Barrage: Are Walking Simulators Games? (Pt. 1)

My name is RocketEthereal and today we’re going to delve into that most horrific and controversial of video game genres: The Walking Simulator. This… is Barrage.

Walking Simulator controversy boils down to one question: Are walking simulators such as Gone Home and the title I’m playing here, Electric Highways, games? The short answer? NO! They are not games. The long answer is pretty long, so hang in there.

Your first instinct, I hope, would be to consult the dictionary as to what a “game” is. We run into some kinks pretty fast when we try to do that, though. Mirriam-webster says that a game is “an activity engaged in for diversion or amusement.” The Oxford dictionary, however, says that a game is “a form of play or sport, especially a competitive one played according to rules and decided by skill, strength, or luck.”

Which one of those sounds more like a game to you? It could be argued that movies, books, and youtube videos are all “games” based on the Mirriam-Webster definition, because all of the above are indeed activities that are engaged in for diversion or amusement. Yes, sitting there and processing visual and audial information is an activity. Therefore, it seems that some of our dictionaries are a bit outdated on what a game actually is. According to the superior definition, which specifies that games generally involve competition or fail states, we’ve just stricken walking simulators in general from the record.

I’m not here to make an argument based on dictionary definitions, though. I’m just getting those out of the way – the other definition that we need to settle on is the definition of a “walking simulator.” The reason it’s so important that we decide on a definition for this term is because, well, nearly every first person shooter in existence requires walking or running, and there’s a spectrum of games with varying levels of interactivity leading from Doom and Quake all the way down to The Stanley Parable. Doom and Quake are based entirely around interactivity. The Stanley Parable, however, has barely any interaction throughout its entirely other than the walking itself.

Unfortunately, the only major source of definitions which has attempted to define the term “walking simulator” is… you guessed it, Urban Dictionary. Here’s what they have to say on the subject, paraphrased: “A video game genre….where the walking is a big part of the experience.”

Let’s try to improve on Urban Dictionary’s definition, because I’m really finding it lacking. Let’s say instead that “a walking simulator is a game which relies on a combination of abstracts and simple movement to create value.” Here’s how I got to crafting that definition.

Let’s compare two games: RealMyst, and the game I’m playing here – Electric Highways. RealMyst is a fully-explorable 3D version of old point-and-click classic Myst, which allows you to freely move through the environment. On all accounts, most of the game is walking around, and there’s a significant narrative to be told through your exploration of the game’s worlds. We can’t classify it as a walking simulator, though, because there is genuine challenge to it. Myst is all about puzzles – and not just abstract, narrative puzzles. The game world is chock full of objects that interact with each other to change the environment and unlock new areas, and there are many objects that act as physical puzzles that require you to stare at your screen and rack your brain over how you are to proceed.

Ultimately, RealMyst isn’t incredibly different from Electric Highways, but that’s why we’re making this the dividing line for what is and is not a walking simulator: This is the key difference. Electric Highways has non-linear levels with sparse and minimal puzzles. Nearly all interactivity in the game is activating a panel, then finding the part of the level geometry was modified from you activating that panel. There is not enough focus on any sort of difficulty. For the most part, just walking around for long enough will get you where you need to go.

From this distinction, we can conclude that RealMyst and everything with greater interactivity is not a walking simulator – they are puzzle games, or fit into other genres. Everything with less interactivity, starting with electric sheep and going down from there, is most certainly a walking simulator. There’s more to the picture, though. We haven’t even touched on fail states or content trends yet!

We’ve only scratched the surface on walking simulators, and I will be continuing discussion on this subject in coming videos, so stay tuned. This has been Barrage.

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Call of Duty: Black Ops III’s MR6 Pistol – Analysis & Gameplay

I’m here to help you level up your game in Call of Duty: Black Ops 3.

Today we’re talking about the MR6 semi-automatic pistol.

The MR6 is unlocked at level 1, and it’s a close-range killer. At close range, the MR6 will kill in two hits if you get a headshot, three if you don’t. At longer ranges, however, it becomes a hitmarker factory, generating up to 6 hitmarkers on distant enemies if you’re having a bad day.

The thing that really makes the MR6 special is its insane fire rate potential. It is the only gun in the game that will fire as fast as you can pull the trigger, which results in DPS that can rival SMGs and assault rifles.

For this gameplay I’m using Prophet with Glitch and I’m playing on Domination. Instead of merely showcasing the MR6’s abilities, I’m playing this game with objectives in mind – I’m a winner, not a kdr hound. I will give you a detailed description of my loadout and why I have it configured the way I do at the end of the video, so be sure to stick around for that. I can tell you that despite playing the objective, I will finish this match as my team’s MVP with a 2.0 kill/death ratio, having capped and defended several points.

The video above has detailed MR6 gameplay commentary, as well as a guide to a winning loadout to use with the MR6! Be sure to watch that to get all the facts and tips you can.

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The Five Key Points of Great Game Design

The following post is an advertisement for paid content by Rocketstomp’s founder.

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This series, aptly-titled “Designing Great Games,” presents seven chapters in which the five key aspects of game design are presented in great detail, using video examples from games that execute them well! Even better, this video series is being sold at a 70% markdown for the next five days (the promotion ends on 7/20/15 ). There’s no better time than the present to check it out! All you have to do to receive the discount is use the promo code “GIFT70” (minus quotations) at checkout. Click the image below to head right to the video page, on which you can see some free sample chapters to give you an idea of what’s in the full thing. :)

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Strife: Striking out MOBA Evil

Familiarity with MOBAs often involves at least a little awareness of the oft-hissed title of Heroes of Newerth. Developed by a group of hardcore DotA fans under the banner of S2 Games, HoN has consistently held a reputation for being incredibly difficult compared to other MOBAs – though the centerpiece of its reputation is the sheer viciousness of its playerbase. No gaming community – none – spits so much venom in each other’s face as the HoN population does. The commonplace hatred between carries makes a rotten League of Legends game (almost) desirable.

Then, S2 Games did something about it.

They turned away from the worst MOBA community of all time… and created the best. Enter Strife.

Admittedly, I’d heard the name a couple times. A new MOBA? Meh. We’ve got tons of those. The market is easily reaching saturation point with the past couple waves of triple-laned bird’s-eye views that’ve crashed upon the rocky shores of F2P land. Then, I was subjected to Strife’s brilliant little piece of advertising: a flashy banner displaying various characters, with text that read something along the lines of, “Be a hunter, be a warrior, be a cat wizard – just don’t be a d**k.”

Interesting. This banner sent a terribly clear message. “We don’t want rotten behavior anymore.”

To quickly address what might come to mind at that message, S2 Games is certainly not the first MOBA developer to put a heavy focus on improving player behavior. Riot Games, developer of League of Legends, has done some serious work between the “honor” system and the Tribunal, their method of punishing misbehaving players – but both systems are heavily criticized for their effectiveness – or lack thereof. You can’t argue with Riot’s results: the LoL community has grown up a lot over the past couple of years. However, they didn’t have the advantage of starting from scratch.

S2 Games and Strife did. I found myself intrigued from the get-go by the central concept of “real” teamwork. With LoL, I’ve been conditioned to know when to back off of CSing (or last-hitting, the concept of gaining credit for the death of a minion by being the person responsible for directly killing it) in order to give someone else on my team gold that, perhaps, they might be able to better use than myself. I’ve learned to hastily apologize should I play a support role, then proceed to inadvertently “steal” a kill from the carry, thus robbing my team of a little bit of our overall power and efficiency.

Strife, however, operates with the philosophy that “we’re all working hard, here.” Instead of granting certain characters more gold, a few key modifications have taken place on the basic, tried-and-true formula of laning with a total stranger.

1. All characters will automatically regenerate health and mana at a relatively quick rate following a delay after leaving combat.

2. Regardless of who scored the last hit, as long as you or one of your teammates killed the minion (or ‘brawler’, to follow Strife terminology), you and any allies you have in lane with you will gain equal gold. Whoa. No more leaving all the work and calculation to the ranged carry.

The combination of 1 and 2 creates a basic and intuitive strategy: If there’s two allied players in a lane together, they can both work together to secure last hits without fear. Should one of them take significant damage, that person can back off and let their passive regeneration kick in while their lane partner does the last hitting for them. Hmmm…

3. The same goes for player kills. It really doesn’t matter who gets the kill! Are you playing a support tank alongside a heavy damage dealer? Smash away! Strife puts such little weight on the number of kills you have that when you mouse over the portraits of your allies in the middle of the game, it doesn’t even display kills as their own statistic. Instead, you are greeted with that player’s number of combined kills and assists. Ego begone!

Naturally, some characters are better at slaughtering than others, and the game will still prominently announce when someone gets a double-, triple-, quadra-kill, etc. It’s an exciting event. However, as wealth is distributed equally among participants in successful combat, the entire endeavor becomes a much more friendly one. In the 17 wins I’ve had myself (as the game doesn’t even count your losses for you – move on after a defeat, right?), there have been two games with toxic players. Two games, out of roughly 30. My continuing League of Legends experience involves at least one toxic player in ~20% of my games, and I’m being a tad lax with that statement.

In terms of mechanics, there’s not a whole lot that sets Strife apart from its competitors. It’s a fairly standard, though easy-to-play entry in the MOBA flood. The incredible experience of working with a team that is – heaven forbid – kind to you even should you make mistakes is made available with Strife, though. It’s truly phenomenal, and even though I’m working my tail off to get to Gold division in League of Legends before the month ends… my efforts there fail to match the time I’m spending in Strife’s lovely community. You’re onto something, S2.

– Ethereal

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