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Kev’s Slog #6, posted by Kevin Lew

First topic is: The Steam Greenlight

50 more games were Greenlit today. Now games are being Greenlit so fast that it barely matters anymore, and I wonder why the system is still there other than to get early fan feedback. I don’t recognize a majority of the games as there’s just too many indies for me to review. But some of them are mildly important, and I suggest that you look at these:
* Aperture Tag: The Paint Gun Testing Initiative – most Portal mods are being approved almost instantly
* – the alternative to Bugbear Entertainment’s Next Car Game
* Galactic Princess – in danger of not making its Kickstarter, but a clever idea
* GhostControl Inc. – blatantly obvious homage to Ghostbusters, but it could be better than any Ghostbusters game
* Ultionus: A Tale of Petty Revenge – I can’t believe this game got in, but it makes me smile

I need to talk about Ultionus for a second. If you look at it, it is extremely sexist. The heroine wears a “space bikini” which barely fits her. The game is essentially a remake/reboot of Phantis, a game from 1987 that iconifies “casual sexism”. The game is intentionally trying to get people mad at how inappropriate it is, and it’s also amusing to see teenage males defend the art style. In effect, it’s one of the most trolling games out there, and now it’ll be on Steam.

Also, I’m keeping my eye out for the game Cinders, which also got Greenlit. I really love the beautiful art if nothing else.


Second topic is: The Closing of Irrational Games

Irrational Games is the creator of Bioshock Infinite. You know, the game that won all kinds of industry awards and started up all kinds of discussions about it, and it is still talked about today. Yesterday, Ken Levine announced that he was shutting down the company, and all employees except for 15 people would be laid off. The remaining 15 would be returning to Take-Two Interactive to work directly with the company.

If you’ve got some journalism skills like me, then you know that there’s always more to this story that isn’t printed or stated. How does a game that won so many awards, won the respect of female gamers (a very rare occurrence in gaming), and sold 4 million copies in one year shut down?

Today, a groundbreaking article was written by Leigh Alexander about it. She said that she knew that Irrational Games would likely shut down back in 2013, but her sources spoke to her on the condition that she wouldn’t print it. With the events becoming true, she reveals all kinds of problems within the company.

She pointed out one of the things that journalists almost never point out: That the game preview trailers for Bioshock Infinite were totally different from the final game, and even Ken Levine’s talk about how Elizabeth would be developed never came true. In effect, Ken Levine is one of those brilliant game developers like Tim Schafer. But also like Schafer, both men dream so big that they run into problems trying to reign it in. When things go out of control, massive amounts of development money are put into a game that has impossible goals and long development cycles.

I don’t own Bioshock Infinite yet, so I can’t inject my opinion yet. But most of the more unbiased reviewers–video game critics and other developers–have stated that it doesn’t quite live up to the hype. I don’t mean the stunning visuals or Elizabeth’s character development, arguably the two best things in the game. But the overall story wasn’t very good or it was inconsistent. That and the game eventually broke down to a simple “shoot and loot” game rather than improve the FPS game model. This points truth that the game was supposed to be something more, but it couldn’t because they ran out of time, development money, or the game became too cluttered.

Rumor has it that the game spent about five years and $200 million to create. When you look at it that way, 4 million copies sold seems pretty lousy. Take-Two Interactive (who owns 2K Games) is stuck with the bill and they would likely want a response. The speculation is that they would insist that the studio be closed and all staff laid off.  Just a handful of the best talent (Ken included) would return to the parent company to have better control over his ideas and spending.

Some game critics say that one day all AAA developers are going to disappear, because outrageous spending to try to make the next Minecraft game only spells their own doom. I’m hoping that the publishers are learning something as this has happened many times. (Ubisoft’s Tomb Raider reboot is another perfect example.)

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