MAKING HISTORY why games like assassin’s creed iii are embracing the past Also in this issue: The Fall & Rise of Adventures Board Game Piracy ARGs Game Taxes Contemplative Gaming Simulation Rigs and much, much more...
#03 Digital Issue $2.99/£1.99
002 _ welcome
welcome to continue A
t a press conference earlier this year for the intriguing-looking War of the Roses game from Paradox Interactive, much was being made of the time and energy the developers had spent on researching staggering amounts of minutiae regarding the medieval setting’s weapons and armour. In the game, everything from the pommel on your sword to the types of feathers you wear in your helmet is based on real-life historical records and have physical effects on your performance in-game. The talk being given was littered with references to glaives, bucklers, cuirasses, billhooks, halberds and the like. What surprised me most was that it wasn’t an education in classical history or a lifetime of study devoted to the warfare of yore that let me recognise every piece of equipment being presented before us. It was from playing Dungeons & Dragons. There’s certainly a fair argument to be had that the majority of everything I’ve learned about life on Earth in my forty-odd years has come through absorbing television, comics (especially Tintin and Asterix), films and games. I suspect I’m not alone. Games have often traded on the human race’s past to provide their splendours, but developers today are taking
the art of weaving mankind’s turbulent history into their narratives – mixing real-world figures and settings of renown and import with the player actions of derring-do – to new heights of grandeur. This issue we look in greater depth at the way these worlds of fiction and reality are combined, the pitfalls involved, the lessons we can learn and the benefits gained in being able to ‘Press X to speak with Abe Lincoln’. One genre that often mined the vaults of the past for material was the adventure game (tortuous segues for the win!). Once a mighty colossus, striding hand-in-hand with flight simulators as the pioneers of gaming expression and technological achievement, these twin genres are now pale shadows of their former selves. We explore both in different ways, charting the rise, fall and rebirth of the point ‘n’ click, while saluting those not only keeping their simulation passions burning, but going to incredible lengths to live out their virtual dreams. As always, we really value your feedback at Continue, so leave us your thoughts on this issue by email (email@example.com), at our Facebook page, or via Twitter. Paul Presley, Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
004 _ contents
contents issue #03
8 – News (inc. april news Stream)
18 – News (inc. may news Stream)
28 – News (inc. june News Stream)
How a bar in the UK is turning games into cocktails; when a gaming icon dies, what happens to his lifetime’s devotion to his art? Plus, April’s gaming news rounded up day-by-day.
Using Portal to teach physics; drunk comedians playing Dungeons & Dragons; videogames hitting the silver screen. Plus all the comings and going in gaming for May.
Testing the limits of acceptibilty regarding sexual assault in gaming; an award-winning book celebrates Nordic live-action role-playing; everything you need to know about June in gaming.
38 – Richard Cobbett
40 – Dan marshall
42 – house rules
When it comes to shock tactics, there’s a lot gaming’s advocates can learn, as long as we don’t all keep sticking our heads in the sand.
For an indie developer looking to make a splash, controversy can be a handy shortcut to publicity. But can it come at too high a price?
Skyrim’s thriving mod scene has opened the fantasy epic in a variety of ways, but you don’t always need to be a coder to change the way it plays.
Editor Paul Presley • Art Editor Matt Dettmar • Production Editor Miwa Aoki Contributors Colette Bennett, Richard Cobbett, Paul Dean, John Dower, Michael Fox, Dan Griliopoulos, Mitu Khandaker, Martin Korda, Craig Lager, Dan Marshall, Joe Martin, Craig Morrison, Will Porter, Jake Thornton monyo publishing Eternal Thanks To James Dance, Will Edgecombe, Funcom, Paradox Interactive, Parkour Generations, Ubisoft, Valve Continue Magazine is published quarterly by Monyo Publishing Ltd. No part of this magazine may be reproduced, stored or transmitted, in whole or in part, without prior written permission of the publishers. Continue Magazine cannot be held liable for errors or omissions, or be held responsible for unsolicited submissions. All rights reserved. All content © 2012 Monyo Publishing Ltd. www.monyopublishing.com
44 – rogue warrior
48 – the gaming sciences
58 – the history toys
Moving as silently as the wind, invisible to all, striking suddenly then vanishing into the shadows. Unless you try it for real and find your trousers are rustling.
Our expert game creators this issue explore overlooked senses, the role of ‘story’, how game balancing is more complex than you may think, and what precisely defines a board game.
Videogames have always plundered the past for their stories and settings, but modern titles like the Assassin’s Creed series can offer us the chance to play virtual history student like never before.
66 – dicing with the law
72 – the rise, fall and rebirth of
78 – dream machines
It’s not just videogames. Board game piracy is a fast growing, yet often overlooked problem, and those fighting the bootleggers are seldom given the help or resources they need.
Once the mightiest of all genres, the adventure game has fallen on hard times. But the pioneers of old are not taking it lying down...
Simulation fans have plenty of specialist hardware and peripherals to choose from, but those truly dedicated to realism can create modern day marvels of home-brew engineering.
86 – the state of playfulness
92 – give us a break
98 – contemplative gaming
Alternate Reality Games have mainly been known as viral marketing tools ahead of big-name releases, but there’s a whole sub-genre of gaming to explore if you know the right clues to follow.
More countries are discovering that rewarding tax incentive schemes are a boon for their burgeoning game development sectors, but enticing studios isn’t only about the money.
Engaging your trigger finger is one thing, but games that require a more thoughtful, sedate approach are becoming ever more popular and ever more rewarding to players.
bioshock infinite developer: irrational games year of release: 2013
008 _ NEWS
drinking games For the past two years, a popular gaming bar on the south coast of England has been the home to an ever more outlandish collection of gaming-inspired cocktails
oading, nestled in the seaside resort of Falmouth in Cornwall, is more than just a videogamethemed bar. Frequented by the hardcore and casual alike, it was inspired by the gaming cafes of Tokyo and is home to arcade cabinets, game consoles, regular gaming-themed community events, and the geniuslike ability of owner James Dance to create complex, yet delicious alcoholic mixtures based around videogames such as Resident Evil, Ghost Recon, Saints Row 3 and even Minecraft. “The drinks came around because about eight months after I’d opened people had asked for certain themed drinks,” Dance explains. “I was always wary of going too nerdy (although I see the stupidity of this when you think I opened a gaming bar), but
decided to play to my strengths and created a menu with a friend that tried to cover all the main gaming icons that non-gamers would know.” As Loading’s reputation grew, so it started appearing on the radar of games publishers. “Capcom got in touch firstly to offer support,” recalls Dance. “It asked if we wanted to cover one of its IPs as we hadn’t already done so on our menu. Being a massive fanboy of its old arcade games, and loving Resident Evil, I jumped at the chance.” With the game’s anniversary on the horizon, it became a perfect title to tie in to. “By a stroke of luck the ‘G&T Virus’ worked perfectly as a title and the colours of the in-game liquids matched nicely with Sloe Gin and Bombay Sapphire (at least people think it’s blue with the bottle), so it all
came together,” says Dance. “It did really well when Capcom put it out, and a whole sideline was born for us.” Dance then turned to photographer Will Edgecombe to provide assistance in giving his creations a bit more visual flair. “Will came on board for the Square Enix ‘Deus Ex on the Beach’ and he’s been key in helping make my stupid ideas work and look great,” he says. “Something like the Gunsmith would never have been possible without him!” Dance has kindly given us a few of Loading’s incredible cocktail recipes for you to try out yourselves on the following pages. Check the bar out in detail at www.loadingonline.co.uk, by following the team at their Facebook page (‘Loadingbar’) or on Twitter (@drinkrelaxplay).
NEWS STREAM april 2012 MONDAY 2ND
●●In an announcement issued well outside the April Fool’s window, Sony tell news site VG247 that the Playstation 4 will see release before its competitor, the Xbox 720, in the 2013 holiday season. ●●Tabletop, a games show, launches as part of Felicia Day’s Geek & Sundry network. Presented by Wil Wheaton and with suitably nerdy celebrity guests, the first episode featuring Days of Wonder’s Small World, hits 250,000 views within the week. ●●Website Anandtech claims that Apple is working on a “project to bring a physical controller to market”, likely a controller for iOS apps and games.
●●The latest high-profile Kickstarter project to go live is a remake of Leisure Suit Larry, which will eventually succeed in funding its $500,000 backing.
Uncharted Drinks Reception
Like the Uncharted games, this drink is one big action set-piece. Grab a highball glass and rub lime juice around the rim before dunking it onto a plate of brown sugar, then pour in 175ml ginger beer. Next, get a shot glass and pour in 10ml of Goldschlager, followed by 15ml of overproof rum, poured over the back of a spoon. You can now carefully light the shot and sprinkle cinnamon over the top from about 40cms to get an impressive flame. Then blow it out and drop the shot glass into the ginger beer.
●●EA is voted the “Worst Company in America” by visitors to the website The Consumerist, but celebrity gamers such as Charlie Brooker support it for its positive depiction of LGBT characters. ●●Markus ‘Notch’ Persson announces his next project after Minecraft, a “space game” with the ambiguous title 0x10. ●●WizKids announces the Quarriors Quorld Championships will take place at GenCon in July, with qualifiers beginning in mid-April.
●●Screenwriter Ryan Engle signs with New Line cinema to write a film based on the classic videogame Rampage.
●●The popular iPhone and Android game Draw Something surpasses 50 million downloads.
●●Following a spirited online campaign by fans, German PC games magazine PC Action confirms that the PS3 game Dark Souls will see release on the PC.
018 _ NEWS
science! lessons Remember when your parents use to say you’d never learn anything playing ‘computer games’ all day long?
n June, publisher Valve begun its much praised Steam For Schools, providing a version of its content delivery platform geared towards educational establishments. The first projects to arrive on the platform are Portal 2 and its Puzzle Maker, geared towards helping students learn about the finer points of physics. With several months of student activity under its belt, we caught up with Valve’s Director of Educational Programs, Leslie Redd, to find out how the initiative has fared to date... Where have you seen Teach With Portals make real impacts so far? Leslie Redd: Since the launch in mid-June to the end of August, we have 2,300 educators from around the world who have signed up to utilize Portal 2 and the Puzzle Maker in the classroom, for free. There have been summer programs which have used the tool (see the blog at www. teachwithportals.com), teachers incorporating it into their curriculum, a teacher conducted a workshop for other teachers at a national conference, and students creating after-school clubs where they create levels and challenge each other.
What has been the general reaction from the educational establishment? Has there been much in the way of resistance? LR: We’ve received a positive response from teachers, principals, curricula specialists, superintendents, government officials at the national, state and local level, and foundations and nonprofit organisations which focus on education. We also have many educational IT professionals sharing the program with their school’s faculty and staff. A challenge that does exist for some schools is the ability to ensure the technical connection to Steam for Schools.
What is the driving ethos behind the project? LR: Valve was inspired by the segment of our community who are teachers. We started to hear from educators that they were using Portal and Portal 2 in creative ways in class. Physics and other sciences most obviously, but also Mathmatics and English. Educators asked for a distribution vehicle and for content. Steam made sense in providing access and Steam for Schools has limited functionality more appropriate to a school’s needs. As for content, we believed that the community would be better able to articulate what
NEWS STREAM may 2012 TUESDAY 1ST
●●The Angry Birds theme park opens in Särkänniemi Adventure Park, Tampere, Finland.
●●Kickstarter suffers its first videogames upset, as Mythic, from Little Monster Productions, is withdrawn after allegations it’s stolen assets from other projects. ●●Analysis shows only 25% of Kickstarter’s game projects achieve their funding goals.
“We started to hear from educators that they were using Portal and Portal 2 in creative ways in class”
●●The Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle, Washington, completely sells out in under two weeks.
●●Fileplanet, the videogamer’s hosting service for mods, patches and demos, is to be discontinued and archived after thirteen years online.
●●The sell-off of the games collection belonging to the late Dave Arneson begins. The Dungeons & Dragons co-creator amassed over 10,000 items before his death in 2009, most considered lost until being discovered in a storage lot.
Monday 7th they desired for curriculum, so we provided a framework and destination for the sharing of lesson plans through www.teachwithportals.com. We hope to continue this collaboration with the educational community. How far into a national school curriculum do you see projects like this being able to reach? LR: In creating lesson plans, one of the things we are encouraging is the alignment to standards such as the Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards. Teachers can ascertain whether or not a lesson plan will be appropriate for them. Schools
around the world are beginning to incorporate ‘21st Century Skills’ such as collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving, persistence and systems thinking. Games like Portal 2 and tools such as the Portal 2 Puzzle Maker well represent those attributes. Where else are you planning to take Steam for Schools beyond Teach With Portals? LR: We’ve been hearing from some other game developers who are interested in supporting educators and we’ve also been receiving game suggestions from educators. We’ll see where it takes us!
●●Speaking with website Gamasutra, Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney speculates that improvements in cross-compiling technology may make AAAquality games playable via browsers within a few years. ●●Valve announces that Portal 2 has sold over 4 million units worldwide, just as it prepares to release a level designer.
●●The now ubiquitous Angry Birds reaches one billion downloads.
●●Virgin Media begins its 100 Day Game Project, which challenges developers to create a mobile game in just 100 days, with a £10,000 prize for the winner.
028 _ NEWS
just say no How far does a game really need to go to tell a difficult or shocking story? Just where do you draw the line? by ‘anonymous’
fter reading the article ‘The R Word’ at The Escapist about a male gamer who’d been raped as a child, I felt compelled to speak up, too. I’m a female gamer and games journalist and I’ve also been sexually assaulted. It happened while I was living overseas. I’d been out for a drink with some friends and got a taxi home, but at the last minute changed my mind and asked to be dropped off at a convenience store to get something to eat. It wasn’t a long walk back to my flat, and it was well lit and I’d walked that way hundreds of times before, so I didn’t think anything of it. When I got to the door and fumbled for my key someone grabbed me from behind. I was too stunned to do anything for what seemed like an incredibly long time. Then I fought back and he ran away. I felt proud of myself for fighting back, but it didn’t matter – IT HAD STILL HAPPENED. My boyfriend, who I’d had an argument with a couple of nights before, thought I was making it up and didn’t bother to come and see if I was alright. It signified the end of our relationship. My closest female friend was incredibly supportive, as was my apartment manager, who grabbed pictures from the CCTV feeds and came with me to the police station for moral support. I’d never understood women who didn’t report sexual assaults and rape, but after doing it myself, I now can totally
sympathise with why. It was an utterly humiliating experience, with the implication being very much that it was somehow my fault for daring to walk the streets alone at night, for having a few drinks with friends, for being a woman with big boobs and blonde hair. They asked what I had been wearing – jeans and a baggy sweater, hardly provocative. For most of the interview the police officer ignored my case and decided instead this was a good opportunity for me to help him practice his English. At one stage, and I still really don’t understand why, he took a full-body photo of me, one from the front and one from the back. It was quite clear that even though we had pictures of the man’s face, there wasn’t any chance that he would ever be caught. Rightly or wrongly, I very much got the impression they weren’t going to try too hard. Or at all, in fact. I certainly never heard from them again.
I didn’t think it affected me that much, and for a while life went on as normal. It was no big deal, I told myself, but at some point, I realised it was. I’d stopped going out at night, I only went anywhere, even in the day, with other people if at all possible. I’d stopped feeling safe. What it had impressed upon me was that anyone could do anything to me that they wanted, and despite the fact that I’m trained in self-defense and have always considered myself street smart and someone who doesn’t take unnecessary risks or wear provocative clothing – none of that made any difference. I clearly couldn’t stop them. Since I wasn’t going out much, I spent a lot of time renting videos and playing videogames. I played a lot of Tomb Raider. Lara Croft was another
NEWS STREAM june 2012 Friday 1ST
●●LucasArts reveals Star Wars: 1313, promising a more adult Star Wars videogame, set in a “dark and mature world.”
●●The shortlist for this year’s Diana Jones Award, presented “to publicly acknowledge excellence in gaming” is unveiled. Nominees range from innovative RPG systems to Risk: Legacy. The winner is a coffee table book on LARPing (see page ??).
●●Ernst Henning Eielsen, a judge at Anders Breivik’s mass murder trial in Norway, is caught playing Solitaire on his computer as witnesses provided testimony. ●●Cevat Yerli, head of development studio, Crytek, becomes the latest high-profile games developer to predict that the next generation of consoles will be the last. Three days later, John Carmack predicts the opposite. ●●Peter Molyneux unveils his first 22 Cans project, Curiosity, which has players around the world tapping their way into a cube to find the prize inside.
TUESDAY 5TH tough woman who I couldn’t imagine would ever have allowed herself to be a victim like I was. You couldn’t imagine a man trying it on with Lara – she’d knock him back, both with sarcastic words and with a flying kick. Lara Croft was not the kind of woman that anyone with any sense would mess with. Lara Croft could walk alone at night without any fear. Videogames were a safe haven, where I knew that I’d never have to confront anything that reminded me of my assault or see someone being raped. Fast forward eight or so years, and I’m not sure what the hell happened. Suddenly we’re being told that Lara Croft will become ‘like a cornered animal’ in the next Tomb Raider game
●●After press conferences on the 4th, the 2012 Electronics Entertainment Expo (E3) begins. ●●Sony shows off a new steering wheel peripheral powered by the PlayStation Move.
●●Microsoft announces that it is partnering with Nike in a new Kinect fitness initiative. ●●Surprising many, EA declares it will not offer substantial Steamstyle discounts on downloaded software because it “cheapens intellectual property.” Within two weeks, however, it does indeed offer such substantial discounts.
●●Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima tells CVG he is now developing games based on “the concept of love, or rearing a family, things of that nature.”
040 _ DAN MARSHALL
he trouble with being an indie developer is that, by definition, you’re kind of a tiny, lone voice, yapping impotently at a group of gamers who all have their backs turned, watching a video of the next Call of Duty game and cooing at the HDR bloom bump-shaded quaternions, whatever those are. What’s more, there are so damned many of us indies all shouting different messages that it makes it even more difficult to stand out. Advertising is damn costly, so the Indie’s main weapon of self-promotion is Word of Mouth. Trouble is, indies don’t have the same hundred-bazillion fans AAA devs do, who carry word of mouth free-of-charge to the ends of the earth, so you’ve got to find something else. Some way of making sure people hear you, see what you’re doing, and spend their hard-earned money on your game. In steps CONTROVERSY in giant flashing letters, smeared in vaginal juices, and sticking two fingers up at an impressionable baby. CONTROVERSY is something indies have been doing a fair bit of recently. All right, mainly Polytron’s Phil Fish, who slagged off all of Japan, Japanese culture and the Emperor of Japan before going on to delete the entirety of Twitter in a fit of rage over people saying
the pixels in Fez were too big, or something. I don’t know, I didn’t follow it completely. Anyway, the result of this intentional-or-not controversy is that there’s now not a single article online about Fez, Indie Game The Movie, or Fish himself that doesn’t then have a whopping great list of people writing very rude things about him underneath. Imagine going through life where every time someone mentions you, there are a dozen hangers-on gasping to type ‘prick’->right click-> synonym. I once met Phil Fish, and found him to be a thoroughly pleasant man. He seemed humble and affable, and immediately at-odds with the hullabaloo that followed. Standing out has backfired. But then, one thing people like about indie devs is that they’re raw, unfettered access to the development process. We are wholly unfiltered by PR agencies or corporate marketing men. We can say what we want, and sometimes it’s wrong because we haven’t thought it through properly. Notch on the other hand, the poor man, he’s now got so many people hanging on his every word he can’t even mention he’s just had a lovely cheese sandwich without a billion journalists clambering to publish stories about what
> Dan Marshall
INDIE LIFE There’s no such thing as bad publicity, except when it’s bad
that means for the games industry. Heaven forfend when he has a genuine opinion about something. I’m no stranger to controversy myself, mind. In all honesty, being controversial wasn’t really something we’d meant to do with Privates. I mean, I knew it was all a little risqué subjectwise, but I didn’t know it’d get picked up in the way it did. It turns out that vaginas and sperm touched a special sexy nerve that just got people all a-quiver. They completely ignored the fact it was commissioned as a sexual health edutainment title, and assumed that we developers were some sort of fruity, sexobsessed teenagers, dragging the medium further down into some horrendous pit of iniquity. We weren’t that, of course, we were sophisticated grown-ups drawing little willies and bum-bums entirely for the science of it.
Likewise, Time Gentlemen, Please! Had a puzzle that involved Hitler’s bloody faeces in it – again something that got picked up and caused a flurry of minor controversy. Not by design, but just because we thought it was a funny, horrible puzzle. And here’s the dividing line – those things served a purpose. They weren’t controversy for controversy’s sake. We didn’t do those things thinking ‘this’ll get us some good press’. We did the things we did because it made for a better game. So, you know what the best way to stand out is? Make a damned good game. The rest will follow. The most successful indie games weren’t those that shouted loudest, made the most revolting trouser jokes, or made for the most shocking, stomach-churning headlines. They were the games that were polished and fun to play. If you’re relying on shock value to get noticed, you’re doing something whiffy. Sorry to get all meaningful at the end here, but focusing on anything else makes us a little too much like The Man we indies are all trying to avoid, in all honesty. The last thing we want is people like Phil Fish or Notch being filtered through some PR mouthpiece that makes them watch what they say.
It turns out that vaginas and sperm touched a special sexy nerve that just got people all a-quiver
050 _ gaming science
> the gaming sciences
games are stories By john dower, www.johndower.co.uk
here is much debate about whether games need ‘story’. Many assert that story-led games are a genre and complain that story gets in the way of gameplay. For me, this is all bluster. There is story in every game and often this is story that is created by the player. First, let’s differentiate between story and plot. Plot is the series of events that makes up a story. Story is much bigger. It is an interpretation of events, a re-telling in order to make sense of the world, often from a specific perspective. As Shekhur Kapur (Director of Elizabeth) says “A story is the relationship that you develop between who you are, or who you potentially are, and the infinite world.” There is story in most things we do. The ebb and flow of life is echoed in archetypal story structure, which can be defined by its elements. It begins by the status quo being established. An element is then thrown in to the mix to
fundamentally change things, which leads to conflict between the forces of change and the forces of the original status quo. This conflict will lead to some kind of climax after which a new kind of status quo arises, where things have fundamentally changed – a state that Kapur calls ‘harmony’. This dramatic pattern is played out in everyday situations; a night out, a working day, a competitive sports match. We also find it played out in games, which by their very nature follow this dramatic model. We are gripped by games because of the stories they tell us. The repeatability of scenarios that make serial television so effective is often played out in games too. Players return to gameplay because it is profoundly compelling to be a part of creating new worlds and dramatic situations that develop. Having been involved in storytelling, as a director in film and television for many years, and recently in
games, I am struck by the potential of interactivity. This is new for storytellers used to the linear tradition. When I first started working in games, it took months for me to get into my head that as a director used to controlling the story for a viewer, I had to accept that the player did that for themselves, becoming their own story tellers. The most successful games in my view, are those that take the story off the rails and allow each player to see different aspects of the game world – to create their own stories and relationships to that world. This presents a great challenge to games designers, writers and directors in engaging with the player in order to present truly interactive worlds, where the infinite and contradictory can be tackled and the resultant plethora of stories made greater than the sum of their parts. Now is a great time for storytelling and that is largely due to the great development of interactive entertainment – from the multi-choice ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ story books from a few decades ago, to the enormously complex games of today. By putting the player at the active centre of the experience, we have made everyone into a story maker, but we are only in the early days of exploration. As existing writers and dramatists of the linear tradition increasingly recognise the power and potential of
interactivity, interactive media will mature. This can only happen if the games industry fully appreciates the value of story. Open mindedness from both sides is essential for convergence to occur. This brings me back to my earlier point. Once games makers have accepted that there is some level of story in every game, they will need to accept that those stories can be improved, refined and opened up. Games must be taken seriously as an art form and the linear traditional entertainment industries need to accept their new cousin as a true member of the family. Open mindedness is essential for the industries to converge, but in any case this is inevitable – one only needs to look at the games-derived films coming out of Hollywood as proof of that. Kapur’s call for story to be seen as the relationship between us and the infinite world, comes alive if we allow ourselves to see the incredible potential games have to offer us as mind-expanding, ethics-challenging and problem-solving models of the world we live in. John Dower (@JohnDower on Twitter) has directed motion capture performance and voice for Lionhead Studios, SCEE Cambridge, Camouflaj Game Studio, Audiomotion Studios and Eurocom.
The most successful games are those that allow each player to create their own stories and relationships to that world
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058 _ THE HISTORY TOYS
The History When games blur the lines between real world history and fictional creation, how important is it to remain faithful to reality? by Will Porter
e’ve all stood in the ruins of ancient civilizations tapping numbers into audio tour guides. We’ve stared at broken walls, imagined longdestroyed towers and learned much about hypocaust systems. Every time, though, the drive is the same – to imagine how these people lived. What would you ask if you met them? How would they react to you? “I think there’s a magic to the idea that you are a tourist in time, exploring long dead cities and speaking to people who have long since died,” explains Alex Hutchinson the Creative Director on the Assassin’s Creed series. “We try to bring history to life, then let you play in it.” Gordon Van Dyke, the producer of the forthcoming War of the Roses game, agrees. “People like the settings of the past because it’s our history,
it brought us to this point. Now with videogames people can try to experience what it must have felt like. It’s an awesome opportunity we have now, as creators of these worlds and experiences. Videogames will never be the same as the real thing, but it’s the closest we can get.” Epic films, evocative historical novels and, in their day, cultural touchstones like the plays of Shakespeare have used the past to tell stories that resonate with a contemporary audience. Increasingly games are no different. History, however, is not a static thing – our understanding of the past has been moulded by the ways these tales have been told. There are many historical voices to attend to, and the truth can be buried deeper than what’s commonly believed. So how important is it for game developers to set the past to rights?
“there’s a magic to the idea that you are a tourist in time. We try to bring history to life, then let you play in it”
“Every target in every Assassin’s Creed game is a real person who dies in the right year at the right place, although we take liberty in ‘how’ they died of course,” explains Hutchinson. Clearly, however, the nature of gaming means that the tangent of Ubisoft Montreal’s vision of the past must divert from reality – generally with a cowled figure flashing a blade. How, then, are the adventures of AC3’s hero Connor weaved through the American War of Independence?
“We stay with the truth, although we try to find interesting angles,” says Hutchinson. “We usually begin with an event that’s fairly well known, such as the Boston Massacre, then we build out the landmarks and set up the crowd to play out basically as it did in history, then we put our mission down inside it. When we have characters who had strong opinions, such as George Washington or Ben Franklin, if it works in our story (and we can find historical documentation to back it up) then we will put it in even if it’s a little confrontational: it gets people talking and we know we have supporting evidence.” That ‘historical documentation’, it seems, is vital – and part of the reason that Ubisoft has historians on-staff, and a budget for hiring consultants like the Native American cultural advisors that have worked on Connor’s story
arc. “We spend a big chunk of the early development of all of our games on historical research,” says Hutchinson. “We read books, watch documentaries, search the internet and try to find not only the well-known history but any conspiracy theories that might be useful. Once we have a base of ‘fact’ we weave our story.” Authentic Gameplay This is an approach shared by many developers who aim to recreate the past. The designers of the forthcoming War of the Roses, a multiplayer battle simulator that puts you in the plate armoured boots of the Yorkists and Lancastrians, went as far as putting themselves in full armour and on horseback – on top of copious library research, battlefield location scouting and museum visits. What, though, does this truly bring to the game?
066 _ PIRATED BOARDGAMES
Dicing With The Law In the world of games, piracy is usually only associated with videogames, knock off DVDs or illegal torrents bringing the latest titles to an underground crowd. Whatâ€™s less well known is that thereâ€™s just as big a problem facing the board game industry by Michael Fox
It seems that almost anything can be procured as a knock-off and even something like board games are affected
or some people game piracy goes back to exchanging C90 cassettes in the playground, stuffed with copies of the latest Spectrum or Commodore 64 games. Another generation may recall modded PlayStations and bootleg CDs. Now all you need to do is search a torrent site and see the countless titles available, many before they’ve even been officially released. But what of physical items? The news often reports crackdowns on pirates and the capture of their counterfeit goods but the supplies never seem to dry up. It seems that almost anything can be procured as a knock-off and even something like board games are affected. The vast majority of pirated items, whatever they may be, emerge from China. It’s a country which somehow manages to combine incredible levels of production with some of the most lax copyright laws on earth. Walking
down the street of your average Chinese town, you may expect to discover the latest DVDs or clothing from exclusive brands – all ripped off, of course. To pay the high prices commanded by the real deal is almost frowned upon in Chinese society, so it’s no surprise to learn that fake board games are also widely available – and as the hobby grows in popularity, so does the likelihood that the product that hits the table is an illegal copy. I spoke with Johannes Goeth from Swan Panasia, a company based in Taiwan that attempts to bring games in from Europe and the United States then translate them for the local market. Of course, being legal versions, they work out as more expensive than the ones you’ll find gracing many of the bootleg stalls, but Goeth is determined to make a go of his business. Some may say that he’s already been quite a success – the company launched back
072 _ ADVENTURE GAMES
RISE, FALL AND REBIRTH OF ADVENTURE GAMING THE
Once the king of all gaming, adventure games have endured a rocky ride since their ninetiesâ€™ heyday. Where did it all go wrong, and why is it starting to go right again? by Richard Cobbett
hile it’s arguably never been true, no genre has been declared ‘dead’ as often as the classic adventure. In its day, it brought us legends like King’s Quest, Day of the Tentacle, Broken Sword, and until Portal, the game widely held to be the funniest of all time even by people who’d never played it, The Secret Of Monkey Island. Until the mid90s, it was one of the most beloved genres on the PC, and incredibly successful. Until The Sims, picturepostcard adventure Myst was the best-selling PC game of all time, and many companies made their fortune through pointing and clicking. Then, almost overnight, the good times were over. Companies like Lucasarts and Sierra, for assorted reasons, turned their backs on the genre. The big names who’d made it great moved on, to other genres or even out of the industry. Now, fifteen years later, some of them are finally returning – and joined by a new breed of indie developer looking to breathe new life into the genre. But what went wrong? And why should we care once again? TWISTY LITTLE PASSAGES, NONE ALIKE In case you’ve never played one, here’s a quick primer. Adventure games came in many shapes and styles, but usually shared a goal – sending you into an interesting world to solve puzzles with ingenuity – and usually a bottomless pocket full of assorted crap that would eventually come in useful for something. They were full of characters and challenges, comedy and lateral thinking, exploration and discovery, with settings that could be standard game fare like fantasy kingdoms and deep space, but were just as likely to take you to Parisian cafés, the mean streets of film noir, or back in time to an Atlantean temple.
If that doesn’t sound particularly unusual now, at the time it was. We spoke to several classic adventure designers, and in every case, the genre wasn’t merely a way of telling stories, but the only real way at the time. These days, things are different. RPGs, for instance, are cinematic, filled with plot-twists and dialogue trees, and borrow a great deal from the adventures of old – for example, the term ‘cut scene’ comes from 1987’s Maniac Mansion, an adventure game written by Monkey Island creator Ron Gilbert. “People love to be the star of their own movie, and that was always the goal that I had,” says Al Lowe, creator of the Leisure Suit Larry series. “I wanted you to feel like you were in a story and affecting the outcome of that story. That’s a powerful emotion to give to people. I think people who had that feeling at some point want to have it again, and so we see the resurgence in adventure games now.” “Adventure games were the perfect medium for telling stories,” agrees Jane Jensen, creator of the Gabriel Knight trilogy – a set of supernatural horror games noted for their level of detail. “I don’t have the patience for the stats and repetition of RPGs or sims.” Part of the appeal was that ‘adventure game’ was a very loose definition. The two giants of the
the only castiron rule was that anything demanding fast reflexes had to be avoided, or at the very least skippable genre, Sierra and LucasArts/ Lucasfilm Games, both had very distinct styles, interfaces and approaches. To use a metaphor, LucasArts made movies – polished, perfect. Sierra made TV shows – rougher, but with more variety, more willing to explore niches, and ultimately allowing for more people to tell their stories. Other developers had their own styles, their own rules, their own takes on the genre – the only cast-iron rule was that anything demanding fast reflexes had to be avoided, or at the very least skippable.
078 _ GAMING RIGS
dream Passion and dedication to a cause can elevate the most obsessive of pastimes into something far greater by Craig Lager
he Tyrell P34 was a sixwheeled Formula 1 car that ran, competitively, in 1976 and ‘77. The six-wheel design was implemented on the idea that with more – but smaller – wheels, front downforce would be increased and a larger amount of surface area would be available to the tarmac and brakes. The car did reasonably well, especially for one with such an outlandish design. In ‘76 it landed the team third place in the constructors championship, but they dropped to sixth in ‘77 – and at the end of the day, with only one Grand Prix win under its belt and a driver leaving the team calling it a “piece of junk”, it obviously wasn’t a recipe for perfection, so the design was scrapped. So, why did Remco Hitman (real
name, I checked) decide to spend “in excess of 400 hours over a three-year period” to build a full-scale replica P34 cockpit in his home at Groningen in the Netherlands, then wire it up to a PC to race virtual cars in? “I was playing Grand Prix Legends using ‘flappy’ paddles and left foot braking and at one point an epic video was circulating the forums of some old bloke driving GPL with an H-shifter and right foot braking with heel and toe. That’s when I realised that what I had been doing up until then was totally lame. That was ‘simracing’!” The question remains, though: why a P34? Racing chairs and setups are commonly available, but such a specific cockpit, especially this cockpit, seems such an odd, niche choice – it’s not even like he’s going to actually strap six
wheels to it – the unique selling point of the iconic motor. “Pondering possible designs with some of my simracing buddies, I quickly narrowed it down to a late ‘70s F1 tub. Simple, honestly constructed by true craftsmen, these are amongst the coolest of all racing cars. It was a close one between Hunt’s 1976 McLaren M23 and, indeed, the 1976 Tyrrell P34. It’s not exactly a photogenic car, but the design is so challenging and such a prime example of ‘outside the box’ thinking that it warms every engineer’s heart.” Flawed Perfection It seems a huge leap of logic from wanting to play racing sims to picking out your favourite late 70’s F1 car to build, but in having similar
PC version coming June 15th
086 _ ALTERNATE REALITY GAMES
The State of Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) stand distinct from other types of game in that they can span any and all mediums, genres and methods – yet they remain relatively unknown even to hardcore gamers by Joe Martin
t’s mid-April and London is hot and drizzly as two people I’ve only just met blithely watch a man in leather armour tie my hands behind my back. One of them, a fashionably coiffed girl called Sophie, giggles as he does it. With the knots secured the armoured man falls in behind his captain; an elf named Iorveth, who had previously been my favourite character from CD Projekt Red’s epic RPG, The Witcher 2. I say ‘previously’ because right now he’s looking at me with contempt, spitting as he talks and rudely demanding to know what we’re doing in ‘his domain’. He says he’ll have us butchered if we try anything funny. Sophie stops laughing. There’s a short silence in which we don’t know who’s going to talk, then my other companion, Matthew, puts himself forward. He tells Iorveth that the three of us are fugitives, framed for murdering the king and we’ve come to him for help. “We need help,” he says. “Um, please.” The soldier sniggers wickedly and twirls a sword in my direction, anticipating violence while Iorveth
adjusts the red bandana that covers half his face and laughs openly. Behind my back, I start to experimentally strain against the knots. “It’s much easier to get lost in an alternate reality the first time you play an ARG,” Michael Anderson tells me from his office in Philadelphia. “That first time you go through, so many of the things which eventually start to seem trite are so fresh and new.” Michael points to the first ARG he followed as an example. It was 2004, he was a student and, along with some
friends, was throwing a party during one of the presidential debates. Over the course of the event he noticed something strange; that many of the posters and placards in the crowd didn’t seem linked to any of the candidates involved. “Some of the people at the debate were holding posters with a picture of a bee on them, for some odd reason,” says Michael – who at the time didn’t think much of it. It was only later that week when he read an article in The New York Times that he realised
those posters related to the now-infamous Halo 2 ARG, IloveBees. Played out across the US and spanning multiple different platforms, IloveBees tasked participants with helping an AI from the future by cracking codes to find payphones across the country. Famously, one player in Florida even stayed by a phone to receive a call as Hurricane Frances closed in around him – though it was the accompanying audio drama that appealed to Michael more than the real-life adventure. “The payphones seemed like a cool gimmick, but it was the six-hour audio play which really hooked me on the concept,” says Michael. “That was my introduction to ARGs.” Eight years later, Michael runs the largest online news source for ARG players across the world, ARGN.com, with the support of a dozen regular
092 _ GAME DEV TAXES
Give Us A
Break What role can government-funded tax breaks have on a country’s bid to establish itself as a leading player within the global videogame development scene? by Martin Korda
115 billion. It’s a figure that’s hard to ignore, especially in a time when the global economy is floundering in the depths of an unprecedented slump. But according to boffins at technology advisory firm Gartner Inc, $115 billion is what the videogames industry will be worth by 2015. It’s little wonder then that games development has been identified by several countries’ governments as key components to their nations’ economic growth. By incentivising the establishment and growth of videogame developers within their borders through generous tax break incentive schemes, these governments have created a mutually beneficial financial framework to support both the growth of the games industry and that of the nation’s overall economy.
Taking its lead from the likes of Canada, USA and France, the United Kingdom recently announced in its 2012 Budget plans to introduce tax breaks for UK-based game developers, with exact details set to
be announced in autumn 2012 after an extensive consultation period with key industry players. The UK games industry’s battle to convince the ruling bodies of the potential benefits of game tax breaks has been
â€œWe can say that quebec could be considered one of the top places in the world for games developmentâ€? Pierre Proulx, Alliance Numerique
098 _ CONTEMPLATIVE GAMING
Sometimes itâ€™s as important in a gamescape to pause over the fire button and smell the virtual roses. Youâ€™d be surprised just how much you can gain by Colette Bennett
he year is 1976. You are standing in front of an arcade cabinet with your hands wrapped around a large, glossy black steering wheel. On the screen in front of you, black and white pixels represent the car you are driving, primed to run down screaming gremlins who teem on the streets around you. You don’t know what Grand Theft Auto is yet, but you’re playing its precursor – Death Race. This old racer seems anything but offensive if we peer back at it through a tunnel of years. However, at the time of its release, it caused a stir that we are now all too familiar with in the current space of gaming culture: concerned voices complaining that games offer a way to enact violence. The US current affairs program 60 Minutes featured Death Race in a segment about the psychological impact of videogames. Apparently, a lot of gamers enjoyed driving at top speed and protecting the world from the claws of monsters, but people who didn’t play games were
already raising an eyebrow. In the past ten years, the media focus on violence in gaming has reached a fever pitch, with little attention devoted to games that aim to accomplish the opposite. Dozens of studies have been done about how violent gaming correlates to real life aggressive behaviour, although establishments such as The Harvard School For Medical Health and The British Medical Journal still have yet to be able to draw any conclusive evidence. As violent crime rates continue to drop since the 1990s, it continually becomes more difficult to blame people who unwind by stabbing demons for a few hours. Besides, stabbing demons is fun. Even so, it’s not uncommon to hear people pointing the finger at games, even when their connection to an unfortunate event was tenuous at best. As graphics improve and the capability to make games more and more realistic increases, we’ve seen games that portray violence do so more realistically
than ever. Brutality has littered the film screen for years, but a clamour of voices claim that the difference lies in the ability to ‘play’ as a character who commits illegal or otherwise immoral acts. In reality, there is no difference. Sitting in the movie theatre can be every bit as impactful as holding the controller – in the end, our minds have to motivate us to act. Defining Contemplation For every hundred gamers who adore evenings spent gunning down teammates and enemies alike in Call of Duty, there are a dozen who are seeking different ways to engage in the virtual
games that fit the contemplative mould are thoughtprovoking projects that have content that’s relevant to adults
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