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About
Derek spends his days trying to keep up with Sonic the Hedgehog, his evenings attempting to jump as high as Mario, and his nights by sneaking into the Ninja Turtles’ secret lair in the hopes of getting some special ninja training from Master Splinter.

Among other things.

Born and raised in boring ol’ Massachusetts, Derek has felt the call of fantasy from a young age. Proudly declaring that “Reality is boring!” he strives to find new and interesting fantastic worlds with an unmatched drive. He hopes that his works will one day inspire others to explore the fantastical. He welcomes anyone on board for the ride.
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Xbox LIVE:Ryoma90
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Steam ID:Ryoma900
Wii U code:Don't know it.
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Last week I wrote about how I crossed one item off my video game “bucket list,” completing The Lion King. But last week actually had me cross something else off as well. The same used video game store had another precious game from my childhood, probably more precious than The Lion King. I innocently browsed the GameCube section of the store, glancing at such classics as Luigi's Mansion and Zelda: Wind Waker, when I did a double take. There, not where it should be in alphabetical order, almost winking up at me, was a copy of Skies of Arcadia: Legends. My friend who was with me can back me up on this—I squealed. I grabbed the copy of the game off the shelf and raced to the counter, clutching it to my chest like it was made of gold.

Really, it might as well have been.

You see, Skies of Arcadia and I have an interesting history. We met back in the early 2000s, back when I was an awkward tween who thought 3D graphics were the best ever and that there was no such thing as a bad Sonic the Hedgehog game. I knew very little about role-playing games, outside of the fact that they often had “boring” turn-based battle systems and random encounters. I had played Pokemon, but that was as far as I was willing to go.

I also had no job, and relied on my parents for my video game income. For obvious reasons, they didn't like spending 60 dollars more than a few times a year on a game, so I ended up getting a lot of the games I played from a tiny BlockBuster down the street from my house, wedged between a supermarket and an Italian restaurant. I had only a GameCube, and that had the smallest section of video games for rent. So, it was slim pickings.

While browsing, a certain game caught my eye. It had an anime boy (I knew next to nothing about anime as well at this time—I was in an awkward phase of trying to convince myself I wasn't a nerd) on the cover holding a sword with flying ships in the background. I picked it up, flipped it over, and read the back of the box. This game promised action, adventure, big ship battles and a good story! It sounded awesome! I asked my mom if I could rent it, and she said I could. I took it home, plopped my little brother on the couch next to me (who didn't play many games yet), and popped the game in. This game, of course, was Skies of Arcadia: Legends.


This one. Right here.

I remember being taken in immediately from the start. The introduction still sticks me, even now. A lone woman flying a funny looking narrow ship, getting captured by a pompous douchebag. The team of Sky Pirates raiding the ship. Vyse and Aika leaping into battle.

Turn-based battle.

I remember being disappointed that the battle system was turn-based. I also remember knowing that this game was in my possession for the next five days (my parents would never be caught dead having a late fee), and that I was stuck with it. I remember being immensely curious about what happened next. I remember deciding that I could see what a turn-based game was like.

I remember being completely hooked.


Riveting stuff! Characters don't stand in a line like Final Fantasy. They move! A lot!

Skies of Arcadia: Legends sunk its hooks firmly into me. It captured my imagination at a time when I was struggling to determine what I really enjoyed. Here was a world full of adventure, of character, of life and story. It felt more real than any of the worlds I had experienced on the Sega Genesis. It felt big, it begged to be explored. It rewarded me for my patience, encouraged me to seek out what was there.

It also had to be returned far too soon.

I had to go to school, and of course, I rented the game on a Sunday so it had to go back Friday. My parents wanted me to be more active, so I was involved in an after-school Karate program. I did not have the time to finish this wonderful game. And I couldn't rent it again, not right away. I returned it on Friday, and it was checked out that following Sunday. It wasn't fair!

I needed this game more than I needed anything else! And I needed it now!

Being the clever boy that I was, I did my research. I found out that Skies of Arcadia: Legends was actually a port of a Dreamcast game simply titled Skies of Arcadia.I had a Dreamcast. An EBGames near my house had one copy of Skies of Arcadia for far cheaper than the GameCube version. I begged and pleaded with my mom, and managed to get her to take me to that EGGames, where we spent the better part of an afternoon looking for that one copy. It, of course, was filed under the V's. But we found it, bought it, and all but rushed home. I knew I had to start the game over, but I didn't care. I was more than willing to go through it all again, to re-experience everything.

I got home, popped the dusty Dreamcast open, and stuck Disk One in. It worked.


I actually like this art more.

Until a point.

You see, the game started fine. Played well enough to pass EBGames's incredibly stringent “Pop-it-in-and-see-if-it-works” test. But once you got to a certain point, it froze. Crashed. Would attempt to load a random battle and never get there. You name it.

You would think I'd be crushed. No, you see, I got determined. My dad had an old CD cleaning kit that I dug out. I cleaned the disk obsessively. I cleaned the Dreamcast reader. I read directions on how to remove scratches. I put everything I had into getting this damn disk to work.

And I got it.

Through a lot of cleaning, a lot of saving, and more than a few times of crushed hopes, I managed to get through the scratched disk. See, I would save constantly when I could, and attempt to play through a section. If it crashed, I turned off the Dreamcast, cleaned everything, and started again. More often than not, I could progress to another save point before another crash. I repeated this process God knows how many times, but my determination paid off.



These things work! Sorta!

I was able to get through Disk One. I was able to complete Skies of Arcadia.
Getting through this game was a labor of love. I wanted nothing more than to see the ending. Sometimes, it felt like I was fighting against the disk itself to play this game, but I kept at it. I just kept at it.

Fast-forward several years, and I still have that EBGames copy of Skies of Arcadia. But I am afraid to ever try to play it again, because that would mean risking constant crashes. I have even less time to game these days, and dealing with that headache seemed like exactly that. But I wanted to play Skies of Arcadia again. I wanted to own a working copy. And no, I didn't want to pirate it. A game I loved this much deserved a physical copy.

But unfortunately, physical copies of the game are very very expensive. During college, I could never justify to myself paying over a hundred dollars for a copy of a game I already technically own, especially when there were so many other games to play.

Now, however, I have an adult job with an adult paycheck. But to be honest, Skies of Arcadia had moved more toward the back of my mind. It became fond memories, rather than something to seek out. I always checked for a copy of it at gamestop or any other games' store, but always turned up empty handed.

Until two weeks ago.

I have it. It works.

And I think it's time to re-experience it.

That is, after I finish Fire Emblem: Awakening.








My first video game console was a Sega Genesis, purchased secondhand near the end of the console's lifecycle. I remember first playing Sonic the Hedgehog and struggling to get through level one. I remember the weight and size of those first controllers, struggling to get my young fingers around all three of the buttons. I remember my mother managing to get to level three of Green Hill Zone, and I remember running away in fear from Dr. Robotnik's first appearance.

I remember playing The Lion King.

If you're not a video gamer from the early 90s, then it's likely that you only know video games based on films as cheap cash-ins designed solely around squeezing a few bucks from uninformed consumers. That was certainly still the case in the 90s as well, as there were plenty of cheap cash-in games, and one only need to look at Angry Video Game Nerd or similar to see these atrocities. But some games had honest-to-god effort put into them, and while the results weren't always instant-classics, they were often playable and fun games. The Lion King is one such effort.

And it's also hair-rippingly hard.


Wait, you have to land on their heads?

But just last weekend, I was able to finally cross a goal off my video game bucket list. I beat The Lion King. Which means I can now review it.

I don't think I've ever been so happy.

The first thing you notice when you turn on The Lion Kingis the sound. Before the title screen starts, you are treated to a lovely instrumental (ish) version of the Circle of Life, and the title screen appears, with Rafeki holding Baby Simba up in the air. You start a new game, and a surprisingly well-animated Timon waves his hands, saying “It Starts.”




Boy, does it ever.

The Lion King is a 2D platformer with ten levels, six of which you control young Simba, and the remaining four you control adult Simba. The levels are loosely based on events from the film, covering things like the Stampede and Simba's chase of Rafeki through the woods.

And, uh, lava pits.


Terrifying, terrifying lava pits. Like that one part in the movie.

Young Simba can do a few things. He can run and jump. Landing on enemies serves as an attack, and he can roll. Pressing the A button makes him do an adorable roar, with varying strengths depending on the meter on the top left corner of the screen. His health is on the top right, and can be restored (and strengthened) by eating collecting bugs in the levels. Adult Simba gains a scratch attack with the B button, and can no longer roll. It sounds simple, and it is.

But Derek, you say, you said the game was hard.

It sure is.

The Lion Kingwas released at a time when games for children did not baby them. There was no unlimited lives, unlimited continues, or anything so kind. Instead, you get sharp platforming and unforgiving enemy attacks. Everything in this game is trying to kill you, and will happily do so if you don't kill it first. You have porcupines that you need to flip over by roaring at or rolling into, you have hyenas that stalk you endlessly.

And you have jumps. Terrifyingly precise jumps.


And the stampede, because -that's- the part I wanna relive.

As a child, getting to level two was an accomplishment. Getting past level two was worthy of song and dance. Take a look at level two and tell me you could do this at five years old.

I was determined though. I kept playing this game, and got better. It seemed that every time I played, I got better at the game, and eventually could past levels like the Elephant Graveyard, Hakuna Matata, and so on. Eventually, I could get to the final level, where Scar and Simba had their ultimate showdown. I could just never beat Scar.

I had the original cartridge, sold it to Gamestop (like a moron), and played the game occasionally on emulator. This game grew to haunt me, becoming something that I could never beat no matter how hard I tried.

Recently, however, I've been trying to rebuild my Genesis collection. I found a used games store/comic book shop near my house, and went there with a friend over the weekend. For five dollars, they sold me The Lion King cartridge. On a whim, I popped it into my Sega Genesis and tried to beat Scar. On the way, I realized something knew.
Simba could throw enemies. I had to slide my fingers between the B and C buttons to do it, and it was inconsistent (whether that was the game's fault or my controller remains to be seen), but it could happen. I knew I had to throw Scar off the ledge, and I finally figured out how to do it.

It was time.



I got through the game, swearing my head off on the way for each missed jump. I clawed my way through the horror of Can't Wait to be King, destroyed the gorilla from Hakuna Matata and even dodged lava on my way to Scar.

Scar is a prick. You have to fight him three times. Each time, he plays with you for a little while, before sticking his nose in the air and jumping away. I chased after him, my new knowledge ready. Finally, I climbed to the top of the cliff, and we faced off. He tried to claw my face off.

I threw him off the ledge.

I screamed, my voice echoing through my house. Finally, I had done it! I had beaten Scar! The game that I spent close to 20 years of my life struggling through was finally complete! I saw the ending (it was disappointing, as expected) and I finished it! I did it! Whoo!

The Lion Kingis not a bad game, far from it. The platforming may be irritatingly precise, and some puzzles feel very vague, but it's a functional, if frustrating game. You have all the tools to get through it, the game just doesn't hold your hand on the way. 


The graphics are fantastic, as is the music, even now. Plus, you can throw Scar off a cliff.


Next up? Sonic Spinball. Bring it on.
[/b]








If you don't know, the frame rate is the term to determine how many images, or frames, display per second in rapid succession to create the illusion of movement. Movies, with rare exception, tend to clock in at 24 frames per second (FPS), while video games tend to average around 30 FPS, with some going to 60. Obviously, the more frames you can display in a single second, the smoother the game will play. It has become a point of contention among some gamers, especially since games on the PS4 can hit a solid 60 FPS while the same game on the Xbone stutters to a 30.

But are frame rates really important? We, the gaming community, love to find reasons to bash other consoles and other gamers. Is the frame rate debate (rhyme!) just another way for us to pick on each other, or is it important?

Depends on who you ask.


Seriously? That's your brilliant answer?

To be honest, I'm surprised at how few gamers actually know what a frame rate is. I've talked to gamer friends who have no idea what I mean when I say the frame rate sucks or this game chugs along. This always seems strange to me, personally, since I knew what a frame rate was ever since Sonic Adventure 2 came out on the Dreamcast (Long may it reign). Sonic Adventure 2 made a big deal about running at a silky smooth 60 FPS, and I remember being impressed with it right away. There was a noticeable difference in smoothness from Sonic Adventure 2 to Sonic Adventure. Since then, I've been able to look at a game and tell you its frame rate. And to me, it's very important.

Personally, I think video games should strive for a rock-solid 30 FPS at minimum. If your game struggles to reach that on a console (PCs are a bit different since every rig is unique), then I think the game developers should be embarrassed. Anything less than 30 FPS is really embarrassing, and is very noticeable in game play. I realize that there's a desire to have the best graphics and textures and everything, but I think it speaks of overly ambitious game design if the game you're making cannot run smoothly on the console you're putting it on. After all, what good are pretty graphics if you struggle to see them in motion?

Plus, games that don't run smoothly give me eyestrain and a headache. I have wimpy eyes, apparently.


My eyes will be starting a new workout regime soon. See, my blogs are educational too!

I am speaking as an ignorant gamer who keeps up with blogs but doesn't actually work in game design, so this next paragraph may be rubbish. But I do think that there is a desire among game companies to make these beautiful screenshots of games and post them online. Those screenshots are not formed from the console though, and then it becomes a process of forcing a pretty game to run on lesser hardware. I think that's where a lot of frame rate trouble comes from. Taking a game that wasn't originally created on certain hardware and trying to force it into that mold. It's very much like trying to take a square peg into a round hole. Something has to go before it'll fit. I think that something is frame rate, but I don't think that's the right direction.

But I am also the person that turns down his PC graphics to minimum to get his game running smoothly. I don't think I'm in the majority opinion with that.


Just about right.

Some people claim that they cannot see the frame rate, and that may be true, especially if you don't play many games that have a rock solid 60. But I do think that even if you can't see the difference, you can feel it. There's a reason Bayonetta on the PS3 was poorly received. It just isn't as fluid as the Xbox 360 version. To me, it's noticeable. And I think anyone that put any amount of time into Bayonetta would agree.
But that's the issue at hand. Some people don't play Bayonetta (actually, judging by sales, a lot of people don't and that's a shame), and frame rates are less important to turn-based RPGs or something less reflex heavy.

I personally don't think that that's an excuse for a game to stutter along.

I think at the end of the day, the frame rate thing is really up to personal preference. If it doesn't bother you, that's fine. Enjoy your game. After all, that's what we're all here for. But frame rate bothers me. I won't refuse to play games with bad frame rates (I did play GTAV), but I do think that more effort should be placed into making a smooth experience. Because people do care. And even if they they don't, they notice the difference.

What about you? Are frame rates important to you when you play games?
Photo Photo








Since it's summer and I was a former lifeguard, I don't like to keep myself cooped up in the house when the weather is decent. While this is great for my pasty white complexion, it's terrible for my video gaming. Thus, progress on gaming has been slow, but I've managed to play a few things over the past week or so.



Let's get the simpler one (not worse one) out of the way. Shovel Knight is awesome. If you don't know, Shovel Knight is a 2D platformer in the style of games released in the late 80s and early 90s in the NES/SNES era. You play as the titular Shovel Knight, on a quest to defeat the Enchantress and possibly reunite with his lost love, Shield Knight.

In a word, this game has charm. From the nice throwback visuals to the very strong sense of humor, this is a game that keeps calling me back. I've not finished it yet (see above comment on being less pasty and white), but I can't help but smile whenever I play. I almost don't want to see the end, because that means that the quest is complete.

Gameplay is probably closest to a non-Metroidvania Castlevania game. You run to the right, swinging your shovel as your primary attack, and use items that consume magic points. You keep going until you reach the boss, which you fight, defeat, and move on to the next level. There's even turkeys hidden in the walls before fights. And like Castlevania games, this game is hard. You have to navigate deviously designed platforms, often while attacking/dodging enemies, and one wrong step can spell death.

Fortunately, the game does not use the life system, and in a clever turn, you are punished by death by losing money. When you die, three bags of coins pop out of your corpse, and you can return to that area to claim them. Sometimes, that money gets stuck in bad situations, and you may find yourself dying trying to get the money back. It's a great system though, because it doesn't make death meaningless, but it also doesn't make death heart-wrenchingly punishing. I like it a lot.

And yes, you will die. I haven't had a game make me this angry about dying in a long time. I've slammed my WiiController-Tablet-thing a few too many times playing. This is because each death is my fault. There are no cheap deaths in this game. Only you failing to overcome a challenge. It's completely fair, and all the more anger-inducing because of it.

In a word, I love it.



Now, let's move on to Gone Home. I got this game during the Steam summer sale for five bucks. I knew very little about it, primarily by choice. I knew the game's central premise (you come back to your house after a summer abroad to find it empty and you need to figure out where everyone is), and I knew that it caused controversy from some not labeling it a “game.” Other than that, I avoided discussion of the game, because I knew that story was the game's selling point and that if I ever got to play it, I wouldn't want to have it spoiled.

I am glad I did.

I won't go into spoiler territory, as this is one of those games that is so much sweeter when you know next to nothing about what to expect. Instead, I want to talk about the game in a broader sense, and how its design works in its favor.

Gone Home is the epitome of game design where you get as much as you put in. You can burn through the game in probably an hour if you rush, but if you do, you won't get nearly as much out of it as someone who spent 5 or 6 hours in it. Granted, it's not a long game, but it's a game that seems to beg for slow methodical play. Every item you find almost demands to be interacted with directly and thoroughly examined. Every room calls your name, asking you to find its secrets. And the more secrets you find, the richer the story becomes.

There is a central story, one that is quite clearly played out when you play. But more stories are unearthed as you delve deeper. You learn about the family through the items you find, you come to feel that they are real people and that you are really exploring their house. You learn their stories, their interests, their lives. It's pretty amazing, actually.

But my favorite part? None of the game experience is orchestrated. Yes, the items are placed in such a way that you will likely find them in a certain order, but you are just as likely to pass over something. But the game doesn't care if you miss something. It will less you pass over much of the items in the game world.

This goes back to something I discussed in a past blog about cutscenes, but Gone Home seems to take that idea to an extreme. It doesn't care if you examine every item. You can complete the game without doing so. It doesn't force emotions on you. It doesn't say “Here's a scary scene” or “Here's an exciting scene.” It merely presents things to do, and lets you, the player, decide how to feel about them.

It would be very easy for the game to force you to examine every item, and then tell you when you've found everything. Or to not let you move on without finding everything. But it doesn't. It merely presents its story to you, and expects you to enjoy it as you see fit.

Compared to a game like Uncharted, which forces thrills down your throat, Gone Home is a refreshing change. It's unapologetic about what it is. It's a house to explore, and a story to uncover. And that's it.

And that's all it needs to be.








Like the title says. Let's do it.

I don't know if the term “Cutscene” has a formal dictionary definition, but I take it to mean those points in video games where the gameplay essentially stops, and a movie of sorts plays. This movie may be fully animated or essentially a set of talking heads discussing the plot. It generally means that gameplay has stopped, and the player can take a breather. 

Some games have hours and hours of cutscenes. Some have barely ten minutes, if any at all. They have become more prevalent in modern games though, especially since things like motion capture have become such a big part of the industry. But they are also a point of contention among gamers. Should games have cutscenes? Shouldn't that stuff be saved for the film industry where it belongs? Can cutscenes and gameplay be integrated? 


I don't fuckin' know. 

Well, I'm going to throw my hat into the ring here and talk about my thoughts on them. They may surprise you.

I like cutscenes, overall. I do. This may surprise you, considering a past post of mine, and I'll try and address that throughout this post. But I do like cutscenes. As an avid player of JRPGs, I damn well better like cutscenes. But I think, as with anything, there's a right way and a wrong way to do them. 

I think the success of cutscenes comes down to how they are integrated into the game. That does NOT mean that I think cutscenes should happen while I am still playing the game. With rare exception, (Portal being a prime example), I don't think that method works as well as the developers think it does. There's nothing worse than a game that has you in a firefight or a sword fight with a big boss, and then have character spouting plot off while you're fighting for your life. In this situation, you're focused on the fight. Your eyes are glued to the screen, trying to see what you need to keep yourself alive. Characters spouting exposition get ignored in this moment, because your focus is elsewhere. And usually, once the battle ends, the cutscene has also ended, and you missed a valuable plot point. 


You don't look busy. Let me explain why the zombies are here.

That's not to say that this method inherently does not work. Like I said, Portal 1 and 2 do it brilliantly, having important stuff happen during more calm points in the game. Chell would be walking through a room without a puzzle while GLaDOS or Wheatley spouts on and on. Or, in Grand Theft Auto, plot can happen while you're driving someplace. That works, and works well. But if you're in a firefight in Grand Theft Auto, or running from the cops, the last thing you want is exposition being shoved at you. It could be the best exposition in the world, but you won't be hearing it. 

This flows nicely to my next point. Cutscenes are meant to be something of a breather. Anyone who has seen Transformers or Sucker Punch knows that “non-stop action” is hardly a compliment. Games took a while, but I think they are starting to realize this too. You need to have moments of calm, where the player can realize a little and let their heartbeat slow down. I think that this is where cutscenes can serve their purpose perfectly. They can be those moments of calm between gameplay, which is where the thrills should be.
 
And this is where we get into my thoughts in regards to my past blog post. You see, too many modern games (like Uncharted) try to put those thrills into cutscenes as much as gameplay. I think this creates the opposite effect. When I'm playing Uncharted, the thrill should be in me getting Drake out of some sort of scrape, not the game getting him out of that scrape for me. That, to me, is not thrilling. At least, not in the way that video games can be thrilling. Movies are essentially one long cutscene, but in a game, the thrill comes in the way I am challenged. Not in the way the character escapes demise. That's why a game like Uncharted (and a game like The Order: 1886) doesn't work for me. The game is creating the thrills with no interaction from me. I'm not getting Drake out of a crashing airplane--The game is. 

That's not a game. That's a movie.


Good job saving yourself, Drake. I'll just, uh, watch.

But Derek, you ask, you said you like JRPGs. They have tons of cutscenes that do that kind of stuff!

I would argue that JRPG cutscenes do not that kind of stuff, actually. Let's take an example from a generic JRPG I'm going to call Generica. In Generica, let's say the gameplay flow is something like this:

1. Cutscene introducing dungeon.
2. Fairly linear dungeon crawl.
3. Cutscene indicating halfway point of dungeon.
4. More linear dungeon crawl.
5. Cutscene introducing boss
6. Boss fight.
7. Cutscene indicating boss was defeated, and introducing the next area to explore.

Sound like a fair assessment? Sure seems like cutscenes really interrupt the gameplay there, especially since there's one in the middle of the dungeon. And you're right, in a sense. They do interrupt gameplay. But they are also kept separate from the gameplay. That, I think, is the big point I'm trying to make.

So, the cutscene plays that introduces Generica's dungeon. It tells me it's dangerous, I should expect monsters, but boy oh boy is my party excited to venture forth. The cutscene ends with my characters entering the dungeon. Note that this cutscene presents the problem to me. That problem is surviving the dungeon. It's not solving the problem for me. I still have to navigate the dungeon. That falls on me, the player. The game is giving me the tools to solve the dungeon (the party members) but it's up to me to put them into a group that can defeat the monsters I face.

The second cutscene tells me I'm doing well. I've made it this far. I'm doing something right. But I still have a ways to go.


Damn right I am.

Then, the boss cutscene. In my opinion, a good JRPG pre-boss cutscene has to do only one thing. It has to show off the boss. Let's assume that the boss here is one of the party's rivals, one who I may have seen in other scenes. Here, I get to see the character in full. They show off a little, and the cutscene ends with them “attacking” me. Then, I'm taken to the boss battle.

This cutscene presents the challenge (the boss) and then challenges me to beat it. If the boss beats me, I have to try again. The game does not continue if I lose, nor does the game solve the problem for me. It presents the problem to me, and expects me to figure out how to solve it on my own.

I beat the boss, and the “Whoo-hoo look how awesome you are” scene plays. Then, a new area appears, furthering the story.

This is an example of good cutscene design. It presents me with the challenge, tasks me to overcome it, and then gets out of my way. Games such as Uncharted and The Order do not do that. They may present me with a challenge, but more often than not, another cutscene solves that problem. Drake is in a burning building. I have to climb the stairs, going through scripted “thrills” on the way. Oh no, that floor broke! How dangerous!

Except that the floor breaks every time. I, the player, am not in any danger because the game is pushing me through a sequence. It's not presenting me with a challenge and expecting me to solve it. It's walking me through a generated thrill. 

The boss battle in Generica may be incredibly challenging if I'm underleveled, or it may be incredibly simple if I'm overleveled. The game isn't watching to make sure I have a certain set of “Gasp” moments. It's just presenting me with a challenge to overcome.

My reward for completing that challenge? More story. More challenges. My reward in Uncharted? More vaguely interactive cutscenes.

In my opinion, this is how cutscenes should be used in video games. And this is something we don't see nearly enough these days.

Agree? Disagree? Let's talk.
Photo Photo Photo







Derek Pietras
10:05 AM on 06.21.2014

Let me walk you through my experience at E3. And, as you can see by the title, you probably have some idea where this is going. 

E3 this year really held little interest to me. Too often, I've been let down by game developers making promises that they don't keep, whether it be in the way the game looks, or whether the game is actually released at all (I still want The Last Guardian, Sony!). Too many disappointments have made me into a cynical bastard, to the point where I rarely look at game previews at all. Instead, I just wait for the review. Since E3 is essentially all previews, I wasn't looking forward to it and had all but forgotten it was happening.

That, and I work a full-time job. I couldn't exactly watch the press conferences and work at the same time.

But I could listen. I started by listening to Microsoft's press conference, and, credit where credit is due, it was all about video games. Game after game was shown, all in various stages of development. However, I cannot remember anything shown that wasn't Halo 5 or Sunset Overdrive. Neither game has much interest for me. I don't care for first-person shooters or online multiplayer, so while the Master Chief collection sounds cool, it's not for me. And Sunset Overdrive seemed to scream “Look how cool we are!” in that 90s-not-really-cool-at-all way. I was unimpressed.


Radical.

I missed EA but found out that I didn't miss much. I caught a bit of Ubisoft's where they showed games like Assassin's Creed Unity (I don't like AC on a good day—I much prefer Prince of Persia) and Far Cry 4 (see above for FPS comment). So, nothing too exciting there.

Then, I saw Sony's press conference. I was home from work then, and while I had to go to bed midway through, I managed to see a bit of it, and caught up on what I missed the following day. As I said in my previous blog, the trend of gameplay experiences really doesn't do much for it. Combine that with a number of trailers (Such as Uncharted 4: They Might Actually Die This Time for Realz) that had no gameplay, and I was left jaded.

I went to bed that night feeling that video gaming had left me behind. As if the kinds of games I liked no longer mattered. Everything felt somewhat gritty, with gunplay, and very little gameplay. A few things were interesting, like No Man's Sky, but as a whole, I just felt like I had no place in today's world of gaming. I talk to coworkers who loved Heavy Rain (HA!) and who thought Uncharted 3 had a good story (DOUBLE HAH) and just wondered where my place in this world was. Was it time for me to just go to a used games store, buy all the old consoles, and just keep playing old games? Was there anything to be excited about?


Was this as good as it got?

Then, Nintendo happened.

Once again, I was at work, so I could only listen. But holy crap. Smash Bros. Gameplay. Splatoon (a new IP) gameplay. New Zelda footage in an in-game engine. New Kirby! Bayonetta! Captain Toad! (!) Hyrule Warriors! Xenoblade! Gameplay, gameplay, gameplay!

These were games I could get behind. They weren't all gritty. They weren't glorified cutscenes. They had gameplay, honest-to-goodness gameplay. Where other developers tried to make their games into movies and hide the gameplay as much as possible, Nintendo showed games that weren't afraid to be games. Why is Kirby in Claymation style and into a round ball? Who cares! It's fun! Why are we turning into squids and shooting paint? Who cares! It's fun! Why is Bayonetta fighting a Lumen Sage and going to Hell? Who cares! It's fun!

And so on and so on.

Jim Sterling said it best.

Because of my fangirling all day at work, I was called by more than a few Nintendo's Bitch. I found that to be a funny comment, because it's just not true. I love Nintendo games, but it's not because they are Nintendo games that I love them. Nintendo makes game that love to play. Games that I can get behind and love. If Sony or Microsoft did that, then I'd be behind them as well. I don't have brand loyalty to Nintendo in the sense that I will support them no matter what. I support them because they make what I want. They gave Captain Toad his own game for crying out loud! You'd never see Microsoft do that.

If Sony or Microsoft started making games that appeal to me, I'd be far more supportive. As it stands, the games they produce just don't interest me. Does that make me Nintendo's Bitch? I don't think so. It just makes me a fan. A loyal fan, because I plan to throw money at Nintendo for these puppies.

I'm not going to say the WiiU is a great idea. Hell, it's a pretty crappy idea that seems to be biting them in the ass. But I own one, proudly. And even if it's library of games is smaller than a PS4, almost all of them appeal to me.


Nintendo, don't ever change.