In the Shadows
- Jan 14, 2013 12:04 pm GMT
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The Nintendo 3DS has a problem. Regardless of what stunts it might pull off, of what masterpieces it may eventually house and of how many great games will continuously grace the system, it will always be a handheld that will be compared to its older brother: the Nintendo DS. Like a younger sibling who gets a masters degree in his twenties, and whose older brother already was a doctor at that young age; and like an Olympic medalist that collects three gold medals in an edition where somebody else captures ten of those; it is destined to live obfuscated by the gargantuan shadows of the accomplishments of its contemporary. That is by no means a terrible death sentence for the system, it is just the fair acknowledgement that it has a whole lot to live up to. And given how rare systems with such a high degree of quality in their library are, it is easy to bet against the Nintendo 3DS' chances to beat its predecessor. A good system it might end up being, but reaching the level of historical greatness of the DS is a far-fetched notion.
The Nintendo DS had a lot going on its favor. Not only did it enjoy the massive support that comes along with being the handheld system of a company that utterly dominates the market, it also introduced the fantastic novelty of the double screens. The system thrived in the junction of those for two factors. A lot of talented developers and resourceful companies wanted to develop games for it, and once they started the process, what they discovered were the perfect flourishing grounds for new explorations in gameplay and design. The glorious match generated excitement among developers, and the direct results of that breath of life are unforgettable: Mario and Luigi 3, The World Ends With You, GTA: Chinatown Wars, Advanced Wars: Dual Strike, and many other titles were significant marks in the history of gaming for their audacity and freshness, and elevated the Nintendo DS into a level that can only be matched by the Super Nintendo and the Playstation 2; two systems that were filled to the brim with new brilliant franchises and old familiar faces at their creative peak.
As impressive as the Nintendo 3DS is from a hardware standpoint - all that it takes to display that is a few seconds of Ocarina of Time 3D footage - it trails from the get go in relation to its predecessor because, aside from 3D, it bets in the very same dual-screen mechanics that the Nintendo DS already explored to great lengths. The two screens still have a whole lot to offer in terms of great design possibilities, especially with the 3D effects added, but they aren't as fresh as they were seven years ago. As a consequence, the 3DS is not only being compared to a handheld with an unbelievably great library, but it is also - when that comparison is done - facing a friendly enemy at its own field of battle, giving the DS a considerable advantage.
Still, even when those two core negative factors working against the 3DS are taken away from the equation - the undeniable and hard-to-reach greatness of its ancestor, and the difficulty to establish its own identity due to the great features it inherited - it is hard not to feel that the 3DS has had a bit of a slow start in terms of software, which is the most important measure of a system's quality. For many months negative comments towards the system were rightfully shielded with affirmations of how it was just way too early on its life to make any judgments. Right now, though, nearly two years into the life of the system, the overall feeling is that the Nintendo 3DS, though sporting a nice collection of very good games, still hasn't really reached a great pacing, and - even worse - it has, so far, failed to deliver a group of games great and original enough to start defining its identity.
It is not just a random feeling supported by blind nostalgia for the DS' unreachable library, it is something that is confirmed by cold hard numbers. According to Gamespot's scores, on its first two years of life, the Nintendo DS had 5 games that scored 9 or higher, a set of titles that included Advanced Wars: Dual Strike, Yoshi's Island DS, Mario Kart DS and New Super Mario Bros. The first was a glorious technological display, the following two were top-notch reinterpretations of important games, and the latter was a refreshing return to the past, albeit too easy. Sitting two months from its two-year anniversary, the 3DS has precisely zero games that managed to reach that score. Obviously, a game that does not reach that grade is far from automatically bad, but it does show that none of them caused the same impact as the four titles mentioned above, which says something.
More worrisome, though, is the fact that a portion of the top games of the Nintendo 3DS are remakes: Ocarina of Time, Metal Gear, Star Fox and Street Fighter. Other than that, the system has housed the sequel to New Super Mario Bros. - which is a weaker affair, a stellar Mario Kart installment, the fifth Professor Layton game, a good Resident Evil adventure, a weak Paper Mario entry and a tridimensional take on the New Super Mario Bros gameplay in Super Mario 3D Land. Kid Icarus, Rhythm Thief and Zero Escape are probably the only three highly rated exclusives that brought to the system an experience that cannot be had anywhere else, and for a Nintendo handheld that is not quite good enough. The Nintendo DS also beats the 3DS when comparing their first two years when it comes to games rated between 8 or 8.9 (20 against 16), and it absolutely mops the floor with its younger sibling regarding games in the 7s (65 against 18).
By this point on its life, the Nintendo DS already had two Phoenix Wright games, Animal Crossing, Tony Hawk, two Castlevania titles, Elite Beat Agents, Kirby's Canvas Curse, Mario and Luigi, Trauma Center, Hotel Dusk, Meteos, Metroid Prime Hunters, Mario vs Donkey Kong, Age of Empires, Sonic Rush, among others. In other words, it had more games than an average human being can afford to play. What that difference may indicate, especially the one between games rated between 7 and 7.9, is that while Nintendo is definitely bringing out their support, third-parties are being weirdly shy. Investing on a Nintendo handheld is usually a sign of immediate profit, as the company pretty much dominates the market in a very remarkable fashion, but the on-going dominance is apparently not being as strongly backed up by other companies as it usually was in the past.
It can't be argued that the DS simply started out very strongly, as its pace was very continuous. For instance, after receiving five games rated 9 or higher in its first two years, it went on to have eleven more of those through the remaining four years of its life. In some cases, its pace got even better, as it is the case with games in the middle category (between 8 and 8.9), where in the other four years the system had a whopping sixty-nine games rated in that range, compared to the twenty of its first couple of years. Once again, maybe the achievements of the DS were so gargantuan that whatever the 3DS has been doing loses its shine because it cannot make its light be seen outside of the DS' shadow, but there is still a considerable difference between the support both consoles received during the same amount of time.
If there is one thing the 3DS has, though, aside from a nice library of games, is time. It is clearly too far off the DS' pace to try and replicate that kind of greatness. However, there are still many years ahead so that it can offer us unforgettable portable experiences that rank up there with Link's Awakening, Wario Land, Mario and Luigi 3, or the first two generations of Pokemon titles. Looking too far into the future would be an exercise in wild guessing, but glimpsing right around the corner shows us that Animal Crossing seems destined for a glorious rebirth after the blandness of City Folk, the meeting between Layton and Wright is about to happen, the sorely missed Luigi's Mansion franchise is making a seemingly great, bigger and better come back after ten years of absence, and at least one Zelda game is certainly looming in the horizon. The 3DS has time, Nintendo has the talent, and third-parties are aware of how well the handheld is selling. The recipe is ready to be cooked, it just needs someone to start a fire.
Top 10 Games of 2012 (Part 1)
- Jan 13, 2013 11:30 am GMT
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My barrage of list based content is about to come to an end! Bear with me now for the main event (in my eyes) my top 10 games of 2012!
10. Far Cry 3
In a way, its telling of how good this year actually was that this game is so low down on this list. Far Cry 3 is an excellent open world game, a brilliant shooter and is one of the most fun games Ive played all year. Its an incredibly dumb game, and I mean that both as a sincere compliment and a piece of criticism. The good dumb refers to the fun aspect, when I decide to go hunting bears using a car or finish off a mission by running at my target only wishing to knife him as I repeatedly stab myself with health syringes. As an open world sandbox Far Cry 3 does so much right. There are enough activities on offer to invite you to spend a good deal of time doing anything but the story, and that is where the game shines. Climbing guard towers, taking down outposts silently (if possible), driving missions, conventional side quests and the hunting were all a blast. The hunting especially, due to the progression of great unlocks that made it meaningful. This was all complimented by the way everything interacts in the environment which creates a great degree of improvisation to everything in the best way possible. One time I was silently scouting out an outpost with my camera, and then a tiger attacked me and in fighting it I drew attention of everybody and went on the all out offensive. This means using my full destructive arsenal not just silenced assault rifles and causing utter chaos in ways I didnt even know the game supported. Fire spread wildly (I tried to burn the enemies out but the fire spread to the bit of jungle I was in... Bad move), some structures fell (only small wooden ones admittedly) and it all felt completely out of control whilst leaving me in total control. It was superb.
The game has its detractions though, and they really impacted the overall experience for me. I loved hunting, but it was over too soon, a very subjective complaint but one I can make on a personal list. I rushed out all of the crafting stuff and then the animals became set dressing that posed no threat, and that I didnt need to interact with. It also committed a cardinal sin of dropping me in an empty open world after I finished the story. I had done the side quests, the outposts and the hunting, leaving a world with no enemies and no real activities to do. I expected to keep playing after I was done, but there was no reason to not just quit the game. They core issue though was the story, which started out so strong. It seemed self aware but ended up embracing its clichés and stupidity and coming off as very bad. It got to almost thematically offensive levels and desperately seemed like it wanted to say something but it would rather you just killed everybody ever. Leaps of logic were forgiven at the start because the mood implied something else was afoot, nothing else was, it just ended up extremely stupid. The endings themselves are also awful (a running trend this year it seems), terribly written and laughable. The game started off so well, but the last third fell apart, melding poor story with poor missions and throwing everything I had enjoyed out the window. The last thing I did in Far Cry 3 was attain the completion achievement, and it seemed very appropriate when the words What A Trip popped up to the accompanying jingle. The trip was great, but the destination leaves a lot to be desired.
Player choice is an interesting thing, something that usually brings to mind story choices and dialogue trees. For me Dishonored is emblematic of player choice at its best, and it does it in terms of gameplay. This stealthy gem placed the player in superbly crafted open ended environments and gave them a suite of tools, the rest was left to you. Movement and combat was refined enough for the level design to work and enabled you to enjoy the game no matter what direction you carved out for yourself. The powers worked together in smart ways and the mechanics just blended together for a seamless gameplay experience. The world was brilliant also. Few things were as satisfying to me this year as my non-lethal run through Dishonored. It was a game so mechanically brilliant that it felt like a simulation, a fictional magic assassin sim. Thats my kind of sim. Now I have issues with the game, the lack of new game plus was a big deal for me and the story was not good at all (culminating in another poor ending). Not having new game plus put the game in a situation where you didnt always have access to the game at its best, when you have multiple complimentary powers that you can utilise in imaginative ways. By the time you get the unlocks in the game you are hampered by having picked certain base skills that seem rather necessary, meaning you dont just have all the cool stuff, and the fact that some of the later missions arent as open and awesome as what came before. You then have to start again and wait to get to that point to do all the crazy things you hear about, when you combine time stopping and possession in bizarre ways. This was a genuine issue for me, I just feel the game could have shown why it was great and could have been greater if it really allowed me to let loose. Just let me carry on and do crazy stuff in the superior early game levels.
8. Halo 4
Im a massive Halo fan and this was a really good Halo game. The campaign was really solid, and packed a decent emotional story (with a poorly told sci-fi narrative accompanying it), but this is mostly here because as writing this I want to go play Halo 4 multiplayer. Halo multiplayer is just how I like it, and 343 did it so very well. Its got enough CoDesque persistence to keep me invested and addicted, without all the CoD stuff I dont enjoy. Ive never been a fan of the fundamental balance of CoD multiplayer, and Halo 4 goes a bit down that road but only steals the certain elements I am ok with (luckily). In the end theres not much to say about Halo 4, its just a really solid Halo game, and thats super awesome. The shooting and movement is as perfect as it ever was and Spartan Ops is lame. Halo 4, pick it up.
7. Hotline Miami
If you want a game that will pump you full of adrenaline whilst also giving your brain a workout, look no further than the sublime Hotline Miami. Hotline is something to behold, it takes control of you in a hypnotic fashion with its sublime soundtrack and fitting visuals. Its a completely coherently designed game where every element compliments another and works towards an overall picture which is nothing short of masterful. Its brilliant from a gameplay perspective and its brimming with thematic interest. It doesnt beat you over the head with a message, it lays things out for the player to think on and make his or her mind up about. In doing this it becomes one of the most interesting games of the past few years, and its also super fun. The ultra-violent and lightning fast gameplay feels spot on; its challenging, but strategic and not frustrating. The Meat Boy like short levels and instant reloads keep you playing whilst the sound and visuals also glue you in place. Hotline Miami just works, from top to bottom it works. Its sublime.
After a lot of violent games on this list, Journey is a great change of pace. Its also just great. Not only is it eye wateringly gorgeous, its completely joyous. Its easy to overlook Journey in retrospect, or look upon it cynically, but when you are playing it is impossible to do it any disservice. The feeling you get in that first playthrough is completely magical, and as a jaded human being Im tempted to look back scornfully, but then I remember how the game made me feel. It was wholly involving, I cared about anonymous bits of cloth, I took in the minimal exposition, and I felt like I went through all kinds of trials and tribulations to get to my destination. I didnt wholly know why I needed to go there, but I knew above all else that I needed to reach it. Was it because of some cave paintings or hints at a mythology? Simply it was because it was there. There was nothing but me and my destination as soon as I crossed that first hill and I would do anything to get there. This was hammered in by what it took to get to the mountain and how they made it feel like a struggle while still creating a wholly accessible game that will be celebrated as a landmark title for years to come. I dont know if I will revisit Journey, I dont know if it will stick in my mind, but I know that while playing it I was completely in love with it.
Randomly Encountered Nostalgia
- Jan 9, 2013 12:57 pm GMT
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Going back to older games is kind of a fickle thing. So Gamespot UK's @dannyodwyer started a new video series Random Encounter and I suggested Giants: Citizen Kabuto, a game released back in 2000 to almost universal acclaim. So clearly a great idea from me for good times. Not so much. As it turns out that game in 2013 is significantly less awesome and makes us wonder what we were thinking back in those days.
Part of this is just because some games age better than others, for various reasons. Deathmatch games like Quake 3 and Unreal Tournament haven't really progressed since then and in many ways have disappeared from modern games and the FPS is just something that's very different. Those two games are still fantastic. But it's hard for me to say how good those games would be if I hadn't played them back when they were released.
I think the older games that don't resemble modern games have to a certain extent aged better simply because they lack that direct comparison. Space sims like Freelancer there haven't been the same advancements and developments that have happened to other genres. Back to Giants, third person action games have changed over the years. The ways in which that game falls flat on it's face are in many ways, just part of the times that it was in. Just from how the game moves and feels, the kind of terrible/incredible race stereotypes, the fact that the game is kind of trying to be a third person action game, but also a strategy game and also have this racing game in it as well. Also having it all happen in this really big open areas for you to traverse. It was incredibly ambitious back in 2000 and it was certainly pushing the boundaries of what was being done, but none of that makes for a game that will play well thirteen years later.
So what does make a game age well, I mean being a good game to start with clearly helps but also clearly isn't a definitive indicator. Going back to a game like GTA 3 for instance, great in it's time, but the open world crime action game has progressed so far in the interim years that you see the flaws and problems in that game a lot more because well developers spent a great deal of time fixing them. I genres that have otherwise died off don't have the same points of comparison to modern games which definitely helps but if someone that had never played TIE Fighter before went back to it today, would they have any fun?
A lot of this has been pretty speculative so far but there have been somethings that have been kind of figured out. Early polygonal games like PS1 era, just look bad now. Technically impressive in their day, but now they just look terrible. The catchy 8 bit music of old can still be really impressive. Strong catchy melodies have served those tracks incredibly well. Animation, particularly polygonal animation have come a long way, doubling animation frame speed as it turns out is a terrible idea. In short most games don't age well. Some do, but at the same time, it'll always be hard to say if you're enjoying those older games because of those fond memories or because the game still holds up as a good game in 2013.
To cap this off I'll list a few more game suggestions for Random Encounter. Because clearly I'm not done ruining people's memories of old games.
Vampire the Masquerade Bloodlines
The case for Ictodad Tower Defence
- Jan 9, 2013 5:56 am GMT
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Look what the doctor found in my wife
For those that aren't sure what they are looking at the above is an ultrasound image of a foetus. Yes, an actual human is growing inside my lovely wife. Whether you find the idea to be weird or wonderful it's a bit of a shocker and I am finding it a bit unreal that I will soon be labelled as 'father.' This wasn't unplanned but it has happened rather quickly and I am struggling to get a mental grip on the realities of the situation. Many turn to books or films for advice and guidance but as a man who loves videogames I am turning to my gaming library for assistance. It turns out I probably shouldn't have!
The closest comparison that springs to mind is the escort mission and it must be the nearest gameplay type to my current situation. Sadly I reckon gamers aren't particularly nurturing because I am pretty sure that when you see one coming you roll your eyes in exasperation as much as I do. Remember Ashley from Resident Evil 4? Instead of climbing a tree or waiting on a ledge when trouble shuffled into view she would just stand there while zombie dogs bit her face off. Then when you went to check on her she would accuse you of looking up her skirt. What a cheek! But she wasn't the worse. At least Ashley had the sense to duck when you pointed a gun at her, how about the human sheep from Dead Rising? I remember taking a swing at a big horde of zombies when one fool put himself in the way. I can only assume he was some zombie rights activist but his reward for such kind behaviour was getting his head stoved in with a sledgehammer. Unlike real life you can reload a game but with a frustrating escort mission you might not want to.
But there is one exception. In Ico I genuinely wanted to save the girl and despite her frailty the game somehow fostered a bond between me and my fragile ward. It would have been nice if she had swung a stick or something every so often but then again Sheva in Resident Evil 5 had a gun and she spent most of the time pumping ammo into the sky so it's probably not worth the effort. I'll stick with Ico then.
So it seems there is some hope and on continued reflection even the unfriendliest of games have a protective element. In Call of Duty or Battlefield there are usually a few NPCs under your wing that charge with you into action. Naturally there are the fodder that get themselves shot to tatters in the first 10 seconds but Private A. Smith or Lieutenant B. Shootman aren't my concern. I am talking about mustachioed he-man Captain Price or fearless lunatic Private Haggard. Men who stand side-by-side with us as we battle whichever group are on the hate-list at Activision HQ that week. Should these men take a bullet we would be there to patch them up and send them back into the fray. The problem is that they don't. These are super-soldiers that can take an RPG to the chest and just run it off. You are a delicate meatbag that they are taking along for the ride but should you fall that's it. They move on and you don't. It's a one-way love.
OK so maybe trying to find the caring side to Call of Duty is a bit ambitious but there are characters in games that are specifically identified by their role as father, characters like Max Payne or Kratos. Actually they are not the best examples of model parents either but they loved their offspring (to death in Kratos's case) and they can teach me what NOT to do. At least now I know that I shouldn't involve myself in organised crime and when in a brutal, frenzied rage, don't go straight home. Valuable life lessons there. But of course I am forgetting about the best gaming daddy of all, Octodad. He is not the biological parent (obviously) but he is still a caring provider to his kids. By not being an octopus I am already one step ahead. Things are looking up.
In fact there is an example of an entire genre where protection and development are at it's very core, the tower defense game. Think about it. You are put in charge of a vulnerable and defenseless ...... well, something and must protect it from external forces hell bent on it's destruction. You are it's champion and protector and through your wisdom and patience you must take your delicate core from weak and new to strong, experienced and sophisticated. An example to us all.
Of course there are plenty more examples of games that require looking after someone or something but they all have their drawbacks as parent trainers. Bioshock had Big Daddies but they let their kids turn into junkies, Pikmin had the little leaf creatures that you gently tended but only so you could lob them at bug-eyed plant monsters and Lost In blue put you in the care of a lost and frightened girl far from home who sadly was just too boring to live for. But these are no good. It's the loving triforce of Ico, Octodad and Desktop Defence that I am interested in and developers need to take notice, mash them all together, market them to nervous fathers-to-be and then take my money. I just need a catchy name before setting up my Kickstarter account. Any ideas?
Sony and Microsoft Next Gen in Jeopardy?
- Jan 8, 2013 1:36 am GMT
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Following my recent blog on the speculation of the Sony Patent and from the reaction to my blog I've been thinking a lot more on this issue. I've also realised that companies such as Sony and Microsoft should be very careful with their decisions and do the right market research because there is something else that threatens the very existence of these consoles.
The downfall of the console industry is sitting right next to me as I write this. It is none other than a PS3 Sixaxis Dualshock 3 controller.
Last night I downloaded through Steam a game called "I Am Alive". I proceeded to play this game and thought "this would be much better on a console, then I wouldn't need to use my keyboard and mouse". I've heard before about how people use standardised logitech controllers as well as others on their PC for gaming and I'd never really grasped the concept, until last night.
I went into my lounge room, grabbed the PS3 controller and cable, downloaded the correct driver, plugged my controller in to my PC and started playing "I Am Alive" with my Dualshock. I was in awe that this worked so easily. I then went back onto my Steam account and realised they have a section called "Big Picture" and this is a section completely dedicated to gaming with console controllers. There is already a BIG market for this.
The gravity of what I had found astonished me. Here was Sony, about to go against the grain of the gaming community with new technology when now I've realised that I don't need Sony at all. Most of the games released onto PS3 have been ported onto PC anyway and now I can play these games in the exact same way but with even better graphics I don't think I'll bother with next gen from Sony or Microsoft.
Steam Box. A hardware system designed to bring the PC to your living room. If the prices of each game are as good as they are currently in the Steam Store (I picked up "I Am Alive for AUD$5.80 whereas the same game on PS3 is almost $60) [EDIT: I have seen it advertised on the internet for close to $60 on one particular website, whether this site is reputable is questionable however it is availble from the PSN store for $20 - Thank you @OB_Shah ] this is going to be very strong competition against Sony and Microsoft. There will finally be another big player in the market place with a very strong product. Valve have been doing very good things for many years now and it's about to pay dividends.
Nvidia unveils portable android console. If this is done well, this could also see many more sales taken away from Sony and Microsoft with the next gen. Both Nvidia and Valve have chosen a very good time to start showing off their products to the gaming community because I know for sure how disappointed everyone at E3 was this year as far as hardware announcements went because the only real announcements were from Nintendo.
Next Gen will be upon us before we can even blink and I suspect it won't be dominated by Sony and Microsoft this time which will be a completely refreshing and welcome change.
What Gamer Are You? (Compilation and Discussion)
- Jan 4, 2013 4:35 pm GMT
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Gamespot recently released a video series called, "What Gamer Are You?" I found it to be a fun 4-video series that does what everyone loves: tells us stuff about ourselves! Seriously, though, what it does is categorizes us into the different "types" of gamers based on gameplay traits that transcend genres and specific games. I have compiled the videos below and written out the gist of the different kinds of gamers since I didn't see the list written down anywhere, and I find it useful to have in one spot.
Read below and tell us all: What Gamer Are You?
Part 1 -Completionist,Speed Runner, Exterminator, Extrovert
Completionist - map exploration and 100% completion/trophies/items, often replays games or replays from end of game saves to get all endings. (Compatible with: Exterminator)
Speed Runner - goes strictly for end-game win and will get through any means; typically ignores NPCs, dialogue and story and just wants fun gameplay through and through preferably fast-paced games. (Compatible with: Extrovert)
Exterminator - everything must die, no matter how big or small, not as into dialogue or story; prefers FPS and hack-and-slash. (Compatible with: Completionist, Extrovert)
Extrovert - multiplayer, guild, groups prevail as socializing is the goal; genre is not as important. (Compatible with: Completionist, Exterminator)
Part 2 - Reader, Builder, Introvert, Analyst
Reader - reads every guide, data pad, dialogue and gathers all information; prefers lore-rich worlds usually found in older RPGs. (Compatible with: Completionist, Analyst and Introvert)
Builder - creationist, prefers simulation games where management is important, and creating items with crafting and tools in other games. (Compatible with: Analyst, Introvert)
Introvert - typically solos, sees gaming as more or a relaxing habit and enjoy exploring worlds to their heart's content. (Compatible with: Reader, Analyst and Builder)
Analyst - puzzles are the main draw to games, manipulating physics and problem solving; enjoys tactics (Compatible with: Introvert, Builder)
Part 3 - Ghost, Hoarder, Difficulty Snob, Min/Maxer
Ghost - master of stealth and disguise, often plays as a thief or rogue; prefers tactics over outright gun play in many genres. (Compatible with: Analyst)
Hoarder - gathers all resources, sometimes at the expense of teammates in multiplayer co-op games; rarely spends money unless it furthers their loot. (Compatible with: Completionist, Builder)
Difficulty Snob - only plays on the toughest difficulty; does not like games that cater to the masses and dumb things down. (Compatible with: Exterminator)
Min/Maxer - RPGs are the main genre where math reigns supreme; will explore other genres where customization of stats is exploitable; can delay groups as items are thoroughly analyzed prior to moving on with the game. (Compatible with: Completionist, Hoarder)
Part 4 - Character Builder, Ultimate Evil Doer, White Knight and the Apologist
Character Builer - tweaking and completely customizing their character's appearance, back story, anything that CAN be tweaked. (Compatible with: Builder)
Ultimate Evil Doer - enjoys all manner of mayhem and cruelty, will often destroy NPCs and their weapons do not discriminate. (Compatible with: Exterminator)
White Knight - always the paragon, white knight, displaying justice and charity; completes all companion quests and may sacrifice self for others, saves everyone if possible but can get themselves into trouble doing so. (Compatible with: Reader and Extrovert)
Apologist - trudges through all games of chosen series even if undesirable. (Compatible with: Completionist)
I fit well into several of the gamer types.
White Knight: I can't bring myself NOT to help someone in need in a game, and I will often try to save every possible character from harm.
Exterminator: I have a compulsive tendency to clear areas of all enemies, but this is also because I like to explore in peace. That, and I kinda sorta like shooting bad people in the face. A lot. I still care about dialogue and story, though.
Character Creator: if it CAN be tweaked, it WILL be tweaked!
Completionist: I have a penchant for exploring every inch of a map, but don't typically go for 100% on trophies and items because I don't have time in real life. I will often also end up grinding away at an RPG and end up getting bored and quitting for a while, at which point I feel compelled to restart the whole game. I have done this with Star Ocean: Till the End of Time about 4 times now after 50-100+ hours on a game run... I still haven't finished it... But I will! Someday.
Hoarder: I need to grab every weapon I can carry, and the only real reason to use God Mode in Elder Scrolls for me is to pick up every weapon so I can drop them off at home. I do spend money a lot, though, but that's a personal issue. I really like shiny stuff. And don't get me started on shiny stuff on sale...
Of course there is no "one size fits all" way to categorize gamers, but I did enjoy the analysis of the compatibility of various types of gamers. What I really appreciated in this series is the lack of attention to the notion of "hardcore" and "casual" gamers. Personally, I believe that if you enjoy gaming in whatever form then you are a "gamer". Sure, some are more outspoken and spend more time on this hobby than others, but typically the differentiation is typically used to put down people who do not game every waking and free moment, or take gaming so seriously that their ego depends on it. Whether you categorize yourself within either of these two roles, you will typically find that you will fit into several of the categories from this series.
I think it would be nice to see this integrated with the Gamespot Players Network (GSPN), which does have its own gamer categories, but I think I prefer the series' analysis to the ones registered on GSPN, especially when it comes to compatibility. I thought that was pretty neat! I'd also like to see what gamer types do not get along per this analysis, because I know that I don't get along well with Speed Runners if I haven't played through a game myself, Ultimate Evil Doers in general, Difficulty Snobs because I just don't have the energy or Apologists because if a game isn't good, I don't want to play it (again with the lack of energy thing).
Did you guys watch the series? What did you think?
A Line, Crossed
- Jan 4, 2013 3:56 pm GMT
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I remember when I was younger, enrolled in an AP Literature course in high school. Every week there was a new work to read, whether it was Hamlet, Things Fall Apart or Beloved. But one work in particular always stood out to me, Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. The day I started reading it was my grandfather's birthday. We were at a park setting up a barbeque, but I climbed up a nearby tree and as soon as I settled onto my branch I started to read. One hour later, I was four pages in. It was dense, there were people laughing and playing outside. But I shook it off and kept reading, another hour later and I was immersed in one of the greatest stories ever written.
It wasn't until later in my early college years when I saw Coppola's Apocalypse Now, a film that used Heart of Darkness as its source material. And suddenly, one of the most harrowing stories I had read was brought to life on the screen. No longer a tale of European men in search of Kurtz in the African interior, Apocalypse Now became a tale of American men in search of a rogue Colonel Kurtz as they sailed across Vietnam. But there was something more to Apocalypse Now, the imagery was romanticized. Every bit of it seemed surreal. Initially I wondered if it was because the characters believed they were sent out for a just cause, that they somehow believed what they were doing was right. But the mind always returns to that famous line, "The horror. The horror." By the movie's end, I knew, just as I knew when I finished Conrad's work, I knew the horror.
Later in 2012, there were murmurs amongst the community of a game that used the same source material. It was something that I ignored completely. This, Spec Ops: The Line, looked like any other military shooter and I have been of the belief that a videogame story is inconsequential. Characters may work, certainly, but never has a gaming story ever affected me in the way that cinema or literature have ever done. I suppose at this moment it is worth giving praise to Telltale Games and their Walking Dead game for bringing me to tears and raising emotions in me that no game has ever done before. Because of that game I chose to play Spec Ops: The Line. And it started off safe at first. The game was a cover-based shooter. It played similarly to Gears of War and featured soldiers who were always busy cracking one-liners and jokes. That was the first level at least. I wondered what the praise was for but kept on trudging. And then within the second level Yager Studios and, thanks in large part to their writer, Walt Williams, who has managed to craft one of the most gripping narratives that could only be possible through an interactive medium, created a surreal moment. And as my team barged through that sand-filled building and we heard the voice of a DJ or someone of that sort, it was impossible to tell so soon, talking down to us, I knew there was a chance for things to get interesting.
They did. Where Spec Ops: The Line starts and where it ends are worlds apart. When you begin you feel like a hero. You blaze through a trail of enemies, mowing them down and saving innocents that were clearly going to be murdered by these people. You quickly begin the hunt for a Colonel Konrad in the deserts of Dubai. You are Delta and you need to stop this man and the Damned 33rd. The setup is entertaining; the explosions are typical and expected but help provide excitement as you continue to fight. But as you reach the final act, one of the greatest presented in an interactive medium, you tire of it. This is not meant to be a criticism of the game. This is pure, unabashed praise for Spec Ops: The Line. You no longer want to kill a human being. You feel the weight of each death. You begin to question why you are wantonly destroying, why you are marching forward on a manhunt and you realize that our medium has desensitized us to death. Our modern games no longer penalize us for dying, they spawn us where we died or moments before it and we continue slaughtering again. But Spec Ops: The Line makes you feel again. It makes you feel horror that no horror game has or can ever make you feel. It raises the point that killing is murder, regardless of whether you do it for yourself or your government. It is a game that through violence shows you how war can affect the soldiers fighting on the ground. And the third person perspective helps, as you make your way through hell, literally a hell, there is no other way to describe the battlefields but the planes of hell, as it scars and breaks and tears you and your team, as it takes you each to the edge.
Never before has a game made me pause and put so much thought into the choices that it asked me to make. The choices are not there to dramatically change the experience, but what you are asked to do hold weight. And at times you are terrified of the choices you have to make. The game makes you feel dread, this is not what we have come to expect from the rabid jingoism of our military shooters, and it hits hard. And as you hunker behind cover, fighting more and more enemies, you tire, just as the characters do. They no longer want to kill just as you as a game player, you as an individual, and you as a human being no longer want to kill. But I went forward. Perhaps because I was trained that way, to see my games through to the end, particularly if I thought they were interesting. And Spec Ops held on to my interest. Normally if I were to tire of killing in a shooter I would simply stop, due to boredom. But Spec Ops was different. I wanted to stop because it was scratching at something in me. There was the same romanticized lighting from Apocalypse Now, and even then I still couldn't wrap my head around the horror. It was only nagging at me from the second act on, and by the time the third act came I wanted no more violence. I had realized what the horror was.
But it got to me. It opened up feelings I had never experienced playing a game, just as The Walking Dead did. And I stood there, with angry civilians, unarmed, standing before me. They had figurines of Konrad, who they believed to be a savior. And yet I crossed the desert to find him. I saw the atrocities he committed. I knew he had to be stopped. They only expressed hatred towards me, and what I wanted was to liberate them, to save them. Instead, I watched them hang an innocent man. They barred my way and I did what I never thought I could do, I opened fire on civilians. I was not forced to, instead there was a sense of numbness that came over me and out of my own feelings, because of what I believed needed to be done I opened fire. And like that, I was broken. I stopped and had to reflect. I had to breathe. I was broken by a game.
Spec Ops: The Line takes Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now and uses them as inspiration as it sets a new standard in gaming. No military shooter should ever be judged the same way again. No military shooter should be praised the same way again. Stories in our games need to make us question our own decisions. They need to make us question what we are being told. They need to make us question the protagonists we are controlling. Spec Ops: The Line proves that just because a game is a shooter, does not mean it has to be a power fantasy. But maybe thats the lure of the game? It starts as one, and then, an image of hell is burned in your eyes as you walk through heaps of dead civilian bodies, as you look at the melting flesh of a mother trying to protect her child from the horror that Joseph Conrad first wrote about. The same words I read as a child in high school, sitting in that tree while families played together.
Console MMOs : Unwanted Love Child or Prodigy of Gaming (Part 2)
- Jan 3, 2013 10:05 pm GMT
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In my last part, I talked about and named off MMOs that were on consoles. And how they fared. This time, I will talk about reasons why there should be more. As well as the pros and cons of C.MMOs.
First off, people rather play MMOs on computers. Some find it simpler and easier to download on their computer while doing other things on their computer or even their console waiting for it to finish. Mouse and keyboard are just what most MMO players are used to. Granted a controller does do well if the game is tailored to that certain mode of gameplay. Having a mouse and keyboard game but using a controller will feel odd, naturally.
Action and gameplay. DC Universe did a fine job at offering weapon combos along with quickly activated skills to mix up battle making it feel fast and intense. Though having a more slower and calmer paced MMO wouldn't be so bad. It would certainly make a person think clearer about what to do next rather than just wanting to get the enemy's health bar down or healing. Which is the problem DCUO faces. It's cut up into the bare bone of classes "Tank", "Heal", "Buff/DeBuff". That's it. Simplicity is fine but having something so bland causes problems in terms of character development.
Installation is also a major issue. Installing a game on a computer is no problem. On a console it varies. DC Universe online took me about 7-8 hours to download/install. Which was quite a lot of waiting but the overall game was worth it. Im pretty sure if I had the disk (I downloaded it from the Playstation Store) it would have been much fasterprobably. Also on a console you cant do anything else but stare at the slowly crawling installation bar.
Its quite a lonely market at the moment. There arent many console MMOs out there. DCUO is one and one could add The Lord of the Rings Guardians of Middle Earth being the first MOBA game to hit consoles. And the ones coming out are pretty far away, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn and my personal favorite Blade and Soul. Blade and Soul is out in Korea on pc at the moment but there hasnt been any news of a North American or European release date yet. Thus without much competition there arent many clamoring for the top console MMO title. So its open for any willing to try.
Subscriptions. Now people who want to play a game with a subscription have every right to pay however much the game costs monthly. However, on a console the situation is a bit different. People usually are not going to pay monthly for a game on a console, even if it is an MMO. Also having a free-to-play model coupled with micro transactions also makes players feel a bit relieved of the stress of having to pay to play. Personally Im okay with micro transactions; I can get what I need when I need it without having to put in more- money while having to pay for what I need. Free-to-play is the new way to go, its just a nice gift to gamers so they can play the game, enjoy it, and put money into it if they want/need to. And usually its the latter reason that has many playing Free-to-play MMOs.
Console MMOs offer easier access for players who dont have a powerful enough computer to run the PC version. It allows a pretty much ignored player base to experience the game and have a unique MMO experience. It would be epic to see TERA Online or some other MMOs on consoles. I remember reading in Game Informer awhile back that Perfect World Entertainment was considering putting Jade Dynasty on consoles, but seems that was just an idea. Way to crush my dreams P.W.E.
A new way to play for gamers. Having controller based combos along with the usual skills greatly opens up a whole new means of deepening class and player skill. One person may play a tank differently than another. As seen with DCUO, players can mix a wide range of weapons and powers together in unique ways that makes everyone feel quite original to a point.
Leveling and character progression in terms of skills. C.MMOs shouldn't have to rush players to reach max level only to find that they have to grind money to get more gear. There should be a balance of fun with progression instead of pushing players to keep playing and finding themselves at max level with little to do.
Fear of failure. Many developers are probably pretty unsure of how players would feel about their MMO going from PC to console or going straight to console. It would be great to see more MMOs on consoles really. That fear and uncertainty is warranted. There are many things that could make gamers shy of playing a console MMO, besides the usual They are better on PC argument. Not to mention glitches. No one likes glitches in a game, and sad to say some MMOs post-launch do suffer from glitches still but people still play them because they are enjoyable.
Console MMOs are few and far between, it is a very open genre that has potential really. If an MMO is done well enough to work on a controller and run spectacularly on a console then its worth the merit to be played. Developers shouldnt be afraid to port their MMOS to consoles or even make console specific MMOs, it is certainly something worth venturing in. For now the world can only wait and imagine what the future of this genre has, and enjoy what has already been offered.
Console MMOs : Unwanted Love Child or Prodigy of Gaming (Part 1)
- Jan 3, 2013 9:50 pm GMT
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Certainly there have been a lot of MMOs. And by a lot I mean you could probably take three weeks naming all of them while only taking a few bathroom breaks. To some these are a cavalcade of entertainment and deep fun. To others they are seen as an annoyance and a waste of time. For many years, MMO companies have invited players into their world to make a virtual life and even carve their virtual names into these worlds. Forging alliances, killing monsters, and even killing other players for the pure fun of it. Many actually have forgotten or don't even realize that there are actually worlds like these on consoles. And this is where I will try to see if MMOs can work on consoles or if they are just destined to be exclusive to PCs. Brandish your steel, charge your mana, drink your potions, and refine your gear. It's time to jump right into this.
Throughout the years gamers have enjoyed Massively Multiplayer Online games or MMO to the lay person. There are a countless number of these open world, dungeon instanced worlds catering to small, fairly big, or insanely huge community. Many tire of these MMOs cluttering the game library, others are begging for more and something fresh.
There have been few MMOs to grace the presence of consoles, many have tried. Few have succeeded in gaining a following worthy of keeping the game alive. Here is where I try to figure out if the gaming community is ready or willing to accept the newest addition to console MMOs: Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. For all intent and purposes I will shorten console MMOs to C.MMOs.
One of the problems with C.MMOs, is that they take forever to install. And I mean forever. Back on the good old PS2 there were 2 console MMOS, and on the XBOX 360 there was one, which was on the PS2 as well. The first I shall talk about is Everquest, a console based MMO that didnt really see much life. Based off of the acclaimed RPG, this little number did what many would consider revolutionary however not many seemed to care. Never really heard or saw anyone play it, save for my at the time step brother who had it and allowed me to try it. It was okay, at the time I wasnt really big into MMO games. And was rather sad that I was the only one running around when it is meant to be an MMO. Thing about PS2 online games was that it required a broadband cable to hook up to the internet. If you didnt have one, well the game was pretty much taking up space.
Another console MMO on the good old PS2 was of course Final Fantasy XI, many remember this one gloriously giving Final Fantasy fans their communal kick, being able to do away with monsters and all sorts of enemies using the turn based battle system but with friends! Again this one really didnt do well on consoles as people didnt really want to pay a subscription for it and have to buy the broadband cable to be able to even play it for their PS2s. Xbox 360 owners were graced with XBL. To keep on Final Fantasy XI the Xbox 360, with a hefty installation process (installing an open world so huge does take time), this version did manage to get a big community, even with expansions. Also the game is still running even while the next MMO is in development. This proves that C.MMOs can work and be successful.
DC Universe Online, is the most recent even if it has come out a few years ago, and it has done very well itself. Being a PS3 exclusive game it has gathered quite a following after changing its subscription fee to Free-to-Play. Being a regular player with about 4 characters on the game, it does a very good job at keeping combat its main focus while adding platform gameplay with world exploration. Each weapon has a combo that has to be unlocked with skill points as well as power points for new powers for a players hero/villain. It has bugs but it still does its job.
In the next part, I'll look at the reasons why C.MMOs are may have a hard time and why it would be nice to see more.
Sony Patent and a Look Into Online Gaming
- Jan 3, 2013 8:12 pm GMT
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First things first. I've been very loyal to Sony ever since the PS1, always buying the next gen consoles and games upon release whether they've been used or new. Recently, Sony have submitted a patent for technology that blocks the usage of any "used" games. This means you will only be able to play new games on their consoles if this technology is used.
How does it work? It is actually quite simple: When you load a game into the console it sends your account data and CD ID to a server to verify the "Terms of service". If this is approved your account information is recorded with the CD ID on their servers. If the game is then put into a different console it would find that the game has already been registered against another account and would block the user from playing that particular game.
Before we look at both the pro's and cons of what Sony have developed it is important to note that Sony have not yet confirmed that this technology will at all be used in their next generation consoles or for any of their other products at the time of writing this. The purpose of this is to pose some hypothetical questions/answers as to why this could be a bad or positive move for Sony as a developer. Feel free to contribute in the comments section.
The first issue is that it is assumed you have an internet connection. I understand that most people in this day and age do have access to the internet but there is still a minority that do not. Does this mean that they will not be able to play the new games on the new console that they have purchased? They won't be able to play these games (hypothetically) because each game requires verification from Sony prior to having the ability to play the game to check the "Terms of Service" of that disk, right? This looks like Sony are already discriminating against a section of their current market before their product is even released yet.
What about if a friend wants to borrow a game? Everyone knows that gaming is about community, right? What if I want to take a game over to a friends place to show them a game I'd just purchased? Does this mean I would need to take my console over to my friends house too? There are a couple of ways that this could work out; If you had your friends account on the PSN this could allow your friends to play your games for a certain amount of time or for a small fee. I feel a little bit off about the whole thing though, It just feels like money grabbing. This then leads to my next point...
What if I was taking my console over to my friends house to play a game and I accidently dropped and broke the console? Not even, what if I broke my console at home or the console stops working? Does this mean I need to re-buy licenses for those games I've already purchased? I'm sure Sony wouldn't let this happen and let common sense prevail - The games will most likely be recorded against a users account as opposed to physical console but this is still a valid question to address.
Now let's take a moment to think about the younger demographic - I remember as a kid I wasn't generally able to buy new games due to the price as I didn't have a full time job. I would purchase a used game, play it and then trade it in again for another game. This technology is going to kill the trade in market which means gamers cannot get a better deal on new games or consoles by trading in and this has gamers on forums furious. This could mean Sony faithful defect to another platform as most games released these days are ported onto various platforms (assuming that other platforms don't also adopt this same technology).
This technology will see the end of the used games market as we know it. This is going to have a negative affect on the retail industry because many stores rely quite heavily on renting and/or trading video games. If you don't think that this will have a negative impact on the retail industry it already has: GameStop shares tumble following Sony patent application.
Perhaps this all could have been avoided if new games were competitively priced? Perhaps then gamers would have purchased new games instead of used ones. Unfortunately I don't think so - Retail stores have much more of an overhead than online stores do and a lot of content is digital these days too so I feel that if Sony do use this technology the days for the bricks and mortar retail stores are numbered because consumers will resort to purchasing online to get a better deal.
Whilst there are many negatives about this technology there is also some positive aspects for the gaming community as well. With this technology it means that developers are getting back what is rightfully theres. Used game sales mean that developers are not making any money on their own titles whereas the retail stores do. By not making money from the sale of used games, developers are losing money from potential customers that were going to buy their game anyway, that they the developer, have spent a lot of time and money to develop. Developers will have higher profits which means more money can be spent on new IP's that are polished and are of a much better quality which is only a good thing for the gaming community.
This could also mean that developers could hypothetically release all of the Downloadable Content with the release of their title with free updates because they no longer need to gouge consumers with DLC in order to recooperate costs.
There are some pro's, there are some cons but do the pro's outweigh the cons? Will Sony actually implement this technology within their next generation if the patent goes through? I guess we will have to wait and see.
A Look into Online Gaming
Another "hot topic" of contention this week is EA's decision to shut down online only services for 12 games. This may be a strategic decision to save costs due to the fact that EA seem to be going through some financial trouble as they were recently delisted from the NASDAQ-100. EA's financial position is not my topic of discussion, it is the longevity and prevalence of online gaming and it's rise and place within the gaming community.
Online games are a great thing for developers. Online content that can be purchased and downloaded from home means consumers can purchase and play games at any time of the day or night. Consumers are no longer restricted to a bricks and mortar retail environment which creates a global market, not just a local one. This is particularly important for indie developers that are trying to get their titles out there.
The fact that so many games and DLC is online can also be a problem in it's own right. The DLC and/or games will only be online if the servers are kept up to hold the data. Recently Star Wars: Galaxies shut down all of their servers after nine years. This was very hard for some fans but it made way for Star Wars: The Old Republic which is a newer and fresher MMORPG. What about nostalgia? Many of the old consoles like NES, SNES, Sega Mega Drive, Sega Saturn, ETC, I like to pull out and game with on occasion and when I finally have kids they will be able to appreciate what it was like for me gaming when I was a child. With the prevelance of online gaming it doesn't look like many of the great titles we have around currently will be around for others to enjoy into the future.
This has cause for concern. If these online based games shut down after complete success the digital world of DLC would surely be on the chopping block as well. Imagine not being able to download certain content for a game because the server this content was available from has shut down.
There is also the fact that games like COD: Black Ops, Battlefield, ETC play much better via online multi-player as humans are much smarter than the NPC's in most FPS games. Imagine if the servers for multi-play were shut down for these titles? You've then lost half of the game. You won't need to imagine because this will be a reality.
Enjoy all of the online games and DLC that you can now because I doubt very much that it will be here into the future. Sad but true.
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