angryfodder / Member

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angryfodder Blog

New Project

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A little while back I started blogging crap on the internet

craigdodson.wordpress.com

As of today, you can also find me blogging crap on the internet here as well:

http://visceralvideogames.wordpress.com

It's a new site, so could do with some love please. If you could find it in your hearts to check it out, and if you're on twitter, give:

@Wanzerdancer

A follow as well.  The site is going to contain all the important bits of gaming news.  Probably faster and more accurate than anywhere else on the internet.

The site has been up for less than 24 hours and we already have exclusive info on half life 3:

http://visceralvideogames.wordpress.com/2013/07/14/half-life-3-announced-for-ios/

The cloud:

http://visceralvideogames.wordpress.com/2013/07/15/the-power-of-the-cloud/

Kinect 2.0:

http://visceralvideogames.wordpress.com/2013/07/15/kinect-four/

and GTA V:

http://visceralvideogames.wordpress.com/2013/07/15/news-grand-theft-auto-5-to-feature-fully-interactive-world/

The benefits of an always online future

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With the next generation of gaming almost upon us, there have been many rumours as to what the future holds.  The most prevalent of  these rumours have focused on the suggestion of an always online dependency, which in turn have raised the idea of an end to optical media (and thus second hand sales).  The purpose of this blog is not to substantiate these rumours or, in looking at the potential benefits, suggest I relish the proposition of always online: Its merely to look at what benefits always online and download gaming could provide.

The drawback of a prepackaged physical product on the shelves is that it has to be an all encompassing solution.  All of its various components are bundled together and shipped at its recommended retail price a price that is a reflection off all that content.  What if you dont want all that content though?  That limited single product is not tailored to the desires of your various customers.  Some people will utilise everything that is on offer, whilst others are only interested in certain elements of the product.  To give you an example, I have friends that have sunk hundreds of hours into the Call of Duty series of games and yet, being fans of online multi-player, have never touched the campaign modes.  This of course works in the reverse: there are gamers that are only interested in the single player campaign and yet have effectively paid for an online component they wont ever use.

Online digital download removes many of the constraints that occur with a physical product.  It enables the publishers to slice and dice the content into chunks, making for a more versatile product.  This is a scenario that is beneficial to both the seller and the consumer.  The costs involved with hosting download servers and a front end market place are far less than that of producing and shipping physical copy.  The consumer should benefit from not only a reflectively reduced price because of this, but also the option to only buy  the segmentally priced content they desire.  It could be argued that publishers would lose out here, as they gain more from selling you a higher priced product whether you want all of it or not, than they do from selling you just the bits you do want, at a cheaper price.  Id suggest that the elimination of second hand sales and also disgruntled consumers who dont want to pay full price for merely a five hour campaign, would negate any of these loses.  There is also the benefit of product availability.  Retailers only have a limited amount of shelf space and need to be smart with their product ordering. They have to second guess the market, making sure they order in enough of what the consumer wants and as little dead wood as possible.  As a consumer, this means your local game shop may not have a copy of a game youre after, as the retailer didnt deem it worthy of the shelf space.  Online download eliminates this issue (as files can always be available on a server), with an added benefit of 24/7 opening hours.

So there are some clear mutual benefits around how the product is put to market, but what about the content of that product itself?  How can games, gaming and consequently gamers, benefit from being tied to always online?  Firstly, it means everyone will be forced into the existing benefits of online gaming.  Online social networking and interaction, the most up to date, patched content and bug fixes, news on the latest releases or up coming games and not to mention access to expanded media services like netflix.  Then there are the potential benefits that games could utilise by a constant connection.  Simulations aim to be as realistic as theoretically possible, using cleverly scripted code to produce a virtual reality.  What if some of that coded reality could be replaced with real time data?  Weather conditions in a simulation racing game could be as dynamic as the actual weather itself, calling in global atmospheric data as you race.  Day/night cycles could be reflective of those geographic locations at the time you are playing.  Imagine playing a game based in a location local to you and witnessing the synchronised sunsets both in game and through the window.

Graphics are an area that the industry has seen constant improvement over the years, leaving many gamers keen to see attentions turned to other aspects of gaming, like artificial intelligence.  How about actual intelligence?  Data, logging peoples actions, constantly being captured then stored in a database and then used to feed back into the AI, updating its behaviour based off those human actions.  Even the best examples of AI cant change the fact they are scripted, so running the variables off genuinely unscripted human actions could greatly improve the gameplay, bringing the thrill of the multi-player experience in the solo campaign.  This could potentially be applied to range of gaming genres.  Real time strategy games where you can no longer capitalise on patterns of AI behaviour.  First person shooters where the enemy is as smart and dangerous as you are, and no two enemies react the same.  Opponents in a driving game that dont feel like they are on rails and are just as prone to making mistakes as you are.  This variety of constantly changing AI means that replay value is vastly increased.  Each play-through, in fact each level, would feel and play differently each time its attempted.

These concepts are just the ideas I could think of, so I am sure there are many more.  Some may seem ambitious, but none are outside the bounds of reality or feasibility, and all of them are exciting additions that always online would make possible.

Innocence Lost

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This blog post exists purely because it was too long to tweet. Playing golden axe (Golden Axe II if I recall correctly) the other night I was ambushed by a sudden onset of strong emotions, brought on by the games music. It probably only lasted a matter of seconds, but one moment I was sitting there playing the game, the next I was pulled through an imaginary tear in reality back to another time and place. 10(ish) year old me was sitting in my friends bedroom with a megadrive controller in hand, like we often would at the weekend, playing some co-op. I was the dwarf, my friend the amazon (because of her devastating magic attack) and I could almost feel the warmth of the sun coming through his bedroom windows and smell the polish of his wooden floors, before the portal abruptly snapped shut and I was back in the present: my solitary dwarf character, standing axe in hand, waiting for my input.

Like me, i'm sure you all think back to times past, but this one was especially powerful and I am at a loss as to why? At a guess, it was because it happened so unexpectedly, almost unwillingly and because it seemed to instigate what could be described as middle aged crisis type thoughts to spark in my mind. I realised that, at 31 years of age, times I reminisce about are often now measured in not years, but decades. I was suddenly acutely aware of not how different life was now, but more of how simple and care free life was back then. A age of innocence that is lost to me forever, something i'll never be able to get back and it actually made me feel a little sad inside.

This is not to say that life is bad now, and of course for anything that has been "lost", new traits have been acquired (Stress, sleep deprivation and a burning desire to punch people in the face). There is no real moral or point to this story, but if there was one, it would be the age old cliche about: Those childhood and adolescent years are more important than you could ever realise at the time, so don't be in a hurry to put them behind you.

#1reasonwhy

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I am from Mars

One of the reasons I like to write blogs is that it enables me to try grasp the individual snippets of thought and opinion as they intermittently trigger in my mind, analyse them, filter them and attempt to formulate them to a piece of text that explains what I actually feel on the matter.

The thoughts are like pieces of the puzzle floating incoherently around in my head, and writing them down brings them together to form the overall picture. I might think I know what the picture is, but until I actually put the pieces together, I can't be sure.

Over the last couple of days it seems the issues around females and gaming have surfaced again which has sent the puzzle pieces into over drive, so I want to write a blog on the subject. However this is where it gets tricky, see I don't have boobs (actually, bad example (Its relaxed muscle!)). What I mean is, I'm not female and Im not sure I fully understand the problem. I don't mean to say its invalid, I literately mean I don't think I understand and maybe its not even 100% possible for a bloke to do so? I want to try though.

I've touched on the subject in general (here and here (which should give you some insight into my current mindset)) but I want to try and write something specifically on females and gaming. I want to get "the issue" straight in my head first though. I'm well versed on the points that have been brought up and Im not completely stupid* so I think I understand the nature of the complaints.

The way I see it there are three issues here (again, correct me if you feel differently) all probably connected. Firstly there is the portrayal of female characters in games, then there is the treatment/attitude towards women gamers (online for example) and most recently, the treatment of women working in the industry. I don't know how I put myself in the shoes of a female gamer though? The only way I can think to do it is to ask "what do women want?". What I mean by that is how, in your eyes do you envision the industry changing? I'm looking for low level, exact examples here if possible.

Some extra questions

1. What do you think of Lara Croft as a character?

2.Do you think women are verbally attacked online more than any other demographic?

3.The games industry is said to be male dominated (I have no stats) do you agree and if so, why do you think that is?

*opinion

WMD'S: Words of Mass Destruction

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As anyone that grew up playing Sensible Softwares "Cannon Fodder" will tell you, war has never been so much fun. Although that was back in 1993 and it would seem that may not be the case any more. A little while back I noticed that modern military shooters, in particular, Medal of Honor Warfighter, seemed to be taking some flak. The bigger picture was actually the ethical concerns surrounding the portrayal of the combat within this genre of games in general; so how come it was warfighter in peoples sights?

Going back to Cannon Fodder as an example, that is a GAME based on WAR. It depicts the act of killing people and turns it into a fun computer game, designed for entertainment. Killing, death and misery as a bases for entertainment. Yet no one seemed to really care and everyone enjoyed it? Admittedly this was a while back when games werent quite at the forefront of entertainment or in the lime light as they are today. However, I dont think this is the reason that people are complaining today. See Cannon Fodder may have been a game about war, but its moral compass was still relatively intact. You started with a handful of green recruits and that number could increase, should you successfully complete missions without losing too many men in the process. Should "Stoo" or one of your other soldiers meet their demise by catching a stray round or getting impaled on a hidden spike trap, they were dead. At the end of the mission an obituary rolls, listing your fallen comrades and tomb stones are added to the monument hill, featured at the games pre-mission screen. It manages to balance the act of creating a game that has the goal of being fun to play and yet doesnt neglect to hit home the more serious aspects of warfare. All the time, it never sold itself as anything other than a game.

I think this last point is the crux of the reason that these negative articles surrounding combat portrayal in modern games have zerod in on Medal of Honor warfighter. If you take a look at how the game sells itself, in the few lines of text listing the products key features, youll start to see a pattern; "Authentic Action" "real world events" "this years most authentic war experience".

When you offset those quotes against what you actually see in the game itself, you start to understand the complaint. This is a game where your AI buddies can only be killed during the scripted sequences when the game wants them to be killed. During the actual gameplay they can soak up endless rounds and shrapnel as if death holds no meaning for them. The character you play as may not be afforded quite the same luxury, but still isnt overly phased by being shot. You can also soak up rounds with alarming ease, returning fire whilst taking multiple hits, only to regenerate health a few seconds later. Although taking enough hits will eventually "kill" you, the penalty of death is simply a quick respawn to the last checkpoint. Does that sound like an "authentic war experience" to you?

When the executive producer was called out on the games lack of realism, the response was "we're not a realistic game.... its authentic , its absolutely authentic". If words are weapons, then that response is paramount to bringing a knife to a gun fight! Holding your hands up and saying "Hey, we never said it was realistic, we said it was authentic" is less than weak, its retarded. Now my personal opinion is that as games themselves are virtual reality and thus dont need to conform to realism (more on that here), so you dont need to defend them when they are not......unless it happens to be a major part of your sales strategy for said game. I dont care if you make a game where you play as flying super soldier that can fire lazer beams from his eyes and rockets out his arse. Just dont try to tell me its an "authetic war experience"

With Medal of honor warfighter they are clearly pushing the realism and authenticity angle to sell it, but they are selling lies. They are tugging on the heart strings, telling you the campaign is based on real soldiers stories, asking you to step into that soldiers boots and feel his plight. They are trying to use it as a platform to differentiate it from other shooters on the market, when the reality is, its just another generic action shooter that intentionally sacrifices realism and authenticity to make it a more commercially viable product.

My point here, in short, is do what you gotta do, but dont f*cking lie about it!

The rise of "PC" gaming

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I never used to relish the prospect of buying new underpants. Its not that I have either a phobia of underpant shopping or a fetish for going commando, I just harbour very little interest in shopping for pants. It was just another one of lifes somewhat arbitrary tasks that had to be done. These days though, the thought of shopping for underpants isnt such a dull proposal. See the place where I go to replace my burnt out tighty whities, is now also the place where I can go to checkout the latest game releases. Computer games are no longer restricted to dedicated home computer shops or specialist magazines. The rise in popularity of the computer game has seen it pushed right to the forefront of the entertainment market.

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Pants....made better by gaming

Having grown up with and been involved with gaming all my life, its become one of my greatest passions. Watching it transcend from its arcade roots and spearhead its way into the heart of home entertainment fills me with a strange sense of pride. I still remember the excitement I felt the very first time I saw a TV advert for a computer game and now these days you cant help but see game advertising at every turn. Its like the mainstream world is finally starting to understand what I have been banging on about all these years. Like I can finally stand up and say "I told you so!"

However with gaming being pushed into the limelight, it seems its also being put under the microscope. With the popularity and revenue growths have come the media coverage and journalism. Games and their content are now reviewed, analysed and dissected more than they ever have been in the past. Some of which, and usually the most disturbing for me, is from outside of the industry. Individuals with political correctness agendas have started to take an increased interest in the medium. Recently, feminist issues around both the portrayal and equality of female characters within games have been a point of contention.

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Stupid bint has been captured again....

I dont have an issue with people standing up for what they believe in. If anything, I respect it. But when you start trying to apply real life ethical issues, such as feminism, to the virtual reality of gaming, you fall off your high horse at the first hurdle. In being virtual reality, video games by their very nature dont have to adhere to the rules applied to real life. In fact this simple, fundamental element of video games is probably their biggest draw and something that all gamers are acutely aware of. We play games to break free of the constraints of real life and propel ourselves into a reality that is different, one that exists on a completely separate plateau to that of actual reality. To put it another way, they arent a real representation of life or are they trying to be. Feminist complaints hold little to no value in this virtual reality. In this reality I just spent five minutes doing doughnuts over apolicemans corpse. I only stopped so I could get out and teabag the bloody remains. I certainly didnt stop to weight up the political implications of why it was a policeman and not a policewoman or should that be police person?

gta3.jpg

Should something soo wrong, feel soo right?

Even if I do stop to give these complaints pause for thought, the outcome is far from sympathetic. If anything, I find myself becoming hostile. I dont have a problem with the issues themselves. My annoyance around these real life issues being aimed at the games industry is that they dont even stem from any desire to improve gaming. They are simply using gaming as a easy stepping-stone to further their own agendas, which is neither big nor clever. Far from improving gaming, binding game development to political correctness can only serve to restrict creativity and diversity within the industry.

If youre going to make any changes to games that involve females, dont do it for the sake of equality, do it for the sake of gaming. Do it for reasons like "Not having female characters in an Aliens game is stupid, the entire series is based around a female lead character" and not for reasons like "I've put a man in this game so I must now put a woman in it as well". Gaming has always been about extremes and unfortunately this doesnt always leave much room for ideals like equality.