I've always got opinions. And here they are. Agree or disagree, feel free to post a comment. I'd love to hear it. Just keep it mature.
I'm old enough to remember playing Pong when it first came out. I recall adventure games having no graphics at all. My first computer hooked up to a TV and programs were loaded from cassette tapes. My second computer was an IBM PC Jr. and didn't have a hard drive whatsoever, only dual(!) 5 ¼" floppies. Arcades were still hugely popular and that was the place to go for the top-of-the-line games. And today, decades later, I wonder just how antiquated current AAA games will look a few years from now.
I was playing the re-mastered Secret of Monkey Island games recently, and while this classic is both fun and funny, it really shows its age compared with modern adventure games such Alan Wake. In the old days, we were satisfied with games that relied primarily on humor and puzzles. The systems of the day just couldn't offer advanced graphics and music, and there was no spoken dialog… nearly everything was text. I'm curious just how many younger gamers who have no recollection of these classics could even play Monkey Island. I'd guess that they would think the game was too primitive and could not play past the first five minutes.
But just how good were the "good old days" of gaming? At the time, I think they were excellent. We loved the Sierra, Infocom and Lucasarts adventures, the RPGs like Wizardry, Bard's Tale, and Ultima, and many other classics like Star Control, Wing Commander and more. To play any of those games today might be an interesting diversion, a trip down memory lane, or a way to reminisce about our youth. But can any of those games hold a candle to even the mediocre games of today? I'm not saying that today's advanced graphics and sound make a game. But the entire package of contemporary games is just so much more complete, including the story, presentation, characters, and technology.
Another variable of games over the years is how they have matured. I'm sure this is due in the most part to the maturing of the audience. Like me, many kids grew up progressing from Ataris to Playstations, and Commodore 64s to quad-core PCs. As we got older, we craved games with deeper plots and adult-oriented material. PacMan eating pellets and ghosts evolved into Prototype destroying tanks and consuming people.
So what's next? Motion control and 3D displays seem to be the bleeding-edge technologies of the moment. It's amazing how far things have progressed in 30 years. We've gone from small, pixilated monochrome images to wall-sized monitors that push the boundaries of realism. And while it is still in its infant stages, gamers can control a game with gestures, where 3 decades ago we relied on large and clunky input devices. In the year 2040, will we play simply by thinking? Will we be incorporated directly into a global computer network? Will the images be piped directly into our optic nerves?
But it's not just the way we play games that have changed, and will change in the future. The games themselves have come a long way. Action games used to be about keeping a square pixel bouncing between two movable rectangular pixels. While today's action games can rival the best movies in their cinematic flair, complex stories and wonderful character development while giving the player actual control over what happens. Driving and flight games are no longer about moving sprites around on a screen, but are true simulations of real-world vehicles. Even the arcadeiest racing game has more realism than the best racers of 20-30 years ago.
I can't even imagine what games will be like 30 years from now. Yet when I think back on my lifetime of gaming and how much improvement we've seen over the years, I can only predict things will only get better. And when I'm in my 60's, I expect I'll be reminiscing about the "good old days" of 2011 and how archaic our games were back then.
Everyone hates a cheater. It doesn't matter if you're playing poker, sports, a board game, or the stock market. Someone who breaks the established rules to gain an advantage over everyone else only earns the ire of others. So why is it that the very video games we play cheat as well? I'm not talking about multi-player cheaters. I mean the games themselves... the AI opponents in a single-player game. I think the simplest answer is that it's easier to program a game that cheats than it is to program a game that "thinks". A game that thinks would not need to resort to cheap shots and underhanded strategies to beat or challenge you. Yet when you are playing a single-player game, you expect a challenge. While we would love to have an AI opponent think like we do, where they have to use process of elimination, intuition, and skill to defeat you, we get AI that cheats instead!
The most recent object of my frustration and catalyst for this blog is Split/Second. This arcade racer has all the ingredients to be one of the most fun driving games in years, yet Black Rock has ramped up the "challenge level" of the game not by making smarter opponents, but by allowing your opponents break the rules. What fun are the single player season races when the AI doesn't bother to use power plays on each other, but only on you? How enjoyable is it when slower AI cars slingshot past you on the last corner to steal your hard-fought lead? Racing games with rubber-band effects and rule-breaking drivers are not the only culprit. Games in nearly every genre utilize cheating behaviors to ramp up the difficulty.
Take shooters for example. I won't even name one, because I've run into this phenomenon in more shooters than I can recall. You're stealthily trying to sneak up on some AI opponents. There's no way they should know you're there, or even if they did, they wouldn't know your exact location. Yet all of a sudden, BLAM! one shot and they've pegged you! How about those AI dudes who have uncanny accuracy!? No, not every shooter stoops to these tactics. But there are too many that do. It is so much more fun and rewarding when the AI actually "outthinks" you without blatantly breaking the rules. But it's easier to make a game challenging by allowing the AI to see through walls and have pinpoint accuracy.
Puzzle and strategy games can be just as bad. How many of you played Puzzle Quest and wondered why the "random" gem drops almost always favored the AI? It was amazing how you'd struggle to beat some of the tougher foes, yet on nearly every turn they'd get chains and combos that decimated you. Or how frustrating it was in an RTS when the AI knew exactly where to find you even in the fog of war?
You have options when facing human cheaters in multi-player games. If you are the host, you can kick them out. You can play a different map or game mode, or just leave that particular lobby. Or you could just play with people you know. But how do you avoid a cheating single-player game? How do we convince developers to stop taking the easy way out when programming the AI? We could vote with our dollars, but that doesn't help when you buy a game not realizing it's going to cheat on you.
I'm not looking for easy games. I'm not just some whiner who can't beat a game and am looking for the Easy Button. I enjoy games that challenge me and provide a sense of accomplishment when you defeat it. But fun quickly turns to frustration when the game breaks the rules to be more difficult instead of actually playing better. I'm all for smarter games, not cheaters.
I'm into cars and love realistic racing games. But sometimes I just want to have some stupid fun with a game like Burnout or Need for Speed. The greatest thing about arcade racers is anyone can play them. You don't need to be a racing fan or like cars at all. Just a suspension of disbelief, a desire for speed, and the drive to win.
A few weeks ago, the Blur multiplayer demo came out, and at this point is open to anyone on the 360 who wants to download and play. You get a few of the tracks and a handful of cars. You only get to play against other people, but it's a great indication of what the game is going to be like. It's a mix of kart racing, Need for Speed, and Tron of all things. Certainly there's some fun to be had here. Blur was created by Bizzare Creations, so you know they've got some success under their belts.
I noticed today that the demo for Split/Second is available for the 360 as well. I downloaded it and played through the one track that is included. You get a single car and race against the AI. But there's enough here to give you a taste of the game. Where Blur is all about the power-ups and using those weapons against your competition, Split/Second is less about direct combat and using the track itself against your fellow racers. Staged to look like a cross between a reality TV show and a Michael Bay blockbuster action flick, the drivers trigger explosions that cause mayhem or open up shortcuts.
Having played both demos, I must say that I enjoyed them both. The Blur multiplayer demo had some kinks yet to work out, and the Split/Second demo would have been more interesting against live opponents. But having been behind the wheel of both, I think Split/Second gets my vote.
Blur has some exciting racing... the power-ups can change the race in a moment. You can go from last to first or vice-versa. But the destruction is very tame. Besides lots of neon lights and flashes, nothing really goes boom. And most gamers love things that 'splode. Split/Second 'splodes real nice! The amount of explosions in a single race might well equal the entire explosion budget of a big movie!
But Split/Second isn't just about explosions. To me the game just felt meatier. It was a lot more visceral to watch a jumbo jet crashing onto the track wiping out the opponents ahead of you then to fire pew pew bolts of light to make someone skid out a little.
I'm sure both games are going to be good. But with today's price of games, there's only going to be room for one new arcade racer on my shelf this year. And for this gamer, that game looks like it's going to be Split/Second. But that's just MY opinion. What do you think? If you've played both demos, let's hear your thoughts. And if you haven't... well, what are you waiting for!? Go download them! They're free.
I was excited to see the Fuse service announced here on Gamespot. Working with Raptr, Gamespot would be able to display your gaming history, update your now-playing list, and other gamer goodness. Well, I "upgraded" my Gamespot account to include Raptr and even installed the silly Raptr client on my work PC. But 24 hours later, both Gamespot and Raptr show zero information from my XBOX Live account!
Anyone else experiencing problems like this? I checked the FAQ at Raptr, and they do state it could take a bit for your profile to update. But just how long should that take? Perhaps the service is overloaded with all the Gamespot people flooding the system this week. Whatever the case, I wonder if I need to keep this Raptr client installed on my PC. I really have no need for it. All I want is more XBOX history to show up in Gamespot.
Browsing Wired magazine yesterday, I came across an interesting recommendation. An iPhone/iPod Touch app called Words With Friends. Basically, it's a generic version of Scrabble. If you don't mind an ad displayed at the end of your turn, the game is fully functional and free. If you want to ditch the ads, it costs less than $3.
The best part, you can play multiple games with multiple people at the same time. Push notification will let you know when it is your turn. My wife and I are each playing on our own iPhones. I invite everyone to grab the app and play too. Challenge me to a game... my user name is EAJack.
Also, nobody has joined my Fantasy F1 racing league! Come on, there's nothing to lose, it's free, and bound to be interesting. Try it out even if you don't really get into racing. (See more details on my previous blog.)
Formula 1 is something I enjoy when I'm not gaming. SPEED is hosting an F1 Fantasy League for this year's F1 season. I've created Team Pixel Hunter and made my picks for drivers, cars and engines. If you also love F1, or are just interested in another kind of game... please join into the league with me. It's completely free!
Go to the Speed Fantasy Racing site: gpedition.speedfantasyracing.com
Everyone gets put into the overall fantasy league. But I've created a mini-league for us to play against each other as well. You can join multiple mini-leagues, so if you already play, you can join the F1Spot mini-league as well. Use this link for the mini-league:
The mini-league name is F1Spot and the password is F1Spot (no spaces in name or passsword)
I've got a lazy bone or two, but I go to the gym three days a week. I park in the outskirts of lots to avoid shopping carriages and idiots who ding your doors. And I'll take a flight of stairs instead of an elevator or escalator when I can. So why am I so averse to getting up to change a game disk in my console when I want to play a different game? I don't have to get up to change the TV channel anymore. Maybe training your cat to swap disks for you is the solution. Or perhaps DLC is the answer.
Downloadable games from XBOX Live or the Playstation Network reside on your console's hard drive. When you want to play them, you select it from your dashboard and play away. No disks to juggle and no cases to store on a shelf. With the XBOX 360's option to upload a game to the hard drive, you'd think you could avoid having to insert the disk any time you wanted to play that game. But no… due to piracy concerns, the disk must be inserted, lest you rent a pile of games, upload them, and wind up with a complete library without having purchased anything.
You do have to admit that keeping disks is a bit of a hassle. They take up space. They can become dirty or scratched, preventing them from playing correctly. They can be lost or stolen. And they require you to get up from the couch when you want to play something different. Okay, that last one is a bit of a stretch. Unless you have trained cats.
But there are advantages to having physical media as well, such as the ability to trade, borrow, sell or buy used copies of games. Right now I'm borrowing a friend's copy of Fallout 3, since I want to play all the DLC, but traded in my copy about a year ago. (However, my friend had to buy this used copy of Fallout 3 after his kids knocked over his XBOX while playing it, causing his original new disk to become damaged beyond repair!) So right there in a single example, I've pointed out some pros and cons to physical media.
With this latest generation of consoles, and on the PC as well, there is an increasing amount of content that can be purchased via direct download. Not just the "small" arcade games, but full games once sold at retail, such as Microsoft's "Games on Demand" program. The PSP Go has eschewed the physical media altogether for download-only software. And look at the iPhone, Blackberry, Android and other handheld devices… everything is downloadable only.
There are many good reasons to embrace this new model of distribution. First: It's convenient. Want a game at 2AM on a holiday? Sure, no problem. You won't find many retailers open at that hour. Plus, you get instant gratification without the need to travel to a retail store. Second, you often have the security of knowing it can't be lost. Even if you delete the game from your device, you can re-download it at no cost, since you own a license to that game.
But there are detriments as well. Digital rights policies can be restrictive, causing annoyances if you replace your console. Downloaded software isn't portable, meaning you can't bring it to a friend's house to play on his machine. And once you purchase it, there is no way to return, trade-in, or sell your games. On top of that, the pricing schemes of DLC often provides no benefit over a physical copy of the same software, despite the fact that there is no physical medium to produce, ship and sell with a middleman's profit.
However, I'm going to make a prediction: The next generation of gaming systems will be downloadable content only, or will heavily favor DLC over physical media. We're already seeing that trend begin with many new games offering DLC expansions and bonus content, DLC-only arcade games, and downloadable re-releases of classic or best selling games. Who's going to benefit from this new age of distribution? Will it be the gamers or the developers? I think gamers will see some benefits (see my points above), but the real winners will be the console makers and developers. The losers will be the traditional retail outlets.
Face it, Microsoft, Sony, et al want to make as much profit as they can. When 100% of the sales of software are funneled through them, they make the maximum amount of money. Right now, every game that is traded in and resold as used, lent to a friend, or rented is lost sale for them. The console maker doesn't get their cut of the new game sale, and the software developers don't make profit from those units to help fund future projects. So it's only natural that the developers and the console makers want every person to play the game to have paid them for it.
That doesn't necessarily mean the end for consumers. Unless you are a pirate, you are already paying for every game you play. Wouldn't you rather see your money go towards the people who make your games (and hardware) to help fund the future of gaming instead of lining the pockets of those who have no influence on the games you play at all? On the other hand, consumers don't want to be ripped off when forced to buy downloadable content.
I've blogged about the "broken" economy of DLC before. When it is cheaper to buy a retail disk version of a game than to download the very same software, something is wrong. When a 4 year old Live Arcade game costs the same today as it did 4 years ago, something is wrong. An example I've used in the past was Forza Motorsport 2. You could buy the Platinum edition for about $20 which included all the DLC that was released for the game. Or you could spend about $23 just to download the same DLC content, plus still need to own the original game!
What about the retailers? Gamestop is the 800 pound gorilla of video game sellers, and they would be hit doubly hard if all games went download-only. Not only would they have no physical games to sell anymore, but they would lose a large chunk of their profit in the sale of used games. Though there is no love lost with me if they lost the used game market, since they rip off gamers by paying peanuts for used games then turn around and sell them for near-new price. I think the only way a company like Gamestop would survive is if they could sell download codes for games, much like the MS Points or Live subscription cards they already sell, or if they became a portal for downloadable content.
There are a lot of variables when considering a change from one distribution method to another. Who ultimately benefits from a migration to download-only software remains to be seen clearly. Consumers don't seem to mind iPhone, Blackberry or Android phones where the only way to get software is via DLC. And we all know the huge success the MP3 format has had in music downloads. But can this same level of consumer satisfaction be realized in the gaming console market?
I, personally, would embrace and endorse download-only games for my consoles only if the following were to be true:
· Reduced prices – since there are no disks or packaging to manufacture, there is no physical product to ship or warehouse, and there are no distributers or retailers to take a cut of the profit, the price of a downloadable game should be lower than what we pay now for the traditional product.
· Price reductions over time – retail prices of games drop over time as they age. People don't still pay $60 for COD4 today when Modern Warfare 2 is sold for that price. So there is no reason old DLC games should be the same price they were the day they premiered. DLC needs to drop in price at the same rate disk-based games do. Without price reductions, budget gamers would never be able to buy games.
· Promotional pricing – It's not uncommon to find retailers selling brand new games for 10% off or more. To encourage sales, the DLC should have promotional pricing, such as offering 10% off a brand new game if you purchase it the first week of release.
· Returns – Sometimes mistakes happen and you purchase DLC you don't really want. There should be a grace period of a few hours or even day or two to allow you to delete the DLC and garner a full refund.
· Rentals – Not everyone wants to spend $60 on a new game, or even $20-40 on an older game. Gamers should be allowed to rent the use of a game for a specific period of time for a small dollar amount. After which time, the game no longer works unless additional play time is purchased.
· Giftability – Not everyone who buys games buy it for themselves. Sometimes the buyer doesn't even own the device necessary to purchase or play the software. Provisions need to be made to allow anyone to purchase the software and give it to anyone else.
· Phony money – Microsoft is the biggest culprit here. Carnivals used the scam of making you buy 5 tickets at a time, but the ride cost 3 tickets to go on. Inevitably, some tickets would go unused and the carnival made more money off you than they should have. Microsoft Points are no different. DLC should be purchased with the legal tender used in the country the buyer is located in. Or, the buyer should be allowed to buy exactly the number of points they need.
· Trade-In value – Many gamers never play a game again once they finish it. Unlike an MP3 which may be listened to for years to come. Gamers should be allowed to delete a game from their library and gain a credit towards additional purchases. There is no "used" game being sold to someone else which would bypass profit for the console or developer. But goodwill would be fostered towards gamers, and encourage them to purchase additional titles. Many gamers rely on the money they get on trades to fund new game purchases.
I'm not against the DLC-only future which seems so inevitable. But I'm not sure I'm ready for it either. Developers and console makers need to tread carefully, without cramming this new distribution method down our throats. Instead, I'm hoping the steps taken in this migration to DLC-only benefit both the consumer and the companies. After all, MP3's did not bring the end of the music industry like the record labels feared. You can still go out and buy a CD today. And I don't mind the DLC-only format on my iPhone, so I am encouraged that life could be just as easy on future gaming systems.
Here's to not having to get up from the couch in the future. Well… unless you need to go pee, or out in the sun once in a while.
Anyone who has read my blogs knows 99% of my gaming is done on my XBOX 360. I've given up on PC gaming, and unlike last generation, I decided not to get all three consoles. I have nothing against the PS3, it's a terrific console. But when I decided to join the current console generation, the 360 had the hardware price point I was comfortable with, and also the game library that I was more interested in. Two and a half years after getting my 360, the PS3's game library is finally beginning to tempt me.
The problem is, I'm loathe to buy another console. Why? Well, the 360 and the PS3 are, for the most part, 95% the same damn thing. Sure there are differences that make each unique, or features one has that are superior to the other. But that's beside the point insofar as I'm concerned. I'm a proponent of a shared console standard. I'd love to see Microsoft and Sony and whoever else set a standard and each build their own version. Much like VHS, DVD, and Blu-Ray all became standards in their generation. The important thing is… people like me wouldn't be writing blogs like this because they can't play exclusive games for a console they don't own.
So here I am in a sort of dilemma. There are a dozen or so great PS3 exclusive games I want to play. But it's very hard to justify plunking $300-350 on a second console to allow me to do so. Especially when there are other items I need more urgently, such as a new laptop and server, plus countless items for my house among other things. On top of that, my friends have 360s, not PS3s. I'm sure some day I'll get one anyway, even if I use the Blu-Ray player as the justification.
It's not like I have even run out of good games to play on the 360. I have about 6 games I haven't even started yet, including the epic time-eater Dragon Age: Origins! But regardless of that fact, these are the PS3 exclusives whose siren calls beckon me to my doom:
· Demon's Souls
· God of War III
· Heavy Rain
· Killzone 2
· Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
· Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction/A Crack In Time
· Resistance: Fall of Man/Resistance 2
· Uncharted: Drake's Fortune/Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Those are the exclusives that interest me most. Perhaps you have some other AAA title ideas. In the meantime, I'll be happily chugging through my backlog of 360 exclusives and multi-platform titles.
Sure, I like music. Who doesn't? But I never, ever thought I'd have any interest in playing Rock Band. Until I went to a friend's house the other night and everyone started playing Rock Band. At first, it was fun to watch, but I refused to try because I have lousy coordination and am not musically inclined in the least. Finally they got a bass controller in my hands and I gave it a shot.
Wow, I had fun!
So now I actually think I want to get Rock Band for myself on my X360. Problem is, I'm not sure about the best way to start out.
My wife LOVES the Beatles. So I could get TB:RB. But at ~$250 for the super-duper set, that's a little pricey. However, the ~$150 box set seems to come only with the RB1 controllers. If I'm going to buy into this game now, I'd rather have the latest generation controllers.
So maybe I can get the basic RB2 box set for the newer controllers. Prices for RB2 seem to be around ~$100. Then I could just buy the TB:RB game alone for another ~$50. I'd wind up with the latest generation controllers and two games (double the songs) for a "bargain" price. Oh... and I guess no matter what set I get, I'd have to buy another guitar controller, and probably another mic for the Beatles game.
My wife being such a Beatles fan, I'm wondering if she'd miss out not having the Beatles-specific controllers and bonus content.
It's a shame the song lists from the two games don't mix, so it'd be a pain to be switching back and forth all the time.
Meh, I don't know what to do. Any advice on the best way to get started, or where to get good pricing? Thanks in advance.
GameSpot is holding a GameSpotter of the Year contest. They have chosen 39 members over the course of 2009 and highlighted them in the Member Spotlight. I feel privileged to have been one of those selected. The members listed are good people with great blogs. Check out the story with the link above.
This is the time when I should say "Vote for me! Vote for me!", but I'm not like that. Here's what you should do: Read the story here and check out the members listed, each of whom deserves your attention. Pick someone who connects with you in their blogs and vote for them.
Wait! What? I'm suggesting that you vote for someone else? Sure, why not. You're more than welcome to vote for me, but each of the other members who made the list are equally deserving of a vote. I even track several of the other members listed myself. Unfortunately, you can only vote once. So… make up your own mind, and I thank anyone who votes for me in the end.
Anyone in the military or who plays first-person shooters may think it is a rocket-propelled grenade. Geeky programmers may know it as a programming language. Or it may be an acronym for many other things. But the RPG I wanted to write about is the ubiquitous role-playing game. So, what is a role-playing game?
I think it is safe to say that the granddaddy of role-playing games would be Dungeons & Dragons, the pen-and-paper tabletop game created in 1974 by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson and published by TSR. The game was basically a rule system that allowed nerds worldwide to play out their fantasy adventures using their imagination, dice and little painted lead miniatures. But most importantly, it was a game in which you played or acted out the role of your character, speaking with quasi-Shakespearian dialect and actually pretending to be your character. And yes… I was proudly a member of these ranks of nerds who got their game on in dim dining rooms with dice, books, and painted lead figures.
With that said, one would think that the term "role-playing game" means a game in which you play or act out a role, right? Well, it seems that over the years the RPG genre has evolved quite a bit, particularly in its migration from tabletops to computers and consoles. RPG games have also become much more mainstream as well, no longer relegated to the pimply D&D club after school or folks who tote around their dice in Crown Royal velvet sacks.
But something happened during that migration to digital media. The RP in the G lost a lot of its prominence. Early entries in computer RPGs such as SSI's "gold box" games or the original Wizardry had all the dice-rolling, stat-crunching, Monster Manual goodness of the original tabletop games, but lacked the cheesy acting of its pen-and-paper counterparts. Over the years, many games came out wearing the hat of computer RPG. Some of them did better than others with the level of role-playing, but most lacked it altogether. Eventually, the computer RPG genre was at the brink of death.
Many industry insiders claim that 1996's Diablo and 1998's Baldur's Gate collectively resurrected the dying RPG genre. Baldur's Gate was another computer RPG based on the venerable Dungeon's & Dragons rule set, including all the stats and dice rolls, but also the return of role playing to the genre. You got to choose your dialog from pre-defined choices, but it actually allowed you to be nice or evil, suave or belligerent. And the choices you made "acting out" your character's adventure made a difference in the world. Diablo on the other hand was a great and addictive game, but much more action-oriented and focused more on loot and stats than any form or role-playing whatsoever.
So here we have the return to glory of the computer RPG in the late 90's at the hands of two games. One is an action based, loot collecting, level-up-a-thon, and the other is a deep, character driven role-playing experience. Both incorporate characteristics of the original role-playing games, but only one of these two examples is truly a role-playing game, is it not?
Don't get me wrong, I owned both Diablo and Baldur's Gate and both are fantastic games! And I feel that the success of these two games spawned dozens if not hundreds of other RPGs, both in the action and character categories.
Some modern examples of games that hold true to the role-playing roots are Mass Effect, Dragon Age: Origins, Oblivion and Fallout 3. In each, you have a lot of control over how your character acts, and not just what stats to improve when you gain experience. The role you choose for your character effects how people react to you and how the game world evolves. These are the basic principles behind a role-playing game.
On the other hand, your more action-oriented RPG games such as Sacred 2: Fallen Angel, Borderlands or even Bioshock have a lot of the elements of the original role-playing foundation such as stat improvement, loot collecting, and behind-the-scenes dice rolling, but lack altogether or have paper-thin role-playing. While there is nothing wrong with this style of game (I enjoy them very much!), do they qualify to be called RPGs? Maybe they had roots in role-playing games, but based on their current focus should be called something different today like LSL games (Loot, Stats, Levels.)
Yeah, I'm splitting hairs here. In the end, what does it matter what genre the game is in, as long as it is fun to play, right? And with today's games blending the genre lines more than ever before, almost every game defies being shoehorned into any one category. But on the other hand, we don't call cars "horseless buggies" anymore because that's what the modern car evolved from, do we? Whatever the case, I'll end it here because I need to get back to playing Borderlands and Dragon Age! But I got you thinking, didn't I?
Update: Due to many of the responses I've received, I decided to add to the original editorial with this "Part 2".
You can look at role-playing in two extremes: "True" role-playing is where you act out the role of your character in every way. You can say and do anything within your imagination. This is quite possible when playing pen-and-paper RPGs such as D&D. But due to the limitations of game programming, you find your options limited when playing on a computer or console. Video games make great strides every couple years in the level of involvement they allow. But it will take many more years, and quite likely a truly intelligent AI to reach the level of a group of friends and a good game master. Perhaps Natal and devices like it will pave the way for that level of integration.
On the other hand Mario, Sonic… heck, even Pac Man were "roles" you played when playing those games. Is it a stretch to say you were role-playing the little plumber in Super Mario Brothers on your NES? Probably, but you can indeed say that you are controlling the fate of that character. Liken it to playing a role in a stage show, film or television program. You play the role of the character assigned to you. You must follow the script in what you say and how you act and everything is predetermined.
So if what I just said is the case, then nearly every game with a character controlled by the player is an RPG. So why are only some games classified as RPG? Well, it boils down to classifying a game. Stick it in the correct genre to attract the type of gamers who would buy the game. A die-hard fan of first-person shooters probably isn't going to want to buy and play something like Oblivion or Dragon Age. You could say that every RPG is also an Adventure, but that genre title usually refers to games such as Tomb Raider, Psychonauts or The Longest Journey. So over the years, three primary sub-genres of RPGs have matured; the RPG, the Action RPG, and the JRPG.
The RPG does its best to mimic the full-blown experience of the old pen-and-paper gaming. Baldur's Gate, Oblivion, Fallout 3 and Dragon Age, to name just a few, fall into this category. They focus on character development, choice and consequences, and heavy dialog. Combat may be strategic or action oriented. The Action RPG is a much faster paced style of game with more emphasis on collecting loot and improving stats along with action-heavy, non-stop combat. A few examples here are Diablo, Dungeon Siege and Sacred. Finally JRPGs, or Japanese/Eastern RPGs, are best known for their cinematic presentations, deep yet linear stories and character development, and involving combat systems. The Final Fantasy series is a mainstay in this sub-genre, but certainly not the only example.
When you play a game, whether it is a table-top game, video game or outdoor sport, the point is to have fun playing. So it shouldn't matter what genre a game is labeled with as long as you have fun playing it, correct? As for game genres, they have become so muddy over the years because every game blends elements of many genres to make it a richer and more involving experience. So today we have shooters with RPG elements such as Bioshock and Borderlands. Or RPGs with shooter elements like Mass Effect. This blending of game genres isn't a bad thing. In fact, I think games today are better than ever before because of it.
In conclusion, finding an exact definition of RPG is tricky business. And in the end it really shouldn't matter. What does matters is that there are plenty of great games for us to enjoy, and I think that today we have more choices of top-notch games than we will ever have time to play. And that, my friends, is a very good thing indeed.
Update 2: I forgot to mention MMOs like World of Warcraft and Everquest as well. Due to the nature of those games, and who plays them, they can be the "truest" form of computer RPG, or they can be nothing more than glorified action/adventure games. Yet again, just proof that it is nearly impossible to bottle the term RPG in a neat and tidy package and call it a day.
Okay, if anything, this will prove just how indecisive I can be, or how much I obsess over stupid little details. I've got a stack of X360 games that I've finished and want to trade them in to help fund my next batch of games. Since I've boycotted Gamestop for all intents and purposes, I would normally eBay my games. But that has become such a hassle, and eBay's fees really cut into your profits nowadays. My second option is to trade them in with Amazon.
Earlier this year, Amazon had a great trade-in special. Trade in $60 worth of games and they'd give you an extra $30 on top! A great deal and more profitable than selling on eBay. So here I sit with my pile of games, hoping Amazon will run that trade-in special again. Do I wait, hoping to net an extra $30, but at the risk of the games losing value even more? Or do I just turn the games in for a sure thing now, which would net roughly the same as selling on eBay with 1//10 the hassle, but at the risk of "losing out" on a future deal?
(This blog should be spoiler-free.)
I finished the single-player campaign in Modern Warfare 2 last night, and while I want to get some time in playing Special Ops and Multiplayer before I review the game, I just have to get some of this out before my head 'splodes.
Back in the day, the first-person shooter was a pretty generic experience. Run around levels killing everything that moved and you might have to find color-coded keys to open doors. The original Half-Life changed all that with the introduction of a decent story and the excellent use of set pieces and scripted events. The bar had been set, and all shooters made after HL had to meet it or be trashed by the critics.
Well, a new bar has been set.
Sure, Modern Warfare 2 may not be a perfect game. But it certainly has made advancements to the genre that any future games need to match lest they be relegated to "just another shooter" status. MW2 blends the non-stop cinematic action of a Michael Bay or Jerry Bruckheimer film with the military depth, espionage and globetrotting of a Tom Clancy novel. There is never a dull moment in the game, and you are always doing something engaging.
I think the mix of mission types and locations, as well as the various vehicle segments makes for a fun and adrenalin packed experience. Yet at the same time, I wish there was a little more. The campaign is completed quickly, and you wish it was longer. However, I can understand why it may be short; to drag it out over a longer period of time may become repetitive and tedious, losing the rollercoaster thrill it achieves with its short length. Multiple times through my play through, I sat jaw dropped and controller slack in my hand at my astonishment of what was happening. Other times I was slapping myself in the "Home Alone" expression when I was stunned at what I had gone through. That very, very rarely happens in any games I play. And I love the fact that MW2 is capable of pulling off those brain-melting events and twists that just catch you off guard.
The entire game is played from the perspective of one of several characters, with not a single cut scene. Unfortunately, this makes the telling of the story more difficult, because you can only see and know what that character you are playing sees and knows. We've all seen just how good Infinity Ward can do with cinematic cut scenes based on all the trailers leading up to the game release, and it's a shame some are not included to help with the story. I guess that would be my biggest gripe with the campaign… not having the story fleshed out as well as it could have been. I'm sure I'm not the only one confused with the progression of events, or the motivation of some key players. And it should be no surprise that the ending of the game might as well have a big "To Be Continued" sign posted.
Playing Modern Warfare has been an interesting personal experience. When I played COD4, I was deeply moved by the consequences of war, just as much as I enjoyed the game. I actually had to stop playing after some missions in the original MW to reflect upon what happened, and on just how much war and the loss of soldiers' lives sucks. MW2 is no different. From the controversial airport mission to various other experiences throughout the game, any player with a conscious should be reflecting upon the consequences of war. But this is a benefit to the game, not a detriment. Too many games today don't do anything to wake up your brain or make you think about what you are doing.
Am I in the minority here? Do most gamers today just want mindless thrills and brainless action? Have most players skipped the story campaign to play the excellent multiplayer instead? What are your thoughts on Modern Warfare 2 and how it makes you think about games, war, and cinematic experiences?
I am looking forward to (the inevitable) Modern Warfare 3 with great anticipation. I only hope it is already in development, and the wait won't be too long.
NOTE: Originally, this blog was intended to be short and only to those following me. However, it morphed into what you see here and I decided to "Soapbox it". Also, some people have responded that games such as Metal Gear Solid and Uncharted 2 have also "set the bar" or even set a higher bar for an experience like this. That may very well be the case, but since I haven't played those games, I can only write this blog based on my personal experiences. Just keep that in mind when responding, and also keep in mind that my questions posed to you are about the emotional impact of games like MW2, and not which game is better.
I play my games for enjoyment, not to get 100% gamerscore. Look at my Live profile, and you'll see most of my games fall between 50-75% gamerscore completion. So on the rare occasion when I get 1000 gamerscore on a game, I want to see 100% on my profile. But Microsoft has robbed me of my shallow and superfluous joy!
You see, I just finished Tomb Raider: Underworld. Overall, it was pretty good. You can see my review of it right here on Gamespot. In a very rare occurance, I actually got all 1000 gamerscore in the game. But because there are two DLC expansions my profile says I only have 1000 of 1250, which is only 80% completion. I never purchased the DLC, so why does the DLC's potential gamerscore show up in my profile? This is something that has bugged me since the day I got my 360.
Perhaps Microsoft does this on purpose. Gamers might say "Oh noes! I am missing some gamerscores. I haz a money and will buy the DLC." (I take no responsibility for my misuse of "1337 speak" since I am a certified old fogey.) Well, if that's Microsoft's way of driving sales, then it's doing just the opposite for me. I'm less inclined to purchase that DLC now than I was before.
In the end, it's such a minor thing. But now and then minor things just bug me, and that's what's happening here. Does anyone else find the achievement system and gamerscore causing anxiety like it is for me, or am I the only one here in need of psychiatric help?
I'm an automotive enthusiast. I love my cars and I love driving them. I love to watch Formula 1, the World Rally Championship, and various forms of road-course racing. And I like to play racing games because it's the closest I'll ever come to driving a real car on a racetrack.
I've played many of the Need for Speed games over the years. I have Forza 2, GRID, Project Gotham 4, Dirt, and even Test Drive Unlimited in my collection of 360 games. And with the advent of Forza Motorsport 3 and Need for Speed Shift hitting the stores, I find myself asking the question "when are you done with a racing game?"
It's not like racing games have linear stories like a good RPG or even an action/adventure title. Well, except for the cheesefests the NFS franchise has fed us over the years. You see, I want Forza 3 and Shift, but I never really finished all the other racing games in my collection. None of them have 1000/1000 gamerscore earned, and none of the career modes have been finished. So should I be able to justify new games in the genre when I still have titles on my shelf with gameplay value left in them?
My wife told me I'm overanalyzing it. She said "it's just a racing game." But if that's the case, then why can't I be happy with what I have? Do I really need the latest and greatest? Yes. I want, but I may not need. And there lies the dilemma of a gamer who wants to play all the cool stuff and is capable of buying the games he wants, but at the same time is a penny pincher and hates wasting money.
Ah… I see Mr. Mailman just delivered my copies of Brutal Legend, Borderlands and Dragon Age! Maybe the only race I need to participate in right now is playing all those games as quickly as I can! Ah, but Amazon has such good prices on Forza 3 and Shift…
I signed up for the XBOX Private Preview a week or two ago and received my update last night. I now have access to Facebook, Twitter, Last.fm and the Zune HD video on my X360. Oh, and you also get a news and more channel with msnbc feeds. So far it's a good addition to Live, and everyone should be getting the update soon. Microsoft has been doing fairly well keeping the XBOX fresh over the course of its life. One thing I still think that the 360 needs is a basic web browser though.
On a similar note, my XBOX Live Gold subscription was going to end in a couple weeks. As you know, the best price is to buy by the year. If you shop around, you can get a better deal online. In fact, Newegg has always done me well over the years, and I got 12 months of Gold, a Chatpad, headset and brand new copy of Project Gotham 4 for $59. That's only a few dollars more than the regular price of a 12 month Gold card. The Chatpad is perfect now with Facebook and Twitter on Live. I've also seen 12 month Gold cards for $39, or 12 +1 (or even 2) extra months for $49.
My last editorial has stirred up quite a bit of debate. There are 200+ responses with quite an array of opinions. Many are like a broken record, claiming the same thing over and over, but there are several well written replies that both agree with my opinion, or are great counterpoints. Of course, there are the off-the-wall replies too, like calling me a communist and claiming I can't have an opinion. I got this reply via private message, and it nearly made my head 'splode trying to read it. Here it is, with the name left off for privacy, for your reading enjoyment…
Subject: i too make research
in my research founding i came to figure u so stupid coz' there huge difference between ps3 and xbox360 also known as betabox. 1st thing is ps3 use blue-ray disc that cost like fish$$$$$$$$$ whereas betabox use crappy disc that cheap . if a game multiplatform the price in the disc is huge and it would be burden to ps3 user u noob . Ps3 got potential as a paradigm shiff to next level game as the capacity is huge rather than betabox that need more disc if the game is developed for ps3 1st .. for example final fantasy 13 the square enix already said that the upcoming game for betabox need 3 disc whreas for ps3 only... UUUUU stupid or wat it would be a waste if got muliplatform game u noob coz' it making the ps3 USER Suffer to lame grapic as betabox and it waste blue-ray disc as it can fit more space .... this is the most important thing u noob stupid bloody fooll...no head only brain at ass .... STUPID
AND don't EVER MAKE STUPID RESEARCH COZ' it so lame
And next thing if u wan ps3 games go buy ps3 u noob and if cannot afford better u work than doing stupid research
u better get a life=====so lame u noe?
Before I even begin with my opinion on console exclusives, I can already hear the outcry from enraged console fans. No, this editorial is NOT about which console is better. I am not a console fanboy, and I do not feel any one console is superior to the others. My philosophy is that a gamer should buy the console that has the software they want to play. Which brings me to my point…
Console exclusive games hurt the gamer, and hurt the industry. Why? Well, I did a very quick and dirty study on game charting website VGChartz. I wasn't shocked at all with my findings. The best selling XBOX 360 game is Halo 3 with a world-wide sales total of 10.26 million units. That's a lot for an exclusive title, right? Yes, but other games have sold more total units, such as Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and Grand Theft Auto IV. Both of which are available on the 360 and the PS3, selling a combined total of 12.49M and 13.4M units respectively.
The best-selling PS3 exclusive is Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, which is in 3rd place overall with 4.26M units sold world-wide. Guess what titles are in 1st and 2nd place for PS3 sales. GTAIV and COD4; both multi-console titles. Even Assassin's Creed pulled in a respectable 8M sales between the two consoles, coming close to the landslide success of Halo 3 and almost doubling the sales of MGS.
Just think how many more units of Halo or Metal Gear Solid might have sold if those titles were available on other consoles!?
The point I'm trying to make is that console exclusives are outsold by multi-console titles. Microsoft and Sony shell out big money and incentives to developers to keep a title exclusive. The developers must now hope that what they make up front for signing an exclusivity contract will offset what they lose in additional sales. If not, the developer is shooting themselves in the foot by losing revenue to potential gamers that can't buy the title if they don't have that specific console.
And that's what Sony and Microsoft want. Their hopes are that gamers will want to play the exclusive titles in their library, and shell out the hundreds of dollars to buy that console. But not everyone has the disposable income to buy every console on the market. And hence a majority of gamers make a choice like buying console X to be able to play game A, at the loss of never being able to play game B. I feel that developers do gamers a disservice when signing exclusivity agreements by depriving games from those who want them.
As an example, I only own an XBOX 360, but I've always been a fan of the Ratchet & Clank series. However, I am not able to play the latest R&C games because I cannot justify the purchase of a Playstation 3. I will also lose out when God of War 3 is finally released, another series I've enjoyed in the past. And I'm sure there are PS3 owners who wish they could play Halo, Gears or other 360 exclusives.
By gaining exclusive titles for their consoles, Sony and Microsoft are hurting the industry. Developers lose sales and fan base, and gamers are forced to buy more than one piece of hardware which is 95% redundant or be unable to play titles they may be interested in. Who wins? The console makers? Is it a victory when they can brag that they have the only hardware you can play Game X on? Or is it pompous, self-serving greed that they try to force their console down your throat if you happen to want to play that game?
Personally, I want to see a single console standard so that every game made can be played by everyone, regardless of what hardware you chose to by. But that's the topic of another blog. Stay tuned.
I downloaded the demo for Brutal Legend last night and played it through. Oh boy, this is a MUST-BUY game! Even though I was never into the heavy metal scene in my teen years, I've grown to appreciate the music in my "old age". With Tim Schafer at the helm, this is going to be one witty, funny, grand adventure! Tim's the guy behind other great games Psychonauts, Grim Fandango, Full Throttle, Day of the Tentacle and Monkey Island. Rock on, dude!
The month of September blew by and I barely had a moment to breathe. It was an incredibly busy month, but I did manage to do some gaming. So I shall end my absence from Gamespot with a blog on some random gaming tidbits leaking out of my head.
If you own an XBOX 360, go download Shadow Complex right now. Don't worry, you can come back to this blog after you're done. This has got to be one of the best Arcade downloads to date. Chair has crafted a fine side-scrolling-shooter that both revives the side-scrollers of yore and reinvents them with modern gaming tech. With an excellent mix of shooting, platforming, exploration, and environmental puzzles, Shadow Complex should appeal to a wide range of gamers. Plus the graphics, presentation and sound design are top-notch. The story itself might be a bit contrived, but as you play the game, you just don't care. So… have you played it yet? Or at least tried the demo? Go! Now!
My wife and I picked up a copy of Sacred 2: Fallen Angel for the 360. I played the first Sacred on the PC and thought it was an "okay" game. The original was buggy, had dated graphics, and while a poor comparison to something like Diablo, was a decent distraction while we wait the next installment of that venerable series. My first impressions of Sacred 2 is that they have improved upon the first, but still fall way short of the bar that Blizzard has set.
My biggest gripes with Sacred 2 is it having dated graphics yet again. It's too difficult to see the enemy info and some of the other data displayed on the screen. Path-finding is a nightmare, where your character is CONSTANTLY getting stuck on shrubs, stones, and blades of grass. And there is practically no tutorial or info in the user guide, so you have no clue what most of the stats in the game mean, or how to manage the finer intricacies of your character management. For the most part, they got the controls down for the XBOX controller, with one exception: the button you use to interact with the environment is the same used to open a trade window with a co-player. So in co-op, my wife and I are always inadvertently opening the trade window!
But it's not all bad. The game is huge! There's a very large area to explore with hundreds of quests. Just don't expect much of a story or moral choices like most other RPGs. There is lots of loot to be had too. We've been playing a couple weeks now, and we're only about 10% in.
How about the Greatest Game Hero competition? What's with Bub and Bob unseating Master Chief in the first round? I had the Chief in the finals. In fact, my bracket is pretty much trashed by now, as many of my predictions have been wrong. I guess I failed to see how some characters would be more popular than others, and it's not too surprising some of the greatest heroes in my opinion are from games that sold poorly and have little following. Jade? April Ryan? Need I say more?
I also got an iPhone about a week ago. It's the first Apple product I've ever owned. I always thought my BlackBerry was a great device, but the iPhone just wows me with how slick it is every time I pick it up. Apple is light-years ahead of everyone else insofar as applications. Now… I need to find some decent games amongst the tens of thousands of apps so I can entertain myself whenever I'm stuck waiting somewhere with nothing better to do. Who needs a DS or PSP? Oh, and the iPhone has impressed me so much that I'm actually considering a Mac for my next computer instead of a PC!
The observant will notice that my Gamespot user name has changed from eajack to PixelHunter. Why the change? Well, primarily to avoid further confusion. Despite the fact that eajack was my first and middle initials, and last name, there were people who thought my name was Jack and I worked for, or was somehow related to EA (Electronic Arts.)
PixelHunter seemed a good choice to use on Gamespot because it is similar to my XBOX Gamertag (PLXEL HUNTER). A good name that befits my gaming. You see, I tend to explore all the nooks and crannies of every game I play. Back when you had to uncover the black shroud over the map by exploring, I called the act of erasing all the black "pixel hunting." And even before that, in the old adventure games, you used to "pixel hunt" for the small part of the screen that was interactive.
In the end, besides the Gamespot user name, nothing is changing. You can still expect my blog entries, reviews, and various other activities. And if anyone with "mad Photoshop skillz" has any ideas for new banners for me, I'd love to see them. Feel free to use my Pixel Hunting blog banner, or my XBOX controller banner as inspiration.