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Written by Stephon
Edited by Me



Introduction
There are many different ways to look at the video game genre, it has been abbreviated and twisted in many circumstances. It has mostly kept up with its art background; there have been instances where some of the core rules of game making have changed and this usually does one of three things: one, end poorly, such as in the story telling in Psychonauts, or two: turn the gaming community around like in God of War 3; and lastly, be understated similar to White Knight Chronicles.

Connected
Level 5’s White Knight Chronicles 2 is one of the few games that not only remade the artwork of the first White Knight Chronicles game, but also change the game play for the sequel. By making the enemies stronger in some respects and weaker in other respects, unlike the original version that just focused more on weapons and spell powers. Also the special transformation done in the game by two of the playable characters was revamped; in the original version all the player had to do was use transformation within the boss fights and it was an easy win. In the sequel, the player actually had to think before using that ability.

New online
There are some changes to online besides the leveling system. One change in particular is the adding of guilds. Online mmo’s are never really without some guild option for the masses to unite and fight other guilds, but White Knight Chronicles is different in the sense that it was not made to be an online game but to have online elements, to make the game play more interesting by adding things, for instance guilds would only strengthen the online play which in turn would help the game as a whole.

My dislike
In my opinion, there are some things that seem to upset the original ideas of the game, like the extra side quests within the game; the original idea of the side quest was to allow different people to come online together and now you can do a good deal of side quest off line, defeating the reason you when out of your way for them. Also, as far as online play is involved the new online statues for your town are just a waste; it might have started out to be a way to help beginners raise their town stat but in the end turn into another money scheme that shows up in many online games and seems to cheapen the game.

Conclusion
What stood out the most for me is that when someone finishes a piece of art the artist cannot go back and add to it, nor can a film director remake a movie after it has been released (a movie can be re-master or edited, but the movie is largely similar, ie Jar Jar Binks is still in Star Wars). However the game companies do have the ability to do so and if done right it can change the way good games are made. Since game design is an art that can never truly be finished, it gives us the consumer the ability to judge many types of games to help us decide which parts are good and which need improving.
(Please note, this particular post was written by Stephon (not me, Anthony), as I was fairly busy this week and I would like to thank him for the help. Also any opinion and insight provided is of his work and I take no credit for it.)
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I believe that motion controls and dual screen systems will be integrated into the next 3 major consoles and traditional controllers will be returning to the Wii U, as seen in the Wii U remote. This is going to create at least two major issues, first is developer confusion, the 3 consoles are using vary different systems and a variety of add-ons that may be incompatible with each other. These official add-ons will make it harder for developers to decide what system or peripheral too make their game for and risk losing money if they use the wrong add-on or system for their game. Secondly, these new add-ons are becoming in accessible for people with certain disabilities.

Problem 1
In the not so distant past, all major consoles were relatively similar, the Xbox and Ps2 particularly. Both the Xbox and PS2 had comparable rendering power (close enough that games could be ported to each), supported DVD and CD formats, and sported a similar controller, featuring 2 analog sticks, triggers (4 triggers for PS2, 2 triggers on XBOX, but 2 extra buttons on face of the controller) d-pad and 4 primary buttons. However, the Game Cube featured a different controller scheme, rendering power and storage style that led to significantly less third party support and abandonment by many companies. With the release of the Wii, the radically different console suffered even more from a lack of major games with cross platform support. Instead of getting games that were released on all consoles (including pc), the Wii usually got nothing or exclusive versions such as Destroy all humans: Big Willy Unleashed. Luckily, the Wii was successful enough to survive and thrive on largely Nintendo’s internal IPs. This has created an arms race for innovations were each manufacturer is trying to outdo (or in some cases rip off) each other.

To date, the Wii U currently supports the following add-ons:
Wii U Gamepad
Wii U pro controller
Balance Board
Wii mote+ and Nunchuk
Classic Controller or pro version (potentially)

For Microsoft and the Xbox 8 it has been speculated that it will have the following add-ons
Xbox 8 remote
The new Kinect System
Smart Glass-(Microsoft also owns Windows which will have native Xbox support in the 8 version so there may be expanded play between the console, smart phone, tablet or pc itself. However the technology is aimed mostly at tablets and so far that market is largely dominated by IPad and Android platforms. It remains to be seen if windows 8 will make a lasting break into that market for smart screen to really be viable).

For Sony and PS4 there has been limited leaks, so this area is more of speculation on my part:
The PS4 controller- (probably, largely similar to its predecessor)
The move system or an enhanced one
PS Vita as a controller (also keep in mind that Sony said they wanted to make it possible to play console games on the go and recently purchased Gaikai so cloud gaming through Vita may be in the future.)

With all these new input devices, developers are going to be face with more choices on what to develop for. While more choice can be good, it also has downsides, as it fragments the user base and lowers the amount of potential customers. For instance, Steal battalion heavy armor requires users to have both a kinect and a controller in order to play. This problem can be largely prevented if the new kinect and similarly move add-ons are packaged in with their respective console, upon release. A more pressing concern will be in the touch screen and it is likely that tablets (smart screen) and vitas will not be included with the console. If the Wii U is the least bit as successful as the Wii, one can expect third party developers will take advantage of the touch functionality and potentially ported to the other major consoles. If the touch screens functionality is not a built in feature, of the PS4 and Xbox 8 you could see some games not being ported to them or features crippled by this. A good example is the Batman Arkham City Armored Edition, as previous versions of the game do not feature this, making the Wii U edition different and possibly better (may be released as DLC once Wii U comes out). However I believe smart glass and vita connectivity are more of a stop gap measure and we will probably see a more permanent touch system implemented on the next- gen consoles.


(Here is a graph I pulled from “thesixthaxis.com” and I cannot state definitively on its accuracy. Though it is a visual for the stated problem, what percentage of people owns both a PS3 and Vita in the PS3 population?)
I don’t see this problem drastically effecting indie developers as much, as their development costs are usually significantly lower and have the ability to cater to niche audiences and don’t require has high a number of sales in order to recue losses or turn a profit. This could be a huge problem for AAA publishers as their development costs are often astronomical and require significant sales to just break even. This could lead to less risk on new ventures and the ever prevalent clone problem in games (i.e. Wii sports, kinect sports, Sports Champion (PS3)).
Problem 2
First, I would like to separate what I mean by reasonable accommodations as opposed to unreasonable ones. Reasonable accommodations are when a developer puts subtitles in a game for the deaf; unreasonable ones would be for the developer to remove all sound from the game to keep it fair for the deaf player. So the issue a hand here is motion controls and how it has impacted the disabled. The easiest example would be how it affects the wheel chair bounded person, as they are unable to move certain parts of their body which may be required for the game. This is a particular problem for Kinect games as they are full body. Going back to the Steal Battalion example, in parts of the game you need to stand up and again these people can’t. Now some will say create a work around, an auxiliary action to accomplish that action. That creates two potential problems, extraneous moves and exploitability. The more moves you add to the game, the more chance you have for the game to miss read one move for another; just take a look at Steel battalion’s problems. Secondly, if there are extra moves intended for disabled people, than “normal” people may be able to exploit it in order to get an advantage as certain moves may be faster than others. A way to prevent this would be to implement move profiles that lock the moves for each need. A less looked at issue is people who have tic disorder. Tics can be both phonic and motor, imagine playing Mass effect 3, again with kinect, using the voice controlled system and you have a phonic tick were you say “boom” The game could interpret it as boom stick (shotgun) and constantly switch you to the shotgun. Or, are playing kill zone with the PS3’s sharp shooter attachment and are unable to precisely hold the controller due to motor tics.


(Dance Central is not wheel chair accessible)


(Often people with motor tics will use surfaces to help stabilize themselves when twitching and doing precise movements. The controller can be held on a table and many premium controllers come with a dead space feature where certain joystick motions are ignored. The move doesn’t offer any of this. )

I have seen some mention of this problem across the web, including by Jim Sterling, and statements by developers they are looking into it. However I haven’t seen many solutions to the problem. It is a difficult problem to tackle.
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Falldog
11:25 PM on 07.11.2012


(NVDA logo- big to get your attention.)
When blogging on Destructoid, it is important to make your blog as inviting as possible, so grammar and proper work flow is important. To help others who are struggling with this, I listed, in no order, the tools I use to make my blog as good as possible.
1. Word processor- This one is a no brainer, however it still deserves a mention. I personally use Microsoft Office 2007 Home Edition because of school. However there are many other free options out there such as Open Office, AbiWord, and Google Doc (features online backup). Also, I have found the grammar checker to be useless, so don’t opt not to use one because it may or may not include that feature.
2. On the fly online backup solution- Drop box is my preferred method to store specific files on my pc. Though Google drive and Amazon cloud storage are good competitors as well.
3. Screen Reader – this is the big one, its called nvda, it is a program designed for the blind, (don’t waste your time with windows screen reader as the blind I know won’t even use it) but it helps loads when proof reading. It is easy to learn, and is portable. This program helps you find the simple mistakes such , such as reading car as cars.
4. Destructoid’s blog tools- That’s it, at first I used various blog add-ons that were suppose to help in the process and all they did was complicate things and the blog editor on the site has mostly everything a blogger would need.
5. A friend- ok this is not a piece of software, but having a person to help with editing is really important and can help find what you miss. For instance, my first blog was just under 3000 words and about 9 times more verbose and with the help of Stephon, I was able to simplify the post significantly. Though giving credit is important, that is why every blog he edits start with an “edited by Stephon” on it
6. Google and by extension Firefox- self explanatory
Final thought
Seriously, go check out NVDA at http://www.nvda-project.org/


(Screen shot of NVDA welcome screen)
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Preamble

So as you know, in the land of handheld rpgs, Pokémon is King. It is the most well known rpg franchise around. It has a life span longer than many game companies, not to mention other games. However, why is this game so popular? Why has it endured? And finally, what factors make Pokémon the giant it is? I have made a list, in order, of these top five factors; excellent game play and nostalgia are granted.

Factor 1 The everyman (or woman)
The everyman is a character that can be any person in society and not some pre-ordained individual (i.e. the chosen one). In Pokémon, you are a trainer and the Pokémon universe is littered with trainers and does not make you special. Your skill is not based on luck of birth or circumstance, but by the effort you put into the game. This plays well with American popular culture, as it is our belief that a person can achieve greatness through determination and hard, work rather than luck. (This may be a popular Japanese belief as well; however, I am not versed enough in their culture to state this definitively.) In games like Skyrim and Final Fantasy, your character(s) are the “chosen one” or the “only one who can.” While fun, it distances us from the player, as people are not chosen ones (usually) and will likely never become a dragon born. In Pokémon, as stated, you are a trainer, who goes on an adventure, defeats Team Rocket (or variation) and becomes the best, through work and the choice to do so.


(There are a lot of trainers.)

Factor 2 The anime
The reason I started to play Pokémon was because of the anime. While the red and blue game didn’t allow you to play as Ash, it was fairly close (to me). In blue I named my character Ash and my rival Ass and I felt like I was in the anime. I would get gym badges, defeat team rocket (Jessie and James weren’t there) and become the best, just like Ash. As stated by the Extra Creditz team, the anime was used to promote and teach children how to play the game, particularly in America as the game and anime were release in the same year. When Yellow was released, many people got their wish to play Ash’s adventure and be closer to the anime. Finally, the original song for the anime explains the entire objectives of the Pokémon series and jingles have been shown as a great way for people to remember things. How many of you can remember that song, at least in part?

Factor 3 They’re Cute
When you look at any of the Pokémon (particularly generation I) it is fairly easy to see what they are base on. Pokémon are portrayed as pets that you can battle. You train your Pokémon (in later games), feed it, breed it, name it and even participate in pageants with it. This game is largely marketed to children and as such most, of the negativity of the world are either glossed over or left out entirely. Pokémon can never die in a battle or from the lack of food, the pokecenter is a simple procedure , regardless of your parties’ condition, the Pokémon cannot bread in your presence or while in your party, and Pokémon are never show hunting one another and by extension killing and feeding. Taking the breeding one step further, all Pokémon are born from eggs (reptile style eggs), no other method is implied such as live birth or budding (which jelly fish use). Finally, the lose condition is very lenient, when you lose a battle, you “white out”, lose some money (which is relatively easy to come by) and head to the nearest poke center. The lose condition does not feel like a real sense of loss, in RuneScape, when you lose, most your item are dropped and return to one are the game of the regardless location (respawn location can be changed by some quests). The lose condition here is much more grim.


(While young boys don’t go for the “cute” style, however, their concept of cool is still very cute verse other gritty games, notice there is no blood or bodily harm besides some superficial scratches.)

Factor 4 Familiar game mechanics
Role playing has existed before the dawn of both Pokémon and video games. Rpgs have fairly universal concepts that have allowed a wide variety of generic role playing systems to exist. For example, the GURPS system which has some similarity to Pokémon’s battle and stats system (I believe). When comparing Pokémon to the classic rpg style, such as Final Fantasy (pre-IX), certain elements are common. In both games, combat is turned based; “wild” enemy’s appear in random encounters, experience based level systems are used, and grinding is encouraged. I am not stating that all classic rpg are the same, however, you can load up multiple games and have a similar experience among them. This trend is similar to many modern FPS games, particularly the modern (or now near future) military shooter, like Call of duty, Battlefield and Home Front. These games are not identical but share a degree of similarity where a person familiar with one game can drop into another game without too much relearning. This is a good thing, as similar games help each other, where Pokémon player will seek out similar games like Final Fantasy and play them base on familiar elements in Pokémon and vice versa. I believe it was this familiarity factor that lead it the explosion of sales (of Pokémon) in the Japanese market and subsequent popularity in the American Markets. However, due to Pokémon’s classic style I don’t believe this factor still hold as much power, as children (primary market) did not grow up with the classic style.




(Here is a snapshot of the new 3v3 battle system from Pokémon and an old battle system from the Final Fantasy series notice anything similar?)

Factor 5 Forced connectivity
So which Pokémon did you buy red or blue? Personally, I got blue because I liked blue color at the time. Though, it is interesting, these two separate games are virtually identical, minus a few Pokémon differences and maybe some different characters. Game freak wanted people to trade Pokémon via the Game Boy’s link cable and by extension bring their friends into the game world. The only way to get all the Pokémon was to be able to trade with someone, note, some Pokémon could only evolve via trading and you were only able to acquire one of the starter Pokémon in the game. This is a similar concept to the Left 4 Dead series as friend would buy the game to play together in Co-op, as it was more fun.

Epilogue
For the record, if I still bought handhelds, I would definitely have a Pokémon game or Two. As always, thanks for reading and constructive feedback is always welcome.
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Edited by Stephon
Preamble

Recently, Valve released the “Meet the Pyro” video and more pieces were added to the very incomplete puzzle of the pyro. So this time, I examined the Pyro, from the Team Fortress 2 game, and attempted to diagnose and treat him. For this I will be using the DSM-IV and the Axis diagnosing method. For simplicity, I am assuming the pyro is a man and that these symptoms have been consistent for an extended period of time.
(DSM-IV - Source http://allpsych.com/disorders/dsm.html)

Pretext

DSM-IV is the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th. Edition”, it is the current manual (US) used to diagnose and treat the mentally ill by psychologists and mental health workers. I am using this DSM version, as opposed to the one in the time frame of the game because current mental health issues are better understood and treated as opposed to 1968.

The Axis system:
Axis I: Clinical Syndromes (eg. bipolar or depression)
Axis II: Developmental Disorders and Personality Disorders, mental disorders (eg. paranoid or borderline personality disorder)
Axis III: Somatic Issues related to the mental illness (eg. brain injury)
Axis IV: Psychosocial Stressors (eg. job loss or dearth in family)
Axis V: Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) (100 to 0 Scale)
GAF is the score used to rate patient’s level of function, higher the number, the more functional a person is.

Diagnosis:

Short Version: The Pyro is f*cking crazy.
Long answer:
Axis I: Schizophrenia



(NC- normal control, SZ- Schizophrenia. These brain are measurably different, the pyro’s brain might look like the one on the right.)

The pyro is shown in the video as suffering from severe delusion and hallucinations. He believes that he is not causing any harm, and believes he is playing with or helping those around him. People with delusions tend to hold onto their beliefs strongly, regardless of the evidence to the contrary. His delusions are backed up by his hallucinations. He is suffering both auditory and visual hallucinations; however he may not be suffering from tactile hallucinations. In the video the Pyro is still wearing a flame retardant suit and gas mask while in pyrovison. Thus, he can feel the pain of the fire and the effects of the smoke. In game, the pyro makes sounds when in pain. Also, this disorder creates major social problems for the Pyro as most people fear and actively avoid him, making real social relations difficult. He may suffer alogia, however it could be the mask, though it is possible to talk clearly though a gas mask. I am assuming that these symptoms have been present for a long time, well over the minimum 6 month requirement.
Lastly, I don’t think the Pyro is suffering from pyromania. Pyromania is a disorder where a person is deliberately and compulsively setting fires. In the pyro’s delusional state I doubt that he even realized that there is fire around him. For example he views his flame thrower as a musical device of some kind that shoots rainbows and bubbles. In the pyro’s happy world, the presence of fire would be a bad thing, something to seek protection from, thus the suit. Pyromaniacs would, also, be obsessed with fire, almost worship it, however, the perceived items that the pyro (pyrovision) is holding are not related to fire. (I am not considering hats as evidence, as they no longer follow theme and accurately represent the characters.)



(This is a very happy world, with no fire to be seen anywhere)

Axis II: Schizoid personality disorder
As mentioned before, the pyro is often seen as isolated and feared by his peers. He rarely talks or interacts with other characters. His primary play style is ambush or hit and run, where the player is often hidden alone or with a few other players. Also, often people with this disorder will have extravagant external worlds, as seen in the video, which is made real by the delusions and hallucinations. This disorder is a Schizophrenia related social (personality) disorder.

Axis III: N/A
His suit is made of asbestos and the pyro may have respiratory illness, though this is not related to the mental health of the pyro and without more information on the pyro, it is hard to know if there are any other health issues.

Axis IV: Occupational hazards
His job is relatively dangerous and due to the lack of tactile hallucinations, the pyro can feel and perceive pain. Also, nothing is known about the pyro’s private life and other stressors may exist.
Axis V: 1 to 10
While the pyro seems to be able to care for himself, he is a substantial danger to other, prompting the extremely low score.



(GAF guidelines chart)

Treatment

Short version: Lots of bullets and explosives
Long version: Treatment using a combination of medicine, psychological therapy and immediate institutionalized, for everyone’s safety.
Step 1 Medication: There are a number of antipsychotic drugs that can be used for treatment, though traditional medicines usually have significant side effects. Luckily, there are new atypical medications, such as SSRI, that have been proven effective and have fewer side effects.
Step 2 Psychotherapy and Cognitive behavioral therapy (cbt): Psychotherapy can be used to overcome the pyro’s delusions, once the medication has helped reign in the hallucinations, and allow the pyro to identify what is reality and what is not. CBT can be used to help with symptoms and gradually change the pyro’s behavior, particularly social issues.
Step 3 Electroconvulsive therapy: Commonly known as electroshock therapy, is usually a last line of treatment and in is used in cases where medication is not effective. It has been shown to help patients on occasions, by providing a controlled shock to the brain that is thought to “reset” the brain and restore normal function. Though, extended use can lead to problems such as memory loss and motor control issues.

Prognosis: Poor
The pyro is severely impaired; it will take a very long time for the pyro to recover, if ever.

Epilogue

Admittedly I am happy the pyro is not getting better any time soon, as he is my favorite class. The pyro video is very well done, however I think it rewrote the pyro into a new light and may have ruined some of the pyro’s “cool” as this shifts him from being evil insane to just very clinically in need. As always, thanks for reading and constructive feedback is always appreciated.
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Edited my Stephon

Preamble

Following last week’s post, I will briefly analyze three in game economies that have suffered economic difficulty and explain why. I will also follow some comments in the previous post and examine the Single player in game economy. Please note this is a follow up of a previous post and as such not all topics are fully explained here.

Team Fortress 2 (TF2)

When TF2 has an update that adds new items, the economy suffers a mini inflation. The new items become extremely expensive, due to demand, and crafting metals becomes more valuable as there is a high trade demand. In addition, it is impossible to directly work for an item and with the random nature of the crafting system there is often not enough supply to meet demand. Though, the inflation problem has become more manageable with the implementation of the Mann Co. store, as players are given an alternative way to obtain an item, thus enhancing supply, though some of the pricing decisions on Valve’s part seem odd. Eventually, the inflation ends and the new item’s price normalize based on the type of item it is.

(This Item was particularly popular during initial release, now rarely cheap)

RuneScape (Rune)

Right after the addition of the Grand Exchange (GE), there was a severe price fluctuation. This was due to a large majority of player switching from selling to npc shops (artificial price system) and using the GE. The prices in the npc shops are relatively stable and mostly ignore supply and demand. Also unlike the GE, the npc shops are local to one store only, while the GE is central and spans multiple servers. Suddenly, with the advent of the GE, players had an open market where prices can rapidly fluctuate based on supply and demand. There was a knee jerk reaction by the player bases to mass sell on the GE. After the players got used to the GE and stop the ramped selling and farming for items to sell, the price has mostly stabilized (largely based the GE). Though, this system is largely vulnerable to groups of people, particularly rich players, who attempt to artificially change the value of certain items in the GE, thought methods that are largely banned by Jagex.

(The GE is always crowed)

Luminary

This game has a very complex economic system and it is suffering a large economic crisis. To be brief, the player base is dwindling in largely part to the economic problems. Also considering, IJJI’s business model it is hurting the game rather than helping it. First, IJJI tends to remove dying games and replace rather than fix them (transferred to another company). Second, IJJI tends to sells power and direct advantages to players though micro transactions (pre IJJI acquisition).

(IJJI has cut a lot of games over the years.)

Single player Economy

In a single player experience, there is no real economy, only the appearance of one. The developer does not need to worry about things such as inflations or supply and demand, as there aren’t multiple players to balance the game between. Also the money a player receives is far more controlled and it is possible to determine the amount of money an average player will have at given points in time. Thus pricing on commodities can be set as hidden goal or obstacles to overcome, as compare to acquire it by questing. Obtain X amount of money to get item A, through predetermined methods. For instance, in Psychonauts (Psycho) the cobweb duster is needed in order to complete the game; however it is requires a substantial amount of arrow heads to buy. In making the item particularly expensive, the player is force to explore the camp, collect items and interact with parts of the game outside the main story line (scavenger hunt).

(The Cobweb duster as seen in the store)

Money can also be used as a convenient way to distribute items to the player. Again in Psycho, there are candies called “dream fluff” that act as an emergency health restoration item. These candies are simply sold as opposed to using a more complex method of earning the item, thus allowing the player to get more at their leisure. The same can be said of the gun shops in the Grand Theft Auto series, the player could kill people to get their guns and deal with the work needed to retrieve it, or the player if they have the cash can simply buy what they need.
Epilogue
This concludes the examination of game economies for the forcible future. As always feedback is always appreciated and thanks for reading.
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