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Rotondi Blog

Social Gaming: Where it Went and A Place You can Still Find It.

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I've always wanted video games to be a viable option for something to do at a party.  When you got 8 or 10 people hanging out, it should be socially cool to crank out a gaming console.  The console shouldn't be seen as something that's just played during the dark moments when we're all alone and nobody is around.  The problem with this is not too many games on the playstation and Xbox support this kind of idea.  The majority of their games are these major one or two player games that are just way too serious for their own good.  It would most certainly be awkward to play them during a social situation.  2 people at most would be playing and the other people would just be standing around wondering what they're even doing there in the first place.

Don't get me wrong.  I love a good single player experience.  I absolutley love games like Half-Life, Zelda, Shadow of the Collusus.  Love them.  But let's face it.  The industry is dominated by big, major single player and massive online games.  If you do decide to play them during a social thing, you're sort of just flexing your muscles and showing off how "cool" the game is.  This isn't exactly fun.

I bring this all up because I got my hands on NintendoLand for the first time the other day.  I have to admint, this is probably the most underrated gaming experience right now.  Playing two of the mini games with five friends was a ridiculous amount of fun.  It brought me back to the days when I was a kid with my friends playing Halo or Mario Party.  The mini games are simple to understand and simple to control.  

The gaming industry needs more of these games, not the big budgted AAA crap.  Even Indie developers need to start producing more games that include 4 or more players.  With all these leaps in technology, you'd think you'd see a console that has the capability of hooking up 8 controllers to it, instead of sticking with just four.  

 

Shoot In and Out (Favorite Gaming Memory 4 of ?)

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Ok well let's get this one out the way.  Had this one in mind out of the gecko so if I don't do it now then it's just going to be bogging my mind down.  Like a bunch of other gamers I'm sure, I was awesome at Mega Man.  That game came naturally to me.  While I didn't record any speed runs (wtf are speed runs?)  I can tell you with a straight face, and with a drunk face, I could even tell you when I'm wearing a mask if you'd like, I could beat Mega Man 2, 3 and 4 like a champ.  In college I used to beat those games just to take the stress off.  There was something therapeutic about it.  It felt good because I was good. Though no one else gave two shits.  Quit wasting you're time kid! 

 

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My armpits itch like all day

I got a bunch of Mega Man memories. Unfortunately not any while getting dome from a hott chick.  Anyways, though I'd say I have a lot of awesome memories from Mega Man 3, my favorite level/boss to kick the shit out of is most certainly Quickman and his hellish stage from Mega Man 2.  Actually, it probably isn't the biggest pain in the ass compared to some other Mega Man stages, but it certainly looks cooler than hello kitty underpants.  

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Quickman gets down Saturday Night Fever style

As you'd expect, Quickman's level isn't for the gamers with slow reactions.  The level must be completed fast.  Not because there's a timer, but because one of those beams of energy that plague half of the level will fry you into smithereens.  Quickly escaping death by energy beam is a great feeling.  One wrong step, or maybe there's too much grease on your fingers from all those potato chips you've been eating causing your thumb to slip off the d-pad, will give you a one-way ticket to deathville.  Time to start again buddy.  Time to get a life buddy.  Time to find a new hobby buddy.  Time to get a watch buddy.

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Smells like somethings cooking

 

When you finally do get to quickman you have two choices.  Use Flashman's power to drain half of his life away...OR you could beat him like a man with just your regular shot.  Which is what I do, because I'm a baller like that.  Mega Man can actually become quite an easy game when you know what powers to use against which bosses.  If you stay classy and just use your regular shot you'll be eligible to enter the Mega Man Hall of Fame I've set up in my parents basement.  

Patience and Timing is the Key to Any Good Fart (Favorite Gaming Moment 3 of ?)

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I went through about eight NES controllers.  Out of pure rage and fustration I'd throw those suckers against the wall, the ground or just try to bend them with bare hands.  It just sucked failing, and I wanted the controller to feel my pain.  As I look back on those childish moments, I think.  Wow, I was an idiot back then, too.  Now, I don't remember the exact games and the exact moments of those games where I really tried to damage the controller, but I could make a really good case for the title below.

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Relax, Free Your Mind, Become the Beast, Become the Chest Hairs.


Whether or not you asked me when I was kid if a level from The Karate Kid was considered one of my favorite gaming moments I'm not sure what I would have said.  Probably something like, "Dude, all I need is gummy bears and a glass of coke with crushed ice."  Today the memory of playing The Karate Kid holds a nice spot in my brain.  I don;t think I can ever forget much trouble I had with the level where the rain is coming down and the wind is blowing like a mother chucker.

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That's a fart bomb


While I like all of the levels of The Karate Kid, the one pictured about was a beast.  It came early in the game and tested the size of your nuts.   If randomly changing wind speeds wasn't enough to make platforming difficult, it was what the wind was blowing that added to your souless life.  Time a jump just right while factoring in the weather (like Ninja Gaiden) wasn't enough.  Sometimes a chair or some other debris blow onto the screen and ruin your life.  Go the high route or the low route, doesn't matter.  Both ways are as dangerous as the other.  

Like any great karate master, patience and timing are the key.  So don't look for any power-ups.  And if you haven't played this game before, I'd recommend putting some padding around the controller so it doesn't break on impact.  And if any loved ones enter the area where you game, make sure they're wearing a helmet.    

Where We Going From Here, GTA?

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It isn't hard to notice that the latest GTA is mainly just a bigger game than its predecessors.  It also isn't hard to notice that this is what Rockstar has been doing all along with GTA, just trying to make the next one a little bigger and better than the last one.  The maps get bigger, more people on the streets, more accessible buildings, more missions...You get the picture. So when GTAV screens and videos appeared, I guess I wasn't that impressed since I sort or know what Rockstar is up to.  And I'm sure when GTAVI is released in 5 years for next-gen I won't be that impressed either since I could tell you right now what it's going to be like:  Bigger, more people on the streets, more things to do, maybe go to space and the deepest parts of the ocean.  Essentially just more stuff.  

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Look!  More water to swim around in. 

This goes nowhere for me since I'm not a gamer who cares much for simulators, which is what GTA, in my mind, stands for.  A game that ultimately tries to become more lifelike with each entry.  And it's not just about mimicking realism, but more about simulating a "fantasy realism."  In other words, giving gamers a chance to pretend like they are some other person in a world based off of our world.  However this world has no rules.  They are free to do, and not do, what they want.  All of our brains desire a type of experience like this.  A place where we can mess around a bit, fulfill are latent motivations.  GTA certainly plays off of this.  Maybe not doing it consciously, but connecting all the dots of our subconscious nonetheless.  

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Maybe we'll be able to play GTAIV in GTAV?

Maybe this is why GTA feels like less of video game than ever to me.  It is maybe the most popular video game for Westerners and sort of defines to the rest of the world (and our world) what video gamers like to play out here.  Which to me is disheartning, but also helps me realize why gamers typically get the short end of the stick.  It's hard to defend your hobby when the best selling games of your area involve more violence than any other medium could ever imagine.  Not only that, but trying to explain why GTA (or Wow) is great without sounding like your secretly just trying to live in an alternate reality.

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Could you stop dropping the paint everywhere Charlie!?  Christ...

I guess my final thoughts on GTA is how diverse the gamer base is (Well, probably not sexually diverse considering that 95% of gamers who play GTA are most definetly men).  Jocks, Bro's, Retro Gamers, Kids, Dads, Businessmen probably all like GTA.  This is probably because of the different things someone can get out of GTA.  For instance, GTA can feel like playing an action movie, it can feel really RPGish with all the side-quests and customization, it can feel really competitive with its online modes, it can be a graphic spectacle for your new television, it can be the center for humor at a party, it can be really absorbing and steal your day away.  Am I suggesting that Rockstar is just trying to appeal to a wider audience?  No.  This is just the nature of a GTA game, which explains how Rockstar is sitting on such an obese cash cow.

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I love milking this one.

Of course I hold my final reservations until I play it, though in my head I feel like I already have.  And that goes for GTA 6, 7 and 8.

 

 

Blue Ring Jazz (Fav. Gaming Moment 2 of ?)

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Well I just posted a comment about cancer that absolutley BOMBED.  So why not move on from the catastrophe by posting a blog on another one my favorite gaming moments.  I think what I'm trying to do with this is start from the the earlier memories and work my way up to the present day.  This could take awhile.  Maybe you want to consider heating up a baked potato, grabbing a economy sized bag of sunflower seeds and gobstoppers, and getting your snuggy.

 

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I referenced my brother in my last blog and and I'll mention him again now.  He taught me the locations of half of the items in Zelda for the NES.  This saved me a lot of time and a lot of money.  Well, not money.  I was like 9 years old.  I didn't have a job at the time.  Though I did try taking out the recycling on occasion, cleaned the Lego's off the floor too a few times.  

My favorite part about Zelda for the NES doesn't have to do with a boss or a dungeon, but an item you get.  Yes, many of the items you get are pretty awesome.  One in particular though, is cooler than all the rest.

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Finding and buying the blue ring is epic.  After wearing this badboy you changed from your green, noobish attire into the WHITE KNIGHT!  The real benefit, of course, is that you're able to take more damage but let's be honest.  You looked more bada$$ and when your friends came over to watch you play they were like....How'd you turn white bro?

I'll leave it at that.  And I'll leave you with this:

 

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My Favorite Video Game Moments 1 of ?

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I want to chat to myself about some of my favorite and first ever gaming moments.  Come to think of it, they actually are some of my earliest memories of all my memories as a human being.  That's the kind of impact gaming has had on me I guess.  So instead of trying to wipe them away with Sham-Wow, let's celebrate them.  

My older brother was gaming before I can remember.  He was a legend and without him I'm not sure I would have been the same gamer I am today.  He taught me everything I know about NES games and Genesis games.  However he gave up gaming after that but whatever! That's not the point.  

The point is I remember we were down on Cape Cop at our summer house and he had that NES powered on and I'm not sure if I knew it at the time, since I was like 8 or soemthing, but he was playing Metroid.  He was like 2 feet from the television.  IF my dad had saw him he would have killed him.  But my dad was mowing the lawn or something, maybe buying lobsters.  Whatever, he was doing something!  

MY brother was at Mother Brain.  One of the most epic final boss battles ever, as far as I'm considered.  The deadly music, tthose incredibly annoying spore things, the sound of your missles chewing up the doors and slamming on Mother Brains face, the lava pit, and of course the slow frigging fram-rate because there's absolutley so much stuff going on at one-time it's ridiculous.  Then he got to the section after, where you have to climb out of the level and get back to your ship before the planet explodes.  The timer comes on the screen and the pressure is on to climb those platforms.  I remember him falling.  I remember him not making it out of there and my brother throwing the controller against the wall.  

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Blog Gone Wild

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Depending of the stage you're at in life--high school, middle school, college, after college and jobless, after college and got a job, family man, family woman, a bum under a bridge--your perspective of video games IS going to be different.  I've said this time and time again, my tastes in gaming have changed over the years.  Certain titles that I used to love, I still love. Some, quite the opposite.  

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"Many gamers don't realize, twas' I who cut the cheese."

My roommate has a PS3 and a Gamefly account.  For the past 2 months we've been checking out some PS3 games I've been missing out while I was away in China for 2 years.  After we got through a few games I went searching through the entire PS3 gaming library for games that are just good old fashion fun for two people that are sitting in the same room. And frankly, there isn't many.  Most Sony games want you looking like this: 

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If you think I have bad posture now, wait till you see me in 20 years.

So we do what we can and take turns playing single player campaigns like Infinite, Metro, Tomb Raider, Just Cause 2, Dark Souls, The Last of Us...you get the idea.  And now we just wait for the next Grand Theft Auto and a couple other odd balls.  

Yesterday I was making dinner and I heard my roommate come back from a day out at his friends house.  Immedietly he brought up the Wii U.  Now, he shart talks the Wii U like the best of anybody, saying the same nonsensical things that most gamers say on the internet about the Wii U:  It's a stupid console.  However he comes back and admits that, yes...the Wii U is fun.  Why?   Because they have games that are fun to play that can be played by more than one person at a time.

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Beam me up, Scotty.


 NintendoLand.  The game that keeps on giving.  The dream that keeps on wetting your sheets.  The potato that keeps feeding the kids.  The computer that keeps your dad occupied while you steel booze out of his liquor closet.  The tie that gets you all the ladies, cluding, the bride, while you're at your best friend's wedding.  The sunshine that makes all the ladies take their shirts off on the street. 

Look no further, climb no higher, swim no deeper, this is a blog gone wild.

An example of Innovation "In the Game"

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I mentioned in my previous blog that I would get into some examples of innovation in the gaming industry that doesn't have to do with hardware.  This means, a game that innovates through gameplay or some other aspect of the game itself. The more I rode my bike and drank beer and thought about this the more I realized that this is a much harder case to prove.  What I mean is, it is extremely hard to innovate this way.  Keep in mind I'm talking about recent games, games after the year 2000.  If I were to start at the dawn of gaming then sure, we could all come up with a handful of examples. But I'm talking about NOW, or the recent NOW.  One good example is the gravity gun from Half-Life 2.

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Where'd the pizza go?

 

I don't have any hesitations to call this an innovation.  Not only is the gravity a gun that hadn't been seen before in games, it changed the way gamers looked at the environment.  Thanks to the awesome physics in the Source engine, gamers could play around with objects in the environment to solve puzzles, destroy enemies and just have some darn good ol' fun.  

If my sole reason for calling the gravity gun innovation was based on "it hasn't been seen before in gaming" then at that point I would have to have hesitations.  Game creators design new weapons all the time for games, we can't just call them innovations because of this alone.  

I'm absolultey not saying the Gravity Gun is the only example in recent years, it's just that this is a much more foggy area of discussion.  Some other examples that come to my mind could be found in games like Shadow of the Collusus, Mario Galaxy, Max Payne, and Journey.  

I guess my point with these last two blogs is to point out how hard it is for something actually to be considered innovative. Innovations don't pop up like a bag of popcorn, and as fans we can't just ask for them left and right.  Creating something innovative almost stems from luck and timing more than actually creative talent.  For developers to sit around and wait until they think of something innovative before starting their new game would be suicide.  

Two examples of Hardware Innovation

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I think there's a lot of confusion to what an actual innovation is in terms of RIGHT NOW in the gaming industry.  We often think certain things are innovative when they're not and sometimes we think things aren't innovative when they actually are.   Well guess what?  I'm here to get the ball rolling on this one.  Who knows, I may end up being just as confused as everyone else but I'm here to give it a try.  And please note, I do not think innovation equals a great gaming experience.  Sometimes (probably most of the time) games that harness the energy of successfully tested formulas and perfect those formulas even more are often the games that are the best.

As obvious as it may sound, I feel innovation can come from two places in the gaming world, hardware and software. Essentially, some innovation happens in the video games themselves and some aspects happen in the hardware you play those games with.  Let's start with the obvious (and not obvious...), shall we?

INNOVATIVE HARDWARE

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There is never a better opportunity to punch someone in the gut than when they're wearing one of these...


The Occulus Rift is one of the more recent examples of hardware innovation.  While the idea of virtual reality is not something entirely new, previous VR devices were heavily limited.   The concept of someday being able to take any game for next-gen or PC and experience those games in a virtual reality type setting, however, is something new.  It changes the way we interact and perceive games.  For instance, Marcus Beer mentioned that Doom 3, a game that he didn't find scary at all when he played it on a regular PC, said that when experiencing it on the Occulus Rift made the horror come to life.  From a development standpoint, it changes the way developers create their games, full well knowing that many of their fans will be experiencing their games through the lenses of an OR and not just a normal television.  I don't know if the Occulus Rift will take off, nor do I know if it actually is making games more fun to play, but I think we're safe to say this is innovation.

For those of us who don't know (everybody knows), in almost every gaming situation the controller is the only way we can interract with our video games.  You could try shouting at your SEGA Genesis all you want, those rings you just lost ain't gonna' pick themselves back up.  Console controllers have been building off each other since the original NES controller, sure they've been adding buttons here and there.  An early version of the thumbstick was introduced by Nintendo with their N64 controller and then that inspired the famous dual thumbstick controller from Sony.  No matter how you look at it in any of those cases, what we have is a gamer pushing buttons.  As far as I'm concerned the first major innovation since the NES in regards to controllers were released for the Wii.  

 

B000IMYKQ0-1-lg.jpg Mostly referred to as "gimmicks" to sell consoles to the casuals and to cover-up the Wii's inferior hardware, whether you like it or not the Wii Remote is the dawn of motion controls and a major innovation in the gaming world.  The gamer can no longer get by with soley just pushing buttons.  Even till now does this upset gamers who are so bent on sticking with "what works."  This is a deep irony for me because these are the same gamers that blame Nintendo for not changing anything up, when it's actually them who just want Sony to be producing the same ol' Dualshock until the Playstation 500.  

But I get it.  It's tough.  I grew up on the NES and have mastered the art of "button pressing" over the years on many different consoles, including PC.  When Nintendo asked gamers to give up those years of ingrained muscle memory and try something new, I understand why many gamers didn't want to do this.

In no way do I think Nintendo found the new best way for us to interract with video games, however they did find another path that works really really well.  Many motion control games on the Wii shine.  More importantly, they offer gamers variety in an industry that is plagued by the same experiences and two other companies who wouldn't dare to take a risk like this. Here's to Nintendo for doing things first.

 

 

I'll do the second part tomorrow.  This is taking too long.  WAH!

In Control of Your Games

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As certain games continue to get more and more realistic I suspect that we are going to need more buttons on the controllers. When you have a gameworld that features 80 trillian polygons, groundbreaking A.I, and a physics system that makes the original HL2 engine look like Pong, the gamer is probably going to want more out of there character than just the normal run, duck, jump and shoot commands.  

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What button scratches my butt again?

 

In the long run it is impossible for developers to make games like The Last of Us, Just Cause 2, Grand Theft Auto, etc... and have the controls be 100% perfect. It's inevitable there will be glitches and fustrations along the way.  So while certain developers want their titles look and seem as realistic as possible, from the input perspective this just isn't possible.  

Obviously some genres have it easier than others.  For instance:  Side Scrollers.  Sure, you could have a game as simple as Knytt and Super Meat Boy and the controls should end up being like gravy.  But even more complicated side-scrollers like Mark of the Ninja with more character controls still feel tight, smooth and like warm pumpkin pie.  

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Um, do you mind just stayin' there for a sec?  I think I just pulled a back muscle.


So let's just say 2D games have it easier.  You can even say that first person shooters have it easier as well.  Gamers aren't asking much out of that genre anwyays.  We just need to move, aim and shoot.  Ok, it does get more complicated than this, like how do the weapons feel and react, hitboxes, etc.., but for the most part the formula has been hammered out already (well, the two formulas, the old-skool fast paced Unreal controls and the new skool CoD controls).  Keep in mind this is not to say first-person shooters won't suffer the same fate as many third-person perpective games will as they also push for more realism.

For me it all boils down to what is possible to achieve and what actually works.  While it is starting to be possible to create gaming worlds and engines that mirror our world, it is still impossible to have a character be controlled by a gamer in a way that reflects that same realism.  This explains why more games are using quick-time events, cut scenes and character animations to fill that disparity than ever before.   What I fear is that this is starting to pull the gamer more out of the game than in the game.

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Those blisters from NES Mega Man days are coming back again.


Then there are other cases where developers will take that risk and give the gamer more controls than ever before. This scenerio usually leads to 50% coolness, and 50% hair-pulling fustration.  Just Cause 2 is a good example of this.  The concept of what can be achieved is pretty awesome, but most of the time you'll just be screaming at the TV because the main dude you're controlling is haveing a squat instead of beaming out his manly grappling hook. Sometimes you're just standing an inch too close or too far from something to have the controls do what you want them to do.  Sure, to an extent this is what we call a learning curve.  The controls take a bit of time getting used to.  But what we're getting used to is their quarks and their imperfections.

A game with good controls by no means feels and plays like another game with good controls.  Mainly because great controls are often predicated by the gameworld they live in.  This is why I feel the controls of games that strive for realism end up falling short. However a game like Super Mario 64 (or any of the Mario games really) have incredibly sharp and pinpoint controls.  This is one reason why Mario games made such a good transition into 3D and, quite frankly, are the some of best games the gaming industry has ever seen.  What you'll notice in Mario games is that the world itself is shaped around those controls, and vice-versa.  It's not a case of, let's create a magical place then later on figure out how to control Mario through that magical place.  It's a case of, this is what we want Mario to be able to do, now let's build the world around that. 

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That's some serious butt burn.

In Just Cause 2 where you're actually have to spend time getting used to these bonky controls, in Mario they feel natural and almost come as second-nature.  I remember when I first played Super MArio 64 I just ran around for an hour without going into the castle because the controls were that much fun to dick around with.  In Just Cause 2 the fun is not with the controls themselves but with the potential of what the controls can do.  A potential that costs much more fustration than its worth.

While realism ( a different type of realism than what games like Tomb Raider are going for) does play a part in a game like Dark Souls, the controls are kept simple and match the gameworld exceptionally well.  Yet at the same time they still have that "Mario" quality about them in the sense that it's interesting to just move your character and watch him/her swing a sword or whatever weapon you happen to be holding.  

As obvious as it sounds, controls for me are a big part of what makes a game or not.  Maybe this is why I tend to think simpler looking games are more pleasurable because the controls are better.  I'll take playing Mark of the Ninja over The Last of Us any day of the week.  I'll also take driving an M5 over my Toyota Corolla any day of the week.  Only if I could figure out a way to afford one.