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So Long Oldspot!

In a few hours we'll no longer be able to post new content here until the new site becomes live. Thought I'd post a short blog post commemorating the event. Especially since I've neglected the blog and this is my last chance at redemption.

In the case of GameSpot, change is always welcomed because at this point the current architecture of the site is a mess. Fuse splintered the community as well as the site into two, the unions literately acted as a gateway to the past with their old designs that harken another era, HTML never worked, and there was always a glitch around the corner earning GameSpot the portmanteau of "Glitchspot." There seems to be, however, many here who are hesitant of change and for good reason. Unions shall be spirited away and that short lived gamer social network Fuse is being gutted in favor for a more integrated system. To top it all off, we're also going to lose the long standing leveling system and the ability to download videos. Besides the removal of Fuse, I don't think the other changes were exactly planned by the technical staff, but they saw these removals necessary because they were not supported under the new engine. Essentially, the aspirations of the site developers has ultimately fallen through and it is now the users who have to suffer an inconsequential consequence of a "site restart" so to speak.

The site as it was a few days ago...

The new engine that GameSpot shall be transferring to is nearly identical to the one that Giant Bomb uses (That's because they're the same); and this wouldn't be the first time that GameSpot has borrowed from another one of CBS' properties. With that said, what some feel is ultimately lost by the change is GameSpot's originality (Though I'd argue that functionality is a more preferable option at this point). The number of users threatening insincere departures is on the rise because of the change. Leaving is everyone's prerogative, however, if you're not here you're not going to be able to participate in the aftermath thus losing your (and others) capacity to change the site in your favor.

GameSpot is more than simply aesthetics, coding, and content. GameSpot is a vibrant community and home to some great staff members. Staff members who want to be liked and to appease everybody; but know its an unreasonable goal. One cannot be interesting to everyone forever. Sure, there may be some things that the community should have a voice in, but we're in no way entitled to anything here because the bills are footed by the people up top and thus power ultimately stems from them; this is a privately owned enterprise. As long as the community remains the same, a large audience continues to come, and everything works (better than what is currently set up now), I couldn't ask for much else. I may want improvements or have personal peeves about the new site design, but as we've seen, GameSpot is dynamic and ever changing and as long as one remains here they have the capacity to change it.

Sundering Games From Disks

Video games, all day everyday, thanks to the power of the internet. What took a trip to the store now takes a few clicks and some downloading. From PSN to iTunes, electronic entertainment that was once brought to us via disk and other hardware is now beginning to be ushered in by the web. We're connected to the internet and corporations have done more than enough to capitalize on this fact. This has brought freedoms to the consumer as well as the market itself. However, the frontier of digital distribution is still a lawless wild.

Having a look at some of the positive things digital distribution has done to the video game industry, we see a transformation in the way games are delivered to the consumer. Games are now available anywhere under the cape of the internet, meaning a wider audience of gamers who may not have otherwise had access to stores stocked with shelves of games.

The lack of manufacturing, delivering, and an actual physical product saves space, is cleaner for the environment, and much cheaper and video game errors which would normally break the game can now be patched up remotely. We also have the longevity of game titles being expanded as new content that can now be downloaded into the game itself, and publishers are exploring new ways of allowing gamers to play games for basically nothing. Additionally, independently developing your own game is somewhat of a more feasible task, thanks to the lower costs and almost instantaneous advertising, granted you can go viral with your product. With all these benefits, the capitalist leviathan has slowly introduced the internet to video games and it’s been a good time for all. Nonetheless, difficulties lurk in the shadows.

Jumping into the fray here, we have a topic of hot controversy. In 2011, Sony was victim to a cyber attack which resulted in millions of customers’ accounts that were potentially compromised; the attack also resulted in the downtime of Sony’s network which lasted for weeks on end. These kinds of attacks continued with several other companies. The question was thus brought onto the consumer: Do you want the convenience of having your personal information and banking information stored for easy access, or do you want maximum security?

As Identity theft and piracy become more commonplace online, companies wanting to protect their investment are starting to come down on their customers. All this makes known the potential of abuse that digital distribution has brought to the corporations as well as the consumers.

Rumors are circulating about the next generation of consoles and the unprecedented restrictions that are being built into the systems; such as making it impossible to play used games on any other particular console than the one it was first played on. Companies now are looking for remedies because of the problem “used games sales” brought to the video game publishers. Simply put, profit made from used games goes entirely to the used game sellers, leaving video game publishes out of the cash loop. Are we content with giving companies control over your purchases, after they leave their stores?

Another new commodity of digital distribution that was previously mentioned is known as Downloadable content (DLC). DLC has been used to expand replayability, profit, and essentially allow video games to potentially be produced without ever being actually finished. This is subject to controversy, as DLC isn’t an entirely evil concept. However, people still clamor over not wanting their wallets to be frisked by the multitude of DLC available.

Disregarding the ills listed above, digital distribution of media has provided a great amount of potential and shouldn’t necessarily be discouraged; it is still something that is relatively new to the world of video games which is in need of proper direction. The market has been running through an interesting transition which can turn out to be bad or good for the industry as a whole. Ultimately, it’ll be the consumers’ wants and wallet that basically determines what happens next.

The Complexity of Modern Games

A few days ago, I finished up playing the newly released title: Deus ex: Human Evolution. The game has you assume the role of a corporate chief of security named Adam Jensen. The corporation he happens to be working for goes by the name of Sarif Industries, which specializes in the manufacturing of human enhancement technology called augmentations. These augmentations give human's extraordinary abilities akin to what a comic book super hero might have. Adam Jensen involuntarily finds himself in a situation where he has to forfeit his natural body in order to receive augmentations, which ultimately is for saving his life. The game focuses on a dystopian view of the world in which the ethics of human advancement through the use of science and technology is shrouded in a great deal of ambiguity and uncertainty; world governments wildly use technology to monitor and control the population and regulate these augments which are now widely dispersed among everyday citizens. Throughout the game, you are presented with a considerable amount of choices, some ranging from the point of entry into a building you decide to go with, to what your ideological views are of augmentations in general. The game itself was fairly amusing, but I noticed a kind of trend that was appearing more often in some of the games these days, especially western games. The fact that the choices are becoming complex, more open ended, and how the goal of the game isn't always clearly defined. I've seen games in the past that had similar engaging stories, but they mostly required you, the gamer, to take on a more passive role and to just sit and watch the events unfold.

I didn't ask

This was especially true with a lot of the games I played back when I was younger. Most were pretty simplistic in their story telling and pretty much had the "save the princess, save the world" scenario where you weren't forced to make any kind of a decision and you definably weren't bothered to question the morality of saving the princess. It was just the right thing to do to win the game. It seems like as video games have since matured, more games are starting to become complex and we're now coming to the point where gamers are directly involved in the events of the game's realm, for better or worse. Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and the other games of the Elder Scrolls series are another good example. Basically, from the point of inauguration into the game, you decide what you want to do and where you want to go. The world which the player interacts in is gigantic and it's all a giant sandbox for the player to explore and play; you also don't have to adhere to the main plot, you're essentially unleashed to do as you see fit. This type of opened ended sandbox type gameplay is what a lot of gamers have become accustomed to, some even demand it. I'm sure that some aspect of this is good marketing, as you can create a game with a ambiguous ending thus allowing you to make another sequel that is as successful . We've been seeing sequel, upon sequel these days. However, some of this could just be a desire for something different, something that goes beyond normal; Something which a lot of other forms of art and entertainment strive for. Like with what you see in older movies, they weren't as complex in their meaning as some of the newer films can be, but eventually you started to get titles that were thought provoking and dealt with issues that we face everyday. Personally, I really do appreciate a game that is not just about the battle of good and evil as much as it is a game that explores the many different aspects of the human condition and that really challenges the player to reach within their own beliefs to determine what to do next. That may just be my opinion though, I tend to be a deep guy at times. With that said, I still occasionally like to just sit and play a simple game of Im the hero, watch me save the day.

A Considerably Cool Game List of Opinionated Proportions

Remember playing a game which genuinely captivated you? Perhaps it was a game which featured a particular character that filled you with inspiration, or a story that kept manipulating you to play for an hour more. For whatever reason you may have committed yourself to, the fact is that everybody has a special game or group of games that have left some kind of an impression on them. Well, here is a list of a few games which I thought were really great, mind you, they're not listed in any particular order.
Robopon
Title: Robopon Publisher: Atlus System: Game Boy Color Year released: 2000 I was a lot younger when I picked up this seemly random Pokémon rip-off of a game, but at the time I considered this to be better than Pokémon. I really don't have anything to say with regards to why I thought it was better than Pokémon other than the fact that I liked robots; I guess that's all that really needs to be said. However, nowadays I still consider this game great simply because of its underdog status and all the neat features the game came with, despite not being the most original of games, but hell, I had fun with it. What's interesting about this game is its odd cartridge size. It was a lot larger than most other Game boy color cartridges because it hosted an infrared panel on the top which pretty much allowed you to use an everyday remote control to open special chests or boost a Robopon's stats. The game also had an internal clock and speaker feature which was used for timed events. Some of the events in the game would only be available at certain times (Like the school's lights would only be out after 8:00PM) and once an event was available, a short chime would play though your cartridge's speaker. That may sound annoying, but not many events were actually set to occur within a specific time and your also provided the option to turn off the chime.
Phoenix Wright
Title: Ace Attorney: Phoenix Wright Publisher: Capcom System: Nintendo DS Year released: 2005 Ah, Phoenix Wright games, such gems in my collection. I seriously enjoyed the series and its take in the realm of exaggerated court dramas. The characters are memorable, the musical score was awesome, the dialogue was funny, and the action was plenty, courtroom action that is. Being able to pull a turnabout with a disaster of a case felt brilliant, all with the help of spirit medium abilities that your partner conveniently possesses. This game was suggested to me by a friend who also let me borrow her copy. It was thanks her that I was able to discover this game. I've purchased and played all the other titles since. So, I guess Capcom has her to thank.
Final fantasy Tactics
Title: Final Fantasy Tactics Publisher: Square System: PlayStation Year released: 1998 This is a strategy role playing game with a pretty involved and intricate story. One of the main reasons why I enjoyed this game was because the story really pulled me in. The story basically was about a hero of noble birth named Ramza Belouve who fought against corruption and abuse within the governing body and against the Church as well. His actions eventually lead him to be considered one of the worst villains in history, despite him being the true hero. The gameplay was also what made this game great. Basically it was akin to chess, in the respect that all characters move about on a gridded board and each take turns moving and attacking. Except with this game you had to also worry about elevation, footing, equipment, magic, etc... stuff that isn't exactly found in a typical chess game.
Bomberman 64
Title: Bomberman 64 Publisher: Hudson Soft System: Nintendo 64 Year released: 1997 I have a particular story to tell about how I stumbled upon this game. I was at the grocery store renting a game and the game I had chosen was supposedly titled "Mischief Makers." I went home to play it only to find out that it was actually Bomberman 64, nonetheless it was a game I had never played before then and it was a good mistake. Bomberman 64 was the first game in the series that I played and it was what got me hooked on the Bomberman series. Since then, Bomberman has become one of my most beloved video game character and I've played a majority of his games on various platforms. Unfortunately that there hasn't been any good Bomberman games released recently. Like many of the other old characters of today, Bomberman's core gameplay has become stale to many gamers and those who make the game are having trouble keeping Bomberman relevant with gamers today.
Tales of Symphonia
Title: Tales of Symphonia Publisher: Namco System: GameCube Year released: 2004 The "Tales of" series certainly has rolled out with some pretty good games, I have two of their titles on this list. Seeing as that is the case, they obviously have me sold. What made this game unique for me was the fact that you could connect other controllers into the system which gave other players control over the other characters during battle. So naturally, I buddied up with a couple other people and assumed the fighting role of Genis Sage, who if you didn't know, is my favorite person in the game. I really felt that this game had an enjoyable story. Most of the focus of the story was around the different races and how they dealt with each other. The main theme of the game was subtlety about racism and how everybody had to find a way to live together in a world split. I have to admit, my eyes watered up a bit when seeing the ending of this game, manly tears of course.
Streambot Chronicles
Title: Streambot chronicles Publisher: Atlus System: PlayStation 2 Year released: 2006 Battling mechs that are powered by steam while performing in small band in your free time may seem like a crazy concept for a game, but that particular combination made for a fun game. I've been a bit of a steampunk myself, so that influenced me too. This game has a lot of character which helped make it one of my most favorite titles for the PlayStation 2. The controls for moving around your mech took a little getting use to, but I had no problems and performing instruments essentially out like a rock band game. The nature of the game was standbox style, meaning that you could pretty much take the story and go in the direction you want and I like the freedom that a game like that gives you.
Hotel Dusk
Title: Hotel Dusk/Last Window Publisher: Nintnedo System: Nintendo DS Year released: 2007 I decided to throw in these two games together because they are very similar in gameplay; the game Last Window being a sequel to Hotel Dusk. Both games involve you playing a former detective Kyle Hyde who now is a door to door salesman. Anyway, throughout the games you find out that things are not as they appear and eventually you start to put together the puzzles and solve the mystery in each game. Kyle Hyde is a cynical bastard, but hes loveable as hell. I am very fond of point and click adventures, and this game was certainly my game. Going around, talking with the residents of the building and building relationships with each one and managing to solve their problems, digging around and finding clues, all of it just made for a memorable experience. Unfortunately, the developers Cing filed for bankruptcy awhile back and their last game, the Last Window never came to my area. I pretty much had to import it, but luckily the Nintendo DS is region lock free meaning you can pretty much play any game from anywhere. Going the extra mile definably was worth it though.
Tactics Ogre
Title: Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together Publisher: SquareEnix System: PlayStation portable Year released: 2011 This game was made by the same team that made Final Fantasy Tactics, so the games are pretty close in terms of gameplay. The story also seemed familiar, but it was an overall different experience than that of FFT. There was a lot of political intrigue in this game and a lot of choices that are forced upon you. What was really neat about this game was that the choices you made in the game significantly would change the story of the game and could possibly give you a different ending, so this game definably has replayability. This particular game that I played was actually a remake of the original game that came out for the Super Nintendo, so a lot of the game was reworked including the overall story. Personally, I didn't mind the changes because I thought it really polished the game into one of my favorite games for the PSP.
Tales of the Abyss
Title: Tales of the Abyss Publisher: Namco Bandai System: PlayStation 2 Year Released: 2006 The reasons I liked this game are, for the most part, the same for the other game I put on my list, Tales of Symphonia. One of the main improvements I liked about this game than Tales of Symphonia was the battle system. The new battle system was structured like the old one, but the camera focuses on all of the characters and the game also gives the player the ability to freely run around the field of battle. Like I did with Tales of Symphonia, I played with a few other people and participated in the battles. I took control of Jade Curtiss who was easily my favorite person in the game.

E3 2011: My impressions

E3 this year was a mixed bag of both good and bad. The video game market seems to be in this perpetual shift as several corporations compete with each other to win over the "casual" and "core" audiences. This trend was made apparent in the press conferences that Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo held this year at E3. As I watched each of their conferences, I noticed that they addressed their current issues more often than they actually showed off their current strengths. I'll just briefly go over each one and explain how I thought they were and what my expectations currently are: Microsoft: First to the plate was Microsoft. They introduced their big games and system changes early on, then quickly sank into pitching for their peripheral, the Kinect. With that and other instances of change, Microsoft has been trying hard to move from a "strictly business" type of company to a "social interactive" one. This has only alienated people who might have already been comfortable with the current paradigm and really cannot relate to the new changes coming for the more casual audience. Much of the ridicule for Microsoft's conference came from the childish nature of the games presented for the Kinect and just their general emphasis on the Kinect itself. The Kinect device tries to be innovative, but just looking at the demos provided during the conference, I wasn't really convinced; although, great fun was to be had at the employment of child actors and the facade they displayed while they tried out a demo of Disneyland Adventures.
fistbump
That alone overshadowed what the rest of the conference had to offer, but aside from that, there wasn't much new introduced in terms of new original video game franchises, but that problem wasn't only limited to Microsoft this year. At the end of the conference, Microsoft ended things with a new Halo 4 announcement, but this announcement was underwhelming for me as it had been leaked earlier on Xbox's website. Despite the mediocre conference Microsoft gave this year at E3, there are still plenty of interesting games that are to be released in the future, games that were not mentioned at the conference. Sony: I thought Sony's press conference was pretty strong, given the fact that the company had just suffered its biggest PR crisis to date, known as the PSN outage. The president/CEO of SCEA came out and immediately addressed the subject by issuing a formal apology. I thought it was very humbling and appropriate, despite already hearing an apology from just about every executive from Sony. After all the formalities were taken care of, Sony introduced a few of its big games for the year, mainly Uncharted 3, and Sony's continual drive for 3D entertainment was shown with the offering of a PlayStation TV bundle pack with a sweet price tag. The new television was particularly interesting because of its ability to allow two gamers to view completely different images, thus eliminating the need for split screen. That is probably the first time I've seen a real use for 3D, that at least interested me. A few games were introduced to garner up support for Sony's PlayStation Move, then they introduced their new framework, the PlayStation Suite. The PlayStation Suite seems to be an attempt to diversify and capture new audiences who have preferred gaming on their Mobile devices, or who have otherwise not involved themselves with handheld/console gaming. With that business taken care of, Sony thereafter sifted its focus to its new showpiece, the PlayStation Vita.
Vita
The PlayStation Vita looks to be a handheld with a lot of promise. The touch capabilities on the main screen may be a hindrance, as your hand glides over the screen and possibly obstruct your view, but it could work, given enough ingenuity. The main selling point here though was the price: there were two different prices, $249 for the wifi model, and $299 for the 3G model provided by AT&T. A pretty low price that matches the price of the 3DS. However, when AT&T was announced as the provider, a lot of audible sighs of disappointment prevailed throughout the room. Some people may not like AT&T because of past experiences with them, but I wasn't happy with the choice simply because AT&T isn't available in my area. Afterwards the Street Fighter producer came onto the stage and finished off the show by presenting his new Street Fighter vs. Tekken game. The conference overall made me feel a bit excited about what was in store for its handheld, but a lot of anticipated games were missing from the conference which left a lot of us wanting more. Nintendo: Lastly, comes Nintendo's conference. Out of all the conferences, Nintendo's personally made me feel the most comfortable and satisfied. I enjoyed the orchestrated Intro, celebrating The Legend of Zelda franchise's 25 anniversary. Furthermore, there was a lot of neat games introduced for the 3DS. On the other hand, the Wii got almost no attention. Perhaps merely a testament to the console's recent decline. Which hurts because recently I haven't had good reasons to pull out my console and play it once more. One of the main reasons why the Wii got no attention was because Nintendo was focused on an entirely new project. The president/CEO of Nintendo spoke of making an experience that would affect a wider audience. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why I felt satisfied with the Nintendo's conference, considering that Nintendo had already captured the casual audience, its main focus was now at getting the attention of the core audience. Nonetheless, Nintendo had finally unveiled its new console, the Wii U. The Wii U is Nintendo's attempt at capturing the entire market and it's a pretty risky gamble. The controller again, is what sets this apart from the rest of the consoles out there today. With its 6.2 inch touch screen, the Wii U's controller size is pretty formidable. By looking at the controller size and button placement, it almost seems awkward to hold. Still, there are many different ways to use the controller and if developers really take the time to cater their games towards this new controller then it could turn out to be a great asset that really adds to the experience. Nintendo's gamble here is whether or not third parties will jump on board, but many have already pledged their support for the new console. I believe that to be one of the strong points of the conference that left a lot of people surprised, the support of third parties on the Wii U.
Wii U
Nintendo's conference was pretty quick and to the point, so it ended almost an hour earlier then the others. They might have been able to use that time to introduce the Wii games that they left out of their conference, and they also left a lot of details out about the Wii U, such as the price. There is still a lot left for Nintendo to explain, and it'll have to do so in the months to come. To summarize, all three companies focused on their issues and paved the way for more customers. In some cases, it might have cost them a good conference. In others, it may have opened new opportunities. This year and the years before at E3 have shown how over the past few years the video game market has been transformed into something dynamic and ever changing. Perhaps the introduction of new audiences might lessen the experiences of those of us who are more acquainted to video games, but in the root of it all, it depends on what each of us is interested in. Quite the first entry, hopefully I'll be able to keep up with this. Thanks for reading!