The Dev Is In The Details
Earlier this week, Zack Handlen stopped by with a review of Unravel, a modest game about an adventurous creature made of yarn. Down in the comments, Wolfman Jew wondered if it, and other games with a strong focus on fabrics and fine details, is indicative of a greater, era-defining trend:
I’m wondering if we may be seeing a trend, from the obsessive clothing design of later Assassin’s Creed to Yarny and Yoshi’s Woolly World (Knack also fits here, even if we’ve all forgotten about it), in which this current era of games might be defining itself around fabric and textures and, more broadly, having an eye for extreme detail. Maybe this is what this generation has to do to differentiate itself? We’ve already made, seen, and gotten visually dynamic three-dimensional graphics, large and interactive worlds, increasingly diverse types of online play, and digital distribution. Some of the big new ideas we’ve been seeing lately almost seem like solutions to problems developers have to make themselves.
We’ve talked a lot about how this era has been struggling to an extent to really define itself. Maybe it’s about the push and pull of intimate, obsessive detail versus broad kitchen sinks? This is super obtuse, I know, and a lot of this debate has been going on for a long time. But it kind of feels like this is one of the central themes of the past two or three years of games.
Jakeoti continued that thought:
Clothing does seem to be a focus. I always felt with last gen that there was a heavy emphasis on water; it felt like just about every big-budget game had a character wading through a waist high sewer/river/pond at some point. Cloth is probably a bit more challenging, since it has to look different and realistic as it goes through all the different environments. It also did have a strong start in the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 generation, though. Journey‘s billowing scarf is iconic. The Assassin’s Creed characters are all united by that distinctive hood (a design so striking that Shigeru Miyamoto himself said that he would have loved to have been the one to have conceived it). During the pre-release hype cycle of Batman: Arkham Asylum, it felt like we were constantly reminded that Batman’s outfit, especially the cape, would suffer wear and tear as the player took beatings during the brutal night. Heck, even Nintendo’s most distinctive new game, Splatoon, is half-shooter, half-fashion show.
Girard agreed and recalled an example of what the lack of that fine detail can do to an HD game:
Attention to texture and detail (whether for realism or other aesthetic ends) is the sort of thing that has really made, and will make, HD gaming’s visuals work in a way they seemed to struggle to for a while.
I remember, when the first real HD console generation came out, watching friends play these new games and finding that they looked better to me on shitty interlaced SD TVs, which occluded the lack of detail in the visuals. For example, watching that PlayStation 3 Ghostbusters game on an SD screen looked semi-convincingly like an actual Ghostbusters TV special or something, while watching it on another friend’s large HDTV laid bare how plastic and artificial everything looked. It made the game look like some kind of uncanny plasticine nightmare—or a Robert Zemeckis motion-capture movie.
And Buttersnap reminds us that more complex lighting is another hallmark of modern games:
I do believe, at least on consoles, the two main things that separate them from their predecessors is lighting and that obsessive detail. One recent example is Just Cause 3, where everything looks exactly like a 360/PS3 game, but the detail of the explosions and destruction goes beyond anything else I’ve seen (and in some ways, is also a detriment to the game’s playability).
There was an interview a bit back where one of the leads developers of Watch Dogs was really excited because the main character could put his hands in his pockets. Just like a defense-heavy football game, this doesn’t seem to excite many people, but I see that kind of advance in animation as something to be very excited for.
Pride And Prejudice And Dice Rolls
In a special Love Week edition Gameological Unplugged, Samantha Nelson took a look at a few relationship-themed board games. There was one more game that was supposed to be featured, but unfortunately, Samantha’s copy didn’t make it in time: Marrying Mr. Darcy. (Don’t fret, I’m sure it’ll pop up somewhere down the line.) Luckily, reader Venerable Monk had already played it, and told us about it down in the comments:
Have you tried Marrying Mr. Darcy? It’s got a similar “draw and play” rhythm to Love Letter, but instead of suitors wooing a princess, you’re playing as one of the women from Pride And Prejudice and trying to win a marriage proposal from one of the six men in the book. The best part is that most of the game is building your “stats” as a lady, such as reputation, beauty, wit, cunning, etc.
Each man has his own “minimum requirements” for what he finds attractive in a woman, and there’s a procedure for deciding who proposes first, and to whom, once the deck runs out. If you do a good job building your character, several men will propose to you and you’ll get to pick the best match. Each specific pairing has a unique score, to decide who will lead the happiest life after marriage, and they generally line up with the actual compatibility of the characters in the book.
If you fail to distinguish yourself, you’ll become an old maid and you have to roll a die to find out what becomes of you. The old maid options are ridiculous, ranging from dying alone and penniless, to becoming a world-famous author, like Austen herself. If you can manage to get the “author” result, it’s possible to outscore all of the women who found husbands.
I always try to play as Lydia, and the last time we played, I managed a solid second place by focusing on cunning and marrying Mr. Wickham. I probably could have won if I’d turned down Wickham and went for Mr. Denny, but I didn’t realize that one of my opponents was piling on the friendliness points.
We also put together a special Let’s Playlist for Love Week full of dirty, sexy music from video games. After adding your submissions, we’re pleased to report the final community playlist comes in at 34 tracks of pure mood-setting magic. You can find the finished product embedded above or on YouTube by clicking on these here words. Here’s the list of reader additions:
- “Sweet Blue Flag,” Killer 7—Wolfman Jew
- “Pleather For Breakfast,” No More Heroes—Vyolynce
- “Too Late To Love You,” Kentucky Route Zero: Act III—JAG
- “The Gapra Whitewood,” Final Fantasy XIII—psib
- “Snake Eater,” Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater—Shinigami Apple Merchant
- “Manny & Meche,” Grim Fandango—farside0013
- “Birdman,” Pilotwings—GhaleonQ
- “I Dream Of You (Miss Stiletto Heels),” Deadly Premonition—Pico79
- “The Swamp,” Animorphs: Shattered Reality—Rambaldi
- “Moon River (∞ Climax Mix),” Bayonetta 2—Jakeoti
- “Muscle Blues,” Persona 4—The Enema Rabbit
- “Skeletons In My Closet,” The 7th Guest—annamal
- “Nightless City Guara Bobelo,” Wild Arms 4—RobertPostsChild
- “Legendary Theme (Electric),” Gitaroo Man—Martbags
- “Body And Soul,” The Pandora Directive—Unexpected Dave
- “Waiting For You,” Silent Hill 4: The Room—%(numUsers)
- “A-Mazing Post Pounding,” Yoshi’s Woolly World—DrFlimFlam
- “Can’t Say Goodbye To Yesterday,” Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons Of Liberty—QoheletTzadak
- “You Belong To Me,” BioShock Infinite: Burial At Sea—Andrew Bare
- “Fly Me To The Moon (∞ Climax Mix),” Bayonetta—Duwease
- “Tsuzurao’s Theme,” Okami—PaganPoet
- “Melancholia,” Gunpoint—Venerable Monk
- “Death By Glamour,” Undertale—Principal Blackman
- “House On Fire,” Contrast—Agate
That’ll do it for this week, folks. As always, thank you for reading and commenting. Just a heads up: Next week’s going to be a small departure from our usual programming. Stay tuned. We’ll see you then.