So apparently there was more to it

So it seems like Orson Scott Card, author, Mormon and reportedly rather vocal in his opposition against gay rights penned the story of Shadow Complex. Well, not exactly, the story in the game takes place in a universe of his creation and someone figured they could capitalize on this. People are now asking themselves if they should pass on the game, seeing as a small percentage of the money they spend on it may reach Card and in turn be used to further an agenda they oppose.

Shadow Complex really seemed particularly harmless to me. A small project – large by indie standards, sure, but still small – made by someone who to me seems only to have loved the Metroid games and wanted to bring them to the new generation (something I can both sympathize with and endorse, although I do not think they fully succeeded in “modernizing the Old School”), I could hardly have imagined a project being less offensive. The story irked me somewhat for being clichéed and silly, but not for taking any kind of moral standpoint – though the two could probably be related. I did not know about Card’s views when buying the game, though I had read it at some point I did not even know he had any part of it.

Though the fact that the question is raised interests me enough to write something about it, the question itself is a no-brainer for me and I do not care about the political views of some author with a slight connection to a game I might like. There is the argument of how we are sponsoring a bunch of less known developers who might be even more politically active than Card in groups we don’t know about, and there is the argument of how much extra cash such a loose connection will actually net him – Royalties do not stack to a lot in the games industry, especially not for niche titles. There simply is not enough enough evidence that buying Shadow Complex will affect the political climate in any particular way. There is also the matter of the work in question being influenced by the author’s ideals, although I did not think this was the case here the only thing you can really do is to not subject your own self to it, and if you think that the story will ruin your enjoyment of the game I guess that is a valid reason – I did not. Finally, there is the matter of principle, trying to discourage future developers from working with people with an agenda, but that I definitely cannot support. Taking a personal stand is one thing, but attacking a different-minded not by countering his arguments but by trying to undermine his ability to operate is in my opinion morally indefensible.

I liked Ender’s Game, but I did not love it. As previously mentioned, I thought the story in Shadow Complex clichéed and shallow. Regardless on my thoughts on the quality of these works, however, I recognize that the people involved created them in their roles as artists, and in my book their work is the singular thing that I would hold them responsible for when criticizing it. So in regards to Christian Nutt’s reflection, I respectfully disagree; as a child I only regarded the qualities of a specific game when judging it worth a purchase or not, I do not think I can judge a game in a different manner today – nor do I want to.

Posted on Aug 24/09 by Saint and filed under Moral panic | No Comments »

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Shadow Complex

Shadow Complex

In an attempt to make “Metroidvania” a mainstream genre, developer Chair have made the exploration-action-platform game Shadow Complex using the Unreal engine. It plays a lot like the later 2D Metroid titles – in fact, it plays almost exactly like the later 2D Metroid titles and it is a bit sad to see how they didn’t really try something new in terms of exploration. On the other hand, the technology used allows for a vastly more complex presentation and there are other new things in the game.

As I see it, Shadow Complex’ problems are related to one of two groups. The first set of issues are the ones related to new technology being used for a gameplay mechanic that was somewhat reliant on tiles, simplicity and flat environments. There are small things like enemies shooting at you from outside of the view, aiming on things in the background being needlessly complex, light and shadow shining through walls and ragdolls blocking paths that you need to open,  in essence errors that could have been solved with more work. In addition, using realistic characters and a military base as a backdrop kind of breaks suspension of disbelief – having walls that glow depending on how they can be broken and endless supplies of bullets is fine when magic or sci-fi energy weapons are a part of the setting, but watching human soldiers act like there’s nothing there when you are three meters away shining a flashlight in their face feels kind of stupid.

The second set of issues are related to how slavishly the developers have followed the Super Metroid formula, a lot of times things feel like they are there just because they are supposed to rather than because they add something. Whereas weapons in the Metroid games always feel motivated and interesting, in Shadow Complex they mostly just feel like keys to open different-colored doors, and there are a lot of redundant powerups near the end.

All in all though, my issues with the game are hardly anything but nitpicks and missed potential, the game itself offers a remarkably good Metroidvania experience and thought-through design decisions like the frequent savepoints and increasingly detailed map keep the frustration to a minimum throughout. In spite of its shortcomings, I would heartily recommend Shadow Complex.

Posted on Aug 21/09 by Saint and filed under Reflections | No Comments »

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Just Cause 2 looks nice

In these troubled times of layoffs and studios closing, it is nice to see the new Just Cause 2 trailer looking really good – I am not usually excited about sandbox games, but I will most likely pick up this one.

Though it is hard to deny that the fact that there are a lot of unemployed, experienced developers makes it easier in our own recruiting work, the situation is hardly good for either Starbreeze or myself. Disregarding the fact that a lot of my friends have been let go, less companies means less money and less people for the Swedish games industry. This in turn means less incentive for press and larger publishers to visit here, for educations to be held and less possibility for events like the Swedish Game Awards to be funded and staged.

Hopefully, this trend will turn – even if things did not turn out so well for Grin, I would go out on a limb and say Avalanche has a good chance of survival – if only because I recognize the situation they are in. Five years ago, Starbreeze had hired too many and grown too quickly, was forced to let go all but a small core team and then Riddick was released to rave reviews giving Starbreeze enough recognition to sign more contracts and today we are doing just fine.

Posted on Aug 18/09 by Saint and filed under Gaming culture, Meta-blog | No Comments »