- Sep 17, 2007 3:49 pm GMT
- 31 Comments
At the behest of an Internet celebrity, I checked out a video of the character customization process for Mass Effect. That was when I remembered the hours of fun I had playing KotOR. I am a sucker for character customization. Maybe it was the years and years of Pen-and-Paper RPGs I played from adolescence to adulthood. You could make your character look any way you wanted. You could outfit that avatar with any awesome armor within the reach of imagination and in-game cash. The trouble came when you, or your especially artistic friend, had to bring that imagined individual to reality on a piece of paper.
For me the sign of real next-gen gaming is the depth of the experience, not so much the digital detailing in the environment. The scope of Mass Effect alone makes a case for immersive, next-generation candidacy. Today, I saw brought to life what I have told focus groups for years . . . the power to the player comes in the ability to make your character and feel like you are part of a world. Bioware is now keen to deliver the Universe. Granted, the options I've seen in the character creation tool are arguably limited, the ability to drop that custom character into the main situations of the galaxy-spanning plot, are farther reaching for me than the stars of the simulated heavens.
The depth of customization has been something that has grown on this generation of gaming platforms. Need for Speed Carbon let you choose your cars, trick out the bodies, apply paints, and ensure the righ body kits fit your sty1e. Forza 2 delivered a deep livery and component customization feature. After downloading and playing the demo for Juiced 2 yesterday, I can say THQ and Juice Games have seen where the new standard is. Arguably the options for cars in new racing games should be endless. For CaRPGs, that's what I would expect. For traditional RPGs, I now expect the same level of customization for Human, Twi'lek, Covenant, Krogan, and other races set to appear in upcoming RPGs and action games. Really, isn't that what the mod community has been indicating for years?
As humans, we are consistently comparing what has come before to what is out, offered, or experienced today. When the last game we played allowed us to fully customize our car, we then expect the next game we purchase to have that feature. When the last game enabled us to choose the color, fabric, and quality of our attire, any lack of those options will be met with disappointment or ridicule. Those are merely some of the topics used to berate developers and communities these days.
Every aspiring game designer or artist has probably tried their hand at making a custom skin or character design for a game. When I was in college I saw a great Quake III skin. It was Darth Maul. The designer had done a beautiful job designing, animating, and polishing the appearance . . . right down to the death animation of Darth Maul being cut in half. I remember thinking how great it would be if I made a skin so I could play deathmatch games as one of my PnP RPG characters. In Neverwinter Nights I went to great lengths to customize many of my characters. I made their clothes, colored their weapons, but bemoaned the lack of options to create my own designs etched into the blades or adorning the attire.
As consumers, I doubt we really realize the staggering up-front development hours and costs that go into producing and publishing a game. Building visual customization options requires a lot of art, a lot of recombinant-ready options, and a lot of work. Artists, riggers, programmers, and other developers require money for their service. The artistry for many options may not match the requirements for each character design. For instance, every voice option available for a character requires that one voice actor or actress record the dialogue for all of the possible dialogue paths. With a game boasting hundreds of hours of gameplay, the voice acting costs by themselves could raise the required copies for a game to ship in order to justify its creation. While costs of development is a topic for a different day, the demands of a consumer base (namely me), make the costs a factor in whether those features are included.
It's my hope the design dreams of yester-year will arrive in reality this year. Already titles slated for release are incorporating deep character-, vehicle-, and item-customization options. As these features become standards, I am sure many consumers will rejoice and most developers will agonize. For me, I eagerly anticipate looking at my custom-built, female protagonist in Mass Effect for many, many, many hours.
Where is my good tilty game?
- Sep 17, 2007 1:06 pm GMT
- 24 Comments
Few were more excited than I when Sony announced at its pre-E3 2006 keynote address that the PlayStation 3 controller, the Sixaxis, would be motion-sensitive, or have "tilty support," as the cool kids call it.
Superior visuals and audio are expected from a new game console, and intelligent artificial intelligence, realistic physics and more simultaneous characters on screen are not immediately tangible. Motion-sensitive controls are an unexpected, major, immediately noticeable change to the way we play video games.
Motion controls on the PlayStation 3 came at the expense of vibration--that might change--but after years of using Nintendo's vibration-free WaveBird wireless GameCube controller and wireless PlayStation 2 controllers from Hori and Logitech with options to disable vibration to increase battery life, I discovered that I didn't miss vibration.
But in the 10 months since the release of the PlayStation 3, we have yet to see a good PS3 game that relies on motion-sensitive controls.
Tony Hawk's Project 8, available at the PlayStation 3's launch, could be played almost entirely with motion-based controls. It didn't work well, but we let it go because it was a launch game, and new concepts rarely work perfectly on the first try. Besides, the game could be played the old-fashioned way: by pressing buttons, triggers and thumbsticks.
Three months later came flOw. The required motion controls worked, and it was fun, but it was fun only for a few minutes. flOw was a tech demo, and like most tech demos, there was not enough to it to hold interest for a significant period of time.
Another three months later, we got Super Rub a Dub: another tech demo. The motion controls in this one were broken, somehow managing to be simultaneously too sensitive and too loose, making the game not fun, not even for a few minutes.
And now we have Lair: the first full-fledged game designed from the ground up to make use of the PlayStation 3's motion-sensitive controls.
You would think that almost a year after the release of the PlayStation 3 that game designers would have figured out how to properly make use of the Sixaxis' motion control ability, but no, Lair's required tilty controls are broken. Some disagree, and insist that Lair's motion controls work well, and a recent PlayStation 3 System Software update is rumored to have fixed them, but controls are not the only issue bringing Lair down, so fixed (or never broken) motion controls alone do not turn Lair from an awful game into a good one.
And that's just four games. Beyond those, motion-based controls in PlayStation 3 games have been token, and often out of place or awkward, if they exist at all.
The PlayStation 3 does not rely on its motion-sensitive abilities like the Wii, the other game console with a motion-sensitive controller, so it is not as big a disappointment when a PS3 game has token or no motion controls than it is when a Wii game has token or no motion controls, but motion controls are one of the things that differentiate the PS3 from the Xbox 360, its closest competitor, so not having a single good PlayStation 3 game that relies on or makes good use of motion-sensitivity makes this advantage moot, especially since the Xbox 360 Controller can vibrate and the Sixaxis cannot--again, this might change.
By now there should be multiple, full-fledged games (not tech demos) for the PlayStation 3 that rely on its controller's motion-sensing abilities, and countless others that make good use of it. That this is not the case almost a year after the PlayStation 3's launch should be an embarrassment to Sony Computer Entertainment.
Time to bring back purple game hardware
- Aug 18, 2007 7:40 am GMT
- 68 Comments
Yellow is out; purple is in.
This happens every three months. A new color is suddenly trendy, and being the fashion-conscious person that I am, especially when it comes to color trends, I want some of my clothing to be that color. All clothing in that color will look dated within six months and then hang in my closet, not to be worn again for years, but for now, that color looks really, really cool.
It got me thinking, why don't game hardware makers do the same thing? They offer multiple color options now, but they tend to stick to "safe" colors and corporate colors--indigo was once Nintendo's official color, although the shade it used looked more like purple. If you need a 3rd Xbox 360 controller, you might as well get it in blue (or pink, if you're into pink) so you can tell it apart from your black and white ones, but few get excited when seeing a blue (or pink) game controller, unless it is an at the time trendy shade of blue (or pink)--which is unlikely, because game hardware makers tend to use safe shades of those safe colors.
I propose that game hardware makers sell game systems, controllers and other appropriate accessories in trendy colors.
You lust for a purple PlayStation 3, even if you do not want a PlayStation 3. (Image courtesy of ColorWare.)
These trendy-color game systems and accessories should not be permanently available. That would lead to eventual overstocks, as trendiness is fleeting. These should be limited edition releases designed to be sold out in a few months to give retailers space for the same products in the next set of trendy colors.
Again, few people get excited when seeing a blue game controller. But a purple one? (Or one in some other currently trendy color?) That's an impulse buy and a conversation piece for many, especially if its packaging makes it clear that it is a limited edition. And because color trends change, consumers are more likely to replace still-working items with new ones, which is good for game hardware makers and retailers.
You don't care about color? You only care about the games? You are the "core gamer." The video game industry is expanding beyond you. People outside the core need incentives to purchase something, and bigger incentives to purchase a lot of somethings. And just like color is the number one reason why consumers choose one car over another, it could be the reason why they choose one game system and its peripherals over another.
My Thoughts on the 'Aurora' Preview for Metroid Prime 3
- Aug 14, 2007 1:36 pm GMT
- 74 Comments
I realize that the primary focus of the majority of the rather large base of Samus fans anxiously waiting on Metroid Prime 3: Corruption's imminent release is naturally concentrated almost entirely on the gameplay the title promises. This is to be expected. After all, it is an extremely important entry in the series as far as gameplay is concerned. This is true not only because it expands significantly on core gameplay that is now commonly known by Metroid Prime players, but also because it is the first game to showcase the abilities of the Wiimote for potential influence in games similar to this, such as FPS or other FPA. As both a full entry in one of the greatest gaming series of all time and simultaneously a powerful proof of concept for the Wii's suitability in games approximating this genre, it has a lot on its shoulders.
But while I am completely sympathetic with those who feel that gameplay is the most important element with a lot riding on it, my mind is also firmly on the story, something usually overlooked by Metroid fans as peripheral to this series. And as someone who obsesses over this to a fault, I haven't been able to hold back the concern that Metroid Prime is going to continue to be oddly placed as a subseries. And by "oddly", I mean chronologized in ways that don't really destroy anything, but don't really add anything significant either. I love this series, and I want it to do well, so I feel like I have a stake in this, albeit primarily an emotional one.
I saw for the first time yesterday the "Aurora" preview on the Metroid Prime 3 Preview channel on my Wii, and I have to say it really blew my mind. I had to watch it several times to get the significance of what was being said. For those of you who haven't seen it yet and need context, I have posted it to Gamespot here. Take a look before reading if you haven't seen this short sequence already. Also please be advised that this editorial WILL contain SPOILERS for the series, and possible spoilers in describing my own thoughts on what Aurora means not only to Metroid Prime 3, but to the series as a whole.
With that out of the way, I can begin.
Being a long-time Metroid fan, I was left amazed and frankly, a little relieved by this preview video, which was as astounding to me as it was short. I know that many people will argue this point with me -- that Metroid is not about story but gameplay, and really I do agree to a large extent, but Metroid has still ALWAYS had a reasonable backstory to provide detail for what was going on through each iteration of the traditional 2D game series. The plight of the baby Metroid that mistook Samus for its mother was one that left me teary eyed at the end of Super Metroid -- having been there when he was discovered and bonded with the suit-clad beauty of a bounty hunter, it choked me up to watch him give up his life in order to save what he perceived to be his mother. Heck, I guess I am an overly sensitive guy, as I still get all teary-eyed thinking about it now. In any case, all but the first of the original 2D Metroid games involves the baby Metroid in some way, even Metroid Fusion, where he indirectly saves Samus' life for a second time and even has his DNA merged with Samus', the significance of which was not lost on me.
When the first Metroid Prime game was announced and went through the punches, I was FAR too concerned about the gameplay mechanics in a 3D world to worry about something as seemingly trivial as the backstory or the chronology at the time. I was much more worried about the game being touted as an FPS. I realize the FPS genre is a popular one, and for the need to make a spash after so many years absent from the gaming scene, Metroid in 3D almost had to do something to gain ground. But that didn't mean that I would necessarily like it. I am not a fan of FPS. It's just not a genre that works for me, and I was fully prepared to just write off the 3D series as something that violated my almost religious observance of the series.
So when Metroid Prime was finally released, I reluctantly decided to give it a chance. Much to my surprise, and great joy frankly, it wasn't like an FPS at all. Other than being told from the first-person perspective and having some shooting involved, it eschewed almost every FPS convention made to that point, and dared to be at its heart a Metroid game first, and everything else only a distant second. For that I was thankful -- I could love the series in 2D and 3D, and not have to do any kind of selective filtering of white noise entries from the overall picture in my mind, as I usually have to do in expanded universe sets (such as Star Wars).
Having gotten that worry about the first Metroid Prime out of the way, it suddenly occured to me one day that the series does NOT actually take place after Metroid Fusion, but in between the original Metroid and Metroid 2. I had always known this really, but as I said, my concerns were on other things, and it took time for me to realize I might have some objections to this chronology. And while the Metroid Prime story itself was truly touching, particularly in the previously unclear part of her role in the history (and prophecy) of the Chozo, it still wasn't clear how the main storyline fit into it all.
My objections only grew as the chronology grew -- with a full sequel and a handheld iteration, it suddenly seemed to me that a LOT more had happened in between the original Metroid and the rest of the 2D series than I had ever anticipated, and it wasn't really making that much sense to me. The Metroid Prime series in a way had to happen before Metroid 2, simply because Samus had destroyed all of the Metroidsafter that point, but still it seemed to me that there had to be SOMETHING linking these things together, and that this something had to make sense. And while I didn't anticipate Metroid Prime 3: Corruption giving those details needed for that something -- that "Aurora" preview has given me hope that the Metroid Prime subseries will indeed fit into the main series in ways I couldn't have hoped for previously. I think this is definitely opening up some possibilities here to the storyline. In fact, things are starting to come together for me in a way that I hadn't anticipated. This is all opinion of course, but I think it's plausible.
So let me go through my list of presumptions and state where I think things might go:
(1) It's obvious that the original Mother Brain in Metroid was an Aurora dedicated by the Space Pirates to be their director/leader. This is evidenced by the preview's statement that the Auroras were made twenty years prior, making it impossible for Mother Brain to have been the first or unique in any way, or if not impossible, at least not very likely. We know that the original Mother Brain in Metroid was basically JUST a biological computer. She had a defense mechanism in her tunnel (the part of the Aurora video that looked like Tourian from the original Metroid, where Mother Brain rested), but she didn't fight back herself. She used her defense mechanisms instead. (Of course, this was heavily retconned in Metroid Zero Mission, in which Mother Brain did fight back, but that's another story).
(2) The Mother Brain in Super Metroid not only had her defense systems in place, but after being defeated in that manner, she mutated into another form with a body, a face, eyes, etc. How did an Aurora do that? It doesn't seem to be a function of an average computer. The Mother Brain in Super Metroid behaves differently than her predescessor in ways that are unmistakeable, not the least of which is her ability to mutate into a Japanese mega-monster and defend herself by means other than her surrounding automated defense system.
(3) As stated previously, the Metroid Prime is a subseries takes place between the original Metroid and Metroid 2: Return of Samus. (At least, I hope we all know that at this point as it has been broadcast like crazy since the original release of Metroid Prime).
(4) The Metroid Prime subseries deals with the Metroid Prime in every instance except for the ubiquitous Metroid Prime Hunters. The Metroid Prime is at first a Metroid which was mutated by the dangerous Phazon substance and as a result BECAME the source of Phazon. After her defeat in Metroid Prime, she mutates into Dark Samus, and returns to fight Samus in Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. She is now returning in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption with the express purpose of corrupting all of the worlds with Phazon, which again, she is the source of.
(5) The initial premise of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption is that the Auroras have been infected with a virus that causes them to malfunction, while simultaneously, Dark Samus is corrupting the worlds with Phazon. This is a double threat that Samus and the other bounty hunters have to face and eradicate. But it could also be that the virus isn't a virus at all -- perhaps what is corrupting the Auroras only *seems* to be a virus on the surface, but turns out to be the effect of Phazon contamination?
Given these assumptions and possibilities, my theory is that the Mother Brain in Super Metroid is a new Aurora, not the one which was destroyed in the original Metroid (and Metroid Zero Mission). And this new Mother Brain gets corrupted by the Phazon contamination leaked by Dark Samus, becoming the new Mother Brain that could mutate and make such a tough battle in Super Metroid.
There are several ways this could happen. One is that the virus that they are trying to combat in the Auroras is actually a mutation brought on by Phazon, which requires that that one Aurora be captured by the Space Pirates and thus not cleansed by Samus, to then be used by the Space Pirates in its mutated form. Another possibility is that the Aurora itself merges with Dark Samus (again, Dark Samus is the same being as the Metroid Prime was, only mutated), meaning that the new Aurora/Mother Brain actually is partly controlled by the Metroid Prime/Dark Samus, and sees gain in an alliance with the Space Pirates. But a third possibility also exists, and it's not only the most daring one storywise, but also the most likely given the history of the Metroid Prime in the subseries so far. That possibility is that the Metroid Prime mutates INTO an Aurora, and takes on the role of Mother Brain, in much the same way that it mutated into Dark Samus after coming into contact with and being defeated by Samus Aran. This last possibility, put more clearly, means that Super Metroid's Mother Brain may actually be another iteration of the Metroid Prime/Dark Samus/et. al.
It's just a theory, but it seems plausible at this point. I don't want to overanalyze this before I actually get the game and can start playing it, but I have to admit that the possibilities are drawing me in and tempting me to do just that.
And that's something I've missed from the Metroid series for a while -- consistency. I suddenly realize that the last five years may have been a build up to something more consistent than I realized -- and it all started with this little trailer that runs at less than two minutes. Even if I am completely wrong, I have some hope now that things will resolve in such a way that will make the Metroid Prime subseries more than just a last-minute addition and mythos revisionism; the subseries is finally starting to show some value in being not just a great self-contained subseries, but an excellent bridge between the original Metroid and the rest of the games in the original 2D series.
And of course, we can only hope that the gameplay will be great too.
A Thought on the Quality of Games and The Reason Bad Games Keep on Comin'
- Aug 5, 2007 11:18 pm GMT
- 115 Comments
With so many games being released nowadays the average person can assume that some games will be good, while others bad. I, the "average gamer" often look through Gamespot and check out the reviews of the not so good games that are released, and wonder, how WERE these released? One example of this is Spyglass Board Games, an Xbox Live Arcade game that was scored as a 5 on Gamespot. The game was given the demerit for being "stripped", feeling almost unfinished. I tried this game and must agree. The game can be simply stated as one word: mediocre (as the score states). While another could argue that is my opinion that this game is poor, with a broader view, it is easy to find a game on the recently reviewed list that receives a terrible score, like Deal or No Deal on the DS. The question I pose is: how and why are such games released, and why do they keep getting released?
As a small measure of proof, I counted the number of games receiving the Gamespot "Editor's Choice Award" for each year after 2002, the first year of the last PS2, Xbox, and Gamecube generation. The results are telling. The list goes: 2002-41 2004-37 2005-41 2006-21. And now, two-thirds of the way through 2007, there are only 11, setting a pace for about 16. Why the sudden drop off of "A" quality games in 2006? I know that a new bar was set with the next generation of game systems, but that same could be said about 2002. There is a problem here, and it lies in a few places, but mainly lies in us, the consumer, who will willingly buy games such as Hour of Victory.
Why do we purchase bad games? Let's take a look at Hour of Victory. The game trailers promote this game as being powered by the "Unreal 3 Engine" and how you can play as a soldier who has some great destiny, along with various explosions and shooting, but very little actual game play footage. Hell, the trailer makes the game look pretty damn cool. In reality, this game is a candidate for worst game of the year. I have seen my friend play this game. He purchased it solely on the trailers, in which they show you only what they want you to see. There was no "destiny" involved. The game was laughably easy and played almost identically no matter which of the three heroes you play as. Many, many people blindly purchased this game, not knowing the extent of their blunder until it was too late. So why do we buy games like this?
To answer another question, games like that are released because we will buy them. We will blindly throw our hard-earned $60 at the trailer which only shows us what they want the consumer to see. I think it is easy to assume based on the quality of this game that it was done cheaply and cannot have been too terribly expensive to create. If enough people purchase this game, based on blind hope, the game will turn a profit, making the venture worthwhile. This is why the quality of games is declining. As the market expands, there are more consumers. More consumers mean that more people will purchase games, so it is now easier to turn a profit on a game that otherwise would fail a few years ago. When the market was smaller, quality was much more important, as a sub-par game would never make it out of the red. Now, with the larger market, quality has taken a back seat to speed. Speed of production means less expenses, and then the larger market will procure enough copies so that the company profits, thus the decline in game quality.
We as gamers need to draw a line in the sand. We must not surrender our hard earned money based on blind faith that a trailer truly represents a game. We must refuse to buy games like Hour of victory and Spyglass Board Games and force developers to improve what they release out into the market. If gamers, casual and hardcore alike, do not waste time with sub-par games perhaps developers will be forced into producing higher-quality games. Though I am but a lowly teenager, I see the change in the industry and feel that this is a problem. We cannot let the general quality slide any further. If we do, I fear that games will keep getting a little worse, and a little worse, until so much is taken away that the industry will decline and fade out. I plea, be careful with your money, don't trust game videos or trailers, wait to read the reviews, and above all, be a skeptic. The fate of the game industry lies in your hands..... what will you do with it?
Perhaps I am being extreme, but any person can look at the number of 9+/10 rated games I showed above and see a trend. When this new generation hit, in 2006, something was lost. That point cannot be denied. I scroll down through Gamespot's review list ans see more 4-5/10 games than I ever had before. Where would the industry be without companies like Nintendo, Ubisoft, Bethesda, Bungie, and Square Enix, the companies that produced many high-caliber games? EA has taken advantage of their near-monopoly in the (American) football game, as Madden titles don't have the quality they used to, the '06 version on the Xbox 360 didn't even include the ability to challenge a play. So take my argument for what it is. Don't simply think that some teenager is demanding that you can't buy the games that you want to purchase. Whether you agree or disagree with my statement, in my words there lays some truth. I don't know who will read this, but whoever does, have an open mind, and please, be skeptical, and do not throw out blind faith in matters that you can control.
A disappointing demo
- Jul 30, 2007 8:00 pm GMT
- 44 Comments
Just like a good demo can sell a game, a disappointing one can lead to lost sales.
Heavenly Sword has been one of the most anticipated PlayStation 3 games since it was unveiled at E3 2005, so when a demo of it was released Thursday, I, like all PlayStation 3 owners in their right minds, downloaded it as soon as it was made available.
After playing the demo, my interest in Heavenly Sword has dropped.
There is not enough variety to the Heavenly Sword demo. After a long, non-interactive introduction you play a short, God of War-like minigame in which you are given on-screen prompts to press specific buttons at specific times to run and jump across severed ropes to reach a small platform. When you reach the platform, you fight a large number of enemies all at once. When you defeat them all, you play a shorter God of War-like minigame and then fight another large group of enemies in a small area, this time on the ground. When you defeat this second group of enemies, larger, more intimidating-looking characters break down a door, implying that a 3rd battle in a tight area against a large number of enemies is about to begin, but the demo ends there.
The combat system in Heavenly Sword is surprisingly deep, but if fighting large numbers of enemies simultaneously in small arenas is what you do for the vast majority of the full game, as the demo implies, that deep combat is going to get monotonous early.
I have been tracking Heavenly Sword for more than a year, so I know that there will be more to the full game than multi-enemy combat in tight spaces and short, God of War-like minigames (such as boss battles; more stealthy, less action-y sequences and use of cannons), but the demo's almost complete focus on multi-enemy combat has me wondering if there will be enough of the other elements to prevent the game from getting dull.
I still have some interest in Heavenly Sword because of what I know from earlier previews and gameplay videos, but if the demo were my first knowledge of the game, I would ignore all future information about it (the full game), and I certainly would not buy a retail copy.
Indeed. A disappointing demo can lead to lost sales.
Perhaps if the Heavenly Sword demo's 2nd minigame had been followed by something other than a 2nd multi-enemy combat sequence (or 3rd minigame) I would be just as excited (or more) for Heavenly Sword as I was before playing the demo, but as it is, the demo does not leave a positive impression.
Or maybe that not a fight against a large number of enemies in a tight area would have convinced me not to buy the full game. The lack of variety in the demo has me worried that Heavenly Sword's other elements might be broken.
The Heavenly Sword demo is certainly not the first disappointing demo for an anticipated, upcoming game, and a disappointing demo does not necessarily mean that the full game will also disappoint, but the first direct impression is the most important--if I hadn't been so hyped for Shadow of the Colossus by the time I played its too short and too easy demo I would not have purchased the full game--and with digital distribution now a viable option for game demos, demos have the potential to be the greatest influence on game sales--more than professional reviews or word-of-mouth.
A game demo should not focus on a single element of the full game. It might be the best element, but giving players the impression that that is what they will be doing for the vast majority of 20+ hours turns them off. Too much of a good thing is not a good thing. We need variety to stay interested for more than a few minutes at a time.
For example, the Ninja Gaiden Sigma demo sold me Ninja Gaiden Sigma. I was ignoring this game prior to the demo, passing it off as a rehash of an Xbox game (and it is, but it has aged better than expected). Fighting large numbers of enemies in tight areas is a part of the demo, but it does not dominate; there is also fighting fewer enemies in more open environments, exploration, a puzzle, a boss battle and an arena battle mode separate from the rest of the demo. Enough to tell me that I would not get bored from doing one thing over and over again for the vast majority of the full game. Had the demo focused entirely (or almost entirely) on just one of those elements, I would have gone back to ignoring it, never learning that the full game would be must-own.
Nintendo -- What Were You Thinking?
- Jul 12, 2007 10:13 am GMT
- 125 Comments
This is written off the cuff, more as a rant than anything else. It isn't as well organized as I usually write, but that's to be expected. I just need to get this off of my chest about the recent E3 performance, particularly how Sony performed this year vs. Nintendo and how that contrasts with previous years' performances.
Judging Sony's presentation strictly as a show, it was SO much better than what the other two companies put out there. It was energetic, fast-paced, wasn't built on a numbers game, and showed new things I hadn't really seen before. I know the PSP redesign isn't fantastic, but I really liked it personally. I like its smaller design, that they kept the screen size, extended the battery life, and added a feature to use it as a console so you can play the games on your TV while at home. Given that that's the way I prefer to play any handheld (except for the DS), I really appreciated that feature. Hell they had Chewbacca, and that simple PSP game they showed where the physics of your environment changes based on the player's viewing angle -- I almost had a nerdgasm for those two things alone. But the biggest thing is that, unlike last year's Sony show, this year's didn't work as hard on offending my sensitibilities with viral marketing ads. Regardless of whether or not you liked or were impressed by what Sony showed, they very clearly took charge and made the experience one of strictly showing what they had to offer rather than endlessly talking about numbers.
My worst memory of the Sony show from last year was that stupid and needlessly long montage video of "real people on the street" talking about how great Sony was. It stinks of treating gamers like dumbies who can't identify a viral marketing ad when they see one. It had a huge negative reaction from gamers similar to the reaction from that dumb "I want a PSP for Christmas" website they set up which came back to bite them in the behind only five months later. This year I think they learned their lesson, but Nintendo seems to have failed to learn it by observation. I honestly hated that Nintendo had to follow suit this year and put those dumb youtube-esque video montages up -- not just one mind you -- every time that Reggie wanted to take a break, there was yet another low-IQ commercial popping up there full of viral marketing hype. It was so Sony-from-last-year's-E3 -- they almost made me feel played to. I think just by removing those dumb things they could have improved their presentation -- that's how much of a negative I think they were.
I love Nintendo's direction. I really do. It's my favorite console this gen. so far. I don't like being negative about Nintendo. But that conference was simply underwhelming, with the only thing saving it from being a total loss being that they showed clips from some of their anticipated upcoming games, showed some new peripherals and games that looked interesting, and gave a real timeline for online play experiences. Even then, the gameplay they showed of Zelda DS and Metroid Prime 3 was so short and full of talk, that it was hardly noticeable -- it almost seemed like an ad for that couple's "hardcore gaming website" more than a glimpse of those games. I doubt the time they spent showing actual gameplay during those segments was as long as even one of those youtube-esque video montages. Now obviously, the "hardcore gaming website" couple were brought on stage and featured in a video because Nintendo is concerned that they might lose that group of people. But you don't do that by adding more wallpaper to your marketing presentation -- you do it by SHOWING us what you have coming up that caters to us.
I believe that this year Sony had the best presentation. They may not have "stolen the show" overall the way Nintendo did last year, but their presentation was the most enjoyable and did the least to insult my intelligence. And even after all I said about Nintendo's show, I could easily say much more negative about Microsoft's, which I thought was even worse with all the dubious number throws that were intended to prove to me that Microsoft is "driving the industry", while targetting becoming the new Wii with a Disney sign-on. Obviously I still think Nintendo has the better overall direction, at least from a business standpoint, and my comments here are strictly related to the show they put on at E3. But that's really what E3 is anyway -- a show, and the level at which a particular company talks down to its audience in their part of that show has always been one of the biggest factors for me.
I think what I am looking for in that kind of show is excitement -- a clear, compact, and fast-paced presentation of exciting things to come in the future. In the past, Nintendo was clearly on the prowl in their shows. They intended to steal the show, and they did it, even though they weren't sure at that point they would win the market. They had no marketshare to lose and could only really go up rather than down. There was this energy to it that the other two didn't have. Now it seems like it's been reversed. Nintendo almost seemed like it was in protectionist mode, like they were doing their best to protect their new marketshare from intrusion rather than keep it by demonstrating it was viable for the future. As someone who really believes it is viable, I find the failure to demonstrate it on stage to be almost inexcusible. I wish they remembered from before that the best way to do that is by showing us real things that are coming up in thick, long segments that concentrate on them as new content to be excited about, instead of viral marketing displays and number crunches.
In the vast scheme of things, it's better that Nintendo has actually gained marketshare this time around and lost the E3 performance rather than the inverse condition, which has been prevalent for the last couple of years. But Nintendo needs to remember that E3 was one of the biggest vehicles for their current success. It was at trade shows like E3 that they were able to demonstrate their direction and generate the interest they are currently enjoying. It got their ideas out there and showed they were viable. The best approach is not to tell us your numbers and how viable you are from a financial perspective -- let us, the buying public worry about that. Instead, show us what you have coming down the pipeline. Convince us that you have things worth taking a look at, things that are coming in the future, things we won't want to ignore. We don't need another hard sell at our door with you wearing your Sunday best and handing out quasi-religious pamphlets about the Kingdom of God. We want to see the Kingdom in action.
Leaked Sony E3 2007 Internal Memo!
- Jul 10, 2007 12:51 pm GMT
- 66 Comments
To: Sony Executives and Public Relations Personal at Sony Computer Entertainment
From: Sony Department of Common Sense
Date: Monday, July 9, 2007
We at the under funded Sony Department of Common Sense are writing to address public relations issues that we believe is critical to resolve before the upcoming 2007 E3 Expo. As many of you are aware Sony Computer Entertainment has had a somewhat difficult past year. The launch of the PlayStation 3 has not gone as successfully as hoped and frankly we at the Sony Department of Common Sense feel that some PR gaffes have not helped matters. Such gaffes may not be the source of the problems, but they're not making things any better either. Accordingly we have prepared this memo to provide tips that we hope will assist you avoid unnecessary missteps when it comes to communicating with the media and to a larger extent customers and potential customers during and after E3 2007.
1. Check your facts before you speak.
While we all know that the PlayStation 3 is an amazing machine we do believe that Sony has built up a bit of a reputation for aggressively touting upcoming features. Does our competition do it too? Absolutely our competition does it too, but that doesn't earn us any more credibility when we talk about features and capabilities that frankly may never materialize.
Remember the Killzone 2 trailer two years ago that was supposedly generated in real time, but in fact was not? Then there was the claim that Motorstorm would run at 1080p and 60 fps. Such claims are great if they are true, but when we fall short on such promises it impacts our credibility in the future and can result in more bad press than good. We suggest checking and possibly shelving any claims this year that we might not be entirely certain that we will be able to deliver.
2. Nobody cares what we think of our competitors.
In a recent survey of the gaming audience we were shocked to find that most people don't think that we provide a balanced view of our competitor's products. When asked if they want to hear more of what we think about Microsoft, Nintendo and their products most gamers told us to "put a sock in it" or place other items in various locations. In short they do not care what we think about our competition.
We are also concerned that raising too much FUD about our competitors casts a somewhat unpleasant light on our image as a company, and might even seem a bit "desperate" to our potential customers out there. In past years we may have been able to more securely talk about problems and concerns regarding our competitors products but now with increased competition the more we spend time spreading the FUD and less we do selling our own product the more likely it is to backfire. This is especially true if the FUD may be factually inaccurate. There are legitimate issues with our competitor's products but we suggest keeping the FUD to a minimum for now. Remember we need to sell our system here.
3. Be careful how you say what you say.
In addition to suggestion number one, we should be considerate of how we communicate our message. There have been a large percentage of articles published about our grand company over the past year that could be described as negative. Regardless of whether we feel this is fair or not the result is that we need to be selective in what we say. Sure there are those folks who will twist whatever we say into some negative pretzel, but at times we don't help matters and some comments only feed the fire.
4. Improve the Presentations.
The last item is not so much a PR gaffe as it is an area for improvement. When surveying gamers and members of the media we found that amongst those who watched last years E3 presentations they most enjoyed watching Nintendo's Reggie Fils-Aime. Reggie Fils-Aime's presentation was followed in popularity by Gamespot footage of a parking meter, then a baked potato, then all the other presentations including our own. That is not good.
We certainly appreciate that many of those people who have spoken at our E3 presentations in the past are experienced presenters. However, we submit that the experience earned in "captive audience" presentations such as board or staff meetings might not translate well into a presentation where we need to get the media and games excited about or products. Attach ratios, and similar stats just don't generate the buzz that we think we're looking for at E3. Additionally we suggest having an engineer discussing the finer technical points of the cell processor might be worth skipping this year, if not forever.
As we noted in our opening statement these suggestions certainly won't address every challenge that Sony Computer Entertainment faces today. However, those suggestions may at least make our lives bit easier and over time by avoiding such missteps they could add up to an improved public image in the minds of the media and our customers in this competitive market.
Thank your for your time and attention,
Sony Department of Common Sense
Who are the Gaming Folk?
The Nintendo Wii has had some incredible early success both in Japan and here the U.S. I even bought one despite writing off Nintendo consoles after my coma educing experience with the Gamecube. If there is anything I've learned from Nintendo's success so far it is the following:
- Jun 30, 2007 3:59 am GMT
- 32 Comments
I have absolutely no idea who my fellow game players are and I do not know why they buy what they buy.
Sure I know that a game like Halo, Madden, Pokemon or the latest dreadful movie tie in games are going to sell like hotcakes. Is that really due to some deep understanding of the gaming audience or just the recognition of an obvious pattern?
I spend a fair amount of time on gaming forums as I'm interested in what other people are playing, what they think about the games they are playing, and etc. I don't recall anyone predicting the demand for the Wii that has been seen to date. This leads me to assume that most of the people who play games (at least that I see) also don't have the best grasp of who else plays games and why they buy what they buy.
That doesn't mean there aren't plenty of opinions and theories about the Wii's popularity. Hit any gaming forum out there and you'll find that there is bound to be one or two active threads where users proclaim various reasons for the Wii's success. On top of how confidant about their theories everyone is it is interesting to see the variety of theories:
The Wii has a low price point.
The Wii is different than the competition.
It's a gimmick!
The Virtual Console is crazy fun.
Nintendo is manipulating the supply and using scarcity to drive up sales.
The casual crowd has come to play and there are lots of them buying Wiis.
Screw traditional games, all we need are mini game compilations!*
*Ok, nobody actually said the last one. Note that Nintendo.
So those are just the main points of a few theories. There are endless variations reflecting each person's opinion. Heck I suspect even the theories are driven mostly from each person's own opinion of the system rather than any actual data. I have my doubts as to how many folks out there have broken out their spreadsheets and poured over demographic numbers. Personally I suspect the first two theories have something to do with the Wii's success, but then again that's why I bought a Wii. Beyond a hadful of friends I don't know why anyone else bought it.
Now the people who might have some real data about who makes up the population of game players sometimes share a tiny bit that info. The folks at the ESA have a nice page of numbers. Amongst other things they tell us that the average game player is 33 years old. I feel I have to take some of this info with a grain of salt. Currently the political climate is fairly anitgaming and I think it would be in the industry's best interest to note that most gamers are adults and not children. Also as another user on the Gamespot forum often asks: If there are so many older gamers out there, then why are most video games still released altogether around the holidays? Hummm.
So there we go. Even when someone is nice enough to drop some numbers in my lap I'm skeptical. Even if I buy into those numbers they really don't explain much at all about the Wii's popularity, or why game players buy what they buy. For all the editorials, pod casts, talk and rhetoric out there I have to wonder who actually knows anything about game players?
I think I'll go fill out those two surveys from Nintendo sitting in my inbox. It seems they want to know too.
Getting to grips with the Man Cannon
- Jun 27, 2007 2:42 am GMT
- 26 Comments
From the sound of the header, you already know the game I'm talking about.
Most people however purchased the below game to play a sample of the multiplayer of the former game months before it's release.
I can't say that I was one of those people - I was genuinally interested in Crackdown, especially when the demo came out and I was hopping over rooftops with ease.
However, I was happy to hear about the Halo 3 beta inclusion in the game. It meant the game instantly got more exposure, and it was a game that, up until that point, had media coverage that was pretty subdued. The fan fever around the game wasn't that high. An exclusive Xbox 360 game made by MS is usually a great game - check out their portfolio on both the Xbox and Xbox 360 for that, there are very few disappointments.
The same can be said for both Sony and Nintendo with their respective consoles, actually.
But is it possible that the very reason that I enjoyed Crackdown was one of the main silly things I enjoyed about the Halo 3 beta? Especially after I had had enough of fragging guys.
"The problem with the world is that everyone is a few drinks behind"
Yeah, with a few friends around and some alcohol, the Halo 3 multiplayer beta became more than the frag fest the designers intended.
It became the ultimate piss up joke with the coolest sounding new feature - the Man Cannon.
This awesome bit of kit is meant to shoot Spartans across the battlefield, in an effort to get fights happening fast, I assume.
But it can also, in the hands of one as devilish and as drunk as I, become a weapon of mass hilarity.
The Man Cannon (best name ever!) quickly became a playground for drunken antics whereas I and friends tried to maneouver tricks off it.
We managed to get the new ATV vehicle on it easily enough, and pulling off somersaults, backflips and even table-tops was easy enough. At one point we even managed to get the Warthog on the Man Cannon, and away it went. The larger vehice was harder to direct into contortion like maneuvers, but we still managed to have fun with it.
THEN EVERYTHING CHANGED.
Suddenly, we had someone jack a warthog while flying in mid air. As the driver was falling to a certain doom, he shot a sticky grenade into the pilot's seat and she blew up sweet, I assure you.
Soon enough, we'd launch ATV's, Warthogs and anything else we could and fire them with rockets. It was especially funny when we stuck someone and they ran to the Man Cannon to fly in the air, arms flailing, voice screaming in your ear and then see them explode in a shower of blue light.
Ah, good times.
Crackdown is much the same now though. Now that I've completed the sadly too short storyline, I've gone back to the game and tried out what I can now do. The Agility and Hidden Orbs was a great way the designers made you canvas out all the buildings and hidden nooks in the game.
Explosions are always cool. And Crackdown has great explosions.
The new cheats which you can play around with can equip anyone with a variety of weapons and abilities on the fly - so choosing Rocket Launchers and Explosive Grenades as well as full strength and agility, me and a friend did our best Hulk impressions and picked up small cars, Fuel Tankers and whatever else we could find and flung them all into a large pile.
A Rocket into the nexus of that pile and an explosion that would have broke the richter scale tore through the city and flying debris wouldn't stop for.... seconds. But it was worth the trouble.
Jumping around rooftops and shooting one another, then picking up cars and throwing them around like playthings is just too cool to mention in words. It has too be seen and experienced for yourself.
But after all the fun innuendos without having to truly think about it - I've come to a earth-shattering and amazing conclusion.
We can input as much of ourselves as we want in our games, and change the way they were possibly designed for our own ends, but free roam/ sandbox titles live primarily by letting the player loose and giving them the chance to do their own thing.
Crackdown and Halo 3 are closely related - both made by MS and both appearing only on the Xbox 360. And Halo 3's multiplayer beta launched from the main title of Crackdown.
But they also let you swing around like a galah and have a grandiose time by playing funny bugger shenanigans without thinking twice. Crackdown even encouraged it - with the cheats almost giving players complete freedom to play around with their agents as they see fit.
Why oh why multiplayer wasn't added into this game I do not know. But, I suppose, you play the games as you see them. I see explosions and jumping galore.
I've got to grips now with the Man Cannon, and I'm gripped by it's jumping joy.
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