You have a handful of people, few resources and 48 hours, and you’re about to develop a game. What do you do? Game Jams have existed for almost as long as home computers — take a bunch of enthusiasts, put them together and let the creative and technical juices flow. Recently, the Global Game Jam held three meetings in Scotland, in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Linlithgow, with the results shown at events in the three cities in the past two weeks. With these conditions, what can people do, what kind of approach do you take, and is there potentially another Surgeon Simulator in there (first prototyped at the Global Game Jam in 2013)?
In our modern, connected world, rally games feel like something of an anachronism. 15 years ago, dodgy AI and limited graphics technology made a racing game with no other cars on the track an appealing concept. But now, with thousands of willing human opponents around the world and exponentially more polygons to work with, “real racing” is closer than ever. In that sense, much of the time, Dirt Rally feels like a game from 15 years ago, just wrapped up in modern graphics and physics, and in doing so it’s one of the best focussed racing games in years.
Super Mario 64 is one of the most important games of all time for a lot of reasons. Of course, it’s a fun game that still stands up and it successfully took an existing 2D genre and made it work in 3D. But more than that, Mario 64 became the template for making third-person action games work in a 3D space, from design to controls to camera. Think about how many games use an analogue stick for movement across open planes, face buttons for interaction and some means of moving the camera around — they can all trace their mechanics back to Nintendo’s classic. 3D games existed before Mario 64, but for the most part they feel crude and awkward. On the eve of Oculus Rift being released to the world, this is how current games tend to feel when fitted into virtual reality today.
It’s the end of the year again, and time to gaze back over the past twelve months again. However, rather than a large, longform article trying to find meaning from it all, let’s try something new. A report card, rating the major players in the industry over the past year. This was a somewhat uneventful year. With a console cycle in full swing, the cards are mostly on the table and the major game-shakers (VR, the Nintendo NX) are still some way off prime time. Everyone is settling into a groove, even if it’s not necessarily what they had in mind.
This tranquillity probably won’t last, but enjoy these moments — generation-defining games tend to come from relative stability.
If you could turn back time, what would you do? What would you change? Those questions are as old as time travel stories themselves and yet, for all that time travel has fascinated science-fiction writers, they’re questions that have rarely been addressed by video games, at least not as directly as this. For in Life Is Strange, every action and decision is reversible, giving you instant and unlimited do-overs to shape the world just as you like in that moment. The potential is there in equal measure for clever time mechanics and unmitigated plot-hole disasters, and Life Is Strange certainly has both of those, which is why it feels weird to say that it’s not what sticks in the memory.