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The Promise of Portable Gaming

Recently I was privileged to spend a good amount of time away from my consoles. For a solid 3 days I was unable to access my 360, PS3 or my Wii as I was happily required to stay in one general area while my wife gave birth to our first. While she did all the work, I had all the fun. During those three days I played Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, GTA: Chinatown Wars and The World Ends With You. I can't think of a better way to spend a gaming weekend.

A brief history of portable gaming:

1989 - Nintendo releases the Gameboy which sold almost 120 million units worldwide. It had a crappy greenish-gray game play hue to everything and was the size of a small Buick. But man was it cool at the time.
1991 – Sega releases the Game Gear which sold 11 million units. Less than a tenth of the Gameboy! While I'm no Sega fan-boy that thing was MUCH better as it had color, despite being about the same size as a large Buick.
1992-2004 – Various reiterations of the Gameboy along with this devious device.
2004 – The DS and PSP hit the scene and make portable gaming relevant.

I've traditionally believed that portable gaming was only good for traveling and for little kids whose parents don't want them in front of that danged TV all the time. After a glorious weekend of DS gaming (come to think of it I should have listened to music on my PSP while I gamed on my DS. Dang.) I've come to recognize the inherit value of a well-written, well-designed and properly programmed portable game.

Here are three attributes that I think are vital for a portable game to be good.

Said game must, front start to finish, be entirely created for the sole purpose of being played on the designated portable device.

I have yet to see a port of a console game that has any merit whatsoever. A brief glance at the highest rated DS games of all-time on GS indicate that without fail each one while perhaps a remake was developed from start to finish for the portable. PSP enjoys a similar trend albeit some of the lesser rated games are ports. Having played some of those I certainly wouldn't rank those as high as they are.

Said game must, with the exception of historic extenuating circumstances, be finishable within 15 hours.

The nature of the device requires that portable games not become sweeping epics that require hours of blood, sweat and tears. Not only are the "discs/cartridges" too small for something like this to happen but the size of the device itself only lends one to small doses of gaming at a time. Which leads us to our final attribute.

Said game must, with no exceptions, have a proper mechanism for catching a player up on story, gameplay and objectives after a long hiatus of not playing.

This seems almost too obvious. Given the choice between playing a console and a portable most people would choose a console. Why? Because of the sheer size and graphics usually associated with gaming on any normal sized television. That's why most portable gaming occurs during times of transit. Portable gaming is perfect as a distraction on flights, trains, buses and car rides which is why a method for catching a gamer up after a non-gaming spell is important.

You know what would really be cool? If portable games eventually became available on LIVE, PSN and Virtual Console. After your game loses its retail value why not release it as a downloadable game at full price? That way you make more money from your game and gamers who don't have a portable device can still experience your story? Sure that might hurt sales for the DS and PSP, but I can't imagine it would significantly impact it if the game you've released is already old.

Lastly, a word (or 300) on mobile gaming. I don't know about anyone else but I am not convinced that portable consoles will be made obsolete by all-in-one phone devices. Gaming on an iphone is okay but at its core an iphone is still a phone. Cell phones have consistently gotten smaller while serious portable gaming screens cannot afford to decrease any further. Furthermore, current hardware required to run a decent looking portable game is not found in most if any current cell phones. Diner-Dash and Bejeweled might work as cell phone games but try putting Crisis Core on there. Not going to happen.

In my ongoing quest for a job in the industry I've noticed many game studios are/were looking for people to help in their mobile gaming divisions. I'm curious as to what research and strategy these developers have in relation to mobile gaming. I've decided they must be trying to appeal to users who don't own a DS or PSP. These mobile games cost a couple of dollars and are only good for the life-span of your phone. Why bother? If they really want to saturate the market they're better off releasing these games as free downloads with ads that play at load-up and then again in the middle of a certain level or something. This seems like a much more lucrative option then expecting people to pay 5 bucks for your mediocre game on that mediocre device.

A potentially huge problem for the industry

Over the last couple of years I've noticed the swelling of a quiet storm that if left unaddressed could lead to a serious problem for the video game industry as a whole. Recent headlines have drawn my attention again to this issue.

The problem I'm describing is video game addiction.

This week President Obama addressed schoolchildren about the importance of a focused education. Included in his speech was this interesting sentence.

"I've talked about your parents' responsibility for making sure you stay on track, and get your homework done, and don't spend every waking hour in front of the TV or with that Xbox."

Obviously this is sound advice. No one should spend every waking hour doing any one thing. However this is troubling from Microsoft's perspective because the most powerful person in the world has just decried overuse of one of their most important products. By name. This, of course, could be extrapolated to any console and thus shows the rising undercurrent of video game push-back.

The popular view of video gaming as a time-waster is certainly not new. From its infancy the industry has struggled with acceptance as a legitimate medium worthy of artistic value and commercial success. However the mostly benign and passive attitudes towards the "childish" hobby have in recent years turned into a popular whipping-boy to explain all sorts of negative behaviors by pre-teens, teens and adults alike.

Now advocacy and medical groups have produced more studies to attempt to officially identify a problem. One study conducted by the National Institute for Media and the Family, finds that 8.5% of gamers exhibit 6 of the 11 symptoms of a as-yet to be medically accepted video game "addiction". Included symptoms of the study are "lying about playing time", "trying to play less and failing" and "irritability when trying to reduce or stop playing".

With criteria like this any sort of behavior could conceivably draw the ire of advocacy groups like the National Institute for Media and the Family. Today it's video games. Tomorrow it could be fishing.

To date the American Psychological Association and the American Medical Association have rejected video game addiction as a legitimate medical diagnosis.

Taking the most heat have been Massively multi-player online role-playing games (MMORPG – I really hate that name. I realize it completely describes the genre, but it's still just too clunky. How about "Online Role-playing games" or "Online RPG's" since most, if not all online rpgs are Massively multi-player). Because these games occur in "real-time" there is more incentive for players to stay constantly connected.

It doesn't help that portions of Asia and Europe have reported deaths from "video game exhaustion" where many gamers spend significant amounts of time in LAN houses gaming to the exclusion of other activities like eating, sleeping and exercise. These occurrences might explain a recent rise in denunciations from civic, religious and community leaders.

I personally feel that the problem is more cultural than psychological or medical. However, I'll gladly accept any well-researched, properly conducted medical theories which include systemic cerebral responses to known addiction centers.

To me, excessive video game playing is akin to excessive television watching, book reading, fly-fishing, marathon running, car-driving or any other sort of activity that only has intrinsic value to those who enjoy engaging in it.

Video gaming still holds the stigma of depressed, socially awkward and inept teenage males cut off from the real world in their parents' basements. This stereotype like all others may possibly never go away despite the industry's proven ability for economic success, culture relevance and artistic merits.

Unless the video game industry can exact a certain sense of legitimacy in an ever-saturated media climate they could potentially find themselves on the wrong end of a scientifically accepted stereotype.

Or, perhaps the problem lies in well-adjusted educated adults who sub-consciously feel guilty about their contempt and inability to find value in something that seems so accepted by a large audience.


A Potpourri of Possible Posts

I've been thinking of great topics to write about and I didn't find one that really deserved it's own post, so here's a fresh selection of random thoughts.

Online Etiquette

My last post briefly mentioned how tired I am of people yelling obscenities through my headphones while playing online. I hate it. I'm not one for cursing. I just don't see the appeal. It feels lazy to me. I hate playing online with random strangers. I very rarely do any matchmaking with players I don't know. When I do play I'll usually create a party so I don't have to hear anyone. This of course takes away a potentially important tactical aspect but it's worth it to me.

Here's what I don't get. A majority of the filthy mouths I hear all sound young. They must be playing where no one could possibly hear them because if I said a tenth of the stuff that comes out of their mouths I'd be riding the lite-boy train if you know what I mean. I've heard some really gross stuff while playing online and frankly there's nothing that XBL or PSN can do about it.

Just another reason why it's a good thing I don't live with my parents or have kids (yet. 4 weeks left).

Nothing like Online Hyping

Last year I was pursuing (as I'm prone to do) and I noticed an article on 2k's then upcoming Major League Baseball 2k9. I thought to myself "Huh, let's see if these jocks can speak intelligently about gaming". Much to my chagrin the next 2000 words were an obvious fluff piece written by some marketing type that ESPN just threw up there. In their preview not a single problem could be found with the game.

I of course knew it was poppycock and said as much in the comment section, to which I got totally lit up by the other commenters. Their main criticism was that I had never played the game and therefore could not know whether it was good or not. Of course I could know! The previous games in the series were terrible so what makes this one better? Nothing! The article couldn't point to one problem with the game and the hyped-up writing was so over the top that I knew something was fishy.

I looked for hours to find the link so you all could revel in its ridiculousness, but alas could not find it.

Anyway, my point is I'm tired of people over-hyping games online that they know nothing about or if they do they're being disingenuous. I seem to recall that Gamestops Game Informer got in trouble for this a couple of years ago. Does anyone else remember that?

Game Score Inflation?

Speaking of over-hype has anyone else noticed that a lot of games get ranked in the 8.0 to 9.0 range? Like almost every big-budget, super-hyped franchise game gets rated in this safe zone. I sometimes wonder if magazines and websites rate games this way so as to not draw the ire of developers while trying to maintain a sense of credibility by allowing some wiggle room with their 8.0 rating.

I'm sure other bloggers have posted on this topic before so I won't go into it anymore but I definitely feel like there's some inflation going on here. I will say that I trust GS over any of the other sites.

Finding Gaming Values

As the cost of games go up and game quality becomes more disparate it becomes increasingly important to find the games that provide value. While I've not been a proponent of downloading games on various marketplaces, I'm wishing I could take back this one - 70 bucks for Final Fantasy 7 on the PS1 versus 10 bucks for Final Fantasy 7 on PS3.

I've also noticed that the Live Marketplace has got some really great games on there for decent prices. What's better is you can buy a lot of them through Sony would probably find more downloads by following Xbox's lead.

There are other places to find great values as well. There are trading sites like Goozex and rental places like GameFly that, depending on your situation, are really great. Obviously places like SlickDeals are going to post great video game deals every once in a while. For me Gamestop or PlayNTrade are usually my last resort.

Too Much of a Good Thing?

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day and we are both proud? owners of PS3, Xbox360, Wii, PSP, DS, and a PS2. We both agreed that buying all these consoles has not improved our gaming experiences. In some ways so many options have negatively affected our game play but our OCD need for completion prohibit us from getting rid of any systems. No matter how little (if ever) we use them.

All I can say is I think I'd be just as happy with one console as I am with all of them.

Final Thoughts

How many other "hobbies" can command such well-written, though-provoking articles of which the author painstakingly writes with no thought of financial reward as video gaming apparently can. Kudos to zanizzle for an awesome article.

Are achievements important to the console wars?

At the risk of tickling everyone's console fanboy fancy I want to take the next couple of paragraphs and give some thoughts on the Xbox 360 achievements feature. First, I realize that Playstation has the trophy system and they were smart to copy Microsoft on this one, but since achievements came first I've kind of latched onto those.

Early friends and followers of my blog will quickly realize that I've already mildly addressed this topic in one of my first posts - The 10 commandments for game and console makers. With some latitude, I want to explore that topic a little more.

I think the achievement system is the single most important reason why the Xbox 360 has seen measurable amounts of success in the console wars; especially considering its well-documented hardware problems.

That's a controversial statement and after seeing it on paper I'm almost arguing with myself that Xbox Live is the real reason for the 360's success. That's debatable, but I think I'll take the achievement argument. Here's why:

Exhibit A

Achievements allow certain personalities a drastic increase in replay value for every game they play. For better or worse achievements give an added sense of accomplishment. Achievement haters argue that they're simply contrived time-wasters. In other words - meaningless.

News Flash, most of the world feels that way towards video games themselves. One person's waste of time is another's crowning moments.

Exhibit B

A majority of games reward higher difficulty play with more achievements possibly encouraging gamers to stretch their gaming abilities. Players who might not ever try a more difficult setting than casual might find themselves striving to play the game the way developers intended. Moreover, casual gamers may be attracted to the idea of a reward for more dedicated efforts and in the long-run become more hard-core themselves.

Exhibit C

Whether I like it or not developers have included a certain amount of online achievements. This requires interaction between gamers in a combined effort to help (inadvertently or not) each other obtain achievements. Improving online play through better, more respectful interactions is certainly something I'm for. I'm tired of losers yelling obscenities through my headphones. (That could be a whole other blog post)

Exhibit D

Achievement points make it pretty easy to tell what kind of gamer another person is. Someone with a fair amount of achievement points are either two types of people. Extremely dedicated perfectionists or extraordinarily well rounded in their game selections. This makes it easy to guess what kind of experience you'll have playing with that person.

There are probably other reasons why achievements are a genius idea but I want to take a little time to grumble a bit. (What blog would be complete without me complaining about something I can't change?)

  1. What is the basic argument against boosting? I mean I get that people think its lame for others to get achievements for games they didn't "earn" legitimately but who cares? How does that really affect you?
  2. Why make achievements that are next to impossible to get? I'm all for having a couple of difficult ones in all games but c'mon. It shouldn't take anyone more than 20 hours to accomplish all gamer points AFTER the story has been completed. More than that is just sadistic.
  3. Why do developers include achievements that require performing the same action a certain amount of times? What's the point? If I can do it once then I can do it 100 times. That's just lazy.

I don't have all the answers but one thing I do know - Achievements feed my obsessive-compulsive tendencies.

And I dig that.

Lastly, there are some really hard to achievements to get out there. If you need help with something post it in the comments and maybe people will pipe up and offer to help.

I'll start - I REALLY need the dollcatcher achievement in Fable 2. I don't care about the dolls themselves. I just want the achievement. For some reason I can't get any love from anyone to trade me what I need. Can I get a little help from anyone?

To all those tracking. I need your help.

Howdy all. Real quick I want to post this so I can get some actual motivation to finish these lingering projects.

I have a ton of games that I need to finish and/or get the achievements for. My OCD requires it. So, on most of these it would be a lot easier if I had some peeps to help me out with them. If you've got any of these games and want to work on some stuff together then I'm totally down. I'd rather play with people that I kind of know then try to go online and find like-minded individuals. Here's my list. Hit me up if you want to work on one.Finish Lego Indiana Jones (I have to do this one with my wife. Sorry)

Unlock all MLB 2k9 trading cards and get achievements (Need Help)

Play through Eternal Sonata again

Finish Call of Duty World at War Achievements

Finish Resident Evil 5 Achievements (think I Need Help)

Finish Fable 2 Achievements (Need Help) - DONE

Finish Halo Wars

Finish TMNT Arcarde ****c Achievements

Finish Fable 2 Pub Games Achievements

Finish Marvel Ultimate Alliance Achievements (think I Need Help)

Play through the Orange Box

Replay Timeshift and finish achievements (definitly Need Help)

Go through MLB Front Office Manager Achievements

Buy Dead Rising and Play through it's achievements

Collectors Editions collect gamers cash

Admit it.

You've shelled out extra dough to buy the collector's edition of some super hyped game. It's okay. I'll bet there were very good reasons to pay extra for the same game.

Sure, that Master Chief Helmet looks good proudly displayed for the world to glory in all your nerdiness.

Hey you don't have to explain to me why your Lancer is the coolest thing you could get your hands on.

And my personal favorite. If you've got $17,500 to drop on a video game "collector's edition" then by all means don't let me discourage you.

But seriously, what's with the collector's editions? I bet that Call of Duty: World at War canteen has really coming in handy for some parched gamer. (okay I admit, I fell for this one) Here's my problem. Collector's Editions are just a snazzy way for publishers to make a little extra coin off of three types of people.

1. Those with too much disposable income.
2. Those without disposable income but some likely OCD need to own the "cool version"
3. Parents who either don't know or don't care that their kids are in fact spoiled.

No matter how you slice it in all comes off a little elitist (which I guess is the point).

Let's take a brief tryst down memory lane. This list is by no means complete but take a look at my collector's edition timeline.

1998 - Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
2002 - Metroid Prime
2004 - Halo 2
2005 - Doom 3, Resident Evil 4, Call of Duty 2, Perfect Dark Zero
2006 - Bully, Final Fantasy XII, Hitman: Blood Money
2007 - Spider-man 3, Madden NFL 07, Halo 3, Mass Effect
2008 - Far-Cry 2, Fable 2, Call of Duty: World at War, Devil May Cry 4, Fallout 3, Gears of War 2, Grand Theft Auto 4, Resistance 2, Tales of Vesperia
2009 - Resident Evil 5, Halo Wars, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, more to come

Things started slow enough. The Ocarina of Time collector's edition was simply a gold cartridge that if memory serves did not cost extra. A couple of other established franchises started releasing some limited edition stuff but by 2008 it seems like every game now featured a more expensive version of itself. Personally, I blame Halo 3. That helmet proved to gaming companies that they could hype their game, add a hunk of plastic and charge ridiculous amounts of money and people would pay it.

I anticipate this fall/winter season will feature just as many if not more overpriced collector's editions.

Since they'll never go away, I'd like to see some value added to the collector's edition. The following, in no particular order, are my suggestions.

1. The games' soundtrack.
2. Free access to every forthcoming DLC
3. Sweet art books
4. Discounts on future games in the franchise

The one thing I absolutely don't want is for studios to put additional in-game content reserved exclusively for CE buyers. That's just lame. If we're paying between 50 and 60 bucks for your game don't you dare stiff us.

Bioshock Innovates to new heights (depths?)

Bioshock logo

Bioshock might be the best game 2K has put out. Yes, it's a first-person shooter but it's so much more than that. Bioshock shows excellent command of mystery, science-fiction and horror by playing subtly on the nuances of each genre without pigeon-holing itself into one specific category. The game succeeds in creating fear as it's played, not because of what's going to happen but what has already happened.

The creepy atmosphere of Rapture where death and destruction are strewn all-around creates a real sense of dread and anticipation for a return of whatever has caused such horrendous mayhem. The vast city, hidden masterfully underwater, exudes dichotomous feelings of claustrophobia and apocalyptic open-world loneliness.

Bioshock Atmosphere

In addition to a perfectly constructed atmosphere Bioshock also engages the player with a more than adequate battle-system that infuses a creepily believable science-fiction element. The player must inject himself with an unknown mutagen almost immediately upon arrival enhancing the level of uncertainty introduced to the new and certainly foreign surroundings. Giving oneself powers through unstable and unknown mutagen injections certainly qualifies as a potential self-inflicted disaster.

Bioshock's story ultimately exposes itself as a mystery that keeps the player guessing to the motivations and roles of each of the few remaining residents of Rapture. It becomes obvious early on that the main character is simply a pawn in the hands of multiple influences but the questions becomes which, if any, should he listen to? Because of this element the player is presented with story changing decisions and allow for a certain amount of control in an otherwise controlled atmosphere.

Bioshock is a fun and creepy romp through a dark and twisted utopia. It is not a game for FPS multi-player die-hards where destruction is the apex of the gameplay experience. You can cause a lot of damage, especially against the games' iconic Big Daddies (who might be the most likable and original video game supporting characters created). But killing is more a means for exploration. This is evidenced by the absence of unlimited bad-guy spawing.

Bioshock Bigdaddy

Finally, the game is a perfect reflection of what can happen when a major game studio attempts to create more than just a money-maker of a rehashed game devoid of any real merit. Instead of another boring copy of Halo with a gimmick, Bioshock is the start of an exciting franchise that deserves attention and could easily become a house-hold name for even the most casual of gamers. While it might not have an enormous amount of replay value, just one play through alone is enough to enjoy a thought-provoking and entertaining experience.

How to get your girlfriend to game

This post has been a lot time coming. I've thought about this topic for months. What's more is I've been testing my strategy and had pretty decent success. I won't say that this method is foolproof but I think in the very least it will help your significant other accept your gaming habit.

Significant other. That's a weird thing to say. To be totally accurate I suppose I should have titled this post "How to get your significant other to game" but that's so awkward to say I can't seriously consider it. I choose to go with girlfriend over boyfriend, wife, husband or any other type of relationship because I believe girlfriend covers more readers' situations (considering that your wife should be considered your girlfriend as well).

But on to my guide.

Perhaps one of the most aggravating aspects of the gaming stigma is the belief that guys who game don't have girlfriends as they're incapable of wooing a female due to their nerdiness.

Bullocks. All one has to do is look at the average gamer demographic to know this is pure crap.

That being said there does at times seem to be a barrier to continued gaming once one becomes involved in a steady relationship. Obviously there are many contributing factors to this but there is no reason in my mind why you cannot share your love for gaming with your lady.

The following are my classifications for games and how to move from one to the next.

  1. Casual Games (Rock Band, Guitar Hero, Mario Party, Wii Sports, Buzz Trivia)
  2. Nostalgic Games (Duck Hunt, Mario Bros, Super Mario World, Mario Kart)
  3. Kid Core Games (Lego Star Wars, Little Big Planet, Kingdom Hearts, Mario Galaxy)
  4. Hardcore Games (Halo, Call of Duty, Resident Evil, Metal Gear Solid)

The Process

For purposes of this discussion we'll assume that Hardcore gaming is the goal. You can pretty much start anywhere on the others but it's important that you get an idea of which would be most effective for your girl.

It's always easy to start with Wii Sports. It requires no skills whatsoever and has just enough gimmick to get anyone to try it. These casual games or party games are best used in a larger social setting. Double dates or group hang-outs are perfect and are usually pretty easy to pull off. What's important to remember about this first stage is to not allow it to turn into Wii Sports all the time, every time. Try rhythm games, Buzz Trivia or other easy to use party games as soon as it's obvious that she's comfortable with Wii Sports.

After casual games are accepted you could make the direct jump to kid core games. You have to be careful here because she's probably not ready for a game where there's a chance they could fail or die or something that gives a negative reaction. The safest games in this group are Lego games because you obviously can't really die. If you're running into resistance with this group you should try the next.

Nostalgic games allow for you to draw on the familiar and give her a sense of ownership over the game play. The idea here is for her to retrieve positive associations and then place those on your current efforts. This area is a little tricky because you can never be sure where they're best gaming memories come from so it's best to start with some dialogue before you pull the trigger.

You'll likely not be ready to move to the hardcore arena until you've spent significant amounts of time in the kid core section. Once your lady-friend is comfortable with controllers and is used to gaming as a medium then you can take baby-steps into hardcore with co-op play. Allowing your girl to feel comfortable playing these variants are vital to your extended gaming efforts. You can also increase your likelihood of success by reinforcing with any traditional media outlets. Ex. video game movies, magazines, etc.

Success is achieved when you catch your girlfriend gaming on her own, no matter what game that may be. In the very least you should be able to sufficiently show your girlfriend that gaming is an essential part of your personality and totally normal and therefore should not be discouraged.

To conclude this is how I got my wife to game with me

Wii Sports --> Lego Star Wars --> Mario Kart --> Halo

Good luck to all those wanting to put this theory to the test.

New Xbox Ads - An Egregious Error

As an owner of both a PS3 and a Xbox360 I'm always interested in the constant struggles that "fanboys" have for their console of choice. I'm not sure which camp I fall into as I see value in both, but I honestly spend more time playing my 360. There are a couple of reasons for this, but that's neither here nor there. The point of this post is to rant a little on Microsoft's choice to include ads into the Xbox Dashboard.

The Playstation Network is free to use. Xbox Live costs upwards of $50 a year. I personally don't mind paying for Xbox Live as I find it a better online experience. That being the case, including full-sound advertisements on my dashboard is unacceptable. This might be my biggest pet peeve about media publishers. The double dipping of advertisements and collecting subscriptions from viewers is egregious. I'm not exactly a fan of Microsoft per say, but I'll admit that over the last couple of years they have been doing a better job of considering the end user in their products. This however is a giant leap backwards and will surely resurrect some of the Microsoft hating that people are so prone to do.

Bottom Line - I'm paying for Xbox Live. Do not feed me advertisements.

I wish I could confidently predict that the push-back that Microsoft will receive because of this decision will cause them to scrap this whole idea, but in this environment and gamers history of accepting price increases to continue their gaming needs, I just don't see that happening. Now, if Microsoft were to eliminate their subscription fees for Xbox Live then i could probably get on-board with this but considering the amount of money they make from people like me they're never going to do that. To me this is a fantastic opportunity for Playstation to regain some ground in the ongoing console wars and perhaps carve-out a better piece of the online gaming market.

Maybe Microsoft isn't worried about Sony gaining ground, but I think this decision comes as a direct result of dwindling disposable income from gamers, a higher than expected decline in game sales over the last quarter and general fear that the down economy hasn't caught up to the gaming industry as much as it has with other markets. I also have to wonder if this need to generate more revenue isn't a play to counter-balance some of the recent flops they've had in other departments.

At this point it's all just conspiracy conjecture, so I'll be interested to see where this goes. Needless to say I'm not pleased.

Ten Commandments for game and console makers

1. Thou shalt make all consoles completely back-words compatible.

For the most part console makers have done a good job of providing backwards compatibility of older games into their newest systems. There are however a few noticeable exceptions. The Xbox 360 does play original Xbox games but this typically requires downloading a software patch which i find a little annoying but bearable. The new DSi has removed the Gameboy advance slot thus taking away its backwards compatibility but i don't find this especially egregious considering the original DS is still widely available.

The console that breaks this rule almost unforgivably is the Playstation 3. To be fair there have been some PS3 models that do allow for some PS2 compatibility but none of those are in production. According to gaming site the Koalition, Sony has put any rumors of future backwards compatibility to rest with this response they received.

My main beef with this is that the console costs way more than any of its competitors. Sure, it's got some cool features like Blu-ray, better graphics (arguably?), larger hard drives, etc. But why not include the ability to pop in a PS2 game and play it? it's already compatible with PS1 games. WHY not PS2? it's silly if you ask me. The Playstation 3 is already this huge box i don't see how adding a little bit of hardware and software to facilitate this is going to cause major problems (admittedly I'm not an engineer so I could be way off on this one).

What's more is they would probably make more money with backwards compatibility as it adds more value to the console. Their excuse of focusing on next gen games is weak. They're walking away from an extensive library of games that still sell on retail shelves. Also, most PS2 owners probably dropped a pretty penny on their collection. Why would they want to buy a system that doesn't respect that?

The Nintendo Wii, on the other hand, is fully backwards compatible with Gamecube games. While their game library isn't as large as the PS2 nor was the Gamecube was nearly as successful, they still made sure to include that into their newest console. i give Nintendo an A+ for remembering their old-school fans and making sure they're taken care of.

2. Thou shalt provide an easy method for watching cut-scenes and other bonus content.

Most graphic heavy games do an excellent job of making game cut-scenes available for later viewing (probably because a good percentage of the games are cut-scenes). This seems even more prudent when speaking of genres that require many hours to complete, most notably Role-Playing Games. Since RPG's can last more than 80 hours and normal people don't play through this kind of game in one sitting, it's important to have a gallery of videos where the gamer can go back and get clarification of the story. This concept is also being more widely used in the first and third-person shooting genre.

Portable games also need this feature. Whether you're traveling on a plane or on your lunch break portable games are typically played in small and far between sessions. It's easy to get confused as to what's going on when you pick up a game that you haven't played in months, so a cut-scene gallery would help those players immensely.

A note on any games' ending cut-scene. Make this available from the gallery once the game is completed. It's a little annoying to play the final stage again just to show someone that last cut-scene.

3. Thou shalt provide a CD of music with each game if your game is an epic orchestral-worthy masterpiece.

This commandment is more on a personal level. in many instances music acts as a defining piece of drama, mood and flow of a game. What would Halo be like without its chanting? What would The Legend of Zelda be like without its iconic score? How would any number of Final Fantasy games play without their moving melodies? if the gamer can hum your games' musical score then it's time to release an Audio CD or mp3 download.

Since studios love to publish the same game in different marketing packages these arrangements should be made available with any "collector's" edition. This doesn't add any additional costs to making the game and the only costs that would be affected would be production and shipment of an extra disc (a mp3 download wouldn't cost anything).

Providing the music from your game could increase replay value (our next commandment). if someone is listening to your games' music they're most likely thinking about it in someway. By providing the music you could see more people playing your game for longer.

4. Thou shalt provide meaningful replay value.

As vague as "replay value" is this is still an important concept on any video game. First of all, replay value does not mean you make only a handful of levels and then require players to play through a few times to really experience the game. It also doesn't mean that you make your game so difficult that you have to keep playing and re-playing the same level just to get through it.

Replay value means you make your game interesting enough that gamers want to try different ways to approach any situation. Specially unlocked weapons, characters, abilities and levels are great ideas. This allows the gamer to try new things. Also, allowing for character upgrades or customization also gives players another angle to consider. The idea here is more. More content, more customization, more options. When you charge people $60 for a piece of software you better give them every last penny of value.

5. Thou shalt include quality multiplayer, co-op, and online play with every first-person shooter.

First-person shooters are a dime a dozen. That's why it's so crucial for these games to feature quality co-op and multiplayer modes. The only reason Halo has maintained relevance is because of its multiplayer dominance. Honestly the story is convoluted and plays out like Jack Bauer on steroids - in space. But the multiplayer is so exquisite. It leaves a fine taste in your mouth.

Need another example? Call of Duty was your run of the mill WWII first-person shooter. There was really nothing to set it apart from Medal of Honor or Brothers in Arms. They're all just the same game. And then Infinity Ward got a hold of it and made the most amazing multiplayer experience ever. That franchise is now crazy selling and well received.

If you're not going to have a multiplayer system like Halo of Call of Duty then don't even bother putting out a first-person shooter.

6. Thou shalt not make a video game for every movie that Hollywood releases (especially Disney movies).

The list of crappy licensed games could stretch on forever, so for brevity's sake I'll mention the only good movie licensed game - Goldeneye for Nintendo 64.

7. Thou shalt not charge $60 for a sports game that didn't change anything from the previous year.

It seems like Electronic Arts and 2K think that any new sports game they put out is worth the full $60. This just isn't true. For the most part every single sports game franchise whether that be Madden, NCAA or FIFA only have moderate changes to the gameplay or graphics each year. I realize that sports themselves don't change often so it would seem only natural not to change that much about a sports game. I'm okay with that. Just don't insult us by claiming your "new" game is worth $60. It's not. Charge $20 for those who trade in last years' version of a game and $40 for brand new buyers. Not only is this more fair, but it also gives the publisher a piece of the used game pie because they can then resell those traded in games for $10.

8. Thou shalt not initially charge extra to download new maps or levels to a game people already purchased.

Let me start by saying that I'm all good with DLC.I realize that it costs money for publisher to continue to generate new content and programming quality additions to games isn't easy or cheap. That being said heavily reliant multiplayer games like Halo and Call of Duty seem to think that the way to generate continued interest in their game is to release random map packs.

Ten bucks for three new maps is not a good deal. A dollar a map, now that's a good deal. Heck, three maps for 5 dollars, that's a good deal. Maybe that's not realistic and maybe gamers, while I grumble about it, are willing to pay that much for so little. For whatever it's worth I propose the following in regards to DLC.

  • All downloadable songs for rhythm games should be 99 cents.
  • Map Pack downloads should be included as a free download during their first weekend.
  • Map Pack downloads should be free to download for "Collector's Editions" at all times.
  • No game add-on should cost more than $5.

9. Thou shalt not require ridiculously expensive peripherals to utilize all the features of your console.

This commandment is aimed squarely at the Microsoft Xbox 360 wireless adapter. How dare you Microsoft. How dare you charge $99 for a peripheral that should have been added to the console in the first place. Wireless adapters do not cost $99.00. Heck i bought a wireless extender/emitter thingy for my Wii that cost me $8. You suck Microsoft. Also, why do 1st party controllers cost as much as brand new games? This is ridiculous. Let me break it down.

Microsoft Xbox 360 Wireless Controller - $36.88 at Walmart. 3 controllers total = $110.64
Playstation 3 Dualshock Wireless Controller - $42.88 at Walmart. 3 controllers total = $128.64
Nintendo Wii Wireless Wiimote and Nunchuck - $53.76 at Walmart. 3 controllers total = $161.28

Apparently console makers thing that complimenting their products with the allowed amount of controllers should be a pricey endeavor.

10. Thou shalt not make nearly impossible achievements/trophies that no normal person can obtain.

There's nothing like pure futility. It seems like some game creators fall so in love with their own games that they make achievements and trophies that no sane person could possibly obtain without selling their souls to the game. I'm not saying that these meaningless accolades shouldn't be difficult to get. Every game should have one or two that require going the extra mile. That being said they shouldn't have to go the entire continent to get.

No game should require more than two play-throughs to obtain all achievements. If you're going to require multiplayer achievements than make sure your game is fun enough to warrant it. There's nothing more ridiculous than a game with multiplayer achievements that nobody plays online. Also, let's cap it at 1000 points. Your DLC doesn't deserve any achievement points or trophies.

Also, no more arbitrary achievements that require you performing the same function over and over. If you've done it once then you can do it again. Why killing something 100 times should earn a trophy is beyond us. Oh, and forget timed stuff. Look if I wanted to play levels or whatever that required finishing within a certain time frame then I'd play any of the side-moving levels from Mario Brothers 3. You know the ones with the platforms and the jumping and the flying turtle ducks. Bottom line, if you use achievements to make your game seem more substantial then you've got a problem.

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