A Layman Analysis of the 'Star Fox' Series
- Jan 19, 2010 10:16 pm GMT
- 106 Comments
Where is Star Fox Wii?
It seems that not a week goes by that someone, somewhere asks this question on one of the countless threads dedicated to Wii and it's software. Although this question seems to lose impact everytime it is asked, it still is (for a while longer at least) a valid question - however repetitive. After all, each system since the Super NES has had an entry into the series. The Gamecube even had two! There are now many Wii owners whose enthusiasm and anticipation for the series seems to be matched only by Nintendos silence on the topic. As far as I'm aware, there has been no meaningful announcement one way or the other as to whether this series has been 'put out to stud', as it were.
Can we learn anything from the previous releases?
As there have been no announcements on the series, I thought it would be neat to look back at the history of the games in order to both take a walk down memory lane, and to also see if there are any patterns or clues as to how Nintendo released these titles. Are any of the results conclusive? I'm not too sure. Am I just flogging a dead horse? Probably. But, at least I got a chance to make up some dorky charts and graphics.
Changing with the times...
In my view, if a game series fails to adapt to it's surroundings, it will mostly likely find itself either delayed repeatedly, delayed indefinitely, or cancelled outright. We've all seen titles come and go in all of these categories, but it's uncommon to see Nintendo (a company (too?) conscious of its heritage and legacy) succumb to these industry anomolies.
Is there something innate in the Star Fox series that put a use-by-date on the games? Has the industry and audience changed so much that Fox and co. are now an embarassment, or a laughing stock? To address these burning questions, I thought it might be worthwhile to compare each game's historical place and the features that each offered.
Here we see that the debut title is relatively light on 'features', but anyone who has played this game will tell you it is a fantastic step forward in 3D gaming while still being fun to play.
Critics seem to agree that this is where the series peaked. Exceptional control, graphics, level-design and replay value make this title a fan favourite. Notice the huge jump of in-game features - largely due to the increase in the '64s horse-power as compared to the Super Nes.
A radical depature in the series direction kind of distorts the integrity of my charts, but you can see that this title is the true black sheep in the family. While the series had gained momentum as a hectic 3D space shooter, this was a sort of re-packaging or 're-boot' of the game. I cant quite remember, but it must of been that open-world adventure games were more popular at the time...
The pendulum has swung back a little for 'Assault, we have a mix of both open world adventure and vehicular action. Players seem to agree that the Arwing sections of the game were superior to the on-foot stages - the real downer is that the game was about half/half. Notice the sort of mix of in-game features?
I've often thought that hand-held systems are where console games go to die - just as washed up Hollywood stars end up on late night TV. Besides that, this game was simultaneously a depature and a slight return to form. Fox the General commands the arwing squadron via the stylus. Sadly, the levels lacked any real imagination, and went for more realistic landscapes and environments. No moving blocks, asteroid fields, metropolises or giant mechanical bosses. But check out the features that this game has! It is by far the most well-rounded, but is it too little too late?
- For a Star Fox game to be great, it doesn't seem to need to be too complicated. The '64 release has no core concept that the original game did not already provide. It was simply a clever extension on a working idea. I see that in the charts above, current technologies do not always improve the series.
- The lesson learned from 'Assault is that significant Arwing sections are necessary but not sufficient for a successful experience. 'Command is solely Arwing, but the level design is sparse and fairly passive.
- Furthermore, it can be seen that if there is a new Fox game, it is most probably going to be packed with features (unless of course the genre changes yet again, and we're faced with a Star Fox RTS and puzzle game hybrid)...
The Timeline Nobody Asked For...
Are there any clues in the release dates in the series? Are we even due for a new game, or are we hopelessly, irrecovably overdue?
The longest distance between two releases was between the '64 and the 'Cube games. A five year span seperated these titles, and an even bigger distance in terms of game content/genre. If we take that as the maximum delay between games, can we then argue that 2011 will see a new release? Or is treating the DS title as true release just hopeless wish-thinking? If that is the case (and please don't laugh!), we are due for a game this year.
The Thin Green Line...
Alright, so do we even want a new Star Fox game? What if we track the critical reception of the releases, is there any indication that the series will return? I can't see that happening myself. Why? Well take a look...
The green line tracks the critical reception of each title as noted by GameRankings. As mentioned earlier, the '64 release seems to easily hold the crown as the premier Star Fox experience, and then we see a steady decline right up until the release of 'Command. But, even with all of it's features, legacy and genre mostly to itself, 'Command scored a 75%. To my mind, it seems like a big ask to reverse the trend of that green line in a single release. If you consider that the game has not existed as new content on televisions for half a decade, and the last time it did it under-performed, I don't see a particularly bright future for the series.
But this is one of the things I hope I'm wrong about...
Game Game Rankings Star Fox 86% Star Fox 64 90% Star Fox Adventures 80% Star Fox: Assault 71% Star Fox Command 75%
Kiddie Games Make Gamers Act Like Kids
- Jan 15, 2010 9:38 pm GMT
- 170 Comments
Kiddie games, these days there are those that hate them and those that will also point out that supposedly mature games are not very mature in nature, taking adult themes and presenting them in a very primitive way as if this is some sort of great crime against the gaming industry. But growing up I know the sort of games I played. When Soldier of Fortune came out I was ten years old. It was one of the best games I'd played up until that point. It was violent, and most importantly, it was over the top. Children like things that are over the top (I did anyway) how many of your favourite cartoons or shows that you liked as a child have you gone back and thought was incredibly corny or hammy, or any other sort of food variety that people apply to artistic endeavour?
I mean, I still enjoy them. Anyway I'm rambling a bit here. This blog isn't really about how games aren't really damaging to kids (I mean I think we can all agree I turned out pretty badly) it's that all of a sudden we're acting as if children don't play Modern Warfare 2. Well we're acting like that when discussing that its airport level was removed from the Russian version of the game, while at the very same time on another forum in another topic we're complaining about all the obnoxious 13 year old kids going around shouting the f and n words through their headsets when we play.
And while we try and smile proudly over the fact that most games are young adult males, we are somewhat ignoring our own gaming roots. One thing I've observed about gamers (with absolutely no statistics to back this up) is that their tastes usually don't change a whole lot. Most hardcore FPSer fans I know have always loved FPSers—and that means maybe playing Turok on the N64 when they were ten, or Quake when they were six.
Developers and publishers aren't idiots (mostly anyway). They know that there'll be kids playing Modern Warfare—it's a huge market that they can tap into—and they know that they need to appeal to them. The airport scene just adds to the appeal to children. It's something they shouldn't be playing—something that might disturb them—might turn them into some homicidal maniac. What on earth could be cooler? I mean crack sounds fun, but It's $250 an ounce, and Modern Warfare 2 is $60—err, $90 on Steam. Still a better deal, and besides crack did weird things to Auntie Jeanine. What kid in their right mind wouldn't want to play it?
Yet what films do kids loves? Err, apart from Twilight, High School Musical and Toy Story, that is. I know I personally liked Die Hard and The Rock and no one batted an eyelid when I watched them, but no, my favourite was Akira. I saw a scene or two of it at a video store—people were mutating, lasers were cutting peoples arms of. It was, in a word, FREAKING-AWESOME! No one cared when I saw it in full, yet I remember (despite being a few years older) the store clerk giving my mother a few disapproving looks and words of warning when she was with me and I bought Soldier of Fortune.
This guy was a gamer (this was in the days before EB Games was populated by blond surfer chicks to keep the guys entertained, and the footie mums happy) and he was looking at me disapprovingly. This was after Columbine. Us gamers had already been put through a lot of hateful accusations by the mainstream media, and here was a gamer himself doing this to me and my mother! Well thanks a lot jerk, I hope your store goes out of business. Which it did. Thank you GameStop! Actually, maybe it was because of Columbine that he looked at me suspiciously. I could've had a gun concealed in my nappy.
So why on earth is this? Why do gamers ourselves who have to put up with a lot of crap from people who cannot tell the difference between killing someone in game and killing them in real life, do this to our own people? Do we do it all just to look good to the media? "While video games don't have negative effects, we still wouldn't dream of giving our children violent video games!" Are we really going to step down into the tepid depths of hypocrisy to gain acceptance. I say we let Nintendo do the work for us. They're doing a great job so far. Gamers should stick together. (Except for Wii fans, they should be excluded).
Why waste our time and energy trying to claim that going on a rampage is anything but a deliciously immature thing to do? Why waste our time and energy pandering to the media saying that these games are clearly designed and marketed to adults?
Let the disapproval and peer pressure be stuck in System Wars, not in telling parents what to do with their children—children who they're denying a wonderful childhood experience that they themselves probably had. Even if the pixels of blood were a little bigger. Leave the unrelenting parental 'advice' and moralizing where it belongs: in the media and at the hands of all fear mongerers. I just want to blow some bastards up, and I have ever since I became a gamer.*
Maybe I'm wrong, though, and putting too much store in the comments on the internet (like this one, so feel free to get moralizing!). Feel free to tell me if I am!
*In game that is of course!
Is The Future DLC-Only?
- Jan 14, 2010 12:44 pm GMT
- 193 Comments
I've got a lazy bone or two, but I go to the gym three days a week. I park in the outskirts of lots to avoid shopping carriages and idiots who ding your doors. And I'll take a flight of stairs instead of an elevator or escalator when I can. So why am I so averse to getting up to change a game disk in my console when I want to play a different game? I don't have to get up to change the TV channel anymore. Maybe training your cat to swap disks for you is the solution. Or perhaps DLC is the answer.
Downloadable games from XBOX Live or the Playstation Network reside on your console's hard drive. When you want to play them, you select it from your dashboard and play away. No disks to juggle and no cases to store on a shelf. With the XBOX 360's option to upload a game to the hard drive, you'd think you could avoid having to insert the disk any time you wanted to play that game. But no… due to piracy concerns, the disk must be inserted, lest you rent a pile of games, upload them, and wind up with a complete library without having purchased anything.
You do have to admit that keeping disks is a bit of a hassle. They take up space. They can become dirty or scratched, preventing them from playing correctly. They can be lost or stolen. And they require you to get up from the couch when you want to play something different. Okay, that last one is a bit of a stretch. Unless you have trained cats.
But there are advantages to having physical media as well, such as the ability to trade, borrow, sell or buy used copies of games. Right now I'm borrowing a friend's copy of Fallout 3, since I want to play all the DLC, but traded in my copy about a year ago. (However, my friend had to buy this used copy of Fallout 3 after his kids knocked over his XBOX while playing it, causing his original new disk to become damaged beyond repair!) So right there in a single example, I've pointed out some pros and cons to physical media.
With this latest generation of consoles, and on the PC as well, there is an increasing amount of content that can be purchased via direct download. Not just the "small" arcade games, but full games once sold at retail, such as Microsoft's "Games on Demand" program. The PSP Go has eschewed the physical media altogether for download-only software. And look at the iPhone, Blackberry, Android and other handheld devices… everything is downloadable only.
There are many good reasons to embrace this new model of distribution. First: It's convenient. Want a game at 2AM on a holiday? Sure, no problem. You won't find many retailers open at that hour. Plus, you get instant gratification without the need to travel to a retail store. Second, you often have the security of knowing it can't be lost. Even if you delete the game from your device, you can re-download it at no cost, since you own a license to that game.
But there are detriments as well. Digital rights policies can be restrictive, causing annoyances if you replace your console. Downloaded software isn't portable, meaning you can't bring it to a friend's house to play on his machine. And once you purchase it, there is no way to return, trade-in, or sell your games. On top of that, the pricing schemes of DLC often provides no benefit over a physical copy of the same software, despite the fact that there is no physical medium to produce, ship and sell with a middleman's profit.
However, I'm going to make a prediction: The next generation of gaming systems will be downloadable content only, or will heavily favor DLC over physical media. We're already seeing that trend begin with many new games offering DLC expansions and bonus content, DLC-only arcade games, and downloadable re-releases of classic or best selling games. Who's going to benefit from this new age of distribution? Will it be the gamers or the developers? I think gamers will see some benefits (see my points above), but the real winners will be the console makers and developers. The losers will be the traditional retail outlets.
Face it, Microsoft, Sony, et al want to make as much profit as they can. When 100% of the sales of software are funneled through them, they make the maximum amount of money. Right now, every game that is traded in and resold as used, lent to a friend, or rented is lost sale for them. The console maker doesn't get their cut of the new game sale, and the software developers don't make profit from those units to help fund future projects. So it's only natural that the developers and the console makers want every person to play the game to have paid them for it.
That doesn't necessarily mean the end for consumers. Unless you are a pirate, you are already paying for every game you play. Wouldn't you rather see your money go towards the people who make your games (and hardware) to help fund the future of gaming instead of lining the pockets of those who have no influence on the games you play at all? On the other hand, consumers don't want to be ripped off when forced to buy downloadable content.
I've blogged about the "broken" economy of DLC before. When it is cheaper to buy a retail disk version of a game than to download the very same software, something is wrong. When a 4 year old Live Arcade game costs the same today as it did 4 years ago, something is wrong. An example I've used in the past was Forza Motorsport 2. You could buy the Platinum edition for about $20 which included all the DLC that was released for the game. Or you could spend about $23 just to download the same DLC content, plus still need to own the original game!
What about the retailers? Gamestop is the 800 pound gorilla of video game sellers, and they would be hit doubly hard if all games went download-only. Not only would they have no physical games to sell anymore, but they would lose a large chunk of their profit in the sale of used games. Though there is no love lost with me if they lost the used game market, since they rip off gamers by paying peanuts for used games then turn around and sell them for near-new price. I think the only way a company like Gamestop would survive is if they could sell download codes for games, much like the MS Points or Live subscription cards they already sell, or if they became a portal for downloadable content.
There are a lot of variables when considering a change from one distribution method to another. Who ultimately benefits from a migration to download-only software remains to be seen clearly. Consumers don't seem to mind iPhone, Blackberry or Android phones where the only way to get software is via DLC. And we all know the huge success the MP3 format has had in music downloads. But can this same level of consumer satisfaction be realized in the gaming console market?
I, personally, would embrace and endorse download-only games for my consoles only if the following were to be true:
· Reduced prices – since there are no disks or packaging to manufacture, there is no physical product to ship or warehouse, and there are no distributers or retailers to take a cut of the profit, the price of a downloadable game should be lower than what we pay now for the traditional product.
· Price reductions over time – retail prices of games drop over time as they age. People don't still pay $60 for COD4 today when Modern Warfare 2 is sold for that price. So there is no reason old DLC games should be the same price they were the day they premiered. DLC needs to drop in price at the same rate disk-based games do. Without price reductions, budget gamers would never be able to buy games.
· Promotional pricing – It's not uncommon to find retailers selling brand new games for 10% off or more. To encourage sales, the DLC should have promotional pricing, such as offering 10% off a brand new game if you purchase it the first week of release.
· Returns – Sometimes mistakes happen and you purchase DLC you don't really want. There should be a grace period of a few hours or even day or two to allow you to delete the DLC and garner a full refund.
· Rentals – Not everyone wants to spend $60 on a new game, or even $20-40 on an older game. Gamers should be allowed to rent the use of a game for a specific period of time for a small dollar amount. After which time, the game no longer works unless additional play time is purchased.
· Giftability – Not everyone who buys games buy it for themselves. Sometimes the buyer doesn't even own the device necessary to purchase or play the software. Provisions need to be made to allow anyone to purchase the software and give it to anyone else.
· Phony money – Microsoft is the biggest culprit here. Carnivals used the scam of making you buy 5 tickets at a time, but the ride cost 3 tickets to go on. Inevitably, some tickets would go unused and the carnival made more money off you than they should have. Microsoft Points are no different. DLC should be purchased with the legal tender used in the country the buyer is located in. Or, the buyer should be allowed to buy exactly the number of points they need.
· Trade-In value – Many gamers never play a game again once they finish it. Unlike an MP3 which may be listened to for years to come. Gamers should be allowed to delete a game from their library and gain a credit towards additional purchases. There is no "used" game being sold to someone else which would bypass profit for the console or developer. But goodwill would be fostered towards gamers, and encourage them to purchase additional titles. Many gamers rely on the money they get on trades to fund new game purchases.
I'm not against the DLC-only future which seems so inevitable. But I'm not sure I'm ready for it either. Developers and console makers need to tread carefully, without cramming this new distribution method down our throats. Instead, I'm hoping the steps taken in this migration to DLC-only benefit both the consumer and the companies. After all, MP3's did not bring the end of the music industry like the record labels feared. You can still go out and buy a CD today. And I don't mind the DLC-only format on my iPhone, so I am encouraged that life could be just as easy on future gaming systems.
Here's to not having to get up from the couch in the future. Well… unless you need to go pee, or out in the sun once in a while.
The Evolution of Tanya
- Jan 12, 2010 5:09 pm GMT
- 56 Comments
The Command and Conquer: Red Alert series has always been known for its live action cutscenes that employed a decent amount of cheese factor. However the only reoccurring and memorable character was Tanya Adams, the American commando who stuck to the tried and true action flick stereotype of tough but beautiful. As the series progressed, the actress playing Tanya was new with each game. In a way, the changes of this character mirror the changes of the series as a whole.
The first Tanya appeared when Hollywood still wasn't even aware of the existence of full motion video in games , so the entire cast was made up of unknowns. Played by Lynne Litteer, the character immediately made it clear that she was the only one (besides the player themselves) that could actually get anything done. While all others were content to stay back at headquarters in their fancy uniforms, Tanya was always in the field leading the charge, as well as having a few actual FMV action scenes. Lynne set the tone for the allied campaign and cemented Tanya's place in the history of female video game characters.
With the immense success of the first Red Alert, Westwood had a much bigger budget and decided to go with a more popular actress for the role of Tanya in their second game . Fresh from television fame, Kari Wührer was an excellent choice. Already experienced with the military tough girl persona from her Sliders character of Captain Maggie Beckett, she certainly fit the role quite well, but came across at times as a bit too hot for front line combat. Apparently, even though bombs and gunfire were almost constant, there was still plenty of time for her to put on tons of make-up and keep her eyebrows waxed to perfection. Although she was absolutely stunning, I never doubted for a second that she could beat the crap out of someone.
With the recent Red Alert 3 , EA (who had purchased Westwood around the release of RA2) went straight for the 'well known hottie' in their choice of Jenny McCarthy, and I personally felt this was a terrible decision. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing but respect for Jenny's conversion from Playboy Playmate to dedicated mother of an autistic child. However, she just isn't a convincing commando and didn't fit the role at all. He hair wasn't even dyed brunette like the past Tanya characters. It was almost as if the main goal of her character was to say, "Look, I'm Jenny McCarthy!" which caused the series to lose respect.
The progress of Tanya from a believable badass to sex icon echoes the changes of the series as a whole. It began as a respectable spinoff of the Command and Conquer series that should certainly be considered one of the cIassics. Today, it is simply an over-the-top, unbelievable war game that embraces the 'sex sells' credo far more than it should (the cover of the box has a scantly clad female Russian soldier who doesn't even appear in the game) and allows all other aspects to suffer as a result. Unless some serious changes are made with the next entry, Red Alert's former days of glory will be lost forever.
Video games vs. The Movies
- Jan 12, 2010 6:12 am GMT
- 68 Comments
Gamers have been the victims of prejudice for years now, often being labeled as childish geeks who lack "a life". They're often portrayed as glasses-toting, curly-haired, freckled-faced, acne-loving kids who would rather play a game of GTA than hang out with their friends, whose existence is often doubted by others as well.
In some cases, that's true. We've heard stories of people who, over the course of a year, have accumulated over 4,000 hours of World of Warcraft experience. We've heard stories of people who sold their virtual loots for actual cash. We've heard stories of people who popped the question to other people behind their videogame avatars, and we've heard stories of people who Counter-Struck themselves to death, having not eaten, drunk or slept for over a hundred hours of playing a game.
Being a gamer myself, I find myself, like many other gamers, enjoying the company of my friends, the taste of a good Guinness, the sound of music and many other in- and outdoors activities. I play guitar, read books and draw, and I also have a job. You know, being 22 requires that you start adjusting to life.
When I have some free time, I still often find myself firing up a game and, more often than not, having a blast playing it. I've been gaming for about 17 years now across several platforms, and I can't see myself stopping. Why's that?
When I was encouraged to "stop playing games and go see a movie or soemthing", a discussion with a non-gamer friend ensued, and the inevitable comparision between games and movies popped up. Can games and movies really be compared? No, not really, as games have the person actively take actions within the medium of entertainment whereas movies are for your passive pleasure. I, of course, lumped at the opportunity to defend gaming against numerous insults, and have productively come up with a few reasons as to why I think videogames are a preferable entertainment medium to films.
Videogames aren't too cheap today, at least when they're new. With prices going up to and over $60 a piece, they're definitely not the poor man's choice, whereas going to see a movie takes less cash out of your wallet. So where's the question here? Movies are obviously cheaper.
Not at all.
More Bang for the Buck
See, cheap is a relative term. You cannot really say that buying a car for $10,000 is equal to buying a bicycle for $5000. It's a question of how much efficient use you get out of what you buy. Let's say you're going out for a movie, and you end up spending a total of $30, including gas/bus ticket, food and beverages. You get a great two or three hours' worth of entertainment but that's pretty much it. Now let's say you buy Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 for your Xbox 360 for $60. You will get about the same amount of single-player content, but multiplayer will keep you coming back for more and more until you haven't realized you've clocked in over a hundred hours of enjoyable playtime. So you pay twice as much for something that gives you over thirty times the hours of enjoyment.
Some may say that this is all well and dandy, but what about single-player games that offer 10 hours' (or less) worth of gameplay? Are they still worth that much?
Well no, not at first when and if they're sold at a full price, but within today's market price drops come rather fast, and by delaying your purchase you don't degrade your experience as you would by purchasing James Cameron's Avatar on DVD without the ability to fully absorb the spectacles only possible with unique 3D glasses. It'll play the same, look the same and sound the same on your preferred system whether it was purchased on day one or six months after release.
Yeah but you have to spend a few hundred bucks on consoles (and a proper LCD for them too!) or a PC!
Right, and if you want to enjoy a film properly at home you also need to buy a big-ass LCD and other forms of home-theater equipment such as great wooden surround speakers, a receiver and a Blu-Ray player. Movies on DVD may be cheaper than videogames even relatively when you buy them at your local store, but upon searching Internet sources such as eBay, Steam, D2D and British gamestore GAME, you might find used- or new copies of your wanted games for just as much money, giving you still, more bang for the buck.
Let us not forget that the videogame industry makes more money than the film industry, even with piracy rates breaking records every year. I'm not sure whether or not there are more games sold than film tickets, though, so the question of popularity is interesting, albeit irrelevant to the topic.
It's all relative!
They're more accessible
There's no question whatsoever as to the accessibility of games. You no longer have to physically go to the store to purchase your games, you can order them via mail (as you can with DVDs) or, alternatively, buy them online to download and start playing immediately, a service available (to some extent, of course) on all three of the major platforms, the PC (D2D, Steam, Xfire store), Xbox 360 (Xbox Live!) and PS3 (PSN). The advantages of the digital market create a win-win situation for anyone who knows his way around the web - is there anything more user-friendly than filling out a form and downloading your new game to start playing immediately? Going out to the store to buy a physical copy not only costs more, but is also of course more of a hassle. The only risk you take is, what if someone hijacks your Steam account? Play your cards right and that won't happen. Be careful as you would with any other password-protected online service and you can create an entire gaming library from your livingroom.
Steam. It's easy to use, it's effective, and it's convenient.
It's a socailly active hobby
Many online gaming services offer people the chance to acquaint themselves with other people who share their love of videogames. By adding people to your PSN, Xbox Live!, Xfire or Steam accounts, you can chat with them and share your stats, achievements and favorite game servers online. Playing with a friend is always nicer than playing with strangers, and over time those people may actually become your actual friends. There's no difference between getting to know a person through Xfire than getting to know them on Facebook, so you might as well do what you love to do on the fly.
But you can also socialize at the movies!
That is correct, my friend. In fact, I'm one of the believers that the best way to meet new people is to actually step out the door and look for them at public places such as the movies, pubs and clubs. Going to a pub and talking to people face-to-face will always be better than chatting with them while backstabbing Heavies, though this is still more expensive than playing a videogame. Is going to the local pub, to me, better than playing a game? Most definitely. Is playing a game better than watching a movie? Most definitely.
It's more active entertainment!
That is my main reason for finding games ultimately superior to movies. Movies are passive entertainment - you sit tight and watch a story unfold in front of you. Games, however, are active entertainment, where YOU are the one who fires that gun at that alien and YOU are the one who dies if a wrong step has been taken. It's just that much more absorbing and immersive, and with such appliances as the Wii-more and the upcoming Project Natal, with which you're physically controlling your character, the options are immense.
On the other hand, with the advancements made by three-dimensional cinema, movies can become a real spctacle, and I'll use the same Avatar example I used earlier - you can't enjoy this movie unless you see it in 3D, and in that case, it's absolutely astonishing. But wouldn't it be that much more fun to step into Jake Sully's shoes and ride that Turuk yourself? Getting to explore Pandora at your own pace and taking the time to smell the roses?
Project Natal. Physically controlling your games, or sitting in a chair and looking at a screen?
In the end, though, it's really a question of what you enjoy doing more. While it's pretty much a fact that games have a longer life than movies, and they often offer more content for your cash, a person who dislikes video games won't be convinced of the advantages of buying a game. As for me, I just wait a bit for the price to drop, and then I drop the cash on several more hours of fun from home, not bothering with the hassle of taking a bus or driving to the movies. Of course going to see a movie once in a while is very fun and good, but it's eventually a relatively pricy night out that, in most cases, I'd rather do without, instead opting to have a beer with my friends at the local pub. No amount of gaming in the world could replace that, but yeah, I'd take a night of gaming over seeing most overpriced movies at the cinema any day, and it appears I'm not alone.
Irrational Consumption and Games Journalism
- Jan 11, 2010 9:28 am GMT
- 158 Comments
Let's face it; video game journalism is in decline. You can turn the other cheek and pretend that all is well, but you wouldn't be doing anyone a favour. Quality is lacking and we can all see it. You can see it in the news section where misinformation is as common as fact, and you can see it in the reviews section as well. Somebody somewhere needs to stand up and spell out the word change. It's a short word. It has but two syllables. But its echoes can be heard far away down the road. It's just a matter of time. If change doesn't occur from the inside, something from the outside will one day force it upon the incumbents, inevitably. The seeds have already been sown.
So why am I writing this? Where did I get the bug? Two things prompted me to express myself this day.
1) I was studying consumer theory (or choice theory) and I came to the realization that a consumer that buys only top-rated games (Editor's Choice, Game of the Year, etc) is an irrational consumer. (More on this in the body of the article.)
2) I stumbled upon an interesting article about game journalism and the race against quality. I encourage you all to read the article, the whole thing too! It can be found here.
The article eventually explains why video game websites tend to have low quality content. There is a conflict of interest whereby a website behaves as to cover as much as possible before other websites do. The video game websites are essentially spitting out content as fast as they can in order to attract readers first and hence attract a larger total of readers. Fast content comes at price, of course, and I hope I don't have to spell it out.
Here is a short passage taken directly from the above linked article, verbatim:
Whilst much of the vitriol is borne out of conspiracy theory and blown out of proportion, some of the skeptical feelings are arguably not without justification. It's rather extreme to claim that publications are in the pockets of greedy publishers, but a much more viable threat to the quality and reliability of reviews is the culture fostered between writers, their editors, and their advertisers that ostensibly requires reviews to appear so very quickly. This culture causes the time management of writers to be more dictated by inter-outlet competition, and less shaped by the realities that must be confronted to put together the informative reviews gamers increasingly demand.
Here's another one for good measure:
The real risk is when overzealous reviewers make brash, confident and unqualified judgments about games when the sheer pressure of time has resulted in their only having played the minority of a game. If the game in question is linear then the negative impact of this is magnified greatly.
Hopefully I have managed to wet your reading appetites. I once again urge you all to read the integral of the editorial, linked right here for your index finger's convenience. You're welcome .
Irrational consumption is what I call consumption behaviour that is not consistent with choice theory.
Choice theory is the study of how consumers behave and it is the basis of a big chunk of modern microeconomic theory. Now, if you assume that all consumers are rational decision makers that seek to maximize their well-being subject to budget, preference and taste constraints, then you can easily derive basic consumption notions. One such notion is the idea that gamers that buy top-rated video games (as determined by game journalists) don't normally maximize their well-being. This can be seen by simply going back to our realistic assumption. Gamers want to play games that they enjoy personally according to their own preferences and tastes; they don't necessarily want to spend all their money on all the games that other people liked. The fact that a certain game website praised game X does not mean that Johnny Lookforgame will enjoy it too. The numerical appraisal of a game's quality is arbitrary and rarely helpful to the consumer.
So, what I'm trying to say here is simply that gamers that only buy top-rated games are irrational consumers. This is not meant to be an insult, so don't take it as one if you fit that description. Irrational consumers do eventually correct their mistakes, especially if their budgets do not offer much room for preference miscalculations! A few bad experiences are all it takes to realize that you should stop listening to game journalists and start choosing your games more intelligently.
And it all fits together so nicely doesn't it? The low quality nature of game reviews published under insane time constraints imposed by the management departments of the game websites trying to get the most out of their advertisement contracts is having a negative impact on the consumer's well-being. If a consumer takes the game reviews too seriously and lets them dictate his consumption choices then he will generally be made worse off then if he followed his trusty nose so to speak.
This is how, one by one, gamers are conditioned to bypass the video game websites and the game journalists that run them. There is a slow and steady migration away from these game-centric websites occurring right this moment. It has been going on for months, maybe even years. Slowly, advertising revenue is declining and game websites will have to cut costs. Content will continue to suffer, of course, as low revenue affects quality of content. If nothing is done to reverse this trend, the future will not be pleasant for these websites.
This is why I propose change. Now, any business that wants to be successful on the long-run needs to understand the most basic and fundamental rule: your job is to create a customer. If you're not doing everything you can to create customers and eventually maintain them, then you're simply digging your own grave. Game-centric websites need to realize that their job is to serve a customer; in this case the customer is a gamer that is searching for information about a video game. If the site's content is not satisfactory, the gamer will go somewhere else. Site content needs to be informative, intelligent, honest, respectful of all types of gamers and deeper than say: "Game X is for the hardcore! It has sublime production values!" Game journalists must dig deeper and take as much time as it takes to produce quality content that best serves the customer. Now, this is likely to be as much of a poor management issue as it is a poor journalism issue, but all parties must adjust their behaviour in order to succeed.
A few simple adjustments could be:
1) Either focusing on just one console or treating all consoles equally.
2) Offering broad coverage that can appeal to all types of gamers.
3) Explain in depth why a certain game is chosen as Editor's Choice.
4) Numerical scores should no longer be used as a gauge for a reviewer's personal appraisal of a game.
5) Instead, the scores should be simply used to inform the consumer about possible technical flaws the game might have such as: bugs, crashes, long loading times, lack of content, bad difficulty pacing etc. In other words, the score should just communicate to the reader whether or not the game is fundamentally broken one way or another.
Now, there are many paths to success, but if your income depends on the number of readers that visit your website you should at least try and treat your readers as paying customers.
FINAL WORDS (EDIT 1)
It seems I have thrown a rock at a bees nest...
I was actually going to add some sections to my article and make it more clear, but now I see there is no way to satisfy a nest of excited bees. I admit that the word "irrational", the way I defined it, and the way I used it was wrong. Yes, that I admit. I don't feel it is worth my time at the moment to explain my point of view anymore, because obviously there is much resistance over here to that kind of thing. I read all the comments and considered them, responded to some of the more provocative ones, and really though about them seriously.
But I see no reason to waste anymore of my time trying to sell my idea to people that downthumbed every single thing I wrote in the comments section, including the post were I only said this:
"I'll try to respond to as much as I can. I've been away for most of the day so I didn't have a chance until now. I'll most likely just add whatever I have to say to the bottom of the article."
How somebody took offense to THAT is beyond comprehension.
My article may be garbage, but at least I got a debate going.
Even though most of the debate is just people calling me stupid.
Thoughts on GOTY
- Jan 6, 2010 1:53 pm GMT
- 24 Comments
A site posting GOTY is almost always in for some serious ridicule. It is impossible to pick a single game that will please every single gamer in the world. Hell, it's fairly improbable that 1/4 of them could narrow it down to less than five. Many sites take the easy way out and make the award a popularity contest, but I am quite glad to see that Gamespot has not.
Though I haven't played Demon's Souls yet, I have heard nothing but how revolutionary it is (well, that and the crushing difficulty). Everyone says it is unlike anything you have played before. What other contender for the award could claim this? The next closest competition would probably have been Uncharted 2. This title may have been an absolutely amazing experience, but is it really anything more than an incredibly refined and polished Tomb Raider? The basic gamplay mechanics are relatively unchanged and pretty graphics can only carry the game so far. Eventually, I felt myself saying "I've done this before." I don't mean to imply it doesn't deserve all the praise it's getting. I would rate it around 9.5 or so, but I don't feel it should define the year in gaming.
Calling for Modern Warfare 2 is even worse. Just because a game sells well does not mean it represents the best of the year. The set-pieces may have been bigger, but the plot was far worse and the mulitplayer was basically the same with new maps. As with Uncharted 2, I'm not knocking this game's review scores, as I myself put a few hours into it about every other night. I simply don't feel it represents the best of the best.
The above examples beg the question, "Should a sequel ever be up for GOTY?" Sure, if they do something completely new, but when has that happened? Most sequels are merely tweaked versions of the original, carrying over animations, graphics, weapons, characters, and most other aspects. Rewarding rehashed aspects isn't a good message to be sending to developers. Why would they ever try anything new if the ultimate goal of any game, a GOTY award, will be earned with the same stuff they did last year?
Not having played Demon's Souls, my personal choice for GOTY is Borderlands. It takes two genres never blended so seamlessly before and wraps it around a game that is just plain fun. Not only is it unlike anything I've played before, but it is also the first game that I continued playing after getting every single achievement. Sure, it wasn't perfect. The graphics could have been better, environments more detailed, and a few glitches snuck into the original retail version. However, nothing else this year that I have played has moved the industry in a new direction, which I feel should be the main goal of any game released. It's for this reason that I whole-heartedly support Gamespot's decision to go with a less popular but more unique title.
Review Writing Phrases That Get My Goat! (Part 3)
- Dec 29, 2009 4:00 am GMT
- 107 Comments
As a fervent reader (and writer) of video-game reviews, I can't help but see certain patterns emerging in this (admittedly) developing art. Professional journalists are not immune to criticism (as anyone who's ever visited an author's blog might attest), so I've added them into the mix and you'll see that in one case, they are the worst offenders of all!
Sites that do not allow reader review submissions seem incomplete to me, as if they encourage a seperation of opinion between industry and consumer. This is a micro cla$$ system that I feel is bad for all interested in games and game-reporting. I hope to read and write about games decades into the future - even when cybernetic simulants play and opinionate onour behalf.
So, never take these three items as discouragement (I know you've all got thicker skins than that anyhow), but more as a (hopefully) humorous poke at one of my favourite areas in game reporting. Here are three more phrases that cheese me off:
Messaging other players in your review
What does it mean? Using review headings/summaries as a message board
Where do I see it? Using your review as a message system is a peculiar but not uncommon choice among reader reviews. Sure, as listed in my earlier piece, senseless and unfair 0.0 ratings applied to your favourite game is an affront. But to post a review with such terms as "To all those who rated this game low...", or "Don't listen to the haters!", or "You are all a bunch of N00bs" may be tempting, but it surely belongs in another arena. The review article is certainly supposed to be personal, but it's not supposed to be PERSONAL - (if you get my meaning).
(Links to such articles supplied by request!)
Some messages should stay bottled-up.
What does it mean? A review that is based on an impression or incomplete experience with a game
Where do I see it? The reader reviews that are the most baffling are those based on a mere scrap of time with the game. Of course, these reviewers will never admit it, and I cannot actually prove it, but I think we can all read between the lines of these premature pieces. Games journalists (typically) have the decency to annouce that their time is an impression or hands-on, but to post a review based on 5 minutes of demo-play at "Ye Olde Game Shoppe", or an unforgetable night of play courtesy of Blockbuster is, at best, a disservice to those looking for informed opinion. At worst, these lightweight reviews may cost impressionable readers actual money!
(Links to such articles supplied by request!)
"The game felt incomplete, somehow"
"Best Game EVER"
What does it mean? The author has made a enormous claim
Where do I see it? Thankfully, less and less. We all may have some idea of what game deserves this ludicrous title (what, for instance, is the best food in the world?), but to declare this mantle is surely asking for trouble. Carl Sagan said that "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence"; so to make such a far-out claim about the game is gonna' mean a lot of explaining to your peer-group! I'm sorry, but two more paragraphs of ill-arranged praise won't do. Rather, please present a current report with govermental studies, double-blind testing with control groups, economic reporting and collation, stock market figures with informed extrapolation, and a broad, multi-demographic survey campaign. These are merely the first places you shoud start. I now await this data to be posted by those users making such claims...
(Of course, after you've made those inquiries, you'll be gunning for your PhD, not gunning for your Halo 3 achievement).
International Law says that in such debates, SHIRT beats NO-SHIRT
Those gripes that I could not expand on could fill another article themselves, but due to my (and Gamespot readers') patience, I chose to list them quickly here:
"Franchise" - I know it's technically correct, but to use this business term when referring to Halo, Mario, or even Hamsterz only conjures thoughts of Burger King, PIZZA HUT and SUBWAY to me. Also, is it really a franchise if there are no franchisees?
"Hype" - Using this term (my article included) only gives this over-used word more credence.
"To summarise..." - This is for those readers (whomever they are) who need clear announcements every step of the review. (See Part 1)
Holiday Quiz Madness: Final Fantasy Fighting Music
- Dec 22, 2009 11:09 am GMT
- 36 Comments
Nobuo Uematsu has long been one of my favorite videogame music composers, ever since I played my first "proper" Final Fantasy game in 1991 (that being Final Fantasy II on the Super NES, more appropriately known nowadays as Final Fantasy IV). Through over ten iterations of Final Fantasy, Uematsu has evolved his style while keeping certain trademarks alive.
Of his works, it's quite likely that the most recognizable tunes Uematsu has composed are the themes that play when players are forced into battle. Well, duh: With a standard battle theme for each game, it's the piece of music most repeated throughout a player's experience. Well, that and whatever standard theme exists for an overworld map.
Seeing as I have recently re-integrated myself into the world of Final Fantasy for the sake of studying VIII's junction system, I thought I'd kick off the upcoming holiday by bringing back the little music quizzes I used to do. This one, as I've telegraphed above, involves the battle themes from the first nine iterations of Final Fantasy. As such, it won't be quite that difficult; after all, these are some of the more recognizable tunes in franchise history. But who wants to break a sweat during a holiday? It's a time for fun and relaxation, so it's probably best not to start off with something maddeningly difficult. (I'll save that for Saturday.)
With that, allons y! Follow the link to the youTube video and keep this window open to leave your answers / guesses in the comments.
(Sadly, the Gamespot video uploader doesn't want to cooperate, so I'll have to refer you to the version I uploaded on youTube for the time being. Please bear with it--I'll try to upload another version soon if I can figure out why the one I've been trying to upload keeps failing to encode.)
The MLG & EA Connection: Why Competitive Gaming Is In Good Hands.
- Dec 21, 2009 5:16 pm GMT
- 0 Comments
My first blog post here at Gamespot dealt with competitive gaming and e-sports. Recently, I attended an event that made me want to revisit this topic.A few weeks ago, I attended the MLG Event in Anaheim. True, I have attended virtually every California event MLG has had since they formed back in 2003. But, this event was different as it was the first West Coast event that showcased the recent collaboration between MLG and EA. Having mulled things over for a few weeks now, I wanted to write about this event because I really feel that competitive gaming is on solid footing and the promise of continued growth of e-sports is very promising.
I feel quite qualified to comment on this because of my direct involvement with MLG for many years now and my indirect involvement with EA through my either running or being involved in Madden and NCAA football leagues for almost as long. For the better part of 6 years I have felt very strongly that a collaborative effort between the premier competitive gaming league in the world and, arguably, the biggest developer of competitive games anywhere seemed like a natural fit. Perhaps too natural as EA did not make this union an easy one for MLG to accomplish. Having acquired the exclusive NFL license, EA was none too eager to let anyone not physically branded with an EA logo too close to their flagship game.
Several months ago, things changed and this natural union came to fruition. For someone like me, MLG Anaheim was a dream event come to life. Why? Well, ponder this for a moment. Since 2003, MLG has perfected the art of how to turn multiplayer FPS games into an actual sporting event. Personally, I think if not for MLG, the Halo series would not be as popular as it is. For about as long, EA has perfected the art of how to host Madden tournaments. The annual Madden Challenge had become a rather huge event in it's own right. Though MLG specialized in Halo and EA excelled at Madden, both companies were quite adept at other games too. MLG got proficient with Gears, Rainbow Six Vegas, and even WoW. EA was hosting NBA Live Events and Fight Night events all over the place. Both companies knew what they were doing and they each did it well. Put them together and the possibility of something really special was quite real.
And that is precisely what we got in Anaheim. First some East Coast bias from a former resident of DC who has called California home for almost two decades now. Would turnout for this event have been better in say NYC or DC or Philly? I believe so. Was the turnout in Anaheim really poor? Not really. Turnout is always an issue with the West Coast events. Regardless, you have to look at the event on it's own merits and once you do that you begin to realize how unique and progressive the event was. Why do I say that? Because of the fact that this was the first event I had been to where the biggest games in gaming were all being played under one roof...at the same time. Consider this for a minute. You had people playing Halo 3, Madden '10, World of Warcraft, Fight Night Round 4, NBA Live 10, and Gears of War 2 all at the same time, all at the same venue, and all at the highest level possible! That is a tremendous accomplishment, whether you buy into e-sports being a truly legitimate sporting event or not. What was even better was seeing some of the cross-over that was taking place. People who usually only play shooters were wandering over to the EA section to check out the sports games. Meanwhile, Madden junkies would mill around and check out what Halo and Gears were all about. Add to that MLG's top notch event production and you couldn't help but leave the event thinking that competitive gaming was going in the right direction.
There is little doubt that MLG and EA knew what they were doing when they decided to join forces. I have no doubt that the continued combination of MLG and EA will be successful. For what its worth, though, here are my suggestions as to how to make these events even better and to, in my humble opinion, break down the few remaining doors to having e-sports go truly mainstream:
1. EA needs to figure out a way to make Madden a bit more sim based. I don't expect them to eliminate money plays and things like that. But when everyone is running toss plays and screens all game long, it really takes away some of the excitement and makes it much harder for the the average viewer to suspend their disbelief.
2. EA needs to add NHL '10 to the circuit. NBA Live '10 is a fine game, but that too was really nothing more than people running alley-oop plays ad nauseum. There is a reason why the NHL series has been so successful the last few years. Yes, the NBA is a more popular sport than the NHL in the USA...but NHL '10 is a vastly superior game.
3. MLG and EA need to get a competitive Wii game on the circuit. True, that is easier said than done because the words "good, competitive, game" and "Wii" are not all that synonymous. Still, there has to be a way to tap into the immense popularity of the Wii and attract that fan base over to the world of competitive gaming. Perhaps the Conduit is a good choice. Or maybe Mario Kart Wii. Or maybe a game will be released in the near future that accomplishes this. Whatever the case, I think both companies would be wise to keep an eye on a solid Wii title to add to the circuit.
4. MLG needs to add a solid racing game to the circuit and Forza 3 or NFS Shift would make an excellent addition to the competition. In the early days of MLG, Gran Tursimo 3 was a mainstay of competition. I feel a solid racing title would add a valuable component to the Pro Circuit.
5. MLG needs to get a 2nd PC title to legitimize the PC Circuit. WoW is a great game, no doubt. But, if you don't know how to play, watching the WoW competition is like watching a foreign film without sub-titles. There are some great PC games out there that could be added to the mix that would really strengthen and expand the PC Circuit. Counterstrike seems like the most obvious choice for now. When Starcraft 2 finally drops, MLG would be very wise to take advantage of that title and get it into the PC Circuit as soon as they can.
6. MLG needs a good fighting game back on the docket. When MLG went through its big rise to popularity a couple of years ago, the inclusion of Super Smash Bros. Melee was a big reason for that. Now, certainly I don't advocate adding Smash Bros. Brawl to the lineup as it is not comparable to SSBM. But, there are some really excellent fighting games out there that could be added to attract those fans, such as Street Fighter IV, Tekken 6, or even the under-appreciated Blaz Blue.
7. Lastly, MLG and EA should really ponder adding Rock Band or Guitar Hero to the show. Have we been flooded with too many music games as of late? Without question. Still, there is no denying the huge popularity of these two franchises. If done correctly, a Rock Band or Guitar Hero competition that rewards showmanship, in addition to raw score, would be something fun to see.
8. Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 really needs to be added as soon as possible.
As I said at the beginning, I think competitive gaming is in great hands with EA and MLG at the helm of the ship. The 8 suggestions I made are just observations I have made over the years (as well as things that have been told to me by others close to the competitive gaming industry) that I think would make the events into mega-events that the mainstream media, as well as casual gamers, would have to take notice of. I see a bright future for e-sports. In many ways, what I witnessed in Anaheim might only have been the tip of the iceberg.
Get Your Awesome Blogs Featured
Want to be spotlighted? We'll consider every GameSpot blog post marked with the category "editorial" for inclusion. Sound off!
- Last updated: Jan 1, 1970 12:00 am GMT