May 10 2012

All my gaming posts (and one new one, to sweeten the pot, as it were) – or at least all the gaming posts that I could find, leastways – have been put on a blog of their own: The Gaming Session. Gaming-related posts? That’s where you’ll find them.

And before you ask, no, this isn’t The Big Secret Project. What with Second Life being so twitchy at the moment, it has been too frustrating to work on that, so I did a little work on this, instead.

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Mar 15 2012

A number of games feature multiple endings to their narratives. Right off the top of my head, I’ll name four: All three of the Deus Ex games, and Mass Effect 3. These come particularly to mind for a singular gaming conceit: The magic pick-an-ending button.

Regardless of what you’ve done, how you’ve developed and defined your character’s personality, who has lived and died, who you’ve befriended or opposed, you’re presented with three choices right at the end. Press the button (so to speak) and get the ending.

In narrative terms, that’s a cop-out. That isn’t even phoning it in.

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I had Meltdown slip up behind one of the guards, who was kneeling behind a short barricade of sandbags, watching for an external threat. The guard had no time to react when Meltdown shot her twice in the back of the head. I knew there was another guard nearby, and expecting that he might hear the shots, I had Meltdown drop to her belly and slither around the other side of the barricade where she would be out of sight.

As expected, he heard the shots, and dashed out just in time to spot Meltdown before she got behind cover, but not with enough time to aim and fire before she was out of sight.

I expected him to try to circle around, and prepared Meltdown for that, but he didn’t. Instead, he hunkered down partly covered by the trunk of a small tree, aimed his pistol and just waited. Meltdown had nowhere to go, and all he had to do was wait.

While this standoff continued, I instructed Fox to belly-crawl towards him, along the side of a building. There was a low, concrete barrier to the guard’s left, just slightly to his rear. Fox easily slipped into position.

I coordinated the two. Fox would pop up, and fire a shot at the guard, then drop again. As soon as she fired, Meltdown would move up into a crouch and empty her magazine at the guard, who would hopefully have turned towards the new threat, but be denied a target as Fox vanished from his sight.

It worked beautifully. Fox took a shot over the barrier, catching the guard by surprise, and then dropped as he turned towards her. Meltdown popped up at the first shot, aimed and fired three of her own shots, taking him down.

He didn’t stand a chance, and that was just the way I wanted it.

There were other guards, but they were far too far away to have heard the action. I instructed the girls to reload, and began planning their approach towards the next guard post, checking the lay of the terrain, cover and patrol routes.

I was just fifteen minutes into playing Jagged Alliance: Back In Action.

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Whether you’re operating an MMOG or a general-purpose virtual environment like Second Life, one of the issues that keeps coming up over and over again is ‘user experience’. The problem is that the more dependent any user’s experience is on other users, the fewer opportunities you have to provide a ‘good’ experience, let alone a predictable one.

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