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HeadrockBeats Blog

Q&A Session

Wow it's been almost 6 months since the last blog. I'd do it more regularly but I play too many games for that. :)

And I haven't really posted all the stuff I promised in the first one. I might some day though.

In the meanwhile, I've been wanting to post some answers to a couple of the questions I've received from other users here, maybe shed some light on things. Fair warning: I get preachy, so brace yourself. If you find my answers upsetting, deal with it.

Q: How do you own so many games?!

A: I own about 1000 games, some of which aren't listed on gamespot I'm afraid. I started buying in the late 80's, when they were comparatively cheaper (sometimes much cheaper). If you do the maths it turns out I've spent somewhere around $15,000 (in today's currently). Over a period of around twenty five years, that really doesn't make an awful lot of money to spend on a beloved hobby (comes out to about $600 a year). Just think about how many people blow twice as much on heroin or cocaine or even cigarettes. Or, yeah, beer and cars for the mild-mannered.

Q: Why do you only own PC games?

A: A quick look at the list will show that I favour adventures, classic role playing games and strategy games. For the majority of their existence, these games were often designed primarily for the PC. I've never been a major fan of platformers and shooters, so buying a console was really just a waste of money as far as I was concerned. Plus, in the "olden" days (which weren't so long ago), any game that came out on consoles first was eventually ported to the PC if it was any good, so I was sure to encounter them at one point or another. I believe that's still true today, despite the massive hype around consoles. I have yet to find myself moaning that a game I really wanted to play was not available on the PC. So yeah, I never really had a reason to buy a console.

I did have a Game Gear at some point though. Played it with a non-compatible AC adapter which had to be taped to the device to keep it running. Eventually the screen gave out, and that was pretty much the end of my relationship with the non-PC culture.

Q: Why do you rate so many games with "9.5" and "9.0"? Surely you're exaggerating.

A: This is a much more complex question, so I'll break it into several parts.

1) I only bought games I thought I'd like, or heard were really good. Fortunately I had/have many friends who played PC games and whose opinions I respected. In addition, during the 90's I was subscribed to a local games magazine which gave very good reviews and suggestions about which games to buy, so it was easy to figure out what I wanted to buy next. The result is that I like the vast majority of the games I own, and I'm not just saying that because I had to pay for them :P . There are quite a few bad apples, of course... Sad waste of money.

2) The vast majority of games on my list were made during the 90's, when there were tons of very good games around. Sure, there was tons of crap out there (although not as much as today), but it mostly flooded the console market, not the PC market, so I never really had to deal with low-quality clones clogging up my collection. Very little "trial-and-error" consumerism was required. Also you need to remember that the vast majority of clones belong to the action/platformer genre because that's just simpler to make. I almost never play either of those genres - unless I hear very good reviewsabout them, in which case they're probably the good ones. Call of Duty 4 is a good example of a successful foray into first-person-shooter territory - which I don't regret one bit.

3) I try to judge games in the context of the time they were released; in fact I think any good reviewer who talks about older games should do the same thing, otherwise he's applying an unfair bias. Some of the games on my list look downright ugly compared to the multi-million dollar stuff that we've got nowadays, but is nonetheless superior in gameplay or story or plain fun to the masses of repetitive games on shelves today. Games that stand out, are interesting and fun, and especially those that have yet to be matched in their own genre get high scores. Music and atmosphere go a long way with me, too. If while rating a game I think "oh man I'm so going to replay that right now", that's super bonus points right there.

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So that's my answers to Frequently Asked Questions. You can comment if you like, even if you disagree. Try to keep the flaming to a minimum. PC enthusiasts are urged to voice their own opinions/experiences with all the above.

Adventures in 320x200

Yeah yeah, I was going to write about my frustrations with the Gaming Industry but I got sidetracked about thirty different times, so it never happened. HOWEVER, I did manage to get some things done in the process, including starting up my own webcomic! Feel free to share with friends and Digg it thoroughly:

320x200, chapter 1

I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed making it!

Shameless self promotion? You betcha!

I probably should've mentioned this a long time ago, but better late than never.

I've been busy over the past couple of years writing Trivia quizzes at Funtrivia.com. The majority of them are about video games, especially the classics I loved to play (and still do). If you like trivia and are one of us old dogs with a penchant for the times gone by, hop over to my FunTrivia profile (my quiz-list is at the bottom), and see if you can solve some of them yourself. They're absolutely free to play, of course.

Oh and let me know how much you scored ;)

Wow, hypocrisy just keeps getting more and more perplexing with time!

I just received this update on Gamespot. I don't know exactly how I felt after reading that, but vomiting was part of what I was thinking. EA's brain has gone bye-bye.

http://www.gamespot.com/news/6204915.html

Basically, one of the biggest shovellers of the shallowest games imaginable, are accusing the industry of having too few innovations, due to an over-plethora of developers who can't make ends meet without selling their work to a publisher.

Don't get me wrong, before you say something, yes, EA did bring several interesting games to the world, in fact many if you count the exploit of the "parent" Electronic Arts software publisher (who was nothing like this one, to be sure). But that's just a fraction of the amount of bull**** they've been publishing alongside the good stuff. How dare they accuse anyone else of flooding the market when they themselves publish the shallowest possible games (usually based on franchises from other media) by the bucketload, causing the very same problem they seek to "eradicate". A plethora of developers and publishers is a good thing whichever way you look at it. What REALLY scares me is exactly the opposite: a FEW BIG publishers, a nightmare scenario which has been slowly creeping in since the year 2000, and is now almost at full swing. The fact that EA can make such alarming declarations in public (the kind that sound like Microsoft's old "we can do whatever the hell we like" monopolistic approach) just makes it all much more spine-chilling.

Publishers grow on the back of creativity, and end up crushing it. We've seen this happen in music, we've seen it happen in Cinema, and those of you who still read books (or would like to) have probably seen this too. EA has reached critical mass, and it still wants to keep growing. This process needs to end. If this industry... bleh I hate that word... if this artform is to go any further, it has to get rid of the massive corporations before it ends up like all other artforms - as cheap entertainment.

In any case, if you buy what EA is selling with that statement, I wish you a fun stagnation and regression. I just hope I've managed to piss some people off by showing them this.

And I'm going to go outside and plant a few game developers in my back yard, just to piss EA off. ;)

Knowledge Base

I figured that as I'm going to be talking about the situation of the game industry, I should back myself up first. For the purpose I've gone through GameSpot in the past few days and added a few games to my "collection". This is all the stuff I own (or owned... diskettes and CDs weren't designed to last long). I hope this can give a good idea of my own gaming background, plus the sort of stuff I consider good gaming (I've rated all of them).

So have a quick look at my games list and see if you agree with my taste ;)

Also if you want to see what I think of some of these, have a look at my reviews. I've written a couple recently, and will try to add more in the next few days.

So this is where I come from, basically. The kinds of games rated high in my books are the same kinds of games that are dying now, and something must be done to stop that terrible process.

Peace.

They don't make them like this anymore

I've decided to start a little blog here, and see if it picks up well. I'd like to call this the "They don't make them like this anymore" blog, where I intend to rant and rave to considerable length about the state of the Games Industry as a whole, when compared to the very gaming environment I grew up in. Along the way, I hope to be able to introduce some of my readers to games they never thought of trying out, some new but mostly older, seeing as I am generally dissatisfied with the selection of games that have been coming out in the past decade.

A little bit about me first.

My name is "Headrock" (that's all you need to know) and I've been playing games for the greater part of my life (which is still short, comparatively speaking). I enjoy computer games more than most other things, and there've been periods in my life which I've spent on nothing but computer games. Many people would find that sick, but I couldn't give a rat's a**, seeing as I enjoy them so much. I must've played hundreds of games, if not more, so excuse me if I consider myself just a little bit of an authority on the issue. Later in life I began designing games, and although none of my work has been commercially available (at least, not as I intended it), I've done some work on mods, and written my share of posts, walkthroughs, reviews, and whatnot for the game community. If there's one thing I want to say about my relationship with games, it's that I don't waste my time on a game that doesn't offer anything new, so I hope you understand that I won't be talking about the next installment of Unreal Tournament anywhere on this blog. Having played so many games, I can say with some certainty (arrogance?) that I've only spent time on a game based on its quality and true worth, and hope that this will become clear as I write more blogs. Oh, and just so this is clear - I have never owned a console in my life (apart from an old Atari when I was 5), and will probably never own one in the future. The reasons for that will soon become clear.

Enough with the vanity, let's start talking.

What's the point?

I'll get to the point first, I figure the first blog should put it out in the open and then everything else is just elaboration on the matter. The fact is, as I see it, that as time goes on the ratio between good games and "mundane" games is becoming desparate with each year that passes. A quick scan of the "top 10 best-sellers" here on Gamespot for each of the previous years shows an obvious decline in content and innovation compared to technological prowess and "wow" factor. In layman's terms, games are being dumbed-down and watered-down every year, and it's getting worse and worse. It's getting so bad that I'm starting to skip E3 reviews because they offer nothing new, just slews of games that bring the same old crap in a new shiny wrapping. While it would be a crime to say that no good games are being made nowadays, the few that do come out are increasingly being overshadowed by the "static noise" generated around unimaginative designs that, for some reason completely unfathomable to me, seem to rake in more money than the latest designer drug.

As a gamer, while this is certainly annoying it isn't the end of the world - I busy myself with the best games I can find, and in cases of prolonged drought there are always great games to revisit from the past. However, as a game designer and self-proclaimed visionary, I am deeply distraught. I often ask myself whether it is now impossible to make games that are as deep, stimulating and enjoyable as those on which I grew up, and whether the industry itself can be revived or reshaped. I believe that it is imperative to keep akindle the design foundations that helped create some of my favourite games, but I struggle to deny that those foundations have already been lost.

Therefore, I devote some of my time towards letting this opinion out in writing - in what is probably a futile attempt to bring some change and pull us gamers out of a serious rut. I figure that consumer power is very important, but more important than that is getting the message to future game designers, and let them know that the pursuit of better gaming is not pointless, that there are ways and methods to overcome the downwards slope, if we could only understand why it is that our beloved games industry is deteriorating so badly. Surprisingly, I find that many people agree with what I say when I do say it, but I feel that perhaps I'm not being concise enough about it. So to some extent, I hope that perhaps writing a blog about this may help draw people to discussion, analysis, and possibly even a solution.

There are many points I wish to make and many questions I wish to ask, and I'll cover them separately if I can, including but not limited to:

  1. The effect of advancing technology on the desire of the public to see it used.
  2. The effect of publisher-based decisionmaking versus developer-based decisionmaking
  3. Effective ways to revive old ideas without giving up past advancement in software and hardware application.
  4. Effective ways to bypass money-grubbing in favour of content.
  5. Whether or not there still exists a power-base of gamers who desire depth-play over casual-play, and whether or not emphasis on casual-play really means a game must be dumbed-down.
  6. Sequels (that's a whole can of worms right there)
  7. Does the size of the industry invariably affect quality
  8. Can today's gamers be persuaded to go along with a renaissance, or have we gone into an endless loop where the players and the industry drag each other down.

I hope that I'll be able to talk about all of these subjects before I run out of energy to write more blogs (or get disinterested and go somewhere else...). Talkbacks would be greatly appreciated of course.

And last but not least, I will interrupt this blog many times to bring examples of my own favourite games, some old and some new, for comparison purposes and even just for the fun of reminiscing and hopefully drawing some of you to play them too. After all, what's the point of explaining what's wrong if I can't show what's right, eh?

Thank you for reading this, and stay tuned. I hope not to disappoint!