‘Horizon Zero Dawn’ & More ‘Yakuza 0’

Our first-ever preview: Chris played four hours of “Horizon Zero Dawn.” Then, “Yakuza 0” and the disappearance of the medium-budget video game.


“Resident Evil 7” in VR, if Chris can stop playing “Yakuza 0”


Holly Green’s tweets about crafting

Tevis Thompson on the Clockwork Game Design podcast

Wesley Morris on the Bill Simmons Podcast


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  1. Jeff H
    February 11, 2017

    I loved the conversation about how to classify games like Horizon Zero Dawn and it made me realize as well that I have been thinking about the proper way to categorize such an experience.

    After much thought, I think the proper way to categorize them would be to use a great film as an analogy: Large Triple A games like HZD are much like the alien from John Carpenters “The Thing.” These games take the form of games you have played and recognize and love; they even look and feel much like them as well. But when you play them, you can’t help but feel as if something is off. The corporeal shell is in tact and shiny, but it’s lacking the heart and lifeblood of what you have played before. It is a game trying to pass itself off as other games in order to gain your acceptance and approval.

    At the very core of it, I have always felt a lot of these games (and movies too as you both talked about) suffer when a decision is made from the “wouldn’t it be cool if…” idea as opposed to the “wouldn’t it make sense if…” idea. “Cool” is vey commonly the enemy of story. It’s almost like another type of uncanny valley; a game that just feels off because it’s trying to mimic another one you have played. At the end of the day, a well crafted story is what people ultimately want in their games and other media, not a game with a crafting mechanic that was put in because it worked in another game.

  2. Ted
    February 13, 2017

    A bunch of comments:

    — I’d vote against doing previews in the future. There are plenty of other places where we can read previews of upcoming games; this podcast should focus on its strengths, the back and forth between Chris and J.J.

    — Chris mentioned playing Persona 4 (not 5) on his Vita, and that there aren’t any games coming out for the Vita anymore. There are still plenty of games for the Vita, but they’re almost all JPRGs.

    — J.J. implies that as a critic Chris should be able to say whether Yakuza 0 is a good game or not, irrespective of the fact that he’s enjoying it. I think it’s probably risky to make that assessment unless one has a lot of experience with Japanese games (and my impression is that Chris does not; neither do I). An an analogy, I think anyone is free to say that they enjoy a Bollywood film or they don’t, but I would be wary of someone’s opinion that a particular Bollywood film is a good or bad film unless that person had watched an awful lot of Bollywood films. As J.J. said elsewhere, context is king.

    — With regard to the disappearance of the medium-budget game, I think it’s odd that Chris cites Bioshock as an example of a medium-budget game. Bioshock cost $25 million in 2007, which I think qualifies it as a big-budget game for its time. It’s certainly the case that the game industry, just like the movie industry, has moved toward big-budget franchises that lack individual personality. But I suspect there’s a factor present in games that isn’t in movies, and that’s the cost of assets. You can make a perfectly good-looking live-action movie for a modest budget, but people’s expectations of what a game should look like on a PS4 have risen compared to a typical PS3 title. Firewatch is a beautiful game, but it’s definitely a departure from what most recent console titles look like, and I’m sure cost played a role in that. A game that looks and feels as polished as Bioshock did will cost more to develop nowadays, which means less risk taking. That alone will contribute to a trend of auteur-driven games having shorter campaigns, smaller worlds, simpler graphical styles, etc.


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