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DontGetBigIdeas Blog

The Personal GOAT List: No. 10 -- Tenchu: Stealth Assassins

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A funny thing happened while thinking about what my Top 10 favorite games of All-Time were. I was at my parent's house cleaning up my old room when I happened upon my old copy of Tenchu: Stealth Assassins for the PlayStation.

Instantly I remembered how much I loved this game and it seemed like a natural No. 10 for me. It was the first game I remember spending hard-earned money on. Instead of parental gifts or chore money, it was money I gained from mowing the lawns of neighbors. I used it to buy a used PlayStation, a memory card and Tenchu at FuncoLand.

Tenchu was the ultimate wish fulfillment games for me, and from the popularity of the series, many others. While most ninja games like Ninja Gaiden focused on action, slicing and platforming around a level, Tenchu brought a true ninja experience to gamers. And what 11-year-old didnt want to secretly be a ninja? Just saying.

To 11 year old me, the concept of playing a game to kill only one person, your target, was unheard of, but also challenging. I'll never forget the training dojo mission of Tenchu. Here I am thinking I bought some ninja action game and yet I'm being instructed to walk past the enemy undetected and leave them be.

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A game about killing where you don't want to kill? It soon grew on my why this was such a great idea. 

Ninjas did'nt just indiscriminately kill people and play rock music (like one website once said). No, in fact, they spent their time learning their mark's actions, his vices and paths. Then, the kill. Tenchu brought some of that into play and it made for a ninja experience that 11 year old me wouldnt forget. Plus it certainly helped there was the cartoonish blood and limb dismemberment that only a ninja b-movie would have.

Part of me hopes that the Tenchu series lives on as the next generation comes about. I think theres still a lot of places to go with the franchise and with system technology advancing to include motion, touch pads and even Microsofts proposed room projection, I think thats reason enough for more adventures for Rikimaru and Ayame.

8th Gen Wishlist: What I Want in Consoles

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We've heard nothing but rumors about the upcoming console generation. We have Nintendo's hardware in hands and understand what it's capable of, but we're still very much in the dark as to Sony and Microsoft's plans. So briefly, here's a few of the features I hope we see in the next gen -- and some I wish would just go away.

Personally, I'm not expecting a huge graphics leap so power isn't my biggest concern. As long as it can run games at 60 fps and has enough power for growth throughout the life cycle, I'm good.

I'd love to see Cloud integration and if I had to pay a few bucks a month to access a back catalog of games dating back to the mid-90s, I'd do it in a heartbeat. It would be awesome to have a NetFlix style service for games from your home console. This is something we've heard rumored by Sony because of their Gaikai purchase.

I want to see subscription fees for online play gone. I'm looking at you, Xbox Live. With all the ads they run, and partnerships they've struck up, its become milking at this point and I'd gladly go to the system that won't force another subscription on me. Or better yet, put your service in line with a ISP -- such as Verizon/Comcast -- and make it free if you're on those networks. Just a thought, but I'm tired of paying for XBL.

Kinect's voice recognition has potential, but I'm tired of seeing Microsoft push their motion control platform that has turned out to be nothing more than Sony's Eye Toy 2.0. It's time to either find new ways to make Kinect/motion gaming appealing to the core, or just let it go on as it is now -- a dancing game controller for the casual audience.

Backwards compatibility, or a way to load my games onto the system digitally via cloud. There are games from this gen I'd like to play again, and a system that won't let me do that isn't going to win my dollars.

Skype. I know Microsoft owns it now, so this is a bit more MS based, but instead of Xbox Live parties, Skype parties would be even better. I would love to be able to Skype with my PC friends while they play League of Legends and I play something on my Xbox.

A social gaming tool that matters. I think the MiiVerse is a good example of what I'm thinking of. I think Sony and MS should have a similar experience that is integrated into the dashboard/front-end of the system.

So, any thoughts on what you absolutely have to have in the hardware?

Predictions for 2013 and Beyond

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It's almost the end of 2012, and with a potentially exciting 2013 on the horizon for the video game industry, I've decided to toss in some predictions for where the Big 3 and the industry may go from there. We're likely to have two new console launches, a load of new IPs and a potential challenger in living room PCs, but what does it all mean? Let's prognosticate and in one year, laugh at how wrong I was...

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Sony and Microsoft will announce new consoles featuring "unique" controllers
Let's set one thing straight here -- Nintendo pioneered the motion controller craze of the 7th Generation. Sony and Microsoft merely tagged along, with varying success, and all three have seen the idea that motion is the new way to game die off a bit.

But don't think that's going to discourage the Big 3 from trying something different. Nintendo's WiiU is already experimenting with a hybrid Tablet/Controller and prototypes of a Move/DualShock have been patented for the "PS4". What I really expect to see is something more along the lines of the WiiU controller where instead of simple buttons to input commands, there will be more to it -- think the Sega Dreamcast controller's VMU, but with more functionality, or rather a straight up copy of the WiiU.

Plus, if the WiiU tablet/controller is a hit, why wouldn't Sony and Microsoft take a swing at it with their new systems? It seems like an obvious route given the rise of iOS/Tablet gaming and with a tablet controller of their own, Sony and Microsoft can woo some of those devs to produce content for their PSN/XBLA marketplaces.

The hardcore player will be the focus of the next gen
In case you missed it, a recent Games Industry article cites that of the $50 million the video game industry earned in 2012, only 10% of that comes from the "Casual" audience.

That casual gaming craze that dominated the early part of the 7th Generation has diminished to the point where it's mostly contained on tablets, phones and iOS devices. In short, it's almost over and for gamers who were crying that the Big 3 were abandoning them for Mom and Dad and Just Dance, get ready to be catered too once again and in a big, big way.

The 7th Generation lacked personality. If you owned a PS3 or Xbox 360, you had access to at least 85% of the games released this gen. That's not uncommon (having a majority of games multiplat), but the few true console exclusives eventually went multiplat (Mass Effect) and by the middle of the generation exclusives were trimmed down to just a few series for each consoles (Uncharted -- PS3, Gears of War -- Xbox 360, etc.)

It just seemed that there was real difference between the PS3 library and Xbox library to an outsider -- they're near identical save a few titles here and there.

With a new batch of consoles coming, there should be a need for real identity for these machines and early on I think we'll see a swath of new IPs, revived IPs and pushes to keep old, established titles completely exclusive (see Bayonetta 2). The winner in all this? The hardcore audience.

Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo will spend 2013 announcing title after title to generate interest, and grow an install base, for the new consoles. If the Big 3 don't try to create an identity for their machines and capture the hardcore audience early, we'll have another stagnant generation like this past one.

Indie games will influence AAA developers and be a focus of the console online marketplaces

Faster Than Light, Hotline: Miami and MineCraft are just a few of the indie games that have captured gamers' eyes in the past year (even more than that for MineCraft). For a brief while, MineCraft was the most played game on Xbox Live and the Steam service on PC is a goldmine for affordable indie gaming.

Recently indie games have been taking chances AAA devs would never take. They've proven that high res graphics don't matter when gameplay is so good and they've created strong communities that remind me of the mid 90's adoration some people had for certain titles.

In short, indie games are a sleeping giant and one of the Big 3 is going to cater to them. Now here's why.

The goal of indie game devs are to eventually get their title to the living room, but the barrier to do that are high right now. Steam has proven a boon for indie devs, but the real success -- as seen with MineCraft -- is when one of the Big 3 puts the title on their system. MineCraft is a household name not just because it was a great PC game, but now because another 50 million people on Xbox 360 have access to it.

I expect all three console players to make their online marketplaces more open to the indie scene in an attempt to win over the hardcore audience that enjoys both the AAA game and the low-fi indie games. They're going to want to keep great indie games from releasing only on iOS/Android (Where they can't capitalize on it), but instead have them on their systems -- and it could even be exclusively.

If the Big 3 ignore the indie scene, then PC gamers win out and get some of the most innovative and unique experiences that consoles currently don't provide gamers.

Indie games are getting bigger and better, and whoever can be the most "indie friendly" system is going to get oodles of amazing games for their fans and their online marketplace. Even more so, whoever woos the indie scene now has a talent pool to hire from as well.

A "SteamBox" will fail because PC gamers are already content with their computers and consumers are happy with consoles
There's been a lot of rumblings about Valve's Gabe Newell commenting that living room PCs -- not the tower that you dragged into the living room for Steam Big Picture -- but actual smaller and affordable PCs with Steam loaded on them, will compete with next gen consoles.

The idea is great. In theory. Here's why it could fall flat on it's face.

First, the console market is already crowded with very capable machines that offer more than gaming. Steam is a gaming platform and while it could one day included the services you see in Xbox Live, such as NetFlix, the proposed idea of a PC that plays only Steam doesn't have those. It reminds me of the Ouya. The Ouya wants to bring Android games to your TV, but there's already 100 million people with Android phones, so what's the point?

Second, it's a confusing concept to non-gamers. Why not just buy a PC? Is it a console or a PC? What does it really do other than offer a great service and PC games on the TV? Why can't I just hook my current PC to the TV? To us, it makes perfect sense. I don't expect non-gamers to look at it and fully understand it. Of course this all would depend on how Valve marketed it, but even then, do you market it as a console or PC?

For the record, it's a great idea and I love it and would consider it (but I already have a gaming PC so what's the point...), but I just don't think it's going to be an instant win button for Valve like so many people beleive. Now watch me be wrong.


Last, but not least, the WiiU will be fine.
I see a lot of people nay-saying the WiiU for it's power, it's odd design and it's lack of third party support. I'll quickly list why none of that really matters right now.

1. It's going to be the cheapest of the new systems next year. Sony and Microsoft are announcing what we assume will be monster systems, on par with today's top end PCs. Those aren't going to be cheap, and then you add in the gizmos and gadgets that will likely need to be purchased with them.

It's going to cost a lot of money and I find it unlikely they can sell them at the golden $250 price. I'm expecting more around $500 for these new systems. PS3 released at $600 and has a miserable start, so unless they're sacrificing some power for price, expect Nintendo's WiiU to be the cheapest system at holiday 2013.

Oh and don't count out the potential ability to redesign and price cut with a WiiU XL or WiiU Lite. That sound you heard? Early adopters groaning.

2. The WiiU is less gimmicky than the Wii was, so third parties my actually give it an honest go-round. The Wii suffered from it's very limited controller and the fact that third parties found the gimped hardware, and controller, not worth the effort. The WiiU may not be as powerful as the next systems, but it's a more traditional console and it will be cheaper to develop on. If the install base hits the right number, it would be silly to ignore the system. They're not all on board yet, but I think you'll see them flock over post E3.

3. Nintendo still owns Microsoft and Sony in first party titles. The Wii survived almost solely on Wii Sports and first party titles. With a more traditional style console, these games will be far better than their Wii counter parts and will sell systems. Don't ever count out Mario or Zelda. Ever. EVER.

Adopting Completionism

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I disagree that this gaming generation has "sucked". Proof of this is that this gaming generation, more so than ever, has grown my backlog of games greatly. I just don't have enough time to play everything I want to.

And yet I'm asking for more games from friends and family for Christmas, which includeds a WiiU and ZombiU. That means my back log looks a bit like this.

Just beat: Halo 4

Currently playing: Hitman: Absolution

Backlogged: XCOM: Enemy Unknown, NFS Most Wanted, Hotline Miami, FTL: Faster Than Light, Red Dead Redemption GOTY edition, Dark Souls, Natural Selection 2, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, Dishonored, Borderlands 2, DOTA 2.

That's just the start. Some of these games I've played well into and just put down for some time, such as XCOM or Borderlands 2. Others are mainly multiplayer indulges (Black Ops 2, Natural Selection 2, DOTA 2), but the growing list made me realize that it's time to start finishing games before taking on more because at this rate, I'll never finish anything.

So with the potential WiiU I'll be getting and in this next generation I'm adopting a policy of beating a game before buying another. This will let me enjoy the games I get, it will help lessen the gaming strain on my wallet and mostly I won't feel so rushed to play a game just to start playing another. Admittedly, I rushed through parts of Mass Effect 3 before I realized I was playing for the wrong reasons -- just to play another game instead of enjoying what's in front of me.

The month of December is kind to me work-wise. I imagine I can finish much of this backlog by Christmas because I stop working for a week before the holiday and have a week off after it. Count in weekends, etc., and I should be able to catch up, but after that it's time to control the gaming.

We should play games to enjoy them and sadly I've been playing games just to finish them so I can not feel like I've abandoned them. It's time to enjoy them fully at my pace.

Quick Hits: Rapid Fire Reviews from a Backlogged Gamer

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Rock, paper, scissors style game play, interactive environments and girls with huge boobs in bunny outfits remain hallmarks of the Dead or Alive series even in a minor reboot.

Dead orAlive 5

Obviously Ill try to stay as objective as possible (well, as objective as a person with a Hitomi avatar can), but I can say this about DOA5, it's a step forward.

Team Ninja needed breathe some life into the series after a good, but somewhat stale, outing with DOA4. The game retains much of what everyone loves about DOA as a whole (triangle counter system, interactive stages, boobs), but adds two new characters that you will actually want to play and what can be described as super moves in the vein of games such as Soul Calibur 5 and Street Fighter 4.

It's not perfect. The online community seems small, the ranking system for matches is a bit odd, costumes that should be unlocks are now DLC and some of the stages aren't quite as vibrant and exciting as past games (it seems brown and dusty locales are what's in for fighting according to Team Ninja), but the action is easy to pick up and play.

If you're not a huge fighting game buff, you can't go wrong with DOA5, but hardcore combo-fiends will find better competition elsewhere.

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XCOM: Enemy Unknown

I'm still not finished with this game and that's because I've relished taking my time to enjoy every morsel of what Firaxis has provided. Simply put, this is my personal Game of the Year and it's a real shame that XCOM didn't sell well on consoles because we need more games like this.

I never played any previous XCOM games, but as a life-long Civilization fan I knew what I was getting into. XCOM is a turn-based strategy game (think Front Mission, Final Fantasy Tactics) with perma-death for soldiers you lose in battle (like Fire Emblem). The result is a tense atmosphere every time you launch a Skyranger to intercept a UFO.

So what makes XCOM so good? It's hard and when the game gets truly chaotic, XCOM is at its best.

XCOM punishes you for playing hasty and rewards you for carefully thinking out your actions in battle and in the base management screen. There is no better feeling than seeing your squad getting flanked, only to figure a way out of the predicament with minimal losses. When you do fail, you likely learned something about the game because you failed, not because a tutorial tip told you what you should have done.

Its trial and error gaming at its best and more people should play this game.

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Dishonored

I'm still working my way through this one, and only about three missions in, so I'll be fairly brief. It's everything a fan of the Thief series could want in a spiritual successor for a new generation. Dishonored's story is easy to get caught up in and the world of a whale oil starved society coated in steampunk garb makes it that much more interesting.

The only issue I have with the game is that while I appreciate the choice of playing violently or without killing a single person (including your target), is that the sense of satisfaction after a non-lethal run is somewhat dull.

Yes, I know the thrill comes in doing it without being detected once, but there's something un-rewarding about having a character tell me "something bad will happen to x person in the near future because you decided to frame them instead of kill them." You never see the outcome of your actions (but I assume this is just because I'm not done with the game), but it appears the reward for non-lethal story "kills" is nothing more than self satisfaction.

And that's not a bad thing, just a thought I had after taking out two story targets through non-lethal means. I look forward to finishing this one very soon.

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Halo 4

Wake up Chief, 343 Industries has a new set of games for you -- and it's a welcome return.

I co-oped through the story mode following Halo 4's release last week and found it hard to put the game down. It's great. The new humanized Master Chief is more fun than the gung-ho, super soldier Bungie gave us for three games. The storyline of Cortana battling rampancy brings more life to a character who is basically the Tinkerbell of video games. The Didact...Well, I guess if you read the extended lore (I never did), then this guy is a big deal, but I found his story to be somewhat forgettable.

Outside of story elements, which the team at 343i clearly put a focus on, the changes to Halo's formula are enjoyable. The new Promethean weapons fit into the armory well and have clear uses alongside past Halo favorites. The battle items (shield, auto-turret) are helpful, but still seem unnecessary. Levels in Halo 4's campaign are exciting and it's hard to think of one that truly dragged or made me want to stop playing.

Overall, it's just a tight package and that's just the single player. Multiplayer what you'd expect out of Halo and will likely take up a great deal of fans' time, but there's no reason to go further into it -- we know what it is and it's still very good.