Saturday, April 14, 2012

State of my Game, April 2012

April has been a rather slow month for gaming for me.  Nothing much to look forward to at all this month but movies.

  • Gotham City Impostors
  • Tribes Ascend (just stared)
  • Starcraft 2 (trying to at least get back to silver)
  • Blur
  • Saints Row the Third (just fucking around, not actually progressing)
  • Binding of Isaac

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Nintendo is getting old.

I love Nintendo.  They are the company that brought me into the gaming world with the NES when I was only 3 years old (1992).  They amazed me as a child with Super Mario 1,2 &3, Tetris, Zelda, among others.  Over the years, it has become apparently obvious to me, however, that Nintendo is starting to show its age.  I don't mean the obvious fact that the company is more than 100 years old itself, starting out as a card company in Japan in the early 1890's or that they have been in the gaming market for about 30 years now.  I mean this in the fact that they are behind the times when they used to innovate.  I mean that they focus where the rest of devs don' a bad way, not in the indie dev way.  Allow me to take you through some of my thoughts of Nintendo's mishaps since 2000.

Doom Cube
This year, I have come up with the thought that the Wii doesn't exist.  It was all a bad dream...right?....Guys?....  It is no secret to anyone that 'old school' Nintendo fans hate the Wii and feel that it ruins what Nintendo used to embody with gaming, and I am no stranger to this ideal.  The Gamecube, to me, was Nintendo's best console.  Twilight Princess (not the bastardized Wii version..*shudder*), Pikmin 1/2, Wind Waker, Melee, Luigi's Mansion, Metroid Prime 1/2, Viewtiful Joe, Super Mario Sunshine.  All great IP's from Nintendo released during this console.  While some weren't as good as others (it's hard to find another LM fan and I do agree Sunshine had a lot of 'problems' with it), it was clear to me that Nintendo loved developing for this console as much as I love playing all the games.  Add this to the success of the Nintendo 64, SNES, NES, Gameboy/Color/Advance/SP, and you have a formula of just pure awesomeness that is Nintendo.  It wasn't even until about 2003-4 that I had any desire to get a PS2. This was because I loved all the games Nintendo had to offer and didn't want to taint my mind with 'unworthy' games.  As far as XBOX was concerned, I was still of the mindset that Microsoft had already failed at OS's, they should stay out of gaming (obviously, I'm singing a different tune now).  But imagine my surprise when I talk to people who say 'Nintendo games suck' or 'Nintendo is a kiddie console'.  Looking back now, the Gamecube didn't get as many amazing reviews that I had thought, being a youngster and only reading Nintendo Power (because that's not biased, right?).  Even now, however, this doesn't taint my absolute love for Nintendo during that time.  It truly was a golden age for gaming to me and I couldn't have asked for anything else (aside from maybe releasing TP a bit sooner, I had it on pre-order for at least 2 years).

Then it all changed....

2 screens?!
I got a call from my friend Alex one day telling me he saw a story on the new Nintendo handheld.  At the time, I was happily playing on my GBA (Super Mario Advance 4, I think) and he proceeded to tell me that it would feature 2 screens.  Shocked by this, and my mind already wondering, I asked the question "What in the hell will the second screen be used for?  A map?!"  My first surprise at Nintendo.  "Why would they do that" I thought, thinking in my 13 year-old brain that it was a dumb idea.  Nevertheless, I was still kind of excited at a new Nintendo console, capable of an engine like the PSP, which was failing miserably at this point (and continued to do so, incidentally).  Without listening to my first judgement, I got an original DS (The fat ones, which had it's hinge broken after a year but still pressed on, the little soldier).  While it was fun to have, I found myself using it mostly to play my GBA games on and not so much DS games in general.  Also, guess what that second screen was used for (troll face).  Never the less, while it took some time the DS really did pump out a few great titles, original IP or rehashes, I have to give it credit for being a general success in the market on more than one instance.  But I could sense something was wrong with this company.  Why would they release something so...different.  Why would they engineer this device when not even they took advantage of the technology that they enforced upon other developers (name 1 good game that used both screens)?   And then *it* happened...

Whats my name?
The Wii, Nintendo Revolution turned into "Wiii".  What the bleeding hell?  All motion controls, no HD, no online system just motion controls.  Needless to say, this is a point where faith was starting to be shaken with Nintendo, finally getting myself familiar with the XBOX360/PS3/PC market.  But, I got one in 2006.

It collected dust until 2008 when Brawl came out.  Not entirely true, actually.  I played Wii Sports and enjoyed it enough to not despise it.  I played Galaxy 1/2, I played Corruption.  I was not impressed.  Relating back to my DS argument, why would they develop this technology and then not use it themselves?  Their own titles barely used the motion.  Corruption is the only one that stands out in my mind as being impressive with the motion controls.

Not only that, but then adding another accessory that you needed to buy (motion plus) because they didn't get the tech right the first time?  Sorry, that's just admitting failure but expecting the consumer to pay for your failure.  But people did, stuffing more money into their pockets and deepening my hatred for a once beloved company.

Don't get me started on Brawl, the friend codes that were required to do online game play.  The sequel to the most successful game on the GameCube; hindered from any real online play that could have skyrocketed up the eSports ladder to possibly be a rival to the lovely Starcraft 2 in competitive gaming.  Shattered by an archaic system in the age of Gamer tags and system-wide networks/matchmaking.  I mentioned HD and while that is not a strong suit, the fact that a console that came out a year beforehand and the other that came out that same year had support already put a notch against it in terms of comparability.

Nintendo dropped the ball.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

My [Declining] Love for Sony.

Jump back to 1995, I'm 6 years old, oblivious to the gaming world besides the NES that my mother allowed me to play every once in a while (until I broke it) and a Sega Genesis my uncle owned under the same situation.  This is the year gaming changed because the Playstation made headway with it's first iteration.  Bringing 3D (not the current crap 3D) into a mainstream platform and rivaling Nintendo was a big step for them.  But they were unafraid, and their confidence paid off, the Playstation was a hit.  And like all great hits, you just gotta try again, and with the launch of the Playstation 2, Nintendo was finally given some good competition and begun to be nudged out of the gaming market, where Sega had already thrown in the towel with their failed consoles and Microsoft started to see the market thrive more, releasing the Xbox.  However, Sony was unafraid of the Operating System giant, nor where they afraid of their main competitor, Nintendo.

It wasn't until about 2004ish, that I got my first Sony game system, the PS2.  I had been a huge Nintendo fanboy up until that point, and it wasn't until my friend Alex let me play on his brother's PS2 and I saw the wonder of a different variety of games like the GTA series, Spyro, Ratchet and Clank, and so on that really captured the system's capabilities and not to mention just the different feel the PS2 gave off than the N64/Gamecube.  I was enthralled and purchased many of their hit game series including Prince of Persia, Jak, and others and enjoyed them thoroughly and with great happiness that I had found an alternative to Nintendo.  At that point, I was never more of a fan of one than the other, while my roots belonged to Nintendo, I couldn't give up the PS2 if i had a choice.  It was a bit of a golden age of gaming for me because each system was successful in it's own regards.  I had never owned the original Xbox, but could respect what Microsoft was doing and have recently played some of the older titles (Halo 1&2, Psychonauts, among others) that made the console popular and a hit on its own, but I digress.  The point I'm trying to make is that the Playstation was never viewed as a bad system to me, nor did I ever doubt that Sony would stay strong in the gaming industry as long as they kept up the pace and improved upon the model for them that worked so well.


Then 2005 hit.  The double-dildo controller, I believe was the nickname of the unbelieveable looking object that Sony wanted to push as their controller for the PS3.  A bit of a bold maneuver as both the PS1&2 had essentially the same controller.  While change would have been a neat thing for them, that was a bit....much.  With the huge negative reaction to the controller, they obviously changed it to the DS3/SIXAXIS which is just the original controller with the PSButton.  Small bump in the road, not a big deal right?


I beleive that was also the same E3 that they announced the biggest bomb of them all, and what I believe was the beginning of the decline for Sony, the price of the PS3.  $600 for the lesser model, $700+ for the higher model, all that includes is the system and a single controller.  Now, with a system that has a blu-ray player installed, I would expect a tad more expense for it.  But the with the Wii debuting at $250, Xbox360 at $300-$400(with a built in DVD player and debuted a year earlier), I think an extra $200-$400 with only a few launch titles (that are exclusive and also cost $60+ each) is a bit rediculous.  Regardless, there was, of course, the fanboys and the people extremely loyal to Sony on opening day, buying up the systems, but then the number started to drop drastically when the Wii's popularity took hold and launched a ton of 'new' gamers and with Microsoft taking hold of the market with their already established (yet flawed) system before Sony has even come to the gates.  It was a disaster.  Flash-forward a couple years and Playstation sales are in the tank because of this huge reaction to their price, so a few new models have been released, each one granting a bit of a price drop. It was not until the release of the "slim" PS3 that the system started to come down to a reasonable price, $299. 

Personally, I did not purchase a PS3 until late 2009, and that was only because it was a deal that came with 2 games, another controller, and I got a 10% discount from my work.  It was around that time that I realized, I have become such a fan of the Xbox Live service that the PSN was useless to me, multi-console games were just made better for the Xbox360, and there weren't all that many good exclusive PS3 titles.  My rule of thumb is that I will not buy a console until I can find 5 EXCLUSIVE games to that console that I will enjoy.  It wasn't until the release of inFamous that the 5th one appeared and put the PS3 in the spotlight for me.  So for a long time, my PS3 was a glorified blu-ray player.

Now, after finally picking themselves up with the price drops and the better games, you would think Sony, this company that I had come to love due to their just plain awesomeness during the PS1&2, would keep up the pace.

Wrong again.

Enter, Playstation Move.  Now, this is the part of the blog that the whole "to each their own" thing comes in and subjectivity vs objectivity matters. So keep in mind, this is my opinion on the matter.  The Playstation Move has been a failure since the announcement.  The obvious ripoff of the Nintendo Wii controller was supposed to give the Wii a run for its money and convert all the 'new' gamers to the Playstation.  Now, motion controls was a nice gimmick brought about from Nintendo, and I'll save the details for another post, but at the time of that announcement, I was f**king sick of motion controls.  The only thing Move and Kinect have done right with them, as a side note, is make them an unrequired part of the console.  But I digress again.  $99.99 for the Move bundle which included the Wand, Eye, and Sports Champions.  Not bad for the price, I must admit, but the development time in that could have gone into improvements for other things, I feel, because I have not seen a huge library for the Move, nor have I seen it fly off the shelves like the Kinect/Wii did on launch.

Ok, so a few business flubs shouldn't be enough for me to start to flip my opinion on Sony right?

Man you are bad at this.

Playstation Network.  The most recent flub of them all.  I do not blame Sony entirely for this, mostly their PR and business leaders.  When they decided to remove the OtherOS functionality of the system (for those that don't know, this allowed you to install Linux on your PS3 and have all kinds of fun) that pissed off a lot of people, and eventually led to Sony inadvertantly pissing off the correct group of hackers.  Now, I do believe that it was not Anonymous that hacked PS3.  But whoever did accomplish this is definatley no stranger to the Anon crowd.  Now, as I have said, the PSN outage did not affect me personally because I am a Xbox Live user, but no one can deny the amount of damage the outage caused to their brand.  People buying Xbox360s just because of this, Sony putting out the old "it going to be impossible to hack our system again".  Probably the worst thing you can say when you have been hacked, is that they cannot do it again, it is an open invitation for them to try harder, and more than likely succeed.  Luckily for them, they got the network back up, and did extremely good PR, giving away free games and turning their whole E3 '11 opening into a 20minute apology. 

And finally, the whole reason I got thinking about this is their customer service.  Now, as I mentioned, I own a PS3.  One day about 2 weeks ago, I noticed significant slowing in the operation of the games, and the XMB.  Thinking I just need to reset the system/restore the DB, I did just that, and nothing worked.  I attempted to contact customer support to see if I can get on the phone/live chat with a tech to see if they could troubleshoot my issue.  I may be a computer geek, but if there's something I don't know about support wise, I'm still going to ask someone who knows more than I do.  Anyway, I was unsuccessful in reaching a person.  After typing in my problem, I was automatically redirected to a page that says "Cost to service: $99.00 USD".  No offering to speak to a rep (hard pressed to find a number to being with) no mention of anything in order for me to attempt to solve the problem on my own.  I was livid, mostly because I had to call Microsoft's support for a different issue and was able to reach their tech support at 1 A.M. (and they were domestic) and received all the help I could ask for.  That's appaling to me.  While it may seem minor, its just something a company should do, offer customer service for their products that doesn't alienate and charge rediculous amounts without a person at least spending a few minutes to go through some easy diagnostics of some sort.

Now, none of these reasons alone will prevent me from buying a PS4, whenever that should come out.  However, it might be a couple years before I even look into buying one.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Future topics

So just jotting down topics that I would like to discuss eventually for this blog.  Ideally, I would like to have a new post either every week, or maybe more or less depending on time and laziness.

DLC and thinning of game content

Nintendo's desgin philosophy and gimmicks in gaming

My history of gaming and how I feel about gaming as a whole from past to present

Piracy in gaming

Mulitplayer gaming

World of Warcraft and how it has affected my life

Video games as art

Violence in video games/youth with games

Console wars

Objectivity vs subjectivity

Those are to just name a few, any suggestions would be great because as long as I have a topic, I will have something to write about.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

State of gaming via Tom

My friend, Young Thomas, posted something on his Facebook last night that we were discussing in detail about how many gaming companies out there are truly good still, and how many are just putting out the same old re-hashed shit every chance they get.  Surprisingly enough, we could not come up with as many companies as you may think.  The reason behind this is because, as I've stated, most companies are putting out the same IP just re-hashed.  To quote Tom:


1.they must still be active
2.they must have produced/developed at least 3 games

heres a list of what we came up with

retro studios
intelegent systems
naughty dog
sucker punch*
 The companies with starts are the ones we could not fully agree on and let me just run down each company and the thoughts behind including them in this list.

Bioware -> Dragon Age (The first one, and the reason I do not include the second one is for a later date), Mass Effect, Neverwinter Nights, Baldur's Gate, Jade Empire, and KOTOR are all their efforts in gaming and they are all masterpieces in storytelling, innovative game play, and I cannot emphasize the importance of their storytelling and how good their immersion is with their titles.  Each one redefines and sets a new bar with their own unique style and twist.

Retro Studios -> Metroid Prime Series and Donkey Kong Country Wii.  Tom is behind this one more than I am because I think working on a series counts just as much as a single game, but I digress.  The 3-Dimensional Metroid games were perfect in every regard, defying what everyone thought of making a non side-scrolling Samus and shown that with the proper people behind it, a game can be completely re-envisioned and still keep what made it good to begin with.  Donkey Kong Country, while not an entirely original game, was still the perfect idea to make because, while not being the open world, banjo-kazooie style from the N64 days, did the opposite of what the Metroid series did and showed that also, an old format can still be good in the modern times.

Intelligent Systems -> Another one of Tom's preferences, but with their library, I have to agree.  A majority of the War game series (Advance Wars, etc), Fire Emblem series, and the Paper Mario series show how much this developer can innovate on simple ideas, but still keep them not only fresh, but add a new flair to ideas, a la Paper Mario, and make them fun instead of a pain.

Insomniac -> This company I have been behind since their inception with the debut of everyone's favorite purple dragon, Spyro.  It was the first of that generation of gaming that I saw and I was blown away by it and how fun it was to play.  Unfortunately, they stopped making Spyro games, but to start on another series that I have a deep love for, Ratchet and Clank.  An extravagant exception to the re-hashing rule that takes the same idea in every single game, but finds a way each time (and they are up to about the 10th in the series) to make it fun again and make it innovative again (how many games have a gun that burps for ammo?).  Also by them is the Resistance franchise, that I can't say I'm a fan of, but shows that they're capable of making the 'main-stream shooter' good as well as different.

Atlus -> This company may not be known to all, but any Japanese game that is NOT made by Square-Enix, are probably made by them.  One game in particular caught my eye and kicked my ass, Demon Souls.  Probably now known as one of the hardest games of all time, is unforgiving, but in a way that makes you want to keep trying anyway so that when you do succeed, you laugh in the game's face and say "HA, FUCK YOU, AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH" and then die to the next thing in the room.

Naughty Dog -> Another Sony exclusive company that I am in love with because of the quirky, yet amazing platforming games they are known for.  Sure, recently the Uncharted series with its perfect mixture of Gears style shooting plus Tomb Raider's exploration is noteworthy, but how many people really know them for their claims to fame, both Crash Bandicoot AND Jak and Daxter.  Crash, I did not personally play a whole lot myself, but have never seen anything bad written about the series.  One I have more personal experience with, Jak and Daxter amazed me.  The first game is a platforming haven all the way through.  But then the second game in the series changes everything, and with this risk, they IMPROVED the game play.  Something rarely seen nowadays.

Blizzard Entertainment -> The big one everyone can say they know.  Name one bad game Blizzard has made.  Go on, I'll wait.......Exactly.  Love 'em or hate 'em, Blizzard games have always been quality.  (While I do have a big rant for WoW one day, it was still quality upon release and still has a huge player-base so all biases aside) Starcraft, Warcraft, Diablo, all just amazing and perfect game franchises (aside from their long development times).  Blizzard's philosophy up until lately has been "It will be released when it is done" which made SC2 and Diablo3 some of the most anticipated games of all time and now they are actually doing something NEW for them which is a FPS-style MMO known only as Titan.  Unfortunately, with the purchase from Activision, their quality has definitely gone down significantly but hopefully, they will overcome the big money suit guys and revitalize their brand to be what everyone has come to expect it to be.

Nintendo-> While I disagree with a LOT of what Nintendo has done of late, I do still commend them for constantly taking risks and attempting to revitalize the market out there.  Pikmin, Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong, Kid Icarus, Starfox, the list goes on for ages.  Nintendo probably has the most IP's out of the 3 major companies (Sony and Microsoft) and continue to revitalize old gameplay in the form of Galaxy, Skyward Sword, Smash Bros, and more.  Recently, I believe their design philosophy, however, has been too gimmicky, but that I will save for later.

Sucker Punch -> (No, not the trippy movie with scantily clad steam punk girls that was awesome despite reviews) This developer barely meets the criteria because they have not done much, but perhaps you would care to recognize Sly Cooper.  An amazing accomplishment with cel shading mixed with stealthy action.  Seems contradictorily, but they made it work perfectly.  And speaking of contradictions, a company known for their popular cel shaded game, brought us, what I consider to be the best sandbox super-hero game, inFamous.  Love it or hate it, inFamous' only flaw lies in that people need more of it and inFamous 2 delivered on that with even more bad-assery on the part of Cole.  And a huge side-note.  How many companies actually listen to their fans?  When the first images of the 'new' Cole were released in Game Informer, so many people spoke up about it and they listened and changed his look back to the way he was.

And last but not least that brings us to

Bethesda -> Bethesda is one of those companies, like Retro, that you wouldn't recognize unless you have played the games.  Elder scrolls ring a bell?  How about Fallout 3/New Vegas?  No?  How about the recently released Brink, that takes FPS and adds some amazing innovative multiplayer features and parqour?  Bethesda has had an almost hit or miss type of deal and (readies flame shield) I did not enjoy Fallout 3 at all.  However, that does not mean I cannot be excited for what new things they can produce and hopefully will continue to make in the future.

There you have it, the state of games according to two gamers.  What do you think about it all?


So an explanation of what is going on here would be a good idea, aye?  What I want to do here is get people's honest opinion on gaming as it stands currently as an industry, business, art-form, entertainment, and whatever else may arise from discussions.  This may become a way for me to vent how I feel about everything going on in the gaming community or I may just plain forget about it while trying to beat a friend's high-score in Geometry Wars 2, who knows?  What I do know is that I am in a ranting mood at the moment, so let the festivities commence!