The Gamespot Advantage
- Aug 8, 2008 10:20 pm GMT
- 78 Comments
One of the big challenges facing a company that expands rapidly and one which enjoys great financial success is keeping in touch with their supporters. Gamespot has been around for 12 years and has undergone change and enormous popularity and acclaim. On the eve of the launch of the redesigned site, I cannot help but appreciate what has Gamespot has done for me.
Yesterday, I had the previlege of going to the Gamespot offices and seeing how the site operates on a day-to-day basis. One of the big problems with the video game industry is that most people do not realize how large the video game industry is and how many people work to make "children's toys" (which, if you haven't already discovered or accepted, is a completely false stereotype). I came to the realization a few years ago that video games were never, and have never been, only for children--and more importantly, that it is a viable form of art and expression.
When browsing Gamespot, we only see a couple of faces. The hosts of the live shows, the editorial team, and the community managers are usually perceived as being the only people working for the site. In reality, Gamespot is a very lucrative company that has been built by hundreds of people whether a part of the marketing, accounting, public relations, editing, or editorial teams.
Tallking with Ryan MacDonald about the site's beginnings, it is hard to believe that Gamespot has become so successful after such humble beginnings. Back in 1996, the site was made up a handful of individuals, many of who were not sure where Gamespot was going. The internet had not taken off yet while magazines continued to be major source of information for gamers.
Obviously this changed with the proliferation of broadband internet connections. As faster internet spread, Gamespot centered around video content. I will personally never forget when Mr. Broady announced via video that all of the video content would be available to all users--something absolutely unheard of at the time. It was this revolutionary thinking that allowed Gamespot to become successful and to expand.
However, with this expansion, one would expect that the company's environment would become more stock price oriented. This means that when Gamespot became a part of CNET (which was a publicly traded company), the management had a greater responsibility to make money. There were some definite changes over the last couple of years that made Gamespot into a "company", yet I find that they are still more inclined to make the individual's experience the best possible.
Why is this? A large part of the reason is that the people who are actually working for Gamespot, appreciate us. They recognize, unlike so many others with different companies and in different industries, that they are in a service industry. They cannot afford, and do not want to alienate the users--rather they want to make our experience the best.
Another huge component about Gamespot's success is the unique user-staff relationship which is unparalled among the competition. The fact that they allowed someone like me to come to their offices, and then to treat me with respect and kindness, should persuade you that they are all fans at heart.
In fact, most of the staff are longtime workers or former users. More than anyone else, these people sustain and improve the original doctrine of Gamespot--creating a site that is always improving, and with the user's best wishes primary.
Gamespot has turned a new page in their history. With their new parent company (CBS) at the helm, Gamespot is poised to create a more interactive, informative, and fun experience while improving the cornerstones of what has made this place great. However, I believe wholeheartedly that the site's success will never make the staff arrogant or out of touch. The fact that a regular user like me can now consider many members of the staff as friends can attest to that claim.
When I first visited Gamespot over ten years ago, it looked very different. Of course there are many people who are no longer with the site who deserve a lot of credit for the success, but after meeting virtually every staff member, I have even more confidence in their abilities to produce even better content. There are new faces who are more than capable of doing a great job and bringing Gamespot into a new "golden era", but even more importantly, their passion for games is apparent, something that will surely bring the site further success.
No one asked me to write this--I wanted to. Frankly, I cannot think of an appropriate way to thank all the people at Gamespot, but hopefully this serve as an adequate start.
Game makers and system "loyalty" Why? Why believe in such a thing?
- Jul 16, 2008 2:38 am GMT
- 105 Comments
I simply have to know: why believe in such a concept?
Obviously the Square-Enix announcement has been a shock to everybody except ProtogeRuckus. I was surprised and I had openly discussed the possibility of them going multiplatform for a variety of reasons; if nothing else I figured Sony would've gotten an exclusitivity deal.
So, Square is on the 360 in a meaningful way (I don't quite count FFXI as being "meaningful"). Big deal. Square has released games for the NES, SNES, Gameboys, Gamecube, PS1, PS2, 360, Wii, Nintendo DS, PSP, PocketStation, Wonderswan (a Japanese handheld from Bandai), Windows, MSX (home to the original Metal Gear), other personal computers and cell phones. Now they're actively developing for the PS3 and 360. They've been developing on multiple platforms for years; they are not, how would you say?
No, they are not. Those of you who have read my blog for a while know that I really do believe Sony owes Square, not the other way around. While not as blatant as Capcom, Ubisoft or EA, Square is historically a multiplatform company, only favoring a particular platform when required to (Nintendo during the NES/Famicom days), there are no other viable alternatives, and the possiblity of getting a good deal (likely for the SNES and PS1 days).
So why are all these people acting like they are and they do? They've been on multiple platforms since 1984, and were a major developer long before the PS1 even hit store shelves! And lets not forget Sony themselves have been expecting the death of 3rd party exclusives: "We understand publishers are needing to recoup their investment," said Peter Dille, senior vice president of marketing for Sony. "From our perspective, as long as the games aren't going exclusive to other platforms, PS3 gamers are not actually losing anything."
David Jaffe even noted the difficulties associated with the costs of AAA-game development this generation: "And now you look at selling a million copies of a title that's going to cost 10, 15, 20 million (to develop), and you're like, "Man, I hope the low end is a million copies!" Because if it ain't, you're screwed!...It's really scary. Especially when you're publishing on a single platform, versus spreading your title out amongst all kinds of places."
Multiplatform games sell better than being on a single platform alone; even Ted Price, CEO of Insomniac, was impressed with how well cross-platform games can do. Back in January, the cross-platform Guitar Hero series broke $1 billion in sales. Devil May Cry 4 broke 2 million copies sold in less than a month of being released. Assassin's Creed beat Gears of War's 1-month sales record because it was multiplatform, selling over 1.36 million copies.
Fans of every system need to take a look at reality - game developers and game publishers are business. Always have been. Games are very expensive to make, and unlike last generation the systems competing with Sony's Playstation are very viable systems, commercially speaking. Just like not making a PS2 game was walking away from a lot of money last generation, not developing for the 360 and PS3 is passing up a lot of money for no good reason.
Games are expensive to make, and its a lot harder to break even on just one system when you consider how few 360's and PS3's are out there right now. Yes, I said it, few. Add up all the systems out there; Wii, 360 and PS3? How does that compare to the total number of PS1's or PS2's?
* As of 2005, the PS1 game Final Fantasy 7 has sold just under 10 million copies. As of 2005, there were over 100 million PS1's in the world. So, rounding up, Final Fantasy 7, one of the highlights of the series, only sold to 10% of the PS1 market.
* According to GameIndustry.biz, as of October 2007, the PS2 has over 120 million systems sold worldwide. Final Fantasy X, released in 2001, sold 5 million copies. That's not even 5%.
Honestly, looking at that, how well would FFXIII do if released soley on the PS3? Probably not well enough to cover costs; remember, they need to pay bills as soon as possible, and cannot afford to wait over the lifetime of the system to sell to 5-10% of the total possible users. But selling it on both the 360 and PS3? That will help a lot.
Its business. Its always been business. Where do these stupid ideas of a company having to be "loyal" come from? Is Square supposed to "loyally" follow Sony around, unquestioning, no matter what? Hardly; and they certainly didn't for Nintendo. No developer is honorbound to satisfy some delusional fanboy's concepts of system loyalty. Game makers have to duty of making the best games they can, in budget, make their money back and make a profit, keeping their employees employed and shareholders/owners happy.
Why is this such a difficult concept?
Anyhow, off to bed and wondering what kind of game Bungie could make for the PS3 and Linux.
Confessions of a tone deaf pseudo rocker
- Jul 10, 2008 8:17 am GMT
- 42 Comments
Rocking out... crowd screaming... fingers sliding on a guitar neck... total control. That's what most people dream about when they think of rock stars. In video games, the current trend is the rhythm music game that combines music, rhythm, memorization and coordination into one single experience. The draw is that you can be a musician even if you don't know how to play a real instrument.
Unfortunately, some players suffer from the lack of a few of the mentioned ingredients in this concoction of a game genre. Enter me. Guitar Hero attracted my interest since it became popular, not because I had dreams of rocking out nor the urge to follow a trend. It was the hunger for something new. As a video game player since an early age, I've enjoyed many different types of games, and as mentioned in a past article, I am a generally bad player in a lot of those. Even then, I enjoy playing.
Such was and probably will keep being the case with music games with me. The notion of entering strings of commands based on timing that comes with a song is interesting to me at best, but my execution fails miserably whenever I try to put theory into practice. Years of playing Super Mario Bros don't boost me through songs while playing a guitar shaped controller. My condition is what can be associated to the music industry term 'tone deaf'. While I can manage to pay attention to what goes on on the screen, my brain doesn't work quickly enough to follow with stimuli so my fingers can act. Thus, this usually results in many failed songs, even at a low difficulty setting.
With Rock Band, it couldn't be different. In fact, in my case, it's worse. I had the chance to try out this band game experience early in the year, and for what I was worth playing, I managed to get even worse results. This was due to the fact that one failing part of a band has to be 'held on' by the fellow band members in their own instrumental playing. Even playing a secondary (or even tertiary) role like base playing turned out to be a flop. Tomatoes, lettuces and cabbages were expected to come flying after the virtual gig.
The true question comes as - is there a cure for this virtual tone deafness? Can it even be considered an ailment if a certain person cannot be good at a certain form of interactive activity? People work on getting better in sports, for an example, but even then, there are cases of someone being just plain bad. Experience, in many cases, proves to be vital, and the true obstacle for improvement is impatience, at least in most cases. Instant results are what drive the modern person, and relates to music just as well. Very few are actually gifted with the ability to easily manipulate musical instruments, and knowledge comes with time. The music game can be compared to the real interaction with an instrument up to a point - memorization and coordination. Like in a band, the musician has to know the song that is going to be performed. All the while, knowing the song has the leverage of the possibility of their own interpretation of it. In a game, the song played is inflexible, the notes are always the same and in theory, it is a matter of memorizing rather than interpreting a musical piece.
With that in mind, a connection can be made between some apparently distant game types - the musical rhythm and puzzle. In both, you find yourself memorizing patterns in order to achieve a certain goal. A puzzler thrusts the player into the next challenge, while the music game brings a new song to be mastered.
This link is a possible thread for me to understand my utter frustration with games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band - while I enjoy the experience of trying to perform a song, I can't get past the notion that the tracks and notes running on the screen are, in my head, nothing more than patterns to be memorized. It seems hard to grasp that I could actually learn to change my mind set in order to excel at those games. Like mentioned before, maybe this is a matter of impatience on my part. I like to think of it as a personal trait. I am not ashamed to admit my virtual tone deafness, but I am willing to keep trying.
Wake up Mr. Gamespot, You're late for change.
- Jul 8, 2008 7:42 am GMT
- 101 Comments
Just what Gamespot needs, another person spouting the impending doom of this website as we know it. No I'm not upset because some editors left, I'm not questioning integrity or weighing how much is left or even care if this place does exchange reviews for cash. I'm upset because there's a thriving forum community looking to improve this place and member's eager to stick around to make a difference.
This upsets me because it's being relatively ignored by the powers that be at Gamespot.
Sure you toss out some emblems our way to keep us calm and make it look like we're being rewarded for our time and contributions but when's the last time you actually listened to us? When's the last time you actually spent time talking to us to get input and maybe some constructive criticism? Who actually is in charge now that could make a difference and do they even care?
Here are some suggestions that every user on this site could probably get behind.
1. Growing Up Gamespot: On the most popular personal networking sites and blogging communities, people come together from all walks of life and from various age groups for the ability to discuss or rant about anything they like this side of porn and hate speeches. Now I'm not asking Gamespot to become the next Facebook or Myspace, but just how relevant is a website that deals with videogames of all forms where I can't even type the word %^&* even though it's commonly used in many of the games you cover and advertise all over the site? Hell I've even been moderated in my own blog for using the word jerk.
Now I'm not asking to loosen the rules so I can start a spin-off pornsite from Gamespot and I understand that there are children on the website (the same children that spew offensive words on XBL) but how about calling off the Mod hounds and throwing one of those age verification pages up if we were able to mark our profiles as mature. That sounds fair right?
2. The Presidential Effect: You know who the most powerful man in the world is right? He's usually seen as the President of the United States, with a bit of debate. Anyways that's not the topic here; the topic is more about his term in office and how it is limited and limited for a good reason. Now look at your mods and tell me what is missing from this analogy. The moderators on this site are given mod status for what could possibly life and some of them have gotten a little intoxicated from that piece of knowledge.
I know how hard it must be to find a decent, dedicated and loyal volunteer staff to run the mod proceedings for any given time however, unlike most cheese and fine wines, age doesn't improve all of the moderators. You have moderators that hang around moderation queues with such fervor that you would think that they were paparazzi trying to get pics of the latest scarlet sans panties. These are the same moderators that don't moderate in context and will moderate/suspend one user for joking around with a user that they are friends with. Then you have moderators that will consistently threaten moderation if a poster has an opposing point of view. And lastly, how come when closing a topic, moderators can flame a poster freely? Are they exempt from the ToU?
3. Survey Says!: Do you guys at Gamespot ever wonder what your loyal subscribers and posters think about the site? I mean you do realize you're offering a service right? I've seen countless other sites that have a little pop up that offers an optional survey, and while sometimes these pop ups are annoying...they're better than not being asked my opinion after being a customer for 6 years.
Sure, you might find out that the majority of us do dislike the new review system, there will be some crap talk about integrity and things like that but most businesses do this so they know where they are lacking in customer satisfaction and if this data is used properly can actually increase sales.
4. If I make a post in the suggestion forum, does it make a sound?: Honestly, how many suggestions have actually came to fruition? 0.01% - 0.08%? I remember a brilliant idea of a Poll Board being suggested where all the annoying questions about favorite villains, which character's dad could beat which character's dad and all those needless polls such as those could be grouped together in one terrific spot that doesn't have to be constantly locked and moderated. To me, this seems like a great idea and it even had a good backing from a lot of prominent members on the forums yet we still don't have an answer.
If we make a suggestion, we should at least be give a no, maybe or it's in the works just so that we know we've been acknowledged. Without dialogue it looks like our suggestions are being ignored and that the suggestions board is 100% useless.
I don't know, I would think after that Gerstman gate debacle and how easy it was to lose a bunch of paying members in protest, you would at least throw us a bone and try to win back these customers. However it seems that Gamespot's motto was taken from a famous president and they're just going to "stay the course" no matter how bad it gets.
Editorial- On Annual Installments of Game Franchises
- Jul 7, 2008 11:28 pm GMT
- 38 Comments
Editorial- On Annual Installments of Game Franchises
Honestly, I've started to become pessimistic about such games. By "annually repeating" I mean sports franchises such as Madden (the game I love to hate), the Call of Duty Series, and the newest player in the bunch, Guitar Hero. Of course, I could go into other franchises as well, but for the sake of this editorial, I'll focus on these three. Anyway, it baffles me as to why each new incarnation of these games sells more and more copies. Sure they may be fun, but what does each new version have that the previous one did not? Updated rosters? A few more songs? A new setting? And yet, we gobble each new version up readily, only helping to fuel the fire that is this trash.
Let's start with the Madden Franchise. I'll admit I always end up bashing the Madden Franchise for one reason or another. However, in the context of this editorial, it makes sense, at least to me. Every year EA churns out a new version of Madden. And each year, there is supposed to be some new huge game-changing gameplay element which is supposed to make the game that much better than last year's. I ask though, is this new feature worth paying $60 for? I have a hard time believing it is. I looked at what Madden 09 has to offer me. Based on one preview it has: new animations, more responsive controls, a backtrack feature to reverse a messed up play, a new league system, and some vague "Madden IQ" system. I'm amazed. Perhaps to super hardcore Madden fans this is good news, but to the majority of us gamers out there (well, the ones who enjoy sports games even a little bit) ask yourself: is this THAT much better than Madden '08? Does it warrant a $60 purchase? I think not. And I hope not. And yet, I know many, many people will buy it.
Or maybe it's the updated rosters that catch your eye. Who doesn't want to play as that hot #1 rookie? Who doesn't want to see a few players' ratings tweaked? Or maybe it's the ever so slightly better graphics the game will likely feature. Maybe it's the hope for a half-way decent announcer. I don't know. I sincerely hope this annually released game doesn't break records when it is released. Maybe I'm alone in this judgment, but a few gameplay tweaks and the addition of a few new players doesn't warrant a purchase to me. Games are expensive. If I want football, Madden '08 did it well enough for me.
I do not have as big of a gripe with the Call of Duty series. Perhaps it's because I am a pretty big FPS fan, and infinity Ward turns out good games. However, when it was announced that Call of Duty 5 will be returning back to the already long-ago rung dry WWII era, I couldn't help but becoming a bit frustrated. Why should I pay another $60 for what Call of Duty 2, 3, and 4 gave me, just in a different setting? After all, it seems anything from Call of Duty 4 would be a step down. The change in direction gave new life to the series. And now, it seems someone is trying to rob me with this new release. I have a feeling this game will just be a clone of what Call of Duty's 2 and 3 gave me, and I'm not willing to pay a third time, even if they add a few new tweaks and gimmicks into the mix.
Before I get started on the popular Guitar Hero franchise, I'll admit I have barely ever played any guitar hero. It's not my type of game. But as you the reader can clearly see, I can be very critical of things I like, such as football and FPS's. Consider it an outsider's perspective on it.
When I see Guitar Hero, I see a decent game. I see a good party game. I see a game that was a decently original idea that was executed well. I ask though, how much longer can this go on? How many more releases can there be, how many more times can they take your money simply for the sake of a few new songs or a new shiny plastic guitar? I did a quick search for Guitar Hero on Gamespot just now. This is what came up: Guitar Hero, Guitar Hero 2, Guitar Hero 3, Guitar Hero World Tour, Guitar Hero Aerosmith, Guitar Hero Metallica, Guitar Hero On Tour, Guitar Hero 4, Guitar Hero: Rock the '80's, Guitar Hero III (mobile), and Guitar Hero Carabiner (Mobile). This is, of course, not including any downloadable content that I believe the game has available for it. Am I the only one who sees something wrong here? I like music as much as the next person, and I realize that some people may want to play their favorites, but how many times can Activision release a few new songs and call it a game? Perhaps I don't understand. Perhaps because I've never been into Guitar Hero I don't see the fun in pressing buttons to different music each $60 I drop.
I bet by now I've angered at least 80% of the people reading this, and I fully expect angry comments. But when I buy a new game, when I shell out my hard-earned money for entertainment, in this case a video game, I expect something really different, really special. Perhaps the first two Guitar Hero's did that. Perhaps they held that special "new" feeling that encouraged purchase. I can respect that, as I felt that way with Call of Duty's 2 and 3. But when it comes to the third and fourth sequel in a line, I expect something more than a few new features, a new campaign style or setting, or a few new names. For me, Call of Duty 4 did this. It gave an entirely new take on the series, with an entirely different type of gameplay with an all-new online mode which could keep me entertained for days at a time. But with the new manifestation, I see nothing that groundbreaking. Maybe the general gaming population sees more in such games than I do; maybe I am more unique than I realize. But I'm getting frustrated with such games quickly. I don't care what the reviewer says, if it's the same as last time, I'm probably going to consider passing on it. If you take anything out of this, I ask you to be pickier. I love to see the game industry grow as much as anyone else, but when it comes in the form of recycled rubbish given a new name and a shiny coat of paint and called "new" every year, I wonder if it is worth it.
And thus ends this editorial given in a rant-like form. I'm ready for the flames.
If you have any thoughts on these seemingly never-ending franchises, please leave them.
Thank you for enduring my frustration and taking the time to read this.
To the expo I went, yes, hum.
- Jul 3, 2008 10:44 am GMT
- 8 Comments
Last Sunday I finally had the chance to visit the local Star Wars Expo. After meeting Anthony Daniels, the man behind C3PO, human-cyborg relations back in March, I procrastinated going to the event. The location, Sao Paulo's famous Ibirapuera Park, is a pain in the tush to get to from where I live. Alas, the expo had its duration extended, and I took the cue to visit it.
While not nearly as big as the websites, TV programs and magazines made it out to be, it was a very interesting place to visit. Cut into two floors in the underground expo space at the park, the Star Wars Expo has its share of rare items. As you enter, you are greeted by Imperial stormtroopers and people wearing weird crosses between Jedi and Princess Leia's garments. The first area presents many concept drawings made mainly by Ralph McQuarrie for the original trilogy and some for the newer films, along with models for some of the more popular space ships and ground vehicles, like the X-Wing. On the walls, the Star Wars time line, with detailed info on the many planets presented in the films. Following this hall, the lights dim, and the main exhibition is presented. Encased in glass displays, characters, scale models and more concept art are there to be seen. Amongst the more interesting pieces is a scale model of the Millenium Falcon, so detailed that you can even see bullet (or is it laser?) marks on the fuselage. There's even one model in particular for the Imperial Star Destroyer, which also has a depth in detail that is impressive. Right across from the Destroyer, among the other mannekins, Chewbacca roars to the visitors, and is accompanied by another Wookie wearing even more belts. With these furry guys, I got the chance to learn something new about Star Wars: Wookies have normal fingers, even thumbs. Quite shocking.
The second section of the expo greets visitors with the robotic duo, C3PO and R2-D2, posing for photos (which I took, or course). Around the two bots, many, many concepts for them made by McQuarrie. Here I could see how closely Metropolis influenced the design for C3PO. To the back, a special shrine for Yoda, which, disappointingly enough, doesn't bring the toad himself, but a holographic image in the swamps of Dagobah. Right next to the master, the many dresses Natalie Portman used in the new trilogy, and drawings by Ian McCaig, one of the main illustrators for the new films. Along with the dresses, some miniatures for the planets in Episode Two and Three, and some of the creature costumes from the Episode Three Malastar council, with highlights to Tion Medon, played by Mad Max's Bruce Spence (a.k.a Jebediah the gyro pilot). At the other side of the robots, a table is set with the many weapons featured in the films - Count Dooku's curved blade, Darth Maul's double saber and Luke's second lightsaber are some of the arms featured in it. Sadly, due to lighting conditions, I was not able to capture these.
And last, but certainly not least, following the hall, comes the Darth Vader space. Encased in a dramatically lit glass case, the black mask menace glares out, with a monitor by him showing the 'birth of Vader' segment from Revenge of the Sith, and of course, the incessant breathing. Other items in this space are the chair in which Anakin is strapped for the Vader transformation, and more concepts and frame by frame plans for the Luke/Vader fight from Return of the Jedi.
I have to say I enjoyed the expo, but it lacked many things I'd have loved to see, like more creatures, the Death Star itself (which was mentioned many times in the description texts but never shown) and some more star ships. Either way, it was great to see something like this being brought overseas. As a big fan of Lucasfilm and Industrial Light & Magic, I was glad to have been able to visit something like this. I hope we get to see more exhibitions like this in the future.
If you would like to see the pictures I took, feel free to click this link that goes to the photo album.
Games of the Generation (so far)
- Jun 30, 2008 6:45 pm GMT
- 141 Comments
(The following is based on my personal opinion, and mine alone)
As pretty much half of this generation of gaming has now passed before our very eyes I have decided to stop for a moment and reflect and share with you what games has made the deepest impact on me so far. I plan to make another one of these when this generation draws to a close to see how much my opinion has changed and which games that stood against the coming combatants and which ones that didn't.
But now on to the games that I have found to be the most impressive ones for me personally since the end of 2005 back when this current generation kicked off, and they are all ranked in the order that they were released.
Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter
Released March 2006
Platforms: Xbox 360
GRAW for the Xbox 360 which is a very different affair from the others versions sharing the same name was the first real "next-gen experience" for me personally and it's thrilling moments, tactical control over the battlefield and its sound and visuals still holds up surprisingly well today. The sequel released the year after was great aswell but did not quite meet up to all my personal expectations. I'm hoping the third installment will be as good as the first one if not better.
Gears of War
Released November 2006
Platforms: PC, Xbox 360
I did not expect much from Gears of War at first, All i knew was that it sported some really impressive visuals and Microsoft was going to publish it. But I never expected it to be so badass and play so darn well with its fluid control scheme and be so fun to play with others. Especially when playing trough the campaign with a buddy sitting right next to you. I have probably played trough this game at least 10 times by now. No I'm not joking.
World in Conflict
Released September 2007
One of the most innovatie strategy games in years. The tide of battle can change at any given second no matter how tough things get, especially if one player has been secretly saving up for a tactical nuke. It's also one of the most enjoyable multiplayer games I've played in years, on any platform.
Released September 2007
Platforms: Xbox 360
Ever since 2004 when the ending scene of Halo 2 made me mad, leaving me wanting more I had been eagerly anticipating this game. And it when it arrived it was awesome, not very different which is often the case with sequels but it managed to take most of what made the prior games so awesome and bump it up to eleven. Sure the campaign dropped noticably in quality towards the end and many players online can be very difficult to deal with. But for the most part it is the great sequel to Combat Evolved (the game that once brought me back to gaming) that I always wanted and hoped it to be.
The Orange Box
Released October 2007
Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, Playstation 3
Not only does this package contain one of the most best shooters do date, Half-Life 2 and its two expansions. But also the innovative puzzle game Portal and the highly enjoyable multiplayer game Team Fortress 2 all for the price of one. That is reason enough why this very impressive package is mentioned here and is one of the best bangs for your buck out there.
Super Mario Galaxy
Released November 2007
Finally over 10 years since Super Mario 64 this red dressed plumber is back on top with Super Mario Galaxy for the Nintendo Wii. Not only did this game play extremely well and was fun for all ages. It also proved that the Wii sports some technical muscle after all.
Released November 2007
Best looking game ever made from a technical standpoint...but all of you know that already. Crysis is actually also surprisingly fun to play with it's sanbox-like gameplay that lets you tackle pretty much every situation in any way you want no matter how you prefer to play. It packs a lot of variety, it's thrilling and will spawn many sequels, spin-offs or maybe even a movie. Only thing that could complain about is that this exciting adventure has an end and it requires a beast of a rig to play smootlhy at high settings. I hope the comming expansion will be even more optimized and pack the same dynamic gameplay that made this game so darn amazing.
Released November 2007
Platforms: PC, Xbox 360
Knights of the Old Republic on steoroids is quick and fairly accurate way to sum this game up. It looks surprisingly well for a RPG, it has a great story, music and the voicework is absolutely terrific. There are so many places to explore and all the choices you make will have an impact on how the game progress, both big and small. Only a few technical issues hurts what is one of the most impressive roleplaying games made by a western developer for years.
Grand Theft Auto IV
Released April 2008
Platforms: Xbox 360, Playstation 3
Rockstar didn't do much different with GTAIV, and they didn't have to either. There is always something to do in Liberty City and thanks to some very interesting characters the story was very enjoyable to follow as well. There is also tons of stuff to to online with various different game modes even with the entire city open. And it renders everything at a surprisingly high quality. This is a game you can play for months, years even.
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
Released June 2008
Platforms: Playstation 3
I had my fair share of worries regarding MGS4. I did not see how it was gonna live up to Snake Eater wich sported a very impressive setting and set of characters like The Boss. And could not imagine how game designer and producer Hideo Kojima was going to tie up all the loose ends. But he actually succeeded and this adventure is often just as exciting as Snake Eater was and it plays better than ever before and the production values goes trough the roof. The visual design is also near flawless and sports some very impressive tech for a Japanese developed title, making it not only one of the best looking Playstation 3 games but also one of the best looking games this generation on any platform. But not to forget, I've never experienced a game with such well executed sound mixing and the sound track is just terrific to listen to. There is no other game out there that sounds as good as Guns of The Patriots, period. PS3 owners finally got something to brag about, and with right.
Some other titles worth mentioning are...
Dead or Alive 4 (360)
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (PC, 360, PS3)
Company of Heroes (PC)
Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii)
The Witcher (PC)
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (PC, 360, PS3)
Along with many others as you may know. Can't wait to see what the comming 2-3 years has in store for us and how these games I talked about here today will fair then.
Now what have you enjoyed the most this generation so far? Comment bellow
Note: There are some key titles that I haven't played yet or enough of like SSB: Brawl (was released here 4 days ago give me a break), No More Heroes (need to find an uncensored copy), Age of Conan, Crisis Core: FFVII, The World Ends With You among others.
Dear Microsoft: My Xbox 360 story
- Jun 23, 2008 12:00 pm GMT
- 13 Comments
"Subject: Xbox 360 Elite - Your telcom with my father.
Dear Ms. Gabriela, I was just informed by my father about the telecommunication you had with him. Today, I got in touch with a friend who lives in the New York area, and he is willing to help me with my Xbox 360 Elite problem, as suggested by your 0-800 operator [that is, to send my console to someone in the United States, and for that person to make the exchange through Microsoft, since Microsoft Brazil refuses to replace it due to the fact that it is an USA model, even though the Brazilian model is nothing more than an officially imported USA model].
With that in mind, I phoned two shipping companies in order to get an estimate for the rates.
United Parcel Services, UPS, informed me that the cost to ship a box containing my video game system, following an estimate in dimensions and weigh would cost R$ 236 [~US$ 200], and for a return, nearly double that value (not taking into consideration the minimum of 100 percent of taxation of the ICMS, importing, IPI and dealings with the Customs Authority).
With Federal Express, my luck hardly improved, since I would have to pay R$ 216 [~US$ 170], with nearly double that amount, R$ 429 [~US$ 380], not including the taxes mentioned above, for the return shipping. This makes the suggested solution, brought to me by Microsoft Brazil, impractical to us, consumers of your brand.
As a graduated Graphic Designer, who creates and elaborates corporate identities for companies, that value their competence, trustworthiness and honesty, I find the proposed solution ridiculous. I won't even go into details about the introduction of such a flawed and unreliable piece of video game technology into the market.
In the period of nearly an year since I acquired this Xbox 360, I spent close to three thousand dollars in game titles and accessories, along with a full subscription to your Xbox LIVE GOLD service, which in the period I've had my console broken, a month, it expired, stealing the investment I made into the service. Not only that, but I have also spent more than a hundred and fifty dollars into virtual points in order to buy Xbox LIVE Arcade games and other products. I am disgusted and appalled with the treatment served to me by your company, and I garantee that my disappointment is profoundly sincere - I have always valued Microsoft, so much that I gave you the benefit of doubt, and waited more than an year in order to buy a video game console that was promised to be rid of problems, that is, the 'ELITE' model.
I refuse to take my so carefully treated console to a filthy shop in downtown São Paulo in order to place it in a technician's hands and for that person to then "fix" it, with no guarantee whatsoever that he/she will be successful, voiding my three year warranty, given by Microsoft itself for this problem in particular [the three red lights].
[this letter was sent to my local Microsoft representative, and was translated from Portuguese - the s are my personal remarks that serve to add to the story behind it]
Recognize Developers and Industry Visionaries
- Jun 16, 2008 12:08 pm GMT
- 41 Comments
Thousands of people lined up to buy a video game and to meet developer and industry visionary, Hideo Kojima, last week in New York City. We were treating this very influential individual like a rockstar, something that we need to see more of. It seems like a no brainer to many of us avid gamers, but while standing in line, I was asked why I was waiting for 13 hours along with the other gamers.
Obviously, sitting in the middle of Times Square is going to get a lot of attention and I was not surprised by the inquiries about the event. Most people thought that we were waiting for movie, concert or broadway tickets--but the majority could simply not understand why and how we waiting for a video game. Some of the people laughed, some ridiculed us, and others were confused as to why people would be waiting in line all day for a video game. I began to tell people that I was waiting in line to meet the creator of the series, which received support from some of the people passing by, but when then inquired as to what game or who I was waiting to meet, they looked absolutely puzzled.
Metal Gear Solid is a commercially successful and critically praised series that has created and defined the stealth-action genre of video games. Behind that series is the visionary Hideo Kojima, who has become one of the most recognizable people in the games industry. When we finally got inside, only minutes before midnight I really marveled at the amount of people waiting to meet a video game developer. The crowd began to chant, "Kojima!" over and over again as the clock moved closer and closer to midnight. There was an electricity in the store, with smiles on everyone's faces.
Finally, someone yelled, "Kojima is here!" and everyone looked towards the escalator. There, coming down to us, was the great Hideo Kojima, a man who hardcore gamers knew, but people outside the industry would not have took a second look at. As I progressed up the line I was overcome with excitement.
When I approached Kojima, I said in my best Japanese: "Thank you for Metal Gear Solid, please don't stop making games". I usually pride myself on my good diction and speaking ability, as I have spoken before very large crowds before; however, in front of Kojima, I was really really nervous.
The next morning, I proudly showed off my signed Playstation 3 to my family. I was still very excited about the entire event, whereas my mom and dad thought it was a waste of a day and my siblings looked at me with puzzled stares. My grandmother who was visiting, was very happy that I was pursuing my passion for games and asked me a bunch of questions about the video game, the developer, and why it was a momentous occassion.
As I rambled on for an hour about how important Hideo Kojima is to the video game industry, I realized that gamers and non-gamers alike should know about the big people in video games. I hope we all recognize that this industry is a very legitimate one, but we need to do more to help the industry grow.
I am one of the people who wants to get video games recognized as a high-art form. However, I realized that I am not helping the industry gain legitimacy when I can often times not name the industry visionaries or the important studios behind the games. I would argue that two of the best known people in the industry--Shigeru Miyamoto and Hideo Kojima--do not receive the accolades that they deserve from the regular gamer. Of course they get hundred of awards for their achievements, but they are still not known about outside industry enthusiasts.
The goal of this change is so that Shigeru Miyamoto's name is as well known as Steven Spielberg's name because Miyamoto is as important (if not more so) in the video game industry as Spielberg is important to the movie industry. Although many will shrug this idea off as unattainable, I have began to see Miyamoto's name in more and more mainstream media coverage and I believe with our efforts, his name will be more recognizable and will bring nothing but good to the video games industry.
Looking through the lense of my new ideology, I was puzzled when Cliff Bleszinsky, formerly known as "CliffyB", seemed to begin to shy away from the attention he was receiving from gamers. The person who was the official spokesperson for Gears of War, seemed to be the first person who was really living the rockstar-like life in the video games industry. However, I realized after reading his explanation for the change that it was a legitimate and important move. Bleszinsky wants his development team at Epic Games to receive as much attention and recongition that he does because he did not make the game by himself.
Thus the idea that a Ken Levine or a Cliff Bleszinsky will become as well known as a Robert DeNiro is slight, and something that should maybe not occur. Instead, we should have no problem in listing the projects that Epic Games and 2K Boston have made and why those games have shaped the industry. Once we know about these developers and visionaries, we can spread their names around to non-gamers and hopefully they will receive the recognition they deserve.
When I shook Hideo Kojima's hand, I came to the full realization that he was a rockstar of the games industry. My hope is that people on the street will find out about the video games industries' greatest visionaries and developers though our efforts, but the bigger goal is that the next time I am waiting in line for a video game launch that people ask me, "What game is coming out?"
Game reviews: Its a marathon, not a sprint.
- Jun 13, 2008 4:13 pm GMT
- 100 Comments
One of the unions around here posted a little a blog about how a certain game site is now "unbiased" and trustworthy in its reviews. The reason? Ultimately it was the perfect 10 the site gave MGS4.
I'm going to have to disagree. Not over MGS4's score, but over his assessment of the game site with that review being the sole given reason. This seems to happen whenever a big-name game gets reviewed. Such and such a site is completely-biased or is totally trustworthy. Anyhow:
1. This is one review and one review only. As the saying goes, even a stopped watch is right twice a day. A single review is simply not enough to evaluate the site's editorial staff. The writer said they always unfairly reviewed PS3 games; does this include every game up to MGS4? If so and all those games were unfairly rated, why are they suddenly "unbiased" with MGS4?
2. Everyone is expecting rave reviews for MGS4, simple fact. Some of the people who have accused the site of being biased in the past decried their high ratings of Halo 3, using it as an example for said bias. "They're biased! They're giving into the hype!" Supporters of Halo 3 dismissed these claims, naturally. The simple fact is gamers will accuse any site that goes against their own personal biases and expectations as being biased, especially when a review is lower than they want. As a result, bumping a review up so it meets what gamers are expecting is a way to maintain "credibility" with the hardcore niche that regular gaming sites. Appeasing the people who want high ratings is safer than satisfying those who want to see a game with lower ratings. Famitsu has been accused of this practice in the past.
3. Major game sites are ad supported. By having appearing "unbiased" in highly rating a major title that people want to see rock the charts, their credibility is boosted and they can expect to see benefits from that in terms of traffic/readership, which in turn benefits their advertising revenue. This is a clear financial incentive to rate a game well. Not so obvious is that game companies reward postive reviews (deserved or not) and coverage with more exclusives, previews, etc.; all the things people come to game sites for. Bad reviews have been punished with pulled advertising, no advance coverage or advance copies to review, etc.
So, all this doom and gloom - what to do next? How do you trust again knowing the deck is very possibly stacked? Its easy, but is also an ongoing process.
1. Look for consistancy. Not just with big-name games, but ones from small companies with no marketing to back them up. Are they fair? Are their complaints legitimate? Are their praises glossing over faults? If you can trust a site with small reviews, chances are you can trust them for big ones.
2. Look for perspective, both on your part and theirs. A 10 is a fantastic rating. But so is a 9. A rating of 8 is excellent. 7? That's still doing well. As a fan of some niche stuff, I don't expect all my favorites to get 8's, 9's or 10's. But 7? Perfectly fine. Very buyable. Just because your game "only" got a 9 isn't the end of the world or indicate a review site is utterly incompetant. Honest.
3. Remember that the product game sites have is their content. While no site will every be 100% "on it" in terms of reviews (and that's subjective!), they have to do their best to give a honest review otherwise their overall credibility erodes. If you find you're disagreeing with a site more often than not, go somewhere else for reviews. But this is the key; find a place that has biases/tastes similar to yours and recognize the fact. "I go here because their tastes are the same as mine, their biases are the same as mine." Do not declare them as being unbiased! I hate to say it, but your tastes do not dictate the "norm" anymore than mine do. You cannot argue that if enough people like something it must be right - that's so full of holes and flaws its not even funny.
4. Learn and account for a site's biases and, for a lack of better term, "specialties", and how they relate to you. If a particular site is always gung-ho or not into a certain genre, consider that when reading their reviews. If a review seems very in-depth about a game's mechanics and how they relate to the genre, they might well be affectionados of that genre, meaning their level of expectation might be notably different (and higher) than another site that keeps things more basic. As a result, the genre-gourmets and genre-casuals might have review the exact same game differently. Which site matches you better?
5. And above all, do not let base your decision on a single review!
Anyhow, for all you PS3 owners, go out and enjoy Metal Gear Solid 4. I hear its quite excellent
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