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23 year old video game blogger and college student. I could pretend that someone else wrote this section, so it'll be a spiffy 3rd person About page, but thats weird. I currently write at RelyOnHorror.com where I am the Managing Editor. I host my own podcast there as well.

Studying for a Communication Arts degree and am set to graduate in December 2013.

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Arsenic13
8:48 PM on 03.01.2011



What defines a horror game as survival horror? What aspects differentiate the genres? I wanted to take a look at how people view the survival horror genre in whole. I’ve sent out a request to several people behind horror games to find a common ground. I wanted to see the differences and similarities in their definitions, and perhaps figure out what the genre means to them. This is all in hopes to analyze the aspects of what makes a survival horror game.

This article will be somewhat “episodic”. Overtime I will post another response from a different developer on what they think about the genre. Hit the jump for the full article.

Alan Wilson
Vice President of Tripwire Interactive.
Known for: Killing Floor



Being pedantic, just divide it up into the constituent parts – “Survival” and “Horror”. For the horror part to work, you need a good combination of setting, monsters, shock, surprise and some suspense. Doesn’t really matter what the monsters are – zombies, vampires, the large hairy tentacle thing from Call of Cthulu. And the setting doesn’t matter that much either. It is how you use the setting. To get a good “horror” feel, it needs those peaceful moments, combined with the suspense – you just know something is going to happen and, when it does, it should be a shock. Rather than “slower” paced, I reckon it is more about varying the pace. Amnesia: The Dark Descent, for example, does it by keeping the base feeling slow and unhurried. But dark corners, noises off, spooky hints all go to build the suspense. You just know stuff is going to happen, but you can’t tell when and how. And when it does, it is often sudden – so it is shocking. Just hiding in a corner gets scary. Combination of sound, helplessness, dark corners – it gets scary. It is horror. There are times when you feel perfectly safe – but that is just the start point.

Then, “Survival”. You have to veer between feeling safe and feeling like you are genuinely threatened. If there isn’t any credible threat, how can there be any big buzz in “surviving”? The horror elements certainly should amplify that feeling. When I’m under pressure from a bunch of monsters in Killing Floor, a crawler popping out of a ventilator or somewhere, or a stalker uncloaking behind me, can still make me jump. The surprise/shock immediately amplifies the “survival” part, with a lot of “crapohcrapohcrap” suddenly in my skull. The tricky balance is to induce moments of pure panic – but they have to be survivable, or they are just “give up and walk away” moments, when they should really lead to “Woahhhh – how DID I get out of that?”.

Alan brings up several points at keeping a horror game in a survival zone. The threat of death must be apparent when enemies arise. He also says the threat must be accompanied by peace. The player must feel isolated and alone for the incoming threat to be scary. Whatever threat it may be, it must be substantial and strong enough as to get the drop on the player. He also mentions that a pure feeling of accomplishment must arise when the threat has been dealt with.

This is starting to sound right. Classic survival horror games were plentiful in this respect. Resident Evil pits you against sudden powerful zombies after numerous quite areas. Silent Hill did the same, but in a supernatural aspect. The feeling of isolation being suddenly ended by an encounter with a beast much stronger than your protagonist is what many attribute to survival horror. Killing Floor contains many of these aspects, but I’m sure many will be quick to call it an action horror game due to it’s large arsenal of weapons and multiplayer.



Tomm Hulett
Producer at Konami
Known for: Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, Silent Hill: Downpour



Survival Horror is a specific type of horror where the player character is underpowered and vulnerable. The player should feel like their death is a very possible risk. To accomplish this, enemies need to be threatening in a real way—not just scary looking or deformed, but actually able to kill the player. In most action games you are only “afraid” of the enemies if your life is low. In a Survival Horror title, you should be afraid as soon as you spot the enemy. (It’s not Survival Horror per se, but Left 4 Dead’s special infected do this really really well. As soon as you hear a Witch or Tank, your flight response kicks in and you are scared.) But it goes deeper than just the actual, concrete threats—in a Survival Horror game players need to feel like the world itself is against them. This means heavy, suffocating atmosphere. No mushrooms in question blocks here—if you find a weapon or health pack it’s because you lucked out, and you’d better hold onto it because you’re going to desperately need it.

Tomm stresses preservation just like Alan did. The need to survive is what makes a survival horror game; not complicated since survival is part of the title right?

The two both bring to light that survival horror enemies must be stronger than the protagonist. Their presence must bring terror due to their strength. Both Alan and Tomm mention that the appearance of the enemy does not have to be disturbing or monstrous to be terrifying if these survival horror elements are apparent.

Think about this for a second; what games have you played where the enemies were incredibly strong and your only way of advancement was to be sneaky and by conserving your available resources. Personally, Minecraft comes to mind. This cutesy building block game was not meant to be a horror title, but when the nighttime creatures appear, and you’re resources are extremely low, there is a strong sense of fear and anxiety. Now take this simple mechanic of vulnerability, and add some intense ambiance, disturbing visuals, a great story, and voila, you have something resembling a survival horror game. But is it really that simple?



SWERY
Director at Access Games
Know for: Deadly Premonition



Survival horror is an exercise in escapism, but the player must furthermore escape from the world he has escaped to.

It’s sort of a self-contradiction. I think this is the fascinating thing that really appeals to its audience.

Here we can see SWERY’s definition of the genre, while shorter than the others, he touches on the symbolic aspects. We have discussed the gameplay with Alan and Tomm and their ideas met in most areas. But here we have SWERY, the man behind one of the strangest games this generation. His views accentuate the the meaning behind a survival horror game and the core emotional aspect which is created to disorient the player.

This quote brings to mind Silent Hill; the players leave their world behind and in turn must escape this new place which they have wound up in; perhaps this is what SWERY means. In Deadly Premonition York enters this strange “otherworld” which he seems to never disclose to anyone else. He enters this place and must proceed to escape. Not to mention Greenvale; York arrives at this small town in hopes to find a killer and in turn must solve the mystery that somehow relates to his own past. Only then can he leave this new place. York’s previous cases were in cities, and he expected this small town mystery to be relaxing, but the story was much deeper than anticipated. Here we can see in some way what SWERY meant. Escape the old, arrive at new, escape the new.

I also asked some fans of survival horror what they thought the genre meant. Nearly everyone mentions weak weapons to non at all.

“A nice mixture of disturbing scares and jump out scares (we know we love the latter). Also greater focus on weak weapons, scarce ammo and when the enemies should be frightening as one enemy just as much as large groups.” says Manuel. He later calls Amnesia a “near perfect” horror game due to absolutely no weapons and being completely powerless even when hiding. Manuel pushes for powerlessness just as Tomm and Alan stated.

Ryan and Cody both state that sound is key to a survival horror game. That the atmosphere must produce an orchestra of sounds to envelop you -the player- into the world of the game. Erasing all ties to the real world and genre awareness, just the pure sense of anxiety and fear is what a horror game should be.

Sound design and visuals are becoming part of the definition. Along with SWERY’s symbolic interpretation of the genre, I am starting to see more and more sides of this aging genre. In the next part of Defining Survival Horror, I talk to Devin Shatsky, the producer behind Silent Hill: Downpour.



Devin Shatsky
Producer at Konami
Known for: Silent Hill: Downpour



Sur-viv-al –noun: the act of surviving, especially under adverse or unusual circumstances.

Hor-ror – noun: an overwhelming and painful feeling caused by something frightfully shocking, terrifying, or revolting.

The label Survival Horror specifically refers to the emotions that a game is intending to arouse inside the player. I think it’s one of those things that’s fairly easy to define, or quantify. Yet extremely difficult to actually execute on or qualify. I believe the main reason for this is because fear is completely subjective. The kinds of things that scare me may not scare you, and vice versa. So the results of the experience completely differ from each perspective. I’ve talked about this in past interviews, and I want to reiterate it here, that reality is a necessary component of horror for me. Things need to fall somewhere into the realm of believability for it to really have an effect (on me). I like to be able to immerse myself completely in a horror game or movie, and really try to identify with the main character(s). I want to be able to feel that “what would I do?” feeling during the experience.

Surviving, is the key word to define a proper Survival Horror experience. It’s not the environment, its not the setting, it’s not the atmosphere that’s most important. It’s that overwhelming anxiety that one can only experience when they are inches away from a horrific moment. So, the crux of the equation is ‘empowerment’. How powerful does the player feel at the moment of truth. If the degree of empowerment is little to none, I believe THAT is when Survival Horror is truly experienced. This can be experienced in a sandbox at a childrens park, or it can be experienced in a dark alley. All it takes is the proper equation. Dangerous Antagonist + Powerless Protagonist = Survival Horror. Of course adding a foggy, quiet town into the equation never hurts.

Thanks for asking!

A great definition by Devin Shatsky. He immediately jumps into the core component of Survival Horror, and that is surviving. Alan, Tomm and Devin all agree that empowerment is key to extracting horror from a survival situation. An immediate sense of incoming deadly situations are what unnerves the player and reminds them that their protagonist is just as frail as any other human being. If one of us were to be attacked by some shrieking beast, would we really have the ability to stomp its legs off without breaking a sweat? Perhaps not. Instead most of us would be ripped apart in seconds, unless we ran. The same should apply for a Survival Game.

The protagonist of a game within the Survival Horror genre should be an everyman (or woman). I don’t mean this in the sense of occupation, or social status, but by actual physical limitations. Classic Survival Horror games were downright hard. This was due to your character being highly susceptible to damage. Before Chris Redfield was punching boulders, he was as weak as any other human. Several zombie attacks and he would be down for the count. Same with Jill Valentine in Resident Evil 5; before she was a ninja with a breast machine, she was a normal person will very little physical defense. The same can be said for the Silent Hill protagonists. Harry, Heather, James, Henry, and Travis were very easily killed. Alex was a little more defensive due to his “soldier” past, but not many hits were needed to take him out either.

So what about a protagonist that has a little more luck on his side? Perhaps a nice armor suit and a wide variety of weapons? Does his adventure qualify as survival horror? Stay tuned for our next part of Defining Survival Horror with John Calhoun, Producer on Dead Space 2.



John Calhoun
Producer at EA
Known for: Dead Space 2



Making good survival horror games is like making a good cocktail: you only need a few ingredients, but they have to be perfectly balanced to hit that sweet spot of “I can’t go on” and “Give me another!” The main ingredient is a protagonist who is less powerful than the threat he faces. In Dead Space, the hero is Isaac Clarke, an engineer by trade who’d be more comfortable fixing a shockpoint drive than dismembering a Necromorph. He’s not a soldier, not a hit man, and definitely not someone who’s trained to confront an undead scourge. When the character you’re controlling has a legitimate reason to doubt his chances of survival, then players are likely to experience similar pangs of fear and dread.

Another key ingredient to survival horror games is a relatable setting. People are very attuned to their surroundings, and can sense when something is wrong or off in a familiar space. The best survival horror games play off this phenomenon. Games like Dead Space 2 feature environments that we can relate to – apartments, schools, churches, hospitals – and effectively toy with players’ expectations. It could be something as simple as having a hallway be eerily quiet, or having a door locked and shuttered for no apparent reason. Players pick up on these small details because they’re both familiar and “not quite right,” and that enhances the horror experience dramatically.

The final ingredients are measured in dashes. You need a couple Boo Moments to keep your heart racing now and then. You need to keep the ammo count down just a bit, so you always have the fear of running out of bullets right when your back’s against the wall. And finally, like a good cocktail, you need to appreciate the experience slowly. Pacing is key to the survival horror genre, and the game should be designed so that players want to creep through it carefully. This lets them appreciate the atmosphere, and soak in the little details that help craft the horror experience. Serve it all up in an attractive package, and you’ve got yourself one hell of a scary game!

John hits the nail on the head. We previously discussed the vulnerable protagonist with Alan, Tomm, and Devin, but John brings us back the realm of what SWERY was talking about. John discusses the other “ingredients” to a survival horror title, which is about the atmosphere: the location of a survival horror game doesn’t take place in an area that is completely foreign to us, instead it’s something we are familiar with. A small resort town, or home, or the city is something we are all familiar with. But when these locations become perverted by monstrosities of either human or supernatural origin then fear become apparent.

Pacing is also a key component to a survival horror game. Running around jumping past enemies is not scary. In my first playthrough of Dead Space 2, it took me around 11 hours to complete the game. After I learned of all the scares and became a powerhouse due to NewGame+ it took me around 5 hours. This is not a bad thing at all. This shows the the game forces players into fulfilling an expected pace. The ambiance and scares considerably slow down players and forces them soak in their environments. An environment must be filled with details that slow the player down because they find something wrong with it; John states this in his definition. The world must seem familiar, yet disturb the player for multiple reasons.

The Dead Space series has gotten some flak for it’s label of survival horror. The sequel, while agreeably great, has been called an action horror title. The accessibility of Dead Space 2 has made many horror purists claim that there was no sense of survival. Isaac Clarke may have a large arsenal of weapons to choose from, but does that make the game any less survival horror? In my own playthrough, I stated that the sense of survival was strong. It has a slightly different air to it than say Silent Hill or Resident Evil, but it contains many of these aspects which we have discussed. Isaac may wear a suit which assists his combat, he may have a wide variety of weapons, and the game may have many action scenes, but does break down the core survival horror aspects?

In the next part of Defining Survival Horror, we talk to Thomas Grip of Frictional Games. He lends us his ideas on why Dead Space 2 is not considered true survival horror to some fans.



Thomas Grip
Co-Founder of Frictional Games
Known for: Penumbra and Amnesia: The Dark Descent



First of all, I am not that fond of simply discussing if something falls into a certain category or not. This because these kind of categories rarely are very clear (see “no true Scotsman fallacy”) and that it is even very interesting to debate it. Instead what I do find very interesting to discuss, is what kind of feeling a game strives to evoke, and how successful it is at doing this.


Taking Dead Space 2 as an example, I think the first question would be: what are the designers intent with this game? This is of course hard to know, but as long as we focus on something that is a somewhat related to the game, discussions can be very fruitful. For example, say the intent was to make the as scary as possible; does the game live up to this? One can then discuss if the game should really have things like the stores and upgrade benches, and how these affect the end experience.

Now, from what I can tell, being as scary as possible was not the top priority for Dead Space 2, but simply framing the question that way can give rise to a deep and interesting discussion. This regardless of the correctness of our initial assumption.

With the above in mind: Why do people not call Dead Space 2 a survival horror? The answer is then that one need to look deeper then simply answering the straightforward question. It must first be established what players perceive as the intent of the game; did players expect a scary game and so on? The next step is then to find out what it is that make the game fail at living up to these expectations. One can then also wonder if going in with different expectations would make the player enjoy the game more and so on. I find that all sort of interesting things can spring from these kinds of discussions.

Here I had asked Thomas about some people’s issue with calling Dead Space 2 true survival horror. Because of Isaac’s access to many weapons, and his more combative approach to situations, many are left with a feeling that Dead Space 2 resides on the action side of horror. In my personal playthrough of Dead Space 2, I started on the survivalist difficulty. As the name suggests, I did a lot of struggling with surviving. I frequently ran out of ammo, I was killed multiple times a level, and I would run from many encounters to prevent a loss of supplies. Aren’t these the same qualities that we have established as a survival horror game?

Of course not everyone may have jumped into Dead Space 2 on a harder difficulty, but is it fair to call Dead Space 2 action horror with no survival whatsoever? I think the issue is that many believe that because Dead Space arms you appropriately and contains intense scenes of action you are given the upper hand on situations; frequently throughout the game, you are empowered. Empowerment seems to be a violation of the survival horror formula. We’ve discussed weakness with Alan, Tomm, Devin, and John, and for Isaac to even be momentarily empowered, fans become influenced into seeing the game as action oriented. Defining Dead Space 2‘s genre is up to the players it seems. Personally, I considered it a survival horror game in my first playthrough. But Newgame+ gave me a much bigger advantage. What about Hard Core mode? Do I look like a masochist to you?

We’ve received definitions from leading people in the horror gaming world. From Silent Hill to Amnesia, the survival horror genre contains many core qualities, but how it’s executed seems a bit subjective. What we do know now is that the feeling of a survival horror game should bring not just fear, but displacement. The protagonist must also be vulnerable to the world and enemies. Everything that seems familiar to us must be flipped upside down, figuratively (and physically). Survival horror is a dieing breed, but with upcoming games like Silent Hill: Downpour, Dead Island, Resident Evil: Revelation, Amy, etc. We have faith in seeing the genre flourish once more. I hope you enjoyed this long article, and please leave some feedback in the comments!

Originally posted on my website, HellDescent.com[i]










In this installment of Suitable Mention in Horror Ive decided to go back a few years and talk about one of my favorite games of all time. The game is Breakdown. Ive always stated that this game deserves a sequel, and discussing the horror elements within the title will hopefully let me vent my frustration in never seeing one.

Breakdown is a psychological thriller JFPS with a lot of unique elements unseen in other FPS titles. This game was deep, mysterious, emotional, and fun as all hell. Director Masataka Shimono made a unique title that will sadly never get the sequel that it deserves. Breakdown released in 2004 for the Xbox and was published by Namco. While it did not get all positive reviews, I loved its mind twists and complex story involving time travel. This engrossing title stole my interest so many years ago, and I find myself going back to time and time again.

You played as the only survivor of an experimental super soldier program. As Derrick Cole, you awake in an underground facility in Japan with no knowledge of who you are. From the get go, you notice that the entire game is in first person. Punching, kicking, shooting and even eating is all done from the eyes view. The game does an amazing job of putting you into Derricks head. Every action requires a prompt. If you wish to pick up health, an item, energy or ammo, you have to actually set up the situation. Derrick must extend his arm to pick it up, then continue with the task of grabbing said item. It may seem cumbersome, but its a take it or leave it form of first person immersion.

Derrick isnt a deep character with a lot of feedback, but he does speak. I guess the developers thought it would be an way easy to force the player to feel like they were Derrick. Shortly after the tutorial level, you are drugged with a delicious looking burger and a can of a Coke-like juice drink. In a haze, you see a woman warp into reality moving backwards in time and then a break-in occurs. Before unnamed soldier can take you down, the woman reappears moving in normal time and she quickly dispatches the soldiers.

There is a war going on between humans the alien Tlan. These hulking organic-cybernetic creatures look humanoid, but are far from such. Derricks new friend Alex saved him, and tries to remind him of what is going on, but you are as clueless as your protagonist. Alex has been sent back in time to rescue you. She is surprised to find that you have no recollection of who you are. You soon find out that Derrick is the only survivor of mixing Tlan DNA with a living human being. Scientist extracted Tlan DNA which they concentrated into Tlangen and Derrick was the only host to adapt to it. Derricks amnesia is also the result of the harsh experiments.

Throughout the game Derricks powers start to manifest in the form of glowing white veins extending up his arms. Breakdown is a First Person Shooter / Brawler. With these powers, Derrick can lay waste to enemies with his hands and legs. You may be thinking that this cant possibly be a creepy game if you have mega-arms, but it is. The environments in Breakdown are cold, sterile and desolate, that for a last gen game look real and unnerving. The graphics while slightly stylized, are realistic and clean. The later levels also bring you to the dark world populated by the Tlan. Here things are black and lifeless; organic looking environments layered with almost cyborg-ish flesh become the norm. Let me not forget to mention the random occurrences where reality seems to break-down in front of Derrick, and only to him. These moments are marked by the appearance of a cat. One little meow, and it breaks away as does the following path: mind screwing at its best. The true reason behind this cat will provide an amazing twist.

Not only are the environments unnerving, but the enemies. They lack any personality. Hulking bald men with no expression or souls lumber around killing all humans. The first few levels make you powerless against them. Solus is the embodiment of the Tlan leader Nexus; his first appearance is a sign of future scary encounters. The game has fantastic pacing. From the start, pure survival is key, but as you progress within the story, you become a more powerful opponent against the Tlan. I loved how these power-up moments occurred. They felt well written and not forced.

The entire story of Breakdown is just fantastic. The game swings through time, reality, and worlds. The story is a thriller at its best, but the environments and scenarios evoke a real emotion that I have not felt in many games. Its not the monsters or gore that makes this game scary, in fact, I dont recall much gore at all. Its the ambiance of the entire game. It just feels authentic yet foreign. This was an overlooked gem on the first Xbox. The story alone will leave your jaw wide open and heart in yearn for a sequel. I have tried to contact the director in hopes he can shed some light on the game, but nothing yet. I at least hope this article will drive some of you to check out this fantastic title. It truly only suffers from some small control issues and difficulty.

Originally on my horror gaming site HellDescent.com










Visceral Games has released the latest Dead Space 2 trailer, and let us tell you; its epic. Theres loads of things going on and you might miss some of them, so we took the time to delve deep into the trailer and try to squeeze as much info as we could. Hit the jump for our analysis of the newly released Dead Space 2 trailer.



The Sprawl is a large colony and its vast and pretty. We can see here Isaac taking a good look at his new location. Most likely this scene is close to the beginning of the game. Around the :30 second mark, Isaac says, Where the hell am I?! He must have been transported to the colony for some reason against his will.



Isaac is crazy. Plain and simple. The Markers psychological effects can be seen more clearly in the Dead Space animated comic and Dead Space: Extraction. People start to see things and eventually go completely mad. The only person that is know to be immune is Lexine Murdoch. Isaac is not. While we may not have seen much hallucinations in the original Dead Space (besides the whole ending twist), Dead Space 2 seems to be all about Isaac and his unique form of dementia. Hes seeing symbols, so is an unknown survivor that can be heard at around :54 seconds. The Marker seems to have..well, left its mark on the survivors of the Aegis VII incident. Isaac also looks a lot spiffier, as well skinnier this time around. Being crazy is a great diet we hear.



Isaac is receiving help from a mysterious woman, we believe it to be Lexine Murdoch from Dead Space: Extraction due to her similar accent. The whole Aegis VII incident has also been covered up, no record or signs of what happened exist, The Government being behind it all. Necromorphs arent the only threat either as it seems. Isaac can be seeing being fired upon from 1:15 onward. Perhaps the very same people who created The Marker, and employed Kendra have erased Isaacs memory and now want him dead after he escapes their captivity. Right now a sort of Aliens Resurrection thing is on our mind. The hero survives, leaves with something from the incident, in this case severe dementia (perhaps something else), and now the people behind it want to study him or just keep him shut. But if they did have him in captivity, why not kill him? As you can tell, weve seen way too many films.





There will certainly be some epic boss battles. Look at these ugly bastards. The one above has saggy tits!, scary. The one above seems to us like a miniboss though, not quite a full fledged fight, but taxing enough to not be considered an average enemy type. The 2nd (the first image) looks to be a full boss. During the E3 demonstrations Isaac can be seen fleeing it. Necromorphs has certainly gotten bigger and more vicious.

And now for the hidden messages in the Unitologist language that Visceral loves using for cryptic messages. Lets go through the three we found.



The word Ignition can be found at :37, :41, :49, and :50, 1:07 and at 1:12.



The following two lines were spotted twice. As far as we know we have found everything. If not, join the forum and leave a comment.

All in all, Dead Space 2 is looking to be a very good game. The action portions are intense and create lots of tension. Its scary action! Something Resident Evil 5 couldnt wrap its head around. Look for Dead Space 2 in stores January 25th.

*Original Post On HellDescent.com*
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O.K., we know that we have obsessive issues, but we cant help it! Looking back at the trailer, we found the message CONVERGE flash onto Isaacs face. It makes sense with the whole Make us whole again. line. So yeah, we spent about half an hour decoding that. Those Unitologist characters all start to look the same after awhile you know? The text can be seen at the :59 second mark.

Original Post On HellDescent.com










Allow me to actually "blog" this time instead of posting my own articles, or what ever you wish to call them. Seeing as I just started to look at the underbelly of Destructoid when I posted my first blog post about the latest Dead Rising Trailer. I guess I never payed attention to anything other than news. To my surprise, I just noticed that I had won Serious Sam HD: TFE for Xbox 360. How surprised am I? *Awesome Face*

Well yeah, that's about it. Check out this Saints Row 2: Drag Queen Vs Pimps video I just made (NSFW).
Unrelated? Yes. Funny? I certainly think so.









I have decided to bring up the issue of Backwards Compatibility. Something that was important to many, but has slowly slipped out of our minds. When a video game console is Backwards Compatible it can play games from its previous iteration. Think of how a DVD player can still play CD's. This is an important issue to me and many gamers and consumers alike. Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Sony's PlayStation 3 offer up limited backwards compatibility to previous iterations but will the inevitable PlayStation 4 and Xbox 720 (Not official) drop support for all previous software?


With the launch of the PlayStation 2 back in the year 2000, gamers were delighted to find out that every single game for the PlayStation 1 would work on this new machine. As a consumer and gamer I found this an amazing feature. For one I would not have to keep an older console somewhere in my home for when ever I wanted to play a PS1 (PlayStation 1) game. Secondly there was some financial return when I sold my PS1 to an electronic store. There was five years worth of software that would still play on my newest console. Who wouldn't want to have their investments to last as long as possible? The Xbox launched a year after the PlayStation 2 and while not having a massive install base like Sony's PlayStation brand it brought a handful of unique I.Ps (Intellectual Property) to the market such as Halo. The PlayStation 2's ability to play PS1 games was a contributing factor in making it the highest selling video game console of all time.


November 2005 brought about the release of the Xbox 360; the Xbox's successor. To many gamers dismay the console was not fully backwards compatible. Only a limited number of titles from the Xbox were playable. The method of backwards compatibility that Microsoft used on the Xbox 360 was emulation. The games were playable through the software rather than hardware. Periodic updates to the emulation were released to allow more games to work. While emulation is better than nothing I and other gamers were upset that our favorite lesser known games wouldn't work on our brand new console. As a company, Microsoft allowed for big selling titles to still be fully playable offline and online using their internet service appropriately named Xbox Live. The ability to play the top selling Xbox games on your new machine with friends was a huge hit. Halo 2, the most played Xbox game to this date still has a vast online community that can continue having fun because of backwards compatibility. To deny your consumers the ability to continue to enjoy your products on new hardware is foolish.


The PlayStation 3 thought to challenge the Xbox 360 by offering up full backwards compatibility to not only PlayStation 2 games but PlayStation 1 games as well. This was a godsend to gamers. That is eleven years worth of games that could still be playable! This meant that those games would still be bought from stores. Due to high production costs Sony soon removed the feature from its PlayStation 3s. Microsoft also began to stop updating the emulation software. This leaves both the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 at a place where backwards compatibility is an afterthought. The Nintendo Wii on the other had blew everyone out of the water by its unique Virtual Store. You can purchase games from the very first Nintendo console and play them on your current one. While it may not be physically taking your old Nintendo Entertainment System's cartridge and putting it in a slot for the Wii, Nintendo allowed us to replay any game we wanted from out past. This is what both Sony and Microsoft have failed at. But my hope is not lost. While the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 may have limited backwards compatibility to their previous iterations the next generation successors have a chance to redeem the companies.


Now both Microsoft and Sony say that their current consoles are built in mind with a ten year life span. This is great to here because who honestly wants to buy a new console every three or four years? I certainly don't. But this is where the issue resides with backwards compatibility. I and other gamers alike will have ten years worth of software for my consoles and if this trend continues consumers will have to fight for free space in their homes. The online communities that have formed on Xbox Live and PlayStation Network will also suffer. Judging from Microsoft's recent decision to shut down Xbox Live for the original Xbox in April, it makes it rather easy to assume that they would be willing to do it again when the Next Box arrives.


I see no reason why support for earlier consoles software can not be compatible. It underminds the consumer, it divides the online community backing those games and it creates probable clutter. The more the technology develops the better those old games can be as well. Currently the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 up converts the resolution for older titles. This allows them to take advantage of the high definition televisions they may be played on. If the technology permits by the time the next generation video game consoles arrive, both Sony and Microsoft can not just increase the resolution of older titles but increase their performance. Like a computer they could allow the games frame rate to increase, increase anti aliasing and reduce load times. Basically make them look and work better.

Listen to the Podcast here.

*This was written as a proposal of my final project for my COM class in college. The accompanying podcast was made by me (Cj Melendez) and co-hosted by (Zev Levit-Ramos) for the presentation.
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