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Miracles Do Happen

Having played Final Fantasy XI Online for over eight years, I was eagerly awaiting the release of Final Fantasy XIV back in late 2010.  As most people know, the game was easily the biggest blunder of 2010 (and possibly 2011, 2012, and 2013).  The game was downright terrible.  It was obviously rushed out the door at the whims of the corporate suits  within Square-Enix who were only concerned about their bottom line.  Combine this with the murmurs that the it suffered large budget cuts due to Square-Enix believing the game would fail, yet releasing the game anyways, and you have a powder keg.

A powder keg it was.  The backlash over the original launch of Final Fantasy XIV was so bad that Square gave a public apology within days, promising they would make things right and would not abandon the title.  This of course was little more than words spoken strictly for the sake of PR.  Few people had any reason to believe Square would follow through on It's promise.

Like many who felt burned on the purchase of the game, I quickly forgot about it and moved on.  I gave little thought to what changes and improvements were being made to make the game better.  As the years passed it was obvious Square was serious on It's promise and continued to fix issues within the game, while doing It's best to appease the players who continued to play XIV.

Then came A Realm Reborn, the re-branding of the game.  Having gained a lot of curious buzz from mostly positive beta players, many were eagerly awaiting release, if only to find out if Square really had pulled off the impossible.

Almost three years after It's initial release, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn went live.  The game was hit by a storm of players.  Square admitted they had woefully underestimated consumer demand for the product.  Severe log in issues prevented many people who had purchased the game from being able to even play the game for the first few weeks.  Server stability caused frequent disconnects and game breaking bugs.  Servers filled up so fast that it left many people unable to play with friends, forcing them to either make character on other servers or wait indefinitely until the servers opened back up.  These issue got so bad that Square had to suspend sales of the digital version of the game.

These problems are unfortunate, even if most of them have been resolved as of the time I'm writing this.  However in the bigger picture these issues mean something far more important, and far more positive.  It means the game is popular, It's selling so well that Square can't keep up with the demand.  It means that a game that was three years ago considered to be one of the worst games released this generation of games, is succeeding.  Not just on a that side of the equation either, it appears many of the people playing the game enjoy it and are having a mostly positive experience within the game.

Having played it myself for the last few weeks, I can attest to this.  The game doesn't reinvent the wheel by any mean, nor is it an outright clone of the current king of the genre World of Warcraft.  It certainly borrows many standard genre staples, but for now it still maintains an identity all It's own in the crowded MMORPG genre.

Time will tell if XIV holds player interest, but this isn't a review, It's more an observation that the game industry and community should take a long look at.  This game clearly says that even the worst train wrecks can be salvaged with enough time and dedication.  In a climate where games that don't sell five million copies are being called failures, Final Fantasy XIV should stand as an example that maybe publishers shouldn't be so quick to abandon a game franchise when It's not an instant massive money maker.

One for the History Books

Yesterday, June 20th, 2013 is a day that will likely go down in video game history.  Microsoft had done a near total reversal on their strict DRM policies for the Xbox One.

 

Before I explain why this is such a monumentally important event, I want to make something very clear: I was strongly against Microsoft's announced policies with the Xbox One, but what I'm about to say is in no way an attack against them.  It is also in no way a means of praising Sony for essentially doing nothing.  As I feel treating the consumer with a shred of decency and respect should be the standard, not something you get hailed as a hero for doing.  As It's akin to trying to convince a girl you're a good person by promising you won't slip GHB into her drink when she's not looking.

 

This is about something much more important.  It's about us, the community.  Us, the consumer.  Most importantly, It's about us, the gamer.  Yesterday made one thing abundantly clear, we have a voice, and It's powerful.  In only about a months time we pushed one of the most powerful corporations in the world to pull a complete reversal on several policies that a staggeringly large chunk of the community was adamantly against.

 

Ever since the current generation of hardware was revealed back in 2005 there has been a creeping issue of developers and publishers slowly trying to control the end-user experience in increasingly intrusive ways.  The confirmation of required online "check-in's", DRM, and anti-used game measure for the recently announced Xbox One was finally what caused the powder keg to explode.

 

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Well, the gaming community finally pulled a Walter Sobcheck, drew a line in the sand, and screamed "Cross this line, you do not!" (anyone who gets that reference without having to look it up friend me, because you're awesome).

 

Now some people, such as Cliff Bleszinski Would have you believe these changes had nothing to do with us.  That Sony "forced Microsoft's hand".  While this is partially true, it is also just as likely Sony would of done the same thing Microsoft attempted if the community had not be so vocally against it.  Regardless of reasoning, Sony opted to put the consumer first in this issue, even if only in a small way.

 

People like CliffyB and other large companies that make and publish AAA titles have been trying to keep a big secret from us for a long time now.  That big secret?  That we are the ones with the power.  That ultimately, we are the ones in control.  These companies are here to cater to what WE want, not the other way around.

 

Yesterday was important because now we know it.  We have a voice, it matters, and we need to continue to use it for the betterment of the industry and community that is dedicated to the past time we love.  We need to continue to make it abundantly clear to companies like Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, and EA that they are not the ones who decide what the future of gaming will be.  That privilege belongs to us.

Infinitely Mind Boggling

Late last night I woke up and started bawling my eyes out.  Now as a thirty year old male, this is not easy for me to admit.

 

Like most gamers, I've played and beaten Bioshock Infinite within days of It's release.  I only just the other day began my second playthrough.  Anyone who knows me will attest that I cannot praise this game enough.  Everything about the game is so well crafted and honed to a razor edge and all the important pieces of the game fit together and complement each other in a way few games manage.  It also will forever make me associate the song God Only Knows by the Beach Boys (part of the games soundtrack) in a profound way that few who have beaten the game will understand.

 

What does this have to do with me crying like a small child in the middle of the night you ask?  I'm getting to that, patience is a virtue ya know.

 

I didn't wake up crying, it wasn't a bad dream or nightmare.  I wasn't sad or even mildly unhappy.  I just randomly woke up in the middle of the night and couldn't get back to sleep.  I started contemplating some of the overlaying themes of Bioshock Infinite.  The idea that even the most seemingly irrelevant choices, the most mundane decisions we make from day to day, things that on the surface don't appear to have any correlation to one another, that they effect and ultimately change the path our lives take forever.

 

Then I started applying this concept to my own life.  I had trouble wrapping my mind around it at first, then I looked over at the other side of the bed at my girlfriend, and I understood.  That's when I burst into tears.  We have only been together about a year, but in that short time she has changed the path my life has taken in so many important ways that I cannot wrap my mind around what my life would be like today if we had never met.  I thought of all the seemingly random chain of events and decisions that made it possible to have ever met her.

 

This is my thanks to Ken Levin and Irrational Games.  You have created a piece of media entertainment and art that has made me think deep about the nature of life, choice, and what it means to have both.  I honestly can't recall any other movie, video game, book, or piece of music that has ever done that to me in such a profound way.

 

Most importantly, I want to thank my girlfriend Nikki.  I love you, and well....god only knows what I'd be without you....

 

 

One Little Choice

Life is complicated. It's not often that the path our lives take us down is obvious enough to where we can look back on the choices we made and clearly see what part they played in us ending up where we are. I'm one of the fortunate few who did have a rather profound experience of seeing this sort of cause and effect in a very transparent way, and I have Final Fantasy XI Online to thank for it.

I know that makes very little sense without context. I played Final Fantasy XI, it was my first ever massively multiplayer online role playing game, for almost eight years. I started playing almost on accident. I bought the Playstation 2 HDD for other reasons. It came packed with a copy of Final Fantasy XI, so I decided to give it a shot. The game spread like wildfire among my friends and family. Within weeks everyone I knew who had even a passing interest in video games was playing it.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Just a few short days of playing, I switched what server I was playing on. I did this because I found out a friend of mine at the time was also playing on said server. Ironically I never once saw him on the game, and he quit after the free trial month, and the last time I spoke with him was maybe three months later.

For many years I happily played the game with personal friends. Never giving much thought to the roughly 3000 other players on the server who I shared the virtual world with and occasionally teamed up with. But despite this, I eventually met several people who would impact my life in ways I could never have imagined.

The first of these individuals I then knew as Abasis. I now know him as Paul, he became what I refer to as "my video game wingman". I've convinced him to try out several other MMO games over the years as well as a handful of co-op heavy games. We talk in one form or another almost every day. I met him for the first time just a few months ago when he decided to take a vacation in my neck of the woods. I consider him just as much a friend as I do the friends I have that I've known since high school.

While playing FFXI, I also met Kuior, Belkira, and Rekiconeki. I now know them respectively as Stephanie, Matt (Stephs then boyfriend and now husband), and Chris (their friend and roommate). All three of them happened to be from Arizona, at the time I was living in Michigan. I became good in-game friends with them. Regularly doing activities with them in game and chatting with them.

As fate would have it years later I would end up moving to Arizona for totally unrelated reasons. I go to their house every weekend to play a pencil & paper RPG, or card games, or board games, or whatever we feel like doing that night. They, by random chance, became very real and important friends in my life.

It's difficult to wrap my mind around sometimes. That if it wasn't for one little seemingly meaningless decision to change servers so many years ago, I never would of met any of these people. People that have become very real influences in my life, people who are now very real friends.

The Writing on the Wall?

A few years back Microsoft made a rather bold statement regarding the video game industry. They claimed that it was "recession proof". Back at the time it actually seemed plausible. In a time of economic turmoil, the industry was doing remarkably well. It seemed even though people were weary about dropping hard earned money on cars, houses, or going on vacations, they were still more than willing to plunk down sixty dollars for a video game. Though here in the year 2012 it seems to be a very different story.

http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2012-06-21-stock-ticker-why-eas-market-valuation-has-crashed?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=us-daily

This article mainly focuses on EA. But also mentions Take Two, THQ, Zynga, and Activision. Every one of these companies (with the exception of Activision who is more or less towing the line) has had a significant drop in stock value this year. Some more drastic than others but a drop in value none the less.

So what happened? When did some of the biggest names in our "recession proof" industry start this dangerous downward spiral? Dedicated industry follows have probably seen the writing on the wall for awhile now. I know I have.

There is no one reason. But in my humble opinion the biggest singular reason is this: Customer Trust. Or rather, an almost total lack of it on the part of the big developers. This manifests in many ways, from needless DLC released mere days after a games launch. Yearly rehashing of franchises with little to no improvement or innovation from title to title. Anti used game sales tactics. "Free to play" games that employ horribly predatory tactics that play on human compulsion to get your money. Lastly, the borderline paranoid need for developers to dominate the users experience.

Many developers over the last few years have begun to make it very clear that they don't care, or are at least not horribly concerned with, what we the consumers think of them and what they are doing. The focus seems to be shifting from making a product that the customer will like, to seeing the customer as the problem. That their game is some perfect and innocent child that needs to be protected and coddled from all the horrible things that we consumers could do to it.

To quote Sci-fi guru Joss Whedon: "Great art is meant to be interpreted in ways you never intended. Your art isn't your pet, It's your child. It grows up and talks back to you." But right now, many of the biggest names in the industry are being overprotective and overbearing parents.

If It Ain't Broke, You Need to Fix It.

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

It's a popular saying. One that usually suggests that a product is fine the way it is, and that trying to change or alter something that most people feel works just fine and are satisfied with is a bad thing.

Unfortunately this saying has become a bit of a creed for gamers who are perfectly happy spending their hard earned money on games that while not broken, certainly aren't striving for improvement. This sort of complacency is not only bad for the industry as a whole, but bad for the gaming community.

The desire to improve, to be better than what came before you. This is the basis for progress of any sort. Where would we be right now if everyone looked at the vinyl record (as fantastic as they still are) and said "It's good enough." Or the same about the earliest automobiles, medicine, and airplanes. In short, improvement is progress. Being happy in the middle of the pack leads to stagnation.

Few broken games get the second chance to prove themselves. Typically games that don't sell well or don't get positive critical and consumer response don't get sequels. So the mentality of "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" really cannot apply to the industry as a whole.

The single driving force behind making a sequel should be to make it better than the original. Unfortunately I feel the gaming industry has grown to a point where they are able to fall into the same complacency other entertainment media tends to fall into. The big name developers are showing a decided lack of interest in improvement of their own products. Instead resorting to reiteration after reiteration of a formula that is successful. While this may work in the short term for big sales and critical acclaim, It can be a death knell for any successful game franchise.

I recently played God of War III for the first time. I enjoyed the game, but I had a strong sense of "been there" and "done that". By the time I was three quarters through the game I found myself just wishing It would end so I could know what happens. As I was tired of fighting the same waves of enemies using the same handful of combos inputs I've been using for the last three games in the series. I can say the same thing about the Call of Duty and Halo franchises. I can't help but feel that Sony, Activision, and Microsoft respectively will need to really push these games forward in their next iterations to hold my attention.

While I'm sure God of War IV, Call of Duty: MW3, and the next Halo will move millions of copies. I can't help but wag my finger at gamers themselves as well. If game developers and publishers are content with giving us rehash after rehash we have only ourselves to blame. If we are complacent, they have no reason to give us anything new or inventive. It's fine if God of War, Call of Duty, or Halo is your favorite game franchise ever. They are fine games, but don't get it in your head that it means you can't admit there are aspects of the game you don't like, or things you would like to see added to the game to make it better. As no game is perfect.

Thankfully there are a few shining examples of innovation that meets large success. I'm eagerly awaiting Team Ico's The Last Guardian, Valve has shown many times It can bring a unique and memorable experience to gamers, Bioware and Irrational have set new standards in story telling and immersion in games, Atlas released the brutally unforgiving Demon's Souls to surprising success, Ubisoft has given us one of the most engrossing game franchises in years in Assassins Creed, and Rockstar has taken a chance and made a game that doesn't feel like just another Grand Theft Auto in L.A. Noire and hit the mark dead on.

But for every innovative game that's a success. Many that deserve more attention get steamrolled. Which is why I look at upcoming games like Cathrine also from Atlus and wonder if this game has any chance of finding an audience in America.

To sum my point up: It's okay to like a game for what it is. But don't let that stop you from demanding that the game that comes after it to be better. With complacency comes stagnation, with improvement comes progress. "If it ain't broke don't fix it" needs to be thrown out the window and run over by a robot cowboy riding a giant centipede made entirely out of polished marble with laser guided rocket pods mounted on It's sides (now that's innovation!)

Originally being from Hockey Town Detroit itself, I think a better saying that gamers, developers, and publishers need to adopt is a fitting reference to the sport: "Don't look at where the puck is, look at where It's going."

I'm an Adult, I Don't Like Playing in a Sandbox.

Would you rather play in a sandbox, or watch a good movie? It may seem like a silly question but It's a question that must be asked. Unless anyone reading this is in the single digit age range I would imagine everyone would rather see a movie.

It may seem like a painfully easy question to answer. But some developers and publishers in the video game industry seem to think you want to play in a sandbox instead of giving you a quality experience that engrosses you and stays with you long after you beat the game.

Far too many developers have taken to the idea of creating a sprawling city/countryside/space station/ect and filling it with arbitrary time trials, fetch quests, and hundreds of flags, orbs, or briefcases to collect. Often times they have little to no context attached to them, and in no way make you feel more immersed or connected to the game world, characters, or story.

More and more I end up asking myself "Did this game really need the typical sandbox model?" I feel a lot of games do themselves a disservice by adhering to this generic build. A prime example is an all too often overlooked games called Brutal Legend. The game is a fairly basic third person action adventure game with real time strategy elements sprinkled in. It has a uniquely quirky story and interesting visuals.

Yet for some reason beyond my understanding, the game uses a sand box model. The game world is certainly nice to look at. But It's for the most part barren of any game content worth the effort it must have taken to create the world. Why go through the trouble of crafting such a detailed environment if all you are going to do is fill it with the same five mini-games a few dozen times over the course of the games length?

Even massively multi-player online games have similar elements. Too many of them have quests that serve no real purpose other than to guide you along the development path the games creators designed. It's merely an illusion of freedom within the game. As many of them require you to do specific quests or perform specific actions before you are able to access certain content.

Having played the game Alan Wake several times, and knowing that it was originally intended to use the sand box model, I am eternally thankful the people at Remedy realized this would of ruined the game. Thus I can't help but wonder what other sub-par sand box games would have been much improved if they had been more linear. Or how much worse games like Bioshock or Mass Effect would have been if they weren't.

Even the sand box games that do it right such as Grand Theft Auto, Red Dead Redemption, Borderlands, and Assassins Creed are guilty of at least one sand box cliche.

This isn't to say I'm against these types of games. As stated I very much enjoy the Assassins Creed games, I played Borderlands to death and back, and am an huge Fallout and Elder Scrolls fan. But even when I find a sand box game I enjoy, I find that enjoyment rarely lasts long enough for me to even finish the game. To this day I have never beaten Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, San Andreas, IV, or a single Elder Scrolls game. I played Red Dead Redemption for about an hour and watched my roommate play well over half the game, I have had no desire to play it further. I bought Fallout: New Vegas the week it came out and have only logged ten hours of game play on it.

What I'm ultimately asking is this: Is it worth it? Is it worth sacrificing atmosphere, comprehensive storytelling, and real narrative for the sake of being able to wander off into some random corner of a virtual city for no reason other than being able to do so?

Maybe It's just me, but the moments that I remember from video games, the ones that stayed with me over the years, none of them came from sand box games. They came from the games that made me feel something, or told a comprehensive story worth remembering.

Top Ten Best Zombie Games.

Halloween is just a day away. It's the time of year for haunted houses, ghosts, candy, pumpkins, scary movies, and most important of all....zombies! It seems no game is safe from the undead anymore. They show up in World War II, the wild west, our lawn full of killer plants, even in our giant trap filled mansions.

So just in time for Halloween, I give you the top ten games I feel best capture the spirit of zombies. Be it chopping down the undead with an axe, or running from a hoard of them for dear life.

10. Zombie Apocalypse: What happens when you and up to three friends get dropped into a small arena with lots of weapons and a big mob of zombies? Lots of blood, guts, and body parts, just hope none of it is from you or your buddies! This game is mindless old school arcade shooter fun at a budget price.

9. Hunter The Reckoning: You are a Hunter, you hunt and kill supernatural monsters. Why? Who knows, but it's certainly a lot of fun chopping them to pieces and riddling their bodies with bullets. This is another game that calls back to the glory days of when multiplayer meant you and 3 friends sitting on the couch until 3 a.m. playing games. Hunter is what you get if you take Gauntlet and throw in a lot of zombies, lots of guns, and sprinkle in other supernatural baddies like vampires and werewolves for good measure.

8. Splatterhouse: While Splatterhouse may not be a zombie game by strict definition. The game very much fits in with the zombie bloodbath mentality. As a college student trying to save his girlfriend from horrible abominations things look pretty grim. But hey, you have a demon possessed mask and a 2X4! Needless to say things get bloody in a hurry.

The game is a side scrolling beat em up with a horror movie skin that fits like....well like second skin! Given the nature of the game, that skin was probably attached to something else not long ago. Seeing as the game is getting a long overdue revamp next month, the series signature over the top gore looks like it will reach new levels.

7. Plants vs Zombies: Who says a zombie game has to be gory and/or scary? Plants vs Zombies proves that the undead can be charming and silly too! Everything that has made the tower defense style games so popular is here and honed to a perfect level. While the game may not play horribly different from other similar games. It has a wealth of content and game modes to keep you playing and more than enough character to keep you entertained the entire time. Be it trying to figure out the best selection of plants to use in a level to defend your home against the brain eaters. Or rolling your eyes at the fact you're being attacked by a disco dancing zombie or a zombie riding a dolphin.

P.S. The dolphin is also a zombie.

6. Zombies Ate My Neighbors: Who says you need automatic weapons and chainsaws to deal with the undead? In Zombies Ate My Neighbors you and a friend take up the most unexpected weapons (such as a squirt gun or a weed whacker) to rid your town of zombies and other absurd enemies such as crazy dolls with giant knives, killer plants, even aliens. Almost every B-movie cliche is present and made fun of in some way in this game, and it all fits together without a hitch.

5. The House of the Dead: Back when arcades were still a booming business Sega released a little light gun game called The House of the Dead. The game quickly became a favorite of arcade goers everywhere. Who would of thought getting up close and personal with splattered zombie brains would be a hit? The game kept the pace high and threw zombies and other creatures at you from every angle. Combine that with multiple paths to take through the levels, huge screen filling bosses that require a steady hand and a fast trigger finger and you had an arcade hit that is still remembered fondly to this day.

4. Dead Rising: You're trapped in the back room of a sporting goods store in a huge mall. Their are roughly a few thousand zombies mindlessly shuffling about on the other side of the door. What do you do? You grab a bowling ball and start smashing undead skulls in! Or a golf club, or a baseball bat, or why not some baseballs? The staggering amount of make shift weaponry found in Dead Rising provides dozens and dozens of entertaining, and often bloody, ways to survive the walking dead infestation. All the while trying to get the story of the decade by uncovering the cause of the outbreak.

3. Doom: Like Splatterhouse, Doom may not be a true zombie game. But this first person shooter is a classic none stop shooting gallery of zombie space marines and other demonic hell spawn for you to unload your weapon of choice into. Demons from hell have invaded a Mars space station you're stationed on. You're a tough as nails space marine with a stockpile of guns, and metric ton of ammo, and trigger happy chip on your shoulder. I see nothing wrong with this scenario.

2. Left 4 Dead: Valves undead slaughterhouse of a game has become an instant classic in just a few short years. The games unpredictable nature makes for an entertaining experience no matter how many times you play. A heavy emphasis on your team of four survivors sticking together and watching out for each other means even the best players are going to need help often. Add in a fantastic versus mode that lets you and three others take up the role of the infected undead and ambush the hapless survivors before they reach safety and you've got a zombie apocalypse that you may hope never ends.

Aaaaaannnndddd my number one pick for best zombie video game ever is.....

Wait for it.......

Resident Evil: Their were horror games before Resident Evil. But few were prepared for what waited in the dark of the Spencer Mansion. The game that coined the term "survival horror" gets the top spot in my book. Sure the game may of controlled like a tred-less tank trying to tip toe down a creaky staircase, but the game oozed atmosphere. The narrow corridors and claustrophobic rooms meant you never felt safe. Finding ammo for your weapons were rare and you always had to think twice about wasting it on any zombies or the mansions many other biological mutants that want nothing more than to rip you open and play with your internal organs. This lack of munitions caused you to run more often than fight, instilling a real sense of fear and helplessness. The voice acting was terrible, the plot was B-movie at best. But this game left a huge smoldering undead crater in the video game landscape. Resident Evil is a true classic that will go down in video game history as the moment console games grew up.

The Good, The Bad, The Misinformed.

Almost two weeks ago I dove head first into the early release of Final Fantasy XIV Online. Square-Enix's second Massivly Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game (MMORPG). I played Final Fantasy XI Online for several years. I was desperately hoping FFXIV would find a balance between the casual feel of World of Warcraft and the hardcore challenge of FFXI.

The answer? It's not that clear cut. It seems for every step forward SE took with this game, their is something else that confuses or infuriates. I won't get into the details here, though if you are interested you can check out my rather long review.

But needless to say this game has problems. The core foundation this game is built on is solid and has a lot of potential. It seems most people who can trudge through the initial confusion are seeing that. SE has a lot of problems to fix with this game before it has any chance of being accept by the WoW generation of MMORPGers.

However the biggest problem this game seems to have, has nothing to do with the game itself. It's biggest hurdle right now is the gross amount of false information and rumors being spread by gamers. I have seen things like this happen before of course. But never on this sort of scale. It seems a vast number of people talking about this game, have no idea what they are talking about.

False rumors and skewed information such as only being able to play for 3 hours a week before you stop gaining experience points for your character. Only being able to do 3 quests every 24 hours. That the game has very few professions to choose from. I probably bares mention WoW only had 9 to start with, and Star Wars: The Old Republic will only have 8.

With some of the things people are saying about this game, I have to genuinely wonder if they played it for more than 20 minutes if at all. In most other genres of gaming you can make a fair assessment of most games after playing for 20-30 minutes. However any long time MMO player knows that's not the case with this genre. Their is a reason all MMORPG's give you the first month of play for free.

I've come to wonder how it all started to begin with. How did such blatantly false information spread? Can we blame SE for not being as forthcoming and transparent with the games inner workings as they should of been? Maybe, but I'm not entirely sure of that either. Their are certainly many people playing FFXIV that managed to figure the game out within a 24 hour span and separate the fact from fiction.

Have we become so infantile in our gaming mind set that we need the developers to hold our hand every step of the way in games? It certainly seems to be a growing trend to treat gamers like they need to wear a helmet and mittens. I can think of many games that seem overly padded to compensate for players failing a level or segment of a game. Bioshock with respawn points every 100 feet. Guitar Hero and Rock Band with game modes where you cannot fail no matter how bad you are doing. Final Fantasy XIII with its hand holding through the first 2/3rd's of the game. Upcoming games like Castlevania: Lords of Shadow with constant tutorial prompts throughout the game. Marvel vs Capcom 3 with a "simple" mode that allows you to perform complex combos and special moves with single button presses. Some of these simplifications are part of the core game that you cannot alter. I'm looking at you Tatsunoko vs Capcom!

It seems today whenever most game strays from this, it is pegged as "too hard", "unforgiving", or "punishing the players". Even games like Halo, Call of Duty, and other similarly twitch reflex based games seem to be light on the challenge in their most recent iterations, barring a few brief exceptions or being forced to play it on a harder difficulty.

So to sum it up: Should we expect developers to tell us everything and hold our hand like children? Have we lost our sense of discovery and figuring things out in game ourselves? It certainly seems so, because the staggering amount of false information regarding FFXIV seems to be a result of what happens when a developer leaves some things to be figured out by the players.

(Too) Great Expectations

I have noticed a trend, or rather a mindset, that seems to be getting more and more prolific in the gaming community. That gamers think games will be far far greater than they have any hope of being.

This problem has been around for as long as video games have. However with games becoming more and more commonplace among more and more people every year, and with games having bigger and bigger budgets and longer development cycles, this way of thinking seems to pop up more and more.

It seems many gamers are getting ideas of what they think a game will be like out of thin air. Sometimes years before the game is ever released. Despite what developers say the game will be like, despite any details about the game that get released over it's development cycle, they still have this idyllic preconception of what the game will be.

And what happens when the game falls short of this impossible expectation? As an example I'll use the most recent game that suffered this curse in my recent memory, Final Fantasy XIII.

The Final Fantasy series is legendary, is has endured over several generations of video games and produced some of the most memorable characters and stories in gaming history. It holds a special place in the hearts of millions of gamers worldwide. Yet Final Fantasy XIII was received by many fans very poorly.

Will I remember Final Fantasy XIII as one of my favorite in the series? No. Does it have its share of miss steps and odd design choices? Yes. However I found myself enjoying the game despite the flaws, accepting the game for what it is, rather than what I wanted it to be. At no point while playing the game did I think "This game isn't as good as (insert favorite Final Fantasy game here)."

This editorial isn't about Final Fantasy XIII being a good game or not. I could have easily used other games such as Halo or Call of Duty (the next two games that I fear will suffer this problem) as an example. It's about me asking gamers to do their homework. Research the game as it's being developed, not just buying into the hype or the games namesake. When it does come out, don't read just one review, read as many as you can find.

I personally find myself enjoying more games, and enjoying the games I play more, when I drop all preconceptions I have the moment I put the game disk in the tray.