Okay, I confess. At one point I thought that maybe, you know, I'd get a gig writing for ye olde Dtoid. Then I realized it would take me a ton of effort and I would like not be approved due to super intense competition. So I kinda just went away.
But I do prefer Dtoiders in general as...people. In comments and in playing, etc.
So I will post this here, too. Crimecraft (DToid already got some trailers for it, check one out here.
They're doing the beta through a third party company called PowerUp Games, a sort of testing-feedback type place. Accounts are free. Crimecraft is one of the games they'll be getting. It says the start date is on May 12th, so for all the commenters who were curious but uncommitted, here is your chance.
Umm....in before another comment about the word "craft"?
While all games elicit a range of opinions, the range of opinions on any specific game is usually narrow. You get a range of 60-83 on a scale of 100, with more than half between 65 and 77. You get numerous mentions of that one cool gun, the fact that they used the wrong button for crouching, or how the options are limited. Games are scientific that way; we're conditioned to like the familiar, comfortable and workable, and to only accept the new if it's an improvement or amusement.
Perusing the comments made on the dozens of videos, previews, and features about Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, you'll see two common and fiercely defensive sentiments: Warhammer is a copy of World of Warcraft, cheap and derivative, or WAR is an improvement on WoW, the next big thing.
I'm in the latter camp. WAR has very little in common with WoW, but you'd not think so at first. One or two hours of WAR won't impress you if you still like some things about WoW, but try playing about ten hours of WAR and going back to WoW, playing a low level character. That's what I did.
WAR is for the informed, tasteful, higher-thinking MMO player. If you're older and more critical of games, if you often have the contrary opinion or are quick to find fault with what everyone says is awesome, you'll love it here, even if everyone is saying it's, well...awesome.
Here's why it's slow to impress: it does play a lot like WoW in some conventions. The action bars, bag space, and looting system are obviously influenced by the greats before it. There is some reorganization: different hotkeys, XP bar on the top, that sort of thing, but really, when you immediately start to kill 3 marauders or 4 squiggs or 4 guards, 5 ghosts and rally farmers and plant pikes with heads on them, your first thought has to be "Oh, God, this? Again? Nothing has changed!" then, you'll go back to your other MMO.
If you play for a while, different things happen, like public quests, dying, or (of course) PVP. One of the first quests is to do a scenario, which is a battleground. If you're unwise enough to choose the cool side, destruction, and to do so on a server which has a hell of a lot more of them than they do order, you may have to wait. Some people claim to have waited for hours. I've played on four different servers and not had to wait more than 10 minutes.
At any rate, the bell dings in your head if and when you reach another rank through doing some RVR (realm vs. realm, the game's term for PVP). A scenario was the first thing I did on one of my characters, and he reached rank 2 within minutes, because we were winning. In the permanent world, I hadn't moved more than 50 feet from my starting point, and I'd already gotten to do some instant RVR.
This is the first moment of realization: player against player combat gives everything to you. It is not an option. It is required, and you won't be punished for doing it. If you play WoW for the PVP, there's no reason to stay there and not go to WAR. The tank classes have the choice of being damage dealers, debuffers, choke point holders, or protectors. The non-clipping means a melee class can literally get in the way of enemy players. The healers aren't instant meat and can actually kill things. At this point, the dps classes sound like they've been hung out to dry, but they are still very popular and worthy of choice; they don't die easily if they fail to get the quick kill, and they're still necessary against any targets that are difficult to take down. The mechanicis and workings of these mysteries will doubtlessly be unfolded in the near future; already, message boards and guild chat is inundated with statisticians obsessed with the numbers as if they represented baseball.
RVR is tired at first, but only because (or if) your rank is so much lower than everyone else's. So it's back to the PVE, killing things for credit. Back to the tedium. Perhaps it's only WoW with a better PVP system, with a handful of features being an improvement. But the public quests come quickly enough; these are fun. Remember how in WoW, if there's a huge thing out there, some group quest, you must talk to the leader, must get in some preformed group? Not here. If there are 100 things to kill, and that cap is reached, everyone gets quest credit. Then, a huge dragon or giant, or some tough wizard comes out and bellows threatenings. Groups are open to join, and someone who isn't the party leader can "refer" people to join, helping the party combine at a quick level. WoW has never generated raid groups so quickly. And even if you're not in the group, every point of damage and healing goes toward helping your rank in rolling on the public chest for the public quest. That's right--after this awesome huge guy goes down, you're all rolling for the right to pick your item of choice from the chest. And no matter who was in whose group, everyone rolls, and everyone's stats count for assisting in that roll. By the way, you might be a mere rank (level) 3 at this point.
Another realization: WAR brings people together, if not personally. There is no penalty, no reason not to be in groups.
The regular quests, it must be admitted, are not very engaging or original. If you like the huge PVE "raids" from WoW, this game will disappoint you. But if you are sick of them, if you are tired of waiting around wondering if anything is going to happen or if you will even get to do anything interesting tonight, WAR is the place to go. Unlike that familiar place, your guild will always want you. Rank 6 and I'm already in a group of 5 to do a scenario.
I've gotten farther into the world at this point and I finally make a mistake. I die.
What happens? Do I take 2 minutes and 15 seconds to walk back to my body, make sure I won't be attacked, resurrect, then wait for my health and mana to go back up using materials I bought or looted? This is what happened when I went back to my alt, a level 17 mage on WoW.
No. I get a debuff. Minus ten percent to my total health for 15 minutes. Also, I can pay to remove it.
I'm back where I am and realized I wandered into an area with creatures that were a bit higher than normal. I must have taken a wrong turn. I look at the map again to see where I should have gone. Then I see it. Red patches.
I'm not kidding here: when you are told to talk to a person, it's marked on your map. When you do a quest, the area where that quest is located is marked on your map, even if you haven't been there yet. This game helps you level. And anyway, when you are killing things it's usually not 12, it's 3-5. You aren't collecting 15 or 20 of something. You're collecting 1 or 2. You don't have to walk far into the barren Barrens, halfway across the zone. You aren't redirected every which way so you can waste your time. You don't have to eat food. You don't have to drink water. You don't have to walk 20 minutes to "get the flight path"--when you arrive at one of them, you get the equivalent flight path in two other areas. Your progress in flight paths is linear, not lateral--you go from point 1 to 2 to 3 to 4 until you are ready and done.
Your gear doesn't need to be repaired. There is no aristocracy of players where the people who have the most time are the wealthiest and best-geared, where there are disparate gaps between hardcore and casual.
The best thing about WAR isn't public quests, awesome as they are. Those are there to ease the pain of leveling. The best thing about WAR is that it doesn't act like an arcade game, there to suck the new version of quarters, 15 dollars a month, by forcing you to stay on and take longer for various arbitrary reasons. Your time is not wasted with graveyard runs, getting flight paths, repair bills, quests whose directions are unclear and require long bits of travel, eating and drinking, weapons and armor that aren't ideal for killing both players and monsters (why would an awesome shoulderpad be like that?), and doing business in the city all day. Don't mistake me: there is a very large city, and there are items to sell and buy. But let's be clear: this city is not the city of bored people lounging around drinking, arguing, and trying to find someone who wants to buy their enchantments. This city will be a base under siege, a place to restock your potions and potion materials and then get back to the fight. There is a crafting system, but it's not there to make you stay on so that you can eventually find a group in a world where it's increasingly difficult to find one.
WoW's got character, sure. The Postmodern worldview is cleverly applied in a fantasy setting where Alaskan-style pipes erode Netherstorm and the definition of who is good and bad is fuzzy. The difficult grouping system makes WoW feel like you are on New Jersey street at 3 AM, frequently bumping into people but rarely into someone who you want to communicate with.
WAR, on the other hand, is simple; it's fantasy, where there's good and evil, us vs. them, with all the objectives and desires in the game being circumscribed into one great whole. Everyone's on the same team here unless they're on the other team. You can't be lonely here, not from a gaming point of view. WAR is neat and tidy; it knows what it's supposed to do, and does it. It doesn't distract you, it doesn't try to buy more time so you'll buy more time, and it doesn't make you stressed. Perhaps best of all, you can play it at your own pace and at your own dosage without regretting it or without missing out on what's best in it.
WAR makes it fun to roll alts. People are already doing it. WAR doesn't make you regret a short economic attention span. WAR doesn't separate people from each other. WAR doesn't have any content that conflicts with itself.
Unlike WoW, WAR is war done right; not at war within itself. It's people fighting the right people. It's an MMO that has beaten WoW at PVP and at managing to reduce conflict amongst players, and that's why it is an impressive achievement.
Across formal and informal outlets the discussion about the direction of games journalism has become somewhat of a dry topic, juicy stories withstanding; but the direction of the games industry hasn't. Writers, commenters, teenagers and "older" gamers everywhere are concerned about this or that trend in the games industry.
While there are unfortunate and foreseeable changes coming, none of them mean "never" or "always". Regrettable events occur, but I'm here to tell you that unless you're in Germany or Australia, gaming the way you want it is here to stay.
I'm optimistic because of good things. I'm also optimistic because bad things aren't so bad. First, the not-so-bad bad things.
The Neglect of the "Hardcore"
I can see why this is a worry for some. Nintendo's behavior at the last E3 was disappointing, and did not cater to the more serious gamer. The "hardcore" demographic is being left behind by the Wii.
But this is old news. The "got a Wii, don't play it" attitude is not a new one, and we've still seen lots of great stuff come out for the "hardcore". Not on the Wii, of course, but I doubt anyone who considers himself "hardcore" relies solely on the Wii for gaming.
There are numerous Halo projects coming, Gears of War 2, more Command and Conquer crap, Starcraft II, Left 4 Dead, Mad World, Team Fortress 2 is still frequently updating, Call of Duty 5 is coming out in November. There's also more Rock Band, more Guitar Hero, and more Fallout. Street Fighter IV is hitting early next year. And there are still a great deal many of players playing Team Fortress 2, Call of Duty 4, and Halo 3.
There are enough games to play now, and there are enough new ones coming out to replace them. As long as people will buy these kinds of games like they're chicken nuggets, they continue to be made. Speaking of money...
The Shift of Money
Another common worry regards the "big money" that is involved in games. Some developers wonder aloud about the impact that advertising will have on games.
Advertising will change games that have advertising. Advertising won't change the whole industry--we have no reason to think it's gotten to that point yet. Even as it increases, there will be a split; independent games, "artsy" games, and any other games that refuse to be ad-driven will still be here. There will be a demand for them, and they will be created.
To think the fact that corporations and shareholders are ruining the industry and screwing it up shows a vast misunderstanding of how the industry works in the first place. Every console is backed by a lot of money. It isn't possible to produce consoles without a huge sum of money, and the only people who have a huge sum of money, regardless of whether it is one person of a few hundred shareholders, are not going to spend money solely in order to further the field of video games. They are doing it to make money themselves.
Anything else that is "cool" is also money-driven, even if it has artistic influence. Jonathan Blow understood this. Numerous times he has said that Braid wasn't about money; it was about making a game he wanted to make. Yet he wants to make more games; in order to do this, you kind of need money. So the money matters a lot, even if something matters more.
Any other industry that involves entertainment on a level of mass distribution is going to have big business and money principles behind it. Our other comparisons of books, comic books, music, movies, radio and television have the same shit going on in business deals. Mergers and business failures and sellings-out abound; gaming is not the first form of entertainment to have people howling with joy, laughter or despair at the most recent industry news or the most recent gossip or comment from some respected or infamous insider.
Even if games do get worse because of money, the "indie" thing hasn't gone away. The RIAA, music industries, and publishing industries have gone vastly downhill in the last decade; they are doing much worse than games are. And yet, the way of "indie", the way of how you want it prevails.
So many people want to be in a band, write a book, or make a game that we will always have them the way we want, even if not exactly how we want. Publishing on demand, indie music, and the fact that for every successful indie band, 999 other unsuccessful bands are willing to take a chance and fail ensure us that there will always be something there.
Points of Optimism
The game industry, games, and consumers are all maturing.
Players are getting older. There are a lot of shitty games. I frequently hear people say "gee, there sure are a lot of shitty games coming out." Game reviewers complain about being drained by having to play bad games all day. Their situation is not unique. All serious reviewers mostly review stuff they don't like. Most of the selection that is available is junk. If you go to a large used bookstore, like the one we have in SLC, you can see numerous books from 1900-1950. Rare! Hard to find! Unique! OMG! I once saw 4 of the same one from about 1910. They cost 8 bucks each. I was confused, until I started looking through it: it wasn't very good. It was what you might call "commercial fiction". Music, movies, books, games, TV: the majority is forgotten. 80-90+% of it is crap, especially by any one person's standards. The gems are precious and few. It's always been that way.
The nature of industry news is becoming very similar to that in other entertainment industries. It is a self-aware industry; journalists and bloggers are known by name, and so are company executives and game developers. Because it lends itself more heavily to social media and the Internet, it's a little bit more "open". Game developers and publishers (some of them, anyway) are listening and hearing actual game players more than they have been. Game players know better how to communicate to publishers and developers. And industry coverage provides bridges and forums for discussion; even if it's two people shouting across a canyon to each other, that's better than where we were before.
Take Spore. The DRM has been a hot issue. So hot it mobilized players. They took action, then gaming news outlets covered the Amazon hate, the Sporepedia hate, and it's piracy rate (higher than normal). What did this do? It prompted EA to respond. Not only did they speak directly about Spore concerns, but they also spoke about Red Alert 3; they didn't really have to do this, but they chose to anyway as they'd heard much about it on their forums.
Are they doing anything anyone wants? In the eyes of most, no. Are they at least saying something about it? Yes. This is the worst, but it's still better than where we were before.
No, not an homage to Castle Crashers: an homage by Castle Crashers. The developers have publicly stated being influenced by the classics, and it shows. Now for an attempt to cover the basic elements of design that all beat 'em ups are held to:
Thugs + Baddies
1. 1 in 6 enemies will be just like the rest, only huge. Players must hate every single one of them. They must have twice the life of a regular guy and they must do more damage and difficult-to-avoid moves. Also, these guys are the only non-boss characters allowed to grab the players.
2. At least one baddie should be doing something that looks extremely out of place just before getting into a brawl. Sitting or leaning while pretending nothing is happening is common. Also permissible is eating, drinking, smoking, or (in CC) reading a newspaper.
3. There must be at least three creative ways for baddies to enter the scene other than simply being on it when the player arrives there. Suggested ideas include jumping through windows, opening doors, dropping from ceilings, taking teleports, and arriving on moving vehicles.
4. For at least one point in the game, the player must be surrounded by a shitload of enemies. Watch the first half a minute of this video:
Level Design + Theme
1. The dramatic beginning: there is either a death or a kidnapping at the beginning and the fight is done out of a need for revenge or rescuing. In every beat'em up there must be at least one beautiful woman, and at least one is either in need of rescue or a selected character.
So, a Turtles game has no selectable woman, but you must rescue April. In a Streets of Rage game, there isn't a woman to rescue, but you can kick their asses with Blaze.
There is either a death, kidnapping, or both.
2. It's best if it shows the boss or collection of bosses take something at the beginning. It can be the girl, some public official, an object, or both. Better if the final boss is part of it.
2a. Ideally, a different version of this will be occur at some point in a later level.
3. At least one level must include traveling through air or water in an object as if you were driving a car. Better if both.
Sorry for the ugly pic, but you get the point.
4. There should be at least one level or a part of a level where fighting occurs on a high-speed object. The object doesn't arrive at its destination until you beat up all the guys who are chasing or awaiting you. It is preferable that if the player falls off, the players takes damage and is magically dropped back on the object.
5. There needs to be an elevator ride that doesn't end until you beat up all the guys who jump on to or into the elevator.
6. An obstacle course on a high speed object is optional. It must be one of the most memorable parts of the game.
7. There should be a finger, hand, or arrow that tells the player to go, even if it's not an arcade game with a time limit and doesn't need it.
7a. It is preferable to have a pointless, slow, time limit.
7b. If your game is cool enough, there can be a time limit that matters. This time must be the amount needed to escape from a very large explosion.
8. There is kissing somewhere in the game, whether it is sexual or sweet. It is usually given to the main characters as a reward for rescue. Observe the ending:
9. It is strongly recommended that players or characters be required to beat each other up in jest or out of competition. See above. If these options aren't available, consider making them able to hit each other at anytime.
10. If there is conflict between groups or a few individuals groups, the motives for that group are quite unclear and usually amount to basic despotism. Bosses and villains can only be memorable because of their moves or even their looks, but not for their motives or words.
11. Obstacles in regular levels that work by alternating between on and off must are optional. So are pits and holes. Alternating obstacles must deal in elements, crude substances or high technology.
Required, unless in a fantasy setting:
Gear + Powerups
1. The main method of replenishing life will not be first aid kits or anything having to do with technology. It will be food. Junk food gives you the least, appetizers, fruits, and vegetables give you a medium amount, and meat of any form gives you all, or almost all of your life back. This food can come from:
--Greasy guys you just beat up with your bare hands
--Revealing them by breaking hollow objects like barrels or boxes
--Out lying in the open, unattended, in the sun
--Revealing them by breaking large concrete items that are not hollow, such as statues, rocks, and signs
2. It is preferable that there occasionally be something for the player to ride on and hit people with. If there is, when you reach the end of an area, the screen goes dark and a new area loads, the ride must disappear. Enemies who are not part of number 8 or are not bosses can use these as well.
3. Shops are permissible, but only if the game is badass and has a basic inventory system. It is unfortunate that Double Dragon III broke this rule.
1. There must be at least one boss who is either completely mechanical or is a person relying on a machine. It is preferable to include both.
2. There must be at least one boss that is a giant mutant or abnormal or created creature of some kind.
3. At least one boss must have a bunch of regular baddies surrounding him. At least one must be able to call for reinforcements.
4. At least one boss will come back to challenge players again. This can be in different form or state if desired.
Think I covered most of it, though I'm sure people can point other stuff out. Jokes aside, CC is amazing and one of my favorite parts about it is how it combines the best of the old with a dash of the new.