Picture of Christian Donlan

Christian Donlan

Features Editor

Chris Donlan is features editor for Eurogamer. His heroes include Eugene Jarvis, Errol Morris, and Linus Van Pelt.

Me, myself and UI

Meet the game designer doodling the interfaces of the future.

What does the future feel like? Forget what it looks like: how do you grasp it? What does it feel like in the palm of your hand, in the tips of your fingers. Think about switches, dials, and keyboards made of nothing but light. Forget the horizons, think about the UI of tomorrow.

Learning to speak Monster Hunter

A question of scale.

First up, I have not learned to speak Monster Hunter. I am still learning. In fact, I am pretty much still at the beginning of it. I have almost no good equipment. I have tangled with only the most feeble of Monster Hunter's terrifying beasts. I know what Psychoserum does, but only because I looked it up. But anyway, I have started! I have ventured into the wild lands, which at first seem very tame and blurry and empty - I am playing Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate on the 3DS - and they have just started, over many hours of early-game missions, to seem truly wild. This is how it begins, I guess. I have always wanted to do this, and this is how it begins.

Kinect is dead. Even its Xbox One adaptor is dead. And I mourn Kinect a little, because there are moments where I remember loving it. Crucially, though, in none of these moments was it connected in any meaningful way to an Xbox.

The game we played most this Christmas - gathered together with my wife's family in the Cotswolds - was tiny and made of brass. It looked a bit like one of those early World War One grenades - the kind that has a sort of lolly stick that you hold it by before you toss it into the abyss. Fitting, really, because the game we played came from World War One itself, allegedly. The game's called Put and Take, and it's played with an odd six-sided spinner. I had never heard of it before. It's kind of brilliant.

Over the last few years I have developed a real thing for games in which you cannot save. I would always like the chunky pastel slabs of wilderness that you conjure in Toca Nature, for example, but what I really love about them is that, once you're done with them for the time being, there's no option to do anything other than turn the app off in the knowledge that the trees you've been sprouting, the oceans you have carved into the earth and the mountains you have pulled from the ground, will be gone forever, a bit like that glorious sunset that never looked quite right when you tried to view it through your phone camera.

The year in playing together

Don't get cooked!

If you had asked me at the start of this year what I thought a year spent playing multiplayer games would look like, I probably would have talked about muting people and about the frustration of being shot from halfway across the map by someone I couldn't even see. Crucially, I wouldn't have thought of Hearthstone or Diablo or any of the other multiplayer games I have always loved, because multiplayer - online multiplayer - for me still meant the unexamined cliches I had carried with me for years. Multiplayer was something I did not do, so the multiplayer games I already played all the time must be something subtly different.

Splatoon 2 is getting a champagne gun tomorrow!

'Mwaaaaa-aaarrrrrhhh, the French champagne...'

Big news everyone! Splatoon 2 is getting a champagne gun tomorrow. It's called the Squeezer, and it looks like it works a bit like, well, champagne. Here's the tweet from the Japanese Splatoon 2 account:

It was Eurogamer's Christmas Party at the end of last week, and that means that there were Christmas crackers knocking about and we were all showered with magnificent Christmas cracker gifts. Miniature picture frames, miniature screwdriver sets, miniature pens and pencils: by the end of the evening we had pretty much everything we would need to survive a ten-stretch in Mouse Prison. More importantly, though, Jamie Wallace got a miniature board game, which I made him hand over to me in the interests of science. It is called Voyage Game, and it is a document that I believe we will be studying for many years to come.

Animal Crossing is, like Tetris, a game that is constantly evolving in quiet ways while seeming - superficially and to outsiders - to be a game that never changes at all. Holding a piece, the instant drop, even the number of pieces visibly queued up ahead: these are all elements that have fundamentally changed the way Tetris plays. Equally, in Animal Crossing a new type of store, a new focus for your collecting, a subtle tweaking to the economy can transform the overall experience of living in a village and trying to get Spike to come back home.

I suspect that if you grew up with Indiana Jones and the Goonies, with Tintin and Fighting Fantasy paperbacks, the merest combination of words like "Dungeon Run" is likely to trigger a Pavlovian response. Luckily, Blizzard's take on Dungeon Run, employed as the wriggly, twitching spine of Hearthstone's recent Kobolds and Catacombs expansion, has much more going for it than the simple pulp poetry of its name.

EssentialGorogoa review

The magic lantern.

At one point, the sun becomes a gear with tooth-like rays that might slot neatly into the crenellations of a nearby castle. A man walks to the right in the foreground, and the castle retreats to the left in the background. The teeth of the sun have meshed with the castle now, so as a man walks, his very act of walking turns the sun in the sky - and the sun itself turns...?

Hackney Wick is the best station for the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, and so I emerged from the carriage last Sunday amongst what seemed like a disproportionate number of people wearing running shoes and tracksuits and fiddling with Fitbits. Once I had left the station, though, and made the first few turns towards the Copper Box, a sporting arena that has hosted everything from Wheelchair Rugby to the Netball Superleague, I was walking amongst a different crowd.

This far in, I think we can officially say: Fortnite is weird. The game that originally launched offered a brilliant suite of construction tools, but the game's pretty but rather brainless PvE meant there was little reason to build anything that fancy. The fact that any and all buildings would disappear at the end of a single Horde-style level meant that you felt you were wasting your time if you tried to experiment or make something elaborate and interesting. Form definitely followed function here.

Playing the Arab Spring in Riot - Civil Unrest

A fascinating curio finally hits Steam.

There are a number of ways to lose in Riot - Civil Unrest, a strange and jittery and deeply unnerving game that has just hit Early Access on Steam. Riot is, as the name suggests, a riot simulator. You can play as rebels or the security forces, each side with their own objectives and their own tactics. What unites everyone, though, are those different ways you can lose. You can fail to hold territory, of course - you can be driven back or have your surge repelled. But you can also be victorious on the streets and then discover that the political cost of your brutality is too much. You can lose the war by winning the battle.

I rarely play fighting games, and, man, I did not expect them to be this soothing. Arms is violent for sure - enemies are pummelled, the ground judders with impacts, and a last-minute defeat can still throw me into an internal rage. But rages, internal or otherwise, are actually fairly rare here - far rarer than last-minute defeats for sure. Most of the time, when I think of Arms - and I am in that honeymoon phase where I think of it constantly - I think of a game that presents itself as a series of nested delights. There's the music at launch, and its theme of wordless bellowing joy. There's the way the UI slides in and out in vibrant bursts, like the screen furniture for the best sporting show ever. There are the badges that you collect instead of Achievements, all neatly laid out in their treasure box screen, and there's the Get ARMS mode in which you cash in in-game money for the chance to earn new and surprising fists to hit people with, by means of a pacey shooting gallery that is rewarding you with stuff while secretly teaching you how to curve punches.

Two things happened this week that made me think about beautiful stuff vanishing from the world, and about the strange notion that there might be a kind a melancholic pleasure to be had - if melancholic pleasures can be had - in the spaces created by fresh absence. I'm not ghoulishly thinking of death or anything as serious as that. More the weird kind of beauty you sometimes get when you look at a wall of framed pictures and notice the ghostly parchment patches where something else once hung and now hangs no longer. Ghoulishly, ghostly. We are not off to a great start here.

RecommendedOde review

The notes of Ranvier.

Ode is a musical exploration game, which is a bit like saying ET is a movie about missing your flight. Ode is music and exploration. Somehow, they are separate and yet entirely intertwined.

Atomega has stuck with me. Ubisoft Reflections' brilliant follow-up to Grow Home and Grow Up is an ingenious multiplayer battler that's completely unlike any other multiplayer battler I have ever encountered. And it's all so simple: as you race around an arena, blasting away at your enemies, you're also collecting the mass you need in order to grow. The bigger you are, the more dangerous you are and the more points you can score - but you're also more exposed.

The Mapworks is the heart of Torchlight 2. In many ways it feels like the heart of so much that is great in video games in general. You spawn at the portal and then you walk out, along a narrow golden bridge, to a magical clockwork escapement suspended in the void. I can imagine what the floor feels like here: the glossiness of the crystal and polished metal, and that hum coming up through your feet that suggests vast energies twisting and churning beneath you. The Mapworks is where you get to once Torchlight 2 is all but done, but it's also where you realise that Torchlight 2 is just beginning, and that it never has to end if you don't want it to. The campaign is over, and here, in this stately firmament, you can buy an endless supply of procedurally-generated maps that will take you to an endless stretch of procedurally-generated dungeons.

Night and the City

From the archive: Chris Donlan plays through L.A. Noire with his dad, who grew up in the city in the 1940s.

Editor's note: This week sees the re-release of L.A. Noire on PS4, Xbox One and Switch, and to mark the occasion we thought we'd return to Chris Donlan's piece on playing through the game - still one of the very best things ever published on Eurogamer, he'll hate me for saying - which first went live back in 2012. Enjoy!

Sometimes a crow is the perfect companion. All the way through the demo for Lonely Mountains: Downhill, you can hear this crow, solitary as ever, that ragged call mournful one minute and sarcastic the next. And while you can't see the bird itself you can imagine it, rickety on its poky legs or arcing smoothly through the sky to find its perch in one of the game's sparse, sharp-edged trees. Everyone needs an audience, I guess, and the crow is the ideal one here, for a game about clambering on a flimsy bike and chucking yourself down an endless hill, cresting rises, sprinting towards gaps and eventually colliding with a boulder that you saw but only after it was far too late.

On the surface, Lucky the fox is a perfect example of why you should never, ever name your kid "Lucky". His debut adventure was tied to the Oculus Rift, which meant that its impact was always going to be pretty limited. Even then, in amongst all those weird treats that defined the first wave of VR, controlling a cartoon fox as he scampered around handicraft 3D worlds collecting stuff didn't have much obvious appeal. And now he's back with Super Lucky's Tale on Xbox and PC, he's run right into Mario Odyssey's release window.

Who wore it better - Activision or Thomas Pynchon?

Or why I reckon Call of Duty: WW2 has the V-2 all wrong

I will state up-front that I am no historian. I know next to nothing about World War 2. But the one thing I thought I knew revolves around the V-2 rocket. And now the V-2 rocket is in COD: WW2, I'm starting to worry I might be wrong about that as well.

Bubsy and his platforming ilk remind me in a strange, tangled way of high-frequency trading. This is the dodgy Wall Street manoeuvre, as detailed in Michael Lewis' Flash Boys, in which money men exploit their speedy internet connections and clever algorithms to spot your buy order leaving your computer, get in front of it, grab the stock you want and then sell it to you for a tiny profit - a tiny profit that becomes an enormous profit when you scale it up to the point where you're pulling this off a gajillion times a day.

Halfway through every Mario game I have the same revelation, and it always comes as a shock, as a total surprise. Halfway through every Mario game I suddenly realise that it's not about where Mario takes you from one adventure to the next, it's about what he encourages you to become along the way. Mario games aren't just great because they're imaginative and generous and precision-made. They're great because, in being all these things, they prod you towards becoming an ideal kind of player - a player who's inventive when it comes to problem-solving, who's able to wield a complex move-set with real accuracy, and who's sufficiently engaged in what's going on right now to hunt down every available secret in a world that's thrillingly dense with them. Mario forces you back into the moment. He encourages you to be playful. For me, every Mario game is like taking a holiday. It's like taking a holiday from the kind of game player that I usually am.

In the early weeks of its life, the PS3 was Super Stardust HD. That's how I remember it anyway. And when the PS4 came around, it turned out that the PS4 was Resogun. The news today that low sales have forced Housemarque, who made both these games, to declare that 'Arcade is dead' lends all of these memories a bittersweet tinge. And yet - and I mean this as the highest compliment I can come up with - it's hard to have too many emotions around games like Super Stardust and Resogun, other than panic and excitement - extreme, panoramic excitement. Bittersweet melancholy doesn't stick about for long.

With great power, as they say in Spider-Man, comes great responsibility. Sony knows a thing or two about power. One of the brilliant things about PlayStation is that the people behind it acknowledge the power that games have. They are capable of taking games seriously. It sometimes seems, however, that they are struggling to do games justice when showing them off en masse. I guess everyone is, really. As the material games choose to work from gets broader, it gets harder to pile them all together at a press conference. Sony had many brilliant-looking games at its Paris Games Week press event yesterday, but my main takeaway, I think, is that events like this are no longer a particularly good way to showcase modern games in the first place.