge people based on their surface). I can’t exactly vouch for it as an example of realistic characters, since there’s clearly a caricatured element to the game, but it did a decent job of presenting them as detailed individuals with personal goals. That you can build a relationship will ALL of the women in the game at once, however, creates some interesting subtexts regarding power relationships and equality.

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Azure Dreams

I think there’s a fear of that. Macdonald’s presentation included a brief mention of that, but the question of sexism and gender portrayal in games is a current and controversial topic. The industry is only recently getting over the idea that male and female players are not entirely separate, mutually exclusive groups that cannot be appealed to together. But one of the things romantic content in games does is foreground the actual issues of sexism and gender portrayal and open them for discussion. To be perfectly frank, the controversy engages players, and it’s simple enough to intentionally evoke issues deliberately and intelligently in order to bring these issues out. Companies can avoid major faux pas by making a visible effort to be respectful, and Western RPGs have a trend towards allowing players to decide sex and other personal factors (also, sexuality, what with LGBT representation in the industry increasing steadily).

For me, Azure Dreams‘ relationships were quite fun. They gave a sense of life to the town you were building with dungeon treasure, and made it feel populated by people more than NPCs. There was a sense that you were helping these people, listening to their ambitions and dreams, and either helping or hindering them. I ruined my brother’s attempt to diffuse an argument between the main character and the money-loving Fur Gots by telling him to walk away, cementing his ire and making every return to the shop tense and laced with bad blood. And if I can get that much enjoyment out of both building AND destroying a relationship, I think there’s enough market to make a game entirely around that.

romanceinsert2
Record of Agarest War

I think a lot of the issue falls down to mechanics. It’s often easier to attach romantic elements to a game with a more tangible mechanical system than base the entire game around it, in the same way that it’s difficult to make an engaging game that’s all dialogue and still call it a ‘game’. Still, making relationships be about filling a ‘points’ meter or being a means to gain power (like the Social Links in Persona 3 and 4, which I have not played, but their writing is apparently quite good). There’s a balance to be struck, one that adventure game makers, particularly recent ones like Quantic Dream and Telltale, try to execute. Since the latter’s The Walking Dead was praised for its strong writing and emotional storyline (including a developing romantic undertone that is tragically impacted by the story), the potential is there. Combat doesn’t have to be the primary focus

I think you could build a Western RPG based around romance. In another Japanese example, Record of Agarest War has an entire mechanic based on marriage and one’s descendants. Something akin to Crusader Kings, with its family dynastic lines, but with a focus on the different families and their personalities? Let’s give it a shot, you’ll never find a market if you don’t make product.

Sony officially unveils PlayStation 4

Sony officially unveils PlayStation 4

As widely expected, Sony took to the stage in New York City to show off their newest console, the PlayStation 4.

Read moreSony officially unveils PlayStation 4