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Saxxy 2013 Winners

Games and Gaming, Gaming Culture, News

The winners of the Source Filmmaker competition — aka The Saxxy Awards — have been announced. Enjoy the fine Valveriffic goodtimes, below. All the nominees are here, and you can watch Valve’s honorable mentions here.

Best Short: The Mann Co. Symphony

Best Action: Chinatown Getaway

Best Comedy: Disruption

Best Drama: Till Death Do Us Part Two

Overall Winner: Lil’ Pyro Guardian

News

Jason Holtman, who spearheaded Valve’s Steam business for eight years before leaving the company in February, has a new job at Microsoft, where’s he’s apparently going teach Microsoft not to hate and fear PC gaming. When asked, he is reported to have said “It was down to a tough call between going to EA or Microsoft. When you have to choose between evil or stupid, it’s never easy.”

Witnesses claim he then began to giggle and mumble, before asking “Have you ever been driving down the road and had an almost irresistible urge to swerve into oncoming traffic?” and terminating the interview.

Games for Windows Dead

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Levels Of Detail Podcast: Gently Caress Everything Edition (06.22.11)

Games and Gaming, News

Well, today’s podcast would have come online earlier today, but due to a bewildering array of extenuating circumstances, it’s going up late. My frustrating day certainly matches the tone of the news we have for this week, what with EA deciding to retake their Asshole Crown and the gamer bitchfest about every decision made by any game company reaching deafening levels of volume. There was some good news as well, Valve is taking one of their games free-to-play, Al Gore backs gaming as a legit medium, and Microsoft released the Kinect SDK beta. So, please, Share and Enjoy; I’m going to get drunk.

LOD Podcast Episode 31 (06/22/11)

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Levels Of Detail Podcast: Something and Brimstone Edition (05.25.11)

Games and Gaming, News

We return, yet again, from the brink of work! This week, we bring you the not-so-triumphant return of Hellgate: London, Duke Nukem Forever and Playstation Network, news on the forthcoming lack of news at E3 2011, Modern Warfare 3‘s story will be even dumber than you think, a bit of positive news on Minecraft, asshole game developers, and the somewhat embarrassing quality gap between mainstream Hollywood and mainstream gaming. Please, share and enjoy.

LOD Podcast Episode 28 (05/25/11)

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Building Game Communities

Features, Games and Gaming, Retrospectives

It seems like game developers and publishers tend to take a few different strategies with how they release and support their games. This can be for any number of reasons, like meeting a release date, reaching specific sales numbers, and experimenting with sales models. Let’s take a look at what works and what doesn’t.

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Levels Of Detail Podcast: Now With More Nerdrage Edition (05.12.11)

Games and Gaming

We do strive to maintain a degree of optimism and positivity in our message and tone here at the Levels Of Detail Podcast, but Goddamn, it gets hard sometimes. We enter the fourth week of the Playstation Network shutdown and discuss what that means for Sony and their partners with PSN (Hint: bad things), try to deduce what Nintendo means with their Vitality Sensor delay news and why they’re still talking about it, smack some collective heads together about Mass Effect 3 and Valve, Notch floats the idea of a big Minecraft convention for the launch date, we hope that Harmonix being untethered from Viacom means more awesome Rock Band DLC in our future, muse a bit about World of Warcraft and Spy Party, and advocate for gamification of education. Please, share and enjoy, and talk back at us at LODpodcast@LevelsOfDetail.com.

LOD Podcast Episode 27 (05/12/11)
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Levels Of Detail Podcast: This Could Be Bad Edition (04.29.11)

Games and Gaming, News, Retrospectives

So, there was a thing! PSN got hacked and now we’ve all been sold wholesale to Estonian hackers to work in their gold farms or whatever. Also, Nintendo confirmed that the Wii 2 is actually a thing, which conveniently distracted everyone from the massive hit their year-over-year earnings took. We take a solid half-hour to kick both Sony and Nintendo while they’re down, but we also have other news! In the afterglow of the Portal 2 release, Valve gives us some more information about their upcoming projects, we have more Minecraft news, LA Noire lets us know where its true allegiances lie, and an ancient conspiracy declares war on gaming. Please, listen, share and enjoy, and email us at LODpodcast@LevelsOfDetail.com.

LOD Podcast Episode 26 (04/29/11)

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Levels Of Detail Podcast: Digging Ever Deeper Edition

Games and Gaming, News, Retrospectives

Hello! We have another show for you today, as is our wont. As the gaming industry has seen fit to try to starve poor us out of a podcast (starve, I say!), we have had to search long, hard and deep for today’s news. But we have triumphed! The fruits of our labor include Minecraft finally getting a strange new feature called a “release date”, the Navy has a new game for all you sub sim fans out there, we ruminate on an anniversary most ignominious, the Sesame Street game seems to be angling to resurrect your childhood and make you cry in a most awesome way, and then, starved for content, we talk about cars and semi-random gaming news for the remaining 10 minutes. Interesting! Illuminating! Entertaining, even (we hope)! All this and more in this week’s episode of the Levels Of Detail Podcast. Please, share and enjoy, and talk back at us at LODpodcast@LevelsOfDetail.com.

LOD Podcast Episode 24 (04/10/11)
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Levels Of Detail Podcast: Feels Like the First Time Edition (03.23.11)

Games and Gaming, News, Retrospectives

Hey, remember us? After finally escaping from the bottoms of our respective schedules, Ben and I have returned with a brand new episode of the Levels Of Detail Podcast! We talk at length about Valve, Portal 2 and the awesome things that happen inside that Pacific Northwest house of wonders, maybe rag on NPD, Ubisoft and game reviewers a fair bit, but really, you can think of this episode as making up for lost time. More rants! More bashing! More love! More gushing! More beer nerdery! More time than we’re supposed to take! All of that and more awaits you in the second triumphant return of the Levels Of Detail Podcast! Please, share and enjoy, and talk back at us at LODpodcast@LevelsOfDetail.com.

LOD Podcast Episode 22 (03/23/11)

Portal Logo
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My Mom Plays Portal

Features, Games and Gaming

My 53-year-old mother was recently in town visiting me, and while she was here, I decided to have her play lots and lots of video games. Even though she’s not really a gamer, she played Pong and Ms. Pac Man from time to time when she was younger, and when I was growing up, she would play the occasional game of Tetris on my NES. Currently, she enjoys playing Peggle, Wii Fit, and Katamari Damacy (or as she calls it: “The rolly-up game,”) but that’s pretty much the extent of her gaming experience. Because I am not above exploiting my own family for entertainment purposes, I decided to take notes while she played and write about the experience.

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Levels Of Detail Podcast: Football Hangover Edition (02.06.11)

Games and Gaming, News

Yes, the date at the top is a day late. There were some planned new ideas that did not pan out in time, but soon! Soon, new shiny will be among us. I blame football, as I do for nearly everything, independent of season. We now have a place for all fifteen of you who listen to the show to hurl abuse at us in private! Or maybe constructive criticism or possibly compliments, if that’s your style. Please, email us at LODpodcast@LevelsOfDetail.com, and tell us how we’re doing and mock us for our tardiness. It’s the only way we’ll learn.

In today’s delayed podcast, we talk about the utter dearth of information imparted by the new Battlefield 3 teaser, Valve is making enough money to buy and sell all of us, we think back on the monster success of the PS2, Microsoft caves in to our demands, game movie news that doesn’t involve Uncharted, I’m alternatively mean and complimentary to Canada, then geek out about an upcoming Android game, and as we found ourselves with some spare time, we dive deep into our navels and talk about beer for ten minutes. Why we drink it, and why it’s something we can all be proud of as Americans. Oh, and Canadians. We don’t mention it, but Unibroue makes some badass beer too. Please, enjoy.

LOD Podcast Episode 13 (02/06/11)

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Steam Sales

Features, Games and Gaming

No one would call me an unreasonable person. Few people would look at me and say, “That Niteowl fellow, he’s one to go skinny dipping in a kiddie pool full Crisco, a grievously injured king cobra, and seven squirrels in the latter stages of rabies”. I have a mortgage, a real job,  and what is laughably considered a pension.

But when the Steam Holiday Sale comes around, well, I wouldn’t say all reason goes out the proverbial window, but perhaps saying “Reason gets put in in a small concrete cell, bound, along with some guy with an unidentifiable Soviet Bloc accent, a car battery, and absolutely no knowledge of the Geneva Convention” is not stretching the truth too far.

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Valve Apologises for Wrongful Modern Warfare 2 Bans

Games and Gaming

Valve apologise for wrongfully banning innocent players of Modern Warfare 2 over the last week, which has been a major uproar in the forums. This is also the first time valve have admitted a problem with the valve anti-cheat system and the first time they have reversed account flags that stop people who have been accused of cheating from playing online.

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The aesthetics of blowing stuff up from a first-person vs. top-down perspective

Games and Gaming

The recent release of Valve’s free Alien Swarm got me inspired to write about the difference in aesthetics and gameplay between first-person and top-down shooters.  (One could say this is a think-piece about mid-level camera angles and their limitations).  Part of this was prompted by a sense that top-down games are making something of a mini-comeback.  Most people associate top-down games with old style arcade games like the early Gauntlet games or with the classic PC game Diablo.  However, several indie games have taken up the top-down perspective (some are outright Diablo clones like Torchlight) and even the consoles are getting into the act with the announcement that The Grinder was going to be released as a top-down game, partially because of competition and over-saturation in the first-person shooter genre.

When thinking about top-down games I was struck by how many of them are hack-and-slash grinders in the mold of Diablo and how few of them are more adventure- or story-based like the original Legend of Zelda.  I began to wonder if this was historical accident, possibly the long-shadow of Diablo, or something intrinsic in the gameplay and quickly realized it was probably instrinsic.

Let’s compare the gameplay between top-down and first-person (and its closely related sibling, the over-the-shoulder third person perspective).  In first-person your perspective cropped from the side but potentially unlimited in distance.  That is, you can focus on a target at any distance but cannot see what is directly behind you.  In top-down you have a view unrestricted by the direction in which your character is facing but which is usually limited in range.  These views facilitate certain types of gameplay.  It is much easier to play a sniper from a first-person perspective because of the potentially unlimited sight-lines but it can be very challenging to deal with hordes of enemies that come from every direction.  This is of course flipped in a third-person game.

Further, space is perceived differently from each camera angle.  The designer of a top-down shooter can pack dramatically different environments together in a relatively small space because the player can only see a small portion of each zone.  Were the same map seen from a first person-perspective the transitions might be jarring because of the long-gaze.

It is for this reason that I think it is no accident that certain game-styles are heavily associated with each camera-perspective.  The top-down camera makes possible games with lots of enemies in close quarters.  Top-down gameplay can handle melee just as well as ranged-weapons while weapons of really long-range are impossible to simulate and are not even used.  Levels can be smaller in size because of the limit of the gaze and this facilitates and even invites designers to use bite-sized levels.

In contrast first-person games invite more tactical situations, more ranged weapons, and can permit the use of cautious gameplay from a distance.  Environments tend to be larger (or at least appear to be) or be indoors and enclosed because players don’t want to see artificial limits to their gaze. It is no surprise that the best games in the first-person genre hold true to these rules from first-person shooters like Half-Life 2 and Modern Warfare to RPGs like Elder Scrolls, Mass Effect, or GTA.

I am sure others have tread this ground before, probably better than I.  Certainly there are other significant differences between the camera angles such as the aesthetics of whether or not your avatar is visible, but I will leave that for others to consider.