Contrary to popular belief, online gaming did not begin with the Dreamcast, nor was it first popularized by the XBox 360. In the looming shadow of the 1990’s games industry, PC users enjoyed the world of online gaming when Prodigy and AOL CDs were a thing. These days, players wouldn’t need to look very hard if they wanted to play with other people, and developers go out of their way to make this connection. Yet, while the world scrambles to connect every living gamer on the planet, there are still games that explore the single player saga. I played some games last weekend that made me think of just that.
Leave me alone!
Alien: Isolation is a game I recently started playing that could only be possible as a single player experience. The player takes the roll of Ripley, an engineer that is stranded on the space station Sevastopol, with an Alien monster that hunts everyone inside, but unlike the plot of all three Dead Space games, there is only one monster roaming these halls. The rest of the danger comes from people dealing with small scale societal breakdown. Outsiders are dangerous, whether they be Alien, android, or human. Isolation becomes a desperate search comfort that only servers to let the player stew in a moody atmosphere of horror and solitude. Most of the time, you end up scaring yourself:
I Feel So Alone…
While some games are meant to be played alone, others simply offer a single player mode as an option. As Nuna, you traverse the wilderness of the arctic searching for the origin of a never ending blizzard with a spirit fox that saves you from a polar bear. At first, the fox’s company filled a void of emptiness that can only be felt when one runs from a relentless polar bear looking to fatten up for the winter. Yet, as Nuna continued her journey to the right, the fox’s utility became more scarce and the switching became more difficult. As soon as the climax of the game finishes for the start of the fourth act, I soon realized that these puzzles were made for two people in mind.
I eventually finished the last 5% of the game with the help of another player, as the puzzles required more of a tighter execution than actual problem solving ability. Never Alone taught me two things about game design were once a part of my gamer sensibilities.
- When a game gives you the option to play it as a single player experience, you might want to grab a friend, as you can miss the entire point of playing the game.
- When a puzzle seems unsolvable, maybe it’s a bug.
I Don’t Want to be Alone
Skyrim rounds out this list in a way where the player is given a huge world to interact with. Immersive is one of the frequent words thrown around when describing this game, and I’m no different. I made a really cool lizard man named Pajamicus, whom people seem to treat as normally as anyone else. Since Pajamicus didn’t come with a backstory I made one up for him instead.
“Pajamicus was an unassuming Argonian looking for work in the next town, but was taken prisoner by a wandering military guard. Mistaking him for an enemy spy, the militants sent him to execution till a dragon attacked the camp. Taking the opportunity to flee, Pajamicus wanders the world of Skyrim, hoping to forge a new dawn.”
With only 3 hours into the game, I found myself ignoring the first quest altogether to see if this game fit the mold of Bethesda’s Fallout. Sure enough, I was able to stumble a random town, pick up a few quests, and explore a dungeons all with their own independent plot points to drive exploration. In terms of the single player experience, it’s one of the games where I’d wish I could share with a friends. Can’t wait to dive back in.
Blog / Library / General Updates
- Never Alone
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
- Alien: Isolation
Finally got to live stream some Alien: Isoloation, and worked with Lightworks on some video editing. I think I need a little more practice, but the software is working great. A large part of me is falling into all that Division hype train that’s floating around the internet. The more I learn about it, the more I just want to invest. As usual though, I’m waiting for that almighty Steam sale to break my constitution and add itself to the pile of shame.
As for streaming, I’m thinking of making my Alien Isolation play through a completely recorded experience. I feel that maybe something episodic would be better. If you’re interested in the raw footage, it can be found HERE.
You wouldn’t believe how difficult this post was for me to write, so I’ll just leave you all with this one last appendices before I wrap it up: One week’s 24 hour on-call does not help the production of writing!
Next Time: Further Journeys Into Skyrim.