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I guess it struck a nerve...

Puzzle games, Oddworld, Podcasts

Ron Alpert, Blogger

August 14, 2007

5 Min Read

  Snother busy day in the office, I was repairing ugly gross temp geo and textures.. well, replace "repair" with "replace" and you have a more accurate idea. sigh, texturemonkey, modelmonkey, got no money, janitor at the end of the day.. i make buildings! i make trees! i make fire trucks. i am like god with a boss!!!

  I am not usually at liberty to say much about in-progress projects, for obvious reasons - let's just say that the game which i am currently working on.. it's been in production for a little while, and some time to go yet - it is coming along. i am pretty cut off from the community on the other side of the office but i finally ventured in there to see what was cookin'. their game is coming along very nicely. i was pretty impressed... hopefully i will get to put in some time on that project as well, at some point...!

  So I like to listen to videogame-themed podcasts during the day, to while away the hours while i weld verts and offset pixels and yawn and fart and pick my nose. Honestly when you're pretty busy with production, it's an essential way for a guy like me to keep tabs on what's going on with the industry news - and honestly these days, there's no shortage of news in this field... no shortage of drama, especially! I will write a "podcast breakdown" blog one of these days, soon enough.. there's way too many to wade thru as it is, and honestly i can only bear to listen to a few of them. But the ones I like I do like very much, and heartily recommend. Today I had to give the latest DL of EGM Live a spin. Not my fave podcast for certain, but informative and not too terribly obnoxious (i'd say it's in the top 5 lately, actually). They did have a real nice interview with Lorne Lanning, the mastermind behind Oddworld.. remember those guys? One of those studios who were rather quite displaced from the "nerve center of the gaming scene," but always known for putting out quality (if eccentric) software. Truth be told, I never played any of their games (longer than a couple of moments or so) but surely I appreciated thir capable contributions to the gaming pasture.

  Anyway I had my opinions about this Lanning fellow before, after reading some interviews previously and then, of course, their recent descent into sketchiness.. but I have to say I think the guy is on the level after listening to the ol' blowhard go on at length. Of the things he had to say, it was nice to hear him concur with the very thoughts I had had lately... to paraphrase, "in general, most people out there think that videogames are about killing! And the part of the consumer base that never gets into games, for that reason they are not really thinking that it's for them..." This is absolutely true, well it's not the main reason exactly but it's a strong contender. Look at other media.. all movies are not about killing! All the books, TV, etc.. Well, that is to say, that none of these other media chiefly focuses on one major factor. I have to say that for video games, a good 80 percent of them would have to involve some kind of combat.. sure you have sports simulators, racers, puzzle games, etc.. but these are still all dwarfed by the Halos and Final Fantasies and Ninja Gaidens of the world. Yeah, I know it's kind of a skew that I am putting on things.. but even te less violent, or more cartoony action games, involve running around and killing.. or at least shooting, rendering incapacitated, and so on.

  This is why I am a big fan of puzzle games. You're goal is not necessarily to rack up points for murdering, you are exercising your brain/logic/thinking on the fly abilities. I'd say the same in favor of strategy games (even if they have a military theme), to some degree.. though yeah, I guess I would be a bit of a hypocrite, to a degree.

  When I was at Neversoft I gained a huge respect for that sort of game, in that it was not really violent at all and neither was it trying to be a bonafide sports sim (rather, "inspired by..").. but it was concentrating on the player and his interaction with the environment. it rewarded creativity and let you feel like you were in this giant playground, doing things that you couldn't exactly do in real life (zipping up powerlines, over rooftops, etc). Sure it depart from reality early on, but it did so in a properly abstract way as to remain credible as a unique type of video game - and one that is not often duplicated, which I have to say is unfortunate.

  It will be interesting when EA's Skate game releases shortly, to see how much of this formula they will try to emulate. Regardless of the whole "too late to the party?" argument, or any actual controversy, I have to say it's nice to see that in this day and age that anyone (even if it's a mammoth conglomerate like EA) is willing to still explore this relatively ignored avenue of game-style. I am disappointed to see that "oh well it's all got to stick to skateboarding," but it could be a lot worse.. skateboarding with guns?

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