How can games be improved? How can the videogame industry give the players what they want? Let's explore these ideas and try to understand what will wow us... the gamers!
Over the last few years I have amassed a huge library of videogames. In my childhood, getting a videogame was a huge deal. I would play the same game for many months before being given another by my parents. Back then, cartridges cost upwards of 90 dollars, so a little bit had to go a long way. My first system was a NES with two games: Mario and Final Fantasy. Those lasted me well over a year. I beat the entirety of each game and played through again, multiple times.
What happened to this? Today, I seem to have gamer ADHD. I'll play a few hours and then never touch a game again, but constantly seek a new experience. It's as if I take in what the game is all about and just don't care after the quick novelty of playing a new game wears off. I almost have to force myself to beat a game, usually out of guilt for paying out money without getting a justified value.
I'm beginning to think I enjoy the spirit and community of gaming more than the actual games. Kind of like a "car guy" that buys all the car magazines, goes to auto shows, and is a part of the local car club but he drives a Camry. I love games, I always have, but maybe I enjoy the buzz and hype that surrounds the industry more so than the actual end product it produces.
This is not to say I do not play games. I get my fair share of 10-20 hours in a week. This amount of time does not justify my huge stash of games though, some I've hardly played or, even more embarrassing, my huge list of steam games, some I've never downloaded.
Is this a sign of absent minded consumerism on my part? Like a shopaholic buying fifty purses a year even though there are one hundred with tags stacked in the closet? Perhaps I am chasing that magical moment I had when I was younger, playing Mario on the NES. I've come to realize I can never have that again. Just like drugs, the next hit is not as great as the last and never will be. Instead of chasing that high, I should be enjoying what is right in front of me.
Seeing this problem, I decided to get LA Noire and the Witcher 2. Two adult oriented games that are high quality and will give me no logical excuse to want other games. I decided to beat these before getting anymore games. Then Gamestop runs a special, buy two pre-owned games and get one free... Now, I'm back to being a raving ADHD gamer. In the end, its not the worst vice to have
E3 was pretty great this year. The media attention was higher than ever with Spike TV showing most of Day 0 with Sony, MS, and EA's press conferences. Nintendo announced the system we have been hearing rumors about. Sony finally filled us in on the details of their very powerful new handheld. Of course the best part were all the great games. There were also some bad stuff, but more on that in a bit.
The games were the highlight of the event this year with some games looking amazing and some new comers that I didn't expect to draw my attention at all. One that blew me away was Bioshock Infinite, which looked incredible. From the fast paced action to the wonderfully detailed world, the game seems to be an incredible feat. I'm still curious to see how they tuned the controls to make all that chaos playable, but Ken Levine said all the stage demo action was totally controlled by the player and those were not cutscenes. Definitely one to watch!
The long awaited sequel to Oblivion was shown in all its glory at E3 this year. Skyrim, despite its wierd name, looks to be an incredible success. Although the graphics are not mindblowing (like Obivion's were at the time), the gameplay, environment, the questing, and the huge 300 hours of content make this a must have for anyone that likes RPGs.
Tomb Raider was surprisingly interesting as well. I've turned my mind off to Tomb Raider since about the second game as they all seemed to be more of the same. Though we haven't seen any hard gameplay, the mood and setting look great and it seems to be a high budget title. Tomb Raider Reboot? I'm with ya.
Another game that finally removed the viel on gameplay was Dead Island. We all remember that ridiculously cool trailer they released a few months back, but finding out what the game actually entailed was not clear. I was pleasantly surprised that this was not just some hack and slash zombie massacre game like Dead Rising. It seems to combine RPG elements, technical FPS action, and a mature story into a clean package. This one is definitely on my list.
The racing game to get will be Forza 4. Although no major changes were announced, the game is getting bigger and better. More tracks, more cars, and Top Gear stuffs. I don't like the Kinect junk though...
Mentionables: BF3, Dragon's Dogma, Halo Anniversity, Arkham City, Dark Souls
Let's go ahead and get it out of the way, the Wii-U. I love how Nintendo is going for a higher powered system, but I'm not so sure it is as powerful as they are claiming. I've heard rumors of the Wii-U using a cell phone CPU, but I've also seen the official "Power-based" chip statement from Nintendo. The new controller seems okay, but Nintendo didn't seem extremely confident when showing it off and the entire idea seems like it hasn't been fleshed out. The controller doesn't even have a name yet and the "games" they showed were not games at all, but teaser tech demos (they were very explicit about this.) Nintendo has also taken the stance that this will not be a media device, so they are really limiting their audience and uses of the "powerful" box. I'm excited, but apprehensive about the Wii-U right now.
I came into E3 pumped to see Mass Effect 3, but the video they showed was rail shooting (him on the turret while shooting a big alien) and a lot of kinetic stuff. I've also heard that they are giving more stat and ability options, so that's a good thing. I am a little unsure how it will turn out, but I am still excited to hear more.
Rage is the latest game from id, and they have been hyping it for years. I tend to enjoy id games because of their simplistic, no-frills-but-shooting philosophy. However, Rage hit me as somewhat soft and boring. The guns lacked impact, the colors were bland and boring, and it didn't really set a new bar graphically like Doom 3 did. I'm hoping id is not just an artifact of a by-gone era, but seeing how well Duke has aged... I wouldn't be surprised.
I've been apprehensive of Star Wars the Old Republic since the beginning, but watching the gameplay at E3 makes me even more so. The story elements look nice, but the game simply looks bland. The controls, UI, and gameplay seem to be pulled right out of the Wow, Rift, Aion, Warhammer, etc, etc workbench. It does not speak of a new generation of MMO gaming, just a highly polished evolutionary step for those that are craving more current content. It doesn't seem to be for me, but I think it will be a success.
A spoiled suprised was Halo 4. Everyone was looking for it since it was leaked a day before, but the trailer was really good at hiding the game for at least several moments. The thing that makes this game questionable is the "4" in the title but the announcement of a new trilogy. Are we going to get 4, 5, and 6 or are they going to start in a different direction? We will have to wait and see.
Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3's stage demo showed a game that is starting to show its age. The stunning graphics and gorgeous scripted events that blew us away in the original Modern Warfare are now common throughout all FPS games. I do not know if CoD can keep its special flare unless they do something extravagent. While EA's BF3 is doing new things with destructible environments, large scale battles, and more realistic gameplay mechanics, CoD seems to be sticking to the same-old-same-old with this iteration. Step it up CoD, or you will find yourself irrelevent.
Mentionables: LOTR: War of the North, Far Cry 3, NFS: The Run
Let's start with this joke of the show, Fable: Journey. Not only does the name "Journey" sound more like the title of a romance novel, it also played like complete garbage. I simply couldn't believe what I was watching during his presentation. Everyone seemed to be in awe at how horrible it looked. It really goes to show how irrelevent Peter Molyneaux and the Fable series is these days. In his pursuit of "immersion" he has actually killed exploration and advancement, the very things that kindle immersion. I would not be surprised if the entire game was canned after the backlash to his stage demo.
Kinetic took up the majority of Microsoft's E3 conference. Kinetic is neat technology, but I simply do not see it catching on as a major device for the majority of 360 owners. It seems to be more of a large scale beta test and product recognition exercise for MS to pack the tech into future computer and console products (such as the next 360 and the next windows iteration.) It is too tacked on to be a major player on the 360, but so much time is devoted to pushing the name and tech on us. Show us games MS, not UFC and ESPN.
Ghost Recon: Future Soldier was a sad showing next to Battlefield 3 and Call of Duty. The game's bland art direction and low-rent graphics made for an uninspired showing. The game play looked to be very deliberate and without passion. The gunsmith feature begins to show how far this game has gone, and that it is unlikely to come back into the greatness it used to have.
The DS and Wii were practically thrown to the side other than a few titles during E3. Nintendo has moved on without them, even though the Wii-U is most likely over a year away. Nothing interesting is coming out for the Wii except Zelda and the DS is all but forgotten.
EA's Origin and Activision's CoD Elite are continuing to monetize the gaming world. Elite seems like a huge rip-off and only gives their competition a new bullet point for the back of their box "FREE FULL ACCESS MULTIPLAYER" will read the back of BF3 and GR. Origin is totally not needed, we already have numerous digital download options. No one wants another download manager or gaming community program running in the background. Leave it alone EA.
Althogether, E3 was a great show this week and GS's coverage, although spotty at times during the live streams, was pretty great. I am still surprised at how BIG the gaming industry has gotten, and E3 always reminds me how far gaming has gone in the past 20 years. I look forward to next year!
What are your top, questionable, and bad picks this year?
I wrote a piece over a year ago which brought to attention the extremely slow progress MMOs have made over the past ten years. In fact, that original article is what brought my writing to the attention of Jody and, in turn, gave me the soapbox emblem. This is a subject that I am rather passionate about because the first game that really took me to another world and immersed me into a rich, carefree culture was the original Everquest. I've played countless MMOs both before and after this experience but none have captivated me in the same way (especially afterward.)
The first good 3D MMO (Guild war going on here.)
The causes of the current stagnation are numerous, but I believe I have whittled them down to a handful of main concerns which, if addressed, could begin a renaissance of sorts in the MMO world. The following are only a few of these concerns. More will be written in another part later in the year.
Throwing loot at players has been an easy way of sustaining prolonged connection to a game. The player gets the feeling of progress while also having the desire to push on to find even more riches in the deeper sections of the dungeon. This, however, is a very artificial form of accomplishment, and the history of loot hording will not be something the player looks back on and relishes. Does the player get excited because they just defeated the greatest threat in the city by slaying the massive dragon and freeing the people from fear, or is the player mostly excited about the +3 Sword of Raging Inferno that dropped from the "mob" which the player has been salivating over for months on forums? If the later is the prime reason for slaying the dragon, then I believe the game is not a rich RPG experience but an infinitely deep database designed to slowly doll out ever more powerful items like cocaine on the streets. Just like drugs, the rewards have to be continually more colorful with more flames, more damage, and loonier designs to keep the increasingly desensitized player lulled into cutting the monthly check.
There needs to be a connection with the character and the world in which the user plays. There needs to be a purpose for killing, questing, and helping (or hurting) the other players and non-player characters (NPCs) in the game. Without a connection to the players and actors in the game, there is not purpose or emotional attachment to, say, freeing the slaves from the slaver's ship, skinning hides for the local leather shop, or bringing a message to a long lost lover.
Did William Wallace fight against the king to obtain theCrown of Beguile and Backstabbing? No, he fought passionately for his country, his land, and his people. There was emotion there, a sense of purpose that drove the conflict not a loot table.
He did it all for the purples?
To facilitate the connection between the player and the character in which they assume, a stockpile of previous actions needs to be recorded in the character's profile to be used to shape the future interactions with NPCs and other players. Did the player kill a merchant in the next city over and then run to their current city? After a few days, word would have gotten around and merchants may not do business with the player until the debt is sufficiently paid to society (or coin pays the merchants off.)
I'm not talking about canned general responses to exact criteria. I'm talking about a behavioral simulation system which runs in the background using your past deeds as the input. The point is, you shape the world and how it interacts with you due to your past actions. This is only one step in the right direction.
I briefly touched on this at the end of my last piece. Creation as it is now is hand generated. Developers toil over creating the landscape to be "just-so", design entire cities with a blueprint in mind, and try to create a world which seems possible but new, and exciting. This is the main portion of the cost and design of a game. The bad part is, this is exactly the portion of the game which ends up making the game feel dated and boring for a veteran player. This content is static, never changing from the time the developer penned the area during the early stages of the game. Some games have addressed this by overhauling the entire game (Cataclysm.) This is only a band aid fix because one to two years from now they will be exactly in the same spot as before. Boring, static landscape.
Instead of investing heavily into hundreds of people working on every detail, have them work on an underlying physics engine which can produce varied, unique, and rich landscapes using variables which can be changed depending on the situation. This generated landscape can then be brushed up and important features added (such as starter cities, monuments, and other cultural items.)
The Earth we see today was created (well… hopefully I don't open a can of worms here) by physical systems. The Grand Canyon by erosion, mountain ranges by plate activity, caves through water channels, and many more weren't created by some artist sitting in a chair for hours. Using an adequately complex simulator could bring about landscape features never dreamed of.
Simply look at the most basic system which Minecraft uses. Only having a handful of blocks and a very simple algorithm, Minecraft makes completely new worlds in seconds which hide all sorts of fantastic secrets. Just think of the possibilities if a few million dollars are sunk into a natural physics simulation.
The best part about having an underlying physics simulation which created some portion of the content is not only the natural feel of the land but the fact that the simulation can easily continue when the game goes live. There would be weather models which could simulate something as simple as a summer rain fall to complex blizzards, hurricanes, and tornados which do actual destruction to the land and player buildings. Earthquakes could happen, seasons change, meteors hit, and the list goes on. All this could happen and the developers may not even know it. It would be simulated with the rules set by the developers, but without their direct interaction.
Supercomputers model all sorts of extremely complex systems.
Perhaps the player takes a year off of the game. Instead of coming back to the exact same thing in which they left, the player is greeted by massive changes. The forest was harvested and a city built, the old capital burnt down from conflict, and the player's house long looted with homesteaders shacked up there.
Great side effect? Every server would be entirely different after some amount of time.
A dynamic world is what we live in, why not play there too?
Before This Gets Too Long
I'm going to have to cut this short, but I have a lot more to say (for another editorial.) One of the problems with MMOs is the fact they do nothing to affect me, as a person. They prey on my wish for more power and ever higher rewards, but fail to deliver real long-term accomplishment. Practically every MMO has a linear path to rewards which everyone follows, even step-by-step guides are sold. Level up to max level (usually a straight shot), get this set of gear, get these skill ups, and then wait for more gear. Strip a max character down in most MMOs to only their underwear and they are all identical.
These brave souls fighting the mighty Arthas are all the same underneath the shiny gear.
A simulated reality will help differentiate the good players from the players who purchase or view guides to progress in a game. It will give purpose and change to the world which will in turn make it seem more real and immersive. Cities can burn down, houses can be attacked, and players can lose their empire through natural events. This brings a sense of risk and a feeling of the unknown into play which is sorely lacking in today's games.
We need simulated realities based on physical laws so we can manipulate them in game for our purposes, just like in real life. We need simulated behavioral laws for the NPCs so, again, we can manipulate them for all sorts of wild purposes. This dynamic, changing world is the next frontier not only for MMOs but for videogames in general.
I'll end on what I wrote in my previous piece:
The MMO arena is stagnant. We wait for expansion packs that keep us busy for a few months or a hyped up game that might leave us 100 dollars poorer only to have wasted our time. We need a game changer. We need something so radically different that it brings us directly into the next generation of MMOs. I am waiting and see nothing on the horizon that will do that.
More to come in Part 3.
What irks you about the current generation of MMOs?
What is the number one thing you believe needs to be addressed?
What is actually good that should stay with the genre as it progresses to the next generation?
Downloadable content didn't make a graceful, poised entrance into the gaming world. See horse armor. I laughed pretty hard when I first read about Bethesda offering cosmetic horse armor for 200 MS points. This, of course, wasn't the first DLC to be offered, but it is one of the first that most people will remember because of how hilarious it was at the time. A time in which DLC was not integral in the story, did not contain massive amounts of content, was not used to coerce customers into preordering for full price, and major DLC additions to the game certainly didn't come out at launch. DLC was reserved for fun, but unneeded additions for the serious fans to prolong the game between releases/expansions.
King of DLC
Let us step into the present time. Dragon Age II is just around the corner and there are already 19 DLC items coming out at launch. Two of those items are major pieces of add on content. One of which everyone who buys a retail copy will get for the first few months. The second is only for people who pre-ordered before an arbitrary date, all others please insert seven dollars. The rest are various items procured through a daunting process of signing up for email newsletters, playing the demo, hoping a certain number of people play the demo, purchasing items from epicweapons.com, playing a facebook game, pre-ordering at certain locations, buying Dead Space 2, and the list goes on and on. In the end, to get the "full experience" a fan of the series will have to spend hours and countless dollars chasing all the promotions before the game is even out.
I supported EA when they decided to add in content for new purchases. This way they could entice potential used game purchasers to buy a retail version, so EA sees more profit. This is totally understandable. Most fans like to buy new and support the developer anyway. Packing in a small incentive for the collector's edition is common practice as well, as is giving people who preorder a little bonus. Okay, I'm still with you EA, but this is where sanity ends. Like previously stated; facebook games, purchasing unrelated full games, buying fake weapons from a subsidiary, being a member of the EA social network, newsletters, blah blah. Combining all this together starts to turn the stomach. One begins to wish for the days of horse armor!
EA and Bioware aren't the only offenders, but DA2 makes it all too easy to use them as the prime example.
"Streamlining" is a relatively new term to the gaming industry. In other industries the word means: "to make more efficient" or "to build an ugly camper out of flashy materials and then overcharge for the name." (Airstream for the uninformed) The first is used on the business end to make more money (efficiency through subtraction). In reality, streamlining in videogames is more along the lines of the last meaning. They take what made the first game great and then cut features, redirect focus onto more mainstream game-play, up the Hollywood factor, shorten the game, and bank on name recognition to sell copies. These are touted as great things as they supposedly "enhance the flow" or "allow more people to experience the game." In other words, they enhance the flow of money directed into the producer's war chest by changing the game to suit these hypothetical casual players who were afraid of the rich game-play and story of the first game.
Streamlining in rare cases does help a game. Look at Mass Effect 2. This, however, is less of a testament to streamlining as it is to how clunky the original game was. Mass Effect 1 was never known for its deep game-play, so turning up the action was a good thing. The majority of games that are streamlined into a sequel do nothing but disenfranchise the fans who originally made the game a success. Casuals do not build new IPs. Core, dedicated players turn high quality original titles into major successes because they support games during their infancy. We see this all the time in the music industry. Core fans that supported their favorite bands while they were playing in the cellar of a bar lose interest when the corporate producers turn the band into marionettes, lines connected directly to the CEO's fingers. They call these bands sell outs, which fits here as well.
I'm not saying I do not want a sequel to be different from the first game, not at all. I want it to be innovative if they are going to change the formula. Addition by subtraction is a way to make something better, but it isn't the only technique that should be used.
Price is always a delicate balance between many factors of which very educated individuals spend a life time studying. On the surface, game prices have been rather steady this generation in terms of a retail price. PC games have seen a recent jump to 59.99 which, in my opinion, is not justified in the same way that console games were. The reason is tied to the console manufacturer taking a sizeable royalty on each disk pressed for their system. PCs, on the other hand, are entirely open and there is not an entity which demands a royalty for the system's use. It seems strange that a bump in the price of PC games is needed especially when one considers most PC games are now ports or an afterthought of a mostly console game.
The less obvious price increases are concealed in the cost of DLC, collector's editions, and special versions of the games. To get the full experience from a lot of newer games the player must purchase upgraded versions of the title. Gone are the days of the collector's editions housing figurines, maps, and other fun-to-fans yet unnecessary items. Today these upgraded versions are piled high with many hours of additional content, exclusive weapons, codes for clubs, and other content which was developed at the same time as the title. It begs the question, which version is the full game the developers originally designed before it was butchered into different tiers by corporate accountants?
I thought DLC was supposed to lengthen the experience through episodic content and mini-expansions, not create a tiered monetary structure for dividing content from which producers and developers could reap more profits from fans at launch.
I will help you on your quest, for a modest price.
Big Deal, Right?
I know some people will think I am making a big deal out of nothing. Most of those DLC things for DA2 are only items anyway! You would be right. As of right now, it isn't game breaking. A purchase of DA2 without any of the DLC benefits will certainly give the player their money's worth with 40+ hours of game-play and such. This is not my argument though.
Simply take a look back in time. Step back to when Oblivion came out and then horse armor quickly followed. Now look at what they are doing with it. Pressuring people into preordering so they get all the content, packing major storylines in with collector's editions, begging for facebook friends to get an item, and the list goes on. It has only been 5 years since the introduction of horse armor and look at how DLC has permeated our buying experience. Oblivion DLC was created after the true game came out, now DLC is considered at the concept stage. Before the first wire frame is drawn, they are thinking of ways to break up the content to milk your wallet.
I, for one, am not going to support the model. I've decided to put off my DA2 purchase until the ultimate edition comes out at which time I will purchase the full experience for a reasonable price.
I am not against DLC adding to the game after release, but it kills me to see content created in tandem with the original game to cash in on day one.
Do you think it will get a lot worse?
Do the DLC pack ins affect your buying decision?
Do you think DLC is worth the time and money?
The internet butchered the English language. We all know this fact. Quick abbreviations make for faster typing hence making it easier to push more content. However, if the content written is filled with grammatical errors and misspellings then the reader will either question the accuracy of the piece or simply skip it entirely. The Queen's English is not needed per se, but there are a few things to watch out for when typing which, if taken into account, will immediately give the reader confidence in the piece.
I'm not saying to use all these in every forum post. I am saying that if you want (intelligent) people to take you seriously on blogs, in essays, and in other more formal written projects then take these into consideration.
Ditch The Abbreviations and Frankenwords
Gtg, ty, idk, and imo are all common abbreviations used daily on the internet. These are great to use when sending a text to a friend or making a quick forum post. They are not good to use when trying to convey a strong opinion or when informing others on a topic which you care about. Take the time to write in such a way that does not need cliché abbreviations. It will give the point you are emphasizing more meaning and make you look like you know what you are talking about (especially if you are debating against a person which is littering their posts with lolz, tl;dr, etc.)
As for frankenwords, use the same rule; ditch them completely. Cya, dunno, and others do not belong in a piece you care about.
Run a Quick Spell Check
Most web browsers come with spell checking capabilities. Use them to your advantage. If you see an underlined word then take the time to click it to find the correct spelling. Not only does it make you look like you care about your writing, it also eases the experience of reading for your audience. Misspellings sit out like a sore thumb and cause the flow of the sentence to be interrupted so the reader's brain can analyze the word to figure out what the author meant.
If you have the time, copy and paste the article into a word processor and use the grammar tool as well. This is especially important if it is to be published to a serious blog.
Kill Run-On Sentences But Don't Make Them Too Short
Long sentences can confuse the reader and become a grammatical nightmare. Short sentences can sound juvenile and boring. Too many medium sentences can be monotonous. So, what do you do? Vary them. Longer sentences are great for packing in layers of detail or discussing deep technical issues. Short sentences can show action or state facts. Use a variety of sentence lengths to keep the reader engaged. A good indicator of sentence lengths is to find the average of your piece. Take a standard paragraph, and count the number of sentences. Then count the number of words. Divide the number of words by the number of sentences. A number under ~13 means the sentences are too short and a number over ~23 means they may be too long.
The previous paragraph is ~10 words per sentence, which is too short. However, the standard deviation was ~4.5 which means there was a lot of variation in my sentence lengths. Standard deviation is not as easy as average sentence length to calculate and is not necessary.Although, it wouldn't be a bad idea to take a normal paragraph that represents your writing style and then calculate the standard deviation to see if you need to work on varying the sentence length. A standard deviation of two or more should be sufficient.
Refresh Yourself on the Basics of Grammar
I still make mistakes all the time. English is a very hard language to fully understand, and even if you do having a grasp on every single rule then you will still be confused by the contradictions and cross-over of the rules. Here are some easy ones to remember:
- Use a comma before a conjunction only if each sentence can stand on its own. Example: I am going to the grocery store, and I am going to pick up some milk. Do not use a comma if the one side is a fragment (dependent clause). Example: I am going to the grocery store and the gym.
- Use a comma after a dependent clause. Example: Because I like to go skating, I went to the roller-rink after class.
- "I" is the subject of a sentence, and "me" is the object of a sentence. Example: I went to the park. A friend went with me to the park.
- Subject/verb agreement. Example (wrong): The groups is going to the park. Example (correct): The groups are going to the park.
- A modifier must be clearly labeled. Example (wrong): When angry, I fight people. Example (correct): When I am angry, I fight people. (Clumsy but correct.)
- MOST IMPORTANT RULE: Use the correct verb tense! This can single handedly make you look like a fool if not done correctly. Example (awful): I seen them walking. Example (correct): I saw them walking. Example (awful): I tooken the test today. Example (correct): I took the test today. The test has been taken.
Keep in Mind
The best thing to do is to simply read what you wrote. If the sentence sounds bad, then it most likely is.Proof reading not only gives you a chance to reevaluate the point you were making, but also allows you to get a feel of the flow of your article. Proof reading does not take long to do (unless you wrote a novel in which case this article should be trivial to you) but can give your audience a much easier and enjoyable experience.
I hope this helped a few of you guys! By the way, I'm sure I made many grammatical errors, but don't hurt me!
It has been a relatively crime free life inside the circuits of Sony's PS3. The pipelines were clear of dubious data and the servers were protected from nefarious killjoys. Life was, however, thrown into turmoil for a brief period of time at the beginning of 2010 by a youngster from New Jersey. Sony quickly patched the leak, the hacker fled, and all was well.
Sony has done a great job keeping its system boarded from the numerous hacking groups and kid wonders. Apparently, they can't stop them when they join forces. The best of the first and the most famous of the second collaborated and their goals have been realized. The PS3 is completely and utterly defenseless. No firmware will patch this security leak. It is only a matter of time before numerous hacks become available.
January 26, 2010: George Hotz exposes the OtherOS exploit to the public, the first PS3 hack.
March 28, 2010: Sony kills the OtherOS feature effectively disabling the hack. Hotz vows to find a work around.
July 13, 2010: Hotz decides to give up on the PS3.
~End of Dec, 2010: fail0verflow gives presentation on security exploit in PS3.
January 6, 2011: Hotz shows homebrew running on current PS3 firmware and the internet exploded.
Piracy is the obvious implication of this security exploit. On the first of January there were practically no pirated copies of PS3 games on the various torrent sites. Sony has been worry-free from pirates for over 3 years while MS and Nintendo have had to contend with pirated games almost since day one. If we look at it generally, we would think this isn't that big of a deal since MS and Nintendo do fine with hacked systems. However, if we take a closer look, we see a difference in this scenario which puts Sony in trouble.
The 360 and Wii have been hacked for quite awhile. The saving grace is that the hacks are not trivial to perform for a "lay person." The 360 requires either hardware modification or a tedious reflash of the hard drive that can only be done if the HDD is directly connected to a PC. The Wii requires hardware modifications as well or a software modification which requires very particular steps. The scary part for Sony and non-pirates is theoretically the PS3 needs no modification, software or hardware. They have the encryption keys and could use software on a burnt disc or USB to run the game/programs.
The Wii may be easy to mod, but the Wii made money on every console sold for Nintendo. This is not the case for the PS3. Sony took a large hit on each console sold and hopes to make up for that cost by the consumer purchasing games or movies. With this hack, Sony not only loses potential game sales they also take a massive hit on the consoles which never paid for themselves.
As early as January 13th the first developer confirmed the security exploits are causing major problems for players playing on their gaming servers. From annoying hacks such as curse words on status bars to major stat hacks, the Call of Duty franchise is being bombarded by cheaters and hacks. Activision thought the problem was exclusive to the Modern Warfare series of games because they rely on the standard PS3 encryption, but Black Opts is also having major problems. Some have even reported rumors of the servers potentially being brought down due to rampant hacking issues.
On top of poor multiplayer experiences, there are also people fudging their trophy scores. Hackers are unlocking trophies without completing them.
When the Dust Settles
A lot has happened in the last 2 weeks and more is sure to come. One thing is certain; PS3 will never be the same. I've been a supporter of Sony's PS3, MS's 360, and Nintendo's Wii since they launched. I've never pirated a game on any of those systems. It is sad to see the PS3 in its current form and, as a supporter; I feel these pirates are only raising the cost while simultaneously lowering the experience for the legal gamers. Botched multiplayer, totally compromised security and a future of free games flying off the web are all things Sony is going to have to deal with.
The worst part is Sony being punished for releasing a relatively open system from the start. The launch PS3 had the OtherOS feature which allowed users to install a linux based system on the console. They let the user connect practically any blue tooth device without proprietary hook ups. The user could also install any standard sized HDD without paying a huge Sony tax.
Hackers exploited OtherOS forcing Sony to can the feature.
I bet the next PS (if there is one) will be entirely closed. Thanks hackers…
What's your point of view?
The price of games is a big issue for a lot of gamers. 59.99 for new games has been the norm for console gamers since this current generation launched. Recently, 59.99 has started to creep its way into the PC market which, to my surprise, has been awfully quiet about the price hike.
Announced yesterday, THQ says that is the wrong direction to go. They are seeing decent sales at 59.99, but the games really start to move as soon as they lower the price to around 39.99. However, by that time the game's hype has faded and the game is no longer in the minds of many gamers. To capture a larger audience THQ has decided to start pushing out games for only 39.99 a launch.
I'm really glad to see this happen. I know for myself the 59.99 dollar price is a huge barrier, mostly psychological. I feel somewhat guilty buying a game for 60 dollars that I may only play 6-10 hours. I normally buy only 2-3 games at full price in a year and those are only games I've been waiting a long time to get my hands on. 39.99 is certainly in the impulse buy range for me, especially at launch.
There is a catch though. THQ plans to push out more DLC to compensate. It is unknown whether they will cut the games into pieces or hold back content. This may sound bad on the surface, but in reality I think an ala carte type purchase would be interesting. Perhaps buy the MP or SP separately or purchase half the story and if you like it, purchase the rest. I usually only complete 50% of a game on average, so this could work out quite nicely. It could be a bad thing as well. Time will tell.
Hopefully this works for THQ, as the last thing we need in this economy are game prices going even higher. Check out the full story at: Here
Dumbed Down FPSs
The first person shooter has long been one of the most popular and, arguably, the most controversial genre in the gaming industry. It all started from a humble beginning on the University of Illinois' computer network with the game Spasim. This was the first documented game which was played from the first person perspective. FPSs took another twenty years to really take off with the release of Wolfenstein 3D in 1992 which was followed by the c|assic, Doom. These two titles moved away from the wireframe 3D graphics of old and transformed the world into vivid color. Technically, it was hardly 3D at all as almost every object was a sprite pasted onto a specific place and scaled to create the illusion of 3D. It wasn't until the explosion of Quake in 1996 that 3D graphics began to flex its muscles. From here on we can simply name c|assicc after c|assic:
1997- Golden Eye
1998- Half-Life, Rainbow Six, Tribes, Unreal
1999- Medal of Honor, Unreal Tournament, Quake III, Counter Strike
2000- Deus Ex
First FPS: Spasim: 32 players online and chat!
We fly through hundreds of great FPS games to come to where we are today. On the precipice of the most anticipated FPS launch of the year, Call of Duty: Black Ops. This FPS should be the culmination of all those past titles, the very best of the best with all the lessons learned from the past plus a bit of extra added to the top. It should destroy the bar set by last year and place its own ever higher.
However, I feel it won't do any of those things. I believe FPSs have become a blueprint for a cash machine which the producers churn out year after year. Let me explain my reasoning…
In the c|assic FPS games of the 1990's a player had to not only clear countless baddies, but they could also scavenge, search, and explore their world to find extra power-ups, collect story items, find secret stashes, or simply to enjoy exploration for what it is. The levels were designed over enormous areas with many secret chambers, mini-bosses, and various ways to progress the story. The fun was had through rewarding exploration and because the levels were so sprawling the player felt they truly were in a real-world location without bounds.
Follow me down the tight, well defined mountain pass while we slowly fight endless enemies until we get to the waypoint. By the way, you may slip and fall in which case I will quickly grab you, expertly pose for a second as to create suspense, and then pull you back up into the action.
Today the fights are larger than ever and the battles scenes more epic than even some movies, but there is a constant feeling of disconnect. Although there is an enormous battlefield in front of me, I can only follow this trench or there just happens to be a minefield 10ft to each side of me all the time. Although the world looks large, the player's world is tiny. I constantly want to set out to explore and try to fight the battle my own way, but the game boxes me into a predefined path with fixed win conditions. The developers know players love to see new things and explore, so they try a bit of misdirection with cut-scenes or scripted events to keep the player's mind on something other than the boxed in dimensions of their corridor. Find that cheese little mousy.
Nothing sums this up better than the following image:
To the left we have Doom, to the right we have a modern FPS game.
Some games break away from that formula, but not usually. Some recent games that let the player explore are STALKER and Far Cry.
Puzzles are for Sissies
I remember first playing the original Half-Life. The most memorable parts of that game are not the fighting but the puzzle solving and interesting situations the developer put the player into. Having to figure out how to get the train running again or trying to get the reactor back online were some of the problems the player had to solve. It was much more than simply shooting some dudes and flipping a switch. Today, we are lucky if we get even one level where any logical thought is needed at all. The rest of the time it is simply duck, pop up and shoot, duck to reload/recover hp, pop up, repeat. I'm not saying it isn't fun, but some puzzle solving is a great way to break up the action.
Hmmm, should I run and gun, stealth kill, or simply by-pass this base? It is up to you.
With the today's extremely powerful physics and graphics engines, one would think the developers could come up with some amazing puzzles but it seems the only developer doing that anymore is Valve and HL2 was almost 6 years ago!
Another issue is letting the player choose the path to victory. Should I shoot every bad guy or try to cleverly sneak around? Deus Ex always gave the player the choice, Far Cry as well. Not in the typical FPS though, not anymore.
With most big budget FPS games these days it seems the single player campaign is slowly being killed off. Each year they get 30min-1hour shorter and the story is practically nonexistent. There is not a well crafted tale of the struggle to survive, no deep meaning layered between a twisting plot line, and there are certainly not any memorable characters to cherish.
What is left today is the husk of the former giant. Below the high intensity cut-scenes, the highly scripted Hollywood events, and the beautiful graphics is a 4 hour corridor shooter.
I hope CoD:BO breaks this cycle, but I highly doubt it.
This is not about MP and please note there are the few FPS games that come out that are like the ones in the past, but sadly they are mostly over looked by the general public.
So, I went to Worldofwarcraft.com to check out new cataclysm stuff since I've been out of the loop for about 6 months and wanted to see what's in store for November. I was perusing their site and noticed a Virtual Blizz-con feature. I thought, that would be fun to see some of the stuff they are releasing without having to fly out there and personally experience it (which I never have.) So I clicked the link. I was reading through the description, HD stream-nice, live feed-nice, etc etc. Then I noticed the "order" button. I thought, "lol wut?" I clicked the link to see what this was all about and was gobsmacked by...39.99. That's right! Blizz will stream to you 50 hours worth of advertisements for upcoming features, products, and events not for free to get you to buy them and to build hype, but you must pay THEM. I got a good lul out of that.
The kicker is that you get access to special world of warcraft merchandise with your E-ticket purchase. THANKS BLIZZ!
Do they actually sell these things?
1.) Added User Submitted Categories 1 (bottom) 9/2/2010
2.) Added User Submitted Categories 2 (bottom) 9/7/2010
3.) Added new content to Competitive Gamer category (fighting games) 9/7/2010
The number one defining characteristic of today's society that differentiates us from a century ago is choice. It is easy to see by simply going into the grocery store to purchase some potato chips. Not only are there plain, ruffled, baked, and kettle cooked but there are also subcategories of those which include salt and vinegar, buffalo, garlic, BBQ, cheese, Cajun, sour cream and onion, southwestern, parmesan, and the list goes on. They even offer various types of salt: Would you like sea salt, lightly salted, or normal salt? Lays offers 52 different SKUs for potato chips. That's only Lays!
Businesses want the consumer to be bombarded with choice in the hope that they can't choose and they end up buying more than one, but they also want to reach out to people that previously did not like potato chips for whatever reason. The same thing is happening with videogames. As the videogame industry pushes for a larger user base they are trying new tactics and jumping into regions of the market that were never thought of being profitable before. Ten years ago, a cell phone only had a handful of games to choose from. Now there are thousands for sale on the iPhone. The industry is pushing into every conceivable direction with the hopes of opening new markets and with this we have seen the rise of vastly different gamers with totally different interests. Let's examine some of these gamer types and see how they fit into the industry.
The C|assic Gamer
These guys helped make the videogame industry what it is today. They started playing in the 1980's or earlier. They know who Billy Mitchell is (or more recently Steve Wiebe.) They grew up going to the local arcade with their buddies to try to one up each other playing c|assic games such as Donkey Kong, Missile Command, Q-bert, and Pac Man. This group is the least targeted by the industry since they are hooked for life anyway. Cigarette commercials don't target 40 year old life-long smokers, the same applies here. They enjoy a game that is very challenging; possibly it can't even be beaten. Some have broken off and have taken part in the various other categories but they will always be considered c|assic gamers. If you are in this category, pat yourself on the back. Good job and thanks for giving supporting the industry in its infancy.
The Competitive Gamer
This category has changed a lot over the years and is highly diverse. On one side you have the FPS guys that have been fighting competitively since the mid 90's, but it didn't really ramp up until around the time Unreal Tournament and Counter Strike hit the scene in 1999. Battlefield 1942 pushed the brawl even higher. When the original Xbox came out with full online multiplayer support then the consoles started to get a piece of the action and have steadily taken over the majority of FPS online competitive play.
Then there are the RTS competitive gamers. This has always been a smaller scene until SC became immensely popular overseas. Lately, this gamer has slowly been dying but with the release of SCII, new life has been pumped into the category.
There is also the crossover of competitive gamer and the MMO world. A lot of MMOs offer competitive PVP play. A great example is World of Warcraft with arena and battleground play. Although it is not as publicly recognized as the other categories, this is one to keep an eye on in the future.
*NEW* Due to popular demand, we also have the gamers that love to competitively play fighting games. These gamers may have started with Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat at the arcade and follow the competitive fighting scene with a passion. They enjoy beating down a friend and showing them who's really the better gamer or totally annihilating the annoying button mashers. These gamers live to kill that virtual man.
Most MMO players did not have their first gaming experience in MMOs but have traveled over via friends or curiosity. The typical MMOer usually devotes most of their gaming time to playing MMOs as they are rather time intensive. They usually forego other gaming platforms to spend more of their time in a single game world. These players enjoy injecting themselves into an avatar, progressing in power, and exploring new worlds. They are also a highly social group, but maybe not in the traditional sense. A c|assic gamer that played early MMOs is certainly a social person and loves to group while the newer generation prefers to go it alone and only group for major encounters.
This category has changed quite a bit over the years as well. The first MMOs were highly social games with forced grouping for leveling up. Now they are more casual and single player friendly. This has opened the genre up to a larger user base by allowing people to play without the need to create groups. However, the games still reward the wary by giving higher rewards to those who fight together to obtain an almost impossible task. The draw of team work and shared experiences has created a very diverse group of people in this category and it will only continue to grow.
The casual gamer has been around for a long time. Ever since consoles were released at an affordable price there have been people that play the games simply to relax, much like one watches TV. These people do not bother themselves with stressful competitive gaming, long time sinks like MMOs, or very challenging games. They enjoy a laid back experience such as a sports game, adventure game, arcade racer, etc. They probably buy between 2-5 games a year and put in around 5-10 hours a week playing. They are usually slow to adopt new gaming systems and are usually 1-2 years behind upgrading. This is the largest group of gamers.
This is a brand new type of gamer that just hit the scene a few years ago. These people enjoy a very quick game and only play to fill a very specific time slot or need (exercise, brain games, etc.) They may play on their computer while checking Facebook or during daily free time on their iPhones. They may have bought into the Wii hype and have a small collection of casual titles that they only play from time to time. They game because it's "the thing to do." This group also comprises of a lot of older gamers such as grandparents that play Wii for exercise or parents that use the Xbox, PS3, or Wii for Netflix but also play casual games. This is the new Holy Grail for the videogame industry. These people are at the very edge of a completely untapped and extremely large market, which is why I call them fringe gamers. Blame these people for some of the lame E3 announcements.
The All Rounder
This is the category most GameSpotters are in. These people have grown up with games and play them for fun, but usually do not pick only one small group to associate with. They enjoy a lot of different games and follow the industry. They may not check GS every day, but they are aware of the games coming out and have a wish list of games they want. They play games on all the major platforms such PC, console, and mobile games. They are true connoisseurs of games and will play whatever seems fun without prejudice. These gamers are living it up in the current industry which is pumping out a more diverse suite of games than ever before. They may have some genres that they care for more than others but aren't afraid to dive into any game at any time.
Fanboys- Limit themselves to only a specific platform for whatever reason
Elitists- Only play high end games such as Crysis and some don't even play games at all but build high end PCs only to benchmark.
Crazy Old Relative- Plays online poker non-stop.
MDer- Only plays games so they can drink Mountain Dew without guilt.
The Simmer- Has only and will only ever play The Sims, maybe Second Life as well.
User Submitted Types:
Collector (Jag-T1000)- Someone who enjoys collecting great titles. One to play, one to store!
[Insert Genre]er (Many people)- A gamer that mostly likes one genre of game, they aren't afraid to play others but particularly love a certain type.
Story Seeker (diesil)- These gamers play games for an interactive story. They love to see drama unfold on the screen and can't wait to dive back into the rich worlds that videogames create.
2Der (bardos-the-3rd)- Enjoys games that were made in the 2D era and closely follows the current 2D game market. Perhaps they even play amateur created games made with RPGmaker and others.
Troll (lavaar)- Enjoys talking about games with the intent to stir up controversy.
Soloist (couchtater12345)- Mainly likes a single player experience.
Social Gamer (beevee)- Doesn't give much thought to games but will play them as a social event. They may get together for a couple rounds of Wii or play an all-nighter of Halo while getting drunk.
Achievement Hunter (Cricket_Sloat)- Plays games simply to see the number next to their name increase. These people are looking for ever higher gamer scores and will stop at nothing to see that number go up up up.
Addict (2point5RSman)- Plays games only because they have a physical and chemical addiction (lol) to games. They may even hate games, but t-h-e-y m-u-s-t p-l-a-y...
Only Plays Carmen Sandiego (AquamanCC)- Only enjoys Carmen Sandiego.
Popular Gamers (electronic_eye)- Those that only play heavily hyped, usually AAA titles like C.O.D., Halo, Madden, etc. simply because "everyone else is."
Binge Gamer category (electronic_eye)- for people who don't play that often - either due to time constraints or because they wait (even unintentionally) till a game comes out that really piques their interest and then they have a few marathon sessions with it.
Proxy (Vicarious) Gamer (electronic_eye)-I actually know or know of people, quite a few really, who literally get their gaming fix by either watching other people play or talking to Gamers about their exploits.
Escapist (powerdragon2188)- Plays games to escape reality. When you are in a game nothing else matters, your worldly distractions disappear and you enter a wonderful land in which anything is possible.
Bad Choice Gamer (kazumashadow)- Constantly buys horrible games because...????
ROUND TWO User Submitted Categories!
Stereotypical Gamer (VidGamAnonymous)- Nerd who has no social life, plays video games all day in the dark, and gives gamers a bad name by acting creepy when they finally leave their house (basement.)
The Completionist (VidGamAnonymous)-Won't stop playing a game until it is 100% complete and could probably play the game blindfolded.
Rush Gamer (VidGamAnonymous)-Rushes through games only to beat it and doesn't care about the story.They usually skip cutscenes and only follow the main quests.
Console Modder (Tidal_Abyss)- These gamers can't have a stock system.Not even the official dress up accessories are enough for these people, they need to break out the soldering iron, wire snips, and paint can to truly make their gaming machine one-of-a-kind.
Anti-Sports Gamer (adc89)- Plays anything and everything except sports games.
Music Gamer (cool-mada)- Mostly likes rhythm games.Nothing is better than head banging in your mother's basement to music that was cool 30 years ago.
Visual/Audio Lover (Jazzer444)-They don't care for anything but sensory effects like high end graphics, audio, gore, etc. and game mechanics are only a complement at best.
Flash Boy (Arcterran)- A gamer that uses the school computers not for homework but to play endless flash games.This gamer hasmasteredNanaka Crash.
Bikini Gamer (bbgambini420)- Loves games with hot chicks as the main character and loves them even more if they wear tight fitting, skimpy clothing.This person has mastered rotating the camera juuuuust right in the Lara Croft games.
Super Nerd Gamer (mastermune89)- Only enjoys RPGs which strictly adhere to the DnD rule set.Watches the "Lightning Bolt video" to refine their LARPing skills.
Handheld Gamer (Drika21)- Only plays mobile games, either doesn't have enough home time or must always be on the move.
Multiplayer Gamer (superxtreme101)- Gamer that can't possibly play alone.They also need a nightlight if playing in the dark.
Recession Gamer (alvarious)- Can't afford to buy a lot of games so they play every game they get for as long as possible.
Artsy Gamer (DSfanatic5)- Loves games with wonderful visual art appeal.Their eyes simply can't be bothered to waste time viewing bland or uninspiring games.Some say these gamers even frame their flat panel TVs with rich mahogany and sip cucumber water while playing.
Griefers (CcDohl)- Play games simply to annoy and cause frustration to other gamers.These gamers enjoy ganking, camping, and generally disrupting a fun game.
Copy Cat (lion222550)- Buys the games that they see their console friends playing.
Thanks everyone, those are some great (and funny) additions. Start stringing some of these together and you may be able to more accurately describe your tastes!
Can you think of anymore?
So what are you?
Go go Mario!
Every gamer remembers back to the first time they started playing games. We were wide eyed and mystified by the colorful visuals. We laughed as our character rag dolled off a cliff while attempting a stupid stunt. We sat forward in our seat as the cusp of a great story unfolded before our eyes. We remember these times fondly. They are the experiences we draw from that make us pursue newer games. In a way, we are addicts looking for the next game that will bring us back to the immense fun we had during our first hit.
The question is, will it ever be as fun as the first time?
This brings me to an interesting observation of the forum posts, comments, and the overall perspective of some of the gamers out there, particularly the older gamers. These gamers praise Ultima Online, Baldur's Gate, Fallout, Chronotrigger, Everquest, Earthbound, and other enduring titles as being the peak of the industry. Some even say the industry has been dumbed down now that videogames have jumped into the mainstream. They believe these are the best of the best and none of the newer games come close to the experience they had with these titles.
Is it really that these games are so much better, or is it because it was their first time with a great game? What if we swapped System Shock and Mass Effect (of course we would change the graphics and such to suit the time period), would Mass Effect now be the older gamer's peak of RPGFPS perfection?
Mass Effect in 1994?
The online guys say the MMOs on the market are dumbed down and they have great memories of grouping and doing quests in Everquest or Ultima Online (I remember these times, they were wonderful.) However, looking back at these games, there wasn't much there to begin with. Despite being called Everquest,it barely had any quests at all and there were hardly enough skills to fill the six slot hot-bar, but the game was extremely fun. Why? Because it was my first true MMO experience. Nothing I played later in life came close to the fun I had in Everquest. I am not delusional though, I understand Everquest is not the best MMO out there and there are others that do so much more, but because it was my first time, I doubt I will ever get the same "virgin" reaction that I did that first time.
What is truly amazing is when a certain game comes along that not only captures these past experiences but adds to them. In my opinion, this is a mark of an exceptional game. One that does not forget the past, but innovates the known ideas and takes them further than the games we hold dear. A newer game that makes such an impression would have to be much better than the past games to not only be as good objectively as the first games were but also overcome that "virgin" factor.
Executioner's Axe 1k plat! FBSS 5k!
Controlling the Past
The memories make us chase newer games, but at the same time the fondness we have of those older games causes us to approach the newer games with a foreboding mind. This can make us begin finding faults in a newer game right away which starts to ruin the experience!
So the next time you feel that a game just isn't as good as the one from 10 years ago, or the one you first played during Christmas when you were 8 years old, remember that "virgin" factor because instead of comparing to and reaching for those older experiences, make new ones. Put those past games in a little closet in your head and revel in them from time to time, but don't let the urge to compare ruin your experience with newer games.
Some of my past favorites:
Golden Eye, FF1 and 2, Everquest, Diablo, Command and Conquer Red Alert, Rollercoaster Tycoon, Grand Turismo
Some new games that rekindled the past:
Dragon Age, Forza 3, SCII, DoWI, HL2
So let's hear some of your past favorites and then some new games that created more fond memories.
Space Marines and Terran, Orks and Orcs (Warcraft), Tyrannid and Zerg, Eldar and Protoss… Looking at images of each side by side, you would swear they were interchangeable names for the same race, but they aren't. In fact, they are races in totally different universes by two entirely different companies. They are so similar that it is only natural to think one had to have copied the other and you would be correct. From time to time topics will pop up in Starcraft forums asking why Warhammer 40k ripped off Blizzard, but to their amazement, that is hardly the case! What was that? Blizzard, the darling child of the videogaming world, copied one of its star IPs from another company's universe? Curiously, it doesn't stop there, Warcraft is where it started.
Before every Blizzard fan starts waving their finger at me, I will say this… There are differences between the universes, but after reading the rest of this article there is no doubt Blizzard did a little copy and paste.
Warhammer 40k on the top and StarCraft on the bottom
Games Workshop's Warhammer 40k
Games Workshop sprouted up around the time Dungeons and Dragons (DnD) became popular in western culture. They established their name by officially carrying DnD for the UK market. They were paramount in spreading the word for RPGs in the UK and eventually started making metal miniatures for the game. In the early 1980's they started their first table top war game called Warhammer Fantasy Battle (which is what Warhammer Online is based off of.) The wargame was incredibly successful and in the late 1980's they expanded their line of table top miniatures to include Warhammer 40,000.
In the early to mid 90's Games Workshop underwent explosive growth in the US. They established gaming centers all over the United States with Warhammer 40k being the main draw. Today, Warhammer 40k is a fully fleshed out universe containing multiple series of books, board games, table top games, videogames, trading card games, and more.
The Emperor himself, beginning his conquest for profits
Blizzard and the Warhammer Fiasco
Blizzard started its life in 1991 with just a handful of employees and a different name. It completed a few projects before reorganizing under the name of Chaos Studios (Chaos and Warhammer go hand in hand...) They realized the name was already taken and switched to Blizzard Entertainment. Their first game as a new developer was the smash hit Warcraft: Orks and Humans, but we are getting ahead of ourselves.
Originally, Blizzard contacted Games Workshop to make a Warhammer real time strategy game. GW supposedly gave them the go ahead and Blizzard began to make the game. Somewhere between half way to eighty percent of the way done with the game, GW pulled the license from Blizzard. Blizzard had a game almost completed without a name! They decided to rename the game, characters, and adjust the story to their own IP which they called Warcraft. This is not speculation, but the real deal. It is not that Blizzard happened to come up with similar characters, they just changed the names in their first game!
Riding the Wave
Future was in during the late 90's with the release of the Matrix, Independence Day, and the new millennium being on the horizon. Blizzard was smart to capitalize on the technology/future craze by releasing a futurist copy of their Warcraft series in the name of Starcraft. The game did incredibly well and has sold more than 11 million copies. However, with this release brought a whole new debate into the forefront, did they copy Warhammer 40k this time or is this just a natural evolution from fantasy to the future?
It is not hard to see the heavy influence Warhammer 40k has had on Starcraft. The Terran are huge, heavily armored men much like the Astartes (Space Marines) from Warhammer 40k. The Zerg are a mob race of insect like creatures which feed off of biological material, exactly like the Tyrannid. The Protoss are a race of highly intelligent, magic oriented humanoids much like the Eldar. These are too precise to be considered accidental coincidences, especially the Zerg and Terran.
Horus turned traitor and tried to kill the Emperor while creating the armies of Chaos, Arthus anyone?
After getting past the surface similarities, there is a lot of difference in the actual lore of the universes. The Warhammer 40k universe is much more established and has a lot more depth with 10+ races, countless books, tabletop games, videogames, card games, and much more. Its universe is also much darker with aspects of religion coming into play. Starcraft on the other hand is much lighter with a more cartoon appearance and a less fleshed out storyline. Overall, once the character models are out of the way both universes feel a lot different from each other.
What does it mean???
This really doesn't mean much, it is just fun to discuss. It is very interesting to see one of videogaming's main IPs having been copied from table top gaming from the 80s. Some have speculated that GW tried to sue Blizzard at one time or another, but nothing can be proven.
One thing that can be taken away from this is that if you enjoy Starcraft's rich universe then you should definitely check out some Warhammer 40k stuff as it is more advanced (in terms of fluff and alternate gaming other than RTS) and more "adult oriented" than what Blizzard is shooting for. I will leave you with some expertly painted Warhammer miniatures!
Images borrowed from Coolminisornot
We all knew before E3 that MS and Sony had motion control in their sights and fully expected them to fill us in on all the details during E3, but what we didn't know was their plan of attack and all the details of their proposed "Wii-killers." MS wowed us last year with their announcement of Natal. People didn't know what to think about the anti-controller, a controller without a physical device. The notion of using our body to control a videogame was wild and futuristic, but anything with the aforementioned descriptors usually doesn't have a practical application in the now, so we were left to wonder how exactly it will translate over to actual gameplay. We knew Sony was taking a more logical approach by simply imitating the Wii controller, which has seen wild commercial success and has proven to work well. We didn't know of the details of the device or if it would be fully supported by the 3rd party market.
Hello new Xbox S and Kinect... Uhm, what do you do?
Now, our questions are answered, but there is so much information (and misinformation) out there about each one that it is hard to draw conclusions or comparisons even with all this new data available. Right here, right now we are going to compare and contrast the three motion controllers and try to figure out which is the best… or at least just become informed!
Give Me the Straight Facts
Let's start this off by listing the pros and cons of each device:
- Built in Rumble
- Battery life: 30-60 hours
- 60 dollars for Wiimote and Nunchuck
- Very sensitive with MotionPlus
- Standard controller for Wii
- Strong game catalog
- Entirely wireless
- Extremely Precise (senses 1 degree of angle change and millimeters of movement)
- Rechargeable Lithium Batteries
- Great button variety (Analog trigger and stick, D pad, 13 buttons)
- Camera expands device capabilities
- Strong launch line up
- No controller to juggle
- No need for batteries
- Infinite input possibilities
- No need to buy separate controllers
- Camera expands device capabilities
- Uses replaceable AA batteries
- Wired Nunchuck
- No analog trigger
- Expensive to get a set of 4
- Non-standard controller, questionable adoption rate by developers
- Expensive, 130 dollars for PS Eye, Move, and Navi. 80 for each additional set
- Colored ball could be distracting in low light
- May interrupt game play to recalibrate the controller
- Expensive to get a set of 4
- No force feedback
- May not work while sitting
- Questionable translation of button input
- Initially expensive, 150 dollars rumored
- Poor launch lineup
- Non-standard controller, questionable adoption rate by developers
So there we have it, a great break down of the pros and cons of each motion controller. Now let's analyze this list and see what it all means.
Feel free to add more Pros and Cons in the comments and I will modify the list if I left anything out.
Which color will you have blind you in the dark?
Breaking It Down
To be straight with you, this is extremely hard to compare. Not with the Wii and the PS3 as they are pretty much identical except for some small variations in their execution of the system. PS Move has the slight edge on the technical spec sheet but the Wiimote pulls ahead in the games area since it is the standard controller for the Wii. We could get real technical and compare things such as weight… with the PS Move weighing 145g and the Navi weighing 95g while the Wiimote weighs 136g with batteries and the Nunchuck weighing 75g, but seriously that is negligible. I'm sure the experience will be quite the same although the PS Move is slightly more precise. So we will call the PS Move and the Wiimote brothers in arms against the maverick of the group, Mr. Kinect.
Skittles! I love you!
The real question is: what the heck to make of the Kinect? The Wiimote was a huge jump for most gamers, either for good or bad but the Kinect is a Toyota jetpack launch with the throttle stuck wide open. We don't know what to make of it and judging by E3, Microsoft doesn't either. The only thing they had to show us was a petting zoo, menu controls, and Forza head bob. What this thing means and what it is capable of is up in the air. I was expecting Microsoft to come out and show us why we need a Kinect and how the developers are going to use it to make my video gaming experience much better and more immersive but I walked away with more questions than answers.
How will traditional button commands be translated to input? How will I do a handbrake 180, cycle weapons, reload, issue squad commands, etc? I hope I don't have to say reload every time I get low on ammo and I certainly don't want to have to learn sign language to communicate orders to my squad. Kotaku brought up an interesting question to the MS staff about being seated while using the device and at this time it is impossible to use the Kinect while seated. There is also the issue of price which has remained elusive although there are rumors of it being 150 dollars.
There are a few positives that I do like about the system though, such as not scouring the house looking for a lost controller, no replacing batteries, not needing to blow a bunch of money on more controllers, and of course the novelty of using my body to control a character will be undeniably awesome. I think it can be made to work in the long run, but MS needs to step up and show us what this thing can do. Right now, I will take the Move or Wiimote all day long over what they have shown us.
The old trusty, you can wipe your brow, E3 is over and you are good go.
So what do you think? Which one do you see yourself playing the most a year from now? Do you think the Kinect will be a massive success and change all of gaming forever or be a huge flop leaving MS extremely vulnerable?
A few months ago I wrote a piece on OnLive. It explained how the service works, the ramifications of such a service on the industry, and the problems with such technology. The responses varied from hating it, to being interested but skeptical, to being ready to adopt it the moment it is released. Everyone agreed, however, that much was unknown at the time.
In March On Live announced they will be rolling out their service during E3 2010. As the hype ramps up for the massive event, I thought it would be a great time to give an update on the new announcements for the service.
iPad will be supported, live demo showed Borderlands on iPad.
Company claims if you live within 1000 miles of a server, then you will not experience lag.
Players can watch other players during matches. Tournaments are scheduled to take place with spectator modes and live commentators.
Mini-Console may be given away free with a certain subscription package. Size is as large as a deck of cards.
Price will be between 10 and 15 dollars a month.
Will stream video and music in the coming months.
Overall, it does sound impressive. However, a friend of mine was in OnLive beta and mentioned the lag was noticeable at times... sometimes even laughably so. That was beta though. This is one of the things I am looking forward to during E3 and it will be very interesting to see if this bombs or if it really takes off. The service will be released during E3 on June 17th.
So, I got a PM from Jody about 5 days ago asking if I would be interested in being a moderator. I've never given it much thought and have not been involved in the "scene" around here but it certainly seemed like something I would be interested in. I've been a member for quite some time, longer than this account's life, and have always been partial to GS for my videogaming needs. Last December I wrote one of my first real editorials and it was instantly picked up for the Soapbox. Being recognized for posting an interesting article made me want to write more and so I began to think of topics that would make people think about the future of gaming or expose them to new lines of thought. A few of them hit the community report and one got me my "remarkable member" emblem and I was spotlighted for the week. This, of course, made me want to improve my articles and provide even more content in each post. Although I have not written that many, I believe they have stimulated great discussions and I am proud to look back and see that maybe I have changed people's outlook on certain topics by exposing them to different perspectives or outlooks.
I am happy to accept the moderator position and look forward to continuing my line of editorials. I am going to begin to post more blogs on other topics more often rather than only posting editorials (they take a lot of time to write!) So, be on the look out!
Thanks GS for providing a great forum for us gamers and I thank everyone here for making this place so special!
No. I'm not talking about eating 10 Big Macs in a row. I'm talking about Macintosh. The brand name built on its brand name. The only tech company that I've heard of that actually has users who "preach" their product. Its call Apple evangelism and its real… look it up. This may be why Macintosh is so polarizing. Usually, people either, love Macintosh and hate PC or love PC and hate Macintosh. It is much like system wars, but on a larger scale… with less competition and a market share pie chart that resembles Pac man on the downswing of his chomp. Microsoft dominates, sales of course. It has been this way from the start. No matter how many ad campaigns, no matter how many break-through technologies Apple releases in other categories, and certainly, no matter how much Steve Jobs wishes it wasn't so, Apple can't seem to put a large dent in Microsoft's computer market share. That's not to say Apple is hurting one bit, as they aren't. In fact, their stocks are higher than ever, and their market capital matches Microsoft's. So, what's the deal Apple? Why can't you break free and be in every house?
One problem is price. The cheapest Macintosh desktop comes in at 599 dollars without a monitor, keyboard, mouse, or anything. If outfitted the way they recommend, it jumps to over 1300 dollars! A comparable PC costs 400 dollars and can be had at Wal-Mart. The next level of Mac begins with the iMac at 1200 bucks. Then, for us gamers, if you want any hope of playing videogames, it's the 2000 dollar top of the line iMac or the 2500 dollar baseline Mac Pro. Now wipe the sweat off your wallet, it was getting nervous.
Mac Mini, you are so cute and small but you cost sooo much!
In my opinion, this is one of the main reasons Mac has not broken free. Price structure. Then there are the games, only available on PC.
I know, I know. Mac's target is not the kind of people that play games. They are the type that likes to have a nice, stable, high quality desktop that can be used to surf the web virus free. They like to use their Mac for media purposes like using Final Cut, Aperture, and the vast range of great editing software available on Mac. They are vain and only care about styling and being super hip. Or are they?
Valve's take on Apple's legendary commercial. Yes... That is a crowbar.
Apple does care about gaming. At Apple's keynote address for iPad, they gave a lengthy demonstration of iPad's gaming abilities. Let's just say that it was very interesting, and has much more potential than the iPhone did. Quite honestly, the iPad's gaming potential is almost mind blowing. It is like a DS but with a screen 4x bigger, 3D rendering capabilities, OS interface, and its multifunctional. Of course, it costs 3x more… but it's a start. There are already some very nice games out on the market and many more are in the works. RTS on large touch screen, yes please! FPS? Racing? I'll let the screenshots speak to this.
Command and Conquer Red Alert for iPad.
Real Racing HD for iPad. Graphics are pretty darn good!
The iPad hasn't had much time to settle in, but it has sold well in it's initial release. What hurts it from becoming a real player in the gaming world is Apple's structuring of the Apple Store, which is a damn shame.
Ocean Blue: Gorgeous diving game.
N.O.V.A.: Halo rip off for iPad.
So, Apple is starting to take mobile gaming somewhat seriously, but what about the computer gaming scene?
Today, Steam launched Half Life 2, EP1, and EP2 for Macintosh. A couples weeks ago they gave away a Mac version of Portal. As of the writing of this article, Steam has over 90 titles that are supported on Macintosh. Some of which include Torchlight, Civilization 4, Europa III, Braid, and others. On Apple's site, it gets even more interesting with Dragon Age Origins, Eve Online, Guitar Hero, and World of Warcraft. As we can certainly see, these are more than just parlor or indie games.
I know, some of you are thinking…. "Sneaky Steam, they release two versions so if we ever switch to a Mac then we have to buy the game again for our brand new Mac!" You would be wrong, friend! When you buy the game, you get the license for both platforms! So, if Steam is not doubling up on game sales then why are they investing in dual platforms? I thought the Apple user base was small and insignificant from a gaming stand point?? Valve is smart, damn smart. They foresee something. If only they can get the ball rolling and show the others how easy it can be to translate the games over, then maybe they can tap into that extra ~10% of the market. Maybe it is more than that though. Perhaps they are privy to some information or some line of thought that puts Apple neck and neck with Microsoft in the coming years? Perhaps Apple is subsidizing their efforts in preparation for a big launch or a product change?
SteamPlay: Buy it once and play on both PC and Mac.
All of it is very interesting and highly speculative. However, one thing is clear. Apple is changing their game… by adding games. The gaming directive is heating up at Apple and that can only benefit us. So, what's next for Apple? What does this all mean?
Putting the Pieces Together
Apple certainly has the potential to become a major player in the gaming world. They have developer support through Valve, Electronic Arts, Blizzard, Pop Cap, and many more. They have the products, capabilities, and innovation to bring it all to fruition. So what more can they do to bring the melodies together into a mesmerizing song?
For the iPad, they need to organize and regulate the games that go onto the Apple Store. Right now there are thousands of, mostly awful, games available for free or 99 cents. This kills the great games that come out which cost 5.99 or more. People see a 99 cent FPS and automatically buy it although it was made by a 15 year old in 3 days, while the 5 dollar+ game that is awesome gets thrown to the back of the pack. The low barrier to entry and Wild West mentality are burying good games while promoting free crap. Decent games cost money to develop. Just look at the PC world, most of the good games are not freeware. They need to set a price point for games and create a steam-like interface. The occasional free game is great, but if you want the big name devs to focus on the product, they have to be able to charge a proper price without out-pricing themselves in a sea of freebies.
Make a gaming computer line, Apple, and price it right!
As for the Macs, Apple needs to get a plan together to release a new line of computers. They need to do what Dell did with XPS and differentiate the gaming line from the normal line. They could ditch all the creative works packages, include a lower end monitor, and have a simple case with 4gigs RAM, Core 2 Duo, ATI5850-5870, 320gig HDD, and a DVD burner. Price this gaming set up at 800-1000 dollars and it will fly out the website. Forgo the hipster design elements for the gaming crowd and give them the computer they want for the price they want.
Mac is actually in a unique situation, they could treat their gaming computer almost like a console. Release a new version of the gaming setup once every 8 months to a year. Keep it updated with the latest hardware, but make it not be a hassle like in the PC world where a gamer has to read through reviews for every component. Have it so if they buy it, they have everything they need in one stop, with the Mac quality built in. Hell, include some "Apple points" or whatever for a few free games as well.
Apple certainly has the money, the name, and the potential to break into the gaming community and in turn set themselves up to take on MS in the larger OS market.
Why attack the gaming market??? Convert the gamers, the people that others look up to for computer buying advice and the rest of the populous will soon follow.
I am not a Mac user, only a PC user looking at this subject from an outside perspective.
Nothing is more aggravating than someone that says the word "like" every 3-4 words. I don't know when this started or who started it, but it has become an epidemic. When I was in high school only the bubbly girls talked that way, but now it seems that a lot of younger people are speaking with this type of lingo all the time. It's almost a crutch to get through a sentence. I want to say, "Just pause... take a deep breath and continue when you get the right words!"
What happened to "He said...." instead of "He was like...." or "I thought..." instead of "I was like..." For some people it gets caught up between practically every word. It starts sentences, it ends sentences, it acts as a conjunction, adjective, verb, noun, on and on. Its become so bad that I've even found that I've started to take it on in some cases by what I can only describe it as "social osmosis." I have actively made myself stop, although it isn't nearly as bad as most people have taken it on.
If you read this and find yourself saying "like" far more than it needs to be said, acknowledge it and lets put an end to this crazy butchering of conversational English. I would hate for this talk become the norm!
Tennis for Two, the first videogame
Computers Gave Us Games
PCs are where videogames began. Well, not PCs exactly, but computers,computers inside of arcade machines distributed throughout various locations where people could throw a few coins in and have a great time. Even before the golden arcade age, videogames were developed and played on university supercomputers by the forerunners of modern videogame developers… bored graduate students. Soon these large machines were ever condensed into smaller and smaller units until finally home gaming was financially feasible.
The first console was released in 1972 called the Magnavox Odyssey, which launched at 100 dollars (500 dollars adjusted for inflation in today's dollars.) This was still a very high price at the time, especially when it could only play Pong and various crappy sports games plus Arcade games were 5 cents a play. On top of that, the arcade games were much more colorful and had more variety. All the while during the 1970's those determined graduate students continued to use the multi-million dollar supercomputers to secretly develop highly intricate games, such as the first MMO and many RPG type games based on the DnD model. Finally in the late 70's home computers were being launched with the Commodore and Apple. Hobbyists began making shareware and open games for each other; mostly these were RPG games since… you know… they were nerds that loved DnD.
Bring the arcade home with the Magnavox Odyssey
It wasn't until the early 1980's that PCs finally had their first break through into the some-what mainstream world of gaming with the Commodore 64 which launched at 590 dollars or around 1400 dollars in today's money. That doesn't seem that bad actually when you think of how powerful and innovative it was at the time. Sales of the C64 were over 30 million units during its life matching Atari's 2600 in sales even though it was 3x pricier. However, these two units did not directly compete with each other. This is the point where consoles and PCs had defined the user that they would market their games to.
Defining the Marketplace
For quite some time computers were owned by working adults for their word processing power, databases, and calculating abilities. Gaming was a nice alternate use for the work machine during off-time. The reason for this was they were expensive, esoteric for the average consumer, and not a necessity that they are beginning to become today. Gaming consoles were purchased mainly by parents for their children. Home computer owners purchased or obtained adult oriented games such as RPGs and tactical games, while the main market for console games were racing games, arcade type games, and others developed with a younger audience in mind. This set the market types apart from each other and this is where they stayed practically through the 90's and into early 2000 with consoles slowly maturing.
Genre defining games created on for the PC market (ported to PS)
It wasn't until the mid 1990's that PCs started to become a more common fixture in the typical household. During that time, console gaming was booming with SNES, Genesis, and main others leading the way. PC's were still considered the "adult's" gaming device with MMOs starting to become available, Command and Conquer being released, and many WRPGs surfacing.
Then we hit the 3D era. PCs started to get graphics cards which were expensive and an add-on on top of the price of a normal computer. Only wealthier or very dedicated older gamers could afford these devices. Adult oriented 3D games followed which included complex gameplay, rich storylines, and break through graphics. This 3D boom continued the defined divide between the markets with little crossover of games.
Ridiculously incredible graphics only on the PC in 1998
The Markets Meld
Now let us fast forward through the early 2000's to right now. Take a look at the exclusive PC gaming industry… or lack thereof. The console industry has swallowed the PC gaming community whole. Instead of clearly defined markets, the PC is now a subcommunity of the larger console market. Games are developed on the consoles and then ported to the PC for more sales. Dedicated PC developers are few and far between. Staple PC game genres such as RTS and WRPG are dwindling, with practically zero PC exclusive games. Now the videogame market has clearly focused onto consoles with PC gamers getting the run off of console expenditures.
I'm not saying PC gaming is dead or dying, not at all. The way it used to be is dying, the genres are shifting and the exclusive, one-of-a-kind PC games are becoming rarer. When was the last decent full length Diablo type game released? Titan Quest? Exclusive WRPG? Witcher, and before that? How about RTS? DoW2, followed by maybe one or two notables every year? We used to see at least 5-6 great RTS, FPS, and WRPGs each every year only on the PC, but not anymore. We patiently wait for Blizzard to throw us a bone or get a good port from Bioware or Bethesda.
Niche games by dedicated development houses are the only PC exclusives now
One thing that has not been hampered are the MMOs, but to go through that whole genre would take a dedicated article. However, I will say that MMOs are becoming more and more stagnant and less innovative as we continue through the years and will eventually start to show up more often on consoles which will start their slow shift toward becoming console centric as well.
So what is the deal with this? There are more PCs now than ever before and PC game sales are still strong! Why don't we have a ton of development? Production costs. Why develop for one platform when we can spread the cost over many and attract a larger range of consumers? Games that would have been traditionally PC exclusive are now developed on consoles as well. When games are being spread over many platforms and are trying to be tailored to many people, the experience is diluted in the process. While trying to appeal to the masses, the intricacies and uniqueness of each genre are becoming lost.
The Now and the Future
The savior of PC games at the moment is Valve with Steam. Little known development houses are breathing new life back into the PC industry that we used to know with games such as Trine, Torchlight, Sins of a Solar Empire, Braid, and many others (some of which appear on consoles as well.)Some of these games would have never had a chance if a great distribution network such as Steam did not exist. For older PC gamers like myself, this change will just have to settle in and I will have to be happy with genre releases separated by many months or years, which is okay with me, as long as we don't lose the spirit of older, complex PC games.
Small developers keep the PC gaming community alive
In my opinion this is all a move toward a unified gaming community and industry that will eventually have a single platform. We are still many years away from that, but I believe eventually we will have a single device that performs the task of a phone, desktop, mobile device, mobile gaming, and console all in one. It will be small and portable. It will be taken during the day for a phone, mobile computer, and mobile gaming device. During the evening it will sync with the TV and interface with wireless controllers for playing "console" videogames. It will also sync with a monitor, keyboard, and mouse to be the "tower" of a desktop computer set up. As we get more powerful and smaller microprocessors, this is the future. Who will lead this? Will it be open like windows or dominated by a single player? I don't know, but I am excited about the possibilities. PCs have been engulfed, but it is only the first step toward a singular device for every experience. Is this horrible or just a movement toward a newer, better, unified gaming community? Time will tell.
EDIT: People are misunderstanding this section, so I will make it a bit more clear: When I say "unified gaming system" I do not necessarily mean only one manufacturer. I mean that a single device from a manufacturer will have the same capabilities as multiple devices of today. Sony may have their own device, MS may have their own, Nintendo I don't really know about, and Apple could do it as well. When I say unified, I mean unifying all the devices we already have into one device, not monopolizing the market by one player.
Get ready for the all in one revolution in the next 10-20 years
Is it a "console" industry or simply a gaming industry as a whole now? The two seperate markets have combined and produced something we have not seen before. The games are combining into hybrids and the experiences are becoming intermingled.
1.) Do you like this melding of platforms?
2.) Are you ready for even more cross over of everything media-oriented?
Feel free to express your concerns or lack thereof below!
Killing baddy after baddy can be fun for some, but for the majority of gamers we need a reason to continue our assault through endless dungeons either in the form of quests or a linear story. As gaming consoles became more advanced, they started telling more intricate stories. Instead of the basic "The princess has been captured!" or "You must find 4 crystals…" we now get full fledged stories with multiple characters. The characters of today's games bring with them dynamic and unique personalities and are largely involved with the unraveling of major plot twists. We have come so far as to even include multiple branches of story with separate, unique endings depending on how the gamer plays through the storyline. We certainly have come a long way from Pacman.
Find those crystals young ones!
What interests me most is how the story is told and from what perspective.I am especially interested inhow the west and east differ in their story telling approach. In this article I try to break down each and understand what the differences are. At the end we may start to understand more about the mentality and cultural influences that drive each side's storytelling. This should be interesting.
Then the monster charged again, vomiting. Fire, wild with pain rushed out. Fierce and dreadful, its fear forgotten watching for its chance, it drove its tusks Into Beowulf's neck; he staggered, the blood Came flooding forth, fell like rain.
This pretty much sums up western game storylines. Well, maybe not, but it is what I think of when western RPGs come to mind. Epic stories with huge monsters, massive lands, powerful weapons, and, of course, a lot of killing are recurring themes.
Typical western hero. Buff, check. Blood, check. Sword, check!
The west loves a good story of courage in face of insurmountable odds. The more baddies there are or the bigger the baddy is, the more epic the battles and the more glory the victor reaps after the onslaught. This has been a central plot point in western epics as far back as the middle ages, and even in the Bible. Little David stood his ground against the hulking Giant and bested the mighty beast in battle. This is what has been taught to most western people during childhood. The Alamo, Battle of Thermopylae (300), and William Wallace against Britain are all legendary feats of heroism heralded by western people as a symbol of courage and honor. Even great literary writings contain this same message as seen in the works: Robin Hood, Lord of the Rings, and Homer's Epic Poems (mainly Achilles and Heracles.)
Looking at these works shouts what the west loves, a courageous leader that comes forth and does legendary deeds. Instead of focusing on the character, the focus is on the person's actions and exploits. This type of storytelling is what most western games adhere to. The main character (usually created based on the player's ideals of what a hero would be) begins his adventure with an agenda in mind. This may be kill a dragon, free their people, or destroy an incoming army, among other goals. The player guides the character through decisions and battles. The player practically creates the character in the game and events guide those decisions. This is crucial. The games are usually open to individual interpretation and can change depending on how the player chooses to play the game.The focus is, again, usually on the deeds instead of the "state of mind." The character grows as a hero, but we don't get a true glimpse into the actual character's personality, as their personality is the player's. It is a player made game. There is nothing to take away from the game in the end, or to be learned from it since the player injected themselves into the game.
I shall kill you with my mighty sword foul beast!
This can be seen in Oblivion, Dragon Age, Mass Effect, Kotor, and practically any WRPG. As for shooting, platforming, and other western games, these are a bit simpler. They practically adhere to the "hero" archetype and stay there, without player interaction in the creation of the hero or movement of the story. We see this in Kratos, Duke Nukem, Marcus Fenix, Master Chief, and Lara Croft.
Achilles. BA of the old world. Censored for the youngins.
As we can see, western culture does influence how their games are made. The great deeds and tales that are taught to us as children guide our interests as adults.
The Hero is made from his/her courageous actions and exploits.
I have to say, this side of the story was very interesting to write. As I am a western imbued person, learning the eastern culture and digesting their stories was fun and enlightening. Hopefully I get the essence of their thought process correct. Feel free to add to this section with a comment. Also, when I say "east" I focus mostly on Japan, as other Asian countries do not contribute much to the video gaming world.
Genji scroll. First novel ever written.
Traditional eastern story telling relates closely with cause and effect, the mentality of a decision, and the impact events have on a person's psyche. The first Japanese novel written was called "The Tale of Genji." The story follows the life of an emperor's son as he is cast away from royalty and is forced to live a rather normal life. How the son copes with the hardships is the focus of the novel. The story of Mulan (although Chinese in origin) recounts a girl's adventure through the military and the obstacles she must overcome because of her gender. She is faced with many decisions throughout her adventure and her character grows from becoming a male for a period of time. She is praised for her honor and dedication to her family. The Samurai where fierce warriors, they were respected not because of their actions in the fields of battle, but because of their loyalty to a code of honor. They set examples in restraint and followed their masters into war without fear. Their mentality was revered, not their actions. Eastern stories are focused on finding the character's identity, their purpose, or their state of mind.
One of the most interesting dynamics between two characters in any videogame.
Jump into videogames. See Cloud. We start FF7 not knowing a damn thing about Cloud. He is mysterious and reclusive. The central story in the game relates not to what great battles Cloud engages in, but the unraveling of Cloud's background and persona. Why does his hatred for Sephiroth run so deep? How can he redeem himself for past events? These are the major points of the story and the game altogether. Metal Gear Solid. Solid Snake can hold his own, but the story is more involved with the psychological effects of warfare on people, enemies being totally relative, and, mostly, the futility of war. Even the new FF13 concerns itself more with the development of the character's emotions and purpose than slaying huge beasts. Hope tries to deal with his anger while asking himself, "what's the point of it all?" We do not know anything about the protagonist, Lightening, at the start. She slowly develops throughout the game and the player learns more.
War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing. WhoA!
Japanese story telling in videogames usually starts with a mysterious character which the player learns more about as the game progresses. The purpose of the story is to unlock the secrets of the main character and enlighten the player to the driving force behind the actions. For this reason a player can take away from the game a new understanding of different perspectives. They get a glimpse of different motivations and how past events can drive future actions. Emotions built from experiences drive decisions.
The mentality behind the action makes the hero.
Of course there are exceptions to the rules. There have been great games from western developers that focus on the emotional aspects. There are also eastern games that revel in blood and gore. However, I find the "traditional" way of storytelling for each culture to be independent of each other and follow these trends.
I have long been a bigger fan of western games until I found myself asking more questions and becoming more interested in the characters in eastern games. There seems to be more depth in an eastern game. I am exposed to new ideas, points of view, and more emotional themes in eastern games. When a connection is made, not with a character you injected yourself into, but a character that is unique and different from yourself it seems there is more attachment there. We learn not from familiar people, but from people far different from ourselves. Sometimes what they do and what they think can change us. This can only occur if they are not created by us.
I would have liked to write more about Japanese writings, but there are limitations in length for these editorials.
What differences do you see in the two storytelling types?
Which do you lean toward?
Ilikepandas: "Japanese games, likely influenced by an emphasis placed on collectivism in the culture, tend to focus more on a group of heroes who instead react to their environment and are slowly molded by events in the story."
Interesting addition for sure. Japan and China do have a strong sense of collectivism. Perhaps this is why we see the characters crying out for identity or individualization? Interesting take.
the_requiem:"Western games/stories are about putting the player in shoes of a superhero [sort of] who achieves victory against impossible odds, performs seemingly impossible feats. The thrill comes from player feeling that they are the ones doing these feats.Japanese games/stories are about character's individual/emotional journey. The players are made to feel/experience what the character feels/experiences. The thrill comes from that emotional journey, living a character."
Excellent summation of what I was going for. Western games put the player into the main character, the player is the protangonist. Eastern games have the player controlling a unique character whose has its own personality and story. Eastern games take a more traditional storytelling approach while western games inject the player into the story.
Crom_destroyer: "The writer says that the focus in western games is on the actions, rather than states of mind. This is partially true. However, it is also irrelevant precisely because it's truth is only partial. What I mean is that focus on actions and lack of personality only go so far as the "main character", and they don't extend to other characters. If these characteristics affected all characters in western games, then the writer would have a point, but they don't."
You are correct in emotions being emitted by other characters in the game. However, the entire game is wrapped around the main character and how they perceive events. The main character in most western games chooses how they interact with the other characters and those choices are decided by the player, think of the old "turn to page 99 for this decision or turn to page 45 for this one" kind of books. The eastern games have a locked point of view with what the author/dev intended for the game. This forces the player to look through a certain lens and perhaps learn something more about others and what drives their decisions. Nice point and hopefully newer western games will start to include weightier side characters if the main character is to retain the player's decisions.
Put down your 3D glasses, they are no longer needed
Three dimensional imagery has had an interesting history with its popularity being sporadic throughout the last several decades. The idea and concept of manipulating the eye of the viewer to create the illusion of depth in an otherwise 2D image is not something new. In the 1950's 3D movies were all the rage and everyone donned their red and blue spectacles while enjoying the big blockbuster of the time. Although we have come a long way since the blue and red glasses that our grandparent's used, a big jump hasn't been made until rather recently. There have been better glasses made throughout the years using all types of ingenious trickery from polarizing filters to shutter blocks, but the facial attire has always been a constant requirement. Until now.
3D movies used to be all the rage!
Sound like something out of a college physics course.The basis of the concept certainly is and to properly explain it we would also need linear algebra, but in its rawest form autostereoscopy is defined as a method for displaying 3-D images without the use of glasses or visual aids. How it works is brilliant and multifaceted. One way to produce a 3-D image in this way is to do it through the software. This has already been done on the DS as reported by Kotaku. The camera tracks the movement of the DS and rerenders the image as the device is moved from side to side. This creates the illusion of depth within the DS and it looks great. The other way to do it is through the hardware by the use of a multi-tiered screen with various filters. The filters and lenses built into the screen redirect video to various viewing angles within the screen. Since the eyes are separated by a few inches they each see a different portion of the screen, which will display a slightly different image to each eye fooling the brain into perceiving a projected three dimensional image. This is supposedly how the 3DS will work and if done right it can be an amazing innovation in the handheld field.
The Down Side
So which one will it be? Software or Hardware? Kotaku says software is a more logical approach and I tend to agree with them. All that would be needed would be a more robust camera system, gyroscopes, and a more powerful processor. The rest can be done using coding and a programming workshop with the game developers to let them know how to set up their games to use the new system. If Nintendo went the hardware route they would need the complex screen filled with filters, shutters, and all types of non-standard imaging equipment. They would still need a more powerful processor to handle the multiple streams of images. Whichever way they choose… it will still be costly. With the price of the DSi already at 160 dollars, will this technology jump the price of the 3DS to the price of a Wii?
What will the new DS look like? Will it be much different than the DSi in appearance?
Not only will price be an issue for Nintendo who is the king of low priced gaming solutions but there are issues inherent with autostereoscopy. The technology is known to cause headaches and vision problems in a large majority of users. High priced displays at technology shows can use the technology with little risk of headaches, but we are talking about devices that cost several thousands of dollars not a, hopefully, sub two hundred dollar product. When E3 comes around and some people get face time with the new handheld we will start to see if any issues are reported.
The last concern I have with the 3DS is that to get the 3D imagery illusion the user must move the device. Watch the kotaku article again, the presenter has to constantly move the device to continue the illusion. I don't know about you, but I tend to not move my handheld around while playing like the person in that clip must do. As you can see it does not project the image outwards toward the user like normal 3D imaging techniques, only inwards. Will the 3DS be able to project outwards or will it only create a depth within the screen is a question I would love to have answered but I have not found any information on the subject. How useful will that be once the novelty wears off?
Older 3D games were tacky and odd
How Will Games Use This?
Now that we have this technology available that is only the first step. How are the developers supposed to use this technology to improve our experience in the gaming worlds we jump into? Since enjoyability is ultimately what the gamer is looking for when purchasing a gaming system with new features, we must ask if these features are worth the price and hassle. As one can see through the kotaku video, it can look very interesting, but that is only a puzzle game. How will this work for racing games, actions games, and more? Smoke billowing out of the screen as the tires shred to the high power of a muscle car in the newest NFS game or tracer rounds flying by as insurgents aim suppressing fire on my position would be pretty intense. I can certainly see the merit in this technology and can only imagine what great developers can do with this.
Image by deviantart. How about a reinvented SMB in 3D?
I think this could be a great novelty and could be enjoyable for the vast majority of gamers. I do not know if this will "stick" as in Sony, Apple, etc following suit and 3D being a must have feature in any portable. I think it will most likely be a nice diversion, but will quickly be forgotten after the initial sales push. If you really think about it, this does not add anything new to the DS. The interaction with the game will still be on a 2D plane using a stylist, D pad, and buttons. We will not be interacting in 3D, the only difference is the looks which, frankly most handheld users don't care a lot about. Gameplay is the biggest seller for small screen gaming. The only difference between the 3DS and the DSi is the image looks different. On top of that, it is not necessarily better looking in any way as they haven't said if the graphics are going to be better by the use of a high resolution, more polygons, more realistic shaders, etc. I'm sure there will be a few really cool games that find an interesting way to use the 3D imaging, but most will just be projections that may even cause headaches and vision problems in some people.
Don't get me wrong, I'm just as excited about this as the next guy, but I do have my questions about its long term use. As for me, I will surely be on the lookout for any new information that pops up regarding the 3DS. I also can't wait to try it out for myself. As of right now I cannot say I will be running out a buying one on day one, but it has piqued my interest.
So what does everyone think about this? Are you excited? Will you be buying one for sure or will you wait to try it out? How will this change the handheld market? Let's hear your thoughts!