While I wait for my rendered face turn around to finish exporting from After Effects I thought I'd write a bit about a game I've been playing recently.
Orange Box off steam a few days ago. While I had already experienced the sublime genius of Portal for free I had been meaning to play the Half Life games for a while now.
There's something about them that games today seem to strive towards whilst still falling short of what Half Life achieved 6 years ago. The first person perspective is fairly unique to gaming, and Half Life makes such excellent use of it to immerse the player in the most authentic sci fi worlds and surround them with detail and life, When the game presents the player with a moment of narrative importance, it doesn't steal the camera control away from the player, it allows them to explore the environment, interact, go right up close the other characters, do whatever while the scene unfolds. This may break the cinematic aspect of the presentation, but if the player isnt interested in the story anyway they are free to explore, but if the player is invested in the characters, plot, etc they feel more present in the scene and therefore more immersed in the story and the experience overall feels better for it. Its like the anti-thesis for the quicktime event.
Another things which helps sell the world is the fact that the puzzles are all environmental and physics based, using the game's Source engine. No longer are you pulling a lever and, like a switch, there are fantastically instantaneous and predictable results, the objects in the world interact in physically accurate ways that you cant always predict which makes for particularly interesting gameplay with things like the gravity gun. The level design is also excellent with what is essentially a linear game feeling open expansive and full of choice and variety.
Plus for a game this old its very pretty.
But its not perfect and while I am admittedly only 1/2 way through Half Life 2, not to mention the two episodes, it feels like I have few motivations as a character other than survival, I want more exposition and history to back up this amazing world, I suppose in time all will be revealed but I could do with more of that unauthored type of narrative. I dont care about any of it yet, but we'll see. I want to care.