Out There: The dangers of the QTE
If you've been feeling uncomfortable with the number of games today that are rigidly defined by their stories (fitting given their prevalence in the Resident Evil 6 trailer, eh), you'll enjoy Raph Koster's deconstruction of the role of narrative in game design.
His post argues that narrative is a form of feedback, not a mechanic in itself, and warns that overuse of the likes of QTEs and similar short-form narrative-driven diversions is "'a bad game design' even if it may be a great game experience."
Why? Koster cites the sequence in Batman: Arkham City in which Batman climbs to the top of a bell tower to find the location of a sniper. A cutscene relates that Batman's been tricked by the Joker, who has rigged the tower with a bomb. Cue your chance to play the game, which entails simply locating the window and double tapping A before the timer ticks down. You're rewarded with another cutscene of Batman flying away as the tower explodes.
The problem, Koster says, is that this sort of feedback, as finely constructed as it is, only really works once. The reward of the cutscene has devolved value having been experienced already, meaning that developers must keep releasing new content to keep players engaged. After all, such large-scale feedback is supporting a rather insignificant challenge.
"The bar that designers should strike for should include a rich set of systemic problems precisely because that is what the medium of games brings to the table. It's what lies at the center of the art form," Koster continues.
"If the systems of your game are outweighed by the feedback, you should grow suspicious. And if they are outweighed by feedback that takes the form of movies, you're making interactive movies first and games second."
If creativity is forged in restriction, perhaps all artists should work in the medium of the Spectrum 48K. That's why you should browse this gallery of pictures made by "the finest Spectrum graphicians (mainly from Russia & ex-CCCP, also from Slovakia and other countries)" for its 15-colour gamut and 256×192 resolution.
Indie bundles – too much of a good thing? Patrick Lindsey thinks so, writing:
"They're good games – oftentimes very good, and they deserve proper recognition in the form of more deliberate, less feverish playthroughs. Slow down with the bundles. Let us stop and smell the roses for a bit. We'll still be interested, I promise."
We're inclined to agree – a bundle of games doesn't invite quite the same investment of playtime as can a single purchase. And the sheer glut of them over the past few months has been quite remarkable.
It's not the most obvious of links, but in practice it's brilliantly fitting. Some wag has taken inspiration from the now-legendary @horse_ebooks Twitter account, a bot that tweets random – but weirdly profound – lines from business eBooks to create one based on game writer and academic Ian Bogost.
Some choice highlights:
"imagine positioning oneself in the context of the chickadee"
"has anyone yet violated their entrails