Helping players help themselves: diegetic hints

A short article about game UX issues that have been on my mind (somewhat succinctly, as it was originally written for Twitter).

Game designers spend a lot of time tuning the difficulty of combat and puzzles, but what about the narrative or campaign?  Obtuse campaigns can be frustrating, while others “hand-hold” – rob players of gratification – if the golden path is too obvious.  How can design balance these issues?

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Everyone’s War: Backstory and engagement in Fallout 4

A month or two after Fallout 4 launched I started my second character and something immediately bothered me: the male and female player characters have different backgrounds.  This has been criticized for falling short of gender neutrality and for practical reasons – the character’s skills and knowledge – but my big issues are with the character’s emotional journey. Continue reading Everyone’s War: Backstory and engagement in Fallout 4

Why I’m not worried about Fallout 4

Every day that goes by without an official Fallout 4 announcement is just another day of doom and gloom for the legions of fans. Me? I’m not worried.

I’m a huge Fallout fan – take ten seconds to browse my articles if you’re not sure – and I’m very excited for the prospect of Fallout 4. So are millions of other fans, many of whom are writhing at the looming five-year anniversary of the last installment, Fallout: New Vegas. This was exacerbated by Bethesda announcing their first-ever E3 press event in June, 2015, sending fans of both Fallout and The Elder Scrolls into a frenzy of speculation.

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Rude awakening: Why Fallout: New Vegas felt incomplete

The Fallout series of role-playing video games have been well-received and popular since Fallout was released in 1997 as “America’s first choice in post-nuclear simulation.” Post-apocalyptic video games have been numerous, yet the Fallout games stand out for their immersion and complexity. Fallout has managed to transcend the traditional combat- and leveling-focused RPGs to satisfy players on a much deeper level.

At least, the Fallout games transcended the typical genre offering until Fallout: New Vegas. Never before has a canonical, major release Fallout game received such hedged reviews from fans and critics. Yet, New Vegas seemed to have all the ingredients of a stellar Fallout game: an expansive world, factions to meet, choices to make, and excellent casting, all centered around a sweeping and nuanced regional conflict. Why, then, did it feel incomplete? There was something missing from New Vegas that, as players and critics have remarked, makes it feel more like a really big Fallout 3 expansion rather than a Fallout game in its own right.

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in the spirit of inflated celebrity burnouts and Live the Sheen Dream, i present Sheenisms:

NASA announced the space shuttle replacement is Charlie Sheen riding four porn stars.

Charlie Sheen alone holds up the economies of Columbia and Peru.

Charlie Sheen singlehandedly killed every Somalian pirate, equipped only with a floatation jacket and 28 grams of cocaine.

“Two and a Half Men” was canceled because Charlie Sheen bought the rights to the name for his penis.

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Fallout: New Vegas: launch FEVer

so i’ll just say it: it’s everything we wanted.  (except for the performance glitches. and losing a couple hours worth of saved games.  sigh. back to Goodsprings.)

i’ll have more from the midnight release in Sunnyvale, CA…  but that’ll wait.  you think i’m gonna wait this long and put it all on hold for a silly blog?  no, no, i’m just killing time ’til i’ve woken up enough to face the Wasteland again.

Brock and awe: a little Shore Leave wordplay

who can kick ass with deadly sass? perhaps none more than Shore Leave of Adult Swim’s The Venture Bros. the closest you could get in real life would be if Louie Spence was a dual pistol-wielding agent of a super-secret American rogue spy organization.

from The Venture Bros., “Pinstripes & Poltergeists”

Shore Leave’s espionage and combat skills are second only to his sharp-tongued, laser-quick wit (and just ahead of his love of Jimmy Choo designs).  his special brand of ass-kicking homosexual machismo is just balanced by his (professional) partner Brock Sampson’s special brand of ass-kicking heterosexual machismo. initially presented as rivals, twenty years later they are fighting side-by-side against unchecked aggression – and have turned out to be an unexpected and satisfying comic duo.

Continue reading Brock and awe: a little Shore Leave wordplay

i started one of these things

i hate blogs.  or rather, what blogs came to represent.

first, there was the Internet, and no one cared.  then there was the World-Wide Web, and folks scratched their heads over what to do with it.  geeks would write things on message boards or personal web sites, and the information flowed freely.

then regular people discovered the value of the internet (no more capital “i”) for commerce and socializing.  they then spent the next ten years discovering everything the geeks and nerds knew all along. suddenly it was cool to be doing everything the dorky kids had been doing – without, of course, acknowledging where it all came from.

so “blogs” came along – they weren’t anything special, just dumbed-down content management systems that mimicked the hand-coded or hacked-up CMSes the OGs (Original Geeks) wrote.  ah, but the response from the masses was “ZOMG!!!!1!!! U CN RITE ON UR WEBZ AND PPL CN REED IT?!?”  internet innovators world-wide collectively smacked their foreheads.

it was like coming out with “wraps” while all the Mexicans stand around wondering how people are charging $9 for a burrito.  or Twitter “revolutionizing” communication by hacking together a very poorly written way to broadcast text messages.

i didn’t want a part of it.  i was content with my work, my experience, remembering what things were like in the days of 1200-baud modems, usenet, gopher, and telnet (TELNET!  pre-SSH!  “hi!  sniff me!”).  but, hell, i had to break down some day.

a big chunk of the reasoning is that there are a lot of valuable things on the internet that i use or am entertained by every day.  sometimes i fix something after finding nothing helpful on the web – maybe i should add some contributions of my own. and, of course, there are also a lot of stupid things said on the internet, so why not cast my lot in, too?

things you can expect here:

  • pixels:  photos, photochops, UI topics.
  • tools:  software and hardware fixes, hacks, firearms, electronics.
  • commentary.
  • complaining.

– emilio