Pet Companions & How They Affect Gameplay

Valiant Hearts: The Great War

Recently, I had to put my cat, Ruka, down. She was a beautiful black cat and had been with me since I picked her up from the shelter seven years ago. It was a terrible, heartbreaking experience to watch her go and I alternate between missing her so badly that it hurts and forgetting she won’t be there waiting for me when I get home.

Ruka’s passing got me thinking more about animals in video games and the way that we interact with them. It’s a bit strange how we’ll treat animals when they’re in video games. Humans are easy to kill, but animals being killed is always a big deal. I remember when I was playing Valiant Hearts: The Great War I kept thinking that if they killed Walt, the helpful dog companion, I would be 100% done with the game. I would have been less upset if they had killed any of the human characters. Valiant Hearts is set in a war, after all, and humans die in war, but I just kept thinking that Walt had to survive.

So why do we get so attached to our pets whether they’re virtual representations or not? Aside from the fact that they’re cute and make us happy, pets often play an important role in our lives. It isn’t an exaggeration when people claim that pets are a part of our families. They are with us in times of trouble; they are steadfast and stay with us even as the humans in our lives come and go. If you have a cat or a dog and then go through a bad breakup, your pet will generally still be there with you. Your pets don’t judge you, or if they do, they’re unable to voice it, and it just seems like pets are the one place in your life that you can get that pure, abiding love.

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Episodic Storytime: Reviewing ‘Dreamfall Chapters’ Book Two

Dreamfall Chapters Book Two

[Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3]

In my review of Dreamfall Chapters Book One, I praised the fact that the developers had removed the stealth mechanics from Dreamfall: The Longest Journey. Come Book 2: Rebels, the first mission you’re sent on involves stealth! Kind of. Red Thread Games are acutely aware of how stealth in the preceding game was received, and therefore the stealth aspect barely impacts gameplay at all. You’ll occasionally be reminded that you had a glamour cast on you when you pass a guard and they cry, “If you’re a ghost leave me be!” or words to that effect. There are story reasons to justify the use of stealth, and there’s only one sequence where you actually have to keep out of view of a guard. The way the glamour worked seemed rather inconsistent, but the developers really seemed to prioritize player experience over anything else, which is lovely of them.

And yet, there’s still no automap. I keep pressing the ‘m’ button unthinkingly in the vain hope that one would appear. You must consult maps that appear as physical objects in the game in order to find your way around. Considering that this episode involved more navigation, this became a trifle irritating. The first segment with Kian was tolerable because the objectives were nice and localized. You would select a place, go to a map, and head in the direction of the place you were trying to get to, then interact with everything possible in order to progress. In the segment with Zoë that immediately followed, there’s a chance I didn’t tackle the problems I faced in the most systematic manner, because the puzzle involved the whole map and I ran around like a headless chicken for about an hour.

Once again, I am unsure of my feelings towards the map system. On one hand, it was incredibly annoying, and on the other, I do find myself taking in more of my surroundings than I would be otherwise. There are quite a few beautiful places to explore. By the middle of the third episode, I’m sure I’ll know the Marcuria and Propast maps like the back of my hand. At which point they’ll probably introduce other maps, won’t they? Overall, the second book felt a lot more like a typical adventure game than the first book did. Do you like combining items in your inventory like in Grim Fandango or Broken Age? Then you should find the gameplay in this fine.

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Sunday Loot: Top Tweets From This Week

This week, we dug into some analysis by hashing out the mental illness trope in horror games and women’s agency in the BioShock series. With St. Paddy’s came interpreting Irish mythology through the lens of Dragon Age. In terms of the new wave of episodic games, what is the crucial key to success? We were also lucky enough to have the creator of the bi Cassandra mod speak on her experiences about being harassed, which only makes online safety all the more important for the rest of us to protect ourselves.

Now we’re rounding up all the tweets paving the way for women in games. In 140-word quips, these gamers are slicing through archaic misconceptions in the industry, and we’re definitely big fans. Not following us on Twitter? You should probably fix that.

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Online Safety: The Sinking Ship of Syncing Accounts

Remember Me

We see it all the time—a public opinion is given and it’s one that is contrary to the majority. It leads to a fight, perhaps even dogpiling. After days of abuse and harassment, the anvil is dropped: a full name, perhaps with an address (physical or email), and a phone number. The attacks move from the internet to their front door. After personal information has been given out, one of the first questions a doxxing victim might ask is, “But how?”

While once praised, ease of use features (such as syncing new websites to your social media accounts) may now pose security risks, making users more vulnerable to threats like doxxing. The act of obtaining this information is commonly referred to as “hacking,” though it honestly may not be that complicated. In many cases, once a would-be doxxer has gained access to one of your accounts, they find doors open to everything they might need to wreak havoc on their victim’s personal life. In this series, we’ll be discussing common mistakes that we all make and ways we can work around them to keep our web experience as safe as possible.

This week we’ll be focusing on syncing accounts. We see it all the time: sign up for a new service and it gives you the option to create an account or use your Facebook/Twitter logins instead. As a user, we see value in simply pressing the sync button. It’s one less password and username to remember. After all, we are a fast-paced society that doesn’t have any time for that. The temptation only grows with mobile usage, where creating a new account leads to far too many tiny keystrokes. Instead of registering for the new site/service, we simply allow the two websites to work together. On any return visits to the third party website, you need only click the “Log in with Facebook/Twitter” button to find yourself instantly where you need to be. The process seems so streamlined and simple. It is meant to add value and convenience to the web browsing experience, while possibly allowing the third party site to gain information it can use to cater to you specifically.

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The Waiting Game: What’s the Best Model for Episodic Releases?

The Walking Dead 2

Whether it’s once a month, once a week, or whenever the developers can squeeze in time to finish the product, episodic games require one thing from all their customers: patience. Despite the stereotypical gamer’s inability to accept over-exhausted waiting time for game releases, companies like Telltale have thrived on episodic games as well as paved the way for other companies to test out a similar approach. To those fans of the episodic formula that buy each episode as it releases rather than waiting for the entire game to release, these games offer the same sweet payoff one gets from tuning into their favorite show on a weekly basis. The wait creates excitement for what’s coming as well as buzz among fans as to what could be in store from them.

But when does the wait become too much? How delicate is the formula and is it possible to do it wrong? What is the best way to get all the benefits episodic games have to offer without losing the consumer’s attention? For a while, Telltale answered many of these questions. Its breakout hit, The Walking Dead, was released with just enough space in-between each episode to build excitement and allow fans to obsess over their choices and ponder the fate of their favorite characters. With The Walking Dead, Telltale was able to capitalize on all the benefits of episodic gaming while maintaining fan satisfaction with timely releases. But as fans of Tales from the Borderlands will tell you, Telltale has seemingly lost its sense of time when it comes to releasing its games. With new projects and partnerships a seemingly weekly announcement for the company, many fans have begun to worry for the quality and timeliness of the Telltale games.

After four months of hiatus, Tales from the Borderlands episode 2 was just announced for release on March 17th. Many, myself included, have deemed this lapse between episodes unacceptable and harmful for what I believed was an incredible start to a new and promising series. A four-month break between episodes not only depletes the benefits of the episodic formula, but also justifiably creates newfound worry for the quality and even future of Telltale’s brightest projects.

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