Tag Archives: Video Games

Sam Barlow on visionary indie game Her Story

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In the past Sam Barlow had made a name for himself working on titles in the Silent Hill series, including Silent Hill Origins and Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. The latter title was particularly influenced by psychology, with much of the game being set in a psychiatrist’s office. This focus on a formal setting combined with an intimate discussion of a person’s history was something that would be carried over into Barlow’s more recent work, the critically acclaimed Her Story.

“Once I had decided that I wanted to go make an indie game, I was kind of trying to figure out what that game should be,” Barlow begins. “The easiest thing for me to go out and make would have been an exploratory, atmospheric horror game, with some clever narrative twist to it. There’s that whole kind of genre that, I think, has become quite prevalent amongst indies. Dropping a player into a dark atmospheric environment with a flashlight is quite easy to do, but that almost felt too easy.”

Inspired by Simogo games and their unwavering creative vision, Barlow set out to build a police procedural game, a concept he had previously struggled to get off the ground when working with publishers. This became Her Story, an interactive videogame, where players piece together the details of a single case using found archived interview footage on an ageing police computer. “I’d pitched publishers the idea of doing a detective game many times over the years,” says Barlow. “It just always seemed to me like an obvious thing. If you look at movies, TV, books, half of this stuff is police shows or murder mysteries or serial killer shows. It’s such a big thing, but games have kind of struggled with it. I wanted to make a police procedural and in my head I had kind of zoomed in on the idea of the interview route. It felt that that was the kind of thing to do, because I was reducing scope. If this is a game that’s taking place in the interview room then I don’t need car chases, lots of locations, and tons of characters, so that would be a sensible thing to do.

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Here’s the Problem With Amiibo

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It’s hard to hate Nintendo. After all, they are behind many beloved franchises, including The Legend of Zelda, Mario, and the Metroid series. But their latest venture, the Wii U and 3DS compatible amiibo, has managed to antagonize a large number of its consumers. This is as a direct result of shortages in stock, and Nintendo’s subsequent failure to act on their promises to improve supply.

When amiibo were first released to coincide with Super Smash Bros. Wii U and Super Smash Bros. 3DS, they quickly became the must-have peripheral for gaming fans. The only problem was that demand for the items greatly outweighed the supply. This meant certain figures were almost impossible to find in stores and online. These included the likes of Marth, Wii Fit Trainer, and Villager, which sold out almost immediately upon being released.

It soon emerged that scalpers, intending to sell the figures for inflated prices, had somehow managed to buy these items in bulk. This meant that fans were to be deprived of the digital content associated with the amiibo, unless they were willing and able to part with extortionate amounts of cash.

Another option available to consumers was to wait for a restock. Though this method did not guarantee that they would eventually secure the amiibo of their choice, given the fierce competition for the items. The above also meant that younger gamers, without the disposable income or the means of store hopping, would go without.

At one point, the demand for the items was so high that Amazon and other online stores were giving specific order times to consumers, so as to grant them even the slightest chance of getting their hands on the rare figures.

The second and third waves of amiibo were faced with very much the same problems as the first. Rare figurines once again found their way onto eBay, selling way above their standard retail price. In addition, some areas saw counterfeiters begin to profit from deliberately misleading desperate customers with inferior goods.

Replying to the shortages, Nintendo gave customers the excuse that they did not anticipate the demand for the product. This would perhaps be an acceptable justification, if it weren’t for the problems associated with the previous waves of amiibo and the marketing campaign they undertook to entice even greater interest in the product. From the aforementioned reasons, it can be suggested that Nintendo knew amiibo were going to be in high demand, and simply failed to produce an adequate enough supply to retailers.

Many have even begun to accuse Nintendo of limiting supply deliberately in order to drum up interest in amiibo, something they have been accused of before in relation to the Nintendo Entertainment System and Wii consoles. If this proved true, it would be a contemptuous practice on behalf of the company, considering the growing necessity of amiibo to unlock additional in-game content. One such example of this is with the Splatoon amiibo, which grants access to additional gear and challenges in the game. In this case, the rarity of said items has meant that players are being denied content that should have been available to all upon release, and not just to the privileged few.

Nintendo have since commented again on the amiibo shortages in an exchange published on Game Informer. In their response, a Nintendo service agent blames retailers for the lack of amiibo on store shelves, rather than taking responsibility for their own mistakes regarding the production and distribution of the figures.

Given the events surrounding the release and sale of amiibo, it’s getting increasingly hard to be enthused about a new batch of characters being introduced. This is because there is no guarantee that players will actually get their hands on the product once they have officially been released. Hopefully Nintendo will soon make amends for this. Though, at the moment, the outlook is poor.

Why Glitches Are an Important Part of Gaming Culture

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Glitches are often seen as a negative presence in a game. They can break a title or even prevent the progression of a player. Nevertheless, they remain a beloved aspect of gaming culture. Part of the reason for this is that they have informed everything from let’s plays to speedruns.

Even today, I can remember seeing my first glitch in a game. My brother burst into the front room clutching the Gameboy in his hands. Excitedly, he thrust the dimly lit screen under my gaze. There was The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, for the original Gameboy. I stared closely as he edged his character towards the side of the screen, and pressed down on the control pad and the select button simultaneously. The screen panned across as normal, but the protagonist was now positioned in the far wall, out of bounds.

The screen warp, as it would come to be called, could be performed to beat the game in record time, skipping key portions of the game by clipping through different obstacles. It could also be used to cause some interesting events to occur. For example, you could use it to get the shield early when retrieving the sword at the start of the game, and recruit Marin, typically a side character, as a constant companion on your quest. Neither of these had any real effect on the story, but they were fun to perform. It gave us an exciting new past time, allowing the player to experiment to see what they could find. It also showed us that game developers were human and could make mistakes just like everybody else. Being young, it was hard to associate the prepackaged box and its contents bought from a shop shelf with the game’s creators on the other side of the world. Glitches were a meaningful human imprint that helped us to make that connection.

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Simulating Success: How Simulation Games Brought The Joy

Screen-Shot-2014-07-09-at-17.44.09 There was once a time when simulation games were more often found in the bargain bin section of your local gaming store. The genre was considered stale and cheap, paling in comparison to its all-guns-blazing, big budget competition. Covering specialized, ultra-niche topics, such as farming and trucking, they failed to captivate a mass audience in quite the same way as they had in times gone by.

However, more recently this has changed to some degree, with a new breed of simulation games becoming popular with players – one that, although based in reality, still entertains ideas of the absurd for comedic effect. This subgenre includes massively popular titles like Surgeon Simulator, Goat Simulator, and I Am Bread, as well as other lesser-known titles such as Bear Simulator, Viscera Cleanup Detail and Tea Party Simulator.

The first of these to gain success was Surgeon Simulator, which was developed by Bossa Studios. Created as part of a 48-hour game jam, this title puts the player in the role of a surgeon performing operations, albeit with limited dexterity. Luke Williams, one of the creators, comments on the reasoning behind making the game. “Surgeon Simulator was born at a global game jam,” he explains. “The theme for that game jam was the sound of a heartbeat, and we kind of went literal with it. We knew we would have to be awake for 48 hours, so we wanted to make something that was going to make us laugh. We thought, ‘well, we’ll make it a stupid, funny game about a heart transplant with a hand you can’t really control’. So that’s how we settled on the idea.“

To begin with, the developers had no plans of it being labelled as a simulation. In fact, the game’s original title was A & E: Accident and Emergency. It was only as they approached the end of production that they settled on its finished title when they realized it shared many common features with medical simulators. This similarity included making players simulate the action of performing surgery, right down to the surgeon’s finger movements. Taking inspiration from the ambitious-but-incredibly flawed Jurassic Park game Trespasser, Surgeon Simulator’s controls would offer a difficult learning curve for players to experience.

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