Monday, April 27, 2009

No time for games, Dr. Jones!!

For the first time in my career, I am faced with a terrible (well, I think it's terrible) problem. I have a huge stack of games and no time to play them. You must understand, this violates everything I believe in as a game creator. Early on in my career, I vowed that I would never be one of those people in games who didn't play games. I worked with too many people who did (and some who even took pride in their non-game playing.)

In order to understand games, in order to make games, in order to be relevant, YOU MUST PLAY GAMES. So, I have a big stack of games. What I want from YOU (and I know you are out there) is recommendations of which ones to play first. Some of these I've started to play, others of them I haven't even unwrapped yet.

Here's the list:

Resident Evil 5
Left 4 Dead
Heavenly Sword
Bioshock (played two levels)
Half Life 2
Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction
Prince of Persia (2008)
Resistance 1
Resistance 2
Dead Space (played first chapter)
Kung Fu Panda
Crayola colorful journey (don't ask)
Psychonauts (played first two worlds)
Dawn of War II
Give me your list and I'll maybe I'll write up some mini-reviews!

Thanks in advance!


Nels Anderson said...

For top three, I'd say Psychonauts, Left 4 Dead and Bioshock. The first offers some of the most inventive character and level designs basically ever. L4D is the most enjoyable co-op shooter experience I've ever played. Bioshock is commendable for its embedded storytelling and atmosphere.

Following that would be Half-Life 2 (utterly recommend, but it's long and incomplete with the following episodes) and Dawn of War II (great, but it's pretty easy to understand what's going on after 5-6 missions).

I wouldn't spend any time with RE5 and Heavenly Sword. The former is just a less enjoyable version of RE4 and the latter is a weak God of War clone.

Have fun! I totally agree with the sentiment that creating great games requires playing them and the more people that champion this, the better.

Russ said...

I would recommend RE5 if just to remember what an old school survival horror game feels like with a nice coat of paint. Then I'd play Dead Space to see what a modern survival horror game can be. It's got the atmosphere, graphics, audio, scares and you can run and shoot. I just caught up on a bunch of games as well and you can check out my "mini-reviews" here:

After that, Bioshock is highly recommended as it has become one of my favorite games of all time and Left 4 Dead is awesome if you can play with three friends (pretty good by yourself as well).

I also recommend playing through Mirror's Edge but just be ready for some frustration.

Gord McLeod said...

Half-Life 2 for sure. Spectacular game. Move on with the episodes when you're done, and be sure to check out Portal.

Tom said...

Resident Evil 5 - I haven't really played. I've been meaning to.

Left 4 Dead - Very interesting deep coop design. Not terribly applicable to most of the games we do, but good ideas even for dabbling in coop. And fun.

Heavenly Sword - very pretty and a few good level ideas. it's a good one to dissect the combat on, but only because they do some things I consider odd. Not a first choice.

Viking - oh god no, I only played it because it was similar to Conan. A few good pointers on what not to do.

Bioshock (played two levels) - worth playing through, but only if you're having fun. some excellent execution, and some bold narrative choices, but other than that you've probably learned what you need by now - everyone should take the time to grok Big Daddies, but after that it's just good execution.

Half Life 2 - I only played a little, so I'm not a good judge. Didn't seem worth a deep time investment to me at the time.

Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction - I haven't played. I heard it's pretty but not terribly different from the previous.

Prince of Persia (2008) - Worth a few levels. Some interesting design choices that will form opinions, either good or bad.

Resistance 1 - Dunno.
Resistance 2 - Dunno.
Dead Space (played first chapter) - Haven't played. Heard it's got good atmosphere.

Kung Fu Panda - Good, but more of a dancing pony thing - it's impressive for a kids' licensed game, but not anything new or revolutionary on its own.

Crayola colorful journey (don't ask) - You should play this one, just for the comps. Even the bad lessons would be good to know.

Psychonauts (played first two worlds) - Very creative level designs. A number of design choices that I wouldn't do for a normal mass market game, but still inspirational. Recommended.

Dawn of War II - It's a good one if you want to dabble in strategy (tactics, really). Well executed with some fun supporting features like lite RPG and a good overmap.

Tom said...

Oh, and let me know if you want to play L4D together. I've played some, but I should play more. Lunch tomorrow?

Scott Rogers said...

@ Everyone,

Thanks for the thoughtful suggestions.

@ Gord,
I've played Portal, I loved it but I didn't finish it 'cause of head-ache inducing nausea from the second to last level. I didn't get my slice of cake. :(

OK, so it sounds like, Left 4 Dead, Bioshock and Half Life 2 are the top contenders.

It sounds like I'm gonna be shooting a lot of mutant zombies into the next few weeks. Wheee!

teknohed said...

Here's my 0.02 cents on your list:

Personally, I think that Dead Space has the greatest UI in a game period. For all it's Cinematic quality, Bioshock felt pretty game-y at times, it could have used the immersive UI design of Dead Space. I love how Dead Space just fills the screen up with game and all the User interface stuff is based on "Enhanced Reality" or "Augmented Reality".

I'd still say Bioshock is a must play (at least the first couple of hours...once you get to the "twist" you can stop playing).

RE5 is AMAZING fun if you have a co-op partner. Playing RE5 alone, it feels a little dated compared to Gears of War, I'd say go with Dead Rising if you want a great single player zombie game.

Heavenly Sword is a good one if your doing Market Reasearch for Darksiders, but outside of that I'd say it's just a HD "God of War".

Psychonauts. Amazing. Especially working on the games that THQ (used to be?) known (i.e. character based platformers) for this game is a must play.

You've got a few shooters on this list, I'd start with Half Life's a little dated now, but it's such a touch stone in the shooter genre that you need it in your vocabulary. Then I'd actually play Killzone 2 before I played either of the Resistance games. And to be honest I'd play Rachet and Clank before I played Resistance as I feel like that is really where Insomniacs strengths lie. Left 4 Dead didn't really do it for me, i guess it's good to look at for co-op, but I found it to be too chaotic to pick up with my more casual friends who all prefer Gears of War or RE5...maybe it's the four player co-op, I'm not sure...I just found myself trying to explain it to them the whole time...the player experience was sort of sluggish for a Valve game.

Dawn of War 2. I'm a big Warhammer 40k nerd. (that's why I applied for a job at THQ in the first place). This game is great. you gotta play it. Great single player, great co op. Just a great game.

Haven't played the other games on the list.

Do not go without playing Dead Space, RE5, Half Life 2 and Psychonauts. Everything else you can wait on.

Anonymous said...

I feel your pain, I too have had very little time to play games in the past four months. Here's what I would play from your list if and when you get the chance:

Left 4 Dead - MUST be played with friends. I initially played this game on my own, and the experience is vastly different.

Half Life 2 - This game is as required reading for Game Designers as Shakespeare is to writers. Though somewhat aged compared to the rest of your list, this game is very much a classic.

Dead Space - As others have stated, the UI in this game is unparalleled by any other game currently on the market. Great atmosphere, enjoyable gameplay, well-executed horror game.

Psychonauts - Though I too have never played it, I have heard many, many good things about this game. Highly recommend you finish it based off what I've heard

Matthew V said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matthew V said...

Highest 3 I suggest:
Half Life 2 (a classic)
Ratchet and Clank (lots of good fun)
Left 4 Dead (get some friends together)

If you want to play a game with a gripping story, Bioshock does a great job.

I have a huge pile of games too, I just try to only get the ones I really like (or can get really cheap like Dark Sector which I loved).

Scott Rogers said...

So I've played a fair amount of Bioshock (I got past Peachy to Atlas' family) and I'm really enjoying it. There are some great storytelling tricks (I wished I had remembered all the posters for powers at the beginning of the game - it would have been great for my talk!)

I also played Left 4 Dead for an evening - got through the "No Mercy" scenario. Really liked it also, mostly because I found it a bit unnerving. I loved the non-story story elements (the messages to loved ones on the walls) and getting rushed by the horde never got unnerving. There were some pretty annoying AI glitches in the companions - so I'm really looking forward to playing this with other humans. My XBOX Live handles are scott and MightyBedbug - who wants to play?