Cor blimey, week five of this fountain of fun? A-mazing. What the hell did I achieve this week?
Following on from my comments last week about not exactly falling in love with Unreal Blueprints, this week I did zilch with it. That wasn't actually on purpose and I didn't realise I'd done nothing in Unreal this week until this very moment when I sat down to write this. I'll put a bigger focus on it next week and continue with the one-shot tutorials. But for now, moving on:
A lot more time went into my Gamemaker and Twine work. On the Gamemaker front I managed to make decent progress on my own prototype for Mark II. The design is remaining intentionally simplistic since every time I try to make something complex it tends to spiral out of control.
I changed up weapons so that they can now be found and picked up. And added in an ammo system for weapons, except for the starting laser (in case the player finds themselves in a hostile spot and zero ammo). I also did some work on doors so that I've got every type of door I need (for now) to facilitate different levels of off limit areas. Work was also started on a new "proper" area/level so that I can start progressing the game, as I feel I've been slightly stuck on how to proceed for a while now.
Progress was also made on the Hooligans/semi-RTS game, but not significantly enough to warrant new footage. Behind the scenes we had a bunch of conversations about a few areas of the design. So whilst there isn't loads to show on the front end, on the back end there's been a lot discussed and confirmed/clarified.
On the Twine front I managed to make some headway and I have a rough idea of where I want the story to go. As I'm still quite new to Twine I'm still learning the basics - but I did manage to learn about $variable's and got my own rudimentary implementation into the story (involving throwing up, no less). Simultaneously I'm reading "Stephen King On Writing" who suggests jotting down 1000 words a day, six days a week, as a goal. I managed to achieved that once this week. So if I can double (or, gasp, triple) that this week, I'll be happy.
Lastly, I edited and tightened up the writings I had done on both the Uncharted series, and The Last Of Us Part 2. I know I want to make these as review/critique videos but haven't got round to recording the narrations for them yet. Mostly due to my cringing at my own vocal performance. I'll aim to at least record some kind of narrations next week. But I can't promise I won't immediately delete them afterwards.
The fourth week of this tumultuous time comes to an end, and just as before, this post is a bit late. But this week I have a reason. It's not a good reason, but it's a reason. I decided at the eleventh hour to choose Sunday as the day that I wouldn't turn on my computer. I'm on it for like ten hours a day every day and I think my eyes are about ready to hand in their notice. So one day a week I will not use my PC or laptop. Phones, tablets, giant TV's are all ok though.
This past week went slightly better than week three. With there being more productivity and less US Election nail biting. I'm still not up to what I would consider 100% productivity. I feel like my days seem to end much quicker than I want and my figurative "Done" pile is always smaller than I would like. Nevertheless, progress has been made.
First up is Blueprints. As mentioned last week, I've started looking at the One-Shot tutorials from the Unreal YouTube channel. I only did one or two this week, with the focus being on shooting custom projectiles. In this instance, a flaming office chair:
I'm not entirely sure how to feel about Blueprints at this stage. It's obviously a powerful and very useful tool and is probably the closest I will ever get to solo-developing something of AAA standards. But I can't help but feel that it might not be for me. It can be learnt fairly quickly and it shows interesting results almost immediately but I haven't yet found myself being absorbed by it or feeling particularly inspired by it. I'll continue the tutorials and see if my feelings change over the next few weeks.
Next up I continued my prototyping in GameMaker Studio 2. The semi-RTS project continues to be a major focus. I was given feedback regarding how Hero characters should behave and how this relates to the special abilities the player can use. In brief, the abilities should be presented more as a loadout, rather than as a set of skills provided by Hero characters. To that end, Hero characters were no longer expected to be shown as their own bespoke characters.
I have no idea why one GIF is clear and the other one is blurry when they've both come from the same video file but whatever. What is actually happening in these clips?
On the left we show the new loadout/ability select screen. Where as before it was simply select one of each type of Hero/Ability, now you can select multiple of one ability and stack them. It's difficult to see but in the bottom right the icons now show how many times you can use each of said ability.
On the right you can barely make it out but the first thing that happens is the player activating their invisibility ability by clicking the green icon. The on screen characters change into their incognito outfits to represent this. But we also have the startings of attacking structures. The big red square is an enemy building/structure. The characters move towards it, animate and turn red to represent their attacks. Once the building goes grey, it has been destroyed.
There is a lot still wrong with the prototype. Biggest issue currently is that movement doesn't feel satisfying, and the building attacking is still jank central. But all things considered, I'm still happy with progress. Intention is to start prototyping enemy units next.
Finally I decided to start putting a focus on writing and narrative design this past week. Utilising my limited Twine skills, I went to https://videogamena.me/ and started generating random game titles. I landed on "Alcoholic Rabbit Alpha" and immediately loved it and started writing/Twining. Having just finished the EXCELLENT Disco Elysium, I have no doubt that whatever I end up writing is essentially going to be partial rip-off of that game.
It's still early days but hopefully I can put my own flavour on it. As time goes on I see myself fantasising more and more about something closer to narrative design than the more technically minded types of design.
Hopefully that is an actual deep and true preference I have, and not just because writing comes easier to me than visual scripting. Either way, stay tuned for next week!
This is a bit late, but here we are at the end of week three of Funemployment. Unfortunately I got a tad distracted in the preceding week due to the US Election, which for some reason I was glued to like a fly to very smelly jam. It also wasn't helped by the fact that my internet was out for like two days for absolutely no reason. But, no matter, we continue.
As mentioned, my productivity was shocking last week, most notably my Unreal Engine work suffered the most. I found a YouTube playlist consisting of numerous "one-shot" tutorials created by Unreal themselves, so I will be continuing to go through that. The last tutorial from the series that I watched showed how to make actors/objects disappear after colliding with them. Go for pick-ups/collectibles etc. Alas I have no new footage of anything I worked on in Blueprints though.
I did make some headway with Gamemaker Studio 2 though. A lot of focus has been on a prototype I am working on with a friend for an RTS style type game. But this is purely made up of units getting to an objective - there is no base building/resource gathering etc. I've never tried making an RTS before so a lot of the technical side of things is new to me. Having multiple units to move, having them perform actions, making sure they're moving where you went them to go correctly and all that. There was also the added complexity of having different abilities for you to use depending on the types of unit you start with.
Since everything is still very prototypey and abstract, I'll explain. You start by selecting your main Hero characters - each with a different ability. At the start of the level these abilities are represented as icons in the bottom right. Upon clicking the green icon this activates a stealth mode for the group - hilariously depicted as them all wearing flasher trench coats and trilby's.
It's still very early days but I am happy with the progress that has been made here - and it is a significant departure from the previous prototypes I've tried to make.
Another area I've been working in but haven't shown much of here is with Adobe Xd - a wireframing and prototyping program. It's not exactly game design related, but I figured being able to wireframe and prototype mobile friendly designs couldn't hurt. The most recent tutorial I did was to cover creating a "high fidelity" furniture website mock-up.
There's a lot of things I don't like about the final product, but it looks a lot better than my previous efforts. I'm looking forward to continuing the tutorial series (I'm around two thirds through) and seeing how I can apply this to future design work.
Lastly, I spent a chunk of time writing down all of my thoughts on the Uncharted series. I have spent a significant amount of time on Twitter whinging about the Uncharted games and chronicling my time with the four mainline games and how much I haven't enjoyed it. I'm deciding whether I want to do this purely as a written piece, or if I want to go to the full effort of presenting it in video form. Guess we'll see.
That's it for week three. I'm hoping by next weeks posting I've got this schedule under a bit more control.
Week two of funemployment has come and gone and some bits were fab and others were not so fab. The good parts being that I managed to continue to progress in almost all areas that I wanted to progress in (with the exception of writing), continued to tidy up a bunch of real life admin, and stick to my workout routine. The bad parts were mostly the fact that I wasn't able to keep to my intended schedule, and lost out on a lot of productivity and time due to it.
Nevertheless, we move.
One of the highlights was probably the fact that I managed to do some much faster prototyping during the week that meant I had created more gameplay in a few days than I had in the past few months.
So what's going on in the above GIF? You are the blue circle with the red triangle face. The blue circles with the red outlines and the red circles are enemies. You can shoot green bullets, the blue enemies shoot red bullets, and the red enemies just charge at you once you get close enough. The yellow circle is a shield that blocks attacks. In the bottom right is an overheat meter - it goes up the more you shoot and if it maxes out, your weapons are locked for a short time (but you can still use your shield).
It is primitive but even in that short clip you can see a moment where I almost got blind sided by one enemy whilst fighting another enemy and accidentally overheating my weapon. Hopefully next week I can make further additions to the prototype.
I also threw together a quick test for pathfinding in GameMaker: Studio (which it turns out is better supported than I originally though). It comes in the form of a point and click test where you control one big character who is in turn being followed by a bunch of smaller characters.
On the Unreal Engine Blueprints front, my progress was a bit more tempered. I finished the initial intro tutorial to blueprints (it is excellently explained and can be found here for anyone interested: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFXMW_UEDco&ab_channel=UnrealEngine) which covers things like interactions, creating a blueprint and messing with the construction code.
The above GIF just shows an initial structure I've created, some particles added in for a effect, and a sliding door that activates once you get near it. I wanted to have it open when you press a button on a nearby console but that ended up being way more complicated than I anticipated. Maybe next week.
4 weeks ago I left my job as a games producer at a large, AAA game developer. 3 weeks ago I was hurriedly tidying and emptying out my apartment ahead of a looming move out date. 2 weeks ago I moved back in with my very understanding and accommodating parents. 1 week ago I started on a number of tutorials/courses in things that I hope will lead to a job closer to something that I enjoy doing.
After flipping and flopping for some time I decided to end my role in games production. Although I had enjoyed it and found great satisfaction in some of my work over the years, it was becoming clear to me that it wasn't what I wanted to do going forward. Design is where I wanted to be, and design was what I had always wanted to move into one way or another.
Focusing on what design exactly however was the problem whenever I thought about this switch. Level, systems, technical, narrative, etc. There are so many different design disciplines (and going into larger companies it gets very specific) that I never knew exactly where I wanted to aim. In the abstract I knew what I wanted to do. It essentially boiled down to:
With those things in mind I restarted my tutorials/learning of the following software:
This was in addition to my continued use of GameMaker Studio 2, which I am already familiar with. I'm still not entirely sure in which direction I want to go in or what kind of role I want to end up in. But I've at least now got the headspace, energy and opportunity to be able to pursue these potential avenues for me to go down.
In summary, I managed to achieve the following this week:
Not too bad for the first week, but a lot of this was basically going over stuff I had previously learnt when I first started some of these tutorials. I'm hoping to provide another update the same time next week to keep myself accountable and to help motivate myself to keep pursuing this direction.
Different kind of post for today (or this year). This one is about my own personal game development.
You wouldn't know it due to the complete lack of publicity I give to it, but I do actually attempt my own game designs and developments. I write down ideas or sketch out possible game features. I prototype using GameMaker Studio 2 and have spent an ungodly amount of time browsing forums and search results for solutions to some of the most trivial bugs. All that is to say that making a game is quite hard.
The fact that we have games at the scope and scale that we have today, more often than not as an actual comprehensive whole, is almost miraculous. Most people don't know what goes into making a game, and making it fun. Making it pleasurable to the senses and making enough of it to warrant its price tag. Some people think they know what goes into making a game. They think that it's enough to have an idea, to assign the button layout and describe how many enemy types there will be and roughly what the art style is.
Until you actually try taking an idea from conception to delivery, you will never know how difficult it truly is. There is doubt every step of the way. You have a cool idea but the moment you put the idea into code, hack together some art and put it all on screen for the first time, you realise your idea is trash. Or slightly more optimistically, it's not trash, but there are now a dozen problems that immediately surface, and your idea will need to change. It now needs to accommodate several changes to deal with a dozen problems. This takes time. You work through the dozen problems, implement your several solutions, and eventually, you have your updated prototype.
This process may go on for hours, days, weeks, months, etc. An idea can potentially be worked on for a significant amount of time before the person or persons realises it's no longer worth pursuing. That no matter how many changes are added, the idea itself simply isn't fun, or possible to make fun. Worse yet, some people or companies discover this and keep going anyways. Whether due to cynical or financial motivation, they simply keep going, aiming for that finish line and shipping off a thing that they know they don't like, in an attempt to make some kind of profit to offset all their spent time and resource.
I have found myself struggling with prototyping for a while now. Even before Corona was a thing (although that didn't help matters much), I had struggled to get my ideas onto a screen, and iterate on them in meaningful ways. My most recent attempt was the following:
These are screenshots of the same section of level from various different stages and builds
This was the most recent prototype of Mark II, a metroivania-esque game that I originally thought of nine years ago for my final year university project. For ages I wanted to make it "properly", and spent literal years thinking about different aspects of the game. However, when it came time to actually put something on-screen, I realised all that time thinking about the game had been essentially meaningless.
Ideas about the number of weapons and abilities there would be and how they'd all be connected swiftly went out the window the moment I tried playing with them. It turns out trying to use two different weapons at once using the left and right mouse buttons isn't that fun or intuitive. Who would've guessed. Over the months I would come to realise that a lot of the ideas I had about how parts of this game would work simply wouldn't be fun or intuitive. A lot of it would need re-thinking.
And there was the question of the development of the game itself. I was starting linearly and chronologically. The first thing I was developing was the very start of the game, and that's because I knew exactly how I wanted that to look, how those first crucial minutes should play out. Another mistake. Focusing so much on little details in this opening section meant I was pouring large amounts of time into things that would very likely change as I progressed onto other areas of the game.
It also meant I wasn't spending any time developing and playing more core aspects of the game. Yes the opening became exactly what I wanted it to be, and played out in the way that I had envisioned, but then I started looking at general gameplay. I hadn't thought about what kind of puzzles the player would need to solve, or how they would solve them. How would the enemies interact with the player, and with each other? What pickups would the player acquire, and how would the player make upgrades to themselves?
All of these were things that had been given very little thought outside of surface level ideas. And as I continued adding things to the game, it became apparent it wasn't getting any more fun. I was adding complexity and systems, but nothing that actually engaged the player. Nothing that added to the original core vision of the game. Everything was getting so complex to the point I began hesitating working on the game as I knew it would mean diving into ageing code that was barely holding together.
This is all to say that prototyping is extremely difficult. I wrapped up the most recent version of Mark II and began anew with a more streamlined vision. And a promise to myself that I would work on the start of the game last. For now, I'm focusing on one test room with walls and static enemies, and figuring out the core gameplay. What will the player use, how will they use it, and what will the environment have to be like to accommodate this gameplay.
Making games is difficult, as in prototyping. So, prototype early, prototype often, cut away the things that don't fit, don't start at the beginning, and don't think too much about it.
This post is primarily going to be me whinging about Prey (2017)'s ending, so if you don't want it spoiled, please feel free to go back to whatever it is you do on a daily basis to fend off the night terrors.
As you might remember, my last post was me singing the unbridled praises of Prey (2017) and talking about how not even a really crap ending could dampen my spirits about the game being incredible. And whilst that statement is still true, it came very close to becoming false.
To cut straight to it, Prey has two endings - one at the end of the game, and one at the end of the credits. And they are both terrible, but for slightly different reasons. I will go into detail on why both are absolutely garbage, starting with the first one.
Prey is a game with a mind-bogglingly large number of decisions, choices, consequences and outcomes. It's one of the reasons why I love it so much - it truly feels like it gives you maximum agency whist still keeping the narrative intact and without breaking immersion. So it's understandable that trying to wrap up all of the potential variables into a cohesive conclusion wasn't going to be easy. As a result, there's a multitude of different endings depending on the choices the player made. These range from the usual super good and super evil endings, to an ending where you sod off in an escape pod two hours in, with all your support characters calling you a bell-end. This is cool. The fact that the game will take into account all of your choices, actions and intentions, is cool. What isn't cool, is how that ending is presented.
For context, I played a relatively "good" campaign, saved loads of people, and kept my exposure to alien modification to a minimum. My character would be able to escape the station, blow it up to stop the alien invasion, and save the vast majority of the survivors. This was incredible considering how the game starts off with zero hope whatsoever. But how is all of this shown to the player? How is this communicated in a satisfying and entertaining way?
One pre-rendered shot of the space station blowing up, as your shuttle heads to Earth, and your character saying "I had a dream..."
That's it. Fin. You're done. Go home. Play something else. Don't call this number again.
I was in shock. This massive epic of a game that I had poured dozens of hours into, and whose world I had fully immersed myself in, was concluded with a single sentence of dialogue and a shot that lasts less than five seconds. Then the credits roll, showing characters going about their days immediately preceding the games events. Again, this was cool in concept, and could have left the game on a somewhat bittersweet note, but the execution was so balls that it just looked cheap.
Then the credits end, and you're shown the "real" ending. You sit restrained in a chair, as characters from the game talk about you amongst themselves; going over your actions, your decisions, and ultimately trying to figure out where on the moral barometer you sit. At the end of the scene, you have to make a decision which ends in either an optimistic agreement, or everyone dying horribly.
It's in-game, it's the characters we know talking about the impact you've had, and it ends with one last bit of interactivity.
In theory this all sounds good, right? WRONG.
The execution is way better compared to the first ending, but the concept behind it renders the campaign almost completely pointless in my mind. And that's because the campaign is essentially a dream. A "recording" of the actions of the character you thought you were playing as. In reality, everything went to shit, and you're an alien that the survivors are trying to turn good to help fix everything.
Now there have been plenty of games that have toyed with fake realities, dream sequences and conflicting perceptions within a games story. Sometimes they're used to present a plot twist, or an important character moment, or to represent an underlying theme of a game.
But Prey's twist comes out of nowhere, is barely telegraphed during the story, and doesn't really change much to the actual end result of the game. Personally I felt it cheapened the experience. As the game put such an emphasis on choices, decisions and outcomes, that for it to then say "Oh well actually the whole thing was a dream and the planet was battered no matter what", feels so deflating. What is the point of berating the player for every choice they make, and making it clear to them that they need to think long and hard about their every action, if at the end of it you essentially go "Made it up lol everybody dead".
The shit first ending I can understand as potentially having been a result of limited time and resource to flesh out what seems to be something like a dozen different variants. But the second ending I just disagree with completely at a thematic level.
First ending - Good concept, balls execution
Second ending - Balls concept, good execution
Perhaps this was all intended to support some hypothetical "Prey 2: This Time Its Personal" sequel, and the plans were for it to always take place on a scorched Earth. If that's the case then fair enough. I'll be buying any sequel that Arkane develops on day one. I just wish that there had been some kind of definitive "good" ending to make me feel better about putting up with the seven thousand jump scares.
At the end of this particularly whingey day, Prey is still one of my all time favourite games, and I would implore literally everyone on the planet to play it. And two crap endings in a row won't change that.
Or I would just recommend playing the game up until the final mission and then making up your own ending via a dice roll and some paper cut outs.
*Gasp*, what's this? A new post? Some actual content? Activity for the first time in almost a year? Preposterous.
I'm not quite sure where my writing fell off. But it was likely somewhere between the insane mental load of my day job, the immense self pressure of trying to improve my own game dev skills at any given moment, and the abhorrent laziness that courses through my veins like water down the Yangtze. What's worse is that I didn't feel particularly guilty about not posting here. It felt like the lowest possible priority below, in no particular order:
So yeah, that's why I haven't posted in forever.
You can imagine then, that for me to be writing a new post, after so long, that I must really, really, really love Prey (2017). It's insane that I'm this addicted to a game (in a good way) after what feels like a century of having not really felt invested in any of the games I've played.
Full disclosure - I have played some pretty cool games over the past 11 months; Red Dead Redemption 2, SOMA, Hitman (Season 1), God Of War, as well as a metric butt load of Apex Legends. All of them were great for multiple reasons. God Of War in particular was fantastic, and was one of the few games I've (ever) played to actually have a lasting emotional impact on me. But there is a metric I use to determine if a game is great, or truly, deeply, madly incredible. And that metric is, quite simply, "Did I play it until 2AM and still lie to myself about playing for just five more minutes?"
That is something I hadn't done since playing The Last Of Us back in 2017. And it is something I have done now with Prey at least a couple of times. I haven't even finished it yet, and to be honest, even if the ending is super disappointing I don't care. The 15 or so hours I've been fully immersed in so far more than make up for any hypothetical garbage ending.
So, why do I love Prey? In summary:
All of the above are executed so well, that it gives a feeling of wonder and mystery as well as a real sense of adventure. The game encourages exploration, and challenges the player in unexpected ways with truly unique encounters and scenarios.
I think the truly key thing with Prey, and the reason why I have enjoyed it so much, is the way it opens up to the player. When you start (after the initial experiment/simulation fake out), you're in a horror-esque setting, armed with a wrench, having to fight off what is essentially a space headcrab. It feels fairly bog standard in terms of gameplay in that moment. Even inferior in some ways as the combat is one of the weaker areas of the game.
But then you're given the GLOO gun; a weapon that both glues up enemies, and creates makeshift pathways. It immediately opens up the option for you to create your own path to get to areas you normally couldn't get to.
And then you're introduced to recycling any junk you find to create resources that you can then use for crafting. You then get ability upgrades, allowing you to build your character as you want. Upgrade weapons, make choices, go on space walks, become a telekinetic super mutant, kill a rogue experiment subject pretending to be a chef. The possibilities are endless!
I know at this point I'm essentially describing Deus Ex in space, and I think that's why I love it so much. Deus Ex, in space, with better sound design, and a more interesting world and setting.
Just for the sake of balance I'm also going to quickly list the things that suck about this game:
But that's essentially it.
Prey is a game I love, and like most of the things I love, I'm going to over shower it with attention until it's over. Which I really hope is soon because I can't keep doing all these late nights.
If there is one thing I didn't expect at the start of the year, it was that Spider-Man For PS4 would be the game to have the biggest emotional impact on me. I saw the reviews, I saw the metacritic score and I saw how much everyone talked about the game, and it wasn't entirely surprising. Insomniac have proven themselves to be a pretty solid game developer, and their combination of game design married up with such an interesting IP was bound to turn some heads. I got Spider-Man For PS4 (and yes I will continue to add the "For PS4" part since it's such a ridiculous title) because I knew I had to take a look at it, and I wanted to complete it before Red Dead Redemption 2 came out since I had an inkling that game would also take up a lot of my time.
I went into Spider-Man For PS4 with high hopes after everything I had seen and heard about the game. And my hopes were met exceptionally well. The fast paced introduction to Peter Parker, his alter ego Spider-Man, and the version New York that they inhabit, is one of the funnest intro's to a video game I've played in years. It went a long way to help establish the atmosphere and feeling that would exude from the game for the rest of my time with it. Much like how Rocksteady captured what made Batman an interesting character to play as in the Arkham series, Insomniac managed to take the decades long history of Spider-Man, and boil it down to the basic elements so that casual fans, or even people with zero knowledge of the character, would still care about what was happening in the game.
My two biggest (and honestly, only) complaints about Spider-Man For PS4 are to do with the kitchen sink approach to the side quests/time killers, and the overall hand holding approach that the game has towards the player.
A lot has already been made of how much of the game doesn't actually involve Spider-Man himself. For parts of the play time you play as Peter Parker, his ex-girlfriend MJ Watson, another lad called Miles Morales, and you even do some basic pattern matching and circuitry connection mini-games. Whilst I did appreciate the inclusion of more elements to show off Peter Parker's more sciencey side (as far as I know that hasn't really been shown much in previous games) I do wish that they didn't take the form of the most basic concepts of puzzle design. It was almost comical when the puzzles first came up with flashy animations, and Parker explaining the extremely complex science behind what was essentially an inverse version of spot the difference.
The missions where you play as MJ or Miles also weren't fantastic. Although I did like the way that the missions would be set up as flashbacks, or as running in parallel with what you had been doing as Spider-Man, they simply weren't fun. They were chores. As you were essentially doing what you would be doing as Spider-Man, but with severely fewer options. By that I mean, you were sneaking around, distracting guards, and getting to a checkpoint. There are missions where you do this as Spider-Man, but they're just way more fun and interesting because you have a dozen different ways to go about the challenge. As MJ, all you can do is throw stuff to distract guards, and as Miles, all you can do is hack machinery (with your smartphone, natch) to distract guards. I actually liked MJ and Miles as characters in cutscenes, and I was interested in what they got up to in between missions, but I would have much preferred it if they had stuck to just being in cutscenes.
When it comes to the hand holding aspect, I'm talking about how the game often doesn't give you the option to fail. Obviously in certain aspects this doesn't always apply - combat can be challenging and dealing with different goons using different tactics was satisfying and fun - and there were plenty of times I failed there. But in many other ways the game is incredibly forgiving. Web-swinging requires way less finesse than it originally seems, the quick time events have zero challenge, enemies in stealth sections are ludicrously blind and deaf, and all of the secrets, collectables and Easter Eggs are all hidden in plain sight.
Using the collectable backpacks as an example, I thought the whole point was that they would be hidden, so that you would actually have to go looking for them, and then your reward was a new token and some Spidey memorabilia. But they're all shown on the map the moment you activate a tower (slow down there on the innovation front Insomniac), and once you get close enough you just click the right analogue stick for it to show up highlighted and shiny for the whole world to see. And this happens with every kind of challenge in the game. Whether it's Black Cat's hidden plushies sparkling at you whilst also vibrating the controller just to make sure you didn't miss them, or hidden power boxes that you find by once again clicking the analogue stick and following the shiny, glowing trail and then being told for the sixth time that day how to take out said power box, the game is terrified of the pace dropping because the player took a moment to think about something.
Those two negatives aside for the moment, I do want to talk about the way Spider-Man For PS4 handled its story, its characters and fallout from what happens. Spending time with all of the characters was surprisingly enjoyable, and although I wasn't the biggest fan of the moments where you weren't playing as Spider-Man, it did mean that the additional cast of characters meant more to me. And as things escalated towards the end of the main story, I got genuinely invested in what would be the outcome for Peter Parker and his friends and family. It became clear that not everyone was going to make it to the end, and I kept playing just to see what the conclusion would be. The ending itself, was emotional and satisfying, even if the final scene itself was a bit abrupt when it slammed to credits.
As I said before, I went into Spider-Man For PS4 expecting a good game, potentially even a great game. I didn't expect to go in and find an emotionally engaging and satisfying game. But there it was. And I look forward to seeing where Insomniac takes the series next, as they obviously have big plans for Spider-Man - I just hope that they do the same for Peter Parker, as they did so well with him here.
The original Shadow Of The Colossus was released 13 years ago. Wow. That's a long time. That's longer than most careers of everyone I know. That's before modern smartphone's existed. That's before most people had decent internet. That makes SOTC a ridiculously old game. And I played it (or at least the remake for PS4) for the first time this past month.
Playing a game a decade after everyone has already proclaimed it as one of the greatest pieces of interactive entertainment ever created, is difficult. Trying to keep expectations in check is near impossible. Avoiding spoilers is near impossible, and not making certain assumptions about the game after hearing everyone else talk about it, is near impossible. Nevertheless I bought the PS4 remake, loaded it up and entered the mysterious world of Shadow Of The Colossus.
I'm not going to describe my second-by-second playthrough because enough clowns have already done that over the past decade. I'm just going to mention the things that stood out to me or surprised me. The most prominent of which was "You don't get to choose what order you fight the colossi in?!"
I don't know where I got this idea that you could take on the colossi in any order you wanted, but that was what I had assumed for years. It might have been because people used the words open world and sandbox interchangeably, mixing up the meanings. But I was disappointed to find out you had to take on each colossus in a linear order, which I felt took out some of the mystery of what I expected. I knew that you could only find colossi by following the light from your sword, but I had thought that this would just point to the nearest colossus, and that you could go in the exact opposite direction and find a different colossus if you chose to. It's not a super massive deal, but definitely wasn't what I was expecting.
My second biggest takeaway was that the camera, at times, was utter garbage. It prioritised showing off the landscape rather than letting me see where I was actually going. It would get stuck on Colossus armpits as I was trying to climb their back hair, and the rest of the time it would just be plain unresponsive and lead to way more frustrating moments than was acceptable.
And that's basically it for my whinging. The game is extremely well made, good looking and atmospheric. I like the game because it's straightforward, minimalist, and doesn't really waste the players time. It stands in stark contrast to modern AAA games with their millions of mechanics, micro-transactions and menu-driven faffery. In SOTC it's just you, your magical sword, a horse that couldn't care less about your plans, and 16 straddling behemoths. Although it's obvious some were shown a bit more love than others, when one is a giant freaking dragon/bird thing that you have to jump on and do aerial battle with, and then another is just a perturbed, overgrown goat.
There's not much more to say on SOTC that hasn't already been said. I just wanted to make sure my opinion was noted down so that history could ignore it forever more.