Monthly Archives: January 2012

Epic Games’ irrationality

A very good article appeared at IGN today, and I have some issues with Epic Games’ Rod Fergusson.

Article here: http://games.ign.com/articles/121/1215728p1.html

I think Epic doesn’t get it. “People have certain expectations that maybe aren’t appropriate, or are harder to manage with them, so you have that little bit of a love/hate relationship. ”
Reviewers all share 1 expectation: be good.

“I think it’s a mix between trying to recognize where somebody’s doing an intellectual exercise versus what the fans really want.”

Exactly, and that’s what it should be. He seems to think this is bad. Reviews are intellectual exercises (that shouldn’t be boring to read, either). Reviewers can’t review a game based on what fans want, because fans are whiny, complaining, and rude, and I fell into that category myself once or twice. Reviews are subjective analyses by nature. His complaint that “it’s about sensationalism,” is the same stance a riled fanboy would take when a game in their favorite franchise gets less than 10.

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Drugs are bad…

I disagree. I want more drugs in my videogames. I want my character to shoot up and be able to see anything, take any kind of damage, and march forward like they don’t even care. Give them a huge hypodermic needle to shoot super-heroin up their butts so players can run forward to kick a robot in the robo-nuts in a dark, gritty, post-apocalyptic world and find no levity in it.

Arkham City’s Writing

There’s not many well-written videogames out there. In fact, stories for games usually suck. Even great games. Take Batman: Arkham City, for example. It is a great game, with several perfect elements. But, the writing, oh boy, the writing. It is not close to perfect. Cliches abound, both in dialogue and in the voice actig, distracting from a story that is overall rather good. Maybe this is explained by the presence of Paul Dini, who is not just not the main writer of this game, but the main writer of Batman: the Animated Series, itself a relic that is cherished only by the people who grew up with it.

Dialogue is a frequent source of annoyance. Many characters utter cliched (I’m going to say that word a lot) one-liners and puns that belittle their characters. For instance, in the story, here is a sample of the dialogue between Batman and a woman he just saved.

“Why would Riddler do this?”
Batman: “Because he’s insane.”

Really? You’re the world’s greatest detective and that’s the best you got. He came to this conclusion a few minutes earlier, as Riddler was talking to him over an intercom system. Batman simply responds “you’re insane,” like a character in a generic action movie who just discovered the villain’s main plot. This is just shallow writig and characterization, which is odd, because there are parts in the game that impress me, writing-wise. Batman is a genius; he should be saying something a lot more nuanced and insightful than the blatantly obvious.

Then, there is the dialogue pertaining to Catwoman and Two-Face. She is a ton of fun to play as, but she is annoying as fuck, and so is Two-Face, her main adversary. His first line in the game: “get your filthy paws off that.”

Come on.

This isn’t befitting of a character like Two-Face; more like Adam West. See “The Dark Knight” for a real insight into Harvey Dent, the character who perhaps has the most potential for an emotionally engaging storyline and one of the most tragic figures in Batman’s Rogues Gallery. He is reduced to a thug with a gravelly voice, a gun, and a penant for catpuns (“heads or tails, kitty cat”) and the word “bitch”.

Catwoman refers to herself as a “kitty,” in an overly sensualized voice over that seems like pandering to an adolescent male audience.

The thugs pile it on, as well, not just with Catwoman. The few lines they share are about how they’re not afraid of Batman/Catwoman or how “we own Arkham City.” Wow, that’s enlightening: you’re confident. Ok.

Most of the characters aren’t developed in game past their simple motivations; kill Batman and own Arkham City with the most brute force. One-dimensional simplicity like it’s written by a 12-year-old. The main villain Hugo Strange is the most egregious example of cartoon simplicity. On one of his game over screen speeches, he’ll say something like “you failed. How utterly predictable.” So will Riddler. This is camp, cartoony, cliche crap. Both of these characters have more to them than just wanting Batman dead; they have psychological disorders, backstories, and complex motivations that could shine through, but don’t.

Arkham City is just another example of bad writing in the videogame industry.