This week I played the demo for Prey. It's supposed to be the first hour of gameplay but it's really about 30 minutes of story set up and 30 minutes of playtime. The plot they establish is intriguing and the intro itself is cinematic. The gameplay turned me into a frustrated, nervous wreck.
The main enemies you encounter, at least in the early game, are spiders made of black goo that can turn into inanimate objects. The idea is that any small object in the environment could be an enemy. What you hope this means is lots of tense moments followed by exciting combat. What actually happens is that every time a coffee cup or a vase turns back into a goo spider, jump scare music cuts in to let you know. Unfortunately this music seems to play whether or not you see the goo spider change forms. Over the course of 30 minutes the scare music played probably a dozen times. In some instances I would hear the music, turn around frantically and see...nothing. On top of that, a crafting system that had me picking up all kinds of junk to make the consumables I needed sealed the deal. I'll pass on Prey.
It's Never Been a More Confusing Time to Be a Fan of Valve's Games
Having just played a good bit of Portal 2 again, this resonates with me. Valve's will-we-or-won't-we attitude towards game development is becoming less tantalizing and more tiresome. It's sad to think that the company that made some of the best games of all time might leave them behind.
A player's mental models play a huge role in how they perceive, well everything, but that includes video games. Grip explains how a game developer can work with or work around a person's existing knowledge, experiences, and perception.
The future of dialogue in games
NPC dialogue can often be so bad that it rips you out of the game world. Skyrim NPCs claiming that you don't look so tough when you're armed to the teeth springs to mind. But getting this stuff right is really tough. It's a combination of technical and creative wizardry that is being iterated on rapidly, spurred by narrative-focused games and bigger open worlds filled with ambient speech.
The AI revolution is making game characters move more realistically
Speaking of schmimmersion, canned character animations can be jarring and take the tone of a game from serious to silly in no time flat. Horses on hills are a real challenge to animate apparently. But there may be hope for these inclined equines, in the form of AI-generated animation.
3DS - Nintendo's new template for success
Christopher Dring gives some great stats and context about the lifecycle of the 3DS. With the announcement of the 2DS XL this week, Nintendo has shown their willingness to stick with hardware that isn't a rousing success out of the gate. What this means for the Switch is still to be seen, but signs are good.