Ebert vs. Croal

Roger Ebert, N’Gai Croal and Clive Barker

Essentially, a while back the famous (?) movie critic Roger Ebert (left) said that videogames could never be art. Among the horde of answers he then recently decided to address Clive Barker’s (bottom right), clarifying why Ebert, despite having no insight into the medium, deemed games unworthy of the “art” label, and himself qualified to say so. Later, Newsweek columnist N’Gai Croal (top right) challenged this, and the heat is now on!

Seeing as I believe in games and play as an academic principle a lot more than the average developer does this is quite strange, but for me the “art” question is just semantics. I don’t give a crap about what label people decide to put on digital games, especially when they are old coots like Ebert that couldn’t possibly help improve the medium even if they wanted to. The debate has the side-effects of bringing up some far more interesting points, however, and if nothing else it’s fun to watch the pie-fight when you’re standing far enough away not to get hit.

Posted on Jul 31/07 by Saint and filed under Gaming culture | No Comments »

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Monster World IV

Monster World IV ending

… So I just wrapped up the Genesis game Monster World IV after putting it off for some time. As the name implies, it is the sequel to Wonder Boy in Monster World … Well, there seems to be some confusion about the “sequel” part since it is in fact the first game with a girl lead, and thus also the first game without “Wonder Boy” in the title. Other than that though, there’s more continuity between Wonder Boy in Monster World and Monster World IV than any other game in the series.


I should perhaps start out by saying that Wonderboy in Monster Land was one of the very first games I owned, and being in the age of fanboyism I didn’t have ready access to wonders such as Zelda or Metroid. It would be unfair to call the Wonderboy games mere substitutes, though, since they have always sported a unique mix and gameplay that no other title had at the time (even though it is quite honorable in itself to be compared to Zelda and Metroid). Being that I
hold the series in very high esteem, and that I am basically comparing a 13 year-old game with romanticized memories of my early days as a gamer, this text might be a little biased.

The story in Monster World IV centers around Asha, a girl in Monster World (that is now a lot more like “Arabian Nights” than before). Asha can hear voices no-one else seems to hear – voices calling for her help – and in true careless-heroine-fashion, she decides to leave the small village where she grew up and go out adventuring. After a short trip, it turns out the four elemental spirits need help so Asha travels to the four temples in order to see what she can do.


Gameplay of Monster World IV is made up of side-scrolling action/exploring – similar to that of Wonder Boy in Monster World, although Asha is a bit more acrobatic than Shion was. Like Shion, she is accompanied by a helper through most of the game, but unlike Shion Asha can interact with her helper whenever she wants – something that is necessary to complete a lot of the puzzles. Were it strictly about the game mechanics, Monster World IV would’ve been a much better game than it’s predecessor.

But this is were the problems of the game appear; it is too linear. Most of the exploration and illusion of a huge world has been dropped, instead you are handed four doors that each lead to a short level before you tackle a temple full of puzzles, enemies and finally a boss – warp back, buy equipment and repeat. This works okay in a sense, the platforming is good enough to be interesting and the puzzles – albeit repetitive in each single temple – are different enough between areas to make the game feel varied. But Monster World IV is at best a decent platformer, while Wonder Boy in Monster World was a great Action/Adventure game.

Monster World IV is a good way to kill some time if you were a fan of the earlier games in the series and no stranger to some retro gaming, but if you are skimming previous eras for the best games out there, it can safely be passed on.

Posted on Jul 31/07 by Saint and filed under Reflections | No Comments »

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Great review

… When it comes to harsh reviews, there are two kinds that are meaningful – the ones that actually helps you improve, and the ones that are just incredibly funny.

Posted on Jul 26/07 by Saint and filed under Gaming culture | No Comments »

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Another year gone by

… Yeah, not much to say besides that, really. I’m being self-absorbed again, which is in a way strange since (as I must have said to countless people now) getting to a point where getting older is rather a cause for mourning than celebration. Right now though, it’s neither exciting nor mortifying. I’m trapped in limbo and only a few more years will release me to a life-long descent into madness, oblivion and old age. Or maybe a few more years will teach me to be less dramatic about trivial things.

I guess you could argue that I would be better off writing this at the end of the day, but that would be forgetting about the point of celebration – if I were to celebrate – the year gone by. A year in which I’ve fulfilled my old promise of completing Vätternrundan and also a year in which I’ve been part of a large-scale commercial game release for the first time. As both of these happened during the last two months, one would think I have a short memory – while I fear this might partially be true, not much else of particular, renewed-insight-in-life- quality occured during the last twelve months. Besides, working on said game and training for Vätternrundan have taken up most of my time.

This rant is really getting long in the tedious way you really only can accomplish when talking about having nothing to say. So I’ll simply leave it at that and try to spend at least some time today thinking about how to make the time to come meaningful.

Posted on Jul 24/07 by Saint and filed under Meta-blog | No Comments »

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the Darkness Demo on XBL today

yeah, not much to say, really. The demo version of the game I’ve been working on for the last year-and-a-half hit XBox Live today … Some fellow dropped a comment saying something like “You can beat the entire game in the time it takes to download the demo”, which I thought was pretty funny. If the Americans have that severe internet connection issues, no wonder they have problems playing online games.

Demo: The Darkness

Posted on Jul 20/07 by Saint and filed under Gaming culture | No Comments »

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The Escapist on reviews

Although the rest of the team vouched for Arthur’s review score, the editor in question, concerned the low score would jeopardize his relationship with the game’s developer, refused to publish the review without an incremental increase in the score.

The Escapist has an article about game reviews. Seeing as I just finished working on a large production and the reviews still are pouring in, I don’t think I’m qualified to objectively judge the more personal parts of the stories told. The first and second pages of the article talks about the dubious neutrality of some game reviewers, though. Not very in-depth, but an interesting example of how it can work in the cutthroat world of games media – especially interesting since I can compare it to some of my own experiences from the last year. I do not, however, agree with the Escapist about the significance of reviews for a game’s sales. Being a sucker for research data (especially when it’s based on real-world activities and not abstract simulation), I think the Survey by the Susquehanna Financial Group shows that we just can’t take it for granted.

Posted on Jul 19/07 by Saint and filed under Gaming culture | No Comments »

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The Designer’s Notebook: Why Design Documents Matter

One of the most common newbie objections to writing design documents is that nobody reads them. That sounds valid at first, but it actually misses the point. Nobody reads the phone book, either, but if there weren’t a way to look up phone numbers, the telephone would be a lot less useful. Like the phone book, most design documents aren’t intended to be read but referred to. Nobody reads them cover to cover, but managers and developers look things up in them that are relevant to their particular tasks.

Without making this a long rant glorifying Ernest Adams (not because I don’t want to – I do, but I don’t have the entire evening), the latest Designer’s Notebook gives a good overview of why design documents are needed as well as some insight of how they should be used. Not that you hear many complaints about this today, most people at forums have found out that they sound more mature and weathered if they recommend MMORPG-hopefuls to write a design before they start recruiting people to work on their new and exciting idea.

Read it all at Gamasutra.

Posted on Jul 17/07 by Saint and filed under General game development | No Comments »

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If you are at all interested in the moral panic surrounding videogames you probably have an opinion about this headline. Personally, I’m just happy to see a journalist using the correct term, “datorspel”, for once … It shouldn’t be that hard to tell the difference between “data” and “computer”, but Swedish semantics seem to dictate otherwise.

Posted on Jul 15/07 by Saint and filed under Moral panic | No Comments »

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Well, that didn’t seem to work out.

Saint originally called this blog “Some random text from…”, a very ironic name since his homemade shell required him to upload each separate entry via ftp. This, in turn, made the posts a little bit too thought-through to earn the description “random”.

The entire point of this blog is long gone since the only people that could get anything out of it have found better sources a long time ago. That being said, Saint can be incredibly self-absorbed so why should he care?

This is to be considered Saint’s third attempt at a blog. He now uses WordPress to remove all the hassle that prevented him from posting randomness before, meaning that this will be a less serious and pretentious blog. Less meaning and coherency. More spelling mistakes and poorly informed opinions.

By no means should you read the text on this page.

Posted on Jul 15/07 by Saint and filed under Meta-blog | 1 Comment »