Last week Jason Dewey interviewed me for a new video series he’s doing called Press X to Speak. I talked about what I like about games, what I hate about them and what my biggest professional regrets are. This teaser clip features me talking about The Secret of Monkey Island and why I enjoy co-operative singleplayer more than just straight multiplayer. Watch it, do.
Even today, Outcast is one of the most adored PC games ever made. There are fans so enamoured with it that they’re rebuilding it in new engines – a years-long undertaking reserved only for franchises such as Half-Life.
Yet, while many remember the otherworldly adventures of Cutter Slade fondly, the original design was much more terrestrial and rote by games industry standards.
“We had this idea for a 3D game set in a fictional South American country,” says Franck Sauer, Outcast’s Art Director and Appeal studio co-founder. “[Players] would infiltrate a drug cartel in first person to free abducted tourists from a local drug baron.”
No One Lives Forever was one of the bravest games of its time. A camp spy comedy set at the height of the swinging sixties, NOLF merged action, stealth and RPG elements while pitting you against henchmen and everyday sexism alike. And it did so while other developers released games such as Soldier of Fortune and Diablo II.
But it was by no means a perfect game. Working across so many different genres meant No One Lives Forever didn’t do any single thing as well as its peers – and the frequent stealth missions are an excellent example of this. They not only forced abrupt mission restarts the moment you were spotted – they also offered no way to gauge your own visibility.
“The mandatory sneaking sequences needed to be balanced better,” says Craig Hubbard, who served as NOLF’s Lead Designer. “I do regret that it was impossible to return to sneaking once you’d been spotted…”[Those sequences] were meant to be tense, not frustrating…but we didn’t have a playtest lab in those days.”
This is the first trailer of the game I wrote for Preliminal Games. It’s called Fractured Skyline and it’s a cyberpunk strategy game for iOS. It’s set in a future where processing power has become the primary currency and it tasks you with building a global organisation by any means necessary.
Fractured Skyline is still in development at Preliminal Games and is backed by Crytek and the University of Abertay. I was one of two lead writers and narrative designers on the game, which is due out later this year.
February was even more of a celebration than usual this year. Not only did I celebrate my birthday, a Valentine’s Day and a six month anniversary, but I also celebrated a full year in my new job.
That means it’s been one full year since I declared with painful melodrama that I was leaving games journalism. I’ve actually ended up keeping one foot in the field slightly, but aside from trademark Twitter ranting my output has been very low.
It’s made me wonder how many games I’ve played in my first year without being paid to play – and if there’s any lessons to be learned from looking at the amount of time I’ve spent playing them. So, I pulled a list together. Here’s a year of non-journo gaming, in chronological order…
The way I play games has changed a lot over the last decade. Much of it is what you’d expect from a maturing – or aging – gamer. I don’t have as much free time now, for example, so I tend to prefer shorter games than I did before. Or ones which value my downtime as highly as I do, at any rate.
Generally speaking, these changes have been for the best. I play a wider variety of games now than I used to and I’ve become more selective about what I’ll sink my time in to. Gone are the days of completing every Tony Hawk challenge just to unlock all the skaters.
There’s one change I’m less keen on though; one which I have to fight against constantly. I call it sleepgaming and I think it’s a growing problem for many seasoned gamers.
This year I left games journalism behind to start a new career, but despite that I still write the occasional article. The latest was for Alan Williamson, who asked me to contribute to a special charity issue of his digital magazine, Five Out Of Ten.
Alan gave me total creative freedom, so I decided to write something really pretentious. For a change. It’s about my evolving attitude to games in both a personal and professional sense and the sacrifices that come from following your dreams too fully. It opens with the review event where I realised I wanted to leave full-time games journalism behind…
The longer we prattle on, the emptier the hyperbole becomes. Dishonored is great, but the more we speak the less certain I am we’ve got anything to say… I remember Braid for the ninetieth time in a hundred games: another title we loved before we understood.
It’s probably an article that’s very typical of me, but Five Out Of Ten is still worth picking up despite that. I play second fiddle to the likes of Dan Grilopoulos, Christian Donlan, Helen Lewis, Maddy Myers and Leigh Alexander, so there’s plenty of actually good stuff to read. And Alan wrote something too.