Dénouement 2014: Part 2

By Shamus
on Jan 14, 2015
Filed under:
Video Games

Here is the first half of my list of important games in 2014. They’re numbered, but this isn’t like a “Top games” list where #3 is supposedly objectively better than #7. Really, I just numbered the list so you have a sense of how far you are from the end. (Un-numbered list articles always feel a little strange because the end feels kind of abrupt. “Oh? We’re done? Okay then.”)

Also I totally forgot about Thief. Like, I forgot the game existed. So it’s not on any list (bad or good) in any capacity.

This is a list with with room for games that maybe I appreciate professionally even if I didn’t totally dig them as a player. Also I might put titles here that I personally admired but might not 100% recommend. You folks know what you’re doing and I know you’re not here looking for a list attuned to the current fanboy zeitgeist. So let’s do this…

8. The Last of Us

Not pictured: Eleven million cannibal raiders.

Yes, this game is a year and a half old. And I didn’t play it until this year. I’m just sort of sneaking this onto my 2014 list as an excuse to gush over it some more. And the remastered edition came out this year, so that sort of partly qualifies as a quasi-2014 release. Anyway, it’s my list. Sue me.

I’m always saying that games should stop trying to be movies. And that’s good advice. But if the movie is this good, I suppose I can grudgingly accept that the gameplay/cutscene/gameplay approach to game design is still a worthy and valid approach to making games. Provided you can actually pull off the “movie” thing! I think devs could get more bang for their buck by focusing on mechanics instead of buying a million-dollarI have no idea. motion-capture stage. But if you’ve got the money, I suppose I have room in my heart for a smart, emotionally powerful, wonderfully performed, thematically coherent story filled with subtle dialog and gorgeous cinematography.

Just go easy on the mooks next time, okay Naughty Dog?

7. The Oculus Rift DK2

May digitally induce vomiting.

This is not a game. Why is this on a list of games? Because I say so. VR was a big part of our conversation this year, and now is a good time to revisit it.

This year I got to try VR for the first time. It was thrilling, educational, and a little depressing.

At first it was just a little snag: The headset didn’t work in direct mode under OpenGL. That means that if you’re using OpenGL to make your graphics like I do, then the headset will need to run in this crappy, laggy mode where Windows treats it like an extra monitor. That’s really inconvenient for developmentSometimes applications end up on that extra monitor, where it’s a pain in the ass to use them and you usually can’t see the title bar to bring them back over to you main display.. Worse, it’s mildly sickness-inducing to use. And the display lag is so bad that you can’t get a sense of how efficiently your game is running. If you’re an OpenGL coder trying to develop for the Rift, your choices are:

  1. Throw away all your experience and OpenGL code snippets and start totally over with DirectX. It’s going to take a really long time before you’re as good with DX as you are with GL. It’s like learning Portuguese so you can understand your music teacher well enough to learn to play the piano. It’s an extremely expensive and time-consuming intermediate step that, under normal circumstances, you shouldn’t need to do. No, actually it’s worse than that. Portuguese could be useful, but I don’t want to clutter my head-space up with a graphics library I don’t plan on using in the future.
  2. Just ignore the ugly display problems and use OpenGL, hoping they get it ironed out someday. In the short term your game will be uncomfortable to test and it will be hard to visually detect subtle performance problems. Worse, you have no idea how long it will take the OVR team to fix this. Perhaps never. It’s possible you’ll be pouring work into a doomed project when you should just give up and switch to DX.

At first this seemed like a small problem. The Oculus team just needed to fix up the OpenGL mode, which would probably happen in an upcoming release. But it’s been over half a year now, and if anything the GL stuff is in an even worse state than before, relative to DX. The Oculus team, normally so candid, has been vexingly silent on this. Is this going to be fixed soon? Never? Is it a priority? Is this a problem with GL itself lacking some low-level direct access feature, or is the team simply focusing their time on DX because that’s where most of the developers are? If we had some kind of clue with regard to priorities and problems, we could make an informed decision about which of the above two options makes the most sense.

I’m still looking forward to VR, but it feels further away now than it did in August.

6. Titanfall

Eh. It was fun for a bit.

Yeah, I’m not one for multiplayer online shooters. I would, no kidding, rather play hidden object games than some loud, senseless free-for-all man shoot. (Although I do occasionally enjoy organized team-based games like Team Fortress.)

But Titanfall is amazing. The giant robots are fun, and the light platforming is wonderful. I actually like the free-running here better than Assassins Creed. (And I already like the movement in Assassins Creed.) I really wish someone would take these mechanics and put them in a single-player game.

So this game isn’t on the list because of the game itself, but because I really, really liked one particular feature of the game and I want to see it appear elsewhere. This is not the last time that will happen on this list.

5. Corporate Lifestyle Simulator

WARNING: Contains mature content. And immature content.

Basically, you’re a lowly office worker and management has been zombified by their greed and corporate-speak. It’s silly and charming and not very deep. I give the game credit for being short enough that it doesn’t wear out the joke.

It’s not an amazing game, but it does have an amazing soundtrack. A lot of the content on this blog – including this very post – was written with the playful and catchy CLS soundtrack playing in the background. If I ever get good at music, this is the kind of music I’d want to make. Book of Days and Epic Fail in particular get me right in the neurons and I never seem to get tired of them.

We’ll finish this series up later this week.

Enjoyed this post? Please share!

Footnotes:

[1] I have no idea.

[2] Sometimes applications end up on that extra monitor, where it’s a pain in the ass to use them and you usually can’t see the title bar to bring them back over to you main display.


2020201373 comments? This post wasn't even all that interesting.

From the Archives:

  1. Zagzag says:

    Un-numbered list articles always feel a little strange because the end feels kind of abrupt. “Oh? We’re done? Okay then.”

    Almost as abrupt as numbered lists that end at 5?

  2. Tizzy says:

    Well, I can’t even *find* Thief in stores, new or used, so Shamus can be forgiven for forgetting it ever existed: it’s as if it had been wiped off the face of the Earth, become an ungame in a Stalinist purge.

    • Dev Null says:

      They sell software in stores still?

      • Zukhramm says:

        They sell licenses, download keys and disc-shaped DRM-dongles.

        • Tom says:

          Yeah, in boxes that, aside from some VERY small print, look no different to the ones that, once upon a time, used to contain an entire game and everything you would ever need to play it except for the computer itself. Isn’t progress wonderful?

          • Alexander The 1st says:

            I got Titanfall earlier last year and Dragon Age: Inquisition for Christmas via physical copies, and both games were installable and installed via the discs they came with (Granted, Titanfall was 2 discs IIRC, and DA:I is 4 discs.), so short of patching updates to the games, you can buy actual physical copies of the games.

            The only downgrade in progress is now you have to be logged into an Origin account to install it. And run it through Origin. But it doesn’t download from the internet right from the start (If it did, I wouldn’t have had to switch discs mid-installation.).

            • Taellosse says:

              Well, that’s better than the Mass Effect trilogy edition I was given last Christmas. It does come on discs, but will only install from them if you disconnect your internet connection – otherwise it tries to download them from Origin (after installing Origin, which is not optional for any of the series, despite the first two games predating the sale to EA), which takes several times as long on my decent-but-not-amazing Comcast connectivity.

    • Galad says:

      Well, one of my Steam ‘friends’ (whom I’ve friended most likely after a Borderlands 2 game, and consequently we;ve both forgotten about each other’s existence) has named himself as Garrett, put his avatar up and racked up an ungodly amount of hours with Thief, so at least the game has that going for it. :V

    • Humanoid says:

      I got in the the Squeenix MYSTARY Christmas pack. I didn’t bother redeeming the key.

    • Reithur says:

      Thief Gold and Thief 2 now available on Steam! Picked them both up for less than $4 total.

  3. Nyctef says:

    I’ve just started to listen to the CLS soundtrack, and I’m loving it so far. The tracks are relatively simple, but very well-made. I can totally imagine coding to this

  4. Daemian Lucifer says:

    So your endgame list consist of multiple lists in order to cover stuff that didnt make the list proper?Engineers are so fun.

  5. SlothfulCobra says:

    I think Last of Us might still have a much lower deathcount than most games, since you only face small groups of people at a time.

    • Thomas says:

      Apparently there are 601 enemies in the game, at 15 hours long that’s 40 enemies an hour or 6 guys every 10ish minutes.

      Most people get through having killed less than that though (I feel like I was 400ish and the random youtube video I looked up was 535)

      I don’t really know how to interpret those numbers because I have no idea how many enemies are in most games. For comparison, in Uncharted 2 I had 800ish kills

  6. AR+ says:

    I would, no kidding, rather play hidden object games than some loud, senseless free-for-all man shoot.

    Wait, really? I seem to remember reading about the skill depth of Unreal Tournament here, with which you had apparently gotten pretty decent. Was that not you or have you just changed in the intervening years?

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Which is probably the reason titanfall is on the list.In the past decade or so,titanfall(and maybe advanced warfare)is probably the only multiplayer shooter that gives you the freedom of movement of original unreal tournament.Im not sure even the sequels to ut could be considered that fast paced and frantic.

    • Felblood says:

      Shamus played Team Deathmatch though, not Free-for-all. Remember that review he wrote of 2-Fort facing?

      One could argue that UT’99 and UT’04 are the perfect devices to ruin people for shallow, Halo-clone FPSes. They set the gold standard for complicated, moving arenas, interesting weapon design and highly mobile combatants.

      I am now envisioning a Painkiller successor with Warframe style parkour movement. So, Warframe with a decent campaign mode and no F2P MMO BS, basically.

    • Tizzy says:

      I never played UT, but I don’t think I would describe it as a free for all. I mean, how many people at a time could play on that?

      It makes for a very different experience, I think. I’m also not impressed by these 64-player games where both sides try to annihilate each other in fast, confusing rounds. I know someone who is really good at those, so I get that there is some skill in that since he consistently performs well. But watching him play, I really didn’t get it, it was a confusing, boring mess.

    • Humanoid says:

      I played through the Cherry Blossom Murders and liked it (it was a seminal work in the hidden objects genre after all). I’d buy more Season of Mystery games, if only they made more. I mean, presumably this first game was about spring, so I was hoping there’d be at least a Season of Mystery title for each of summer, autumn and winter.

      I’d observe the game also did romance better than any Bioware game.

      • Sleeping Dragon says:

        HOGs are okay if you’re willing to throw away all reason far as the item use is concerned, I actually binged on the genre a few years ago until I couldn’t keep that mindstate anymore and began to literaly mumble things like “why?! Why do I have to go looking for this brick to smash the glass?! I have a big ass fire extinguisher in my inventory! There’s also a perfectly serviceable rock right there!” Also, in my experience, the general rule seems to be “pick two” between works smoothly, has entertaining (though usually stupid) story, is fun to play.

  7. Piflik says:

    OpenGL has many problems, the least of which is lacking support for Occulus…that being said, DX is crap, too (for entirely different reasons…), so I can’t really unconditionally recommend switching to DX, either (the only real upside to OpenGL is platform independence…if you rather have this over Occulus is for you to decide).
    Knowing both shouldn’t hurt, I guess, so learning some DX to use Occulus is not the worst idea ever…

    Or you could hope that the ARB gets their shit together and OcculusVR chose to support OpenGL…I wouldn’t hold my breath for either…

    • lethal_guitar says:

      It’s quite weird to me how they seem to be neglecting OpenGL, considering how John Carmack always preferred it. I mean, in the post-software rendering days, Id Software engines were always GL-based (until Rage, which has a DirectX backend for the Xbox IIRC). And Carmack is still tweeting about OpenGL stuff from time to time.

      • Piflik says:

        The last time I heard Carmack swooning over OpenGL was in the 90’s…back then, OpenGL was actually good…

        (That being said, I don’t really follow him in any capacity…)

      • CJ Kerr says:

        Reading between the lines, Carmack is mostly tweeting about OpenGL ES, the mobile-y version. So presumably he’s been working on stuff for the Gear VR.

        I guess having Oculus-derived tech running on smartphones might get things cleaned up enough for Shamus…..eventually.

  8. silver Harloe says:

    Mr Shamus Young,

    You are required to appear in court on Someday Soon to answer civil charges. You are alleged to have included a 2013 game in your 2014 game wrap up. You are additionally alleged to have included a piece of hardware in your 2014 game wrap up. Finally, your free and entertaining content is alleged to have to caused my client stressful smiling. Therefore, we are seeking a payment of $Ridiculous from you. Moreover, your initial reaction to these allegations was “sue me,” therefore we are suing you.

    Sincerely,
    My Lawyers

  9. Steve C says:

    Shamus said: I really wish someone would take these mechanics (free running) and put them in a single-player game.

    I think they did. Warframe. It’s a 4person co-op free-to-play game. You can play it single player. The movement is very fluid and if you like Titanfall parkour, you’ll love Warframe parkour.

    • V8_Ninja says:

      Maybe it’s the difference in perspective, but the freerunning in Titanfall looks way smoother than the freerunning in Warframe. And last I checked, Warframe just happens to have freerunning mechanics in it while Titanfall is built primarily around those mechanics. To be fair though, I’ve yet to play Titanfall or Warframe, so my judgements should be taken with lots of salt.

    • Zekiel says:

      As encouraging as that is, when I (too) want a single player version of Titanfall, I don’t want a 4-player co-op FTP game. All my experience of trying to play games designed for co-op (like L4D and Monaco) single-player has been disappointing.

  10. Steve C says:

    With numbered lists like this, remember you can always slide an extra one in that you forgot between 3 and 4. Because there’s always room for pi.

  11. Galad says:

    Mkay, so, does anyone have a quick’n’dirty answer to the question of, why is Styx: Master of Shadows apparently so much better than the new Thief? I’ve only played the first, and I suck at stealth games, so I can’t really tell – is the (I assume) prettier environment/world and the ‘no bugs’ thing enough? Both protagonists are interesting in their own way.

    • Taellosse says:

      I haven’t played either one (though Styx is on my list of games to get when it’s sufficiently cheap, and I have time to play games again), but I’d say the crap story of Thief might be a contributing factor – Shamus and company bashed it pretty hard, as I recall, for being confused, sloppy, and incoherent.

      • Galad says:

        Apparently I have a short memory, I guess I’ll go look for Shamus’ posts about Thief. As for Styx, while I’m still early on in the game and progressing at a snail’s pace, and the story is still quite murky, it’s a pretty enough world, and I can tell that, should you be good at stealth games, you’d enjoy the gameplay as well. For me it’s a lot of DIAS for now, but I’d still recommend the game.

  12. Asimech says:

    To me the answer to the Oculus Rift and OpenGL question would be to refuse to do anything with it at least until they say something. But that’s easy for me to say.

    Although: In the comments on the page you linked someone said that if you set the Oculus as the primary display the visual problems should go away, if that helps you.

  13. Jokerman says:

    I was feeling this year was “meh” too. But the end of year breakdown content i have been watching seems to consist of a lot of games i have not played, starting to wonder if i was just “meh” as a consumer making bad decisions.

  14. I wonder if the Oculus Rift will have a Mantle API?
    Now that there is AMD graphics hardware in Xbox One, PS4, new iMac it kind of makes sense.

    I doubt Mantle will be the “new” OpenGL, Nvidia is a tad resistant to Mantle and Microsoft managed to squeeze better performance out of DirectX too.

  15. Lanthanide says:

    “Sometimes applications end up on that extra monitor, where it’s a pain in the ass to use them and you usually can’t see the title bar to bring them back over to you main display”

    1. Select window on the taskbar
    2. Press shift + windows-key + left/right on keyboard to bring it onto your primary screen
    3. Send me money via paypal

    If your primary monitor is on the left, and the secondary ‘monitor’ is on the right, you would use shift + windows-key + left to bring it onto your left monitor.

    This is literally the only thing I use the windows key for.

  16. This is off-topic but somewhat relevant as I blame Shamus for the following…

    Partly due to reading Shamus making music and a stray thought that “hmm maybe I should look through my drive for old works and do some cleaning and backup, ages since I’ve done that…”

    Result was these tracks on youtube, I dusted off the old tracks and used OpenMPT to try and rescue them into something listenable.

    Oh and FIY, all my music vids/tracks on youtube are now Creative Commons (there where standard youtube licese previously) so they should now be findable in youtubes audio track archive for use with other videos if anyone actually feel like doing that.

    These 7 tracks are very old tracker/chiptune/modish, 4 channel (max 1 instrument per channel at a time pretty much), and 8bit samples.
    These tracks are not on Jamendo yet for those curious (I’ll dig around to see if I can recover more of my old tracks first before that, I lost a lot of stuff due to “bitrot” and thus having damaged mod files sadly).

    I have some recordings of old analog tapes I made that have the lost songs, no idea if I’ll ever re-create them, and the quality is pretty bad and not really publishable IMO, but we’ll see.

    Always make multiple backups and don’t rely on anything that isn’t an open standard. Much of my old music was made using MED Soundstudio/OctaMED which use a proprietary format, OpenMPT manage to play most fine but several has issues with tempos or samples are “wrapped” or similar.

    MY future albums will either use open standards or plain audio (samples WAV or more likely FLAC to save some space).

    I have also begun to contemplate how my music (and a lot of the work stuff I have created and and creating) should be handle in the event of my demise, I’d hate to see any of this vanish into nothing at some point. Luckily there exist things like The Internet Archive and in Norway there is the National Library digital archives (where my 3 albums so far has been submitted) but I doubt many nations have a equivalent to this.

    What I’m trying to say is that there is a issue with preservation of data beyond ones lifespan. In the US copyright is now “Lifespan of creator+70” (or more accurately the corporations that own the rights), but I digress.
    The issue is that a work may not actually survive Lifespan of creator + 70 years.
    A HDD may only be able to preserve data for 10-30 years, SSDs a decade maybe, and this is under ideal conditions. If the storage is read and written to again and again the lifespan of the medium falls dramatically.

    The Internet Archive is the closest thing we have to a archive of all works of the world. It’s our modern day Great Library of Alexandria or Tower of Babel all in one.
    Some people may point to Wikipedia but that is only things that are “notable” which is to some extent discriminatory, The Internet Archive on the other hand does not discriminate and unlike wikipedia allows media content.

    What will happen to artists works on Jamendo, Youtube, Soundcloud, Spotify, iTunes and so on once the artist has passed away? Will it get removed, will they get flagged as Public Domain works? And what of the money, who gets that then? Relatives? What if there is none?

    Would be interesting to see a article (Shamus? Rutskarn?) or something (Chris?) ponder this.

    I guess this touches subjects like Content creation, consumption, copyright, public domain, preservation and long-thinking.

    • Galad says:

      “What will happen to artists works on Jamendo, Youtube, Soundcloud, Spotify, iTunes and so on once the artist has passed away? Will it get removed, will they get flagged as Public Domain works? And what of the money, who gets that then? Relatives? What if there is none?”

      I thought the current system is that the publisher keeps getting the moneys for a large amount of time? Or whoever’s bought the rights? Dunno really, someone enlighten us.

  17. Hey Shamus, looked at OSVR (Open Source VR) yet?
    Looks interesting and probably the closest competitor to Oculus Rift so far.

    Wonder if they’ll have a good OpenGL SDK or not…

  18. RTBones says:

    Random thoughts regarding Thief and another game…

    Hyped when it came out, Thief has essentially ‘disappeared’. I am sure people are still playing it, somewhere. When released, much was said about what this game did that wasnt true to the franchise. Those who played the originals tended to not like it as much. Those who were new to the series somewhat did. When details were released during development of what this game was going to be – the backlash was so bad that features devs had spent months developing now had to have devs spend months developing ways to turn off. The game was released, and then the game went away.

    Compare this to Mass Effect 3. Hyped when it came out, it has also essentially disappeared – though you can still find it for sale in more places than Thief (at least, in my not-so-scientific 10 minute comparative search). When released, much was said about what this game did to what you did in the games before it – as in, why did we bother because none of it mattered. Many who played the original two games HATED it, unless you were in the press which meant you almost universally loved it. Backlash was so bad that the ending had to be ‘explained’ by means of free DLC post-launch. Then the game went away, but not the apathy generated by it.

    • Zekiel says:

      I’m curious (genuinely, not in a passive-agressive “I think you’re stupid” way) by what you mean by “disappeared”. AFAIK Mass Effect 3 is still readily available to buy, and if you mention “disappointing endings” its still probably the #1 topic that people talk about. People aren’t posting articles about it anymore, but then it was a game from early 2012 so I wouldn’t expect them to be…

      • I’d agree that ME3 hasn’t “disappeared.” It’s probably still easily found due to being EA’s version of Star Wars. That is to say, people love the setting and characters, but later installments were increasingly awful and became a standard-bearer for “what not to do with a script.”

        When it came out, it was used as an attempt to lure players of ME1 and 2 over to Origin, since it wouldn’t be available on steam, so there’s still the lingering effects of that.

        Finally, there’s constant talk of a sequel/prequel/some game set in the ME universe. As far as I know, there’s no plans to keep Thief going.

      • RTBones says:

        Reading that back, I worded that poorly. I was going for a ‘disappeared from general discussion’, not store shelves/fronts. And as is obvious from Shamus’s blog – its only ‘disappeared’ until its brought up in conversation. Then the passions ignite and the freight train starts running away. So it hasnt disappeared, more like ‘gone into stealth mode’.

        See, this is what I get for trying to do three things at once. A thought that seemed coherent and logical and obvious at the time…isnt what I thought it was.

    • Taellosse says:

      I think the last thing you can claim of ME3 is that it generated “apathy” – the sheer volume of passionate opinions, both in complaint and staunch defense – of that game has been staggering. It’s worth noting that references to it continue to crop up regularly on Shamus’ blog, Spoiler Warning, The Diecast, and these comment threads (and each time it does, any other discussion is utterly derailed as everyone trots out their pet opinions and opines on them at length), nearly 3 years after the game came out. Nor is this site an aberration – basically any time ME3 comes up in internet comment threads to this day, it generates massive discussions and arguments. This is not apathy by any definition.

      • RTBones says:

        Your point is taken. As I mention in a post I replied to above, I worded that poorly (multitasking is a b!tch when the bit falls off the thought stack amidst the flotsam and jetsam of the brain). Passion is a much better fit than apathy (passion both for and against).

        When I wrote it, it SEEMED like a well-thought-out post….

    • MichaelGC says:

      I am sure people are still playing it, somewhere.

      They are indeed! – but not many of them. I thought I’d check, just for ha-has, and this is the average number of Steam players at any one time over the last 30 days:

      713 Thi4f

      Don’t have Steam stats for ME3, of course, but to put that into perspective:

      646 Mass Effect (2008)
      683 Mass Effect 2 (2010)

      And just to pile on the unflattering comparisons:

      1,220 Dishonored (2012)
      2,199 Tom Braider (2013)
      36,918 Skyrim (2013)

      (Although obviously that last one is a bit of a freak.)

  19. Jacklyn says:

    I think the last of us should rank higher, its one of the best games of 2014 if not the best.

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