One of my New Year Resolutions (apart from boring real-life stuff like normalizing habitat conditions) was to play through campaigns of RTS games that I’ve never finished in the past. I started playing Age of Empires: Definitive Edition a couple of weeks ago, so it became my first candidate. Everything went smoothly until the first mission of the Babylon campaign, where I got my ass kicked so hard that it made me wish to reconsider my gaming choices.Continue reading “Bezdar Weekly #3: The Holy Man”
The last week of the year comes to an end. People make New Year’s resolutions, prepare year-end lists of best games, and celebrate the hope that something’s going to change for the better next year. My last blogpost in 2022 will touch on just two games—the game I started this year with and the one I’m playing now. The former is Dark Souls II, and the latter is Fate. There’s no better metaphor for summing up the passing year.Continue reading “Bezdar Weekly #2”
Maps are awesome. They are useful, informative, and often gorgeous. Maps in computer games are especially useful, informative, and almost always gorgeous. No matter which genre of computer games we pick, maps take an inherent part in the design.
First-person shooter maps serve as a helpful tool for navigating the surroundings in the heat of the battle. Open-world games like to stun the player with the scope of their maps, promising dozens of hours of immersive and maybe sometimes a little bit samey discoveries. So-called Metroidvanias shine with their map design that involves lots of secret-finding, shortcut-opening, and backtracking. Maps in RPG games combine everything already stated and more—they immerse and sometimes puzzle. Even if the game has no built-in map, it’s expected that the players should create one themselves. Mapping the levels with pencil and paper was an integral part of the gameplay in old-school dungeon crawlers. Even some point-and-click adventure games challenge players with puzzles that involve navigating through some convoluted and deadly maze with no chance to solve without patience and a bit of cartography.
Continue reading “The Magic of Cartography”
Not including the basic map in the game of the above-stated genres is a perfectly valid option for game designers to challenge the player. But we cannot have a strategy game without a map. Because maps in strategy games are a lot more than just a helpful tool.
As a means to flex my blogging muscles, I started a weekly wrap-up of various things that came to my mind, games I’ve been playing, and random rambling on arbitrary topics. I’ll let the thing flow freely and see if some format will emerge eventually.Continue reading “Bezdar Weekly #1”
I was the first kid in class to have a PC at home. It was 1995, and most of the children in the periphery of southern Russia had been getting their dose of digital entertainment from a Chinese copy of NES called Dendy. But video games weren’t the only go-to place to spend free time. Looking back, it seems I’ve been quite a busy kid—playing Space Quest 5 on PC and Contra on Dendy Junior took just a fracture of my non-school activities. Socializing with friends outdoors was a thing back then, and searching for new ways to achieve neat cuts and bruises from climbing every climbable surface was a time-consuming business. Nevertheless, more than everything in the world, I loved to play with my «robots.» It was a general term to describe all kinds of toy soldiers and action figures my parents spoiled me with, despite being just slightly less poor than everybody else in 90s Russia.Continue reading “Why I Love Strategy Games. But Not All Strategy Games.”
It’s the second half of the 1990s. Everybody wants to jump on the RTS train, put in motion by the success of Command & Conquer and Warcraft. While the talks about genre oversaturation begin to surface, there’s still a chance: unusual setting, innovative mechanic, or exceptionally wholesome implementation of existing ideas—and you win the ticket for a ride. The stakes are getting high, though. Stumble while jumping, or forget to consider a shift in economic winds, and you miss disastrously. It wasn’t SouthPeak Interactive fault that their game wasn’t released as planned in 1998. It was the fault of the publisher, Virgin Interactive, that found itself caught by the financial storm. The game’s pre-release version, almost finished, resurfaced in the year 2000. But it was already too late. It became forgotten. Then, a more successful game was released, using the looser’s name, deepening the depths of the poor soul’s oblivion.
But then a little miracle happened. It is always miraculous when an old piece of software that was considered lost resurfaces and preserves itself with the help of enthusiasts. Several years ago, the pre-release version of the game was uploaded for the whole world to see. May we now judge whether the game had any chance for success if it was released in time? In 1998—perhaps; in 2000—absolutely not. But who cares? It’s an artifact. Let’s dissect it!Continue reading “Dawn of War: Not That One.”
It took years for Dark Souls trilogy to finally click with me. I have been enamored with its setting and aesthetic since the very release of Prepare to Die Edition on PC. The port was poor, though, and it scared me away. By the time when modders fixed it, the ‘difficulty discourse’ caught up on me, and I didn’t bother. I didn’t want to ‘git good’ to enjoy the game and didn’t want to suffer—why should I waste time on that if there are plenty of instantly enjoyable games?
Then the dark times came. I was pretty depressed, and for some unexplainable reason, suffering through some hardcore unfair videogame became a far more acceptable idea. 2017 was the year when I finished Dark Souls I. It was accompanied by lots of suffering, cursing, panicking, and dying. Even with the ‘tank’ build—focus on strength and HP, Havel armor, etc. I still didn’t get it. I’ve tried playing Dark Souls II several times for the next five years—every time dropping the game out of pure frustration. A couple of Dark Souls III test runs ended with the same result.
Something has changed since then. I killed Aldia, Scholar of the First Sin couple of weeks ago and now getting through Dark Souls III twenty hours in. Some of dying here and there, a little bit of cursing, almost no panicking. Zero suffering. I’m enjoying every second. It took me ten years to finally stop worrying and enjoy the fucking game.
«RTS Galore!» is a series of posts where I arbitrarily overthink real-time strategy games. My definition of the real-time strategy game and some sort of a methodological vector for the series have been explained here.
Previously we saw examples of how RTS games simplify various existential issues for the sake of creating addictive and unapologetically fun gameplay. Populous, for instance, gamified religious conflicts without making any meaningful theological statements, while Mega-Lo-Mania basically gamified the nationalistic total war concept and presented it as a natural in-game order of things without delving much into its problematics.
In this article we’re going to see what happens when RTS games are based on other works of fiction, specifically lengthy books filled with thematic intricacies and ideological complexities. Tough to find a better example for this than Westwood’s Dune series. Also, with a new Villeneuve’s version of Herbert’s story hitting the theaters in a couple of days, it’s a great time to write something about Dune. Good for the clicks, y’know.Continue reading “RTS Galore! Episode 4: Spice Must Flow”
There are several ways you can summarize the plot of the Bloober Team’s Observer. For example, you can say that this is a game about a futuristic cop, played by Rutger Hauer, who chases after a murderous monster in the cyberpunk dystopian setting. This way, Observer reminds us of Split Second—a 1992 sci-fi action flick—not explicitly smart or insightful but nevertheless fun in a guilty-pleasure sense.
But another way to summarize Observer is to see it as a story about the post-plague world, where people live in constant fear of the new outbreak, ready for routine lockdowns. This way, the game paints the picture of a totally atomized society where each individual is tightly confined to the limits of their tiny apartment, which reminds us of something wider and deeper than a ’90s movie. It reminds us of our current reality.Continue reading “Mass Alienation and Social Atomization in Bloober Team’s Observer”
After trying its design philosophy in an entirely atheistic setting, Bullfrog returned to its god-game roots with a sequel to Populous, making the gamification of the ‘holy war’ concept more fun and ideologically safe. A couple of months earlier, another British developer, Sensible Software, also released a game about gods and their bloody conflicts. But Mega-Lo-Mania’s focus was more human-centered—even almost political, I’d say.Continue reading “RTS Galore! Episode 3: Mega-Lo-Mania & Populous II”