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www.pixelhunt.com.au www.twitter.com/pixelhunt<br />

Gaming<br />

Companions<br />

The digital shoulders<br />

we lean on<br />

Australia’s best gaming -zine<br />


looking forward to<br />

Marvel vs<br />

Capcom 3<br />

Capcom have done<br />

a great job building<br />

hype for this one with<br />

their gradual character<br />

reveals. I’m still holding<br />

out hope for Dead<br />

Rising’s Frank West, but<br />

either way this is going<br />

to consume the lives<br />

of fighting game fans<br />

come February.<br />

Developer Capcom<br />

Publisher Capcom<br />

Platform PS3 / 360 / PC<br />

Genre Fighter<br />

Release February 17<br />


Letter from the editor<br />

Don’t Hold Your Breath<br />

My New Year’s Resolution To stop caring about getting an R18 for<br />

games in Australia. The SCAG meeting on 10 December 2010 felt like<br />

a <strong>now</strong>-or-never moment. Brendan O’Connor had stated that the Labor<br />

party were officially in support of the rating, Galaxy polls showed a vast<br />

majority of people in support of the rating. Even mainstream media<br />

outlets were being generally supportive. Everyone waited, everyone held<br />

their breath. But we were let down. No agreement was reached, except<br />

to consider guidelines of what the effect of an R18 rating might be on<br />

the MA and RC categories. In other words, more consultation and more<br />

delay. The next SCAG meeting will be in March. I expect that meeting<br />

to yield only further consultation, further delay, further inaction. I expect<br />

the same to occur again at the next meeting too. I hope I’m wrong, but<br />

won’t be in the least surprised if I’m right. As contributor Ken Lee predicted<br />

in <strong>Pixel</strong>Cast 29, don’t expect an R18 rating in 2011.<br />

And so I’ve decided to simply stop caring. My position will always<br />

be in absolute support of the rating, but the emotional investment<br />

and passion I once had in following the debate has dissipated.<br />

Others have responded with more optimism than I, saying that the<br />

December 10 meeting was a small but positive step. That we’ll get<br />

the rating eventually, it’s just taking a while. I have no doubt they’re<br />

right. But I feel sorry for those who have worked and campaigned<br />

so hard to promote and raise awareness of the issue, only to have<br />

it continually held up. I’ve come to accept that as much as we<br />

need this rating, gamers aren’t overly affected. It’s rare for a game<br />

to be refused classification, and even rarer for it to be a game<br />

anyone cares about. And when it does occur, importing is an easy<br />

option, as is making friends with a Kiwi.<br />

In the face of so much delay and inaction it’s hard to stay enthusiastic<br />

on the subject. The amount of articles I’ve read on the<br />

subject goes beyond saturation, and I’m sorry to contribute to that<br />

further with this editorial, but I promise it will be my last word on<br />

the matter. Until we actually get the rating that is. I’m thinking 2013<br />

looks pretty good. If we’re lucky.<br />

Michael Pincott | E-zine Editor<br />

2 www.pixelhunt.com.au<br />


contents<br />

ISSUE 13 JANUARY 2011<br />

Publishing Editor Dylan Burns<br />

E-Zine Editor Michael Pincott<br />

Website Manager Matthew Williams<br />

E-Zine Production Aaron Sammut<br />

Advertising Contact the Editor if you<br />

would like to advertise with <strong>Pixel</strong> <strong>Hunt</strong><br />

dylanb@pixelhunt.com.au<br />

Contributors Dylan Burns, Anthony<br />

Capone, Tim Henderson, Annika Howells,<br />

Brendan Keogh, Jahanzeb Khan, Patrick<br />

Lang, Ken Lee, James O’Connor, Michael<br />

Pincott, James Pinnell, Alex Walker<br />

COVER: Daniel Purvis<br />

Subscribe: at www.pixelhunt.com.au<br />

Follow: www.twitter.com/<strong>Pixel</strong><strong>Hunt</strong><br />

DONATE: If you’d like to show your<br />

appreciation for each issue, please<br />

donate via PayPal at www.pixelhunt.com.<br />

au. All proceeds will go back into making<br />

<strong>Pixel</strong> <strong>Hunt</strong> the most up-to-date, honest<br />

and (we hope) fun gaming zine available.<br />



<strong>Pixel</strong> <strong>Hunt</strong> is actually a term that<br />

refers to video games that use<br />

a point and click interface like in so<br />

many adventure games. As such, <strong>Pixel</strong><br />

<strong>Hunt</strong> the magazine is also interactive.<br />

Try clicking on items, such as the icons<br />

to the bottom of the page to turn to<br />

the next or previous page, the arrow<br />

to the top of each page will take you<br />

back to the contents page where each<br />

individual story is linked. Give it a go.<br />


STEAM<br />

12<br />




22<br />



NIER<br />

6<br />

COVER<br />


GAMING<br />


8<br />



25<br />

WHAT WE’RE<br />




26<br />

creative<br />

AN ALAN<br />


28<br />

THE<br />

GAME<br />

DOCTOR<br />

16<br />

feature<br />

Wii Don’t Need No PS4<br />

18<br />


multiplayer<br />

levelling<br />

30<br />


WE GOT<br />

(TO MUCH)<br />

GAME<br />

32<br />

Australia’s best gaming<br />

-zine<br />

www.PIXELHUNT.com.AU<br />



NOT THE<br />

NEWS<br />

The latest non-happenings in video games<br />

are brought to you by our intrepid reporters<br />


Rockstar Games Admits<br />

Bad Working Conditions<br />

In recent months it’s<br />

been uncovered that<br />

working at Rockstar is<br />

no walk in the park. In a<br />

frankly amazing admission,<br />

Rockstar big knobs have<br />

recently released a press<br />

statement admitting that<br />

times in the office can be<br />

tough. “There were days,”<br />

says an annonymous source,<br />

commenting on the release,<br />

“when you’d come into work,<br />

and that fat bastard Pierre<br />

from animation would have<br />

taken the last chocolate-iced<br />

donut. I mean… how were we<br />

meant to function”<br />

The release itself doesn’t<br />

name names, apart from<br />

listing possible bad things<br />

that future whistle blowers<br />

might whinge about on<br />

blogs. Here are some of the<br />

stand-out ones:<br />

The CEO would often<br />

come and stare over<br />

workers’ shoulders.<br />

Sometimes without saying<br />

anything and sniggering<br />

softly… or maybe playing<br />

with the employee’s hair.<br />

Brisbane Man Wins Prize for Saying “lol”<br />

Out Loud for the One Billionth Time<br />

Unbe<strong>now</strong>nst to most of us, both Xbox<br />

Live and the PSN network have secretly<br />

been keeping track of vocal patterns<br />

during online multiplayer sessions. It<br />

seems that one of the keywords being<br />

looked for is ‘lol’, short for ‘I’m a complete<br />

dickhead’. Brisbane man Glen Jackson<br />

got the surprise of his life when a local<br />

TV news crew knocked on his door<br />

and informed him that he was the one<br />

billionth person to utter ‘lol’ online.<br />

“I say lol all the time,” gushed Glen<br />

in the televised interview, “even in place<br />

Double parking did<br />

happen, but only that one<br />

time on Tuesday and that<br />

was because the dump<br />

truck was in the way.<br />

Dress Like a Cowboy<br />

Fridays did get cancelled,<br />

but only because several<br />

programmers refused to<br />

shave or shower over the<br />

space of weeks, and the<br />

word ‘cocksucker’ started to<br />

get used too much in office<br />

banter. The male members<br />

of staff, on the other hand,<br />

behaved wonderfully.<br />

of actually laughing. I think that this<br />

particular time Josh had farted while<br />

eating corn chips and I said ‘lol’. Either<br />

that or it was when I was fragging some<br />

noob’s arse and he was screaming like a<br />

stuck pig! Totally lol-worthy.”<br />

Glen’s prize for being awesome was<br />

a framed LOL statue with his name<br />

engraved on it, and a lifetime membership<br />

to Xbox Live. Rumours are circulating of a<br />

possible film project to do with Glen’s rags<br />

to riches story. Mark Wahlberg has denied<br />

casting rumours.<br />

4 www.pixelhunt.com.au<br />


Garbage<br />

Tips Around<br />

the World<br />

Appeal for<br />

People to<br />

Keep Plastic<br />

Drum Kits<br />

Only a couple of years after the<br />

emergence of plastic drum kits and<br />

guitars for Guitar Hero and Rock<br />

Band, garbage tips worldwide are<br />

experiencing a deluge of thrown<br />

away kits, as people grow tired of<br />

repeatedly hitting the multi-coloured<br />

pads for hours.<br />

“We just don’t k<strong>now</strong> what to do<br />

with them,” says Jerry, manager for<br />

a major city tip shop. “They’re in fine<br />

working order but we can’t even give<br />

them away. We tried donating them<br />

to homeless people but they ended<br />

up having nightmares about Green<br />

Day. Then there are the problems<br />

of guitars getting stuck in truck<br />

hydraulics. The publishers need to do<br />

something.”<br />

<strong>Pixel</strong> <strong>Hunt</strong> encourages the<br />

responsible disposal of unwanted<br />

gaming paraphernalia. If you have a<br />

spare drum kit or three taking up too<br />

much space, why not make a social<br />

event of it Gather some friends, stoke<br />

a bonfire and offer your kits to the<br />

gaming gods.<br />

Games<br />

Journalist<br />

Accepts Honourable<br />

Plaque for His Super<br />

Original Article on the<br />

R18+ Situation<br />

Super games journalist and all round nice guy<br />

James O’Pincott-Burns was last week awarded<br />

with a commemorative plaque by the Federation of<br />

Awesome Australian Games Writing for his groundbreaking<br />

research into the R18+ situation. When<br />

asked about his inspiration, he had the following to<br />

say: “Basically, I realised that there was this huge<br />

void in games journalism, the 300 pound white<br />

elephant in the room. No one was tackling the R18+<br />

issue and telling it how it is.”<br />

James’s piece, entitled ‘R18+ Gaming F***ing<br />

Rocks’, will be cast in gold and displayed at the<br />

National Museum of Literacy. His previous works<br />

include ‘Girls Play Games Too, You K<strong>now</strong>!’, ‘Why Indie<br />

Games Are Just Much Better Than All Other Games’,<br />

‘The Big Question: Are Games Art’ and ‘Guess What<br />

Everyone: Games Are Supposed To Be Fun!’<br />

Australia’s best gaming -zine<br />

www.PIXELHUNT.com.AU<br />



nIer<br />

enough<br />

is close<br />

enough<br />

TIM HENDERSON is so Nier and yet<br />

so far.<br />

You k<strong>now</strong>, for all of<br />

the horrible X-Factor<br />

snippets and terrible R&B<br />

music videos that litter the<br />

world of YouTube, I still love<br />

the place. You see, if you<br />

enter the words ‘Nier OST’<br />

into a search on YouTube,<br />

you will be greeted with a<br />

list of awesome, and really<br />

rather unique, music tracks.<br />

Mostly reworking a core<br />

theme in an amazingly varied<br />

number of ways, the music<br />

from Nier brings to mind<br />

sweeping adventure and lush<br />

green fields, ages of gentle<br />

Gods and towering temples<br />

made by men, water that<br />

sparkles like sand and sand<br />

that flows like water, battles<br />

as fierce as thunder and an<br />

embrace as soft as clouds,<br />

cliffs like wounds in the earth<br />

and bridges that cover them<br />

like bandages. It’s powerful<br />

stuff on its own, and it only<br />

becomes amplified in-game.<br />

Mixing a variety of<br />

instruments, stylistic<br />

inspiration, and sweetly<br />

sung lyrics of a fictional<br />

tongue, the music of Nier is<br />

a tightly-contained example<br />

of its host’s greater mission<br />

statement: to stack familiar<br />

ideas together in ways that<br />

nobody has thought of before.<br />

Nier’s soundtrack is far and<br />

away the greatest success<br />

born of this mentality. The<br />

only musical downside is<br />

that there’s not enough of it.<br />

Melodies blend and evolve<br />

beautifully, lyrics fading<br />

into the game’s hub town<br />

background music when Nier<br />

himself walks within earshot<br />

of a minstrel strumming the<br />

very same tune.<br />

But Nier is a game that<br />

has all the technical merit<br />

of a powered-up PS2 title.<br />

Any and all visual appeal<br />

can be attributed to the art.<br />

Stylistically, Nier’s sunscorched<br />

aesthetic borrows<br />

heavily from ICO, much of<br />

its world architecture from<br />

Panzer Dragoon, and the<br />

character designs appear as<br />

misfits from a Final Fantasy<br />

game – too restrained and<br />

imperfect in appearance<br />

to appease the tween<br />

demographic crossover.<br />

The limitations placed<br />

upon the engine are not<br />

just visual, either. Character<br />

movement and world<br />

interaction comes with<br />

familiar limitations; Nier’s is<br />

not a world where advanced<br />

physics are breaking open<br />

new gameplay boundaries.<br />

This is understandable: the<br />

aging father of a gravely ill<br />

daughter, Nier himself is<br />

hardly the most sprightly<br />

and youthful of videogame<br />

6 www.pixelhunt.com.au<br />


NIER<br />

Developer Cavia<br />

Publisher Square Enix<br />

Platform 360 / PS3<br />

Genre Action/RPG<br />


While<br />

other games<br />

are happy to<br />

borrow ideas<br />

from outside<br />

genres, Nier<br />

is routinely<br />

bold enough to<br />

become them.<br />

protagonists. But let it not be<br />

said that you can’t teach an<br />

old dog new tricks.<br />

If there is one triumph to be<br />

found in the overall experience<br />

of playing Nier, then it must<br />

surely be the reminder that<br />

technology and innovation need<br />

not be exclusive bedfellows.<br />

Although it never fails to feel<br />

familiar, even dated, trying<br />

to pin Nier into a genre is<br />

troublesome. Predominantly<br />

a mixture of Zelda and roleplaying<br />

formulas, it nonetheless<br />

cherry-picks from multiple<br />

other genres, plucking and<br />

choosing as befits the mood<br />

of the narrative, to a point<br />

where it fundamentally defies<br />

classification. While other<br />

games are happy to borrow<br />

ideas from outside genres,<br />

Nier is routinely bold enough to<br />

become them.<br />

This is why you should<br />

check Nier out. Not because<br />

it was ever a realistic Game of<br />

the Year candidate for 2010,<br />

but because of its unfettered,<br />

almost flippant approach<br />

to experimentation: it sets<br />

out to provide an interactive<br />

adventure, and in order to do so<br />

it staples gameplay elements<br />

from bullet hell shooters,<br />

classic survival horror, isometric<br />

dungeon crawlers, and even<br />

text adventure games onto the<br />

core experience. The pacing<br />

flounders around at times,<br />

and the graphics, in particular,<br />

betray a modest development<br />

budget, but Nier is a game with<br />

a fierce heart – an imperfect<br />

yet ferocious experiment with<br />

Japanese role-playing concepts,<br />

complimented by a story and<br />

cast of characters stronger than<br />

many of its brethren.<br />

It’s a game that does<br />

remarkable things within the<br />

restraint of having one foot<br />

shackled in the past and, much<br />

like the recent Persona titles,<br />

radiates a conceptual beacon<br />

of light for what JRPGs may as<br />

yet become. It may not be a<br />

great game, but it is one of the<br />

most interesting ones of recent<br />

years. Better to be left only<br />

part-satisfied by something like<br />

that than by Final Fantasy.<br />


Australia’s best gaming<br />

-zine<br />

www.PIXELHUNT.com.AU<br />


COVER feature<br />

A Player’s<br />

Best Friend<br />

BRENDAN KEOGH investigates the characters that accompany us in<br />

good times and bad, in sickness and in health, until death do you part:<br />

NPC companions.<br />

Superheroes have sidekicks,<br />

comedians have straight men,<br />

and videogame protagonists have<br />

companions. They have accompanied<br />

us in our adventures to save<br />

kingdoms/mankind/the universe and<br />

to slay monsters/demons/aliens for<br />

as long as video games have been<br />

around. Link had Navi, Donkey had<br />

Diddy (and Diddy had Dixie), Ico had<br />

Yorda, Mario had Yoshi (and Yoshi had<br />

Mario), Master Chief had Cortana,<br />

Gordon had Alyx, Jade had Pey’j,<br />

Wanda had Agro, Marcus had Dom.<br />

The list goes on and on. There are<br />

good reasons why so many games<br />

rely on companions, and it is no<br />

coincidence that some of the most<br />

memorable, most critically acclaimed<br />

games are those that rely heavily on an<br />

NPC following the player around.<br />

When implemented properly, a<br />

companion can immerse you deeper<br />

into the game world and give you<br />

something within the game to care<br />

about, such as your trusty canine in<br />

Fable II. Conversely, a bad companion<br />

is at best forgettable and useless,<br />

such as B-Company in Battlefield:<br />

Bad Company, and at worst has you<br />

double-guessing the game’s logic and<br />

yelling at the screen in frustration, like<br />

when your party medic in Final Fantasy<br />

XIII refuses to heal you. Simply put,<br />

companions are capable of making or<br />

breaking a game.<br />

A good story-focused game will<br />

hide the game’s rules behind a layer<br />

of fiction. The simplest example: an<br />

impassable mountain range is more<br />

immersive than an invisible wall at<br />

the end of the map with the on-screen<br />

message, ‘You cannot go this way’<br />

(I’m looking at you, Bethesda). It is<br />


not so much about forgetting that<br />

you are playing a game as it is about<br />

participating in what feels like a<br />

complete, coherent world. Companions<br />

play a crucial role in forming this<br />

coherent fiction by tying the player to<br />

the world and giving them something<br />

to care about.<br />

Few seem to understand this as<br />

well as Fumito Ueda of Team Ico,<br />

responsible for the Playstation 2<br />

classics ICO and Shadow Of The<br />

Colossus as well as the upcoming<br />

Playstation 3 title The Last Guardian.<br />

Both ICO and Shadow Of The Colossus<br />

(and The Last Guardian if we can judge<br />

from the trailers) create minimalist<br />

worlds with little story and even less<br />

dialogue. Yet, Ueda’s titles are among<br />

the best-received and most critically<br />

acclaimed games of recent time.<br />

The critical success of Ueda’s<br />

NAVI<br />

LUIGI<br />

YOSHI<br />

8 www.pixelhunt.com.au<br />


YORDA<br />

If the player is to<br />

care about Yorda, she<br />

must be convincing as<br />

an individual entity but<br />

must also do exactly<br />

what the player<br />

wants.<br />

games comes down largely to the<br />

central relationship between the<br />

player and a consistent, significant<br />

companion. In ICO, you control a<br />

boy trying to escape a large castle<br />

prison. The gameplay is relatively<br />

straightforward platforming and puzzlesolving<br />

with one unique addition.<br />

Almost immediately after the game<br />

starts, you encounter Yorda, a girl also<br />

imprisoned in the castle. You soon<br />

discover that Yorda is in danger and<br />

needs your help. On the flipside, you<br />

cannot hope to escape without Yorda’s<br />

mysterious door-opening powers. The<br />

relationship between player and Yorda<br />

is one of co-dependence. As the skills<br />

of the player and Yorda do not overlap,<br />

neither steps on the other’s toes. Yorda<br />

will not rush off and do something<br />

the player doesn’t want her to do, but<br />

neither will she rush forward and do<br />

something the player was about to do.<br />

The relationship between Ico and<br />

Yorda is pivotal to the entire game.<br />

This is a ballsy gamble by Ueda. If she<br />

glitches up and gets the player killed<br />

even once, the player will be furious.<br />

There is nothing players hate more<br />

than feeling cheated by the game. If<br />

the player is to care about Yorda, she<br />

must be convincing as an individual<br />

entity but must also do exactly what<br />

the player wants.<br />

For Yorda specifically and all gaming<br />

companions generally, she can’t be<br />

god-like and invincible, but neither<br />

can she be stupid and placid. Instead,<br />

she must be humanly flawed and<br />

humanly intelligent; she must be smart<br />

enough to make mistakes; she must<br />

be imperfect and ‘real’. Yet, she also<br />

has to do exactly what the player wants<br />

her to do. If she shows too much free<br />

will, the player will get frustrated that<br />

the game is not doing what they want it<br />

to do. But if she just follows the player<br />

mindlessly, the player won’t be able to<br />

care about her as a human being and,<br />

by extension, won’t be able to care<br />

about the game’s fiction.<br />

So many conflicting conditions! So<br />

how did Ueda manage to balance them<br />

all With one very simple addition to<br />

the controls: press R1 to hold Yorda’s<br />

hand when she is close enough or to<br />

call her when she is far away. When<br />

left to her own devices, Yorda will<br />

wander around the map, run after<br />

birds, look over edges, and sometimes,<br />

if you watch her for long enough,<br />

maybe even discover a solution to a<br />

puzzle. Yet the moment you press R1<br />

and call her, she will come back to you<br />

and hold your hand.<br />

Instead of mindlessly following<br />

you, then, Ico pulls Yorda along in<br />

a charming, enthusiastic run, like a<br />

younger brother eager to show his<br />

older sister the fortress he built in<br />

the lounge room. By tweaking her<br />

animations and behaviours just right,<br />

Ueda has managed to balance Yorda<br />

perfectly between free-minded and<br />

obedient. It’s hard not to care about<br />

her and her plight as you play ICO.<br />

After not too long, you find yourself not<br />

being concerned about Ico or Yorda,<br />

but about Ico and Yorda.<br />

Later in the game, when the two of<br />

you are separated, it is akin to having<br />

all your weapons removed halfway<br />

through a first-person shooter: you feel<br />

naked, exposed, vulnerable, and most<br />

crucially, alone. So many emotions<br />

evoked just by the absence of a NPC!<br />

This is how you k<strong>now</strong> a companion has<br />

been done well: you don’t just notice<br />

Australia’s best gaming<br />

-zine<br />

www.PIXELHUNT.com.AU<br />


COVER feature<br />

Alyx Vance<br />

when they are beside you; you notice<br />

when they are not.<br />

A similar relationship also forms<br />

between Shadow Of The Colossus’s<br />

Wanda and his trusty horse, Agro. Just<br />

like in ICO, the player can call to Agro<br />

and he will come running, but he will<br />

wander off freely otherwise. Agro is<br />

a well-behaved steed, and the game<br />

can get away with making him more<br />

obedient as he is a tamed animal and<br />

not a free-willed human. But he still<br />

behaves convincingly, rearing when a<br />

colossus stomps nearby or refusing<br />

to leap over certain crevasses until<br />

pushed. The times that you must<br />

leave Agro behind, you really feel his<br />

absence. For me, it is in the echoing<br />

tap-tap of my feet compared to Agro’s<br />

hearty gallop that really rubs it in.<br />

A companion can still be convincing<br />

and meaningful without such detailed<br />

free-will, however. Alyx Vance in Half-<br />

Life 2 accompanies the player for<br />

much of the game. In Episodes One<br />

and Two, you could even argue that<br />

she is the main character and the<br />

player’s character, Gordon Freeman, is<br />

the companion.<br />

Alyx’s actions are more scripted<br />

than either Yorda or Agro. On every<br />

playthrough she will follow a practically<br />

identical path through the levels and<br />

will say the same things at the same<br />

times. Nonetheless, she is animated<br />

and written in a way that is both<br />

convincing and human. Instead of<br />

just following the player, Alyx has her<br />

own paths through the level, which<br />

means she will often be leading—a<br />

rare feat among gaming companions.<br />

That these paths are scripted hardly<br />

matter. Instead, they add to the game.<br />

Alyx can be shown to engage with her<br />

environment in a more convincing style.<br />

Instead of awkwardly running through<br />

a level like any old NPC, she will jump<br />

over guardrails and climb fences like a<br />

human being, making both her and the<br />

world more believable.<br />

Once the player cares for Alyx, her<br />

most important role is in justifying<br />

Gordon Freeman’s existence, and by<br />

extension the player’s. As Gordon is<br />

a silent protagonist, one of the main<br />

criticisms levelled at Half-Life was that<br />

he was practically a non-character—just<br />

a gun floating on the monitor. Alyx<br />

Vance changed this. By constantly<br />

ack<strong>now</strong>ledging Gordon, making eyecontact,<br />

having discussions, remarking<br />

on his actions, Alyx makes Gordon<br />

more real. We still never see Gordon<br />

ourselves, but we see that Alyx sees him.<br />

The actions are miniscule, but they add<br />

a significant level of detail that makes<br />

Half-Life 2’s story and world more<br />

accessible that Half-Life’s ever was.<br />

Sadly, though, there are occasions<br />

where Alyx tips the wrong way and<br />

becomes a frustrating NPC instead of<br />

a friendly companion. One particular<br />

stage in Episode One frustrated me<br />

immensely and shows how even the<br />

best implemented companions can go<br />

wrong and nearly break a game. You<br />

are underground and trying to get to<br />

the surface. In a pitch-black room, you<br />

must fight swarms of zombies while<br />

you wait for an elevator to arrive. The<br />

player has no weapons save a torch<br />

and the gravity gun, but Alyx has her<br />

pistol. However, she will only shoot at<br />

zombies that the player is pointing the<br />

torch at or has lit flares nearby.<br />

I couldn’t help but feel Alyx wasn’t<br />

pulling her weight. Why couldn’t she<br />

pick up a flare herself Why did I have<br />

to stand dumbly with my torch pointed<br />

at a zombie for her to shoot it Clearly,<br />

Valve were trying to strengthen the<br />

relationship between Alyx and Gordon<br />

by forcing you to cooperate to survive,<br />

but the result was the opposite. Alyx<br />

couldn’t look after herself and she<br />

was holding me back. Instead of being<br />

a companion I could work with, she<br />

became a bit of programming that<br />

I had to second guess and exploit.<br />

While her actions in the rest of the<br />

game added so much, it was almost<br />

all destroyed for me in this one stage.<br />

Using companions truly is a precarious,<br />

dangerous thing.<br />

There are more interesting<br />

companions—both good and bad—than<br />

could be covered in any one article.<br />

The more-or-less invisible companions<br />

10 www.pixelhunt.com.au<br />


like Cortana in Halo, the dependable,<br />

self-sacrificing buddies of Far Cry<br />

2, the bromance of Delta Squad in<br />

Gears of War. But where would a<br />

discussion of gaming companions be<br />

without a mention of Portal’s weighted<br />

companion cube<br />

Quite justifiably, many of you will be<br />

sick of hearing about Portal by <strong>now</strong>,<br />

but the amount of stuff that it just got<br />

so right can’t be denied. The weighted<br />

companion cube, while only a minor<br />

part of the entire game, works as the<br />

ultimate meta gaming companion.<br />

It does everything all good gaming<br />

companions must do.<br />

Firstly, the weighted companion<br />

cube’s abilities complement the<br />

player’s abilities, they don’t overlap<br />

and conflict. Just as Ico and Yorda<br />

rely on the other’s abilities, so do the<br />

player’s and the weighted companion<br />

cube. The weighted companion cube<br />

relies on the player’s portal gun, legs,<br />

and strong hands, and the player relies<br />

on the weighted companion cube’s<br />

stability as a stool, sturdiness to sit on<br />

buttons without flinching, and strength<br />

to withstand loose balls of energy that<br />

could vaporise the player on impact.<br />

Without the other, neither will get to<br />

the end of the level.<br />

Secondly, and more importantly,<br />

the weighted companion cube is<br />

a non-living object that the player<br />

k<strong>now</strong>s is not alive yet is still able to<br />

have feelings for. Just like Yorda, Alyx,<br />

Agro, and all other companions, the<br />

weighted companion cube is just a<br />

bunch of 0s and 1s somewhere inside<br />

the game. But unlike these other<br />

companions, on the outside, too, the<br />

weighted companion cube is just an<br />

inanimate object. Yet, largely through<br />

the words of GLaDOS, the player still<br />

cares about the weighted companion<br />

cube. When GLaDOS congratulates you<br />

for destroying the weighted companion<br />

cube in the emergency intelligence<br />

incinerator faster than any other test<br />

subject, it is darkly funny, but some of<br />

the guilt you feel is legitimate and taps<br />

into the same part of your mind as all<br />

gaming companions.<br />

And that is the ultimate contribution<br />

all gaming companions make: a<br />

legitimate reason to care about the<br />

world. The player’s reward for helping<br />

Yorda is not ten achievement points,<br />

but helping Yorda. When Yorda holds<br />

your hand, she pulls you deep down into<br />

the game’s world where your actions<br />

are their own reward. But if they don’t<br />

act the way the player expects, any<br />

immersion in the game world could be<br />

ruined as the player is forced to double<br />

guess what they must do in order to<br />

tempt the companion to action how<br />

they want. Just as your companions can<br />

pull you in to the game, they can just as<br />

easily push you out.<br />


...where would a discussion of gaming<br />

companions be without a mention of Portal’s<br />

weighted companion cube<br />


Australia’s best gaming<br />

-zine<br />

www.PIXELHUNT.com.AU<br />



Going<br />

Up In<br />

Steam<br />

When it comes to pricing on<br />

Steam, different publishers take<br />

different approaches. JAMES<br />

PINNELL brings us a rundown on<br />

which publishers are the friendliest<br />

to your wallet.<br />

The Steam Christmas sale has<br />

been and gone, and many of us<br />

are playing catch up with quite a few<br />

titles that we otherwise would never<br />

have bought. While digital distribution<br />

is building in popularity, Australians<br />

still face some hefty mark-ups on the<br />

Steam store, due in part to regulations<br />

that prevent publishers undercutting<br />

brick and mortar competition. In an<br />

attempt to solidify our frustrations, we<br />

decided to take a stroll through the<br />

Steam Store and critique publishers<br />

on their ability to charge fair and<br />

equitable prices to Australian users.<br />

All prices are correct at time of writing,<br />

although things can and do change<br />

quickly online. (All prices listed are<br />

$USD).<br />

STEAM Report Card<br />

Bethesda<br />


Comments: The guys behind Fallout 3 and<br />

Elder Scrolls have picked up their game as of<br />

late. While their original Fallout 3 pricing was<br />

a little silly, they have moved back towards<br />

the centre and matched price parity for most<br />

titles between the AU/US stores. The main<br />

exception is Fallout: New Vegas, which sits at<br />

a rather expensive $89.95. Of concern is that<br />

New Vegas initially appeared on Australia’s<br />

Steam store at $49.95, equal to the American<br />

pricing, only to receive a $40 bump close to<br />

release. Bethesda’s two main upcoming titles,<br />

Brink and <strong>Hunt</strong>ed: The Demon’s Forge, are<br />

both $49.99 to pre-order. If you’re interested<br />

in either we’d suggest you pre-order them<br />

<strong>now</strong>, as the same price bump is likely to occur<br />

closer to release.<br />

Grade:<br />

A B C D E F<br />

STEAM Report Card<br />

2K Games<br />

BIOSHOCK 2<br />

Comments: 2K is one of the bigger players<br />

on Steam and takes full advantage of its<br />

market position, with some significant price<br />

differences. While Americans can purchase<br />

Civ V for $49.99, Australians pay $79.99.<br />

While Americans pay $29.99 for Mafia 2,<br />

Australians pay $79.99. While Americans pay<br />

a paltry $19.99 for BioShock 2, Australians<br />

pay $49.99. Discounts are few and far<br />

between, except during Steam-instigated<br />

sales. Release date differences are also a<br />

cause for concern, with those who purchased<br />

Civ V at retail in Australia unable to play the<br />

game until it was unlocked for Australians<br />

the next day. 2K is easily one of the worst<br />

performers on Steam. This kind of pricing<br />

gives the consumer little reason to lay down<br />

their credit card.<br />

Grade:<br />

A B C D E F<br />

12 www.pixelhunt.com.au<br />



STEAM Report Card<br />

Activision<br />

Comments: Although <strong>now</strong>here near as<br />

bad as 2K Games, Activision won’t exactly<br />

have you running for your credit card. James<br />

Bond: Blood Stone sits at the same price as<br />

retail, whereas Modern Warfare 2 is still on<br />

$89.99, at least $20 above retail, more if<br />

you don’t mind buying second hand. Other<br />

titles like Transformers: War for Cybertron<br />

and Prototype thankfully match US store<br />

pricing. Despite being an unpopular player,<br />

Activision isn’t too bad. However, their<br />

offerings are slim, and they tend to hold<br />

onto higher prices for popular games.<br />

Grade:<br />

A B C D E F<br />

STEAM Report Card<br />

Sony Online<br />

Comments: A Veteran MMORPG developer,<br />

Sony has released their entire set of still<br />

currently running MMORPG’s for <strong>download</strong> on<br />

Steam. Sony always group AU based accounts<br />

with their US counterparts, and as a result,<br />

there is no difference in price, or release date.<br />

Feel safe in your purchase of the upcoming DC<br />

Universe MMO, for you will not be ripped off.<br />

Grade:<br />

A B C D E F<br />

STEAM Report Card<br />

Capcom<br />

Comments: Capcom have definitely improved<br />

their stock over the past year, dropping their<br />

pricing back to US standards, running fantastic<br />

periodic discounts and generally presenting as<br />

a poster child for a fair go. Almost all of their<br />

games match their US pricing, and are cheaper<br />

than retail – nothing in the store is more then<br />

$40, including games like Street Fighter IV,<br />

Resident Evil 5, Bionic Commando and Dark<br />

Void. Even the fairly recent Dead Rising 2 sits<br />

pretty at $39.99<br />

Grade:<br />

A B C D E F<br />

STEAM Report Card<br />

Lucasarts<br />

Comments: Lucasarts had a shaky<br />

start on Steam, with many of their games<br />

originally locked out to AU players. But,<br />

since a lot of publishers began re-evaluating<br />

their digital catalogue, all of their games<br />

have been released to users and price<br />

parity is spot on. They also offer some great<br />

periodical discounts and have some great<br />

packages available.<br />

Grade:<br />

A B C D E F<br />

STEAM Report Card<br />

Codemasters<br />

Comments: A relatively large UK based<br />

publisher, Codemasters has a mixed record<br />

when it comes to fair pricing; F12010 is more<br />

expensive on the AU store, by about $20, but<br />

the majority of their popular back catalogue<br />

(GRID, Dirt Series, Overload, Op:FP2) are<br />

more fairly priced. Credit where credit is<br />

due, their AU levy is lower than most on new<br />

releases, but the fact it happens is still poor.<br />

Grade:<br />

A B C D E F<br />

Australia’s best gaming -zine<br />

www.PIXELHUNT.com.AU<br />



STEAM Report Card<br />

Electronic<br />

Arts<br />


Comments: EA is one of the biggest<br />

games publishers in the world, and next<br />

to 2K and Activision, one of the worst<br />

performers when it comes to pricing. Almost<br />

every single major release is overpriced or<br />

has a significant AU levy sitting on top. For<br />

example, before the recent sales, Dragon<br />

Age, which came out almost a year ago, and<br />

Mass Effect 2, which came out in January,<br />

both included a $40US levy, same with<br />

C&C4 and Bad Company 2. Most of these<br />

games have dropped in price <strong>now</strong>, so it pays<br />

to be patient, but still, you shouldn’t have<br />

to wait so long to see depreciation seep<br />

through to the digital storefront.<br />

Grade:<br />

A B C D E F<br />

STEAM Report Card<br />

Sega<br />

Comments: Almost all of Sega’s steam<br />

catalogue, from their console releases to<br />

their PC published fare, are subject to a price<br />

premium for AU. As with EA, there existed quite<br />

a few higher priced titles before the 2010 sale<br />

– Aliens Vs Predator smacked you with a $15<br />

levy, Napoleon: Total War a chunky $30, while<br />

the slew of old MegaDrive games had a small<br />

but still irritating 50c increase. Prices have<br />

dropped slightly in the new year, but the cycle<br />

is likely to repeat for their 2011 releases.<br />

Grade:<br />

A B C D E F<br />

STEAM Report Card<br />

NCSoft<br />

Comments: This MMORPG powerhouse,<br />

publishers of Guild Wars, Aion and<br />

City of Heroes, have always been very<br />

straightforward and upfront with their<br />

releases. Worldwide unlock dates, fair and<br />

equitable pricing, great pre-order incentives<br />

and regular discounts. If only a few other of<br />

the big boys followed their example.<br />

Grade:<br />

A B C D E F<br />

STEAM Report Card<br />

Square Enix<br />

& Eidos<br />

Interactive<br />

Comments: Another publisher that has<br />

recently undergone some changes, this<br />

strange coalition has introduced price and<br />

catalogue parity across their AU and US<br />

stores. Let’s hope this stays in place with the<br />

upcoming release of the next Batman title.<br />

Grade:<br />

A B C D E F<br />

STEAM Report Card<br />

Ubisoft<br />

Comments: Ubisoft’s case is surprisingly<br />

positive, considering the performance of the<br />

other major developers. Assassin’s Creed<br />

2,Prince of Persia: TFS, R.U.S.E, Settler’s 7,<br />

H.A.W.X 2, and Splinter Cell Conviction all<br />

carry price parity with the US store. They’ve<br />

been pretty good with lowering the price of<br />

older titles and tend to not separate release<br />

dates between regions. Well done for bucking<br />

the trend, Ubisoft.<br />

Grade:<br />

A B C D E F<br />

14 www.pixelhunt.com.au<br />


STEAM Report Card<br />

Paradox<br />

Interactive<br />

Comments: A strategy behemoth, Paradox<br />

pumps out the deeply detailed software that<br />

their legions of fans crave. They also don’t<br />

discriminate on pricing, all of their titles have<br />

pricing parity, fair release dates and there are<br />

a number of well priced packages available.<br />

Grade:<br />

A B C D E F<br />

STEAM Report Card<br />

Valve<br />

Comments: The company behind Steam<br />

has always, and probably will always, stick<br />

to pure price parity and worldwide releases.<br />

Shame about the whole Left 4 Dead 2<br />

censored thing, though.<br />

Grade:<br />

A B C D E F<br />

LEFT4DEAD2<br />

STEAM Report Card<br />

THQ<br />

Comments: Another giant willing to finally drop<br />

some of its 2010 mark-ups. Darksiders, Metro<br />

2033, and the Dawn Of War II expansion pack<br />

all came with a $20-30 levy, but have fallen to<br />

quite acceptable price points <strong>now</strong>. Surprisingly,<br />

some games were LOWER in price than on the<br />

US store, such as Saints Row 2, Company of<br />

Heroes: Tales of Valor and Titan Quest Gold.<br />

These strange price discrepancies are pretty<br />

confusing, but it’s encouraging to see lower<br />

prices in any case.<br />

Grade:<br />

A B C D E F<br />

STEAM Report Card<br />

Warner Bros.<br />

Comments: Our last candidate is one<br />

of the worst performers of the lot. Not<br />

only are almost all of their games more<br />

expensive, but by such a significant amount,<br />

considering their age. F.E.A.R. 2, Terminator<br />

Salvation and Wanted: Weapons of Fate all<br />

released over a year ago but sit at $44.99,<br />

$25 more than the US store. While the<br />

dollar levy figure isn’t significant, other<br />

developers are selling titles that old for<br />

almost half the price.<br />

Grade:<br />

A B C D E F<br />

... & The Rest<br />

1C Company, Big Fish Games, City Interactive,<br />

Epic Games, Focus Home Interactive, Her<br />

Interactive, Id Software, Interplay, iWin, JoWood/<br />

Dreamcatcher, Kalipso, Majesco, Meridian 4,<br />

MumboJumbo, NovaLogic, Prima Games, Popcap,<br />

PlayFirst, RailSimulator.com, Sandlot Games,<br />

SouthPeak Games, Strategy First, Tilted Mill,<br />

Topware. While the companies listed here are<br />

generally casual, indie or back catalogue based (no<br />

new titles, just a depot of their Good Old Games),<br />

all of them share the same principles: price,<br />

release date and catalogue parity. Good prices,<br />

packages and extras provided by this bunch show<br />

that you don’t need to rip off a vulnerable section<br />

of the market to make money.<br />

Grade: A<br />


Australia’s best gaming<br />

-zine<br />

www.PIXELHUNT.com.AU<br />



One Man’s Quest to Earn A PhD By<br />

Wanking On About Games He Likes...<br />

The Doctor<br />

Is (Almost) In<br />

JAMES O’CONNOR takes a stethoscope<br />

wherever he goes. No, we haven’t had the heart<br />

to tell him yet…<br />

...the praise Enslaved attracted in<br />

2010 baffled and saddened me.<br />

‘ ou don’t propose to offer an<br />

Yanalysis of scholasticism,<br />

then, I take it’<br />

The question illustrated exactly<br />

why Dixon felt he had to keep<br />

Michie out of his subject. Michie<br />

knew a lot, or seemed to, which<br />

was as bad. One of the things he<br />

knew, or seemed to, was what<br />

scholasticism was. Dixon read,<br />

heard, and even used the word a<br />

dozen times a day without k<strong>now</strong>ing,<br />

though he seemed to. But he saw<br />

clearly that he wouldn’t be able to<br />

go on seeming to k<strong>now</strong> the meaning<br />

of this and a hundred such words<br />

while Michie was there questioning,<br />

discussing and arguing about them.<br />

-Kingsley Amis, ‘Lucky Jim’.<br />

This is – at least, I hope it is –<br />

the beginner academic experience,<br />

boiled down into a single paragraph<br />

of comical frustration and seeming<br />

incompetence. All this year, I’ve used<br />

terms with definitions that terrify me. If<br />

I say ‘cognitive poetics’ I can more or<br />

less get away with admitting I need to<br />

do more research (because even my<br />

basic k<strong>now</strong>ledge puts me well ahead<br />

of most people in this area, although<br />

potentially not you, my beloved reader),<br />

but other terms are a hassle. I can tell<br />

you the difference between narrative,<br />

story and plot, but two sentences in I’m<br />

out of words. For some people, higher<br />

research is an easy fit, but many of us<br />

spend our days dreading the moment<br />

when something clicks and the higherups<br />

realise that the smartest thing<br />

we’re able to do is convince other<br />

people that we’re smart.<br />

I recently had to justify my ‘PhDabout-games’<br />

project, which I’m<br />

ostensibly ten months into, through<br />

a 5000 word document, a 20 minute<br />

presentation and a similarly long Q&A<br />

session. I got what is apparently the<br />

most common response: ‘things are<br />

going well, but it’s too big, you need to<br />

clarify stuff in your written proposal,<br />

etc.’, along with about 2000 words of<br />

notes on what to fix. It’s a terrifying<br />

process, and I’ve been drinking more<br />

than I usually do lately.<br />

I tend to write and discuss largely<br />

on instinct. Aside from the occasional<br />

misguided mention of Lacan’s ‘mirror<br />

phase’ or citing of proper literary<br />

theory, most of what I hypothesize<br />

comes from playing games and<br />

reacting to them. It’s the same when<br />

I digest literature and cinema. My<br />

Twitter and Facebook feeds abound<br />

with academics who are always linking<br />

to new research, and my e-mail inbox<br />

is filled with chain discussions on all<br />

sorts of crazy game-related topics, with<br />

familiar faces popping up and offering<br />

reading advice to anyone who will<br />

listen. The idea of backing everything I<br />

say up with meticulous research, not to<br />

mention absolute certainty, is difficult<br />

to comes to grips with.<br />

But you didn’t <strong>download</strong> <strong>Pixel</strong> <strong>Hunt</strong><br />

to hear me whine about my First World<br />

Problems - I’d like to awkwardly segue<br />

16 www.pixelhunt.com.au<br />


Always call<br />

‘shotgun’ in<br />

MAFIA II<br />

into some game discussion <strong>now</strong>.<br />

First up, let me just say as someone<br />

who loves great narrative and story<br />

in big blockbuster games, the praise<br />

Enslaved attracted in 2010 baffled<br />

and saddened me. Please, people<br />

– simply not hating characters<br />

doesn’t immediately make them good<br />

characters. Solid facial animation<br />

doesn’t equate to personality. The<br />

characters here manage to be both<br />

illogical and yet utterly predictable at<br />

the same time, and the three primary<br />

protagonists are as archetypal as they<br />

come. The Journey to the West riffing<br />

was weird and undercooked, beyond<br />

the initial ‘I see what they’re doing here’<br />

phase. Enslaved is an awful example of<br />

‘OMG games CAN tell stories!!!!’, and<br />

I’m damn sick of reading half-baked<br />

arguments on the contrary.<br />

I’d also like to briefly discuss an<br />

interesting moment from Mafia II:<br />

a game with great ambition and<br />

design, but so-so (or bad) writing and<br />

incredibly awkward racial stereotyping<br />

(the game’s portrayal of the Chinese<br />

is flat-out disgusting). Mark Smith<br />

called it “the best and most immersive<br />

interactive cinematic experience (he’d)<br />

had in 25 years of gaming”, which<br />

is an insane statement that cannot<br />

possibly be true. There’s one moment<br />

in the game that really sticks out to<br />

me, though, in terms of awful narrative<br />

design. Mild spoilers follow, but I’ll<br />

avoid being specific.<br />

Late in the game, a character dies.<br />

That’s expected – mafia fiction, no<br />

matter how good it is, has a bad habit<br />

of never letting anyone live. The setup:<br />

your character, Vito, and his best friend<br />

Joe, are on their way to meet up with<br />

this character. When you reach them,<br />

you’ll presumably all get into the car<br />

and drive to a second location, such<br />

is the game’s structure. But from the<br />

moment you meet up with Joe and get<br />

into the car, you k<strong>now</strong> the guy you’re<br />

about to meet won’t be coming with<br />

you – that his death is but a cutscene<br />

away. Why Because the mission gives<br />

you a two-seater car for the mission.<br />

There’s no room for your friend to<br />

come along – so obviously he’s about<br />

to die! What a terrible piece of scripting<br />

that was – and yet so obvious, and so<br />

easily avoidable!<br />

It’s shit like this that makes the<br />

road ahead of me both difficult and<br />

interesting. My studies are focusing<br />

on big blockbuster games – exploring<br />

narrative in a big-budget explosionfests<br />

seems to me far more worthwhile<br />

than explaining how games that are<br />

primarily narrative focused succeed.<br />

And yet these are the games people<br />

are going crazy over, while the games<br />

I’m interested in are dismissed as<br />

Michael Bay handjobs and constantly<br />

called ‘overrated’ because of this<br />

industry’s bizarre case of Tall Poppy<br />

Syndrome.<br />

And <strong>now</strong>, I need to go and replay<br />

Grand Theft Auto IV.<br />


Australia’s best gaming<br />

-zine<br />

www.PIXELHUNT.com.AU<br />



Wii Don’t Need No PS4<br />

DYLAN BURNS and MICHAEL PINCOTT look at the state of the seventh generation of video game<br />

consoles and why we don’t need an eighth generation any time soon.<br />


SONY<br />

1994 Sony Playstation<br />

2000 Sony Playstation 2<br />

2006 Sony Playstation 3<br />

We live in an interesting gaming<br />

age. For so many years, the<br />

industry has been growing at an<br />

exponential rate. As more people<br />

came to gaming, demand has fuelled<br />

the development of new consoles,<br />

new technologies and has allowed<br />

new companies to try their hand at<br />

jumping into the development and<br />

publishing pool.<br />

Where once you could analyse<br />

the industry and chart specific<br />

development timeframes –<br />

particularly in relation to console<br />

life cycles – we face, with the<br />

360, PS3 and Wii, an era of<br />

elongated shelf life, with no side<br />

truly ready to invest in a new<br />

console. The reasons for these<br />

are varied: games are still selling<br />

well on these systems, graphics<br />

and the technologies behind them<br />

have reached a certain level of<br />

fidelity and stayed there, and,<br />

predominantly, the sheer cost of<br />

developing and marketing a new<br />

console in an established market<br />

is almost unimaginable. Indeed,<br />

Microsoft and Sony are still<br />

recouping the costs of developing<br />

and manufacturing the 360 and<br />

PS3. Only Nintendo can claim<br />

to be making a profit on every<br />

console unit sold.<br />

Then there’s the PC, once<br />

considered a lofty, exclusive peak<br />

of quality gaming, upon which PC<br />

gamers could look down at their<br />

console brethren like ants below<br />

and laugh heartily at the fact<br />

that their games looked better,<br />

ran faster and were generally<br />

superior. Undoubtedly, the PC<br />

is still considered the ultimate<br />

gaming platform by many, but<br />

the gap between PC and console<br />

has shortened considerably.<br />

The current generation of<br />

consoles have adapted to mimic<br />

the PC, sporting large hard<br />

drives, capable online play and<br />

robust communities. The online<br />

connectivity of consoles <strong>now</strong><br />

easily facilitates updates, patches<br />

and extra content. Consoles are<br />

even attempting to match the PC<br />

as a media hub. What once was<br />

exclusively the realm of the PC<br />

is being hotly contested. Console<br />

gaming is still PC gaming’s little<br />

brother, but it’s growing up fast.<br />

The need for consoles to catch up<br />

is greatly reduced; some might<br />

even say negated completely.<br />

18 www.pixelhunt.com.au<br />


Only Nintendo got it right, offering total<br />

compatibility for Gamecube titles and ensuring<br />

that the Wii had ports for both Gamecube<br />

controllers and memory cards.<br />


Does a new console generation<br />

mean that the current generation<br />

of games get left behind as those<br />

before them did The precedent<br />

is poor for both Microsoft and<br />

Sony, thoroughly botching their<br />

opportunities to support their<br />

strong back catalogue. The 360<br />

would play some Xbox titles with<br />

a patch, but eventually Microsoft<br />

simply stopped providing them,<br />

leaving plenty of games either<br />

unsupported or broken. They then<br />

started offering Xbox titles as<br />

<strong>download</strong>s on the Marketplace<br />

but, due to high prices and low<br />

sales, this was short-lived.<br />

The Playstation 3 shipped<br />

with more substantial backwards<br />

compatibility, supporting most<br />

PS2 titles without issue, until<br />

Sony made the mind-boggling<br />

decision to no longer include the<br />

Emotion Engine chip that made<br />

backwards compatibility for PS2<br />

titles possible. We’re <strong>now</strong> seeing<br />

an interesting consequence of<br />

that, with Sony releasing a spate<br />

of HD collections of PS2 series<br />

like Prince of Persia and God of<br />

War. Only Nintendo got it right,<br />

offering total compatibility for<br />

Gamecube titles and ensuring<br />

that the Wii had ports for both<br />

Gamecube controllers and<br />

memory cards.<br />


Which brings us to the topic of<br />

the NEXT generation of consoles.<br />

The very cogent question being, do<br />

we even need them Simply put,<br />

developers, publishers and gamers<br />

all seem rather content exactly<br />

where they are. A level of mutual<br />



1983 Nintendo<br />

Entertainment<br />

System (NES)<br />

1990 Super Nintendo<br />

Entertainment<br />

System (SNES)<br />

1996 Nintendo 64<br />

2001 Nintendo<br />

GameCube<br />

2006 Nintendo Wii<br />

Australia’s best gaming<br />

-zine<br />

www.PIXELHUNT.com.AU<br />



The Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 still, it seems,<br />

have unexplored power left to tap.<br />



2001 Xbox<br />

2005 Xbox 360<br />

satisfaction has been reached<br />

where everyone’s demands are<br />

being satisfactorily met. Incremental<br />

improvements in visuals have been<br />

gradual but consistent. Uncharted<br />

2 lifted the bar for console graphics<br />

in late 2009 and, arguably, no other<br />

developer has reached that bar<br />

since. The Playstation 3 and Xbox<br />

360 still, it seems, have unexplored<br />

power left to tap. Even the Wii is<br />

turning out some very pretty games,<br />

such as Super Mario Galaxy 2 and<br />

Donkey Kong Country Returns.<br />

Developers are still playing catch-up,<br />

finding ways to squeeze more out of<br />

each console, while new technologies<br />

such as Euphoria and Digital<br />

Molecular Matter are still being<br />

explored and hesitantly implemented<br />

– the Force Unleashed titles didn’t<br />

exactly send a shock wave through<br />

the industry, although GTA IV’s use of<br />

Euphoria was much more impressive.<br />

Each consecutive console generation<br />

offers a bigger, deeper sandpit for<br />

developers to dig through. We haven’t<br />

hit the bottom of this generation’s<br />

just yet.<br />

With graphics somewhat levelled<br />

out (particularly in terms of a small<br />

number of engines such as Unreal<br />

Engine 3 being used across many/<br />

most titles) and the upgradeable<br />

nature of online connectivity, the<br />

current console generation is in a<br />

position to extend their lifetimes<br />

far beyond what was previously<br />

possible. A rather encouraging trend<br />

has emerged of gameplay becoming<br />

a renewed focus. The video game<br />

industry has an unfortunate tendency<br />

to pay more heed to the prettiest<br />

games, but increasingly we’ve<br />

seen art direction take precedence<br />

over graphical power. With most<br />

developers on a level playing field<br />

in terms of visuals (see our Unreal<br />

Engine boxout) gameplay is again<br />

becoming king. The likes of Minecraft<br />

and Super Meat Boy have proven to<br />

be popular not because they look<br />

good but because they offer excellent<br />

gameplay.<br />


The question of the successors to<br />

the Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and Wii<br />

has barely been raised, despite the<br />

fact that we have the 3DS coming<br />

20 www.pixelhunt.com.au<br />


For our money, this console<br />

generation has plenty of life in it yet.<br />

Cell Shaded Masterpiece<br />


and, apparently, the PSP2 in the<br />

works. In a way, we’ve already got<br />

our new generation. Microsoft has<br />

treated Kinect as almost a console<br />

unto itself, while Sony to a lesser<br />

extent has looked to expand with<br />

Move. If the Wii can get hold of a<br />

magical HD chip we’ll be just about<br />

level again.<br />

We are also still engaged solidly<br />

with our console(s) of choice, and<br />

this generation of machines bring<br />

with them some features that give<br />

new meaning to the term ‘brand<br />

loyalty’. Microsoft and Sony are<br />

each invested in their meta-score<br />

game tracking, with Achievements<br />

and Trophies solidifying the social<br />

gaming space. Moving across to a<br />

new console in the future will require<br />

the maintaining of current gaming<br />

badges, lest they risk the ire of<br />

players the world over.<br />

There’s no doubt that come E3<br />

2011, pundits will speculate on the<br />

likelihood of a new major console<br />

release from one of the Almighty<br />

Three. For our money, this console<br />

generation has plenty of life in it<br />

yet. Back in 2006, Sony Computer<br />


SEGA<br />

1983 Sega SG-1000<br />

1985 Sega Master<br />

System<br />

1988 Sega Mega<br />

Drive/Genesis<br />

1994 Sega Saturn<br />

1998 Sega<br />

Dreamcast<br />

Entertainment America president<br />

Kaz Hirai predicted that the<br />

Playstation 3 would have a lifespan<br />

of ten years. So far he’s spot on,<br />

but we’re only halfway there. We<br />

can’t say for sure whether we’ll<br />

be playing Heavy Rain 3: Gentle<br />

Downpour on our not-yet-obsolete<br />

Playstation 3 in 2016, or whether<br />

we’ll be unwrapping a new Bluray<br />

drive Xbox, but whatever the<br />

case, we’ll continue to enjoy what<br />

has been a bountiful period for<br />

consoles and console gaming.<br />


Unreal Engine 3<br />

Roll Call<br />

Cliffy B must be dry<br />

washing his hands<br />

constantly, grinning<br />

nefariously as those millions<br />

in royalties roll in from<br />

every game and his dog<br />

using the Unreal Engine 3.<br />

Here are some of the more<br />

surprising ones:<br />

DC Universe Online<br />

Hail To The Chimp (:S)<br />

Alpha Protocol<br />

Mirror’s Edge<br />

Enslaved: Odyssey<br />

To The West<br />

Zumba Fitness<br />

Borderlands<br />

Lost Odyssey<br />

Shadow Complex<br />

Batman: Arkham Asylum<br />

Mass Effect (all titles)<br />

Australia’s best gaming<br />

-zine<br />

www.PIXELHUNT.com.AU<br />



BOYS IN<br />

THE hood<br />


PINCOTT have been getting<br />

acquainted with stealth and<br />

stabbing in the multiplayer<br />

of Assassin’s Creed:<br />

Brotherhood.<br />

MP: Multiplayer games typically<br />

involve, but are not limited<br />

to, headshots, grenade spamming,<br />

teabagging, deathmatches, capture<br />

the flag, whiny pre-pubescents, and<br />

players abusing whatever the latest<br />

exploit happens to be. Though we can’t<br />

guarantee an absence of whiny prepubescents,<br />

the multiplayer of Assassin’s<br />

Creed: Brotherhood spares us the majority<br />

of that paradigm to offer something rather<br />

fresh and different. Bombast is replaced<br />

with subtlety and stealth. The satisfaction<br />

of a headshot replaced by that derived<br />

from an exquisitely stealthy kill. It’s a<br />

perpetually tense game of cat and mouse<br />

combined with the kinetic rush of rooftop<br />

parkour. Ultimately, I love Brotherhood’s<br />

multiplayer because it emphasises<br />

strategy over twitch skills. Where my FPS<br />

skills would best be described as average,<br />

Brotherhood is an avenue for me to<br />

(attempt to) employ cunning and stealth<br />

instead of twitch gameplay. Would you<br />

agree, Ken<br />

KL: The emphasis on strategy is<br />

definitely a high point for me. There is<br />

huge benefit to planning the perfect kill,<br />

and the game actively rewards that. I<br />

mean, I could choose to run wildly over<br />

roofs stabbing every target I get. But the<br />

meagre points awarded for those kills<br />

reflect the lack of thought and decision<br />

put into them. I can get far more points<br />

22 www.pixelhunt.com.au<br />



CREED<br />


Developer Ubisoft Montreal<br />

Publisher Ubisoft<br />

Platform 360 / PS3 / PC<br />

Genre Action/Adventure<br />


You<br />

feel totally<br />

in sync<br />

with what’s<br />

going on and<br />

totally like<br />

the badass<br />

assassin<br />

the game<br />

wants you<br />

to feel like.<br />

if I take my time, approach my<br />

prey stealthily, and walk away<br />

calmly after sliding a knife<br />

into their backs. The rewards<br />

for that one quality kill greatly<br />

outweighs quantity.<br />

Your references to standard<br />

multiplayer games are right<br />

on the money. After several<br />

rounds into AC:B, those other<br />

multiplayer games almost feel<br />

somehow base and vulgar. The<br />

deliberate nature of AC:B, and<br />

the precision it requires make<br />

each session feel a little posh<br />

and gentlemanly.<br />

Another thing that I like very<br />

much is how the game prompts<br />

a sense of urgency into each<br />

kill, making the game move<br />

along at a quick pace. Despite<br />

being encouraged to plan each<br />

kill, the window of opportunity<br />

is constantly growing smaller<br />

as my prey gains more<br />

pursuers. As such, I can never<br />

just hang back and hope to<br />

get the one perfect kill to win<br />

the game, lest my target gets<br />

poached by others.<br />

MP: We should probably<br />

touch on some negatives<br />

as well. For one thing, the<br />

matchmaking leaves a lot to be<br />

desired. Though patches have<br />

improved things, getting into<br />

a match can be a frustrating<br />

affair. If it emerges that in<br />

a few months time nobody<br />

is playing Brotherhood’s<br />

multiplayer anymore, it won’t<br />

be because the multiplayer<br />

wasn’t good – it will be<br />

because too many people<br />

were turned away by the slow,<br />

broken matchmaking.<br />

Another thing that became<br />

apparent to me the more I<br />

played was how much luck<br />

plays a role in Brotherhood.<br />

Ten minute rounds would<br />

pass by with nary a kill on<br />

the scoreboard, but then<br />

everything turns to gold.<br />

Targets run straight towards<br />

your waiting blade. Your hunter<br />

gives themselves away and<br />

you net yourself some tidy stun<br />

bonuses. The points seem to<br />

rack up without even trying.<br />

You feel totally in sync with<br />

what’s going on and totally<br />

like the badass assassin the<br />

game wants you to feel like.<br />

Does it even out in the end<br />

Probably. Just don’t feel too<br />

bad if nothing’s going right.<br />

A lethal killing machine one<br />

Australia’s best gaming<br />

-zine<br />

www.PIXELHUNT.com.AU<br />



moment, guy wearing a dunce cap<br />

and running with knives the next –<br />

it’s the assassin way.<br />

Ken, Ubisoft have already said<br />

there’s going to be another full blown<br />

Assassin’s Creed title by the end of<br />

2011, and it’s likely that multiplayer<br />

will be a part of that game. What<br />

improvements would you like to see<br />

KL: Getting the matchmaking<br />

working would be great, of course.<br />

Like you, I spend as much time<br />

waiting for a game to start as I do<br />

playing it. I’d like more variety in<br />

maps and level design. I’d like to see<br />

more open maps, with multiple height<br />

levels. At the moment, the maps tend<br />

to closed in, and don’t have much<br />

verticality. The controls are identical<br />

to the single-player, so the camera<br />

and mobility are merely serviceable.<br />

If any changes to the map are to<br />

be made, the controls will need to<br />

be modified accordingly to allow for<br />

quicker tracking and chasing of prey.<br />

I’d also love to see less emphasis<br />

on character levelling. While levelling in<br />

Brotherhood hasn’t been too tedious,<br />

it is compounded by the difficulty of<br />

getting into a game in the first place.<br />

Plus, there are a few perks that have<br />

a substantial effect on gameplay<br />

that are awarded at widely differing<br />

levels. Getting a better balance<br />

between the levels and its associated<br />

rewards will help to keep dedicated<br />

gamers engaged while still remaining<br />

accessible to more casual players.<br />

Brotherhood has offered quite an<br />

innovative and refreshing take on<br />

multiplayer, and I hope that it’ll keep<br />

its unique identity. For a game in which<br />

I originally dismissed the potential of<br />

multiplayer, I’m <strong>now</strong> really eager to see<br />

what else it’ll offer in the future.<br />


Five Ways To Not Suck At<br />

Brotherhood Multiplayer<br />

1Kill With Style: The points you earn<br />

comes down to the quality of your<br />

kills. You can go for the cheap and nasty<br />

kills that net you 100 or 150 points,<br />

or you can be patient and pick up<br />

anywhere from 400 to over 1000 points.<br />

Sometimes a messy kill is the best<br />

option if your target is being difficult<br />

and you just want to move onto the next<br />

contract, but where possible, it’s worth<br />

that bit of extra patience and time to<br />

pick up those Incognito bonuses.<br />

2Watch Your Back: It’s bloody<br />

difficult to track your target<br />

and evade your hunter at the<br />

same time, and basically<br />

impossible when you have<br />

multiple assassins on<br />

your case. Still, it’s<br />

wise to play defensively<br />

when you can. Escape<br />

and Stun bonuses are<br />

a good source of extra<br />

points. <strong>Hunt</strong>ers who give<br />

themselves away will be<br />

marked with a red icon<br />

above their heads. It’s a<br />

risky move to take them<br />

head on, but a well timed<br />

Mute or Smoke Bomb will<br />

give you the upper hand.<br />

3Time Is Of The<br />

Essence: You’ll<br />

always be on a timer in<br />

Brotherhood multiplayer,<br />

no matter the mode. Your target may<br />

well be on the opposite side of the<br />

map to you, so the subtle and stealthy<br />

approach isn’t exactly efficient. At the<br />

same time, running will make you a<br />

dead giveaway to anyone hunting you.<br />

The rooftops are quick, but they will<br />

leave you exposed. Pay attention to the<br />

hunter markers - if none are lit up, you<br />

can run around as much as you like (as<br />

long as you’re not spooking your target).<br />

4K<strong>now</strong> Your Loadouts: You can have<br />

up to five pro<strong>file</strong>s with different<br />

loadouts. It’s helpful to customise<br />

these according to what mode you’re<br />

playing. Manhunt, for example, is<br />

split into a hunter stage and<br />

a prey stage - defensive<br />

abilities aren’t much use<br />

when you have nobody after<br />

you, and vice versa.<br />

5Play Manhunt: Of<br />

the three modes,<br />

Manhunt by far yields the<br />

most XP, for the simple<br />

reason that instead<br />

of chasing one target<br />

at a time as you do<br />

in Wanted, or two in<br />

Alliance, there can be<br />

up to four targets waiting for<br />

your blade. More targets<br />

means more chance of<br />

getting a kill, and more kills<br />

means more XP.<br />

24 www.pixelhunt.com.au<br />




We keep him well supplied in cocaine, virgins and donuts and in exchange Professor <strong>Pixel</strong> answers your most fiendish<br />

gaming questions. Got a question for Professor <strong>Pixel</strong> Fire it off to professorpixel@pixelhunt.com.au<br />

Dear Professor<br />

Q Most sequels have<br />

numbers in them, but some<br />

sequels have subtitles instead.<br />

Why do you think this is<br />

Regards, Percy The Second<br />

AProfessor <strong>Pixel</strong><br />

Well Percy, this is a<br />

handy trick for when you<br />

want to pretend your game<br />

isn’t a sequel when it<br />

really is. For some reason,<br />

developers start to get a<br />

bit embarrassed when the<br />

numbers get too large, so<br />

they throw in a subtitle<br />

instead. See such titles as<br />

Fallout: New Vegas (Fallout<br />

5), Assassin’s Creed:<br />

Brotherhood (Assassin’s<br />

Creed 6) and Call Of Duty:<br />

Black Ops (Call Of Duty 7). I<br />

just don’t understand why<br />

they wouldn’t want to boast<br />

about how efficiently their<br />

prolific sequel machine is<br />

operating. Don’t they k<strong>now</strong><br />

that the ladies love the big<br />

numbers Why isn’t Guitar<br />

Hero: Warriors of Rock given<br />

its rightful title of Guitar<br />

Hero 12 The only series<br />

brave enough to show off<br />

its double digits has been<br />

Final Fantasy, but they’re<br />

holding back more than<br />

anyone - if you counted the<br />

spinoffs and remakes they’d<br />

be well into the hundreds.<br />

I’d like to see developers<br />

and publishers embrace the<br />

fact that they shamelessly<br />

churn out sequels to games<br />

every other day. I won’t be<br />

satisfied until I see Halo 21<br />

and Need For Speed 34 on<br />

the shelves.<br />

caLL OF DUTY 7<br />

Would this have been that bad<br />

QHey Professor P!<br />

What’s with these<br />

hardass dudes who can rip<br />

fools in two and eat them<br />

for breakfast but turn to jelly<br />

when it comes to walking<br />

across a wooden beam<br />

Kratos from God of War,<br />

Gabriel from Castlevania and<br />

the Prince of Persia all can<br />

run, jump, climb, swim and<br />

fight like it’s nothing, but<br />

whoooooaaa, it’s a wooden<br />

beam, I’m gonna fall, I better<br />

wobble about like a big girl,<br />

oh no I fell, better pull myself<br />

back up so I can act like a<br />

bitch some more. When will<br />

we get an action hero who<br />

can cross wooden beams<br />

without wetting themselves<br />

in the process<br />

Angry John<br />

AProfessor <strong>Pixel</strong><br />

Thanks for your query,<br />

Angry John. I’ve never tried<br />

walking across a narrow<br />

plank of wood before so I<br />

can’t personally attest as to<br />

the difficulty of such a task.<br />

But I do ack<strong>now</strong>ledge your<br />

point – the wooden beam<br />

seems to be of tremendous<br />

difficulty to the gaming<br />

heroes we so respect and<br />

adore. Perhaps they have<br />

inner-ear deficiencies<br />

Perhaps they wear narrow<br />

shoes Perhaps upon looking<br />

down they’ve noticed a stain<br />

on their outfit, distressing<br />

them to the point of losing<br />

their balance It’s hard to<br />

pinpoint the exact nature<br />

of their problem, but<br />

might I humbly suggest to<br />

video game villains of the<br />

future that they construct<br />

their lairs and dungeons<br />

entirely out of wooden<br />

beams, hoisted high above<br />

some fiery and unpleasant<br />

doom. The poor darlings<br />

won’t even make it to the<br />

front door.<br />

Gabriel<br />

castlevania<br />

Australia’s best gaming<br />

-zine<br />

www.PIXELHUNT.com.AU<br />



WHAT<br />

WE’RE<br />


Believe it or<br />

not, the <strong>Pixel</strong><br />

<strong>Hunt</strong> staff<br />

actually play<br />

some video<br />

games <strong>now</strong> and<br />

then. Here’s<br />

what has<br />

tickled their<br />

fancies of late.<br />

KEN LEE<br />

Dance<br />

Central<br />

I got the Kinect as a<br />

birthday present from<br />

my wife, and getting<br />

my dance on seemed<br />

the most natural and<br />

obvious thing to do.<br />

Dance Central is really<br />

quite impressive. There’s<br />

a huge list of songs, and<br />

a huge variety of dance<br />

moves to emulate. And<br />

the game’s Break It<br />

Down tutorials are very<br />

effective in teaching<br />

those moves to a<br />

beginning player. It’s not<br />

quite a killer app, but it’s<br />

a must-have if you’ve got<br />

a Kinect.<br />


Final Fantasy<br />

XIII<br />

(International Edition)<br />

This is pretty much Final<br />

Fantasy XIII with an<br />

Easy difficulty option.<br />

I’m glad Square-Enix<br />

finally decided to release<br />

FFXIII for the Japanese<br />

Xbox 360 because<br />

after spending 15<br />

hours with it, I realise<br />

that this is truly the<br />

next-generation RPG I<br />

dreamed about back<br />

when the term ‘next-gen’<br />

was still hip and the<br />

PlayStation 2’s Emotion<br />

Engine was considered<br />

to be godly.<br />


Donkey Kong<br />

Country<br />

Returns<br />

I’ve been super<br />

impressed by this game.<br />

It looks great, plays<br />

smooth as butter and<br />

sports some fantastic<br />

level design. It feels<br />

as though developers<br />

Retro Studios paid a lot<br />

of attention to Super<br />

Mario Galaxy in terms<br />

of constantly throwing<br />

fun, new things at the<br />

player. Even the motion<br />

controls, which have<br />

caused some people to<br />

gripe, work quite well.<br />


Assassin’s<br />

Creed:<br />

Brotherhood<br />

I was addicted to<br />

Assassin’s Creed II, and<br />

this one is pretty much<br />

exactly the same, so<br />

why am I not enjoying<br />

it Maybe it’s because<br />

it’s exactly the same. I’m<br />

looking at a massive map<br />

of icons, but instead of<br />

fun opportunities all I<br />

can see are chores to<br />

be repeated; complete<br />

special platform puzzle<br />

areas and find hidden<br />

hieroglyphs. Didn’t I<br />

already do all of this<br />

only a year ago Screw<br />

this, I’m going back to<br />

Minecraft.<br />


999: 9<br />

Hours, 9<br />

Persons, 9<br />

Doors<br />

Easy puzzles, awful<br />

writing, hammy dialogue,<br />

messy cliches and<br />

enormous logic leaps all<br />

combine to create....a<br />

surprisingly compelling<br />

and enjoyable game,<br />

actually. The overarching<br />

ideas and story are good<br />

enough to elevate what<br />

should have been a bit<br />

of a mess into a real<br />

‘take it to the toilet with<br />

you because you don’t<br />

want to put it down’ DS<br />

affair.<br />

26 www.pixelhunt.com.au<br />




Deadly<br />

Premonition<br />

(Import)<br />

An open world actionadventure<br />

thriller that<br />

appears to have escaped<br />

from the brain of David<br />

Lynch. PS2-era graphics,<br />

awful controls, yet<br />

utterly, utterly brilliant in<br />

its oddness.<br />


Everything<br />

A lot of catch up. I’ve<br />

spent my holidays going<br />

back to BioShock 2,<br />

Dragon Age, The Witcher,<br />

Dante’s Inferno, Nier<br />

and heaps more. I’m<br />

loving Bad Company 2:<br />

Vietnam and I still have<br />

the urge to swan dive<br />

back into Assassin’s<br />

Creed: Brotherhood<br />

and get those last<br />

few secrets. But more<br />

than anything I’m just<br />

enjoying this small<br />

period of game release<br />

silence, a reprieve from<br />

the weekly avalanche of<br />

truly great games. 2011<br />

looks like it will be just<br />

as crazy, so get ready!<br />


World Of<br />

Warcraft:<br />

Cataclysm<br />

So far, I’ve enjoyed<br />

spending the last week<br />

exploring the changes<br />

that Deathwing has<br />

wreaked upon Azeroth.<br />

My first encounter with<br />

Armageddon involved<br />

me dying from his<br />

burning fury while selling<br />

items to a vendor inside<br />

a building. I enjoyed the<br />

surprise, but hopefully<br />

Blizzard won’t overuse<br />

their new trump card.<br />


Just Cause 2<br />

I’m a bit late to the party,<br />

I k<strong>now</strong>, but this game<br />

is incredible! It’s one of<br />

those rare games where<br />

you think “I wonder if<br />

I can do this...” and 9<br />

out of 10 times, you<br />

can! When I used my<br />

grappling hook to tie<br />

that first speeding jeep<br />

to the road and made it<br />

forward-flip and explode,<br />

I knew I would be playing<br />

this game for some time.<br />


Darksiders<br />

I’m playing the PS3<br />

version, despite how<br />

insanely cheap this was<br />

in the Christmas Steam<br />

sales. It’s the sort of<br />

game that should be<br />

played on a larger TV<br />

while reclined on a sofa,<br />

even if it feels a bit flat in<br />

the visual department.<br />

That bit that rips off<br />

Shadow of the Colossus<br />

is awesome. Shameless,<br />

but awesome.<br />


NBA 2K11<br />

I can not put this game<br />

down. After completing<br />

the amazing Michael<br />

Jordan career highlights<br />

mode, which you can<br />

play out the most lauded<br />

of his Airness’ defining<br />

moments on the court.<br />

I have moved on and<br />

started creating my own<br />

legacy: Aaron Sammut<br />

is a 5”8”, 220 pound<br />

shooting guard with a<br />

field goal average of 15%<br />

and is currently hired<br />

by the Orlando Magic to<br />

warm a seat for Dwight<br />

Howard.<br />

Australia’s best gaming<br />

-zine<br />

www.PIXELHUNT.com.AU<br />


creative<br />

Charlie Loses His Cool<br />

(An Alan Wake Story)<br />

I<br />

’d been lots of places to chase women over the<br />

years, but none of them had been quite like<br />

Bright Falls. Leaving the sunshine for something<br />

approaching the Canadian border was bad<br />

enough, but this place seemed to have escaped<br />

wholesale from a David Lynch movie, with people<br />

to match. Except for Rose, of course, who was<br />

responsible for bringing me to this shit heap in the<br />

first place. I got a letter from her one day – she’d<br />

read one of my books (one of the better ones) and<br />

wanted to meet me. “I’m your biggest fan,” the<br />

letter had read. “I k<strong>now</strong> people say that all the<br />

time, but I really am!”<br />

Also enclosed was a Polaroid that I can’t<br />

adequately describe without breaking several of<br />

this hick state’s ‘decency’ laws. Needless to say,<br />

28 www.pixelhunt.com.au<br />


it was enough to make me fling a hip<br />

flask into the car and coax it onto<br />

the highway. I hadn’t realised how<br />

long the trip was (a tip for anyone<br />

wanting to Kerouac across America:<br />

don’t) and I fell asleep at the wheel<br />

10 minutes out of town, hitting a<br />

goddamn deer in the process.<br />

I was quite a sight when I finally got<br />

to Bright Falls, bloody from a cut on<br />

my forehead, stinking of booze and<br />

slightly embarrassed that I’d killed<br />

the town’s favourite animal with a<br />

Volkswagen. It didn’t matter to Rose<br />

though, who took me back to her<br />

weird trailer-home-thing, bathed my<br />

cuts, found a fifth of whiskey and then<br />

bedded me like a wild animal. This girl<br />

was hot for writers, and I was suddenly<br />

seeing the appeal of being able to<br />

string a sentence together.<br />

The next morning she said I could<br />

go with her to work – after all, there<br />

was precious little else to do unless<br />

you wanted to join in the communal<br />

anticipation for the upcoming Deer<br />

Festival (I really, really didn’t). So I<br />

tagged along. The place was called<br />

(seriously) the Oh Deer Diner, and<br />

it didn’t belong in this or any other<br />

century. Still, it kept the autumn chill<br />

out, so I installed myself in a corner<br />

while Rose kept cups of thick, hot<br />

coffee coming my way, which I would<br />

generously top up with my hip flask.<br />

The people in the joint had to be<br />

seen to be believed. Two gnarled old<br />

metal heads sat in a corner, lording<br />

it over the jukebox, which they<br />

insisted on using to play Nilsson’s<br />

‘Coconut’ over and over again.<br />

Hmph, I thought, suits my mood<br />

– I do feel like going a bit Reservoir<br />

Dogs on the whole damn town.<br />

Every once in a while one of the<br />

hick locals would drop in to get their<br />

morning coffee and poke their nose<br />

around. Every single one of them<br />

fixed me with a look of distaste, and<br />

why shouldn’t they I had come up<br />

from less than nothing and made<br />

a living out of arranging words on<br />

paper, of course they hated me. Still,<br />

it was starting to feel a little too<br />

Deliverance meets Stephen King for<br />

my liking.<br />

The diner had only three other<br />

occupants. One was a local landlord,<br />

Carl Stucky, a world-class small-town<br />

asshole in a boiler suit who had<br />

thankfully hidden himself in the john<br />

for the better part of the morning.<br />

The second was a vacuous looking<br />

cop in a sheriff outfit who was clearly<br />

a parody of himself. The other made<br />

my blood boil – a cardboard cut-out<br />

of that sycophantic loser Alan Wake.<br />

A bigger, wealthier writer than I’d ever<br />

be, and a complete fuckwit to top it all<br />

off. I’d quizzed Rose about the cut-out<br />

when we came in, but she professed<br />

ignorance, claiming she’d never seen<br />

it before. A claim, I noticed, which<br />

made even the burnt out derelicts in<br />

the corner roll their eyes.<br />

Something was very fucking rotten<br />

in Bright Falls.<br />

I was busily topping up my<br />

coffee cup when one of those huge,<br />

ridiculous four wheel drives pulled<br />

up outside. You k<strong>now</strong> the kind; urban<br />

Holy shit. It was Alan Wake – the real Alan<br />

Wake - and he was coming in the door.<br />

assault vehicles driven by edgy<br />

housewives on their third drink of the<br />

day. Someone emerged. I squinted<br />

through my mildly drunken haze.<br />

Holy shit. It was Alan Wake – the<br />

real Alan Wake - and he was coming<br />

in the door.<br />

I grabbed my coffee and quickly<br />

(though somewhat haphazardly) dove<br />

into the kitchen. I had no intention of<br />

encountering Alan goddamn Wake,<br />

and I didn’t trust myself not to land<br />

a punch (and no doubt an assault<br />

and battery charge) if I did. He was<br />

talking to Rose, mooching around<br />

with that ‘I’m such a tortured artist’<br />

look on his face. Millions of dollars<br />

will do that to you.<br />

I couldn’t make out what he was<br />

saying, but I sure heard what Rose<br />

said to him.<br />

“Mr. Wake” she enthused. “Alan<br />

Wake Oh God! I am your biggest<br />

fan! I k<strong>now</strong> people say that all the<br />

time, but I really am!”<br />

Bitch.<br />

I didn’t stick around to hear the<br />

rest of their discourse. Instead, I<br />

acted like the adult male that I am<br />

and snuck out through the back of<br />

the kitchen. I ended up in the rear of<br />

the diner, near the john. It was dark,<br />

and all the fuses seemed to have<br />

gone. A hand touched me on the<br />

wrist. I jumped in the air, dropping<br />

my hip flask in the process. Looking<br />

around I saw a creepy old woman,<br />

dressed in black with a veil on.<br />

Christ, I thought, if this is what Deer<br />

Fest is going to be like I’m glad to be<br />

getting out of town.<br />

“Jesus Christ, lady!” I exclaimed.<br />

“Just what the fu-“<br />

“Carl couldn’t make it,” she<br />

interrupted, “he was taken ill-“<br />

“Listen,” I said forcefully, “I don’t<br />

k<strong>now</strong> who you are or what horror<br />

movie you escaped from, but you<br />

better back off.”<br />

She merged back into the<br />

shadows. I found the door and got<br />

the hell out of Bright Falls.<br />

Patrick Lang<br />

Australia’s best gaming<br />

-zine<br />

www.PIXELHUNT.com.AU<br />





Bar<br />

Fight<br />

KEN LEE on why<br />

multiplayer levelling<br />

unlevels the playing field.<br />

There’s a trend in online<br />

multiplayer games that I’m<br />

gradually getting tired of. I’m not<br />

sure how much longer I can deal with<br />

games that have persistent character<br />

progression and levelling. I’m not<br />

talking about MMOs, but rather<br />

games in the same vein as Call of<br />

Duty: Modern Warfare.<br />

When Modern Warfare was<br />

released in 2007, it felt like a breath<br />

of fresh air. It depicted war in a<br />

modern era. There were locales that<br />

mirrored current real-world places,<br />

and you could use current weapons.<br />

But the persistent character<br />

levelling in multiplayer was one of the<br />

most innovative things that Modern<br />

Warfare accomplished. It was one<br />

of the first games that combined<br />

an online shooter with character<br />

progression in an accessible manner.<br />

You could jump in any selection of<br />

game modes, and earn experience<br />

towards unlocking better weapons,<br />

gear and perks.<br />

There was nothing like this<br />

before. I was excited about this<br />

brand new way to play. Suddenly, all<br />

those deathmatch sessions meant<br />

something. There was something to<br />

achieve, something to strive for. It<br />

wasn’t just about your score or kill/<br />

death ratio in inconsequential games<br />

that were forgotten once the timer<br />

ran out. You worked and earned<br />

your way upwards, and you had the<br />

trophies to prove your veteran status.<br />

But every innovative idea<br />

eventually gets co-opted by everyone<br />

else, regurgitating it over and over<br />

until it dies a million deaths. Or so it<br />

felt to me, when other games started<br />

to incorporate persistent character<br />

progression into their online<br />

multiplayer components. Games<br />

such as Medal of Honor, Battlefield:<br />

Bad Company 2, Transformers: War<br />

For Cybertron and Assassin’s Creed:<br />

Brotherhood all copied the Modern<br />

Warfare model.<br />

This trend of character<br />

progression normally wouldn’t be<br />

a problem. I’ve taken my fair share<br />

of enjoyment out of these games.<br />

I’ve spoken at length previously<br />

about the number of hours I’ve<br />

sunk into Battlefield: Bad Company<br />

2. I can also understand why game<br />

companies implement such features.<br />

The second-hand game market is one<br />

that publishers and developers never<br />

directly benefit from. Encouraging<br />

gamers to not only buy first-hand,<br />

and hold onto those games is in the<br />

best interests of the developers.<br />

But it does mean that each game<br />

demands a huge time investment<br />

30 www.pixelhunt.com.au<br />




MEDAL OF<br />

HONOR<br />

from gamers. It requires a loyalty that<br />

I believe many gamers won’t be able<br />

to commit to a single game. Sure,<br />

there are people who only play one<br />

game religiously. But for someone<br />

who loves all manner of games,<br />

there’s just no way that I’d be able to<br />

put that amount of time into a single<br />

game. I’ve spent close to 40 hours in<br />

Bad Company 2, and I’m only at Level<br />

22 (it goes up to 50). I’m an average<br />

gamer with average skills, and it’s<br />

likely to take me at least another 40<br />

hours before I get to the end. I’m at<br />

level 17 in Modern Warfare, and level<br />

7 in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood.<br />

How many more hours do I need<br />

But what I find most frustrating<br />

is how these games commonly lock<br />

better weapons and gear until you<br />

hit the higher levels. I k<strong>now</strong> these<br />

weapons are an incentive to stick with<br />

the game. It can be very rewarding<br />

to finally get that high-powered rifle<br />

after hours of sweat and toil. But the<br />

fact that the weapon was locked away<br />

means that people who are either<br />

jumping in brand new, or don’t have<br />

the time to commit those hours are<br />

penalised. I only just unlocked the<br />

smoke bombs on AC:Brotherhood,<br />

which substantially changes the game.<br />

It’ll be a long while before I can gain<br />

access to the second ability slot (level<br />

10), the throwing knives (level 19)<br />

and the poison blade (level 29). While<br />

most games try to maintain a balance<br />

between the higher and lower level<br />

unlocks, some games are woefully<br />

unbalanced. In Front Mission: Evolved,<br />

the higher level weapons grossly<br />

overpower the weapons you start<br />

with; some guns deal more damage<br />

in a single shot than I could with a full<br />

clip of ammunition. Needless to say, I<br />

didn’t stick with that game for long.<br />

I don’t have anything against<br />

persistent character levelling and<br />

progression. I understand the appeal,<br />

and I enjoy it myself most of the time.<br />

There have been a number of games<br />

that I’m willing to throw away hours<br />

I’ve spent close<br />

to 40 hours in Bad<br />

Company 2, and I’m<br />

only at Level 22...<br />

for. But with so many games <strong>now</strong><br />

incorporating this same mechanic<br />

into their multiplayer, I’ll never be able<br />

to get round to ‘completing’ those<br />

games. I just don’t have the time or<br />

dedication. But most frustrating is that<br />

some of that content will be locked<br />

away from me forever. Ultimately,<br />

these games require a lot of loyalty<br />

and commitment, but when you’re<br />

somewhat of a gaming slut, it doesn’t<br />

feel good to miss out.<br />

KEN LEE<br />

Australia’s best gaming<br />

-zine<br />

www.PIXELHUNT.com.AU<br />



Make It Stop!<br />

DYLAN BURNS on the seemingly endless barrage of<br />

game releases.<br />

Even before going through a fairly<br />

comprehensive Wikipedia list of all<br />

the major game releases of the last ten<br />

years for one of our <strong>Pixel</strong>Casts, I’d had<br />

in mind a rant on the subject of how<br />

many games are getting released each<br />

year. Perusing the list for 2001 through<br />

to 2004 or so didn’t take that long, but<br />

as I kept going, it was taking longer to<br />

process each year, with more and more<br />

great titles jumping out at me.<br />

By the time you read this, our<br />

debate will have already taken place<br />

on the podcast. I hope it was fun to<br />

listen to. I’ll leave my personal picks<br />

out of this and concentrate on the<br />

main topic of release volume. Actually,<br />

‘release volume’ sounds pretty<br />

dodgy… how about ‘game flood’ or<br />

‘title torrent’ You k<strong>now</strong> what I mean,<br />

right The sheer amount of games<br />

that are getting released across<br />

all platforms is just crazy. So crazy<br />

that it’s actually getting stressful to<br />

try and keep up. You think being a<br />

games reviewer is fun when you’ve<br />

got multiple reviews due of multiple<br />

awesome games, each of which you’d<br />

rather take a long time to play Okay,<br />

it is still cool, but as far as first world<br />

problems go it’s right up there.<br />

I’m sitting here in a lovely holiday<br />

period of the New Year and my catch-up<br />

list extends back into 2009. In fact, I’m<br />

probably just going to have to write off<br />

some of the larger titles and reconnect<br />

with their impending sequels.<br />

Obviously, making more games<br />

makes sense. It’s a growing industry<br />

and there are big bucks to be made<br />

if you are a publisher of consistent<br />

quality. It’s strange that I would<br />

complain about there being too many<br />

good games, but as I look over 2011’s<br />

upcoming releases I just k<strong>now</strong> that it’s<br />

going to be as bad this year as it was<br />

in 2010. Games are getting deeper,<br />

longer, more complicated and their<br />

tails stretch out vastly thanks to the<br />

implementation of steady streams of<br />

DLC content. My personal problem is<br />

that as soon as I finish a game, its first<br />

batch of DLC is already in my face. I’d<br />

much prefer a break, to move on to<br />

another game or three, but something<br />

within me feels compelled to continue<br />

the adventure if I really enjoyed the<br />

base game.<br />

32 www.pixelhunt.com.au<br />


When I say that games are getting<br />

longer, I mean in an investment sense.<br />

We are faced less often with epic 60<br />

hour adventures, but there is still an<br />

8-10 hour expectance from full priced<br />

games. Add to that the time-sink<br />

possibilities of a well-implemented<br />

multiplayer mode and stand alone games<br />

have the potential to occupy you for<br />

weeks or even months at a time.<br />

But of course, we live in an age where<br />

nearly every week brings at least one<br />

new title, and for the most part they’re<br />

all worth getting. I k<strong>now</strong> last year I was<br />

getting games and not even playing<br />

them. Or buying two or three games on<br />

a Thursday and having to choose which<br />

one to play first. It’s both awesome and<br />

crazy at the same time and my poor<br />

brain just can’t deal with it.<br />

Which brings me to my 2011 gaming<br />

resolution: to try and be more picky/<br />

selective with the games that I play,<br />

and to try and push down those anxious<br />

feelings as titles slip by without being<br />

experienced. With hundreds of games<br />

clamouring for our attention, I only have<br />

time to enjoy the cream at the top.<br />

This will, of course, mean that I miss<br />

many very good games, but come the<br />

end of 2011 I’ll no doubt have a list in<br />

my mind of titles that I’d like to track<br />

down at a bargain price. Steam also<br />

seems to be turning its Christmas sales<br />

into a regular thing, so I’m sure I’ll pick<br />

up some savings there.<br />

There are rumblings in the industry<br />

about slowing down and releasing fewer<br />

titles. Late last year EA said as much,<br />

hinting that they may plan to reduce<br />

their yearly output but still concentrate<br />

on quality. Surely the flood of games<br />

must be impacting on sales; it may be a<br />

booming industry but even so, the main<br />

consumers who regularly buy games can<br />

only spend so much on it. The Guitar<br />

Hero series, once a billion dollar open<br />

cheque, has fizzled, a result of market<br />

saturation.<br />

With hundreds of<br />

games clamouring for<br />

our attention, I only have<br />

time to enjoy the cream<br />

at the top.<br />

I have no illusions as to my effect on<br />

the industry. Too many games will continue<br />

to get released around me, but perhaps if<br />

we all band together and start being more<br />

selective, that activity will show up as a blip<br />

on publishers’ mega-secret, sale-tracking<br />

underground lair computers. I’m going to<br />

do my best to stick to my resolution. I’ll<br />

let you k<strong>now</strong> how I go.<br />


Australia’s best gaming<br />

-zine<br />

www.PIXELHUNT.com.AU<br />


Issue 14 – Coming<br />

MARCH 2011<br />


GDC: Game<br />

Developers<br />

Conference<br />



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