Over the past two decades, Willem Dafoe has seemingly done it all in the world of film. So much so that recent episodes of Podtoid have resorted to dreaming up new, whimsical movie concepts for him to star in. However, with video games out-performing the movie industry for several years running, surely we can think of a few money spinning projects for him to take centre stage in a more polygonal environment.
So without further ado (and because I've just realized I haven't posted a blog in ages) I bring you video game pitches for everybody's favorite green goblin, Willem Dafoe.
As the video game industry desperately tries to squeeze money out of anything and everything they can, HD remakes of older games can still gain a surprising amount of popularity. Occasionally, the remake even threatens to surpass the success of the original. For that reason, my first video game pitch for Willem Dafoe is not a new game at all, rather, a remake of a long forgotten classic.
That's because, this holiday season, Willem Dafoe will star in Cybermorph HD, a high definition remake of the cult classic Atari Jaguar title. Taking the original 64-bit game from 1993 and dragging it kicking and screaming into the 21st century, Willem Dafoe takes a prominent (and at times, dictatorial) role as holographic intelligence agent, Skylar.
Willem Dafoe's dynamic range will bring new depth to the much loved phrase "where did you learn to fly" as you command the Transmogriffon across countless barren landscapes. Move in full 360 degrees of motion as you soar aimlessly through the sky collecting pods for some reason.
Staying true to the original title is of paramount importance to the developers, with the original levels all being recreated in stunning HD 1080p graphics. Willem Dafoe lends his vocal and acting credentials to the character of Skylar, breathing new life into the bright green floating head at the corner of the screen.
Join forces with your semi-transparent friend to shoot, barrel roll, morph and cluelessly meander your way through five epic levels to save the entire galaxy from self-defecation.
Cybermorph HD comes to Xbox Live Arcade and the Playstation Network this fall.
When games get stuck in development hell, they tend to go through numerous alterations and re-designs before production finally gets underway. Ultimately, the finished article normally ends up sucking tremendously large balls (of steel) and disappoints far more than it enthralls. The following game seems to be slowly approaching the same fate. However, with the help of international movie star, Willem Dafoe, it might just be able to turn the corner and become something great.
On 12/12/12, gamers the world over will return to a stark city metropolis inhabited by runners, shiny red objects and an oppressive police force in EA's newest AAA title, Mirror's Edge 2: Back in the Habit.
Starring Willem Dafoe as grizzled courier veteran, Kismet, Mirror's Edge 2: Back in the Habit will utilize a refined version of the Frostbite 2 engine to bring Dafoe's weathered features straight to your living room at a mind blowing 30fps. Guiding returning character Faith along her path for redemption following the events of the first game, Kismet acts as something of a level headed mentor whenever Faith's vengeance fueled rage bests her.
Over the course of their lengthy first person scramble across various cityscapes, they eventually teach each other the value of their contrasting views. WIth Dafoe's character learning to become more daring and audacious than he starts off as, while Faith eventually starts to reign in her grand plans for out and out revolution. Eventually Faith learns that acceptance is considerably better than the 'persona non grata' she has become with the intensification of project icarus.
Then they have sex..…poorly animated, pixelated, awkward looking sex that would make the limp excuse for relations featured in Heavy Rain look like clips from videobox. And then the credits would roll and there will be much rejoicing, for our minds would be truly blown.
Shifting gears for a moment to talk about Japanese RPGs, which have long been derided for having terrible english voice actors once the games eventually make their way overseas. Listening to some of the "vocal talent" literally makes me want to go 'Van Gogh' and lop off an ear or three to stop the ongoing assault on my brain.
But that would be cutting the ears to spite the face, and that course of action is just stupid since we have the dulcet tones of Willem Dafoe to save us like Chris Jericho saved WWE back in 2007. Instead of trying to launch a brand new IP in such a crowded marketplace, what I propose is for Willem Dafoe to feature in an existing franchise in order to revitalize a stagnating genre.
For that reason (and that reason only) I humbly present to you Dafoena, or to use its proper full title, Shin Megami Tensei: Dafoena. Other recent SMT: Persona titles explored the possibilities of using summoned personae to fight great evil. Persona 3 had kids fighting monsters inside a twisted version of their own school while Persona 4 featured people sucked into an alternate reality via their television sets. In Dafoena, developer ATLUS sets the bar higher than ever before.
You play as the non-speaking protagonist who happens to be a student of a method acting college. Bored with his day to day life within the close knit community, the protagonist tries to branch out from traditional Japanese cinema by watching foreign films in his spare time.
During an overnight screening of Roadhouse 66, the protagonist is transported into the world of cinema, before awakening his power to summon…..Willem Dafoe. During the course of the game, more and more students develop this skill, enabling them to summon all manner of famous apparitions.
Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, Reese Witherspoon, Will Smith, The Chuckle Brothers, Russell Crowe, Madonna, Keenan & Kel, the cast of Glee, Helen Mirren and Mel Gibson are just a handful of the a-list stars that are completely unassociated with this project.
To save on numerous exorbitant appearance fees, players will be able to summon different versions of Willem Dafoe based upon the characters he has played during his illustrious career. From Virgil Cole (Flight of the Intruder) to the rebellious Vance (The Loveless) and even including his portrayal of Jesus in the 1988 film The Last Temptation of Christ. Take that Final Fantasy. Aeons, shit-ons more like.
The final Willem Dafoe pitch is probably the most plausible. With Capcom dry humping our wallets into dust with hundreds of overpriced DLC add ons, I think one more won't seem too out of place. Introducing Dafoe vs Capcom for the Xbox 360 and PS3.
After dominating stage and screen since time began, Willem Dafoe charges into the fighting arena to gain valuable research for his next film role. There were plenty of organizations vying for Willem's signature, but in the end, he smartly decided to challenge every single Capcom character ever created.
Mini games include punching a car until it explodes, weight lifting, kicking an elderly gentleman until he explodes and the Michael Vick Invitational Dog Fight™ that totally didn't happen even though all evidence points to the contrary.
Post release, there will be a mountain of DLC available to our loyal fans. Alternative outfits, palette swaps and truck loads of accessories will all be downloadable for a ridiculous amount of your hard earned money. Given the nature of this title, Capcom will also see fit to design hundreds of brand new characters to provide even more resistance to the captivating force of Dafoe.
Be sure to look out for more information at the Tokyo Game Show later this year.
Well there we have it. Proof that the undeniable acting prowess of WIllem Dafoe knows no bounds and translate very easily into the diverse world of video games. Whether or not developers will latch on to any of these ideas (unfortunately) remains to be seen.
One of the most hotly discussed topics in gaming is the touchy subject of quality, to the point where die-hard fans will vehemently defend a title. Regardless of whether or not the game is a runaway success or a quickly forgotten debacle, quality will always be debated for long after the release date.
It's also fair to say that the quality of any game is, by & large, very subjective. Review articles are the mere legible (or, at times, visual) representation of someone's opinion and experience with a title. Scores derived from such critique exist only to provide a general overview to the tone of a review.
Of course, the fallout that can occur when a 'good' game receives a 'bad' score is often the catalyst for the masses to set their sights on shooting the messenger. Complaints of bias or incompetence fill the air when, in fact, all that happened was a simple difference of opinion.
When writing about a game I felt was amazing (or should that be 'aaamaazing') I do so based on the quality of my experience. The praise I continue to heap upon this title is garnered from the joy I've had playing for countless hours with friends, family and by myself.
Is it the greatest game I've ever played? Not really, as Final Fantasy IX will always hold a special place in my heart for reasons I've already explained. Is it the best game in it's genre? Again, not really, as there have been plenty of games that have surpassed it in terms of gameplay.
What we have here is a game that doesn't so much push the envelope foreword as it does repackage existing gameplay elements to provide a solid, fun filled experience. Nestled in between all the current day 'AAA' titles lies a game that still manages to amaze and astound today as it did way back in 1993.
Streets of Rage II was a game that amazed (sorry, aaamaazed…) me from the moment I first laid eyes on it. After a chance purchase of a gaming magazine (the expensive, old school kind that came packaged with a VHS tape) I instantly knew I had to buy it. I would play the tape over and over again in constant awe of what I was seeing.
Everything about the game, from the fluid graphics to the sheer amount of things happening on-screen left me in stunned silence. Replaying the promotional video allowed me to spot all manner of oddities and intricacies, like throwing enemies into one another to effortlessly cause damage to both. Jumping at the perfect time in order to dodge an electrified whip sent your way by lithe ladies of the night. Or seeing that gigantic wrestler Max walked so slowly, it was actually far quicker to use his dash attack and slide along the floor when moving through non-combative parts of the level.
The gameplay was simple but the experience was euphoric, as I sat there watching all manner of thugs, goons, punks, wretches & kings get annihilated. Fueling the action is a classic tale of revenge. Adam (a character from the first game) has been kidnapped by the nefarious Mr X. As his criminal influence spreads across the city, four friends unite to work towards common goals. Rescuing their mate with a penchant for yellow vests and bringing Mr X one step closer to pixelated death.
As I counted down the days to the game's release, I began to hear faint whisperings of dissent from friends. "Oh, it's just copying Final Fight!" some would say, while others commented on other aspects like the fact it was on the SEGA Genesis (most people I knew at the time favored Nintendo systems) or that they were nowhere near as enthralled by footage of the game as I was. Once the cartridge was in my hands I was initially quite surprised, not by what the game contained, but what it was devoid of.
One of the cool things missing from Streets of Rage II is the ability to call for police backup, which was a prominent feature from the first game. SEGA replaced these limited use callouts with new special attacks you could use whenever you want. Though the sight of a bazooka wielding policeman making it rain fire with you, somehow, unscathed was pretty awesome, I think it worked out for the best.
Some of the enemies (particularly the bosses) just don't stay down when they hit the floor. Their powerful attacks and extended health bars made them formidable foes on all but the easiest of difficulty levels.
To remedy this a little, each character had access to two special attacks utilizing the 'A' button on the Genesis controller. The first had a small area of effect; hitting enemies both directly in front and behind to allow some degree of crowd control. The second tended to be a multi-hit attack that only struck those you were facing at the time.
There was also a modicum of strategy involved in proceedings, because using the special attacks actually drained your health slightly. Each time you used a combo attack your character would take some damage whereas the crowd control attacks only punished your health meter if you actually hit someone with it. A simple gameplay mechanic, but one which amplified the tension whenever you found yourself close to death. If the health penalty of using a special attack was enough to kill you, they were stripped from your repertoire until your demise.
While it was much easier to run through the game alone in about an hour or so, the greatest experience Streets of Rage II offers is the chance to team up with a friend. There are only a handful of changes made to the game when a second player enters the fray - there are a few more enemies and health pickups, for instance - but even this is fraught with intrigue.
Obviously you were both working to the same end, however, an intense level of rivalry and camaraderie remained. Never before or since has a game managed to marry these two elements so seamlessly. Playing a two player session always brought out the best (and worst) in people.
On the surface, you were allies and as such, constantly looking out for each other. Every few screens contained smidgins of micro-management. Do you take the health pickup or leave it for them? How many points does the other player have? Who deserves that extra life hidden behind the truck on stage 2? Does my partner need to step their game up, or am I the one not pulling their weight?
However, the allure of an impressive hi-score meant that, after just a few rounds of Streets of Rage II, even the greatest of real life tag teams could end up destroyed from the inside out. Banter and bickering amongst teammates sometimes threatened to upstage the on-screen action as players tried to stake their claim for illusive item pickups.
Nostalgia has the funny tendency of making you remember just the good parts and leave out all the rest. Things like glitches, untimely deaths and moments of such frustration that joypads spontaneously gained the capability of flight, will always pale in comparison to the good bits.
Perhaps that much is true, and due to this, a certain amount of tinting can be applied when casting an observing glance on yesteryear. The radiance and luster of a title may start to wane as time goes on, but what remains ever present and untainted, is the quality of the experience.
In the end, it doesn't even matter how 'good' or 'bad' a game is metacritic-wise. So long as the ratio of positive and negative experiences is skewed towards the former, surely its possible for people to enjoy any title. The reason I find Streets of Rage II so amazing has surprisingly little to do with the game itself and more to do with the influx of great times I've had and shared over the years.
While there were plenty of other games that featured multiplayer modes, Streets of Rage II was my first co-operative experience where both players were treated as equals. Prior to this, the second player never seemed to emerge from player one's all encompassing shadow. They were forever consigned to being the tail gunner. The Robin to P1's Batman, so to speak. The Rodney to player one's Del Boy or (perhaps more poignantly, given the era) the Miles Prower to their Sonic The Hedgehog.
For me, this was both liberating and empowering, all at the same time. Teaming up with others originally felt like I was breaking the habit of a lifetime but, truth be told, I eventually began to enjoy co-op play more than the single-player game. The overarching sense of teamwork Streets of Rage II can create remains unmatched, although recent games like The Warriors, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World and even Borderlands definitely get close to it.
Nowadays, games (and to a lesser extent, gamers) have given up on their co-operative nature of the past, in favor of individual acts of valor and distinction. Even the biggest names in multiplayer gaming today are still crawling towards the advocacy of personal accolades like kill/death ratios and killstreaks, as opposed to rewarding the efforts of your team or chosen clan en-masse.
Teamwork, it seems, has become a lot more selfish than it used to be…
And I suppose that is the reason why I find Streets of Rage II so aaamaazing. Because, it is only when you strip away all that is superficial that you realize what endears. Much of my very early gaming experiences (as you may have already guessed) were spent as the afore mentioned tail gunner, so you can imagine how exciting it was to be considered 'part of the team' for once.
For me, this newfound sense of 'esprit de corps' helped form the foundation of my gaming sentience. It filled the empty spaces of my overtly egocentric mindset, replacing it with a much more selfless attitude.
Looking back at what I've done over the years, I find it impressive such a game could instill so much in such a short space of time. Gently pushing me away from solitude, into the arms of multiplayer.
When it comes to the ever expanding world of video games, the variety and intricacy of our experiences continues to unfurl over time. The more games I play, the more I notice how developers attempt to eclipse the efforts of all those who went before them. Captivating stories, great graphics and elaborate set-pieces are just a few of the things that raise precariously high hopes before any money has been spent.
Were you one of the few who shed a single tear at the end of Shadow of the Colossus? Did leaping from ridiculously tall buildings in Mirror's Edge bring with it a sense of fearlessness? Maybe earning a few killstreaks in Black Ops felt empowering as you laid waste to the opposing team, only to have one of those annoying RC cars shatter your illusions of grandeur a few moments later?
It's exactly these types of experiences that developers are keen to fill their games with; the emotions derived from them being an unavoidable (albeit, welcome) afterthought. We play video games because we like them, yet we play them repeatedly because of those evocative feelings they can provide.
So what game could possibly be deemed worthy of my 'Groundhog Day' selection? Such a title would need to accomplish much more than cause me to give birth to a smile every now and then. Not only would the game need to be of undeniable quality, it would also have to instill similar positive sentiments long after the initial novelty has worn thin. For me, there could be only one winner.
Allow me to present for your consideration, a game with two names, two main characters, a time-traveling douche-bag and an epic journey to save the world. I'm of course talking about Dark Chronicle, or as the Americans called it, Dark Cloud 2.
The main characters lives are, quite literally, poles apart. Upon witnessing the murder of her father mere seconds after the games opening, Monica utilizes an ancient pendant (a Moon Stone) to travel back in time like a T-1000. Her aim is to put a stop to the tyrannical reign of a man called Emperor Griffon, who has decided to forego the normal rules of engagement for something much more underhanded.
After gaining control of the immensely powerful Sun Stone, Griffon begins rewriting history to suit his will. By sending his minions back in time, Griffon is able to successfully kill off everyone capable of mounting any form of resistance against his regime.
Meanwhile, Maximilian eschews his noble upbringing, preferring to spend time with a wily inventor named Cedric. Max's days are largely uneventful and leaving the secluded town of Palm Brinks is something he constantly yearns for. His desire is compounded somewhat by the unexplained disappearance of his mother several years ago.
Max's quaint and peaceful life is soon turned upside down with the arrival of the ever-so-slightly mental Flotsam and his circus troupe. Using the masquerade of an actual performance, Flotsam is overheard interrogating the town's mayor with regards to an artifact (the Earth Stone) he needs to find. As fate would have it, the stone has been in Max's possession all along; nonchalantly adorning his neck as part of a chain his father gave him several days prior.
Thus begins their adventure.
With Maximilian on the run from Flotsam's goons and Monica scouring the now desolate landscape for signs of life, the pair eventually meet outside the walls that encircle Max's home town. It is at this point that Dark Chronicle begins to open up, revealing a game far more intricate and detailed than first meets the eye.
Most RPGs focus on the core experience of killing a plethora of monsters using elaborate and somewhat oversized weaponry. You'll normally watch a cutscene or two, before letting loose the dogs of war yet again. However, Dark Chronicle was considerably better than most RPGs.
To say that Dark Chronicle provided a multifarious experience would be putting it mildly due to the fact that many of the "side quests" could almost be considered games in their own right. What Level-5 got right was their decision to interweave these disparate gameplay modes as much as possible.
For example, the process of inventing new weapons and items involves Max collating several ideas and creating something based upon them. With the use of a camera, it is possible to generate ideas by taking pictures of anything that exists in the game world. The camera even worked during the randomly generated dungeons, as specific monster attacks could also be used as the basis for an invention.
Speaking of dungeons, they too were the setting for more than just random acts of violence. Once the roars of monsters had been reduced to mere echoes, you could happily spend even more time there. Firstly, there's the delightful yet challenging golf-like mini game called 'Spheda' where one slip up ruined your chances of success more often than not.
The goal was rather simple, to clear numerous time distortions by launching a ball of energy at it. Additional challenge stemmed from the ball changing color whenever it hit a solid surface and completion requiring a ball and distortion of opposing color to attract one to the other.
In certain areas you could even cast your line and go fishing, leaving your hands comfortably numb as you lay in wait for a wide variety of aquatic creatures. When you're in luck, you can choose to keep fish in an aquarium. You can feed them, breed them and eventually enter fish into competitive race events.
All of these different ventures helped augment an interesting world already replete with places to go and things to do. Level-5 (as they always do, it seems) have done a fantastic job crafting a game that is as whimsical as it is believable. Just as outlandishly funny as it is gravely serious and every bit as straightforward as it is intricate.
For some intangible reason, I consider Level-5 games to have a certain special charm all of their own. There are other RPGs, there are better RPGs; but I find time spent playing a Level-5 game is always an experience to be savored long after the event.
On a technical level, Dark Chronicle featured cel-shaded graphics that were rarely used at the time. I thought that this very stylized look reinforced the sense of adventure and discovery. With the vast majority of games heading towards a more realistic approach, Dark Chronicle really stood out.
Not only can you spend time in awe of the world the developers have made, you can also try to eclipse their feats by using the Georama mode to build a small town or two. Dark Chronicle provides you with more than enough empty spaces to realize your dreams. In order to restore the cities of the future, Max and Monica must rebuild the crumbling land of the present.
Although you're given an increasing number of guidelines and restrictions, there's actually a surprising amount of breathing room to make whatever the hell you want. Plant some trees here, there and everywhere, or build a house and paint the roof any color you like. Once finished, you could then jump to the future to see what (if any) effect your creative streak had.
Over the years I've gone back to Dark Chronicle many times and even now I find it difficult to remember a day with the game that I haven't totally enjoyed. My paranoid eyes may continue to scan the internet for details of the much rumored third installment. But should it not materialize any time soon, I don't mind biding my time with the second game for a while longer.
Somewhat befitting of a game featuring countless jumps back and forth through the ages as part its plot, Dark Chronicle stands the test of time by continually punching above its weight. Occasionally, while playing, I'm genuinely lost for words; thoughts of developers not making games like they used to, being a reoccurring riposte to the 'AAA' blockbusters of today.
And in some ways I suppose that much is true, games aren't made as they were before. With gaming much more mainstream than it ever was, developer's continued pursuit of the 'casual' audience may start burning bridges to the 'core' who have been here all along. Gaming nowadays is big business and many have been accused of dumbing things down or creating a path of flimsy resistance in order to appeal to the broadest range of demographics.
In Dark Chronicles we have a game that remains steadfast in its status as an action RPG while still adding a lot of other gameplay elements that compliment - rather than dilute - the main experience. One of these days, someone will make a more complete RPG experience than this. Yet Dark Chronicle brings so much to the table and pulls it off so well that I think we will have a very long and arduous wait before that happens.
Over the years I've come to expect poorly researched, sensationalist articles from the Daily Mail but a recently published story really takes the cake. As seen on their website earlier today, eleven year old Brendan has racked up debts of over £1,000 GBP (roughly $1,600 USD) in the space of six months buying all manner of content and services from Microsoft's Xbox Live Marketplace.
The boy's mother, Dawn Matthews, is understandably furious. It's just a shame then, that her angst is directed not towards her vacuous son, but towards the Redmond based technology giant.
Yep, it's apparently Microsoft's fault that he was allowed to spend that much money…
Now, far be it for me to be the voice of reason here but, isn't it impossible for child accounts to purchase content on XBL without first changing some parental settings somewhere? Furthermore, isn't it against the Xbox Live Terms & Conditions for someone under the age of 13 to use an Xbox Live account without the supervision of an adult?
5. Your Service account, associated accounts and accounts from third parties.
If you allow or enable a minor to use your Service account or an associated account, then:
• You represent that you are the parent or legal guardian of each such minor;
• You acknowledge that you are aware that some features of the Service, and some content available through the Service may contain or expose users to material that is unsuitable for minors, and you agree to supervise usage by minors whom you permit to use the Service. The Service is not intended for use by children under 13, except together with a parent or other adult supervision;
• You acknowledge that we offer “Family Settings” on the Service and the Xbox 360 console, and also offer “Parental Controls” for Windows Vista and Windows 7, that are intended to help you limit access to material that may be unsuitable for minors. By applying Family Settings to an associated account at sign-up, you may, among other things, help to prevent any user of an associated account from making additional purchases and from having access to voice and video chat, which is intended to diminish the ability of such user to communicate with other users. You may view or revise your Family Settings in the “My Xbox” area of your Xbox 360 console, or by logging into your account on www.xbox.com. Additional information about Family Settings is available at www.xbox.com; and
• You are responsible for any material to which a user of your subscription either gains or is denied access (including as a result of your use or non-use of Family Settings or Parental Controls). You acknowledge that use of Family Settings, Parental Controls, or both, is not a substitute for your personal supervision of your minor children or minors for whom you are the legal guardian.
The Daily Mail article (as you've no doubt of guessed) almost disregards this completely, choosing instead, to focus on various soundbites from the aggrieved parent.
'It is ridiculous to allow someone of his age to make payments without any checks being done.' said Ms Matthews, adding 'It is impossible to monitor everything your children do. These companies should take some responsibility. They take advantage of vulnerable people.'
One of the biggest cases of buyers remorse actually started over a year ago when Dawn Matthews willingly entered her debit card details onto her son's account in order to extend his Xbox Live Gold subscription. As a result of childish cunning or sheer bone idleness, Dawn never bothered to remove them afterwards, allowing Brendan to spend his mother's money.
At the moment, the situation is in something of a stalemate, with her bank and Microsoft both blaming each other for the transactions. Even though the tone of this blog post seems very one sided, I do genuinely feel bad for Ms Matthews having to repay all that fabulous moolah. However, this is definitely a situation where even a little bit of common sense would have gone a very long way.
Hmm, at least Brendan learnt his lesson, isn't that right Dawn…
'I haven't punished him because he feels bad enough and I know he won't do it again.'
Oh, for f*cks sake...
Never let it be said that Destructoid is incapable of serious and informative content. After mere seconds spent deep in meditation, I believe I've come up with the perfect set of tips and tricks to prevent this tragedy from befalling another family. I will dispense this advice...now.
Tip One: Don't have kids... Think about it. If Dawn was living alone, none of this would have happend. The entire situation would then have been akin to an overweight person suing McDonalds for making them fat...oh wait.
Tip Two: Remove your card details Straight up common sense here. You don't want your kids spending your money on XBLA or PSN? Remove your card details from their account. You may have to call customer services, but the price of that phone call is going to be considerably less than £1,000.
Tip Three: Use pre-paid cards Both XBLA and PSN utilise pre-paid cards with codes that can be entered in exchange for credit (or service membership like Xbox Live Gold or PSN+) in their respective stores. Thus, there's actually no need what-so-ever to enter any debit/credit card details in at all.
Tip Four: Discipline The fact that Dawn refuses to attribute any blame towards her son speaks volumes in my book. Had she taken charge of Brendan's online misdemeanors and read him the riot act beforehand, surely he would have been less likely to spend £1,000 on DLC, avatar clothing, Justin Bieber songs, games on demand, porn on demand, Xbox Live Gold subscriptions and God knows what else?
Well, there you have it. A mildly amusing story and some information we knew already. Happy days.
In these difficult economic times, the importance of money has been brought to the attentions of all but the most wealthy of individuals. We're all feeling the pinch and starting to be a little more conservative in the way we go about our business. With less disposable income in our pockets, it's understandable that gamers are less likely to spend their cash at the drop of a hat and are more inclined to wait for the inevitable sale, discount or bargain bin relegation before picking up a game they were interested in.
However, without our money, more and more game developers will be forced to downsize their operations or close their doors like Realtime Worlds.
With the demands of a thousand shareholders hanging above their heads like a metaphorical noose, those developers who are still in business have stepped up their pursuit of the almighty dollar. If there was one reason 2010 sucked, it was how games nowadays seem to be structured very differently than before, in order to be able to sell you some DLC as quickly and easily as possible.
The name of the game is "monetization"
Our wallets and purses have been under attack for a long time now but never more so than last year. Developers slowly started to figure out new ways to either create new revenue streams or monetize features which were previously free.
No matter what game I purchased in 2010, it always felt like developers were holding something back. It was as though they intentionally withheld content from each game only to give themselves an opportunity to sell it back to me for a premium price.
It felt that way because that's exactly what they did...
Generally speaking, the class of 2010 were quite muted experiences to say the least. In the back of my mind I knew that, no sooner had I started a new game, the developers would emerge once again, attempting to sell me another level, another town, another train, mission or map pack. Of course, by this time, chances are I was already enthralled. The arrival of more content was seen as a blessing; shrouded ever so briefly as my bank card groaned under the strain of yet more non-refundable transactions.
Buying regular DLC releases for games I was already head over heels in love with, came at the cost of purchasing more actual games. Story centric titles like Mass Effect 2 had me playing for ages and I bought all the available DLC without a second thought; the exact same thing could be said about games like Skate 3, Alan Wake, Red Dead Redemption, Fallout: New Vegas and Enslaved.
The biggest issue for me is one of accomplishment. 2010 was filled with so many hollow victories due to developers arbitrarily extending their products well past the point of sale. Completing a game and viewing the end credits always brought with it feelings of disillusion, and in turn, the realization that my experiences with the game were never as complete as I'd hoped.
I could go on and on and on about how DLC is corrupting the industry but it isn't, not really. Companies trying to create new revenue streams is nothing new, I just wish developers weren't so brazen about continually fleecing their customers left, right and centre.
2010 sucked because the nickel and dimming started to get out of hand.
With project ten dollar in full effect, we now know that buying new tends to provide you with the code you need to play online or even have access to any future DLC. Those second hand games might look as good as new, but the marked prices are now quite deceptive. More and more games are adopting the 'online pass' ideology; restricting multiplayer and access to DLC for people who buy pre-owned.
Buying new is also a potential minefield at times, with certain publishers (mentioning no names…Activision) deciding to artificially inflate the price of popular games that are destined to make the cash registers ring ring with excitement.
Then there's the DLC which, more often than not, finishes (or at least expands upon) the plot from the game. When I've enjoyed playing a game, I almost feel compelled to purchase any sizable DLC that is made available for it. Not only do I get to play my favorite games for a little while longer, I also end up getting the full experience, possibly shedding new light on characters I thought I knew.
The issue comes when you like a lot of games, as I did last year. Were it only one or two high profile titles a year that charged for extra content, I probably wouldn't have much of an issue with it. But gaming is big business nowadays, and as part of that expansion, just about every game released has some type of ecosystem in place to monetize current and future endeavors.
When all is said and done, 2010 saw the fruition of mass market monetization within the video game industry. So long and constant was the barrage of micro-transactions in 2010 that the process of buying a game was barely recognizable to me anymore.
Nowadays, developers are starting to use the games they create as their own personal storefronts; bereft of tact, yet constantly awash with merchandise. The longer I played the games I love, the more opportunities developers had to sell me the missing 10-20% of the game I already bought. As money began slipping through my fingers all the time I kept playing, 2010 felt like a constant cash grab.
Sure, I was never forced to buy anything, and love isn't easy to maintain in an industry where allegiances can drastically change over time. But video games are fast garnering a well deserved reputation for delivering exciting, encapsulating and (at times) thought provoking content on a regular basis.
As developers seek to make their games as episodic (and therefore, profitable) as possible, the quality of the core experience may continue to dwindle to the point of stultification.
Because of this, 2010 can be singled out as the year when the experience of playing video games became considerably more partitioned than the storage media required to run them.
One of my childhood gaming memories revolves around the simple act of buying games and the rigmarole I was destined to go through each time. Way back then, (pocket) money was an extremely powerful commodity. Going off to make a purchase became a glorious occasion that I savored long after the event, as I always experienced the thing that left me feeling good at the end of the day.
Allow me to briefly reach into the cave of long forgotten things and bring something, kicking and screaming, back to the forefront for a while. Because time is running out for the small print…
Almost every new release was met with the same routine. I would wake up early on Saturday morning, have something to eat and head into town. Occasionally, my childish hysteria got the better of me. Thoughts of video games were put on hold as I sought escape from the 'great' British weather.
Once the game was in my hands I would enter a self imposed recess as I would always read the entire instruction manual from cover to cover during the trip back home.
Perhaps it was due to the guiding light they shone upon my purchase that led me to make such an effort to read the manual thoroughly. Back when graphics were still measured in 'bits', the bundled instruction manual often played a dual role at times.
Obviously, it's primary function was to stop you from endlessly falling down dead at the first sign of any meaningful resistance. However, part of the fun I had also came from the story telling and artwork contained within the manual; all of which helped to immerse you in a world defined by pixels and silent protagonists with spiky hair.
Due (somewhat) to the technical limitations of the consoles from yesteryear, games never tended to feature a tutorial at the beginning; preferring to throw players in at the deep end instead. Reading through a manual felt like a prerequisite of the game itself. Partially due to the fact that doing so would turn imbeciles invincible in just a few short minutes and also because it stirred the imagination, leaving you much more accepting of the stylized world that lay before you.
Our TV screens were no longer filled with mere pixels or polygons. In their place were heroes rushing into battle to save a shrinking universe from total annihilation. Maybe there's a plumber trying to save a princess from (yet another) castle or even a man in a vest with a penchant for punching strangers in the face and eating entire turkeys without a knife and fork.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that reading through the instruction manual prepared me for the tasks ahead. Not only did I work out what I was meant to do; I also garnered a brief sense of scale, purpose and accountability for my upcoming actions.
Scenes within the game were often granted renewed gravitas due to tidbits of info the manual provided. Not only did you know who to cheer for (and who was long overdue for an ass kicking) but also why you were embarking on such misadventures.
However, as console hardware grew more powerful, manuals started to take a back seat to in-game tutorials and cutscenes. What might have began as an unintended side effect of the increased technical prowess these new machines brought eventually became the norm as the small print fades from view.
Plug In Baby
I'm almost ashamed to say that I don't really read instruction manuals anymore. Even though I used to in the past, I barely see the point of them anymore. Virtually every game nowadays has an arbitrary hand holding section at the beginning, during which the controls of the game along with the mythos behind your adventure are no longer ruled by secrecy after an hour or five.
It's a real shame that a few micro cuts over the years have slowly reduced the instruction manual to a mere pamphlet. What was once an epitome of adventure, mystique and lore is now just a compulsory pack-in; robbed of its former luster and importance.
Reading about video games is something I still enjoy today, albeit a little differently than before. Obviously there's this wonderful place, filled with all manner of news and community hijinks. I also like reading through guide books for the supermassive amount of assistance they provide, as well as the occasional glimpse into how the game was put together via artwork or developer commentaries and interviews.
There are also a number of novels based on video games out there, which seem to be gaining popularity in recent years. Perhaps the small print is here to stay afterall; just in another, much more relevant guise. As 2011 draws ever closer (and as a resolution of sorts) I'm going to go out of my way to find a few good books to read.