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
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
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:
- 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.
- 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.
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
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.
 I have no idea.
 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.
id Software Coding Style
When the source code for Doom 3 was released, we got a look at some of the style conventions used by the developers. Here I analyze this style and explain what it all means.
Even allegedly smart people can make life-changing blunders that seem very, very obvious in retrospect.
Quakecon Keynote 2013 Annotated
An interesting but technically dense talk about gaming technology. I translate it for the non-coders.
A Lack of Vision and Leadership
People fault EA for being greedy, but their real sin is just how terrible they are at it.
Steam Summer Blues
This mess of dross, confusion, and terrible UI design is the storefront the big publishers couldn't beat? Amazing.