• Remembering the Bomb

    There was a time when I knew how the world would end. I grew up in a time when our elementary school would hold nuclear attack drills with the same regularity as they did fire or tornado drills. Regular PSAs on television and radio would remind us to “Duck and Cover!” in the event of a nuclear strike. In college we were dutifully shown the location of our dorm’s fallout shelter and told how to get to it when the seemingly inevitable occurred. In the 1960s and ’70s we knew with a certainty that is hard to describe or even understand now that the world was going to end, and that it would end in fire. I was thinking about this because I’ve been playing through the various DLC for Fallout: New Vegas. The Fallout series of course is set in the aftermath of a global thermonuclear exchange between the US and China. But in the game the war was long ago; 200 years ago in the case of New Vegas. Much of the world is a wasteland but civilization is slowly recovering. (More slowly than I think it should be, but that’s a quibble for a different post.) In New Vegas life in the Mojave Wasteland is tough, but life is going on. In fact, it seems to be a great, exciting place for adventure. The horror that brought this world into existence is almost an afterthought. Almost. Then I started playing Honest Hearts. First nuke hit SLC inside

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  • Who’s the Boss?

    OK, so last time I was talking about Hydrophobia Prophecy and how much it annoyed me when it suddenly broke my suspension of disbelief by suddenly throwing in elements of what was essentially “magic” into what had been a science fiction thriller. Well, I’m not through beating the dead horse of Hydrophobia yet. Because shortly after gaining magical powers from nanotechnology, our intrepid heroine Kate comes face-to-face with another one of my pet peeves in game design; a boss battle. All along Kate has been facing two things. Environmental hazards (in the form of the ship she is own being on fire and sinking) and the agents of the Malthusians attacking her. These hazards and opponents have been slowly increasing in difficulty as Kate’s resources (and the player’s skill) increase. Then suddenly Kate has magical abilities and, two rooms later, is suddenly locked in a battle with a rocket-firing turret that she has to short out with her water-based abilities then shoot in one of its flashing weak points. There is no room for error; hit the turret and weak point exactly right or die. As I have said many times I play games primarily for the story, I want to experience the story or the world as an active participant, not as a passive observer. Boss fights take me completely out of the story. They are sudden reminders that I am playing a game. At one point boss battles made sense. In the arcade days you needed a way

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  • Broken Suspenders

    Over the weekend I was playing Hydrophobia Prophecy, one of the games I picked up during Steam’s big sale last month. Hydrophobia takes place on The Queen of the World, a city-sized ship built by a consortium of businesses to research solutions to the world’s environmental and population issues. The ship is then attacked by a group calling itself the Malthusians, who think that the best way to solve the world’s problems is for most of humanity to kill itself. Their goal is to destroy the ship and to capture the result of the ship’s research; a nanotech substance that can turn polluted water into pure water. This substance is dangerous to humans in that if they are exposed to it then it will attempt to turn the water in their bodies to pure water as well; a fatal result when the “water” being purified is their blood. The player takes the role of Kate Wilson, an engineer on the ship who must fight the Malthusians and prevent the release of the nanotech. Despite it having relatively negative reviews I enjoyed the game for a while. The environments and setup seemed fairly realistic and Kate was an interesting departure from the normal game protagonist, being a reluctant hero instead of the usual special forces type. (Though I did get tired of hearing her shriek in fright every thirty seconds… deal with it Kate.) It was also interesting to see a game with an anti-twist; the corporation trying to save the

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