January 27, 2010
I’m about seven hours deep in this game, and I can tell there’s a lot more for me to do. So much so that I’m going to break my discussion of the game into parts. Here’s what I’ve noticed so far that pisses me off.
- No more elevators. Some people consider this a good thing; those people are assholes. Now instead of hearing the galactic news and off-cuff dialog between characters I get to look at vector graphics. Load screens are plentiful, but now I don’t have a distraction to keep me occupied through it.
- It’s a little predictable at spots. Shepard and some of the key party members I’ve picked up so far are busted up from all of the crazy awesome things they’ve been up to since we last met. Even the scientist I recruited is secretly a bad ass ninja assassin with light sabers coming out of his nose. So far the most normal member of my crew is a former decorated soldier-com-terrorist. I guess I’m not going to see another rugged street cop or common field archeologist caught up in the chaos of a world they never made.
- Seth Green does not have enough lines.
- SCANNING! Good fucking god that’s boring. Look, I’m all for making my space opera as realistic as possible, but should it really take 10-30 minutes to check a planet for resources? Should doing that be integral to the upgrade system? Was there no way to bend the fiction a bit to at least point out where on the planet’s surface a mineral deposit might be?
- The “Spoiler Spoiler” Site. You know, the one where you put down that statue and look over the result of the opening cinematic? Yea, that better not be the pinnacle of the content offered by the Cerberus Network dlc, because if it is I don’t think they’ll sell a lot of it for $10. I realize it’s free to people who buy the game new, but let’s be honest here, that’s not everyone.
- The solution to the complaints about inventory management is one I did not see coming. They removed inventory all together. You select which guns you want to use before you leave the ship, all mods are equipped all the time, and only Shepard has different sets of armor. It works, but I feel like I’m giving something up.
I do want to clarify that I am having a great time with Mass Effect 2. I hope to be deeper into the game by Friday so I can elaborate on what I think the game is doing right without spoiling too much.
January 20, 2010
I may have talked about this before, I don’t remember. Majesty 2 is my kind of RTS, that is to say it’s an RTS hidden under a thick layer of RPG and SimCity. You play as the ruler of a generic fantasy world. Each map you play has a monster that ‘you’ must destroy to back up your claim to the throne. Now you never lift a sword or draw a bow yourself, that would not be regal. You place bounties on monsters heads.
The smart king puts a small bounty on lots of low-level creatures initially, so the adventurers get a chance to level up and earn some gold. Then you kindly provide them with an outlet to spend their gold (seriously, they give it right back to you through shops) and send them off again for increasing danger. I won’t go into a lot of detail about the campaign or humor because I think it is worth the $29.99 and I want you to play it for yourself.
The reason I’m bringing this overlooked gem up is because they just announced the expansion. It’s due out in the first part of this year, and I’m afraid it’ll be overlooked again. Majesty 2 is an example of the experimental, quirky design you’ll only find on PC, and I feel obligated to support this kind of behavior.
January 18, 2010
I’ve been swamped with work the last few days; yet I managed to get a few hours in on the Star-Trek: Online beta. I’ve just gotten outside of the tutorial missions, and I’ve got to say the game is interesting.
Comparisons to Eve jump to mind. The combat system is fairly similar in that you have to approach your target and be within range to attack. So far I have not noticed an auto-attack feature, so my fingers got tired really fast. The new feature to combat is the 4 quadrants of shielding. Shields that are fully charged prevent more hull damage than those that are damaged, so it’s in your best interest to rotate around your attackers.
The other main similarity to Eve is pacing. In order to communicate the vastness of space it really takes a long time to get anywhere. Warping will get you into a star system (although I’m not sure it’s randomized like Eve), and then you’ll spend 3-4 minutes navigating through void to reach your destination.
I was taken back by the textures at first. The game looks really good for MMO standards. Then I decided to fly my ship into a large asteroid/small moon to try to land; my ship bounced off and all illusion was broken.
The closest reference point I have for the ground missions is Tabula Rasa. The combat isn’t terribly interesting to me, but the npc ‘away team’ does hold some merit. In the tutorial my crew and I rolled up on some wayward Borg. If I were extremely patient they would have killed all of the enemy for me; however it was far more effective to use them as flanking props. Flanking deals roughly 50% more damage, so I’d get my team engaged, run around the group of enemies then proceed to positively pimp slap those fools.
What I haven’t seen yet is a crafting system and player driven economy. The Star-Trek universe is primed for a merchant class. When I was asked to rescue a cargo freighter ship in an early mission I had hoped I’d get to keep it and begin playing intergalactic markets. Unfortunately that was not the case.
I’m going to spend some more time in the beta this week, hopefully I’ll discover the features that would hook me then. For now, my would-be preorder cash will wait in my Nexus-One fund.
January 13, 2010
Our feed broke, working on getting the files hosted here.
January 13, 2010
I haven’t really had much time for gaming this week. I’m not 100% sure why; just hasn’t worked out that way. Instead I’ve begun to write the design document for the game I had in mind for the L4D SDK. We’re not going to use Source for the project anymore, opting for a more manageable first attempt. Here’s what I have so far, minus the plot points.
World War Z/Zombie Survival Guide
zombies are dead
zombies are slow
they freeze in extreme climates
they only die when you shoot them in the head
they will respond generally as described in the books.
Suikoden/NeverWinter Nights 2
- You will find various survivors on your trip. The more you gather the better your base will be. (Barracks, carpenter, mason, medical bay, gunsmith, chemist, etc).
- The Last Stand 2
- I want to crib the controls/perspective from this game. Our game is going to be a bit more side scroller-ish, think Streets of Rage or Battletoads.
Thoughts on mechanics:
Zombies will reach out from behind some building fortifications.
Opening doors to look for survivors and supplies may cause a wave of zombies to come out.
These zombie rooms will randomly replace between 75% to 125% of the value of the supplies the player spent on the horde, but not always what the player used. For instance, 25 shotgun shells were used, so the user gets 40 pistol rounds and 5 smg bullets.
Fatigue? If you don’t camp once a day you lose accuracy. If you skip camping for several days your vision blurs to the point where you can’t hit anything.
Survivors call out their positions on shortwave radios. You get an idea of their locations when camping. They may not be the best at giving directions.
World map for traveling between towns. May include notes from shortwave, total survivors possible/found.
Supplies, in terms of food and water, are required to travel and avoid a fail state. Three days without bottled water is game over.
Help I’d like to have:
Probably some help programming
Assistance with plot and dialog
January 11, 2010
Why is it so hard to make difficulty right? A week ago I was looking over someone’s tic-tac-toe program with three difficulty settings. Easy was completely random. Medium was random, but if he noticed he was about to win he’d make that move. Hard was a grand master of tic-tac-toe. That jump between medium and hard was brutal. The problem isn’t limited to indie games, either.
In Dragon Age: Origins the combat progresses pretty fast near the end. I started the game on normal, but since I was playing a mage and battles tended to crowd around me I switched to easy to turn off friendly fire. For a while I thought it was too easy, then I reached the last leg of the game. Currently I’m stuck on a battle with two mages and several guards. I’ve been getting close by tweaking my team’s AI settings, but I’m still restarting over and over.
It also goes the other way. The difficulty curve in the campaign portion of Batman Arkham Asylum is flat. Once you learn to bat-zip to a golem when in a tight spot you can do no wrong in combat. On the other hand, simply removing the golems would have increased the difficulty too much.
I don’t have an answer here, but it’s a fun thing to think about while playing through games.
January 8, 2010
I wanted to talk about the MAG beta today, but I found it unplayable. Zipper isn’t known for their FPS prowess, so I’m not going to complain about it too much. I found the bullet clipping to be reminiscent of problems we had in PC games in 1997. Maybe they’ll add bullet penetration, fix the clipping planes, and move the position the bullets fire from to the position a person would expect. Maybe all of that can be patched. Maybe these aren’t the final builds of the maps. Or maybe MAG is a one trick pony and isn’t worth any further discussion.
Most of my gaming time has been spent in Modern Warfare 2. I’ve gotten to the point in my character’s progression where I got tired of CoD 4: Modern Warfare. The guns I like are unlocked with all the tweaks at the ready. In CoD 4 I had a clan going with me, keeping me engaged night after night. This time around I’m only keeping my skills sharp because of the LAN circuit.
The reason I’m writing this post now and not playing MW2 is quite simple. Infinity Ward fucked up. I hate to be that guy, but the hacking is far too common place. My praise for the game gets nullified every time some dillhole with too much free time one-shots my entire team in under a second. Infinity Ward will never be able to stop all the hacks. It hasn’t been done for any game in history. If only someone figured out a way to make players responsible for filtering out this kind of nonsense. Oh, that’s right, they did in 1996 when Quake offered dedicated servers.
The PC gaming industry evolved a specific way for a reason. We don’t rely on Punk Buster to keep out the riffraff. We rely on people who love the game enough to spend a lot of their time ensuring people have a good time with them.
After this LAN party I think I’ll be back in Counter-Strike for my FPS needs unless I’m playing with at least two friends.
January 6, 2010
I am compelled beyond comprehension to play Castle Age constantly. This Facebook app consists of waiting a set amount of time for enough points to spend on clicking a button, causing the random number generator which throws back a bunch of rewards. I’m getting to the point where a going to bed isn’t enough time to completely refresh my character’s energy and stamina points. Knowing that is a source of both pride and frustration.
Some of my friends and I have been sending alchemy ingredients to one another with hopes of gathering enough random crap to super-glue together to form a boss. When one of us manages a boss, I must assure you that it is on. We all team up; normal quest bosses fall in seconds. The super bad ass world bosses, however, seem to be unbeatable if we stick in our clique.
In a way I feel encouraged to meet new people via Facebook to bolster our ranks. On the other hand I don’t want to be exposed to the tons of spam adding a bunch of people I don’t know would generate.
I wouldn’t pay money to be subjugated to this game, but I’d like the social aspect of it to be detached from my Facebook profile.
January 4, 2010
I gathered Andrew and Caleb together to figure out which brands we liked the most of the last decade. Not new companies, per say, but companies that did a lot of work we approve of. These ten companies are where we see the most positive growth in the industry. Maybe they didn’t do things we love, but they all worked to shape the industry in a way that benefits us all.
Some of these are development teams, some are publishers, some are both. We tried to minimize praise given to publishers for things we attribute to specific studios; but sometimes it’s hard to ignore a company for making a lot of right moves and acquisitions.
Without further ado, here’s the list.
As far as we’re concerned Bethesda is only on this list for two games. They happen to be two of the greatest RPGs ever made.
It was the right game at the right time. It was the only ‘traditional’ western RPG out near the Xbox 360’s launch; the other RPGs were all ports or terribly mediocre; and the difference between Western and Eastern design was never more clear.
You were not only permitted, but encouraged to go anywhere and do anything right after a brief tutorial. I have put over 70 hours into Oblivion and I have not completed the second mission in the main quest.
It allows you to develop your own story. My main character was the nicest guy. He’d rescue your leukemia riddled, three legged cat from a tree defended by a horde of dragons. He wouldn’t think twice about it; it would be the right thing to do. About thirty hours in, after never killing anyone who didn’t attack first, my character was bitten by a vampire.
Suddenly Mr. Morality had to feed on the innocent any time I wanted to visit a shop or go out during the day. I imagined him being constantly tormented by his condition. Every move he made from the day he was bitten to the day I stopped playing filled him with inner conflict.
- Fallout 3
Take Oblivion’s scope and scale, then change the setting to post-nuclear war Washington D.C. The setting was ambitious. D.C. felt right, what few buildings still stood were properly positioned. But that’s not what I find most remarkable about Fallout 3.
What amazes me is how much content they released after the game came out. In the Oblivion days Bethesda was a leading example of how not to capitalize on DLC. With F3 they did it so very right. The retail package did not feel as though it were missing content, yet Bethesda was able to release five new areas and quests early and often. As a result there are some people who lost the better part of a year of gaming to Fallout 3.
Red Rings. Games for Windows. Games for Windows Live. The failure to support Games for Windows magazine when they needed it. Fees for Xbox Live. Overpriced, proprietary hard drives and WiFi adapters. Microsoft almost didn’t make this list. However they’ve done a lot of flat out awesome things for gamers.
In theory this console competed with the Dreamcast for ten days in North America. In reality Microsoft nabbed a lot of the great talent Sega was preparing to fire in North America. If you were to look at the machine in a feature comparison it may as well of been Dreamcast 2.
It never earned all of the love Dreamcast gained; but it was defiantly the machine for the hardcore western gamer. Fable, Halo, Halo 2, a hard drive and broadband connectivity out of the box really showed vision for the direction of console games.
Also consider the blind eye they turned to modders. If one were so inclined an Xbox could stream media to televisions, play emulators, and operate as a general purpose PC.
- Xbox 360
The Xbox 360 is a fantastic console. The controller feels right (perhaps the first time I’ve felt that since the Genesis), the library is fantastic, especially considering Xbox Live Arcade. Xbox Live is a fantastic service even if you have to pay for it.
Among my friends there is no question that the 360 is the best console of this generation. That isn’t to say the PS3 or Wii are bad, but more of our time is spent on the 360 than any other TV based platform.
- .NET and XNA
C#, a .NET language, has significantly lowered the barrier to entry for programming. A lot of the ground work is taken care of. It’s to the point now where you can learn to write your own game in a week. Honestly, go try it.
Couple that with XNA and you’ll find anyone can create a game. For a minimal fee (alarmingly low) you can get your software on the Xbox 360, where it could be purchased by anyone who has a 360. While it’s hard to sort out the chaff; anyone can start their own profitable game development studio now. The popularization of game development cannot be a bad thing.
Popcap does what other casual companies can not. They make games that appeal to the hardcore gamer. They make a ton of games we don’t like here at NHR, but in the last decade they’ve put out three that we cannot simply can’t avoid. Compact that with the mad cash they make doing it, and they’re a force within the industry.
No one here’s big on match four games, but there’s no denying that everyone has played this game. Your mother, your grandmother, your sister, your mailman, everyone. Considering this is the game that Puzzle Quest used as it’s battle mechanic even the entire NHR crew indirectly played it.
- The Entire Peggle Series
I was sucked in by the Orange Box themed Peggle Extreme when they released it as a stand alone demo. Once I realized I couldn’t put it down I bought the newest version of the game. Anyone on my Steam friends list can attest to the countless hours I’ve sunk into Peggle.
- Plants Vs. Zombies
There was a week where I could not sleep. That week was spent beating every mode of Plants Vs. Zombies. I talked Andrew into playing, who spread it to his girlfriend, and mother. Then I was able to convince my wife to play it; she spread it to family and coworkers. On and on it goes. The damn game is a plague.
- The Web Business Model
Perhaps Popcap’s most important contribution has been their business model. They have demo versions of their games in flash on their website. You get just enough of the game to get hooked, and every level you’re prompted to buy the full version. This model has been emulated by Activision, E.A., and nearly every casual game company on the internet.
Nintendo isn’t really for us. No one here is big on Zelda, Mario, Metroid, or Smash Brothers. We can see why people would like it, and we support those people wholeheartedly. Regardless of our personal feelings, excluding Nintendo from a list of this nature would be a crime.
- The Comeback
Obviously the Wii is popular. I don’t think we’ve seen a console with this kind of penetration since the NES. However this is a huge change. When the PlayStation entered the arena Nintendo failed to produce another hit console. For a while in the GameCube era there were rumors of Nintendo dropping out of hardware, like Sega with Pokemon cards.
Enter the Wii. A repackaged GameCube with a novel controller. The world ate it up. The same public who criticized games for being juvenile picked up a wii-mote and pantomimed hoola-hooping. I don’t understand it, but the impact is huge.
In theory we now have millions of new gamers. They’re apparently uninterested in any game that says something; but they’re here now. It’s on us to show these fledgling members of our hobby what a game can do.
- The DS
I love my DS. If I think I’m going to sit somewhere for more than five minutes, my DS will be in my pocket all day. Most of the games I end up playing don’t take advantage of the features that make the DS unique, but the library of games it touts more than makes up for it.
Let’s cut to the chase with Rockstar.
- Grand Theft Auto 3 (and every GTA thereafter)
Name one college dorm that did not have this game. Name any person under 30 who hasn’t played it. For all practical purposes GTA3 is the first open world game. Defining a genre is reason enough to be on this list.
The game itself is actually really good. It’s still one of the best games in it’s class. The cars handled well enough to be a decent driver. The gunplay was passable enough to make a shooter. If you’d like a taste of several genres at once, GTA3 can still deliver.
The controversy the series stirred up is also important. The knee-jerk gamer reaction to the knee-jerk media reaction was consistantly and understandably dismissive. However some people took the discourse to heart. Non-gamers began to realize video games aren’t just for kids, and we began to take our hobby seriously.
While there is still some debate on the effects of media on impressionable minds, we know more about humanity as a result of the science this game inspired. We’ve solidified the line between “T” games and “M” games. GTA3 and the reactions to it, for the most part, is a prime example of society coping with a new idea in an amazingly positive way.
- Max Payne
Max Payne is important to me for one reason. It is the earliest example I can name where a game captured the visual appeal of a movie. Bullet-time is now a groan inspiring mechanic, but when The Matrix and eventually Max Payne came out, it was the height of visual effects.
The first time I dove down a flight of stairs, shooting enemies in all directions, I felt like a bad ass. I felt like Neo. That feeling sold over a million copies.
The game does support itself in the story department. While it’s not the greatest tale ever told, it did kick off the faux-noir movement we saw throughout the last decade. Personally, I’m a big fan of this style and am thankful to Rockstar for bringing it up.
- Neverwinter Nights
NWN was the last great Dungeons and Dragons video game. Sure, the Obsidian developed sequel was good, but the Bioware touch was remarkably absent. Bioware took the understanding of RPG elements they learned last decade and continued to push the genre forward.
- Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
In what may be the smartest use of a license to date; Bioware completely sidestepped any issues with canonical Star Wars by setting the games thousands of years before the popular story. Leaving out known characters might have left the game feeling like “Dungeons and Lightsabers,” but Bioware managed to capture the tone of Lucas’ universe perfectly.
It’s also worth noting that this game popularized the “morality meter.” As your character did various ‘light’ or ‘dark’ deeds, your affinity with the corresponding force powers increased. Your appearance changed to reflect this. In other terms, it did everything Fable did a year earlier. Of course the decisions were a bit black and white. It didn’t always do a good job of taking the consequences of those decisions into account when assessing the ethical integrity of your deeds.
- Mass Effect
Detractions aside, the Citadel and it’s galaxy seem completely realized. Characters have struggles completely unrelated to anything that happens in the game. Multiple races fight for power. There is conflict between individual members of various species. People try to do good things with misguided methods. In short, nothing in this game requires me to suspend my disbelief too far.
- Dragon Age
While the dust is still settling on this game, I’m preparing to call it a triumph of the medium. Dragon Age clearly draws from modern fantasy literature, yet it maintains it’s own voice. It also generates various developmental dialog depending on the relationships the character and various npcs have with one another. The way I interact with my bisexual elf is likely to be very different than the way you do. There are hundreds of ways the story can play out; each of which would make a completely compelling book.
My Favorite aspect of Dragon Age is the murkey choices you have to make. I’ll try to keep this vague, but if you’re worried about spoilers skip the reset of this paragraph. You encounter a pair of characters. One asks you to kill the other as a preemptive attack. When you confront the other character s/he injects reasonable doubt into your motives. You’re forced to choose who to believe; and so far as I know you never find out the truth.
4. E.A. started this decade off as an example of a game company that did everything wrong. They’d only release a new franchise when they milked their old ones to death. They were the last place you’d look for anything innovative. Then someone decided to take some chances. Some worked, some fell flat, but at least they tried.
- Mirror’s Edge
This is the first game I think of when I consider ‘new’ E.A. A first person platformer is a crazy idea, and there’s no way it should have worked as well as it did. Consider the jump puzzles in the Half-Life series. They’re terrible and should not exist. It’s a bad idea to make jumping the core mechanic of a level in a FPS. Yet DICE went for it.
Some bets were hedged, and as a result the game felt a bit compromised. Even so, the first few levels of Mirror’s Edge could be the foundation of a new genre. When you’re unarmed, running, ducking, dodging, climbing, and rolling through the rooftops of Futuristica (or whatever city that was set in) the game works. I get a viseral reaction to Mirror’s Edge; I find myself leaning when taking a fast turn, sinking into my shoulders when doing a tuck and roll, and swearing with a gut fear when a guard opens a door I’m about to run past.
- Battlefield 1942
What a breath of fresh air! When BF1942 came out FPS multiplayer took a huge shift. You can feel it’s influence in nearly any multiplayer shooter designed since. Halo’s King of the Hill mode, Call of Duty’s Dominatio, Frontlines ripped it off whole sale, as did the Battlefront series.
Back in the day FPS was all about death match and capture the flag. Battlefield introduced control points, and everything shifted. Even my beloved Counter Strike started to feel a bit stale in BF’s wake. The idea of holding a point that provided your team mates with additional resources and positions to spawn in has been the biggest gameplay shift I can name.
- Boom Blox
Boom Blox did not get the sales it deserved. It is one of the few casual games on the Wii that is worth the disc it’s etched on. In essence it’s the milk jar game you play at the fair, but digitizing it allows for so many more opportunities.
The most memorable level type for me is destroying castles. Finding the perfect methodology for knocking down a complicated structure makes a very primitive part of my brain happy. What could make it even better? Having the blocks fall on cutesy brick animals. I imagine the brick-sheep baahing in anguish. I imagine that and laugh.
- Hellgate: London
HG:L was a solid idea in theory. Get some guys from Blizzard North to make a MMO. Let them make it the first major MMOFPS. What could go wrong?
Well, you could give them too much leash and not enough programming talent or time. There were a lot of bugs, more than a few that broke the game entirely. I was able to see the polished gem inside, so I bet whatever the lifetime subscription cost that they’d eventually get to show it. The game could have been Borderlands two years ago, but Flagship had to close shop before it had a chance to shine.
- Acquisitions and Partnerships
This is really where E.A. shows their interest in moving the medium. In the last ten years they have published, purchased, or partnered with the following companies: Bioware, Valve, Dreamworks Interactive, Pogo.com, Criterion Software, Harmonix, and DICE. These companies have been releasing some of the best titles in the last decade.
3. Harmonix In 2001 I was still a pretty typical gamer. I’d play Medal of Honor or Driver with friends all night over weed and brandy. We’d get drunk on bad beer and play DoA until someone opted to take the violence off the screen. Typical behavior for a gang of 18-23 year olds. Then one of our friends recommended I try a game called Frequency. My perspective on games shifted a bit after that initial playing.
I was never very big on electronica, but even I couldn’t deny the great music Harmonix put together in Frequency. The way Harmonix used a medium I already respected as an art made me take a serious look at video games.
Suddenly I realized games were more than pushing a button at an appropriate time. I noticed that sound, visuals, and even the gameplay had to align themselves just so. I found the art in game design. I concluded that video games are a collaborative art form, like cinema or theater; one that requires the audience be involved.
While Frequency wasn’t the first rhythm game, it was the first one I played and in my mind, still the best.
- Guitar Hero and Guitar Hero 2
Plastic guitar controllers. I can’t imagine a party without seeing one or two of them making a cameo. Activision loved the idea, obviously. It’s estimated (by me) that the money this franchise made could feed Africa for a century.
With songs like Ace of Spades, Bark at the Moon, Godzilla, Iron Man, Thunder Kiss ‘65, Unsung, Ziggy Stardust, Killer Queen, and Cochise, GH1 may have the most memorable set list of any of these games. It feels to me like Harmonix had an appropriate amount of respect and reverence for rock music; something the series seems to be lacking in modern iterations.
- Rock Band and Rock Band 2
Why stop at plastic guitars? I have purchased two drums, three guitars, and two microphones that do nothing but interface with Harmonix games. The toy/video game crossover appeal is terrifying.
Again, the song selection was amazing. Are you Gonna Be My Girl, Black Hole Sun, Blitzkrieg Bop, The Reaper, Won’t Get Fooled Again, Wave of Mutilation, Paranoid, Maps, In Bloom. All major rock movements from the 70s on were covered with songs that showcased every instrument.
It’s also important to note that the Rock Band Store is essentially a license to print money. I’ve probably paid $100 over the retail price for Rock Band 2 in DLC. And I’m thankful to do it. Every time I go in the store I seem to think, “Yes! There’s a Radiohead track!” or “OMG! Interstate Love Song!”
- Beatles: Rock Band
Harmonix did what Apple couldn’t: They got the Beatles to put their music into a computer. This is the first video game since Super Mario Brothers that had my dad legitimately interested in gaming.
I played through it while my wife, who thinks pretending to be a rock star is inherently wrong, watched on completely riveted. The juxtaposition between dreamscapes and the Ed Sullivan Show kept her attention while the music inspired her to sing along (without the microphone, because that would be evil). We played through the entire game in an afternoon; comparing trivia knowledge and pointing out where the game differed from reality.
It’s rare for a video game to captivate both of us; and I think that ability should be commended.
- Diablo 2
Diablo 2 was an opening salvo, defining the dungeon crawler RPG genre and setting a watermark that has yet to be bested. I’m going to a LAN party next month; and people will be playing Diablo 2 there.
It’s staying power can be attributed to the randomized item drops. To my knowledge this is the first series to create items based on hidden dice rolls. It always feels like there’s room for your character to improve; and that’ll keep you playing.
The developers of this game went on to make Hellgate: London, Mythos, and most recently Torchlight. They really enjoy crawling around in dungeons.
- Warcraft 3
For many people Warcraft 3 is the RTS genre. Also it allowed for mods, such as Defense of the Ancients which spawned two new strategy genres: Desktop Tower Defense and Tower Defense. The last decade would look pretty different to us at NHR without DTD games to play at work.
We’re not huge on RTS at NHR, but we are assured that this game is great and still gets play at LAN parties.
- World of Warcraft
Everyone at NHR dabbles in MMOs, some more than others. Personally, I’ve played WoW several times. Andrew has a few max-level characters. We’re not huge fans, but World of Warcraft is certainly a huge chunk of PC gaming.
In terms of impact it may be the most mainstream game of the last ten years. Perhaps it’s because I tend to hang out with nerds, but I don’t have a single peer who hasn’t rolled a toon in WoW.
It has been proposed that WoW is both the savoir and death of PC gaming. It’s certain safe to say as long as that game is standing there will be people playing it on computers. It is equally certain that every PC RPG that comes out will have weak multiplayer because they’re afraid of competing with WoW.
We really love Valve. A whole big bunch. I would hug Gabe Newell. The staff of this site spent more time this last decade playing Valve games on Valve’s platform than all other games combined. It’s safe to say we’re big fans.
When Steam first launched I was pretty unhappy. As I recall it was required to patch Counter-Strike to 1.5. It didn’t work half the time, and it was essentially just another thing to have running while playing games.
Fast forward to today: I have purchased over 90 games through Steam. I use it to keep in touch with more than 120 people. If I don’t buy a game through Steam, I’ll import it because that’s just how games open in my head.
Since Microsoft wasn’t willing to put much effort into keeping PC gaming afloat in retail, I’m willing to credit much of it’s tenacity to digitally distributed games. Valve is on the forefront of that battle. I’d imagine most people haven’t even heard of the other players in this new online retail space.
I use Steam as an avenue to find out about new games. For me it’s like browsing the shelves of GameStop, only no one hassles me for preorders or game guides. Oh, and there are actually PC games there.Steam alone puts Valve in the top spot of our list, but there’s also some great games.
- The Source Engine
Valve developed the Source Engine in 2004. Left 4 Dead 2 was released on it in 2009, and it still looks and plays great. Sure, it doesn’t have the flash of CryEngine, but it is WAY more flexible. Officially there are two major versions of Source; the original Half-Life 2 version and the Orange Box version. Unofficially the engine has been adapted and tweaked beyond recognition. Valve set out to make the only engine they’ll ever need; I’d say the succeeded.
- Half-Life 2
Rise and shine, Mr. Freeman. Rise and shine. Not that I wish to imply that you have been sleeping on the job. No one is more deserving of a rest. And all the effort in the world would have gone to waste until… well, let’s just say your time has come again. The right man in the wrong place can make all the difference in the world. So wake up, Mr. Freeman. Wake up and smell the ashes.
- Counter-Strike: Source
I have invested more time in to Counter-Strike and CS:S than any other game. We’re probably pretty close to thousands of hours at this point.
I could go into a minutia of detail about things like how the new, slightly more random spray patterns changed the game. I could talk about how the changes to de_inferno made it infinitely better. I could also morn the loss of vip_oilrig. None of that would be interesting to read, however. Believe me when I say CS:S was a significant update to anyone near tournament level play.
What if I were to tell you the same people who make the annoying ass jump puzzles in Half-Life and Half-Life 2 put together a game that was nothing but jump puzzles? You’d be put off, and rightfully so. I think that’s why most people failed to see Portal coming.
I was entranced with the game the moment I saw that initial trailer. Teleporting around turrets, a creepy computer telling me to think with portals, and the horribly complex looking level that I knew would make total sense some day. It was one of the last games I let myself get hyped for.
When I installed it I found out the game was funny as well! When the humor began to fade and the tension built up I was still enthralled. I ended up beating the game the first night.
- Left 4 Dead
Man, we loved us some Left 4 Dead. The AI Director enabled us to play the game for a year straight with a constant sense of anticipation and surprise. “Will there be a tank or witch around this corner?” “Which special infected are about to spawn?”
The dialog was witty. The special infected were well balanced. The original versus maps played wonderfully.
As time went on we had less faith in and love for Turtle Rock Studios, but we are still thankful for Left 4 Dead.
That’s it. These companies made 2000-2009 the best years in gaming to date. With Bethesda stepping up as a publisher, and Valve continuing to expand the services of Steam (and making it more open to indy developers) the future is looking bright too! This medium is still growing and finding it’s voice; I don’t think we’ll see an end to the improvements any time soon.