I’ve been procrastinating a lot recently both with this blog and a couple of AGS projects I should be working on. Had a computer death to deal with then a couple of weeks and several hundred pounds later I discovered I was somewhat lacking in motivation. So I started another short project instead. Oh well, I’m sure both will be finished eventually.

Here’s a slightly-cropped screen shot to make up. Click for zoom.

Ooooh... teaser-y

In other news I increased my year count yesterday. It didn’t hurt.

Anime Club ends

KC Green’s Anime Club webcomic has come to an end, so you should be over there reading it from start to finish. It’s in five parts, with the sixth being an early ending for April fools day.

KC is one of my favourite webcomic artists at the moment (and I’m signed up to a lot of comic RSS feeds). His jokes are often brilliant, although on the dark side, and even when they’re not the artwork is great. The guy really knows how to draw expressions. His longer stuff like the Anime Club also show his ability to tell a good story.

There’s more KC at http://gunshowcomic.com/, which is his current project, or at http://horribleville.com/, which is now finished.


The Perry Bible Fellowship webcomic unexpectedly updated this morning/late last night with this. Exciting stuff, because there’s been nothing new on there for ages. If you’re unfamiliar with PBF go and have a look at some of the comics on there. It’s pretty dark humour, but hilarious if you’re into that kind of thing. Nicholas Gurewitch is a great artist too.

Something old

I’ve had Sam and Max Hit the Road since probably around the time it came out, and I only discovered today that you can play it in black and white by pressing the ‘B’ key during play. Huh.

You can also turn on ‘dummy verb mode’ by pressing the ‘V’ key, which labels the actions in your inventory. If I recall the manual there’s also supposed to be built in screensavers, but I’ve yet to see them.

Comic: Birdsong

Another comic, this one slightly better drawn. Click the image below for the full thing.

I need a way of constantly displaying images at their original widths. At the moment when they go over the maximum width of this area they get squashed which is clever but looks rubbish. The maximum width is 500-and-something pixels, which isn’t really wide enough to draw a comic in. Not been able to find which bit of WordPress is responsible for this yet.

Heavy Rain

I’ve spent most of the last few days playing Heavy Rain on a borrowed PS3. It’s a brilliant game and much better than Fahrenheit (The Indigo Prophecy) which I played through for the first time in the last few months. The plot and set pieces are genuinely exciting and the eventual reveal of the killer is really well handled. Their identity is probably guessable too, though I didn’t figure it out, which is the sign of a well written detective story. Graphically it really shows off the power of the PS3, and the acting is really good for nearly all of the characters.

Unfortunately the overriding feeling I was left with at the end was anger. One of the selling points of Heavy Rain is that any of the characters can die and the game will still continue. In my case this meant I spent the better part of two days playing through the story, only for one of the characters to die literally 20 minutes from the end. It wasn’t even a ‘proper’ death. If you’ve played the game you’ll know the section and character, but basically during a fire I couldn’t see where I was supposed to be going or where I was standing, and thanks to the controls (which I hadn’t got used to even by the end of the game) I walked into the flames one too many times and burned to death. After two days of playing. David Cage’s story did it’s job and I got really involved with the world and the characters, and in the end I didn’t care whether Shaun Mars got saved, or whether the Origami Killer got caught or not, I just knew that one of main characters had died, that it was my fault and that (going by my ability at the game up to that point) I should have been able to stop it.

Of course you can load a chapter and replay from that point onwards, and see what would have happened if you’d done things differently, but it’s just not the same. The experience you get when you first play through a game is always going to be the one that sticks with you, especially with a game like Heavy Rain where you don’t replay sections or redo choices if you change your mind. At the moment I genuinely feel like the game was ruined for me 20 minutes from the end, and it was my fault.

I’m sure there’s a lesson in game design here, but figuring out exactly what isn’t easy. I don’t think Heavy Rain should have removed the ‘character dies – plot continues’ feature. Knowing that your characters are in genuine danger, knowing that if you mess up they will be removed, adds a lot more tension to the game. The problem is a big balancing act. If Nathan Drake goes charging into a squad of four heavily armed soldiers and attempts to take them out with his fists (which seems to be my brother’s method of playing Uncharted 2) it’s a life threatening situation, but it doesn’t carry a lot of risk because failure only means going back to the last save point, so you never feel too strongly about the decision or consequences. Put the save points further apart and suddenly the activity becomes much more exciting because the cost of failure is much higher. Heavy Rain is taking this to the extreme – all the dangerous sequences become much more thrilling because there’s literally the entire game riding on the outcome. Clearly this is good for immersion, but the cost is also huge.

This is an unusual thing in gaming. It’s not a regular game over of the “You died, load your last game?” kind – in those kind of games death is expected and a natural part of the game. It’s not the same as, say, a death sequence in an adventure game, because that’s a clear cut “You made a mistake, game’s over, go back in there and do it right next time” – your wrong turn is clearly labelled and your punishment is outside of the game world in that all it means is you don’t get to see the next section of the game. It’s also not the same as a traditional ‘bad ending’ because those tend to be replayability devices along the lines of “Well, you got to the end of the game but you didn’t do x, y and z, so why not go back and try and do them next time”. Heavy Rain says “You made these choices and these mistakes, and this is the consequence. Live with it”. I guess that’s a pretty mature take, but it’s pretty gutting when you’re on the wrong end of it.