Category Archives: Opinion

Opinion: The Age Old Criticism and How it’s Partially Blindsided

The age old idea that “graphics don’t make the game” definitely has a lot of truth to it. You can make a wonderful game without amazing graphics. However, aesthetics are an important piece to particular kinds of games, helping to weave memorable and powerful narratives into your gameplay experience.

I see this video as proof:

When you add the extra layers on via graphics and sounds, it greatly improves the mood and environment of your game, which in turn greatly improves the experience the player has exploring those areas and creating memories while playing your game.

The Wii U was a good console and it leveled up Nintendo’s IPs aesthetically (1080p Mario Kart, Wind Waker, Pikmin look great), but I really hope the NX takes the next step to a real upgraded experience comparable to, say, the N64 or Gamecube eras.

Wii and Wii U were cool (well, at least the Wii U), but I’m ready for a traditional 3D Zelda, Mario, Metroid, Star Fox, etc., experience on vastly improved hardware that’ll give us the kinds of memories from the N64/GCN eras that I still live with today.

I can remember the first time playing Mario 64 after getting an N64 for Christmas. The first time seeing Ocarina of Time on a Wal-Mart demo blew me away. The time I opened my Nintendo Power and seeing how visually improved Super Smash Bros Melee was over it’s predecessor had me calling friends to tell them how excited I was. I recall the unveiling of the Space World 2000 Zelda trailer and feeling immeasurable amount of excitement for what was next.

I’m ready for the NX to be something big. If it’s not, I’m not sure how excited I could ever be for a Nintendo console again. When one programmer can create a visually impressive demo like this and Nintendo won’t, it makes you wonder if they’ll get back to serious business again.

Using graphics and sound, you can further send a player on a magical journey while threading a whimsical narrative through the outer shell of the gameplay creating lifetimes of memories, fans and followers.

Our generation will probably be using some of these stories similar to how fairy tales are now.

Opinion: Always Online

It’s been a while since I’ve done an opinion post, and this week we’ve got some frustrating news about the possibility of an always online Xbox console. For some people, this isn’t a big deal. For many, many others, it is. Always Online is NOT something that works. It’s not something that has worked many-a-times, and it’s something that not only isn’t worth it, but it’s a big hassle for everyone. Even if you don’t care too much about it and are always online anyway, I can almost guarantee there will be a time where you can’t connect for one reason or another. Earlier this week, Adam Orth (Microsoft Studios creative director) shared his opinion on Always-Online devices. This has led many to believe the Nextbox will be. Here is how the conversation inspiring this post went down (courtesy of NeoGAF):

OEY5yp8 Microsoft apologizes for employees Xbox Durango always online tweets, claims customer centric approach

The first thing I would like to say is this: I have the internet. I have had the internet and I love the internet. However, I offer three major reasons why no video game console should EVER be always online.

1: It will potentially destroy local gaming parties.

I am a tournament organizer for the biggest fighting game community in Maine, and I will say that out of the several events we have hosted over the past two years, maybe one or two had internet. Keyword, MAYBE. Running a tournament or an internet-less LAN will be a nightmare. No tournament organizer, event host, or even big conventions and organizations will want to use the Nextbox to run tournaments, simple.

We have run many fun, successful and memorable community sessions without the internet, and it should BE that way. If they require us to connect to the internet in order to play a local game of Street Fighter, I just won’t have it. At big conventions such as PAX and E3, the internet is horrendous because of the amount of people connected at all times. You think that trying to get a few games playing in Console Free Play or during a tournament will work when you have 75,000 other people connected with their phones, laptops, iPods, tablets, other consoles, and even DESKTOPS? You’ll be lucky if you can even get it to play at all.

2: Not everybody has internet all the time.

But if someone buys this console, they will have access to the console all the time. In the twitter discussion, you can see that they talked a bit about how they discussed how vacuum cleaners require electricity to function, and relates spotty internet to the power going out. The difference here is that the vacuum cleaner REQUIRES electricity to run. An Xbox console should not REQUIRE internet to function. It doesn’t NEED internet. A vacuum cleaner literally will not function without some form of electrical power.

Not only that, but some people have jobs where they move around, travel, or are stationed somewhere. We have troops overseas that LOVE playing Halo when they have downtime. Some of them DO NOT have internet. Not only does it help them relax, and if anyone deserves to unwind after a long day’s work it’s a soldier who had been in an extremely stressful moment of his life while on duty. Some people move around a lot and bring their Xbox from place to place. It would literally be a useless paperweight if they stayed anywhere without internet, with internet they could not access or with spotty internet.

3: SimCity, Diablo III

This was also mentioned in the twitter conversation. These are two PERFECT examples of why this is a terrible idea. SimCity is published by Electronic Arts. Diablo II is published by Activision. Both companies are major publishing companies and if any third party developer could get servers to handle first-week launches, it’s them. Guess what, they didn’t. Both games were complete and utter disasters when they launched. They literally didn’t work for the majority of players. This is what could and probably would happen if Microsoft actually did decide to take the Always-Online route.

Imagine getting home after waiting in line outside your local game distributor waiting to get your hands on the next Xbox at launch with a slew of exciting new software to play. After waiting all night (possibly longer if you’re insane) you finally get your impatient little fingers on this slick new piece of hardware you’ve wanted for the past year and a half (or more if you’re impatient). You rush home going 50mph in a 25mph because the risk of getting pulled over is TOTALLY WORTH the reward of playing that new console just a few minutes earlier. You bust into your house faster than you ever have before, fumble the wires around while plugging it all in, toss in Halo 5 and get ready to have the time of your life…

And then the servers just aren’t working, so you can’t actually play the device you just spent $500 on. You try again tomorrow, same problem. Three days from then, same problem. A week later you’re finally able to play the campaign for Halo 5! The campaign. SOMETHING YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO PLAY OFFLINE, BUT YOU CAN’T BECAUSE OF THIS STUPID AS SHIT REQUIREMENT.

Conclusion:

This summarizes my feelings for Always-Online devices that don’t need it to operate. It’s just a bad idea and will ruin things for many, many people. Over 50% of America lives in rural locations, many of which have spotty internet at times. It’s even a bad business idea for Microsoft since it’s such a massive turn off for so many people.

Adam Orth really needs to remember: when you’re an important figure in a massive community that is generally always watching (Gamers in the gaming community), you cannot, and I repeat, cannot do this kind of thing in social networking. It’s immature, irresponsible, and completely in bad taste to joke when people are anxiously awaiting your next product.

Always Online = Tragedy.

End of story.

Opinion: What I Want From Next Gen Consoles

Wii U

I want quite a few things from the Wii U. It’s the first console to hit us in this new generation that everyone seems so excited about (I personally think our current consoles are still packin’ heat, but whatever). Reggie Fils-Aime really likes to emphasis that Nintendo is all about the games, and that’s my one true hope for Nintendo’s new console. People smack the Big N for its less than stellar hardware that the Wii U features, but as a big fan of Nintendo, it doesn’t matter to me in the slightest.

As I already mentioned, I think the current consoles are still relevant. Some people disagree, but I’m not a nitpicker. All I care about is seeing my favorite Nintendo Games in High Definition. I’ve been a huge Nintendo fanboy my entire life. It doesn’t matter what series I play, Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Pokémon, Star Fox, Animal Crossing, Metroid, Pikmin… I love them all.

That being said, I was quite disappointed by the Wii… but really for only one reason, it wasn’t in HD. In hindsight I liked my Wii quite a bit. I really enjoyed Super Mario Galaxy, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Animal Crossing: City Folk, Super Smash Brothers Brawl, Monster Hunter Tri and a few more. With that on your mind, I’d like to mention I’m really excited to play another group of games that I am just now starting to pick up including Super Mario Galaxy 2, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Metroid Prime Trilogy, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Mad World and more. Luckily for me they’re starting to appear in the bargain bin because I waited so long.

But, I digress. The Wii U is what we’re talking about, not the Wii. I played the Wii U a couple times, and both times I enjoyed the touch pad and thought there was a lot of potential. All I want from the Wii U is solid Nintendo titles with new innovations and gameplay formulas that we have yet to see. Luckily, Nintendo also clearly wants that as they demonstrated from Skyward Sword. Some people want to see more from the Wii U, and it’s understandable. What it comes down to is this: Are first party Nintendo games worth the $300-350 investment? For me, certainly. For others, not so much.

Durango/Xbox 720

What I want from the new Xbox is essentially more of what they’re giving us now. I love the Xbox Live service and their batch of exclusives (Halo, Gears of War, Forza, Various Arcade Titles) are some of my favorites from their respective genre. One thing I would LOVE to see more of is their “Dead” or “Unused” IPs. Banjo-Kazooie, Kameo, Perfect Dark, 1 vs 100, and more are all games I would love to see make awesome comebacks, especially Banjo-Kazooie.

Obviously Microsoft has amazing Shooters and Racers, but they don’t have “that much” diversity when it comes to exclusives. I, for one, would LOVE to see “Banjo-Threeie” come out of nowhere and live up to the first two games. I would also like to see Fable make a game on par with other western RPGs (Sorry, Fable fans! They’re not that good!). If they pinned the tail on those two genres, Microsoft would have a devastating arsenal of FPS, TPS, Racing, Role-Playing AND Platformer!

On the hardware and service side of things, if the hardware is anywhere near double of what we have in the current consoles (and I think it will) I would be MORE than satisfied. I think Microsoft is going to go the extra mile in terms of creating a universal entertainment system. They aren’t creating the next gaming console… they are creating the next entertainment console, one that provides a powerful and diverse arrangement of entertainment. We’ll see a lot of focus on Movies, Music, Television, Applications, Browsing the Web, and of course, Gaming in all shapes and sizes.

Orbis/Playstation 4

Sony and I have a less-than-stellar relationship. I never owned a PS1 until recently, and although I loved my PS2 (who couldn’t?), I really only “like” my PS3. Despite this, I think there is a lot of potential for the new Playstation. I think Sony is going to have to recover from mistakes made this last generation. They lost almost $6 BILLION from 2011 alone, and the four years previous also generated loses. However, I have faith that Sony can learn from those mistakes and generate enough hype with their dedicated fanbase to strike brilliantly again.

Sony needs to refocus on third party. The Xbox 360 was a popular choice this generation because it came out first, offered better services, better accessibility, and because third party games often ran, looked and felt better on the Xbox. One of the reasons the Playstation 2 thrived so viciously was because third party games worked amazingly on the console, as well as the incredible first-party support with Jak and Daxter, Sly Cooper, God of War, Twisted Metal, and more. This generation was much less received in the first-party department with the exception of Uncharted. I want to see a new, fresh group of IPs and as well as some of our old favorites reline the pockets of the PS4’s Gaming Catalog all while having the great third-party support that made the PS2 as good as it did.

In terms of hardware and service, I want PSN to evolve. Copy Xbox Live, I don’t even care, just become a slightly better service. It’s not BAD right now; it’s just not as good as Xbox Live. Yeah, you have to pay for Xbox Live, but I would definitely pay for PS+ if they offered the same kinds of communicative and accessible services XBL offers. The hardware would have to be equal to or slightly less powerful in comparison to the Xbox 720 for me to be satisfied. The reason I say slightly less powerful, is because the company really can’t take much more hit financially and if that means water down the power a bit, go ahead. It wouldn’t even start to show in our games until the end of its lifespan anyway, no harm done.

Steambox/Piston

I want an easily accessible gaming device that is cross platform with steam players on PC, is inexpensive (a fraction of a gaming PC’s cost), and powerful enough to run games on the more CPU-intensive side of the spectrum. In a world where almost every PC gamer is a fan of Steam, I think most will agree that Valve has truly done PC gaming a momentous favor with their platform. I love Valve, and I think they can do a great job in the console business if they play their cards right.

Valve already has a solid set of exclusives, and if you add in the indie support that Steam has, it could make for an extremely (really infinitely) diverse catalog of games to choose from. This is something you have to weigh in considerably, because if they continue to have good alliances with indie developers, then a console where they have complete freedom would be a wrecking-ball of creativity. Sadly, Valve itself, although has good exclusives, doesn’t have much variety. Half-Life, Counter-Strike, Team Fortress, Left 4 Dead and Portal are ALL First Person Shooters. Sure, they’re all very different, but nonetheless, they’re all FPS titles. That would push away some people who aren’t big fans of the genre.

In terms of hardware, it would have to have pretty high specs in order to stand up to the Powerhouse Gaming PCs people are rockin’ nowadays. Luckily, if it’s dedicated to the Steam software and has no other function, this would mean that it could still be a powerful piece of gaming equipment while keeping its price lower than a powerful PC. No Music, Movies, Television, Applications, Internet Browsing… this thing could be a dedicated gaming platform, and I’m okay with that as long as the price fits the match.

Overall

I am quite excited to see what happens in the years to come. It really feels like gaming is going above and beyond this time. I feel an evolution on the horizon, and I like that feeling. In the coming days of E3, we’ll see if these gaming platforms of the future will live up to my, as well as your own, expectations. In 2013/2014 we’ll make new friends, alliances and enemies to the gaming consoles to come. We’ll see new companies take interest in gaming and might even see companies drop out. Hopefully whatever happens, it’s for the good of Gamers and the future of gaming.

Opinion: Game vs. Experience

Gaming has become one of the most popular forms of entertainment in the shortest amount of time. With such a wide diversity of genres, we see games that span everything from epic hundred-hour fantasy adventures to the short and sweet pleasure of shooting a pig with a bird. Today, games come in all shapes and sizes, and many of them can leave a heavy impact on our everyday lives. However, an argument has been a popular topic as of recent… the argument that some games are not “Games” at all.

Gaming is changing. Some would say for the better, some would say for the worse. I, however, see it evolving as an art form and becoming more and more prominent in non-gaming society every day. Now more than ever we are seeing games come out that are about story and plot more so than gameplay. Some of these don’t even feature a “lose state” which is something many people would use in their argument against some games being “games”. A fine example of this is Home.

Home is an indie horror game, but it isn’t your normal horror game. It’s a psychological adventure where you uncover clues and put them together yourself. In the end you decide on what happened and why things happened. It’s often argued this isn’t a game because there is no win or lose state. My argument, however, is that it really isn’t much different than your typical adventure game. It’s a slightly different KIND of adventure game, but it still features puzzles and obstacles in its own way that would help define it as a game. However, I would easily say that this is more of an experience than a game.

So my thoughts are that some games are better experiences, while some are better games. Now that I’ve explained myself, let’s do a compare/contrast. Let’s look at two very popular games from the same genre that came out last year around the same time. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Dark Souls are two games from the same genre, yet they are very much so different. Skyrim is about Role-Playing whereas Dark Souls is about progression. Let’s go into details on how to define these two games.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is, in my opinion, one of the greatest Action Role-Playing games of all time. “WOAH STEVEN, NO WAY MAN!” Yes, hear me out. Skyrim allows the player to role-play, build a backstory, and define why a character makes decisions better than almost any game out there in the market. In other words, the reasons many people think Daggerfall, Morrowind and Oblivion are better are the same reasons that make Skyrim better in another way. The leniency of Skyrim‘s progression system, skill system, and plot are what allow the player to truly be able to role-play at its finest. Here’s an example. I’m role-playing as Steven the Mighty, a strong and renowned fighter known for his devastating swordplay. One day Steven woke up and heard voices in his head telling him he is the chosen one and must put down his sword and shield to learn the Arcane Arts. The voice proceeds to tell him that they have awoken a power within him to learn them swiftly. Changing how a character plays or interacts with others is extremely easy in Skyrim. In other games, it would be difficult to make a fighter character suddenly a mage character. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is a better experience this way, because oftentimes this leniency is what ruins the gameplay and breaks the core mechanics of the game.

Dark Souls is, in my opinion, one of the greatest Action Role-Playing games of all time. Dark Souls is all about progression; from PvE, Co-Op and PvP the rewards are always geared towards building your character to be stronger. My argument here is that Dark Souls is a better “game” than Skyrim, but a worse “experience.” Dark Souls is defined by extremely fair, but difficult gameplay mechanics and rule set on how to play. You’ll never play a session of Dark Souls thinking “Wow, I broke the game at that point because of some leniency.” The point of Dark Souls is not to role-play, but to advance towards personal goals of beating the game, hitting the highest level, or doing Player vs. Player combat. This in itself falls perfectly into that definition of “game” that so many people are using nowadays.

I honestly think The Walking Dead, Home, Journey, The Unfinished Swan, Skyrim, Dark Souls and every other game out there are all games within themselves. Some offer a better personal “experience” in their own way. I personally believe whatever game is your cup of tea is the better choice for your “game” AND “experience”. In the end it’s up to you to decide what you define as a game or not. Let me know how you feel in the comments below!

Opinion: Review Scores Are Lame

Hear me out; it’s not what you think.

“Combined with the host of subtle and overt improvements to the array of other systems, the additions to make it more appealing to Esports, and the more fleshed out Zombies mode, this is not just a fantastic Call of Duty game, but one of the best shooters of the last decade.”

– IGN’s review on Call of Duty: Black Ops 2.

IGN, in the past decade has given several First Person Shooter games a HIGHER score than a 93.

This includes the following:

  • Halo 2, 3, Reach, 4
  • Metroid Prime 1, 2 , 3 and the Trilogy (Separately)
  • Half-Life 2 & The Orange Box (Separately)
  • Bioshock
  • Resistance 2
  • Crysis
  • Killzone 2
  • Unreal Tournament 2004
  • Call of Duty 4, Modern Warfare 2

So why is this game “One of the best shooters of the last decade”? First off, this isn’t a slap to the wrist to Call of Duty, this is a slap to the wrist for review scores. This is evidence of why giving review scores is not something I do. I feel that giving a score will never do the game the justice it deserves, especially since they are usually either watered down to the point where anything below a 8.5 is bad, even when 8’s and 7’s are supposed to stand for good games with 6’s being fun but not great and 5’s being average. 8.5 is the new average. When people rely on review score averages, it makes the scores mean nothing. A 0-7 score means the same thing to most people: It’s a bad game. This isn’t supposed to be the case. This is why I use a badge system instead. It gets my point across, my feelings towards the game across, and it gives you something quick and easy to refer too.