My wife asked me over Whatsapp “Is Donkey Kong good or bad?” which is a perfectly expected question and entirely consistent with the sorts of questions I find myself fielding from friends and family all the time. I’m lucky I have spent so long playing games, reading about games and listening to podcasts about games for otherwise I would be ill equipped for life, which apparently requires the successful answering of these sorts of questions.
If this question is actually “Is Donkey Kong, the arcade game from 1981, good or bad?” then the answer is very simple. Yes. It’s very good. It’s the first game I ever played and it’s great.
If the question is however “Is Donkey Kong a good guy or a villain?” then it gets a bit more interesting.
I struggled to condense my feelings on the latest World of Warcraft expansion into a short easily readable and pithy blog post so I gave up and decided to write all the words instead.
Prologue: The Sword in the Stone
For a very brief moment I thought I was going to be the King of England. It was very brief, and by that I mean about half a second.
Why yes my shoulders are on fire and I do have a small bird on my head.
I went to Disneyland Paris when I was about 18 with a youth orchestra group. We were playing at one of the little side stages which was a big deal for us, but not really such a big deal for the five people who mistakenly wandered over to the backwater of the park we were playing in.
Being 18 with a youth orchestra group abroad basically means you’re in quasi-parent-guardian mode. If one of the mini-clarinetists falls over and skins a knee, you’re the one that’s responsible for tracking down a plaster and making sure they haven’t broken anything. It’s not like you can just leave them for dead and head over to Space Mountain, you have to work to stop tears and tantrums. What I’m trying to say is by the time I was in Disneyland Paris, I was old enough and in the mindset of an adult enough not to be tricked by any nefarious Disney dark magic.
In one quiet part of the park, there was a sword lodged into a stone, a la the Legend of King Arthur, a la Disney’s The Sword in the Stone. Of course you have to go and try to pull it out. It’s there. That’s what it’s there for. Everyone needs to go and try to pull it out. So that’s what I did, knowing it was a stupid prop that you were probably supposed to pose for a picture with, pretending to struggle to pull it out. Mild laughs all round.
The sword moved…
Everyone has had a fantasy of commanding a star ship on a mission of exploration through the galaxy. Now, you too can experience the thrill and the tension and the stress of starship command in Crisis, Captain!
Wormholes, abandoned space stations, arguments with your officers and hostile warships are just some of the things you are likely to encounter in an average mission. Can you complete it without your ship exploding, your crew dying or your officers revolting? Well, no, you can’t – one of those things will definitely happen, but how much can you discover before the end inevitably comes?
I’m soft launching my first game into the internet today. Crisis, Captain! is a free Android game and is still in development with new content and fixes being released semi-regularly. This is pretty much the first thing that I’ve ever created that has a certain degree of completion to it, the first finished project I’ve managed in Unity and the first game I’ve built for mobile.
Update: There is now a PC build available for Crisis Captain over on Itch.io – it is very much the definition of a lazy port, but it took me about five minutes to throw together. Basically I can see how tempting it must be for developers to make bad ports now.
You can download Crisis, Captain! for free from itch.io for Android and PC.
It takes two years to train as an astronaut. They must undergo intensive training in how the space shuttle and International Space Station functions, further sciences, medical procedures and survival training. If they are to crew the ISS, they will also need to learn Russian so they can communicate with the Russian Mission Control centre. You also need to be selected in the first place and applications are numerous whilst places on the training program are few. There are no clear guaranteed routes in, but it’s safe to say you have to be pretty high up in your field to qualify.
It takes 45 minutes to watch an episode of Star Trek. Anyone can watch Star Trek.
A stunning blend of Star Wars’ jump to hyperspace and the psychedelic colours of 2001: A Space Odyssey
No Man’s Sky is to most of the space game genre what Star Trek is to real world space travel.
Of course, a lot of players dabbling in the space game genre like the idea of massive universes with planets and stars respecting the right scales in terms of travel, but then once you get down to it, there’s a lot of waiting around between moments of wonder and sometimes we don’t have time to wait.
No Man’s Sky cuts out a lot of the waiting. Instead it jumps from moment of wonder to moment of wonder very quickly. You blast off from a planet and leave the atmosphere, you engage the warp drive, you arrive in a new system, you land on a new planet, you name your discovery and you come face-to-face with a giant flying hippo-wasp. The problem with this is that if you present a moment of wonder too many times in quick succession, then it stops becoming a moment of wonder and instead becomes the norm. Ironically, an experience that is literally full of wonder is not wonderful, but merely just ok.
In quiet moments over the last few weeks where I have been reading through parts of the gaming press, my brow has become furrowed over the furore concerning complaints about the review score system.
As a brief background to anyone who has missed the mess, Eurogamer gave Uncharted 3 an 8/10 score and were internet-crucified by a series of commenters claiming that Eurogamer were attention seeking, trying to get extra hits, and generally saying that they were wrong and irresponsible to give it any less than a 9/10. Incidentally, most of these often incredibly harsh and unrepeatable-before-the-watershed comments will have come from people who hadn’t played the game yet.
That doesn’t make a huge amount of sense to me, but then I could chalk that up to the fact that I barely understand the desire to leave comments in general. I do however think it’s fair to say however that it’s insane and sadly not existing in a vacuum. The issue has been discussed and dissected in other places, most recently by Jim Sterling at the Escapist and by Checkpoint on PATV a while back, both worth a look if you are equally perplexed about the issue.
Game journalists complaining about game journalism is actually becoming a bit of a cliché now and is nothing new. The complaining about review scores has been bubbling away for ages. One of the main issues is the conflict of interest that can arise in the course of the symbiotic relationship between PR and journalist with the PRs under no obligation to send review copies of games and journalists needing copies of games in order to review them and maintain a readership. I’m sure most establishments could afford to arrange a game-buying budget to circumvent this but regardless, it can make it a little awkward when it comes to reviewing an absolute stinker.