I was leisurely enjoying a day off on Friday when I saw the trailer for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare which sparked my interest thanks to the stunning footage of Kevin ‘Frank Underwood’ Spacey sharing some fine words on war and politics. The video is captured from the Xbox One version of a game coming out this November, and it looks quite stunning. The title implies a new beginning for the series following the drag of the Modern Warfare sequence. I’m not expecting a world changing game at this stage of things, but it could be good.
Check out the trailer below and then read on for Our Week in Games.
My dissertation is due in on Tuesday, so naturally I’m still playing Mass Effect. Having urgent deadlines seems to work quite well as a way of simulating the terror of the Reaper threat. I blathered on about it at some length last week, but I do have more to say.
I had entirely forgotten how different each of the games feels, in both tone and general control feel. In terms of base narrative structure all three games very much follow the standard Bioware ‘Go to these places and gather these things to advance plot’ format.
In the first game, this is quite obvious – there is a linear mission to begin, moving into a hub location you can’t leave, before giving a number of objectives you can attempt in any order, which then moves into another linear section. There is planet exploration to be done and there are side quests around the place, but the narrative structure is almost indistinguishable from the KOTOR games.
Mass Effect 2 does almost exactly the same thing, but effectively does it twice. There’s a mandatory mission in the middle that separates the freeform objectives into two, but the structure is still very similar. However, the structure makes more thematic sense, and you don’t stay in the starting locations for very long, which prevents the structure from feeling formulaic and the game feels very different as a result.
The final game is quite a lot more linear in places, but shifts things along with a far greater sense of urgency and ramps up the scale to the point where you barely notice the narrative structure – you barrel along from priority to priority. Even the side missions are mostly life or death scenarios, which is fitting for a game set during the apocalypse. That said, the freeform objective chasing structure is still there – you just don’t notice it at all. The actual feel and control of ME3 is also pretty amazing, with a much more fluid feel.
As it turns out, playing through the series back-to-back is an interesting way of seeing how a series gains greater complexity and confidence over time. Go play it.
I’ve slipped back into bad habits by playing Football Manager again yesterday while watching the Welsh Cup Final on S4C. I have made some good progress with my game though, in my last season I came third in my Champions League group and got knocked into the Europa League where I lost to Dortmund. My adventures though had some longer-term benefits in raising the reputation of the Welsh Premier to 2 stars along with improving the Welsh coefficient. This means in future seasons, my fellow Welsh clubs will enter the second round of the Europa League qualifiers rather than the first round. All positive stuff.
I have also played some Dark Souls II this week, I haven’t made any major progress, but I am slowly getting to grips with what is a challenging game to get to grips with. I’m playing on the PC and I will say that I find the entire menu system to be unwieldy, but I am learning to look past that as I play with my 360 pad.
The majority of my game time has interestingly been on my tablet as I have played the handheld versions of Football Manager and Xcom. Good times have been had, and hopefully Verdicts will follow soon. Before then, I will need to get onto Wargame: Red Dragon.
This week I dug a hole. It was two feet long and just over a foot deep, but it took me well over an hour to negotiate the maze of concrete chunks, mud and mind-bogglingly long earthworms that seem to make up the majority of my garden’s soil. It certainly makes me view Minecraft in a whole new way.
Anyway, onto non-digging news. This week I’ve been coding again, spending a few hours on a roguelike adventure that I’ll properly announce when it doesn’t look like something a professional game designer could sneeze out in three seconds.
Making a game certainly gives you a new outlook on the production process. Things you take for granted in games have been conciously created, perhaps over hours of coding time, and you’ll never even notice them.
Like the inventory. When you pick up an item in a game, where does it go? Does it equip itself on your person or does it go into a slot? But which slot, and where is it in relation to the screen? What if there’s already something in that slot? Then how do you use the item? Click on it? Hotkey selection? Point angrily at it and shout ‘why won’t you just work?!’
Developers of the world, I salute you.
(With my right hand. For three seconds. Then return right hand to original position.