First of all, thank you to all of those lovely souls who have welcomed me to the role of Editor-in-Chief. I cannot express how glad I am have your support.
You will, no doubt, have noticed that things have been rather slow here at OnlySP over the past week, as we have focused on posting news rather than editorial content. I assure you that that is a temporary situation. What I am not sure of is how temporary. The team and I are slowly reorganising things behind-the-scenes, but the rate at which that occurs is contingent on a number of different factors. If everything goes to plan, we will start producing in-depth content within a fortnight. Unfortunately, however, I cannot make any promises at this point. If you do want to check out that content, though, keep us bookmarked, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter, where you will be notified as soon as all our coverage goes live.
And what about Ubisoft’s week, eh?
Ubisoft have had a rather controversial week following the launch of Watch Dogs 2. We brought you the news that the developer included an Easter Egg pointing towards another of their upcoming games, but we chose not to cover the titillating aspect of the game with its inclusion of explicit character models. While an interesting series of events transpired around the revelation, with the original source being banned from PSN before Ubisoft apologised and quickly issued a patch to remodel a female NPC whose genitalia was on display, I consider it a non-issue not worth coverage. Frankly, Watch Dogs 2 is targeted at a mature audience, the presence of breasts and penises is not unheard of in AAA games (hello, GTA), and we all have genitals. Where is the need for damage control in that?
In more interesting news for the publisher, its Chief Creative Officer, Serge Hascoët, went on the record to say that future Ubisoft games would reduce the reliance on traditional narration in favour of emergent storytelling. I am firmly on the fence about this move. On one hand, the coming together of a variety of different systems can create truly memorable experiences; I clearly remember once, while playing Skyrim, luring a Giant to Whiterun, hoping that the guards there would kill it for me, only to arrive and have them run away shouting, “I’m getting out of here!” It was exhilarating, unexpected, and, for me, more memorable than most of the subsequent fifty hours I poured into the game. That is only one example, and a similar reliance on systematic interaction is found in games as diverse as Red Dead Redemption, XCOM, and Dishonored, though each in different ways.
On the other hand, storytelling through gameplay relies too heavily on moments for it to be truly effective. It is less about character, plot, setting, or anything else that makes a story than it is about an isolated event. It can be invigorating, and it can be well worth sharing with others, but without context, it quickly loses its lustre. A game needs to feature a guiding thread of narrative—something that I can grab hold of and follow to its logical (or illogical, in some cases) conclusion—if it is going to hold my attention for the duration of the ten, twenty, or hundred hours that it demands from me. While a balance can certainly be struck between narrative structure and gameplay agency, when most developers try to implement both, they tend to err too much on the side of the latter for my liking. Considering that Mr Hascoët did not entirely rule out the continued presence of traditional narratives within Assassin’s Creed: Empire and other Ubisoft games going forward, I still have cause for hope, and I can only pray that they succeed where so many others have fallen short.
Between my chiefly duties, writing news, work, and life, I have not had many chances to play this week, and that time has been taken up with a game that I am currently working on an editorial for. You should find out what that is within the next fortnight. The little left over free time I have had I spent reading Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice. A drug-fuelled mystery novel that was adapted into a film in 2014, Inherent Vice is quite unlike anything else I have read in a long time. At points laugh-out-loud funny, and entirely confusing at others, it is difficult for me to recommend unconditionally, but it does have some great characters and Pynchon has a real talent for evoking a sense of place.
That’s it from me for this week. Let us know what you’ve been up to and your thoughts on the hot-ticket news items of the past week in the comments below.