Hand Cannon

First Chamber - Divided Opinions

Hiya, Canon-heads!  Should that be what we call you?  I don't quite know - still trying to figure out what to call our fans.  Though, honestly, isn't that something that the fans themselves decide on?  Nigel here!

We're trying something a little different.  We've actually had meetings over the past two months, I've just been EXTRAORDINARILY lazy in posting my notes.  Totally my bad.  We're plugging away at some of the areas that still need work, but will hopefully have some fresh material for people to look at.  That's right, if you want to help us with our development, stay tuned.  I'll reveal my cunning plan at the end of this blogpost.

But first, the different stuff.  We're changing our meeting days from Tuesday to Thursday.  Also, we want to put more stuff on this blog.  Stuff that isn't just our meeting notes.  I mean, they're cool and all, but we are a game company; why don't we talk about games more?

So, I'm going to put in a little brain power and share my thoughts with some of the games I've been playing recently.  Of the trio, I have my hand in a fair number of console games.  I'm not some Dew-guzzling demi-god, but I've got decent hand-eye coordination and a basic grasp of media critique, so I figure I can at least sound like I know what I'm talking about :)

So!  Games!  What games?  Glad you asked!  I've been hip-deep in The Division since it came out, and the 1.2 Update has hit today.  Being a Responsible Adult, I'm at work rather than melting rogue agents in the Dark Zone, but with any luck I'll be able to log a few hours this evening once I get home.

There's been some controversy about the narrative design of The Division, mostly focused on the role you play as judge, jury and executioner in a functionally lawless Manhattan.  You play an Agent of The Division, a super-secret network of highly-trained sleeper agents who are activated by the President when all other forms of law enforcement and security have broken down.

And that last part is the crux of things.  "When all other forms of law enforcement [...] have broken down" implies a *lot* about the state of the world.  Honestly, the world outside of Manhattan is functionally unknown; it's not clear just how far-reaching the virus that caused the chaos has spread.  Given the basic parameters of the virus that we learn over the course of the game, it's not unreasonable to assume that most of the world looks like Manhattan, more or less.  Which leads to all sorts of interesting questions.  And that is what I feel we get out of The Divisions - a lot of questions.  Which I like, don't get me wrong.  It feels like a world we're really only just beginning to scratch the surface of.

I could write a novella about my thoughts on The Division, but for the sake of time I'd like to switch topics to a more recent release:  Overwatch!  Blizzard's finely crafted foray into not just FPS, but team/character FPS to boot!

I've had a long relationship with Blizzard Entertainment, which has been both fruitful and frustrating.  I grew up playing their trifecta of franchises; Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablo.  I played World of Warcraft, too, and that game is one of the big sources of inspiration for our own tabletop game.  The impact WoW had on gaming and gaming culture was enormous, and will no doubt keep on rippling through time.

I have only gotten the chance to play the open Beta for Overwatch, but those handful of days were fantastic.  Blizzard have brought their meta-design, what I have long called "complexity through simplicity" into the FPS space, and they have done it well.  Each character is an iteration of their core class functions, but none of them feel similar.  Soldier 76 is not McCree, despite the fact that they're both assault class heavy-hitters.  Zarya and Reinhardt could not be more different, but they're both tanks.  And they both perform the tank role super well.

Narratively, we see yet another fantastic world being built.  But this is where Overwatch and I butt heads.  Overwatch, as a *game* is very, very tight.  Good controls.  Impeccable level design.  Razor-sharp balancing.  As the game is played it will be tweaked even more so, I'm sure, to refine that balance even further.  But the presentation we've gotten, the game we are going to get, is threadbare when it comes to story.

But why?  Why do I need a story to stitch together an endless series of deathmatches?

Well, to be honest it's what Blizzard's been good at.  Some studios make games that tell great stories, while other studios make games that are fun to play.  Rare are those who make games that excel at both.  And, look, I'm not saying Warcraft or Diablo were Citizen Kane or anything like that, but those were early enough in both gaming history, and Blizzard's corporate history, that I can let their relatively thin stories slide by.

Overwatch gives us lots of teasing information, hints and glimpses of a rich and complex history.  I want to dive into that world, crack it open and see what makes it tick.  What we do see has a lot of the spices Blizzard has always used; high school composition notebook staples like corruption, madness, and inexplicable war against implacable foes.  Upon those tried and true bones the sinew is strung.  The story is as close to the real world as Blizzard is likely to ever get, and I want to see what their interpretation is.

There will be some graphic novels coming out, and with every animated short we see more and more of the world.  I have no idea what the future of the game itself will bring, but I really hope Blizzard can include some sort of single-player mode or movie gallery - something - to let me explore more of this cool future history they've created.

So, rambling done!  For now; I think I'll write another of these next week.  Maybe a week and a half, we'll see how my time pans out.  What are *your* thoughts on the games I've covered?

Oh!  The secret!  On how to help!

Email us.  Use that Contact page and send us an email.  We'll pick from the people who reach out to us to proofread our setting document.  We want people's opinions on what parts of the setting are good, and what need more detail (Or less!  Scott does love to write!).

Peace, y'all.

--Nigel