Happy gaming guide
- Dec 18, 2009 5:22 pm GMT
- 16 Comments
For a gamer, there is no worse feeling than getting ripped off and ending up with a game you won't play after spending sixty bucks on it. This sort of thing should never happen. An unsatisfied customer is a customer that begins to be skeptical and careful about what he buys. After repeated negative experiences, the gamer becomes angry. Angry customers are not good for business and anger is no way to experience your favorite hobby. This is why I've decided to pass on some of the wisdom I have earned through many years of gaming. Seventeen years of gaming, my friends, has taught me to be careful and now I know what kinds of games I'll like. And yet I still get burned every once in awhile.
I will begin with a gross generalization which serves the purpose of making things simple and clear. There are three kinds of games as far as I'm concerned: consumption games, collection games and play-back games.
These games are designed to be played through once and then placed on the shelf never to be touched again. These are the games that are best rented right when they come out. You can spend a week-end completing them without any problems since they are usually short, and paced to be played for five or six sittings of two hours each. You can have a beer or a snack between sessions, go walk the dog and enjoy the sunset knowing that you didn't spend sixty dollars on this game that most likely fell short of your expectations. Come Monday morning, on your way to work or school, you can drop off the game at your local game rental store and smile boldly at the beautiful girl that works behind the counter. And all this cost you a fraction of what the publishers want you to pay. Hooray!
Often, people convince themselves that, despite the game being outrageously short; their money will be well spent because the game has an online multiplayer mode.
What, another copycat online multiplayer game that feels exactly the same as every other one on the market? This is worth sixty dollars? How many identical "death match" and "capture the flag" fiestas do you really need to own for the same platform anyway? If you want an online game, you should buy one that was exclusively designed to be the "be all end all" online experience, because otherwise you just end up with a shelf full of Call of Duty clones with identical online modes that you're already tired of because you've already experienced a shelf-full of them!
So beware of consumption games. They are analogous to buying a $60 movie ticket and then listening to teenagers spill profanities on the internet for a whole week. You can get all that for free!
How to spot a consumption game
Consumption games are the industry's favorite. Game developers love pretending to be brilliant Hollywood movie makers. They love to see scripted sequences in high definition and they adore cut-scenes, plot twists and large budgets.
These games are typically preceded by copious amounts of hype and teaser trailers that look more like Michael Bay movie trailers than video game demo videos. The game sells itself on graphical quality, an epic sound-track and a genius storyline that would make Shakespeare cry. I kid not!
Now, go to the store and pick the game up from the shelf and analyze the cover and the back. Look for giveaways like: "The cinematic experience of the year!", "For the Hardcore!" or "Biggest game ever!" If things look suspect, you should put the game back where you found it and look for something that isn't trying so hard to sell itself to you. Now it's time to go to GameStop and count the number of used copies on the shelf. If you're still unsure at this point, wait it out. If the price drops after a few months, then you know the game is of the consumption variety.
If these games are loved by the games industry, they are usually not so loved by gamers. Of course, it is entirely possible that you like these sorts of games, in which case you should just continue enjoying them. It's your money after all.
Examples of consumption games: James Cameron's Avatar: The Game, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, Halo 3 ODST.
These are the games that sit proudly on our shelves; the ones which have truly achieved something. Sometimes they are cult favorites, and sometimes they are just plain anomalies that should never have been released, and yet they are worth experiencing at least once for the novelty. Owning and displaying these masterpieces is more important than playing them. You would never even dream of trading these games in, for they are too precious to you. Every once in a while you will open one of the game cases to browse the manual, and sometimes you might even play it for a little while, but the memories are too fond; you don't want to taint them. Collectors spend more money on these things then they do on clothes. They actively search every store in town for that one title that escaped their attention when it came out, ashamed that they though it was just a consumption game! See how important it is to differentiate?! Spending a hundred dollars on a game that came out ten years ago can be worse than gambling on a new release.
How to spot a collection game
Game journalists often ignore these games when they come out, since they are too busy drooling over all the latest consumption games that the industry so generously supplies them with, free of charge. These games usually disappear from game stores within a couple of months and thereafter are never seen again. The best way to find these games is to read a diverse selection of random blogs and to keep a keen eye open and alert for bargain bins, for they hold many treasures worth collecting. Collection games tend to exhibit characteristics that are diametrically opposed to the ones exhibited by consumption games, even though both types end up on your shelves.
Examples of collection games: Little King's Story, Scribblenauts, Oddworld series.
The happiest gamers are those that know how to spot a game that they can play for hundreds of hours without getting bored. Play-back games usually contain arcade elements such as fast reflex demanding gameplay that's easy to pick up and play, but hard to master. These are the games you'll record yourself playing and post it on youtube. These masterpieces are so carefully crafted that each play through feels fresh even though the game itself hasn't changed a pixel. The gameplay is just plain timeless and the game contains as little fluff as possible. The more clutter you add, such as side quests and cut-scenes, the harder it is to come back to the game again. Designers that know how to make these games have long understood that you don't gauge a game's length in terms of how many hours it takes to complete the single player segment, but rather in terms of how long it takes you to "get full".
How to spot a play-back game
Playback games are usually the ones that retain their value at retail for the longest time. They also tend to stick around the top sellers charts for years on end. Sadly, they don't really make many play-back games nowadays…but the beauty of these games is that this does not matter since you can always just continue playing your old play-back games! These games are not very much liked by the games industry, unless they entail subscription fees, obviously.
Examples of play-back games: Super Mario Bros., Super Metroid, Unreal Tournament series, Diablo series.
Now as I said above, this is all a gross generalization and should be taken with a grain of salt. There is much cross-over between categories and one man's consumption game is another man's playback game. My aim was only to point out that budgets (time and money) are limited and we all want to make the most of what we have. The more you are aware of what kinds of games you're likely to play through a hundred times, the happier a gamer you will be, guaranteed. Similarly, knowing how to avoid buying consumption games can greatly improve your mood when it's time to pay the bills at the end of the month. Just don't let journalists and publishers tell you what games you like.
Addendum (EDIT 1, taken from the comments section)
I realize my post was pretty flawed and I didn't really explain very well. Now I have a much more clear idea of what I was trying to say, so here is the overall thesis of it all.
There are three game tiers:
Tier 3: Games that you play once and wish you could return or trade in. It's best to just rent these games.
Tier 2: Games that you buy and keep because they have intrinsic value to you. You want to collect them, and you feel that there is a chance you might return to them at some point in the future.
Tier 1: Games that you buy and keep AND play a lot. Games that you can't seem to tire of.
Now, rational gamers would like to maximize their happiness and minimize their expenditure.
Each game will fit in a different tier depending on the gamer. The game's tier is unobservable until the player actually plays the game and makes up his mind.
In order to maximize happiness (and in so doing also minimize expenditure) you must seek out the games that fit into the first tier for YOU. You can't decide for others.
Revisiting the Nemesis: The Final Fantasy VIII Logs (12-17-09)
- Dec 17, 2009 8:15 am GMT
- 51 Comments
Earlier in the week, I wrote about revisiting Final Fantasy VIII, a game I managed to loathe after my first run with it. Often I look back on things that were deemed quality experiences by others (this extends past videogames--movies, most notably Michael Mann's "Collateral"; music; books) and start to think about the things I missed. With Final Fantasy VIII, I realized that I never really explored the Junction system fully; this was mainly because I didn't "have" to, but I felt that perhaps I ended up missing the point. On the Sunday before I wrote that editorial, I had already initiated a new game, and I've made some cursory progress (thanks to my self-proclaimed, most likely WAY overblown ability to multitask) while battling a juxtaposition of insomnia and narcolepsy. (Neither diagnosis is clinical; in fact, I'm just a nutcase.)
(Before I even continue, I should point this out. Final Fantasy VIII is due out on the Playstation Network "soon." Now, I'm playing my dusty old CD of Final Fantasy VIII from September 9, 1999. Having it on my PSP would be so much more convenient, given how little time I actually have to sit down and play a console, and given how wretchedly annoying it is to lug consoles around with me as I travel for my job. This first Final Fantasy VIII Log entry may very well be the last one for quite a while; it all depends on when it appears on the Playstation Store. If its release date is within the next month or so, then I'll stop playing right now and wait for the download. If it doesn't come out until--say--March, then I will press on. Oh yes, I will press on.)
With that, here's my report thus far.
I'm about four hours into the game. I've just finished the SeeD exam portion, where Squall, Zell, Seifer and later Selphie move to stop the Galbadian advance into Dollet. I've spent most of my time drawing in battles, and in fact spent about ten minutes--while on a phone call for work in my hotel room, no less--drawing from this one poor hapless soldier until Squall and Zell had 100 units each of Fire, Blizzard and Thunder. (Screw Seifer--I literally did nothing with him.)
My focus is on taking a deep dive into junctioning and GF abilities. The first thing I aimed for after getting GF Boost for each of mY GFs was learning their refinement skills so that I could set about experimenting with that. Right now, there's not much I can do with regards to junctions since I only have Shiva, Ifrit, Siren and Quezacotl. Squall is the only one with an elemental junction (I've attached the 100 Fires he has to Attack), and across my characters I can really only junction to Attack Power and Spirit. However, I'm definitely anticipating the multitude of things I can do later on in the game when I've more attributes to which I can junction.
However fascinating junctions and GFs are to me, I can't help but be a little unsettled by how similar characters end up being so far. Bear in mind, the following is a generalization, I'm still very early on in the game, and I'm going by my memory of my first run over ten years ago. Yet, when I look at it, how are the characters so vastly different from each other when you take away their limit breaks? Focusing on what really makes them go--Guardian Forces and the resulting junctions--how is Zell all that different from Selphie when you're able to trade magic and GF's between them? I definitely appreciate how your characters are supposed to build affinity with their GF's, and how you're supposed to customize your characters differently to get the most out of the game, but I think this makes each character--from a gameplay perspective--more of a shell with which you play around instead of a wholly unique individual.
Let me clarify. Almost every Final Fantasy up until this point has made each character play some sort of job-based role. Final Fantasy VI started down the precarious path of "everyone can do anything"--with everyone being able to equip Espers and learn every spell--but each character could still be very effective in other ways besides magic (well, unless everyone learned Ultima. That's where the game starts to fall apart a bit, and it pains me to say it). Sabin could still wreck fools with his martial arts techniques; Edgar's tools had certain purposes; Relm had her portraits; Cyan's swordtechs were lethal... you get the point. With Final Fantasy VIII, I feel like instead of developing Squall's inherent abilities and "job" functions, I'm simply customizing Party Member A with junctions and he just happens to have a leather jacket and be named Squall. Is this a problem? I suppose not; I guess I've just been wired to expect that certain JRPG individuals are meant for certain things, and you develop their tree of skills from that unique starting point. And, once again, I'm probably going to be proven quite wrong once I put more hours into it. I'm regurgitating stuff here, but bear in mind that the last time I played it, it was ten years ago, and almost all I did 95% of the time was spam the GF command and hardly had any trouble surviving.
Of course, the ways in which each character is truly special in Final Fantasy VIII is through the story. I get that. I'm not ignoring the story, really; the thing is, I know what happens, and I'm really in this go round just for the gameplay. So, when cutscenes happen and I can't skip them, I start to get agitated, which leads into me remembering just why I had enough of the game by the third disc. (This isn't a good sign for my ability to overlook its flaws for the sake of enjoying its positives, but hopefully I can persevere.) I'm noticing how oddly sophomoric the dialogue is at the beginning. It could simply be a cultural difference, though. I'm talking about things like Zell pantomiming his punches at Seifer before they go up the communication tower, then Seifer saying, "What's this? Swatting flies?" before walking away, and then Zell saying, "Dammit!" and trembling with rage. I mean, who does that? What's that all about? How is what Seifer said such an insult to Zell's integrity to the point where Zell looks like he's about to explode? To me, Seifer's comment was about as witty as the old "Why did the chicken cross the road?" joke. No one older than ten years old would be insulted by that. To be clear, this isn't so much a criticism as much as it is just me being puzzled at some of the writing choices being made. It probably makes perfect sense to a certain audience, perhaps a younger audience, and in the grand scheme of things I realize that it doesn't matter... but it's something I've been noticing for sure.
That's it for now. I'll pour some more onto virtual paper as I get further in the game... if I decide to continue playing. That's a decision I'll make after I find out exactly when Final Fantasy VIII will make its U.S. debut on the Playstation Network.
(Note: This first log is going up as an editorial to spark discussion, but I won't be spamming future editions to the Soapbox. If you're interested in further discussion and following my eye-opening journey, I hope you'll keep up with me.)
Revisiting The Nemesis
- Dec 15, 2009 9:28 am GMT
- 81 Comments
[Update: I'm logging my progress and thoughts. First edition here.]
Sometimes your initial evaluation of a game comes when you're at a point in your life when you're either not ready for, interested in, or understanding of what it has to offer. You might not be able to grasp its complexities; you might be too impatient; you might miss what lies deep inside the gameplay because of another potential flaw that you just can't ignore. Whatever the case may be, you might look back on it and think to yourself, "Maybe I should give it another shot. Maybe I should 'play it right' this time."
For me, that game is Final Fantasy VIII.
By my own recollections, Final Fantasy VIII was the most divisive entry in the Final Fantasy series at the height of its popularity. There was an even split within the small group of my personal friends who had played it: three of us sang its praises, and three of us lambasted it. (This continued with acquaintances I made online on the GameFAQs forums, though I can't quite recall if it was anywhere near an even split.) The positives were typical for a Final Fantasy game: ambitious story; well-directed and pretty cutscenes; an innovative new gameplay system; and tons of nooks and crannies to explore.
I countered with the typical "get up and make a sandwich" arguments: call up a Guardian Force mid-battle (this game's version of summons and/or espers), and you'd probably have enough time to set down the controller and make yourself a quick ham-and-cheese. I had a problem with the tedium of the Draw system, which had you siphoning magic spells from enemies or from specific points in world and area maps. I further took issue with the way this turned magic into a commodity--stocking 99 instances of Cure took something away from the spirit of a magic spell, making it seem less like something earned by, owned by, or inherent within a character and more like a six-pack you'd pick up at the market. The Junctioning system would have paid off for it--had I not cast it aside due to being frustrated by the former issues. I can recall summoning Guardian Forces through 97% of my gameplay experience--which spanned across the first three discs before I decided enough was enough--and doing just fine.
Over the years since I stopped playing Final Fantasy VIII (since 2000), I started to wonder where it all went wrong for me. I was in college and I (supposedly) had more time to muck around, which I theorize to mean that there was more time for my faux-A.D.D. to kick in and demand that I spend less time waiting for a Guardian Force animation to finish. No, instead I should actually be "playing" my games--failing at Bushido Blade, slicing up fools in Soul Calibur, dunking and shotblocking in NBA 2K1, learning abilities and throwing out Eidolons in the leaner, simpler Final Fantasy IX and busting out sick moves in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3. Yet, every so often I'd look back at the Junction system, rich with possibilities for tailoring even the smallest aspects of your characters to make them more effective in battle. Sure, I didn't exactly need to use it in my playtime, which was what ultimately led me to give up on the entire game. But what if I decided to give it another shot and play it "correctly"?
The desire to revisit the game reached another level when, on our podcast (The Trigames.NET Podcast), I was discussing something I heard on Gameslaves Radio--a (sadly) now defunct independent gaming podcast featuring Pete (a.k.a. Ryvvn, who is now a cast member on our show)--about God of War not being entirely enjoyable due to its button-mash nature. Any of us who's played and enjoyed God of War know that there are benefits to be had by actually executing hard-hitting, lengthy combos to maximize the amount of red orbs you get from enemies, thereby increasing your potential to learn special moves. Pete's contention, however, was the same as mine with Final Fantasy VIII: He didn't have to do anything other than mash and dodge to succeed at the game, so he just mashed and dodged. "Play it with technique in mind," I countered, "and you'll see how it benefits you and enhances your experience." Hmm--maybe I should try following my own advice.
The tipping point came when I started playing Titan Quest. Known affectionately as the best Diablo clone out there by I imagine quite a few people, Titan Quest was a game that I enjoyed enough to keep playing for some length of time without getting sick of it. I got sick of Diablo and Diablo II back when they were released, what with the incessant clicking, so what was different this time? I was in a different mindset: I was chasing after items so that I could apply runes to them, upgrade them, and see what I could come up with. I was enjoying the less brutally obvious aspects of the game, specifically its customization opportunities. I finally looked past the annoying mechanics of a PC-based, click-and-slash action-RPG. There's no reason I couldn't try the same with Final Fantasy VIII.
My cohost on the podcast, Al, beat me to the punch and started playing it again. Hearing him talk about Junctioning, refinement and Guardian Force abilities finally sealed the deal, and I started replaying Final Fantasy VIII on Sunday night. I'm eager to find out if I'll be able to overlook my previous issues with the game and explore the depths of its gameplay systems. Past Final Fantasy VIII, I think the bigger picture here is finding out whether or not I can go back and enjoy--from renewed perspectives--games with which I previously became disillusioned. Luigi's Mansion (GCN), F-Zero: Maximum Velocity (GBA), Shadow of the Colossus (PS2) and the aforementioned Diablo and Diablo II--if I'm able to come away from Final Fantasy VIII unscathed, these are all titles that I hope to revisit some day.
What about you? Are there any games you cast aside back in the day, only to return years later to restart it from the beginning with a renewed mindset? What were the results?
What is an RPG? (Updated)
- Nov 25, 2009 10:01 am GMT
- 285 Comments
Anyone in the military or who plays first-person shooters may think it is a rocket-propelled grenade. Geeky programmers may know it as a programming language. Or it may be an acronym for many other things. But the RPG I wanted to write about is the ubiquitous role-playing game. So, what is a role-playing game?
I think it is safe to say that the granddaddy of role-playing games would be Dungeons & Dragons, the pen-and-paper tabletop game created in 1974 by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson and published by TSR. The game was basically a rule system that allowed nerds worldwide to play out their fantasy adventures using their imagination, dice and little painted lead miniatures. But most importantly, it was a game in which you played or acted out the role of your character, speaking with quasi-Shakespearian dialect and actually pretending to be your character. And yes… I was proudly a member of these ranks of nerds who got their game on in dim dining rooms with dice, books, and painted lead figures.
With that said, one would think that the term "role-playing game" means a game in which you play or act out a role, right? Well, it seems that over the years the RPG genre has evolved quite a bit, particularly in its migration from tabletops to computers and consoles. RPG games have also become much more mainstream as well, no longer relegated to the pimply D&D club after school or folks who tote around their dice in Crown Royal velvet sacks.
But something happened during that migration to digital media. The RP in the G lost a lot of its prominence. Early entries in computer RPGs such as SSI's "gold box" games or the original Wizardry had all the dice-rolling, stat-crunching, Monster Manual goodness of the original tabletop games, but lacked the cheesy acting of its pen-and-paper counterparts. Over the years, many games came out wearing the hat of computer RPG. Some of them did better than others with the level of role-playing, but most lacked it altogether. Eventually, the computer RPG genre was at the brink of death.
Many industry insiders claim that 1996's Diablo and 1998's Baldur's Gate collectively resurrected the dying RPG genre. Baldur's Gate was another computer RPG based on the venerable Dungeon's & Dragons rule set, including all the stats and dice rolls, but also the return of role playing to the genre. You got to choose your dialog from pre-defined choices, but it actually allowed you to be nice or evil, suave or belligerent. And the choices you made "acting out" your character's adventure made a difference in the world. Diablo on the other hand was a great and addictive game, but much more action-oriented and focused more on loot and stats than any form or role-playing whatsoever.
So here we have the return to glory of the computer RPG in the late 90's at the hands of two games. One is an action based, loot collecting, level-up-a-thon, and the other is a deep, character driven role-playing experience. Both incorporate characteristics of the original role-playing games, but only one of these two examples is truly a role-playing game, is it not?
Don't get me wrong, I owned both Diablo and Baldur's Gate and both are fantastic games! And I feel that the success of these two games spawned dozens if not hundreds of other RPGs, both in the action and character categories.
Some modern examples of games that hold true to the role-playing roots are Mass Effect, Dragon Age: Origins, Oblivion and Fallout 3. In each, you have a lot of control over how your character acts, and not just what stats to improve when you gain experience. The role you choose for your character effects how people react to you and how the game world evolves. These are the basic principles behind a role-playing game.
On the other hand, your more action-oriented RPG games such as Sacred 2: Fallen Angel, Borderlands or even Bioshock have a lot of the elements of the original role-playing foundation such as stat improvement, loot collecting, and behind-the-scenes dice rolling, but lack altogether or have paper-thin role-playing. While there is nothing wrong with this style of game (I enjoy them very much!), do they qualify to be called RPGs? Maybe they had roots in role-playing games, but based on their current focus should be called something different today like LSL games (Loot, Stats, Levels.)
Yeah, I'm splitting hairs here. In the end, what does it matter what genre the game is in, as long as it is fun to play, right? And with today's games blending the genre lines more than ever before, almost every game defies being shoehorned into any one category. But on the other hand, we don't call cars "horseless buggies" anymore because that's what the modern car evolved from, do we? Whatever the case, I'll end it here because I need to get back to playing Borderlands and Dragon Age! But I got you thinking, didn't I?
Update: Due to many of the responses I've received, I decided to add to the original editorial with this "Part 2".
You can look at role-playing in two extremes: "True" role-playing is where you act out the role of your character in every way. You can say and do anything within your imagination. This is quite possible when playing pen-and-paper RPGs such as D&D. But due to the limitations of game programming, you find your options limited when playing on a computer or console. Video games make great strides every couple years in the level of involvement they allow. But it will take many more years, and quite likely a truly intelligent AI to reach the level of a group of friends and a good game master. Perhaps Natal and devices like it will pave the way for that level of integration.
On the other hand Mario, Sonic… heck, even Pac Man were "roles" you played when playing those games. Is it a stretch to say you were role-playing the little plumber in Super Mario Brothers on your NES? Probably, but you can indeed say that you are controlling the fate of that character. Liken it to playing a role in a stage show, film or television program. You play the role of the character assigned to you. You must follow the script in what you say and how you act and everything is predetermined.
So if what I just said is the case, then nearly every game with a character controlled by the player is an RPG. So why are only some games classified as RPG? Well, it boils down to classifying a game. Stick it in the correct genre to attract the type of gamers who would buy the game. A die-hard fan of first-person shooters probably isn't going to want to buy and play something like Oblivion or Dragon Age. You could say that every RPG is also an Adventure, but that genre title usually refers to games such as Tomb Raider, Psychonauts or The Longest Journey. So over the years, three primary sub-genres of RPGs have matured; the RPG, the Action RPG, and the JRPG.
The RPG does its best to mimic the full-blown experience of the old pen-and-paper gaming. Baldur's Gate, Oblivion, Fallout 3 and Dragon Age, to name just a few, fall into this category. They focus on character development, choice and consequences, and heavy dialog. Combat may be strategic or action oriented. The Action RPG is a much faster paced style of game with more emphasis on collecting loot and improving stats along with action-heavy, non-stop combat. A few examples here are Diablo, Dungeon Siege and Sacred. Finally JRPGs, or Japanese/Eastern RPGs, are best known for their cinematic presentations, deep yet linear stories and character development, and involving combat systems. The Final Fantasy series is a mainstay in this sub-genre, but certainly not the only example.
When you play a game, whether it is a table-top game, video game or outdoor sport, the point is to have fun playing. So it shouldn't matter what genre a game is labeled with as long as you have fun playing it, correct? As for game genres, they have become so muddy over the years because every game blends elements of many genres to make it a richer and more involving experience. So today we have shooters with RPG elements such as Bioshock and Borderlands. Or RPGs with shooter elements like Mass Effect. This blending of game genres isn't a bad thing. In fact, I think games today are better than ever before because of it.
In conclusion, finding an exact definition of RPG is tricky business. And in the end it really shouldn't matter. What does matters is that there are plenty of great games for us to enjoy, and I think that today we have more choices of top-notch games than we will ever have time to play. And that, my friends, is a very good thing indeed.
Update 2: I forgot to mention MMOs like World of Warcraft and Everquest as well. Due to the nature of those games, and who plays them, they can be the "truest" form of computer RPG, or they can be nothing more than glorified action/adventure games. Yet again, just proof that it is nearly impossible to bottle the term RPG in a neat and tidy package and call it a day.
CoD:MW2 = OMFG!
- Nov 18, 2009 8:23 am GMT
- 256 Comments
(This blog should be spoiler-free.)
I finished the single-player campaign in Modern Warfare 2 last night, and while I want to get some time in playing Special Ops and Multiplayer before I review the game, I just have to get some of this out before my head 'splodes.
Back in the day, the first-person shooter was a pretty generic experience. Run around levels killing everything that moved and you might have to find color-coded keys to open doors. The original Half-Life changed all that with the introduction of a decent story and the excellent use of set pieces and scripted events. The bar had been set, and all shooters made after HL had to meet it or be trashed by the critics.
Well, a new bar has been set.
Sure, Modern Warfare 2 may not be a perfect game. But it certainly has made advancements to the genre that any future games need to match lest they be relegated to "just another shooter" status. MW2 blends the non-stop cinematic action of a Michael Bay or Jerry Bruckheimer film with the military depth, espionage and globetrotting of a Tom Clancy novel. There is never a dull moment in the game, and you are always doing something engaging.
I think the mix of mission types and locations, as well as the various vehicle segments makes for a fun and adrenalin packed experience. Yet at the same time, I wish there was a little more. The campaign is completed quickly, and you wish it was longer. However, I can understand why it may be short; to drag it out over a longer period of time may become repetitive and tedious, losing the rollercoaster thrill it achieves with its short length. Multiple times through my play through, I sat jaw dropped and controller slack in my hand at my astonishment of what was happening. Other times I was slapping myself in the "Home Alone" expression when I was stunned at what I had gone through. That very, very rarely happens in any games I play. And I love the fact that MW2 is capable of pulling off those brain-melting events and twists that just catch you off guard.
The entire game is played from the perspective of one of several characters, with not a single cut scene. Unfortunately, this makes the telling of the story more difficult, because you can only see and know what that character you are playing sees and knows. We've all seen just how good Infinity Ward can do with cinematic cut scenes based on all the trailers leading up to the game release, and it's a shame some are not included to help with the story. I guess that would be my biggest gripe with the campaign… not having the story fleshed out as well as it could have been. I'm sure I'm not the only one confused with the progression of events, or the motivation of some key players. And it should be no surprise that the ending of the game might as well have a big "To Be Continued" sign posted.
Playing Modern Warfare has been an interesting personal experience. When I played COD4, I was deeply moved by the consequences of war, just as much as I enjoyed the game. I actually had to stop playing after some missions in the original MW to reflect upon what happened, and on just how much war and the loss of soldiers' lives sucks. MW2 is no different. From the controversial airport mission to various other experiences throughout the game, any player with a conscious should be reflecting upon the consequences of war. But this is a benefit to the game, not a detriment. Too many games today don't do anything to wake up your brain or make you think about what you are doing.
Am I in the minority here? Do most gamers today just want mindless thrills and brainless action? Have most players skipped the story campaign to play the excellent multiplayer instead? What are your thoughts on Modern Warfare 2 and how it makes you think about games, war, and cinematic experiences?
I am looking forward to (the inevitable) Modern Warfare 3 with great anticipation. I only hope it is already in development, and the wait won't be too long.
NOTE: Originally, this blog was intended to be short and only to those following me. However, it morphed into what you see here and I decided to "Soapbox it". Also, some people have responded that games such as Metal Gear Solid and Uncharted 2 have also "set the bar" or even set a higher bar for an experience like this. That may very well be the case, but since I haven't played those games, I can only write this blog based on my personal experiences. Just keep that in mind when responding, and also keep in mind that my questions posed to you are about the emotional impact of games like MW2, and not which game is better.
To all my fellow soldiers all over the world
- Nov 11, 2009 3:45 pm GMT
- 192 Comments
To the ones in the Sand
To the ones in the sky
To the ones at sea (sorry I did not give you guys props...)
To the ones on patrol
To the ones helping others mourn
To the ones that have past
To my fellow fire support specialist
This blog is to thank all of you that have risked your lives, and the ones that have given them, for our country and our freedom. The views on the war may be skewed, they may be misleading, but you still lace up your boots, ready your weapons, and fight for your country, no matter what country you support.
For that I thank you.
Have a good Veterans Day, and know that through the outcries of hate and protest, there are those of us that truly appreciate what you do day after day.
You guys are heroes.
To all of my fellow fire support specialist in the A btry. 1st/10th. Godspeed to you all.
Dragon Age DLC ripoff
- Nov 9, 2009 4:23 pm GMT
- 8 Comments
The debate on the value of DLC has been going strong for a while now. Sure, Fallout 3 was a great game, but in the end, I paid nearly as much for about 15 more hours of DLC as I paid for the 60 hour game. This value is debatable since many full priced games nowadays clock in at under 10 hours. However, I have found the DLC for Dragon Age to be a complete ripoff.
The game itself is an amazing fantasy epic, so it shouldn't be wrong of me to expect the same from the DLC. The first I played was The Stone Prisoner. Luckily, this one came included with my pre-order of the game, but for the less fortunate, it will set you back $15. It contains one small outdoor environment (roughly forty feet wide and two hundred feet long) and an underground dungeon that is slightly longer. There is a grand total of two friendly NPC to talk with. The enemies are all darkspawn, of which I had already killed hundreds of in the main game. The final boss is a demon that I had fought at least ten times before. The real draw is the addition of the Golem to your party after completion, but he is basically a variation of the warrior class, and I already had two of them in my group at this point. There was a cool fire puzzle near the end, but it only lasts a couple minutes. The greatest crime here is that the entire DLC can be completed in under an hour. That doesn't mean you can finish in an hour if you rush, this includes exploring every corner and fighting every enemy. $15 for this is ridiculous.
Ironically, the second download, The Warden's Keep (which I did have to pay for) is far better and only cost $7, though still only last about an hour. It consists of a slightly larger environment to clear, but still only consists of the same monsters I had battled before. After clearing the keep, merchants with some impressive merchandise set up shop outside and a storage chest is added to the game, which is something that was sorely missed in the retail game. However, I really think the stash is something that should have been included for free. This DLC contains a few more NPCs to talk with as well as a couple possible conclusions that lead to different boss fights. Oddly, once you 'reclaim' the keep, you are locked out of it for no apparent reason since it is basically implied that it is now your base of operations.
I can forgive the $7 download since it was fun and cheap diversion that added a much needed feature to the game, but one hour of gameplay is still a bit sad. On the other hand, I am immensely grateful The Stone Prisoner was included with my pre-order, because there is no way Microsoft can justify $15 for one hour of gameplay.
How We Perceive Value In Gaming
- Nov 6, 2009 10:12 pm GMT
- 149 Comments
Value is an interesting proposition when it comes to games. Before we get into the meat of the article, here are a few quick questions:
You have 12 hours to kill. Someone locks you in a room and you have the option of playing Call of Duty 4, Gears of War 2, or Bioshock. You probably have enough time to play both COD4 and Gears, or Bioshock on its own. Which do you choose? Now take that option and for each game that you choose to play, you have to pay full retail price. How does that affect your decision? What if Jericho was also included but that was free, would you choose that instead of the other options?
There are of course no right or wrong answers as to which games you enjoy, or for how long they are enjoyable to you before you would prefer to either be playing another game, or doing something else entirely. The above example is loaded with my own perception of those games and the value they represent to me. How often do we hear friends or blog/forum posts saying 'It looks decent but it's not worth full price' or '1200 points/$15 is too much for that game'. I've found it interesting how we value games, as my own perception has changed somewhat in the last year. I used to own a video store, and besides a game being rented by a customer, they were all available to me whenever I wanted, and did not cost me any money. I haven't owned the store for a year, and now I have to purchase my own games. So how has that changed how I perceive the value of games?
I see two main values of any individual game; the intensity of the enjoyment, and the length of time that it is enjoyable. Which one is more important to you? Are you looking for the very best experience? Or do you prefer to stretch your dollar further and make sure your games last a long time before you have to go and buy another one? As I play primarily single player, Call of Duty 4 was a short experience for me. However, the intensity of that enjoyment was incredible, I thoroughly enjoyed the 6 or so hours that it lasted. I tend not to replay many games, so that is where the enjoyment ended for me (though it was great enough that I probably will replay it at some stage). Fallout 3 was a great game. I've yet to finish it, but I've put in over 30 hours and that time was enjoyable. Not at the intensity I enjoyed Call of Duty 4, but that's a decent period of time to be enjoying a game.
I imagine most of us don't sit in the equilibrium; we are either time poor or just plain poor. If you just plain don't have much money to spend on games on a regular basis but you find yourself with plenty of time, you may be more inclined to go for a game that offers longer playability at the expense of intensity (of course finding a game that you enjoy immensely and lasts a long time is possible and that becomes the obvious choice). Those of us who are time poor may be able to afford all of the games we have a desire to play, but simply don't have time to play them all; when we finish a game, there are a bunch more that we are interested in. So while there might be 5 games released a month worth taking note of, if you've only got so many hours to play games you might want to buy the 3 games that offer you the highest enjoyment possible instead of the other 2 that might be longer but be less enjoyable. Sure, you've spent more, but you are having a better time.
Of course, games do go down in price as well. This never used to be an issue for me, as all the highest profile games were usually available to me. Now that I have to spend money on my games, I tend to wait til games go down in price. This is not a primary concern of mine when purchasing games, but the list of games I want to play is pretty large, so games released a year ago are still as desirable to me to play as those released today. If I perceive that an older game is going to provide as much intensity and longevity as a current game for half the price, that's a pretty good incentive to go for the older game, and use that extra money on other interests.
I'm also surprised at some of the flak that has been sent towards the downloadable services when a 'premium' game sells for 1200 points or more. To me it still comes down to those two main issues; how much am I going to enjoy the game, and for how long? Castle Crashers was a great game that was more enjoyable to me than a number of full retail games I've played, and is one of the few games I've replayed so provided me a longer experience than some other games as well. Would I have purchased this game if it was a full retail product? Yes (although like usual I probably would have waited until it came down in price or purchased it second hand). Would many other people? I'm guessing not. And probably not because they perceived they wouldn't enjoy it; which brings me to another stigma.
Games can be enjoyable without developers having to invest millions. Yet even those smaller games do cost the developers time and money to produce. It is not my own perception, but I get the impression that there are some people out there who perceive that if a game costs less to make, then it should sell for less. But at the end of the day, you aren't paying because you want to invest in their development tools; you are paying because you want an experience you can enjoy.What if game A offers 8 hours of enjoyment at an intensity level of 7 out of 10 which cost $10million to make, while game B offers 10 hours of enjoyment at an intensity level of 9 out of 10 but only cost $100,000 to make with a small development team? Maybe game B has lower production values, but if the game itself is still great and both these games were offered at the same price, why would you choose game A? Clearly the choice for you, the gamer, is to spend the same money on a game you are going to enjoy more.
I've certainly not covered every aspect of how we perceive value in gaming, and I'd be interested to hear your thoughts. Remember that the games I've listed above are just my personal opinion on their value to me, and they don't need to be shared by everybody. And to poke the bear a little, how much should longevity factor into a gaming review score? Or should they only focus on how enjoyable the game is for as long as it does last? What if the best game in the world lasted 15 minutes?
The Wii has stalled? More like they hit a wall ..
- Nov 1, 2009 6:26 pm GMT
- 298 Comments
.. and it took Mr. Iwata a long time before realizing this.
I saw this as soon as their 2009 E3 conference was over. Same recycled IP's from their first 3 years. Two Mario games, another Metroid game and ANOTHER Zelda game. It's hard for me, who grew up with the NES, to have to sit and watch this great company's games get watered down to a bunch to Wii musics, Wii fits get thrown at us along with tons of other uninteresting games.
Think.... What would Mario do?
They messed up with the friend code system. You can't even get a decent match started with friends 'cause you have to enter a different code for every game. All of the other features like Mii channel were fun to play with at first but were forgotten as quickly. Another big mistake was to pump out tons of accessories that no one's going to use after a while. I'm surprised that it took this long to create a 1:1 motion device. It should have been there from the start. Now we're going to have to wait another 2 years to actually make use of it for more games other than Red Steel 2 and that golf game. By that time they'll probably make a Wii HD.
I should have mailed them my article when I warned them about this last year. I basically predicted that this is going to happen if they didn't do anything. One year later and we still haven't heard anything from series such as Star fox, Kid Icarus, F-Zero, Bomberman (64 remake) A Real Pokemon RPG (or at least Snap), Breath Of Fire, Earthbound, Pilot Wings (We have motion controller for Christ sake) Skies of Arcadia, Donkey Kong, Luigi's mansion 2, Etrnal Darkness. Yup, I've been nothing but patient. But I can't wait forever.
Now, it might seem that I did nothing but bash the Wii so far. So before you judge me by this article, take a good look at all the games that I've finished until now. It's not about mature (rated) games. It's about supporting your system with great software. Don't rely only on third party developers to accomplish your goal. It's because of that, we ended up with games like Iron Chef America: Supreme Cuisine and My baby 1st steps.
And now, this is the result: Sluggish sales, core games migrating to other platforms (bought a PS3 slim in September) and an uncertainty if those promised games might still make it in this console generation (remember Twilight Princess?). With the recent price drop on all systems, consumers are thinking twice about which system to buy this Christmas (if they haven't bought one yet).
I hope they had some air bags installed when they hit that brick wall and that this serves as a slap in their face that gamers are not to be messed with. Your move, Nintendo.
Note: I did not write this article to compare systems. I wrote this article because, as a long time Nintendo fan, I feel that they have let down their core audience by offering us only a handful of great games.
Onlive. Sounds great, looks great...
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