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TheDudeman420 Blog

DRM and how it may be hurting rather than helping.

The idea behind digital rights management is simple...protect this product from piracy. Game developers lose tons of money to piracy, and that lost revenue can sometimes lead to game cancellations which is something that can harm us gamers in the long run. Now game developers don't always have the best intentions at heart while implementing DRM (used games are the scourge of game companies everywhere), but I always felt that I was willing to be patient with DRM if it meant a better gaming experience.

 A lot of times, when dealing with DRM, I would take the high road. I could empathise with game companies and didn't picture them as greedy corporate fat cats, but people who were just trying to stop their game from being stolen! There is nothing wrong in protecting the intellectual property you have worked so hard to build!  I wouldn't mind because I felt I was part of a system that promoted better gaming. The earliest instances of DRM I had to deal with were the old security keys that came with games. Finding a numerical key and typing it out in order to play a game was fine with me.

DRM is bad

But in recent years, DRM measures are getting more and more frustrating. For me, it started with Assassins Creed 2 and its online-always connectivity required. I never had the world's most dependable internet connection and for me it was a major buzz kill to have to stop playing if something was wrong with the internet.

The recent launch of SimCity got me thinking about DRM again and how it may be doing the very opposite of what it is trying to achieve. Honest customers bought the game, and EA's digital rights management policy required them to remain online at all times to play. However, server issues prevented these gamers from accessing and enjoying the game, and what they received was a broken product.

SimCity was really the worst case scenario for DRM...a digital rights management scenario which caused the game to break. Because that's the bottom line: the customer. Who in this case is not just any old customer, but is the fickle gamer. The gamer who is quick to judge and who does not forgive easily. The second DRM hurts the game play experience, I would imagine companies like EA are losing a lot more money than they would to piracy. Once they seep into the wrath of gamers, not only are they losing customers on this game, but also on future titles. EA already has a pretty shaky relationship at best with gamers, and their recent crusade against piracy is not helping their cause. Hell, I think people might just pirate their game out of sheer anger if they keep messing up like they do!

So maybe EA should just give up on the DRM, until at least they can think outside the box and figure out a better way to stop piracy. Hopefully they can come to a solution that doesn't require a constant internet connection and doesn't cause the game to crash. Till then everybody is a loser.

 

 

 

 

Jack of all Trades, Master of none: Video games and the need to please everyone.

One of my favourite games of all times have to be games from the Hitman series. From Silent Assassin to Blood Money, I played them all...multiple times. I loved being able to accomplish tasks in numerous possible ways, and the stealth mechanics of the game always stood out to me.

I waited many years for the new Hitman to come out and when Absolutions was announced I circled the release date on my calendar, saved money and actually pre-ordered the game. To say I was excited would be an understatement. I had read all the previews and watched a lot of the game play footage and the game looked promising. But something never sat right with me...I felt that there was something sinister afoot, but my excitement wanted to mask that foreboding sense of doom in the pit of my stomach.

Sure enough, when I played the game, my suspicions were true. The game was merely a shell of its prequels. The game developer had sought to make this niche stealth action game into a game that would appeal to the masses. The game had all the same players, a lot of the same functionality but any true Hitman fan would know that it was nothing like the
originals.

Jack

As a gamer, often we get passionate about certain games; old classics that resonate with us as gamers. But today, I see the industry going down a dark path where these niche classics are having AAA sequels made. Sequels that are pandering to the everyman and trying to fit to many things into the game play and are ignoring the roots of the original series. These games usually become lowest common denominator pieces of mediocrity that are forever forgotten in the annals of history.

Now, Hitman: Absolutions was not a bad game. Some people loved it a lot. I however felt that it was pretty mediocre. Maybe it was because I had such high hopes for a game I waited so long for, but , personally, I expected more from a series I had put so much faith into. I felt...cheated. Cheated by the game developers who morphed a once great series into this mutant that tried to please everyone at once.

I understand why developers would do that: the fans off the original games are going to buy the sequel no matter what happens, and by changing the game to appeal to the masses, they can greatly inflate their sales. But as a fan, you can't help but feel robbed of what could have been a promising future for a series you loved.

This of course isn't the first time it has happened. It happened with the Splinter Cell series after the release of Convictions (another great stealth series ruined). Maybe stealth games, being a nice genre, don't provide a broad enough market for game developers to sell to. But when they try and sit on the fence between stealth and action, they are not really pleasing anyone. The niche audience is disappointed and your broader mass market gamer also receives a pretty average product.

There is an old saying about people who do nothing exceptional because they are trying to do too much. Jack of all trades and master of none. This is what it feels the gaming industry is leaning towards. A bleak future, where nothing great is accomplished and where mediocrity thrives among the shattered expectations of disappointed gamers everywhere.

 

Casual gaming and why it's a good thing!

As a gamer I always get into a debate with my friends about casual gamers and how they are the scourge of the world. And I always seem to be alone in my defense of casual gamers and how they are a great...great for the industry and great for us gamers.

Casual gamers seem to have gotten a bad rep with the more die hard followers of the art form. Most hard-core gamers associate their passion for games with a Badge of Merit. They wear it proudly and hold out their chest for the world to see. It's a special achievement that die-hard gamers have earned through their hours of dedication put into a game. Like the grizzled war veteran, the gamer too has tales of awe-inspiring and death defying feats of accomplishment. The gamer has shed blood, sweat and tears into every game he has finished, and is proud of his hard work and passion.

So I guess it is understandable when most gamers have no love for ones they perceive to be pretenders. The casual gamer, who may pick up the controller at his buddies place for a little infrequent Call of Duty action, or the one who plays Farmville when he is bored at work. Or the mobile gamer, who messes around with Angry Birds while he is in the bathroom; the so called 'real' gamers has no respect or time for the casual one because they feel that they have not earned it.

But I say, casual gaming is a good thing. It wasn't many years ago that gamers were considered outcasts of society: geeks and nerds is what we were called. But now the tides are shifting: just about everyone is at some level involved with gaming. My Mum plays Bejewelled and my sister plays Draw Something. Frat brothers love playing sports games and shooters and just about everyone has played Angry Birds or at least know what it is.

Angry Birds

The fact is, the experience remains the same. Each and every time you play a game you go through the same motions: a challenge that must be overcome at all costs. Whether it is destroying pigs or saving Earth. Whatever the game maybe, the results are all the same. Passion. Dedication. And most importantly a connection. A connection to the medium, to the art form of gaming.

So when your buddy talks to you about gaming and all he has played is a game of FIFA, don't shake your head in disgust: he may not be a grizzled war veteran who has been around the block, but he too is getting involved in something that is bigger than all of us: The joy of gaming. The sheer excitement of completing a near insurmountable task, a task which takes up hours of your time and which creates countless frustrations and requires immense patience. Any task, no matter how relatively small it may seem, requires time, effort and interest. It may be a passing fancy, a fleeting casual encounter: but it earns each and every one of these casual gamers their own Badge of Merit. They have fought the good fight, and have earned a place amongst the most accomplished veterans.

So don't hate on the casual gamer. Sometimes, it may be frustrating when the casual gamer is native only to one particular domain of gaming, and shows ignorance to everything else. But these gamers are broadening the horizons of the industry. They are changing the paradigm of the world regarding video-games and are sharing in a common unifying experience that each and every one of us can relate to: the joy of gaming.

 

First person shooters: Progress required!

When I was a wee lad of just 4, I remember playing my first videogame. It was a first person shooter called Doom. You may have heard of it.

I remember being amazed, excited and terrified all at the same time. I was 4 and the idea of killing things and blowing things up did appeal to me. But the imps in the game did make me pee my pants. I wanted to play the game real bad, but every time I booted it up and saw the blood on the screen I almost threw up. I found a way around this though...I got my sister to play the game with me: she would use the keyboard to move around and I would click to shoot. It was immensely satisfying because not only did it help build a strong bond with my sister, it also began my long and brilliant relationship with shooter videogames.

Doom Imp

As I grew older and more confident (I stopped peeing my pants soon after!) my love for shooters grew with me. I played them all be it Duke Nukem and his gum chewing and ass kicking or Call of Duty and other WW2 shooters. And every time I played a shooter I came out of the experience immensely satisfied. But in recent years I feel  a shift in this relationship.

Shooters have for the most part stagnated. It pains me deeply to look at the gaming calendar and feel no excitement at all for the new Call of Duty game. Or for the new Battlefield or Halo. They are pretty much all the same game, masquerading under the guise of being new and interesting. But they are all too often cookie cutter solutions to a lack of creativity.

Creativity: that's where the problem is. I feel that the current generation of shooters are all trying to emulate each other and aren't really challenging or innovative. In principle shooters have pretty much been simple: shoot things and they die! But shooters have for years kept evolving: be it Gears of War with its brick wall cover system, or Rainbow Six and the tactical shooter. Story driven shooters like Bioshock create an awe-inspiring world for gamers that provide a resonating experience. But these games are an exception to the rule. There is a very limited impact that today's shooters have.

Now I think a lot of it has to do with a need for game developers to compete. Every Modern Warfare game has to have a Battlefield counterpart. And every year a sequel has to come out, and in all this competition, us gamers are the ones that suffer.  The military shooter is getting old and is slowly killing gamers patience.

Shooters are boring!

I think it's time for the shooter to evolve. And I believe the evolution has to be off the key mechanics that drive the shooter. It can't just be a graphical overhaul or an overhaul of competitive multiplayer. Maybe we are thinking about the shooter in all the wrong ways.

I recently watched a video on "Indie Hour" (link below) about the game called Receiver. The game was made as part of a seven day challenge, and while it may not be perfect, it definitely seems interesting. Ultra-realistic gun mechanics with crucial implications to getting shot. No re-generative COD jelly here!
Now obviously I'm not expecting this game to replace competitive multiplayer on shooters, but it seems like a step in the right direction to breathe new creative life into a stagnant genre.

http://www.gamespot.com/shows/indie-hour/

 Imagine a game with real implications of firing a gun, an experience on an emotional level. The gun is a lot more difficult to fire and there is always a sense of urgency to game play. It's easy to get killed, and maybe death is permanent and you have to switch characters after dying.  A story-driven experience on a personal level: sort of like the Heavy Rain of shooters. It seems like an interesting idea, one that more game developers should examine. But in this competitive industry, experimentation is risk, and risk can lose you a lot of money.

Hopefully someone can try and be creative with the shooter and try and push it to a new level. With all the recent negative media in the press regarding video game violence, it would be a pleasant to see a new kind of shooter, one that actually makes you think about guns in a different kind of way. I look to the Indie-game industry and games like Receiver to pave the way for some much needed progress!

From pixels to pick and roll: Basketball games evolved

Basketball in theory is a simple game; you put the ball in the net more times than your opponent and you win. Videogames sort of took that to heart. The earliest basketball video games had stick figure men depicted through awkward looking pixels running around something resembling a court. The only thing that was clear in those games were: put the ball in the net!

The first basketball videogame I played was NBA Live 2001. I was a pretty young kid, just 9 years of age and had just gotten my Playstation. When I first played the game I was amazed at the level of detail the game developers had put into their product. To me, it was something I would never have expected from a videogame, and it blew my mind. You could chose just about any team from the actual NBA and had a wealth of game play options to chose from. It was as close to being Shaquille O'Neal as you could get as a nine year old. I mean I did rap a lot better than Shaq Diesel (and probably shot better free throws than him), but I was definitely nowhere near to being the Big Aristotle in terms of my basketball skills.

But that wasn't just the first basketball videogame I played, it was also the last one for a very long time. My interests in sports shifted from basketball to football and FIFA was all the craze. Until 2011 I had lost all interest in the sport, be it in real life or in the virtual world.

But 2011 was a special year. As a first year university student I started watching a lot more basketball with people from my dorm and just as my passion started to re-grow in the sport, I once again dipped my toes in the water of virtual basketball. Couldn't have picked a better time...

2011 was the year of NBA 2K11, arguably one of the greatest sports game ever made. The minute I put the disk into my XBOX, I knew I was in for a treat. The game begins with the user controlling Michael Jordan and the Bulls in the 1991 NBA Finals. The entrance of the bulls was a completely thrilling and authentic experience...it even included the Bulls theme song "Sirius" by the Alan Parsons Project. Goosebumps.

Michael Jordan in NBA 2K11

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DzdPeQ6caIY


And as I got more into the game, the more I started appreciating the sheer realism of the experience. The pre-game announcements, the halftime reports, the player celebrations and the intensely authentic commentary. But what really stood out to me was that I could actually call plays, and make smart basketball decisions just as in real life: I could run the pick and roll.

The pick and roll is basketballs bread and butter on offense, and learning to defend it is one of the first things your taught as a player. Seeing it used in a video game made me wonder as to how far the industry has developed.

Its amazing how basketball as a sport, has not changed in its very essence over the past decade or so. The goal is simple: put the ball in the net. And videogames started off on those humble principles. And from those simple pixels, games have developed to the amazing realism of today. There is a certain amount of pride for me as a gamer, associated with this evolution. The fact that we can go from jagged 

polygons on a screen to playing a complex and cerebral game with intense realism makes me feel proud of the industry that caters to us. Now the industry is flawed at times; anyone who has played sports game knows how frustrating it is to see games released year after year with marginal improvements: some years it's pretty much the same product with just an updated roster. But evolution is a long and tedious process, and some patience is required: if we can get from pixels to the pick and roll in just a few short years, who knows what the future holds for us..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=RFmzl0QD2BU