Troy told me not to say that “It can’t get any worse” and I didn’t. Not once over the last four or five days did those words get uttered, yet today it got worse!
Our second car, a ’97 Ford Taurus wagon with over 100k miles decided to throw a hose or something and now that car is also setting on the lot at a shop waiting for repairs that won’t happen until at least Monday. Ay yi yi… can’t catch a freaking break lately. Fortunately the tax refund is in, some money will probably show up from other work I did some time ago, and my first review for Crispy Gamer should be up there any day. I’m working on a second one for that site this weekend and will be doing more in March. We rented a mini-van so that should get us through til one of these cars is driveable again. I really don’t miss car payments (both were paid off), but it’s probably time to get back onto that choo choo train again. New cars really do have a lot less problems… well, as long as you don’t run into anything. *sigh*
Even though I had to work a lot of hours at my day job this week, and went through all these wacky life issues, I did find time to play some games. the aforementioned Crispy Gamer review game is one of them, but before that got here I was playing some Sins of Solar Empire and Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts. I also spent an hour or so with Bioshock again.
Bioshock really benefitted from the 8800GT on my PC. I still stand by my comments about it in the end of the year roundup. It’s too much of a shooter and not enough of a hybrid role-playing/adventure/real-world simulation type of game. That’s what made System Shock and its sequel so special to me, though both those and Bioshock definitely do make evident that games can be used to tell stories. If you’ve followed my commentary on games over the last eight or so years in any capacity, you probably know that I’m not a huge fan of games being used as movie-like storytelling vehicles. I really want the game to be the focus. All the Shock games do a good job of avoiding the pitfalls of push-button storytelling, but the audio-logs seem more contrived with each successive game.
How do you fix that? I don’t have the solution, but it’s one of the biggest problems facing that particular branch of the videogame tree right now. As game developers try harder and harder to turn their games into blockbuster films where you are in control, they keep butting into that issue of destroying immersion by taking control away from the player. The more I’m watching and not playing, the less I feel I’m in the role they’ve created for me. DOOM 3 is surprisingly good at pushing the audio log design a little further than even Bioshock but a lot of people couldn’t reconcile the old-school shooting that was placed alongside the interesting combination of PDA messages and interactive displays. Half-Life 2 also does some neat things with story advancement without yanking control away much like the original Half-Life streamlined some of the things that were first seen in the first Shock. One thing I don’t particularly like is the way Assassin’s Creed handles its cutscenes and story exposition. Leaving me in control of Altair just so I can decide where to stand while talking heads bombard me with lengthy exposition is not the answer.
It’s something I’m constantly watching because I think it’s a way that games want to go that often leads to them becoming less of a game and more of a film, and we have plenty of good film to watch so why make games into something they’re not? Interaction is the key to this form of entertainment and stories are usually at their best when treated solely as background for the game itself. That’s at odds with my fascination with Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, a game that is very typical in its use of cutscenes to forward the story. That game has a very high quality level throughout though, and I think ultimately that wins out with me over just about anything these days. With so many games begging for my time and money, games of that high quality really stand out and I can overlook a lot of their un-game-like functions.
While typing this, I’ve listened to the entirety of the new Danko Jones record and you should too. http://www.myspace.com/dankojones for some classic hard rock!