Demeter’s Skyrim Diary: part 13

Demeter13

—Heartfire, 29Th, 4E 201—

I have finally made my way to Ustengrav; it was not what I was expecting. A hole in the ground. But hiding a massive cavern. And littered with the corpses of bandits and draugr. Someone had gotten here before me. Someone took the horn. Someone who could best the undead, who could make his way past the traps, traps that required the power of the Thu’um.

Ulfric Stormcloak.

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Still Life’s Red Herring

SafeGus

It’s often astounding, given modern titles like The Walking Dead, that adventure games used to all be about puzzles. Well, no, scratch that. Adventure games were about exploring interesting people and places at a pace that you would never find in any other genre of the day. Puzzles were how they filled the time.

That’s not meant as an insult (not entirely). One of the key elements of storytelling is pacing, and puzzles are an effective way to break up all that talking and put the forward motion on hold for a while. It gives the story a chance to breathe, or to mull over what just happened, or to delve deeper into the setting, or just to make you feel like you’re a meaningful part of this experience. But there’s no getting around it: adventure games can have some really terrible puzzles. The impossible, the illogical, the ones that can’t be solved because you missed that one object ten screens back that was two pixels in length. Yes, that one. You know which one I mean.

They really could be the worst, couldn’t they?

Now, the puzzle I want to talk about isn’t one of those puzzles. It isn’t on the level of the cat hair moustache or the wallet-fetching rat. It isn’t absolutely terrible; in fact, it’s rather clever and can be solved through simple logic. No, the reason I’m writing about it is because it’s downright deceptive.

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Demeter’s Skyrim Diary: part 12

Demeter12

—Heartfire, 25Th, 4E 201—

I could get used to this whole Dragonborn thing.

In the last few days, I have encountered many dragons and acquired many new Thu’um. The dragons all fall easily, though not quickly.

As I suspected, the weather up north is much harsher than in the southern regions. I have nearly froze on several occasions. I must remember to ready my foxfire spell to ward off the dangers of the cold. Perhaps I should also change furs.

The town of Morthal seems small and quiet. It is odd to see docks and boats in such a frozen land, but these people seem to fare just fine.

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Modern Game Design: part II

LALoading01

It was a dark day in the lonely city. A day like any other, and the worst day of my life. A man like me looks his whole life for that one dame, the one who takes your love, caresses it, and then squeezes it into an ashtray like yesterday’s cigarettes. She might be lounging in a smoky bar, or waiting at the corner of Lionel and 3rd street. She might be that song you heard on the radio or the rain leaking through the ceiling of your downtown apartment. For me, she was L.A. Noire.

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Pro Game Growing Pains

International01

As the collective hoopla surrounding The International winds down and players return to their own games of DOTA 2, wondering how close they too could get to that $10 million dollar vindication of their chosen hobby, I similarly wonder about the current state of e-sports and just how much it changes. The pageantry of Valve’s tournament is nothing to scoff at, but it is certainly surprising given how only one year has gone by for DOTA 2 to establish itself as an entrenched competitive game.

It wasn’t so long ago that the e-sports scene was so heavily focused on that other monster of the RTS genre, Starcraft 2. Even the vaunted pros of Korea were leaving its beloved predecessor to join the new club on the street; it was a true international affair. Now, it seems the excitement behind Blizzard’s game has waned, in favor of yet another new kid in town. And I wonder, what does the life cycle of an e-sport look like?

The traditional sports of the world are not ancient, but they have been around for a long time. Basketball was thriving the 1920s, nearly a hundred years ago. American football is older than that and, if the Superbowl is any indication, is still going strong. By comparison, the e-sports scene is so very, very young. And yet, despite its only recent introduction, the scene has arguably undergone many more changes.

shotclock

Now, all sports have changed and adjusted over the years; anyone can tell you how much the introduction of the shot clock had over a single game on the basketball court. And the games in the electronic scene are no different, though the fast-pace world of instant connectivity and feedback have sped up the process of reiteration and patching. But even taking these changes into account, the electronic games scene still seems so much more fluid and uncertain, simply due to all the different games it employs.

Ten years ago, the dominant game in competitions was Starcraft: Brood War, but compare it to its own sequel: the original is much more hectic, more uncertain, more a game of players frantically spreading their influence over the map than establishing a power base and building large congregations of their troops. The strategies of Brood War are based around how you control your units; the strategies of Starcraft II are based around building the right type of units. Despite using the same mechanics of base-building and unit control, the two games are vastly different experiences and demand a different focus from their players.

Now, imagine what a Starcraft III would look like. How much would change, and how much would be retained? Does the game resemble what we have today? And finally – when does Starcraft III get released?

The focus of the pro gaming scene depends on what games are current. When hardware capabilities and requirements have gone through the next ten years of iteration, the old games of DOTA 2 and its ilk will be replaced by the new guard. Reliable old Brood War may have enjoyed a lengthy lifespan, but it still pales in comparison to the traditional games shown on ESPN.

If we are to consider pro gaming a sport, it is so unlike the sports we have come to know. If the popular games of field and court are defined by their rules and structure, the games of the digital realm are defined by the skill set of their players, and not by any particular game.

 

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Demeter’s Skyrim Diary: part 11

Demeter11

—Heartfire, 20Th, 4E 201—

That bastard. I trudge my way across mountains and rivers, through rain and snow, with bears, wolves, dragons, bandits, to a fortress not full of friendly faces but hostile mages, and what do I get? A demonic staff and a one-way trip back to Markarth! The one place I have been trying to avoid! Curse you, demon! Curse you!

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Demeter’s Skyrim Diary: part 10

Demeter10

—Heartfire, 17Th, 4E 201—

The winds of the north are harsh indeed. My journeys have taken me past the mountain ranges north of Whiterun, where the snows fall and the cold rushes around you. I nearly froze moving from one encampment to another; I must remember to stock up on firewood.

Upon the mountaintop sat a mammoth’s graveyard, bones littering the old broken stone remains. I had little time to ponder how mammoths came to the top of the mountain: a dragon descended on us. This dragon was different from the others: a creature of ice, not fire. I wonder what other surprises the returning dragons have in store for me.

The ruins of the graveyard were not completely empty. One wall remained standing, a wall just like the one in the barrow. My knowledge of the Thu’um has expanded. There may be more out there. Let’s hope they’re not well defended.

I never realized how vast and intricate the work of the old dwarves was: I came across many of their ruins today, and their machines still function. Strangely, many of these metal spiders and footmen carried soul gems, many of them full. Could the dwemer not have disappeared at all, but have been trapped within their own machines? There is one place I may be able to find answers: Markarth.

I travel now to Morvunskar, to meet the person I may have promised to marry in my drunken stupor. He will likely be disappointed.

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