Screenshot: Half-Life 2: Episode 1/Valve

Keyboard Geniuses is our weekly glance at a few intriguing, witty, or otherwise notable posts from the Gameological discussion threads. Comments have been excerpted and edited here for grammar, length, and/or clarity. You can follow the links to see the full threads.

Hey, It’s Something

Marc Laidlaw, a former Valve employee and the writer behind the Half-Life series, shocked the internet overnight when he posted what appears to be a cheekily veiled plot summary of Half-Life 2: Episode 3 (or at least a version of the game as he once envisioned it). Down in the comments, Captain Internet voiced some displeasure with Laidlaw’s potential story:

The one thing that disappoints me about this is that it doesn’t convincingly end the story. Once again we have Gordon just sitting around and waiting, and since the time between Half-Life releases seems to be increasing exponentially, there would be no chance of it even possibly finishing until 2059.

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Mr Smith1466 was more impressed and had some thoughts about why this version never made it to shelves:

From reading this, part of me suspects that this might have been way too ambitious technologically. I mean, this would have been...what 2008? And Episode 3 would have gone for a handful of hours at best? Crazy time distillation sequences and brand new snow settings and an incredibly intricate Borealis ship would probably have been seen as way too taxing, both in terms of man power and money.

But the tragic thing is, this story really would have wrapped up most of the loose ends. Gordon sacrifices his life to stop the Combine once and for all. There’s the cruel twist that the G-Man finally ditches Gordon, and you leave the door wide open for future adventures starring Alyx.

But at least this blog entry is something. It’s nowhere near enough. But it is something. It’s probably as close to closure as we’ll ever really have. That’s enough for the time being.

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A TeachableMoment

Screenshot: Madden NFL 18

This week marked the beginning of William Hughes’ mini-series, Descent Into Maddeness, where he’ll be running Madden 18 through its paces in an attempt to better understand it as a video game. He was kind of appalled to see the game doesn’t have much in the way of tutorials, despite the rules and iconography of football being tremendously confusing for someone who doesn’t fully understand them. Venerable Monk reports that it was tough to get into, even for someone who does watch football:

Hughes is absolutely right about the closed-off nature of the game, and this is coming from someone who was watching football quite regularly at the time. The controls are so context-sensitive and vast that I decided to keep my laptop open with tabs for each position, just so I could keep track of what I was supposed to be doing. And even that wasn’t quite good enough for Football Moves that aren’t commonly referred to when watching the game. As is mentioned in the article, the only real feedback you get is whatever prerecorded criticism the announcers can spout (which is also generally reserved for the success or failure of a pass).

This is all to say that the game expects you to recognize what you did wrong, which is likely an extension of the expectation that you already know howto play the game. Though, perhaps that’s just a function of the complexity of the interactions they’re attempting to simulate. The game likely does not have the interpretive power to determine whether you called the wrong play, called the right play but executed it poorly, or notice any other smaller mistakes. Maybe the best they can do is detect whether you threw a pass into heavy coverage or chose to punt on 2nd and 2. When it comes to other games teaching you about your mistakes, there’s usually some tell that a specific move is coming, whether it’s a wind-up, a flash, or some other indication. I suppose if the folks at EA implemented such “gamey”aspects to their football simulator, it would start looking a lot less like a simulator, and a lot more like an action game.

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Clever Display Name continued that thought:

This is a really good explanation of why Madden can be really frustrating. I enjoy Madden because I’m a football fan, but I suck at it because I’m not really great at knowing when to do what with my defense and often my offense and I’ve never really felt that I had that great of feel for the controls. It’s frustrating when I play someone good online, and I get slaughtered because no matter what play I choose on offense, I have only two seconds to before I get sacked and usually wind up throwing picks. And then while on defense, no matter what play I choose I can never seem to get to the other QB in time or be in position to defend passes well. And like you mentioned, it’s hard to tell if it’s because I’m utter trash at picking plays or if I just suck at button timing/player selection or most likely both.

BroJackson offered a helpful reading of those issues, which simultaneously kind of proves why they’re issues to begin with:

The tells are there, but they’re usually subtle and deal with positioning. For example, a 1 deep safety is a tell for cover 3,which tells you to run certain receiver route combinations—same for covers 0, 2, 4, etc. Trucking or stiff arms are based on timing, but also (supposedly) the player’s attributes. The interesting thing is the developers know it’s difficult for average players, so they overpower easier plays—streaks, PA power. The downside is this allows players of all skill levels to exploit two to four overpowered plays all game, and it takes numerous pre-snap adjustments or absurd countermeasures to stop them.

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WeGot Jokes

Screenshot: The Legend Of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD/Nintendo

And in one of the weirder video game news stories of the week, I reported on the House GOP invoking The Legend Of Zelda in a blog post about tax reform. Titled “What Do The Legend of Zelda and the American Tax Code Have In Common?” it ultimately delivered on that promise by pointing out that Zelda was released the same year our country’s tax code went through its last major reform—and that’s it. Naturally, proving that not even a move to Kinja can crush your witty spirits, commenters had a field day drawing more impressive parallels between those two completely unrelated concepts. The comment thread is full of slam dunks and worth reading, bu there’s The Daredevil Kristopher Felix with one of my favorites:

“Taxesare like some elf breaking into your house, busting all your pottery,and stealing all your rupees.”

I expect to get paid for this metaphor, GOP creeps.

Bender Bukowski had another banger:

Tax breaks are like cave entrances late in the game: The only people who know about them are the ones that got issued a strategy guide.

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One More Thing

I want to take a second to apologize about not being able to integrate your awesome comments from our BioShock anniversary Roundtable. That was a vast thread with really great conversations, and I’m sorry it hasn’t been imported onto the new site in time for inclusion here today. It’s a bummer, and one that I really did not see coming.

Also, I want to thank you for weathering the storm and making this such an awesome place to continue writing about games. I was stunned by the turn out in this week’s What Are You Playing This Weekend? thread, and I’m absolutely loving getting to see you all integrate images into your weekly gaming diaries.

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And with that, I’ll bid you farewell for this week, Gameologinistas. Thank you for reading and commenting. We’ll see you again next week!