My relationship with multiplayer games is complicated. It started with Doom 2 LAN parties and moved on to Warcraft 2 and Starcraft, Civilization, and so on. Multiplayer, back then, was always PvP. You’d play games with and against your friends. Things like co-op weren’t really part of the picture. Sure, there was ‘comp-stomping’ (you and your friends vs. the, usually very poor, AI) and the like, but let’s face it: there was no challenge there, and for me the whole point of multiplayer gaming was to find a challenge that the AI couldn’t give you without cheating rampantly and obviously.
EVE Online was released in 2003, at the height of the ‘Everquest Addiction’ fervor. I didn’t discover it until a friend introduced me to the game in 2005, and I immediately fell in love. EVE Online’s appeal has to do with the ways in which it capitalizes on the multiplayer aspect to deliver a dedicated PvP experience. The cooperative PvE is there, and lately it’s become quite good, but what makes EVE shine is the way it allows players a spectacular degree of freedom to play in the game how they please. The results are often discouraging to those who imagine humanity to be fundamentally, morally good, but by permitting the skullduggery, CCP gives great meaning to the decision to not be an asshole. The result is a world with much higher stakes than worlds like WoW offer. Only the smallest fraction of games offer this kind of experience.
Continue reading EVE Online: My (Nearly) Perfect Drug
I spent a week fighting off what I understand to be the flu, and then another couple of days tangling with a separate, stomach virus of some kind. It’s a miserable way to spend a couple of weeks, and my writing here suffered (as did my dissertation and professional obligations), but my farm in Stardew Valley thrives from all the attention I’ve been giving it. (I’ve also been playing Factorio and Undertale, more on those soon.)
In playing the game a lot more, I’ve begun to see more of the blemishes and cracks that come with a single-dev title. Given my prior, glowing adoration of it, I feel it’s only fair to air out some of the hitches in the experience. Nothing I’m going to say here should detract from the understanding that Stardew Valley is a gloriously delightful title, mind you, but there’s lessons to be learned here as well.
Continue reading Stardew Valley: Good As Chicken Noodle Soup
A month ago if you’d said to me, “Will, what you need is a jRPG/Dating Sim/Farming game,” I would’ve asked you how much you’ve had to drink. Then a friend sent me the game as a gift on Steam. The next half a week is little more than a frenzied blur of planting crops, fishing my head off, and desperately trying to remember the upcoming birthdays of virtual friends – all while keeping track of upgrade schedules and the ever-growing list of morning chores my farm was accruing.
Stardew Valley’s genius isn’t merely the way it delivers a broad array of gameplay that offers to scratch any number of itches one might have. Rather, Eric Barone’s ability to pack so many different threads into a game – and make them all behave well together – truly shines by cramming over two dozen charming, human stories into the same box. Continue reading Stardew Valley: Stories With A Human Touch