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Rotondi Blog

Games of Today

I was in the comments section of some article the other day and saw someone post something along the lines of, "Who needs next-gen when you have GTAV?"  Then someone quickly responded to that post with something like, "Because next-gen will make GTAV better". 

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The best games I've ever played in my life, I never once thought they could have been better if the developers had had more advanced technology to design them with.  What made them so special was how they used the technology that was available and made the perfect game for that technology.

Recently the guys behind Forza were talking about how the new Forza title is the game they've always wanted to make, but they never could because the technology (XBONE) wasn't there.  I mean sure, I bet all developers can think of a game they would ideally want to make if the technology was available.  Like a virtual gaming experience, where you physically play as Master Chief or something.  It's easy to have a big idea.  What's challenging is having the RIGHT idea. 

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So often have I played games where the developers strive for too much.  They want their games to do 500 things and cure cancer.  In the end their cool creative ideas don't fit with what they are physically capable of achieving.

Imagine computer hardware never improved after today.  Forever we are stuck with this generation graphics cards and CPU's and whatnot.  In this hypothetical scenario, I believe there are a lot of gamers who would think games could no longer improve.  However developers would be forced to sink both their boots into this generations technology and not have one foot in, and the other foot thinking to far into the future.    

I feel that games that leave an impression that they can be improved on when better technology becomes available aren't usually good games to begin with.  Next year's technology is irrelevant to the great games of today.  

 

 

 

 

Killing Fake Humans Still should Be Ringing Some Bells

I liked Yahtzee's Extra Punctuation this week (http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/columns/extra-punctuation/10467-Killing-is-Too-Easy).  Especially the questions he posed at the end:

"A saying I'm fond of is "Blame the audience, not the author". Rather than consider games full of killing to be in the wrong, here, I might invite you to consider what is wrong with our society that such games find a large audience. Why are we all so keen on death? "

To be more specific, Why are we all so keen on death of other humans no matter what situation the game puts us in?  Now, I'm not saying gaming needs to do away with killing.  I personally have no problems with slaying dragons, shooting zombies and machines or murdering anything that is basically "made-up" (sci-fi, fantasy, etc...).

Too many AAA developers are using this formula though, because games like Battlefield, Call of Duty, Bioshock Infinite, The LAst of Us, Grand Theft Auto (this list could go on) are so popular among gamers these days.  They have huge audiences.  And the main focus of these games is to kill other humans.  

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Yahztee said his big complaint with killing too many humans stems from an issue with storytelling.  Sure, I see his point.  But I think there's much more to it than that.  Why is killing hundreds of other human targets satisfying?  Why is it fun?  The next generation of consoles are on the horizon and the graphics are only going to get better.  What about the the next generation after that and games are pretty much life like, are these same large audiences going to continue loving these games that use human violence as their main objective?

Whatever I guess.  I've played my fairshare of these games.  Nowadays the idea of playing as a character who kills other humans (no matter the reason) is a gaming trope that's been beaten to oblivion. 

Bigger Is better, but not always

Take it from me.  Or don't take it from me.  I don't care.  The point is, I'm at work sitting around watching my co-worker do everything.  No, I'm not a manager.  Just a regular guy who games when he can.

The Division is not floating my boat.  People went crazy over that whole "shutting the door thing."  (If you don't know what I'm talking about, just watch the E3 video and you'll be caught up to speed and not think I'm a lunatic spitting cheese doodles anymore).  I'm not sure why this a major achievement.  I mean, I have a few guesses.  An animation like this has never been done before so we all get off on it.  But what does that actually mean?  It tells me that gamers just want games to look more like real-life.  

Is this the ultimate goal?  Is this what we're all waiting for?  The point where video game graphics and reality are indescernable?  Then what after that, I ask?  Virtual Reality?  Some rod that once inserted into our skull pulls into an alternate universe where there's some epic space battle going on?  At what point are we not even playing a video game anymore but something else?

Hardware improvements are tangible, and seem to make more sense to us.  The PS4 feels next-gen because it looks next gen.  The games look better.  There's more power in the box.  It's the obvious step to take.  When the Wii came out we didn't see the hardware improvements.  The games only looked slightly better to the Gamecube.  Likewise with the WiiU.  It doesn't compare power-wise to the XBone or PS4.  

What am I talking about?  On one hand we have two companies who are pushing forward by improving hardware.  The graphics are getting more "life-like," so the big developers design games by making them bigger and more beautiful then their last creation.  Take The Witcher 3 for instance, the developers are taking their last idea and just making it bigger and better.  Then what about The Witcher 4, I ask?  Will the Witcher 4 be 300 times as large?  What about GTA6?  I mean, how big do you want it?  Is bigger always better in this case?  

I'm not saying every developer is doing this.  I just think too many are thinking with hardware, large scale, epic stories and large cinemativs in mind, and not focusing on innovation and creativity.  I guess it makes sense because the latter two are the hardest to think of.  Gamers typically want to same experience, or at least one they're familiar with.  

This is why The Division is getting a lot of hype.  It's exactly what we've played, just on a much bigger scale.

I'm still sitting on my Office Chair

A lot of gamers are saying they'll buy a Nintendo WiiU when Metroid or Zelda get released for it.  Others are waiting for some third party games. Then there are those that would rather just see Nintendo fall into a pool of acid never to be heard of again, so that Sony can then just rule the gaming universe.

The Wii U World is slower than my dog when he runs his bum along the backyard.  A common reaction for us has just been to complain.  Either release the games or go home!  I think a lot of us have forgot that if you like Nintendo, even if it's just for a couple of games, it's probably a good idea to go support them and buy a Wii U.  If all of a sudden millions of gamers who were waiting on the new Zelda U went out and bought a Nintendo Wii U today then this would only help speed up matters and possibly even help get more third-party support.

Too Many Balls

I think major developers are trying to juggle too many balls. Theyre not the soft, plush ones either. In fact, they are not balls at all. More like flaming sticks or butcher knives. Actually, I dont even know if thats the right way to describe it. Maybe theyre just juggling a mix of those, like a tennis ball, a melon, a torch and a machete. When they mess up they got a burnt juggler or one without any fingers. So maybe they should just stick with only tennis balls until they know what theyre doing.

In The Last of Us we have a story that expands too much time and goes to too many locations. While all of this may have been deemed necessary by the writers for the sake of the plot, these same moves smothered chances of ever finding the appropriate kind of gameplay for the creative (and brilliant) apocalyptic world The Last of Us was set in.


It was strange to see The Last of Us span so much time because the way the setting and original scenario were set-up. Any one-day would have been more than suffice to fill an entire game. Instead we play moments that are broken apart by cut scenes, a black screen or words that tell us time has passed. Almost always I was more interested in the time we were skipping than where this silly (and predictable) tale of escorting Ely to the Fireflys was heading. Linear games become a lot more linear when you can actually see the end of the path, not to mention having a guide to walk you there as well.


I think Naughty Dog greatly underestimated the power of one day. A lot of random, awesome stuff could have happened to both of these characters in such a short period of time, especially when youre fighting for survival in the world theyre living in. When too much time goes by, gamers tend to push forward just for the sake of pushing forward and nothing related to the characters. We dont feel that were actually building on anything because more time has passed when were not playing then when were actually playing.

There are too many locations. Everything is just too spread out. We search, we push on to find the designated room of clickers or human targets, we push on to find some space to search again, we push on to find a cut scene, then a new place is upon us again. Sometimes its a different city or remote location, sometimes its just further down the road. Too many locations lead us to memory loss. Frankly, all the areas of The Last of Us are plain forgettable (except for oneIll get into this later) mainly because you just breeze through them so fast.


However I do recognize that I come from the opinion where density is king. One big building designed like an actual building where you can go in all the rooms, all the floors and is all ingeniously crafted and laid out according to the science and specifics behind The Last of Us apocalypse would have been a masterpiece in my mind. Heck, the plot could have been as simple as, get to the top of the building get Ely and bring her back down or something. All you have are the supplies in your backpack, use them wisely. There would have been such an attention to detail, making all the floors feel different through exploring the deadly nature of the infected. This means more types of infected enemies and more types of environmental hazards brought on by the infected.

I need to stop talking about The Last of Us..This blog is clearly unfinished. So I'll probably change the subject tomorrow.

The Last of Us: Walking the Beaten Path

What surprised me about The Last of Us was probably the most disappointing, yet again the gamer is forced to kill tons of human enemies. I didnt think this would be a factor at all. I knew that we probably would have to kill a few humans along the way. Whatever. Sometimes you got to do what you got to do. This is the end of the world we're talking here. But humans are not just an occasional enemy, they are everywhere and probably a more powerful force than the infected itself. Sure we can use stealth to limit some of kills we tally, although that doesn't change the fact the human enemies have been programmed to kill you. They want you dead, you just want to survive however you can.

For all the design work that went into The Last of Us, I feel Naughty Dog put the very least amount of effort into exploring what I found to be the most fascinating part of the game "The Infected" and way too much effort into developing their bleak, chaotic depiction of society after the infection hit. With more emphasis on the former, and far less emphasis on the latter Naughty Dog could have created a masterpiece, instead they end up walking the beaten path.

My guess is Naughty God's grand vision for multiplayer played a huge part in taking the game in this direction. The multiplayer could never have worked unless the story had humans who were extremely volatile and skeptical of each other, resulting in clans, factions and overall anarchy. Hence, TLOA Multiplayer. Even if it didn't, and this dark depiction of humans was thought of way before hand, the idea behind multiplayer would only have served to keep pushing the Last of Us in this trodden direction.

Upon finishing the Last of Us (Spoiler Free), it is clear that the ending was thought of early in the game's development. When writers think of a specific "end" before anything else, the events that happened before it are typically conveniently shaped and tailored to meet the requirements of that preconceived ending. When endings are thought of last (which they ought to be, but this does make for a less structured and arduous process for the development team) there is a much more natural feel to everything. It's harder to tell where a story is going and the overall story becomes more balanced. Big endings often take too much weight and gamers can see them coming a mile away, not necessarily with "how it's going to end", but "where it's going to end." The reason I bring this up is, for those of you familiar with the game's ending, know that it wouldn't have been made possible without the world that Naughty Dog created for The Last of Us.

Ok. I get it. I know Naughty Dog wasnt just making a game about killing humans for the heck of it. I know they were trying to send a deeper, cleverer message. For instance: In this infected world, the biggest threat isnt the infected itself but your fellow man. Wow, thats deep. But make the excuse as clever as you want, the game still uses humans as the main target. Naughty Dog made an excellent opportunity to step away from this, and they chose not to. Instead we have more guns. More violence. More thoughtless killing. More of the past.

Maybe Naughty is saving more infected for later. I dont know. But to me this should have been taken care of with the first installment. The idea of the infected should have allowed for the developers to let their imaginations run wild. It should have been the main focus. Create incredibly unique and puzzling enemy types. Its funny because at so many points in the Last of Us I was thinking, OkHere we go. Naughty Dog is going to throw something crazy new at us. Then nothing, just more clickers, more zombie like infected people, or just another group of humans, just more average, standard gameplay.

Jimmy doesn't have Internet, but he wants an XBONE.

Well my last blogpost backfired so let's try changing the topic, shall we?

One thing I've heard quite a few times is how the XBone having this "always on" feature may not affect gamers like us, gamers who have access to awesome internet speeds all the time, but gamers who don't. Gamers who either don't have internet all together or have really unrealiable internet for whatever reason. I've read many blogs and forum posts speaking up for these quote unquote unfortunate gamers, claiming that the XBone sucks and that what Microsoft is doing this time around is unfair. While I do tip my cap towards all these Gamespot users who are sticking up for this demographic, I also think they're taking this cause a little too far. And when I say a little too far I mean really, really too far.

Saying that the XBone affects gamers who don't have access to internet is like saying the television affects people who don't have access to cable. If you want to watch ESPN, not only do you need a television but you need cable. If you want to play the XBone, not only do you need the XBone but you need some internet to help it say hello to Microsoft servers once a day. In no way shape or form is Microsoft hurting anybody with this always-on feature.

Now. You may personally disagree with this feature on principle. You may think it's stupid. You may draw conclusions that Microsoft is up to more than just an always connected Xbox, for instance using an always on connection to make sure you're not playing used games for free, finding ways to sneak in DRM or spying on you in your underpants. And you may not buy an XBone because of all this. This is all cool.

But don't feel bad if you do decide to buy one some day and don't make other people feel bad for getting ready to buy one either. And certainly don't think it's robbing Jimmy and Stephanie, or the thousands of Jimmy's and Stephanie's, who live without adequate internet from a chance to play video games. This is not Microsoft's responsibility.

A Quick Fart on The Last of Us and Review Scores

I feel like in a few weeks Gamespot and its' users are going to find themselves in an awkward position (actually I don't think that these people will actually realize this fact, but anyway...). Soon, everyone will be getting their hands on the final version of The Last of Us.  Reviews of The Last of Us will come out and it will prbably get a 9.0, a 9.5 or 10.  A score which isn't very far from what everyone gave Bioshock Infinite a month or so beforehand.

The cool thing about a 10 point review rating system is that in theory it gives you a lot of numbers to work with.  Reviewers can easily space game scores apart appropriately, separting the crud from the average and the good from the must play titles.  In reality it doesn't work like this.  The biggest reason I think is how gamers view games that receive a score lower than 8.0 as being absolute junk.  As a result we get a lot of "good" games getting ratings of 8.5 and 9.0.  

The problem with this is, when an actual amazing game comes out, like The Last of Us, there's no way to adequetly separate it from the good games which got a high review score for the reason just mentioned.  Now, I know i'm not Mr. Perfect when it comes to giving out review scores either, but you don't need to be a professional to know that The Last of Us deserves a good chunk of separation from Bioshock Infinite.  With the way it looks now there's no way to do this.

 

 

 

Infinite

So I've been thinking about my harsh comments towards Infinite and wondering whether they're just or not. Mainly because I was thinking back to a day when video games excited me more than they do now. The days when my life was pretty boring. Going to school. Getting stoned. Eating Chips. Playing Need for Speed or something. And I know that the Mark of those days would have certianly given Bioshock Infinite a much higher score.

I played Infinite again last night to make sure I still felt the same way about it before ordering my roommate to send it back to GameFly's massive video game warehouse. It really is a shame to play a game you really want to like but can't. I still wonder whether it's my personality these days that keeps me from liking the game or is it that the game is just not as good as everyone says it is? I'm really not sure. Maybe Infinite is one of the better FPS we've seen in awhile.

But I can't escape the fact I got bored with it. And even as I replayed it again, I got bored again. For this reason I have to stick with my opinion.

I do have to say there is something I could change from my end. Changing how I play it. Meaning, play it on a PC when I get a gaming rig. Which I'll probably do. At that time I may have a change of mind.

Bioshock infinite step by step

My roommate has a PS3 and a gamefly account so lucky me, I get to review another game soon.   But while most of the titles I've reviewed in the past were short and sweet and small indie titles.  This will be my first review of a big juicy AAA game.  So these next few blog posts will just be sort of like notes to help me write the review.  Ya sure, I could write them down on a notepad but who the frig does that anymore?

- At the beginning I feel like you play as a begger.  You search garbage cans for loot, you steal junk off tables, eat loose apples and everybody ignores you.  Yes.  You pretty much are a beggar.

-There's a story going on but I could really care less because the people in this sky town are absolute idiots.

-Combat is horrible.  I mean, i'm not really a fan of the FPS genre anymore.  I used to be.  But now it's sort of lame.  Every FPS feels the same with some exceptions.  Bioshock infinite is not one of those exceptions.  The A.I just stands there and takes bullets in the chest.  Cover for a few seconds, pop up and shoot.  

-The colors are great.  I think the graphics are really sweet.  Though you really cant interract with anything, the floating platforms all look gorgeous.  Bright, happy yet strange and intriguing.  I'll play more because of this point here.  I might even finish it :P